‘(1) The Scotland Act 1998 is amended as follows.
(2) In Schedule 5, section E3, leave out—
(a) the Coastguard Act 1925”.
(3) After section 90 insert section 90A as follows—
“Maritime and Coastguard Agency (Scotland)
90A (1) The Maritime and Coastguard Agency is to be treated as a Cross-Border Public Authority for the purposes of sections 88 to 90.
(2) The funding, operation and planning authority of Maritime and Coastguard Agency facilities in Scotland shall reside with the Scottish Government and the appropriate Scottish Minister.
(3) These parts of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency which are the responsibility of Scottish Government shall be known as the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (Scotland).
(4) The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (Scotland) will be responsible for maintaining and upholding domestic and international laws and obligations in the Scottish Waters.
(5) For the purposes of this section, the Scottish Waters are as defined by the Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundary Order 1999.”.’.—(Mr MacNeil.)
Brought up, and read the First time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
New clause 4—Economic incentives for the Scottish maritime industry—
‘(1) The Scotland Act 1998 is amended as follows.
(2) In Schedule 5, section E3, the words “Financial assistance for shipping services which start or finish or both outside Scotland” are replaced with “Financial assistance for shipping services which both start and finish outside Scotland.”.’.
New clause 12—Scottish maritime boundaries—
‘(1) In section 126(2) of the 1998 Act, after “Council”, insert “and with the Consent of the Scottish Parliament”.
(2) At the end of section 126(2) insert “A boundary order shall be issued in 2012.”.’.
Throughout our proceedings, we have heard claims from the Tories and the Liberal Democrats that this Bill is the greatest transfer of powers from Westminster to Scotland in more than 300 years. To ensure that it is truly a transfer of powers, I propose several additions that will see the Scottish Government gain more control over Scotland’s maritime future.
We seek to devolve the operation and funding of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to Scotland, to remove restrictions in the Scotland Act 1998 that prevent the Scottish Government from providing incentives to the shipping industry in Scotland and to ensure that the Scottish Parliament agrees to any movement of the border instigated from London. I am aware that those proposals were not recommended in the Calman commission’s report, but we cannot expect Calman to have thought of everything. Anything might have come from Calman, I suppose, but, of course, it does not matter because the Government have picked and mixed the recommendations as they were made.
New clause 3 was sparked by the Government’s proposals to cut the coastguard service throughout the UK. Those proposals seek to leave three to four co-ordination centres south of the border and only one 24-hour co-ordination centre and one part-time centre in Scotland—there are currently five. The proposals were not meant to be debated in this House and were certainly not presented to the Scottish Parliament. That shows a blatant disrespect not only for the Scottish Parliament and Government but for MPs in this House who, to take my case as an example, will be affected by these decisions.
Through my proposals, we seek to alleviate the financial and administrative burden on the Department for Transport by taking the Scottish portion of the coastguard service out of its realm of responsibility. The decision on the future of the coastguard in Scotland should, rightly, take place in Scotland.
Has the hon. Gentleman assessed the views of the trade unions representing those who work in the coastguard service or the seagoing community about whether they want to see the coastguard service split up in that way?
Yes, I have asked people who work in the coastguard and, yes, they do want to see this happen.
Just to be clear, I did not mean somebody in the coastguard service whom the hon. Gentleman knows. I asked whether trade unions collectively —at least at a Scottish level—support the change.
I hope that the trade unions would act in the best interests of their members’ employment and the coastguard service throughout Scotland and try to maintain coastguard stations in Scotland. I am quite sure that if the Scottish Government—regardless of their party—were in charge of this matter, the savage cuts would not be happening.
Scotland has an estimated 60% of all the coastline in the UK, so the Scottish Parliament and Government should surely be the primary body that decides the future of the force that protects mariners and the community. We have already seen the beginning of the process with the passing of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, and we must continue that through these proposals, which would ensure that the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in Scotland enforced Scots law on environmental matters. We seek to have the MCA fall in line with the local operation of the police, health service and other devolved agencies.
According to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the seas and coastlines are getting more congested, ships are getting larger and the weather is getting worse. With that information in mind, it surely makes sense to implement a division of labour and allow the MCA in England to focus on Southampton and London and leave Scottish waters to Scotland.
Our new clause removes the restrictions in the Scotland Act that prevent the Scots Government from running the coastguard. Once we place it in the category of a cross-border public authority, we will remove nearly £5 million of coastguard co-ordination centre operating costs from the Department for Transport’s budgets alone. That would give us the opportunity in Scotland to secure a proper coastguard service for Scotland. In the past year, we have heard that contracts to provide life-saving helicopters have been bungled completely. Our tugboat services have been cut to save money, in line, we are told, with these austere times, but that unfortunately exposes Scotland to severe gaps in coastline coverage. On a side note, we want to know what will happen to our tugs when these front-line services come up for contract renewal in September.
If Members look closely at the proposals, they will see that we are not attempting to change international agreements or safety legislation. We are simply seeking to ensure that decisions regarding the Scottish coastline are taken in the best interests of Scotland. In short, they move power from Westminster to the most democratic institution representing Scotland—the Scots Parliament.
I would envisage far more than one full-time station in Aberdeen.
This will not be the first time that the House of Commons has heard of the concept of change and of control moving away from the MCA. In 1989, the Isle of Man formed its own coastguard after the UK unilaterally decided to shut down the coastguard co-ordination centre in Ramsey. The Manx Government—perhaps this shows what happens when there is more local control—rightly decided that they should no longer depend on the United Kingdom to protect their coastline and therefore created their own coastguard. That coastguard has five stations open around the Isle of Man and has retained close ties with the Liverpool maritime rescue co-ordination centre, which I would like to remain open.
The Government of the Isle of Man took the right decisions at the right time to ensure that their coast was secure. Surely, it cannot be the will of the Committee to deny Scotland that same inalienable right. This is not the first time that a potential coastguard authority move has been presented. In its illustrious 189-year history, the coastguard has been under the Board of Trade between 1923 and 1939, the Ministry of Shipping from 1939 to 1940, the Admiralty from 1940 to 1945, the Ministry of War and then the Ministry of Transport from 1945 to 1964, the Department of Trade from 1964 to 1983, the Department of Transport from 1983 to 1997 and finally, the Department for Transport from
2002 to this date. All we seek to do is move that one step further and ensure that the Scots coastguard reports directly to Scotland.
I agree with the substance of what the hon. Gentleman is saying about the effects of the cuts to the coastguard system, but would he be proposing this change if the cuts to the maritime coastguard service were not being made at the Department for Transport? He is in danger, I think, of opening himself up to accusations of opportunism if this move is a response to budget cuts rather than a point of principle. I am not aware that this point of principle has been raised by the SNP in the past.
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman agrees with me on the substantial thrust of my argument and I hope to see him with me in the Lobby as a result. Would I have done this if such a proposal had not been made at the moment? Perhaps not, but given the safety concerns, this matter is pressing. Given that the process started without any risk assessment from the MCA, despite the relevant Minister telling me at the Dispatch Box that there had been such an assessment, I think that politics has to meet the pressing concerns among Royal National Lifeboat Institution crews, people who used to be involved in shipping, working coastguards and a variety of people across the community—certainly in the highlands and islands and, I imagine, further down to the Clyde and over to the Forth and, indeed, Shetland.
New clause 4 would redress a bizarre part of the Scotland Act that prevents the Scottish Government from creating incentives for the maritime industry in Scotland. Currently, the Government of Scotland have the ability to incentivise travel for maritime journeys that both start and end in Scotland, which has meant that a successful pilot project on the west coast for the road equivalent tariff has been brought to the Outer Hebrides and to Coll and Tiree. We hope that policy will continue, as it has done quite a lot to help the economies of those areas in a time of severe economic downturn.
Maritime policy is vital to Scotland as we are responsible for 70% of all the fish landed in the UK. Aberdeen is home to the North sea oil industry and lands nearly 4.5 million tonnes of cargo annually from approximately 8,000 ships. Clyde port lands 7.5 million tonnes of cargo and Stornoway port in my constituency has 200,000 people travelling through it each year. The ability to control the maritime economy is surely vital to what is a maritime nation. It is vital to secure future growth in the Scottish economy.
The figures that I have presented for the Aberdeen and Clyde ports are small in comparison with Southampton, which lands 75 million tonnes of cargo annually. Currently, the shipping industry coalesces around the south of England leaving little else for the rest of the UK. It is peculiar that most of Scotland’s goods are transported to the south of England and then driven into Scotland. With ever-increasing fuel costs and more congested motorways, surely that is not a good idea. The cost of moving goods to Scotland will invariably increase as the costs of transportation increase, and we propose that costs could be saved if there were an incentive for ships to land their goods in Scotland. The professor of maritime research at Edinburgh Napier university, Alf Baird, put it succinctly when he said that
“the present reality is that firms located in Scotland are considerably worse off in international transport cost terms compared with firms located close to hub ports in the south east of England…firms in the central belt of Scotland are between 15-23% worse off, while firms in the highlands are 22-33% worse off, and firms located on remote islands between 37-63% worse off…From a purely Scottish perspective this therefore raises the question—is the current method of serving Scottish industry’s global import and export needs through remote UK ports sustainable in the long run? Or, in other words, will rising domestic UK transport costs (rail as well as road) make Scottish industry even less competitive in global markets than it is today, leading to further job losses”— that is the important point, as we want to keep people in employment—
“in manufacturing and reduced competitiveness?”
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is glad to pause for breath. He has said that he is proposing these new clauses because Calman missed them out, but did he put forward any submissions to the Holyrood Bill Committee or the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs about these matters?
The most appropriate place for the measures is in the Bill, which is why I have chosen to bring them forward now.
Professor Baird has asked rather straightforward questions that should be addressed by a specific maritime policy with regard to seaport provision in Scotland and the impacts of such a policy for trade and economic development. Surely, Scotland should be able to entice shippers to send goods to our ports. As the home of the large northern ports of the UK, we are well placed to provide efficient ports for shipping goods throughout Scotland and, perhaps, the rest of the UK. We should at least be given the opportunity to try. However, there are restrictions in place and all we can do is hope that companies land their goods there. This issue is at the crux of our main argument. Scotland needs to have the economic levers to promote growth, which would also help with the aggregate growth of the British Isles. Without the ability to entice business to Scotland, we will lose a real chance to grow sectors of our economy that could provide a counterweight to other portions of the Scottish economy. Our new clauses would ensure that the Scottish Government have the ability to promote the Scottish shipping industry and Scottish ports.
My final new clause concerns Scottish maritime borders. New clause 12 would ensure that the agreement of the Scottish Parliament was needed for any future change to Scotland’s maritime borders and that a new border order would be made next year. To those who think this an insular, politically driven clause, I ask this question: “Why is the Scottish Parliament not part of the decision-making process in determining Scotland’s borders?” This new clause deals specifically with the Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999, which moved Scotland’s maritime boundary north by several degrees giving 6,000 square miles of water to England. The Government never consulted the Scots Government or the Scottish people about that. I understand that an Order in Council was made and discussed in the UK Parliament, but I was not in the House in 1999. The Scots Parliament has debated the matter in earnest, and although jibes were passed between the parties—as is inevitable—the outcome was clear: the UK Government were dismissing that brand new Parliament and no one really knew why.
“That the Parliament notes the terms of the report by the Rural Affairs Committee, The impact of the Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999 (SP paper 42), in particular its dissatisfaction and concern about the level of consultation carried out prior to the introduction of the boundaries order, that the introduction of a boundaries order appears not to have identified any inconsistency with the Civil Jurisdiction (Offshore Activities) Order 1987, and that the amount of fishing activity in the disputed area does not appear to have influenced the Order, and further notes the Committee’s recommendation that the Secretary of State for Scotland should either introduce a new, revised Order, or support a Bill calling for a revised boundary proposed in the House of Commons by Archy Kirkwood MP.”—[Scottish Parliament Official Report,
Archy Kirkwood is now Baron Kirkwood of Kirkhope.
The Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles said
“The secretary of state’s view can be justified only if he believes that changing the boundary sets an unwelcome precedent. In my view, that is an entirely negative and unnecessary approach. He could have taken the opportunity to demonstrate positively that both the UK Government and the Scottish Executive are prepared to work in partnership to smooth out difficulties such as this that have emerged as a result of the Scotland Act 1998. It was a mistake.”—[Scottish Parliament Official Report,
After the debate, the Government were lambasted in the press, with constitutional expert Alan Perry calling the Government’s reasoning into doubt. In the Litigation Review, he wrote:
“Without any real prior consultation or warning, the order effectively removed some 6,000 square miles of sea off the east of Scotland from the Scottish to the English jurisdiction…The government claims that it has simply drawn an 'equidistance' line between Scottish and English waters in conformity with international law…This claim is disingenuous in the extreme.”
Mr Perry, who has 25 years’ experience and mostly works on public international law cases, said there was no general rule in international law that equidistance was a proper basis for such a line. He asked:
“Must we then conclude that this dreadful blunder is simply an example of monumental incompetence?”
I seek to correct that blundering incompetence with my new clause. I cannot think of any reason why the Scots Parliament—the elected voice of the people of Scotland—does not have the right even to be consulted regarding proposals to move our borders. Surely, devolution means that the House has given real powers to the Scots Parliament and not piecemeal powers because of fears about particular Governments.
Tonight’s vote will be a litmus test of Scots MPs in particular—a marker that will, perhaps, ring in history. There is no reason to oppose my new clauses, especially the last one, as they help Scotland. The House has to stop holding us back in the name of the Union. Some say that the political Union has done great things to benefit London but very little to benefit the whole of Scotland, and perhaps I am one of them. I would say that London has benefited more from those it is not politically united with. Indeed, the aggregate gross domestic product of the British Isles is higher due to the independence of autonomous areas around the UK, such as Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. I note that their Governments have not applied to be absorbed into the UK.
All the hallmarks of the great devolution dividend are falling apart around us. The coastguard service is to be cut as the Scottish seas are becoming more and more congested, and VAT has risen to 20%.
Before the hon. Gentleman disappears off the map of the maritime borders of the UK, may we return to the subject in hand? As someone who represents the busiest port in Scotland, Grangemouth, it concerns me that the ships that come in and out of it travel more in non-Scottish waters than in Scottish waters to reach that port. Dividing the forces that need to be gathered to fight the terrible cuts in the entire UK coastguard service that are coming from the Government and hiving off Scotland would not greatly advantage the people who come in and out of the port that I represent. Is it not better that we stand together and fight the cuts than try to divide into two different land masses and two different Governments?
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that there is more than one way to skin a cat. I am also sure that he would like to see a busier port in Grangemouth and a Government able to incentivise greater activity in Grangemouth. I therefore expect him to support my new clauses.
These measures will mean that the Scottish Parliament and Government can get on with the job of making Scotland better and allow the rest of the UK to focus on what it considers to be important. This is a litmus test that will show Scotland which of its MPs stand for Scotland and which of them focus on party advantage. I intend to press new clauses 3 and 12 to Divisions.
I shall speak mainly on new clause 3. I am rather bemused by the contribution that we have just heard on new clause 12. Mr MacNeil has presented a dangerous argument, and I am not sure whether I totally understand it.
I have always understood that the current boundary was agreed by international negotiation in 1707. The Scottish border used to go down as far as Newcastle and in some respects almost as far as Bolton, I think, but things have changed. I know that the SNP has a hang-up about the oil industry and the fact that what it sees as its rightful share has been stolen from it. However, there are much more serious issues to be discussed today.
The hon. Gentleman appropriately raised the issue of the coastguard. I know that his coastguard station in Stornoway is one of the stations under threat. It is right for him to fight for it, but it is not right to extend the argument to where nationalists tend to end up—that the only way to solve a problem is to move it to Scotland. There is a serious issue around the reorganisation of the coastguard. He knows as well as I do that in Scotland there will be just two stations—the maritime operating centre, which it is proposed will be in Aberdeen in my constituency, and either Shetland or Stornoway.
My understanding is that Shetland did not figure in the original Government proposal, but a certain amount of influence within Government has seen Shetland on the list. I hope the hon. Gentleman wins his battle to save the Stornoway station. That battle is entirely appropriate. Apart from anything else, the fact that in the Western Isles there is a preponderance of Gaelic speaking and Gaelic place names means that, if there is any risk in that area, it is essential that the geography is properly understood. It is important to make that point.
Given what the hon. Gentleman has said, surely he understands my argument that it would be better for control to lie in the Scottish Parliament and with the Scottish Government. Since 1999, the Scottish Government have been either SNP or Labour-led. My new clause would remove the Maritime and Coastguard Agency from the clutches of the Conservatives, whose tendency seems to be to cut. Would the hon. Gentleman prefer to leave the agency with the Conservatives?
My argument is that a problem is not solved just by moving it to Scotland. There are fundamental problems with the coastguard—for example, most of the equipment that it uses is 40 years out of date. There is new technology available which is necessary for proper safety on our seas. The money needs to be invested. Given the present financial situation, one of the few ways that money can be invested, sadly, involves the closure of a number of coastguards. I have been told by workers at my own coastguard that with the new technology, Aberdeen could cover the whole of Scotland, but the point that I made earlier about the Western Isles is recognised. The issue will not be resolved simply by asking for it to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament.
I am by no means in favour of everything proposed in the consultation paper published by the Government, but what is needed is a properly co-ordinated national system, which we do not have at present. We have groups or pairs of coastguard stations which can communicate with one another, but in the event of a major disaster or a major incident, it is difficult to see how we could get the full benefit of a national system and the investment that we need to make by separating the Scottish service from the rest of the UK and allowing that to operate on its own.
I was heavily involved in the aftermath of the Piper Alpha disaster, when the coastguard played a pivotal role—I do not know which other stations were involved. The service then was very similar to what it is now, and there was not the capacity to involve the whole of the coastguard operation throughout the UK. Given what we have seen in other countries in recent years, it is possible that that facility may be necessary in the future. As I have said, the way to resolve a major infrastructure problem is not to cut it off and devolve it to Scotland, which is a blinded and fundamentalist view of how we should function.
We need a co-ordinated system throughout the UK. One of the key weaknesses of breaking up the system is what the Scottish Government would or could do with it. Like many people, I am suspicious about the fact that the SNP Government in Edinburgh have made no attempt to give us a proper Budget for the next three years, as we have seen the current Government and the previous Labour Government produce for the UK. Of course, there is an election on the way, so that will be the main consideration.
If the coastguard system is to be upgraded to modern standards, where will the necessary money come from? If the hon. Gentleman was successful with his new clause, there would clearly have to be some transfer of money from the UK to pay for the existing system, but not for upgrading it. The system that I hope will be based in my constituency at Aberdeen, once the consultation exercise is over and the investment has been made, will serve not just Scottish waters, but almost half the UK—it will be capable of serving the whole UK. Would that be on offer in a system run under the narrow nationalist view that the hon. Gentleman is taking? I do not know.
I need to know, and the Committee needs to know, where the money will come from to upgrade and modernise the system. It is not clear that that money exists in the Scottish Budget. If the SNP Government cannot afford to build any new schools and are not able to fund local services properly, how will they modernise the coastguard system, which is essential for the safety of our maritime fleet, our sailors and our fishing industry? The hon. Gentleman is well aware of the dangers inherent in that industry. There are more industrial accidents and deaths in the fishing industry than in virtually all the rest of industry in Britain put together. The most dangerous industry in Britain depends on the coastguard, and many operators in the fishing industry are based in his constituency.
If the new clause is part of a campaign to save the hon. Gentleman’s own coastguard station, fine. I can accept it on those terms, but if it is a serious attempt to change the system, it must be rejected.
This is a debate on an important issue, and in many respects I share the sentiments expressed by Mr Doran. If Mr MacNeil is raising the issue to ensure that it is debated and his concerns are heard, then I accept his right to do so. However, if he is seriously suggesting that the coastguard service should be devolved, then obviously the Government cannot accept his proposal. The point to be made is that this matter was not brought before the Calman commission; nor was it brought before the Scottish Parliament’s Bill Committee or the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs as something that he had considered, along with the other changes that he proposed. Indeed, I am not even aware of the matter being raised as part of the so-called national conversation—something that you will have heard about in these exchanges, Ms Primarolo—which was promoted by the SNP Government in Edinburgh with the primary purpose, it would appear, of furthering the cause of independence at public expense.
If agreed, new clause 3 would devolve the funding and management of coastguard services to the Scottish Parliament and a new Marine and Coastguard Agency (Scotland) would be formed. A consultation is currently under way on proposals for modernising the coastguard service, as the hon. Member for Aberdeen North said.
The Government are inviting comments from staff, partner organisations and the public, and the consultation is on our proposed blueprint for the future structure of Her Majesty’s coastguard. We are confident that the concept would produce a nationally networked coastguard service that was resilient, effective and efficient. However, the Government have recognised—including the Prime Minister, in an exchange with the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, which I saw—the considerable strength of feeling on the issue in certain parts of the United Kingdom, and have therefore extended the consultation period for an additional six weeks. Indeed, given the relevance and importance of the issue, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Mike Penning had hoped to be present for this debate, but he is now travelling to Stornoway and Shetland as part of an ongoing consultation and dialogue. He has met Members throughout the country, given the concerns that have been raised.
The proposals include the establishment of two nationally networked maritime operations centres in Aberdeen and the Southampton-Portsmouth area. There would also be six fully integrated sub-centres located at Dover, Falmouth, Swansea, Liverpool or Belfast, Stornoway or Shetland, and Humber. With the exception of Dover, the sub-centres would operate in the daytime only. I stress again that the current proposals for coastguard modernisation are out to consultation. No decisions have been taken. Scottish interests will be taken into account when weighing up the needs of Scotland and the rest of the UK. However, as has been said, the simple transfer of powers would in no way guarantee how they would be used, what approach a future Scottish Government would take to the coastguard, or our ability to produce a nationally networked coastguard service.
It is important to note that coastguard activities are interlinked with maritime services generally. They are very much an international activity. The parameters of many coastguard functions are largely determined by merchant shipping law, so if the former were devolved while the latter as a whole remained reserved, there would be potential for much confusion and either overlaps or gaps in functional coverage of the substantive law. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency is an Executive agency with no separate legal existence from the Secretary of State for Transport. It has a large number of responsibilities other than those relating to the coastguard and search and rescue functions. For example, it deals with merchant shipping and acts on behalf of the Receiver of Wreck. It is not clear from the new clause whether the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar intends Scottish Ministers to assume responsibility for all those functions—although given his views on such matters, I suspect that he does intend that—or simply for those relating to search and rescue at sea.
The Commission on Scottish Devolution, on which this Bill is based, did not review the coastguard service; therefore this Bill is not the place for discussions about it. That is the purpose of the ongoing consultation. I urge the hon. Members for Na h-Eileanan an Iar and for Aberdeen North, along with all those with an interest in this matter, to make their views known as part of that process.
New clause 4 would devolve funding arrangements for shipping services. I have to concede that the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar enthusiastically sped through his points about it, although the matters that he raised would have merited further discussion, as part of the fuller Calman process or the Committee’s considerations. He made important points about incentivising the use of remote points, but this is not the appropriate moment to introduce that without the sort of scrutiny and analysis that we have seen for other clauses in the Bill.
New clause 12 deals with Scottish maritime boundaries. It seeks to require the consent of the Scottish Parliament to any order made under section 126(2) of the Scotland Act 1998, and to require a boundary order to be issued in 2012. Again, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Calman commission did not recommend that provision, and as far as I am aware it was not raised with him.
The Minister keeps going on about things not being raised by the Calman commission, but nor was Antarctica or appeals to the Supreme Court. The Minister cannot have it both ways. The Government are introducing some stuff that was not in Calman, so surely they can consider other stuff that was similarly not in Calman.
As the hon. Gentleman is aware, the issue of Antarctica was fully considered by the Scottish Parliament’s Bill Committee and the Scottish Affairs Committee. It was not simply plucked out of the air and dealt with in an amendment in this place.
I understand the SNP’s dogmatic opposition to the Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order 1999 and its view that if Scotland had more ocean under its control, that ocean would benefit from SNP policies, but I am afraid that it is not a view I subscribe to. As the SNP knows, the Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order has two effects. First, it determines the boundary of waters that are to be treated as internal waters or the territorial sea of the UK adjacent to Scotland. That is relevant to the definition of “Scotland” in section 126(1) of the 1998 Act, which is used for the purpose of exercising devolved functions and the extent of the Scottish Parliament’s legislative competence. Similar provision is made in legislation relating to Northern Ireland and Wales for the purposes of their devolution settlements.
Secondly, the order determines the boundary of those waters to be treated as sea within British fishery limits adjacent to Scotland. That is relevant to the definition of “the Scottish zone”—in section 126(1) of the 1998 Act—in which the Scottish Parliament has legislative competence to regulate sea fisheries in accordance with the EU’s common fisheries policy and where fishermen are subject to Scots law. Scottish Ministers also have various Executive functions that are exercisable in the Scottish zone in relation to matters such as licensing and planning.
Crucially, the order defines boundaries off both the west and east coasts using the median line mythology recommended by the UN convention on the law of the sea. It is always interesting when we find the SNP in disagreement with the UN because it does not suit its purposes. This is the standard international mythology—methodology for defining water boundaries. It is illogical to use it off the west coast but deploy a boundary based on historical practice off the east coast. The Government have no plans to redefine the nautical boundaries between Scotland, England and Northern Ireland. We cannot accept that a boundary order should be issued in 2012 when no reason has been given for the need to do so other than SNP dogma. Although we recognise the strength of feeling on the coastguard, which is an important topic of debate, I urge the hon. Gentleman not to press his new clause.
I will be brief in the hope that we will get to the vote. I am perplexed as to why Mr Doran wants to leave the Tories in charge of Scotland’s coastguard.
The hon. Gentleman says temporarily, but in my lifetime I have seen an awfully lot of time that he might call temporary—the 18 years from 1979 to 1997. We then had Labour saying that it could do this, that and the rest of it and that we should vote Labour to stop the Tories, and that did not work once.
The hon. Member for Aberdeen North said that the new clause would not resolve the issue, but surely it would at the very least lessen the problem by moving responsibility for the coastguard to Scotland. He said that he wants a properly co-ordinated national system. That is what I want, but I fear that we will not get it because of the cuts. I recognise and respect his input and involvement in Piper Alpha. He probably misses the point that the Isle of Man has its own coastguard and seems to co-ordinate well with Liverpool, and presumably with the Republic of Ireland as well. I am disappointed that he descended into making slurs; he could have done better. The new clause is about saving coastguard stations in Scotland and keeping a coastguard in Scotland.
I of course welcome the Minister’s encouragement on ports, but he should be aware that I am trying to keep a level of coastguard service in Scotland. Regardless of the party in power in Scotland, I am quite sure that such savage cuts should not be made to our marine insurance policy, the coastguard stations. In short, the Minister sees London as the only way, and that there can be no other way such as on the Isle of Man.
No, I will make progress.
I see that the Minister was happy that the sea area was taken from Scotland in 1999, and he revealingly made a Freudian slip by saying “mythology”. Why was that change made in 1999? I fear that he has given up his birthright for a mess of pottage.
I shall seek to divide the Committee on new clause 3 and—I hope—on new clause 12.