HC Deb 03 July 1978 vol 953 cc29-30
40. Mr. Wigley

asked the Lord President of the Council if he will now indicate approximately when the Government hope to hold the referenda on devolution in Wales and Scotland.

Mr. John Smith

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply I gave earlier to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans).

Mr. Wigley

Will the Minister give an assurance that, if the Scotland Bill and the Wales Bill are on the statute book before the end of this Session, before the Session ends he will have announced the date of the referendums?

Mr. Smith

It is impossible for anyone on this side of the House to predict when we shall be in a position to make announcements or statements of any sort. The House still has a considerable way to go in dealing with these Bills.

Mrs. Bain

Is not one of the reasons why the Government are not prepared to announce the date of the referendums that they still have not made up their mind about the anomalies that persist as a result of the House passing the 40 per cent. minimum requirement?

Mr. Smith

As the hon. Lady knows, we are considering that matter and seeking to make the best we can of the unfortunate decision arrived at by the House. On the subject of people making up their minds, I wish that the hon. Lady would explain to the people of Scotland why she continually votes against the Government on motions of confidence when only this Government can ensure that there is devolution.

Mr. Dalyell

Can my right hon. Friend clarify his phrase "seeking to make the best…of the unfortunate decision"?

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend will get an opportunity to consider it further. What I intended to convey and what my words clearly conveyed, was that we are trying to make sense out of a decision which, on the face of it, causes some difficulty. My hon. Friend should not be too conspiratorial. There is quite an innocent explanation for the phrase, and he must not think that every word must be read as if it carried some Levantine intent.