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26 Nov 2002 : Column 149continued
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mrs. Anne McGuire): My right hon. Friend and I have regular discussions with the Scottish Executive on a wide range of issues. The recycling of waste, however, is a devolved area of responsibility.
Miss Begg : My constituents are concerned about a proposal to build a very large incinerator in Aberdeen, South. If that proposal is turned down because it does not receive planning permission or if it turns out to be much smaller than planned, it will be crucial to lessen through recycling or waste minimisation the amount of waste that we produce. This Parliament has responsibility for incentives that promote waste minimisation, that encourage business to use recycled materials and that help to create markets for such materials. Will my hon. Friend hold discussions with the Treasury to help to ensure that it is gives as many incentives as it can to encourage recycling and to make sure that we have less waste to deal with?
Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, Pollok): Does my hon. Friend agree that not all recycling is to be applauded? Will she deplore the recycling of soiled, used and defeated candidates in first-past-the-post elections for the Scottish Parliament? As this is an issue for which
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mrs. Anne McGuire): My right hon. Friend and I have regular meetings with the Scottish Executive on a range of matters affecting the Scottish economy, including inward investment.
Mrs. Laing: I thank the Minister for that reply. Is she aware that a recent report from Ernst and Young has shown that inward investment in Scotland has fallen by almost two thirds in the first half of this year? I find that
Mrs. McGuire: The hon. Lady may have failed to notice that we are living in a very difficult global market. However, I reassure her that the United Kingdom is second only to the United States as the most popular place for inward investment. Scotland still holds its place within the United Kingdom. Perhaps she will consider some of the good new stories on inward investment, such as those involving the French whisky firms that have relocated their businesses to Livingston, AEA Technology, Excell Biotech and Pentland Ferries.
Mr. Gray: The Minister is bullish about the prospects for inward investment in Scotland, but how does she explain the fact that, in the first half of this year, only seven new projects were recorded compared with 18 in the previous six months? Will she comment on the fact that five of those projects came from the United States?
Mrs. McGuire: We have close relations with the United States, so I am not at all surprised that some of that inward investment has come from there. As I said in my answer to the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing), we are living in a difficult market, but significant trends have shown that we have cause for optimism. We should stop talking the Scottish economy down and start talking it up.
Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge and Chryston): Will my hon. Friend and her colleagues in government continue, as they have been doing, to focus on the importance of inward investment, particularly in the light of the economy that we inherited? Will she pay particular regard to the future of Gartcosh, which is crucial to my constituency and to the rest of Lanarkshire?
Mrs. McGuire: I congratulate my right hon. Friend on highlighting the importance of Gartcosh. We all agree that it is vital to the regeneration of Lanarkshire. However, I want to alert the House to the fact that, as we speak, 252 inward investment projects are safeguarding or creating 40,000 jobs in the Scottish economy.
Mr. Martin O'Neill (Ochil): Does my hon. Friend agree that we live in a difficult recession-ridden international climate and that Britain's macro-economic stability enables us to continue to attract inward investment when other countries, trying a lot harder than they did, are unsuccessful? That is because of the great assets of our labour force, our flexible labour market and, as I said, the general macro-economic stability of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
The Advocate-General for Scotland (Dr. Lynda Clark): There have been significant changes. I have noted that alleged breaches of the convention can now be raised much more quickly and effectively in domestic courts. In some areas of procedural uncertainty, I have attempted to obtain clarification of the law.
Ann McKechin: I thank my hon. and learned Friend for her reply. I agree about the success of the implementation of the Human Rights Act, especially in greatly speeding up the process of pursuing cases in the courts. What examples can she give of recent attempts to clarify the law in that regard?
The Advocate-General: My hon. Friend will appreciate that some of the matters are technical. There was a problem after the Human Rights Act came into force because some litigants thought that they no longer had to use the devolution minute procedure but could rely instead on the Act. I took a test point in the case of Mills which confirmed that the Scotland Act 1998 is the correct route to follow if a party litigant wants to allege that a Scottish Minister, including the Lord Advocate, is in breach of the convention. There have been other examples of that, too.
Miss McIntosh: May I seek the Advocate-General's advice on one devolution issue? If a Scottish airport seeks expansion, who will have the final decisionthe Secretary of State for Scotland, the Scottish Executive or the Secretary of State for Transport in England?
The Advocate-General: No such devolution issue has been intimated to me. [Interruption.] I am afraid not. There is a procedure under the Scotland Act 1998. Such devolution issues are not raised in Parliament. On the general point, each matter has to be considered within its context. It would be necessary to consider the particular proposals, both the relevant reservations
The Advocate-General: Since 22 October, 26 devolution issue cases have been intimated to me, all relating to the criminal law. A substantial number concerned undue delay in criminal proceedings, while the rest related variously to the right not to self-incriminate, to whether shameless indecency at common law is a sufficiently defined offence for the purposes of the convention, to reversal of burdens of proof and to the determination of the punishment part of life sentences.
Annabelle Ewing : I thank the Advocate-General for her answer. She will be aware that she has intervened in 24 devolution cases out of a total of 1,575 since the inception of her office. That is about 1 per cent. of cases. Will she clarify whether there is a formal ceiling that limits the number of times she can intervene in devolution cases?
The Advocate-General: There is no formal ceiling. Many devolution cases are intimated to me at the first level, in the lower courts, and I never have to deal with them again because they are resolved. Many of them, approximately 700, have dealt with questions of delay, and because they raised a number of difficult legal points, I took steps to tackle them in a recent test case in the Privy Council. It would be ludicrous to intervene in 700 cases, so I try to identify cases in which the law may, for various reasons, need clarification, or in which there are pressing reasons, for the UK, for me to intervene. It may be considered to be a mark of the success of the devolution settlement that I have had to intervene in so few cases.
Mr. Carmichael: Does the Advocate-General consider it appropriate in 2002 that the commissioners of the Northern Lighthouse Board should still be drawn from the Lord Advocate, the Solicitor-General and sheriff principals? Will she consider the human rights aspects of the matter and give the appropriate advice for reform to the Department for Transport?
The Advocate-General: On the face of it I am not sure that there are any human rights issues, but I am happy to listen to any that are brought to my attention. This is a devolved matter, and I am sure that the Lord Advocate[Interruption.] Well, I shall look into the matter and write to the hon. Gentleman.