HC Deb 03 February 1977 vol 925 cc736-8
Q1. Mr. Norman Lamont

asked the Prime Minister whether he will pay a visit to Muckle Flugga.

The Prime Minister (Mr. James Callaghan)

As I informed the hon. Member on the 25th January, 27th January and 1st February, I have no present plans to visit Scalloway and Bressay—to which I must now add Muckle Flugga—or, indeed, any other part of Shetland.

Mr. Lamont

Is the Prime Minister aware that if he were to visit the three inhabitants on Muckle Flugga or any of the other islands in the Shetlands he would find the people there extremely disappointed by the Government's insensitive attitude to the legitimate fears of Shetland as a result of the Government's devolution proposals? Did not the Prime Minister over-react to the situation by dismissing Parliamentary Private Secretaries for supporting the reasonable demands of the Shetland people? Will he ask the Secretary of State for Scotland to listen sympathetically to the reasonable demands of the Shetlands not for independence but for safeguards?

The Prime Minister

I am aware of the problems of some of the islands, which in due course the hon. Gentleman no doubt will also request me to visit, such as Unst, Yell and Fetlar, Lerwick and many other delectable places. But I cannot accept that the purpose of the Question is to elicit any idea that the Government are insensitive in these matters, because that is not true. Scottish Ministers have visited the islands, and there have been discussions. We have offered discussions to the people of Shetland about these matters, and they are still open. I am sure that if those discussions take place, the people of the Shetlands will not have to look as far as Kingston upon Thames to obtain support from their own Member of Parliament.

Mr. Grimond

I sympathise with the Prime Minister in his geography lesson, but I hope that he and other people will bear in mind that there are other problems in Shetland besides devolution. He will realise that questions of transport, freight and fishing are more important to ordinary people. He will be aware that the only amendment so far accepted by the Government to the Scotland and Wales Bill is an amendment that I tabled. There are further amendments seeking to protect the position of the Shetlands, which the Secretary of State for Scotland, without committing himself, has said he will examine.

The Prime Minister

I am aware of that. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the acceptance of his amendment. It goes to show that the Government are willing to give careful consideration to these matters.

Mr. James Lamond

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there are people much nearer home than Muckle Flugga who share the opinion of the Shetlands inhabitants about devolution and about the guillotine motion? If he seeks to persuade hon. Members who are against devolution by dining with them, would it not be more economical of his time if he were to dine with us all at the same time—provided that he can find a dining room big enough!

The Prime Minister

My dining habits, which, truth to tell, are frugal enough, seem to be getting a lot of attention recently. I am bound to say that disappointing though it may be, and though it may seem less exciting and romantic, it so happens that it is the custom of the trades union group of officers, after a speaker has addressed it, to invite him to dinner. I was very glad to accept the invitation. I am sorry to disappoint my hon. Friend but we did not mention even once the Scotland and Wales Bill—which was a great relief to all concerned.