§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Harry Ewing)
No decision has yet been taken on where the Assembly will be located in Edinburgh.
§ Mr. Reid
Does the Minister appreciate that his reply will be received with deep suspicion in Scotland? Is he saying that the Government's timetable for devolution is bang on target, whereas last Thursday the Leader of the House indicated that the White Paper might be slipped back as far as the autumn? Will the hon. Gentleman answer a straight question? How long will it take to draft the Assembly Bill? If it takes five or six months, how, in view of his prevarication today, can it be laid before the House in November?
§ Mr. Ewing
The House and the people of Scotland will be aware that the hon. Gentleman and his friends, through Press comments, do much to lead to deep suspision on this subject or any other subject. I doubt whether I have ever seen in any of the newspapers in Scotland, circulating within or outside his constituency, a factual report of a meeting that the hon. Gentleman has attended or a Question that he has asked in the House.
On this question, the Property Services Agency is carrying out a study of various buildings in Scotland, including the former Royal High School, Donaldson's School and the Church of Scotland Assembly Hall. We expect to receive a report in the very near future, although I cannot possibly say at present when a statement will be made. However, the hon. Gentleman will be deeply disappointed inasmuch as when our proposals are published he and Scotland will see that they form a very comprehensive package which wil be acceptable to the people of Scotland.
§ Mr. Buchan
Was not that supplementary question of the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Reid) rather curious? In a speech in my constituency he expressed his deep desire for us to be part of the EEC. He may want the Scottish Assembly—[Interruption.] It was printed in the Greenock Telegraph. The hon. Gentleman knows that. He may, perhaps, want the Scottish Assembly to be in Brussels.
§ Mr. Reid
I should like to take the opportunity of correcting the remarks of the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan). I made it obvious that at that particular meeting—[HON. MEMBERS: "Question."] Does he appreciate that at that meeting I did not make that remark? I said, first, that Scotland should seek a Norwegian-type deal. That was the burden of my remarks.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I try to avoid points of order at Question Time. If an allegation is made against an hon. Member, I do, in my discretion, call him for another supplementary question, which I did in this case.
§ Mr. Buchan
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This matter affects my honour, since I am reporting accurately and honestly what appeared in my constituency newspaper.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Really, the object of Question Time is to get information from Ministers and not to make allegations against other hon. Members.
§ Mr. Grimond
As well as a site for the Assembly, are the Government aware that Scotland also needs sites for an increased Civil Service and executive staff? Will the Minister assure us that planning is going forward for running down the Civil Service in London and moving staff to Edinburgh? What public participation will there be in the ultimate decision where the Assembly and these other buildings are to be situated?
§ Mr. Rifkind
I appreciate fully that the Government must take great care in the formulation of their proposals for the Assembly. However, will the Minister now give the House an assurance that a 1459 White Paper will be published in advance of the Bill to implement these proposals, in order that the House and the country as a whole may consider in detail the proposals that the Government are putting forward?