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Volume 644: debated on Wednesday 11 July 2018

The Secretary of State was asked—

Industrial Strategy

1. What steps the Government are taking to ensure that Scotland benefits fully from the industrial strategy. (906297)

The industrial strategy is a strategy for the whole UK and will bring significant opportunities for Scotland. We are working with businesses, universities and business groups across Scotland to seize those opportunities. In line with devolution, the Scottish Government, of course, hold many of the levers to boost and support the growth that we hope the strategy will bring.

Earlier this year, the Secretary of State for International Trade launched a drive to attract more than £2 billion of investment into Scottish companies as part of the modern industrial strategy. Does my hon. Friend welcome the Government’s efforts to boost exports and to ensure that the benefits of free trade are spread right across the UK?

I agree with my hon. Friend. Driving investment is one of the key ways we will deliver the industrial strategy, which will bring the benefits we want to see for Scotland. This pro-investment approach will see a truly global Britain hopefully becoming a leading place for people to invest.

The hon. Gentleman is gesticulating from a sedentary position in respect to some other question that we have not reached, but might, and on which he may or may not be called.

What is the Secretary of State doing to argue that Scotland should be able to bid for onshore wind in contract for difference auctions?

As the hon. Gentleman will know, there will be an announcement shortly. Of course, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has many meetings with his Cabinet colleagues to discuss such issues.

In November, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced a review of how the UK and Scottish Governments could work more closely to support business in Scotland as part of the modern industrial strategy. Will my hon. Friend update the House on the progress of that review?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that an important part of delivering this industrial strategy is the UK and Scottish Governments working collaboratively. My right hon. Friend the Business Secretary gave evidence to the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee in April, and he has also hosted a roundtable with the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, so a lot is going on.

As a football fan, I wish England good luck tonight in their semi-final. Although 1966 may have been a very good year, 1967 was even better.

In 1999 it was a Labour Secretary of State for Scotland who stood up for Scottish shipyards and ensured that the contract for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary was given to the shipyards in Govan. Roll forward to 2018 and the contract for the fleet solid support ships is out for tender. Analysis by the GMB shows a direct tax and national insurance benefit and return to the Treasury of £285 million, but so far, the current Conservative Secretary of State has refused to stand up for Scottish shipyards. I therefore ask him a very straightforward question: why not?

As someone who was born in Wales, who now lives in England and whose father and family come from Scotland, I join the hon. Lady in wishing the English team every success today.

I do not accept the hon. Lady’s premise that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is not fighting for shipbuilding in this country. Our warships, which are being built in the UK, are securing 4,000 jobs and 20 years of work on the Clyde, and the British industry is preparing to bid for a new Type 31 class. We want all British yards to take part in the latest applications for the new contracts, and we hope that they are successful.

I am disappointed that the Secretary of State did not reply for himself, which answers my question about why he is not standing up for Scotland.

Without the fleet solid support ships contract, Rosyth will be struggling for work and thousands will be worse off as a result. Labour’s Opposition day debate today will call on the Government to build these ships in the UK—build them here. The Government have a majority of 13, and there are 13 Scottish Tory MPs. Will this finally be the issue on which Scottish Tories stand up for Scotland? Will they and the Secretary of State back the motion, and will the Secretary of State encourage his other Westminster colleagues to do the same? Build them in Britain.

Our Scottish Conservative MPs work day in, day out, not just for their constituencies, but for Scotland as a whole, and I am very proud of the work they do—they really are a formidable team. Last year, we unveiled an ambitious new national shipbuilding strategy, which met the challenge set by the independent Sir John Parker, who said:

“I am very impressed by the courage that the Secretary of State has shown—and the Government—in adopting my recommendations, which were very extensive”.

That shows that we are behind the shipbuilding industry.

European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018: Legislative Consent

2. What recent discussions he has had with the (a) Scottish Government and (b) Prime Minister on the Scottish Parliament’s decision not to grant a legislative consent motion for the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. (906298)

9. What recent discussions he has had with the (a) Scottish Government and (b) Prime Minister on the Scottish Parliament’s decision not to grant a legislative consent motion for the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. (906305)

10. What recent discussions he has had with the (a) Scottish Government and (b) Prime Minister on the Scottish Parliament’s decision not to grant a legislative consent motion for the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. (906308)

The Joint Ministerial Committee (European Negotiations) met last Thursday and the Prime Minister was fully briefed on the outcome.

After repeated exclusion from Brexit discussions, the Secretary of State was finally allowed a place at the table at Chequers last week. How did he use that time to speak up for Scotland? What representations did he make on behalf of the Scottish Parliament, given the majority vote to withhold legislative consent?

The hon. Lady is conflating a number of issues, but what I can confirm to her is, as I discussed with Mr Russell last Thursday, that the Scottish Government produced a very complete document with their views to be fed into that meeting of the Cabinet, and I fed them in.

That was a bit of a disappointing answer, so may I probe a bit further? The Prime Minister’s Chequers agreement rides roughshod over the Scottish Parliament. Scotland’s economy is heavily reliant on services. Thousands of my constituents work in that sector, yet she is determined to make a deal in which services are taken out. Has the Secretary of State worked out the impact of the Prime Minister’s decision on the Scottish economy yet, and what is he going to do about it?

At the heart of the issue is a fact in the Scottish Government’s document that this Government could not accept—the Scottish National party Scottish Government do not want to leave the European Union. The Prime Minister is focused on leaving the EU on a basis that not only does the best for British business, but respects the outcome of a referendum across the whole of the UK.

I hear that the Secretary of State has been going about boasting that he is the longest serving member of Cabinet in role, but it seems odd that being invisible and ineffective has been rewarded. He has failed to represent and respect the democratic will of the Scottish Parliament. He has failed to speak up for Scotland in the Cabinet and failed to meet his promise to debate devolution in the Commons. When will he accept those failures and resign?

Goodness—the hon. Lady did not get a chance in the debate last week, so she just reheats the same old stuff. At the heart of this is the fact that the SNP does not accept and does not like the representations I make on behalf of Scotland, which are about keeping Scotland in the United Kingdom.

Over the past year, it has been a huge privilege to work closely with my right hon. Friend on this issue. Does he agree that the ludicrous theatrics of the nationalist party are a disservice to the people of not only Scotland, but the whole United Kingdom, because of the detrimental effect they had on the passage of the EU withdrawal Act?

I commend my hon. Friend for his efforts as a Minister. He was one of the hardest working Ministers I have ever encountered, and I absolutely agree with what he said. Although there are people in this Chamber who have their differences on Brexit, the SNP is not interested in Brexit—Brexit has been weaponised purely to take forward the cause of independence and have another independence referendum.

Will my right hon. Friend reassure my constituents that the 2018 Act will not remove any of the Scottish Parliament’s current powers?

I can absolutely do that. We have heard repeatedly from the SNP about a power grab, but when Nicola Sturgeon reshuffled her Cabinet, she needed more Ministers because of the powers and responsibilities that the Scottish Government were taking on. Today, we learn that they have taken on additional office space in Glasgow for a bigger organisation because they are delivering existing priorities while embracing additional responsibilities.

Scotland trades around four times as much with the rest of the United Kingdom as it does with the European Union. Does my right hon. Friend agree that our top priority must be to ensure that the internal UK market is protected as soon as we leave the European Union?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. The UK internal market, which, as he says, is worth four times as much to Scotland as trade with the whole of the EU put together, may not be important to the Scottish National party, but it is important to businesses and for jobs in Scotland, and we will stand up to protect it.

With regard to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act or any issue to do with the EU in this House, will the Secretary of State tell us how many times Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, has demanded that he or any of the 13 Scottish Conservative MPs vote against the Government line?

Ruth Davidson makes a very clear statement of her position on European issues and contributes fully to the debate. Government Members want to achieve a good deal for Scotland and the UK as we leave the EU. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will bring himself to support that.

I am keen to get some clarity on the Secretary of State’s discussions with the Scottish Government and the debate at Chequers last Friday. Given that the Chequers agreement talks about a free trade area and a common rulebook, and therefore impacts directly on the areas that were discussed in respect of joint arrangements after Brexit, will he confirm that the content of that agreement was discussed with the Scottish Government in advance?

This comes back to the same question that the hon. Gentleman asks on each occasion. He cannot accept that Scotland has two Parliaments and two Governments.

I will take that as a no, then, which is beyond disappointing. The Secretary of State continues his disrespect for devolution. Given that the Government are changing their entire direction with respect to this matter, will he commit today to consulting the Scottish Government and coming to an agreement with them on how to administer things in Scotland after Brexit?

I am very keen and willing to work with the Scottish Government. As I said, the Scottish Government set out a helpful summary of their position, which we discussed with Mr Russell last week. I then set out the Scottish Government’s concerns and issues during the Cabinet meeting. After that Cabinet meeting, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and people from the Prime Minister’s office updated the Scottish Government on the Chequers summit.

I feel that I ought to congratulate the Secretary of State on achieving a new milestone as the longest-serving member in one role in the Prime Minister’s Cabinet, but I fear that may be by virtue of his invisibility, rather than his invincibility. As we have just heard, the Secretary of State is failing to stand up for Scotland’s interests when it comes to shipbuilding, and he and his 12 Scottish Tory colleagues have failed to stand up for Scotland’s devolution settlement. Will he use the influence that he should have developed over the past few years and condemn his Government’s handling of the devolution settlement, thereby demonstrating that he is not just Scotland’s invisible man in the Cabinet?

What I condemn is the once proud Unionist Scottish Labour party repeatedly voting with the SNP in Holyrood. I am afraid they have become just Nicola’s little helpers.

Leaving the EU: Fishing

3. What assessment he has made of the opportunities for the Scottish fishing industry after the UK leaves the EU. (906299)

7. What assessment he has made of the opportunities for the Scottish fishing industry after the UK leaves the EU. (906303)

13. What assessment he has made of the opportunities for the Scottish fishing industry after the UK leaves the EU. (906311)

I am proud to say that this Conservative Government are unequivocally taking Scotland’s fishermen out of the hated common fisheries policy. Just last week, the UK Government published their fisheries White Paper, which sets out that as an independent coastal state, we will at long last regain control of our waters.

Does the Secretary of State know whether the Scottish Government are supporting the central aims of that fisheries White Paper—namely that we leave the CFP; that we decide who catches what, where and when; that we manage the expansion of our industry in a sustainable way; and that we are not blackmailed by Brussels for our market—or does the SNP want to keep us in the hated CFP?

Hopelessly long. I have already said that we need to speed up. The trouble is that people have these pre-prepared, scripted questions—[Interruption.] Well, the hon. Member for Moray (Douglas Ross) has learned it, and we are grateful to him.

Sadly, the Scottish Government’s position remains exactly as it has been throughout: to take Scotland back into the CFP.

Last week’s publication of the fisheries White Paper was a hugely welcome step for an industry that is looking to capitalise on the benefits of leaving the EU. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, during the exit negotiations with the EU, this Government will keep the issues of access to British waters for EU vessels and access to the EU market for British fish separate, as they must not be conflated?

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it will take many years to build the Scottish fishing fleet back up to full strength, but that that would never happen if the SNP got its way and kept us in the common fisheries policy?

Absolutely, and we can see that in the response of the fishing industry. This Government are right behind the fishing industry in taking advantage of what it sees as a sea of opportunity.

11. Fifty per cent. of the fish processing industry relies on an EU workforce. What protection has the Secretary of State negotiated within the Cabinet to secure their future post-Brexit? (906309)

The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) has secured a very apposite debate on that matter this evening. I am very conscious of this issue, and I will be meeting the Home Secretary next week.

12. The White Paper refers to the seafood trade as “vital” but, as with EU workers, no information is given about how it will be protected. This will be of concern to the live shellfish industry in Orkney and Shetland, which enjoys a frictionless customs passage in the EU at the moment. Will the Secretary of State guarantee that that frictionless passage will continue? (906310)

I am very conscious of the issues around not just catching and processing fish, but the markets, and those will be at the forefront of our thinking as we take forward leaving the EU.

Will my right hon. Friend tell me what benefits there will be from leaving the common fisheries policies for the whole of the United Kingdom?

Mr Speaker, you have asked me to be brief, so I will refer my hon. Friend to the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation document “Sea of Opportunity”.

I do not know what the Secretary of State plans to be doing at 7 o’clock this evening, but I shall be here, along with the Immigration Minister, for the end-of-day Adjournment debate on the subject of visas for non-EEA nationals in the fishing industry. If he could fix that and get the industry the labour that it needs between now and 7 pm, we could both probably think of something else to be doing.

I am afraid that I cannot meet the right hon. Gentleman’s timescale but, like him and others, I wish England well in their game this evening. On the substantive issue that he raises, I would be very happy to speak to him directly ahead of my meeting with the Home Secretary.


5. What steps the Government are taking to support connectivity between Scotland and the rest of the UK. (906301)

Scotland’s trade with the rest of the UK is, as we heard a moment ago, four times that with the EU, so good connectivity is vital to our shared prosperity. The recent vote on Heathrow was critical. Maintaining and enhancing routes to Scotland will bring key benefits, and more frequent and new routes will be served to help to improve connectivity.

Many businesses in my constituency depend on customers and staff from south of the border, so what discussions has the Minister had with the Scottish Government about improving cross-border links on the A1, A68 and A7, and, crucially, the extension of the Borders Railway to Carlisle?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that cross-border connectivity is crucial right across the United Kingdom. He and his constituents will quite rightly expect the UK Government to commit to working closely and constructively with the Scottish Government so that we have a joined-up approach. We are working on a day-to-day level, and at an official level between the Department for Transport and Transport Scotland. As for long-term projects, the potential of the borderlands growth deal could stand to be transformative for his constituents.

Does my hon. Friend agree with the managing director of Glasgow airport, Derek Provan, who said that additional flights resulting from a third runway at Heathrow are “imperative for Scottish business”, and can he guarantee that a good proportion of those additional flights will go from Glasgow?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right and so is the MD of Glasgow airport. The third runway is imperative for Scottish businesses, which is why we have set very clear expectations that 15% of the slots that are made available will be for domestic flights. It is disappointing that the Scottish National party did not vote for this expansion. [Interruption.]

I understand the sense of anticipation and excitement in the Chamber, but it seems very unfair on the hon. Member for East Renfrewshire (Paul Masterton) that his question was not fully heard, and that we could not properly hear the mellifluous tones of a very courteous Minister. If there could be greater attentiveness to these important matters, it would be a great advance.

Will the Minister confirm his support for local councils, including my own of East Lothian, in their application for wave 3 funding for broadband roll-out from this Government?

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman specific confirmation at this point, but I would be more than happy to write to him, if he would allow me to.

Does the Minister share the concern in Scotland that, although the third runway for Heathrow might be helpful to the south-east of England, the effect on the Scottish climate of those extra flights—rather than direct flights or improved rail services—could actually be damaging?

As the hon. Lady is probably aware, when we made the announcement and had the vote, we made a commitment to having a strong environmental plan. We will be looking at that very seriously.

Telecommunications: Rural Areas

6. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on improving telecommunications in rural Scotland. (906302)

May I first welcome my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kenilworth and Southam (Jeremy Wright) to his role as Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and thank his predecessor for his energy and the interest that he showed in Scotland? I have regular discussions with Cabinet colleagues regarding a wide range of issues relating to Scotland and look forward to working closely with the new Secretary of State on this issue.

The Secretary of State will be aware that mobile reception in my constituency is variable, to say the very least. The Home Office has given a company called EE a large amount of money to install infrastructure. Will the Secretary of State help other providers to access this infrastructure?

The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue for rural Scotland; it is also very important in my own Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale constituency. I will give him that undertaking.

Last month, the then Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport warned that Scotland was due to miss its target of connecting every business and home in Scotland with superfast broadband. Does the Secretary of State for Scotland agree that the SNP is letting down rural areas such as my constituency of Angus?

My hon. Friend has been a powerful advocate for improved broadband in rural Scotland. Indeed, she is correct that the Scottish Government have let Scotland down on this issue.

According to thinkbroadband, 93.4% of premises in Scotland now have access to superfast broadband, which compares with 95% in the UK. This has been done with some of the most challenging geography in the whole of Europe, with some £580 million of Scottish Government money being put into the last 5%. Will the Secretary of State now congratulate the Scottish Government on achieving this and thank them for investing in a reserved area, which is his responsibility?

Rather than reading out Scottish Government press releases, the hon. Gentleman should be standing up for his constituents and people across rural Scotland who get a poor deal on broadband, which is primarily due to the ineffectiveness of the Scottish Government.


8. What recent discussions he has had with the Scottish Government on the devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament. (906304)

My ministerial colleagues and I frequently meet the Scottish Government to discuss a range of issues relating to the implementation of the Scotland Act 2016. Only last week, I gave my agreement to a section 104 order for the delivery of welfare benefits. This makes changes to UK legislation so that the Scottish Government can take on Executive responsibility for carer’s allowance.

I am sure that they are very grateful for that. The Secretary of State has said:

“The UK Government will continue working closely with the Scottish Government and other devolved administrations to develop a fishing policy that works for the whole of the UK.”

In reality, they were shown a copy of the White Paper with no consultation. Will he please define “working closely”?

My definition of “working closely” is that, when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and I met Fergus Ewing, the Minister responsible for fishing, at the highland show, it was very cordial.

As most people in the House know, the Smith commission will have the cross-party commitment to have more devolution from Edinburgh to local authorities, and not to centralise power. What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with the devolved Administration to ensure that that happens?

As my hon. Friend knows, these matters are devolved, but it is a matter of profound disappointment that, rather than devolving powers on within Scotland, the SNP Scottish Government have become one of the most centralised Governments anywhere in the world.

I see it is a five-way contest in the SNP ranks, but we have got to hear from the Select Committee Chair, and I hope he will be brief.

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker—you are a great man indeed.

Devolving powers over work visas would make a tremendous difference to the fishing industry and get people in from non-EEA countries such as, in particular, Ghana and the Philippines, who are very valued in Scotland. Will this Government get on with their job, stop the Brexit soap opera, lift the pin, get the men in, get the boats fishing, and get taxes being paid—and move now?

I have already advised the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael)—who, as the hon. Gentleman will have heard, is having a debate at 7 pm this evening; I am sure he will want to be there—that I take this issue very seriously. I am meeting the Home Secretary on it next week.

I do not think that meeting Fergus Ewing at the highland show can really count as consultation, so what formal consultation was carried out before the fishing White Paper was published?

As I think the hon. Lady will appreciate, the White Paper is itself a consultation, so let us hear her and the SNP’s views on fishing. But of course they do not really want to tell us, because their view is, “Take Scotland back into the common fisheries policy.”