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Climate Change

4. Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): What discussions he has had with Scottish Ministers on the contribution from Scotland to the UK's international climate change targets. [54021]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (David Cairns): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have regular discussions with Scottish Executive Ministers on a wide range of matters.

Mark Lazarowicz: My hon. Friend will be aware that one of the contributions that Scotland can make to tackling climate change is by tapping our immense reserves of renewable energy. In that connection, I am glad that the go-ahead has at last been given to funding for the development of wave power, such as that undertaken by a company based in my constituency. Given that it took some time for that fund to get going, through no fault of the Government, will my hon. Friend ensure that applications to it are dealt with quickly so that we do not lose the immense advantage that we have in this field and let the lead that we have in this technology be taken by other countries in Europe?

David Cairns: I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the progress that he is making with his private Member's Bill, which will make a considerable contribution to the debate. I understand that the Committee considering it has a further sitting this afternoon. He is right to highlight the Government's commitment to marine renewables. I welcome, as he does, the announcement made on 8 February by the Minister for Energy of a £50 million marine renewable development fund, building on the £25 million that has already been made available. The company that my hon. Friend mentions, Ocean Power Delivery, has already benefited from some £3.2 million of this development money. The deadline for applications is 8 May, so there is some time left. I look forward to that money going out to those who are successful in getting a grant so that they can carry on
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with research into the important contribution that marine renewables can make to our energy commitments.

David Mundell (Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale) (Con): I associate Conservative Members with the Secretary of State's good wishes to Mr. Speaker.

I am sure that the Minister agrees that Scotland's climate change targets will be best met through a balanced energy policy; that is why I welcome Scottish Labour's decision to support nuclear power. But how will the Scottish Executive be able to deliver on that commitment when the Secretary of State says that the Liberal Democrats run away from hard decisions and fail to face up to their responsibilities?

David Cairns: The hon. Gentleman has a cheek to talk about people running away from tough decisions when the Conservatives have called for a moratorium on the development of wind farms, which make a significant contribution to tackling climate change.

We have said all along that it is foolish to rule out completely the possibility of renewing Scotland's nuclear-generating capacity or having a new generation—that is part of the energy debate. We believe that there will have to be a mix of energy—some will come from renewables, which the Conservative party opposes, and some may come from nuclear, to which some parties, with one or two honourable exceptions, have simply closed their minds. We are taking a balanced view.

John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): As a Glasgow Member of Parliament, may I associate myself with the sentiments expressed about Mr. Speaker?

Will my hon. Friend congratulate the Scottish Labour party on the decision that it made at the weekend? Does he agree that clean coal technology, nuclear and all other forms of energy should be part of a balanced energy policy? Will he ensure that the dinosaurs that still exist north of the border do not stop the process of getting energy for this country through stupid planning means?

David Cairns: The essential question that must be asked during the energy review is: how can we provide the energy that our country needs without wrecking the planet in the process? We have two commitments: we need to keep the lights on and tackle fuel poverty, and do it in a way that is consistent with our international obligations on climate change. Some parties pay lip service to the environment, others pay lip service to the economy, but we have to manage both.

Nuclear Submarine Facilities

5. Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Defence on the future of nuclear submarine facilities in Scotland. [54022]
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (David Cairns): My right hon. Friend has regular discussions with the Secretary of State for Defence on a range of issues.

Mr. Hollobone: Given the importance of the naval base at Faslane to the Scottish economy, by what date does the Under-Secretary expect a decision on the replacement for Trident to be announced?

David Cairns: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence said yesterday in Defence questions that it was hoped that a decision would be made during this Parliament. Of course, the decision does not have to come into force for 20 or 25 years, so there is no rush.

The future of Faslane does not depend on a replacement for Trident. It depended on the Government's decision to base the Astute class submarine at Faslane, which means £135 million of investment in Faslane and the local economy. I hope that the hon. Gentleman welcomes that.

David Mundell (Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale) (Con): Will the Under-Secretary confirm whether the Scottish Executive has any form of veto over future nuclear defence development in Scotland?

David Cairns: No, defence is reserved.

Road Network

6. Mr. Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow) (Lab): What improvements are planned to road links between Scotland and the rest of the UK. [54023]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Alistair Darling): Traffic to and from Scotland benefits from many of the improvements to the strategic road network.

Mr. Hepburn: In the past decade, one casualty a week on average has occurred on the A1 between Scotland and Newcastle. The road accidents and the road's effect on economic development cause considerable anxiety to residents on both sides of the border. When will my right hon. Friend, in his role as Secretary of State for Scotland, convince himself in his role as Secretary of State for Transport for the United Kingdom that the road needs dualling once and for all?

Mr. Darling: We have many useful and productive discussions about those matters and we happily find ourselves in complete agreement.

My hon. Friend knows that, five or six years ago, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister commissioned a report on what was required for the A1 north of Newcastle and up to the border, on the basis of which I came to the view that there was neither an economic nor an operational case for dualling the road. It recommended improvements for safety and other reasons and work has continued on working up such schemes. I am surprised that the north-east region did not prioritise them in the recent exercise and I shall have to consider how to proceed in the light of that. Although there is no case at the moment for dualling the road all the way to the border, there is a case for making
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improvements, especially to deal with the safety points that my hon. Friend raised. I hope to say something further about that, probably in the late spring.

David Mundell (Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale) (Con): When the Secretary of State next lobbies himself, perhaps he could raise the case of the M74 between Gretna and Carlisle. Will he then let us know the exact start date for that project and give us an assurance that there will be no further delays?

Mr. Darling: I hope that we shall be able to make an announcement about that fairly quickly, and that construction will start imminently. Both Secretaries of State will make an announcement at the appropriate time. I must point out that those improvements have been made possible only by the huge additional investment that we have promised, every single penny of which was opposed by Tory MPs, both north and south of the border.

Arbuthnott Report

7. Mr. Brian H. Donohoe (Central Ayrshire) (Lab): What assessment his Department has made of the Arbuthnott report on electoral arrangements in Scotland. [54025]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (David Cairns): As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said on the day of publication, and as I confirmed in the recent Adjournment debate secured by my hon. Friend on the Arbuthnott report, we now have an opportunity for consideration and debate, and we will respond to the proposals in due course.

Mr. Donohoe: I thank my hon. Friend for that response. I understand the practical problems associated with changing the voting system in time for the 2007 elections, but does my hon. Friend agree that it would be possible to introduce legislation in this Parliament to change it in time for the elections in 2011?

David Cairns: My hon. Friend is quite right to say that we have ruled out the possibility of legislating in advance of the 2007 elections. They are only just over a year away, and preparations for them are very much under way. I want to take this opportunity to thank the members of the Arbuthnott commission for the work that they have done. We now need to respect their work by giving it the most careful consideration possible.

Danny Alexander (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (LD): When considering the Arbuthnott commission's report, will the Minister pay special attention to its observations on the benefits of having a system of proportional representation for UK parliamentary elections? Although that was not one of the report's recommendations, it was a subject on which the commission took evidence. Will the Minister give the matter careful consideration when responding to the report?

David Cairns: The hon. Gentleman will have to wait to see what our response to the report says.
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Rosemary McKenna (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch, East) (Lab): We all welcome the hard work that went into the Arbuthnott commission's report, but many of us were disappointed at one aspect of it in particular, namely that it did not recommend the abolition of the practice of standing in the list and in a first-past-the-post election. Will the Minister assure us that that matter will be considered when these issues come before Parliament?

David Cairns: My hon. Friend is quite right to point out that Sir John Arbuthnott did not recommend that change; indeed, he specifically recommended that it should not be made. No such change will be made before the 2007 elections, and any change that could be made would undoubtedly affect only subsequent elections.

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