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First Minister of Scotland

Volume 743: debated on Wednesday 17 January 2024

I have repeatedly expressed my commitment to joint working with the First Minister of Scotland to deliver for the people across the country.

I am grateful for that answer. Although much attention has rightly been paid to the Post Office-Horizon scandal, there is another shocking example of Government and private sector collusion that began under the last Labour Administration and has continued under the Tories. Almost 200,000 mortgage prisoners who borrowed with high street lenders such as Northern Rock have become trapped after the portfolio was sold off to foreign entities including Topaz Finance and Heliodor, who have been creaming off extortionate standard variable rates since 2008, leaving even those who kept up with payments in danger of having their homes repossessed. Some 200,000 aspirant homeowners have had their dream taken away from them. Will the Prime Minister, instead of playing catch-up as he is with the Post Office scandal, meet me and campaigners to discuss what more can be done for mortgage prisoners?

I am familiar with the situation for mortgage prisoners, and it was something that I worked on as Chancellor. The Treasury and the current Chancellor have been engaging with campaign groups and others to find ways to resolve it. It is not an easy situation to fix overnight, but things are being looked at as we speak.

Yesterday, the Scotch Whisky Association published a report on the economic impact of the sector not just in Scotland but across the whole UK. Some highlights included that in 2022, it generated £7.1 billion in gross value added, £2.1 billion was invested in capital projects between 2018 and 2022, and 41,000 jobs are supported by the sector in Scotland, including one in nine in my Moray constituency. Does the Prime Minister agree that supporting the Scotch whisky industry in the forthcoming spring Budget and beyond is a correct priority for this Government?

My hon. Friend is a superb ambassador for Moray and Scotch whisky. He is right that it is a hugely successful export industry that supports tens of thousands of skilled jobs across Scotland. I will not tread on the Chancellor’s toes about future Budgets, but I am proud of this Government’s track record of supporting the industry, having removed US tariffs on Scotch whisky, reduced tariffs in deals with countries like Morocco and Argentina and supported the sector’s interests in our free trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand and, most recently, the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership.