EU referendum

Commons Hansard
6 Jul 2016

Mr. Dave Anderson (Blaydon): May I start by echoing the compliments paid to my predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh South (Ian Murray)? He will be a hard act to follow.

Sitting opposite the Secretary of State reminds me of the many good times that I have spent in his constituency in the great town of Moffat. Friends of mine from Moffat, John and Heather, live on the Old Carlisle Road where they have a small family farm and a business. They want to know what guarantees have been given about the future of payments that they receive as part of the common agricultural policy, and what benefit they can expect from the £350 million a week that senior members of the Government promised we would get back from the European Union to fund the NHS. How much of that can we expect to go to Scotland and, crucially, when can we expect to see it?

The Secretary of State for Scotland (David Mundell): I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his position, and he is welcome in Moffat any time he wants. I have performed his role in the past, but when I did so there were 41 Scottish MPs opposite me, and 15 months later it has come to this. CAP payments will be subject to negotiations, and as someone who argued for a remain vote, I made it clear to farmers in Scotland that there would be a degree of uncertainty if there was a vote to leave. As a result of our withdrawal from the EU, responsibility for agricultural matters will now rest directly with the Scotland Parliament.

Mr Anderson: I do not think that John and Heather will be reassured by the Secretary of State's response, and I note that he did not answer my question on the NHS.

The Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee was right yesterday to accuse our hapless Prime Minister of being guilty of a dereliction of duty for failing to set up withdrawal planning units until after the referendum. Will someone please tell the Prime Minister that the words to the song are not: "When the going gets tough, the tough do a runner"? With that in mind, does the Secretary of State believe that the Prime Minister's policy of placating fruitcakes and loonies has been a price worth paying for the economic crisis that is now upon us, and the risk of the break-up of the United Kingdom?

David Mundell: I am a democrat. I respect the democratic decision of the people of the United Kingdom, and that decision will be implemented.

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Mr Anderson: The agreement between the United Kingdom Government and the Scottish Government set out exactly how the new Scottish welfare budget will be agreed. Will the Secretary of State explain what would happen in the event of the UK Government abolishing a specific benefit that has been devolved to Scotland? In that circumstance, will the Scottish Government retain the budget or will they lose it?

David Mundell: The financial arrangements for the transfer of powers were dealt with in the fiscal framework, and that circumstance was contemplated in it. There are two sets of benefits that are subject to transfer: one is a set of benefits for which the Scottish Government will have full responsibility and can therefore shape and make a new benefit or change benefits; and the other set involves powers to top-up existing UK benefits. Clearly, if an existing UK benefit did not exist, the power to top it up would not exist either, but the power to create an equivalent might well do.

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