HC Deb 28 October 1975 vol 898 cc1287-94
Q2. Mr. Rifkind

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make an official visit to the proposed site of the Scottish Assembly.

The Prime Minister

I have at present no plans to do so, Sir. My right hon. Friends the Lord President of the Council and the Secretary of State for the Environment visited the site last month.

Mr. Rifkind

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is deep concern in Scotland over the progress of the Government's devolution policy? Will he now give a categorical assurance, in the name of the whole Cabinet, that the Government will move to introduce the necessary legislation to establish the Assembly early in the next parliamentary Session? Will he give a further assurance that unless there is evidence of deliberate and continuing filibustering, there will be no suggestion of any guillotine being applied, bearing in mind that this is the most major constitutional legislation since the Act of Union of 1707?

The Prime Minister

I give the assurance for which the hon. Gentleman asks. I want to make it quite clear that the Government are resolved on proceeding in this matter and that the White Paper is at an advanced stage of preparation and will be introduced into the House in the next few weeks. While we shall, of course, be more than ready to listen to any public debate upon it and to have consultations upon it, we are already starting, and, indeed, have started, on the drafting of legislation.

On the question of a guillotine, that matter does not arise, because the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition and the Conservative Party are in support of the White Paper that we have published. [Interruption.] The White Paper we are drafting is intended—[Interruption.] The White Paper, on which we fought and won the election last year, has been supported, I understand, in general terms by the Conservative Party. The White Paper on which we are working clothes that White Paper with a great deal of detailed proposals, on which we shall be glad to have the views of the House.

I hope that there would not be any question of even having to consider a guillotine—though there is a very powerful precedent which I would not want to follow, namely, the application by the right hon. Lady's Government of a guillotine on the EEC legislation.

Mr. Dalyell

If we have Edinburgh Government, how, in conscience or logic, do we deny Northern Ireland at least an extra 10 Members?

The Prime Minister

My hon. Friend's views on this matter are well known and deeply respected, but they do not represent the view of the Labour Party, as stated in the manifesto on which we fought the election. I do not agree with him. The situation in Northern Ireland, which the whole House has deep regret in recognising, is entirely different from the situation on this side of the water. All of us hope that with good statesmanship in Northern Ireland we shall find a solution.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Is the Prime Minister aware that the Royal High School referred to would be a picturesque ruin before any decision-making came back to Scotland if he listened to some of the reactionaries on his own benches and on the Conservative benches? Is he also aware that, contrary to what has been said, the Chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party has given a guarantee that if the Government meet with any trouble from their own backwoodsmen, the Scottish Conservative Party will support them on a guillotine motion?

The Prime Minister

I do not know what the Chairman of the Scottish Conservative Party—for whom, I hasten to add, there is no ministerial responsibility—has said. I was not sure whether the hon. Member meant that the Government or the Opposition would introduce the guillotine motion. I do not accept the opening part of what the hon. Gentleman said. We are proceeding with all reasonable speed in this matter. We shall at all times, from now on, from the publication of the White Paper, be ready to listen to what is said in consultations. The White Paper represents the views of the Government. Subject to consultations or any comments made in public debate, we would propose to proceed on that basis.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Taylor.

Mr. Stokes

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is there not to be an opportunity for an English Member to raise his voice?

  1. PRIME MINISTER (VISITS) 507 words
  2. cc1290-4
  4. c1294