Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland Act

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3 April 2001.

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Photo of Michael Fallon Michael Fallon Conservative, Sevenoaks 12:00, 3 April 2001

What representations she has received from the First Minister concerning borrowings under section 66 of the Scotland Act 1998. [155171]

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes Minister for Education and Industry, Scottish Office, Minister of State (Scotland Office)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has received no representations from the First Minister concerning borrowings under section 66 of the Scotland Act 1998.

Photo of Michael Fallon Michael Fallon Conservative, Sevenoaks

If the rest of the public sector in Scotland were to follow the example of teachers in receiving higher pay awards than their counterparts in England, beyond the tolerance of the Barnett formula, would the Minister expect that difference to be financed by the use of tax-raising powers before any recourse to borrowing?

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes Minister for Education and Industry, Scottish Office, Minister of State (Scotland Office)

The question is a pretence because it is nothing to do with section 66, which relates to meeting a temporary excess of sums paid out of the Scottish Consolidated Fund or providing a working balance for the fund, and which is repaid. A lot of nonsense is spoken about teachers' salaries north and south of the border, not least by the hon. Gentleman. Let me give some facts. New Scottish teachers appointed at the beginning of the 2001–02 school year will start at a salary of £16,005. Newly qualified teachers in England and Wales start at £17,001. Experienced teachers in Scotland at the top of the main scale will be paid £25,644 from April 2001 and in England and Wales the sum will be £24,965. There is a different structure. There are swings and roundabouts. The hon. Gentleman has never been in favour of devolution. He is now trying to undermine it. He will not succeed.

Photo of David Marshall David Marshall Labour, Glasgow Shettleston

Does the Minister agree that the Barnett formula is a transparent, fair and stable way of financing Scotland that has served both the United Kingdom and Scotland well for almost three decades? Does he further agree that those who seek its scrapping do so not in the best interests of Scotland, but in the hope of stirring up trouble between the UK Government and the Scottish Executive? Will he therefore confirm that the Government have no plans to scrap the Barnett formula?

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes Minister for Education and Industry, Scottish Office, Minister of State (Scotland Office)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I could not have said it better myself. The Barnett formula is transparent, fair and stable. It allows the Scottish Parliament to decide its own priorities within a finite budget. That is the important thing. Opposition Members in different parties are mischievous and are working together in a common cause to try to undermine devolution. As I have said, they will not succeed. The Barnett formula is working successfully and we have no plans to change it.