Joint Ministerial Committee

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th April 2017.

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Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons) 12:00 am, 19th April 2017

What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Joint Ministerial Committee in ensuring that the needs of all regions and nations of the UK are taken into account in negotiations on the UK leaving the EU.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell The Secretary of State for Scotland

In our negotiations with the EU, we will be seeking the best deal for all parts of the UK. The Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations) was established to facilitate engagement between the UK Government and devolved Administrations, and has had regular substantive and constructive discussions.

Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons)

If the Secretary of State is so keen on and supportive of the JMC, why did the Government vote against putting it on a statutory footing for Brexit negotiations during the passage of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017? Secondly, when was the last time a positive idea—I am sure that there have been many from the devolved Administrations—was taken on board to form part of the Brexit negotiations to improve the exit from the EU for the devolved nations?

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell The Secretary of State for Scotland

We have been very clear about “Scotland’s Place in Europe”, the Scottish Government’s contribution to the discussions. There have also been constructive contributions from the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive. They have set out many things that formed part of the White Paper and the Prime Minister’s speech. They will be part of the discussions as we negotiate our exit from the EU.

Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb Conservative, Preseli Pembrokeshire

The role of the machinery of government in helping to hold together the United Kingdom is an important issue. Does my right hon. Friend agree that a priority for the new Government should be to take a long, hard look at developing new ways of working between Ministers and civil servants across the devolved Administrations to strengthen our United Kingdom?

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell The Secretary of State for Scotland

I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend, who has considerable experience. Despite what we hear at Question Time and in the media, the UK Government and the devolved Administrations are able to work together very closely and constructively on a range of issues. That is the element that we should support and promote.

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Leader of the House of Commons), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

The Prime Minister told the Scottish Parliament that

“now is not the time” when it wanted to let Scotland decide its own future and relationship with Europe, but now is the time for a screeching U-turn and this opportunistic general election. Does the Secretary of State therefore also believe that it is time for the Scottish people to reject the UK Government’s austerity obsession, their assault on the poor, the obnoxious rape clause, and their desire to drive Scotland over the cliff edge of their hard Brexit?

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell The Secretary of State for Scotland

I acknowledge that the hon. Gentleman is an expert on screeching, but the Prime Minister’s proposal to have a general election in six weeks’ time, to ensure certainty, clarity and security for the period of the Brexit negotiations, is different from a proposal to have a disruptive referendum campaign during the period of those negotiations.

Photo of Marcus Fysh Marcus Fysh Conservative, Yeovil

Common commercial policies for the UK to pursue as we leave the EU, for example in animal health and food safety, are as essential to Scotland as they are to Somerset. How can the JMC help to ensure that they will be adopted?

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell The Secretary of State for Scotland

I would certainly hope that the JMC(EN) will be involved in the discussion on the repatriation of important powers from the EU to the Scottish Parliament and the other devolved Administrations. I recognise more than anyone how important it is to have common animal welfare arrangements, as the main livestock market for my constituency is a mile south of the Scottish border in England.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Scottish Parliament/Scottish Government Liaison), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations)

Scotland voted to remain in the EU and the single market, but the Scottish Government’s paper that would have kept Scotland in the single market and the UK was roundly ignored by a Tory UK Government intent on pursuing a reckless hard Brexit. Will the Secretary of State tell us what personal action he took to convince the Prime Minister to take account of the views of the people of Scotland, and can he provide an explanation for why he failed?

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell The Secretary of State for Scotland

I have been clear that Scotland’s place in Europe did play an important part in the Government’s thinking—[Interruption.] Just so that the hecklers on the Opposition Benches are clear, the Government formally responded to the Scottish Government in relation to Scotland’s place in Europe. Surprisingly, the Scottish Government asked us not to publish our response.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Conservative, Torbay

In the Secretary of State’s assessment of the effectiveness of the Joint Ministerial Committee, did he share my conclusion that it would be much more effective if all parties were focused on building a strong UK after Brexit, not separatist agendas?

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell The Secretary of State for Scotland

As we head into unprecedented peacetime negotiations with the EU, it is vital that all parts of the United Kingdom pull together to take a Team UK approach. By doing so, we will get the best possible deal for Scotland and the whole UK.

Photo of David Anderson David Anderson Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

The JMC is supposed to be the platform through which the devolved Administrations have their voices not just heard but responded to. The Secretary of State paints a rosy picture, but he is not listening to those voices. Northern Ireland voices are not being heard at the moment, because they are not allowed to attend. From what we have heard this morning, the Scots are saying clearly that their voice is being ignored. The Welsh feel, at best, less than impressed. Will the Government give this body the teeth it needs, put it on a statutory footing and let it do its job properly?

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell The Secretary of State for Scotland

The purpose of the JMC is to bring together the UK Government and the devolved Administrations, and to work together to formulate our position as we go forward in the negotiations. I very much regret the fact that the Northern Ireland Executive have not been able to be politically present in recent times—we all want that situation to be brought to a conclusion—but the meetings have been robust and, I believe, certainly in terms of the actions that have flowed from them, constructive.