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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (David Mundell): All Members of this House share the sense of shock and disbelief at the tragic events that unfolded in Cumbria on 2 June. The hon. Gentleman must have felt this more than most given his close personal associations with Whitehaven, and I personally offer my condolences to him and to the families that have been so cruelly affected.
In Prime Minister's questions on 3 June, the Prime Minister confirmed that the Association of Chief Police Officers would be supporting a peer review, to be conducted by national police experts, on firearms licensing, the police firearms response and firearms tactics. Firearms legislation is a reserved matter. As the Home Secretary told the House in her statement on 3 June, we will await the police report before we embark on and lead a debate about the gun laws across Great Britain.
Thomas Docherty: I thank the Minister for his kind words and welcome him to his new post. The House may wish to note the support given by Scottish police forces to the Cumbria constabulary in the immediate aftermath of the incident. Will he agree to meet a cross-party delegation from Scotland once ACPO and its counterparts in England and Wales have made their submission to the Home Office, so that we can convey the very strong feelings of the people of Scotland about firearms legislation?
If any question were to arise of separate legislation for Scotland, would the Minister undertake to consider the difference between the sufficiency of existing legislation and the extent to which it is properly enforced? Further, in view of the geographical position of his constituency and that of his colleagues, will he take account of the considerable cross-border traffic in sporting activities involving firearms?
David Mundell: I shall most certainly take into account the issues that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has raised. He will, however, be aware that the Calman commission has recommended that the regulation of air guns be transferred to the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament, and the Government are committed to doing that in the Bill that we will bring forward in the autumn.
Mary Macleod: Under the last Government, the Scotland Office's attempts to help to maintain a strong economic environment in Scotland had something of a credibility problem. What is my right hon. Friend doing to dispel the myth promoted by his predecessors that the level of Government borrowing is somehow unconnected to the level of interest rates and taxation?
Michael Moore: The hon. Lady makes an important point. We must not lose sight of the fact that the deficit left behind by the previous Government was £155,000 million. We have to establish our credibility not just with the people of Britain, but with the international financial markets. If we do not, we will see higher interest charges that will bear down on the level of public services that we can afford and affect the pockets of everyone in Scotland, both businesses and individuals. We have to tackle that urgently, and I am determined that we will do so.
John Howell: I am sure the Secretary of State would agree that the crisis in the financial sector was especially detrimental to the economic stability of Scotland. Will he now confirm that the Scotland Office will no longer issue press releases saying that it is taking advice from Sir Fred Goodwin, and will take advice from a more representative group of Scottish financiers?
Michael Moore: The hon. Gentleman is correct to highlight the important place that financial institutions play in the Scottish and United Kingdom economy. I assure him that I will be taking as broad a range of advice on these subjects as necessary. Indeed, I am already making early contact with some of the largest financial institutions in the country, including RBS and HBOS.
Stewart Hosie (Dundee East) (SNP): I welcome the Secretary of State to his new job. On a stable economic environment, one of the key issues is business cost stability, and the area that businesses find most difficult is that of fuel and haulage costs. Can he confirm, therefore, that it remains the policy of at least the Conservative side of the coalition to introduce a fair fuel stabiliser or fuel duty regulator to smooth out the spikes in the cost of fuel and bring some cost stability to haulage for businesses throughout Scotland?
Michael Moore: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his opening remarks. He will understand, I am sure, that I am not in a position to pre-empt, and have no intention of pre-empting, the Chancellor's statement introducing the Budget next week. The hon. Gentleman's representations, and those of others, are among the many being received by the Treasury and the Scotland Office, and I am sure that he will pay attention when the Budget is announced next week.
Ann McKechin (Glasgow North) (Lab):
I welcome both right hon. Gentlemen to their new positions in the Scotland Office. Given the unique position of the Scottish media and the Government's disastrous cancellation of
the tendering process for provision of local news on Scottish television, despite the winners having already been announced, what discussions has the Secretary of State had with the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport about the threat now posed to news on STV?
Michael Moore: I thank the hon. Lady for her initial comments. An independently financed news consortium was another idea that on closer scrutiny did not have the financial backing to make it sustainable, either through the pilot stage or in a more general process. I have spoken to members of the consortium, and my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has spoken to representatives from STV. We will work with them and others in Scotland to ensure that we get the right local news across the country.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (David Mundell): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made it a priority to speak to a number of key individuals in the business sector in Scotland to get an update on the main issues affecting them.
Jim Sheridan: The Minister will be aware of the Dyson report commissioned by the Conservative party in March. It contained many important ideas, such as building esteem for science, engineering, and research and development, and investing in high-tech start-ups. It also highlighted the importance of projects such as those for nuclear and offshore wind power, and, from a Scottish perspective, high-speed rail. Will the coalition Government be implementing any of those proposals, and if so, when?
"The Government cannot create jobs. The Government can create an environment that is conducive to the creation of jobs".-[ Official Report, House of Lords, 8 June 2010; Vol. 719, c. 625.]
The Secretary of State for Scotland (Michael Moore): My colleagues and I are fully committed to ensuring that Scotland is able to continue to play an important role in meeting the UK's aspirations for climate change and security of supply.
Michael Moore: As I said earlier, the Government have set out a clear policy on their energy strategy, and arrangements are in place to ensure that we have diverse sources of supply and security for the future.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (David Mundell): The Government have already announced their plans for a radical reform of the welfare-to-work system and the implementation of the programme, which among other things will tackle the issue of economic inactivity.
Andrew Rosindell: The Minister will have noted the comments of Lord Myners, who said that it was wrong for the previous Government to create jobs themselves, rather than creating the conditions for business to create those jobs. Will he encourage the Scottish trade unions to take the same attitude?
Jim McGovern (Dundee West) (Lab): May I, too, welcome the Secretary of State to his new post? I am sure he is aware that his predecessor in the previous Government visited my constituency on a number of occasions to see at first hand the importance of the computer games industry in Dundee. The former Chancellor gave a commitment in his Budget to tax breaks for that industry. Can the Minister guarantee that the Government of whom he is now a member will honour that commitment?
Mr Speaker: Order. If the Minister could hear that, he has very good hearing. May I make an appeal to the House? I know that it is in a state of eager anticipation of Prime Minister's questions, but it is very unfair to the Member on his or her feet, and to the Minister. Let us have a bit of order. That is what the public expect.
The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron): I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in paying tribute to the Royal Marine of 40 Commando who died at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham on Monday from wounds sustained in Afghanistan, and to the two soldiers from the 1st Battalion the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment who died yesterday. We should send our sincere condolences to their families and their friends. We should also pay tribute to the exceptional work of our armed forces serving in Afghanistan and, perhaps today in particular, to the highly skilled doctors and nurses who work alongside them, as well as to those who treat the injured personnel back in the UK.
Philip Davies: Does my right hon. Friend accept that the millions of people who voted Conservative at the last election in order to make him Prime Minister did not do so in order to see a reduction in the number of people sent to prison or to see those criminals given softer sentences? If he really wants to reduce the budget of the Prison Service, may I suggest that he starts by taking Sky TV away from the 4,000 prisoners who enjoy that luxury in their cells?
The Prime Minister: May I thank my hon. Friend for that helpful suggestion? He knows that I share his views about the need for a tough response to crime. The challenge is going to be delivering that tough response at a time when the last Government left us absolutely no money. What I would say to him is that we have to address the failures in the system: the fact that half of all prisoners are on drugs; the fact that more than one in 10 are foreign nationals who should not be here in the first place; and the fact that 40% commit another crime within one year of leaving prison. That is the record of failure that we have inherited, and it is the record of failure that we have to reform.
Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab): I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to the Royal Marine of 40 Commando who died on Monday and to the two soldiers from the 1st Battalion the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment who died yesterday. We honour their sacrifice, and we remember all our servicemen and women who are fighting so bravely for our country.
Although this morning saw the unemployment claimant count fall, unemployment is still too high. Behind the figures are real people and real concerns. Can the Prime Minister promise that none of the policies that he will put in his Budget next week will put more people out of work?
The Prime Minister:
First, I agree with the right hon. and learned Lady that any rise in unemployment is a tragedy, not least for those people desperately looking for work who want to put food on the table for their families. The figures this morning give a mixed picture. On the one hand, the claimant count is down; on the other hand, the International Labour Organisation measure of unemployment is up by 23,000. What I can say to her is that we will bring in our Work programme as soon as we can, which will be the biggest, boldest scheme for getting people back to work, and everything that will
be- [ Interruption. ] Hon. Members should remember why we have had record unemployment in this country: because of the record of failure that we inherited. What I can tell the right hon. and learned Lady is that everything that we do in the forthcoming Budget will be about giving this country a strong economy with sustainable public finances and clearing up the mess left by the person sitting next to her, the right hon. Member for Edinburgh South West (Mr Darling).
Ms Harman: In fact, ILO unemployment is down on last month, and the Prime Minister should welcome that. He has criticised our plans, but the Office for Budget Responsibility says this week that, under Labour's plans, unemployment is set to fall. Will he promise that he will not do anything in his Budget next week that will cause unemployment to rise? We are talking about his policies in his Budget.
The Prime Minister: Yes, they are; if she looks at the figures, she will discover that. She asked about the Budget. I have to say that I am still waiting for the Budget submission from the Labour party- [ Interruption. ] Let me tell hon. Members why. Before the last election, Labour set out £50 billion of spending reductions, including £18 billion of reductions in capital spending, but it did not set out where one penny piece of that money was coming from. So, while Labour Members are looking forward to the Budget next week and asking what we are going to do, perhaps they could have the decency to tell us what they would have done.
Ms Harman: The Prime Minister did not listen to what I said about ILO unemployment, which is that it is down on last month, and he did not answer the question either. He has already cut the future jobs fund, and he will not guarantee to drop policies that would push unemployment up. He talks about the deficit, but how does putting more people on the dole help to get the deficit down?
The Prime Minister: Perhaps the right hon. and learned Lady should consider this statement about the importance of sorting out the budget deficit- [ Interruption. ] Hon. Members ought to listen to this:
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