HC Deb 06 November 1978 vol 957 cc492-4
15. Mr. Grist

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what facilities he proposes to extend to assist either side or both sides in the referendum under the Wales Act.

Mr. John Morris

The Government have no plans to give financial or other assistance to campaign organisations.

Mr. Grist

Does this mean that the information division of the Welsh Office will not be brought in to support the "Yes" campaign during the referendum? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept that Ministers who represent Welsh constituencies, Members of Parliament for Welsh constituencies and even civil servants in Wales should be allowed publicly to express their opinion about the future of their own country?

Mr. Morris

Each Minister will be answerable for himself. In regard to civil servants, there are well-established procedures in regard to their role in taking part in political activities of this kind. I have nothing to add.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Is it not the fact that, although there will be no direct financial help to either side, the Government will put the full weight of their public relations machine on to one side in the campaign?

Mr. Morris

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, and no doubt it will be dealt with if the hon. Gentleman seeks to table a Question to my right hon. Friend. I assure the hon. Gentleman that this is Government policy, and the Government will want to ensure that their policy is put into effect.

Mr. Abse

What will happen about postal facilities in respect of all those who take part in the campaign? Will facilities be given to all the various lobbies to ensure that their point of view is presented to the electorate? Is it not proper that as soon as possible the Secretary of State should lay down his suggested ground rules on these subjects and state whether there will be any facilities and, if so, to whom they will be afforded? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman have discussions with the BBC and the IBA on the presentation of various views to ensure that they will consider the independent views of Labour Members, who represent the overwhelming majority of the Labour electorate?

Mr. Morris

I shall try to assist my hon. Friend on the whole host of supplementary questions which he has put to me. The matter of broadcasting time is a matter for the broadcasting authorities, which have an obligation to ensure that as far as possible due impartiality is preserved. It is also for the broadcasting authorities to decide whether to allocate time to campaign organisations.

I take it that my hon. Friend wants to encourage postal votes in the referendum as in all elections. The matter is under consideration. It is in the interests of all concerned that the vote should be as high as possible. Consideration is being given to whether there should be any publicity, as is usual in the course of a General Election, to ensure that there is registration for postal votes. The conduct of the referendum generally is a matter for consideration by the House when a draft Order in Council is laid under schedule 12 to the Wales Act.

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