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Volume 720: debated on Wednesday 12 October 2022

2. What recent discussions he has had with (a) Cabinet colleagues and (b) the Scottish Government on freeports in Scotland. (901581)

3. What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on when a decision will be taken on the winners of the bids for green freeports in Scotland. (901582)

I have held a number of discussions with the Levelling Up Secretary and his predecessors on freeports. This Government are committed to delivering two new freeports for Scotland to boost economic growth. The UK and Scottish Governments will be making an announcement shortly.

Five high-quality bids for freeports in Scotland have been received. Only two can be successful in this round. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that he will work with partners in the unsuccessful three so that they can realise their ambitions through other means?

Before I answer the question, I would like to thank my hon. Friend for his diligent and excellent work in the Scotland Office. He made a huge impact, and I absolutely thank him from the bottom of my heart.

In answering my hon. Friend’s question, the Government are committed to boosting economic growth in all areas of Scotland. We will use all the levers at our disposal to do so, and we will do that in partnership with the Scottish Government, as we are doing with freeports. Hopefully, that will also include investment zones—discussions are ongoing between officials—and I hope that those who are unsuccessful in their freeport bids can apply for investment zone status, which will help them to increase their economic activity, so the answer is yes. Funnily enough, I do not exclude the freeport winners from going for investment zone status, as that is not identical, and there are advantages in their becoming investment zones as well.

Of all the five excellent bids, I know that my right hon. Friend agrees that, given the focus on a North sea revival, the importance of the North sea transition deal to our future energy security, the dynamic and pioneering spirit of business and industry in the north-east of Scotland, and the fact that we will create 30,000 new jobs in my constituency and around the north-east of Scotland, the Aberdeen and north-east freeport bid will be one that he announces as successful.

I admire my hon. Friend’s enthusiasm for the north-east bid. He is right to be enthusiastic, as he represents that part of Scotland. It is a process, and we are following the metrics, as was done with the English freeports. It is important that we do not make a political decision, and that we make the right decision based on the bids before us. As I say, for those that are unsuccessful, hopefully investment zones will be another route. I have not shown any preference for any bid, and it is right that we do not and do it properly according to the metrics that we set out, because we cannot leave this open to judicial review, which would lead to further delay.

I am glad to hear the right hon. Member say that the Government intend to consider repurposing Scottish green freeports into investment zones. What discussions have been about environmental protection concerns and the removal of EU environmental standards?

There is a full prospectus explaining all that, which we agreed with the Scottish Government. We have put it out to bid. We have five bids, from Orkney down to the Forth and the Clyde, and they all understand the environmental impacts. A lot of it is about reclaiming brownfield land, which is part and parcel of the levelling-up agenda, and I think everyone understands what has to be done environmentally to reclaim brownfield sites.