11/01/2012 Scottish Questions


11/01/2012

Coverage of Scottish Questions from Westminster.


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Transcript


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A very warm welcome to Westminster for the first programme of 2012.

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The weather here at Westminster is unseasonably mild, and the

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political temperature is rising as well. The announcement last night

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from the First Minister Alex Salmond that he wants an

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independence referendum in Scotland, in the autumn of 2014 has led the

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constitutional genie out of the bottle. Proceedings began with a

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very specific question about defence and security.

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Order. Questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland.

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We have regular discussions with ministerial colleagues on defence

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matters relating to Scotland. My right honourable friend the

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Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State last spoke to the minister of

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defence personnel this week. As recently as November, the Prime

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Minister said there are no current plans to reduce -- reduce the

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number of MoD police officers at naval bases. However since then the

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Government has confirmed plans to cut the budget of the MoD police by

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50%. To the Prime Minister's assurances hold any water? What

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proportion of these cuts will fall in Scotland, and as he believed the

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threat to national security have diminished if -- sufficiently in

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recent months to justify a 50% cut in numbers? What the Prime Minister

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said stance, there are no current plans for the MoD to reduce the

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core police role or security of our national institutions such as

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nuclear safety. We take national security and the security of the

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defence installations and as the highest priority we have. We have

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so many MoD police in Scotland and the first place because of the huge

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defence imprint that we have. That would be addressed if the country

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were to be independent. -- at risk. I am delighted the Secretary of

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State has mentioned this, that there would be no current plans to

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reduce the number of MoD police. I would hope that he can assure the

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House that the Government will never adopt any plans to reduce the

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security at these bases because of the installations there. As I said,

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national security is our highest priority as a government. We will

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do nothing but compromise is and -- that will compromise his insecurity.

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The system must stay fair and affordable, and the benefit will

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increase by 5.2% in April. The debt consolidation plan, the Government

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will increase the child element of the child tax credit by the rate of

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inflation. According to the House of Commons library, under the

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Government's decision not to go ahead with the �110 increase in the

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child element of tax credits, it will mean �41 million has taken

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away from almost 400,000 children in Scotland alone. The worst hit in

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Scotland will be Glasgow City, where 44,000 children are set to

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miss out on �4.8 million. When will the Secretary of State stand up for

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the children of Scotland? Government is standing up for the

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children of Scotland. That is why its priority is sorting out the

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mess was the last Labour government made of our economy. I think the

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honourable gentleman would do well to heed the words of the former

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Secretary of State, who said the truth is that the Labour Party

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would have to make cuts if it were in power. We all it said we are in

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difficult economic times, but with the Minister agree one of the most

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effective ways of helping the lowest-paid families is to raise

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the income tax threshold to 10,000? I agree with my honourable friend.

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This has had significant impact in Scotland, and over 2 million basic

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rate taxpayers will benefit from the proposal over the period of the

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spa element. After another week dominating the headlines on

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Scotland's constitution, we cannot ignore the Child poverty problems.

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What action does the Secretary of State have to make sure the

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children of Scotland have the best start in life? He raises an

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important issue, and how it will -- highlights that many of the

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decisions rest with the Scottish government. The Scottish government

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received only if -- over �500 million in additional revenue, and

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I would have thought they would be better focused and how to deploy

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that, rather than obsessing about the constitution for.

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The Secretary of State and I firmly believe that Scotland is the ideal

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destination for international inward investment, and we have

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taken a range of departments -- Does my Honourable Friend accept

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On I agree with my honourable friend, which is why I believe it

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is better that a referendum on Scottish and a attendances held

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sooner, rather than later. In contrast to the previous

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intervention, will the Minister acknowledge that international

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companies investing in Scotland since the election of the SNP

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Scottish government include Amazon, Hewlett-Packard, does the Minister

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acknowledged this and welcome the investment to? What I acknowledge

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his these companies have invested in spite of the uncertainty. Think

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of the level of investment that Scotland could achieve if there was

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not uncertainty. That is the usual mantra we hear from the government,

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so perhaps he can answer Scotland's leading entrepreneur, who said,

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business is not concerned about the independence referendum. Whilst

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many of us in business are convinced about is that a

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prosperous future for the country depends on securing real economic

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powers through constitutional change. Will the UK Government

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dropped its bullish conditions -- drop its foolish conditions? He is

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entitled to his opinion, just like any other citizen of Scotland. I am

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sure you will encourage them to contribute to the consultation on

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the independence referendum. Does my Honourable Friend believe

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that for Scotland to become separate from the United Kingdom,

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and if it were forced to join the euro-zone as a condition, that this

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would hinder or help inward investment into Scotland? What I

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would say to my honourable friend is uncertainty over Scotland's

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position in the EU over which currency Scotland will use of it

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were to come independent will certainly hinder inward investment

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in Scotland. According to the annual population

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survey of 2010, the proportion of 18-19-year-old estimated to be not

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in education, employment or training in Scotland was 36,000.

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That answer does not really answer the question. What is happening

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between the ages of 16 and 18, which is as important, if not more

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important? What is he doing to try to encourage youngsters into

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industry, to be able to take on apprenticeships in joinery,

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electrician, and plumbing? That is where there is a failure in trying

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to attract people into these industries. Does he not agree that

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the idea of the school's liaison committees that I suggested to him

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is something that is worthwhile support in? He is right to focus on

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this issue. Youth unemployment is something we are all concerned

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about, and when I was in his constituency, it is right we all

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come together with employers, and all the agencies, to help young

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people. The use contract which we announced before Christmas, will

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bring �1 billion extra investment into supporting the young

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unemployed, which uses -- whether it is wage incentives, work

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experience opportunities, or money to the Scottish government that

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could be used to create those school liaison groups that he wants

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to see. Youth unemployment is a huge concern on all sides of the

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house, and across Scotland. The youth contract will help that by

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providing 40,000 opportunities for young people in Scotland. But this

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will not be solved easily, so what will he do to bring together people

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from UK government, Jobcentres, Scottish government, business

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employers and education opportunities to bring the

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opportunities to the young people of Scotland? Over many months I

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have been bringing together those groups in different part of

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Scotland. At the end of March, along with the Secretary of State

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for work and pensions and the Scottish Finance Secretary, I will

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bring everyone together so we can focus on tackling this. The problem

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with the Secretary of State's complacent answers is that he

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simply does not grasp the scale of the crisis of slumping demand,

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employment and confidence, which Scotland's economy is gripped by

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due to the crushing austerity imposed by the Government. Does he

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not share the real fears of the people, that with youth

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unemployment at over 21%, and seven people chasing every vacancy in

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Scotland, there are not just enough jobs in Scotland to go around? Is

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it not time to change course by boosting demand, and cutting VAT,

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before the economic plan plunges Scotland into the misery of another

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downturn? It is wrong for the Labour Party to be complacent about

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his record in the economy, which landed us in this mess and the

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first place. One of my predecessors said Labour has to face up to be

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challenges of the economy and deficit. We want to work with

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everyone so we can reduce youth unemployment, and the youth

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contract, I invite them to look at in more detail.

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The Government took action in the Autumn Statement to build a

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stronger and more balanced economy. As a result more than �500 million

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has been added to the Scottish government budget by the UK budget,

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which provides the Scottish Government with additional

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resources in these uncertain times. Can I sank the Minister for that,

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but would he agree with me that one of the most important ways to

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tackle poverty is ensuring there is full-employment? Does he therefore

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share my concerns that jobs seems set to be a move to end my

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constituency -- set to be removed. I know the honourable lady as a

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campaigner for this, and employers Can I tell the minister that on

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Monday, when 700 of my constituents returned to work at a construction

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company, they were told that their company were going into

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administration, without any consultation whatsoever. I am told

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that the Scottish Enterprise was not even aware of it. The trade

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unions were not aware of it. The NS -- MSP was not aware of it. This

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company was taken over two years ago when it had a turnover of �200

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million. It has now been run into the ground, and the executives have

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run away with the money. Can the Minister made with me to discuss

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what we can do to save as many of But someone from South Lanarkshire,

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I am disappointed to hear what you have related. I would be pleased to

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meet with him to ensure that employment is secured in South

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Lanarkshire. My Right Honourable Friend, the Secretary of State, is

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in contact with the Department of Work and Pensions on welfare reform.

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We met to discuss at secondary review of the work capability

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assessment. Thank you for that answer. You will be a way of a

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report from the Citizens' Advice Bureau examining incorrect and in -

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- examining incorrect conclusions made by several reviews. Is it time

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for the Government to consider the recommendations of the report that

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financial penalties be booked on thought incorrect assessments?

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was one of the issues the Secretary of State and I discussed with the

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Professor Harrington. We know that as he moves forward to prepare his

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father report, this is inevitably one of the issues he will address.

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There are far too many noisy private conversations taking place.

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Thank you Mr Speaker. Now that the move from incapacity benefit to

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employment support allowance is under way, it would appear that

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people are finding it difficult to carry out work capability

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assessments and there could be extra delays. Will you please

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engaged with fellow ministers in the Department of Work and Pensions

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to make sure that they can deliver on their contract? I can certainly

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ensure that I will pass on concerns to the Department.

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And the question about the independence referendum.

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I will answer questions 7, 8, 10 together. I made a statement

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yesterday about how any referendum could be made legal, fair and

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decisive. I discussed this with the First Minister and hope to have

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fathered discussions across Scottish Civic Society during the

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consultation. -- further discussions. The House of Commons

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library had showed that the academies of Quebec and Canada

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suffered during constitutional uncertainty in the 1990s. For the

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sake of jobs in Scotland and England, do you agree the last

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thing we need is a prolonged period of constitutional uncertainty and

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the First Minister should get on with that? You are correct to point

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to that analysis and the experience we can see from Quebec and the rest

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of Canada. It is vital that the economic uncertainty we now face

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because of the referendum is resolved and that is why we have

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brought forward proposals to make it legal, beer and decisive and I

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wanted to happen as soon as possible. -- legal, freer and

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decisive. Will you confirm if a UK Government does not have an

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independent referendum, one cannot take place? The central issue from

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my consultation is that as things currently stand the Scottish

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Parliament does not have the legal power to hold a referendum. We have

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to provide that by working with them. I am committed to working

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with the Scottish Government, from people across the country, to get

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the power devolved to Scotland and the Scottish Government can develop

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the question and we can get on with the referendum to be made in

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Scotland or the people of Scotland. Have you had any conversations to

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establish what impact an independent Scotland would have on

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the relationship with the European Union and the euro? You are

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absolutely focusing on some central issues. We need to debate those as

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to whether Scotland should go its own way or continued to be part of

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the more successful multi- nation state in the history of the world.

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It is vital it does, so let us get on, devolve the power to make it a

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legal and fair referendum and make a decisive. The Scottish affairs

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select committee has already embarked on an inquiry to identify

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those issues such as defence, which need to be resolved before a

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referendum is held. Do you plan to continue -- do you plan to

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contribute to that debate? certainly do. What is important is

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not just the debate now about the future of Scotland, but everyone in

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the country gets the opportunity to participate in the consultation on

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the sheet of the referendum and I hope people will respond. But not

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just politicians should get involved. Defence, welfare, the

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state of the economy, all a much steeper within the United Kingdom.

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These are important matters we are discussing. We should do so in an

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atmosphere of mutual respect. We now know there will be an

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independence referendum in the autumn of 2014 -- of 1914...

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LAUGHTER. That was the year the Great War started. There will be an

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independence referendum in 2014 designed and decided by the people

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of Scotland. If you are so concerned about the legal powers of

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that referendum, why not evolved those powers through section 30

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without condition? I see the Prime Minister has walked in. I hope you

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can encourage the Prime Minister to come to Scotland in the next two

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years, because you are the best recruiting sergeant to a yes word

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mac. The Prime Minister will be a bill participant. -- yes and vote.

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The most important thing is we have a referendum made his Scotland or

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the people of Scotland about the future of Scotland. You have put

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forward your preference for when the referendum should be. But we

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have to make sure it is a legal referendum. I hope the Scottish

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Government will work with us to make sure that is the case. Thank

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you very much. Does the Secretary of State recognise that following

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these developments the referendum campaign is now effectively

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underway? It is time to get on to the substance of the issue. Given

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that the Scottish Government have said they have been involved for

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some time in details about the prospects for Scotland, could the

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Secretary of State indicate if in the UK Government officials have

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been involved in any discussions relating to the future of the

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Scottish economy? In particular, whether a separate Scotland keeps

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the pound, joins the euro or has a separate currency. You are right to

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focus in on these key issues about the future of Scotland. I believe

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Scotland's places best served by continuing to be part of the United

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Kingdom, with the economy is stronger, Defence more secure, much

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greater cloud internationally. The welfare system will be more

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generous and better. I hope we can publish plans for what will be

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planned in Scotland, but as she says, let the debate get on. Thank

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you for your answer. Do you agree with me that one of Britain's

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greatest achievements was the creation of the welfare state? Can

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either on ask if any questions have taken place about the implications

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of separation for welfare spending Scotland, particularly as recent

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figures reveal that welfare spending in Scotland was three

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times greater than oil revenues in 2010? You make an important about

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the contrast between the level of spending to support some of the

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most vulnerable in society in Scotland and the rest of the

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country and the volatility of oil revenues. What I believe as we can

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have a more secure and generous welfare system by securing the

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risks and benefits across the whole UK. Would my Right Honourable

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friend agreed that all Scots should be entitled to vote on any

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referendum in independence, whether or not living in Scotland,

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including my father, a proud Scotsman, who happens to live in

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England and thinks of himself as first and foremost British? I pay

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tribute to your father's says of Patriot system and I am sure he

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like many other Scots around the country and indeed the world will

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want to contribute to this consultation. -- -- Patriot system.

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This is a historic decision, done on a legal, be a basis and on a

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straight forward the size of bases. Let us get that sorted and get on

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with the debate. And the question about youth

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unemployment. The Government has committed...

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apologise for interrupting. We are discussing youth unemployment. It

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is an important matter and I want to hear his answer.

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Back you, Mr Speaker. We have committed 1 billion over three

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years to implement the new contract. -- thank you. The Norwegian centres

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for employers to recruit 18-24- year-olds from the work programme

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and increased work opportunities for this age group. I thank you for

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your answer. You aware of the rising levels of youth unemployment

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and North Ayrshire and has seen its strong representation from MPs from

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that region. What more do you think this Government can do at

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Westminster to increase more public and private investment? And I

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acknowledge the work the honourable lady has done and the fact we met

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to discuss this serious issue recently. It is important that the

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youth contract that the Deputy Prime Minister was in Scotland to

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discuss on Friday is something taken advantage of across the

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country and I look forward to coming to your constituency to meet

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with those people to discuss how to implement it effectively.

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And a question about subsidies to key services in Scotland and the

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North of England. It is for the department -- it is for the

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parliament to Scotland to discuss allocating budgets. There is an

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annual subsidy to the Post Office of �150 million and �180 million

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for this financial year. It is not distributed by country or region.

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It would be helpful in the forthcoming debate that all these

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figures are made public, so that my constituents and others can fully

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participate. And I absolutely agreed that the debate in relation

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to the independence of Scotland should be based on facts and on the

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issues, which is why we need to move on from the process and get on

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with the referendum. The question of the referendum on

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Scotland isn't a matter just for the Scottish Government or people.

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How and when will my constituents in England B asked on this matter?

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Mr Speaker, the Honourable Gentleman's constituents have the

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opportunity to be represented on this is due to the honourable

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