Business of the House

Deidre Brock Excerpts
Thursday 1st February 2024

(3 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the Scottish National party spokesperson.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

Meal do naidheachd, Madam Deputy Speaker.

We saw a softer side to the Leader of the House last week. “The Prime Minister is a great dad”, she loyally read out from No. 10’s script. “He gives a lot to charity”, she whispered. Then, right on cue, normal service resumed and she was thundering fury at the Scots for not voting Tory. She asked me a question that got quite a response in Scotland: “Why do you think us Tory ‘rotters’”—her word, not mine—“are so desperate to keep Scotland in the Union?” Why, indeed? It is generally though that Conservatives act in their own self-interest. Anyway, Scots have been totting up all the great things about being in the UK: the gift of Brexit making us poorer faster than even the worst forecasts predicted; 14 years of grinding, endless austerity; and a crippling debt burden of more than 100% of GDP, just for starters.

However, the Leader of the House is not alone in her desperation to keep Scotland lashed tight to Westminster. She will remember seeing a secret document presented to the Cabinet in July 2020 by her colleague the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. The existence of that document was revealed at the covid inquiry this week. Finalised at the height of the pandemic, it was entitled “The State of the Union” and was a blatant attempt by her Government to politicise the pandemic and undermine the Scottish Government when trust in Government messaging was crucial. It asked the Cabinet to endorse some sort of strategy, most details of which sadly are missing from the inquiry’s version. It required polling, research and data analysis, all at a time when Scotland’s First Minister and Government were focused on and doing their damnedest to protect the people of Scotland.

No. 10 was slithering from one scandal to another. We know that a Union strategy committee and a Union operations committee were set up to mimic the strategy and operations committees that helped create the monster of Brexit. The right hon. Lady will agree that considerable resources were required, diverting cash and personnel from fighting the pandemic. It must be made clear to the public who funded that. Will she ask her colleagues to give a statement on the project, laying out why it was an appropriate use of governmental resources, what it did and what it is felt to have achieved—its key performance indicators, let us say—particularly given the times in which it was conceived? Finally, the Leader of the House will recall that the state of the Union report found, among many things, that 82% of young voters in Scotland want independence. Is she surprised?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Lady talks about normal service, and we have had normal service from the SNP this morning: the full bingo card of textbook, standard nationalist operating procedure. Failure to take responsibility for the things that it is responsible for: tick. Blame others: tick. Demonise opponents: tick. Distract from the indefensible things that we have found about this week: tick. A complete lack of self-awareness: tick.

Only the hon. Lady could come to this House and raise the issue of the covid inquiry this week. Perhaps she should have spent a little more time watching the evidence delivered by her own First Minister. We are having a covid inquiry and we did a lessons learned exercise because we want to ensure that this nation can be resilient in future and we want to learn the lessons. The hon. Lady’s party has been less than forthcoming on a similar ambition for its performance in Scotland. I would ask her to reflect on that. The only thing missing from the hon. Lady’s question is that she has somehow failed to accuse the UK Government of being responsible for an escaped macaque from the Highland zoo.