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Ministerial Meetings

Volume 470: debated on Wednesday 23 January 2008

6. If he will make it his policy to make a regular report to the House on his discussions with the First Minister of Scotland. (179992)

I regularly report to the House on matters relating to the interests of the people of Scotland, and shall continue to do so.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. It is important that those of us who are not members of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, if we have an interest in Scotland, be kept abreast of the Secretary of State’s important meetings with the important First Minister. Will he ensure that we receive those regular reports?

Perhaps the business managers and others in the hon. Gentleman’s party will consider that to be a bid to join the Scottish Affairs Committee. I know that his party has had difficulty recruiting people to that Committee in the past, so he may well shortly find himself on an elite list. He is right to say that Ministers should be accountable. I believe in that—and I know that he knows that. I have given an undertaking to the House that I will ensure that it is aware of such discussions when they take place, and I will do so.

Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity, when he meets the First Minister, to explain that the Government have doubled the budget of the Scottish Executive since devolution—with a real-terms increase this year—and to remind him that it is time to start delivering for the people of Scotland?

I agree wholeheartedly. I noticed a headline in the Scottish media this morning on the subject of Budget considerations in the Scottish Parliament. It stated that the Scottish Parliament would decide how to spend a £30 billion budget. I recollect that that is exactly double the amount that Donald Dewar had to spend as First Minister when devolution first started in Scotland. That is a measure of the scale of the investment that the Government have made in Scotland and of the opportunities to build Scotland’s infrastructure. The people of Scotland will not forgive the minority Administration if they do not spend that money wisely on the priorities of the people of Scotland, rather than on what the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) called a petty bit of political posturing. [Interruption.]

When the Secretary of State next has a discussion with the First Minister, will he convey to him in the strongest terms the anger and disappointment felt in constituencies such as mine because of the SNP Government’s petty political posturing on nuclear power and their ill-thought-out approach to waste, which have already led to Scotland being written off by prospective investors in next-generation power stations? Will the Secretary of State make it clear to the First Minister that his policies will lead not only to questions about whether Scotland can be self-sufficient in meeting its fuel requirements, but to economic consequences through the loss of the skills and expertise that have been built up by the nuclear industry in Scotland over many years?

I am sure that the First Minister reads Hansard—he will certainly read Scottish questions. I shall refer him to the hon. Gentleman’s question, among other things, when I meet him on Friday. The hon. Gentleman is quite right. We know that 40 per cent. of the electricity generated must come from nuclear. We know that the future of our energy and climate change policies depends on energy conservation, but it also depends on the sustainable production of energy. Those who have thought the matter through and understand that a balance is needed know that nuclear energy will have to contribute to that. We have to ensure that the people of Scotland do not rue the day that the nationalists tried to deny them the opportunity of that sustainable future.

When my right hon. Friend meets the First Minister, will he remind him that full employment is this Labour Government’s priority, and refer him to the report produced at the weekend, which was endorsed by Dr. Ewan Macdonald of Glasgow university? The report states that the impact of unemployment on a person’s health is the equivalent of smoking 200 cigarettes a day.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Decades ago, the Black report said that there was a correlation between ill health and poverty, and there is an obvious link between poverty and employment opportunities. That is why we are so proud that the Government’s economic policies and the stability that they have generated across the UK have made such a significant difference to employment, and consequently to unemployment.