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Strengthening the Union

Volume 721: debated on Thursday 27 October 2022

This Government are committed to delivering for citizens across the UK, whether it is protecting households against rising energy prices or stimulating growth through the creation of freeports. When we act as one United Kingdom, we are safer, stronger and more prosperous, and we remain committed to working collaboratively with the devolved Governments on the collective challenges ahead.

I thank my hon. Friend for his answer, and it is good to see my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the team on the Front Bench. I have been fortunate enough to work in all four corners of this great Union—and Cornwall; my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) is no longer in his place. We have fought shoulder to shoulder for freedom and democracy all over the world, not least at Waterloo and the landing beaches of Normandy. Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be foolish to let this great and successful Union fall apart on a whim, with the aid of the likes of Mel Gibson? Should there not be a legislated timeframe—say, 25 years—before another referendum can be held?

I thank my hon. Friend for his excellent and, as always, good-humoured point. People across Scotland want both their Governments to be working together and focusing their attention and resources on the issues that matter to them, not talking about yet another independence referendum.

I am delighted to see the Ministers in their places. Cross-border transport links are essential for strengthening the Union and connecting people across the United Kingdom. Yesterday I had a positive and productive meeting with the Ministers at the Scotland Office to see how we can push forward the extension of the Borders railway. Campaigners hope that the UK Government will soon give the green light to the next steps of the plan and consider extending the railway to Hawick, Newcastleton and on to Carlisle. Can the Minister confirm that the Government are committed to moving that project forward as soon as possible?

I know that my hon. Friend has been a great champion on this issue. I can confirm that the Department for Transport has been working closely with Transport Scotland and the Borderlands Partnership on development of the evidence behind a possible extension of the Borderlands railway, following commitments made in the Borderlands inclusive growth deal. The DFT will continue to work closely with all parties and is considering the next steps.

I wonder how the Minister thinks the Government’s repeated and increasingly blatant disregard for the Sewel convention helps to strengthen the Union.

Again, I refer the hon. Member to my earlier answers. If he would like to meet me, I am more than happy to discuss the issue with him at greater length.