Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Douglas Ross and Alister Jack
Wednesday 6th March 2024

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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It is nice to see that the hon. Lady and her colleagues have turned up for work today, even if that is in defiance of the deputy Leader of the SNP, who thought they should not bother coming. Let me be clear on resource spending and the capital budget: the Scottish Government are able to divert their resource spending for capital infrastructure investments; and they can also borrow to enhance capital investments if they so choose.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross (Moray) (Con)
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The Secretary of State is correct that the block grant from the UK Conservative Government to Scotland is the highest it has ever been. Despite that, just last week the SNP/Green Government pushed through their “tax and axe” budget in Scotland. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the nationalists have got the wrong priorities for Scotland by cutting services while increasing income tax rates for anyone earning more than £28,867?

Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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I agree with my hon. Friend, and I add further that the Scottish Government’s six tax bands, as opposed to the UK Government’s three tax bands, are really holding Scotland back.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Douglas Ross and Alister Jack
Wednesday 17th May 2023

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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The hon. Gentleman should not be taking all the credit: that work is done by the United Kingdom Government. We have 282 embassies, high commissions and consulates in 180 countries, we work very hard promoting Scotland’s interests overseas and Scotland has a wonderful Foreign Secretary in the form of my right hon. Friend the Member for Braintree (James Cleverly).

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross (Moray) (Con)
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The SNP Scottish Government’s attempts to promote Scotland internationally include awarding ferry contracts to yards in Turkey rather than in Scotland. However, given that just yesterday the SNP accepted it would be cheaper to build new ferries from scratch rather than complete the current ship at Ferguson Marine, does the Secretary of State agree with me that Scotland’s international reputation for shipbuilding has been severely damaged by the SNP, and worst of all, that islanders have been abandoned by these contracts, which are now six years late and more than three times over budget?

Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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Yes, my hon. Friend is of course right. The island communities have been terribly let down by this Scottish Government. I know he is referring to the ministerial direction yesterday to carry on with the second ferry. Ministers should always spend taxpayers’ money efficiently, even if it means losing face.

Scotland Act 1998: Section 35 Power

Debate between Douglas Ross and Alister Jack
Tuesday 17th January 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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Well, if any are not addressed, I am sure that others in the Chamber will ask those questions.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross (Moray) (Con)
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The Secretary of State outlined in his statement how the UK Government had sought to engage constructively with the Scottish Government during the passage of the Bill prior to its being voted on in the Scottish Parliament, yet Nicola Sturgeon has tried to turn this into a political battle between the Scottish and UK Governments when, as I understand it, all that the Scottish Secretary and this Government are trying to do is protect women’s rights. [Interruption.] Despite the howls from the SNP, will the Scottish Secretary confirm that all the SNP has to do is bring forward a Bill in the Scottish Parliament that protects the rights of women and girls across the United Kingdom?

Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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Yes, and fortunately that addresses one of the points that the shadow Secretary of State for Scotland raised. I can address it here. I have written to the First Minister and suggested that we meet to resolve these issues. It is the case that the Scottish Government’s Bill has adverse effects on those two pieces of legislation. We can see that in the statement of reasons that has been produced by our legal advisers. What is missing are sufficient protections and safeguards for women and children that are reflected in existing Westminster legislation, and that is why I have had to lay this order.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Douglas Ross and Alister Jack
Wednesday 11th January 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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The deficit in Scotland is considerably higher than 3%, which is the Maastricht criteria, so that is not the route back. The currency is a problem as well—as we know, the Bank of England is the bank of last resort, and there would have to be a new currency in Scotland following membership of the EU. There is no desire in Scotland to have membership of the EU. I believe that when Scots stop and look at the detail, whether it is on their pensions, trade or currency, they know that their home is the United Kingdom.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross (Moray) (Con)
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2. What steps he has taken to help Scottish communities protect community assets.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Douglas Ross and Alister Jack
Wednesday 16th November 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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There has been an increase. As a Barnett consequential, there is an extra £82 million coming to Scotland this year through the household support fund. As a result of the rates cut in England, there is an extra £296 million coming this year. We have devolved some of those benefits, so it is the Scottish Government’s choice how they spend that money.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross (Moray) (Con)
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Yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon wrote in the Financial Times that the Scottish Government’s budget this year has

“not received a single additional penny from the UK government.”

The Secretary of State will know that that is completely false. It is another example of this fibbing First Minister, who has recently been forced to correct the official record in the Scottish Parliament for false claims made there. Does the Secretary of State agree that that is a misleading and incorrect quote from Scotland’s First Minister? Will he outline what additional funding has gone from the UK Government to the Scottish Government this year?

Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As I have just said to the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss), the extra funding from Barnett consequentials that is going to the Scottish Government this year from the household support fund is £82 million; it was £41 million last year. The council tax rebate in England has generated another £296 million that is going to the Scottish Government.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Douglas Ross and Alister Jack
Wednesday 12th October 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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You will not be surprised to hear, Mr Speaker, that I think that that is absolute nonsense. This is not the time. A vast majority of Scots do not believe that now is the time for an independence referendum and that is very clear. The constitution is reserved to Westminster—that is in the process of going through the Supreme Court to be determined now. To me it is very clear that the people of Scotland want this Government to get on. The support we gave during covid, with 900,000 jobs furloughed, the support we have given to households and businesses for their energy costs and our helping to grow the Scottish economy through freeports and investment zones: that is what the people of Scotland want.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross (Moray) (Con)
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Devolution is about Scotland’s two Governments working together and we have seen the success of that with city and region growth deals and with the progress towards freeports. Does the Secretary of State agree with me that language is also really important? When the First Minister said that she “detests the Tories”, she was insulting—[Interruption.] Cheers are coming from the SNP. She is insulting hundreds of thousands of Scottish Conservative voters when she should be representing the whole of Scotland as First Minister.

Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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Of course I agree with my hon. Friend. Language is terribly important in politics. We saw the desperate death of David Amess and others before him, and people cannot incite people using words such as “detest”, which, as can be seen in the dictionary, is another word for hate. The irony is that the Scottish Government are bringing forward a hate Bill yet we have language such as “detest”. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to call it out.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Douglas Ross and Alister Jack
Wednesday 3rd November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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We have just had a Budget where the Chancellor has given £41 billion in the block grant, up £4.6 billion and the largest ever block grant received by the Scottish Government since devolution began in 1998. On top of that, this week there was almost £200 million in structural funds support through the levelling up fund, the community renewal fund and the community ownership fund. More money is going into Scotland than ever before to support Scotland as we go through the pandemic. It is a matter of enormous regret that last night, when the Budget vote took place, the SNP did not support all that extra funding for Scotland.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross (Moray) (Con)
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The EU announced earlier this week that it would be removing the tariffs on American whisky, in a further de-escalation of the trade dispute between the US and the EU. Clearly, there has already been positive news for the Scotch whisky industry with the five-year suspension, but will the Secretary of State work with me to encourage the UK Government to remove all tariffs on American whisky, which would further support the distillers in Moray and the industry across Scotland?

Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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My hon. Friend makes a very good point. I know that there are over 40 distilleries in his constituency, so I understand why he feels very strongly about this issue. I agree with him. We were successful in taking the 25% tariff away, but it needs to be removed completely and not just suspended for a number of years. The way to do that is for us to also remove our tariffs on bourbon. I would be very happy to meet him to discuss that.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Douglas Ross and Alister Jack
Wednesday 28th April 2021

(3 years ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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In all the conversations I have had with the Prime Minister—and I have them on a weekly basis, in person, one to one, by telephone—his passion for the United Kingdom and the strength of the United Kingdom burns brightly.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross (Moray) (Con) [V]
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As of yesterday, 61.3% of Scots aged 16 or over have received at least one dose of covid vaccine, compared with just 24.3% of people aged 18 or over who have received a vaccine in the European Union. Does the Secretary of State agree that the outstanding efforts of our NHS staff, our British armed forces and our vaccination volunteers have been possible here in Scotland only because of the success of the UK vaccination programme, and that Nicola Sturgeon’s claims that, somehow, an independent Scotland within the EU would have done it differently are complete rubbish?

Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. Just once, on something as important as live-saving vaccines, it would be nice to see the First Minister congratulate the Prime Minister and the United Kingdom Government on our highly successful UK-wide vaccine procurement programme.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Douglas Ross and Alister Jack
Wednesday 10th March 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend. The UK Government will continue to engage with the US to agree a fair settlement to the dispute and permanently remove these punitive tariffs, and that will be a deal that works for the whole United Kingdom. This agreement just shows that the UK and the US are determined to work together, and I look forward to seeing us strengthen that partnership.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross (Moray) (Con) [V]
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The Secretary of State knows how welcome the suspension of tariffs has been in Moray, with its many malt whisky distilleries and, of course, Johnstons of Elgin, which produces outstanding cashmere products. Will he outline what the Scotland Office and, indeed, the whole UK Government will do to ensure that this four-month suspension becomes a permanent removal of those damaging tariffs?

Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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I know that my hon. Friend has more distilleries in his constituency than any other Member of Parliament—47, I think—and I also know that he has been a great champion for the industry and has pressed very hard for the removal of the 25% tariff. We are very pleased to have negotiated an agreement that suspends the tariffs. We now have a space of four months to find a resolution on what has been a 16-year-long dispute. The Secretary of State for International Trade is ready to engage with the US trade representative, Katherine Tai, to agree something that is fair and balanced just as soon as the Senate confirms her appointment.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Douglas Ross and Alister Jack
Wednesday 27th January 2021

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross (Moray) (Con) [V]
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Thank you very much, Mr Speaker; I will share it with you when we come back to Westminster.

As we have just heard from the SNP spokesperson, the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Mhairi Black), the SNP would rather obsess over another independence referendum than focus on Scotland’s recovery from covid-19. Does the Secretary of State agree that this once again demonstrates that the nationalists’ priorities are all wrong, because right now, people want us to focus on vaccine roll-out, defeating covid-19 and rebuilding our economy?

Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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I wish my hon. Friend many happy returns, and my birthday present to him is to say that I could not agree with him more. Rather than waste time on a divisive separatist agenda, the Scottish Government should be working with us to defeat the pandemic and to recover our economy.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Douglas Ross and Alister Jack
Wednesday 9th December 2020

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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The Scottish Government requested a military planning team to assist with the planning for the roll-out of the vaccine in the borders and across Scotland, and I am very pleased that I was able to approve that request. The scale of the task is very considerable, but the logistics expertise with the British armed forces is making a huge difference.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross (Moray) (Con)
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The Secretary of State will be aware of the work that soldiers from Kinloss barracks in Moray have done throughout this pandemic in our fight against covid-19: they have been in Liverpool since last month, and earlier this week started assisting Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council in its community testing programme. This is in addition to the work they did throughout the highlands in the summer, covering 80,000 miles and conducting well over 3,000 tests. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating everyone at Kinloss on the effort they have put in during this pandemic, and agree that it underlines yet again the outstanding work they do in Scotland and across the United Kingdom?

Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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I absolutely join my hon. Friend in thanking everyone at Kinloss barracks. At the start of the pandemic our British armed forces distributed essential equipment and personal protective equipment. They helped build hospitals across Scotland and were instrumental in getting vital equipment to the Glasgow lighthouse lab. They operated the mobile testing centres, and, currently, as I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (John Lamont), there are 21 military planners working with Scottish health boards and the Scottish Government on logistical planning for vaccine deployment. Our offer remains open: if the Scottish Government require further assistance from our amazing armed forces, they are standing by and are ready to help.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Douglas Ross and Alister Jack
Wednesday 11th November 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross (Moray) (Con) [V]
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The extension of the furlough scheme demonstrated again how the UK Government continue to support jobs in all four nations of the United Kingdom, and we need that support and joint working to continue following the positive news about a potential covid-19 vaccine. Will the Secretary of State outline the work done between the Scottish Government and the UK Government to ensure that there is a seamless roll-out of this vaccine that has given us so much hope here in Scotland and across the UK.

Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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We have invested more than £230 million in manufacturing any successful vaccine. The vaccines have been procured and paid for by the UK Government on behalf of everyone in the United Kingdom. Doses will be distributed fairly and across all parts of the United Kingdom according to population share.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Douglas Ross and Alister Jack
Wednesday 7th October 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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I say to the hon. Lady that I do not agree that there are negative consequences. The Chancellor and I have had discussions on this matter. I make it quite clear that if Kate Forbes has any questions on setting her budget, she should come forward and ask us. The offer was made to Derek Mackay when he made similar cry-wolf stories back in March, when there was a delay, but no questions were asked and nothing came forward because they had all the information they needed to set their budget.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross (Moray) (Con)
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The Union connectivity review announced by the Prime Minister will improve transport infrastructure across the country and bring jobs and investment to Scotland. I assume that Scotland’s two Governments will work together on this ambitious programme, so will the Secretary of State outline what response there has been from the Scottish Government so that the two Governments work together to deliver jobs and progress right across the country?

Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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The Union connectivity review, which is being led by Sir Peter Hendy, who I met yesterday, is a really important initiative for Scotland and the whole United Kingdom, and it will create very exciting opportunities. However, I am concerned that Transport Scotland has been told by the Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity, Michael Matheson, not to engage with the review, and I urge Mr Matheson to think again and to ensure that his officials take part. It cannot be in Scotland’s interest for the SNP to play politics with an issue that is so important to our economic future.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Douglas Ross and Alister Jack
Wednesday 9th September 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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The UK Government would like to get a legislative consent motion from the devolved Administrations, but we are quite clear that we need to bring forward this UK legislation to protect jobs, to protect producers, to protect manufacturers and to protect consumers. This is a piece of legislation that, through mutual recognition and non-discrimination, strengthens our United Kingdom economy. That is important to Scotland because over £50 billion of trade is done with the rest of the UK—more than Scotland does with the rest of the world.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross (Moray) (Con)
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Further talk of constitutional wrangling is deeply unhelpful at a time when we continue to fight the coronavirus pandemic in Scotland and across much of the world. Does the Secretary of State therefore agree that the SNP has got its priorities completely wrong by finding time to bring forward another referendum Bill as we have seen spikes in coronavirus in Scotland and across the UK?

Alister Jack Portrait Mr Jack
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I congratulate my hon. Friend on his appointment as leader of the Scottish Conservatives. I was sorry to lose him as a Minister, but I got to know him well, and I know very well that he will do an excellent job. He does make a very good point. It is important that we come together to fight this virus and not go back into division and constitutional wrangling. That just basically creates uncertainty and is bad for the Scottish economy and bad for Scottish jobs.