HC Deb 07 November 1979 vol 973 cc232-4W
Mr. Foulkes

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) on what exact date invitations were issued to other parties for the all-party talks on devolution; to whom they were sent; and what was proposed in these invitations regarding the remit, numbers participating and timetable of the talks;

(2) whether he has any proposals for instituting public discussion and input into the all-party talks on devolution or for involving Back-Bench Members in the discussions;

(3) what responses he has so far received to his invitations to all-party talks on devolution, whether any meetings have now taken place; and what action he proposes to take if one or more parties refuse to participate;

(4) what proposals he has for the Scottish Grand Committee to meet in Scotland; and whether other business of the House relating to Scottish affairs will be transferred to Edinburgh;

(5) if he will arrange to issue regular bulletins on the progress of the all-party talks on devolution.

Mr. Younger

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster wrote on 24 October 1979 to the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot), the right hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) and the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) with invitations to take part in all-party talks on the government of Scotland. The Government have suggested for the all-party talks a maximum of three hon. Members from each party; the Government's representatives would be from the Front Bench. The terms of reference suggested are: to consider whether the present system of government in Scotland could be improved by changes in the procedures, powers and operational arrangements for dealing with Scottish parliamentary business". The topics proposed for discussion—which emerged from the bilateral talks held before the recess—include the possibility of meetings of the Scottish Grand Committee and the Scottish Standing Committees in Edinburgh. The new Select Committee on the Scottish Office can meet in Scotland if it so wishes. The Government do not intend to institute public discussion at this stage but would, as always, be ready to take account of views expressed by the public. No timetable has been set for the talks but the Government see no need for them to be unduly protracted.

The issuing of progress reports would be a matter for those participating to consider in the light of their discussions