|Scotland in the World: A New Perspective
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.
|©Parliamentary copyright 2001||Prepared 28 November 2001|