06/07/2016 Scottish Questions


06/07/2016

Highlights of Scottish Questions from Westminster.


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Hello and a very warm welcome to a very summery

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Westminster for the July edition of Scottish Questions

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and, my goodness, what an awful lot has happened since we last met.

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The UK, though not Scotland, has voted to leave the EU,

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the Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that he is resigning,

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and there is renewed talk of a second Scottish independence referendum.

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You won't be surprised to learn that Scottish Questions was

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dominated by the fallout of that EU referendum vote.

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Here's how proceedings got under way.

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Order, order. Questions to the Secretary of...

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INDISTINCT

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Oh, we must deal with the motion

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of latest Unopposed Return first, indeed, requiring the nod of a Whip,

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which is done with some grace.

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Order. Questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland.

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-Mr Nic Dakin.

-Question number one, sir.

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-Secretary of State.

-Mr Speaker, with permission,

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I would like to answer questions one and six together.

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The Scottish economy faces

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a number of challenges as a result of the vote to leave the EU.

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Yesterday, I began a process of direct engagement with

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Scottish business leaders to ensure their voice is

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heard in the forthcoming negotiations.

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-Nic Dakin.

-I thank the Secretary of State for that answer.

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Does he think that it will make it easier for the Scottish

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and the UK Governments to support the Scottish steel

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industry now that this Brexit decision has been made in

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terms of tackling things like energy costs,

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procurement and business rates?

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-Secretary of State.

-What I think is that, regardless of the vote,

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the two Governments must continue to work together

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to support the industry.

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The Scottish Government has taken forward steps in relation to the two

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plants in Scotland, which very much had the support of myself

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and The Scotland Office and the UK government.

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We'll continue to do that.

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The Scottish Government will play a part in the Steel Council

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-that has been established.

-Ian Murray.

-Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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Standard Life, one of the largest private employers in Scotland,

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ceased trading in their UK Property Fund this week whilst

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the Governor of the Bank of England said that the

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consequences of Brexit were continuing to crystallise.

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Given financial services is 7% of Scotland's GDP and employs tens

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of thousands of my own constituents, what reassurances was

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he able to give those businesses yesterday that not one job

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will be lost given the Conservative gamble with this country?

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PRESENTER: 'And Ian Murray is the former Shadow Scottish Secretary.

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'He resigned from the Shadow Cabinet last week.'

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I begin by commending the honourable gentleman

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in his service as Shadow Scottish Secretary.

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Nobody knows better than me

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how difficult it is to be your party's sole representative

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in this House from Scotland and be Shadow Scottish secretary,

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and he did the role with great distinction,

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and I am particularly grateful for the work that he did to

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ensure the passage of the Scotland Act in this place.

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He will be pleased to know that,

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when I met with business leaders yesterday,

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Standard Life was indeed represented.

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And one of the points that Standard Life made,

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and I think is important in these discussions on the future

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of the Scottish economy, is how important the market outwith

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Europe is to them, as well as well as the market within Europe.

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And they did not wish us to lose focus on the many business

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opportunities they pursue, particularly in North America.

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Thank you, Mr Speaker. When will my right honourable friend

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lay out the exciting opportunities there are for Scotland as a result

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of leaving the European Union for the wider world?

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Secretary of State.

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Mr Speaker, obviously, when I met with Scottish businesses,

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I wanted them to address the issues of the opportunities

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for business and I've just referred to a leading Scottish company

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who has significant interests outwith the EU.

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But, naturally, businesses in Scotland are concerned to understand

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the arrangements that will be put in place for our future relationship

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-with the EU.

-Angus Robertson.

-Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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In Scotland, more than 62% of voters voted to

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remain in the European Union and, since then, the Scottish Parliament

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has voted overwhelmingly to support First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

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in her efforts to protect Scotland's place in Europe.

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That was voted for by the Scottish National Party, the Labour Party,

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the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Green Party.

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The Tories abstained.

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So will the Secretary of State finally join the cross-party

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consensus to protect our economy and place in Europe,

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or will he abstain from that like his colleagues?

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Secretary of State.

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Mr Speaker, I think the honourable gentleman omits one fact,

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which was why my colleagues

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were unable to support his party's motion,

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and that was because they would not take the toxic and divisive

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issue of a second independence referendum off the table.

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Anybody, anybody who wants to unify opinion in Scotland does not

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start talking about a second Scottish independence referendum.

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And I hope the First Minister was listing yesterday to Scottish

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business when they said decisively that,

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in relation to discussions about the EU,

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they did not want to hear about Scottish independence.

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Angus Robertson.

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Mr Speaker, tens of thousands of European Union citizens play

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a massive role in our economy and in our society in Scotland.

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We on these benches want to do more than just pay tribute to them -

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we want them to have guarantees that they can stay in Scotland.

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Will the Secretary of State act in the Scottish

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and the European interest and guarantee the rights of fellow EU

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citizens to remain in Scotland and end the intolerable worry

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and concern that they are being confronted with?

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Mr Speaker, I share the right honourable gentleman's

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view of the importance that EU citizens play in Scotland

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and I share his view that we want them to stay in Scotland,

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and we want them to be able to be guaranteed

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their position in Scotland.

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We also want British citizens in the rest of Europe to be guaranteed

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their right to stay there

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and I hope that it will be possible to issue both guarantees.

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-David Anderson.

-Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.

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Can I start by echoing the compliments paid

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to my predecessor, the Member for Edinburgh South?

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I can guarantee you will be a hard act to follow.

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Sitting opposite the right honourable gentleman today reminds me of the many good times

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I've spent in his constituency in the great town of Moffat.

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Indeed, I have been asked to raise a question by friends of mine

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from Moffat, John and Heather, who live on the Old Carlisle Road.

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They have a small family farm and a business.

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They want to know what guarantees will be

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given about the future of payments they receive

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from the Common Agricultural Policy and what benefit

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they can expect to see from the £350 million a week that senior

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members of his Government promised we would get

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back from the European Union to fund the NHS.

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How much of that can we expect to go to Scotland and, crucially,

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when can we expect to see it?

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Secretary of State.

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Firstly, can I start by welcoming the honourable gentleman to

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his position and welcoming him any time

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that he wants to come to Moffat?

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Of course, I have performed his role in the past -

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the difference was there were 41 Scottish MPs opposite me

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when I did that and, 15 months, later it has come to this.

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On his question, obviously the issues around CAP

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payments are one of the things that will be subject to negotiations.

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As someone who argued for a Remain vote,

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I made very clear to farmers in Scotland that there would be

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a degree of uncertainty if there was a vote to Leave,

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but one of the things that will happen as a result

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of the withdrawal from the EU is that responsibility for these

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agricultural matters will now rest directly with

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the Scottish Parliament.

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David Anderson.

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Thank you for that response.

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I do not think though that John and Heather will be reassured

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and I noticed you didn't answer the question about the NHS.

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The Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee was right yesterday

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to accuse our hapless Prime Minister of being

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guilty of a dereliction of duty for failing to set up withdrawal

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planning units until after the referendum.

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And will someone please tell the Prime Minister the words

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of the song aren't, "When the going gets tough, the tough do a runner"?

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With that in mind, can I ask the Secretary of State if he

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believes that the Prime Minister's policy of placating fruitcakes

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and loonies has been a price worth paying for the economic crisis

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that's now upon us and the risk of the break-up of the United Kingdom?

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-Secretary of State.

-Mr Speaker, I'm a democrat.

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I respect the democratic decision of the people

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of the United Kingdom and that decision will be implemented.

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Andrew Stephenson.

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Question number two, Mr Speaker.

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Mr Speaker, with permission, I will answer this question with

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questions three, four, five and nine.

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Since the outcome of the EU referendum, both the Prime Minister

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and I have had discussions with Scottish Government Ministers

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and we continue to do so over the coming weeks and months.

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As the Prime Minister has made very clear, we will fully involve

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the Scottish Government and other devolved administrations as

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we prepare for negotiations with the European Union.

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-Andrew Stephenson.

-Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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Does my right honourable friend agree that we should respect

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the outcome of the democratic process,

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even if some do not agree with the result?

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Mr Speaker, I am quite clear that the

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majority of people across the United Kingdom voted for the United Kingdom

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to leave the European Union and that decision must be implemented,

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but in doing so we must secure the best possible deal for Scotland

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and indeed the rest of the United Kingdom.

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-Martyn Day.

-Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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Can the Secretary of State confirm that it is the UK Government's

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intention to invite the Scottish Government to participate

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directly in their negotiations with the EU?

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I confirm that the Scottish Government

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are going to be at the heart of this negotiation process

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and I can also confirm today that myself

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and my Cabinet colleague, the Member for West Dorset, who is responsible

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for the European Unit within the Government, will be meeting

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with the First Minister next week to discuss how that might be achieved.

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-Ian Blackford.

-Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.

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The Secretary of State says he's a democrat.

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Will he support the long-established position in Scotland that

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sovereignty rests with the people?

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And now that the Parliament has said that we wish to negotiate

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Scotland's remaining within the single market,

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will he stand-up for those rights?

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Is he Scotland's man in the Cabinet or, as we suspect,

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is he the Cabinet's man in Scotland?

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-Secretary of State.

-Mr Speaker, I do expect slightly more original

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lines from the honourable gentleman.

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The position and my position is quite clear.

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I very much welcome any initiative pursued by the First Minister,

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or by the Scottish Government, that can be to the benefit of Scotland

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without being to the detriment of the rest of the United Kingdom

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and I look forward to hearing from her, when I meet with her next week,

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how the various initiatives she's pursuing is going.

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We want to work together. As business yesterday made very

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clear in Scotland, they want a Team UK approach,

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the Scottish Government,

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UK Government, working in tandem for the best interests of Scotland.

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-Chris Green.

-Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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Does my right honourable friend agree that just as the

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Scottish referendum was binding for a generation,

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so too is the United Kingdom's decision on the European Union

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and isn't it incumbent now for all politicians, including those

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in the devolved administrations, to come together to make this work?

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-Secretary of State.

-Mr Speaker, I very much hope

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that that will be the case.

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Within hours of the EU declaration being made,

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I met with Fiona Hyslop, the Minister responsible

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in the Scottish Government.

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My colleague, the Minister for Europe, is in Scotland today.

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I am meeting with Fiona Hyslop tomorrow and, as I've already said,

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I'm meeting with the First Minister next week.

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We want to work as closely as we can with the devolved administrations

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to get the best outcome for Scotland.

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Thank you, Mr Speaker. In relation to the last question,

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I'd point out that Scotland voted by a large majority to stay in the EU.

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Therefore, as a self-confessed Democrat,

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will the Secretary of State confirm

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he will support the Scottish Government's

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efforts to find a mechanism to keep Scotland in the European Union?

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Mr Speaker, the honourable gentleman may not have read the ballot paper,

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but the question on the ballot paper

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was not about Scottish independence -

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it was about whether voters in Scotland

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wanted the United Kingdom to remain in the EU.

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I was part of the 1.6 million people in Scotland who voted to remain

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in the EU, but I didn't do it on the basis that Scotland would then be

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dragged out of the United Kingdom if I didn't get the decision I wanted.

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-Mr Henry Smith.

-Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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With over a million people in Scotland voting to leave

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the European Union last month, what is my right honourable friend's

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assessment of the rush

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for a second independence referendum on the union?

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Mr Speaker, I do think it is important,

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it is important that we respect the views of people that we don't agree

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with and what's become evident,

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in relation to the Scottish National Party, is they can't respect

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the views of the two million people

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who voted to remain within the United Kingdom in the referendum

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in 2014 and they don't respect the people who voted to leave.

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I don't agree, I don't agree with the people who voted to leave,

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but their views do need to be respected.

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Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh.

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Thank you, Mr Speaker. In light of statements

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made by the Secretary of State for Justice, and indeed the new

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Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland over the weekend,

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can the Secretary of State for Scotland give us an unequivocal

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confirmation that the Barnett Formula will not be changed

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or affected as a result of the EU referendum

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and that Scotland's budget will be protected?

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Mr Speaker, the Government was elected on a manifesto clear

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that there would be no changes to the Barnett Formula,

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but, Mr Speaker, the honourable lady has been in several political

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parties over her political career.

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Perhaps, earlier this week, she may have noticed that there's a vacancy

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at the head of UKIP and that that might be her next destination.

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Mrs Sheryll Murray.

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Could my honourable friend tell the House

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what discussions he's had with regard to the possibility

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of Scotland having to accept joining the euro,

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if, as they claim, they want to stay in the European Union?

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Well, what I think, in response to the honourable lady's question,

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is that clearly the parameters have changed

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and if any proposition was put forward for independence

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in any prospective further independence referendum,

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it would be on quite a different basis than from the 2014 proposition

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and, clearly, required membership of the euro might be part of that.

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Mr Wayne David.

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A close relationship between Scotland

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and the European Union is obviously in the best interests of Scotland.

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Has the Secretary of State any specific suggestions about how

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that relationship might be made real in the future?

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'Wayne David is a former member of the Shadow Scottish election team,

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'Labour's team. He too resigned last week.

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'He's now the Member for Caerphilly in Wales.'

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..with the Scottish Government and the UK Government

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working as closely as they possibly can together.

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That's the way in which we're going to get

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the best possible arrangements for Scotland.

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That's the message from business leaders that I met yesterday,

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that we need a Team UK approach to get that deal for Scotland.

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Helen Hayes.

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Question number seven, Mr Speaker.

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Mr Speaker, I am committed to working with the Scottish Government

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to ensure a safe and secure transfer of welfare powers.

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I met with Scottish ministers

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in the Joint Ministerial Working Group On Welfare on 16th June.

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We had a constructive meeting

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and issued a joint communique about our discussions.

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-Helen Hayes.

-Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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What assurances can the Secretary of State give

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that Scotland will be no worse off

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with the devolution of new Social Security powers?

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Mr Speaker, I certainly hope that individuals within Scotland will be

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no worse off, but, inevitably, what the devolution of these powers

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means is very specific decisions about their use will be made

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by the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government

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and the amount of certain payments,

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the shape and nature of certain payments,

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will be matters for them.

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Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck.

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Thank you, Mr Speaker. Can the Secretary of State give an update

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on discussions regarding the devolution

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of the Social Fund Funeral Payments?

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Mr Speaker, what I can say is that I'm hoping to move forward

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with a commencement order in relation to those powers before

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this Parliament goes into recess, which would effectively mean

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the transfer of the arrangements to the Scottish Government.

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Margaret Ferrier.

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Mr Speaker, I have asked the Scottish Secretary twice now

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by written question when he last visited a food bank.

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The answer has been the same on both occasions.

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He has not visited a food bank in his capacity

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as Secretary of State for Scotland.

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So, today, will he agree to visit a food bank, with me,

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in my constituency, so that he can see first-hand the devastating

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effects of Tory sanctions and welfare policy?

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Mr...Speaker,

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the honourable lady is very well aware

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that I have visited a food bank and know the issues that surround them.

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-David Anderson.

-Thank you, Mr Speaker.

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The agreement between the United Kingdom

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and Scottish governments

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set out exactly how the new Scottish welfare budget would be agreed.

0:19:490:19:54

Can the Secretary of State explain what would happen in the event

0:19:540:19:58

of the UK Government abolishing a specific benefit

0:19:580:20:01

which has been devolved to Scotland?

0:20:010:20:03

In that circumstance, will the Scottish Government

0:20:030:20:06

retain the budget or will they lose it?

0:20:060:20:08

Secretary of State.

0:20:090:20:10

Mr Speaker,

0:20:100:20:12

the financial arrangements for the transfer of powers were dealt with

0:20:120:20:18

in the fiscal framework in which that circumstance was contemplated.

0:20:180:20:24

There are two sets of benefits, which are subject to transfer.

0:20:240:20:28

One are benefits for which the Scottish Government will have full responsibility

0:20:280:20:32

and therefore can shape or make a new benefit or change the benefits.

0:20:320:20:37

Other benefits, other powers relate to top ups of existing UK benefits.

0:20:370:20:42

Clearly, if an existing UK benefit didn't exist then the power

0:20:420:20:45

to top it up would not exist,

0:20:450:20:47

but the power to create an equivalent might well do.

0:20:470:20:50

Mr Alistair Carmichael.

0:20:500:20:51

'And this is a question about the contribution of women to the

0:20:510:20:54

'Scottish economy.' Minister Anna Soubry.

0:20:540:20:57

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker.

0:20:570:20:58

Can I thank my right honourable friend, of course,

0:20:580:21:01

who originally commissioned the Sawers report?

0:21:010:21:04

The Government has published its response.

0:21:040:21:06

What I can say is that a new ministerial group,

0:21:060:21:09

now that we have had the elections in May,

0:21:090:21:12

is being put together from all the various administrations

0:21:120:21:15

across the United Kingdom with the equalities minister,

0:21:150:21:19

my honourable friend, the member for Gosport,

0:21:190:21:21

so that we can now make progress.

0:21:210:21:23

But the gender pay gap, Mr Speaker,

0:21:230:21:25

is of course diminishing to an all-time record low.

0:21:250:21:28

'And this question is being answered by the business minister, Anna Soubry.'

0:21:280:21:31

I thank the minister for that answer.

0:21:310:21:33

As we tackle the economic challenges facing

0:21:330:21:35

Scotland as a result of Brexit,

0:21:350:21:38

removing barriers to the full economic contribution of

0:21:380:21:42

women to Scotland's economy becomes more important than ever.

0:21:420:21:46

Professor Sawers' report offers the Government a roadmap for that.

0:21:460:21:50

Will she ensure that somebody in the Scotland Office blows

0:21:500:21:53

the dust off it and actually implements some of the very

0:21:530:21:57

good solid recommendations that are contained in it?

0:21:570:22:00

As I say, it is a very good report.

0:22:000:22:02

What is absolutely critical is, of course, is that everybody

0:22:020:22:05

works together.

0:22:050:22:06

And, of course, we now have a situation where the

0:22:060:22:09

Scottish Parliament actually has more devolved powers,

0:22:090:22:13

specifically to look at and address the problems of gender

0:22:130:22:16

equality, which, of course, includes any disadvantage for women.

0:22:160:22:20

-Tom Pursglove.

-Number Ten, Mr Speaker.

0:22:210:22:24

Minister Soubry.

0:22:240:22:25

'And this is a question about the steel industry in Scotland.'

0:22:250:22:28

..the plant at Dalziel for the handover for both the Dalziel

0:22:280:22:32

and the Clyderidge plant from Tata to the Liberty Group

0:22:320:22:36

and I think the prospects, on the basis that we continue with

0:22:360:22:39

the excellent work, working together for the prospects for the steel

0:22:390:22:42

industry in Scotland, must be good.

0:22:420:22:45

-I'm going to be positive about its future.

-Tom Pursglove.

0:22:450:22:48

I thank the Minister for that encouraging answer.

0:22:480:22:51

And what discussions is she having with both the First Minister

0:22:510:22:54

and other Government departments to make sure that the Scottish

0:22:540:22:57

industry, steel industry, receives all the help and support it needs?

0:22:570:23:01

Well, of course, we do work together, hand in glove -

0:23:010:23:04

I think that's very important.

0:23:040:23:06

It's also important to realise that the steel Council,

0:23:060:23:09

which this Government has established,

0:23:090:23:11

has a member, well, in fact, has more than one member,

0:23:110:23:14

a number of representatives from the Scottish

0:23:140:23:16

and indeed the Welsh governments as part and parcel of it.

0:23:160:23:19

So, together, we can make sure that throughout

0:23:190:23:21

the United Kingdom we have a strong and sustainable steel industry.

0:23:210:23:26

-Mr Peter Bone.

-Mr Speaker, would the Minister welcome the fact that,

0:23:260:23:30

now we have Brexit, it would be better for and helpful for the

0:23:300:23:34

British Steel industry, including the steel industry in Scotland?

0:23:340:23:37

It's a good day that we've come out. Wouldn't the Minister welcome it?

0:23:370:23:40

'Peter Bone is the Conservative MP for Wellingborough.'

0:23:400:23:43

Mr Speaker, what I would say is this -

0:23:430:23:45

I think we now, all of us, have to work together, however we voted,

0:23:450:23:49

whatever our views were, come together to make sure that we

0:23:490:23:53

now do the very best for our country,

0:23:530:23:56

But we should be under no illusions whatsoever we are facing some

0:23:560:24:01

very big challenges.

0:24:010:24:02

Some very difficult, not just days, months and years.

0:24:020:24:05

But coming together, putting the past behind us,

0:24:050:24:08

that's what's important now.

0:24:080:24:10

Sir Henry Bellingham.

0:24:100:24:12

'And this is a question from the Conservative MP about small businesses.'

0:24:120:24:15

Mr Speaker, indeed procurement has been an important

0:24:150:24:19

part of the Government's work

0:24:190:24:20

and what I can say is we are determined to deliver our target

0:24:200:24:23

of central departments spending 33% of budgets with SMEs by 2020

0:24:230:24:29

and, so far, the last set of results showed

0:24:290:24:31

-we were increasing it to 27.1%.

-Bellingham.

0:24:310:24:35

I'm very grateful to the Minister for that reply.

0:24:350:24:38

Does she agree with me that,

0:24:380:24:39

rather than setting specific percentage targets on small business

0:24:390:24:43

procurement, the Scottish Government should follow best

0:24:430:24:46

practices in counties like Norfolk

0:24:460:24:48

and also work in really close cooperation with the UK Government?

0:24:480:24:54

The short answer, which I know you enjoy, Mr Speaker,

0:24:560:24:59

is an emphatic yes.

0:24:590:25:02

-Alan Mak.

-Question 15, Speaker.

0:25:030:25:07

'And this is a question about the North Sea oil and gas industry.'

0:25:070:25:10

Mr Speaker, the 2015 budget,

0:25:180:25:21

the Government introduced a 1.3 billion package of tax

0:25:210:25:24

measures to help our oil and gas industry, and today I'm

0:25:240:25:27

launching the IMG's oil...that's Inter-Ministerial Group's oil and

0:25:270:25:32

gas workforce plan, setting out how we can retain talent in this sector.

0:25:320:25:39

-Opportunities for workers in other sectors.

-Alan Mak.

0:25:390:25:44

Thank you, Mr Speaker. North Sea oil and gas supports a range of

0:25:440:25:47

supply chain partners including businesses on the south coast.

0:25:470:25:49

Will the Minister continue to support those businesses

0:25:490:25:52

-as they diversify by exporting their expertise?

-Minister.

0:25:520:25:56

Well, again, in short, yes,

0:25:560:25:57

because we fully understand the difficulties in the oil

0:25:570:25:59

and gas sector at the moment and that's why we've done this report.

0:25:590:26:03

I think, again, by working together, we can improve the lot,

0:26:030:26:07

but these are difficult times for the oil and gas sector.

0:26:070:26:09

Extremely grateful to the minister and to the honourable

0:26:090:26:14

gentleman who posed the question succinctly but comprehensively,

0:26:140:26:19

succinctly but comprehensively answered by the minister.

0:26:190:26:22

Well, I'm afraid that's all we've got time for at the moment.

0:26:220:26:25

Because of the upcoming summer break here at Westminster, the next

0:26:250:26:29

Scottish Questions won't be until Wednesday, 12 October,

0:26:290:26:33

so do put that in your diary and join us if you can.

0:26:330:26:37

Who knows? By then we will have a new Prime Minister

0:26:370:26:40

and who knows what else might have happened in UK politics?

0:26:400:26:43

But for now, from all of us here at Westminster,

0:26:430:26:45

goodbye and have a very enjoyable summer.

0:26:450:26:48

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