Let us be in no doubt, as the noble Baroness Liddell said during an excellent debate led by my noble Friend Lord Lang of Monkton in another place last week—sadly, not properly covered, of course, by our newspapers—the SNP has filed for divorce. It wants to end 300 years of a mighty and successful partnership, a partnership to which Scotland has contributed a huge amount: the market economist Adam Smith; Alexander Graham Bell who gave us the telephone; John Logie Baird, inventor of the television; Alexander Fleming who discovered penicillin, James Wilson from Hawick who founded the Standard Chartered bank for which I worked; Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding who famously commanded RAF Fighter Command during the Battle

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of Britain—all Scots who enriched this kingdom—and today, Sir Alex Ferguson, possibly the greatest football manager of all time, J.K. Rowling, Sir Chris Hoy, Andy Murray and the rest.

That one man’s personal vanity should drive the campaign to put asunder that which has endured for centuries amounts to constitutional vandalism. We have worked together, played together and fought for freedom together. My uncles fought in the second world war to retain the freedoms of these islands. If this divorce were to happen, Scotland’s influence would be virtually zero.

Ian Paisley: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that a division in this wonderful Union would have an unsettling and unnerving effect and get the tails up of Irish republicans in my part of the kingdom and drive another wedge into the hearts and souls of people in Ulster?

Sir Gerald Howarth: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to make that analogy and to point to the unforeseen consequences to which the Scottish National party does not wish to draw attention. I entirely support him.

In this divorce court, of course the judges will be those of whatever nationality reside in Scotland. The 800,000 Scots living in England have been disfranchised and can only watch helplessly as others determine the fate of the land of their birth: people such as Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown, Royal Navy, who has flown more aircraft types than anyone else on this planet, who has done more ship deck landings than anyone else—2,500—and who interrogated Hermann Goering in German after the war. Brought up in the borders in Melrose, Eric, who helped to save us from Nazi domination, will have no vote because he does not reside in Scotland. Nor will those Scots living and working overseas, contributing to the prosperity of this our kingdom. Are we then all to have separate passports? Will I and my family on the other side of the border have to have separate passports? Are we to be divided in this way? This is monstrous.

So, to those in Scotland, whether born there or of other nationality, to whom has been granted the exclusive privilege of deciding the destiny of this, our United Kingdom, I say, “Please vote to retain the unity of the kingdom in which Scotland plays such a proud and distinguished part.” It would be a tragedy if families across the kingdom were to be divided in the way the separatists are demanding.

1.57 pm

Graeme Morrice (Livingston) (Lab): I add my own congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Bain) on securing this important debate on Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom.

One way or another, 2014 will be the year that Scots will remember. In seven months’ time the Scottish people will vote to decide either to continue 300 years of partnership and shared prosperity, or to go it alone as a separate state. Unlike some, I did not get into politics to obsess over the constitution. I would rather be talking about how to build a better Scotland, a better Britain and a better world. I am just as appalled by poverty in Birmingham, Liverpool and West Ham, as I am in

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Broxburn, Livingston and West Calder in my own constituency. I would rather the Scottish Government were focused on their day job of improving the lives of ordinary Scots than on abusing public resources to promote an SNP agenda.

By pooling and sharing our resources, Scots have contributed to one of the most successful and prosperous political unions the world has ever seen. But whereas there is little doubt that Scotland could be an independent country, the question the Scottish people will have to consider is whether Scotland will be better off by going it alone. My view is that Scotland would not, and there is a range of positive reasons why I believe that we are all better together. Scotland is linked intrinsically to the rest of United Kingdom, socially, politically and economically.

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): It is important to point out that Scotland is linked not only to England, but to Wales and Northern Ireland, because there are strong bonds across all the countries. Those of us who are from those areas must send out a strong message to our Scottish fellow citizens that we cherish the fact that they are part of the United Kingdom and want them to remain as such. It is important that, without interfering in the democratic vote, we send out that positive message.

Graeme Morrice: I welcome the right hon. Gentleman’s intervention and fully understand that there are major cultural links between the people of Scotland and the people of Northern Ireland. Indeed, I have many friends and relatives from Northern Ireland.

The single market within the UK affords significant economic, trade and employment opportunities to people on both sides of the border, and our membership of the European Union, through the United Kingdom, provides a vast marketplace for Scottish exporters. Together, we have a place at the top table of the European Council of Ministers, we are one of the G8 forum of the world’s largest economies and we are a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, all of which allows us to wield unprecedented influence on the European and global stages. As a member of NATO, we have collectively benefited since the war from international security and defence co-operation on a grand scale.

When it comes to the economy, Scotland has a very important relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom. Scotland benefits from access to a market comprising tens of millions of people within a single jurisdiction. Scots are employed by firms based in the rest of the UK, and people in the rest of the UK benefit from employment opportunities with Scottish-based companies. Indeed, Scotland’s exports to the rest of the UK are worth double its exports to the rest of the world.

Mr Iain McKenzie (Inverclyde) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that upon independence the border would become a barrier to business with the rest of the UK?

Graeme Morrice: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. On day one of independence, were Scots to vote for it, the rest of the United Kingdom would remain within the European Union but Scotland would not, so it clearly would not benefit from the EU single market, to the great detriment of Scottish business and Scotland overall.

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Mr Deputy Speaker—[Interruption.] Welcome, Madam Deputy Speaker; it is great to see a Scot in the Chair this afternoon. [Interruption.] And a woman, my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Fiona O'Donnell) reminds me.

In addition to the shared opportunities, the pooling of resources across the UK allows risk as well as reward to be spread, as seen most notably in the bail-out of the Scottish-based banks during the financial crisis, when the UK, led by a Scot, injected an amount of capital into the banks well in excess of the Scottish Government’s total budget. The pooling of resources also allows for distribution on the basis of social need across the welfare state. Were Scotland outwith the UK, that would place a major question mark over its ability to continue to fund benefits at current levels and to meet state and public sector pension commitments.

Of course, Scotland has its own devolved Parliament, with significantly more powers to come as a result of the Calman commission and the Scotland Act 2012. It can therefore be argued that Scotland has the best of both worlds: local decision making, but under the financial umbrella of the UK Barnett formula, giving Scots more funding per capita than anywhere else in the UK.

Lindsay Roy (Glenrothes) (Lab): I thank my hon. Friend for giving way and for making a very positive case. Will he remind the House why the Barnett formula was introduced and why the additional funding per capita goes to Scots in what is a relatively small country?

Graeme Morrice: Scotland benefits disproportionately from the Barnett formula to the tune of £1,400 per capita because of rurality, super sparsity and Scotland’s particular needs, so my hon. Friend’s point is well made.

Since 2011 we have been told that the answer to every question the Scottish people have ever asked about independence would be in the Scottish Government’s White Paper. Given Alex Salmond’s recent statements, I was half expecting next week’s lottery numbers to appear in its pages, too. The Scottish people were promised the New Testament but instead had to settle for the SNP’s next election manifesto. The truth is that Alex Salmond simply cannot guarantee many of the White Paper’s promises and has completely failed to answer many of the legitimate questions that have been asked of the yes campaign. The Scottish Government could deliver more with the powers they already have, but they choose partisan dividing lines, rather than improving the lives of the Scottish people.

On 18 September the Scottish people will have a choice: either to support the continuation of Scotland within the UK, and all the advantages and benefits that involves, with a further strengthening of devolution; or to take a leap into the unknown, never to return.

2.5 pm

John Stevenson (Carlisle) (Con): I am delighted to have an opportunity to speak in this debate, and to speak not just as a Member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, but as the Member for Carlisle— the city at the very centre of the UK and situated on the English-Scottish border—and, of course, as a Scot.

Scotland is one part of the United Kingdom, and that United Kingdom, of which Scotland is a part, has been hugely successful over the past 300 years. Indeed,

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I suggest that not only do we live in a Union that has a number of different parts, but the whole is much greater than the sum of those parts. The United Kingdom, as one nation, is far superior and far more successful than two or more separate entities would be. That is why it is in the interests of all of us to remain part of a United Kingdom.

We live in a nation that has been, and is, hugely successful—economically, socially and politically. We live in a wealthy, prosperous and stable country, a country that respects the individual and upholds the rule of law. We live in a country with a comprehensive education system, a health service that is free at the point of use and a standard of living that is the envy of much of the world. Scotland is a part of that. Indeed, Scotland has made a very valuable and substantial contribution to the success of the United Kingdom. It has helped create the prosperity we all enjoy, and it continues to do so.

However, in less than eight months’ time this most successful of unions could start to fracture and come apart. It is my view—a view shared by many in this House—that a move to independence would not be in the interests of Scotland or the people of Scotland. In fact, I believe that it would also be detrimental to the remaining parts of the UK and, if I may be more parochial, that it would be against the best interests of the people of my constituency and the surrounding area, both north and south of the border.

On a recent programme a commentator suggested that the debate on independence was one between the accountants and the poets. That is the “hearts and minds” argument. I do not subscribe to the argument that it is one or the other—that it is a debate between those concerned only about the financial and economic implications and those who believe in a more romantic attraction to the idea of independence. Scotland’s continuing place within the United Kingdom can be supported by both emotional arguments and sentiment as well as by hard economic facts.

The Union has been to the economic benefit of the Scottish people. The real danger for Scotland is that independence will lead to significant economic stagnation and decline. Without the Union, Scotland might not be as attractive a place for some sectors and industries to invest or do business in. Talent and business might leave. We must remember that the 1707 Union was as much about economics as it was about politics. Businesses do not like uncertainty. There is clear certainty and continuity if Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom. Businesses and investors will know exactly where they stand if Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom. They know and understand the regulatory regime, the laws and the relationships. In contrast, there will be massive uncertainty if Scotland decides to pursue an independent course.

I appreciate that other hon. Members have touched, and will touch, on many of the business and economic issues, such as the currency—the euro, sterling or a Scottish dollar—membership of the EU, immigration, tax and regulation, particularly of the financial sector.

As for the emotional debate, I see nothing wrong with people being proud of their roots; proud to say that they are Scottish as well as British, in exactly the same way that someone can call themselves Welsh, Irish, a Yorkshire man, a Brummie or much else. They are still

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British, but they can and should be proud of both. Indeed, the Olympic games demonstrate the unifying attachment that most people have to the United Kingdom.

We must not forget that the debate on Scotland’s place in the UK is of great importance to places such as Carlisle. There is much work, leisure, social, shopping and family relationships that cross the border. There is therefore a danger that we will end up with unnecessary complications and difficulties that could hinder such activity, particularly business. There could be different currencies, different health and safety or environmental regulations and alternative immigration policies. Indeed, daylight hours could be different. In an extreme case, we could end up with someone who travels across the border in either direction needing to carry ID, change their money, alter their watch, follow different regulations and pay different taxes, and wondering whether it was all worth while.

In conclusion, speaking as the MP for Carlisle, a Scot and a UK citizen, I believe that Scotland’s place in the UK is very much like Carlisle’s—it should be at its centre.

2.10 pm

Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): Se urram mhor a tha ann dhomh an diugh cothrom bruidhinn air Alba a bhi neo-eisimeileachd.

I start in Gaelic, the oldest language of these islands of Britain and Ireland, to say that it is a great pleasure to speak in this debate about the day Scotland will be independent. It is tremendous that this House has taken this opportunity to debate the vital topic of how Scotland can join the world as an independent nation—how it can be a full part of the United Nations and a full and proper member of the Commonwealth, not kept apart and separate as a region of another state, and certainly not knowing its place in the Union. If ever a debate had a title with the hangover of imperialism, it is this one. Scotland’s place, like that of New Zealand, Canada, Norway, Denmark and Ireland, is in the world. No country in the developed world has voted against their independence, and I am sure that Scotland will not be the first. It is an odd insult to Scotland that here in Westminster every other nation is seen as independent but Scotland is insulted by the word “separate” or “separatism”. We will be independent like the others, too.

The right hon. Member for Edinburgh South West (Mr Darling)—the darling leader of the no campaign—often says that independence is a one-way street. [Interruption.] Yes, he darkly warns. In fairness, not much he says has any brightness and joy. But he is describing a situation and not a fact. The fact is that independence is probably irreversible. The empirical reality, from observation, is that none who gains independence chooses to give it up. As it works personally when we stop being children and start making decisions for ourselves, so it works for countries. The best people to make decisions for a country are the people who live and work there, and this is true for Scotland.

Iain Stewart: The hon. Gentleman has made a very interesting point. If, heaven forfend, there is a yes vote on 18 September, will he commit his party, at some subsequent date, to give a further referendum to allow Scotland back into the United Kingdom?

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Mr MacNeil: No, I will not, but others are free to campaign for that if they so choose and to do so if they win a mandate.

To my many English friends who worry that in the absence of Scotland they would have permanent Tory Government in the rump UK, the facts are that Scotland has changed the Government of the UK for only six months since 1945, whereas the Scottish nation, under the tawdry political Union of 1707, has got a Government it has not voted for two thirds of the time since 1945.

Mr Weir: Does my hon. Friend remember all the claims made for devolution by those in the Tory party who said that it would lead to Labour being in power in Scotland for ever, and how a short a period that turned out to be?

Mr MacNeil: My hon. Friend makes a great point. Labour is out of power in Scotland, and, like the Liberals and Tories, is heading ever further downwards.

Scotland will not affect the Government of Westminster 98% of the time. Regardless of that, our first job as representatives of the people in Scotland is to make the lives of those who live in Scotland better. Concern about who is in government in London, Paris, Madrid, Berlin or Dublin should not be the guiding light of any Scots democrat: it should be the conditions of people in the housing estates of Easterhouse, Castlemilk, Sighthill and The Raploch and bettering our cities.

Mr Donohoe rose

Mr MacNeil: My time is limited.

Our concern should be improving lives in Lochaber, better quality jobs in Sutherland, more young people staying in Lewis, and a flourishing Skye. No more neglect! Our concern should not be the red Tories or the blue Tory Government in London, but the needs of the people of Scotland and the democratic will of the people in Scotland, regardless of where in the world they are from. Our immigrants are very welcome in Scotland, as my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) has often said. Scotland’s destiny is in those people’s hands, and only a yes vote keeps that destiny in the hands of the people in Scotland.

We are at a crossroads in Scotland. Do we have the courage to deliver a better future to succeeding generations? The Norwegians did. Dirt poor when they made the decision in 1906, without the manifest advantages of Scotland today, they now have an oil fund for future generations so that when the oil runs out, the money will not. The finances of Scotland are good, despite having a tax system that is not designed to optimise or maximise Scotland’s potential. But in each and every of the last 32 years, estimates show that Scotland has contributed more tax per person than the UK as a whole. The figures for Scotland are equivalent to £10,700 tax per head annually, while for the UK as a whole they are only £9,000. From 2007-08, public spending has been a lower share of Scotland’s GDP than in the UK as a whole. Taking tax and spending together, over the past five years public finances in Scotland have been better than in the UK as a whole by £12.6 billion.

Margaret Curran (Glasgow East) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

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Mr MacNeil: Time does not allow.

Only this week, the Financial Times backs this with the immortal line—[Interruption.] Members should listen rather than barrack. They should have the courtesy to listen, and they should listen to this: “An independent Scotland could”—[Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. The House must listen to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr MacNeil: Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker. I hope that Labour Members feel suitably chastised. They should listen to this:

“An independent Scotland could…expect to start with healthier state finances than the rest of the UK.”

Even without oil and gas, Scotland’s GDP is higher than Italy’s and equal to that of France. Why we should say, “Even without oil and gas”, I do not know—we do not mention that when we talk about Norway or Saudi Arabia. Financially and economically, Scotland can do it. In fact, it has been said:

“It would be wrong to suggest that Scotland could not be another such successful, independent country.”

Would any Government Member wish to tell me who said that? It was the Prime Minister. Who could disagree with those words, or indeed the words of Ruth Davidson? I see the blank looks on the Tory Benches; Members can Google her later to find out who she is. She said:

“The question is not whether Scotland can survive as a separate state. Of course it could.”

Notice that she uses the word “separate”. My real favourite, knowing that the economic case has been won by the yes side, is this:

“Our argument has never been that Scotland couldn’t be independent”.

That was the Tory’s Darling in Scotland, the Labour MP for Edinburgh South West.

Our message is one of hope. Parents in the UK pay the highest child care costs in Europe. Scottish parents spend an average of 27% of household income on child care, whereas the OECD average is 12%. When we are independent and get the taxes and the economy properly organised, we in Scotland will dramatically improve child care. But we need the necessary powers, and we cannot have financial leakage of fiscal benefits to those in Westminster who choose not to fund this. It happens in Sweden and it will happen in Scotland. Independence must happen. We cannot have families looking at £9,000 tuition fees for every child going to university, costing every family £36,000 per child, with a family of three paying a staggering £108,000. That is the cost of voting no. Voting no to independence risks our budget, 100,000 more children in poverty, Scotland going out of the EU against our will, no guarantee of more powers for the Parliament, and no guarantee of getting the Government we vote for. Therefore Scotland must be independent.

We know we can keep the pound sterling. The Daily Telegraph blew the gaff when it said that the

“new nation will be able to keep the pound”,

or else “renounce…the debt”. We are not subsidy junkies. We can keep the pound while the rest of the world looks at us: the independence generation. They envy us in Canada, New Zealand and Australia, because we will deliver independence.

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2.17 pm

John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD): What a considerable pleasure it is to follow the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil). Rarely can a speech with such a terrible lack of facts have graced this hallowed Chamber. What a load of perfectly emotional clap-trap!

Mr MacNeil rose

John Thurso: Do sit down, dear boy.

When I originally put my name down to speak in this debate, I intended to stick to the dismal science, as Governor Carney called it in his address in Edinburgh, and to confine myself to the facts as they have been exposed in the Treasury Committee, but alas, the Chairman of the Committee, the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr Tyrie), was the first to be called and did a far better job than I could.

When I listened to the extraordinarily good and trenchant speech by the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart), I was struck by the fact that we should not run away from the emotion involved in this decision. I would therefore like first to touch a little on the “heart” issues before I return to the “facts” issues.

Not long ago, I had the honour of addressing a group of Girl Guides in Thurso who had asked me to come and explain the consequences of independence or the potential for Scotland of independence. I felt it was very important to try to give as balanced a view as I could and to explain both sides of the argument before giving my conclusion as to why I preferred to stay in the Union. Like the hon. Gentleman, I started by giving a bit of history. I did not quite go back to the Romans, but I did point out that it was not until, I think, 1468 —it was certainly around that part of the 15th century—that the northern isles came into the Scotland we now know. The administrative construct of modern Scotland, therefore, existed for less time than the Union.

It is important to put that in context, because we are so often given a wonderful diet whereby somehow the great Gaeldom goes back for millennia to some distant point in history and are told that if we do not give Scotland its independence we will be denying it its destiny. The plain fact is that that is just a load of emotional tosh. We should set it to one side and understand the true history.

If we look back a little further to the battle of Largs, we will see that, up to that point, Caithness and its people owed allegiance, through the Earl of Orkney—one of my ancestors—to the Norsk side and the King of Norway. Were Scotland to find itself in the impossible position of being independent, I think I would join my good friends from the northern isles in seeking independence and going back to that earldom.

We need to assess the risks as well as the benefits, and I hope the debate will be calm and rational. When I first joined the Treasury Committee, we looked at globalisation, and that is what we need to consider in order to understand what is happening in business. When we talk about what might happen to business, we have to consider where companies would be best regulated. The financial services industry in Scotland may well think that business would be better off regulated in a different jurisdiction. We have

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to think about companies that have treaties with other sovereign nations and may not continue to build things in Scotland if it becomes a separate country. We also have to think about whether people who wish to invest in the United Kingdom would go to Scotland or elsewhere in the UK. I would suggest that the simple, practical commercial decision for most of them would be to go elsewhere in the UK. The benefits cannot be marginal and nor can they be uncertain. If Scotland is to seek independence, the benefits must be substantial and proven, but that case has not yet been made.

We are a brave heart nation. That is a great Scottish characteristic, but another one is the canny heid and this is a time for canny heids. Otherwise, my grandchildren will one day read the headline in one of the Scottish newspapers, “Will the last person leaving Scotland snuff out the candle?”

2.22 pm

Gemma Doyle (West Dunbartonshire) (Lab/Co-op): It is a pleasure to be able to contribute to this debate. The first priority of any responsible Government is, of course, the security of their people and I want to say a few words about that.

As part of the UK, Scots have a high level of security in a very dangerous world. Service personnel from Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland work together in our armed forces to keep us safe at home and to tackle threats around the world. People like the security that the UK armed forces provide, and that is reflected in some of the findings of the recent Scottish social attitudes survey. If Scotland became independent, only 27% believe she should have her own army, navy and air force, while 67% believe we should still combine our armed forces with the rest of the UK. There are very few issues in the survey on which there is such overwhelming majority support for one option over another. Overwhelming support is also given to the idea of keeping the pound, whatever happens. The views of Scots on the issue of the nuclear deterrent are not as clear cut as they are on what should happen to our armed forces.

As part of the UK, we are also a part of NATO. Our membership is vital and means that we work with other countries and benefit from full spectrum defence capabilities; that we are not out on our own; and that we have influence in the world. The SNP, having dragged its members to reverse their long-standing opposition to NATO membership, is still in a muddle on the issue. It says that it would want to join NATO only if it were given a guarantee that no nuclear submarines would pass through Scotland’s waters. However, the White Paper also states that it would operate a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Both positions cannot be true: either the SNP would apply to join NATO on the basis of its condition, or it would drop that condition and be happy to join and operate a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Therefore, if we become independent, the SNP’s position on our membership of NATO, and the basis on which it would like us to join, is entirely unclear. Of course, there is no guarantee that we would be allowed to join.

The White Paper’s proposed defence budget is £2.5 billion a year, which is just 7% of the current total UK defence budget, every penny of which is spent on protecting

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Scottish families and others throughout the UK. The White Paper also includes an annual defence budget, but it does not mention any start-up costs or make a single procurement pledge.

The UK’s defence structure cannot be easily disaggregated. Assets and troops based throughout the UK and the rest of the world are for the defence and security of everyone who lives here. Scotland receives the full benefits of the protection and security afforded to the rest of the UK.

Mr MacNeil: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Gemma Doyle: I will not, I am afraid: I do not have much time.

We pool our resources and work together to keep the people of the UK safe. Why would we want to give that up?

A yellow thread of assumption runs through the White Paper. It is assumed that the remainder of the UK would cheerfully hand over whatever equipment an independent Scotland asked for, but what would an independent Scotland do if the remainder of the UK said, “I think we’ll keep our frigates and Typhoons”? Such equipment cannot be bought off the shelf, unless it is bought second hand. Perhaps that is the back-up plan.

UK defence sustains thousands of jobs—both on the front line and in industry—in Scotland. As has been said, our shipyards get special preference when it comes to the awarding of contracts. The UK does not build complex warships in other countries. The GMB convenor in Scotstoun has described the SNP’s defence plans as a “complete fantasy” that would lead to “yard closures”. We pool our resources and we share the risk, and our defence is much better within the UK.

2.27 pm

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for West Dunbartonshire (Gemma Doyle).

I speak in this debate both as a representative of my constituents in Stafford and as a proud citizen of the United Kingdom who, as my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart) so eloquently put it, cares deeply about—indeed, loves—the kingdom and its constituent nations of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Together with the vast majority of my constituents—if a poll we took at a recent meeting and many conversations I have had with them are anything to go by—I wish Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom.

Somehow there is a notion that people in the rest of the UK are not concerned about this decision, but that certainly does not accord with my experience. They do care: it is just that, quite rightly, they respect the right of the Scottish people to make up their own minds in this most important decision. My hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth) said that as the United Kingdom we stood united against fascism. We stood together for freedom and against tyranny during the cold war, and today we work together in tackling poverty and its causes around the world. It is not for nothing that the historic agreement about tackling poverty was signed in 2005 at Gleneagles in Scotland.

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Mr MacNeil: The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point about the nations that stood together under the allied banner during the second world war. It is important to remember that there were about 40 nations under that allied banner. I am particularly thinking of Norway, with the likes of Joachim Rønneberg, the Telemark hero, who made sure that Hitler did not get heavy water, and so prevented the flattening of this city. It was not just about one nation, but about the allied umbrella, and we should thank all the allies.

Jeremy Lefroy: I thank the hon. Gentleman for saying that, and he is absolutely right. We must remember all the nations that worked together, but we stood together as the United Kingdom, together with those nations. As a United Kingdom, we now have a very strong voice in the world through the G8 and our seats on the United Nations Security Council and the executive boards of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other organisations. That voice is vital both for our own interests but, even more importantly, for those of the citizens of the world.

To be a little personal for a moment, my late father-in-law, Donald MacKay from Caithness, is just one important but personal example of the fundamental contribution made by Scots across the ages to our United Kingdom. He worked on radar for the Royal Navy in Haslemere during the war alongside my father—he, completely coincidentally, was there at the same time—and so many others from across the UK and, as the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil) said, from other nations, and therefore played his role in protecting our vital supply lifelines in the Atlantic and elsewhere. That is just another example of the intellectual seriousness, which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border, that Scotland and Scots so often bring to our deliberations and work in the United Kingdom.

As the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Anas Sarwar) said, we are part of one family in the UK. Like any family, we have our squabbles, but we also stand up for each other in difficult times, shoulder to shoulder. I and, I believe, millions of others in England and, indeed, in other parts of the United Kingdom care deeply about Scotland remaining in the UK. We have done so much together; let us continue to do so.

2.32 pm

Gregg McClymont (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (Lab): The debate has been interesting so far, particularly the contributions of Scottish National party representatives. There has been sound, fury and passion about what they see as the great differences between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom, but the danger is that the sound, fury and passion will obscure the reality of the SNP’s proposals to change the Union.

There is a rather peculiar notion at the heart of the nationalist case, which is that the economic and social union between the peoples of these islands should continue, but that the political Union should end. I will come back to examine what that peculiar notion means for Scotland, but the fact that the Scottish National party believes that economic and social union should continue—the White Paper is eloquent testimony to that desire—says something about how 300 years of

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partnership have brought the peoples of these islands closer together. That is not surprising: we have a shared language, notwithstanding the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil) and others, as well as family ties, a shared currency, free trade and common trade unions across the United Kingdom.

Mr MacNeil: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Gregg McClymont: Perhaps after I have made some progress.

We share tastes, preferences and of course a common popular culture, which is reinforced every Saturday night when the nation comes together to watch “Strictly Coming Dancing”, among other programmes. It is important to recognise that the White Paper is eloquent testimony to all that. The SNP wants to argue that all those matters can be retained in their current form, while the political Union disappears.

Why do nationalists, whose philosophy is based on a belief in difference, come to that conclusion? The answer is that 300 years of shared history cannot be washed away or forgone. When Alex Salmond says, as he recently did to James Naughtie, that he has a Scottish identity but also a British one, it is testimony to that, whether Mr Salmond believes it or not. He knows that the people of Scotland believe that there are mutual ties that bind us across these islands.

Mr MacNeil: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Gregg McClymont: The hon. Gentleman should allow me to develop my argument a little further.

The SNP wants the political Union to end, but the social and economic union to continue. In those circumstances, the referendum will be about the best form of Government across these islands. That point was eloquently made by the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart). If economic and social union is to endure, as shown by the SNP’s White Paper, the question becomes one about how Scotland’s political interests are to be represented. The answer that Scots came up with 300, 400 or even 500 years ago was a Union. With John Mair of Haddington in the lead, they came up, in diabolically clever Scottish fashion, with a way to create a partnership between two countries of very unequal size. When we celebrate Robert the Bruce and William Wallace, we are saying that because Scotland entered the Union freely, we created a partnership and were not subordinated.

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): Will not the Scottish Government’s proposals lead to an incredible democratic deficit? At the moment, if people in Scotland do not like what the UK Government do, they can have their say through their MPs. In the new arrangement proposed by the SNP, any negotiations would be intergovernmental, and it would not be up to the people of Scotland but to the Scottish Government to see what could be extracted from negotiations with the UK Government.

Gregg McClymont: My hon. Friend makes a good point. There is a very Scottish way of putting it: the nationalists want us to have our cake and eat it, but that is very difficult. When Alex Salmond claims that by

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Scotland leaving the political union, England would lose a surly lodger and gain a good neighbour—that is important, because it illuminates the nationalists’ view of the world—my response is very straightforward: how can you be a lodger in your own house? We built this house together, and it is ours as much as anyone else’s. That house has of course been refurbished; it is not unchanging. The biggest constitutional change in this country in 300 years was the creation of the Scottish Parliament.




The hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar does not like to be faced with facts—his speech was a fact-free zone—but the fact is that this is our house as well as that of the other peoples of the United Kingdom.

That is the basis on which this debate must proceed: how can one continue an economic and social union—the ties that bind us are accepted even by the nationalists—without political representation in the place where such social and economic decisions are made? The debate about the currency, interest rates and continuing social ties must proceed on that basis.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. Before we go any further, I should point out to the House that there is a time limit on speeches in this debate, and not much time is left. There are more hon. Members who wish to speak than there is time available if they all take the full five minutes, plus an extra two and a half minutes for interventions; several hon. Members who have sat here all afternoon may not have an opportunity to speak. I ask those about to speak to keep within the five minutes, including interventions, out of courtesy to their colleagues. If they do so, everyone will have the opportunity to speak in this extremely important debate.

2.39 pm

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): My father, Squadron Leader Jock Stewart, MC, was an RAF officer from Glasgow. My mother was from London and served in the Special Operations Executive. I am therefore half Scottish, half English and proudly British. As I come from a service family and have been a soldier myself, I intend to talk about just how valuable men and women from Scotland are to our armed forces.

Scottish soldiers, sailors and airmen have always had a tremendous reputation as brave, ferocious warriors. Throughout history, proportionately more Scots than Englishmen, Welshmen or Irishmen have taken the Queen’s shilling to fight for the Crown. Since 1707, Scottish soldiers have played a crucial part in most battles fought by the British Army.

The Gordon Highlanders had a leading part in the 1815 Waterloo campaign. At the battle of Quatre Bras on 16 June 1815, the Gordons halted the French advance in its tracks with the bayonet. Two days later, the regiment was in the midst of it again on the field of Waterloo. By then, casualties had reduced the gallant Gordons to about 250 men, and yet those incredible soldiers again charged the French frontally with the bayonet. As the Highlanders approached, the French broke into disarray and could only be caught by other Scotsmen on horses. The Scots Greys galloped past the

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Gordons to get at the French enemy. According to some accounts, Scottish infantrymen clung to the stirrups of the Scottish cavalry so that they could reach the enemy more easily. Is not that wonderful?

Mr MacNeil: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Bob Stewart: No, I have heard too much rubbish from the hon. Gentleman this afternoon.

About 700,000 Scots served in the first world war, with about 150,000 losing their lives. The Highlanders earned their nicknames—the devils in skirts or the ladies from hell—at a battle in 1916, when the 51st Highland Division crossed a battlefield littered with the fallen to storm German positions with such force that thousands of prisoners were taken. At the end of the first world war, the 51st Highland Division was widely reckoned to be the best fighting force in France.

The second world war enhanced the Scottish soldier’s incredible reputation. To date, 117 Victoria Crosses have been won by Scotsmen—soldiers, sailors and airmen.

For me, there is nothing more stirring in a fight than the sound of bagpipes. As the British United Nations commander in Bosnia in 1992-93, I used my two pipers frequently. For instance, I asked them to play at line crossings because all of us needed courage to advance through no man’s land, especially as Staff Sergeant Steve Bristow had previously been wounded beside me by a sniper. The sound of bagpipes wafting through the air was an incredible encouragement to those of us who were frightened. My mainly English soldiers loved the skirling, thrilling and impossible to miss sound of the pipes. Once, there was intense fighting all around my base at Vitez. I asked my piper, Lance Corporal Cleary, to stand on the roof and make an impact. He did just that. The fighting and the shooting died down quite quickly as that tremendously emotive and martial sound echoed down the valley.

My purpose this afternoon has been to remind the House just how important those in the British Army—indeed, those in all three services—consider the contribution that is made by their Scottish comrades, both men and women, to be.

Mr MacNeil: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Bob Stewart: No.

Scottish men and women form an integral part of our armed forces. I would grieve hugely if they were no longer a part of them. I sincerely hope that that will never happen.

2.44 pm

Mr Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab): In the short time available to me, I will focus on the referendum and the issue of independence.

A recent YouGov poll showed that 29% of the people of Scotland were in favour of independence. That figure is typical of recent polls. Why does the SNP want a debate with David Cameron? Why is it targeting Labour voters with the nonsense that this debate is about Labour Scotland versus Tory England? Why is it undermining the prospect of a future United Kingdom Labour Government? That argument is not supported by the facts.

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Less than a quarter of Scottish people supported the SNP in the 2011 elections, but it has a majority in the Scottish Parliament. It has a mandate for a referendum, but not a mandate to be fixated on independence. In the 2010 general election, the Labour party received more votes than the SNP received in that election and in the 2011 election. With respect to Government Members, the reality is that the 41 Scottish Labour MPs in this House are more representative of the views of the Scottish people than the present Scottish Government.

The majority of Scottish votes in the 2010 general election were cast for centre left parties. The same was true in England, Wales and even Northern Ireland. We therefore share the same values throughout the United Kingdom. We have the same values and, indeed, the same problems in Glasgow, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Aberdeen and Manchester. The reality is that, whatever the problems, the United Kingdom works.

In all candour, I must say that what does not work is the coalition’s attitude to working people, which has been rejected by Scottish, Welsh and Irish people and most English people. The SNP disregards the fact that it has been rejected and uses it as an excuse to promote independence. The Scottish Government could act now on child care. As my colleagues have pointed out, Labour has pushed the Scottish Government hard for more than a year to act on the bedroom tax. For purely political reasons, they delayed their decision until this week. I do not for one second want the nats to regard the issue of welfare as an argument for separatism. Who can forget the fact that they took £34 million from disabled children and their families in Scotland and spent it on other things, mostly on political gimmicks? I certainly will not.

The positive reality is that the economies of Scotland and England are interconnected. Mr Salmond called the pound

“a millstone round Scotland’s neck”

and said that he wanted to join the euro. Now, the nationalists wants to opt out and keep the pound. How opportunistic can they get? The rest of the UK is Scotland’s largest trading partner. If corporation tax is cut, it will become a competitor. Will Scotland be allowed to keep the pound and cut corporation tax?

Mr Salmond is, by nature, a gambler. He is willing to take a risk with the Scottish economy and our people’s prosperity. However, there will be no way back if the people decide to have independence. I believe that the majority of our kinsfolk in the United Kingdom want Scotland to stay. The United Kingdom is not just a political system; it is our home. We are entitled to know what the future offers.

Thankfully, the only people who can stop Scottish independence are the Scottish people themselves. I passionately urge them to reject the precarious and uncharted path of independence and separatism, which in so many ways would leave our country defenceless, exposed and alone.

2.49 pm

Cathy Jamieson (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (Lab/Co-op): It is a pleasure to follow some interesting speeches and in the brief time available I want to pick up on the three themes with which my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Bain) opened the debate: identity, economics and vision. I may not have much

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time to talk about the economics, but other hon. Members have made some good arguments about the currency, and mentioned the comments made by the Governor of the Bank of England, and others.

On identity, like everyone else who has spoken today from across the House, I am proud of my cultural identity as a Scot. I would describe myself as Scottish, and in the days when we wrote in our school jotters our full name and address, it would always be “Shortlees, Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, Scotland, UK, Europe, the world, the universe.”—[Laughter.] I recognise that other hon. Members have done the same thing. That signified how I have always seen myself, and how the majority of Scots see themselves. We are passionately proud to be Scottish, but we also see ourselves as citizens of the world, and no doubt in future years, as citizens of that universe. That is why, when I speak to my constituents they raise real concerns about the idea of separating and splitting from the rest of the United Kingdom.

In the past week I have been at a number of meetings and met people from across the United Kingdom, and interestingly, the first things we talked about were the Scottish connections. So far this week I have met people who are living and working in England but whose families come from Coatbridge, Cambuslang, and even further afield up north in Aberdeen and Inverness. Although they would now describe themselves as English because that is where their families are located, they are none the less proud of their Scottish heritage.

Mr Cash: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Cathy Jamieson: I am terribly sorry but I do not have time to take interventions as other Members want to speak. My point is that we are able to be Scottish and citizens of the United Kingdom—and indeed Europe—at the same time, which is important.

Let me pick on one point. I think that the Scottish people are entitled to have a fair, honest and courteous debate on this issue.

Pete Wishart: Let’s start here.

Cathy Jamieson: I hear the hon. Gentleman baying at me across the Benches, but my point is that many of my constituents may well vote yes and that will be their right, but the debate should take place in a courteous way. People should have the facts and information, and they should not have others shouting them down from 12 feet away. It is important that that information is trustworthy and that people have a sense that there is no political bias from the Government.

Interestingly, I have been sent a copy of a press release issued by Transport Scotland—the transport agency in Scotland. It begins:

“Powers of independence would better support transport.”

When such things are issued by a Government agency in Scotland it gives cause for concern that the civil service and Government agencies have become overly politicised. That makes it difficult for others to feel able to speak out because they fear they will somehow be castigated or suffer the consequences of doing so, and that issue ought to be looked at.

In this constant drive for additional powers, I served for 12 years in the Scottish Parliament and saw the changes that were made. I worked with UK Government Ministers when I was a Minister in the Scottish Executive,

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and looked at how we could transform and move on with powers. However, it is dangerous to think that simply adding more and more powers without any overall pattern is any more democratic or likely to deliver anything further than social justice. We should be proud to be Scots and part of the UK. This debate will continue but it must do so in a way that gives our constituents the opportunity to hear the arguments and make up their own minds.

2.54 pm

Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab): I wear a badge in this House and in Scotland that has on it the saltire and the rose. It states: “Labour: A UK voice for Scotland.” That is the reality of Scotland’s place in the UK. With all due respect to those on the Government Benches, we have the ability to get rid of the coalition Government and the things they are doing, and vote in a Labour Government. That is the duty of the 41 Scottish Labour Members of Parliament, which we have because we are in the United Kingdom. We get to choose for everyone.

For me as the Member who represents 75% of Tam Dalyell’s old constituency of West Lothian, it is the answer to the West Lothian question. He wondered why he could talk about Blackburn in England but not Blackburn in Scotland, but I can talk about Blackburn in both countries in this Chamber, because the policies of this Parliament affect people in England and in Scotland—in both Blackburns.

I am seeking a permanent place in the UK, but one that is changing. It is about Scotland in an economically safer place: the UK’s economic resilience is a thing that Scotland has. Think of what happened when £44.7 billion of UK taxes were used to save RBS, plus £20 billion for HBOS and £20 billion for Lloyds TSB, which has places in Scotland. The resilience of the UK economy was the reason we could survive that, and Scotland would not have survived it without being part of the UK.

With quantitative easing, how much money was printed by the Bank of England to save the economy of Scotland, keep interest rates down, and save companies and households in Scotland? I do not like the austerity policies introduced for the people of the UK, but I understand why we need to save the economy of Scotland in a UK environment. Today, RBS announced in The Guardian that if there is independence it will switch its headquarters from Edinburgh. It has sensibly realised the problem that will exist if Scotland is cut off from the rest of the UK.

The other thing that Scotland gets as part of the UK is fiscal independence. For reasons of good socialist practice, my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), the much criticised former Chancellor, kept us out of the euro and the eurozone. He kept us out of the stability and growth pact and away from the budgets that are now being written for the eurozone countries through the two pack and the six pack that we would have faced. I have sat on the European Scrutiny Committee for 15 years—the Chairman for a lot longer—and we have heard President Barroso say that Scotland will have to reapply to the EU and that it will get back in only if it signs up to the euro. That is why it is dangerous to leave the UK and

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that fiscal independence, and try to renegotiate another pact. There is no question but that Scotland will get back into the EU, but only if it signs up to the eurozone fiscal disciplines.

What does that mean? A recent paper states what happened to Croatia, the latest entrant to the EU. Its budget will be 5.4% in deficit in 2013, 6.5% in 2014, and 6.2% in 2015—but oh no it will not. It has been told that under eurozone rules it must reduce the deficit to 4.6% in 2013, 3.5% in 2015, and 2.7% in 2016. It will have to slash almost 3% off its budget. Consider what happened to Lithuania in those circumstances: a 15% collapse in its economy, a 40% cut in all public sector pay, and now it is struggling. We were there recently during its presidency, and were told that 40% of all transactions now take place under the counter without paying tax. That is the effect of the discipline of the eurozone.

Scotland could, of course, go for the sterling currency union—the latest wheeze—which is a mini copy of the eurozone with the fiscal interests of control in the larger economy. Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, delivered the home truths in Edinburgh and was quoted in the Financial Times:

“The desire of the Scottish government to remaining in the sterling area would, he stressed, sharply curtail Scotland’s fiscal and financial independence.”

It is quite clear that the bigger country would dictate the policies of the smaller country.

At the moment there are massive subsidies from England and its taxpayers for wind farms. Our renewables are being brought up in the UK, and they are paid for by the UK. Postal services are subsidised in exactly the same manner, and under independence there would need to be either a massive subsidy through the taxpayer, or a massive hike in postal charges. The best thing we can do is remain in the UK and fight for change that benefits Scotland in the UK.

2.59 pm

Fiona O'Donnell (East Lothian) (Lab): It is a pleasure to contribute to this debate. Scotland has a proud and distinct history within the UK, and the UK is a union state rather than a unitary state. John P Mackintosh, former MP for Berwick and East Lothian, was a great thinker and proponent of devolution. He said:

“People in Scotland want a degree of government for themselves. It is not beyond the wit of man to devise the institution to meet those demands.”

Those words are now engraved about the Donald Dewar Room in Holyrood. Unfortunately, it was beyond the wit of the SNP to be a part of the Scottish Constitutional Convention, where men and women across Scotland’s civic society joined together to devise the Scottish Parliament, which now provides Scottish accountability for Scotland to make distinctive decisions on a wide range of policy.

For those of us in the Labour movement, devolution is about so much more than political accountability. I, along with 74% of voters, said yes in September 1997. I had seen how our councils in Scotland had battled to protect our people from the worst excesses of Thatcher’s Government. Her plan, and we now know it was her plan to close the pits and escalate the dispute, devastated my constituency. I wanted greater protection from any future Tory Government. Just yesterday in the Scottish

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Parliament, we have seen how that can happen. Despite John Swinney saying that he did not want to let Westminster off the hook and Nicola Sturgeon preferring a scrap with Westminster to scrapping the bedroom tax, thanks to the efforts of Jackie Baillie, Iain Gray and the Govan Law Centre, people in my constituency and across Scotland are now protected from this inhumane measure. I also want to give credit to my own local housing association, which has found a legal way to protect its tenants. This is the success and the power of devolution. This is the reality of having the best of both worlds.

I have known since my early years that I was not a nationalist. I remember a conversation on the Fort William primary school minibus. A nationalist girl took out a sweetie paper, tore it in half, and explained to me that this was what happened to Scotland’s wealth. I acknowledge that the nationalist argument has moved on from sweetie papers, but what it cannot challenge today—no matter how many White Papers it publishes, however much it uses our civil service for its political ends and however much it seeks to silence those who even dare to ask questions of its case—is the fact that Scotland, as part of the UK, is better placed to do good here at home and around the world.

In a packed Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh this week, the hon. Member for Bradford West (George Galloway) spoke about the difference that Scottish MPs made in this place in stopping military intervention in Syria. In the recent report from the Select Committee on International Development, we can also see the good that we do. I urge the voters in Scotland: do not tear my country apart and do not tear my family apart.

3.2 pm

Mr Iain McKenzie (Inverclyde) (Lab): I will endeavour to be as brief as possible, because I know that other Members are still waiting to contribute to the debate.

I believe that Scotland’s place in the UK is about being part of one of the largest economies in Europe and the sixth largest in the world. I believe that separation from the rest of the UK would give Scottish businesses an unnecessary barrier to trading with our biggest market. We know, without doubt, that the rest of the UK is Scotland’s biggest market. Independence would turn our border into a barrier for existing and future trade. What sense would that make? The open border between Scotland and the UK brings significant economic, trade and employment opportunities. As part of the UK, Scotland has access to a single market of approximately 70 million people.

In addition to shared opportunities, the pooling of resources across the UK allows risk to be shared, something seen most recently by the bail-out of the banks by the UK Treasury. The UK Treasury used £37 billion to bail out Scottish-based banks during the world financial crisis, saving more than 400 RBS jobs in Inverclyde. The evidence is that, economically and socially, the Scottish people are better off being part of a Union that pools risks and rewards. There is, of course, also significant UK public sector employment in Scotland. Two thirds of all civil servants in Scotland work for the UK Government. UK defence contracts are also essential to Scottish industry. The Ministry of Defence has some 700 direct contracts in Scotland, supporting thousands of jobs. We also have cross-border private sector trading. Ease of doing business and contract tendering are essential for bringing success to Scottish firms in a

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wider UK market. Clearly, Scotland has an important economic relationship with the rest of the UK, benefiting from access to a single market comprising tens of millions of people.

The facts speak for themselves: Scottish business buys and sells more products and services within the UK than any other country in the world. In 2010, 70% of Scotland’s exported goods went to other parts of the UK and 70% of imports are estimated to have come from the UK. That clearly demonstrates that Scotland’s economic performance is stronger because it is part of a larger integrated UK economy. Exit the UK and our border becomes a barrier: a barrier that will impede and restrict ease of trade.

Even where free trade agreements exist alongside controlled borders, neighbouring countries with similar economies are affected by the presence of that border. Analysis finds, for example, that trade between the US and Canada is thought to be 44% lower than it could be as a result of the border between them. It is not just business that will be disadvantaged. Labour migration between Scotland and the rest of the UK is also estimated to be as much as 75% higher in an integrated UK, allowing the sharing of skills and knowledge. Leave the UK, and we create an unnecessary barrier to trade with the rest of the UK. That is why Labour’s vision for Scotland is about working across borders. Our vision for Scotland is being part of bigger, not what independence offers—part of smaller.

3.5 pm

Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East) (Lab): One of the laziest forms of political argument is to put up a straw man, knock it down and think the argument has been won. We had an example of that from the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart). What he is saying to this House and the Scottish people is that they have two choices: independence or this, which is as good as it gets. That is not the choice. If by “as good as it gets” he means the policies of the current UK Government, I think I am just as much opposed to them as he is, however much we might disagree on other matters.

The current situation is not as good as it gets—of course it is not. The way to change that, however, is to campaign against those policies. The way to change that is to win the next general election. The way to change that is to use the powers we already have and those that are coming. We never hear from the Scottish Government about the fact that the Scotland Act 2012, which was passed in this place, is coming into force in a number of stages. The Act will devolve fiscal powers to a degree we have not had before in Scotland. What does the Scottish National party want to do with those powers? What is it doing with the powers it already has? In my city, people are desperate for affordable housing. Why are we not using some of the powers we already have to increase investment in housing to stop the housing crisis? There are so many things the Scottish Government could be doing with what we already have. So no, it is not as good as it gets: it is up to us to make it better—within the United Kingdom.

3.7 pm

Margaret Curran (Glasgow East) (Lab): Thank you very much, Deputy Presiding Officer and welcome to your position—I mean Madam Deputy Speaker. I was

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in the Scottish Parliament for 12 years. I apologise to you, Madam Deputy Speaker. Let me start again.

I begin by thanking the Backbench Business Committee for allocating the time for the debate. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Bain) for securing it. As ever, his contribution was substantial and well informed. What has been most striking about the debate so far has been the demand for it and the pressing nature of the time given. I call on the Government to find time in their schedule to debate this pressing issue. Scotland has two Parliaments, and it is important that this one rises to the occasion to debate this important issue.

As I said, this has been mostly a good debate. As hon. Members will know, I stand here to support the cause of Scotland staying part of the Union, but I would ask that the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) be given more time in future debates, because I think he makes my case strongly for me. As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow Central (Anas Sarwar) made clear in his compelling speech, and as was as echoed by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh East (Sheila Gilmore), Scotland can have a better future, but based not on separation and pulling away from our friends and allies, but on co-operation. Based on the values of solidarity and equality, we can build a new future for Scotland and for future generations. As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North East said, this is not a binary choice. Scotland can have a better future.

It is in the nature of my job that I often travel around the different parts of Scotland. I sit in many taxis, and I talk to many taxi drivers; and I go to a few bars—not as many bars as taxis—and I talk to people in bars. It has become clear to me that in our schools and homes there is a sense that the debate has entered a new phase. Throughout Scotland, people understand that we are deciding the future of our country, for our families and for generations to come. It will be one of the biggest decisions we Scots will make in our lives, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Sandra Osborne) put it so well, and its effect will be felt not just by us, but by our children and our grandchildren.

Across Scotland, in the characteristic way demonstrated today, people are asking, “What are the consequences of independence? What will it mean for me and my family?” Important questions are being asked, and ordinary people were promised by the SNP Government that they would be answered, but it is widely recognised now, throughout Scotland, that the White Paper systematically failed to do that, as my hon. Friends the Members for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Mr McCann) and for Livingston (Graeme Morrice) indicated. We were told the White Paper would resonate throughout the ages, but the view in Scotland is that it did not really last a fortnight.

Fundamental questions persist—questions that people ask me time and again. I know that not everyone likes to hear this, but we have to face the facts and spell out the impact that independence would have on people throughout Scotland. It is time to get real about the independence debate, so I want to spell out what separation would mean for families across Scotland and respond to some of the concerns about independence that people

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have raised with me. We need to get away from the clichés and the jargon, and make this debate real for ordinary people across Scotland. To start, we have heard about comments from the First Minister. I have got news for him: no one exemplifies the political elite more these days than Alex Salmond. He is so enjoying the comforts of his office that he has forgotten that his primary duty is to be straight with the people of Scotland. It is time he got away from the dinner circuit, and got out there and started telling the people of Scotland the truth about independence.

I want to share some facts with the House that I believe people across Scotland should know before they cast their vote. From talking to people—others will have had this experience—I know that the fundamental question they are asking themselves is, “Will it make me better off or worse off?” It is not a surprise, therefore, that arguments about currency, borrowing and financial regulation have dominated the debate so far. What would the nationalists’ plans for the currency mean for families? According to independent experts, they would mean higher interest rates—1.5 percentage points higher than in the rest of the UK.

What would that mean for someone struggling to raise a family? It would mean higher credit card borrowing costs. It would mean that someone who buys their Christmas presents on credit and pays off their card over the year will pay more. It means it will take people longer to pay off their mortgages. And when we talk about the Bank of England, what do we mean? Why is it so important? At the moment, it sets interest rates, determining how much people pay on their mortgage. Under the SNP’s plan, Scotland’s mortgage rates would be set by a bank in London over which Scotland would have absolutely no control or say. How would that empower people in Scotland?

As we have said, working across the UK keeps the cost of goods and services low because, as the major supermarkets have told us, a market of 60 million people allows costs to be spread wider than in a market of 5 million. What does that mean? It means that they

“would treat it as an international market…by putting up…prices”.

Those were not my words, but the words of a supermarket boss, quoted recently in The Financial Times—and, it must be said, endorsed by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, because it is worried about higher costs for ordinary working people in Scotland. That is why all this matters.

The National Association of Pension Funds has said that the value of pension funds would be “eroded” in an independent Scotland, and Scottish Financial Enterprise has warned that Scotland faces a multi million-pound bill for a new regulator. What does that mean? It means, in short, that our pension contributions will be paying for independence. It is time that the First Minister was straight with the Scottish people. It is time that he told them that cross-border pension costs resulting from independence would increase costs in Scotland, and would undermine and erode the value of our pensions.

Finally, what does this tell us about Scotland’s public finances? I do not believe for a second—and let me say again that it is time that the SNP was not allowed to put up this straw man—that Scotland could not survive as an independent country; but surviving is not thriving. We know that, at present, Scotland gets back from the UK more than it pays in. In 2010-11, Scotland contributed

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£56.9 billion to the shared UK pot, and got back £64.5 billion. What does that mean for Scottish families? It means that we have £1,200 more per head. For Labour Members, the ability to redistribute funds across the UK is a point of pride.

My approach to the referendum is very simple. When we look at the great strengths that Scotland has—its great geography, our industries and the resilience, resourcefulness and skill of our people—we see what kind of a future we can have with those great strengths. We face enormous challenges too—we need to fight the poverty that is still so deeply embedded, and we need to tackle ill health—but the way in which to meet those challenges and maximise that resource is to exploit the values that have built the great achievements of the past, from the NHS to the welfare state. With those enduring values, we can work together in partnership for a new Scotland for new times: not pulling away with a deceit on the Scottish people, but delivering a promise to work in partnership for a better world and a better future.

3.17 pm

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr Alistair Carmichael): Let me begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Bain) on securing the debate and expressing my gratitude to the Backbench Business Committee for selecting it. It has been an excellent debate, made all the better by the fact that we have heard voices from the whole of the United Kingdom. It has brought contributions of both passion and intellect, and I think we should thank all who have taken part in it.

This is one of Scotland’s two Parliaments, and it is right that we should take the opportunity to discuss Scotland’s future at a crucial moment in our history. This Parliament makes key decisions for Scotland as part of the United Kingdom in many areas: the economy, defence, international relations and pensions, to list but a few. As an integral part of the United Kingdom, this Parliament, and those within it who represent constituents throughout the UK, make decisions on behalf of the whole of the United Kingdom. However, this Parliament also recognised in 1997 that some decisions are better taken closer to the people, and it was through this House that the Scotland Act 1998 was delivered, providing real devolution of power within a strong United Kingdom. That decision was revisited by the work of the Calman commission in 2008, and implemented in the Scotland Act 2012.

The balance of powers between this Parliament and the Scottish Parliament is a dynamic settlement, and will rightly continue to be so. The debate on where that balance is struck is a debate that presupposes our continued membership of the United Kingdom family, but the question that will face us on 18 September is quite different: should we remain part of that family, or should we become an independent country?

Choosing to leave the United Kingdom would be a fundamental and irreversible step. As part of the UK family, we have a shared history and share many common values. As part of the United Kingdom, those of us in Scotland—like people living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland—benefit from the UK’s size and scale. We also benefit from the UK’s international influence, and from its economic strength. Scotland, like the rest of the UK, contributes to those benefits. We contribute

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in all manner of ways: economically, culturally and socially. As the hon. Member for Carlisle (John Stevenson) put it: together, we are truly greater than the sum of our constituent parts.

If we vote for independence, however, we walk away from those benefits. Scotland’s future would be based on a series of protracted negotiations with dozens of different states and organisations. Which currency would Scotland use? How would Scotland join the EU, and what terms of membership would it be able to secure? Would Scotland have to join the euro or become part of the Schengen arrangements? These are all questions to which the people of Scotland want answers. The nationalists owe them answers, but so far they have failed to deliver them. The truth is that all these issues would require detailed negotiations to pull Scotland out of the United Kingdom family of which it has been an integral part for over 300 years and to establish a new set of international relationships. Independence is a 20th century—or maybe even a 19th century—solution in search of a 21st century problem. Across a world in which change comes at a breathtaking pace, the prevailing trend is to pull down barriers and borders, not to put them up.

Mr MacNeil: The right hon. Gentleman says that some questions need to be answered. We know that some of them can be answered only by the European Commission. As Scottish Secretary, he should be Scotland’s man in Westminster, rather than Westminster’s man in Scotland. Will he ensure that the UK Government go to the European Commission and get answers to those questions that he describes as vital?

Mr Carmichael: The answers to those questions, if they were ever to be posed, would not be given by the European Commission; they would be given by the 28 member states of the European Union. The hon. Gentleman gives me the opportunity to remind the House that we have already heard from a number of them that this would not be a straightforward, painless process. If Scotland walked away from the United Kingdom, she would walk away from membership of the EU and would be required to negotiate her way back in.

As part of the United Kingdom, Scotland enjoys the best of both worlds. We have a strong Scottish Parliament in charge of key areas of Scottish life: health, education, transport and criminal justice. When it makes sense to do so, key decisions of the state are reserved to the UK Government and Parliament here to be taken on behalf of all citizens across the United Kingdom. Ours is a flexible settlement. When it makes sense to do so, we revise the settlement to provide further powers and to increase the Scottish Government and Parliament’s responsibility and, crucially, their accountability, not just for spending money but for raising it too.

The Scotland Act 2012 will substantially increase the Scottish Parliament’s powers, and it does so on the basis of evidence, consensus and consideration, ensuring that we adapt and evolve, but never at the expense of losing what works well and what works in the interests of all, right across the United Kingdom. All this—the creation of a Scottish Parliament and the incremental provision of further powers for it—has been designed by Scots and delivered by Scots for Scots, through this United Kingdom Parliament. Our devolution settlement is well and truly stamped “Made in Scotland”.

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Right now, however, the issue on which we are all focusing is whether Scotland will remain part of the Union. Let me turn to the question of currency. It has featured strongly in this debate, and little wonder. The currency that we use is vital to all of us. It is vital for individuals buying food and paying off loans; for businesses paying employees, and trading with one another and across borders; for our banks and financial institutions; and, of course, for Scotland’s economy as a whole. Last week, the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, set out his views on currency unions in very measured and, as he described it, “technocratic” terms. Governor Carney highlighted the principal difficulties of entering a currency union: losing national sovereignty; the practical risks of financial instability; and having to provide fiscal support to bail out another country. A currency union would involve giving up some national sovereignty over economic policy. Why would it be in an independent Scotland’s interest to join a currency union?

Mr MacNeil rose

Mr Carmichael: It was not worth taking the hon. Gentleman’s last intervention, so I am not going to take this one.

Joining such a union would result in severe limits to Scotland’s economic freedom and a risk of losing economic resilience and credibility. What about the continuing UK? We heard about this from the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr Tyrie). A currency union would expose the continuing UK to the risk of bailing out banks in an independent Scotland if they were to get into difficulties again—these would be banks over which it would have no control, their being regulated under a different system in a foreign country. That is why we have consistently said it is highly unlikely that a currency union could be agreed, because it is highly unlikely that a currency union could be made to work. No one should vote for an independent Scotland on the basis that they will get to keep the UK pound sterling. Independence means leaving the UK’s monetary union; the only way for Scotland to be sure of keeping the UK pound as it is now is to stay in the UK. Nothing the Scottish Government have asserted changes that reality.

Earlier this week I was asked by a journalist what I expected to be doing on 19 September this year. I was able to reply that I am almost certain that I shall be celebrating the continuation of a highly successful Union, one that has been built on shared effort, common endeavour and, yes, love—19 September will be my

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27th wedding anniversary. As I celebrate that anniversary with my English-born wife and my half-English, half-Scottish children, I am confident, but by no means complacent, that we shall be able to toast the continuation of that other highly successful Union, the one between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

3.27 pm

Mr Bain: With the leave of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker, I shall sum up.

We have had an interesting afternoon, and this debate has shown the best of the House of Commons: it has at times been irreverent, moving and witty, but it has also provided serious analysis of serious factual issues relating to this whole discussion of the constitution of the United Kingdom. We heard 25 contributions from Back Benchers. I have insufficient time to run through all of them, but I was particularly struck by the first, which came from the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr Tyrie), who chairs the Treasury Committee. He emphasised clearly that for a functioning currency union there needs to be a banking union, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Gregg McClymont) said, a political union, too. As Martin Wolf wrote in the Financial Times last week, the Bank of England cannot serve two masters, and that was the point that came from the hon. Gentleman’s contribution.

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow Central (Anas Sarwar) spoke passionately about the contribution of the UK Labour movement in Scotland’s development. The right hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Michael Moore) spoke about the scale and extent of the positive potential in Scotland’s economy if we make the right choice in this referendum in terms of our energy policy and in keeping the family of nations that is the United Kingdom together. The hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart), along with other hon. Members, spoke about the head and heart case for keeping the UK together. Other hon. Members referred to our links with the European Union and the risks that this debate causes to those.

This political, economic, social and cultural Union has been more than the sum of its parts for the past 300 years. I hope that this will not be the last time this House of Commons discusses that Union, and that we shall celebrate the continuation of that Union for many decades and centuries to come.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered Scotland’s place in the UK.

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International Wildlife Crime

[Relevant documents: Third Report from the Environmental Audit Committee, Session 2012-13, Wildlife Crime, HC 140, and the Government response, HC 1061.]

3.30 pm

Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs) (Con): I beg to move,

That this House has considered international wildlife crime.

Four years ago, I visited the Kaziranga national park in Assam, north-east India with the International Fund for Animal Welfare. The park is home to two thirds of the world’s population of one-horned rhinoceroses. Extinct in some parts of the sub-continent, there are now fewer than 3,000 of these animals left on the planet. But in the short space of time since I visited Kaziranga, more than 75 rhinos have been killed by poachers, a rate that has risen such that last year saw the highest number of killings in more than two decades.

The park is a UN world heritage site and an area where those animals are protected. The poaching is undoubtedly driven by the illegal trade in wild animal parts, which has never been more serious. The effects are not just catastrophic for wild animal populations, some of which are now at real risk. This hideous trade impacts on communities and fuels serious crime. The UN estimates that it is now the third most lucrative criminal activity after narcotics and human trafficking, worth a staggering $19 billion a year.

Next week, the Government will host the London conference on the illegal wildlife trade. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary for working hard to get these issues on the international agenda and securing the attendance of high-level delegates from so many Governments, including that of China. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has also taken a strong interest in these issues.

The conference will focus on protecting three of the most iconic species on our planet—elephants, tigers and rhinos—all of which have seen a disastrous decline in numbers in recent years. Three of the nine known sub-species of tiger became extinct during the 1980s and there may be just 3,200 left in the world. At least 10,000 are needed to secure the tiger’s long-term future, but that is impossible while they are killed for their organs and hides and their habitats continue to be damaged. Some 1,000 rhinos were killed illegally last year in South Africa alone, up from just 13 in 2007. Rhinos had been a big conservation success story in recent years, but poaching on that scale is putting their future in jeopardy. In 1979, there were estimated to be 1.3 million wild elephants in Africa: now, there are fewer than 400,000. In the last three years, elephant poaching levels in Africa have exceeded 5% of the total population, and that is horribly significant because it is a tipping point: killings are now outpacing the animals’ birth rate.

Other species are being heavily exploited by the illegal trade for traditional medicine, with turtles and seahorses harvested for food, medicine and decorative purposes, despite being protected, and 100 million sharks killed every year for their fins to be used in soup, despite an international agreement to curb that just last year. How have we got here? How have we come from an international

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focus on the importance of species conservation in the late 1980s and early ’90s, which saw the abolition of the ivory trade and an escalation in the number of states joining the convention on international trade in endangered species, to a situation where iconic species literally face extinction?

The international community failed to respond swiftly enough when these precipitous declines began. When we did respond, it was sometimes in the wrong way, such as when sales of ivory stockpiles were authorised in a misguided attempt to provide resources for conservation and satisfy demand for the product—an issue to which I will return in my speech.

The killing of endangered species and the sale of their parts is not just bad news for the animals themselves: it also has a devastating impact on communities. It breaks down sustainable development opportunities such as animal-related tourism, and it leaves communities at the mercy of criminal gangs. The impact of poaching can be as damaging to fragile communities as disease. New evidence has shown that countries with the highest incidences of child mortality also have the highest incidence of elephant poaching. Poverty and poor governance are the enabling factors for poaching. As MIKE— Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants—the United Nations-backed programme for monitoring the illegal killing of elephants, has observed, if local communities can derive little value from animals such as elephants, but bear the costs in terms of crop damage, injury or death, incentives for conservation are lost.

Successful programmes to protect animals must find a way to realise their value, including to local communities, for instance through eco-tourism. For some, the idea of placing an economic value on wildlife is anathema. When I spoke to the Wildlife Trust of India, one member of the audience responded that their tigers were beyond value. In one sense, of course, we all see magnificent wildlife as priceless, but actually poachers put a very precise monetary value on these animals, and so long as we value them less, the poaching will continue.

The tables can be turned, however. In India I met representatives of an eco-tourism society who are literally funding poachers to become gamekeepers. Some 80 former poachers in the Manas national park now see greater value in being employed as conservation guards than in being poachers.

In recognition of the links between the availability of natural resources and economic development, part of the Government’s welcome commitment of £10 million of funding to tackle the illegal wildlife trade announced last December has been provided by the Department for International Development, but this is not aid for animals; it is aid for people.

The right principle must be to enable and support local action to conserve wildlife. Next week’s summit must consider whether the resources directed at programmes like the African elephant action plan will be sufficient. There must be a combination of resources, international leadership—as has been shown by the UK and by President Obama in the US, who last year issued an Executive order to combat wildlife trafficking—and effective monitoring of action. All three of these components matter.

The illegal trade in wildlife has another impact: crime—and serious crime, too. In 2009 I was invited to address the Wildlife Trust of India in Delhi where I drew

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attention to the risk that blood ivory would replace blood diamonds as a source of revenue for criminal gangs and militias. As the Foreign Secretary warned this week, there is evidence to suggest that the trade in ivory is funding terrorism. Al-Shabaab, whose attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi led to the death of 62 people, may have funded that operation with illegally obtained ivory sold on the black market to buy arms, and with the price of rhino horn on the black market now estimated at $100,000 a kilo, which is more than the price of gold or platinum, it is no surprise that the most serious criminal organisations are turning to poaching to finance their activities.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): I have been listening to my right hon. Friend’s speech, and it seems to me that the losses from poaching have got so immense now that Governments must have some involvement in this, and they may well be talking with forked tongue: on the one hand condemning it, while on the other hand allowing it to occur. Would my right hon. Friend care to comment on that?

Nick Herbert: That is an interesting intervention, but I will let the Minister reply to it, if I may.

Tackling this illegal trade can no longer be seen as a low priority. That is why I was proud that the Conservative party’s manifesto promised action through border policing, and this important commitment fed through to the Government’s new serious organised crime strategy, which explicitly mentions wildlife crime. This prioritisation of organised crime is new and it has been welcomed by WWF, and it is essential that it is turned into effective action.

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight these connections, but he must also agree that we must put our own house in order. Is he aware that hundreds of thousands of songbirds are being killed on British sovereign territory in Cyprus, with the Ministry of Defence apparently turning a blind eye to the industrial-scale planting of acacia bushes to facilitate this, and will he join me in demanding that the MOD put a stop to this as soon as possible since it is organised crime on British sovereign territory?

Nick Herbert: My hon. Friend has made his point forcefully.

Enforcement and conservation measures, however well resourced, will never be sufficient while there is a demand for animal parts. In both the medicine and the ivory trade, seeking a reduction is not enough. As Will Travers of the Born Free Foundation has said, we need to be calling not for a reduction, but for the eradication of the trade.

We must refuse to allow cultural sensitivities to prevent us tackling so-called traditional “medicine” that does so much to fuel the illegal wildlife trade. Spurious health claims about the efficacy of rhino horn as a cure for everything from hangovers to cancer led directly to the extinction of the Javan rhino two years ago and the huge spike in killings of the African rhino. Education programmes to challenge the myth of traditional remedies are vital, and so is leadership by Governments.

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Seeking an eradication is entirely incompatible with farming wild animals such as rhinos, as some have suggested, so that their parts can be sold. We must choke demand; not stoke it. That is why there should be a total ban on further ivory sales. As shadow Environment Secretary, I strongly opposed the sale of stockpiles, proposed by Tanzania and Zambia, in 2010. We took that decision because the 2008 sales were a complete failure. Far from reducing poaching, as some thought that they might, the sales led to a huge spike in killings. A report the next year showed that 38,000 elephants were then being poached a year, almost three time the level before the sales. In Sierra Leone, for example, the entire elephant herd was destroyed by poachers in the country’s only national park.

The 2008 sales were also significant in that they allowed China to participate for the first time. It purchased more than 105 tonnes of ivory, flooding the market with cheap “legitimate” ivory and stoking a demand that is now being met with poached illegal ivory. The Chinese Government’s destruction of six tonnes last month was a welcome change of emphasis, but that still leaves 99 tonnes unaccounted for. It must be a goal of next week’s conference and international agreement that there are no sales of ivory, and all stockpiles are destroyed.

In conclusion, action to oppose the illegal trade in wild animal parts is vital to conserve endangered species, to develop communities in Asia and Africa and to cut off an important source of funding to criminal and terrorist groups. I will never forget, in Kaziranga, hearing the electrifying roar of a tiger in the wild, yet seeing the sorry fate of a captive tiger orphaned by poachers. It would be a tragedy if magnificent animals such as those were lost from the wild. Next week’s conference offers a real chance to prevent that from happening.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. Regrettably, we do not have a lot of time for this important debate. Rather than have a time limit, I will ask Members to do their level best—sit down, Mr Amess, I will not forget you—to take five minutes. If each Member takes approximately five minutes, I think that we will get everyone in, including the wind-ups, by 5 o’clock. The clock is against us.

3.43 pm

Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Lab): I will do my best to keep within your five-minute time limit, Madam Deputy Speaker. I thank the Backbench Business Committee for nominating this important debate, particularly as it takes place the week before this most important high-level conference. It is clear that we need to send out a powerful message from this Chamber that we have to take action on illegal wildlife trade, and the conference at Lancaster House next week will be a key part in getting that action. Debating the matter today is just so important.

Today, we have seen the Paris ivory crush, which has sent out a powerful message, and we need to do something equivalent to that. In France, 3.5 tonnes of ivory has been crushed. We need to get it across to everyone involved in decision making that work must be done in this area and that political leadership is needed. We

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must send Government Ministers to that conference next week with everything at their disposal to ensure that we make progress.

I also want to refer to the Environmental Audit Committee report “Wildlife Crime”. It is the third report of session 2012-13. As many Members will know, we had a debate on that report in the Chamber. Our recommendations were to the Home Office, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as the detailed evidence we received show that we need a cost-cutting response from Government. I hope that they will be the basis on which some of the work will be taken forward.

If all today’s debate does is solicit the response we have received at long last from DEFRA and the Home Office on the future of the national wildlife crime unit, at least that is a little step forward in the long journey of protecting endangered species and other wildlife. That is welcome, but the funding is still being protected only up until 2016. We need a permanent post with permanent funding that goes well beyond 2016 if we are to take the action that we need.

I desperately want the UK Government to take up the issues of protecting the environment, nature and biodiversity. I want them to do what they say and say what they do about the concerns in Parliament. Parliament has a role in showing how important that leadership will be.

First things first. As we have heard from the right hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), who helped to secure the debate, and as we have seen from the support for early-day motion 773, tabled by the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith)—as I have said in previous debates, if elephants ever need a friend he is the right person to provide protection for them—there is a sad truth here. Although the population of elephants in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, was once more than 100,000 it might now be as low as 2,500. Every 15 minutes, only three times the time we have in which to speak today, an elephant is brutally killed and butchered for its ivory tusks. In 2013 alone, 40,000 died. The global population of tigers numbers between 3,000 and 4,000.

When we deal with wildlife crime, we are dealing not just with endangered species but with international security and an illegal trade worth £19 billion annually that feeds highly organised criminal networks. For all those reasons, urgent action is needed.

The high-level conference will take place at Lancaster House next week is important. His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has shown leadership in putting his weight behind the conference. He has shown that he cares, as he did about the flooding down in the south-west, and has been particularly active and involved in ensuring that all possible support is given to next week’s conference. That is why we must ensure that we do not let anybody down and why I feel that the other recommendations of our report must be taken forward.

I am thinking in particular about the new regulations that the Government need to introduce to update the Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997, and perhaps the Minister can refer to them when he winds up. Our report highlighted the lack of progress in that regard and I was interested to see that one reason given for not introducing the regulations—at

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a time when we have a Deregulation Bill, I must add—was the work for and the focus on the conference next week. We should not just have a conference; it should be matched by the work of all Government Departments. We want to hear about the review of the COTES regulations and how the new regulations will be introduced, and it is regrettable that the review has been delayed.

The conference is next week, so let me turn very briefly to the agenda—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. I hope that the reference will be brief. I am avoiding setting a time limit, but I asked Members to speak for only five minutes and the clock is very clear.

Joan Walley: I shall be brief, Madam Deputy Speaker.

When I asked the Prime Minister at the Liaison Committee whether he supported the African elephant action plan he said yes. That has eight objectives, and a clear commitment to funding is needed. DFID has contributed £10 million, which will be really important, but the Born Free Foundation says that that amount is required every year for the next 10 years.

We have a clear opportunity next week to make real progress on many of the issues highlighted in the report. The clock, as you say, Madam Deputy Speaker, is ticking, not just for us here, but for these endangered species. I urge the Minister to take on board the many contributions that hon. Members have made today.

3.50 pm

Sir Roger Gale (North Thanet) (Con): I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) on saying much of what needs to be said, making our lives and yours, I suspect, Madam Deputy Speaker, easier.

I applaud the fact that the Duke of Cambridge has joined his father, the Prince of Wales, and his father, the Duke of Edinburgh, as the third generation of royals who have chosen to participate in and throw their weight behind the London conference at Lancaster House. I hope that United for Wildlife will prove to be exactly that: an alliance of worldwide organisations and Government agencies with one clear aim in mind, which is to protect the wildlife of the world.

It is important that we seek to identify the scale of international criminality involved in this trade, as my right hon. Friend sought to do. For six years in the 1990s, I served as chairman of the all party group on animal welfare and was privileged to work closely at that time with the Environmental Investigation Agency, an incredibly brave organisation whose staff went undercover and did a huge amount at that time to seek effectively to terminate the trade in ivory, with huge success. Therefore, it is a great sadness that that trade has picked up again, largely as a result of the action of international Governments, who, as my right hon. Friend said, mistakenly chose to reintroduce the trade in ivory stocks, which led to further demand.

Points have been made about the manner in which even in the Kruger national park, for God’s sake, rhinos that were hunted in their tens five or 10 years ago are now hunted in their thousands, which is appalling. We have put so much effort into the preservation of habitat that it would be a fine irony, would it not, Madam

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Deputy Speaker, if we preserved the habitat but not the animals that want and need to live in it. The lions, rhinos and elephants of Africa are important magnificent beasts, as are the tigers of Asia.

There are two markets. The first is the moronic tourists who with telescopic rifles slaughter wild animals from a safe distance and then go home and brag about how brave they have been and how close they got to the kill. Those people need to be ostracised totally, and it is up to the international community to seek to control the tourist trade—I use the word “tourist” loosely—in what is revoltingly, but accurately known as “canned” hunting. These are cowardly acts and they should be condemned as such.

There is a second and much more sinister side to this, and that is the Chinese and far east mafia, who trade in rhino horn and tiger bone as traditional remedies that are no more effective or useful than your or my toenail clippings. This is criminality piggybacking on primitive culture to service a serious demand for medicine that has no medicinal value whatever. There has to be a need for concerted international effort at the highest level to stamp out this strand of crime. We fight the trade in drugs and blood diamonds, we fight money laundering and people trafficking, but while claiming that we care about the environment, the international community has paid far too little attention to our diminishing wildlife heritage and those who prey upon it.

The London conference has to deliver not a plan for talk but a plan for action, backed by hard cash and by absolutely ruthless enforcement.

3.54 pm

Richard Benyon (Newbury) (Con): There is nothing sadder in this House than an ex-Minister who cannot shake off his former brief. It had been my intention to widen my horizons now that I have the freedom of the Back Benches, but I could not resist joining my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) and the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee in their attempt to secure this debate, and I am delighted that we were successful.

I am particularly delighted that there is now a cross-Government approach to dealing with this problem and that it is no longer viewed simply as an environmental one. It is fundamentally an economic, social and security issue. I am very pleased that the Minister for Government Policy will respond to the debate, which demonstrates the cross-Government value of our deliberations in the context of next week’s conference. It mirrors what is happening in other countries. For example, the leadership shown by Secretary Clinton and now Secretary Kerry is drawing together what is happening not only across the United States Government, but internationally. There is also the leadership shown by Bob Zoellick, who cares about this passionately, when he chaired the World Bank.

Last year I attended a United Nations Environment Programme conference in Nairobi on behalf of the Government. I took some time to go and see some of the partnership working that will tackle the problem. I visited a wonderful project run by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, in partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service, at Amboseli. I saw how a really well

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thought through partnership process between a non-governmental organisation and a Government body can deliver protection on the ground.

I also visited the Northern Rangelands Trust and saw how it is working with local people across a vast area of northern Kenya, providing them with a better price for their cattle, better grazing for their cattle, water supplies for their village and building schools, all under the umbrella of protecting wildlife. That was being delivered on the ground among people who live on less than a dollar a day. It is about joining up all the factors behind the problems we face in the illegal wildlife trade.

I will never forget the image of President Moi setting fire to Kenya’s stockpile of ivory in 1989. That sent a message around the world that the trade in ivory is wrong, that it is illegal and that it must stop. I applaud the Government of Kenya, the Government of Zambia and, in particular, the Government of Gabon, who have shown great leadership in this matter. I applaud other Governments beyond range states, such as those of the Philippines, the Indian state of Maharashtra and the United States for destroying theirs. China is stepping up to the mark by coming to the conference and talking meaningfully about ending the trade and destroying some of its stockpiles. As we have heard, France is doing the same.

The underlying point about the conference is that we must support the African elephant action plan. We must see it as an African initiative supported by countries around the world that have stockpiles. We must recognise the cost and impact of those stockpiles, because they give the promise of a market in countries where ivory is still used for aesthetic purposes. We all know that it has a devastating effect. I have been sent some terrible statistics. In 1976 there were 120,000 elephants in Tanzania’s Selous national park. In 2007 that number was down to 55,000. Last year it was 13,000. It is at a tipping point. We risk seeing wholesale extinctions on our watch in certain African countries.

We should not be thinking only about Africa, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs reminded us. A wonderful organisation called Elephant Family reminds us that Asian elephants are also poached for ivory. Many of our constituents visit countries, such as Thailand, and take part in tourist opportunities involving tame elephants that might have been brutally captured in countries such as Burma. That is having a devastating effect on those countries as well.

The Government should be congratulated on a number of initiatives. My right hon. Friend talked about MIKE. Operation Wisdom is an international policing operation tracking down the perpetrators of this crime. The British Army is supporting Governments, such as that of Kenya, in their efforts. There are many other initiatives. The conference is the zenith of some of those initiatives, drawing them together and trying to ensure that we work collectively to bring an end to the trade.

Seizures in the UK of ivory and other products from endangered species are also a factor. They are still seized at our borders, and we have to raise awareness of that. I have already spoken about ivory poaching in Asia.

We are short of time, so I will end by quoting the words of Will Travers, who said on the 30th anniversary of “Born Free”:

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“No more one-off sales. No more concessions to trade. No more ivory tusks being sold at…$700 a pound. Only then will the message be clear”.

The message is that we have to bring an end to this trade. I cannot put it better than that. We must not miss the opportunity given by the conference in London. We support the Government in their endeavours to bring together this international effort that can lead to real progress being made.

4 pm

Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park) (Con): I congratulate right hon. and hon. Members on initiating this very important debate and on their excellent speeches. The appalling reality is that even if this House were full today, each of the 650 or so Members of Parliament could deliver a bespoke speech on wildlife crime without once repeating anyone else’s words. The natural world is under siege. Countless iconic species—we have heard endless examples today—are teetering on the edge of extinction.

The tragedy is that the worse the problem becomes, the harder it is to address, because the closer an endangered animal moves towards extinction, the greater its market value. People used to buy rhino horns mainly for medicine, and many still do, but increasingly people now buy them as an investment. During the second half of 2011, rhino horn auction lots surged by 67% on mainland China. In effect, people are betting their money on the extinction of species and hoping for such an extinction in order to boost their investments. I cannot imagine anything more revolting, but it happens.

I will focus on one aspect of this horror story which has already been covered in some detail—the illegal trade in ivory. Africa has lost an astonishing 90% of its elephants in the past half century. In the 1970s, Chad alone had 400,000 elephants; today, that is the entire population of elephants in the wild in all 38 range states in Africa. Chad’s elephant population is now in the low hundreds. We will remember that in March, 88 elephants were butchered in the space of one week—33 of them, we are told, pregnant females. We have heard the figures: 40,000 elephants killed a year, or one every 15 minutes. Members can do the rest of the maths for themselves. The situation is just as dire in Asia. According to the Elephant Family charity, there are only 1,200 breeding males left in India. It is an unspeakable catastrophe.

Elephants are among the most thoughtful, intelligent and fascinating creatures. If anyone doubts that, I recommend that they look up a story I became aware of only a few days ago about two crippled old circus elephants, Jenny and Shirley. It is worth looking it up on the internet; it has been written about all over the place. The elephants met 30 years ago in a circus. Jenny was a little baby, and the older elephant became something of a surrogate mother for her. Jenny was eventually sent off to a different circus, but 20 years later they were reunited—old and damaged from the activities in which they had engaged in the circus—in a lovely sanctuary in Tennessee. There are simply no words to describe the obvious intensity of the love they had for each other for their remaining 10 years. I am not even going to try to describe it, but I encourage anyone watching this debate please to look it up. Watch it yourself, Madam Deputy Speaker, and weep.

Then we should remember that these animals are being butchered for trinkets such as toothpicks and chopsticks—nothing more noble, special or important

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than that. We should remember, too, that between the wilds of Africa and the mantelpiece, where these things often end up, there is a vortex of violent organised crime, with much of the proceeds funding terrorism. The truth is that when a consumer buys a piece of ivory, they might as well be putting money in a collection tin for al-Qaeda, or buying guns for Joseph Kony’s slave children or for Sudan’s vicious Janjaweed. We have already heard about al-Shabaab, which was responsible for the atrocities in Nairobi—a massacre funded by blood ivory. If anyone is tempted to imagine that this is not an issue for us, let them at least make those links and recognise that the ivory trade makes our world a lot less safe.

Next week we can take a giant step towards resolving this issue, or at least beginning to resolve it. We know that it is possible. As we have heard, the world nearly put an end to the international ivory trade when it was banned in 1989. Poaching did not end, but it dropped off dramatically and the black market ivory prices slumped. Then, of course, we had the one-off sales and the black market roared back into action. It was stimulated by the existence of the legitimate market and was able to flourish under the disguise of the legal trade. According to the formidable Will Travers, who has already been cited three times today and is sitting up in the Gallery with his daughter, more elephant tusks were seized in 2011 than in any year since the ban.

As world leaders convene in London next week, we know what needs to be done: an international ban on all forms of ivory trade, and that cannot be achieved without China. The good news is that things are beginning to happen. The country’s largest online marketplace, Taobao—the equivalent of eBay—has banned a very wide range of wildlife products, including ivory. That suggests a change in the culture of Chinese consumers, with a bit of help from the magnificent International Fund for Animal Welfare, which has been campaigning there. The Chinese Government also destroyed 33 tonnes of ivory, but the state itself still owns 30 ivory carving factories. The simple fact remains that unless they turn their attention to the legal trade, the extinction of elephants will be assured. That has to be a prime focus at the summit.

My final point relates to the African elephant action plan, which has already been discussed at some length, so I will be brief. It is supported by all 38 African elephant range states, which I think is a first. I am pleased to see that the Minister for Government Policy will be responding to the debate, and I ask him to note that 126 Members have signed an early-day motion calling on the Government to use Department for International Development funds to ramp up support for the plan. It requires £200 million over 10 years— £20 million per year—and, in the context of our aid budget and that of other countries, that is a reasonable price to pay, given the benefits it would bring to people and, as we have heard, to nature. I am not suggesting that we go it alone, but we can take the lead, as we are already doing. The condition would be unanimous support for at least a 10-year moratorium.

The Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Foreign Secretary have shown extraordinary leadership in recent months and I am really grateful for that, as I am sure is everyone else present, but next week’s summit is only the beginning and we must follow it through to the end.

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4.7 pm

Sir John Randall (Uxbridge and South Ruislip) (Con): I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) and others, including the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Joan Walley), on securing this very important debate. It is a privilege to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith). If only I had his oratorical skills to get my passion across: the passion is in there, burning, but I just cannot always get it out.

I am delighted to see my right hon. Friend the Minister for Government Policy. That shows just how seriously this Government are taking this important issue, which matters to so many thousands of people in this country.

I am delighted that the Government will host this important conference and I hope that a really good declaration will come out of it—perhaps something along the lines of the Marrakesh declaration, which was a 10-step action plan launched by the African Development Bank in May 2013.

Yesterday, the Government published a document on their commitment to action on the illegal wildlife trade. I echo the sentiments of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North on the funding for the national wildlife crime unit. That is a good step, but in order to achieve some continuity the funding has to have a bit more longevity.

Members have spoken passionately about the ivory trade—it is a real issue—but I want to highlight briefly some lesser known, but equally important, areas of wildlife crime. Vultures in southern Africa are on the brink of extinction because of the use of carbofuran, a poison that poachers use when they have slaughtered an elephant or rhino in order to expressly kill vultures whose presence gives away their crime.

Most birds around the world are threatened by the use of illegal poisons, as well as by shooting, and we should remember that this country also has a problem with wildlife crime against raptors. In particular, I make no apology for reminding the House about the fate of the hen harrier in our own uplands. Last year, the Law Commission recognised that the liability for bird of prey persecution needs to be extended, through a legal concept known as vicarious liability, to landowners who allow their gamekeepers to use illegal techniques. I hope our Government are at least looking carefully at that recommendation. Bird of prey persecution is a serious organised crime and I think that the responsibility for leading the enforcement responses should lie with the National Crime Agency, with the national wildlife crime unit providing intelligence support.

I want to draw the House’s attention to the poaching of saiga antelopes for their horns. Saiga antelopes are unusual and rather enigmatic creatures. For those who do not know what they are, they look like antelopes with huge swollen snouts, and only the males grow horns. After the ban on rhino horn in 1993, saiga horn became a substitute in traditional Chinese medicine, and their numbers in their native central Asian steppes declined alarmingly—down by 95% by 2000. There has since been a slight increase in their numbers, but they need protection as they again face pressure from poaching. We all know about the threat to the tiger population, and that iconic species is pretty near the top of my priorities, but we have to remember the less glamorous but no less important species throughout the world.

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I look forward to hearing from the conference not just warm words, but real action worldwide, so that wildlife crime—as we have heard, it is linked to terrorism and organised crime, so it is an important and serious area of crime—can be thwarted and future generations can enjoy sharing the planet with rhinos, elephants, tigers, hen harriers and even my old friends the saiga antelopes.

One of the things I wanted to do when I entered the House was to speak up for wildlife. I have been lucky enough to go round Britain and the world to see such animals, and I want to make sure that other people and future generations can enjoy also them.

4.11 pm

Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) (Con): I am delighted to speak in this very important debate. I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) and other hon. Members for securing it.

It is our duty, as it was that of previous generations, to preserve the natural world and all its wonders for our children and grandchildren who will follow us, but given how disastrous a year 2013 was for rhino populations—the number of animals poached in South Africa was the highest for some years—it has become clear that such a legacy is under threat. Like other hon. Members, I have been very lucky in seeing these animals in the wild. I have always found rhinos particularly majestic, but unassuming—they just get on with their lives. According to reports from the Wildlife Conservation Society, more than 1,600 rhinos have been poached for their horns during the past two years, and it is estimated that only 5,000 black rhinos are alive in the wild.

Although the toll taken by poaching on animal populations and biodiversity is undoubtedly its worst effect, many other aspects of the crime affect the human population, both internationally and locally. As my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) mentioned, the terrible assault in the Nairobi mall last year, in which 67 people were killed, was carried out by the militant terrorist group al-Shabaab. The charity the Elephant Action League estimates that 40% of al-Shabaab’s funds come directly from the ivory trade. It therefore follows that the illegal trade in rhino horn contributes to some of its revenue. The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has recently highlighted the link between poaching and terrorism, alleging that even al-Qaeda benefits from the trade.

More generally, the increase in poaching is of concern from the perspective of international development. It is well documented that guerrilla organisations, such as the Lord’s Resistance Army, have supported themselves financially by poaching. We are all aware of the horrendous practices that Joseph Kony and his army have wreaked on the people of central African states, taking children from their families and abducting, raping and disfiguring countless women. It is therefore reasonable to assume that if there was better wildlife policing in such areas, poaching could be reduced and such atrocities might become less frequent.

I believe that poaching is a surmountable social evil. Nevertheless, given that the number of rhinos killed by poachers is 1,000% higher than it was at the start of the century, it seems that measures other than policing strategies and surveillance are needed to prevent poaching. The high value of rhino horns, elephant tusks and other

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animal parts means that poachers now use helicopters to get in and out very quickly, before gamekeepers can find them. The fact that they can get in and out so easily is a major problem, because the money they make from poaching represents what they might earn in six years in a normal job, if indeed they have one. The value of the horn is a huge problem. We will not stop the demand for it, but we must tackle the root of the problem, which is poverty. We could mitigate the impact of rhino poaching not only on the species itself, but on the human population in the areas that are affected. Misinformation about the medicinal properties of rhino horn does not help. I think that it was the President of Sri Lanka who said that the powder from the horn had cured his cancer. That is not only wrong, but it perpetrates the myth.

We must not be complacent and think that poaching is confined to far-away countries. I was shocked to learn that rhinos in British zoos have been threatened by poaching when I met Damian Aspinall, the chairman of the Aspinall Foundation and the owner of Port Lympne wild animal park. The Aspinall Foundation does wonderful conservation work. In 2012, it collaborated with DHL, the logistics company, to introduce three of Lympne park’s black rhinos into the protected environment on the reserve of Tony Fitzjohn in Tanzania. Eventually, they will be released into the wild.

I was shocked to learn that in March last year, staff at Lympne park were notified that an attempt would be made on the rhinos in the park. Although it may seem perplexing and even slightly ridiculous that such an attempt would be made in this country, it is sadly not as unlikely or rare as it sounds. In 2012, the national wildlife crime unit issued a warning to all British zoos, encouraging them to increase security measures to prevent such crimes.

Mr Aspinall discussed with me the extreme lengths to which some game reserves are going to protect their rhinos. In 2013, the Sabi Sand game reserve in South Africa began injecting its rhinos’ horns with parasites. That has no effect on the rhinos, but when the rhino horn is ingested in medicine, it can cause serious illness to the consumer. Mr Aspinall rightly thinks that there must be a better way to tackle the problem, because the consumer buys the product in good faith—stupidly, perhaps, but in good faith—and the poison might unintentionally have a more serious effect.

It is important that pressure is brought to bear on countries that import rhino horn to stop the trade and for Governments to assist zoos in their countries to keep the animals safe. I am delighted that Prince William is helping to raise awareness of the plight of rhinos by joining a charity. His interest will make even more people aware of the issue. There is an urgent need to deal with poaching because of the risk that it poses to international security and anti-terrorism efforts, and because of the effects that this awful trade has on communities in the affected countries.

Next week’s conference is timely. I am sure that the Minister will take all the issues that hon. Members have raised to that conference and stress how important they are to the future of wildlife.

4.18 pm

Mr David Amess (Southend West) (Con): I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert) on securing this debate

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and the Backbench Business Committee, of which I am a member, on its good sense in scheduling it. I agree with everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire (Pauline Latham) said.

I want to do everything that I can to protect wildlife in this country. Through the good offices of Mr Attenborough, a whole new generation of people have been introduced to the joy of wildlife. The message that that one individual has managed to convey to so many people is very important indeed.

In 2002, I modestly introduced a ten-minute rule Bill called the Endangered Species (Illegal Trade) Bill. It was sponsored by none other than Miss Ann Widdecombe. We went to Heathrow airport to examine the ill-gotten gains of the trade. I am very disappointed that international wildlife crime has developed as it has in the 12 years since. In particular, I am very disappointed in my lack of influence in this regard, but never mind.

Unfortunately, as the Foreign Secretary said in his speech on this issue in September, the trade is “booming”. It is impossible accurately to assess the figures, but the trade was estimated to be worth £5 billion in 2002 and it is now estimated to have grown to £12 billion. It is the world’s fourth largest criminal market after drugs, counterfeiting and human trafficking. It is absolutely appalling.

An example of the sheer scale of the problem is shown in the recent announcement by the convention on the international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora—CITES—which last year had the highest level of ivory seizures for 25 years: 41.6 tonnes. As other Members have said, it is estimated that 22,000 elephants were killed in Africa two years ago out of a population 500,000. Yesterday, I saw on the front of the Daily Mirror a Kenyan poacher who boasted that he had personally slaughtered more than 70 elephants. He commented that the elephants screamed as they died but said: