Oral Answers to Questions — Scottish Assembly

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st November 1976.

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Mr. Grow:

asked the Lord President of the Council how many representations he has received to the effect that the Government's proposals to set up an Assembly in Scotland will lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom.

Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne

The hon. Gentleman should not be misled by the round dozen of representations he has received. Is he aware that the cause of discontent in Scotland lies not in the absence of an assembly but in growing revulsion against continuingly unsuccessful government?

Photo of Mr John Smith Mr John Smith , Lanarkshire North

There are causes for discontent in Scotland as in other parts of the United Kingdom. Where I disagree with the hon. Gentleman is that my assessment and that of the Government is that the majority of people in Scotland welcome our proposals for the reform of government. I have as much knowledge of the Scottish electorate as the hon. Gentleman has, given whom he represents in Parliament.

Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Christchurch and Lymington

The hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Reid) referred to the question of a referendum. Is the Minister aware that, if there is a referendum and if the proposal is that only the people of Scotland and Wales should take part, he must bear in mind that for over 270 years millions of Scots and Welsh people have moved to other parts of the Kingdom without considering that they have travelled abroad? There are in my constituency many people of Scottish and Welsh descent who would reasonably expect to be consulted on these matters.

Photo of Mr John Smith Mr John Smith , Lanarkshire North

Of course, Scots and Welsh people do not consider that they are travelling abroad in those circumstances. I do not consider myself to be abroad at this moment. We shall have an opportunity when the Bill is debated for all points of view from all parts of the United Kingdom to be discussed in the House. Questions such as those concerning possible referenda can be discussed by hon. Members.

Photo of Sir John Langford-Holt Sir John Langford-Holt , Shrewsbury

As Scotland is over-represented in the House—I speak as an Englishman—can the Minister assure us that, under any proposals about the extent to which powers are devolved to Edinburgh or Cardiff, representation in this House will be reduced to the same extent?

Photo of Mr Russell Kerr Mr Russell Kerr , Hounslow Feltham and Heston

That applies to the English counties as well.

Photo of Mr John Smith Mr John Smith , Lanarkshire North

This is an important matter which the House will no doubt wish to discuss when the devolution proposals are considered. The Kilbrandon Commission examined the matter and made certain proposals. It thought it impractical to have MPs dealing only with certain matters in the House. This is a fairly complicated matter. The Government would like to hear what hon. Members have to say when the Bill is debated.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

As the political temperature is likely to be taken this week at Walsall, Workington and Newcastle, to what extent is devolution a matter of extreme public concern at those three places?

Photo of Mr John Smith Mr John Smith , Lanarkshire North

I imagine that it is of less concern in those constituencies since they are in England.