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ref date:22 May 1997 (SI)
Dash to devolution if referendum vote is yes, says Dewar

A "YES" vote in the referendums in Scotland and Wales would allow Labour to rush devolution legislation through Parliament, Donald Dewar, the Scottish Secretary, acknowledged

Dewar made Tory MPs fearful that the Scottish popular consent, should it come, would override what Westminster wanted to do with clauses governing the role of the Scottish parliament.

Michael Howard (Tory shadow home affairs spokesman) called this behaviour akin to "European tyrants" who used referenda to by-pass Parliamentary democracy between the wars. He compared the plebiscite as "the hallmark of Continental dictatorships" who sought to suppress the rights and liberties of their citizens.

Mr Dewar said "It gives opponents the chance to defeat it and kill it. Yet if we get the right result, that will give moral authority and speed the passage."

Mr Dewar faced may hostile interruptions from English MPs who complained they would not have a say in how the bill for the Scots would be worded. He reaffirmed that the Government intended to publish White Papers setting out its full proposals for the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly before the summer recess, allowing discussion in the Commons before referendum campaigns in the summer.

Michael Howard said the Conservatives would fight against the bill if it "menaced the integrity and harmony of the United Kingdom"

A Union that had held fast for centuries could begin to fray amid all the ingredients for a bitter and acrimonious breakdown, he said.

"This Bill would allow one of the greatest changes in our island's history to be decided by a bare majority of Welsh and Scottish voters, without their seeing the details of the legislation, without consulting the people of England, and possibly on a very low turn-out," said Mr Howard.