12/09/2012 Scottish Questions


12/09/2012

Coverage of Scottish Questions from Westminster.


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

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Questions, the first since MPs returned after their long summer

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

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name of Andy Murray! With unemployment in Scotland rising for

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

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

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

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happen to defence jobs in an independent Scotland. Order.

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

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Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I have regular discussions with

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ministerial colleagues on defence matters relating to Scotland. There

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

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sectors of the economy, including the defence industry, should

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

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

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Fife, for instance Raytheon in my constituency, and their

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

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

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

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

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

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constituency who contributes so much to the United Kingdom and

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international defence through the work they do at Raytheon and

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

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

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

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be applying EU procurement rules which give those contracts for the

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domestic market. We would be locking ourselves out of the

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

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

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State agree that Scotland makes a magnificent contribution in terms

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

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

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

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

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

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is at stake, where Scotland to become independent and separate

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

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

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

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

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government took office, service personnel numbers are at a record

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

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one facilities and the retention of historic Scottish regiments. Is

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this totally embarrassing record the reason why the Secretary of

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State for Defence has never even visited Scotland since taking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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at dealing with Scotland? completely reject of the honourable

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

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honourable friend, have made visits to different installations around

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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together. The Secretary of State and I have frequent discussions

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with colleagues on Common Agricultural Policy reform. I last

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met with UK and Scottish Agricultural Ministers during the

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

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With the difficulties in the harvest this year and rising

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commodity prices and with an interest in increasing productivity

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

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on the need to actually recalibrate the common agricultural policy

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

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

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government, that the Common Agricultural Policy, and indeed

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policies pursued by both governments, should seek to

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maximise food production in Scotland. Anne McIntosh. Will the

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Minister assure us that the Scottish minister will be heavily

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

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

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as regards compliance measures? Speaker, the government has shown

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

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government but all the devolved administrations in developing the

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UK position on the Common Agricultural Policy reforms

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negotiations, and that will continue to be our position.

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

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agree that the current negotiations in Europe may have a significant

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

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

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

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correspondence and meetings he has had with other ministerial

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colleagues to address this issue facing Scottish families?

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

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across government and within the Scottish government, not just to

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address the Common Agricultural Policy reforms, but to address

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

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

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views in relation to the Scottish government and the UK government

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

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

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government, rather than the incessant focus on constitutional

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Citizens Advice Scotland tell us that applications for support for

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

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

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

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banks are fast becoming the hallmark of his government in

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

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reception in Dover House this week when many of the leading

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stakeholders in relation to child poverty, including Save The

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

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

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

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

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caused consternation through the farming community. A recent survey

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

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adverse environmental impact, half thought they would harm

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biodiversity, and all thought it would cause financial problems of

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

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

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

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the United Kingdom, and the honourable lady's committee

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

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

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

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

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together. �34 million worth of contracts were awarded to

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businesses in Scotland, and businesses will have benefited from

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

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been very successful and provided a great springboard for the Glasgow

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

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

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

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surrounding areas. Can the Secretary of State ensure that

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lessons about regeneration and legacy from London 2012 are shared

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

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

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

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participated in the Olympics and Paralympics, what a great festival

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of sport we have had this particular summer, fantastic

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outcomes. Apart from inspiring a generation, which is obviously

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

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

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

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

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

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

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different backgrounds volunteered to be involved for the first time.

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In his discussions with the Scottish government, could he make

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

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from that volunteering programme to ensure that people can get involved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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opportunity to congratulate the Scottish gold-medallist Andy Murray

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

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

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

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

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

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fact that they were representing the United Kingdom and not

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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further clarify that there is no conflict between being Scottish and

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

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:14:02.:14:09.

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

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

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

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

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the UK are celebrating this magnificent success. All of

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

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

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

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Scottish government to ensure we secure the maximum economic

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

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Gentleman has consistently supported Scots and other British

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:15:17.:15:18.

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

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

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already been working very closely with the organisers of the

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Commonwealth Games to make sure they are a fantastic success and

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

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about post offices. Colleagues regularly discuss issues about post

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offices in Scotland and we recognise the importance of

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maintaining post offices in Scotland, which is why this

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:16:01.:16:04.

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

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

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

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

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years should be given waiting. ended be compulsory closure

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

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

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

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

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

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offices in Scotland are under pressure of closure because of

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policies of this government. The nationalists criticise this but

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

:17:07.:17:13.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

:18:11.:18:17.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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the damaging policies of the previous government already within

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the last two years and we are committed to significant further

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

:18:53.:18:59.

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

:18:59.:19:05.

alcohol abuse harms individuals and communities throughout the UK.

:19:05.:19:09.

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

:19:09.:19:13.

The government continues to engage with the Scottish government on the

:19:13.:19:17.

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

:19:17.:19:22.

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

:19:23.:19:26.

government taking to introduce proposals what minimum alcohol

:19:26.:19:33.

pricing in England and Wales? The government continues to

:19:33.:19:39.

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

:19:39.:19:43.

before any proposals were introduced in England and Wales,

:19:43.:19:48.

there would be an extensive consultation. One of the problems

:19:48.:19:52.

that can arise from alcohol abuse is sadly people getting into

:19:52.:19:58.

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

:19:58.:20:02.

months between the Clyde Coastguard being closed and the maritime

:20:02.:20:06.

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

:20:06.:20:13.

safety implications? As the honourable lady will know, although

:20:13.:20:18.

there are changes to the management arrangements of the Coast Guard

:20:18.:20:23.

operation centres, the same local volunteers, the same local

:20:23.:20:28.

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

:20:28.:20:32.

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

:20:32.:20:39.

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

:20:39.:20:44.

that have engaged in blacklisting of trade union. Regulations were

:20:44.:20:49.

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

:20:49.:20:53.

welcome the inquiry into blacklisting in employment and

:20:53.:20:56.

encourage all honourable members and interested parties to feed back

:20:56.:21:04.

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

:21:04.:21:09.

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

:21:09.:21:14.

evidence that government contracts have been awarded to companies

:21:14.:21:17.

engaging in blacklisting Trades Union, can those contracts be

:21:17.:21:21.

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

:21:21.:21:26.

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

:21:26.:21:30.

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

:21:30.:21:36.

will certainly take its report very seriously. The Honourable Gentleman

:21:36.:21:41.

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

:21:41.:21:46.

these blacklistings are happening today, what is the government going

:21:46.:21:55.

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

:21:55.:21:59.

regulations which were introduced in 2010 provide a route for

:21:59.:22:05.

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

:22:05.:22:09.

evidence sessions being held by the Scottish Affairs Select Committee

:22:09.:22:13.

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

:22:13.:22:17.

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

:22:17.:22:26.

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

:22:26.:22:33.

figures have been published since last February. The most recent

:22:33.:22:37.

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

:22:38.:22:46.

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

:22:46.:22:51.

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

:22:51.:22:54.

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

:22:54.:23:01.

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

:23:01.:23:06.

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

:23:06.:23:09.

family. I appreciate she was distracted getting herself ready

:23:09.:23:15.

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

:23:15.:23:19.

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

:23:20.:23:24.

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

:23:24.:23:27.

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

:23:27.:23:32.

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

:23:32.:23:41.

have to wait until that is completed. Government spending was

:23:41.:23:46.

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

:23:46.:23:51.

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

:23:51.:23:58.

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

:23:58.:24:03.

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

:24:03.:24:07.

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

:24:07.:24:13.

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

:24:13.:24:19.

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

:24:19.:24:24.

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

:24:24.:24:33.

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

:24:33.:24:38.

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

:24:38.:24:42.

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

:24:42.:24:47.

forward meaningful proposals and not just another recommendation for

:24:47.:24:50.

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

:24:51.:24:55.

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

:24:55.:24:59.

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

:24:59.:25:04.

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

:25:04.:25:11.

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

:25:11.:25:17.

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

:25:17.:25:22.

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

:25:22.:25:28.

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

:25:28.:25:33.

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

:25:33.:25:41.

honourable gentleman. I refer the honourable gentleman to the answer

:25:41.:25:49.

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

:25:49.:25:52.

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

:25:52.:25:59.

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

:25:59.:26:05.

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

:26:05.:26:09.

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

:26:09.:26:15.

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

:26:16.:26:20.

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

:26:20.:26:25.

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

:26:25.:26:30.

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

:26:30.:26:35.

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

:26:35.:26:39.

politicians trying to muscle in. The honourable gentleman will know

:26:39.:26:45.

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

:26:45.:26:47.

supporter of the Commonwealth Games and ensuring that the legacy from

:26:47.:26:53.

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

:26:53.:26:59.

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

:26:59.:27:03.

party political conferences, there will be no Scottish Questions next

:27:03.:27:08.

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