HC Deb 01 April 1976 vol 908 cc1570-2
Q1. Mr. Lawson

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with the progress being made in implementing the policies set out in the Queen's Speech.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Edward Short)

As the House knows, my right hon. Friend is attending a meeting of the European Council in Luxembourg today and tomorrow and, in his absence, I have been asked to reply.

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Lawson

I am sorry that the Prime Minister cannot be with us today, if only to wave the pound goodbye. Is the Lord President aware how sad it is that someone who began as a tour de force should have ended up forced to tour?

Mr. Short

The hon. Gentleman asked what progress we were making in implementing the policies set out in the Queen's Speech. Of the Bills mentioned there, four have already received the Royal Assent, 13 are before Parliament—some having made substantial progress—and the remaining Bills are due to be introduced slowly—I am sorry, I should have said "shortly".

Mr. Bidwell

The Queen's Speech referred to improving the common agricultural policy. What progress has been made in that direction?

Mr. Short

Perhaps I may explain that I meant to say that the Bills would be introduced quickly—very quickly, and certainly before Easter.

On my hon. Friend's supplementary question, I have no doubt that my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary will be raising this matter in the European Council in Luxembourg today and tomorrow.

Mr. Gwynfor Evans

On devolution, is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the significant improvements that have been suggested by the Labour Party at least on the Scottish part of the measures, and that no such improvements are suggested for Wales in spite of pressure from the Welsh TUC? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Wales will not long tolerate a status inferior to that of Scotland?

Mr. Short

We have received hundreds of submissions from a great many bodies throughout the country, including an excellent one from the Welsh TUC. We shall take all these into account before publishing the Bill.

Mr. Heffer

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Scottish Labour Party conference may have made some suggestions for what it regards as improvements, but that it is totally opposed to any separation from the United Kingdom; and that it is as keen and dedicated to remain part of the United Kingdom as are the rest of us.

Mr. Short

I am glad that my hon. Friend saw some light on the way to Damascus last weekend. He will also have seen the excellent statement by the TUC—not the Scottish TUC but the United Kingdom TUC—published last week on devolution, warmly supporting the Government's proposals.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Since the Labour Party in Scotland has made some improvements on the right hon. Gentleman's original package, since that package concerns one of the important promises in the Queen's Speech, and since all the starters in the race for the leadership of the Labour Party have been converted to devolution in the last two weeks, will the right hon. Gentleman bring the Bill forward as quickly as possible?

Mr. Short

The draft Bill will be published as early as possible. Let me repeat: we have received hundreds of submissions, some of great length. We are trying to digest all these. We shall publish the Bill when we have looked at all the submissions.

Mr. Whitelaw

The right hon. Gentleman referred to "the Bill" and "the draft Bill". Does that mean that the decision has been taken and that the idea of having separate Bills for Scotland and Wales has now been abandoned? If that is so, does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that many people will think that that is a very bad decision indeed?

Mr. Short

We have not yet taken a decision on this matter. I gave an undertaking to the right hon. Gentleman when he raised this matter in debate, and a number of other hon. Members have raised it. I think that a group of Members is coming to see me next week about this issue. Certainly we shall consider all the representations that we have had before we decide.