HC Deb 10 July 1974 vol 876 cc1335-7
4. Mr. David Steel

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will publish the views he has received on the discussion document on devolution.

Mr. William Ross

No, Sir. It is for the bodies and individuals putting forward views to decide whether they wish to make them public.

Mr. Steel

Will the Secretary of State repudiate the widely-published views of the Executive of the Scottish Labour Party on this subject and reaffirm that it is the policy of the Government to proceed to honour the pledge given in the Queen's Speech and to produce proposals later this year for devolution to Scotland?

Mr. Ross

As far as that is concerned everyone is entitled to his views, even the Labour Party. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) seems to give the impression that, strangely enough, the Liberal Party, whose views in respect of devolution were turned down by Kilbrandon, is united—all three members of it. What we are concerned about is to ensure that all views are received and heard, and that, where necessary and desired, there shall be oral discussions in relation to all points concerning Kilbrandon.

Mr. George Lawson

Will my right hon. Friend explain to the Liberal Chief Whip that if Scotland insists upon a Stormont-type administraion, Scotland will have no complaints if it is left with a Northern Irish basis of representation in this House?

Mr. Ross

The whole purpose of what we have done and the discussions into which we are entering—and our hope for debate on this matter—is eventually to have something that is acceptable to the people of Scotland, and in relation to which they know the limitations and the consequences of what is being done. All these matters are important.

16. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will now state his plans for devolution in the government of Scotland.

Mr. William Ross

As already announced, the Government intend, after completing consultations with interested organisations, to publish a White Paper setting out their proposals for Scotland and Wales.

Mr. Hamilton

Has my right hon. Friend any overwhelming evidence of a desire in Scotland for a separate elected Assembly? Will he take steps to re-read the pamphlet called "Don't Butcher Scotland's Future", or something like that, and bring it up to date, because it is just as relevant today as it was when it was issued?

Mr. Ross

As my hon. Friend knows, a considerabe amount of evidence was given in the Kilbrandon Report. One of the things that was absolutely clear was that many people have differing views on the meaning of devolution. Not many of them knew what devolution had already taken place, and they had not given adequate thought, if any thought at all, to the consequences of various schemes. Kilbrandon produced schemes and we put them down for debate and discussion. We have had a good response from organisations to the invitation to send in written evidence, and many of the people concerned will be discussing this in the near future. During next week and the week after, I and my hon. Friend the Minister of State in the Commons will be meeting many of these people to go into points raised in the letters. As for the public, the number of letters I have received so far is 132, of which 65 came via one newspaper.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Will the Secretary of State give an assurance that the convolutions within the Labour Party in Scotland will not hold back the Government's proposals?

Mr. Ross

We in the Labour Party do not disguise that this is a very important issue, in respect of which there are differing points of view. This was brought out by Kilbrandon. What troubles me is the monolithic nonsense we hear from the party calling itself the Scottish National Party, which does not believe in devolution and wants only separation.

Mr. Michael Clark Hutchison

Is the Secretary of State aware that what we want is not necessarily devolution but less legislation, and that that will solve most of the difficulties?

Mr. Ross

We can have devolution without legislation.