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Friends of Scotland

3. Mr. John Lyons (Strathkelvin and Bearsden): What plans she has for future activity as part of her Friends of Scotland initiative. [25072]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mrs. Helen Liddell): At the end of this week I shall travel to Hong Kong and Guangzhou in China and to Malaysia on trade-related business, and I shall take the opportunity to launch the Friends of Scotland initiative there. Indeed, in all my international travels I shall make a point of raising the initiative, both with posts abroad and with the expatriate Scottish community.

Mr. Lyons: I thank my right hon. Friend for that response. It is important that we use her visit to make sure that millions of Scots all over the world know about Friends of Scotland and know that they can play a part in the initiative. To some extent, we are pushing an open door. People want to help and we need to use my right hon. Friend's visit to say to people, "If you want to come back to Scotland on holiday or on business, you will be made very welcome and you can play an important part in shaping Scotland's future."

Mrs. Liddell: I thank my hon. Friend. I am looking forward to attending a Burns supper in Hong Kong next Tuesday night, and I shall certainly make a point of reiterating the fact that we always welcome expatriate Scots who return to Scotland. My hon. Friend made an important point. I am have been much taken with the response of the business community and people in diplomatic posts abroad and their enthusiasm for the Friends of Scotland initiative, which has been helped by

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the ready response to it from the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the First Minister and the leaders of Scotland's business and commercial communities.

We are pushing at an open door and it is incumbent on every Member of Parliament, regardless of which political party they support, to do what they can to encourage expatriate Scots and those who regard themselves as friends of Scotland to come back and visit Scotland and see the changes that have taken place, not least the establishment by the Labour Government of the Scottish Parliament, of which Robert Burns would have approved.

John Barrett (Edinburgh, West): Does the Secretary of State agree that some of the best friends of Scotland work in the film, television and music industries and that one of the best ways to help them in their work promoting Scotland throughout the world would be an early start to the construction of a central Scotland film studio?

Mrs. Liddell: Matters such as the construction of a film studio are for the Scottish Executive to deal with, but I entirely support the hon. Gentleman's point about the importance of the creative industries, particularly film and television. We have only to consider the huge success of "Monarch of the Glen", which is now viewed by 50 million people, to see that it is a fantastic showcase for the highlands of Scotland. I was glad to be able to support that with a reception in Dover house just before Christmas. The advisory committee that I have formed to help me with the Friends of Scotland initiative includes Douglas Rae who, of course, is the producer of "Monarch of the Glen" and the upcoming new film "Charlotte Gray".

Mr. Iain Luke (Dundee, East): When my right hon. Friend makes her visit to east Asia, on which I warmly congratulate her, will she take the opportunity to reach out to the many thousands of Malaysian students who have studied in Scottish universities, many of whom have got degree certification at their universities through a joint partnership with the university of Abertay in Dundee? Will she use the connections that she will make with Malaysian business men who have graduated from Scottish universities to bolster Scottish commerce and trade in future?

Mrs. Liddell: As the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait), my Opposition shadow, well knows, Scottish universities have strong links, especially with Malaysia. She and I, as graduates of Strathclyde university, know about huge initiatives in Malaysia, particularly in business education. I know from the connections of my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Luke) with the university of Abertay that he is well aware of the huge opportunities available there.

My officials have met, and are meeting, representatives of the Scottish universities so that we can join together to promote Scottish education internationally. In both China and Malaysia, I intend to meet representatives of the academic community so that we can showcase the best of Scottish education and the huge benefits that our economy derives from students from the far east coming to Scotland, particularly to get postgraduate degrees.

Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim): I congratulate the Secretary of State on the Friends of Scotland initiative

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and I look forward to the day when we have a dedicated Westminster Minister to promote friendship with Northern Ireland as well. When the Secretary of State is in the far east, I hope that she will be mindful of the near west and the strong Ulster Scots tradition in Northern Ireland. We are willing to be supportive and trust that she will develop further the existing links with Northern Ireland.

Mrs. Liddell: I thank the hon. Gentleman very much for his supportive remarks. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is very much a friend of Northern Ireland and, indeed, a friend of Scotland. As the Prime Minister has recognised, in showcasing all the component parts of the United Kingdom we present an even more attractive picture of the UK, not just to tourists but to bring in inward investment. Our standing in the world is high at the moment; this is an ideal opportunity for us to cement warm feelings for all the component parts of the UK, wherever we work internationally.

Barnett Formula

4. Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): When she last discussed the future of the Barnett formula with Treasury Ministers. [25073]

The Minister of State, Scotland Office (Mr. George Foulkes): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have regular discussions with Treasury Ministers on a wide range of issues. I can tell the hon. Gentleman and the House for the third time that there are no Government plans to review the Barnett formula.

Mr. Winterton: I ask my supplementary question as a totally committed Conservative and Unionist Member of the House. Does the Minister accept that the Barnett formula was introduced some two decades ago as a temporary measure, and that it currently produces levels of public expenditure per capita in Scotland far greater than in many areas of England, where there are equal problems of poverty and deprivation? For that reason, does he not believe that the current situation is unfair? Although he speaks as a Scottish Minister, does he not believe that there should be a review and reform of the Barnett formula, despite his initial response to my question?

Mr. Foulkes: I have never doubted the hon. Gentleman's Unionist credentials. One of the reasons why I enjoy Scottish questions is that I hear English Tories such as the hon. Gentleman say that the Barnett formula is far too generous to Scotland. I am fed up of hearing the other point of view—the moaning minnies, the whingers of the Scottish National party, saying that the formula is unfair to Scotland. The truth is that the Barnett formula is stable, flexible and fair. If the English Tories think that it is too generous and the SNP thinks that it is too mean, I think that it is just about right.

Mr. David Stewart (Inverness, East, Nairn and Lochaber): Does my hon. Friend agree that the Barnett formula has brought tremendous benefits to Scotland? For example, in 1997 when the Government came to power,

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the Scottish Office spent £15 billion. Today, the Scottish Executive spends almost £21 billion. Is not that the benefit of Scotland being within the United Kingdom?

Mr. Foulkes: There speaks the real voice of Scotland. It is the success of the United Kingdom Government's economic strategy and our policies that enable the Scottish Executive to have the extra money to spend. An extra £3.4 billion of new money has been spent in Scotland over the period of the current spending review, plus an extra £200 million in last year's Budget, and, as if that were not enough, an extra £86 million in the pre-Budget review. I wish that some of those who try to pretend that they represent Scotland would understand, appreciate and acknowledge that.

Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Beckenham): As health spending comes under the terms of the Barnett formula, can the hon. Gentleman tell us whether Scotland Ministers have had discussions with the Department for Work and Pensions or the Scottish Executive since 12 October last year on the subject of attendance allowance for the elderly receiving free personal care in Scotland, what advice they have given, and whether they would be prepared to publish the correspondence?

Mr. Foulkes: I am extremely grateful to the hon. Lady for asking me that question. I can therefore announce to the House that the Executive have announced today, after dialogue with the Department for Work and Pensions and other Whitehall Departments, that they will meet the full cost of delivering free personal care from within Executive resources.

Mrs. Lait: I am delighted that the Scottish Executive have resolved the dilemma that they had with Whitehall, but that does not negate my question about the discussions that Scotland Office Ministers have had. For the sake of clarity, can the Minister tell us whether he or the Secretary of State backed the transfer of funds from Whitehall to Scotland or supported the Scottish Executive?

Mr. Foulkes: I had a number of discussions with Malcolm Chisholm during the consideration by the care development review. I made the views of Whitehall extremely clear on every occasion.


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