Devolved Administrations

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Thursday 16th September 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

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Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, we seek co-operation between the elected authorities in the United Kingdom. That also involves co-operation with local authorities. But it is part of devolution that the decisions to which the noble Lord has referred are made by the devolved Administrations. That is the fact of the law.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, there were strong signals, which were to be welcomed, from the Prime Minister and Ministers earlier in the summer when the Prime Minister called a meeting with the First Ministers to discuss “build back better” and the economic recovery following the pandemic. That was followed by similar statements from the Chancellor, who I think on a visit to Scotland said that he was going to try to support an economic recovery for the whole of the United Kingdom and involve everybody in that approach. What have been the practical outcomes of those discussions, and will there be further discussions to ensure that, given the tax and economic powers that now exist at different levels of government in the United Kingdom, everybody is pointing in the same direction for economic recovery?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord, as always, for his constructive question. At the Covid recovery meeting in June, which the Prime Minister instigated, all present agreed to finalise the new system for inter- governmental relations. We are now exceedingly close to that—we are in a position to conclude the work—and I tell the House that the Prime Minister has written regarding another such meeting in October.

Government Departments: Non-Executive Directors

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Wednesday 8th September 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

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Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness raises an important point. I agree that every effort should be made to improve the standards that we have now. The more that appointments reflect the ethnic diversity of our country, the better, and I will certainly take the spirit of her comments back to my colleagues.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, going through the list of all the non-executive directors appointed to the different government departments, I was perturbed to see so many Members of your Lordships’ House—not just from one side but from other sides, too—and so many others who had recently been Members of Parliament. I wonder whether there is a constitutional issue here around the scrutiny role of Members of your Lordships’ House in relation to Ministers, and the scrutiny role of non-executive directors on departmental boards performing a different function. Should there perhaps be some rules that do not allow Members of your Lordships’ House to serve in these roles and that set a time limit from leaving Parliament for former MPs as well? There is a real conflict between the scrutiny roles in these two Houses of Parliament and the scrutiny role of an NED, and the Government might want to look at that.

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Lord, as ever, raises a thoughtful and interesting point. I do not follow him entirely, because I believe that it is the essence of your Lordships’ House that it contains people of enormous experience—past and current—whose input into our public affairs is to the benefit of the country generally. I will reflect on what he said. Obviously, in relation to leaving time before taking up an appointment, in the current circumstances, no one ever leaves the House of Lords until they retire at the very end of their days.

Overseas Development Assistance

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Wednesday 14th July 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

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Lord Agnew of Oulton Portrait Lord Agnew of Oulton (Con)
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My Lords, I can reassure my noble friend that the 2015 Act had provision for suspension of the 0.7% depending on major events such as the one we have just experienced with Covid. I politely remind him that we have seen the largest drop in our economy with regard to our GDP in 300 years, and the Act made provision for adjustments to the rate in light of such events.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I drew attention to my entries in the Lords’ register. When the Government confirmed the withdrawal of military support in Afghanistan they stressed, rightly, the critical importance of advocacy of the rule of law, democracy and our support for development in that country as an alternative way forward. Yet, as just one example of these cuts, a project for rural women in Afghanistan has been cut in the third year of its four-year programme, resulting in thousands of women who will no longer receive literacy training or vocational educational training, or be able to complete their courses. Do not the Government think the Taliban will be cheering this decision, delighted that we took it yesterday in the House of Commons? Do they really think that we promote the rule of law and democracy by breaking our own laws in the way that has just been announced by the Chancellor and Prime Minister?

Lord Agnew of Oulton Portrait Lord Agnew of Oulton (Con)
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My Lords, I respectfully disagree with the noble Lord. We have not broken our own laws. As I pointed out in my supplementary answer to my noble friend, this is a suspension of the current percentage which is allowed under the original Act. We have committed through the debate yesterday that we will revert to the original Act’s commitment when the economy allows us to do so.

UK Government Union Capability

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Thursday 1st July 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

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Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, 22 years ago today, Her Majesty the Queen opened the new Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, and I sat and stood that day with pride at becoming a Member of the first new democratic Parliament in the UK for 300 years. That day had so many hopes for the new institution. Many of them have been borne out by the diversity of the decision-making and the strength with which the Parliament has legislated, particularly in those early years.

However, anyone born since then would in Scotland today question the purpose of the United Kingdom—not just the UK Government or Parliament—in their lives. That is at the core of this debate, and that is why I welcome so much the initiation of this debate by the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, and the excellent report by the noble Lord, Lord Dunlop, although I do not believe it is radical enough or goes far enough.

This debate is not about powers and the distribution of powers between Governments and Parliaments. It is about power, the exercise of power, the culture of government, the connection between the Government and people and the identity that they feel, as correctly pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Howell. If we are going to deal with those very modern political issues about disconnects with Parliament, Governments and institutions, we need to be much more radical, with not just another new Secretary of State but by replacing the three old Secretaries of State with a new powerful voice at the centre of government for the nations and the regions and the constitution of the country, reforming this institution better to represent all parts of the kingdom and with better intergovernmental relations and developing a positive case for the union.

The sentence that I like best in the report by the noble Lord, Lord Dunlop, is the one where he says that

“the United Kingdom … is the most successful multinational state in the world.”

It is the first time in 22 years that any government report on the United Kingdom has used that description, a “multinational state”. That is the United Kingdom today. That is the reality, and we need a completely new, positive case for that multinational state if it is going to exist for the rest of the 21st century.

Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill [HL]

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I draw attention to my entry in the register of interests.

When Gro Harlem Brundtland, on behalf of the World Commission on Environment and Development, published her ground-breaking report in 1987, she set out the definition of “sustainable development” that has become standard in the decades since. That is, that we should be meeting

“the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

I am delighted to see that definition used in the Bill placed in front of your Lordships’ House today, even if I am disappointed that, in the 34 years since, that definition and purpose have not been standard practice for Governments across the world, not least here in the United Kingdom.

There have been hundreds of summits, photo calls and agreements across those 34 years. The most recent, of course, were the 2015 sustainable development goals, agreed by the United Nations and not only signed up to by the United Kingdom but, in many ways, created by the two committees that were, in one case, chaired by our Prime Minister, David Cameron, and in the other, led and in many ways directed by the then Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening.

Unfortunately, in the aftermath of that agreement in 2015, the Government made an almost conscious decision to deprioritise the goals here at home. They have never been located properly in the Cabinet Office as universal goals that can help shape, inform and direct government policy and help us measure progress. Although there has been some progress elsewhere in our international spending, despite the hard work of the noble Lord, Lord Bates, the noble Baroness, Lady Sugg, the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, in his current position, and a number of other Ministers over the years, the Government have never put those sustainable development goals right at the heart of their policy.

So I welcome this Bill. I am not absolutely convinced of the need for legislation but I look forward to the debates on it. I want to see some clarification on the relationship with the devolved Governments and the devolved nations, and I want to explore more the definitions and the way in which they would be implemented. If we can debate this Bill in the same positive manner and with the passion shown by the noble Lord, Lord Bird—not just in his presentation today but in his lifetime of commitment to tackling poverty and disadvantage in this country—we will provide a good service as a second Chamber. I look forward to those debates. I hope that we will get a chance to look in detail at the provisions that are put forward and that, at the core of the debates, we will look to the future—particularly to children, who, I am pleased to see, are given priority in the Bill and in the deliberations that are going ahead now.

National Science and Technology Council

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Wednesday 23rd June 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

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Asked by
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the devolved governments about the establishment of the National Science and Technology Council.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper, and in doing so draw attention to my entry in the Register of Lords’ Interests.

Lord True Portrait The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord True) (Con)
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My Lords, the national science and technology council is to be a new Cabinet committee which will provide strategic direction on the use of science and technology as the tools to tackle great societal changes, level up across the country and boost prosperity around the world. Membership of Cabinet committees does not typically include members of the devolved Administrations, but we will continue to engage with them as work goes forward.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, as a former mathematics teacher, I welcome any new initiative that boosts science and technology. In another former job, as First Minister of Scotland, I created the role of Chief Scientific Adviser to the First Minister of the Scottish Government in 2006. There is a considerable opportunity here for the Governments across the UK to work together for maximum benefit in this new initiative. I therefore urge the Government to include on the agenda of the next economic recovery summit—if the Prime Minister’s recent summit was not just a one-off gimmick—this initiative for a new science and technology council, maximising co-operation across the UK with universities, government advisers and other scientists.

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, I am very grateful for what the noble Lord has said and the general welcome he has given. I pay tribute to him for his own work. I can certainly assure him that, for example, the role of the new technology adviser covers a breadth of issues that necessarily make it a UK role, but the office for science and technology strategy is expected to engage regularly with chief scientific advisers and officials on how science and technology are being deployed across the United Kingdom. This will and does include the chief scientific advisers and officials in the devolved Administrations.

UK Policy Implementation for Wales and Scotland

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Wednesday 19th May 2021

(3 years ago)

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Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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I absolutely agree with my noble friend. That is the commitment of the Prime Minister, and I have every hope that it will be the commitment of the other First Ministers and leading Ministers involved. Our nation gained enormously from the resources of the United Kingdom, including financial, Armed Forces, co-operative, technical and scientific ones. That lesson has not gone unnoticed by people in every corner of these isles.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I hope that the calling of this summit by the Prime Minister is a signal of a change of approach, and a signal that we are about to see a new era with a better balance of respect and co-ordination across the four nations of the United Kingdom. Given the economic responsibilities of the devolved Governments in relation to tax, the environment, climate change, skills and so on, will the economic recovery be top of the agenda at this summit? Also, will the summit be followed up by another event, with the Chancellor ensuring that the devolved Governments are fully integrated into the UK’s economic recovery following Covid-19?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, let us begin where we begin—with the forthcoming summit. I am grateful to the noble Lord for welcoming the Prime Minister’s initiative. I agree with what the noble Lord said about the fundamental importance of economic recovery. Again, repeating what I said earlier, I am sure that everyone in all parts of this kingdom will put their shoulders behind it.

Post Brexit: Economic and Political Opportunities

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Thursday 25th March 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Frost Portrait Lord Frost (Con)
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My Lords, the UK is very much a services-based economy and the success of our services industries in all areas is essential for our future prosperity. We are well aware of the particular issues faced by cultural workers and we put forward solutions in the TCA negotiations to try to deal with them but, unfortunately, that was not possible. We are now working energetically with our European friends bilaterally to see whether we can reduce the most difficult barriers and will continue to do so.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, as a Minister and as First Minister of Scotland, I was regularly engaged in developing negotiating positions and in other debates on the UK’s position in discussions with the European Union. What arrangements has the Minister put in place to engage with the devolved Governments as part of these new arrangements with the European Union? Specifically, how will he engage with civic society and business in Scotland to ensure that their views are being heard?

Lord Frost Portrait Lord Frost (Con)
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My Lords, we engaged very closely with the devolved Administrations last year during the TCA negotiations and in the implementation of the withdrawal agreement. At the moment, we are considering the best way of engaging the devolved Administrations most effectively in the new governance arrangements that have been set up, and I expect we will want further discussions on that matter before too long.

Budget Statement

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Friday 12th March 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I have two points for two minutes. I start by referring to my interests as set out in the register and reassuring those who have made excellent maiden speeches today that we will not always have such ridiculous time limits for important debates and that they will get a chance to speak at greater length. We will look forward to hearing them do so.

In his Budget speech, the Chancellor threw money around to many new projects all over the country and new initiatives, but he completely failed to mention the fact that he is at the same time reducing our overseas development assistance by one-third in a brutal cut that has already been exposed to be likely to have fatal consequences in humanitarian situations around the world. He left others to do his dirty work instead of speaking about that himself on Budget day, but we should not be surprised because at the end of the Budget speech he referred to delivering on promises and to the Budget being “honest and fair”. Of course, that cut to overseas development assistance is neither; it is a particularly cruel measure which will select the poorest to pay for an economic, educational and health crisis that they did not create. I would welcome an assurance from the Government in this debate that there will be a vote and that the Government will not break the law in reducing ODA but will put it to a vote in both Houses and let Members of Parliament decide.

The Budget also refers in many places to connectivity across the UK and invests in a number of new projects, and I will leave debate on that for another day. I want to make one general point on that. Spending money in devolved areas and planting a flag, as the European Union used to do, on projects and spending in different communities is not a substitute for a genuine partnership on economic development between the Governments of the devolved nations and the UK Government as a whole. If we want a sustainable economic recovery that truly levels up across the country and provides opportunities for all, we need to find new ways of budgeting in this country—preparing budgets, agreeing them and then implementing them—that engage all levels of government working together rather than different levels of government in competition.

G7 Summit

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Thursday 21st January 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

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Asked by
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what outcomes they hope to achieve at the G7 Summit due to be held in the United Kingdom in 2021.

Lord True Portrait The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord True) (Con)
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My Lords, the Government have developed an ambitious agenda for the UK’s G7 presidency, which focuses on building back better for all. The Prime Minister will welcome the leaders of the world’s leading democracies in June to address shared challenges, from beating coronavirus and tackling climate change to ensuring that people everywhere can benefit from open trade, technological change and scientific discovery.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I hope that today we are all celebrating President Biden’s decision to sign up again to the Paris Agreement on climate change. I hope that the Government recognise the critical importance of the G7 summit, building towards COP 26 in November and decisive action on climate change. Do the Government also recognise that the best global businesses are crying out for leadership on the sustainable development goals, the framework that provides us with the opportunity to genuinely build back better? Will the Government ensure that those goals are on the agenda for the G7?

Lord True Portrait Lord True (Con)
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My Lords, certainly, one of the key declared aims of the G7 presidency is tackling climate change and preserving the planet’s biodiversity, as I stated. I can certainly tell the noble Lord that we very much welcome the prospect of bringing the COP 26 UN climate conference to Glasgow, to Scotland, in November and will be working on the important agenda that the noble Lord outlines.