Scotland in the World: A New Perspective

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Mr. Salmond: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Foulkes: The hon. Gentleman has had far too many interventions already.

A vast number of contributors to the debate welcomed the general thrust of the friends of Scotland initiative. We chose experts in the field to sit on the committee, but if the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine has any other suggestions we shall consider them. I welcome the widespread support that has been given, apart, of course, from the rather half-hearted support of the hon. Member for Moray which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith said, was something of a backhanded compliment. If that was a welcome, I wonder what an attack by him would be like. We are dealing with the matter in partnership, as the Secretary of State said, but the hon. Member for Moray does not understand the concept of partnership. The initiative was launched yesterday and we shall second people from various Departments to work with us.

Angus Robertson: Here?

Mr. Foulkes: It will be based in the Scotland Office, and over the next few days, weeks and months we shall give the hon. Gentleman more information.

The hon. Gentleman also raised the question of Flanders.

Mr. Salmond rose—

The Chairman: Order.

Mr. Foulkes: Believe it or not, Mrs. Adams, that speech by the hon. Member for Moray was his first speech as spokesman on international affairs. Did he talk about the wonderful work that we are doing in international development, about the war on terrorism or about our global vision? He sounded like an attendance monitor. He listed the various Council meetings that Scottish Executive Ministers have attended. They attended six in 1999, eight in 2000 and nine between January and July 2001. I am not complacent about that. I give the Committee the assurance that we are looking at appropriate ways for more Ministers to attend more meetings.

Mr. Salmond: On a point of order, Mrs. Adams. The Minister is summing up. I have listened to him many times, and I have never before known him refuse to give way. Has a new procedure been introduced, or is he operating under the instructions of the Secretary of State?

The Chairman: Order. That is not a point of order. The Minister has the Floor; it is up to him whether he gives way.

Mr. Foulkes: And you know, Mrs. Adams, being an experienced Chairman, that I am doing what I am supposed to when winding up, which is replying to the debate and answering those who contributed to it, not those who sat on the sidelines, shouting from a sedentary position.

The hon. Member for Moray seems preoccupied, dare I say obsessed, by Scottish Executive representation at Council meetings.

Annabelle Ewing (Perth): Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Foulkes: No.

I shall give the hon. Member for Moray another few instances. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, my right hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) is a Scottish Member. He attends Finance Council meetings. The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) attends Council meetings, as does the Minister for E-Commerce and Competitiveness, my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Alexander). They are all Scottish Ministers. Opposition Members seem to think that it is only the Scottish Executive that represents Scotland. We, too, represent Scotland. We represent Scotland in reserve.

Annabelle Ewing: I wish to make two quick points. Does the Minister think that a 12 per cent. attendance rate on devolved matters is a good record? He said that the Westminster Parliament should take responsibility; should it take responsibility also for devolved matters?

Mr. Foulkes: We have two attendance monitors now—one for the men, and one for the women. If there is a significant interest for the devolved Administration, we consult Ministers and discuss it with them before their attendance at the meetings—[Interruption.] Some hon. Members are still sniping away from a sedentary position. We shall have many other opportunities to debate the matter. We shall hold more meetings of the Grand Committee.

The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan earlier raised the question of growth and the economy. The events of 11 September are causing concern around the world; it affects all economies, including ours. The Chancellor is not being complacent; he is being realistic. Of course it affects us, but less so than some other countries, because of our employment situation and because we have a sound economy.

What the hon. Gentleman says about the undoubted problems that we face—problems that we are tackling—would be nothing compared with the instability and disruption that would result if the SNP was allowed to break up Britain. The SNP wants to erect borders and barriers, not to build bridges with Europe and the rest of the world. Separatism would damage Scotland in the eyes of the world. It would send out the signal that Scotland was inward looking, constantly harking back to the past rather than looking forward to its new vision of Europe.

Separatism would not enhance Scotland's voice in Europe and the world; it would reduce it. Within the United Kingdom's family of nations, Scotland is a member of G8, NATO, the Commonwealth and the European Union. That is one of the strengths of the United Kingdom. Separatism would mean the setting up of a Scottish foreign affairs department, a Scottish immigration service, a Scottish embassy network, a Scottish army and a Scottish navy. Those are not Scotland's priorities. Scotland's priorities are health, housing, education and transport. That is why the separatists and the narrow nationalists were so resoundingly defeated in June's general election, and opinion polls show that they are going even further down. I welcome the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Duncan), the victor for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale—

It being One o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the Committee lapsed, without Question put.

BP Grangemouth

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Committee do now adjourn.—[Mrs. McGuire.]

Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East): I appreciate the opportunity to speak on the very serious problems facing BP at Grangemouth. The whole Scottish economy will be affected by BP's announcement that it wants up to 1,000 redundancies among its 2,500-strong Grangemouth work force.

I thank the Minister of State, Scotland Office for his excellent support so far, which has been stalwart as usual. It is a very trying time for my constituents. There are many excellent Ministers with an interest in this matter, especially in the DTI, as well as at the energy department and other interested Ministries. My hon. Friend cares about the people of Scotland on a personal level, and he tries to help them individually with his political efforts. He reminds me of the poem ``If'', which refers to being able to walk with kings and not lose the common touch, and that very much describes my hon. Friend.

The Minister and I met the new director of the BP Grangemouth complex, Colin MacLean, and Harry McMillan the director for corporate communications for BP Scotland, the day before the announcement was made public. The Minister gave them a good grilling on all aspects of their proposals.

I have written seeking a meeting with Mike Buzzacot, the chief executive of petrochemicals for Europe, who took over from Brian Sanderson. If I need to, I will go to Lord John Brown's door, the new people's peer, who is the chief executive of BP, if I do not get the answers that are needed to explain how 40 per cent. of a work force can be taken away in such a highly complex and dangerous establishment, without causing either great problems for the work force, or a great threat to that complex.

To avoid running out of time, I would like to put a set of questions to the Minister, and try to weave my comments around them. I must say that we have some very serious concerns about the purpose for BP's demand for 1,000 redundancies. I believe that these redundancies are not justified by the facts as we know them at this time. If BP presses ahead, it will produce serious health and safety concerns for the BP complex and the surrounding community, which I represent and in which I live. I live about one mile back above the BP complex, and I can see every part of the complex, sometimes to the embarrassment and upset of the managers. I can spot when things are going wrong from my window, and often a timely phone call gets them scurrying to correct it. To go ahead without rigorous safety supervision would be a disaster. I will be looking for specific assistance from the Government and the Health and Safety Executive to ensure that risks are not taken at Grangemouth during this process.

I am also concerned that the method for appraising the work force will lead to people who have given loyal service and who have fulfilled every request that BP Grangemouth have made of them, being thrown on the scrap heap. The complex director said to the forum in Grangemouth this week that it will not just be the grey hairs who will be going. He said ``there will people who want to stay that we want to go, and there will be people who want to go, but we want to stay.'' Basically, he is saying that MacLean will rule the day, and he will decide who stays and who goes. I think that that is worrying all 2,500 members of the BP Grangemouth work force.

I believe that representatives of the work force, the trade unions, at the Scottish and national level must be satisfied with the process at every stage. It is clear that BP can achieve the proposed redundancies only by increasing overtime, by working what I believe would be unacceptable levels of overtime. I am told that there is enough overtime at BP Grangemouth to keep another 100 people in full-time employment. That is before the proposed cuts.

The Grangemouth proposals could damage the health of the work force left behind and cause great misery to the people working under those conditions and those put out of work. I believe that this is an experiment in downsizing the work force, which could be carried through not just in BP's complexes throughout the UK but in other petrochemicals complexes as well, if they can get away with it.

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Prepared 28 November 2001