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Joint Ministerial Committee

Volume 622: debated on Wednesday 1 March 2017

5. What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Joint Ministerial Committee. (908902)

The Government are committed to getting the best deal for Scotland and the UK in the negotiations with the EU. The Joint Ministerial Committee on EU Negotiations was established to facilitate engagement between the UK Government and devolved Administrations and has had substantive and constructive discussions in monthly meetings since November.

At the last meeting of the JMC, the Prime Minister committed to an intensified engagement with the Scottish Government on their EU proposals. Can he update the House on that process?

When I appeared last week before the Scottish Parliament’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee, I was able to tell it that in the two weeks since the plenary meeting of the JMC, six substantive meetings had taken place between senior officials so that both Governments could discuss the proposals set out in the document, “Scotland’s Place in Europe”. We regard this as a serious contribution to the debate and continue to engage with it.

May I draw my right hon. Friend’s attention to the fact that the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has been taking a great interest in the inter-institutional relationships within the UK, that we produced a report in December on this subject, which I commend to him, and that the main thrust of the recommendations are not about structures and institutions but about natural adversaries sitting down together and developing relationships and bonds of trust and understanding?

Obviously, I very much take my hon. Friend’s work seriously. Despite what often appears in the media, it is possible for the two Governments to engage in a constructive way. We are already in agreement on many issues in the Scottish Government’s document.

It is not just a matter of trying to keep the EU nationals who are currently in our health and social care service. The workforce is the biggest challenge that NHS Scotland faces, so will the Secretary of State support Scotland having the powers to attract EU nationals in future, not just keeping the ones who are here now?

I have said previously from this Dispatch Box that I do not support the devolution of immigration powers to the Scottish Parliament, but I do support arrangements that will ensure that the vital workers needed in depopulating areas, skilled areas and in areas that rely on seasonal workers can come to Scotland.

Earlier, the Secretary of State refused to confirm that Scottish fishing and Scottish agriculture would become the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament. When will his Department present to the Joint Ministerial Committee a list of powers that will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament after Brexit, or will he refuse to do so and simply follow instructions from No. 10?

What I want to do and what I have attempted to do is engage in a constructive discussion and dialogue with the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament about how we repatriate powers from Brussels. I do not try to make a serious and wrong political point that this is an attempt to destabilise the Scottish Parliament, because I know that when the process is complete, the Scottish Parliament will have more powers than it does today.