12/09/2012 Scottish Questions


Coverage of Scottish Questions from Westminster.

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Hello, will come to Westminster for the September edition of Scottish


Questions, the first since MPs returned after their long summer


break. Watch out for one thing, see who was the first MP to invoke the


name of Andy Murray! With unemployment in Scotland rising for


the first time in six months, the economy was also a major feature of


the debate, as was the constitution, and proceedings began with a


question from Labour MP Lindsay Roy, who wanted to know what would


happen to defence jobs in an independent Scotland. Order.


Questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland. Question number one,


Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I have regular discussions with


ministerial colleagues on defence matters relating to Scotland. There


is no doubt that there would be far reaching implications for all


sectors of the economy, including the defence industry, should


Scotland become independent. Can I thank the Minister for his answer?


I am very proud of the defence work that has been undertaken in five --


Fife, for instance Raytheon in my constituency, and their


contribution has been immense. According to the MoD, the new Type


26th frigate will be the backbone of the Royal Navy for decades to


come. Can the Minister advice, in the light of possible separation,


how likely it is that the frigates will be built in Scotland? First of


all, may I pay tribute to the hundreds of skilled workers in his


constituency who contributes so much to the United Kingdom and


international defence through the work they do at Raytheon and


elsewhere? I agree with them that this is not the time to be putting


that at risk. On the specifics of the Type 26, it is clear that if


Scotland were an independent country, the rest of the UK would


be applying EU procurement rules which give those contracts for the


domestic market. We would be locking ourselves out of the


potential of millions of pounds of work involving hundreds of jobs in


Scotland, and that is not acceptable. When the Secretary of


State agree that Scotland makes a magnificent contribution in terms


of manufacturing, but also in terms of bases and recruitment? Would he


not welcome the fact that the Secretary of State for Defence has


gone to great lengths to keep Scotland in the Union defence terms,


and we do not agree that if there were to be independence, that would


probably be lost? The honourable gentleman is right to focus on what


is at stake, where Scotland to become independent and separate


from the rest of the United Kingdom. The Scottish contribution to UK


defence is absolutely immense, but Scotland get a huge amount from


being part of the UK. We are safe as part of the UK, I do not want to


put any of that at risk at all. Angus Robertson. Since his


government took office, service personnel numbers are at a record


low, commitments have been broken on returning troops from Germany,


one facilities and the retention of historic Scottish regiments. Is


this totally embarrassing record the reason why the Secretary of


State for Defence has never even visited Scotland since taking


office? If we are talking about embarrassment on defence policy,


the honourable gentleman should look to his own party's policies on


these matters. We have got access to a UK defence budget of �34


billion, the fourth-largest in the world. We have got 15,500 service


personnel in Scotland, 40,000 people working in the defence


industry in Scotland, and 800 different companies. I think that


is an immense contribution to Scotland and Scotland to UK defence.


Service personnel numbers are just over 10,000, I'm sure he would wish


to correct the record on that. The Secretary of State is not denying


that the Secretary of State for Defence has not been to Scotland


since taking office. He was asked for a meeting in November, in March,


and nothing came of it. An offer was made of discussion through the


Armed forces Minister when I met him and the Joint Chiefs of Staff


in June last year, and there has been no formal response from the


government since then. Why is it the Ministry of Defence is so bad


at dealing with Scotland? completely reject of the honourable


gentleman has said. A whole series of ministers, myself and my right


honourable friend, have made visits to different installations around


Scotland, as we have been doing in the last couple of weeks. I


understand why he wants to dodge the serious issue, he does not want


to focus on SNP defence policy, or particularly the trick they want to


pull on NATO. They know that people in Scotland wants NATO Security,


but they want a pick-and-mix approach, take on none of the


obligations, it just will not do. Neil Carmichael. Number three, Mr


Speaker, please. With permission, I will ask questions 3 and 14


together. The Secretary of State and I have frequent discussions


with colleagues on Common Agricultural Policy reform. I last


met with UK and Scottish Agricultural Ministers during the


Royal Highland Show. Thank you very much for that answer, Mr Speaker.


With the difficulties in the harvest this year and rising


commodity prices and with an interest in increasing productivity


and production in the world of agriculture, will those talks focus


on the need to actually recalibrate the common agricultural policy


towards our production and food costs and prices? Mr Speaker, I


think it is a matter on which we are in agreement with the Scottish


government, that the Common Agricultural Policy, and indeed


policies pursued by both governments, should seek to


maximise food production in Scotland. Anne McIntosh. Will the


Minister assure us that the Scottish minister will be heavily


involved in reforms to the CAP and, once agreed, that they will apply


equally in Scotland, England and all parts of the UK, particularly


as regards compliance measures? Speaker, the government has shown


by its actions that it is committed to involving not just the Scottish


government but all the devolved administrations in developing the


UK position on the Common Agricultural Policy reforms


negotiations, and that will continue to be our position.


Margaret Curran. Mr Speaker, I am sure that everyone in a house can


agree that the current negotiations in Europe may have a significant


impact on food prices, especially at a time when Scottish families


are under such pressure from rising food prices. Can I ask the Minister


if either he or the Secretary of State can tell us precisely what


correspondence and meetings he has had with other ministerial


colleagues to address this issue facing Scottish families?


Secretary of State and I have had a range of meetings with colleagues


across government and within the Scottish government, not just to


address the Common Agricultural Policy reforms, but to address


issues such as the cost of living and the economic policies being


pursued in Scotland. As the honourable lady well knows, our


views in relation to the Scottish government and the UK government


that we should be working together in relation to economic matters in


Scotland, and we would much rather that was the view of the Scottish


government, rather than the incessant focus on constitutional


matters. Margaret Curran. Can I thank the Minister for that


interesting answer? Yesterday in response to a question from myself,


the Secretary of State seemed to have no grasp of the impact of


rising food prices in Scotland. Last week, Save The Children


launched their first appeal to fund work in Scotland, revealing that a


quarter of parents have less than �30 per week to spend on food, and


Citizens Advice Scotland tell us that applications for support for


food and other May 6th has doubled. We all know, just as the minister


indicated, that this is a result of the choices that he and his Cabinet


colleagues have made. Is he and the Secretary of State proud that food


banks are fast becoming the hallmark of his government in


Scotland? I think the honourable lady was not present at the


reception in Dover House this week when many of the leading


stakeholders in relation to child poverty, including Save The


Children, were, and there was a very significant discussion of the


issues. She can be assured that both the Secretary of State and I


take these issues very seriously. Thank you, Mr Speaker. The so-


called breeding proposals, measures proposed for the new cap, have


caused consternation through the farming community. A recent survey


found that almost three-quarters of farmers thought they would have an


adverse environmental impact, half thought they would harm


biodiversity, and all thought it would cause financial problems of


their business. What is the Minister doing to make sure the


measures do not form part of the new cap? The Government is very


aware of those concerns, not just in Scotland but across the rest of


the United Kingdom, and the honourable lady's committee


reported to that effect. The Government will seek to do all it


can to minimise the impact of such measures if they were adopted.


Michael McCann. A question about the impact of the A Olympics and


Paralympics. With permission, I will answer questions four and six


together. �34 million worth of contracts were awarded to


businesses in Scotland, and businesses will have benefited from


the hugely popular events that took place in Scotland. The games have


been very successful and provided a great springboard for the Glasgow


Commonwealth Games in 2014. Speaker, I am grateful for the


Secretary of State's answer. The Games show how great sporting


events can be used to regenerate large parts of our cities and


surrounding areas. Can the Secretary of State ensure that


lessons about regeneration and legacy from London 2012 are shared


with Glasgow's Commonwealth Games organisers? Can I say that the


Honourable gentleman's focus on exactly the right issue of legacy?


I think when we congratulate for the Scots and others who have


participated in the Olympics and Paralympics, what a great festival


of sport we have had this particular summer, fantastic


outcomes. Apart from inspiring a generation, which is obviously


already under way, what matters is that we get regeneration in the


regions around London but also across the UK, but I believe the


economic legacy will be very strong, but the lessons from London are


ones that I hope will also be seen in Glasgow as well. Tom Greatrex.


Thank you, Mr Speaker. During the Olympic Games I was privileged to


be a gamesmaker along with a whole range of people. People from


different backgrounds volunteered to be involved for the first time.


In his discussions with the Scottish government, could he make


the point to the organisers of the Commonwealth Games to take the best


from that volunteering programme to ensure that people can get involved


in Glasgow 2014 in the same way? May I pay tribute to the honourable


gentleman, because indeed I saw him in the gamesmaker's uniform, and he


was indeed very helpful at Hampden Park when I visited to see the


United States versus France, he has clearly got talents for other


things as well as politics! But he makes an important point. The


legacy of the volunteers is one of the most important parts of the


Games, one of the more unexpected parts, and I do hope that in


Glasgow in two years' time we will see that legacy shown and that


people across the whole of Scotland will take part. Sir Menzies


Campbell also up would my right honourable friend like to take the


opportunity to congratulate the Scottish gold-medallist Andy Murray


on his quite remarkable marathon triumph in the United States? Has


he noticed that the term coined by the First Minister is very rapidly


to have fallen into disuse? And as he heard of any Scottish competitor


selected either for the Olympic Games or the Paralympic Games, or


indeed any medallist in either of these games, complaining about the


fact that they were representing the United Kingdom and not


Scotland? Let me join with my right honourable and learned Friend in


congratulating Andy Murray on his and innit gold medal and also on


securing his first Grand Slam title. -- and innit. It is an immense


achievement being celebrated all over the country. I think we saw


the great benefits of working together, both in terms of the


financing and of the training, but also in terms of the competition.


The very first Olympic gold was won by a Scot and somebody from the


south-west of England, and that perhaps make the point that we are


better together. Mrs Eleanor Laing. With the Secretary of State like to


further clarify that there is no conflict between being Scottish and


being British and that millions of reasonable people in the UK and all


over the world live very happily as We are absolutely at one on this


issue. She is right and I am sure people will accept that being


Scottish and British can be done at the same time. Can we take this


opportunity as well to congratulate Andy Murray? All of Scotland and


the UK are celebrating this magnificent success. All of


Scotland was cheering on Team GB. We supported Scottish athletes,


athletes from right across the UK. Team GB was Scotland's team. Will


the Minister assure me he will work as closely as possible with the


Scottish government to ensure we secure the maximum economic


benefits of from the Commonwealth Games? I agree that the Honourable


Gentleman has consistently supported Scots and other British


Olympians and Paralympians. As my right honourable friend was sailing,


-- was saying and, his point about legacy is important, but we have


already been working very closely with the organisers of the


Commonwealth Games to make sure they are a fantastic success and


the London Olympics has created a great platform for that. A question


about post offices. Colleagues regularly discuss issues about post


offices in Scotland and we recognise the importance of


maintaining post offices in Scotland, which is why this


government has committed �1 billion. The Scottish government's DVLA


service has been trusted by the public, and I hope the minister


agrees that the DVLA contract should not be handed over to the


lowest bidder and. The service the Post Office have provided over the


years should be given waiting. ended be compulsory closure


programme that we inherited from the party opposite. We saw 5,000


post offices close over seven years, 400 of them in Scotland. On the


issue of this contract, it has to be conducted by an EU programme at


rules, but it is not just cost, there are other important criteria


like service and we will make sure they all met. The one in five post


offices in Scotland are under pressure of closure because of


policies of this government. The nationalists criticise this but


they have scrapped the post of this diversification fund, showing them


to be no better than the Secretary of State and his friends. If you


have a post office that does not accept parcels and cash withdrawals


and does not provide DVLA services, do you have a post office? He is he


happy to sit idly by while the Tories and the nationalists destroy


our post office network? May I welcome the honourable gentleman in


his debut at the dispatch box. He has a strong record in Scottish


politics and I look forward to the debates people have in the future.


It is a bit cheap to lead with that particular question. Not least it


was his government that closed down 5,000 post offices across the UK,


over 400 in Scotland. We want to see a sustainable network and we


are investing in that and we are determined to ensure that services


across the country are put through the post office. He is the


Secretary of State aware that since 2005, the level of government


service through Post Office has fallen from a half down to one


fifth? If they DVLA contract is lost, this will have a dramatic


effect and lead to possibly the closure of many other post offices.


If the government cannot do anything about this, what is the


point of making it the front office of government? I share with him the


desire to see a sustainable post office network and we have reversed


the damaging policies of the previous government already within


the last two years and we are committed to significant further


investment in that network. I do not see the same level of support


coming from his colleagues in the Scottish Parliament. Mr Speaker,


alcohol abuse harms individuals and communities throughout the UK.


Clearly a range of responses is required to address the problem.


The government continues to engage with the Scottish government on the


issue of minimum unit pricing. Given that this policy has the


potential to affect my constituency of Carlisle, what measures are the


government taking to introduce proposals what minimum alcohol


pricing in England and Wales? The government continues to


consider the position in the rest of the United Kingdom and certainly


before any proposals were introduced in England and Wales,


there would be an extensive consultation. One of the problems


that can arise from alcohol abuse is sadly people getting into


trouble in Scotland's coastal waters. There will be a delay of 15


months between the Clyde Coastguard being closed and the maritime


operations centre being up and running. Is he concerned about the


safety implications? As the honourable lady will know, although


there are changes to the management arrangements of the Coast Guard


operation centres, the same local volunteers, the same local


lifeboats, at the same helicopters will apply in the coastal waters of


Scotland. There will be no change and it is wrong to suggest


otherwise. The East is a specific question about the use of firms


that have engaged in blacklisting of trade union. Regulations were


introduced in 2010 to outlaw trade union blacklisting in the UK. We


welcome the inquiry into blacklisting in employment and


encourage all honourable members and interested parties to feed back


into that inquiry. Can I also commend the Scottish Affairs Select


Committee for what they are doing on this but if there is tangible


evidence that government contracts have been awarded to companies


engaging in blacklisting Trades Union, can those contracts be


reviewed? I know the honourable gentleman is a strong campaign on


this issue and I suggest he puts that view forward the Scottish


Affairs Select Committee so that it may form part of its report. We


will certainly take its report very seriously. The Honourable Gentleman


will know that talk is cheap. What would he actually do, he must know


these blacklistings are happening today, what is the government going


to do if we identify people that are doing it? What will he do?


regulations which were introduced in 2010 provide a route for


individuals to feel that they have been blacklisted. I feel that the


evidence sessions being held by the Scottish Affairs Select Committee


is a very good way of reviewing how those regulations and other laws


are working in this regard and we will take their report re re-


seriously? Mr Peter Bone. The -- very seriously. No new official


figures have been published since last February. The most recent


estimate in October 2011 shows that the level of public expenditure in


Scotland was �10,165 per head for that year. So �10,000 a year is


paid by taxpayers on average two people in Scotland. In my


constituency and the rest of the East Midlands it is �8,000 per


person. Is that fair? The last time my honourable friend raised this


was following a discussion with his wife and other members of the


family. I appreciate she was distracted getting herself ready


for this weekend's charity run, and we wish her all the best. I regret


that when she focuses back on the politics, the answer she will he is


different very little to the one I gave a few months ago, namely that


the priority is to sort out the public finances and the mess that


we inherited on the party opposite, and that any future review will


have to wait until that is completed. Government spending was


higher in both London and Northern Ireland and in Scotland and with


8.4% of the UK population, does the Ministry knows that Scotland pays


nine when 6% of the UK's taxation - - 9.6%. It is more than paying its


own way. Spending around the whole of the UK varies quite considerably


and we need to take all of that into account but as for believing


the SNP's figures, we will have to continue to agree to differ. The


East is a question about the West Lothian question. I am in regular


contract -- contact with my neck right honourable friend the Prime


Minister about a range of issues are. We should have eight time soon


to discuss the findings. Is he confident that the commission will


report on time in spring 2013 and when he does so, it will bring


forward meaningful proposals and not just another recommendation for


another commission to kick this issue further into the long grass?


These are very serious issues and that is why we have got this expert


commission looking very seriously at them, which has got a cross


section of experts representing all parts of the UK. We look forward to


its findings and having a debate on what they show. I am glad she


caught the member for West Lothian. -- you called. How many questions


should be on the referendum in Scotland? I think there should be


one. The separate or stake in the UK. Does he agree? There should


only be one question on the ballot paper, I completely agree with the


honourable gentleman. I refer the honourable gentleman to the answer


which the Secretary of State gave to a previews question. After this


summer of sporting success, the last thing the people of this


country want is to see Team GB torn apart. Does he agree? I couldn't


agree more. The success of Team GB at both the Olympics and the


Paralympics has been celebrated as much in Scotland as in any other


part of the United Kingdom. Would the Minister agree with me that one


of the great successes of the Olympic Games was the role played


by London's mayor. I wonder what will happen to him in the future!


Would he agree that when we come to the Glasgow Games, it is essential


they are run by the City of Glasgow and that we do not have nationalist


politicians trying to muscle in. The honourable gentleman will know


that the mayor of London is a great supporter of Scotland and a great


supporter of the Commonwealth Games and ensuring that the legacy from


the Olympics is carried on into the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.


I'm afraid that is all we have got time for at the moment. Because of


party political conferences, there will be no Scottish Questions next


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