§ 14. Mr. Alexander Fletcher
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland which ministerial posts in the Scottish Office will no longer be required if the Scotland and Wales Bill is enacted and a Scottish Assembly established; and what functions are attached to them.
§ Mr. Millan
The number of ministerial posts in the Scottish Office, as elsewhere, is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I am surprised that the Question was not transferred. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, with eight Ministers in the Scottish Office, Scotland has a greater direct involvement in government than any other part of the United Kingdom? After last night's vote, does he not think that he should reconsider the fact that if there is an 1403 Assembly in Edinburgh Scotland's influence and involvement in the United Kingdom are bound to be seriously diminished? [Interruption.]
As my hon. Friend says, it is the supplementary question that should have been transferred. I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman says. There are only six ministerial posts in the Scottish Office, not eight.
§ Mr. Millan
They are not part of the Scottish Office. There is not likely to be any increase in the number of Ministers. There may be a reduction.
§ Mr. David Steel
Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that many people who are in favour of devolution in Scotland are none the less concerned about the great increase in the number of politicians and civil servants foreshadowed in the Bill, and that unless there is a clear reduction in the powers and scope of the Scottish Office and in his own position devolution will not be genuine but a sham?
§ Mr. Millan
There will be a considerable reduction in the responsibilities of the Secretary of State when the Bill is enacted. That will be reflected in the number of civil servants in the Scottish Office, and no doubt also in the number of Ministers who will remain as Scottish Office Ministers. But the latter point is not really a matter for me. One of the most interesting features of last night's vote was the way in which the Liberal Party ratted on its pledges.
§ Mr. Buchan
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it seems very curious for the Liberal Party to try to justify its shabby and unprincipled behaviour last night on the basis of the number of Ministers who might be talked about in a Question today? Is not this even stranger than the argument advanced yesterday by Liberal Members that they wanted a concession on proportional representation, which was advanced in the House and defeated? Are they not slightly mixed up?
I think that they are rather more than slightly mixed up. My impression yesterday was that the right hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and 1404 Peebles (Mr. Steel) and his right hon. and hon. Friends—for whatever reasons seemed sensible to them, but they were rather obscure to the rest of us—were anxious to betray their election pledges. I do not understand why the right hon. Gentleman wanted to do that.
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson
Is the Secretary of State aware that the House is anxiously awaiting a further statement of definition of the Government's intentions in relation to the devolution Bill? In view of his support for the measure and the fact that it was in his manifesto for the last General Election, will the right hon. Gentleman give a pledge that he will vacate his own office of Secretary of State as a question of principle if the Government abandon the Bill?
§ Mr. Millan
I do not think that we are inviting applications for Secretary of State yet. As for a general statement, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House made clear last night that we shall continue with the Bill tomorrow. There is a day's debate ahead of us, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, like the rest of us, is looking forward to that.
§ Mr. Sillars
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, notwithstanding the nonsense from the Liberals last night, given the support of other parties the Government theoretically had a majority of over 30 and that the Labour Party cannot evade its responsibility for the loss of the guillotine last night?
What I take into account in all this—and what will no doubt be reflected in any statement about the Bill subsequently made by the Government—is that the Bill now before the House had a substantial majority on Second Reading.