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Increasing Devolution Across the UK

Volume 707: debated on Monday 24 January 2022

Unfortunately, the levelling-up fund is already being used to bypass the devolved Governments, and the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 could enable UK Ministers to overrule the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments’ policy decisions. Does the Secretary of State not recognise that riding roughshod over devolution will force the people of Scotland and Wales to choose between a return to direct rule by Westminster and controlling their own future through independence?

I appreciate the point and the way in which the hon. Lady makes it, but it is the case that a number of constituencies in Scotland received money from the levelling-up fund, and that money was allocated on the basis of bids supported by Scottish National party MPs and championed by Scottish National party-led councils. I enjoy working with the Scottish Government to ensure that we can work collectively together. Whatever our views on constitutional questions, the fact that we can work together on such issues is a credit to those Ministers in the Scottish Government who want to take that pragmatic approach and to her parliamentary colleagues who champion funding for their constituencies.

Freeports are one of the ways this Government are levelling up across the devolved Administrations, and I am delighted that there is to be at least one freeport in Wales. Can the Secretary of State update the House about ongoing discussions with the Welsh Government and when we can expect the Welsh freeport bidding prospectus to be published?

I can confirm that we have had very fruitful negotiations not just with the Scottish Government, but with the Welsh Government. I want to place on record my thanks to Vaughan Gething and other Ministers in the Welsh Government, and I hope that we will be able to make an announcement shortly about the process by which we will allocate freeports in Wales. At the moment the proposal is for one freeport in Wales, but I recognise that both south Wales and north Wales have significant potential for freeports in the future, and there are few better advocates, in particular for Anglesey, than my great hon. Friend.

The current Tory leader in Scotland and two former Tory leaders in Scotland, alongside every single Tory MSP, are calling for the Prime Minister to resign after their Scottish branch office leader was sneered at by the Secretary of State as just a man “in Elgin” and the Leader of the House decried him as a “lightweight”. In view of this, can the Secretary of State clarify how the self-declared Prime Minister of the Union will increase devolution while Scots calling for his resignation believe he is actively harming the Union?

I am terribly sorry but I did not realise or appreciate that saying someone came from Elgin was an insult as far as the SNP is concerned; in my view, it is a compliment.