Scottish Questions

23rd March 2016

David Gauke answers questions relating to Scotland.

North Sea Oil and Gas

2. Stuart Andrew (Pudsey) (Con): What discussions he has had with representatives of the North Sea oil and gas industry on UK Government support for that sector. [904201]

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): Government Ministers and officials have meetings with a wide variety of organisations in the public and private sectors, including the oil and gas industry. Last week, the Chancellor announced a further package of reforms to support jobs and investment in the oil and gas sector. That will help the industry respond to the challenging commercial conditions caused by the steep fall in oil prices.

Stuart Andrew: The excellent Budget package for the oil and gas industry has certainly been welcomed by that industry. Is that another example showing that when Scotland’s two Governments work together they can get the best outcome for Scotland in the United Kingdom—something that an independent Scotland could never have achieved?

Mr Gauke: My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. The United Kingdom is able to absorb the shocks of the volatile oil price, and take steps to ensure that our oil and gas sector is as strong as it can be, given the low oil prices.

Kirsty Blackman (Aberdeen North) (SNP): Will the Minister and his Front-Bench colleagues commit to taking action to ensure that companies in the oil and gas sector have appropriate access to finance at this time?

Mr Gauke: The Government do all they can to support businesses the length and breadth of the United Kingdom in all sectors. My point is that we are able to take action and support the oil and gas sector because we are the United Kingdom. Had Scotland become independent, it would be facing a very substantial loss of revenue and have great difficulties absorbing that.

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Scotland Bill (Fiscal Powers)

7. Nigel Huddleston (Mid Worcestershire) (Con): What discussions he has had with the Scottish Government on commencement of the fiscal powers in the Scotland Bill. [904206]

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): The UK and Scottish Governments have met 10 times under the Joint Exchequer Committee since the election last year. These discussions resulted last month in the agreement of a new fiscal framework for the Scottish Government. Agreement on the fiscal framework enables us to deliver on the vow we made to the Scottish people and delivers one of the most powerful and accountable devolved Parliaments in the world, with the economic and national security that comes from being part of the UK.

Nigel Huddleston: Does the Minister agree that it would be bad news for Scotland if it became the highest taxed part of the United Kingdom? Does he agree with Ruth Davidson MSP that Scottish taxpayers should not have to pay any more in tax than fellow Britons in England, Wales and Northern Ireland?

Mr Gauke: The Scottish people have essentially three choices in their elections. Two of them—voting Labour or SNP—would involve paying more in income tax.

Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP): Does the Minister agree with me about the Chancellor’s reckless, last-minute intervention to tweak the fiscal framework after it had been agreed by the Treasury and the Scottish Government? Is the Minister aware that the Chancellor’s brinkmanship intentions endangered the framework at the very last moment?

Mr Gauke: The answer is no. An agreement has been reached. We are pleased that we have that agreement, and now it is for the Scottish Government to be held accountable by the Scottish people.

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Budget Measures: Scotland

8. Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP): What discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the effect on Scotland of measures announced in the Budget. [904207]

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): The Chancellor has delivered a budget that delivers for Scotland. This will be the last Budget where a UK Chancellor sets out income tax rates and thresholds for Scottish earners. The changes to the income tax personal allowance will benefit 2.6 million taxpayers in Scotland. The Budget delivers on our plans to build a stronger Scottish economy as part of the UK and put the next generation first.

Deidre Brock: I congratulate the Minister on finding the Chancellor to have those discussions—earlier this week, we thought he had gone walkabout! The Budget had £1 billion-worth of cuts to the Scottish budget and £650 million-worth of cuts to the English NHS. Given the volte-face on social security cuts, does he think he could persuade the Chancellor to reverse Scotland’s cuts and put in a good word for the English NHS as well?

Mr Gauke: Let me remind the House that there were three asks from the SNP: a freeze in whisky fuel duty, a freeze in fuel duty, and help for the oil and gas industry. That is exactly what the Chancellor delivered.

12. [904212] Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP): Did the Secretary of State discuss with the Chancellor the merits of an £8.5 billion corporation tax cut and a £6 billion giveaway in capital gains and inheritance tax versus those of a proposed £4 billion cut in payments to the disabled, and how that would affect people in Scotland, or did he sit there and do what he was telt yet again?

Mr Gauke: I remind the hon. Gentleman that 73,000 businesses in Scotland will benefit from the cut in corporation tax. Is he saying that he opposes that?

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