25/10/2017 Scottish Questions


25/10/2017

Highlights of Scottish Questions from Westminster.


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LineFromTo

A very warm welcome to Westminster

for October's Scottish questions. As

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you may have gathered it is

unseasonably mild down here at the

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moment but whether any of that

warmth transferred to the Commons

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chamber... I will let you be the

judge of that. As usual, a variety

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of topics under discussion such as

the economy and, of course, Brexit.

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Proceedings began about the question

of closure of further job centres in

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Scotland.

Order, order. Questions to

the Secretary of State for Scotland.

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Question one, Mr Speaker.

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Most Jobcentres are staying put.

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We are merging some

into neighbouring offices to create

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bigger, multi-skilled teams,

moving them into better buildings,

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or placing them into shared

local authority space,

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all of which can lead

to better customer service.

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In Glasgow, unemployment has

consistently been higher

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than the national average,

child poverty is rising,

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and the use of food banks

has increased by 20%

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in the past two years.

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How can Ministers justify

closing so many Jobcentres,

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which provide vital support

for people struggling

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to access the labour market?

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I can confirm that Glasgow

will continue to have a considerably

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higher concentration of Jobcentres

not only than the large cities

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in England but compared with most

other large cities in Scotland.

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We have redesigned the estate

to make sure that we can provide

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well for our client base,

but from bigger Jobcentres.

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There are a number of things we can

do from larger Jobcentres to help

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unemployed people that it is not

so straightforward to

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do from smaller ones.

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Bridgeton Jobcentre in my

constituency will close and people

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will have to take two buses

to get to Shettleston.

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Will the Minister give a commitment

that not a single one

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of my constituents will be

sanctioned for being late

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because they could not get

there on time because of his cuts?

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Damian Hines is the Work and

Pensions minister.

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We expect people who are not in work

to have the working week effectively

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available for their job-search

activities, including

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visiting the Jobcentre and,

of course, applying for jobs.

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As I think the honourable lady

already knows, the rate of sanctions

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is down significantly.

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The vast majority of people do not

get sanctioned every month,

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and we run a policy of having

a reasonable approach.

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If people have a good reason for not

being at an appointment,

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they will not be sanctioned.

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The Department for Work and Pensions

claims that the need for Jobcentres

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is declining with the growth

of online services,

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but in the constituency

of Glasgow East, which has one

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of the highest claimant rates

in Scotland, at around 35%,

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many do not have access

to the internet and 51%

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are not IT literate,

yet the government are still closing

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three Jobcentres, one of which

serves three homeless shelters.

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What assessment has the Minister

made of the impact of closures

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on service users, many of whom rely

on face-to-face interaction

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with Jobcentre staff?

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We did of course make an assessment

of the effect of the changes.

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Where the changes would involve

people having to travel more

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than three miles or 20 minutes

by public transport,

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we had a public consultation.

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In one case, we changed the plan

in the light of the consultation,

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as the honourable member

for Glasgow South (Stewart Malcolm

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McDonald) well knows.

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We think it is right to move

to larger Jobcentres

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in which we can do more.

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They are better equipped and have

computers to ensure that

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that facility is there,

and there are specialists

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in the Jobcentre who can help people

with the computers and get

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through the problems

of digital exclusion

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that the honourable lady mentions.

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I thank the Minister for that

answer, but I am afraid

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it is not very convincing

or particularly reassuring.

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He knows full well that

equality impact assessments

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have been conducted,

as the Secretary of State

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for Scotland told me

in response to my letter.

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The Secretary of State also said

in his letter that if I wanted

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to access that equality information,

I would have to make individual

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freedom of information requests

for every single Jobcentre.

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It is outrageous that the government

are covering up this

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vital information.

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They claim to value openness

and transparency, but they refuse

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to publish information that should

be freely available,

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no matter how much it shames them.

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I have in my hand an FOI request...

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Order.

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I am sorry, but I need a single

sentence and a question

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mark at the end of it.

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There is a lot of pressure on time.

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I apologise to the honourable lady,

but she is taking far too long.

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She must be very quick.

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The Minister has one more chance

to publish the information.

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Otherwise, here is my FOI request.

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The key point is that

an Equality Impact Assessment

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is not just a document,

it is an entire way of thinking

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and working and it runs

throughout these processes.

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I can confirm that we have been

absolutely compliant with our duties

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under the Equality Act 2010,

as we should be.

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We are in agreement

with the devolved Administrations

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that common frameworks will be

necessary in some areas but,

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as I have made it clear,

we expect that there will be

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a significant increase

in the decision-making power of each

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devolved Administration.

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The questioning includes number 14

rather than 15? Very good.

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We hear about this powers

bonanza all the time,

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but the Prime Minister was unable

to give us details on Monday,

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and it seems that the Secretary

of State was unable to do

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so yesterday at the Scottish

Affairs Committee.

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Let us give him another opportunity.

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Can he name one power that

will definitely come

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to the Scottish Parliament

as a result of Brexit?

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We hear repeatedly from

the Scottish National Benches

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about engagement with the Scottish

government, and this engagement will

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be with the Scottish government.

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That is where the discussions

are going on in relation

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to the transfer of powers.

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I am absolutely certain that,

at the end of this process,

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the Scottish Parliament will have

more powers and responsibilities

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than it does right now.

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Among all the fluff of that answer,

there was absolutely no substance.

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For a second time, may I ask

the Secretary of State

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what new powers will be coming

to Holyrood as a result of Brexit?

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The honourable gentleman will have

seen a list of 111 powers

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and responsibilities...

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Order.

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Mr Linden, you are a most

over-excitable individual.

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Calm yourself.

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I understand your interest,

but the question has been put...

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Order.

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There is no need for

excessive gesticulation.

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Whether or not you like the answer,

Mr Linden, you must pay

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the Secretary of State the respect

of hearing it,

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preferably with courtesy.

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This is all about grandstanding,

it is not about the substantive

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issue of ensuring a transfer of very

significant powers from the 111

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powers that were listed

to the Scottish Parliament.

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I believe in devolution.

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I am committed to devolution

and I want to see the maximum number

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of powers transferred.

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The Scottish National Party does not

believe in devolution.

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Can I, for the third time,

ask the Secretary of State to name

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one power that is coming?

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If he is struggling for powers,

may I suggest that he considers

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immigration, so that we can tackle

things such as the skills

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immigration charge, which will be

causing a skills shortage

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and damaging the economy

in my constituency?

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I can give the honourable gentleman

a definitive answer on the last

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part of his question.

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Immigration is not being

devolved to Scotland.

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The Smith Commission process

identified those areas

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of responsibility to be devolved,

and immigration was not one of them.

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The Scottish National Party

accepted that report and,

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on the basis of that,

we implemented it in

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the Scotland Act 2016.

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I am disappointed that,

after three questions,

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we still have not had an answer.

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On immigration, I am disappointed

that the Secretary of State

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was disinclined to listen

to my honourable friend

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the Member for Linlithgow

and East Falkirk.

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Perhaps he will listen to Nobel

laureate Joe Stiglizt who,

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over the weekend, said that Scotland

should have the powers to go its own

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way in migration policy.

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He knows a bit more about this

than we do, so is he right?

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I seem to remember that

Professor Joe Stiglizt supported

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independence for Scotland,

but the people of Scotland knew

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a bit more than the professor

and decided to keep Scotland

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in the United Kingdom.

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My right honourable friend has been

crystal clear that Brexit offers

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opportunities and powers.

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The SNP talks down Scotland,

and specifically Aberdeenshire,

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the city that has managed to recover

from the oil downturn.

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Why cannot it recognise

that the new powers and EU

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withdrawal offers opportunities

to Scotland, specifically

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to Aberdeenshire?

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I am disappointed that the SNP

is here in Westminster adopting this

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sort of pantomime approach

to the very important issue

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of powers rather than engaging

in a constructive way.

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Fortunately, it appears

that the Scottish government

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are adopting a more responsible

approach, which is why

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there are substantial discussions

between the UK and Scottish

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Governments.

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May I draw my right

honourable friend s attention

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to the new inquiry on devolution

and Brexit launched

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by the Select Committee

on Public Administration

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and Constitutional Affairs?

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As well as promoting discussion

among the governments

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of the United Kingdom,

we want to promote discussion among

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the parliamentarians in the four

parliaments of the United Kingdom

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in order to resolve these

very difficult issues.

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I very much welcome the contribution

to the debate of my honourable

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friend s Committee.

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Of course, it is very

important that there

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is engagement across Parliaments,

and I will be appearing before both

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the Culture, Tourism, Europe

and External Relations Committee

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and the Finance and Constitution

Committee of the Scottish Parliament

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in the next couple of weeks.

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My right honourable friend will be

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with the UK is worth four times

as much as its trade with the EU.

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Does he find it confusing,

as my constituents and I do,

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that the SNP is quite happy for us

to stay in one single market,

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but advocate Scotland leaving

the greatest single market right

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here on its doorstep...

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The United Kingdom?

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My honourable friend

makes a good point.

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It is important that some

of the powers and responsibilities

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that come back from Brussels

are subject to UK-wide frameworks

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so that we can continue to benefit

from our internal market

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in the United Kingdom.

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Leaving the EU will inherently make

the Scottish Parliament more

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powerful as we take back

control from Brussels.

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Does my right honourable friend

agree that the SNP Government s

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confused EU policy would simply see

the new powers gained handed

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straight back to Brussels?

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It is very important

that the 500,000 yes

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supporters who voted to leave

the European Union are absolutely

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clear that the SNP's position

is to take Scotland right back

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into the EU.

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We all know that the Tories

have a dubious record on devolution.

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After all, they opposed the creation

of the Scottish Parliament

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in the first place.

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In stark contrast, the Labour party

laid the foundations

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for the Scottish Parliament

and will always act

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in its best interests.

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The Secretary of State says

that the Scottish Parliament

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will get new powers eventually.

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Well, new powers require additional

resources to deliver,

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so will he tell us how much more

money the Scottish Parliament will

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obtain to fund these new powers?

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Will he also guarantee,

unequivocally, that Brexit will not

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result in the Scottish Parliament's

budget being cut?

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That was the shadow Scotland

minister.

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I take issue with the honourable

gentleman s analysis of devolution.

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I have been in this Parliament

to see through both the Scotland Act

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2012 and the Scotland Act 2016,

which have seen a significant

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transfer of powers to

the Scottish Parliament.

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I am determined that Brexit will see

a further transfer of powers

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and responsibilities to the Scottish

Parliament.

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Of course, it will need to be

done in an orderly way,

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which will be the purpose of clause

11 of the European Union

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Bill.

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We will work closely

with the Scottish government

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and Scottish Parliament to ensure

that that transfer

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of powers is orderly.

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We need to speed up a little bit.

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A very pithy question, I am sure,

from Mr Stephen Kerr.

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Does the Secretary of State agree

that Scotland s two Governments...

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The UK Government and

the Scottish government...

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should work together in co-operation

to get the best Brexit deal

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for the people of Scotland?

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Yes.

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Splendid.

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The London School of Economics has

said that a hard Tory Brexit

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will cost Scotland £30 billion,

the Fraser of Allander Institute has

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said that 80,000 jobs could go

and a former Department for Exiting

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the European Union official has said

that Scotland will be

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get the hardest impact.

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The Secretary of State said

at the Select Committee

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on Scottish Affairs yesterday that

economic impact assessments

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are available for Scotland.

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Will he release them to the Scottish

people so that they can examine them

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and know the full scale of this

disastrous Tory Brexit?

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It would not be Scotland

questions if we did not hear

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from the doom-monger-in-chief.

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Let me be quite clear,

as I was in my appearance

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before his Committee.

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Both Governments have carried

out important analysis,

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which they will share and discuss,

but this government...

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as Parliament has approved...

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will not be publishing anything that

would be detrimental

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to our negotiating position.

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In evidence to the Scottish Affairs

Committee yesterday,

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the Secretary of State suggested

that a common framework should not

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be imposed on the devolved

Administrations by the UK Government

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but should instead be the output

of a collaborative process.

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Will he confirm that that is indeed

the Government s position?

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I very much welcome my honourable

friend s important question,

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which gets to the heart

of the issue...

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in marked contrast to the pantomime

stuff we had earlier.

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I can absolutely confirm that.

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A UK framework does not mean the UK

imposes a framework,

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it means agreement is reached

between the UK Government

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and the constituent parts

of the United Kingdom.

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Four times the Secretary of State

has been asked to name a single

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power that will be devolved

to the Scottish Parliament, and four

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times he has declined to answer.

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I see little point in

asking him a fifth time,

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but let me ask him this.

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When will the government publish

a schedule setting out

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which powers will be devolved

to the Scottish Parliament

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and which will not?

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Order.

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The honourable member for Aberavon

really should not walk

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across the line of sight.

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Sorry, Mr Speaker.

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I am grateful for the apology.

0:17:310:17:33

It was unfair to the honourable

member for Edinburgh East.

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If the honourable gentleman had not

prefaced his question

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with those initial remarks,

he would have asked

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a sensible question.

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I have set out that there

is a dialogue ongoing

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with the Scottish government

in relation to the 111 powers.

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I set that out in much more

detail at the Committee

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for which he was present yesterday,

so I will not repeat what I said,

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but I am hopeful that,

in early course, we will be able

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to publish exactly

that sort of list.

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The right honourable gentleman s

refusal to name a single power,

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or even to set a timetable

for saying when he will do so,

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can lead us to only one conclusion.

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That there are forces

in his government that do not

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want to see any powers

devolved at all.

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How does that sit with his

Department s responsibility to

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protect the devolution settlement?

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I have rarely heard such

complete and utter nonsense.

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I will be judged by the Scotland

Office s record on devolution,

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and that means implementing

the Calman commission in full,

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implementing the Scotland Act 2016

in full and taking forward

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the return of powers from Brussels,

with a presumption of devolution.

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We will deliver, and the people

of Scotland will see that we have.

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I have regular discussions

with Cabinet colleagues and Scottish

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government Ministers on a wide range

of issues, including fiscal policy

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across the UK, fisheries,

and the oil and gas industry.

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My right honourable friend will know

as well as I do the importance

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of the oil and gas industry

in north-east Scotland.

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Considering the recent decision

by the First Minister

0:19:300:19:32

in Scotland to abolish

the Energy Jobs Taskforce,

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will my right honourable friend

confirm that the UK Government

0:19:360:19:38

remain fully committed

to our North Sea industries

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and will work with colleagues

from the Department for Business,

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Energy and Industrial Strategy

to ensure the brightest future

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for the oil and gas industries

in the north-east of Scotland?

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I absolutely agree

with my honourable friend,

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and I share his disappointment.

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Through challenging times,

the broad shoulders of the UK

0:19:540:19:56

Government have supported the oil

and gas industry to

0:19:560:20:00

the tune of £2.3 billion.

0:20:000:20:02

We have invested in surveying

the sea bed, established

0:20:020:20:04

a new independent regulator

and invested in developing

0:20:040:20:06

world-leading infrastructure,

research and technology

0:20:060:20:11

through the Aberdeen city deal.

0:20:110:20:12

These are very important matters

affecting the people of Scotland,

0:20:120:20:18

and I think we ought to respect them

by having some attention

0:20:180:20:21

to our proceedings.

0:20:210:20:26

I welcome the announcement last

month of the Scottish

0:20:260:20:28

Business Taskforce.

0:20:280:20:32

Would my right honourable friend

like to expand on what its role

0:20:320:20:35

will be with the oil,

gas and sub-sea industries,

0:20:350:20:37

which are predominately based

around my constituency?

0:20:370:20:41

I recognise that my honourable

friend, although a new Member,

0:20:410:20:44

has become a champion of the oil,

gas and sub-sea industries.

0:20:440:20:49

I can confirm today that

the Scottish Business Taskforce,

0:20:490:20:51

which was announced last month,

will meet for the first

0:20:510:20:53

time on Friday.

0:20:530:20:58

The taskforce will provide

expert advice and guidance

0:20:580:21:00

on how best to support our

most important sectors...

0:21:000:21:02

not least oil, gas and sub-sea...

0:21:020:21:07

and strengthen Scotland's economy.

0:21:070:21:08

I will be announcing

its membership later today.

0:21:080:21:12

It is difficult to see how we can

support the oil and gas industry

0:21:120:21:15

in Scotland when the Secretary

of State refuses to release

0:21:150:21:18

the assessment of the impact

of Brexit on the Scottish economy.

0:21:180:21:22

Will he tell the House

whether the Secretary of State

0:21:220:21:25

for Brexit was correct today

at the Exiting the European Union

0:21:250:21:27

Committee that that

assessment has been shared

0:21:270:21:29

with the Scottish government?

0:21:290:21:30

When will it be shared

with the Scottish people?

0:21:300:21:32

I am surprised that the honourable

gentleman does not follow

0:21:320:21:35

the Scottish Affairs Committee s

deliberations, he used to be a very

0:21:350:21:37

prominent member of it.

0:21:370:21:39

I made it very clear

yesterday that there

0:21:390:21:42

was a sharing of analysis,

as is appropriate between

0:21:420:21:45

Governments, but we will not be

publishing anything that will be

0:21:450:21:48

detrimental to our negotiations,

and that is what the people

0:21:480:21:50

of Scotland would want.

0:21:500:21:54

Given that, as we have heard,

information has been shared

0:21:540:22:00

with the Scottish government,

would it not be appropriate to make

0:22:000:22:07

it public and perhaps to impress

on the Scottish government

0:22:070:22:09

that they should also do that?

0:22:090:22:12

The people of Scotland should see

what the impact of Brexit

0:22:120:22:15

is going to be in order to make

a proper assessment of it.

0:22:150:22:25

We are regularly called on to

respect the Scottish government.

0:22:260:22:28

I respect the Scottish government

and this government respect

0:22:280:22:31

the Scottish government...

0:22:310:22:33

That is why we are working

with them on Brexit.

0:22:330:22:36

But it would not be in the interests

of Scotland or the United Kingdom

0:22:360:22:39

to publish any information that

would be detrimental

0:22:390:22:41

to our negotiating position.

0:22:410:22:49

I have regular discussions

with Cabinet colleagues and Scottish

0:22:490:22:51

government Ministers on a wide range

of issues, including fiscal

0:22:510:22:54

policy across the UK.

0:22:540:23:00

Will the Secretary of State

have a word with his very good

0:23:000:23:03

friend the Chancellor

of the Exchequer about VAT

0:23:030:23:05

in Scotland to try to help clear up

the mess created by the Scottish

0:23:050:23:08

government when they centralised

police and fire services

0:23:080:23:12

in Scotland, making them

liable for VAT?

0:23:120:23:19

I am sure that my right honourable

friend the Chancellor will have

0:23:190:23:22

heard the honourable gentleman s

contribution.

0:23:220:23:32

This is a question about growth

deals in Dumfries and Galloway.

0:23:350:23:42

Only last week I hosted a meeting

with local MPs to review progress.

0:23:420:23:45

I am pleased to report

that we are driving forward

0:23:450:23:48

the innovative, cross-border

borderlands deal and hope to agree

0:23:480:23:50

a deal next year that will see

investment to transform the local

0:23:500:23:53

economies within

the borderlands area.

0:23:530:23:54

I want to hear the question

and I want the people of Dumfries

0:23:540:23:57

and Galloway to have the chance

of hearing it.

0:23:570:23:59

Hear, hear to that.

0:23:590:24:00

Will my right honourable friend

commit to ensuring that local

0:24:000:24:03

communities have the opportunity

to feed their thoughts

0:24:030:24:05

into what the final

deal will look like?

0:24:050:24:07

I am sure that the people

of Dumfries and Galloway will be

0:24:070:24:10

absolutely delighted to hear

what my honourable friend says.

0:24:100:24:13

I was very pleased to receive

a submission from all five local

0:24:130:24:16

authorities involved

in the borderlands growth deal.

0:24:160:24:21

I hope that we can now move forward

with local communities being able

0:24:210:24:24

to include their ideas

and contributions in this process.

0:24:240:24:32

I think the honourable gentleman s

constituency is quite nearby.

0:24:320:24:38

There is a risk that the Secretary

of State is prioritising

0:24:380:24:41

the borderland deal over

the Ayrshire growth deal.

0:24:410:24:45

In a simple written question,

I asked how many meetings he has had

0:24:450:24:48

on the borderland initiative,

with who, and on what dates.

0:24:480:24:53

His answer was that he has

had numerous meetings.

0:24:530:25:00

Will he answer the question

directly, or otherwise

0:25:000:25:02

I will report him to

the Procedure Committee again?

0:25:020:25:07

I am afraid that the honourable

gentleman displays an unpleasant SNP

0:25:070:25:10

trait of seeking to create

division within Scotland.

0:25:100:25:16

I want to see all areas of Scotland

benefit from growth.

0:25:160:25:20

At least the people of Ayrshire know

that in their new Member,

0:25:200:25:23

my honourable friend the Member

for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock

0:25:230:25:28

they have a real

champion of Ayrshire.

0:25:280:25:38

A question about the joint

ministerial committee in the Brexit

0:25:380:25:41

negotiations.

0:25:410:25:45

We held a very constructive meeting

on 16 October and I hope to convene

0:25:450:25:48

another meeting shortly.

0:25:480:25:53

It was agreed at the last JMCEU that

common frameworks would be

0:25:530:25:55

needed in certain areas.

0:25:550:25:56

What update can the Secretary

of State give the House on talks

0:25:560:25:59

with Scottish government Ministers

on the establishment of common

0:25:590:26:02

frameworks for progressing,

and is he able to identify areas

0:26:020:26:04

where the need for common

frameworks is anticipated?

0:26:040:26:08

I gave very extensive

evidence on this matter

0:26:080:26:10

to the Scottish Affairs Committee

yesterday, and the honourable

0:26:100:26:12

gentleman will be able

to access the transcript.

0:26:120:26:20

When the time comes for decisions

to be taken about the fate

0:26:200:26:23

of the 111 devolved powers coming

back from Brussels,

0:26:230:26:27

will the Secretary of State give

an assurance that those decisions

0:26:270:26:30

will be taken by consensus

at the JMC rather than unilaterally

0:26:300:26:32

by the UK Government?

0:26:320:26:38

If the honourable gentleman had

listened to my answer

0:26:380:26:40

to the question asked

by my honourable friend the Member

0:26:400:26:46

for East Renfrewshire, he would know

0:26:460:26:47

that the position is that

although there is a UK framework,

0:26:470:26:50

the framework is agreed

between the constituent parts

0:26:500:26:52

of the United Kingdom.

0:26:520:27:02

Families are benefiting from real,

positive employment outcomes

0:27:040:27:06

as people move into work faster

and progress in work.

0:27:060:27:08

Of course, and rightly,

extra support is there

0:27:080:27:10

for those who need it.

0:27:100:27:15

A question about the roll-out of

Universal Credit.

0:27:150:27:21

Almost 2,000 Universal Credit

claimants in my constituency,

0:27:210:27:23

along with thousands more

across Scotland, are stuck in limbo

0:27:230:27:25

after seeing the vote in this place

to pause the roll-out but no action

0:27:250:27:28

from the government.

0:27:280:27:29

What is the Secretary

of State doing to reassure

0:27:290:27:31

and represent those people?

0:27:310:27:33

We will continue with the roll-out

in a very careful and staged way.

0:27:330:27:36

It is happening over nine years,

and we continue in very active

0:27:360:27:39

dialogue with Members

across the House and

0:27:390:27:41

people outside it.

0:27:410:27:43

We must hear the voice of Torbay.

0:27:430:27:52

What progress he has made

on the transfer of welfare powers

0:27:570:28:01

to the Scottish Parliament under

the Scotland Act 2016?

0:28:010:28:05

We have made significant

progress on the Scotland Act

0:28:050:28:07

2016 welfare powers.

0:28:070:28:08

All DWP sections of the Act

have been commenced,

0:28:080:28:10

and we are working with the Scottish

government to support them in taking

0:28:100:28:13

on these responsibilities,

to ensure that the transition

0:28:130:28:15

is safe and secure.

0:28:150:28:16

I am surprised to hear that only

a small portion of the powers that

0:28:160:28:20

have been devolved to the Scottish

government are being used,

0:28:200:28:22

given the complaints that we hear

from some Members in this House.

0:28:220:28:25

Does my honourable friend agree

that this is yet another example

0:28:250:28:28

of the Scottish National Party

griping rather than governing?

0:28:280:28:30

I agree with my honourable

friend, and I am sure

0:28:300:28:32

that the people of Scotland agree

that it is of concern that we have

0:28:320:28:36

no clear plan from the Scottish

government for how they will use

0:28:360:28:38

many of the powers.

0:28:380:28:39

This government are

focused on delivering

0:28:390:28:41

for the people of Scotland.

0:28:410:28:42

It is time for the SNP to stop

ducking its responsibilities

0:28:420:28:45

and use its considerable powers

to do so as well.

0:28:450:28:50

I am afraid that is all we have time

for at the moment. Normally at this

0:28:500:28:55

point I ask you to get your diaries

out and I give you the date for the

0:28:550:28:59

next Scottish questions but the

Parliamentary authorities haven't

0:28:590:29:03

finalised their timetable yet so we

don't know exactly when that will be

0:29:030:29:05

but we think it will be early in

December. But, for now, from all of

0:29:050:29:11

us here at Westminster, goodbye!

0:29:110:29:16

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