HC Deb 06 March 1979 vol 963 cc1088-90
Q2. Mr. Michael Spicer

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 6 March.

The Prime Minister

This morning I met the Japanese import promotion mission. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be holding further meetings with ministerial colleagues and others.

Mr. Spicer

Later on in the day, when the Prime Minister comes round to thinking about the votes that took place in Scotland and Wales in the referendum last week, will he bear in mind that the people of the country are now anxiously awaiting the announcement of the date on which the repeal orders to the Scotland and Wales Acts will be introduced? Will he assure the House that there will be no unnecessary delays?

The Prime Minister

Yes. I am aware that there is a responsibility laid upon the Government and upon the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Wales to bring forward these orders. They will, of course, do so.

Mr. George Rodgers

Will my right hon. Friend find the opportunity today to convey appreciation to the Soviet Union for its restraint and responsibility during the conflict between China and Vietnam?

The Prime Minister

I have noted that in view of the Soviet Union's support of Vietnam Mr. Brezhnev's statements on this matter have been restrained. I am very glad—and I am sure that the whole House is glad—that the Soviet Union has been restrained on this matter. I have no doubt that this will lead China more easily to withdraw from Vietnam, and, I hope, Vietnam to withdraw from Cambodia.

Mrs. Thatcher

May I press the Prime Minister a little further on his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer)? Since the Prime Minister accepts that the Government have a duty under the Scotland and Wales Acts to lay draft orders, will he say whether those will be laid and the House given the time to debate them and to reach a decision upon them before the end of the month?

The Prime Minister

I cannot give an answer at present—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—because the Government have not yet considered the dates for discussion of these matters. But when we have done so of course the right hon. Lady will be informed.

Mrs. Thatcher

The Prime Minister accepts that he must lay the draft orders and that there is a strict duty upon him to do so. Will he go ahead with that fairly quickly and then we can properly raise with the Lord President the matter of when it should be debated?

The Prime Minister

I understand that. There have been some suggestions that the Government might seek not to lay the orders, but, of course, that is not true. The Government will lay them. How far and when we should discuss these matters is a matter for further consideration by the Government. I understand that the Opposition also wish to consider the matter further. I think that we both need some time.

I suggest to the House seriously that, although the 40 per cent. requirement that Parliament inserted was not achieved, the House in its consideration of these matters should take care not to offend the 1¼ million people—a majority—who voted in favour.

There is a serious constitutional issue if we want to keep both Scotland and the United Kingdom united. That is why I think that we should all have a little time for reflection.

Mr. MacFarquhar

Will my right hon. Friend report to the House when he expects the institutional arrangements envisaged in the agreement between the Government and the trade unions to come into being?

The Prime Minister

I am making progress on the proposals for a standing commission on the subject of comparability between the various groupings in the community, especially in the public service, but not only in the public service. I am making progress with Ministers and in consultation with the TUC and the CBI. In spite of the slight derision from some Opposition Members, I hope that we shall be able to make rapid progress in setting up such an institution.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

In view of the fact that a Scottish Assembly was the Goverment's manifesto commitment in 1974 and that there was a clear "Yes" majority in the referendum on 1 March, will the Prime Minister say whether he will call upon his own supporters in the Government to back their own policy?

The Prime Minister

The Government have a very good record in the sense that we have, despite great difficulties in the House, pursued this matter for over two years. We have certainly fulfilled the commitments that we gave to the people of Scotland. But I am not to be tempted any further today on what will happen after a period of reflection.

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