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Covid-19: UK-wide Response

Volume 676: debated on Wednesday 20 May 2020

What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on co-ordinating a UK-wide response to the covid-19 outbreak. (902844)

What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on co-ordinating a UK-wide response to the covid-19 outbreak. (902846)

What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on co-ordinating a UK-wide response to the covid-19 outbreak. (902847)

What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on co-ordinating a UK-wide response to the covid-19 outbreak. (902848)

I have regular discussions with all my Cabinet colleagues on the covid-19 outbreak, including on the co-ordination of a UK-wide response. The Government are absolutely committed to a UK-wide approach and we will continue to work together with the devolved Administrations to ensure a co-ordinated approach across the UK, while respecting the devolution settlements.

Because of the actions taken by this UK Government, the Scottish Government will receive more than £3.7 billion in extra Barnett funding to help deal with the covid-19 outbreak. Does my right hon. Friend believe that this demonstrates the importance of tackling the pandemic as one United Kingdom, and that it is in the best interests of all four nations to work together as we emerge from this crisis?

As my hon. Friend correctly points out, Scotland has been allocated a total of £3.7 billion in extra funding so far, and, yes, I agree with him on the one United Kingdom approach.

In places such as Carlisle and south Scotland, we have a substantial amount of cross-border activity, including travel to work. Does the Minister agree that it would be far better to have a UK-wide policy on movement rather than having the Scottish Government causing unnecessary confusion, which does not help people in this part of the country?

As we know, different parts of the United Kingdom are experiencing this pandemic at different rates, so it is right to be flexible and to move at different speeds, as we have seen. But will my right hon. Friend confirm that he remains fully committed to working constructively with the Scottish Government, so that we can, as he says, get through this crisis together as one United Kingdom?

I can confirm to my hon. Friend that we are absolutely committed to working constructively with the Scottish Government on all fronts.

Does the Secretary of State agree with Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, has said:

“We need to see the whole of the UK moving together—the alternative for business is additional confusion and cost. Avoiding divergence for the sake of politics is important.”

Does the Secretary of State agree?

I think my hon. Friend said, “avoiding divergence for the sake of politics”, or something, towards the end. If that is indeed what he said, I completely agree with him.