HC Deb 23 October 1973 vol 861 cc969-71
Q2. Mr. Edward Taylor

asked the Prime Minister if he is yet in a position to make a further statement on devolution.

The Prime Minister

As I told my hon. Friend on 24th May, the Government's intention is that further proposals on devolution will be prepared in the light of the report of the Commission on the Constitution and of local government reform. The commission's report will be published on 31st October and I shall make a statement to the House on that day about the Government's proposals for handling it.—[Vol. 857, c 663–4.]

Mr. Taylor

That is good news. Does the Prime Minister realise that those, like myself, who support the proposals for a Scottish Assembly hope that there will be a full opportunity to debate the report when it is published?

The Prime Minister

I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. The report is a major work which has taken the commission many years to compile, and I am sure that right hon and hon. Members on both sides of the House will want time to consider it carefully.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Did I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that he will publish not only the report but definitive proposals by the Government in the light of the report, or does he propose to leave a period for general discussion and consultation? If he is to publish definitive proposals, will a White Paper be issued containing them so that the House may see them as well as the commission's report?

The Prime Minister

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. Perhaps I should make it quite plain. I said that I would make a statement in the House on the day of publication about the Government's proposals for handling the report. We have had the report for only a very short time and we are publishing it as quickly as possible. It will not be possible at that stage for the Government to give their views on the very large number of proposals in the report.

Mr. Gower

As the report is of great interest throughout Wales, will my right hon. Friend ensure that no final decision is reached about Wales without the fullest opportunity for debate and discussion by Welsh Members of Parliament?

The Prime Minister

No final conclusion will be reached on any aspect of the report until there has been every opportunity for the House to study and debate it.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

Is the Prime Minister aware that the commission some years ago undertook a survey of public opinion in Wales which showed that over 60 per cent. of people were in favour of a directly-elected Council for Wales? Will the Prime Minister give the House the assurance, before any proposals are put forward by the Government, that full weight will be given to this significant fact?

The Prime Minister

We shall give full consideration to all the views expressed on the report. Before I enter into any particular aspect of it such as the hon. Gentleman has suggested, we ought to see what the commission's recommendations are and the evidence which it heard.

Mr. McLaren

Would not it be a happy thing to have a parliament for those whom Shakespeare described as "the mere English"?

The Prime Minister

It may be that in the course of its investigations the Royal Commission has stumbled over the English.

Mr. Ross

Has the Prime Minister set aside the pledge he gave in the first Queen's Speech after the last election when he stated that the Government would bring proposals before the House in respect of Scottish devolution? Are we to understand that the Government will not give us any indication of what they propose this side of the next election?

The Prime Minister

Not in the least, and I do not understand how the right hon. Gentleman could have drawn that conclusion from anything I have said. I said that the House would want adequate time to consider these important proposals and so would the Government. The Government would wish to take account of the views expressed in the House before they made their own proposals. That has not changed in any way, and nothing that I have said today has altered it.