06/01/2016 Scottish Questions


06/01/2016

Highlights of Scottish Questions from Westminster.


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Hello and welcome to a somewhat springlike Westminster. It is

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shaping up to be a busy political year already. The possibility of a

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referendum on Britain's place within the European Union could happen this

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year. No shortage of topics for MPs to get their teeth into. As far as

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Scottish MPs are concerned, one issue, to do with the financial

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arrangements surrounding more devolution to Scotland, the

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so-called fiscal framework, is looming large. And it played a large

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part at Scottish questions. Here is how proceedings got under way.

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Question number one, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, can I begin by wishing you

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a very happy New Year? And in light of the recent flooding in Scotland,

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can I also pay tribute to all those in the emergency services and local

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authorities and volunteers who have dealt with these challenging

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circumstances, and to say that the thoughts of the whole House will be

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with those who have had their homes and businesses flooded. With

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permission, Mr Speaker, I will answer questions one, two, five and

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ten together. The UK and Scottish governance are discussing the fiscal

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framework through the Joint Exchequer Committee. There have been

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five meetings between the Deputy First Minister and the Chief

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Secretary to the Treasury. Next is due to take place Friday. I thank

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him for that answer. I associate with what he says about the

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flooding. My constituency has been affected and was an appreciative of

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the work being done by the emergency services. The block grant will need

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to be adjusted to take account of revenue raising powers being

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devolved. As by the Swiss Smith Commission, the Scottish Government

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should not be financing disadvantages as a result of the

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transfer of the new powers. Will he give us his views as to what would

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be a fair indexation of the block grant adjustment? Mr Speaker, my

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understanding is that the Deputy First Minister of Scotland, John

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Swinney, who I had a very productive meeting with just before Christmas,

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is actually conducting these negotiations on behalf of the

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Scottish Government just and Mr Swinney at my meeting assured me

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that his object was exactly the same as that of the United Kingdom

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government, a settlement which is fair to Scotland and fair to the

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whole of the United Kingdom. This is also a question on the so-called

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fiscal framework. It will ensure that Scotland is no worse off

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financially as a result of the transfer of powers. Does the

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minister agree with the cross-party view and that of various others that

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only the model of indexed deduction per capita would adequately deliver

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the principle of no detriment? What I have said, Mr Speaker, in my

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previous answer, is that we are involved in an ongoing negotiation.

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Mr Swinney is conducting that negotiation. I have got tremendous

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respect for Mr Swinney and his ability to reach a fair settlement

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for Scotland. I have got tremendous respect for the chief secretary to

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reach a fair settlement for the rest of the United Kingdom. I am

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confident on the basis of the discussions which took place,

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including my own discussions with the Deputy First Minister, those

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involving the Prime Minister and the First Minister, as well as the

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meeting which is due to take place on Friday, that we will be able to

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achieve the first settlement. A good New Year to you, Mr Speaker. I think

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many people will find it bizarre and unacceptable that the Secretary of

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State for Scotland is not even attending the negotiations. Can the

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Right Honourable gentleman explained why his office of Secretary of State

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seems to have been deemed irrelevant to these critical negotiations? And

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given he is not directly involved, can he share his personal view of

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whether he agrees with the learning professors on the preferred model?

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Mr Speaker, I think what many people in Scotland will find bizarre, at a

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session in Parliament which is called Scottish questions, that the

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Scottish National Party could come up with only one question Veljko

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clearly they were all told to ask! But Mr Speaker, I know it may

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impinge on the self-importance which some SNP MPs a tribute to

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themselves, but it is the Deputy First Minister of Scotland, John

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Swinney, who is negotiating the agreement, not SNP MPs! The model of

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indexed adjustment for the block grant may result in the Scottish

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block grant falling substantially without consideration of the

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different rates of population growth north and south of the border. Does

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the minister agree with me that this or any other model of block grant

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adjustment which results in a diminished Scottish budget year on

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year will not fulfil the Smith mission's principle of no detriment?

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Mr Speaker, I am disappointed with the honourable gentleman's analysis.

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Because the new powers, which are being delivered by the Scotland

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bill, Kate the opportunity for Scotland's economic growth to

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increase, for Scotland's population to increase. I am very surprised

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that he has such a negative view of the use of those powers that it

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would be impossible to increase the population or the economic growth in

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Scotland and therefore increase tax take. Thank you, Mr Speaker. Does my

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right honourable friend agree that with the transfer of the new,

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extensive powers which my right honourable friend has just agreed

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will be given to the Scottish Parliament, it will far once put the

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SNP government truly to be accountable to the Scottish people,

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and that this talk of a second referendum is just a smoke screen to

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take away their accountability to the Scottish people? Conservative MP

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for Leicestershire south. I actually agree with my honourable friend, the

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impression created again today, Mr Speaker, by the SNP, is that they

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are entirely driven by process arguments, not about hitting on with

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getting an agreement on the fiscal framework, about getting the new

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powers in place and then doing something positive for the people of

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Scotland with those powers. Thank you, Mr Speaker. Can my right

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honourable friend confirm that once the fiscal framework has been

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agreed, the devolution of tax powers to the Scottish Parliament can "Lee

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Wallace the Conservative MP. Mr Speaker, I am absolutely committed

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to delivering the powers set out in Scotland bill once it becomes an act

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of Parliament as quickly as possible. We want to see that act on

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the statute books ahead of the Scottish Parliament election so it

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can shake those elections and the parties can set out what they intend

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to do with the powers. And I would like to see the tax powers in place

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by April 2017. The success of the fiscal framework is absolutely vital

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to the future success of the tax powers which have been devolved.

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Confidence in the framework is vital for individuals and businesses,

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especially in the border region. Does the minister believe the

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Scottish Government is approaching these discussions in good faith,

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which will be fair to people on both sides of the border? I absolutely

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am, Mr Speaker. From the discussions, which are Nicola

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Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, had with the Prime

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Minister, from those I have had with the dippy First Minister, and we

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have to remember that stays in the people who are determining what will

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be agreed in relation to the fiscal framework, their view is clear, and

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I take it as Cynthia, that they want to achieve a fiscal framework

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agreement within the near future, and that we can move forward with

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enacting the bill and transferring those powers, which can make such a

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difference to the people of Scotland.

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The Smith Commission recommended that the cost of establishing the

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infrastructure for the collection of taxes should be cost borne by the UK

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Government. The Secretary of State for Scotland confirm that the UK

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Government accepts those recommendations? What I can confirm

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to the honourable gentleman is that gas is one of the items which is

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part of the discussion between the UK Government and the Scottish

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governance. But Mr Speaker, it is rising that SNP MPs have such little

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confidence in Mr Swinney and the Scottish Government in the

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negotiations, to hold out for positions which would be benefit all

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for Scotland! I find it staggering! I wonder if the Secretary of State

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agrees with the First Minister, with the Professor and with the test EU

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see, that more powers for Scotland and not come at any price. That the

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fiscal framework must deliver fairness for Scotland. Can he give a

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date by which that agreement must be reached? I absolutely agree that the

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arrangements must be fair. Fair to Scotland, third just to the rest of

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the United Kingdom. I think that that is perfectly achievable. The

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negotiations and discussions which have taken place, whilst not

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providing a running commentary, have been productive. I think the

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comments made by Mr Swinney for example to the finance committee in

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the Scottish Parliament, where he clearly said that the Scottish

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Government should benefit from the positive decisions they take but

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accept the consequences of bad policy decisions, is one which I am

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absolutely in agreement with. And that should apply to the UK

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Government, too, in relation to our responsible at ease. May I wish you,

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Mr Speaker, and all the staff of the House of Commons a happy New Year?

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You would have thought the pantomime season was over, but judging by

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today's questions, it clearly isn't. There is no shortage of things which

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could be... Oh, yes it certainly is. I was expecting that, Mr Speaker,

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from someone who has got no jokes whatsoever. There is no shortage of

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things that we could be gritting the government on. The Secretary of

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State has created this sham I keeping the fiscal framework secret.

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The Finance Secretary who is negotiating this... The people of

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Scotland are being kept in the dark. will the Secretary of State, and I

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have asked this before, but an end to this pantomime of manufactured

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grievance and be completely transparent about the fiscal

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framework? Mr Speaker, the government is completely transparent

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about its position in relation to the fiscal framework. We want it

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agreed as soon as possible. We want it to be scrutinised by both

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parliaments. When I was in the Scottish Parliament recently I have

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the opportunity to meet with Bruce Crawford, the convener of the

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devolution committee. He has assured me that he is satisfied that in

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connection with the finance committee in the Scottish

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Parliament, there will be adequate opportunity to scrutinise the fiscal

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framework. I am clear that there will be an opportunity in the other

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place to scrutinise it. And the Scottish affairs select committee is

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currently conducting an inquiry. I don't think the people of Scotland

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will be in the dark in any way about the fiscal framework and I think it

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will achieve what we wanted to achieve but it will also be subject

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to proper scrutiny. I don't think the Secretary of State understands

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the process and how important it is. The Scotland bill constitutes the

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biggest transfer of powers ever to Scotland. But the underpinning

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provisions are being hidden from the Scottish people. I have written to

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both governments to try and get transparency and the response from

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both governments has been no. Meanwhile the Scottish covenant are

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threatening to veto the bill. Whilst these negotiations are being

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conducted in secret, both governments can blame each other

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with manufactured grievance, and it is the people of Scotland who will

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lose out. So can the Secretary of State at least assure us that in

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future, negotiations as important as this on Scotland's finances are

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conducted with greater transparency and greater democratic scrutiny?

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I have no grievance because I am confident that the Scottish

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Government want to achieve an agreement, the UK Government wants

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to achieve an agreement based on fairness to Scotland, and the rest

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of the UK. Well I given an absolute commitment? As agreed, it will be

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adding full Parliamentary seat scrutiny in the Scottish Parliament

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and in Westminster. This is a question about defence

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installations. Mr Speaker, may I start by adding to your comment just

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now introducing question number three by congratulating my

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honourable friend for the recognition he received last week

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for 30 years service to this House and the people of Norfolk. It's a

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great pleasure he had that recognition last week. In response

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to this question, the MoD engages with the Scottish Government about

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defence establishments and matters at many levels official and

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ministerial. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for

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Scotland, met the Cabinet Secretary for infrastructure, investment on

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the 17th of November to discuss the issue and the defence Minister has

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met the Scottish Government Cabinet secretary twice previously and the

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Defence Secretary has agreed to meet the Scottish Government Cabinet

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secretary soon. Can I thank him for his generosity. Given that Faslane

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will sustain the largest employment site in Scotland, isn't it clear

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that Scotland is the biggest beneficiary? Surely this makes the

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stance on Trident even more perverse and damaging? Here's quite right

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that this Government we are investing very significantly in

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defence in Scotland and, following the SDS are, not only will we be

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spending ?500 million at fast lane, one of the Royal Navy three

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operating bases and one of the largest operating sites in Scotland,

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currently 6000 military jobs there today. This will increase to 8000 as

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we move all submarines based there by 2022. Scotland will also be home

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to our new maritime patrol aircraft when 400 extra personnel will be

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stationed to man the squadron at RAF Lossiemouth. Scotland is a vital

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location. As the SNP has been pointing out for a long time, it's

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been dangerous for a maritime state like the UK not to have maritime

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patrol aircraft so we welcome the recent U-turn by the Government in

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the procurement of the aircraft. Can you confirm when the entire fleet

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will be operational? What we made clear is the procurement of nine

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aircraft and the fleet will be put short through a perfume and

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contract, the latter of which has already been submitted to the United

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States. The first aircraft will be operational in 2019. The Minister

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wasn't able to answer the question of when will the entire fleet be

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operational so perhaps when it comes back after my second question, he

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will answer the first. The RAF is currently maintaining its skill base

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by training on maritime patrol aircraft with Canada, USA, Australia

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and New Zealand. The importance of training was scheduled to be base at

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RAF Kinloss before the scrapping of the Rod fleet. Will the Government

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ensure that training for this aircraft is based at RAF Rosser

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mouth as it currently is for both tornadoes and typhoons? As we are

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currently in contractual negotiations for the procurement, it

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would be wrong of me to pre-empt precisely the nature of those

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negotiations so I can't answer as initial question as to how many

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aircraft will be available by when until such time as the contract has

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been concluded. As to training, he is right to reflect the fact that we

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have cruise in service on this platform with other users in the USA

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and the training will be established as part of the procurement process

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in the coming months. This is another defence-related question.

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While defence and national security remain reserved to the UK Parliament

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we recognise the importance of engaging with the devolved

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administrations and I just said it previous answer the Parliamentary

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Under-Secretary of State of Scotland and I have met with a Scottish

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Government to discuss these matters. UK defence contracts are a major

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source of jobs in Scotland with 2500 employed on Clydeside so can the

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Minister explain why his Government would to defence spending by 14% in

:18:53.:19:00.

the last Parliament? Well, I'm sorry he seeks to hark back rather than to

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look forward, having just published at the end of November the SDSR

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during which this Government committed to increase defence

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spending in real terms for each year this Parliament which is what we are

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looking forward to and much of that investment will be spent in Scotland

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and indeed in South Wales we procure the Ajax vehicle.... Foundations for

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a stronger economy. A Scottish economy has been going for 11

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quarters in a row. Scotland benefits from being part of the UK. The

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fastest-growing G7 economy in 2014 and is forecast to the joint fastest

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in 2015. Of course, will my right noble friend agree this is one

:20:00.:20:01.

element which makes the union so successful? I do agree with the

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honourable lady. It's a fundamental part of the growth in Scotland

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economy that we are part of a single market within Ali UK. I had the

:20:14.:20:19.

pleasure recently to visit Alexander Dennis, in Falkirk and I'm sure they

:20:20.:20:24.

would agree the rest of the UK is one of the most important markets.

:20:25.:20:31.

Given that employment in Scotland is now 53,000 higher than it was

:20:32.:20:38.

pre-crisis, and given that output in Scotland is 3% higher than at the

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peak crisis point, will he concur with Scottish business leaders that

:20:44.:20:49.

to oppose the savage cuts by the Treasury in the Autumn Statement to

:20:50.:20:57.

the UK's trade and export agency,... I very much welcome the figures my

:20:58.:21:08.

honourable friend setup. In relation to the positive economic situation

:21:09.:21:12.

in Scotland. I don't subscribe to the frequently voiced SNP position

:21:13.:21:16.

that anything good that happens in Scotland is in relation to the

:21:17.:21:19.

Scottish Government, anything bad is in relation to the UK Government. We

:21:20.:21:23.

have two governments working together for the benefit of

:21:24.:21:35.

Scotland. The North Sea oil and gas industry is part of Scotland's

:21:36.:21:39.

economy. Yesterday a Scottish MSP claimed there was no crisis in the

:21:40.:21:44.

industry. Even though it's been estimated 65,000 jobs have been lost

:21:45.:21:49.

since 2014. The SNP clearly inhabits a different world to everybody else.

:21:50.:21:53.

Can the Secretary of State tell us what is Government is doing to

:21:54.:21:56.

support the oil industry and what it is doing to protect the thousands of

:21:57.:22:03.

jobs which depend on it? Mr Speaker, I find it extraordinary that anyone

:22:04.:22:08.

who represents the north-east of Scotland could claim that there was

:22:09.:22:12.

no crisis in the oil and gas industry. This Government has

:22:13.:22:16.

demonstrated yet again in the Chancellor 's Autumn Statement that

:22:17.:22:20.

we are committed to that industry and thousands of jobs that it

:22:21.:22:26.

supports right across the UK and there will be further evidence of

:22:27.:22:28.

our commitment to Aberdeen and the north-east in the weeks ahead. This

:22:29.:22:39.

is a question about benefit changes. The spending review 2015 shows over

:22:40.:22:42.

half of all spending on welfare public services goes to the poorest

:22:43.:22:47.

40% of households in the UK. This is not changed as a result of a

:22:48.:22:56.

Government policy since 2010. The ISS estimates by 2020 more than 2.5

:22:57.:23:03.

million working families on Universal Credit will be, on

:23:04.:23:09.

average, ?1600 a year worse off due to the cuts to the work allowance in

:23:10.:23:15.

Universal Credit. My constituents know how that's going to damage then

:23:16.:23:20.

but does the Secretary of State have the first clue? How many of those

:23:21.:23:24.

families are in Scotland and what the impact and scale will be on

:23:25.:23:31.

them? The best way to help working households in this country is to

:23:32.:23:36.

ensure that we have a job-creating economy, we see wages going up, we

:23:37.:23:40.

introduce a national living wage to help millions of people and we have

:23:41.:23:44.

a secure and stable economy. That's what this Government is delivering.

:23:45.:23:50.

Household incomes in Scotland will be of intense interest, not least to

:23:51.:23:54.

people living in Scotland. We must hear the questions and the answers.

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I recently asked a question to the Secretary of State, what discussions

:24:05.:24:08.

he had had with the Secretary of State of Work and Pensions on the

:24:09.:24:12.

introduction of a new working health programme in Scotland? Has answer

:24:13.:24:15.

was a masterful example on how to not to answer would is what we've

:24:16.:24:20.

seen today. Will he take this opportunity to tell the House if he

:24:21.:24:23.

has bothered to discuss how this new programme will affect my

:24:24.:24:33.

constituents and the DWP? This Government is making reforms to the

:24:34.:24:37.

welfare system, making sure work always pays, we have to ensure it is

:24:38.:24:41.

affordable but Mayor also remind her that of course with the powers under

:24:42.:24:45.

the Scotland Bill, Scottish Government does have the power to

:24:46.:24:48.

top-up benefits and introduce new benefits. This is a question or the

:24:49.:25:00.

number of students at Scottish universities. The figures show

:25:01.:25:09.

applications for those aged 18 in 2040 was 37% in Scotland compared to

:25:10.:25:16.

44% in England. I wish to share the voice of Christchurch. How can it be

:25:17.:25:25.

in the UK national interest that school leavers from Scotland are

:25:26.:25:32.

being denied access to their own universities because of the

:25:33.:25:34.

arbitrary cap on numbers imposed by the Scottish Government when school

:25:35.:25:40.

leavers with lower qualifications from the rest of the UK are able to

:25:41.:25:47.

gain such access? The honourable gentleman makes an important point.

:25:48.:25:51.

I've had students from my own constituency refused entry to

:25:52.:25:54.

Scottish universities because of the cap which has been imposed by the

:25:55.:25:59.

Scottish Government. We hear a lot about free tuition in Scotland, but

:26:00.:26:04.

this is one of the consequences and I'm sure it will be part of a debate

:26:05.:26:07.

on the forthcoming Scottish Parliament elections. The Scottish

:26:08.:26:15.

affairs committee have been looking into higher education specifically a

:26:16.:26:23.

study scheme for Scotland. He will find everybody, universities, trade

:26:24.:26:26.

unions, employers Association, one that scheme for Scotland. Will he be

:26:27.:26:32.

a Secretary of State for Scotland and put that case to the Home

:26:33.:26:38.

Office? We always listen with interest and take forward in a

:26:39.:26:42.

positive way anything forthcoming from the Scottish affairs select

:26:43.:26:45.

committee and I look forward to reading his report. A question about

:26:46.:26:54.

how much it costs to run the Scotland Office. The admin costs of

:26:55.:26:58.

running it and the office of the aggregate general for Scotland in

:26:59.:27:03.

the financial year 2010-11 was 7.68 8 million. Administrative provision

:27:04.:27:10.

for both offices in 2019-20 agreed the recent spending review is 9.24

:27:11.:27:18.

million. Will he confirm to the House what the percentage of the

:27:19.:27:20.

administrative costs of his department are met by Scottish

:27:21.:27:28.

taxpayers? The honourable gentleman knows that the funding arrangements

:27:29.:27:33.

within the UK don't work on that basis. He also knows this Government

:27:34.:27:38.

is committed to retaining the Barnett Formula, a fair allocation

:27:39.:27:42.

of funding to Scotland. I'm afraid that's all we got time for at the

:27:43.:27:47.

moment. We will be back with the next Scottish Questions in exactly

:27:48.:27:50.

five weeks' time. That is on Wednesday the 10th of February so

:27:51.:27:54.

put a note in your diary and join us then if you can. But, from all of a

:27:55.:28:03.

sudden Westminster, goodbye. -- from all of us at Westminster, goodbye.

:28:04.:28:36.

You'd better come in with a brilliant product.

:28:37.:28:41.

Get it right and we might help your business reach the next level.

:28:42.:28:50.

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