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Volume 650: debated on Wednesday 28 November 2018

The Secretary of State was asked—

Leaving the EU: Legislative Consent Motions

1. What recent discussions he has had with the Scottish Government on the granting of legislative consent motions for legislation on the UK leaving the EU. (907833)

4. What recent discussions he has had with the Scottish Government on the granting of legislative consent motions for legislation on the UK leaving the EU. (907836)

As this is the last Scottish questions ahead of the 30th anniversary of the bombing of PanAm flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988, I think it would be appropriate to place on record what I am sure all Members of the House will feel at the time; their thoughts and prayers will be with the families and friends of the 270 people who perished and every other person whose life has been affected by the events of that night.

The UK Government are fully committed to the Sewel convention and the related practices and procedures for seeking legislative consent.

I associate myself with the Secretary of State’s comments. The Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill is vital for my constituents in ensuring continuity of healthcare in the European Union and for the 200,000 expats living in the EU. Will he do everything he can to urge the Scottish Government not to continue to play political games and to grant an LCM to this vital piece of legislation?

It was extremely disappointing that the Scottish Government announced that they would not grant LCMs in relation to a number of Bills without even seeing the details of those Bills. The Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill is an important one for Scots living abroad, and it would be totally unacceptable to put their treatment at risk, so I hope that the comments that Mr Mike Russell made the other day are perhaps an indication that they will not proceed with this politicking approach.

The Fisheries Bill is one of the Bills that my right hon. Friend referred to; it lays the groundwork for the revival of fishing in Banff and Buchan and all along Scotland’s coastline, and what is more, it confers new powers on the ScottishGovernment. I know that the Scottish National party’s policy is to take us back into the common fisheries policy, but does he agree that they should show at least some respect for coastal Scotland by working constructively and supporting an LCM for the Fisheries Bill in Holyrood?

Recent events demonstrate that there are no limits to what legislation or whose interests the SNP will play politics with. As my hon. Friend said, both the Agriculture Bill and the Fisheries Bill are important pieces of legislation for Scotland and ones with which the Scottish Government should be fully engaged.

It is beginning to sound like this Government are only committed to the Sewel convention when it suits them. Is it not the case that the blatant disregard for the decisions and opinions of the Scottish Parliament throughout the Brexit process shows that this Government and Secretary of State are committed to undermining the devolution settlement, and that that is only going to be exacerbated when the Scottish Parliament votes against the Brexit withdrawal agreement?

What the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends do not like about the Sewel convention is that it is a convention of this United Kingdom Parliament. It is part of Scotland being part of the United Kingdom and that is something that they continue to oppose.

Two of the Secretary of State’s own loyal Back Benchers have specifically asked him what discussions he has had with the Scottish Government, and he has refused to answer. Are we to take it from that that he has had no such discussions and that he has no intention of having further discussions with the elected Government of Scotland?

I am afraid that that is not the correct interpretation. As the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends know, since they ask about it repeatedly, I engage fully in the Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations), and there are extensive discussions about these issues and framework agreements in that forum and in many others.

Leaving the EU

2. What recent discussions he has had with the Prime Minister on the effect on Scotland of the UK leaving the EU. (907834)

8. What recent discussions he has had with the Prime Minister on the effect on Scotland of the UK leaving the EU. (907840)

11. What recent discussions he has had with the Prime Minister on the effect on Scotland of the UK leaving the EU. (907844)

13. What recent discussions he has had with the Prime Minister on the effect on Scotland of the UK leaving the EU. (907846)

I have regular meetings with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and colleagues. The deal is a deal for all parts of the UK and it will protect jobs, security and the integrity of our United Kingdom.

I see that the Prime Minister is in Glasgow today talking about Brexit and exports. Does the Secretary of State recognise the disruption and delays that are expected at UK ports as a result of the withdrawal agreement, which necessitates the development of Scottish ports as an alternative route for Scottish exporters? If he is pledging support for the Prime Minister for a poor deal for Scotland, will he also support the Rosyth-Zeebrugge ferry, which would help our exporters to get their goods to market?

I would certainly be happy to discuss the specific issue of the Rosyth-Zeebrugge ferry with the hon. Gentleman, but if he and his colleagues do not want to see disruption at ports and elsewhere, they should not, on 11 December, be voting for a no-deal Brexit.

Today, the Chancellor has confirmed that every single Brexit scenario will leave the economy worse off and can be justified only by what he described as political benefits. Given that Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, surely the Secretary of State must now acknowledge that there are no political or economic benefits and that Brexit would be an all-round disaster for Scotland.

I will take no lessons from the hon. Gentleman on taking action to damage the Scottish economy. The SNP’s position is to take Scotland out of its biggest market—the UK market—and leave everyone in Scotland poorer.

To quote a tweet from @ScotTories:

“Let me be absolutely clear: As we leave the EU, we need complete control over UK fishing. #NonNegotiatable”.

So said one of the Secretary of State’s Scottish Tory colleagues. Can he credibly tell Scottish fishing communities that the Prime Minister’s deal meets those terms?

I absolutely can, and that is why I am today signing the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation pledge on delivering a Brexit for the fishing industry. I look forward to the 35 SNP MPs, who say they stand up for Scotland’s fishermen, doing likewise.

It struck me this week that the juxtaposition of the festive season with the Brexit negotiations could help the Secretary of State kill two proverbial birds with one stone. It comes to the House’s attention, via the Glasgow Herald, that his good friend and former chair of the Scottish Tory party is to be summoned imminently to give evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee about his dodgy donations during the Brexit referendum campaign. I was wondering whether the Secretary of State, being a parsimonious chap, was going to save money on postage and deliver his Christmas card to his former friend, Mr Cook, in person at Westminster.

I am afraid that that question is too convoluted for these purposes. It is a matter for Committees of this House who they take evidence from.

Yesterday, the Scottish Government produced analysis of the Prime Minister’s deal suggesting that the withdrawal agreement we are being asked to vote on would make all of us poorer, but the interim Scottish Conservative leader immediately dismissed it as an excuse for another referendum, even though the Chancellor said today it would make us poorer. Who of the two is right?

I am sure the hon. Gentleman did not wish to mislead the House, but the analysis produced by the Scottish Government is not an analysis of the deal the Prime Minister has negotiated; it is a rehashed version of a document produced in January that looked only at generic issues. The analysis that this Government will be producing will be focused on the deal that has actually been negotiated.

Leaving the most successful union in history after 311 years would bring economic chaos to Scotland. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the effect of Scotland leaving the UK would be much worse than the effect of Brexit under any scenario?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. As we have discussed many times in the Chamber, Scotland trades four times as much with the rest of the UK as it does with the EU. I am sure that people in Scotland are starting to ask why the SNP is so keen on delivering a no-deal Brexit. It is because the SNP sees that it is the ideal backdrop for an independence referendum debate.

Nicola Sturgeon wants to drag Scotland into constitutional chaos by having a further two referendums, against the will of the Scottish people. Will my right hon. Friend join me in condemning the First Minister’s stance?

I absolutely condemn Nicola Sturgeon’s desire to create division, chaos and uncertainty. All along she could have joined the Prime Minister and worked with the UK Government to get a deal for Scotland and the UK, but she chose to put her own interests and an independence referendum first.

Will the Secretary of State join me in welcoming the BP Clair Ridge project, which started up in November and will produce an estimated 640 billion barrels of oil? Does he agree that this is clear evidence of confidence in the Scottish economy as we leave the EU?

In his time in the House, my hon. Friend has established himself as a champion of the oil and gas industry. That news is indeed very welcome, and it demonstrates BP’s continuing confidence in our UK Government’s approach to the sector.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, from the off, our Prime Minister’s No. 1 priorities have been the protection of our economy, the national interest, and the protection of our UK internal market—in complete contrast to the Scottish National party, which only sows division, and would go out of its way to destroy that internal market, which is of prime importance to Scottish business?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. The distinction between the leaders of the various parties is very clear: the Leader of the Opposition is focused on a general election, the leader of the Scottish National party is focused on an independence referendum, and Theresa May is focused on the national interest of this country.

I do not know whether the Secretary of State realises how ridiculous he has looked with his resignation-non- resignation business. He is like a demented Grand Old Duke of York. He has led his merry band of Scotch Tories halfway up resignation hill, and has forgotten whether he is going up or down. Scotland voted overwhelmingly against Brexit, and increasing numbers of Scots do not want anything to do with it. If the Secretary of State cannot represent the people of Scotland, will he just resign and get out of the way, for goodness’ sake?

Well, I suppose there is no greater expert in the House on being ridiculous than the hon. Gentleman, swinging one way and another on every issue of the day. I am quite clear. The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, and this Government will deliver that.

Order. We have four Front-Bench supplementary questions and we are pressed for time, so they need to be brief.

Mr Speaker,

“We could not support any deal that…leads to Northern Ireland having a different relationship with the EU than the rest of the UK”.

Those are the words of the Secretary of State for Scotland. I put it to him that the backstop provides exactly that in the withdrawal agreement. Given that, how can he justify remaining in the Cabinet?

The hon. Gentleman has quoted selectively from what I said. I acknowledged that there were already significant differences between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, not least because of the Belfast agreement, and in relation to, for example, the single electricity market. However, I am clear about the fact that the greatest threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom is posed by the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues. That is why they want a no-deal Brexit.

Given the gravity of the situation, I think we should expect Ministers of the Crown to answer questions put to them. The Secretary of State has publicly refuted the differentiation on which the withdrawal agreement is based; he has threatened to resign on numerous occasions; and now he has nailed his colours to the Prime Minister’s mast, and invested what political capital he has left in this deal. I ask him this: if the withdrawal agreement is rejected by this Parliament, as it surely will be, will he at that point resign his position?

My position is quite clear. The integrity of the United Kingdom must be preserved. The SNP and Nicola Sturgeon see Brexit as an opportunity to break up the United Kingdom, so above all else I put that first.

May I begin by supporting the Secretary of State’s comments in relation to Lockerbie?

The Secretary of State drew red lines for his support for the Brexit deal on the integrity of the UK and on fishing. Unless those things were protected, he would resign. The Prime Minister has come back with a deal that creates a border in the Irish sea and sells out Scottish fishermen. May I ask what the right hon. Gentleman is still doing at the Dispatch Box?

What I am doing is standing up for the integrity of the United Kingdom. When I see Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon caballing about what they are going to do next, and no doubt agreeing that the keys of No. 10 Downing Street will be handed over to Labour for another independence referendum, I know I am doing the right thing.

Order. One respect in which the right hon. Gentleman is not doing the right thing is his referring to Members of the House by name. He knows better than that, and I hope he will improve his performance.

The right hon. Gentleman knows my views, but judging by the looks on the faces of those sitting beside him, I do not think he has quite got the mood of the room. The reality is that the Secretary of State’s so-called red lines were written in invisible ink; they disappeared when the Prime Minister came back from Brussels. Labour will vote against the Prime Minister’s deal; it is a bad deal for Scotland and it is a bad deal for working people. The Commons could unite behind Labour’s alternative: a comprehensive and permanent customs union with a British say in future trade deals, and a strong single market relationship to support British business. It is clear that this deal cannot command the support of the Commons. If the Secretary of State now thinks this deal is the best deal for the country, why does he not put that theory to the test and call for a general election and let the people decide?

The hon. Lady has just proved the point from my first answer, and now that she has taken an interest in the fishing industry, which I was not previously aware of, I hope she will sign the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation pledge on what should now happen in relation to the fishing industry. I did not know what Scottish Labour’s position was on this issue, and I do not expect many other people do, but it should not surprise us that ultimately it is being Nicola’s little helpers to vote for a no-deal Brexit.

Growth Deals

5. What assessment he has made of the potential effect on the Scottish economy of future growth deals in Scotland. (907837)

Through city and growth deals the UK Government have already committed over £1 billion of investment to Scotland and are working on further growth deals for Borderlands, Ayrshire and Moray. The UK Government are committed to delivering a city and growth deal for every part of Scotland. City and growth deals show the benefits that are delivered to the economy when Scotland’s two Governments work together.

I thank the Minister for his answer and welcome him to his place. The UK Government have now invested over £1.1 billion in city deals across Scotland; does my hon. Friend agree that this is the Conservatives delivering for Scotland?

I thank my hon. Friend for his warm words of welcome and completely agree: the over-£1 billion of investment in Scotland’s cities shows that this Government have a clear role in delivering economic growth in Scotland. Just last week my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was in Perth announcing £150 million of investment as part of the Tay cities deal. My hon. Friends the Members for Angus (Kirstene Hair) and for Ochil and South Perthshire (Luke Graham) were instrumental in securing investment not only for their constituencies, but for the whole region as part of the deal.

Given the recent news from Michelin that it will lose up to 850 jobs from Dundee, it is now more important than ever that all commitments on the Tay cities deal are met. The Scottish Government are committed to £200 million. Can the UK Government today give a guarantee that they will fully match that £200 million investment?

The hon. Gentleman rightly raises this issue, and I know how important it is to his constituency, but, as I said previously, £150 million is being committed to the region in a growth deal and we are working with the Scottish Government in the Michelin action group, which met on 12 November. With support from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy we have presented a number of potential areas for further exploration for repurposing the site either with Michelin or a third party, and I understand that the next action group meeting will be on 30 November.

Some £120 million was announced as part of the Edinburgh city deal to upgrade Sheriffhall roundabout, but the A720 city bypass that stems off the roundabout is chock-a-block, start to end every day, which will affect my constituents and those of the Secretary of State. This seems to have slipped down the Scottish Government agenda. Those constituents would like to know what conversations the Secretary of State has had with Scottish Government Ministers.

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. The deal for Edinburgh was signed on 7 August. There is a £300 million investment from this Government, and I know how important this is for her constituency. I will ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to follow up on her question so that she has more details.

Leaving the EU: Fishing Industry

6. What recent discussions he has had with the fishing industry in Scotland on access to UK fishing waters after the UK leaves the EU. (907838)

Fishing is of totemic importance in Scotland, and I regularly meet representatives of the fishing industry in Scotland to discuss the opportunities for the sector when we leave the EU.

As we have already heard, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation has launched a campaign calling on all parties to back its pledge for the UK to take back control of our waters after we leave the European Union. I am pleased that the Secretary of State has signed that pledge. I have signed it and Scottish Conservatives are signing it. Does my right hon. Friend agree that all parties in this House should sign that pledge?

I absolutely do agree. When people stand up and say that they are speaking up for the fishing industry, they need to back that up. This pledge does exactly that, and I look forward to all 59 of Scotland’s MPs signing it. [Interruption.]

Order. There is quite a lot of noise in the Chamber, but I want to be able to hear the ordinarily distinctive burr of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael).

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the transitional arrangements will involve a period in which things will remain as they are, in order to provide certainty, but there is a clear mechanism for fishing to leave those transitional arrangements and to be part of the Fisheries Council in December 2020, to plan ahead for 2021.

I recently visited Atlantic Canada on a trade visit, where I met Canadian fisheries and ocean tech companies that are invested in Scotland. They are enthusiastic to work more closely with the UK once we have left the common fisheries policy to ensure that we have better balanced and managed fisheries. Can my right hon. Friend give me a commitment that we will do just that?

I am certainly able to give my hon. Friend a commitment in both regards. We are looking to work with important partners such as Canada, and to leave the common fisheries policy.

The Minister claims that the Scottish fishermen should rest easy because he has signed the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation’s pledge. A month ago, he signed a letter to the Prime Minister saying that he would resign if Northern Ireland was treated differently from Scotland because of the threat to Scotland. If he has not lived up to his resignation promise, how can the Scottish fishermen ever believe that he will live up to the promise he has made in the fishermen’s pledge?

I respect the right hon. Gentleman’s point of view, but I believe that the biggest threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom comes from those on the SNP Benches and from people who are seeking to bring about a no-deal Brexit. A no-deal Brexit is the most certain way to see Scotland leave the United Kingdom, and I am not going to support anything that brings that about.

The Secretary of State claims that this deal is a good deal, but on fishing, that claim was blown out of the water by President Macron of France before the ink was dry on the political declaration. The reality is that the Secretary of State cannot guarantee that the UK will not be pushed into the backstop indefinitely if access to waters and quota shares are not agreed with the European Union. That is an undeniable breach of his red line. He promised to resign over that very issue, yet he is still here, desperately claiming the false choice between no deal and a bad deal. When did he realise that he cared more about his ministerial Merc than about a good deal for Scotland’s fishermen?

Again, I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s taking an interest in fishing for the first time. If he listened to the fishermen, he would know that Bertie Armstrong, the chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation had said that no red lines had been crossed. What I find even more concerning in all these debates on fishing is that Scottish Labour is lining up with President Macron to do down this country. Our Prime Minister is fighting for the best possible deal for our fishermen. [Interruption.]

Order. There is a lot of noise in the Chamber, but I want to hear the voice of Erewash. I call Maggie Throup.

Connectivity: Scotland and the rest of the UK

7. What steps the Government are taking to support connectivity between Scotland and the rest of the UK. (907839)

The UK Government are committed to constructive intergovernmental working and a joined-up approach to all matters that relate to cross-border transport connectivity. At a working level, much co-operation goes on between officials in the Department for Transport and Transport Scotland on these issues every day.

What discussions has my hon. Friend had with the Department for Transport specifically to ensure that HS2 is able to link up in a further extension with Scotland, to ensure that we get the connectivity between Scotland and the rest of the UK?

I know that this issue is very close to my hon. Friend’s heart, and the Department for Transport is working extremely closely with Transport Scotland and Network Rail to look at future options around HS2 that might have a good business case, working towards the UK and Scottish Governments’ shared ultimate ambition of a three-hour journey time between London and Scotland.

It is all very well talking about connectivity between Scotland and the rest of the UK, but in remote parts of my constituency, connectivity is rubbish: you would be better off with two tin cans and a length of string. Should we not sort out Scotland first?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. With his two cans reference, I think he was referring to the digital connectivity issues. I would politely remind him that £1.7 billion of public money is being invested to support vital improvements in broadband coverage, and this Government have invested £121.8 million in Scotland’s superfast broadband infrastructure. Per head, that is over twice the funding that England has received.