22/02/2012 Scottish Questions


22/02/2012

Coverage of Scottish Questions from Westminster.


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Hello and a warm welcome from Westminster for the February

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edition of Scottish questions. With all of the things that has been

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going on, there is no lack of interest in Scottish politics at

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Westminster. And a mixed bag of questions for Michael Moore, the

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Scottish Secretary, on inquiries on the economy, training and benefits.

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No prizes for guessing the topic MPs wanted to start on - those

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talks on an independence referendum. Order, order, questions to the

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Secretary of State for Scotland. With permission I will answer

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questions 1, 8 and 10 together. The First Minister and I met on Monday

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13th February to discuss a referendum on independence. The

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Prime Minister, First Minister and I had a meeting on 16th February

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when we discussed the need for any referendum to be legal, firm and

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decisive. It is in everyone's interest both governments work

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together. The Scottish Government of the most resolute defenders of

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the Barnet formula are against the other nations of the United Kingdom.

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At the beagle of Scotland vote yes in a referendum on independence, do

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not think the Barnet formula should apply to the nation's debt? He I

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don't envisage Scotland will become independent from the United Kingdom,

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I think we are stronger together and weaker apart. But it does touch

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on a fundamental issue about sorting out what the basis of that

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independence might look like. Questions the SNP have failed to

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answer. Will the Secretary of State confirm both his and the

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Government's commitment to a single, none leading question in the

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referendum on Scottish separation, just commit a simple yes or no

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reply? The fundamental issue about independence and that is what we

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must resolve. We must have a legal and decisive independence

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referendum. Could he clarify whether he has had conversations

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regarding Antarctica and whether it is true of the last Government

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simply forgot to deal with Antarctica and the British

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territory there? And what is his position in making sure we reserve

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control of it? She highlights an important part of the world which

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it is important that we as the UK Government have a role to play in.

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Can I point out to her, through the Scotland Bill which is passing

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through the Lordships House at the moment, we are delivering the

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biggest transfer of powers to Edinburgh since the Act of Union.

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We are tidying up some of the inconsistencies of the devolution

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settlement. They met with the First Minister and the Prime Minister

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offered a proposal for an enhanced devolution. But failed to spell out

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what it might be. Can the Scottish Secretary tell us what he envisages

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a package of devolved financial powers might look like? Would it

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include corporation tax, income tax, and Riggott levee? What does the

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Scottish Secretary think a package of enhanced devolved powers might

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look like? It is incredible the SNP want to stand up and ask a question

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about further devolution, when they have not set out what the

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fundamental principles of independence might be. New think

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they would have had some clear ideas on it. It is a constructive

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answer because it failed to answer the question entirely. There is no

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detail about what the Prime Minister proposed. Is that because

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there is no detail? Is it because it was there to capture a day's

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headlines? Or is it to cover their embarrassment -- cover the

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embarrassment of this Government which did not cover in the debate

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in the Commons last year? He has a bit of itchy talking about a lack

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of detail when they cannot spell out what the current situation

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would be in an independent Scotland, what the national debt and might

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look like, how we do with pensions, financial regulation? We must make

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the most fundamental decision in Scotland's future in a clear cut

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and decisive way. The debate about devolution will be ongoing and I am

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looking forward to being part of that. My Right Honourable Friend

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has spelt out the absence of detailed from members of the

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Scottish National Party in this house. I wonder in the

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opportunities he has had, has he impressed upon the First Minister,

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his unequivocal obligation to explain to the people of Scotland,

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not just the process of independence, but the consequences

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of it, the costs of it and the length of time it would take to

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implement? He highlights some very important central issues about this

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debate over independence. I believe Scotland is stronger as part of the

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United Kingdom and United Kingdom is strong because Scotland is part

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of it. From financial issues, our place in the world on the strength

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of our defence. There are unanswered questions from the SNP,

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which they must address. This is a question about the number

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of 16 to 24 year-olds not in education.

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The number of 16 to 19 year olds are estimated to be not in

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education, employment or training in Scotland in 2010 was 36,000.

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I say to the Secretary of State, because there is another important

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element to the question I asked, it is up to 24 year-olds. These are

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the hardest hit and we don't want to see that lost generation. In

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rural localities like his and mind, policies to get young people back

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into work will depend as far as the private sector is concerned, on

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small and medium-sized enterprises. These businesses are suffering

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severely and the pressure upon them is not enabling them to create jobs.

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Does he understand we meet Task Force Tiger mentality to deal with

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youth and young people unemployment? What can I say, the

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statistics of to 24 is something my officials are working on. They are

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not published, but I look forward to getting the data for him and

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other members in the house. On the fundamentals of the economy, I

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agree with him we need small and medium-sized businesses to be given

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the ability to grow and that is why we are putting pressure on the

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banks to lend to them. And also for the young people we are dealing

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with, a sure we support them. That is why the use contract is

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fundamental. A billion pounds to make sure people get more places

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and work experience to help employers to take people on. It is

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a kind of action that will help people get on to the jobs market.

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He rightly mentions the use contract which comes into effect in

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April. Does he agree it is imperative the Scottish Government,

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the British Government and employers in Scotland work together

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to ensure young people get the opportunities and are not

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distracted by scoring points against each other but work

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together for young people? I agree with him and I would point out

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working with members across this house, over the last six to eight

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months I have held meetings and seminars around Scotland, focused

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on youth unemployment, bringing together employers, young people,

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Scottish Government agencies and UK Government agencies. In March in

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Dundee we will have a national convention with the Secretary of

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State for work and pensions and John Swinney, so we can take this

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agenda forward together. I don't think anyone in this house is

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complacent about youth unemployment and the plight of young people

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trying to find work in trying economic circumstances. I welcome

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the joint initiative of the National Convention taking place in

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March next month, but can I press the Secretary of State on what

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outcomes he expects from that convention? And if he will welcome

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the initiative the Scottish Government has taken to ensure a

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place for every young people aged 16 to 19 in Scotland in work or

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training or education? It is absolutely right, Scotland's two

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Government's work together on this terrible problem which existed

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under the last Government and continues. We are addressing their

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using everything we can to help young people get experience,

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training and get jobs. We will work hard on all of those and at others

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wish to work with us, we will welcome that. Can the Secretary of

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State tell the House how many young Scots have lost their jobs since he

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was appointed to his in a 2010? should remember the economic mess

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that we inherited from the Labour Government. Since then we are

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fixing the deficit, seeking to rebalance the economy and to ensure

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we have sustainable growth. The youth contract, work experience and

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all of the support we are giving is vital to ensure we get a young

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people back into the workplace. notice the Secretary of State

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struggled with that answer somewhat! There is one statistic he

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should be familiar with. Since his Government's scrapped the future

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jobs fund, 23,000 jobs have been lost in Scotland. That is over 400

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jobs every week for young people, whilst he has become the Tory's man

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in Scotland. We are in the midst of the youth unemployment crisis and

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the Secretary of State for Scotland has been posted missing. In

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contrast, Labour took direct action Truda futures jobs then, delivering

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over 10,000 real jobs for young people in Scotland. Can the

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Secretary of State tell us what plans he has, any ideas at all

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about how to take direct effective action to tackle youth unemployment

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in Scotland? As ever, she wishes to leave behind have a horrible mess

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her Government left for us to fix. She cannot escape that reality, or

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the fact youth unemployment rose under Labour. We are investing �1

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billion in the use contract, which will enhance the number of work-

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experience places, provide additional support for employers

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taking on young people and has provided the Scottish Government

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with additional resources. I have been working with colleagues and

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others to do everything we can to tackle this terrible problem.

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This is a question about human trafficking into Scotland.

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The Government's is inquiring into human trafficking in Scotland in

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line with the ongoing implementation of the Schumann

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trafficking strategy we've launched in July 2011. -- human trafficking

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strategy. He will have seen the main

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recommendation a new human trafficking Bill for Scotland. It

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would solve the problem of implementing what we have signed up

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to in the EU, if we did it across the UK. Can I remind him and other

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interested parties to come to the all-party meeting next Monday in

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rooms seven and maybe take some advice? Mr Speaker, if I am

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available I will be delighted to attend. Does he agreed that the

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field of human trafficking were cut ordination between involved

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agencies is so critical if we are to provide real solutions is

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another policy best tackled at UK level? I agreed, the UK is able to

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bring great weight on behalf of Scotland to this issue. It is also

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an issue where we have been able to work with the Scottish Government,

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demonstrating that the two governments on issues of great

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importance can work together on a day-to-day basis.

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This is a question about credit ratings in Scotland.

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This Government has taken the hall Hardy United Kingdom benefits of

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record low interest rates. What estimates has the Secretary of

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State made of the extra debt interests that would have to be

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paid by an independent Scotland were it not to benefit from a

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triple A rating? He raises an important point about how an

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independent Scotland would fare he and they are issues about the track

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records of the Government, the pension arrangements, national debt

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and so much more they need to take into account. It is in the gift of

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the Scottish Government if it wishes to ask for a draft of what

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it might look like, so far they have not done so. What analysis has

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the Government under taken into the impact of a low credit rating in my

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constituency and more widely in Lanarkshire in the event of

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Scotland's celebrate -- separating from the rest of the United

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Kingdom? I recognise the challenges that face his constituents and

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those of so many in Lanarkshire and elsewhere. I stick to a basic

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belief that a manager and Scotland are better as part of the United

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Kingdom, much stronger than they would be if we went our separate

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Will he emphasised to the First Minister of Scotland that the

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uncertainty caused by the referendum is causing a growing

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number of companies to pause their investment decisions until they get

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clarity as to which direction Scotland is going to travel?

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honourable friend is going to the issue of when the debate takes

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place. She we should get on and do this. We should have this decision

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about Scotland's place in the UK sooner rather than later. I cannot

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understand why we should have the weight the best part of three years,

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with all the economic uncertainty generated, until we get that

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decision. Does the Secretary of State not understand that it isn't

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the credit rating score but the cost of servicing government debt

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that matters? Japan has a much higher net debt and its score pays

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less interest on government bonds in the UK. It is your that counts

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and not the triple-A rating. Would he now stop this ridiculous

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scaremongering? With the honourable gentleman seriously suggesting that

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the triple-A status has no bearing on the interest rates we pay? He's

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got to wake up and make sure they answer some of the fundamental

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questions that are at the heart of this debate and which they are so

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far ducking. STUDIO: This is questions about

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plans for a benefit cap in Scotland. I think he is seeking to group this

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question with numbered well. seek to answer this question with

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number 12. The chairman of the work and pensions Select Committee, who

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is a regular attender at Scottish Questions, has suffered a fall. I'm

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sure we all wish her well in her recovery. My right honourable

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friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I are in contact with

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ministers in the Department for Work and Pensions on a range of

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issues concerning welfare reform. Is it not clear that if the

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nationalist government in Scotland have control of welfare policy

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they'd be no benefits cap in Scotland, despite widespread public

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support? I think what is clear is that the Scottish National Party

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make a proposition for independence without explaining to people how

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benefits at current levels would be paid in the future and where that

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With the average income in Scotland being �419 per week, does the

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Minister not agree with me that a benefit cap of �500 a week is a

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reasonable and sensible level? agree that this is a reasonable and

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fair measure. Constituents in constituencies like mine cannot

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understand how the party opposite and the nationalists are promoting

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that the benefit cap should be higher than �35,000. Is not the

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truth on the benefit cap that the household of �418 that was quoted

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by the previous question that, if they had six children, like my

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constituents have, those children have to be cared for. They would

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also receive child benefit. So the comparison being given is not fair.

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What is going to happen when the discretionary housing payments

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actually run out? What I think the honourable lady should do is to

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listen to her honourable friend from Leeds West, when she says that

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if Labour are to be taken seriously on any issue, they have to pass the

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test of fiscal credibility. On this issue that is a very relevant point.

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The honourable gentleman will not be aware that I have the highest

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percentage of single women in any constituency in the country. What

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is he doing to help these women? This is not a joke, it is serious.

:18:29.:18:33.

There are single women in this country who are struggling. What is

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his party going to do to help them? What this government is doing is

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tidying up the mess which his government left, which has placed a

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single women and lots of other people in a perilous financial

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position. STUDIO: This is a question about public expenditure

:18:54.:19:02.

for Helensburgh. It shows that the level of public expenditure in

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Scotland was �10,165 per head for 2010 to 2011. Last week at the

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breakfast table, my wife and I were talking about public expenditure in

:19:18.:19:28.
:19:28.:19:28.

Scotland. When suddenly Korolev and-year-old son, Thomas, asked, is

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Alex Salmond a goodie or a baddie? -- when suddenly hour 11-year-old

:19:35.:19:45.
:19:45.:19:46.

As ever, the goings-on at his house sold breakfast table are a thing of

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national interest. We look forward to further updates in due course.

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When his son get the chance to meet with the First Minister, he will be

:19:56.:19:59.

delighted by the conversation he has. But the important point is he

:19:59.:20:05.

should know that he wants to get England separate from Scotland, we

:20:05.:20:09.

don't. The Secretary of State will know that not one ounce of UK Steel

:20:09.:20:16.

has been used to build a new Forth Road Bridge. Isn't it shameful that

:20:16.:20:20.

29,000 tonnes of steel can be shipped 12,500 miles from Shanghai,

:20:20.:20:28.

but not 33 miles from Lanarkshire? The honourable gentleman's

:20:28.:20:32.

commitment in Lanarkshire and the steel industry is well known. As

:20:32.:20:37.

his anger is understood. It is a matter that was devolved to the

:20:37.:20:45.

Scottish government and it is for them to answer. In welcoming the

:20:45.:20:49.

additional per capita expenditure represented by the �100 million

:20:49.:20:53.

investment in the sleeper services, would the Secretary of State agree

:20:53.:20:59.

that this is a good example for the Westminster and Hollywood

:20:59.:21:04.

government's to work together, more effective at -- than it is working

:21:04.:21:07.

separately, and what he sees the opportunity to call in the likes of

:21:08.:21:13.

Richard Branson, Pete Waterman and others with entrepreneurial skills

:21:13.:21:16.

to CBE can re-establish Motorail services now that the sleeper

:21:16.:21:22.

services are secured? My right honourable friend is right to

:21:22.:21:25.

highlight the important investment we have committed to the sleeper

:21:25.:21:27.

services, for which she has been an undoubted champion over a long

:21:28.:21:32.

period of time. He is right to stress that we need to look at

:21:32.:21:35.

innovative ways to develop those services. I look forward to

:21:35.:21:44.

discussing his idea further. Speaker, as at 3rd April 2011, in

:21:44.:21:48.

Scotland there were 4800 in work families benefiting from the

:21:48.:21:54.

severely disabled child aliment and with child tax credit above the

:21:54.:21:57.

family limit. There are 5000 severely disabled children in these

:21:57.:22:06.

families. The Prime Minister has told this house on 14th December

:22:06.:22:10.

and again on 25th January that his government will not be cutting

:22:10.:22:17.

benefits for disabled children. Given that almost 8000 children in

:22:18.:22:22.

Scotland will be losing �1,400 a year with the child tax credit

:22:22.:22:26.

changes, does the Minister agree with me that the Prime Minister is

:22:26.:22:32.

playing ball and clearly does not understand his own policy? What I

:22:32.:22:35.

agree with is the fact that the government is not making any

:22:35.:22:39.

savings at all from these changes. Savings from abolishing the adult

:22:39.:22:43.

disability premiums and changes in the child rate will not return to

:22:43.:22:47.

the Exchequer. The savings will be recycled into higher payments for

:22:47.:22:51.

more to see -- for more severely disabled people. There are far too

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many noisy, private conversations Would the Minister agree with me,

:23:01.:23:06.

and with my constituents, that in matters of disability payments for

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the sea -- for severely disabled children and all other payments

:23:12.:23:15.

from taxpayers' money for people who are most in need throughout our

:23:15.:23:19.

country, we are better raising money together and working together

:23:19.:23:29.
:23:29.:23:33.

as one United Kingdom. The severe disability premium and all other

:23:33.:23:37.

benefits are clearly set out by the United Kingdom government. The

:23:37.:23:41.

Scottish National Party have failed to set out how we single benefit in

:23:41.:23:45.

Scotland would be paid for post independence, if it was ever

:23:45.:23:52.

achieved. STUDIO: This is a defence related question.

:23:52.:23:56.

I spoke to the Parliamentary Under- Secretary of State for Defence on

:23:56.:24:00.

this issue. As was confirmed on Monday, there are no current plans

:24:00.:24:06.

to change the status of Defence munitions beat. There is a need to

:24:06.:24:10.

maintain beef until the torpedo has been converted to a single fuel

:24:10.:24:15.

system, when the need for specialist facilities may lack. The

:24:15.:24:22.

conversion programme is expected to be completed around 2018. It is one

:24:22.:24:27.

of the largest employers in North Ayrshire. It is wholly dependent on

:24:27.:24:32.

Ministry of Defence contracts. Would he ensure there is a

:24:32.:24:35.

ministerial visit from the Scotland Office to the facility, to find out

:24:35.:24:40.

about more that is the mayor with a view to ongoing representations for

:24:40.:24:47.

future contracts to the Ministry of Defence? I am pleased to be able to

:24:48.:24:53.

confirm that the Secretary of State for Scotland will be pleased to

:24:53.:24:58.

visit that facility. STUDIO: This is another question

:24:58.:25:02.

about the financial consequences of independence.

:25:02.:25:07.

I will answer questions 11 and 15 together. The Scottish government,

:25:07.:25:10.

but the Scottish Government has failed to set out what independence

:25:10.:25:13.

would mean for Scotland. This government is clear that Scotland

:25:13.:25:17.

is stronger for being part of the UK, and the UK is stronger for

:25:17.:25:23.

having Scotland within it. Does my right honourable friend agree with

:25:23.:25:27.

me that instead of Scottish politicians focusing on

:25:27.:25:31.

independence, that they should look in these difficult economic times

:25:31.:25:35.

to stop depending on one industry in the North Sea and instead

:25:35.:25:39.

looking to create a broader industry sector that will look for

:25:39.:25:44.

economic support for the rest of Scotland? She is right. Our primary

:25:44.:25:49.

concern has to be to ensure we get the economy on the right track. By

:25:49.:25:54.

fixing the deficit, by rebalancing the economy and making sure of

:25:54.:25:57.

sustainable growth then we will do that. We should be getting on and

:25:57.:25:59.

resolving this issue of independence so we can remove the

:25:59.:26:05.

uncertainty it causes. Order, still far too much noise. Mr John

:26:05.:26:13.

Would the Minister agree that in the areas along the border between

:26:13.:26:20.

Scotland and England, there would be many and necessary financial and

:26:20.:26:26.

regular -- regulatory costs to both sides of the border, and in extreme

:26:26.:26:30.

cases they could be problems with border control. I'm not

:26:31.:26:33.

contemplating Scotland becoming independent. I am confident

:26:33.:26:37.

Scotland will vote to stay within the UK. But there is a central

:26:37.:26:41.

issue. If we were to become separate, some of the issues

:26:41.:26:49.

surrounding Europe, including the Borders issue, I think the issues

:26:49.:26:53.

are absurd as he does. Has the Secretary of State consider the

:26:53.:26:57.

recent study by the National Institute of Economic and Social

:26:57.:27:01.

Research? Even informing the sterling so with the UK, a separate

:27:01.:27:06.

Scotland would experience volatile public finances, inherent debt at

:27:06.:27:09.

either 70 to 80 % of GDP and face tougher constraints on levels of

:27:09.:27:13.

tax and borrowing than being an equal participant in fiscal union

:27:13.:27:19.

with the UK. I have study the report and the honourable gentleman

:27:19.:27:23.

puts his conclusions succinctly. These are. The SNP have failed to

:27:24.:27:29.

answer. STUDIO: That is all we've got time for. Because of the Easter

:27:29.:27:33.

break, the next Scottish Questions is and now for nearly two months.

:27:33.:27:39.

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