HC Deb 21 March 2000 vol 346 cc841-2
3. Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)

What requests he has received for the provision of extra funds from the United Kingdom central Government in relation to the Scottish Parliament building; and if he will make a statement. [114010]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Dr. John Reid)

I have received no requests for additional UK funds for the Scottish Parliament. The construction project for the new Scottish Parliament building is the responsibility of the all party corporate body of the Scottish Parliament.

Mr. Evans

It would appear that the Secretary of State has no control over the costs of the new Scottish Parliament building and that the Scottish Parliament appears to have lost control over those costs. Does the Secretary of State feel no embarrassment at all in his discussions with the Chancellor of the Exchequer over the block grant—at a time when the number of police officers in Scotland has fallen by 375, crime is on the increase and three prisons have closed under the present Administration—in asking for more money for those services when so much money is being flagrantly wasted on what has been called "Donald's Dome"?

Dr. Reid

I am inclined to ask who the author of that comment is. I know that the hon. Gentleman neither supports nor understands devolution, but it is actually quite a simple principle: when we transferred power to the Scottish Parliament, responsibility went with it. This is a matter for the Scottish Parliament, which must take the decisions and the responsibility, over this and other matters that have been devolved to it.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East)

As the Minister is aware, I tabled question 9, which will never be reached. Would he be willing to say, first, what is his latest estimate of the cost of the new building? Secondly, would he say precisely who will pay for it? The impression that some people south of the border have is that there is a major scandal here, and that it is time that the facts were told to Parliament.

Dr. Reid

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his ingenuity. However, the matter of the cost of the Scottish Parliament is squarely for the Scottish Parliament itself and for the corporate body. As for who will pay, the Scottish Parliament will pay for that. That is as clear as I can be to the hon. Gentleman. I do not see the arrangement as in any way a scandal. It is in the nature of devolution: we pass over power on a whole range of topics, including the cost of the Scottish Parliament, and the Scottish Parliament takes not only the power, but the responsibility for them. The Scottish Parliament will have to make that decision.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire)

Is it not clear from the breath of fresh air that we had last week that there are very many people in Scotland—a vast majority—who believe in the integrity of the United Kingdom? Does it not follow from that that it is entirely reasonable for all Members of the United Kingdom Parliament to take an interest in the location and cost of the Scottish Parliament? Cannot the right hon. Gentleman be a little more forthcoming and tell us precisely what the cost is now envisaged to be?

Dr. Reid

A great many issues arise in the Welsh Assembly and in the Scottish Parliament in which we might take an interest, just as they might take an interest in what we are doing in this place. That is an entirely different matter from intervening in an issue that is the responsibility of a devolved institution. As I told the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) and repeat, the costs of the Scottish Parliament are a matter for the corporate body of that Parliament. That is an all-party corporate body on which—I think, although I stand to be corrected—the Scottish Conservatives sit. That is a constant item of explanation that we have to give to Conservative Members, who neither supported devolution, nor seem to understand its nature.