Scottish Energy in the 21st Century

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Mr. Alan Reid: As the Minister knows, the Scottish and Northern Ireland Executives cannot proceed further with the tendering process until the order is made. The Minister said ''shortly'', but will he give a specific date? It is urgent.

Mr. Foulkes: I said to the First Minister yesterday that, as soon as I hear that he is happy with the Executive order, it would be tabled.

It has been a long and at times tortuous process to get to where we are today. A public commitment from the Scottish Executive and the Northern Ireland Executive to tender for an operator to run a service for 11 months per year over a five-year contract from next spring has been made. I can confirm that that will allow time for the service to develop. I hope that I have given credit where it is due: to counterparts past and present in the two devolved Administrations; to the local authorities and the enterprise company; to other Departments; and to elected representatives of all sides.

I can confidently say that the process of achieving the objective for Kintyre and Moyle would not have made such progress without the role of the Scotland Office. At each stage, we played a key role. My hon.

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Friend the Minister for Industry and Energy provided the initial energy and vision for setting up the action group. I well recall my own first days in this post on picking up the baton at a meeting in Belfast when I had been completely unaware of the issue only a few days earlier. I had moved from Botswana to Ballycastle in one fell swoop.

The Scotland Office maintained progress with discussion on the public service order, with launching the initial stage of tender process and with commissioning research into the costs and benefits of the service. The Scotland Office pressed all those stages forward. I hope that the Scottish Executive and the Northern Ireland Executive can identify an operator for the route—I have noted the suggestions that have been made—and it will go ahead in spring next year. Campbeltown to Ballycastle will have a secure, reliable and properly marketed service on which to build their future economic prosperity; a far cry from when my hon. Friend the Minister for Industry and Energy and the Scotland Office first started this process. I wish all concerned every success.

I shall finish by giving the last word to a Liberal Democrat. Some sour notes have emerged from the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr. Reid) and his counterpart the MSP for Argyll, who is even more strident and dafter than he is. The letter says:

    ''I very much welcome your announcement. The new ferry service will be a tremendous boost for the communities in both Kintyre and Antrim. Thank you and your predecessor, Brian Wilson, and your officials for all your hard work. Yours sincerely, Councillor Robin Curry.''

Thankfully, at least someone in the Liberal Democrat party has some sense. To that I say, ''Hear, hear and thank you very much.''

Question put and agreed to.

        Adjourned accordingly at twenty-nine minutes past One o'clock.

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The following Members attended the Committee:
O'Hara, Mr. Edward (Chairman)
Barrett, John
Begg, Miss
Brown, Mr. Russell
Bruce, Malcolm
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Menzies
Carmichael, Mr.
Clarke, Mr. Tom
Connarty, Mr.
Dalyell, Mr.
Davidson, Mr.
Donohoe, Mr.
Duncan, Mr. Peter
Ewing, Annabelle
Foulkes, Mr.
Hamilton, David
Joyce, Mr.
Kirkwood, Mr.
Lazarowicz, Mr.
Liddell, Mrs.
Luke, Mr.
Lyons, Mr.
McAvoy, Mr.

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MacDonald, Mr.
MacDougall, Mr.
McFall, Mr.
McGuire, Mrs.
McKechin, Ann
Marshall, Mr. David
Moore, Mr.
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Osborne, Sandra
Reid, Mr. Alan
Robertson, Angus
Robertson, John
Salmond, Mr.
Sarwar, Mr.
Savidge, Mr.
Sheridan, Jim
Stewart, Mr. David
Thurso, John
Tynan, Mr.
Weir, Mr.
Wilson, Mr.
Wishart, Pete
Worthington, Mr.

 
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Prepared 13 February 2002