HC Deb 15 July 1997 vol 298 c181
4. Mr. Letwin

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to make public funds available to groups campaigning in the forthcoming referendum in Scotland. [6693]

Mr. McLeish

The Government made it clear during the debates on the Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill that no state aid will be provided to any party or organisation for the purposes of campaigning at the referendum.

Mr. Letwin

I thank the Minister for that reply. Is there an intention to distribute widely in Scotland leaflets describing the White Paper, as has been reported in the press? If so, what arrangements will be made to guarantee their neutrality in the light of what he has just said?

Mr. McLeish

I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that any material published and produced by the Government in relation to the referendum campaign will be totally objective. The Government intend to assist the voters in the referendum, first, through an absent voters campaign targeted at people who will be away from home or unable to attend a polling station on the day of the referendum. Secondly, a detailed White Paper will be published shortly. Thirdly, a summary of the White Paper will be made available to all households in Scotland.

Mrs. Fyfe

Does my hon. Friend agree that we should be grateful to the Scottish Constitutional Convention for preparing the ground for the White Paper with its proposals? Does he also agree that gratitude should be expressed to it for bringing forward proposals to ensure that women of mettle in Scotland play an equal part in that Scottish Parliament when it is formed? It is a disgrace that other parties are not willing to do the same.

Mr. McLeish

I am very pleased to associate myself with the remarks made by my hon. Friend. The Scottish Constitutional Convention has done an excellent job in preparing the way for the Scottish Parliament. It should be applauded for the preparation it has done towards the White Paper and the subsequent Bill. Of course, our White Paper will be based substantially on the document produced by it.

In response to the final part of my hon. Friend's question, we hope that the political parties in Scotland will listen carefully to what she has said today. We want to see a move towards equal representation. Of course, it is up to the political parties to try to achieve that.