§ Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West)
What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister about proposals to give MSPs greater access to the civil service. 
§ The Minister of State, Scotland Office (Mr. Brian Wilson)
My right hon. Friend has regular discussions with the First Minister on a wide range of matters.
§ Mr. Swayne
I think it quite important for us to know the answer to this question, rather than any other. Has the Minister discussed with the First Minister that First Minister's proposals to politicise the Scottish civil service?
§ Mr. Wilson
Not for the first time and doubtless not for the last, the hon. Gentleman is proceeding on the basis of a misapprehension. No such proposal has been made, and my colleague the First Minister is far too experienced to want for one moment to politicise the civil service any more than the civil service would want or allow him to politicise it.
§ Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)
Is my hon. Friend aware that, during my rather brief spell as a Minister in the Scottish Executive, I authorised a number of briefings for Tory and nationalist MSPs by the civil service? I am not sure whether anyone was any wiser as a result; we can but hope.
Is my hon. Friend also aware that those of us who believe in the United Kingdom see a strong case for more members of the United Kingdom civil service to be located in places such as East Kilbride? Following my hon. Friend's reply to the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Sir R. Smith), may I urge him to keep trying?
§ Mr. Wilson
I like to think of my hon. Friend as having been given remission. It is very nice to have him back with us.
The point about civil service dispersal has been made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The Department for International Development has an excellent record of dispersing jobs to East Kilbride, and I have no doubt that that will continue to happen on a case-by-case basis where appropriate. Every interest must be considered: the interests of East Kilbride must be considered, as must the interests of those involved in dispersal.
§ Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield)
May I take up the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne)? Will the Minister please confirm the position relating to the Scottish civil service? The Prime Minister told me in a written answer on 6 November that it was part of the home civil service. Does that mean that responsibility for adherence to the civil service code rests with the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State, rather than with the First Minister? May we have that clarified now?
§ Mr. Wilson
I thought that the hon. Gentleman was going to tell us that his grandfather owned a sweetie shop in Friockheim. But, as he says, the Scottish Executive civil service is part of the home civil service, and responsibility for it lies with the head of it, the Cabinet Secretary. The Cabinet Secretary has made it clear, in the most unequivocal terms, that there was no intention and no attempt to politicise the service—and nor will there be in the future, on the part of any section of this Government.
I strongly agree with my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) that it is right and proper in many cases for briefings to be given not only to supporters of the Government on these or any other Benches, but to Opposition parties, where appropriate. I have certainly pursued that policy, and will continue to do so.
§ Mr. Grieve
I am grateful to the Minister for that assurance, but may we now have an assurance that the next time the First Minister starts making a fool of himself in the way he did just before taking office, it will be the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister who point out to him that the civil service code is the responsibility of this House, and that ultimately, if decisions in favour of changes are made, they will be made through the Cabinet Secretary, the Prime Minister and, if necessary, the Secretary of State?
§ Mr. Wilson
My hon. Friend the First Minister took over that position in circumstances that none of us wanted. He is doing an extremely good job in a statesman-like manner.