David Mundell faces calls to resign

Alasdair Clark

David Mundell has come under fire in the Commons over his handling of Clause 11 and his links to Carillion boss Keith Cochrane

DAVID MUNDELL faced a barrage of questions in the Commons chamber on Wednesday over the government’s failure to amend Clause 11 and his links to the boss of the failed outsourcing giant Carillion.

Tough questions from opposition MPs followed an “embarrassing” committee meeting where Brexit secretary David Davis deflected blame for the error onto his cabinet colleague Mundell.

Mundell confirmed to MPs that Keith Cochrane had stepped aside from his Scotland Office role to “avoid becoming a distraction” during an investigation into the firm after its collapse.

Cochrane was appointed the temporary chief of Carillion last year as well as receiving a £300 fee for each Scotland Office meeting he attended.

Mundell also faced tough questioning from SNP and Labour MPs over the government’s handling of the controversial Clause 11 of the EU Withdrawal Bill which says that all powers returned from the EU will be transferred straight to Westminster.

When questioned by Lesley Laird MP about the blunder, Mundell said he took full responsibility for the government not amending the Bill in time: “We could not meet the timescale that we had aspired to. I take responsibility for that.

“I gave a commitment at the Dispatch Box that we would bring forward amendments on Report, but we were unable to reach agreement with the Scottish Government and the Welsh Assembly Government on those important amendments within the timescale.”

“The stakes have rarely been higher, yet Scotland’s man in the Cabinet is now relying on the unelected chamber to fix this mess.” Lesley Laird MP

Speaking to Commonspace, Laird said Mundell had demonstrated an inability to anticipate problems: “David Mundell may think running out of time is an acceptable excuse for breaking his promise to the House to bring forward an amendment to Clause 11, but his answers at Scottish Questions yesterday highlighted his worrying inability to anticipate problems. 

“In failing to back Labour’s Clause 11 amendment last week Mr Mundell may have spared his party an embarrassing defeat, but he has gifted the Scottish Government another grievance to bash the devolution settlement with. 

“The stakes have rarely been higher, yet Scotland’s man in the Cabinet is now relying on the unelected chamber to fix this mess.

“Coupled with his failure to dismiss Keith Cochrane in light of the Carillon scandal, he is failing these key tests of his political judgment.”

In a later answer to Mhairi Black MP, Mundell said: “The amendment will be debated in the House of Lords. I regret that it is being brought forward in the other House, but we simply did not meet the timescale to which we aspired.

“There will be a further opportunity to debate the amendment in this House, and the Scottish Parliament, which SNP Members say they are concerned about all the time, will also be able to have an extensive debate and vote on the clause.”

“Time is running out for David Mundell. He has accepted full responsibility – now he should reconsider his position.” Pete Wishart MP

However the Scottish Government minister for UK negotiations on Scotland’s place in Europe Michael Russell told Commonspace that the Scottish and Welsh governments had published amendments in September last year: “Along with the Welsh Government, we have made clear we are unable to recommend consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill in its current form.

“The Scottish and Welsh governments published amendments to the Bill last year but the UK government has refused to support these in the House of Commons. Nevertheless, the Scottish Government is still discussing this issue with the UK Government, while making sensible preparations in case legislative consent is not given by the Scottish Parliament.”

SNP MP Pete Wishart said Mundell he should consider his position given that he accepted full responsibility: “Time is running out for David Mundell. He has accepted full responsibility – now he should reconsider his position.

“The Scottish Secretary has failed to adequately answer basic questions over his broken promise to protect devolved governments.”

Pete Wishart added: “It was extraordinary that he was hung out to dry by his colleague the Brexit Secretary.”

Picture courtesy of Bob the Lomond

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