HC Deb 15 March 1972 vol 833 cc522-4
16. Mr. Sillars

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what arrangements he has made to meet the Standing Commission of the Scottish Assembly.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

I shall be with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when he meets the commission on 27th March.

Mr. Sillars

Does the right hon. Gentleman regard as sensible and reasonable the charter of demands approved by the Scottish Assembly?

Mr. Campbell

The standing commission has only just been composed and we do not yet know what that commission will put forward. I have been kept closely informed and I understand that it is still considering its proposals for the meeting on 27th March.

Mr. Eadie

But how will the right hon. Gentleman and the Prime Minister explain to the commission why the Secretary of State for Scotland has sat idly by and watched the Scottish Gas Board destroyed while a Gas Corporation has taken its place? How will he justify the fact that this power and right is being taken from the Scottish people?

Mr. Campbell

I regard this not as taking away any right from the Scottish people but as an advance, matching the fact that gas is now coming from the North Sea and is being distributed and is not being manufactured in the way in which it has in the past. Therefore, this is a recognition of change and modernisation.

17. Mr. David Steel

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he intends to introduce legislation to create a Scottish Assembly.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

Proposals on constitutional reform are intended during this Parliament and will precede any legislation on that subject.

Mr. Steel

Is the Secretary of State aware that we have waited a long time for these proposals and, since the reform of local government envisages no change in the distribution of power from central to local government, surely there is no need to wait for those proposals to be put forward? The Scottish T.U.C. assembly made it clear that there was great agitation for a louder voice in Scotland, and if we go into the Common Market this will be all the more necessary.

Mr. Campbell

I know the hon. Gentleman's interest in this topic, but I would ask him to read again the report of the constitutional committee presided over by my right hon. Friend. He will find in paragraph 322 a recommendation that constitutional developments should follow the action being taken on reform of local government. Reference to the Wheatley Commission's proposals was made in that document so that the committee knew roughly what was proposed in the reform of local government as between central and local government.

Mr. Galbraith

Will my right hon. Friend allow me to congratulate him on his great wisdom in taking one step at a time?

Mr. Campbell

My hon. Friend, and indeed all hon. Members present judging from the way in which earlier questions have been dealt with this afternoon, will know the enormous size of the task of my Department in carrying through the massive operation of local government reform.

Mr. Gregor Mackenzie

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept from me that there are a great many of us who regard the notion of a Scottish Assembly as a load of rubbish? If there is any suggestion of any Scottish legislation on this matter in the course of this Parliament, we would much rather the Secretary of State got his priorities the right way round and concerned himself with employment and matters of that kind.

Mr. Campbell

I am well aware of the differing views on this matter. This is why the Government intend first to put forward proposals for discussion.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

May we get the right hon. Gentleman's answer quite clear? As I understand his answer—he may have missed out a line in his reply—he said that this proposal would follow the legislation on reform of local government. Since we understand that will take place in the next Session, and since the elections for new local government will be in May, 1974, I take it that this matter will be dealt with in the very short Session 1974–75—if the present Parliament lasts that long.

Mr. Campbell

I know that the hon. Gentleman has been ill, and I am glad to see him back, but I would offer the suggestion that he needs to have his ears looked at. My reply was characteristically short and to the point. I was asked about legislation, but we have stated that we shall produce these proposals in this Parliament, not in this Session.