HC Deb 16 January 1978 vol 942 cc28-30
29. Mr. Wigley

asked the Lord President of the Council what proposals he has to ensure equity between the two sides in the referendums on devolution in respect of expenditure and broadcasting time.

Mr. John Smith

The Government have no proposals for controlling expenditure by campaigning organisations during the referendum campaigns. It is the responsibility of the broadcasting authorities to maintain balance and impartiality in their treatment of this subject.

Mr. Wigley

Does not the Minister realise that this is a very contentious issue and that there are people in Wales who are extremely worried that the result of the referendum will be bought by Confederation of British Industry money from England? Does he not realise that the control of both the broadcasting media and the vast majority of the Press in Wales emanates from London, which has a vested interest in the result which will be obtained? In those circumstances, will the Government think seriously about having a fair referendum?

Mr. Smith

I am not fearful about the influence that money provided by the CBI or anybody else from any part of the United Kingdom will have on the referendum, because I think that good ideas always triumph over money.

Mr. Jay

Do the Government intend to intervene in the referendum campaign, or will they leave it to the Scottish and Welsh people to decide?

Mr. Smith

I think my right hon. Friend understands that the Government are fully committed to the devolution proposals which are in the manifesto, and which are being carried through the House with the full support of the Government. The Government will support their own proposals.

Mr. Anderson

My hon. Friend will recall that during the Common Market referendum there was criticism that there was a pamphlet by the pros and a pamphlet by the antis and that the Government published a third pamphlet. Will he indicate what is the proposal on this occasion and whether the Government will publish a pamphlet in addition to any pamphlets which are circulated on behalf of the two front organisations?

Mr. Smith

The Government have not reached conclusions on these matters and will prefer to see how the Bill develops and how the proposals progress in the House. I re-emphasise the point I made in replying to my right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) that the Government will actively campaign for the proposals which they put to the House.