Coverage from Westminster of Scottish Questions.
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Hello and a warm welcome to Westminster for the first Scottish
questions of 2013 and I can tell you the weather has in January feel.
The referendum on Scottish independence may still be 20 months
away but it is still very much making its presence felt,
particularly when MPs get together to discuss specifically Scottish
issues as we will see it. Here's how proceedings got under way.
Questions to the Secretary of State of Scotland. Do question No. 1, Mr
Speaker. This government has taken a range of access to promote
Scottish businesses overseas including Brian Wilson as a
business ambassador. I have also spoken to the Canadian trade
minister. A Mr David Amis. How many Scottish business leaders as the
Secretary of State met who believe that the Scottish Trade in position
will be improved if Scotland leaves the United Kingdom? No Scottish
business leader has ever put at point to me, Mr Speaker possibly
because they recognise the strength of Scotland being in the United
Kingdom. If that that there are 162 UKTI officers backed up by concerts
around the world. The Scotch whisky industry last year was worth more
than �4.2 billion and it is one of Scotland and the UK's biggest
exporting industries. Can the Secretary of State confirm that the
UK Government charges for its promotion internationally, how much
does it charge and why? Can I joined the honourable gentleman in
welcoming the success of the Scotch whisky industry. A huge part of the
overall sector of Scottish food and drink. And it is so critical to
Scotland's exporting potential and I do not want to put that at risk
because I think Scotland being part of an international network of
offices embassies is the best way forward. Mr Speaker, everybody will
have noted that the Secretary of State did not answer the question.
I asked him whether he would confirm the UK Government charges
for the promotion of Scotch whisky internationally. The apparent in
the Foreign Office does charge and charges �3,000 a time to promote
Scotch whisky at international events. This is ridiculous. What is
he doing about it and when will it stop? The honourable gentleman is
choosing to ignore the fact that thanks to the UK Government for our
network of offices across the hall of the world, the fact that our
embassy network the second to none compared certainly to an
independent Scotland. Scotch whisky is a much stronger place as being
part of the United Kingdom than it would be if independent. The Sir
Robert Smith. Could the Secretary of State recognised as an important
the energy industry is in the north-east of Scotland to driving
the export potential for Scotland and that by having a strong home
base of production of skills and technology in the North Sea, we
have built a base for great export potential to provinces around the
world. I have paid tribute to my honourable friend's success in this
area. He is an undoubted champion of the oil and gas sector across
the whole of the UK. He is right to point out its potential and he will
be aware that I met with the Brazilian ambassador and other
Brazilian interest in Aberdeen a few months ago and I look forward
to returning to Brazil to focus on oil and gas is used in the next few
weeks. Jim Sheridan. On the question of Scotch whisky, it
chronicles what would have a % of UK food and drink exports it is
held back by various tariff barriers around the world, most
noticeably in India, a 50% tariff on it. What action is the
Government taking to help the industry export growth in other
countries? I think the honourable gentleman is right once again to
highlight the importance of the whisky sector and not least two
large chunks of Scotland, not just concentrated around distilleries.
We are working hard along with Scotch whisky interest to make sure
we work within Europe to break down barriers in India and elsewhere.
There is a level of support for the Scotch whisky industry it could not
hope to have with an independent Scotland. A question about the
Scotland. A question about the Scotland. A question about the
effect of not going ahead with the fuel duty rise announced in the
Autumn Statement.... To put seven motor vehicles saving a typical
driver �40 per year and a haulier top hundred pounds per year.
Blackman. Could my honourable friend agree that by cancelling
planned tax increases on fuel, we will save the average Scottish
motorist more than �600 during the life of this coalition government?
I agree with my honourable friend, the deferral of Labour's planned
duty rise in April this year will mean that fuel will be 13p a litre
cheaper than it would have been under a Labour government.
welcomed the Government listing to our call to stop the rise but could
I ask the Minister what discussions he has had with Scottish Government
in terms of what assistance can be given to smaller retailers, in
particular in rural areas to make sure that people can take advantage
of decent pricing rather than those two and a live in the urban areas?
The honourable lady makes an important point and at the end of
this month I will be meeting with a Fuel distributor panel with MPs and
she will be welcome to join that about Europe distribution in rural
areas. -- about rural distribution. Will the Minister support the call
to lobby the EU to extend the bowel and fuel duty to places like
Argyll? Where honourable friend will have noted that in the midterm
review, the coalition government looked at the possibility of
extending the 5p reduction to areas of the mainland which are similar
to island communities. The cut in fuel duty has been very welcome in
my constituency and I remember asking Labour to do this and it was
refused. When will this be moved to areas to which my constituents pass
on the way home another way back to the mainland? In the previous
answer to my honourable friend from Argyll and Bute, in the midterm
review, the coalition government has undertaken to examine that
possibility. Robert Halfon. Government have done their bit in
cutting fuel duty but will wife honourable friend lobby the oil
companies to take their responsibility -- will my
honourable friend? I am sure that my honourable friend welcomes the
fact that there is an OFT inquiry into fuel prices and I look forward
to seeing the outcome of that inquiry in January. Has been
minister look into whether reductions has been passed on to
motorists in Scotland? If you go to Kennington Road in London you can
buy petrol at 129.9. It is now more expensive to buy petrol next to
where petrol is produced in Scotland than it is in Kennington
in London. Is he doing anything about making sure that the motorist
and not being ripped off? Speaker, the price of fuel at
different Pascal stations in different communities is a matter
which has been of long-term concern -- petrol stations and that is why
the OFT is currently conducting an inquiry into that very issue. In my
previous answer I indicated the results of those inquiries would be
available in January. It will make very interesting reading.
STUDIO: This is a question about the use of Stirling in an
This is looking at a range of issues including the use of the
pound's fall out parts of the United Kingdom. There has been no
discussions about the use of the pound for an independent Scotland.
This means that the Bank of England will be the lender of last resort
for the Bank of Scotland. To stop a repetition of the eurozone, this
means the Government must have an over site role in two Scottish --
in two Scottish spending plans. Speaker there cabinet such
discussions. The point here is that the pound has held Scotland and the
UK well for 300 years and we have seen in the Rose and the risk of
having a formal monetary union without a fiscal union and a
fiscally independent Scotland would create real complications for that.
All this would have to be negotiated after the referendum
vote. I think it would take some persuading more people in the rest
of the UK to take on the role that the SNP wish for it. To the
Minister knows that it is the Scottish Government's intention
that Scotland will continue to use And there is nothing to stop that.
While it makes sense to have a formal union, Woody not agree that
a stability pact based around levels -- would he not agree, is
perfectly sensible and can no way at all be portrayed as a foreign
currency running Scotland's economy? Firstly, I am sure the
House will join me in welcoming the honourable member back to his place.
While we do not always agree, we are delighted to the contribution
he is making and we are glad to see him in good health and we wish him
the best. However, on the issue of the pound after the referendum,
should Scotland vote to become independent, which I believe it
will not do, that will be a matter for negotiation. The credibility of
the Bank of England as the lender of last resort at the moment is
because we have a single, central, fiscal authority and the UK tax
bearer standing behind it. To complicate that would require
negotiations with the rest of the UK which will have to consider its
interest. We can't just have this one-sided wish-list. We must
recognise that there will be a negotiation. Isn't the 0116 229
3118 wrong on this because if there was an independent Scotland, --
isn't the honourable member wrong, they will want to join the European
Union and will they not then therefore be forced to accept the
euro? Many agree with that part with him, he makes an important
point, that amidst all the turmoil over Europe, it has not set out how
it will negotiate the opt out to join the euro. Last year on
December 5th, I took part in a Westminster Hall debate where the
Secretary of State for Scotland said he commissioned a report into
why the separatist lead Dundee City Council was the worst led council.
I have contacted his office but he has yet to get back to me. He said
I would get a letter giving details but I have yet to... Does the
Minister want to ask about the continued use about the pound in an
independent Scotland. I am sure that is what he wanted to do.
the currency arrangements after independence should that be the way,
because I said to be honourable gentleman that my right honourable
friend is delighted to meet him as soon as possible to discuss the
issue he has raised and will make sure that happens. In it may be
that the honourable gentleman wanted to come in unquestioned four
but he was ahead of himself. I am sure he is great bowl.
STUDIO: This is a question about With permission, I'll answer
questions for and nine together. The Department for Work and
Pensions published an impact assessment for welfare benefits
uprating which states around 30% of all households will be affected by
the measures contained in the bill. I thank the Minister for the answer.
Even after changes to tax allowances, a single earning
household with children will be a �534 a year worse off by 20th April
15. Does the Minister still believe the government should be going
ahead as its parity with a tax cut for millionaires?
What I believe is the government should be continuing to work to
sort out the mess in the economy which his Labour government left
behind. The measures announced yesterday will save �5 billion for
which he and his colleagues have given no answers to where they
would find such savings. One in five working families in
Scotland rely on tax credits will see a cut in income as a result of
the changes. Many rely on a low- paid temporary jobs. Can he tell me
what steps he will take in 2013 it to tackle the scourge of our and
employment in Scotland? The Rakhine will be working with a Scottish
government at stake holders to set up an employability forum which
will look at the Government's and interested parties working together
to ensure we get more people into full-time employment -- Secretary
of State. Does the Minister agree the Scottish economy is part of the
UK economy and that the economy of the whole country will not improve
unless and until we bring public spending under control?
I agree with my Honourable Friend. The whole benefits issue is an
example of the SNP Scottish government making promises which
they cannot possibly keep in relation to benefits in an
independent Scotland just simply to curry favour with the electorate.
Thank you. Can the Minister tell us how many members of the armed
forces in Scotland will see income has cut as a result of the vote?
What I can tell the Honourable Lady is that last night's vote was about
ensuring we have a sustainable welfare system and the Honourable
Ladies answer on these issues is more borrowing, more spending and
more debt. She could not say how she would front the rises in
benefits which she voted for. What a disappointing answer. The
answer is 4,000 members of the armed forces. There might be a Lib
Dem leading the Scottish Office but Scots know it is the same old
Tories. In 2010 at the department told us we have absolutely no
desire to see people losing their jobs or being in worse
circumstances than before. Can the Minister explain why they are
failing the test they set themselves?
What the people of Scotland know is it is the same old Labour Party, no
apology for the mess and their only proposal is more spending, more
borrowing and more debts. He must be patient. I am saving him
up! It comes as no surprise that I opposed the cap on benefits last
night because it will hammer thousands of families in Scotland
he would try to bring up children while working hard. Does he share
my surprise that some senior MPs, including Labour Members of
Parliament who left us with this mess, did not turn up to vote?
Nowadays nothing in the SNP members say or do surprises me. The SNP
position is totally hypocritical. In Scotland, the Scottish
government is asking nurses and NHS workers to take a 1% pay rise yet
they want benefits to be more than that.
With permission, I will answer questions five and 12 together.
JobCentre plus operates eight food back referral service however the
government does not hold information on the number seeking
assistance from the food banks. are in its 23rd team and not 1813?
The need for food banks this here is an abominable reflection on
society -- 2013. When you consider you have them in Prestwick which is
one of the most salubrious parts of my constituency. 15% of them are in
employment. What an indictment in this government. While I share his
concern about food banks and the use of food banks and the fact they
are vulnerable people in crisis, what I will not do is excepts the
pretence that somehow food banks have only come into existence since
this government came to power. That is simply not true. There were food
banks under Labour and they did not advertise them in Jobcentres.
What measures does the Minister have it for the increasing number
of people who are forced to go to food banks to feed their families
and what can he do to alleviate the situation?
I certainly acknowledge his concerns. He instigated a useful
Westminster Hall debate on this matter. The government will
continue to do all it can to help and support the vulnerable in his
constituency and elsewhere. Thank you. Two years ago the
Secretary of State said the horrible truth is across the
country everyone is going to have to make a contribution but the
horrible truth of life in Scotland under his government is that a food
bank in my constituency has experienced a father walking 15
miles for a bag of food to feed his family. Is this an appropriate
contribution while the government gives a �2,000 a week cuts to
millionaires? I have indicated already the government is always
concerned about those who need to use food banks for any
circumstances but I am not taking lectures from him on millionaires
when he wants to give them child benefit. The UK government has
allocated millions of investment for rural broadband and Scotland.
It is the responsibility of the Scottish government to deliver on
this.... Towards super-fast broadband access. What is clear is
people throw Scotland want to see the broadband access, in rural
areas, implemented as soon as possible and we will work closely
with a Scottish government to ensure they deliver on the
undertakings they have given for the �100 million they had received.
Can I say to the minister, whilst I recognise the role of Scottish
government plays in the provision of broadband in rural areas, he is
fully aware in areas like his and mind Small and Medium-Sized
Enterprise is depend on good connectivity. What is his
department doing to ensure the Scottish government is delivering?
I can assure him that we would hold the Scottish government to account
for the investment and whilst this government has funded investment in
Edinburgh and Aberdeen and Perth we want to see the Scottish government
delivering for Dumfries and Galloway and other rural areas.
There are too many noisy private conversations taking place. Can I
thank the UK government for their support to the Aberdeen broadband
fund and also the contribution to the expansion of broadband but I
urge him to recognise in rural areas we want super-fast broadband
inner-cities but we need access at speeds for businesses to flourish
in rural areas. I can advise him up that I have met with Aberdeen share
Council to discuss exactly the issue and whilst the super City
broadband is welcome in Aberdeen, we wanted rolled out into
Aberdeenshire as well. Thank you. The use of super-fast broadband is
one of the effective way is to promote the identity of our country.
Will the Secretary of State welcome to Parliament today the Ulster
scotched agency promoting the links between Ulster and Scotland of
which the Secretary of State is a wonderful example as a born
Ulsterman who is serving Scotland actually he used super-fast
broadband to continue to promote our wonderful culture, shared
Ulster and Unionist heritage? Secretary of State is a wonderful
example of many things and the answer is yes. There is too much
noise. A question on the Autumn Statement. I will answer questions
seven and 11 together. A difficult economic backdrop, the Autumn
Statement set out a range of measures to protect Scotland's
economy, to equip businesses to compete in a global race and Selena
growth and to ensure businesses and households in Scotland are treated
fairly. Would he like to confirm one of the disastrous consequences
of any independent Scotland would be a disjointed transport system
and what my constituency in Lincoln my benefit, many in Scotland would
not be happy to see direct rail services from London to Edinburgh
could tales. My Honourable Friend makes an important point about the
importance of keeping Scotland within the UK to the benefit of
Scotland at the whole of the UK. The government said at Villa get
the deficit down, balance the books fairly and get people back to work
but the deficit is billions higher this year than last, one in five
working families have tax credits/and long-term unemployment
is rising fast in Scotland than the rest of the UK. Is he happy to be
part of a government that is failing all of its tests?
The deficit has come down by a quarter and she should acknowledge
we are clearing up the mess that Labour left behind. It will take --
I will take no lessons from hat or her party. We have cut income tax
for the lowest incomes -- earners, we have restored the pension link
and helped millions of motorists in difficult times, they were planning
the opposite. We take no lessons from Labour on managing the economy.
I am afraid that's all we've time for. We will be back again with the