No two days are the same…

Although the House only came back on Tuesday, it already feels like it has been a demanding week.  I was in the chamber on Tuesday for the statement on Scotland’s constitutional future.  There is clearly going to be a major clash between the SNP-dominated Scottish Government and the unionist Government – and Parliament – at Westminster.  The constitutional position and how it was going to be handled, not surprisingly, dominated discussions. 

Wednesday morning was taken up with a meeting of the Constitution Committee.  The chair, Baroness Jay, was abroad, so I chaired the meeting.   Just like old times.  We had a very productive meeting.  I had a string of meetings during the rest of the day, but these were variously interrupted by divisions – a total of four – on the Welfare Reform Bill.  The first took place when I was attending a meeting of the 1922 Committee addressed by the Foreign Secretary.  The last occurred shortly before 9.30 p.m.   The first three votes were on important provisions of the Bill and the Government lost all three, in each case by clear majorities – a product of Opposition and cross-bench votes and some Liberal Democrat abstentions. 

This morning was taken up with a meeting of the Joint Committee on the House of Lords Reform Bill.  We resume our regular evidence-taking sessions on Monday.  The afternoon was spent in other meetings, including seeing students.  Time between meeting followed the usual routine of catching up on paperwork – and trying to ensure that my Parliament and Hull e-mail in-boxes did not exceed their limits.  Some attachments seem to be the length of short books.  How long before I join the developing movement to cease using e-mail?

The next two days for me are going to be taken up interviewing candidates for Thouron Scholarships.  It is an intense two days, but more like teaching than Westminster – in other words, structured and following a clear routine.

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About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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15 Responses to No two days are the same…

  1. Malden Capell says:

    I do worry if the British Government is playing with fire by calling the Scottish Government’s bluff on the independence referendum. If they’re not careful they may risk identifying the Unionist cause with Conservatism and Cameron, even if there is strong cross-party consensus to maintain the Union.

    What is your view on the issue, my Lord? And what do you think will be the best way of arguing in favour of the Union, beyond sentimental arguments of history?

    • Lord Norton says:

      Malden Capell: It is certainly high risk, but it is the case that the Scottish executive and parliament do not have the authority to conduct a referendum that is reserved to Westminster. They claim a political mandate, but that is not the same thing at all. There are strong arguments for maintaining the union because of the strength that derives from combining the talents of the component parts. It is not clear what is to be gained by separation.

      • Dean B says:

        I don’t see how the mere holding of a referendum can be considered a constitutional matter, and therefore reserved to Westminster. The enactment of the result (i.e. separation), yes, but just the holding of an advisory, non-binding referendum? I find it hard to see how or why that would not be allowed. Local councils do it regularly (Staines for example recently consulted on the idea of becoming Staines-Upon-Thames).

      • Lord Norton says:

        Dean B: Referendums are not cost free and it would be open to challenge on the grounds of being ultra vires. Local authorities can hold referendums where they are emmowered to do so.

  2. Princeps Senatus says:

    Dear Lord Norton,
    Can I request your opinion about something that Mark D’Arcy wrote on his blog on the BBC website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-16509072) on 11th January 2012?
    He stated that the SNP can reject the Scotland bill if they do not like its final recommendations by withholding the Sewel Motion (Legislative Competence Motion) for it. To my understanding, Sewel motions only apply to matters that have already been devolved. Any matter which has not been devolved (such as the powers to hold a referendum) cannot be the subject of a Sewel motion. Is my understanding of this matter correct?

    • Lord Norton says:

      Princeps Senatus: Yes, i saw that as well. You are correct. Legislative Consent Motions (what were known as Sewel motions) are moved by the Scottish Parliament to invite the UK Parliament to extend a measure covering England and Wales to Scotland. They have no relevance in this context where the UK Parliament is legislating in a field that is not devolved.

  3. ladytizzy says:

    When will the Scottish Executive legally become the Scottish Government – or is this part of the game?

    • Lord Norton says:

      ladytizzy: Either if the Scotland Act is amended to provide such a designation or when Scotland becomes independent.

      • Frank W. Summers III says:

        Lord Norton,

        DO you foresee any possibility of an independence in which Scotland would cease to have Queen Elizabeth or Her Britannic Majesty’s succesor as Head of State, would leave the European Union, would leave the Commonwealth, would dispute arrangements at the UN Security Council, G-20, NATO and IMF??? In other words for those of us far from Westminster — is there a possibility that enough of these things would occur that we would see Great Britain as truly divided for the first time in half a milenium or would it seem like a shuffling of internal powers and policies? Is there an answer yet even if you choose not to give it for politic reasons?

      • Frank W. Summers III says:

        Another matter, I assume Your Lordship is a Thouron Scholar? Is that right? I had put together a rather substabtial imperfectly verified CV on you but since finishing my list in September I have laid it aside. It may have the answer…

  4. ladytizzy says:

    Frank, re Lord Norton and Thoroun scholarship, scroll down to LoNo’s reply to me:
    https://nortonview.wordpress.com/2010/10/30/forthcoming-publications/

    If I may put my tuppence ha’penny view on your other questions:
    the monarchy will continue -the Scottish National Party have indicated they want to keep it, too;
    EU membership will continue;
    I’m reasonably sure that we can’t leave the Commonwealth (it would stop being the Commonwealth);
    UN, G-nn, NATO, IMF etc membership will continue – the club card points are accumulating nicely.

    Also,I would put a fiver on Scotland remaining within the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

  5. Chris K says:

    I’m also interested as to whether both new countries would each be entitled to permanent seats on the UN Security Council? Who would decide?

    • Frank W. Summers III says:

      Chris K.,

      Surely you would want it to be by majority vote of the UN missions of the other Permanant Veto nations. In the 21st century all sovereigns are best pals and look out for each other, you do realize this?

    • Lord Norton says:

      Chris K: The United Kingdom holds a permanent seat and that would be unaffected. The UK would not be a new country, indeed isn’t a country.

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