Skip to main content

Standards Impropriety: The Union

Volume 705: debated on Wednesday 15 December 2021

3. What recent assessment he has made of the implications of allegations of standards impropriety for his Department’s work on strengthening the Union. (904686)

We remain focused on delivering for Scotland within a strong United Kingdom. This can be seen by the scale of our investment, with more than £191 million of UK Government funding being invested directly in community projects across Scotland. This is real devolution in action.

People in Scotland have rejected the Tories for the past 50 years. We decisively rejected the Prime Minister’s Brexit projects, and we rejected them once again at the last election. Some 65% of people in Scotland say that the Prime Minister is totally corrupt and 65% of people in Scotland also believe he should resign. Given that this coincides with a surge in independence, with more than half of the population in Scotland now supporting independence and the Scottish National party, does the Secretary of State agree that the corruption of the UK Government is driving Scots away from the Union? If he were truly interested in saving the Union, should he not be joining the rest of us in calling for the PM’s resignation?

I will stick to the question, which is what we are doing to deliver for the people of Scotland, and I am delighted to answer that question. I will give the hon. Gentleman one example: with the Union connectivity review, there are huge opportunities to improve transport links between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom, and I am dismayed that Members on the Opposition Benches refuse to support that.

May I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Chris Elmore), who has left the shadow Scotland team and been significantly demoted in my view to the ministry of fun? I thank him for everything he did in that role. I welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist). I do not know what she did in her previous life to deserve it, but she will, as the House has already seen this morning, be wonderful in her new role on the shadow Scotland team, and we welcome her very much.

Every day, there are more and more revelations about the Prime Minister and this Government breaking their own lockdown rules. It truly is one rule for them and one for the rest of us. As the country cancelled Christmas last year, the Prime Minister had a party or three. The Government have lost all moral authority to lead this country, with scandal, sleaze and cronyism writ large. The Scottish Conservative leader was asked three times in the media at the weekend whether he could think of any positive attribute for the PM, and even he could not answer. Can the Secretary of State think of any positive attribute for the Prime Minister? Can he tell me any reason why this morally bankrupt Prime Minister is not a bigger threat to the Union than any nationalist?

Absolutely, without any difficulty, I can. The Prime Minister is a man of optimism, he is a man of vision and he is a man who delivered the trade deal running up to Christmas last year when no one said he could. He showed courage. He showed foresight in investing in the vaccine development, and he has gone on to deliver the fastest vaccine roll-out in Europe.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on his reading ability, and I notice that he did not use the word “honesty”—there’s a surprise. I know the Secretary of State has cancelled his own Christmas party this year, so I look forward to seeing the photographs from it in the press shortly.

A major strength of the Union is of course the pooling and sharing of resources. The First Minister has announced a raft of new covid guidance this week that has devastated the hospitality trade. At the same time, she has offered pitiful financial support and criticised the UK Government for not providing funds. Such sectors want our two Governments to work together: they need our help. A hospitality business in my constituency sent me an email last night, saying:

“my customers have been driven away so we won’t survive these latest restrictions without government support. We always need a good festive season to see us through the winter. Where is the financial support?”

Why can the UK and Scottish Governments not work together to provide the financial support that these hospitality businesses deserve and need?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very serious point. Hospitality is under a lot of pressure across the United Kingdom, not least in Scotland. The Treasury announced yesterday afternoon, just ahead of the First Minister’s statement, that we were giving the Scottish Government certainty over their finances, and that is the first point I would make. What the Scottish Government have failed to do is set out what measures they believe are right for Scotland and how much these would cost, and that is an important thing to understand. They have also failed to explain how they cannot afford to act on their own, given that they have a record settlement this year of over £41 billion of block grant—the highest block grant settlement in real terms since devolution began.

Following on from the shadow Secretary of State, could I ask the Secretary of State whether he was invited to any of these parties in Downing Street and whether he had any knowledge of these parties?

If the hon. Lady had been at the Scottish Affairs Committee last Monday, when I was one of the witnesses—or if she had read the briefing from that—she would know that I was asked that question by the Chairman, the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), and I answered very clearly that, first, I had no knowledge of the parties, and secondly, I was not at any of them.

I am sorry for the floundering social life of the Secretary of State, but if I could, I will move on to the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Steven Bonnar) made. We talk about the Prime Minister’s vision, but does that vision not go against what the majority of people in Scotland voted for, given that they are against Brexit, the majority are against the Prime Minister and they are against the Conservatives? So is it not the case that the best chance this Prime Minister has of saving the Union and rebuilding trust in our covid response is by resigning?

Order. I am going to allow that, but we really need to be within the scope of the question. It is party politics, and I do not want us to get into that, but it is Christmas, so I am sure the Secretary of State will want to answer.

You are right, Mr Speaker. I would say again to the hon. Lady, if we are talking about majorities, that the First Minister failed to get a majority in May. Let us be clear that less than a third of Scots voted for her in May. Our focus, and the Prime Minister’s focus, is on fighting this pandemic and then recovery from this pandemic, and on bringing forward great things for Scotland, such as the Union connectivity review, freeports and investing directly with local authorities structural funds.