HC Deb 20 November 1974 vol 881 cc1307-9
14. Mr. Reid

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received asking him to ensure the establishment of the Scottish assembly, with powers over the Scottish economy, within two years.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Harry Ewing)

One, Sir, from the 1320 Club.

Mr. Reid

Does the Minister accept that it is possible to deluge him with further representations, if he so wishes? Will he give serious consideration to establishing an all-party committee of Scottish Members to investigate the possible location and likely support services for the assembly to obviate further delays once the Assembly Bill becomes law?

Mr. Ewing

The hon. Gentleman should be aware that it has never been the practice of Governments, nor will it be the practice under a Labour Government, to establish all-party committees to introduce Government policy.

Mr. Buchan

Will the Minister be a little kinder to hon. Members representing the Scottish National Party? After all, they will require a little time, in view of the split decision they came to in the House last night, when half of them said that they would grant independence to Shetland and the other half said that they were not in agreement with the granting of independence to Shetland, from which oil revenues will come? Two years is a short time in which to settle the question whether they want to keep all the Shetland oil in Scotland, or whether they wish to give Shetland independence and then take its oil. Since the SNP Members are obviously in a quandary, will the Minister give them a little time to sort out matters?

Mr. Ewing

My hon. Friend knows that my kindness knows no boundaries, and even extends to the SNP. I am prepared to give them as much time as they require to reach agreement among themselves on their policies.

Mr. Michael Clark Hutchison

Is the Minister aware that many people, including myself, do not want any assembly at all, because we believe that it will be a useless and unwanted extra tier of government?

Mr. Ewing

Yes, we are aware of those views. They were expressed this summer.

Mr. Sillars

Is my hon. Friend aware that if we set up a Scottish Parliament in the next two years the most disappointed political group in Scotland will be the Scottish National Party? In any consultations with the SNP, will my hon. Friend ask them the following question: if an assembly is set up, will the SNP try to make it work or try to destroy it?

Mr. Ewing

On my hon. Friend's first point, I agree that the most disappointed party in Scotland will be the Scottish National Party. On the second part of his remarks, my hon. Friend poses a question to which the whole of Scotland would like to know the answer, namely, whether the SNP proposes to make the assembly work. If I ever receive an answer to that question, I shall convey it immediately to the House.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

I wish the Under-Secretary of State well in his new office. Will he say whether the Government intend to establish an assembly to operate in two, three or four years time? Can he give any idea when the Government expect that assembly to be elected and to operate?

Mr. Ewing

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his good wishes on my appointment. I refer him to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council in the debate on the Queen's Speech. My right hon. Friend said that he hoped to be in a position nearer Christmas to give a more definitive timetable. Will the hon. Gentleman show a little more generosity, because even the 1922 Committee require six months to decide how to elect its leader? If that is the case, surely he will allow us a little more time to consider this matter.

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