18/04/2012 Scottish Questions


18/04/2012

Coverage from Westminster of Scottish Questions.


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Hello and a warm welcome to eight damp and drizzly Westminster. Don't

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be fooled by the brief interlude of sunshine. Whoever coined the phrase,

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April showers, it knew what they were talking about. The

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constitutional debate continues to occupied MPs on the debate -- day

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that Holyrood passes its verdict on the day that gives it more powers.

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What was contained in the Scotland Bill was the subject on the very

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first question here. He order. Questions to the

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Mr Speaker, on 21st March, I tabled a statement to confirm agreement

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had been reached with the Scottish government on the Scotland Bill.

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The Scottish government has tabled a memorandum recommending the

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support of the bill and members of the Scottish Parliament will vote

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to Labour -- later today. The news got him bail has indicated that it

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will pass significant powers to the Scottish Parliament. I'll wonder

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whether the recommendations he has received, whether he received any

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from the first minister to work jointly with the Secretary of State

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to highlight and promote the powers to show we can maximise devolution

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by eight -- whilst maintaining the integrity and strength and

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partnership with the UK. I have not had that particular representation

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but I agree that it is the most significant piece of legislation

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and transfer of financial powers from London to Edinburgh since 17

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07. Very quickly after the bell cm and I hope we will get on with

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implementation in the right way and show that devolution works well for

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Scotland. The Scottish government and the majority of members of the

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Scottish Parliament believe that this will be an improvement and it

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will have job-creating powers but it has not happened. Will the

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Secretary of State take the opportunity to confirm that the UK

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government has agreed to safeguards which ensures the Scottish

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Parliament will need to be satisfied that funding arrangements

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will not be detrimental? Can I say that I have a very different view

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of the future of Scotland from the honourable gentleman? I want to see

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Scotland continues strongly to be part of the UK. On the specifics, I

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am pleased that the Scottish government has accepted the

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Scotland Bill and we have worked carefully together to ensure we

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have the right measures in place to it ensure we will implement it

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carefully for all the people of Scotland. Does the Secretary of

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State acknowledge that, in the wake of the historic SNP victory last

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year, every single political party miraculously is now in favour of

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more powers than are currently contained in the Scotland Bill?

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Which further powers does the Secretary of State want is the

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exercised in Scotland? A fantastic diversionary tactic from the

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honourable gentleman. He never talks about independence. Why?

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Because they cannot answer the fundamental questions about

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independence. I am delighted he wants to work with this. About

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devolution, it has always worked on the basis that we promote ideas,

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come to consensus and the debate on devolution will continue but we

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must resolve the issue of independence. Why does he not want

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to get on with that debate? Mr Speaker, I have regular meetings

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with senior Cabinet ministers, including the Chancellor of the

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Exchequer where a right -- wide range of issues are discussed. This

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includes the period in the run-up to the Budget. I have my doubts

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whether he had any meetings. Anyway, there are more families using tax

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credits in Glasgow and more pensioners hit with a "granny tax"

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in Glasgow than they Iraq millionaires receiving the mansion

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tax in the whole of Great Britain. Is that what he calls them look --

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Liberal Democrats speeding up for Scotland? He just cannot get the

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Labour Party off the hook of the mess they left the economy in at

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the end of the last Parliament. We have to sort the biggest deficit in

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peacetime history and get as on the pass -- path to sustainable growth.

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We have had to take daft decisions but I am proud that because of the

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measures in his Budget, more tax will be -- Scots will be taken out

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of income tax on and pensioners can forget the insult of the 75p

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increase. Did my right honourable friend or the Chancellor received

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Budget recommendations from the Scottish government about the

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financial consequences of Scotland being separated from NATO?

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Did he make a case for re profiling direct capital investment for

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funding shovel ready projects? That is the most effective thing we can

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do for GDP growth. Or did he roll over and accept a tax break for

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millionaires? Honestly, the honourable gentleman should reflect

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carefully. Perhaps in a rare moment of generosity, he would welcome

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that since the spending review we have announced a further billion

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pounds of spending for to the Scottish government. We are

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continuing to maintain conditions for growth and in then de their

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enterprise zones that have under the cent capital allowances.

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Because of the high price of fuel, there is damage being done to

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businesses and people's incomes because of the long distance people

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in my constituency have to travel. Will the have a word with the

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Chancellor? My honourable friend is a consistent campaigner on this

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issue. I am always happy to have discussions about that. I would

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hope he would recognise the fact that as a result of the measures we

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have taken, we have provided a cut relative to what Labour proposed

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and we have provided support for remote rural communities in

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Scotland as well. Does the Secretary of State at all can he

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tell us the last time he ate a hot Bridie and did he discuss what the

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chancellor the impact of the tax on these? I would have lobby

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honourable gentleman was above such personal attacks. My own preference

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is for fish and chips and he will know There are plenty of places

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where you can get a very fine fish supper. We have had to take tough

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decisions to make sure everything is there on that front. Does my

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right honourable friend agree that in difficult economic times it is

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important that the government helps people on low incomes by cutting

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taxes and taking their lowest paid out of tax and that is in stark

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contrast to the last Labour government to doubled the 10 pence

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tax rate. My honourable friend is right. Our priority has to be to

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give help to people on low and middle incomes. There is people

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need the most support and 160,000 Scots will be out of income tax

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altogether because of us. That is the right way to approach this.

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I begin with a quote. "he do simple equation as that we think the

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priority is to help those on the lowest incomes". That will have to

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be paid for and we think it is fair that those who have the broadest

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shoulders should be the ones to contribute to that. Can the

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Secretary of State tell the House which member of the Cabinet said

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that about the recent budget? Important point is that in the

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economic circumstances, we fix the deficit, get the economy on the

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right track and, in doing so, make decisions which help the lowest

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paid and middle income earners and that is what we are doing by taking

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people out of tax and ensuring we reduce the tax burden on others.

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didn't even recognise in his own quote. He should know that there is

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a foundation which confirms that cut to tax credits will dwarf any

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gains of an increased to personal tax allowances so he needs to stop

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using that argument. Can he tell us why he has changed his position

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since he last back to the Evening Standard when, over 400,000

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Scottish pensioners will be hit by the "granny tax", Beauvais 84,000

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families in Scotland will have lost all their tax credits and, at the

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same time, the budget has given 16,000 of the richest Scots a

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massive tax cut. Will he finally admit that this was a Budget that

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has hit start -- Scotland hard, has done more for millionaires than it

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has for hard-working families and when will the Secretary of State

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stop being a Tory front man and stand up for people in Scotland?

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The last Labour Secretary of State said that Labour had to be credible

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on the economy on the financial regime but they are not being

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credible with proposals they are putting forward at the moment. I

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stand by the comments I made. My intention and my colleagues

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intention is to ensure we provide support to the lowest and middle

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income earners in this country and that those on the highest earnings

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pay their way. We will ensure they Changes to the block grant a cut

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lated by the Barnet formula. Due to the unprecedented deficit we

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inherited, our immediate priority is to reduce the deficit and we

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have no plans to change the arrangements before the

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stabilisation of public finances. thank the Minister for that answer.

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Given the government has no plans to replace the formula with a

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formula based on need and given the need for there to be clarity for

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the people of Scotland before they vote to know what proportion of the

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national debt they inherit, will he agree that the Barnet multiplier

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will be a good method of doing that? What I believe is that we

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need to move on from the discussion on issues of process in relation to

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the referendum and have the substantive debate on issues that

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will if affect Scotland if it were to become independent. The SNP,

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having campaigned relentlessly for independence, now appear to want to

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put those issues of for as long as possible. Does the Minister agree

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that the high price of fuel is creating major problems in Scotland

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and, at a stroke, if he were to cut the a key - might VAT, that would

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help Scottish families who are suffering greatly. The funding

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formula for Scotland. It is of course calculated by a basket of

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taxes raised by the UK government. Scots would be much worse off in

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relation to fuel duty had fuel duty been 10 pence higher as it would be

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if Labour were in power. Would he agree that it is important to

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maintain the Union in the interests of England and Scotland but that

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the funding formula should be fair to both countries? I absolutely

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agree with the honourable gentleman's sentiments but he is

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aware that this government inherited the worst deficit in

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peacetime history and that stabilising our nation's finances

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has to be the focus of the Government's efforts.

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relationship to the last question and answer, will the Minister not

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agree the Scotland Bill will increase the amount of revenue

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gathered in Scotland to about a third of its spend and therefore

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decrease the dependency on a block grant? I agree that the Scotland

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Bill represents a radical historic and significant change to the

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financing of Scotland - more than one-third of spending in Scotland

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by the parliament will be determined by funding from taxes

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that they raise an determined. It is a major step forward in

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devolution and accountability and should be welcomed by all members

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The consultation responses gave strong endorsement for a referendum

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with a single clear question on independence overseen by the

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Electoral Commission using the same franchise as that used to elect

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members of Parliament and hell sooner rather than later.

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grateful. Does he agree with the consensus of responses that say

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that people do not want to wait 1000 days in order to have a

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referendum? This is an important decision, the most important we

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Ascot will take in our lifetimes and it is causing uncertainty the

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longer it is delayed. The sooner we Could I ask my Rt Hon friend for

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his responses to the consultation, that Richard other simple yes or no

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to any referendum in order to have a decisive outcome? We must not

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muddle the issue of independence up with a separate issue of devolution.

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We mark another important milestone with the development of the

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Scotland Bill. Assuming we get their Lordships support, what we

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want is a clear decision on the future Robert country and that it

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should stay within United Kingdom. -- the future of up and it. Will

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the Secretary of State's fact the Labour Party for providing is a

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meagre consultation with over a quarter of this responses, I

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suppose it adds new meaning to the idea of a Labour blog board, but

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can he tell us how many responses he got from the Labour website,

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which slightly amended the text? And why is the Labour Party doing

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all the work on the ground for the story-let consultation? It should

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have the be a surprise that political parties want to take part

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in consultations. It is an intensely political process, but

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even this morning, on the SNP website there was a free prepared

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script for people to respond to the SNP consultation. So they have to

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be careful with the argument they are trying to make. 70% of

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respondents to the UK consultation felt that 2014 was too long to wait

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for Scotland's constitutional future. Businesses and financial

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institutions in my constituency feel that this state of limbo is

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damaging the economy of Scotland. Has the Secretary of State received

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similar representations? honourable lady is entirely right

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to draw attention to this issue and to highlight, not just in her

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constituency but across Scotland and the UK, businesses, like

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individuals, want answers. We need to respond to this issue sooner or

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later so that we do not lose out on investment and jobs and pass a

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future within the UK. -- and our future. 367,000... That was a

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question about the so-called granny tax. Isn't this an attack on people

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putting away money for their retirement? It is also an attack on

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people are losing income when they are single because of the bedroom

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packs, so if you are elderly, you cannot be a single, and if you are

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poor, you cannot be hungry, because of the tax on fish and chips.

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one a surprise the honourable member that I do not accept his

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analysis. What he and other scaremongers on this issue of bail

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to point out is that over half of those over 65 in Scotland will not

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pay any tax at all. Is the minister not ashamed of his Government's

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decision to reduce tax for the wealthiest Scots whilst at the same

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time penalising pensioners with a tax grab which will see pensioners

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all losing up to �22 per annum. know that the honourable gentleman

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was not a member of this Parliament for most of the 13 years of the

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Labour Government, but most of his colleagues from Scotland were and I

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did not hear any of them calling for an increase in higher income

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tax and a higher rate of income tax. He is quite wrong to say that there

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will be losers in relation to the age-related allowances. There will

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be no cash losers. But this is about fairness and simplification

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then why has it been delayed until the full �10,000 personal allowance

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was announced before this tax on bedrooms? I acknowledge the

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honourable lady, known for speaking up on the issue of the minimum wage,

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and that is why I that have thought she did a welcome the fact that

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this Government is raising the personal allowance to �10,000

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during the course of this Parliament. The air are a lot of

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noisy private conversation sticking place. I would like to hear the

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questions and the answers. Or does it say about the imposing of a

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granny tax on 367,000 Scots, was giving a tax cut to the wealthiest

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14,000 scores? What the honourable gentleman and his colleagues do not

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acknowledge is that this Government has delivered the largest pension

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rise in the last 30 years against the Government of which his party,

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which took forward a pension rise of 75p. We are not going to take

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any lectures on the treatment of pensioners in Scotland. Just how

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out of touch is this Government to think that it is right off their

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that nearly 400,000 Scottish pensioners should pay on average et

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the town's more they're year and tax, just so that's 16,000 top rate

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taxpayers should receive a tax cut of �10,000 a year, on average?

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People retiring next April both face an annual tax rise of �322

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that year because of the granny tax, on top of higher VAT and cuts in

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winter fuel allowance, introduced by this Chancellor. With a wrecker

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of in government like this, it will be no surprise to the minister that

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Tony election strategists are or gloomy about winning NEC's at all

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in Scotland in the next election. What I think is there is that half

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of pensioners over 65 in Scotland will not pay any tax at all. Those

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earning under �10,000 by the end of this Government will be subject to

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a personal allowance of �10,000. What I think is there is that this

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Government has delivered the largest increase in the state

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pension of �270, compared to 75p, or fraud by the previous Government.

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-- offered by. Those living on modest pension incomes have already

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paid a very high price for the financial crisis and have lost the

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value of their savings and investments and base inflation and

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extremely low interest rates. How can the Minister justify this tax

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Brabourne pensioners, whilst cutting taxes for millionaires? --

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this tax grab on pensioners. I will not accept any lectures from the

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honourable lady. She offers pensioners the prospect of breaking

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up the United Kingdom, and no certainty of were pension funding

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would come from. We're confident that people in Scotland will

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continue to support the United Kingdom in any referendum. It is

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the Scottish government that is proposing independence and they

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must answer for the implications of their proposals, including on

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currency matters. This question is about whether the power and would

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continue in an independent Scotland. The could be an independent state

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and would be obliged to join the Euro. He SNP are changing their

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position on what currency they wish to adopt and how they would go

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about it. The SNP needs to answer some Berry had questions about this

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about what it would look like a Scotland were Independent. Whiting

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Scotland is better off, in the UK. Does this not sure the incoherence

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of the SNP economic policy? honourable gentleman is entirely

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right that the SNP do not resolve what monetary union with the rest

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of the UK might look like, how they would deal with fiscal rules and

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whether the Bank of England would be the lender of last resort. I

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think in Scotland we deserve some answers to those points. The then

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independent Scotland was to use power in Stirling, would this not

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require conditions that cannot be known now, and this is one of a

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growing number of issues that power unknown, as to how uncertain

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Scotland's future would be, if it left the United Kingdom? My right

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Hon and will friend is right. The SNP ducks the answers to all of

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these hard questions, because they do not have the answers. This is a

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question about what can be done to tackle fuel poverty in Scotland.

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Bringing together the heads of the Big Six energy companies and

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Scottish consumer groups, this led to a supply of vital information to

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improve the application of key policies such as the Worm home

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discount scheme. I am continuing meetings, to review progress. --

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warm home. Do provision of heating oil in the Scottish borders region

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needs reviewing urgently. represent a large, rural

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constituency in the borders, so I share his concerns, but I

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understand that in his own constituency there is some

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innovative initiatives from communities coming together to

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produce heating oil, who are therefore able to negotiate better

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prices with suppliers. Will the Minister press his own Cabinet

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colleagues to look at practical help, for example, by bringing

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forward the pensioners'' winter fuel allowance to allow them to

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fill up their tanks before winter hits, when prices tend to be Laura?

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It is an issue of concern in rural Scotland, as elsewhere, and I would

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be happy to meet the honourable gentleman to discuss his concerns.

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This is a question about what would transfer to Scotland under so-

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called Devo-Max would the Secretary of State agree with me that devo-

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max is a wonderful idea for Scotland and we T discuss extending

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this to the regions and localities of England? -- would he. There is a

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lively debate to be had, but the important thing is that we

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acknowledge the important next steps in Scotland, a real proposals

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in the Scotland Bill, due to be getting the consent of the Scottish

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Parliament and their Lordships, next week, giving us the biggest

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development in devolution since 1998. That is all we have time for

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