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House of Commons Hansard
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European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018: Legislative Consent
11 July 2018
Volume 644
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2. What recent discussions he has had with the (a) Scottish Government and (b) Prime Minister on the Scottish Parliament’s decision not to grant a legislative consent motion for the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. [906298]

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9. What recent discussions he has had with the (a) Scottish Government and (b) Prime Minister on the Scottish Parliament’s decision not to grant a legislative consent motion for the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. [906305]

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10. What recent discussions he has had with the (a) Scottish Government and (b) Prime Minister on the Scottish Parliament’s decision not to grant a legislative consent motion for the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. [906308]

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The Joint Ministerial Committee (European Negotiations) met last Thursday and the Prime Minister was fully briefed on the outcome.

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After repeated exclusion from Brexit discussions, the Secretary of State was finally allowed a place at the table at Chequers last week. How did he use that time to speak up for Scotland? What representations did he make on behalf of the Scottish Parliament, given the majority vote to withhold legislative consent?

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The hon. Lady is conflating a number of issues, but what I can confirm to her is, as I discussed with Mr Russell last Thursday, that the Scottish Government produced a very complete document with their views to be fed into that meeting of the Cabinet, and I fed them in.

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That was a bit of a disappointing answer, so may I probe a bit further? The Prime Minister’s Chequers agreement rides roughshod over the Scottish Parliament. Scotland’s economy is heavily reliant on services. Thousands of my constituents work in that sector, yet she is determined to make a deal in which services are taken out. Has the Secretary of State worked out the impact of the Prime Minister’s decision on the Scottish economy yet, and what is he going to do about it?

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At the heart of the issue is a fact in the Scottish Government’s document that this Government could not accept—the Scottish National party Scottish Government do not want to leave the European Union. The Prime Minister is focused on leaving the EU on a basis that not only does the best for British business, but respects the outcome of a referendum across the whole of the UK.

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I hear that the Secretary of State has been going about boasting that he is the longest serving member of Cabinet in role, but it seems odd that being invisible and ineffective has been rewarded. He has failed to represent and respect the democratic will of the Scottish Parliament. He has failed to speak up for Scotland in the Cabinet and failed to meet his promise to debate devolution in the Commons. When will he accept those failures and resign?

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Goodness—the hon. Lady did not get a chance in the debate last week, so she just reheats the same old stuff. At the heart of this is the fact that the SNP does not accept and does not like the representations I make on behalf of Scotland, which are about keeping Scotland in the United Kingdom.

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Over the past year, it has been a huge privilege to work closely with my right hon. Friend on this issue. Does he agree that the ludicrous theatrics of the nationalist party are a disservice to the people of not only Scotland, but the whole United Kingdom, because of the detrimental effect they had on the passage of the EU withdrawal Act?

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I commend my hon. Friend for his efforts as a Minister. He was one of the hardest working Ministers I have ever encountered, and I absolutely agree with what he said. Although there are people in this Chamber who have their differences on Brexit, the SNP is not interested in Brexit—Brexit has been weaponised purely to take forward the cause of independence and have another independence referendum.

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Will my right hon. Friend reassure my constituents that the 2018 Act will not remove any of the Scottish Parliament’s current powers?

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I can absolutely do that. We have heard repeatedly from the SNP about a power grab, but when Nicola Sturgeon reshuffled her Cabinet, she needed more Ministers because of the powers and responsibilities that the Scottish Government were taking on. Today, we learn that they have taken on additional office space in Glasgow for a bigger organisation because they are delivering existing priorities while embracing additional responsibilities.

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Scotland trades around four times as much with the rest of the United Kingdom as it does with the European Union. Does my right hon. Friend agree that our top priority must be to ensure that the internal UK market is protected as soon as we leave the European Union?

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I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. The UK internal market, which, as he says, is worth four times as much to Scotland as trade with the whole of the EU put together, may not be important to the Scottish National party, but it is important to businesses and for jobs in Scotland, and we will stand up to protect it.

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With regard to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act or any issue to do with the EU in this House, will the Secretary of State tell us how many times Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, has demanded that he or any of the 13 Scottish Conservative MPs vote against the Government line?

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Ruth Davidson makes a very clear statement of her position on European issues and contributes fully to the debate. Government Members want to achieve a good deal for Scotland and the UK as we leave the EU. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will bring himself to support that.

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I am keen to get some clarity on the Secretary of State’s discussions with the Scottish Government and the debate at Chequers last Friday. Given that the Chequers agreement talks about a free trade area and a common rulebook, and therefore impacts directly on the areas that were discussed in respect of joint arrangements after Brexit, will he confirm that the content of that agreement was discussed with the Scottish Government in advance?

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This comes back to the same question that the hon. Gentleman asks on each occasion. He cannot accept that Scotland has two Parliaments and two Governments.

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I will take that as a no, then, which is beyond disappointing. The Secretary of State continues his disrespect for devolution. Given that the Government are changing their entire direction with respect to this matter, will he commit today to consulting the Scottish Government and coming to an agreement with them on how to administer things in Scotland after Brexit?

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I am very keen and willing to work with the Scottish Government. As I said, the Scottish Government set out a helpful summary of their position, which we discussed with Mr Russell last week. I then set out the Scottish Government’s concerns and issues during the Cabinet meeting. After that Cabinet meeting, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and people from the Prime Minister’s office updated the Scottish Government on the Chequers summit.

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We need to make faster progress; it is far too slow.

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I feel that I ought to congratulate the Secretary of State on achieving a new milestone as the longest-serving member in one role in the Prime Minister’s Cabinet, but I fear that may be by virtue of his invisibility, rather than his invincibility. As we have just heard, the Secretary of State is failing to stand up for Scotland’s interests when it comes to shipbuilding, and he and his 12 Scottish Tory colleagues have failed to stand up for Scotland’s devolution settlement. Will he use the influence that he should have developed over the past few years and condemn his Government’s handling of the devolution settlement, thereby demonstrating that he is not just Scotland’s invisible man in the Cabinet?

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What I condemn is the once proud Unionist Scottish Labour party repeatedly voting with the SNP in Holyrood. I am afraid they have become just Nicola’s little helpers.