Intergovernmental Relations

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons on 19th June 2019.

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Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy)

What progress the Government have made on their review of intergovernmental relations.

Photo of Ronnie Cowan Ronnie Cowan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Infrastructure)

What progress the Government have made on their review of inter- governmental relations.

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

This is a joint review between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations, and it is incumbent on all Administrations to make progress. There are ongoing discussions across the review’s work streams, which will be discussed at the next meeting of Joint Ministerial Committee (EU Negotiations), which is next week.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy)

The frontrunner to become the next Prime Minister has published an anti-Scottish poem. He believes that a pound spent in Croydon is of more value than a pound spent in Strathclyde, and that a Scottish MP should never be Prime Minister. Does the Secretary of State agree that if the former Foreign Secretary became Prime Minister, it would be a disaster for intergovernmental relations and a boost for Scottish independence?

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

At every Scottish Question Time we hear the assertion that this or that will be a boost for Scottish independence—it has got to the stage where if the chicken crosses the road, it will be a boost for Scottish independence. It is for individual candidates in the Conservative leadership elections to answer questions about their own position and background.

Photo of Ronnie Cowan Ronnie Cowan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Infrastructure)

During an open session of the Political and Constitutional Affairs Committee on Monday 20 May, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was asked whether he could give an update on the progress of the review of intergovernmental relations. He replied:

“I cannot put a firm timescale on this. Perhaps, if we were looking towards the end of this year”.

Given the time that has elapsed, and the uncertain political times we are living through, is that good enough for Scotland?

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

I believe that progress is being made, and I am hopeful that next week’s meeting of the JMC(EN) will provide an opportunity to discuss the principles that would underpin the new IGR agreement. That was discussed with Welsh Government Ministers and Mr Mike Russell at the last meeting of the JMC(EN).

Photo of Mhairi Black Mhairi Black Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Pensions), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Youth affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Children and Families), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Equalities), Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Disabilities)

The current frontrunner to become Prime Minister has previously written that

“government by a Scot is just not conceivable in the current constitutional context.”

Does the Secretary of State agree? Does he believe that such an opinion is helpful to intergovernmental relations?

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

I do not agree, and I am sure that Jo Swinson, should she lead her party, will aspire to the office of Prime Minister. No, I do not agree with that analysis.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

The Scottish Affairs Committee should be holding the Secretary of State to account, but he keeps refusing our invitations. As this is his last Question Time before leaving office in the great Tory purge to come, does he agree that the Scotland Office is no longer fit for purpose, that its function as a propaganda unit is unbecoming of a Government Department, and that it needs serious reform and overhauling—or quite simply to be abolished? What is the point of the Scotland Office?

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray

Like me, the Secretary of State has served as a councillor, an MSP and an MP, so does he agree that we can have political differences within and between the various levels of government, but that that should not be misconstrued as a breakdown in intergovernmental relations?

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

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. Many of the disagreements between the Scottish and UK Governments are over political differences, rooted in the fact that this Government want to respect the outcome of the 2014 independence referendum and the SNP Scottish Government want to have another referendum. They are political disagreements.

Photo of Luke Graham Luke Graham Conservative, Ochil and South Perthshire

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that £1.3 billion has been allocated to Scotland through the city and growth deals? Lessons learned through the city and growth programmes are being played into the Union strategy and intergovernmental relations, so we take the positives out of the incredible investment that is coming to Scotland through the UK Government.

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

I have always believed that the city and growth deals are a clear example of the fact that the two Governments can work together constructively for the benefit of the people of Scotland. That is what people in Scotland want to see.

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

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

The Scottish Affairs Committee has just released our report on intergovernmental relations. It is an evidenced-based, wide-ranging report on a number of important issues. This cross-party report states that the Scotland Office has failed to keep pace with devolution and that most direct intergovernmental relations are conducted outwith the Secretary of State’s Department. I have noticed in some of the press comments that he is not taking this at all seriously, so will he now agree to a proper review of his Department?

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

I do not know to which press comments the hon. Gentleman refers, because although we have our political differences, I respect the work of his Committee and have been clear that I welcome the opportunity for a review of the Scotland Office. I am confident that such a review would result in an enhanced Scotland Office, not the loss of it.

Photo of Lesley Laird Lesley Laird Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

First, I associate myself with colleagues’ remarks and wish the Scotland team all the very best in their final match tonight.

Two parliamentary Select Committees have now recommended that the Secretary of State’s role should be abolished. The Secretary of State ignored Labour’s warning about the democratic deficit of the Joint Ministerial Committee, he botched the devolution element of the Brexit Bill and he has failed to secure funding for Scotland as part of the stronger towns fund. Does he accept any responsibility whatsoever for presiding over the mess that has led to the unprecedented step of two parliamentary Committees calling for his head?

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

I do not know whether the hon. Lady has read the Scottish Affairs Committee report; it might have been helpful, because it does not call for the abolition of the Scotland Office. The SNP obviously wants to see the Scotland Office abolished—the SNP wants to see the UK Government abolished. The report calls for a review, and after 20 years of devolution a review is a perfectly appropriate step to take.

Photo of Lesley Laird Lesley Laird Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland

The issue is how we got to this point. The right hon. Gentleman’s handling of all the issues I have outlined confirms why we are in this mess. Given that he is unhappy in his work, his threats to resign may well be fulfilled by Boris Johnson in a short period.

Both the Secretary of State and Ruth Davidson have flip-flopped on whether they would work with the former Foreign Secretary if he became Prime Minister. Does the Secretary of State think that if the former Foreign Secretary is elected as Prime Minister, his diplomatic skills will come to the fore and he will improve relations between the Scottish and the UK Government, or would it be another Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe moment?

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

I am very clear: I respect democracy and will respect the result of the Conservative leadership election. All five of the candidates who are still in the race are clear that they are Unionists, which is what makes them different from the Leader of the Opposition. They will not be cosying up to the SNP to have a second independence referendum.