20/06/2012 Scottish Questions


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Hello and welcome to a very summery Westminster for the June edition of


Scottish Questions. As you would expect on the day the latest


unemployment figures are released, some questions on the state of the


economy. And constitutional issues came to the fore. That is how


proceedings began with a question on Scotland's place within the


United Kingdom. Questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland.


As the Prime Minister has made clear we believe Scotland is


stronger in the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom is stronger with


Scotland in it. Leading up to the referendum the Government will


produce evidence and analysis to assess the benefits that Scotland


gains from being part of the United Kingdom and the contribution that


Scotland makes to our United Kingdom. I thank the Secretary of


State for that answer. Would he agree with me that the defence of


Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland would be greatly


enhanced rather than have a separate Scotland and defence


matters to this country, the whole of this country, greatly. Well he


makes an important point and ore the next 18 months, civil servants


will be preparing analysis to show the basis of the arguments that we


need to be involved in as Scotland confronts this debate. Protecting


our citizens is one of the most important parts of our role in gft.


We want to lack at our role in the world. -- role in government.


Secretary of State and his Tory and Labour allies in the anti-


independence coalition all say... All say... Tell it like it is.


Secretary of State, his Tory and Labour allies in the anti-


independence coalition say they all believe that the constitutional


status quo is not sustainable. So with only days to go until the


launch of the no campaign, could he outline to the House what joint


proposal they have for further devolution and what powers will be


devolved and when? I do hope he has not got himself into trouble for


mentioning the independence word. But he is a brave gie, perhaps he


thought it was a risk worth take. - - guy. It is rich of him to ask


questions of us having delivered the biggest transfer of financial


powers from London to Scotland since the act of union. When every


time we ask him what independence mean, his proposals unravel.


last time looked this was Scottish questions, for a second time, can I


ask him given that he and his allies say that the constitutional


status quo is not sustainable, what specific joint propose and do they


have for the further devolution of powers? He didn't answer it the


first time. Can he please answer it now I thought that the the


honourable gentleman's party had welcomed the fact that the Scotland


Act has set in place the biggest transfer of financial power, the


transfer of stamp duty, land tax, north of the border. Can I say to


him that the debate that he refers to that we need to get on with is


the one about independence. That is whrooty UK government is committed


to ensure we have the evidence, working with experts and others to


ensure we're equipped for this debate across the country. Does he


consider that Scotland being part of the United Kingdom is an


important benefit in any international trade dispute? I


particularly have in mind some year ago the efforts of United States to


restrict the import of the export of his own constituency of finest


quality cashmere goods in a dispute about bananas. Was the fact that


Scotland was part of United Kingdom an important factor in ensuring a


resolution of that issue? honourable gentleman is right. It


was quit cal to -- critical to us in the borders and the row prove


deucers of goods in Scotland that we were part of the United Kingdom


and had great clout within the EU and could negotiate within the


World Trade Organisation to get the right outcome. Our position in the


world, the proTex of our citizens and the future of our economy,


these are three key strands we will look at to make sure we are well


informed in 24 is in. -- in the debate. We have heard the campaign,


separatists for devolution. They don't like it. The word separation.


They don't like the word independence. And in fact they want


to leave Britain in order to make us more British. What a ludicrous


set of proposals. I think there afs question mark somewhere. -- there


was a question mark somewhere. I agree with the honourable gentleman.


What representations has he had on whether an independent Scotland


would wish to join the euro? None, but that is a matter for the SNP


and the Scottish government. Thank you Mr Speaker. The Secretary of


state maybe aware that I received answers to Parliamentary questions


yesterday that indicates that although the Scottish Government


say a separate Scotland will use sterling and the Bank of England


and UK financial institutions, they have not yet undertaken any work


behind the scenes in order to explore these options. No


correspondence sent, no questions asked, no discussions taking place.


Perhaps he agrees with me that the First Minister should spend less


time in Hollywood and more time in Holyrood. Given that the Scottish,


it was a good try, given the Scottish Government have made these


statement about the economy, can I ask what steps he is taking in


relation to the Scottish economy to clear up confusion of ambiguity and


claims? I agree with the honourable lady that it is striking that the


Scottish National Party and the Scottish Government, as they set


out what has been their ambition for an independent Scotland are


short on detail and aren't curious to ask about it. I start from the


point that Scotland is stronger within the United Kingdom and the


United Kingdom is stronger for having Scotland part of it and the


economy is a key part of that argument. Thank you. I think we're


clear in Scotland that in fact what we have got is we don't have


argument, we have assertion, we have facts rather than fantasy 5


even the arguments from the Scottish Government cannot pass the


most basic test of credible evidence. Can I ask the Secretary


of State and the whole UK Government that they can work with


others to ensure that we do have credible evidence, argument, that


passes the test of objective and independent scrutiny, to ensure


Scottish people get the arguments they deserve. I agree with the


honourable lady that it is important that this debate is well


informed by detailed evidence and strong analysis. That is why we're


getting civil servants to work through issues to engage with


academics, think-tanks and other experts outside Government to


ensure we have all the evidence to inform that debate. I'm confident


that as we do that we will show beyond doubt that Scotland's place


is stronger as part of the UK. Question No two. A question about


modern apprentices. I'm in contact with the Scottish Government and


later this week the British/Irish council will discuss programmes to


support youth employment in those administrations. Last week in the


Scottish Parliament, the Labour spoke person uncovered figures that


showed that the 25,000 modern apprenticeships the Scottish


Government is claiming to sets up, over 10,000 were people who were


already in work. And would the minister agree with me that the


Scottish Government should be spending public money creating


additional jobs, not just rebadging jobs. I share the honourable lady's


concerns about the way in which the Scottish Government seeds to


present facts. But the facts are clear in relation to their


responsibilities on employment. They have had 22 million pounds


additional monies in relation to youth contract consequentials. I


would like to see them focus on how they spend that, rather than their


obsession with the constitution. would like to see greater brevity.


Thank you does the minister, is the minister aware that almost every


economic analysis shows beyond doubt that employment prospects in


Scotland would be significantly reduced if Scotland became a


country separate from the United Kingdom? I agree with the


honourable lady, who I am sure will welcome with me the fact that


employment in Scotland has increased by 18,000 in the last


period. I am sure the minister has witnessed the ridiculous campaign


by the Labour Party against what is one of most successful modern


apprenticeship schemes in Scotland and their complaint is based on


rules that they introduced and set themselves. Should the minister


congratulate the Scottish Government for almost doubling the


number of modern apprenticeships and also the extra �72 million of


investment that we saw? Well I do notice that he didn't mention the


word independence. So he is obviously on message. What I have


to say in relation to employment and youth unemployment in Scotland


is the UK and the Scottish Government should work on these


issues. A question about what employment in Scotland. I will


answer questions three and five together. This Government is


committed to creating the right environment for economic growth to


provide the basis for the creation of jobs. It will be no surprise


that unemployment in slash is at crisis levels. It is still


unacceptable and disgraceful numbers of youth unemployed. If it


were not more my council in Inverclyde. Could we just have a


question? Can I press on the Government to make unemployment


figures, reduction of the figures, a priority in Scotland and will he


join... We're grateful, but we must move on. Listen, I agree with the


honourable gentleman, we must do everything question to reduce


unemployment, particularly youth unemployment, which began to rise


under the last Labour Government. We have through our measures and


the work we have been doing with the Scottish Government, bearing


down on this. I'm happy to discuss that further. As the Secretary --


is the Secretary of state aware that the Scottish chambers of


commerce have called for an expansion of investment in


infrastructure to help Scottish businesses? What will he do to make


sure this happens? Can I say she needs to recognise the serious


steps that we're tairking to get the economy back on a secure path


to growth after what we inherited from her Government and also


bearing in minds the crisis we see in other parts of Europe. By


cutting corporation tax and keeping interest rates and with specific


measures for Scotland, including enterprise areas, we are taking


action to help the Scottish economy. Does the minister agree that by


cutting corporation tax, by reducing regulation and having the


largest work programme the country has seen, we're succeeding in


Scotland w14 thousand less unemployment this month. The third


month in a row. I think we need to recognise things are going to


continue to be challenging for people in Scotland and the United


Kingdom. But he is right, the measures we are taking to get the


economy on the right track are right and are the way in which we


will create secure jobs. Does the Secretary of State recognise stat


oil's decision to invest in the North Sea is a recognition that the


new positive approach taken by the Treasury is bearing fruit? He is


right that in the energy sector we have had significant announcements


from stat oil and BP and others on the future of Scotland's energy


needs in oil and gas and elsewhere. They recognise that is an important


part of what this government is committed to and that Scotland is


better as being part of United Kingdom. I am glad he welcomed the


14,000 fall in unemployment. He will want to twbg news on foreign


direct - o' welcome the news 07 foreign investment on jobs. But we


should have done ward pressure on costs, particularly on fuel prices,


which are one of the most significant cost pressures that


businesses face. Will he take this opportunity today to speak to his


colleagues in the Treasury to cancel the fuel duty rise planned


for August? I would point out that thanks to the action this


Government has take non-vo deucing the fuel duty stabiliser and


abandoning the escalater, we are doing a lot to help motorists and


will continue to do that. The clue is in the heading. Questions to the


Secretary of State. Listening to the Secretary of State reminds us


how isolated he is in Scotland in believing the answer to this crisis


of weak economic demand is hash harsher austerity. Does he accept


nearly twice as many people as on black Wednesday are being forced to


work part-time, because there are not enough full-time jobs in our


economy? And three hundred and tent thousand people in Scotland are


struggling below the poverty line, despite being in work and real


wages have fallen. Isn't this the real explanation of why we are


facing a double dip rerecession He cannot forget the legacy of his


government and the mess we inherited or be blinkered about the


challenges in Europe and around the world. We are ensuring we create


the right financial and economic conditions to ensure we get


Scotland's and the UK's economy back on the foot. This is a


question about agricultural. Thank you, Mr Speaker. I regularly meet


with representatives of the Scottish agricultural industry,


including the farmers union and individual producers much I look


forward to engagement tomorrow when I attend the Royal Highland Show.


Does the minister agree that those in the Scottish agricultural centre


are better off with Scotland remaininged in the UK? I absolutely


agree. An independent Scotland would shrink our home market of 60


million consumers to five million over night. Farmers will be reliant


of exporting their produce. Perhaps the Minister could try answering a


question about the responsibility of the UK government. Is he aware


of the concern about Scottish agricultural and horticulture of


the seasonal agricultural workers scheme, has he made the


representations to to the Home Office for continuation of the


scheme? I know it. -- I note his concerns. I will meet with him to


discuss it further. Another economic-related question about


unemployment. I meet with Scottish ministers regularly to discuss a


range of issues. Scottish ministers join me in Dundee for a summit to


discuss youth unemployment in Scotland. We continued to work


together on this important issue. With the information that there is


(inaudible) going on in the apprenticeship schemes with people


in work being counted as new apprenticeships. Off shore industry


say they need them to fill their spaces in their industry. Should he


not call an all party, all Parliament forum in Scotland about


unemployment and stop this behaviour of the SNP running a


single party state with their ministers wondering around having


one party meetings? I appreciate the length of time he spent working


on this particular issue over his political career. I also believe


it's important that the parties can work together because the origins


of youth unemployment lie elsewhere rather than just under this


government's tenure. I'm happy to work with him and others to make


sure we get all the best ideas focused on tackling youth


unemployment. I welcome the Secretary of State's recent visit


to my constituency's largest employer, Aviva, with 1100 staff,


and the support for the working initiative which since the end of


April created new employment and training opportunities in the area.


What more can the government do to employ young people? I would like


to thank her for the opportunity to visit with her the Aviva offices in


their constituency and pay tribute to the work they are doing with


young people. It's important we do all we can to support young people.


That is why the youth contract is in place, helping to ensure the


Scottish Government has support... There is plenty of scope for an


adjournment debate, I think. Speaker, the Secretary of State


recently visited my constituency. I wonder if he can give us a progress


report on how he got on with the schools industry liaison


committees? I regret to inform the honourable gentleman I have not


made as much progress. I hope he recognises the important support we


have given him in form of the enterprise allowances available.


There I will catch up with him and the Scottish government role in it


any time soon. Does he agree the plans to reform employment law will


encourage small businesss to take on more young people. The employ


law review will carry on throughout this Parliament. I look forward to


seeing what proposals come forward in due course. A question about


combating high energy prices. are committed to ensuring consumers


get the best deal for their energy usage and has put in place measures


to reduce household energy bills sms in May I held a summit bringing


together the big six energy suppliers, Scottish consumer groups


and Ofcom to -- offgom to address this issue. -- Ofgem to address


this issue. The average energy prices have increased by 140% her


household whereas the average income for households is a mere 20%.


What is the Government doing to respond to people's worries,


especially elderly people, people with disabilities and low income


families to deal with what is now an onslaught on vulnerable people?


The Government is continuing with cold weather payments and winter


fuel payment and is bringing forward the green deal. We are


working with voluntary organisations across Scotland to


help them help support the most vulnerable to get access to all the


benefits available to them for fuel issues. Mr Speaker, many islanders


are telling me that the 5p fuel duty discount is not being passed


on to the motorists. Will the minister speak to the bodies and


ask them to investigate. They must make sure this discount is passed


on to the motorists in its entirety. I'm concerned to hear what he has


to say on that issue. I will be very happy to meet with him and


other concerned island MPs to discuss it. This is a question


about the funding for Scotland from the UK Government. The agreement


sets out we are committed to a review of public funding


arrangements once we deal with the deficit we inherited from the


previous government. Whilst you would have to have an intelligence


as profound as a spinnosa to understand central government


funding of Scotland, isn't one thing clear, not only do we have no


say over education and health in Scotland, but they run ours we pay


over the odds for theirs. Perhaps the SNP's should be careful what


they wish for when they call for independence? He more than most


understands the complexities of public spending in this country. If


I might say to him, our priority has to be to reduce the deficit. We


can then look again at these issues. I would point out to him, within


England there are quite large variations. The figure for health


spending in London is higher than that of Scotland. Mr Speaker, given


that the Scottish Government have had no discussions with either the


Cha or the Bank of England to have a place on the Bank of England's


Monetary Policy Committee, which would be a committee of a foreign


country, does the Secretary of State agree with me this is another


assertion that (inaudible (to Scottish people. He Seine tierl


right to highlight again the assertion that is are made by the


Scottish Government rather than detailed evidence and analysis


which we as a Government are determined to provide for this


great debate. They seem to be willing and able to swap a good


partnership for a new dependency. That is not right. This is a


question relating to the fishing industry. The UK government warked


hard to influence the content of the general approach at fisheries


council. It would deliver positive benefits for Scotland's fisheries


and those depend on them. More moves towards more regalised


fisheries management and that fish discards are eliminated. I welcome


the progress last week. Does the minister think this is an


appropriate juncture in the process to introduce more transparency by


the UK government making public the individuals and companies which


hold fish stock quota here? What I think I agree with the honourable


lady on is that the UK and Scottish Government work well together. The


fisheries council is a good example of both governments working


together in that way for the benefit of Scotland's fishermen.


She is absolutely right. We need a register of active fishermen to


show... The House must come to order. The House should be


listening to the Chair of the Ken Livingstone environmental Food and


Rural Affairs Select Committee, listening with respect.


fisheries. She's absolutely right. Without a register we do not know


who our active fishermen in Scotland and who are slipper


skippers. The ministers both here in the UK government and the


Scottish Government will have heard her comments as a respected


contributor on such matters. This is a question the by centenary of


Dr David Livingstone. I have discussed the best way for the UK


Government to mark this bicentenary. Scotland office will hold a


commemorative event at Dover House. My officials will work will other


interested parties to ensure this anniversary is celebrated across


the UK. Would he also join with me in supporting my invitation to the


President to visit the UK during the bicentenary and as part of that


visit to come to my constituency? Can I commend the honourable member


for the role he has played in promoting the David Livingstone


bicentenary which has great resonance in his constituency. Yes,


the Scotland office will work with him and others to encourage the


President to come to Scotland. is all we have time for at the


moment. That is all from Scottish Questions for the couple of months.


With the summer break the next Scottish Questions here at


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