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Volume 958: debated on Thursday 16 November 1978

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asked the Prime Minister if he will include in his engagements for 16th November a speech on devolution.

I am afraid not, but I refer my hon. Friend to my remarks about devolution at the Lord Mayor of London's banquet on Monday last.

Is not the Prime Minister aware that this week one "No" campaign in particular attacked his policy in a leaflet which claimed that an Assembly would mean less trade and commerce with England, making our unemployment worse? In lieu of a speech, will the Prime Minister use this opportunity to repudiate that ludicrous proposition and the gross misrepresentation of the Scotland Act?

Yes, Sir. I certainly agree with my hon. Friend. I do not know who said that, but I have a feeling that we shall listen to a great deal of misrepresentation during the next few months on these issues. But I look to my hon. Friends and others to correct them with their usual vigour.

As the date of the referendum has been announced as 1st March, which is not all that far away, will the Government take an early opportunity to tell us how parallel the referendum will be to the one in Europe? Will there, for example, be a Government statement delivered to every house, and will there be grants to "umbrella" organisations?

No, Sir, statements will not be delivered to every house. I believe that that question was gone into during debates on the Bill, and subsequently, but I have no doubt that these matters will be raised again when the Lord President introduces the forthcoming debate on the orders that have to be laid before the referendums.

Would my right hon. Friend, instead of making a speech on anything today, take time off to read the New Statesman pamphlet dated January 1950, published by the "Keep Left" group, where it states that a free democratic Socialist society could not operate successfully if wage bargaining was left either to the arbitrary decision of a wage stop or to the accident of unco-ordinated sectional bargaining?

Order. It cannot really be claimed that that question is linked with the one on the Order Paper. Open questions are coming later.

I was proposing alternatives to the speech on devolution. I think it is relevant to suggest alternative ways of using the day. Could I further suggest—

Order. That is not fair to other hon. Members. This Question is related to devolution.

Is the Prime Minister aware that about six months ago the 40 per cent. rule for the referendum was introduced with the support of anti-Scottish elements within his party? Why is it that in the orders that have just been published there is, despite Government assurances, no attempt to calculate the total number of the electorate on the register who are alive and do not have two votes at that time? Do the Government intend rigorously to apply the 40 per cent. rule, regardless of the anomalies which exist?

I think that that question will best be dealt with when the debate takes place on the orders providing for the referendum. It is a difficult and important question, but I do not accept strictures from a party that wants to break up the United Kingdom.