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Brussels Office

Volume 181: debated on Wednesday 21 November 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has any plans for establishing an office of his Department in Brussels.

Representation of Government Departments through the United Kingdom permanent representation—UKREP—is working very satisfactorily and we have no proposals for change.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the Scottish Constitutional Convention's proposals take account of the rapid development taking place in the European Community? Is he aware that those proposals recognise that it is of paramount importance not only for Scotland to have its own Parliament but for the voice of Scotland to have a direct input into the bureaucracy of Brussels as well as through the Council of Ministers? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman recognise that Europe will develop through direct representation and that if Scotland does not have that access, it will lose out compared with, for example, the länder of Germany?

Scotland already has that representation. For example, only yesterday, the Scottish Fisheries Minister attended the Council of Ministers. Staff of the Scottish Office are seconded to the United Kingdom permanent representation in Brussels. There is every opportunity for Scotland's interests to be taken fully into account.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that Scotland has gained substantially from grants from European Community sources? Will he outline to the House how Scotland's benefits compare with those of other Community countries?

An interesting example is access to the regional fund. Through the work of the United Kingdom Government, Scotland has received six times more money than has Denmark, although Denmark has separate representation in the Community. That is an example of how the United Kingdom representation has worked extremely successfully in securing resources for Scotland.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept that, with the imminent demise of the Prime Minister, the time is ripe and the atmosphere is right to set up effective Scottish representation in Brussels? Does he recognise the success of the efforts of the German states, which are lobbying so powerfully for their interests by combining the strength of a major European power with the status of a devolved unit of government representing a distinctive indentity? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman really saying that the German states have got it totally wrong and that we can afford to stay out of the business of getting our voice heard in that way in Brussels? Is he really ruling out the possibility of a direct Scottish mission or presence in Brussels?

Comparisons with the German Lander are spurious and irrelevant. The Lander have no representation in the federal German Government and therefore have no other opportunity of having their voices heard. Through the office of the Secretary of State, Scotland is directly involved in the United Kingdom representation in Brussels. If the hon. Gentleman is not aware of that, he clearly has not done his homework properly. No Lander Minister can attend the Council of Ministers on behalf of the federal German Government, so that comparison is of little relevance to the hon. Gentleman's point.