HC Deb 31 July 1974 vol 878 cc775-7
8. Mrs Winifred Ewing

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will seek a meeting with Lord Crowther-Hunt to discuss the question of self-government.

Mr. William Ross

I have, of course, had numerous discussions with Lord Crowther-Hunt on the question of devolution.

Mrs. Ewing

May I express to the Secretary of State the considerable satisfaction of the Scottish National Party group at the fact that Lord Crowther-Hunt has offered to come to Scotland and have discussions on the Scottish National Party's constitutional proposals?

Secondly, will the Secretary of State today give an assurance to the House that he will use all his considerable powers of persuasion with his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to recall Parliament when the promised publication takes place during the recess, albeit delayed? If the Secretary of State cannot give the House this assurance today, will he give the reasons why he does not consider that a recall of Parliament is necessary to discuss a matter of such vital constitutional importance?

Mr. Ross

I cannot give the hon. Lady that assurance. This matter was relevant for discussion the other day. The discussions that Lord Crowther-Hunt has had have been very full indeed, both here and in Scotland. I was present at some of them, and at others both the Ministers of State in the Lords and the Commons were present. We are gathering opinions from a very wide field about the constitutional consultative document.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Will the right hon. Gentleman ever have the nerve to meet Lord Crowther-Hunt again after the astonishing events in the early hours of Tuesday last, when we had a four hours' debate on the Kilbrandon Report, with not one contribution from the Government Front Benches—and without one Scottish back-bench Labour Member being present? Does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that this was outrageous, and insulting to the people of Scotland?

Mr. Ross

I think that probably more insulting to the people of Scotland was the fact that the last Conservative Government, in their first Queen's Speech, suggested that they would bring forward proposals for an elected Assembly. Almost four years went by, and we never saw these proposals, and, so far as I can gather, there is even a possibility of a shift from what they suggested then.

Mr. Dalyell

On a point of fact, may I say, in relation to the last contribution, that I at least was here, and went to bed because the contributions were so preposterous?

21. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the number of representations he has received on the question of devolution, indicating how many of them express a desire for complete separation of Scottish government from that of the rest of the United Kingdom.

Mr. William Ross

Up to the present time I have received comments from over 50 organisations on the schemes of devolution set out in the Government' consultative document. I have also had about 170 letters from members of the general public in Scotland, of whom 69 favoured separatism or self-government, though not always in precise terms.

Mr. Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend say whether precise terms were indicated by the Scottish National Party? Can he also say how many Scottish people he thinks know the meaning of "devolution"?

Will he publish in a White Paper the precise details of what the Scottish National Party stands for—because nobody in Scotland knows?

Mr. Ross

It is only fair to state that the Scottish National Party referred to its objective of independence, but, like the other organisations, it directed its reply in the main to the schemes of devolution set out in the consultative document.

Mr. George Reid

As some 25 Scottish Labour Members are missing this morning and as no fewer than 39 were missing from this week's debate on Kilbrandon, will the right hon. Gentleman say whether this is indicative of his party's attitude to a Scots Government and Scots devolution?

Mr. Ross

I think the hon. Gentleman is quite wrong. He is doing a quick count. Many a time I have done a quick count and never seen a single member of the Scottish National Party.