Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): I, too, thank the Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business.
I associate my party with the remarks about Remembrance day on Sunday. All my colleagues will be at services right across their constituencies in Scotland. I also reinforce the Leader of the House’s remarks about the contribution from overseas soldiers. On Sunday, I laid a wreath at the Polish war graves in Perth. This demonstrates that people fleeing Nazi persecution came to this country only to go back again in order that Europe be made free. It is a very important day that my colleagues will be sharing in.
On this inauspicious day for parliamentarians, I hope there will be a bonfire reserved for the Tories’ callous welfare reform plans, stoked up with the plans to curtail trade union rights, while the proposals for tax credits are shredded and continue to go up in smoke.
Last week, I asked the Leader of the House, without any great expectation, whether he could reserve more time for the Scotland Bill, which will be before the House on Monday, and of course he has not obliged me or my hon. Friends. It therefore looks as though we are going to have some five hours to discuss and debate over 100 amendments to the Scotland Bill—amendments that are critical for the resolution of the Scottish devolution settlement. This is so frustrating, because we had four days in Committee on the Scotland Bill where no amendments were accepted by the Government and they offered no amendments of their own. We were told in response to those four almost-wasted days that this is now a listening stage. Is this where we have got to in Parliament—that a Committee of the whole House is just a listening stage? Surely we would better off just going round to see the Secretary of State or writing to him about the things that were not picked up. Surely we must have real time to have real debates about real
5 Nov 2015 : Column 1136
legislation. If a Committee stage of this House is just a listening stage, we are going to have to rethink how we bring business through this House.
This week there was a historic vote in the Scottish Parliament when Trident renewal was voted against by a majority of 96 to 17. The SNP combined with most of Scottish Labour to vote down Trident, which will defile our beautiful country by being placed there. They now join the 57 out of 59 Scottish Members of Parliament who are resolutely opposed to spending billions of pounds on this obscene weapon of mass destruction. How will the Leader of the House respond to this very clear call from Scotland and from Scottish parliamentarians? Will we see support from the Labour party when it comes to debating this in order that it gets through? We know that the Blairites have a difficulty and an issue with Trident renewal, but surely the voice of Scotland must be listened to in this respect.
This week, we had our first certified EVEL—English votes for English laws—Bill and it is been an absolute disaster thus far. We have heard of all sorts of panic in the Clerks Office and no one has a clue how this weird legislative hokey cokey will be played out as the Bill progresses through this House. Meanwhile, there is a dispute about the clauses that may be vetoed and uncertainty about whether or not they apply to Scotland. Mr Speaker, you said that this was an experiment. If it is shown at a very early stage that this experiment has become the dog’s breakfast we expected it to be, will the Leader of the House withdraw his EVEL plans and reinstate every Member in this House to the same status and class?
Lastly, at yesterday’s Prime Minister’s questions the exchange between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition did not conclude until 12.16 pm, leaving less than half the available time for Back Benchers to ask questions of the Prime Minister. If PMQs are going to be so slow, will the Leader of the House agree to look at how they are conducted? As a starter for 10, perhaps we could limit the time available to the Leader of the Opposition to 10 minutes. He would still have a third of the available time and he could ask as many questions as he wants on behalf of whoever he wants, and then Back Benchers would have the opportunity to put their questions to the Prime Minister. If the Leader of the House agrees to that, the prospects of Back Benchers will be lit up as much as any firework display this evening.