HC Deb 03 July 1978 vol 953 cc24-5
35. Mr. Ioan Evans

asked the Lord President of the Council if he will make a statement on progress with arrangements to hold a referendum on the proposals to create an Assembly in Wales.

The Minister of State, Privy Council Office (Mr. John Smith)

I have nothing to add to the reply given earlier to the hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Wales.

Mr. Evans

Has my right hon. Friend considered the allocation of financial resources to those who will be campaigning for and against the Assembly, or are no funds to be made available? If that is the case, will he consider contacting the broadcasting media, the BBC and the IBA to ensure that there is fair play for both sides in the run-up campaign to the referendum?

Mr. Smith

The Government have already made clear, both in this House and in another place, that they have no intention of providing subventions to campaign organisations on either side of the referendum question. Indeed, legislation would be required for that purpose, and no amendments have been moved either in this House or in another place.

The other matter raised by my hon. Friend is one for the broadcasting authorities, which have an obligation to ensure impartiality in the coverage of the subject. I am sure that they will pay attention to the views of both sides of the argument that there should be fair representation.

Mr. Brittan

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is not only necessary for the Government to avoid supporting outside bodies, but that it is essential for the Government not to spend taxpayers' money supporting one side in a highly controversial campaign? Will he assure the House that the Government do not intend to use their resources and taxpayers' money in support of the "Yes" campaign, and that they will accept that it is right that there should be legislation making clear that that cannot be done?

Mr. Smith

On the latter point, I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman is anticipating matters which may be engaging the attention of the House at a later stage. Perhaps it will be better for the House to listen to the arguments then. The Government have made it quite clear that they will campaign for a "Yes" vote in the referendum, because that is the policy of the Government and it is the policy in our manifesto on which we were elected. We have made it equally clear that we will not provide money to either side of the campaign.