All 48 Parliamentary debates on 28th Mar 2022

Mon 28th Mar 2022
Mon 28th Mar 2022
P&O Ferries
Commons Chamber
(Urgent Question)
Mon 28th Mar 2022
Mon 28th Mar 2022
Mon 28th Mar 2022
Mon 28th Mar 2022
Mon 28th Mar 2022
Mon 28th Mar 2022
Mon 28th Mar 2022
Down Syndrome Bill
Lords Chamber

Order of Commitment discharged & Order of Commitment discharged
Mon 28th Mar 2022
Animals (Penalty Notices) Bill
Lords Chamber

Order of Commitment discharged & Order of Commitment discharged
Mon 28th Mar 2022
Subsidy Control Bill
Lords Chamber

3rd reading & 3rd reading
Mon 28th Mar 2022
Elections Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage: Part 1
Mon 28th Mar 2022
Elections Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage: Part 2

House of Commons

Monday 28th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Monday 28 March 2022
The House met at half-past Two o’clock

Prayers

Monday 28th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Prayers mark the daily opening of Parliament. The occassion is used by MPs to reserve seats in the Commons Chamber with 'prayer cards'. Prayers are not televised on the official feed.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Speaker’s Statement

Monday 28th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Before we start business today, I wish to report to the House that I have received a letter from the Speaker of the Ukraine Parliament. The letter says:

“I express my sincere gratitude to you and the House of Commons for your strong position in support of Ukraine, condemning the unprovoked and unjustified military aggression from the Russian Federation against the Ukrainian state”.

In particular, the letter expresses thanks for organising the address by President Zelensky, which it describes as

“a milestone event in the history of our bilateral relations”.

I know that, like me, colleagues will be grateful for this letter. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]

Oral Answers to Questions

Monday 28th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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The Secretary of State was asked—
James Sunderland Portrait James Sunderland (Bracknell) (Con)
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1. What assessment his Department has made of the effectiveness of the Army’s Future Soldier programme.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross (Moray) (Con)
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20. What assessment his Department has made of the effectiveness of the Army’s Future Soldier programme.

James Heappey Portrait The Minister for the Armed Forces (James Heappey)
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Future Soldier will see the largest transformation of the British Army in more than 20 years. This change, which is only just beginning, will create an Army that is more integrated, agile and lethal; a modern force fit to face up to current and future threats.

James Sunderland Portrait James Sunderland
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Can the Minister please assure me that the Army Future Soldier programme will keep pace with any emerging doctrinal lessons from Ukraine, and that the British Army will be structured and equipped to meet associated threats?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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I certainly can. The integrated review was based on operational analysis of the land campaigns in northern Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh. We are keenly watching the operational analysis as it comes in with regard to what is going on in Ukraine. At the moment, I think we would reflect that the nature of the land battle is exactly as we expected it to be, but clearly if the threat changes, the policy changes.

Douglas Ross Portrait Douglas Ross
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The Army Future Soldier programme was great news for Moray, an area that has benefited significantly from UK Government investment at RAF Lossiemouth. The Future Soldier programme confirmed that Kinloss barracks will not only be retained, but expanded. Will the Minister outline what plans he and the Government have for Kinloss barracks, working with 39 Engineer Regiment, which has been a valuable and integral part of the Moray community since it moved there a decade ago?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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My hon. Friend will be delighted at the £25 million of capital investment in the single living accommodation at Kinloss before 2025, which is a reflection of just how important the base is to the Army going forward. 39 Engineer Regiment will remain at Kinloss and continue to play a key role in the Moray community. As part of the Future Soldier order of battle, it will remain in its current role as a force support air engineer regiment.

Nick Smith Portrait Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab)
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The infantry are the core of our Army, so why will most of the cuts in the Department’s plans fall on the infantry?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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As a former infanteer, I agree vigorously with the premise of the hon. Gentleman’s question. The infantry are at the core of the fighting force—they are—but the reality is that we need to change our force design. The premium now is on dispersal and being able to operate effectively in a dispersed way. “Hide to survive” is the tag coming out of many war games and from what we are seeing in real life in Ukraine. The vision is for a more agile, more lethal infantry that is able to disperse and bring effect on to the enemy. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman says that, but he will have seen, from the footage of Ukrainians interrupting the activities of vast armoured columns, that small bands of determined people with the right missile technology are far more lethal than any opposing armoured force might prove to be.

Martin Docherty-Hughes Portrait Martin Docherty-Hughes (West Dunbartonshire) (SNP)
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I wonder if the Minister could advise the House on how extensively the Department is consulting through the ranks on the programme. Specifically, are serving personnel able to make recommendations or express opinions outwith the rank structure?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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I am not sure I agree with the afterthought to the hon. Gentleman’s question, but I know that the Chief of the General Staff and his team were vigorous in the way that the Future Army plans were communicated to the Army and that the Army chain of command had an opportunity to contribute to them. I am not sure that there is a mechanism quite as he envisages it, but the Army is, certainly in my experience, the sort of organisation that enjoys being challenged from within. I know there is plenty of challenge going on, so that the Army can make sure it develops the right plans for the future.

John Healey Portrait John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab)
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Mr Speaker, we are proud to receive the letter, which you read out, from the Ukrainian Speaker, and we are proud that President Zelensky said last night:

“Britain is definitely on our side.”

The Government have Labour’s full support for the UK’s military help to Ukraine. Putin’s brutal invasion surely reminds us that the Army’s primary role must be to reinforce Europe’s deterrence and defence against Russian aggression, so why do the Minister’s Future Soldier plans risk leaving the British Army too small, too thinly spread and too poorly equipped to deal with the threats that the UK and our NATO allies face?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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I fear that the right hon. Gentleman and I have been looking at different sets of plans, because I see an Army that ends up being better equipped, more lethal and more integrated. The choice that was made to introduce the deep recce strike capability into the third armoured division is absolutely game changing, and it is what is required. The de-prioritisation of the close fight that we have seen in Nagorno-Karabakh, in northern Syria and now in Ukraine shows us that the key, defining characteristic of the modern land battle is the ability to strike precisely and in depth, and to attrit our enemy while they are moving towards us. That is what the deep recce strike brigade is going to get after.

John Healey Portrait John Healey
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The heart of our UK commitment to NATO is indeed a fully capable war-fighting division, which the former Chief of the Defence Staff has described as

“the standard whereby a credible army is judged.”

Why will this modernised war-fighting third division not be delivered until 2030? Why did Ministers decide it would be built around Ajax when they knew about the deep-seated problems? Why, when it took the German Chancellor just three days to overturn decades of defence policy and boost defence spending by €100 billion, does the National Audit Office say that UK Ministers could take another nine months even to decide whether to stick with or scrap Ajax?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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The right hon. Gentleman knows that candour is the name of the game whenever I am speaking. I think there are reasons why both sides of the House could reflect on quite why our Army has the age of kit that it has. Governments of both parties have missed a number of opportunities to decide to renew the Army’s equipment inventory over the last 20 or 30 years. The reality is that the Army has to be redesigned to meet the threat as it now is, and I think that two armoured infantry or strike brigades with a deep recce strike brigade is exactly what a modern war-fighting division should look like. Within NATO, there are discussions about how the NATO force needs to transform to meet the modern threat.

Virginia Crosbie Portrait Virginia Crosbie (Ynys Môn) (Con)
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2. What steps his Department is taking to help support defence jobs across the UK.

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young (Redcar) (Con)
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6. What steps his Department is taking to help support defence jobs across the UK.

David Duguid Portrait David Duguid (Banff and Buchan) (Con)
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12. What steps his Department is taking to help support defence jobs across the UK.

Miriam Cates Portrait Miriam Cates (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Con)
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18. What steps his Department is taking to help support defence jobs across the UK.

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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Recent estimates shows MOD investment supporting over 200,000 jobs across the UK. Continued investment in defence, along with the changes we are making as part of the defence and security industrial strategy, will contribute to further economic growth and prosperity, including jobs, across the Union.

Virginia Crosbie Portrait Virginia Crosbie
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BAE Systems at RAF Valley in my constituency of Ynys Môn is hoping to hear news about a long-term contract, providing security to hundreds of workers. These are high-value jobs that underpin our sovereign UK defence capability. These technical and engineering roles provide maintenance to the RAF Hawk T2 fleet and support our future fighter pilots. Does my hon. Friend agree that this forthcoming contract is great news for Anglesey and great news for our UK security in these challenging times?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I cannot comment on specific contracts, but I can confirm that those are indeed high-value jobs performing an important role for our armed forces. My hon. Friend has been assiduous in pushing the case for defence jobs in her constituency, and I hope to be making an announcement shortly.

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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Does the Minister agree that the current dreadful situation in Ukraine means that we need to be very focused on our defence supply chains, buying and using British where possible and further supporting the economies of areas such as Redcar and Cleveland?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We were already focused on securing our critical defence supply chains, but DSIS has provided renewed impetus. Specifically on steel, as he mentions his home patch, it is for the prime contractors to place orders but they are all flagged well in advance with UK industry. Unfortunately, there are occasions—we have had this recently—when specific types of steel that we require are not being produced in the UK. I would urge UK manufacturers to really explore these opportunities. We are very keen to see them do so.

David Duguid Portrait David Duguid
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The Minister will be familiar with the company Score in my constituency. It is a major supplier of valves across different industries, including for naval vessels. May I invite him to see for himself the fantastic facilities, technology and expertise, including the award-winning apprenticeship schemes, utilised by the single largest employer in my constituency of Banff and Buchan?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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Our increase in naval procurement benefits jobs throughout the UK. I am delighted to hear of the Score Group’s apprenticeship scheme to build talent for the future and I am keen to visit. The UK Government’s shipbuilding programme is proving a great success in supporting Scottish jobs unlike, it appears, that of other Governments with which my hon. Friend, as a Scottish Member, may be familiar.

Miriam Cates Portrait Miriam Cates
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Given the MOD’s recently acquired stake in Sheffield Forgemasters, I know that my hon. Friend understands the important role of the UK steel industry in our national security. What consideration has he given to the opportunities for greater integration and collaboration on defence manufacturing between Sheffield Forgemasters and other steel producers, such as Stocksbridge’s Speciality Steel in my constituency, which he is also welcome to visit? That collaboration could benefit jobs and security.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I am aware of the company in my hon. Friend’s constituency. We took the unusual decision—it is unusual—to acquire Sheffield Forgemasters to secure its unique capability to supply specialist large-scale, high-integrity steel components, which are vital to defence programmes. Ultimately, it is for companies to manage commercial decisions for their future, but to improve engagement, the Business Secretary reformed the UK Steel Council in 2021, which offers a forum for the Government, industry and trade unions to work in partnership on what is absolutely a shared objective for UK steel to have a competitive and sustainable future.

Mohammad Yasin Portrait Mohammad Yasin (Bedford) (Lab)
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The Aircraft Research Association in Bedford is the only UK-based facility capable of testing our future military aircraft and components, but it is at risk of closure due to the change in electricity costs. Ofgem has stated that only the Government can introduce an exemption scheme to save the company and prevent the UK being reliant on foreign states to test our aircraft. Will the Minister urgently meet me and the ARA to discuss a way forward that protects our national security?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I am willing to meet the hon. Gentleman if that is helpful. I warn him that we are aware of the situation and of the capabilities that we need. I am happy to meet him and speak to him and I will take it from there.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)
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Many hon. Members have been surprised or enlightened by the performance of the Bayraktar TB2 in Ukraine. What sort of message does that send to UK strategy and procurement?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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Happily, we were ahead of the game. It is part of the discussion that we had as part of the integrated review. There are active processes in place to test UAVs—unmanned aerial vehicles—and counter-UAV technologies. We are aware of them. This conflict and previous ones have thrown into sharp relief how effective those weapon systems can be.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
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I have some important manufacturers that supply the defence sector, such as David Brown Santasalo and Reliance Precision, that would like to know what the future of their business is, given that the Government are going to reduce the size of our armed forces to 72,000 and that last week’s mini-Budget gave no extra funding to defence. If Vladimir Putin is watching the parliamentary channel, what does the Minister think he will be thinking?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I do not know whether Mr Putin is watching us today; I would like to say some robust things if he is. I give some reassurance to the hon. Gentleman: last time I visited David Brown Santasalo, it was hard at work on components for the Type 26, to which programme we are committed, as he knows, and on many export orders. It is hard at work producing really valuable bits of kit for the UK and in due course, I hope, our allies.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We come to shadow Minister Chris Evans.

Chris Evans Portrait Chris Evans (Islwyn) (Lab/Co-op)
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UK shipbuilding accounts for 42,600 jobs, yet the Government continue to fail to protect that vital industry and those highly skilled jobs by refusing to build British by default. Can the Minister give me one good reason why we cannot guarantee that all future naval ships procured by this Government will be built in Britain using British steel?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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Yes, I can give the hon. Gentleman many more than one good reason for why we have the strategy that we do. To name one, let us look at Type 31, which is a fantastic British export success to Poland and Indonesia; I am convinced that there will be others in due course. It was built with the support of an international consortium and we got the best in the world. It is now based firmly in the UK with a lot of it in the UK supply chain, which is giving the best opportunity for UK jobs and for UK shipbuilders to thrive internationally and competitively.

Wendy Chamberlain Portrait Wendy Chamberlain (North East Fife) (LD)
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3. What steps he is taking to help tackle violence against women in the armed forces.

Leo Docherty Portrait The Minister for Defence People and Veterans (Leo Docherty)
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Of course, we have a zero-tolerance approach to violence against women across Defence, and our actions across education, training and the service justice system reflect that. Women can and do have brilliant careers right across Defence, and the role models of senior women leaders across all three services reflect that.

Wendy Chamberlain Portrait Wendy Chamberlain
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My constituent had been living in the armed forces base in my constituency with her partner and her children, for whom she was the primary carer. During that time, she experienced continued domestic abuse and when she took the brave step of leaving her partner, she was told by the base that she would be required to leave. As a result, she was made homeless and, concerningly, she has had to leave her two very small children with her partner at the base. Although commitments to end violence in the first place are of course crucial, there will always be circumstances where it takes place. So what support can the Department put in place for those who suffer domestic abuse, and their dependants, while living within the armed forces community?

Leo Docherty Portrait Leo Docherty
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I am very moved to hear about the experiences of the hon. Lady’s constituent, and if she would like to approach me with more details, I would certainly be happy to look at that case again. I reassure her that we have had a countering domestic abuse strategy across Defence since 2018, and I look forward to updating the House in due course about our strategy for tackling rape and serious sexual offences across Defence.

Andrew Bridgen Portrait Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con)
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Does the Minister agree that we train all our military personnel to be able to be extremely violent when the situation requires but we also train them to have the self-discipline to control that aggression and that any breach of that discipline, whether perpetrated against male or female victims, needs to be dealt with expeditiously and seriously through military law?

Leo Docherty Portrait Leo Docherty
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I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend, and this is all the more the case given that women occupy every role right across Defence, quite rightly.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab)
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4. What steps the Government are taking to support NATO allies in response to Russian aggression.

Tony Lloyd Portrait Tony Lloyd (Rochdale) (Lab)
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16. What steps the Government are taking to support NATO allies in response to Russian aggression.

James Heappey Portrait The Minister for the Armed Forces (James Heappey)
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We are currently supplying significant air power to NATO’s eastern flank, as well as sending ships to the eastern Mediterranean. We have a well-established and enduring contribution to the NATO enhanced forward presence battle group in the Baltics and in Poland—in recent weeks we have almost doubled our military forces in Estonia to demonstrate that capability and our resolve to support that region.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne
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I thank the Minister, because the UK is right to bolster support to our NATO allies bordering Russia, and NATO is right in condemning Putin’s illegal and atrocious actions in Ukraine. Opposition Members stand shoulder to shoulder in upholding democracy, freedom, the rule of law and security. Of course, modern warfare is not just about troops, weapons and equipment, so what more are we doing to work with our allies across NATO in strengthening cyber-resilience in the alliance?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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NATO is acutely aware that the threat has evolved beyond the three conventional domains and into space and cyber-space as well, which is why that is a key part of NATO’s transformation plans. The UK is to the fore in that, because we have invested ahead of many of our allies in both defensive and offensive cyber-capabilities. So the UK voice is very much to the fore in discussing with NATO how we develop a cyber-capability for the alliance.

Tony Lloyd Portrait Tony Lloyd
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Is not one lesson of the brutal aggression of Russia in Ukraine that the decision by the Baltic states to join NATO was the right one? Aggression in Ukraine is not a vindication of NATO’s expansion; it is a vindication of the Baltic states’ joining our military alliance. Is there not a lesson for all NATO powers, including our own: we have to think again about how much we are prepared to spend on defence?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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Make no mistake: the NATO membership of our great friends and allies in the Baltic represents one of the great strengthening moments of the alliance generally. Nobody is prouder to fly the NATO flag than Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, and we stand four-square behind them and behind what it would mean if President Putin were to try to compromise the territorial integrity of those countries in any way. As for the hon. Gentleman’s wider question about resourcing defence across the alliance adequately, I strongly agree; we are one of only a few countries that has been routinely spending the 2% of GDP target. It is fantastic that this moment of challenge within the euro-Atlantic has meant that other countries have now increased their spending to meet that target, too. If there are arguments for more money for defence, no Defence Minister is ever going to object, but we should reflect that the UK has been spending 2% for a while and was given a very significant uplift from the Treasury only 12 months ago.

Richard Drax Portrait Richard Drax (South Dorset) (Con)
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I commend the United Kingdom for all it is doing to help our NATO allies, but I make this point to the Minister, from one soldier to another. He said earlier that, if circumstances change, the policy changes. I do not excuse myself for again asking the Government to rethink the cut to the Army. He was referring to out of area-type operations, and we are now looking potentially, God forbid, at a conventional war, where mass will be important. We no longer have that mass and it must be retained.

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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My hon. Friend and I will debate keenly the future of the land battle, but I am not sure that what we have seen on our TV screens over the past few weeks has been a justification for large amounts of massed armour. I think it is entirely a vindication of a change in the way in which the land battle is prosecuted. If forces are massed, they are vulnerable to missile technologies, which are absolutely in the ascendancy. I think that Future Soldier and the integrated review, which gave birth to that, are exactly the right way to develop the Army to meet the requirements of the land battle as it is now and not perhaps how we thought it was 20 years ago.

Alec Shelbrooke Portrait Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell) (Con)
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Supporting NATO allies is about not just the eastern front and the situation in and around Russia, but the threat from Russian naval activity. Does my hon. Friend agree that the focus must equally be on the activities of Russian submarines in the north Atlantic, around our allied coast, and that the Navy must be given equal consideration in regard to our strategic strength moving forward?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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Submarine operations in the north Atlantic are not routinely spoken about in public, but my right hon. Friend will be reassured to know that we are acutely aware that we must maintain awareness of what Russia is doing in the whole Euro-Atlantic and that the focus should not just be on the obvious point of conflict in Ukraine. There is a belligerence to the way in which Russia is doing its business right now, which means that this is the time for maximum vigilance for the UK and the alliance, so that we make sure that all threats to the homeland are properly countered.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow minister, Luke Pollard.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op)
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Labour’s commitment to NATO is unshakeable. We support the provision of lethal aid to Ukraine and we back the bolstering of defences for our allies on NATO’s eastern front. The Government have already deployed various assets, including Royal Navy ships from Devonport, which I am proud to represent, but will the Minister set out what further forces are being prepared for deployment to our NATO allies? Can he say whether the cost of that deployment is coming from already strained Ministry of Defence budgets, or whether it will be met from the Treasury reserve, as was the case during the last Labour Government?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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There is a constant regeneration of forces. As two battle groups are committed to Estonia, more battle groups need to embark on the training pipeline to make sure that we have contingent land forces at readiness. Similarly, ships have been deployed to the two NATO standing maritime groups and to Exercise Cold Response. We continue to generate further ships to give more choice and options thereafter, if requested by the Supreme Allied Commander Europe. Similarly, with the Typhoons and F-35s, a large amount has been committed as part of the initial response force, but we are generating more to have them at our disposal, if SACEUR asks for more.

The hon. Gentleman asks about the money right now. All of it seems to be being met by the Treasury; long may that continue.

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
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Given that we should help the Ukrainian armed forces by all legitimate means short of war, will Ministers press our NATO allies on the fact that the rather artificial distinction between defensive and offensive weaponry should be swept away when requests for equipment are received, because when a country is fighting on its own territory, having been invaded, all its weaponry is defensive?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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My right hon. Friend makes an excellent point. It suits our purpose to refer to the equipment that we are providing in the context of the defensive role it can play, but defence intelligence over the weekend reflected on the fact that the armoured column to the north-west of Kyiv has been pushed back in recent days, because small bands of determined people are manoeuvring with lethal weapons systems. That is forcing the Russians to move back into a place where they feel that they can defend themselves better. These are defensive bits of equipment. That, I think, is the right message to send to the Kremlin. If, in the ingenuity of the Ukrainian armed forces, they do something more, that is good on Ukraine.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We now come to the SNP spokesperson.

Stewart Malcolm McDonald Portrait Stewart Malcolm McDonald (Glasgow South) (SNP)
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On behalf of the Scottish National party, may I, too, welcome the letter from Speaker Stefanchuk to this House?

My last exchange with the Secretary of State, who cannot be with us this afternoon, was in relation to the NATO strategic concept. When I asked about the Government’s—[Interruption.]

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. May I just remind people that they have to stay for two full questions after the question that they have asked? Too many Members have asked a question and left. I remind people: please wait for two full questions and show courtesy to the House when you have had the benefit of a question. I am sorry to interrupt, but I need to get that on record.

Stewart Malcolm McDonald Portrait Stewart Malcolm McDonald
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Especially when I am on my feet, Mr Speaker.

When I last spoke to the Secretary of State across the Floor of the House, I asked about the upcoming NATO strategic concept, which is second in importance only to the Washington treaty itself. May I ask the Minister specifically about that? Is it still planned to happen in June, or will the timetable for it move because of Russia’s war on Ukraine? In terms of what we can expect to see from it, will we have the Government’s Arctic strategy before then? In terms of containing Russia, the Secretary of State said at our last exchange that he planned to have a conversation with SACEUR about that very issue. Can the Government tell us what their priorities will be for containment of Russia going forward?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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The hon. Gentleman will have to accept my apologies, but so important is the NATO strategic concept that I am afraid it is something that the Secretary of State works on with the team immediately around him. He will need to write to the hon. Gentleman with the detail that he asks for.

Stewart Malcolm McDonald Portrait Stewart Malcolm McDonald
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I am always happy to write, but perhaps I could take the Minister on from that to an important issue. NATO is clearly focused on bolstering its own defences and on supporting Ukraine militarily. Several NATO and non-NATO member states are focused on doing the same, plus supporting Ukraine economically. But Ukraine will require Marshall plan levels of rebuilding and international co-operation and support across NATO countries, EU countries and countries further afield. Will the Minister enlighten the House as to what discussions are taking place in NATO specifically with a focus on helping the country to rebuild? The war will come to an end eventually and our friendship must continue the day after.

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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The discussions in NATO very much focus on the Euro-Atlantic security implications of the conflict and on what the situation may be after it is completed. The wider geopolitical discussion and the economic plan, among other things that the hon. Gentleman rightly asks for, may be discussed within NATO, but I do not think that they are the focus of NATO discussions; I think that they are much more the focus of discussions within the G7, the EU and other ad hoc groupings that are coming together in order to worry about exactly what is next.

Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers (Chipping Barnet) (Con)
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7. What steps he is taking to help strengthen co-operation between NATO members.

James Heappey Portrait The Minister for the Armed Forces (James Heappey)
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In recent months, the Secretary of State has met his NATO counterparts twice in Brussels and travelled to over a dozen European capitals. The UK is standing by its commitments to our NATO allies, acting to provide reassurance to allies and partners. The UK has doubled its NATO presence in Estonia, and a deployment of Royal Marines is now in Poland on a bilateral basis.

Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers
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Will the Government co-operate with NATO allies to continue the flow of lethal aid to the Ukrainian armed forces, including weapons such as Starstreak to defend against aircraft attacks?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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I did not take the opportunity in my answer to a previous question to make an important distinction, but my right hon. Friend gives me that opportunity now. NATO is not the provider of lethal aid into the conflict in Ukraine. NATO is looking at how it doubles down on its eastern flank in order to contain the violence within Ukraine and show the resolve of NATO countries to stand up for article 5. Those who are donating lethal aid and non-lethal aid to Ukraine are doing so bilaterally, and it is through UK leadership that a lot of it is being co-ordinated and delivered. The next donor conference convened by the Secretary of State will happen later this week. We are ambitious for even more countries to join the donor group at that stage.

Philip Dunne Portrait Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

8. With reference to the integrated review 2021, what assessment he has made of the implications for his policies on force structure in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

James Heappey Portrait The Minister for the Armed Forces (James Heappey)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The integrated review explained that Defence’s forces must prepare for the most persistent global engagement and constant campaigning to counter emerging threats. We are continuing to monitor the situation in Ukraine to ensure that we remain threat-led and, in line with the agile planning and delivery mechanisms developed following the IR, we will continue to review our capabilities and readiness levels accordingly.

Philip Dunne Portrait Philip Dunne
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Last week, NATO nations committed force deployments to four member states in eastern Europe to help to demonstrate resolve to Russia at this dangerous time. Does my hon. Friend not agree that now is not the time to reduce the force strength of the British Army by 9,500 regular soldiers, and that this aspect of the conclusions of the integrated review should be at the very least deferred and at best reversed?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My right hon. Friend is an expert in the field. I acknowledge that this issue will be keenly debated and that he has a strong view on it. My own view is that this is the right time to accelerate the acquisition of the lethality that has been missing from the field Army for too long. We are outranged on our artillery, we lack the land precision fires that are now essential and, if I had to choose—and I think that the Ministry of Defence has had to choose—I would choose to have a land force that has been modernised and made relevant to the modern battle again, rather than necessarily standing behind larger numbers.

Caroline Dinenage Portrait Dame Caroline Dinenage (Gosport) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

9. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the “Veterans’ Strategy Action Plan: 2022 to 2024.”

Leo Docherty Portrait The Minister for Defence People and Veterans (Leo Docherty)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am pleased to have regular discussions with colleagues across Government on our veterans’ strategy action plan, which contains more than 60 policy commitments amounting to £70 million of additional investment on priorities, including employment, data, skills and healthcare. We continue to work closely with other Departments, research academics and service charities at all levels to deliver its commitments.

Caroline Dinenage Portrait Dame Caroline Dinenage
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Just under 10% of the working-age population of Gosport are veterans, so we take a keen interest in this excellent action plan. However, although 96% of our veterans make a successful transition to a civilian career within six months of leaving the forces, it is not until page 32 that the plan talks about promoting a positive image of them. Can we change the headline here to “Service veterans are excellent people to employ”?

Leo Docherty Portrait Leo Docherty
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend has afforded me a useful opportunity to make exactly that point, but I must first thank her for the magnificent work that she does in support of her armed forces community and veterans in Gosport. The reason there is such high demand for veterans in all sectors is that they make brilliant employees: military service does indeed give members of the armed forces skills for life.

Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sure that pursuing a Commonwealth veteran for 36 grand in NHS costs is not part of the MOD’s strategy. Does the Minister agree that it is wrong for someone who has served our country and risked his life in Iraq and Afghanistan to be treated in this way and, if he does, will he work with me and with others to put it right?

Leo Docherty Portrait Leo Docherty
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do agree that it is wrong and I look forward to updating the hon. Gentleman personally about that case in particular.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the shadow Minister, Stephanie Peacock.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock (Barnsley East) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The veterans strategy commits the Government to ending veteran rough sleeping by the end of 2024. Can the Minister tell the House how many veterans are currently sleeping rough and, if he cannot, how does he intend to meet that target with no plan, no resources and no data?

Leo Docherty Portrait Leo Docherty
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We do have a plan and it is reflected in the fact that the armed forces covenant is now deliverable by all local authorities. It has teeth as a result of the statutory guidance that we have delivered, and for which we have legislated for the first time ever. At local authority level, which is where these services are delivered, we have brought real, tangible change of which we can be very proud.

Mark Fletcher Portrait Mark Fletcher (Bolsover) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

10. What support his Department is providing to Ukraine’s military.

James Heappey Portrait The Minister for the Armed Forces (James Heappey)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Britain was the first European country to supply lethal aid to Ukraine. The UK has so far delivered more than 4,000 next-generation light anti-tank weapons, as well as Javelin anti-tank systems, and is committed to providing Starstreak missiles. We will continue to deliver more. We have also delivered non-lethal aid in the form of body armour, helmets, boots, ration packs, rangefinders and communications equipment.

Mark Fletcher Portrait Mark Fletcher
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I welcome the recent announcement that 6,000 additional missiles will go to Ukraine. Indeed, I think we have led the way in terms of providing support for that country. As the conflict evolves, however, many scenarios may play out. What steps is the Department taking to plan for future support that the Ukrainians may need?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Secretary of State and I both speak to our counterparts in the Ukrainian MOD numerous times each week. It is apparent, as I am sure it would be if we were in these circumstances, that the thing that starts every conversation is resourcing the fight tomorrow. The great advantage of the partnership and trust between the UK and Ukrainian MODs is that we are able to do some of the thinking about what they might need next week, the week after and in three months’ time, and we are working hard to ensure that we are cueing up industry to deliver those capabilities as quickly as we can.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

How much of the MOD’s spending on that kind of relief in Ukraine will be counted as official development assistance?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will need to write to the hon. Gentleman about that, but I am not sure that it would be very much at all.

Steve Brine Portrait Steve Brine (Winchester) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

11. What recent progress he has made on the Defence estate optimisation programme.

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The MOD continues to deliver on its 25-year strategy to modernise its estate. In the last year, the Defence estate optimisation portfolio has completed construction at three Defence sites, with another six in construction, and completed the sale of seven surplus MOD sites, generating £141 million in receipts to re-invest in modem and sustainable facilities for our armed forces.

Steve Brine Portrait Steve Brine
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister knows that the Sir John Moore barracks in my constituency is marked for disposal under the programme. He also knows that what will be put in its place is causing anxiety. As we reduce the size of the Army in pursuit of the Future Soldier proposals in the integrated review, it is obvious that some consolidation will be needed around the training estate, but does the Minister share my concern about losing what is a good facility in good order at the Army Training Regiment in Winchester, given that the conflict at present—and, I suspect, for some time to come—looks very 20th century, not necessarily in terms of offensive ground operations, but in terms of all the other things, including boots on the ground, that we require of our armed forces?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I know from the meetings we have had that my hon. Friend is very engaged with this MOD site, which is due to close in 2026. The rationale for the closure is to concentrate all phase 1 non-infantry training at Pirbright to provide a bespoke training environment embracing digitalisation. The numbers trained could be flexed, but I will continue to engage with him on what he has impressed on me is an important issue for his constituents.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

14. What steps his Department is taking to help protect the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

James Heappey Portrait The Minister for the Armed Forces (James Heappey)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Defence continues to play a central role in helping Ukraine to defend its territorial integrity, working with allies and partners to uphold international law. We are also providing lethal and non-lethal military aid to meet the Ukrainian armed forces’ requests for assistance and co-ordinating the provision of additional military support from our allies and partners to enable Ukraine to repel Russian aggression.

Drew Hendry Portrait Drew Hendry
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The UK Government’s preparation for this war evidently anticipated a quick lightning strike on Kyiv by Putin’s forces, followed by attempted regime change, rather than military resource allocation for a protracted ground war crisis. Why was this the case? What lessons, if any, have been learned?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think there are two points to make to that. First, the UK Government were able to anticipate what has happened because our intelligence services did an extraordinary job in understanding what the threat was, and our alliances with other intelligence services around the world worked brilliantly. That is a useful correction to 20 years of doubting intelligence when making decisions in this place, because our intelligence services remain among the best in the world. To the hon. Gentleman’s question about whether the right or wrong kit was given, I think that, absent any decision a decade ago to begin Ukraine’s transition to NATO-calibre weapons systems, which would have been an overt step on the way to Ukrainian NATO membership—we can discuss whether or not that is a good thing—the right thing to do in those circumstances was to grab stuff that was on the shelf and available to be brought to bear immediately in the defence of Ukraine. That is exactly what we did.

Andrew Jones Portrait Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15. What assessment his Department has made of the effectiveness of Ukrainian resistance to Russian aggression.

James Heappey Portrait The Minister for the Armed Forces (James Heappey)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Ukrainian armed forces have robustly resisted all Russian axes of invasion, conducting effective ambush and artillery strikes on Russian military convoys and maintaining air defences that are limiting Russian air superiority. Ukrainian resistance is significantly restricting Russia’s ability to deploy combat power against Kyiv. It is unlikely that Russia has achieved its planned objectives at this stage of the invasion.

Andrew Jones Portrait Andrew Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. My constituents have told me that they want to see the Government continue to support the Ukrainian resistance in three ways: humanitarian assistance in the region; welcoming refugees here; and military aid. We have seen the news that the Ukrainian army is retaking parts of its area from the Russians, so as the Ukrainian need evolves, will he ensure that our support evolves to meet that changing need?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I certainly can assure my hon. Friend that that is the case. As I said in response to an earlier question, we are looking a week, two weeks, two months and three months ahead in order to give the Ukrainians strategic depth and in order to bring to bear our technological and industrial advantages and to provide them with the kit we think they will need, not just in the next few days but in three months’ time, so that they can continue to ensure that President Putin fails in his endeavours in Ukraine.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

17. Whether his Department is taking steps to procure British equipment to support Ukraine’s military.

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I emphasise that decisions on equipment are in response to requests from Ukraine, and we consider how best to address Ukraine’s needs. The anti-tank weapons provided to the Ukrainian armed forces thus far have been taken from existing UK stocks, to ensure speed of delivery. The MOD continues to pursue options to meet Ukrainian requirements rapidly, including through UK industry and by actively convening our global partners.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have been contacted by manufacturers of military hardware in North Devon that work with the MOD and can rapidly move to provide items such as helmets and body armour. Are there any plans for a streamlined emergency procurement process to help speed this up?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I emphasise that these are Ukrainian decisions. I urge UK companies to contact the Ukrainian embassy, as well as using other routes. In parallel, the Department for International Trade is meeting defence-ready trade associations such as ADS and Make UK on a weekly basis to rapidly consider industry offers to Ukraine and how they can be assisted. UK manufacturers of military hardware may also wish to forward offers to their trade association.

Alex Norris Portrait Alex Norris (Nottingham North) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

You are aware of this, Mr Speaker, but a number of hon. Members have inquired and the Defence Secretary would not want it to be thought that he means any discourtesy to the House: he has had a brief brush with covid, and I can assure the House on behalf of the Department, the armed forces and the Ministers here present that it has neither stopped him nor slowed him down. He has had a second negative test today, and I am assured that by this evening he will be as present physically as he has been virtually over the last few days.

The Ministry of Defence continues to deliver against the objectives of the integrated review and the defence Command Paper, which recognise that Russia remains the most acute threat to our security. We remain on course to deliver a more modernised and threat-focused defence alongside our international allies, just as we have worked with them on Ukraine.

Alex Norris Portrait Alex Norris
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Recent weeks have only reinforced the need to invest in our defence, which is important for our economy and vital for our security. With that in mind, why will Ministers not give a clear commitment to British-built by default in defence procurement?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The events of the last few weeks show the critical importance of having the right kit in the hands of our armed forces. On many occasions the need can be met by British supply, but I would not write off the kit we can procure from our US and NATO allies, nor would I wish them to write off the prospect of buying kit from us. We are part of an alliance, and I am convinced that our approach of supporting British industry, supporting British investment and supporting capability through the defence and security industrial strategy, while keeping a weather eye on what else is available to ensure our armed forces are well armed, is the right one.

Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T2. The Secretary of State’s decision to send lethal defensive military aid to Ukraine before Russia’s invasion was inspired, and it is probably one of the best decisions he has ever taken. What is the initial assessment of the Minister for the Armed Forces of the operational effectiveness in theatre of the next generation light anti-tank weapons we have sent to Ukraine?

James Heappey Portrait The Minister for the Armed Forces (James Heappey)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

One pauses because these weapon systems, every time they are effective, kill the entire crew of an armoured vehicle. My hon. Friend will take no pleasure from it, but he will be interested to note that these weapon systems have been prolific in their success. The Ukrainian armed forces value them enormously. They are accurate, reliable and deadly.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the shadow Secretary of State, John Healey.

John Healey Portrait John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The UK’s anti-tank and anti-air weapons are proving vital to the Ukrainians in fighting the Russian invasion. The Prime Minister pledged at NATO last week that we will supply a further 6,000 missiles. Both NLAW and Starstreak are made in Britain by British workers, as the Minister for Defence Procurement said in response to the hon. Member for North Devon (Selaine Saxby) on Question 17, but has production started to replace the British stockpiles of these missiles?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are working closely with industry. Some lines have continued, but I would rather not get into operational details of as and when stockpiles will be replenished. Suffice it to say that we are in active conversations with industry, as the right hon. Gentleman would expect.

Andrew Rosindell Portrait Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T3. It is 40 years this coming week since the invasion of the Falkland Islands and the violation of British sovereignty by Argentina. It is five weeks since the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty by Russia. As China eyes up Taiwan, does the Minister agree that it is time that the Government started to plan for an increase in defence spending, maybe to 3% of GDP?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hear what my hon. Friend says and I note his concern. As the integrated review made clear, we always look at spending on a threat basis: what is required, we fund. I also remind him that we are the biggest defence spender in Europe and the second biggest in NATO, and we were pleased to receive a £24 billion uplift in the current spending period.

Wendy Chamberlain Portrait Wendy Chamberlain (North East Fife) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T9. As a member of the Scottish Affairs Committee, I had the pleasure of visiting Lossiemouth earlier this year. Leuchars airfield in my constituency is still maintained as a back-up site for operations. Given the current situation, can the Minister advise on sonar and radar upgrades? It is important that back-up facilities are also fit for purpose.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. I think I wrote to her last in November of last year on that issue. I am afraid we have not moved on yet and we are still studying exactly what radar configurations will be required, but it is actively being looked at and I certainly commit to updating her when I can give her an assurance one way or the other.

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T4. Fleeing for their lives when Kabul fell, some Afghans with UK connections entered Pakistan without documentation. Will Ministers urgently devise a practical plan safely to bring to the UK those Afghans who have entry visas to come to this country, but who are still being hunted by the Pakistani police, whose Government apparently want to hand them back to the Taliban?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My right hon. Friend knows that I have been engaged in this matter for him for some time. I am told from my phone that the high commissioner has now reached out to explain the situation. For the benefit of the wider House, the challenge is that for those who arrive in Pakistan with eligibility to come to the UK under whichever Government scheme they are intending to use, but have not entered Pakistan legally, the Pakistan Government are taking a view on limiting our ability to process those people. We are working hard to persuade the Pakistan Government to take a different approach.

Zarah Sultana Portrait Zarah Sultana (Coventry South) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Joram is a veteran and constituent who came to Britain in 2001 and served in the armed forces, with tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. That left scars: he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and took to drinking, and as a result served time in prison. He turned his life around and is now a painter and decorator and a father of two, but the Home Office is seeking to deport him to Zimbabwe, where he has no connections and where, when he was last there 15 years ago, he was tortured for having served in our armed forces. That risks happening again. Will the Minister intervene to stop Joram, a veteran, being deported?

Leo Docherty Portrait The Minister for Defence People and Veterans (Leo Docherty)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I would be very pleased to review the details of the case and correspond directly with the hon. Lady.

Mark Eastwood Portrait Mark Eastwood (Dewsbury) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T5. It is vital that we protect our veterans from vexatious legal claims, something that we have already put in place for those who have served overseas. Will the Minister agree to work with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Government to ensure that legislation is also urgently brought forward to help to protect our Northern Ireland veterans?

Leo Docherty Portrait Leo Docherty
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are grateful to all veterans of Operation Banner and seek to give them closure with honour and finality. I am pleased that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will in due course bring forward the requisite Bill.

Jamie Stone Portrait Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The most effective deployment of our submarine forces in response to Russian deployment is surely intelligence-dependent. Membership of the joint expeditionary force is not synonymous with that of NATO. I press the Minister: are we making every effort to glean intelligence on Russian naval deployment from those other countries?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Our intelligence on Russian submarine movements is, as the hon. Gentleman can imagine, some of the most sensitive, but he will be reassured to know that we are absolutely working with allies to ensure that our understanding of where Russian submarines are is the best it can possibly be, and that we are postured to ensure that we meet whatever threat there may be as a consequence.

Ben Everitt Portrait Ben Everitt (Milton Keynes North) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T6. I am sure my hon. Friend will agree that Poland’s recent decision to award Babcock the contract for the Arrowhead frigates for the Polish navy is a brilliant example of British shipbuilding capabilities being used to support our NATO allies.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am delighted to join my hon. Friend in welcoming that downselection. There is still a process to go, but if it has finally got over the line, as I hope, that will be great news for Babcock, great news for Scotland and great news for British shipbuilding. I have on multiple occasions been to see my opposite number in Poland and hosted them here in the UK. I think they are making a great choice.

Ellie Reeves Portrait Ellie Reeves (Lewisham West and Penge) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In June last year, one of my constituents, a British-Afghan dual national, travelled to Afghanistan to visit his wife and three children aged under 10. During the evacuation, they were advised to proceed to Baron Hotel but were not processed before the suicide attack. Since then they have been trying to get to the UK, but the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office says they need a visa and the Home Office says they are ineligible for the resettlement scheme. What urgent action can the Minister take, with colleagues in the Home Office, to ensure that my constituent can return safely to the UK with his young family?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Lady’s question implies, I think, that her constituent was not eligible to come under the Ministry of Defence-administered Afghan relocations and assistance policy. I know that will be of no consolation to him or his family in Afghanistan. We are working hard with other Government Departments to make sure that those who were called forward under the leave outside the rules scheme that was in operation during Operation Pitting are still looked after. However, I will need to have this discussion with other Ministers, and I will ask one of them to write to her with an update on the case.

Felicity Buchan Portrait Felicity Buchan (Kensington) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T7. I understand that Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles are being made available to Ukraine. Could this kit be used to protect humanitarian corridors and nuclear power plants?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It certainly could be—it is a highly effective weapons system—but we are not seeking to be in any way prescriptive with the Ukrainians about how it is employed, as they will understand their plan better than we do. We give them these weapons systems confident that they will bring them to good use, and thus far that has proved correct.

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson (City of Chester) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the Minister share my concern that the agility and mobility hoped for in the Future Soldier programme will be thwarted if those soldiers are stuck in traffic on the M6 near Weeton barracks? Would it not be much better to keep Dale barracks in Chester open and have a wider operational footprint for our future soldiers?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That is an ingenious construction. We always think about this, but I am afraid we do not have any plans to change that element of the defence estate optimisation portfolio at this point.

Matthew Offord Portrait Dr Matthew Offord  (Hendon) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T8.   Ukraine is becoming one of the most contaminated countries in the world, with explosive weapons, land-mines, cluster munitions and unexploded ordnance posing a threat to military and civilians alike. Will the Minister meet me and leaders of EOD UK, a mine action community, to discuss how we can plan for the enormous decontamination task ahead of us?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I certainly will. I have had the opportunity—I am not sure if it is the misfortune or good fortune—to visit a number of countries that have been heavily mined in the past. We see the tragic human cost that comes in countries that have been heavily mined, but also the hope that comes with a meaningful demining programme. I would be delighted to meet the organisation my hon. Friend suggests.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The national security vetting services have never played such an important role, and the skill there is incredibly high. When will the Minister announce that they will remain in York when the MOD moves forward with its plans for the Imphal barracks site?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I cannot give any form of commitment on that right now, but I will write to the hon. Lady.

James Davies Portrait Dr James Davies (Vale of Clwyd) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T10. Over the weekend I was pleased to see two Royal Navy vessels join five other joint expeditionary force nations in escorting British and Danish supply ships. They successfully delivered military vehicles and equipment to the UK-led NATO battle group in Estonia. Does my hon. Friend agree that as well as playing a vital role in NATO, it is important for the UK to continue to lead the joint expeditionary force?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I certainly do. NATO has been the absolute cornerstone of Euro-Atlantic security since the end of the second world war, and long may it continue to be so. Neither the JEF, the EU nor anything else should be seen as an alternative. However, there is a market for complementary organisations such as the JEF, which do not require consensus. The JEF is absolutely showing its value in the way that it is being used at the moment.

Carol Monaghan Portrait Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The veterans strategy action plan includes a commitment to address the historical hurt or disadvantage that sections of the veteran community have experienced. Will that include compensation for LGBT veterans?

Leo Docherty Portrait Leo Docherty
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I look forward to announcing further progress on the review in due course. I do not want to pre-empt the terms and conditions of the chair, but I think that they will be reassuringly broad.

James Gray Portrait James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

While it is perfectly true that any sensible person in the west would rather President Putin were not the President of the Russian republic, does the Minister agree that it is vital that we reiterate at every second that we can that NATO is a defensive alliance among 30 members and that we will react if one boot goes over the line on to NATO land, but the presidency of Russia must be a matter for the Russian people, not for us?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is correct. NATO is a defensive alliance, and we are working closely together. As my hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces said, we are undertaking measures to ensure that NATO retains that deterrence and defensive posture that is appropriate in these times. However, we are focused bilaterally on Ukraine and on supporting Ukraine—that is the focus of our policy.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

At the last Defence questions, I got what I hoped was an encouraging answer on behalf of the nuclear test veterans for what will be the 70th anniversary of the first nuclear tests. Will the Minister update us on where we are in recognising those veterans and their families for their sacrifice?

Leo Docherty Portrait Leo Docherty
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This continues to be under review. I look forward to updating the hon. Member in due course.

Michael Fabricant Portrait Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Ministers have said that we have supplied 4,000 NLAWs and other equipment and deployments, and that we are supplying 6,000 more. Meanwhile, Germany says that it will supply 1,000 and France has not stated what it will supply—as far as I know, nothing has been supplied—so what advice do we give to our colleagues in Europe about how to get their equipment into Ukraine?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is not just advice; we offer a service whereby we will go to countries around Europe and pick up stuff and ensure that it gets to Ukraine. At the international donor co-ordination centre in Stuttgart, which I had the pleasure of visiting last week, the UK’s 104 Brigade headquarters is the global lead on co-ordinating how all that lethal and non-lethal aid arrives in countries that neighbour Ukraine and how it is moved on thereafter.

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

With the next generation Challenger 3 turrets being built in the north-east, supporting hundreds of jobs, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory working with Newcastle and other local universities and Cook Defence Systems in my constituency providing armoured vehicle tracks for not just British tanks but those of NATO and European allies, will my hon. Friend ensure that the north-east’s firms and workers remain at the heart of British defence procurement?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

They are. Last Thursday, I had a great day opening the AI hub for DSTL in Newcastle and pressing the button to start production of the turrets for our Challenger 3 tanks, to which my hon. Friend referred. There is a great history of defence manufacturing in the north-east, and it will have an even greater future.

P&O Ferries

Monday 28th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

15:33
Louise Haigh Portrait Louise Haigh (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab)
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(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the conduct of P&O Ferries’ chief executive and board and the action the Government will take to safeguard jobs.

Robert Courts Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Robert Courts)
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I know that the whole House has been left appalled and angered by the behaviour exhibited by P&O Ferries towards its workers over the last week. As a Government, we will not stand by and allow hard-working, dedicated British staff to be treated in such a manner.

This morning, my right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary wrote to the chief executive of P&O asking him to pause and reconsider and to offer his workers their jobs back on their previous terms, conditions and wages, should they want them. That is because we will return to the House to announce a package of measures that will ensure that the outcomes that P&O Ferries is seeking to achieve through this disastrous move to pay less than the minimum wage cannot be seen through. As a result, it will have no reason left not to reconsider its move.

As I said to the Transport Committee and the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee last week, as soon as the package of measures has been finalised, we intend to return to the House so that Members can rightly scrutinise it. In the meantime, we continue to review the contracts that P&O Ferries has with the Government, and the Insolvency Service continues to investigate the actions of Peter Hebblethwaite, who brazenly admitted to breaking the law before two Committees of this House last week.

I am clear that P&O Ferries cannot and will not be allowed to get away with its actions. I hope the whole House will now support our efforts to ensure just that.

Louise Haigh Portrait Louise Haigh
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I thank the Minister for that response. As he said, on Thursday the chief executive of P&O Ferries made a mockery of the rule of law in this country. As a result, seven of P&O’s eight ferries are now stuck in port, and on Saturday the European Causeway—the only passenger ship in Europe to be prevented from sailing over safety concerns—was seized.

P&O Ferries must face the most serious consequences for its misconduct. I know that the Minister and the Secretary of State feel the same way, and I appreciate the contact they have made with the Opposition and trade unions, but every available tool at the Government’s disposal must now be used to force P&O Ferries to reinstate workers on the previous terms and conditions.

Will the Minister provide some urgent clarity? First, the Prime Minister said very clearly on Wednesday:

“we are taking legal action…against the company concerned”.—[Official Report, 23 March 2022; Vol. 711, c. 326.]

So has the Secretary of State given his direction to prosecute? If not, why not?

Secondly, given that the chief executive has shown no respect for the law, will the Secretary of State seek his removal under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986, and the removal of all those who authorised this unlawful action?

Thirdly, the Secretary of State has said he will review contracts, but livelihoods are on the line now, so will he suspend all contracts and licences of P&O and DP World today? Why is DP World still listed as a member of the Government’s trade advisory group?

Finally, time is running out. The deadline set by P&O for this Thursday for workers to agree severance amounts to extortion and has no legal basis. What powers do the Government have to extend that unlawful deadline? As the Minister said, workers must be reinstated on the same terms as before. Many are paid above the minimum wage, so will he commit to working with the unions and all ferry companies to agree a binding framework that will prevent a race to the bottom to the lowest international standards?

I know the House agrees that we must send a clear message that rogue employers cannot get away with trampling over the laws of this country. It is time to throw the book at P&O and save this loyal workforce.

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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The hon. Lady is quite right that P&O must face consequences for its actions. We are looking at every tool available to the Government and doing so as fast as is humanly possible. We are looking to bring forward a package of measures. I apologise that I cannot go into any more detail at the moment—some of these matters are complicated and we need to go through them—but we will speak to Members and to the unions as we put the package together.

The Secretary of State has made his views known very clearly, as did I when I came to the House when the announcement was made and when I appeared before the Transport Committee. The letter the Secretary of State has written is absolutely clear about the view we take of P&O’s actions, and we will act on that.

The hon. Lady mentioned several other matters. We continue to review any contracts that may exist and continue to take any action we can on things like trade advisory groups. I hope the hon. Lady will pardon me for not going into detail at the moment. We will come forward with a package of measures that we will take, as I said we would when I was before the Select Committee. We are putting that package together as I speak and will of course work with the unions and all others as we do so.

Natalie Elphicke Portrait Mrs Natalie Elphicke (Dover) (Con)
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I thank my hon. Friend the Minister and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for working so closely with me and others since P&O took this disgraceful decision. Does my hon. Friend agree that the minimum wage proposal is a floor and not a ceiling? It would put ferry workers in the same position as other workers in this country and defeat P&O’s agency foreign workers model, such that P&O should just reinstate the Dover workforce now, on their current terms. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government measures that are coming forward this week will support ferry operators and ferry workers and safeguard the Dover-Calais route for the future?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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First, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for her fearless championing of her constituents. There is no one who speaks out with more persuasion, force and passion than she does for the people of Dover and her constituents, and I pay tribute to her for that. She asks whether the national minimum wage is a floor, not a ceiling, and I am very keen to say that there is a package we are considering. We will come to the House and explain what that package is in due course, and I hope the House will look forward to and welcome that when it comes.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)
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Can I, through the Minister, thank the Secretary of State for what he has said and the content of the letter that he and the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy sent to P&O today? These actions have been utterly reprehensible, but I do have to ask where the progressive zealot intent on protecting jobs was when British Airways threatened to fire and rehire 30,000 staff. If some action had been taken at that point, we might not have been in this position today with P&O. However, it is better that a sinner repenteth, and the Government are indeed on the right side of the road now, which I very much welcome, because the actions of P&O are abhorred by everyone not just in this House, but right across the country.

The Minister said in his response to the shadow Secretary of State that he cannot give any details now, but can I please reiterate that the deadline is on Thursday and this place breaks for recess on Thursday? This is of the most urgent nature, and we need details on that as soon as possible.

The Chairs of the Transport Committee and the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee—this is my final question, Mr Speaker—have written to the Secretary of State today with a number of points, including stating:

“The Government should prosecute P&O Ferries and remove its licence to operate in the UK.”

What consideration is the Minister giving to this action, and to showing P&O that it cannot operate where it does not abide by the law?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. He is quite right that, in reality, this is something that unites the House. Whatever party, wherever we come from and whatever our politics, we are all disgusted by the way that P&O has behaved. He is quite right, and I am very aware that the deadline is pressing, which is why the Government are working so hard on this. As soon as we are able to do so, we aim to come back before the House and update the House on the package of measures we are looking to take—[Interruption.]

Sorry; the hon. Gentleman reminds me, as I am on my feet, that there are a couple of questions I have not answered. I will consider the point he has raised about licences in particular, and we can consider that as we are going along. I know that some letters have been written. I have not yet seen those, but I will be very keen to see the suggestions that are made in those as well. As I said when I was in front of the Transport Committee last week, I am very keen to work with the Select Committee and the unions on any constructive suggestions they have made. If you will pardon me for taking just a second longer to say this, Mr Speaker, there have been some very constructive suggestions from all sides of the House.

Virginia Crosbie Portrait Virginia Crosbie (Ynys Môn) (Con)
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Stena is one of the largest employers in my constituency of Ynys Môn, and Holyhead is the second busiest roll-on roll-off port in the UK. The news about P&O last week was felt with palpable anger and shock. I have spoken to Stena seafarers such as David Gwatkin and Mark Harrison on the Stena Adventurer, and they are quite rightly concerned about their jobs. Will the Minister confirm to my constituents that he and the Secretary of State are doing everything they can to ensure that this despicable, callous behaviour never occurs again?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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My hon. Friend speaks with enormous power and passion for her constituents in Ynys Môn, and I pay tribute to her for that. The distress felt by seafarers of all companies has been absolutely palpable over the last week. Clearly, those at P&O are in our hearts and minds, but equally there are those with other operators who are worried about their livelihoods. It is precisely the case that we are taking the time we are because we want to be able to provide the reassurance to others, no matter where they work or who they are employed by, that their livelihoods will be secure.

Peter Dowd Portrait Peter Dowd (Bootle) (Lab)
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I appreciate the Minister’s comment about DP World or P&O Ferries being on the advisory group, and that he will look at this as part of a package, but can he just tell us today whether part of that package is going to be to take DP World off the Government’s advisory body? That would send a fantastic message right now to the company that its behaviour is unacceptable. Will the Minister send out that message now, not ask us to wait for the package?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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I do apologise to the hon. Gentleman, because I know that he would like me to say a number of things and to send such a message now. The message will be sent. I hope he will forgive me, but I want there to be a package that we announce to the House so that the House can scrutinise it, rather than announcing things piecemeal. We will come to the House, and we will explain what all those are.

Simon Jupp Portrait Simon Jupp (East Devon) (Con)
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I thank my hon. Friend for the strength of the Government’s response to the moral bankruptcy that P&O Ferries demonstrated at the Select Committee last week, and I welcome the Government’s commitments to protect seafarers in the future. Does my hon. Friend agree that every step needs to be taken to ensure that seafarers are properly protected in the future?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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Moral bankruptcy is precisely the point; my hon. Friend puts his finger on it. We are taking every step. We will come forward with a package. We want to make sure that we get this right and are keen to make sure that people are protected.

Karl Turner Portrait Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab)
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We know that the unions met P&O Ferries on Friday—unsurprisingly, perhaps, the company was treating those unions with utter and complete contempt. I think the reason is this: the penny has not yet dropped for P&O Ferries that, very soon, legislation will come into force that will remove the incentive to exploit foreign agency workers at the expense of British seafarers. Will the Minister pick up the phone to P&O Ferries today and directly ask the chief exec to extend the clock for accepting what are essentially illegal offers? They are not redundancy offers—they are illegal.

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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I thank the hon. Gentleman, who has been extremely constructive, for his input into this issue. I am grateful for it; I am taking it extremely seriously, and I am considering it all. I hope he does not mind if I say that at the outset.

The Secretary of State has already done more than make that phone call: he has written in no uncertain terms, in public, asking the company to do precisely what the hon. Gentleman has mentioned. I am not surprised that P&O has treated the unions with contempt, as the hon. Gentleman says; that is how we have seen it behave across the whole of this matter. It is deeply regrettable, and I urge the company to treat the unions and its workers with respect.

Stephen McPartland Portrait Stephen McPartland (Stevenage) (Con)
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I come from a family of seafarers. The behaviour of P&O has been arrogant, disgusting and unacceptable. I am grateful to the Minister for the strong action that he and the Secretary of State for Transport have taken. Will they send a strong message to the chief executive of P&O and say from the Dispatch Box that he should resign for his behaviour?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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Yes, absolutely. The Secretary of State has been absolutely clear: he has said in terms that the chief executive’s position is untenable, and I agree.

John McDonnell Portrait John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab)
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May I raise again the fact that the shipping companies have received over £2 billion of tonnage tax concessions, and P&O has been a major gainer from that? May we have an assurance from the Government today that no tonnage tax relief is now being paid to P&O and that, if necessary, we should seek to receive back some of the tonnage tax concessions that it gained? Why did it gain them? As a result of a commitment to protect and increase the number of British seafaring jobs.

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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I confirm to the right hon. Gentleman that we will be considering any actions that we can take. We will announce those as part of the package.

Peter Bone Portrait Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con)
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I am grateful for what the Secretary of State and the Minister have done. I just do not understand how a minimum wage, which by definition is a minimum, cannot be paid to people. Perhaps the Minister can explain that to me.

I take what the Opposition have said; we really need to hear in this House what the measures are. I understand why the Minister wants to make a package of announcements, but will he ensure that there is an oral statement before Thursday, when we go into recess?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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My hon. Friend is quite right, and I agree with him. The House does need to know what the measures are, and we intend to return to the House as soon as possible to make that statement.

Sammy Wilson Portrait Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP)
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I also welcome the messages on safety, consultation and wages that the Government are sending out. I have spoken to workers affected in Larne, in my constituency. What they clearly want to see is the kind of sanctions that will be placed on the company to make sure that it obeys. As we have seen from the evidence it gave last week, the company still seems to think that breaking the law is okay.

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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The right hon. Gentleman puts his finger on the centre of the issue—thinking that breaking laws is okay. We saw an extraordinary display last week, when the CEO came here, brazenly admitted breaking the law and said he would do it again. We will make it absolutely clear that that is not acceptable. We will announce later in the week how that will be done. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will pardon me if we delay until then.

Katherine Fletcher Portrait Katherine Fletcher (South Ribble) (Con)
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I have been speaking to people in South Ribble, and it is safe to say that P&O’s reputation is absolutely in tatters at the moment. Many people say that they will never use the company again. Through the Minister, I thank the Secretary of State for his strong letter this morning. Does the Minister agree that the chief executive officer of P&O Ferries should strongly consider his position?

Diana Johnson Portrait Dame Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)
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Following the question from the hon. Member for South Ribble (Katherine Fletcher), will one of the package of measures that the Minister said he will be announcing later this week be the removal of the chief executive as a director, under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986? Is that under active consideration?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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I know a number of Members wish me to start talking about individual measures, and I hope the right hon. Lady will forgive me if I do not. We will come to the House and explain that package of measures, and we are clear about the position of the individual in question: his position is untenable and he ought to go.

Stephen Hammond Portrait Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) (Con)
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Experienced crews are familiar with safety requirements. Will the Minister assure the House that a full safety inspection will take place before any vessel or ferry leaves port?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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Yes, and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency has detained one vessel to ensure that has taken place. I have total confidence in the MCA, and it will ensure that any vessel is safe before it sails.

Alistair Carmichael Portrait Mr Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD)
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Further to that question, surely the results of those inspections will be published in full, so the public can have confidence in what is being done. It appears that, as well as being in breach of its duty to inform the Secretary of State about its intentions, P&O is also in breach of its duty to inform flag states. Do the Government intend to pursue that matter?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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We are considering any options that may be relevant after the actions of P&O last week. We will consider all of them.

Laura Farris Portrait Laura Farris (Newbury) (Con)
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One of the most damaging concessions made to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee last week was that it was cheaper for P&O to dispense with its section 188 consultation obligations, and that it was more cost-effective for it to pay 800 protective awards and then move to agency worker rates of £5.50 an hour—below the national minimum wage. It is doing that by paying the British national minimum wage up to the limit of British territorial waters, and then moving to rates of below £2 an hour. I know how hard my hon. Friend is working on this issue, but we do not have such measures in the airline industry when people move between jurisdictions. Will he look carefully at the territorial limit of national minimum wage obligations?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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I will indeed, and that is one of the issues we are discussing. My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to it, and I thank her for her expertise.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab)
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I was at the port of Liverpool on Saturday, and I met sacked P&O seafarers from Liverpool and from Larne. They had come across using a different carrier to show their solidarity with their Liverpool comrades. They told me about the MCA inspection in Larne, which kept the vessel in port. I will pass on their message to the Minister: they want their jobs back on their existing terms and conditions. They do not want just a review of the licences; they want proper action. They want the Government to show that they really are on their side, and not to leave any doubts about whether they are on the side of billionaires from Dubai.

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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I can be absolutely clear: we are on the side of the workers, and we will explain what we are going to do in the House later this week.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con)
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I congratulate the Minister on the robust approach that the Government have taken to this matter. Many small business owners and managers work long and hard to get personnel matters right, to do the right thing, and to comply with employment law. What signal will it send to them if P&O Ferries gets away with wilfully ignoring the law?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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That is a signal we cannot have. We cannot have any company wilfully ignoring the law, and we want to ensure that every company knows that it must do the right thing.

Mick Whitley Portrait Mick Whitley (Birkenhead) (Lab)
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The Government’s response to the mass sackings of 800 P&O workers has been shameful. Ministers failed to step in and save jobs, and in October they refused to support Labour efforts to outlaw fire and rehire. They are not seeking to disqualify P&O’s chief executive from holding a company directorship, for brazenly and knowingly breaking employment law. Many of my constituents employed in the maritime industry are afraid that their jobs could also be under threat. Will the Minister urgently commit to introducing legislation that will guarantee that the strongest employment protections are available to everybody working in the UK maritime industry, so that no one is ever treated in as contemptible a way as the 800 P&O workers were?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman’s way of describing the Government’s approach—I do not think we could have been any more robust—but the overall thrust of his point, that workers should be protected, I agree with. We will come to the House and explain how we are going to do that as soon as we possibly can.

Paul Holmes Portrait Paul Holmes (Eastleigh) (Con)
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I welcome the Minister’s statement, but two of my neighbours and constituents, with a combined service period of 51 years, were laid off by email last week. They are understandably upset that they do not know whether money is coming into their households going forward. Can the Minister assure me that at the heart of the package of measures he will be introducing—I understand he cannot go into detail—are workers’ rights, so that in future no company like P&O will be able to take such actions?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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Yes, that is precisely what we aim to achieve.

Ian Mearns Portrait Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab)
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I was heartened when the Minister, in opening, said he will not stand by and allow workers to be treated in such a manner, but P&O’s arbitrary and illegal deadline of 31 March for all sacked ratings to sign the severance package, which effectively buys their jobs but also seeks to use a legal device to muzzle them, is this Thursday. When the Minister says he is going to bring a package to this House as soon as possible, as soon as possible must be before Thursday.

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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The hon. Gentleman makes the point that the way these people have been treated is not on. It is absolutely unacceptable. This is complicated, so there are a number of things we just have to go through to get this right. As soon as we can come back to the House we will, but in the meantime the letter the Secretary of State has written makes precisely the demand that the hon. Gentleman asks for.

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con)
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I thank the Secretary of State and the Department for the robust way they have taken on P&O over its disgraceful actions over the last few weeks. Can the Minister confirm a couple of things? First, will all contracts and relationships that P&O has with the Government be under review? Secondly, will he block the outcome that P&O is after, specifically trying to pay workers less than the minimum wage? Thirdly, does he agree with me that the CEO should either resign or be sacked immediately?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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My hon. Friend makes a number of excellent points. We will consider them as part of the package, but I can assure him that the thrust of what he is seeking to achieve is the same as the Government’s.

Dan Carden Portrait Dan Carden (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab)
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The problem we have here is that we have had fire and rehire with British Gas and British Airways, and I remember warm words from Ministers just a few months ago but no changes to the outcome. The words of my fellow Liverpudlian, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, that Tory MPs protesting the behaviour of P&O bosses is

“Like your neighbourhood arsonist offering you a flask of tea over the smoking ruins of your house”

come to mind. Will Ministers now look at whether they can commit to securing a collectively bargained fair pay agreement for the entire sector?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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We will consider all suggestions made by hon. Members across the House and I thank them for them. We will announce to the House in due course the measures we propose to take.

Allan Dorans Portrait Allan Dorans (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock) (SNP)
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What discussions has the Minister had with the Scottish Government and other devolved Governments to discuss the impact of P&O’s actions? What efforts has he made with Cabinet colleagues to end the utterly despicable practice of fire and rehire?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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At a time like this, conversations take place across Government and across the devolved Administrations to consider what action we can take together.

Jeremy Corbyn Portrait Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Ind)
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I thank the Minister for his statement. I hope he introduces legislation very quickly. In that legislation, will he also take on board the scandal of the way seafarers are treated in international waters generally—they suffer from low wages, poor conditions and terrible working arrangements—which has been exposed by the P&O scandal? We need to address the issue of fairness and justice for all seafarers. As a major seafaring nation, we can take the lead on that.

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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This country absolutely is a major seafaring nation and has taken the lead already; for example during the pandemic when we were the first country to declare seafarers as key workers and took the issue of their rights to the International Maritime Organization. I am very keen that we continue to take the lead. The right hon. Gentleman puts his finger on a number of really pertinent issues.

Ellie Reeves Portrait Ellie Reeves (Lewisham West and Penge) (Lab)
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Before I entered Parliament, I was an employment rights lawyer for more than a decade, and in all that time I do not think I ever saw such blatant disregard for the law or contempt for workers’ rights. This Government say that that is wrong, but the reality is that it has been allowed to happen under their watch. They have failed to ban fire and rehire; they have failed to extend the national minimum wage to seafarers; and if it was not for the legal challenge from Unison, we would still have fees for the employment tribunal. It is no wonder that employers think they can get away with it. When are this Government finally going to stand up for workers’ rights?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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Unfortunately, the hon. Lady is just wrong on a number of points. For example, in regulations from 2020 the national minimum wage was extended to the vast majority of seafarers working on the UK continental shelf, so she is just wrong about that. There is an issue here that we are seeking to address, and we are addressing it.

Barry Gardiner Portrait Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab)
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After Peter Hebblethwaite admitted to the Select Committee that he had broken the law and would do so again, the nation has concluded that he is not a fit and proper person to be a director of P&O, or indeed of any company. When will the Government also reach that conclusion and disqualify him? When will they seek to ensure that workers onshore are not treated with the same contempt as those seafaring workers have been, and make sure that people cannot be fired in such a way, whether they are working for Weetabix, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, British Airways, British Gas or any of the other companies that have done the same thing over the past two years?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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The Government have reached the same conclusion as the hon. Gentleman about Mr Hebblethwaite, and that is why the Secretary of State has written to him in the terms that he has done today. It is a matter for a court, not the Government, to disqualify a person. That would be an unusual position for any Government to take, as I know the hon. Gentleman will understand. We are looking to see what else we can do to protect workers in this sphere, as I have explained, and I look forward to updating the House before the end of the week.

Michael Fabricant Portrait Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con)
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I thank my hon. Friend for taking such a robust stance on this issue. May I invite him to make it absolutely clear that the despicable action of P&O Ferries is not connected in any way with P&O Cruises, because there is some concern about that? P&O Cruises is a completely separate company, owned by a separate organisation, and it is concerned that it may lose bookings as a consequence.

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that there is no connection whatsoever between P&O Ferries and P&O Cruises. They are wholly separate organisations, separately managed. No blame whatsoever for the actions of P&O Ferries attaches, or should be seen to attach, to P&O Cruises.

Clive Efford Portrait Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab)
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The chief executive of P&O came into this place where the laws of the land are made and told us that he broke those laws in a premeditated way. He went on to compound the situation by showing scant regard for safety measures on his ships, resulting in their being impounded. Knowing all that, does the Minister not think that the chief executive deserves to be summarily dismissed, and should the Minister not make sure that that is done immediately, regardless of any package that he will bring forward?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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I entirely share the hon. Gentleman’s state of shock at the statement that Mr Hebblethwaite made in front of the Select Committee last week. The Secretary of State and I also share the view that Mr Hebblethwaite’s position is untenable. We have told him that he ought to go, and I urge him to take that on board very seriously.

Christian Matheson Portrait Christian Matheson (City of Chester) (Lab)
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My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner) is absolutely right. These are not redundancies, because the positions are not redundant; crew are still needed to man those ships. The fact remains that it is cheaper, quicker and easier to sack British workers than it is to sack workers anywhere else in Europe. When the Minister brings forward this package, will he have a discussion with the rest of Government and say that the time has come for proper employment rights in the UK?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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I take on board entirely the point that the hon. Gentleman makes. The most important thing we have to do now is to make sure that the rights of those workers, and others in a similar position, are protected. Government will be taking note of any lessons that we might have to draw in the wider sphere, but it would be precipitative of me to make any commitment about that.

John Cryer Portrait John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab)
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The Minister has been given example after example of fire and rehire this afternoon; every hon. Member, unless they have been living on another planet, is acutely aware of all those examples from the last two or three years. At what point will the Government say, “This is wrong. It should be illegal”?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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As the hon. Gentleman knows, this is not really a fire and rehire situation, but we are absolutely clear that the way that those workers have been treated is wrong. That is why I have said in no uncertain terms that we are bringing forward a package of measures and I will be able to update the House before the end of the week.

Kate Osborne Portrait Kate Osborne (Jarrow) (Lab)
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Will the Minister confirm whether the Government have received advice from the Insolvency Service? If so, can he confirm that P&O, simply by not notifying the flag states of the intended redundancies within the prescribed time limits, has committed an offence that could and should lead to an unlimited fine being imposed? If not, will he bring forward legislation to correct that position retrospectively and make that unlimited fine happen?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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It would not be normal for any Minister to comment on the legal advice that has been given, but I share the hon. Lady’s concerns, which is why we have asked the Insolvency Service to investigate in these circumstances. I take on board her suggestion, as I do those of all hon. Members, and we will update the House on that package shortly.

Richard Burgon Portrait Richard Burgon (Leeds East) (Lab)
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Dockers in Rotterdam refused to load freight on to a ferry in support of 800 unlawfully and illegally sacked P&O workers. Does the Minister endorse that action in support of saving those 800 jobs? If so, why is it good enough for workers and trade unions in Rotterdam but still illegal in this country to take solidarity action?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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This is a Government who are standing up for workers. We have been absolutely clear about our condemnation of the way that P&O workers have been treated in this case and we will be taking action, which I will explain in due course.

Nick Smith Portrait Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab)
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The P&O pension pot has a shortfall of £147 million. P&O’s parent company, DP World, has previously sponsored a golf tournament to the tune of £150 million. Does the Minister agree that P&O’s parent company should step in and pay up so that workers’ pensions are secure for the future? Will he add that to his package that needs sorting out?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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I entirely understand the hon. Gentleman’s concern. I think that DP World and P&O should get together, talk to their workers and look after them, which they have not done so far.

Tony Lloyd Portrait Tony Lloyd (Rochdale) (Lab)
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The Minister’s response there was interesting. DP World is the parent company and has corporate responsibility for the actions of P&O Ferries. Has anybody picked up the phone to the Government of the UAE, who have responsibility for DP World, to say that this situation is simply not good enough and not good for their reputation?

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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We have been absolutely clear, when we have written to P&O, that the decisions that it has taken are absolutely catastrophic for its reputation and we have said the same thing to DP World.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab)
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The Minister is absolutely right that this is not fire and rehire, because the P&O workers have not even had the indignity of being offered back their contracts on lesser terms and conditions. The flippant disregard for the UK workforce, the contempt for the rule of law and the disgusting abuse of foreign workers in what can only be described as slave labour are not just wrong; it is not on. I hope that when the Minister comes back to the House with his detailed package, we will be not just tough in words but tough in actions and tough on P&O.

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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I agree with the hon. Member that the way that the workers have been treated is absolutely not on. We have been absolutely clear about that and we are keen not on words but on action.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
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What is worse is that DP World and P&O Ferries were prepared to put untrained crew and passengers on to those ships and for them to sail, which is completely against health and safety measures. There is therefore something at the core of the company’s culture that needs to be addressed and that must result in the licence being removed, because it is clearly prepared to be unsafe and break the law.

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts
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I understand the hon. Lady’s concern. The thing that I hope will give her confidence is that we have the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, in which I have full confidence; it is an outstanding safety regulator. It inspects all those ships and if they are not safe to sail, they will not sail.

Schools White Paper

Monday 28th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
16:09
Nadhim Zahawi Portrait The Secretary of State for Education (Nadhim Zahawi)
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With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on the publication of the schools White Paper.

Since 2010, we have been on a mission to give every child a great education. We have made huge strides, but we know there is still further to go on that journey, which my predecessors began and I am proud to lead today. Too many children still do not get the start in life that will enable them to go on and make the best use of their talents and abilities. Sadly, disadvantaged pupils or those who have special educational needs are less likely to achieve the standards we expect for them. Since 2010, we have been rolling out many changes to our education system—changes that have driven up standards, lifted us up the league tables internationally and given us measurable evidence of what works. We will now put that evidence to use and scale up what we know will create a high-quality system for children, parents and teachers.

We have an ambition that by 2030 we will expect 90% of primary school children to achieve the agreed standard in reading, writing and maths. In secondary schools, I want to see the national GCSE average grade in both English language and maths increase from 4.5 in 2019 to 5. By boosting the average grade, we show a real determination to see all children, whatever their level of attainment, do better. A child who goes from a grade 2 to a grade 3, or one who goes from a grade 8 to a grade 9, contributes to that ambition as much as a child on the borderline who may go up from a grade 4 to a grade 5. So every parent can rest assured that their child is going to get the attention they deserve, however well they are doing.

It goes without saying that every child needs an excellent teacher. This White Paper continues our reforms to training and professional development, to give every child a world-class teacher. The quality of teaching is the single most important factor within a school for improving outcomes for children, especially for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Our vision is for an excellent teacher for every child in our country, but if we are to do that, we need to make teaching even more of an attractive profession. To make sure that it is, we will deliver 500,000 teacher training and development opportunities by 2024, giving all teachers and school leaders access to world-class evidence-based training and professional development, at every stage of their career. We will also make a £180 million investment in the early years workforce. Teachers’ starting salaries are set to rise to £30,000, as we promised in our manifesto, and there will be extra incentives to work in schools with the most need.

A world-class education also needs environments in which great teaching can have maximum impact. Therefore, we will improve standards across the curriculum, behaviour and attendance. Making sure that all children are in school and ready to learn in calm, safe, supportive classes is my priority. All children will be taught a broad, ambitious, knowledge-rich curriculum and have access to high-quality experiences. We will set up a new national curriculum body to support teachers, founded on the success of the Oak National Academy. This body will work with groups across the sector to identify best practice, deepen expertise in curriculum design and develop a set of optional resources for teachers that can be used either online or in the classroom. These resources will be available across the United Kingdom, levelling up education across our great country. We will continue to support leaders and teachers to create a classroom where all children can learn in a way that recognises individual needs and abilities. In addition, we are going to boost our ability to gather and share data on behaviour and attendance. We will move forward with a national behaviour survey to form an accurate picture of what really goes on in schools and classrooms and, of course, to modernise our systems to monitor attendance. We will introduce a minimum expectation for the length of the school week to the national average of 32-and-a-half hours for all mainstream state-funded schools from September 2023, at the latest. Thousands of schools already deliver that but a number do not and that needs to change.

Too many children, especially those who are most vulnerable, routinely fall behind and never catch up with their peers. The awful covid pandemic has made that worse. Even though I am relieved to tell the House that the latest research on learning loss and recovery shows that pupils continue to make progress, there is still much more to do. That is why today’s White Paper sets out a really ambitious plan for scaling up that recovery, building on the nearly £5 billion of recovery funding that has already been announced.

My children are the most important thing in the world to me and I know that I am not alone in saying that. All parents want their children to be happy and to grow up to a future that is full of promise, so I am today making a pledge to parents; it is a pledge from me and this Government via schools to all families. The parent pledge is that any child who falls behind in English or maths will receive timely support to enable them to reach their potential. A child’s school will let parents know how their child is doing and how the school is supporting them to catch up.

Tutoring has been a great success and that is making a difference. It is here to stay and we want it to become mainstream and a fundamental pillar of every school’s approach to delivering the parent pledge. There will be up to 6 million tutoring packages by 2024.

We know that the approaches that I have outlined make a huge difference to pupils, so I have asked myself this. We have 22,000 schools in England; how do we ensure that these happen systematically in every school for every child? How do we get that consistency across the system? It has become clear from my six months in the Department studying the evidence that well-managed, tightly managed families of schools are those that can consistently deliver a high-quality and inclusive education. It is one where expertise is shared for the benefit of all and where resources and support can help more teachers and leaders to deliver better outcomes for children.

With that in mind, by 2030, we intend for every child to benefit from being taught in a family of schools, with their school in a strong—I underline the word “strong”—multi-academy trust or with plans to join or form one. That move towards a fully trust-led system, with a single regulatory approach, will drive up standards. We also want to encourage local authorities, if they think that they do well in running their schools, to establish their own strong trusts, and we will back them. There will be a clear role for every part of the school system, with local authorities given the power that they need to support children. We will set up a new collaborative standard requiring trusts to work constructively with other partners.

I know from my experience in business and in rolling out the covid vaccine that the hardest thing for any complex system, whether it is health or education, is scaling up, but I have faith both in the brilliant leaderships that we already have in our school systems and in our educationalists to be able to deliver on this White Paper. We want to spread brilliance throughout our country, levelling up opportunity and creating a school system where there is a clear role for every part of the system, all working together and all focused on one thing: delivering outstanding outcomes for our children.

Soon, everyone will see what we all know—that this Conservative Government are busy making our schools the very best in the world. We should be so proud of how far we have come and rightly hopeful about where we are going next. For that reason, I commend this statement to the House.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Secretary of State.

15:01
Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson (Houghton and Sunderland South) (Lab)
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I thank the right hon. Gentleman for advance sight of his statement today. It has been a little over two years since schools were closed to most pupils and almost 12 years since his party came to power, yet among the many reannouncements that we heard over the weekend, the big ideas were that three quarters of our schools should carry on as normal, teaching the hours that they already teach; that when children are falling behind, schools will be there to help; and that the national tutoring programme—described by providers as being at risk of catastrophic failure—is the answer to all our problems.

Is that really it? Is that the limit of the Secretary of State’s ambition for our children and for our country? He rightly stresses the need to be evidence-led. Is that all he thinks the evidence supports? [Interruption.]

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. I expected good order to be kept during the Secretary of State’s statement, which in fairness it was, and I certainly want the same for the shadow Secretary of State. If somebody does not want to keep good order, will they please leave now?

Bridget Phillipson Portrait Bridget Phillipson
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The Secretary of State rightly stresses the need to be evidence-led. Is that all he thinks the evidence supports, or is it all he could persuade the Chancellor to support?

The attainment gap is widening. Performance at GCSE for our most disadvantaged kids was going into reverse even before the pandemic. After two years of ongoing disruption, it is clear enough where the focus should be. The Secretary of State says that he has ambitions, but they are hollow—hollow because they are wholly disconnected from any means of achieving them, hollow because there is no plan to deliver them, but also hollow because there is no vision for what education is for, what growing up in our country should involve and what priority we should give our children.

We are two years into the pandemic. Two years is a long time, and an important time—half a lifetime for the children starting school in September. We can all see the impact that the years of disruption, botched exams, isolation and time spent at home has had on our children, yet time and again the Government fail to grasp the truth that time out of education for children and young people means more than time out in the rest of their lives. Instead, our children have been an afterthought for this Government—a Government who showed their priorities when they reopened pubs before they reopened schools, a Prime Minister whose own adviser on education recovery resigned in despair, a Department that closed schools to most children with little thought for how it would repair the damage or reopen them safely.

Labour listened to parents and young people and set out the children’s recovery plan that our children need and our country deserves—breakfast clubs and new activities, quality mental health support in every school, small group tutoring for all who need it. Our children have waited long enough. When will they see a recovery plan that rises to the generational challenge staring us all in the face? Only today, the Department published research setting out that in reading in particular, pupils are falling further behind and the disadvantage gap is widening.

It goes deeper than just the past two years. We see the value and worth of every child. We see them as ambitious and optimistic, with dreams for their future. We see the role of a Government as one of matching, not tempering, that ambition. Education is about opportunity; we want opportunity for every child, in every corner of our country, at every stage.

We want childcare that is high-quality, affordable and available, not a cost that prices people out of parenting. We want every parent to be able to send their child to a great local state school, which is why we would launch the most ambitious school improvement plan for a generation, focusing on what happens inside the school, not the name above the door. We want teachers supported to succeed, not leaving the profession as they are doing, which is why we have set out plans for career development and for thousands of new teachers: because the success and professionalism of our teachers enables the success of our children.

We want to see our children not just achieving, but thriving at school, with a rich and broad curriculum that enables them to flourish. We want to give children and young people real choices and see them succeed through strong colleges and apprenticeships. That is why we would deliver work experience, careers advice and digital skills for all our young people so that everyone leaves education ready for work and ready for life. That is why today’s White Paper represents such a missed opportunity.

However, for all the disappointment that we feel on these Opposition Benches, echoed by school staff and school leaders across our country today—and the Secretary of State, in his heart, probably feels that disappointment himself—it is our children, whose voices are rarely heard in this place, who are the real losers today.

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I was hoping for a plan, but none was forthcoming. The hon. Lady spoke about schools being closed. Labour, dancing to the tune of its union paymasters, wanted to keep them closed. If the hon. Lady thinks that that is a plan, perhaps she should go and visit one of those schools, as I did earlier today with the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms). If she had been with me at Monega school in Newham and observed the brilliant leadership of Liz Harris and her team, she would know that our reforms are working. There is a family of schools in a high-performing trust which is delivering for those children, 24% of whom are on pupil premium. Great leadership and great teachers are being supported by a fantastic teaching hub within the group that is part of that trust, delivering great outcomes for children rather than playing politics with our education system.

I seem to recall that it was the leader of the hon. Lady’s party who wanted schools to remain closed—and, of course, wanted to pause the whole vaccination campaign so that we would lose three months before we could vaccinate teachers. Because we did not do that, and because so many of the Leader of the Opposition’s Back Benchers went against him, we continued to vaccinate, we protected teachers, and we got schools open again.

The hon. Lady spoke about our standing in the world rankings. I can share with her the information that England achieved its highest ever scores in both reading and maths in two international comparison studies, the 2016 progress in international reading literacy study and the 2019 trends in international mathematics and science study. In 2019, following the introduction of the phonics screening check in 2012, the proportion of year 1 pupils meeting the expected standard rose from 58% to 82%, and the figure rose to 91% among those in year 2. That is a record of real delivery for young people of which the Government are proud. Of course we have had a pandemic since then, but the £5 billion invested in our recovery is making a real difference.

The hon. Lady questioned that recovery, and questioned what the national tutoring programme was achieving. We have just announced that the NTP has delivered 1 million 15-hour blocks of tutoring. It will meet its targets. School leaders told us that they wanted a school-led pillar—as well as the other two pillars which are also delivering—and we have provided that for them. Evidence that we published today, to which the hon. Lady referred, suggests that since the spring of 2021, primary school pupils have recovered about two thirds of the progress that was lost owing to the pandemic in reading, and about half in maths. That is real delivery.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Select Committee, Robert Halfon.

Robert Halfon Portrait Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con)
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I welcome the White Paper. I think that we are seeing the beginnings of a long-term plan for education, especially given tomorrow’s publication of the special needs review and the publication of the care review. The Government have begun to provide a washing line for all the clothes pegs of different educational initiatives. The parent pledge and the catch-up plan are also important.

The White Paper refers to a knowledge-rich curriculum. I am thoroughly in favour of that, but what about a skills-rich curriculum to sit alongside it? I see that the skills Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Alex Burghart), is paying close attention. Such a curriculum would prioritise skills including oracy and financial, technical and vocational education, reverse the huge decline in design and technology skills, and prepare students better for the world of work.

What does the White Paper do for children from care backgrounds, exclusion backgrounds and special needs backgrounds who underperform in GCSEs to such an extent in comparison with their peers? We know the grim statistics. How will this White Paper help them? How will the curriculum better prepare pupils for the world of work? Perhaps one of the most important priorities is the 124,000 Oliver Twist ghost children, who are possibly on our streets. What is he doing about those children who have not returned since schools reopened last year?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am grateful to the Chair of the Education Committee. He raises a number of really important questions. He is absolutely right to identify that the schools White Paper, with the SEND Green Paper—which we will consult on and publish tomorrow and share with the House—and the children’s social care review by Josh MacAlister, will for the first time give us the ability to knit together a system that delivers for all pupils, especially those with SEND and those that are most vulnerable in the care system. On financial education, the Schools Minister is looking at how we can take that further and embed it in the education system. My right hon. Friend will also know that I walk around the country wearing on my lapel a TL badge, which stands for technical level. T-levels are a fusion of A-levels and the great work we have done on apprenticeships, and that is what we will do to ensure that children have the runways that their career path can take off on. He is right to remind us of the 124,000 children who are out of education. That is why, for the first time in our country, we will have a register to ensure that we know exactly where those children are. There are many parents who deliver great home education, some of whom are in my own constituency, but many children are lost in the system and we have to make sure we know where they are.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. This has to finish by 5.15 pm, so please help each other by being short and sweet with questions as well as answers.

Kate Green Portrait Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab)
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It is good that the Secretary of State has clearly been listening to the concerns of the profession, of parents and of young people since he came into post, but I am afraid that his announcements today are underpowered because of the funding pressures that will continue in the system. Schools continue to face covid costs and they continue to face rising salary costs, which are not being fully funded by the Department. These include the increased starting salary for new teachers, which is still on the horizon and not yet delivered. Schools also face rising energy costs and all the other pressures that organisations are facing. In particular, the Secretary of State will know that there is particular funding pressure in relation to pupils with SEND. What is he doing to ensure that schools have the funds they need to rise to the ambitions he has set out today?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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The hon. Lady is right to say that there are many pressures on schools at the moment. The funding we secured at the spending review was £7 billion, with much of it—£4 billion—frontloaded to this year and next year. Energy costs are rising—they are 1.4% of the schools budget. A big part of the budget is obviously wages. We are keeping an eye on what is happening to energy costs in schools. On SEND, we have put in an additional £1 billion, so the total budget now stands at £9.1 billion, plus an additional £2.6 billion to ensure that we deliver the specialist provision that we need in the system, because there has been a lack of confidence among parents as to whether their child will get the right provision. Today’s White Paper supports mainstream schools to all be great SEND schools as well.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con)
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How will the poorly performing schools get the brilliant teachers and better professional development that the Secretary of State rightly wants, because that is what they need?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. We endowed the Education Endowment Foundation when the coalition Government came into office, and I have just announced a further endowment for the next 10 years. It has evidenced the qualifications and quality of teacher training that are required, whether in the early careers framework, initial teacher training or later in life in professional development, and we are following that evidence and scaling up half a million teacher training opportunities. That has never been attempted, certainly in my time in Parliament; it is a huge scale-up of teacher training and that is what we will deliver.

Karin Smyth Portrait Karin Smyth (Bristol South) (Lab)
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When he was confronted on yesterday’s “Sophy Ridge on Sunday,” the Secretary of State could not answer a question on the shocking fall in per pupil funding, particularly compared with private schools. My child, like thousands of children, started school just before this Government came into power and they are just about to finish. The Secretary of State talks about a parent pledge. Will he apologise to the thousands of parents and young people for what this Government have done to per pupil funding over the last 12 years?

Nadhim Zahawi Portrait Nadhim Zahawi
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I am slightly puzzled by the hon. Lady’s question. As I described, standards have consistently gone up because we have introduced things such as the phonics screening check. We are investing £7 billion in education, with £4 billion frontloaded for this year and next year, to make sure that schools have the funding they need. Andreas Sch