Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-85)|
MP, MR GEORGE
FOULKES, MP, DR
QC, MP AND MR
WEDNESDAY 7 NOVEMBER 2001
80. It would be useful to have the actual figures?
(Mr Gordon) We will try and get figures for you.
81. For the annual managed expenditure and the
departmental expenditure there will be a switch next year with
resource based accounting coming with Treasury. Will future departmental
reporting reflect any implication that has and also what accounting
changes has for the funding system of the Scottish Executive?
(Mr Gordon) Yes, of course.
Chairman: Can I thank you for agreeing to give
us a follow up memoranda, the Committee will look forward to those
as soon as possible.
82. The Secretary of State and the Minister
will not be surprised at me coming in on this subject, the plight
of the workers is well known in Scotland. I want to broaden it
out a bit more about the ship building in Scotland in general.
We know what has happened in Clyde and other areas, perhaps you
can say what you and your department are doing to assist the ship
building industry and how you see the future of that industry
(Mrs Liddell) I will ask the Minister of State to
talk about the Clyde Task Force in a minute. One of the ways we
were able to help in relation to the Clyde yards was in our liaison
with the Ministry of Defence, particularly in relation to procurement
issues. The Minister of State and I both as representatives of
the Government travel reasonably frequently and I have discussed
with Ministers for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning means whereby
we can act as, not quite as salesmen, but where we can draw it
to the attention of Governments who may have an interest in placing
orders the facilities are available on the Clyde. That is something
that we will happily do. I think in relation to shipbuilding in
general the fact that the Minister of State sits on the Clyde
Task Force gives us a very important liaison role, a facilitating
role there, which allows us also to feed back the views of that
Clyde Task Force into the Ministry of Defence as well, because
often, particularly now on the Clyde, with defence orders being
of critical importance, keeping the MOD on side is of great value.
The Minister of State is doing this as a day-to-day issue at the
(Mr Foulkes) We did anticipate that Mr Robertson might
raise this and I hope it is not gratuitous to say he has been
taking a very keen interest in it. He will know that after every
meetingand I have been at every Clyde Task Force meetingI
have written to the Members of Parliament representing the areas
affected telling them exactly what has come up at the meeting
and I have also had informal discussions with them about it. I
have offered to meet all of the members, individually or collectively,
in relation to that. Also, as the Secretary of State said, I have
had a number of meetings and discussions with Adam Ingram, the
Minister of State at the Ministry of Defence about defence orders.
We are hoping that the decision about the landing craft will be
made very soon, it has gone on too long, the debates and discussion
between the Ministry of Defence and the company. We hope that
that decision will be made soon. We have also indicated, and I
think it is a very important role for the Scotland Office, that
in relation to overseas orders that we can promote and work to
try and ensure that these come to Scotland. I have indicated that
to the Defence Exports Sales Organisation through the Minister
of State. We have had a positive response and we hope to set in
motion some specific activity in relation to that. Also, the Under-Secretary
of State at the Department of Defence, Lord Bach, visited Malaysia
to encourage the possibility of additional orders from Malaysia
to the Clyde. So everything that we can do is being done. I think
my membership of the Clyde Task Force keeps me plugged into that.
Also, because we are here regularly in Westminster we can talk
immediately with our colleagues in the Ministry of Defence.
(Mrs Liddell) I think too the shipbuilding issue very
much underpins how important it is to have a Scottish voice at
the heart of Government because there are issues wider than the
defence issues. For example, the European Industry Council is
looking at unfair subsidies to shipbuilding industries and, indeed,
there are anxieties among many of our European partners who are
shipbuilders, about Korea and the levels of subsidy that are given
to shipbuilding in countries such as that and there have been
representations by the European Union to the WTO on these matters.
Being plugged into those discussions is actually very important
for the Scotland Office and for Scotland. That is a way whereby
our detailed knowledge of what is happening on the ground in Scotland
can feed in to overall discussions that are being held by Her
Majesty's Government in Europe and elsewhere.
83. If I can thank particularly the Minister
of State for all the help he has given myself in particular and
the area of Scotstoun. I want to open it up a bit because it was
shipbuilding in general in Scotland. Rosyth has suffered quite
a lot of job losses and there are other areas of fishing vessels
not being built in Scotland where we hoped to have these vessels
being built in Scotland. What I am aiming for is support for the
industry in Scotland in general. I would love everything to go
to Scotstoun on the Clyde but I do not expect that to happen.
(Mrs Liddell) I think that is an area where we, as
part of the United Kingdom Government, have a role to play because
we still have a significant shipbuilding and boat building industry
that is of importance to us, but often Scotland's interests have
to be represented internationally because it is international
competitiveness and perhaps some anti-competitive practices elsewhere
that can have a negative impact on our industry. That is why the
strength of the United Kingdom Government's position is of great
value to Scotland.
84. What will be the impact of the landing craft
order coming to the Glasgow yards?
(Mr Foulkes) That is very important for the yards.
We would hope that steel cutting would start fairly quickly after
an agreement about the price. There is an understanding that two
of them will be built on the Clyde but the agreement has not been
absolutely finalised yet, it is taking longer than expected. It
would mean steel cutting would start this side of the new year,
which is very important.
(Mrs Liddell) And it is this issue of steel cutting,
as you know, which is the one that we are most concerned about.
85. Before we finish, on a general point, you
have said that one of the Scottish Office's key roles is to ensure
Whitehall is sensitive to Scotland's interests. What steps can
be taken to ensure that the Scotland Office performs this role
(Mrs Liddell) I think our involvement in Cabinet committees
is very important. Sometimes we are stretched because there are
only two Ministers and we are very grateful to the Advocate General
who has been known to stand in for us at Cabinet committees. That
is the area where the voice of Scotland is most heard in Government.
Also keeping close contact on a personal basis with our Whitehall
colleagues. I frequently can resolve issues with a chat, with
a phone call to a Whitehall Minister or a fellow Member of the
Cabinet on issues that might be causing difficulty. Going back
to something I mentioned earlier, I think from the point of view
of spreading best practice in devolution, we are a resource for
Whitehall as well as a resource for the Scottish Executive and
I think by giving more people experience of how the devolution
settlement works that will enhance the overall knowledge of how
we make devolution successful, not just for Scotland, Wales, Northern
Ireland and also with an elected Mayor in London but also if devolution
rolls out across England as well. Indeed, we have found in discussions
about the nations and regions and the impact on England that we
bring a body of experience, of change, and what we are about is
the management of change, probably the biggest constitutional
change we have seen in this country, certainly for 300 years.
At the end of the day it is very important that the Scottish Parliament
legislation stands up, that we have a good working relationship
to make the UK legislation we do in Scotland for Scotland consistent
with Scots law and the various institutions that exist in Scotland.
The First Minister and I are working in parallel as well as in
tandem to achieve the same objective, which is to make the devolution
settlement work. So far I am pleased with the way things are going
and I am hoping to build on that work in the future.
(Mr Foulkes) It will not surprise you, Chairman, to
hear that I agree with every word the Secretary of State said.
The only point I would add is just as we are convinced there is
a very important continuing role for the Scotland Office, I hope
it does not sound gratuitous also to add that that means there
is a very important continuing role for the Scottish Affairs Committee.
Chairman: Thank you very much. Thank you very
much for your attendance this morning and we look forward to issuing
our report. Thank you.
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