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Mr. Speaker: Order. Before the Secretary of State replies, may I remind the Chamber that far too many private conversations are taking place? That is very unfair on the Member asking the question and on the Minister answering it.

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Mr. Murphy: The Foreign Secretary made a statement yesterday and I have nothing further to add to it. I was here for his statement-not all hon. Members were.

David Mundell: I do not regard that as an answer. Given the Secretary of State's self-proclaimed role as filter between the UK Government and the Scottish Government, can he tell the House why the UK Government refused to give the Scottish Justice Secretary, Mr. MacAskill, the facts and representations that he says he requested when making his decision to release Mr. al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds? Conservative Members do not believe that that decision could have been made on any reasonable basis. Perhaps the Secretary of State regrets ensuring that Mr. MacAskill did not have every piece of information that he needed. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. There is still far too much noise. The public dislike it and, frankly, so do I.

Mr. Murphy: I have nothing further to add to what the Foreign Secretary offered in a very long and detailed statement yesterday. The fact is that this was 100 per cent. the responsibility of the Scottish Government-it was 100 per cent. their decision and their responsibility-and they made their decision on their merits. However, I think that the issue was very badly mishandled and those scenes in Tripoli were a national disgrace. The St. Andrew's flag was trailed out on to the tarmac to celebrate that man's return; that image will haunt Scotland across the world. Some damage was done to Scotland's reputation, although I do not wish to overstate it. It is now the responsibility of all of us to work together to rebuild Scotland's reputation across the world.

Electricity Transmission Network

4. John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of levels of funding for the electricity transmission network in Scotland; and if he will make a statement. [292281]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Ann McKechin): The regulation and funding of networks in the UK is a matter first and foremost for the Department of Energy and Climate Change and Ofgem. Delivering the necessary reinforcements by 2015 will require up to an estimated £4.7 billion of new investment onshore, in addition to current refurbishment and expansion plans requiring some £4 billion to £5 billion, which have already been approved by Ofgem.

John Robertson: I thank the Minister for her answer. She will be aware that £1.4 billion is required to upgrade the transmission system. In addition, new renewables and technology are coming on line. Is she confident that this target can be reached by 2015, given that the Beauly-Denny transmission link is still outstanding from 2000 and has been held up by the current Scottish Government?

Ann McKechin: I thank my hon. Friend for his question and for his long-standing interest in energy issues for the benefit of Scotland. He is right to say that the decision on the Beauly-Denny line is still to be made.
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That is a responsibility of the Scottish Government, but I hope and expect that a decision will be made this year. The time for dithering is over; it is time for real decisions. That is why Ofgem has already approved £43 million of pre-construction contracts, as part of the £4.7 billion investment, and is working seriously with the industry to ensure that we have the right environment to encourage that investment.

Willie Rennie (Dunfermline and West Fife) (LD): Has the Minister had discussions with the Energy Secretary about the punitive charging regime for the construction-the upgrade-during that period of the Scottish-English interconnector? I ask that because there is great concern that the regime will be punitive for Scottish generators.

Ann McKechin: I can confirm to the hon. Gentleman that I have had discussions with the Energy Minister regarding transmission charging in Scotland. We do not believe that the transmission charging regime in any way discriminates against Scotland. I welcome the fact that Scottish Power has recently announced proposals for up to five new wind farms in Scotland-that is a good indication that a lot of people want to invest in Scotland. We are reviewing transmission access, as the hon. Gentleman is aware, and we want to ensure that renewable energy gets the proper priority that it deserves.

Ms Katy Clark (North Ayrshire and Arran) (Lab): The Minister will be aware that there is a proposal for a new coal power station at Hunterston. Will that be allowed to go ahead without carbon capture being in place?

Ann McKechin: I can confirm that any new plant will be required to incorporate carbon capture. As my hon. Friend will be aware, any planning consents in relation to new power plants in Scotland are a matter for the Scottish Government.

Roma Children

5. Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes) (Con): What information he holds on the number of Roma children from other EU member states who attend school in Scotland. [292282]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Ann McKechin): The UK Government do not hold information on the number of Roma children in Scottish schools. The pupil census in Scotland is a devolved matter for the Scottish Government.

Mr. Steen: Wilberforce banished slavery 200 years ago. We have new slavery now both in Scotland and in England. We have thousands of eastern European children on the streets involved in criminal activity organised by trafficking gangs. They do not go to school. What are the Secretary of State and his counterparts doing to rid our streets of this Fagin-like situation? It is quite disgraceful and it needs to be dealt with.

Ann McKechin: The hon. Gentleman has a proud track record in campaigning on this serious issue. I welcome his concern today. Many of these matters are devolved to Scotland, but I can confirm that the UK Government and the Scottish Government are working
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closely together to tackle the problem. That is one reason why we ratified the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings last year and why we have set up a national centre for trafficking in Sheffield, with which the Scottish authorities-including the police-are fully co-operating. They are providing us with important intelligence so that we can track these criminal networks across the whole of the UK.

Barnett Formula

6. Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): What his most recent assessment is of the effectiveness of the Barnett formula in allocating funding to Scotland. [292283]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Jim Murphy): The Barnett formula is simple, efficient and effective. It means that every £1 extra public expenditure per person in England is matched exactly for each man, woman and child elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Bone: I thank the Secretary of State for that answer, but does he agree with what Lord Barnett has said? He said:

If Lord Barnett thinks that, why do not the Government think that?

Mr. Murphy: We have considered this very carefully. Recently, the Calman commission-an independent expert group-considered it and said very clearly that the formula is

to operate. We have no plans to change the Barnett formula; I know that many of those who sit on the Conservative Benches do. That is one reason why so many people in Scotland distrust the modern Conservative party.

Lindsay Roy (Glenrothes) (Lab): May I ask my right hon. Friend by how much the block grant for Scotland will increase in 2010-11?

Mr. Murphy: The Scottish Government will have more money next year than they have this year. That is a remarkable benefit of the economics of the United Kingdom. The fact is that the SNP Scottish Government today have double the budget that Donald Dewar had when he was First Minister. However, the SNP Scottish Government will have to tighten their belt and make some savings in the same way as every family and company in Scotland is doing.

Broadband (Highlands)

7. Danny Alexander (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (LD): What recent discussions he has had with Scottish Executive Ministers on the provision of next-generation broadband in the Highlands. [292284]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Ann McKechin): My right hon. Friend has regular discussions with Scottish Ministers about the economy and industrial policy.

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Danny Alexander: I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. She will know from the recent Highlands and Islands Enterprise report that access to broadband technology in the highlands lags far behind that in the rest of the country. If we were to get the next generation of broadband in the highlands, that would make more difference to our area than to almost anywhere else in the country. Will the Minister use the power of her office and her Department to support local moves to ensure that the highlands, which the "Digital Britain" report relegated to the final third when it came to access to next-generation broadband, can be first in line instead?

Ann McKechin: I very much hope that the hon. Gentleman will fully support the proposal contained in the "Digital Britain" White Paper to establish a tax levy of 50p per month on fixed landlines so that we can create next-generation funding for exactly that one-third of the network that we believe requires additional investment and incentive. We want to ensure that there is no digital divide anywhere in the UK.

Copenhagen Summit

8. Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change on the representation of Scottish interests at the forthcoming Copenhagen summit on climate change. [292285]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Jim Murphy): The Copenhagen summit provides the opportunity for a vital step forward in securing a binding global agreement on climate change action. The Prime Minister has confirmed that he will be attending the Copenhagen summit.

Jo Swinson: I thank the Secretary of State for that reply. Scotland has much to contribute to tackling climate change, as it has a strong renewables record and an ambitious target of reducing carbon emissions by 42 per cent. by 2020. Can the right hon. Gentleman not put party politics aside and accept that Scottish Ministers should also be part of the UK delegation to Copenhagen?

Mr. Murphy: We have put party politics aside, and the SNP Scottish Government will be treated in exactly the same way that their Labour predecessors were treated. The best way to get Scotland's climate change interests represented at Copenhagen is through the attendance of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. As far as I am concerned-and the same goes for the majority of Members of this House, and of people across Scotland-the UK will, of course and for the foreseeable future, include Scotland as an equal, full and strong part.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked-


1. [292263] Ann Winterton (Congleton) (Con): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 14 October.

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The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): Before listing my engagements, and on behalf of all parts of this House and the leaders of all political parties, it is right that we should pause to pay our full respects to the members of our armed forces who have given their lives on behalf of our country in Afghanistan.

This is a solemn moment for this House and our country. It is the day on which we put on record in the House of Commons our gratitude and our commemoration of the sacrifice made by 37 of our armed forces serving our country in Afghanistan: from the Royal Marines, Sergeant Lee Houltram; from the Light Dragoons, Trooper Phillip Lawrence; from 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, Trooper Brett Hall; from 5th Regiment Royal Artillery, Warrant Officer Sean Upton; from 40th Regiment Royal Artillery, Lance Bombardier Matt Hatton and Bombardier Craig Hopson; from 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, Guardsman Jamie Janes; from 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, Guardsman Chris King and Lance Corporal James Hill; from 3rd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, Private Kevin Elliot and Sergeant Gus Millar; from 2nd Battalion the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, Kingsman Jason Dunne-Bridgeman; from 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, Fusilier Simon Annis, Fusilier Shaun Bush, Fusilier Louis Carter, Lance Corporal James Fullarton, Corporal Joseph Etchells and Sergeant Simon Valentine; from 3rd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment, Private John Young; from 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment, Private Gavin Elliot, Private Jason Williams and Acting Sergeant Mike Lockett MC; from 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh, Private Richard Hunt and Private James Prosser; from the Parachute Regiment, Private Kyle Adams, Lance Corporal Dale Hopkins, Corporal John Harrison and Corporal Kevin Mulligan; from 2nd Battalion the Rifles, Rifleman Aminiasi Toge, Rifleman Daniel Wild, Acting Sergeant Stuart McGrath, Sergeant Paul McAleese and Captain Mark Hale; from 11th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment, Royal Logistics Corps, Captain Daniel Shepherd; from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Craftsman Anthony Lombardi and Lance Corporal Richie Brandon; and from 34 Squadron Royal Air Force Regiment Acting Corporal Marcin Wojtek.

Nothing can erase the pain for their families. Nothing can be greater than the pride that we take in their contribution to our country, and our sadness at their loss. I know that the thoughts and prayers of the whole House are with the families and friends of all these brave men. Their lives live on in the influence that they will have left behind on other people, and they will not be forgotten.

We should also pay tribute to all those who have been wounded and who face rehabilitation, and assure them that they will have our full support at all times.

This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, and I shall have further such meetings later today.

Ann Winterton: All Members will wish to associate themselves with the Prime Minister's expression of sympathy for the families and friends of those who have fallen in Afghanistan since the House last met for Prime Minister's questions.

When the Lisbon treaty comes into force, the European Council will become a formal institution of the European Union, and the United Kingdom will be a member of
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that institution. Will the Prime Minister confirm that he is bound by its rules, and is thus obliged to further the objectives of the European Union in preference to those of the United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister: I thank the hon. Lady for her tribute to those brave men who died in Afghanistan, and I hope that the message will go out today that all political parties-every Member of this House-want to send their sympathy and condolences to every family concerned.

We joined the European Union in the 1970s, and we hold by our obligations to the European Union, but that does not prevent us from representing the national sovereignty of this country.

2. [292264] Dr. Tony Wright (Cannock Chase) (Lab): May I ask my right hon. Friend what he thinks is more dangerous: politicians becoming generals, or generals becoming politicians?

The Prime Minister: I think that I know what my hon. Friend is thinking about. Let me put on record my thanks to the Chief of the General Staff, Richard Dannatt, for the work that he did for our country.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): The list that the Prime Minister has read out of those who gave their lives over this summer in the service of this country is a very sombre reminder of the incredible sacrifices that the armed forces make on our behalf. Those 37 men have left parents, wives, partners, children, brothers and sisters. Those loved ones feel the loss not just today, or on the day when their loved one fell; they will feel it for the rest of their lives, as they think about the lives that could have been lived.

We must be clear about what has happened in our country. Two wars over eight years have seen thousands of people serve, hundreds killed and many more wounded, and whole communities affected, as they have celebrated the success of our armed forces but also mourned the losses. I know that the Prime Minister has looked at these issues before, but is it not now time for a more fundamental re-examination of every aspect of the military covenant, and everything that we do for those brave men and women and for their families, who wait for them at home?

The Prime Minister: Again, I am very pleased that the right hon. Gentleman associates himself, as I knew he would, with the commemoration of those people who have died during the course of the summer. It has been a particularly difficult summer for our armed forces, and also for the families of those members of our armed forces, with their worries about their loved ones who are serving in Afghanistan.

What we have tried to do over the past few months is make sure, first of all, that all military men and women on service in Afghanistan, and in any place around the world, are fully and properly equipped for the tasks that they have got to undertake. I am happy to share with the House, in a statement in a few minutes from now, the extra measures that we are taking to protect our troops in Afghanistan, particularly against electronic devices, which have been the cause of 80 per cent. of the deaths over the past few months.

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