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Public Expenditure

Volume 540: debated on Wednesday 22 February 2012

The most recent estimate of the level of public expenditure in Scotland, published in October 2011, shows that the level of public expenditure in Scotland was £10,165 per head for 2010-11.

Last week at the breakfast table, Mrs Bone and I were talking about public expenditure in Scotland and the First Minister, as one does, when suddenly our 11-year-old son, Thomas, asked, “Is Alex Salmond a goodie or a baddie?” What does the Secretary of State think?

As ever, the goings on at the Bone household breakfast table are a thing of national interest, and we look forward to further updates in due course. I think that when the hon. Gentleman’s son gets a chance to meet the First Minister, he will be delighted by the conversation that he has, but the important point that we should know is that the First Minister wants to make England separate from Scotland; we do not.

On public expenditure, the Secretary of State will know that not one ounce of UK steel is being used to build the new Forth road bridge. Is it not shameful that 29,000 of tonnes of steel can be shipped 12,500 miles from Shanghai but not 33 miles from Lanarkshire?

The hon. Gentleman’s commitment to Lanarkshire and to the steel industry is absolutely understood and well known, and his anger is understood, too. It is a matter that was of course devolved to the Scottish Government, and it is for them to answer his very difficult question.

In welcoming the additional per capita expenditure represented by the £100 million investment in sleeper services, I wonder whether the Secretary of State agrees that it is a good example of the Westminster and Holyrood Governments working more effectively together than separately, and will he seize the opportunity now to call on the likes of Richard Branson, Pete Waterman and others with innovation and entrepreneurial skills to see whether we can re-establish motor-rail services now that the sleeper services are secure?

My right hon. Friend is right to highlight the important investment that we have committed to the sleeper services, for which he has been an undoubted champion over a very long period. He is right to stress that we need to look at innovative ways to develop those services, and I look forward to discussing his idea further.