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Brexit: Further Devolution

Volume 630: debated on Wednesday 25 October 2017

2. What his policy is on devolving further powers to Scotland as a result of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU; and if he will make a statement. (901325)

8. What his policy is on devolving further powers to Scotland as a result of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU; and if he will make a statement. (901331)

10. What his policy is on devolving further powers to Scotland as a result of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU; and if he will make a statement. (901333)

14. What his policy is on devolving further powers to Scotland as a result of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU; and if he will make a statement. (901338)

We are in agreement with the devolved Administrations that common frameworks will be necessary in some areas but, as I have made it clear, we expect that there will be a significant increase in the decision-making power of each devolved Administration.

We hear about this powers bonanza all the time, but the Prime Minister was unable to give us details on Monday, and it seems that the Secretary of State was unable to do so yesterday at the Scottish Affairs Committee. Let us give him another opportunity: can he name one power that will definitely come to the Scottish Parliament as a result of Brexit?

We hear repeatedly from the Scottish National Benches about engagement with the Scottish Government, and this engagement will be with the Scottish Government. That is where the discussions are going on in relation to the transfer of powers. I am absolutely certain that, at the end of this process, the Scottish Parliament will have more powers and responsibilities than it does right now.

Among all the fluff of that answer, there was absolutely no substance. For a second time, may I ask the Secretary of State what new powers will be coming to Holyrood as a result of Brexit?

Order. Mr Linden, you are a most over-excitable individual. Calm yourself. I understand your interest, but the question has been put—[Interruption.] Order. There is no need for excessive gesticulation. Whether or not you like the answer, Mr Linden, you must pay the Secretary of State the respect of hearing it, preferably with courtesy.

This is all about grandstanding; it is not about the substantive issue of ensuring a transfer of very significant powers from the 111 powers that were listed to the Scottish Parliament. I believe in devolution. I am committed to devolution and I want to see the maximum number of powers transferred. The Scottish National party does not believe in devolution.

Can I, for the third time, ask the Secretary of State to name one power that is coming? If he is struggling for powers, may I suggest that he considers immigration, so that we can tackle things such as the skills immigration charge, which will be causing a skills shortage and damaging the economy in my constituency?

I can give the hon. Gentleman a definitive answer on the last part of his question. Immigration is not being devolved to Scotland. The Smith commission process identified those areas of responsibility to be devolved, and immigration was not one of them. The Scottish National party accepted that report and, on the basis of that, we implemented it in the Scotland Act 2016.

I am disappointed that, after three questions, we still have not had an answer. On immigration, I am disappointed that the Secretary of State was disinclined to listen to my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Martyn Day). Perhaps he will listen to Nobel laureate Joe Stiglizt who, over the weekend, said that Scotland should have the powers to go its own way in migration policy. He knows a bit more about this than we do, so is he right?

I seem to remember that Professor Joe Stiglizt supported independence for Scotland, but the people of Scotland knew a bit more than the professor and decided to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom.

My right hon. Friend has been crystal clear that Brexit offers opportunities and powers. The SNP talks down Scotland, and specifically Aberdeenshire, the city that has managed to recover from the oil downturn. Why cannot it recognise that the new powers and EU withdrawal offers opportunities to Scotland, specifically to Aberdeenshire?

I am disappointed that the SNP is here in Westminster adopting this sort of pantomime approach to the very important issue of powers rather than engaging in a constructive way. Fortunately, it appears that the Scottish Government are adopting a more responsible approach, which is why there are substantial discussions between the UK and Scottish Governments.

12. May I draw my right hon. Friend’s attention to the new inquiry on devolution and Brexit launched by the Select Committee on Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs? As well as promoting discussion among the governments of the United Kingdom, we want to promote discussion among the parliamentarians in the four parliaments of the United Kingdom in order to resolve these very difficult issues. (901336)

I very much welcome the contribution to the debate of my hon. Friend’s Committee. Of course, it is very important that there is engagement across Parliaments, and I will be appearing before both the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee and the Finance and Constitution Committee of the Scottish Parliament in the next couple of weeks.

My right hon. Friend will be aware that Scotland’s trade with the UK is worth four times as much as its trade with the EU. Does he find it confusing, as my constituents and I do, that the SNP is quite happy for us to stay in one single market, but advocate Scotland leaving the greatest single market right here on its doorstep—the United Kingdom?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. It is important that some of the powers and responsibilities that come back from Brussels are subject to UK-wide frameworks so that we can continue to benefit from our internal market in the United Kingdom.

Leaving the EU will inherently make the Scottish Parliament more powerful as we take back control from Brussels. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the SNP Government’s confused EU policy would simply see the new powers gained handed straight back to Brussels?

It is very important that the 500,000 yes supporters who voted to leave the European Union are absolutely clear that the SNP’s position is to take Scotland right back into the EU.

We all know that the Tories have a dubious record on devolution. After all, they opposed the creation of the Scottish Parliament in the first place. In stark contrast, the Labour party laid the foundations for the Scottish Parliament and will always act in its best interests. The Secretary of State says that the Scottish Parliament will get new powers eventually. Well, new powers require additional resources to deliver, so will he tell us how much more money the Scottish Parliament will obtain to fund these new powers? Will he also guarantee, unequivocally, that Brexit will not result in the Scottish Parliament’s budget being cut?

I take issue with the hon. Gentleman’s analysis of devolution. I have been in this Parliament to see through both the Scotland Act 2012 and the Scotland Act 2016, which have seen a significant transfer of powers to the Scottish Parliament. I am determined that Brexit will see a further transfer of powers and responsibilities to the Scottish Parliament. Of course, it will need to be done in an orderly way, which will be the purpose of clause 11 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. We will work closely with the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament to ensure that that transfer of powers is orderly.

Does the Secretary of State agree that Scotland’s two Governments—the UK Government and the Scottish Government—should work together in co-operation to get the best Brexit deal for the people of Scotland?

The London School of Economics has said that a hard Tory Brexit will cost Scotland £30 billion, the Fraser of Allander Institute has said that 80,000 jobs could go and a former Department for Exiting the European Union official has said that Scotland will be get the hardest impact. The Secretary of State said at the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs yesterday that economic impact assessments are available for Scotland. Will he release them to the Scottish people so that they can examine them and know the full scale of this disastrous Tory Brexit?

It would not be Scotland questions if we did not hear from the doom-monger-in-chief. Let me be quite clear, as I was in my appearance before his Committee. Both Governments have carried out important analysis, which they will share and discuss, but this Government—as Parliament has approved—will not be publishing anything that would be detrimental to our negotiating position.

In evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee yesterday, the Secretary of State suggested that a common framework should not be imposed on the devolved Administrations by the UK Government but should instead be the output of a collaborative process. Will he confirm that that is indeed the Government’s position?

I very much welcome my hon. Friend’s important question, which gets to the heart of the issue—in marked contrast to the pantomime stuff we had earlier. I can absolutely confirm that. A UK framework does not mean the UK imposes a framework; it means agreement is reached between the UK Government and the constituent parts of the United Kingdom.

Four times the Secretary of State has been asked to name a single power that will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, and four times he has declined to answer. I see little point in asking him a fifth time, but let me ask him this: when will the Government publish a schedule setting out which powers will be devolved to the Scottish Parliament and which will not? [Interruption.]

Order. The hon. Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) really should not walk across the line of sight.

I am grateful for the apology. It was unfair to the hon. Member for Edinburgh East (Tommy Sheppard).

If the hon. Gentleman had not prefaced his question with those initial remarks, he would have asked a sensible question. I have set out that there is a dialogue ongoing with the Scottish Government in relation to the 111 powers. I set that out in much more detail at the Committee for which he was present yesterday, so I will not repeat what I said, but I am hopeful that, in early course, we will be able to publish exactly that sort of list.

The right hon. Gentleman’s refusal to name a single power, or even to set a timetable for saying when he will do so, can lead us to only one conclusion: that there are forces in his Government that do not want to see any powers devolved at all. How does that sit with his Department’s responsibility to protect the devolution settlement?

I have rarely heard such complete and utter nonsense. I will be judged by the Scotland Office’s record on devolution, and that means implementing the Calman commission in full, implementing the Scotland Act 2016 in full and taking forward the return of powers from Brussels, with a presumption of devolution. We will deliver, and the people of Scotland will see that we have.