HC Deb 15 November 1977 vol 939 cc108-9W
Mr. Cowans

asked the Lord President of the Council whether the Government have reached any conclusions about devolution and England in the light of responses to the consultative document "Devolution: The English Dimension".

Mr. Foot

The consultative document was published in December of last year and the Government are grateful to those bodies and individuals who have submitted views on it. We have considered these views carefully.

In the field of constitutional change the Government recognise the sincerity and strength of conviction of those who advocate a regional structure of government in England. But any change of such significance would need to rest on a broad consensus of popular support which, as is clear from the consultations, does not exist at present. The Government do not propose to initiate any major constitutional change in England until there is evidence of much more extensive support for it.

The consultations have, however, revealed support for limited change within the existing local government system. The Government have not yet taken a view but are giving further consideration to limited change and in due course will make a report to the House.

The consultative document dealt also with the scope for improving the machinery of economic development in the regions of England. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry informed the House on 8th November, the Government have, in the light of views expressed during the consultative process, invited the National Enterprise Board to go ahead with plans for enlarging its operations in both the Northern and the North-Western regions.