22/06/2011 Scottish Questions


Highlights of Scottish Questions from Westminster.

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Hello and a warm welcome to Westminster for the June edition of


the Scottish questions. What a difference a few weeks makes. The


last programme came the day before the Hollyrood elections which gave


the SNP an overall majority and now we have the commitment to an


independence referendum within the next five years. So no shortage of


topics for MPs to get their teeth into. Here is a flavour of how


things began... Questions to the Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr


Graham Morris. Question number one. I have regular discussions with my


right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on a


wide range of issues including the state of the economy. Inflation is


being pushed higher by rising global commodity prices, a global


problem that requires global solutions. I thank the Minister for


his answers. It is clear the government's VAT hike in January


has helped to drive up inflation which is hitting consumer spending,


squeezing family incomes and holding back growth. Will the


Secretary of State now speak up for families and businesses in Scotland


and urge the Chancellor to reverse that rise to help boost consumer


confidence and bring down inflation? As the honourable member


knows the former Chancellor and Scottish MP the right honourable


member for Edinburgh South said he would have done exactly the same in


relation to VAT. And a cut in VAT would do nothing to reverse global


commodity price rises but we do a lot to reverse the government's


hard-won credibility for getting the deficit down. Credibility on


economic matters does not seem to be important to the party opposite.


In answer to a written parliamentary questions by me the


Office for National Statistics confirmed that four out of the last


five years the rise in domestic gas prices outstripped the rate of


inflation and that is before the latest rise. Yet family income is


about best remain static. What steps can the government take to


help hard-pressed families to avoid these costs in the winter? As the


honourable member will know the government is concerned about the


rise of fuel prices, particularly gas prices as he highlights. One of


the measures it has taken is to ensure that the poorest families do


have protection a relation to their fuel costs. I am sure the Minister


will welcome the inquiry announced today but Ofgem on the price rise


to be announced by ScottishPower and the way they have announced it


to consumers. Does he agree with me that it is inappropriate for energy


companies do have added to the increased cost of living in


Scotland with a decision to hike domestic bills and can he tell us


what he is doing about it? As the honourable lady knows there is


widespread concern in Scotland at the actions, particularly in


relation to the recent rises in fuel costs by ScottishPower. As the


honourable lady knows the Secretary of State and I have raised these


issues with the energy companies. Although it is very nice to meet up


I think what Scottish consumers want it action as their bills are


facing a rise an average of �198 a year when wages are being frozen


cod prices are rising above the target inflation rate and now that


borrowing is �46 billion higher unexpected because of that decrease


in economic activity, would the Minister now greet his time for


another plan and a temporary cut in VAT which Labour called for?


will not surprise the honourable lady to say that most certainly not.


The honourable lady, in setting it out -- in setting out the woes she


does, never acknowledges her part as a minister in bringing this


country to the verge of bankruptcy, or a party's part. Or the need to


take action, she knows as well that the shadow chancellor is in a


majority of one in terms of his proposals and has not set out...


must move on. This was a question about the benefits of the union


from the Tory MP for Carlisle. There are government formally


believes - Matt Ridley Scott and benefits from being part of the UK


and that the UK benefits from having Scotland within it. I agree


wholeheartedly. As someone who represents a seat just over the


border in England would the Minister also agree that England


benefits from being part of the Union and it is in the interests of


all of us that we all remain part of the UK? I endorse what my


honourable friend has just said. The union is of great benefit to


all of the UK, however, my constituents still want to see


fairness between Scotland and England. With this in mind what


plans as the Minister had to review the current Barnett Formula? Grey M


Evans is the Tory MP for Weaver Vale. Last night we recognised this


was an issue across the UK, however, we are committed to reviewing it


when we have resolved at the current financial problems we


inherited from the party opposite. Is that a separate Scotland simply


would not have been able to answer by the global banking crisis on its


own and had it been separate would now be heading the way of Ireland


The scale of the financial disaster that befell the Royal Bank of


Scotland and Halifax Bank of Scotland would have put a crippling


burden on Scotland by being part of the UK. We are sharing the risks


and recovery and that is the right way forward. Does the Secretary of


State agree with me that whilst the future of the Constitution is hotly


debated there is no place for leading Unionists to describe the


supporters of Scottish independence as neo-fascists? It is incumbent


upon all of us in this debate to ensure we use moderate appropriate


language. Given what the Secretary of State has just said is it a


benefit to the union and Scotland that the House of Commons Scottish


affairs select committee is chaired by somebody who last night


described Scotland's majority party of government as neo-fascist?


is an issue he should take up with the honourable gentleman himself.


In this House we do not like challenges to one another's on a,


or otherwise. It is a matter for the honourable gentleman to raise.


I have made my commission -- position clear. It is important we


are careful about language and we have a debate on the substance of


the issues. I will answer question three and five together with


permission. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State and I


have had regular discussions with my right honourable friend the


debited from in astonishes. The government is committed to


establishing they Commission later this year to consider the West


Lothian question. Time is of the essence here because this is a


difficult question. The commission will need time to consider its


recommendations and then this House will need time to consider the


outcome of those recommendations. It would be much better that this


is done at a time of constitutional peace rather than at a time of


crisis. I respect the honourable lady's passion on the subject and


she has a Bill before the House was charters on these issues which I


understand will be heard on the first Friday of the September sit-


in which will give the House eight chance to debate these issues. I


will convey her call for urgency to the debited Prime Minister. Having


passed the Scotland Bill and with new powers devolved to Wales does


my honourable friend agree that the last thing we want is another


expensive Parliament Assembly, or talking shop in England? The


British Parliament here can cope with matters than with -- with


English matters but decided by English MPs. I have always


expressed the view that there was no desire for an English parliament


and the same two be but always written to me after two so I was


wrong. -- people have always written to me after to say I was


wrong. Does he agree the issue is more complex than some members give


to understand and a good example of that was the debates we had before


Christmas on tuition fees for universities. That might have been


regarded as a purely English issue but in fact it had tremendous


consequences for Scotland. I do acknowledge that comment, it is a


complex issue and that is why the coalition government is committed


to establishing a commission to look at the issue and I hope it


will be able to take evidence from people like the honourable lady.


am sure the honourable gentleman is right when he says there is no


demand for an English parliament but does he not accept that the


proposal to it effectively have two classes of MPs in his house does


amount to setting up an English parliament in this building and


that is a road he will go down if his government except having two


classes of MPs in his house. I do not acknowledge that. Because the


devolution settlement -- that comment because the devolution


settlement means there are different spot it --


responsibilities in this House. The government is committed to looking


at the issue of the West Lothian question which is based at standard


issue which the previous government ignored and will set up a


With permission I will answer the questions together. The plan for


growth published in the March Budget set at Ibrahim Mogra forms


to create the right conditions for private sector-led growth. This


month the government launched the next stage of the growth of the


with the central purpose of creating the right conditions for


business to be established to invest, grow and create jobs.


time when the Treasury is bringing about stability to the banking


sector and banking regulation does my right honourable friend agree


with me that the SNP's right for independent Scotland could


destabilise gone and Oz are The number of questions and the


timing is uncertainty which is no good for the Scottish economy.


Small and medium-sized companies are vital engines of growth and


also job-creation in Scotland and across the UK. In the economic


climate improving access to funding for those is a priority. Can my


right honourable friend tell the House was at sea is taking to


address this challenge and do those steps include working with


organisations like the Federation for small businesses in Scotland?


The Conservative MP for Macclesfield.


Access to Finance is a critical issue and unless we get another


lending to small and medium-sized businesses we will not get the


economy growing once again. That is why it is central to the plan for


growth to make sure we create the conditions in which we can see


businesses start, grow and invest in the appropriate way. And why we


have set out tough targets for Way to the Secretary of State agree


that it is essential for business growth that businesses have access


to faster broadband? Dotty to share my concern that many constituencies


in Scotland do not have access to this, and can he say what


discussions he has had with the Scottish Government over this?


week or so ago when I met the honourable lady to discuss the


situation with the economy in Ayrshire, this was one of the key


issues she wanted to raise. We are committed to fast broadband across


the United Kingdom, and we're in discussions with the Scottish


Government about how they should go about implementing that. It is


vital that we see it in M and the Borders and all parts of the


country, and we're happy to work with her to make sure we achieve


that. Has the Secretary of State had an opportunity to read the


government expenditure and revenue study published this morning, which


shows that the Scottish economy is outperforming the UK economy and


carrying a lower deficit? Will he take this opportunity to


congratulate the Scottish Government on its efforts to


promote stability pride promoting economic growth. Us that is a


typically interesting interpretation of the figures in


the report this morning, which show that Scotland is running at a


deficit. That highlights the volatility and the difficulties


that are associated with the different measures. Can I say that


it is absolutely vital that we get Scotland's economy back on the


right that in. That is why we are cutting corporation tax, keeping


interest rates low, reducing the burden on national insurance. I am


happy to work with the Scottish Government to ensure the economy


grows. We need to work in partnership. This is a question


about the Greenock coastguard station. I want to pay tribute to


David Cairns who had been campaigning to save the Clyde


coastguard station before his tragic death. The waters around


Argyll and Bute presents a unique challenges seafarers. And if the


Clyde coastguard station is closed, all that valuable local knowledge


held by the people who work there will be lost. Will the Minister


please drop his to the attention of the Transport Secretary and urge


him to keep the station opened? is appropriate there is mention of


David Cairns at this first Scottish Questions since his death, having


served with such distinction as a Scotland Office minister. I can


assure my honourable friend that the points he made will have been


heard, as they were in the recent Westminster Hall debate that he


took part in, and the Department of Transport will not make any


announcement on the future of Coastguard stations until the


transport select committee has reported. I would like to associate


myself with the comments regarding David Cairns. The Minister would be


aware of the concern in Scotland about what it is it at -- he


actually does. Could I offer him the opportunity to LA that concern


by making, in a very clear and unambiguous way, his opposition to


his government's plans to close the coastguard centre in Greenock. Will


he stand up for Scotland now in regard to Greenock? As he knows,


the Scotland offers always makes the case for Scotland and poor


facilities and resources within Scotland. I very much welcome the


approach of my colleagues in the Department of Transport, saying


that they will listen to all the representations that are made,


having carried out a consultation and awaiting the report of the


Transport Select Committee. Clyde Coast Guard is important on the


west coast, and as a West Coast MP I believe we have already suffered


enough on this. Does he agree that we need Stornoway, Shetland and the


Clyde as an insurance policy? characterise the honourable member


as a doughty fighter for the station in Stornoway. He has made


very significant representations, and they have been heard, and my


colleagues in the Department of Transport will announce their


conclusion after the Transport Select Committee has delivered its


report. The Scottish Government included to the devolution of


corporation tax within his requests for the amendment of the devolution


Bills. On the same day, the Business Secretary said that the


logic of devolving corporation tax was irresistible. He then said that


he fully supported the government's position in opposing it. Is not the


Business Secretary at bit of an embarrassment bows to the


government and to Scottish Business? And is it not about time


that he starts speaking to the Secretary of State of Scotland


about important matters like corporation tax? For I can assure


him that the Business Secretary and I are at one on this issue. This is


a question about discussions with the agriculture industry. We


regularly discussed devolution issues as part of the Scotland Bill,


which is delivering the government's commitment to settle


in -- strengthening the devolution settlement. I thank him for that


response. He will no doubt be acutely aware of how important


reform of the Common Agricultural Policy is, to farming in Scotland


and elsewhere in the UK. Given the importance of the industry to the


economy, does he agree with me that it is essential we secure a deal


that is fairer and more transparent for our farmers? He gave an answer


to a different question, and the Speaker is now telling us that.


Just to clarify that. Thank you Mr Speaker, I can advise the


honourable lady that that my right honourable friend the Secretary of


State for Scotland was in Brussels last week and was making the very


point that she has made in her questions. I could referred the


honourable lady to my previous answers. I am most grateful as ever


to my honourable friend. Has the Advocate-General had time, have


they received an update on progress being made by the expert group set


up by the Scottish Government looking at the role of the UK


Supreme Court? The Advocate-General wrote to the chair of the Scottish


Government's expert group offering to meet with them, but now has


received a response saying that their timetable means they have not


had time in the first instance to receive submissions or hear


evidence. So what we appear to have his and you expert group set up by


the First Minister one week, which meets the following week, no


evidence taking in any week, and reports the next week. That is a


disappointing response. Will the government has start supporting the


integrity and independence of Scots Lough? -- Scots Law. I would have


hoped Mr Speaker that the honourable gentle man, like his


colleague, it would have sought to disassociate himself from the


appalling comments which the First Minister has made about Lord Hope,


which had been described as foolish as juvenile. There are too many


private conversations taking place here. It is discourteous. What


possible confidence can we have in the findings of a group which is


unwilling to meet the Advocate- General, who last year established


an inquiry for precisely the same purpose as this group has been


established? He makes an extremely good point, as I said in my initial


response, it seems incredible that a great set up to look at this very


complicated issue is not going to take evidence, not going to receive


submissions. I'm pleased to say that the Lord Advocate -- the


Advocate-General has made his information available to the grave.


So that may give us some confidence in the report he produces.


White Paper set out a strategy for creating opportunities and


providing the conditions for private sector growth through trade


and international investment. The Minister for trade and investment


is visiting Scotland in July. he share my fear that has got a


should government's plans for a referendum on 7th -- separation


will undermine its efforts to create jobs in Scotland? He is


right to highlight what we are focusing on as a government. The


plan for growth is 60 make us the most competitive tax system in the


G20, to insure that we are the best place in Europe to start, grow


Llansannan said business. -- and finance and business. None of that


can be done in the and 70 which the independence referendums would


create. Does he agree that the Olympics offer as splendid


opportunities for promoting investment to Scotland? In that


regard, is it not tragic that the talks will fly over John O'Groats?


He makes his point as elegantly as I would expect him to. I'm sure


those who are organising the trip will have heard his points.


seminar I hosted in Arizona last month discussed how to tackle a


high level of youth unemployment in M. The Scotland Office is working


with key partners to focus resources on the most challenging


areas identified at the seminar. We look forward to working with the


government on this issue. One of the areas of major concern


identified at a seminar was a high levels of unemployment fast amongst


people between 16 and 18, of which seems to have slipped off the radar.


He was present at that meeting and Mark that as a very important point.


What assessment has been made, and what is going to be done about that


particular issue? I thank him for his participation in that seminar,


the first in a series we will be holding to tackle what is a deep-


rooted problem, not just in Ayrshire but elsewhere. It is one


that has defied governments through the ages. He rightly points out


that the Secretary of State was at that salmon are. If we continue to


discuss the challenges faced by youth unemployment, and I'm happy


to discuss it with him again in due course. As he knows, Ayrshire has


some of the worst rates of unemployment and youth unemployment


in Scotland. In 2007, Scotland had the highest levels of employment in


Britain, it now has the lowest levels. What more can the


Westminster government do to work with the Scottish Government to


bring in concrete steps to address this problem? He I would make two


observations. On the first of those, of course, we are at a stage now


when we need to get the economy in a place where we can see sustained,


balanced growth. In complete contrast to the situation we


inherited from her government. On her second point, she is right to


highlight the serious economic power is that the Scottish


Government already have. And it is vitally important that we work


together to ensure that we do the best for people across Scotland.


the issue was raised in discussions between the Deputy Prime Minister


and the Secretary of State for Scotland, and the First Minister,


on 9th June. As announced by the Chancellor and the Secretary of


State on 13th June, the government is bringing forward to 2011 the


power for Scottish ministers to make repayments. As the Minister


will be aware, there are teenagers game is about to take case in the


UK. The force road rage is to be funded by the Treasury, the Mersey


gateway interests should -- Cheshire to be funded by tolls. How


can the Government justified that? The justification is devolution, it


is a decision of the Scottish Government to proceed with the 4th


road bridge replacement crossing on the basis that there will be no


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