HC Deb 06 March 2001 vol 364 cc131-2
1. Mr. Robert Syms (Poole)

If she will make a statement on recent correspondence between her Department and the Irish Prime Minister's Office. [150733]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mrs. Helen Liddell)

I wrote to the Taoiseach on 28 February to confirm my conversation with him and to invite him to make an official visit to Scotland as a guest of the First Minister and myself.

Mr. Syms

The Carfin affair has caused great embarrassment north and south of the border. Is it too much to hope for a full statement on the matter and, indeed, an apology?

Mrs. Liddell

I doubt whether the hon. Gentleman even knows where Carfin is. However, may I point out that the Taoiseach and I had a conversation? He knows that no offence was intended, and he took none. He will come to Scotland at an appropriate time to unveil the memorial at Carfin grotto.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

Will the Secretary of State pay tribute to the interparliamentary body that is working hard on strand 3 of the peace agreement? Will she acknowledge that five Members of the Scottish Parliament have been accepted as full members of that body? Will she ensure that she gives it full support, recognising that we are building bridges and bringing hope? Anyone from the Dail and the Northern Ireland Assembly will be given a warm welcome in Scotland, whenever they come.

Mrs. Liddell

The hon. Lady makes a good point. All of us in Scotland are conscious of the fact that the peace process in Northern Ireland is at a difficult stage. Our hopes and good wishes are with Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Dail and our own Scottish Parliament and, indeed, with the Prime Minister, who will have discussions on those matters in the next few days. The hon. Lady made a much more appropriate comment on the situation than the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Syms).

Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton)

Will the right hon. Lady explain why, if no offence was given to the Taoiseach and this is not a diplomatic incident, her Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Mr. Roy) resigned?

Mrs. Liddell

My hon. Friend resigned because he is a man of honour who did not wish to cause continued distress to his family. Opposition Members' activities in trying to make political capital out of the matter are disgraceful. Those of us who know Carfin know its history. It was built by miners from Scottish communities, and from Poland and Lithuania, during the great depression; it is a sign of their working together to create employment for themselves and in recognition of the Church that they supported. My hon. Friend supports those miners and will continue to do so.

Mrs. Browning

I am trying to establish what responsibility the Secretary of State and the Government take for foreign affairs and relations with other countries—relations that concern Scotland. Under the Government's proposals, and if Labour wins the general election, would not the right hon. Lady be the last Secretary of State with responsibility for Scotland? The roles of the Secretaries of State for Scotland, for Northern Ireland and for Wales, and responsibility for the English regions, would be rolled into one Cabinet post. Having seen the mess created by the Secretary of State's PPS, what hope do we have that relations with foreign countries will be any better when there is no longer a dedicated Secretary of State for Scotland in the Cabinet?

Mrs. Liddell

I find it interesting that the official Opposition could not even put forward the shadow Secretary of State today.

Mrs. Browning

I am the shadow Secretary of State.

Mrs. Liddell

Oh, the hon. Lady is now in that position. There has been another change—a further sign that the Opposition cannot even put up a Scottish Member as shadow Secretary of State. I note that the Leader of the Opposition is suggesting that he would retain the post of Secretary of State for Scotland and that that post should be filled by a Member representing a Scottish constituency. I therefore say to the hon. Lady: win one.

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