HC Deb 09 December 1975 vol 902 cc224-5
Q1. Mr. Watt

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a ministerial broadcast on devolution.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)

I refer the hon. Member to the reply that I gave to the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) on 25th November, Sir.

Mr. Watt

Now that the results of the by-elections in Bishopbriggs and Bo'ness have shown clearly that the people of Scotland want meaningful devolution, will the Prime Minister tell those people whether he will persist in denying them the right to control their own agriculture, fisheries and industry? Will he, further, tell they why he considers them fit to run their own higher education service but unfit to have control of their universities?

The Prime Minister

I have long made it a practice not to comment even on Parliamentary by-elections, good or bad, so I shall certainly not comment on local government by-elections. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Party has sometimes been misled by parliamentary by-elections. The fact that the party which the hon. Gentleman represents believes that we have not gone far enough—and, if I am right, I believe that the Tory Party thinks that we have gone too far—suggests that we have probably got it just about right.

Mr. Anderson

The White Paper concludes that there is a "clear popular demand in … Wales" for devolution. My right hon. Friend, who always reacts sympathetically and promptly to public opinion, must know that this is not now the case. Therefore, will he draw the necessary conclusions and allow the people of Wales to express their own views on the issue?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend may know that when he was unavoidably not a Member of this House, between two very valuable periods of service, the whole Welsh Parliamentary Labour Party produced an agreed document, which we have followed in the proposals that we have made.

Mr. Rifkind

Does the Prime Minister realise that the proposals in the White Paper, if implemented, would make the Assemblies the only single-chamber Parliaments anywhere in the Western world? Does he agree that it is necessary for this House to have a regular right of review, not merely to ensure the sovereignty of the United Kingdom Parliament but also to ensure a higher quality for all Scottish legislation?

The Prime Minister

If the hon. Gentleman is proposing the abolition of another place within this building, that is a matter to which, of course, we shall give attention. We shall consider the matter and consult all parties on it. This is a very full White Paper. Hon. Members have had a chance to read it. We called for a great debate, which has begun, and as soon as the House returns after the Christmas Recess it is intended that there will be a major debate on this matter, in which all hon. Members who are called by you, Mr. Speaker, will be able to express their views.