Prime Minister (Visits)

Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd January 1976.

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Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I hope to do so in the spring, Sir.

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel , Roxburgh Selkirk and Peebles

That is very good news. In the light of the devolution debate, has the right hon. Gentleman had any further thoughts about the procedure he will use in making progress towards devolution? Is he aware that some of us take the view that, rather than have a quick Bill which has no chance of becoming law this Session, it would be better to have inter-party discussions about improving the proposals for devolution, either informally, or through a pre-legislation Committee?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I shall certainly consider anything that the hon. Gentleman or any other hon. Members may say about the procedure that should be followed. However, now that we have had the four-day debate, I am sure that the House will not at the stage want to go into the issues raised during that debate. The debate was very exhaustive and, indeed, exhausting. The Government will now want to consider seriously the arguments put forward in the debate. As to procedure, timing and so on, if my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has anything to put before the House, he will no doubt do so.

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

Following what he has just said in answer to the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel), does the Prime Minister fully appreciate how dangerous it would he for the future of the United Kingdom and for the Government in the aftermath of the devolution debate to proceed now with a Bill on the basis of the proposals outlined in the White Paper, which attracted so little positive support and, indeed, aroused so much opposition in all parts of the House? It is important that the Government should fully appreciate the position as it is.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

Yes, of course. One always takes note of the weighty words of the right hon. Gentleman, who is experienced in these and other matters. However, I was not aware that when the Divisions were called the Conservative proposals received much support. Nevertheless, we shall study everything that was said from every part of the House, including the very serious speeches made from the Conservative Front Bench, which seemed to me to be sharply divided about which kind of Assembly they did not want.

Several Hon. Members:


Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

Order. I had in fact called the hon. Member for East Kilbride (Dr. Miller) before the right hon. Gentleman got to his feet.

Dr. M. S. Miller:

When my right hon. Friend comes to Scotland, as I hope he will, he will be pitched into the hurly-burly of politics in the area. May I extend an invitation to him to come to Strathavon, where he will be well received and where he will see the benefits that have accrued to little country towns during his Prime Ministership? It is a town that wishes to retain its old-world characteristics and, if he wishes, he may even catch a trout in the River Avon.

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he said, and I admire his ingenuity in managing to get in on this Question the supplementary that he would no doubt have put on Question No. Q8. I am sure that what he said will have weighed very heavily indeed with doubting Members in different parts of the House.

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I apologise, Mr. Speaker, for having got up at the wrong time. I think that it is only reasonable to return to the Prime Minister, who will not be surprised when I tell him that he did not in any way answer my question. What is far more important is that he should consider seriously and sensibly, as I know he will, what I am saying. We have the Government's proposals before us and the right hon. Gentleman has to account for those and for nothing else. I am saying that as they stand the Government's proposals will not attract support in the House. Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that on that basis it must be right for him to think again about the whole of the proposals and to decide how we may proceed on a basis that will attract support in the House?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

The right hon. Gentleman is too modest. I said that we should want to study not only the Government's proposals and what was said about them but all the proposals put forward from different parts of the House. We want to study them all very carefully indeed, including, as I said, the contributions by the official Opposition, though I indicated that on a first reading I was not very impressed by them.

Photo of Dr Winnie Ewing Dr Winnie Ewing , Moray and Nairn

May I ask the Prime Minister when he comes to Scotland—I am pleased that at last he has accepted an invitation—to meet some fishermen and to give them the bad news that I am bringing to the House from Luxembourg—that, at the end of a serious debate on the fishing industry on Thursday, Commissioner Lardinois said that there was no question of a renegotiation of the common fisheries policy, which is a direct contradiction of what Ministers here have repeatedly said? Ministers have even promised that renegotiation is under way. This is a very serious matter. Will the Prime Minister give that bad news to the fishermen and explain the reasons for it?

Photo of Mr Harold Wilson Mr Harold Wilson , Huyton

I am grateful for the hon. Lady's welcome. I visited Scotland six times last year, and I hope to go there again very soon.

I was discussing fishing matters with my right hon. Friends the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State for Scotland just before lunch this morning. I take note of what the hon. Lady said about what was said by a distinguished commissioner. I have found it more useful when listening to statements about what is likely to happen to listen to my right hon. Friends than always to accept what is said by the Commission. At the end of the day, these matters are decided by Ministers here and by the Council of Ministers.