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Support for Businesses: Scotland

Volume 678: debated on Tuesday 21 July 2020

What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on increasing support for businesses in Scotland. (905060)

What discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on increasing support for businesses in Scotland. (905070)

What discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on increasing support for businesses in Scotland. (905073)

The Secretary of State and I hold regular discussions with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the issue of business support, including on the schemes available to support Scottish businesses affected by the covid-19 pandemic.

We are still waiting on the promised aviation sectoral support. Indeed, far from support, in my Adjournment debate the Minister essentially said that workers should be grateful that Rolls-Royce offered voluntary redundancy. Moreover, the Government have not acted to stop companies such as Menzies Aviation and Centrica following the deplorable fire-and-rehire tactics employed by British Airways, which are now being enforced. Will he tell the House whether he thinks it fair that an employer can force an employer on to reduced terms and conditions or face redundancy? Why is that illegal in so many European countries?

We are in constant conversation with Rolls-Royce and other employers, quite rightly. The sector will be impacted for between three and five years. It is right that companies should be able to right-size their businesses and, as the Secretary of State referred to, have a constructive dialogue with their employees about how they arrive at that right size. The Government’s position is to support the industry with more than £8.5 billion of support through the covid pandemic.

Businesses in Scotland have thrived under devolution with the support of the Scottish Government, who are better able to provide tailored policies specifically for Scotland. An independent economics research organisation based at the University of Warwick published figures just yesterday that show that Brexit had already cost Scotland an estimated £736 a head last year alone. With uncertainty over future funding streams such as the so-called prosperity fund, which we were promised details of two years ago, how does he think that the greatest threat to devolution in its history—the current power-grab by Westminster—presents continued membership of the United Kingdom for business and the people of Scotland as a good option?

I have weekly calls with my counterparts in the devolved Administrations, including the Minister for economy and fair work in Scotland. The most successful market is the UK internal market—that is without doubt. That is what the Scottish Government should support. It is a shame that my officials, working with officials from Northern Ireland and, of course, Wales, can move forward, yet the Scottish Government chose to withdraw their officials back in March. I urge my colleague from the SNP to ask the Scottish Government to reintroduce those officials to the system. We would thrive as a United Kingdom.

To protect and rebuild the local economy of Aberdeen and the north-east of Scotland, we need huge investment from the UK Government in the hydrogen economy, carbon capture and underground storage, and an energy transition zone all through an oil and gas sector deal. Will the Minister confirm that his Government intend to sign off an oil and gas sector deal this calendar year—yes or no?

It is a manifesto commitment of this Government to deliver an oil and gas sector deal, and we are working with the sector. My brilliant colleague, the Minister with responsibility for energy, has been engaging constantly with the sector to ensure it can take the opportunities that are before it in offshore wind generation and all sorts of other areas. Of course, hydrogen will be incredibly important to the energy White Paper, which we will publish in the autumn, as the Secretary of State set out.