All 40 Parliamentary debates on 29th Jun 2023

Thu 29th Jun 2023
Thu 29th Jun 2023
Lawfare
Commons Chamber
(Adjournment Debate)
Thu 29th Jun 2023
Thu 29th Jun 2023
Thu 29th Jun 2023
Thu 29th Jun 2023
Thu 29th Jun 2023
Royal Assent
Lords Chamber

Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent & Royal Assent

House of Commons

Thursday 29th June 2023

(12 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Thursday 29 June 2023
The House met at half-past Nine o’clock

Prayers

Thursday 29th June 2023

(12 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
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]

Oral Answers to Questions

Thursday 29th June 2023

(12 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
The Secretary of State was asked—
Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

1. What discussions she has had with (a) Cabinet colleagues and (b) the Scottish Government on promoting Scottish trade and culture overseas.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Secretary of State for Business and Trade (Kemi Badenoch)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I regularly discuss with my Cabinet colleagues promoting trade in Scotland as well as the United Kingdom as a whole. Just this week I chaired a meeting of the Board of Trade that focused on trade promotion across the nations, and held discussions, alongside the Secretary of State for Scotland, on ensuring that the Department’s work delivers for the whole UK.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

That sounds just wonderful, but I would like to know how the Secretary of State thinks ending freedom of movement has helped to promote Scottish trade and culture overseas. Does she think it is a good thing that musicians in Glasgow North now find it much more difficult to tour in Europe—one of the most important markets for traditional Scottish music nowadays —and that their merchandise can no longer be manufactured in Scotland but must be manufactured in the countries to which they are travelling because the customs costs have become so prohibitive?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s early-morning snarkiness as he asks about what we are doing for Scotland. We understand that there are issues that people have across borders, and my Department works closely with musicians and with all those who trade across borders to see what we can do to resolve those issues. If there are specific cases in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, the Department is well placed to help his constituents with the issues he has described.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the shadow Secretary of State.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Scotch whisky is an iconic Scottish export, and it is also hugely important strategically to the whole UK. Had Ministers completed the free trade agreement with India by Diwali last year, as was promised, the 150% tariff that producers of Scotch face when exporting to India could have been eliminated. Given that the 10th round of talks has recently ended, with an 11th planned soon, can the Secretary of State tell us whether the free trade agreement will be completed by Diwali this year?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have said repeatedly that it is about the deal and not the day. Every single trade agreement that we negotiate is bespoke to the specific country and tailored to its economy, to ensure that it benefits both the UK and the counterpart country. I am happy to say that the Scotch Whisky Association is very pleased with what it has been hearing about negotiations from its Indian counterparts, and we are working hard to make sure that the industry is successful.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the Scottish National party spokesperson.

Richard Thomson Portrait Richard Thomson (Gordon) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Scottish seafood industry has been hit with an estimated 50% increase in the cost of packaging owing to the requirement—thanks to the form of Brexit chosen by this Government—for export health certificates with every consignment. Does the Secretary of State accept that the form of Brexit that was chosen, and in particular the failure to align in respect of sanitary and phytosanitary matters, is adding costs to Scotland’s iconic seafood sector at a time when it can barely afford to absorb such costs?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

No, I do not accept that at all. If anything, what is increasing the costs is what the Scottish Government have been doing in relation to the deposit return scheme. While complaining about our divergence between here and the EU, they are trying to split the UK single market, and we are not going to let them do that.

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

2. What steps she is taking to help the steel industry to decarbonise.

Nusrat Ghani Portrait The Minister for Industry and Economic Security (Ms Nusrat Ghani)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Paris agreement made clear that the steel industry needs to cut emissions by 93% by 2050, and the Government recognise the vital role that the steel sector plays in our economy. The 2021 net zero strategy sets out our aim to make the transition to a low-carbon economy, and reaffirms our commitment to continuing to work with the steel industry on decarbonisation.

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Hundreds of steelworkers gathered in Westminster yesterday to make absolutely clear their feeling that the Government are not doing enough, particularly in comparison with competitor nations, when it comes to investment in the transition to decarbonised steel. The numbers do not lie. The Government are also worryingly slow in introducing a carbon border adjustment mechanism. UK Steel has estimated that nearly 23 million tonnes of non-EU steel could flood the UK market if the UK fails to introduce its own carbon border adjustment mechanism at the same time as the EU in 2026. When will we see the Government stepping up and investing in green steel as is being done in competitor countries, and when can we expect the introduction of a British CBAM?

Nusrat Ghani Portrait Ms Ghani
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We have been supporting the steel industry, with more than £1 billion available in grants to help decarbonise the sector and the provision of more than £730 million to cover energy costs since 2013. The CBAM is clearly an issue for many countries, not just ours. We have just finished one consultation, and will produce a response in due course. A transitional reporting phase is due to start in October, with full introduction in 2026. The EU is still developing details about CBAM implementation, and has a consultation open on proposed reporting requirements until 11 July. I know that the hon. Member chairs the all-party parliamentary group for steel and metal related industries, and I urge him to ensure that all businesses express their views as strongly as possible. I think we are meeting on Monday to make sure that we can provide a substantial response.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the shadow Minister.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister said that she recognises the vital role that steel plays in this country, but the UK is the only country in the G20 where steel production is falling. It is also the only G7 country whose Government do not insist on using domestically produced steel in defence contracts. Meanwhile, UK steel producers pay 62% more than their German counterparts for electricity. Labour’s £3 billion green steel plan will give our industry the bright future that other countries are offering their steel sectors. Labour believes in our steel; why do this Government not?

Nusrat Ghani Portrait Ms Ghani
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am not sure where Labour Members will get the money to fund that programme of work. I have not even got to the end of reading this paper but they will probably U-turn by the time I do, so I am not sure how sensible it is going to be. We have provided more than £1 billion for decarbonisation, unprecedented support to help with energy costs, and just recently, there was fantastic news from Celsa, when it was able to repay a Government loan of £30 million that we provided to them, sensibly spending taxpayers’ money. There is and always has been support available. When it comes to procurement, it is absolutely right that we do everything we can to make sure that we have UK firms procuring UK steel.

Martyn Day Portrait Martyn Day (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

3. What recent assessment she has made of the potential impact of her Department’s trade policies on food prices.

Nigel Huddleston Portrait The Minister for International Trade (Nigel Huddleston)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We recognise the important role that trade can play in improving food security. That is why our trade policy aims to help people to access good-quality and good-value food. Our free trade agreements help to remove market access barriers, supporting our importers and exporters. The new developing countries trading scheme, for example, reduces tariffs on nearly £1.4 billion-worth of agriculture goods, and we work with international partners, including at the World Trade Organisation, to remove trade barriers and strengthen the UK’s global food supply.

Martyn Day Portrait Martyn Day
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the Minister for his answer, but Melissa Leach, the director of the Institute of Development Studies, has spoken about the need to increase access to affordable, nutritious food. She said:

“Over the last decade, charities have stepped in to plug the gaps left by the state but this is not an acceptable or sustainable way to address the growing prevalence of hunger”.

Does the Minister accept that his Government’s commitment to Brexit has led to increasing prices of food that is imported and has contributed to food poverty in the UK?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman will be well aware that food price inflation is not unique to the UK; it is a global phenomenon that we all face. Actually, food price inflation peaked at 19.2% in the EU and at 19.2% in the UK, so we are facing the same problems. However, we have provided more than £94 billion-worth of support precisely to help the most vulnerable in society.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

There are many factors impacting food inflation, not least increasing global input costs, but surely the most important thing that my hon. Friend’s Department can do to shore up British agriculture and have a positive impact on food prices is to carry on, full speed ahead, getting the new trade deals that will see British first-class produce sold as a premium product worldwide.

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. It is really important that we have support across the House for these important trade deals. They are good for the British economy, particularly good for British farmers, and good for prices in the UK. I hope, at some point, to see the Opposition parties supporting one of these important deals, which are transparently in the interests of British consumers in every nation and region of the United Kingdom.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the shadow Minister.

Gareth Thomas Portrait Gareth Thomas (Harrow West) (Lab/Co-op)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Since 2019, food prices in the UK have rocketed by 26%, a figure that is among the highest in the G7, yet the Prime Minister’s plans for new border checks on highly perishable food from Europe could push prices up again. A veterinary agreement would cut the cost of bringing food into Britain from Europe. Given that many families are already struggling to put enough food on the table and that every significant business organisation supports a veterinary agreement with the EU, why will the Secretary of State not take the sensible and pragmatic step of starting negotiations for such an agreement?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that discussions are happening on an ongoing basis with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office about the trade and co-operation agreement and other matters. We have very constructive dialogue with our EU partners. In fact, the Secretary of State and I had a meeting with the EU ambassadors just yesterday.

As for our achievements since leaving the EU, it is important to stress one thing: we have been laser-focused on making sure that the benefits are for the British consumers. We have got rid of thousands and thousands of tariffs. We have liberalised tariffs, reduced them or eliminated them altogether. For example, to compare us with the EU, 27% of the EU’s current external tariffs are zero-rated, whereas the proportion for the UK is 47%. We are significantly reducing tariffs, which is in the best interests of the British consumer, as a result of leaving the European Union.

Laurence Robertson Portrait Mr Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

4. What steps she is taking to increase trade with African countries.

Nigel Huddleston Portrait The Minister for International Trade (Nigel Huddleston)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

To increase and grow trade with Africa, we are using our nine trade agreements, covering 18 African nations. In April 2024, the Prime Minister will host the second UK-Africa investment summit to showcase investment opportunities and advance two-way trade. Just this month, we launched the developing countries trading scheme, which covers 65 countries, including 37 African countries.

Laurence Robertson Portrait Mr Robertson
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

That is all good news, particularly the developing countries trading scheme. I was recently in Ethiopia for a trade visit. Can the Minister tell me how the developing countries trading scheme, in particular, will help Ethiopia?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend and constituency neighbour for the work he does as the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Ethiopia and many other countries. I was also in Ethiopia recently, and many people were praising my hon. Friend and his work. He is right that the developing countries trading scheme will reduce tariffs, which is a win-win both for developing countries, making it easier and cheaper for them to export to the UK, and for UK consumers because it will reduce prices. It is not just a matter of having the deal; we are laser-focused on making sure the benefits of the deal are realised, with more than 100 Department for Business and Trade officials working in Africa to make sure we get the full benefit of these deals.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the Government rightly consider new trade deals with other countries, what lessons will they learn from the hideous mistakes made in the New Zealand and Australia trade deals? The right hon. Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), a former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, rightly said that they are bad deals for Britain. Given that British farmers are so angry with this Government, having been thrown under the bus on animal welfare and on environmental and cost issues, will he learn lessons from those mistakes and make sure British farmers are protected, and that environmental and animal welfare standards are protected, too?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am, quite frankly, astounded by the hon. Gentleman’s comments. He is well aware, as I have said repeatedly and is widely acknowledged, that the trade deals we have developed, including with Australia and New Zealand, are economically beneficial right across the UK, including in his constituency. If he does not wish to support policies that are in the best economic interests of his constituency, that is something his constituents probably need to recognise come the next election.

Nicola Richards Portrait Nicola Richards (West Bromwich East) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

5. What progress she has made on negotiating a bilateral free trade agreement with Israel.

Nigel Huddleston Portrait The Minister for International Trade (Nigel Huddleston)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are continuing to make progress towards an upgraded UK-Israel free trade agreement, focused on services, procurement and innovation, and we concluded the second round of negotiations on 17 May. As two service-driven economies, this negotiation is an excellent opportunity to build on our existing goods-focused agreement, particularly to boost trade in services with an innovative, high-tech nation such as Israel.

Nicola Richards Portrait Nicola Richards
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The UK’s trade with Israel increased by 42% in 2022 compared with 2021, and it is valued at £7.2 billion. Israel is a key trade and security partner in the region, and it is a world leader in many areas. Can the Minister update the House on the Department’s progress on the trade aims outlined in the 2030 road map for UK-Israel bilateral relations, namely the establishment of a UK-Israel free trade agreement, the Britain-Israel Investment Group and a UK-Israel innovation and investment summit?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is all over the numbers, which saves me from repeating them. The benefits of the trade agreement are obvious, and we continue to strengthen our trade relationship with Israel, which is a valued friend and ally. As outlined in the 2030 road map for UK-Israel relations, a service-based free trade agreement between our two nations will act as a cornerstone of this relationship in years to come. As such, we are pleased to have successfully concluded the second round of negotiations in London just last month, and we look forward to holding further talks in due course.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for that very positive response. We in Northern Ireland are keen to ensure that the bilateral trade agreements benefit our companies as well. Some people and councils across this great United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland wish to downgrade Israel’s goods. I know that the Minister and our Government want to do the very opposite. Will the Minister tell the House what he is prepared to do to ensure that Israeli goods are promoted right across this great United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Absolutely. Israel is already a really important trading partner, right across the UK, and it will continue to be so. As we negotiate this deal, it is important that we focus on the areas of greatest opportunity. Once the deal is done—of course, this is an upgrade—we will be actively working to make sure that the communications about the benefits of the deal are understood by everybody. We will be working with various bodies and groups, including the devolved Administrations and bodies, to make sure that we take full benefit from these deals. Signing the deal is one thing, but taking and making the best of the opportunities is another—we will be working on that as well.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

6. What steps her Department is taking to ensure that the UK’s accession to the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership increases economic opportunities for businesses and consumers.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Secretary of State for Business and Trade (Kemi Badenoch)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The CPTPP will be benefiting every nation and region of our country. In particular, UK firms will enjoy enhanced access to Malaysia for the first time, including a reduction on tariffs on whisky sales to Malaysia of 80% within 10 years, improving prospects for trade and opening up opportunities in an economy worth £330 billion.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We should all congratulate the Secretary of State and her team on concluding the CPTPP negotiations, and it should be ratified any time now in New Zealand. Of course the most important new element of the trans-Pacific partnership is this first ever free trade agreement with our long-term friend and ally, Malaysia. Whether in cars, cyber, chocolates, vaccines or legal and other services, the opportunities for British exporters are considerable and, of course, the dividends from our investment there, such as the new Smith & Nephew plant, will also help our balance of payments. Does my right hon. Friend therefore agree that there is a great opportunity for us and Malaysia to work together on spreading the word, through our regional offices, the UK-ASEAN Business Council and every other means possible, to make sure that businesses in both countries are absolutely aware of the opportunities that the deal offers?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. He will be pleased to know that Ministers in the Department met their counterpart, the Malaysian export Minister, this very week. A lot is going on between our two countries. The Department works closely with the UK-ASEAN Business Council, and our first bilateral joint economic trade committee with Malaysia is expected later this year. It will help promote the bilateral trade and investment and economic co-operation that he rightly champions as the trade envoy to that country. He will know that I will be signing the CPTPP agreement next month in New Zealand.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the shadow Minister.

Ruth Cadbury Portrait Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Clearly, it is vital that British businesses that want to export can access the benefits of trade deals. However, the Government admitted to me in a written answer that they have not modelled the benefits of the CPTPP for our hard-pressed manufacturing businesses, so will the Minister tell me how many UK manufacturers will benefit from the rules of origin requirements under the CPTPP?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Lady will know that we do not count the number of companies specifically in our modelling. The modelling happens at a very high level—it is macro-level modelling. What she should know is that rules of origin will benefit people who export to that region, particularly auto manufacturers, who are very pleased about the deal.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

7. What steps her Department has taken to ensure that the free trade agreement with Israel complies with the UK’s obligations in section 5 of United Nations Security Council resolution 2334.

Andy McDonald Portrait Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

12. What steps her Department has taken to ensure that the free trade agreement with Israel complies with international law.

Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

14. What steps her Department has taken to ensure that the free trade agreement with Israel complies with the UK’s obligations in section 5 of United Nations Security Council resolution 2334.

Nigel Huddleston Portrait The Minister for International Trade (Nigel Huddleston)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The UK’s position on settlements is clear: they are illegal under international law, present an obstacle to peace and threaten the physical viability of a two-state solution, as set out in the UN Security Council resolution 2334 and restated recently by the UNSC presidential statement in February 2023. We repeatedly call on Israel to abide by its obligations under international law and have a regular dialogue with Israel on legal issues relating to the occupation.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Minister is clearly aware then that resolution 2334 states that countries must

“distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”

I welcome his comments confirming that the Government’s belief is that the settlements are illegal under international law. How will the Government ensure that goods and services from these illegal settlements—in effect, stolen land—are excluded from the benefits of a free trade agreement?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Under our existing agreement, Israeli goods from the state of Israel receive tariff preferences under the UK-Israel partnership agreement. Palestinian goods, from the Occupied Palestinian Territories, benefit from trade preferences in the interim UK-Palestinian Authority bilateral agreement. To be clear, only goods originating from the state of Israel are covered by our current FTA, and that will not change in the upgraded FTA.

Andy McDonald Portrait Andy McDonald
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Last week, it was reported by The Jerusalem Post that Israel’s National Security Minister Ben-Gvir, who just 15 years ago was convicted of inciting racism and supporting a terrorist organisation, had told settlers in the illegal west bank outpost of Evyatar:

“The Land of Israel must be settled and at the same time as the settlement of the Land a military operation must be launched.”

He then spoke of demolitions and the killing of “thousands” of Palestinians, in order to “fulfil our great mission.” Will the Minister condemn those genocidal remarks about Palestinians, and ensure that any trade deal with Israel explicitly bans UK trade with those illegal settlements and makes binding regulations for companies to uphold human rights standards?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the UK is a leading advocate of human rights around the world. We have very frank conversations with our allies and we have frank and honest discussions across Government. In answer to the trade element of his question, as I said previously, only goods originating in the state of Israel are covered by our current FTA, and that will not change under the upgraded FTA.

Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I welcome the Minister’s restatement of Government policy in his previous answer, but if the UK signs a trade deal without a territorial clause defining the border between Israel and Palestine, it will be seen in legal terms as equivalent to letting Israel decide by default to include its settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as part of Israel. Is the Minister aware that that risks a situation where, in effect, the UK recognises illegal settlements in the west bank as part of Israel, which is counter to the Government’s stated policy?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I refer the hon. Lady to the answer I gave a moment ago, but I wish to reiterate that it is long-standing UK foreign policy that Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 boundaries are illegal.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (Alba)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

8. What recent assessment her Department has made of the potential effect of the UK’s withdrawal from the European single market on business and trade.

Nusrat Ghani Portrait The Minister for Industry and Economic Security (Ms Nusrat Ghani)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Having regained our regulatory sovereignty now that we have left the European Union, we are now able to ensure that our regulation is tailored to the UK economy, supports our businesses and protects our consumers. Having left the single market, we can focus on UK trade with the world, where total trade is up 24%, so the answer to his question is that the effect is that total trade is up.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Resilient and effective routes to market are essential for trade. The congestion that is currently being experienced at Dover is a significant barrier to effective trade. We can add to that the HGV miles from Scotland to the south-east and the impact on the quantities carried, on perishables and on costs, never mind the environmental impact. Will the Minister meet me to discuss how we reintroduce direct links from Scotland to mainland Europe and ensure trade is friction-free from Scotland?

Nusrat Ghani Portrait Ms Ghani
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not think the hon. Member heard my answer: trade is up. The reality is that this scaremongering just has to stop. The scaremongering is basically a cover for petty nationalism, and I would ask him to be passionate about the market that matters, which is between Scotland and England.

Nusrat Ghani Portrait Ms Ghani
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

If the hon. Member was passionate about Scottish businesses and Scottish jobs, he would be passionate about the single market that matters.

Luke Hall Portrait Luke Hall (Thornbury and Yate) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

9. What steps she is taking to implement the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act 2023.

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business and Trade (Kevin Hollinrake)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for being the foremost parliamentary champion for this important cause. The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act 2023 will give eligible employed parents up to 12 weeks of extra paid leave if their new baby is admitted to neonatal care, providing extra support at a very worrying time. We are keen to introduce the new entitlements as quickly as possible.

Luke Hall Portrait Luke Hall
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for that answer and his Department for its work on delivering the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Act. It is fantastic news for so many parents across the country. We all want to see this entitlement delivered as quickly as possible. It really should be possible for the Department to deliver it for April next year, as there is time to deliver the required statutory instruments and guidance. There are examples of where His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has been able to move forward quickly to deliver such changes. Will the Minister update the House on his work to drive through this important change, so that parents do not have to wait a second longer than necessary for this entitlement, which will support them during the most difficult and dark times in their life?

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to press us on this. We need to do this as quickly as possible and we are keen, as I have said, to do that. Similar work does require updating HMRC IT systems and parliamentary consideration is, of course, required for secondary legislation. There are seven pieces of secondary legislation, and support is needed for employers and payroll providers to implement the changes. We cannot introduce this mid-year; it has to be at the start of the year. I therefore think it very unlikely that we will be able to do that before April 2025.

Ian Levy Portrait Ian Levy (Blyth Valley) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

10. What steps her Department is taking to support the battery sector.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Secretary of State for Business and Trade (Kemi Badenoch)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I recently visited Williams Advanced Engineering, an excellent example of British engineers working at the cutting edge of battery technology, including on projects benefiting from the Faraday battery challenge. The Government’s £541 million Faraday battery challenge has supported more than 140 organisations working across the UK, attracting over £400 million in co-investment, and enabled 500 researchers across more than 25 universities to improve and develop battery technologies.

Ian Levy Portrait Ian Levy
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We know that the United Kingdom needs more battery production facilities in order to achieve net zero and build an automotive industry that is fit for the future. On the Blyth estuary, we have the best site in the UK for high-volume battery manufacturing, with green power supplies, a deep-water port, and a talented and willing workforce. Does the Minister agree that it is vital that this Government grasp the opportunity and do all that they can to bring much-needed new green jobs to south-east Northumberland?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yes, of course, I do agree with my hon. Friend. I know that Blyth has an excellent location for a gigafactory. I just want him to know, as he represents that constituency, that we continue to work closely with the local authority to secure the best outcome for that site.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Secretary of State be slightly cautious about a battery-driven future? I recently visited JCB, which has developed a hydrogen combustion engine that is working well with heavy vehicles. Hydrogen is moving very fast indeed. Will she encourage the production of hydrogen and visit JCB just to see the really innovative work that it is doing? Will she stop the Transport Minister in the House of Lords dissing hydrogen as ineffective?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Far be it from me to stop our noble Friends in the other place from doing what they think is right. None the less, I do agree with the hon. Gentleman. My view is, let a thousand flowers bloom. Hydrogen is one of the viable ways of helping us to get to net zero, and the Government are looking at all possible options to make sure that we support the cutting-edge technology that will get us to our green transition.

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

11. What the value of exports to the EU was in (a) 2016, (b) 2019 and (c) the last year for which data is available.

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business and Trade (Kevin Hollinrake)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The value of UK exports, measured in current prices, to the EU—including goods and services—was £247 billion in 2016, £298 billion in 2019, and £340 billion in 2022. The EU remains the UK’s largest export market, receiving 42% of UK exports in 2022.

Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Hollobone
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

That is all very interesting, because, during the Brexit referendum, “Project Fear” told us that if we left the EU, millions of people would lose their jobs, our exports would collapse, and the economy would go into freefall. Here in 2023, with us outside the European Union, employment is at record highs and unemployment at record lows, the eurozone is in recession and we are not, and our exports to the EU are at record levels. Is it not now demonstrably true that we are always going to be better off out?

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As Churchill once said, the pessimist sees a crisis in every opportunity, but the optimist, which my hon. Friend is, sees an opportunity in every crisis. The UK’s total exports have recovered to pre-pandemic levels measured against 2018. In 2022 UK exports were £815 billion, up 21% in current prices and up 0.5% once adjusted for inflation. There is no doubt that UK exports are excelling and will continue to do so.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the shadow Minister.

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The truth is that in the year stated, exports to the EU fell as a proportion of total trade. Last month it was not inflation that halved, but exports of fruit to the EU. The British Chambers of Commerce has reported that more small and medium-sized enterprises are seeing exports falling than rising, and Britain has the lowest export rates in the G7. When a business tells me that it used to take three days for its products to reach shelves in Germany and now it takes 30, is it not fair to conclude that the Government have failed on the economy, have no plan to make Brexit work and are making businesses pay the price?

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

That backs up my comment on pessimism; the hon. Lady is cherry-picking the worst possible figures she can find. In my conversations this week at the OECD conference on SMEs, nations around the world were crying out to do business with the UK, and indeed are doing so. Of course we are trying to tackle market barriers where they exist. We are leading a whole-of-Government effort to remove a hit list of 100 market access barriers, including those arising in Europe, to open up opportunity to UK exporters worth more than £20 billion. The most recent statistics, for the year ending March 2023, show that 45 barriers were resolved in Europe in that year, compared with 41 in the previous year.

Amy Callaghan Portrait Amy Callaghan (East Dunbartonshire) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

13. What recent assessment her Department has made of trends in the level of goods exports since the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business and Trade (Kevin Hollinrake)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a similar theme to my previous answer, the UK’s total exports have recovered to pre-pandemic levels measured against 2018. In 2022, UK exports were £815 billion, up 21% in current prices and by 0.5% once adjusted for inflation.

Amy Callaghan Portrait Amy Callaghan
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for that answer. However, since the UK left the European Union its trade surplus with the rest of the world has declined from £46 billion to £5 billion. Was it this Government’s goal to wipe out the UK’s trade surplus when they committed to leaving the European Union?

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I say again that UK trade with the EU has recovered to pre-pandemic levels when measured in current prices, worth £772 billion in 2022, 14% higher in current prices than in 2018. We are making significant progress, not just with the European Union but with the rest of the world. We see our place in the world as being able to trade with the entire world, not just focusing entirely on the EU.

Jessica Morden Portrait Jessica Morden (Newport East) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

15. What steps she is taking to help support the steel industry.

Nusrat Ghani Portrait The Minister for Industry and Economic Security (Ms Nusrat Ghani)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Government are actively engaging with the steel industry for a sustainable future, and my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary recently visited Tata and British Steel to see work that is under way. Since 2020 the Government have provided some £35 million in direct funding to support steel producers, on top of the hundreds of millions of pounds in energy price relief for the sector since 2013.

Jessica Morden Portrait Jessica Morden
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I echo the earlier comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) on the greater need for support to help our steel sector decarbonise. Steelworkers from my constituency rallied in Parliament Square yesterday, calling for the Government to support our steel sector, yet they will have heard the Prime Minister’s poor response to my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Chris Elmore) at Prime Minister’s questions, when he merely referred to pre-existing packages of support and funding that was not exclusive to steel in the first place. When will the Government accept the scale of the challenge and commit to helping?

Nusrat Ghani Portrait Ms Ghani
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We accept the scale of the challenge; it is a global challenge to decarbonise the sector and many countries are feeling it. However, a potential £1 billion in support is not a small measure—it is a large measure. Dealing with the procurement process to ensure that we have UK contractors securing UK steel in their programmes of work is not a small task, nor is dealing with energy prices. We have provided more than £730 million. When the sector needs support and we know it is a valid use of taxpayers’ money, we have stepped in, such as with the more than £30 million in Government loans to Celsa Steel in 2020. That secured 1,800 jobs, and the money has been returned to the taxpayer. We are more than happy to work with the hon. Lady and all Members who have steel firms in their constituencies, but we are going to provide steady support for the long term.

Sheryll Murray Portrait Mrs Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

16. What steps her Department is taking to help reduce potential barriers to trade for Cornish businesses.

Nusrat Ghani Portrait The Minister for Industry and Economic Security (Ms Nusrat Ghani)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are targeting a global hit list of barriers whose removal will deliver massive new opportunities for UK businesses throughout the country, including in Cornwall. It is estimated that that will be worth more than £20 billion over five years. The Government are working to open up new markets, including for Cornish farmers. British lamb is now being exported to America for the first time in over 20 years, and British beef is being sent to the Philippines.

Sheryll Murray Portrait Mrs Murray
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Many of the businesses in my constituency pay an additional tax by way of a toll to cross the Tamar, which can run into many thousands of pounds for them. What representations has the Department made to the Department for Transport to have that additional tax, which can make it harder to compete with firms in the rest of the UK, removed?

Nusrat Ghani Portrait Ms Ghani
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for bringing that to my attention. She is such a powerful voice for Cornwall. I am surprised that the Department for Transport has not yet buckled, because I know what a champion she is for her constituency and the region. I will ask my team to engage on this matter with their counterparts at the DFT and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. I know that she will not stop until she gets what she deserves for her constituents, so I am more than happy to give the strength to her elbow.

Luke Evans Portrait Dr Luke Evans (Bosworth) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

17. How many trade deals have been agreed since 2019.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Secretary of State for Business and Trade (Kemi Badenoch)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We have secured trade deals with 70 countries, including the EU, since 2019—partners that accounted for £1.1 trillion of UK bilateral trade in 2022. As I mentioned earlier, in March we concluded negotiations with the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership, the UK’s biggest trade deal since Brexit. In addition, we have signed five new comprehensive trade deals tailored to the UK—those with Japan, Australia and New Zealand; a groundbreaking digital economy agreement with Singapore, and a digital trade agreement with Ukraine—as well as the programme of 63 non-EU continuity agreements.

Luke Evans Portrait Dr Evans
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The post-Brexit developing countries trading scheme, which was alluded to in earlier questions, covers 65 developing countries and 3.3 billion people. Will my right hon. Friend spell out exactly what the benefits are for businesses and consumers in Hinckley and Bosworth, and the UK, and can she confirm that that is a more generous scheme than the EU scheme that we left?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I can confirm that our offer is now more generous than what the EU offers in terms of market access—for example, we allow the least developed countries to source raw materials from other markets and still import goods tariff-free. Overall, my hon. Friend’s constituents will be pleased to know that the trade preferences in the developing countries trading scheme reduce import costs by more than £770 million a year. That is key because it helps to reduce prices and increase choice for UK businesses and consumers, and to tackle inflation, particularly for the highest-sold items such as clothes and food.

Jeff Smith Portrait Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

18. What steps she is taking to increase trade with European countries.

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business and Trade (Kevin Hollinrake)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Europe remains a vital export destination for British businesses, with exports of £401 billion in 2022, an increase of 26% on the previous year in current prices. Only this week, I attended the OECD small and medium-sized enterprise conference, which dealt largely with international barriers to trade. We are determined to remove market barriers to make it easier, particularly for SMEs, to trade across borders.

Jeff Smith Portrait Jeff Smith
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

On the subject of barriers to trade, not only is our world-leading cultural sector valuable in itself for our soft power, but it is an important part of our export trade. But our musicians face unnecessary red tape when trying to tour Europe. We need an EU-wide visa waiver for touring artists. The Secretary of State said earlier that her Department “works closely with musicians”, so what is it actually doing to resolve this problem?

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I know that my colleagues at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport are working hard with our European counterparts to try to ease the difficulties in that area—we recognise it as a problem. Many positive things are happening in current trade with the EU. Indeed, in 2022, the north-west—the hon. Gentleman’s region—exported £33 billion-worth of goods and £24.5 billion-worth of services, which is the area he is referring to. The north-west is the third largest area in the country for services exported to the EU.

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Portrait Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Slough) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

19. What progress she has made on improving market access to the US.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Secretary of State for Business and Trade (Kemi Badenoch)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As part of the Atlantic declaration, we launched negotiations on a critical minerals agreement with the US, which will secure market access for a strategically important sector of the UK economy. My Department has secured tariff-free imports of UK steel and aluminium into the US, supporting 80,000 jobs in UK supply chains. We have removed the 25-year US ban on UK lamb, opening the market to 300 million US customers, and have signed five trade and economic development memorandums of understanding with individual US states, which imported £4.6 billion-worth of goods from the UK in 2022, most recently last week with Utah.

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Portrait Mr Dhesi
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

In their 2019 election manifesto, the Conservatives declared to the British people:

“Our goals for British trade are… ambitious. We aim to have 80 per cent of UK trade covered by free trade agreements within the next three years, starting with the USA”.

However, there has been abject failure, with a free trade agreement nowhere in sight, and instead of coming clean on their incompetence, laughingly, Tories are now lining up to blame the Biden Administration for the lack of progress. Will the Secretary of State concede that the Government’s failure to negotiate an FTA with the USA has potentially locked out British businesses from vital new markets created by the US Inflation Reduction Act?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am afraid that is not the case at all. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the detail of the Atlantic declaration, he will see that we are co-operating very closely with the US. On his point about our 2019 manifesto, we did say that that was what we were going to do, because the Administration at the time were willing. This Administration are not. It has nothing to do with the UK. They are not negotiating any FTAs with any countries. That is what the US trade representative has said to me in many meetings, and they have said that to EU counterparts.

If what the hon. Gentleman suggests is true, he is basically saying that every Government should be bound by their predecessor, in which case, should anything happen, he is saying that he agrees with everything this Government are doing and nothing should change. What we have negotiated with the Atlantic declaration is a success, and he should be praising this Government for achieving something so monumental.

Conor Burns Portrait Sir Conor Burns (Bournemouth West) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I draw the House’s attention to my interest as the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to the United States for regional trade and investment. Our programme of MOUs with states in the United States is a major driver of improving market access and trade between the UK and the US. As I embark on a visit to Florida to advance our objectives there, will my right hon. Friend use this opportunity to reaffirm not just that we want to enter into multiple MOUs with states in the United States, but that we want British businesses to step up to the opportunities they create and we want to create the mechanisms to allow business-to-business delivery?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Absolutely, I can affirm that. My right hon. Friend makes a very good point about the MOUs. The Opposition would like to present a false story about us not getting along with our US counterparts. The fact that so many states, knowing that their Federal Government are not negotiating an FTA, have decided to step up and negotiate MOUs with us shows that this country is still attracting a large amount of investment and co-operation from our international partners. We want British businesses to be able to take part in that, and we are doing everything we can to help them use the MOUs.

Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T1. If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Secretary of State for Business and Trade (Kemi Badenoch)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Last week, I was pleased to lead discussions with international partners and businesses at the Ukraine recovery conference and welcomed the Prime Minister of Ukraine and First Deputy Prime Minister to Mansion House, alongside over 150 companies, showcasing how UK companies in our private sector can use their ingenuity and expertise to support the reconstruction of Ukraine.

I was very proud to announce that the UK Government have backed a £26.3 million equivalent loan, which is an unprecedented transaction; the Business Bridge Ukraine platform, matching Ukrainian businesses with complementary partners; the UK-Ukraine tech bridge, to bring together UK and Ukrainian tech businesses to harness opportunities for innovation and collaboration; and the London conference framework on war risk insurance.

Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Recent research by a former chief competition economist to the European Commission—shared with me by Unite the union—estimates that average UK mobile phone bills could rise by up to £300 a year in the case of a merger between Three and Vodafone. Is the Secretary of State aware of that risk, and will her Department be taking any action to prevent such a merger, which would be disastrous for competition in the mobile network operator sector?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Lady will know that we have an independent regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority, which would look at cases such as the one she raises and make a call on whether it would be harmful or beneficial to the UK economy. I trust the CMA—it has been doing a good job so far—and I look forward to seeing its read-outs on forthcoming mergers and proposals by large businesses in our country.

Laurence Robertson Portrait Mr Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

T3. Morocco is very much looking to do more trade and business with the United Kingdom. What are the Government doing to enable that country to do so?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait The Minister for International Trade (Nigel Huddleston)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The UK is absolutely committed to enhancing trade with Morocco. In 2022 we did about £3.1 billion-worth of bilateral trade—up nearly 50% on 2021—and we are using our association agreement with Morocco to boost that even further. In February I visited Morocco and met my counterpart to discuss how we can maximise trade, including by tackling barriers in priority areas such as education, renewable energy and infrastructure. We are also supporting British businesses to take advantage of the significant opportunities in Morocco, including through £4.5 billion of available finance through the excellent UK Export Finance.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the shadow Secretary of State.

Jonathan Reynolds Portrait Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab/Co-op)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is now over 12 months since the audit reform Bill was promised in what was then the Queen’s Speech, and it is over two years since the Business Department’s final consultation on these matters closed. There is widespread agreement on the need for reform, which began following the devastating collapse of Carillion five years ago, yet the draft Bill has not even been published, despite Parliament regularly rising early due to the Government’s light agenda. Does the Secretary of State support reform, and does she accept the recommendations of the Kingman review, the Brydon review and the CMA market study? If she does, when will we finally see some action?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can I say to the Front Benchers that a lot of Members are standing? These are topical questions, which are meant to be short. If you want a long question, come in early, please. Help me to help our Back Benchers.

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business and Trade (Kevin Hollinrake)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We do support reform and are keen to take forward primary legislation when parliamentary time allows. In the meantime, there are measures that we can take through secondary legislation, which we are taking forward. We are also looking to take forward insolvency reform, which is something else that we committed to do.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith  (Buckingham)  (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

T4.   The Abraham accords have ushered in unparalleled opportunities by lowering trade barriers in the middle east, so how can my hon. Friend maximise the trade potential of the 2030 road map for UK-Israel bilateral relations by engaging with the wider region?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Through our road map, the UK and Israel reaffirmed the historical significance of the Abraham accords—which have the potential to bring about advancements to security, co-existence, peace and prosperity for the region—and our commitment to work together to deepen and expand those developments, building on the progress of the Negev summit in March 2022. Through the Britain-Israeli investment group, we will also combine UK and Israeli expertise to help solve regional technology and sustainability issues right across the world.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the SNP spokesperson.

Richard Thomson Portrait Richard Thomson (Gordon) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

This week, the European Council adopted the EU’s free trade agreement with New Zealand, which includes dedicated sustainable food systems chapters, a dedicated trade and gender equality article, and a provision on trade and fossil fuel subsidies reforms. Can the Secretary of State explain why our trade deal with New Zealand, if it is so good, fell so far short on those issues?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think the hon. Gentleman will find that, actually, the trade deal we negotiated with New Zealand makes things cheaper for our consumers, not more expensive, it is less protectionist and it is helping to improve relations between us and New Zealand. I disagree with his assessment of the EU-New Zealand free trade agreement: we looked at it and were actually quite pleased with what we got.

Siobhan Baillie Portrait Siobhan Baillie (Stroud) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am concerned that the UK is being left behind on hydrogen internal combustion engines. The EU and the USA are now recognising hydrogen combustion engines as zero emission, but the UK is refusing, which means that the automotive transformation fund for industrialising the technology is not available. I am working with brilliant companies such as BorgWarner in Stonehouse and the Renewable Hydrogen Alliance to raise this issue. I have spoken to the Secretary of State for Transport and I am raising it with the Prime Minister; I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business and Trade will use her brilliant brains on this matter too.

Nusrat Ghani Portrait The Minister for Industry and Economic Security (Ms Nusrat Ghani)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I hope that my hon. Friend will allow me to use my brain to help unlock this with the Department for Transport. We have the automotive transformation fund and the Advanced Propulsion Centre, so we are doing a huge amount of work in this space to ensure that we are not only on the cutting edge of electric zero-emission vehicles, but looking at what the opportunities are for hydrogen. We do not want to be left behind anywhere in this space, but we do need to align ourselves with the rest of our Departments, and I will do so.

Marion Fellows Portrait Marion Fellows (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

T2. The Fresh Produce Consortium, which represents 70% of the UK’s fresh produce supply chain, recently warned that post-Brexit import charges will hit small and medium-sized enterprises the hardest. Does the Minister accept that the post-Brexit trade deals are driving up already soaring food prices, as well as hitting small food producers at a time when they are facing real difficulties as a result of increased operating costs?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It should be transparently clear that the UK is conducting trade deals that are in the UK’s economic interests. That is the criterion: we would not do them if they were not in the UK’s interests. We are therefore working really hard, with a particular focus on opportunities for SMEs to trade not only with the EU but right around the world, where there are immense opportunities for further trade. We will continue to pursue opportunities in south Asia, Africa and South America—all over the world—where we have not taken full advantage of those opportunities. This will benefit many SMEs, including food and beverage producers, in the long term.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Over a third of the value of every Airbus sold in the world comes from the United Kingdom’s aerospace manufacturing—whether it is wings, engines, landing gear or other avionics—but all of the Airbus sales are recorded in international statistics as exports from France because the final take-off is from Toulouse. What can the Department do to try to make sure that the value of these exports, especially to the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region, is recognised as being partly from the UK?

Nusrat Ghani Portrait Ms Ghani
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

This is a great opportunity to talk about Airbus’s 500-plane deal with Indian airline IndiGo. It is the largest aviation deal in history, and it has been done on our watch. We are providing the certainty that businesses need in order to go out and confidently secure such contracts. A lot of the jobs will be in the UK, but I will take away what my hon. Friend said, because we want to be able to show precisely the level of investment in the UK and the number of jobs that are created by this deal.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. I remind Ministers that they should be speaking to me, not to the Back Benches.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

T5. I welcome the Scottish Government’s recent announcement that workers’ rights will be a key element of a written constitution when Scotland becomes an independent nation. That is in stark contrast to this place, where this Government have legislated for only seven of the 53 recommendations of the Taylor review. When will they legislate for the other 46?

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are taking forward a number of reforms, as the hon. Member is aware. There is a private Member’s Bill, the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill, which includes a day-one right to request flexible working, as well as the right to request predictable terms and conditions, which is one of the recommendations of the Taylor review. I think he should welcome those kinds of measures.

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

Kettering is the beating heart of the east midlands economy, especially in bespoke gentlemen’s footwear, with superb firms such as Loake, Cheaney, and Gaziano & Girling. Will the Government confirm that their free trade agreements and their efforts to reduce international trade barriers will help the local shoe industry in Kettering get on the front foot and take great strides forward?

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I was delighted to attend my hon. Friend’s business conference in north Northamptonshire. As part of that, we passed the Loake shop in Kettering, which is a world leader in shoes—in fact, I am wearing a pair today—and he offered to try to get me a pair at a discounted price, which I very much look forward to. There are great export opportunities through that.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the Chair of the Business and Trade Committee.

Darren Jones Portrait Darren Jones (Bristol North West) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Last year it was the energy companies; this year it is the water companies. The sectors have changed but the taxpayers are still on the hook. So will the Secretary of State commit to undertaking a review of the financial resilience of all companies in each regulated sector and to present her findings to the House?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman raises a very good point. He is right that we need to make sure there is resilience across the sector, and I think our regulators are best placed to do that. They are carrying out a number of reviews at the moment, and I and colleagues across Government are working closely with them.

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

The Secretary of State earlier told my hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Richard Thomson) that she did not accept that Brexit was having a negative impact on the Scottish seafood industry. It is a bit like saying she does not accept that the earth is round—although, admittedly, sometimes people on her Back Benches need to be persuaded of that. If she does not think that Brexit is having a negative impact on the Scottish seafood industry, does she think it has been positive, or does she think there has not been any change at all?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman is entitled to his opinion, as I am entitled to mine. He has done absolutely nothing except try to re-litigate Brexit over and over again. The fact is that we are not going back into the EU. We are using our independent trade policy, negotiating with countries around the world and delivering more for the UK as well as for Scotland. Scottish businesses are happy with what we are doing, and in particular they are happy that the grown-ups in Westminster have stopped them making the catastrophic decisions that are destroying the internal market.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Is the Secretary of State aware of just how much influence the Chinese Government and Chinese companies have on our economy? Is she aware that many times I have asked for an audit of how big that influence is? Does she share the concern of many businesses in our country that the Chinese Government are using subterfuge and espionage to further their interests?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That’s three questions—pick whichever one.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not think we need an audit. China is our fourth largest export market, and we are aware of the economic challenge that it poses across the world. We work with countries across the world, but we have a pragmatic relationship with China. We need to use our influence to help them get to a better place, but I take the hon. Gentleman’s point.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

How does it help UK Steel to decarbonise, or help the UK to reclaim its position of global leadership in reducing climate emissions, to support the opening of a sure-to-be-doomed new coalmine in west Cumbria?

Nusrat Ghani Portrait Ms Ghani
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not think the hon. Gentleman has ever had a positive story to tell about his region, let alone his constituency. We have a positive story on steel, and we have the same challenges as most countries in trying to deal with decarbonisation. We have issues around energy costs that we have been providing all our advanced manufacturing sectors with, and we want to ensure that we diversify our access to different forms of energy.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Going back to Brexit, can the Secretary of State name one Scottish sheep farmer who is happy with the Brexit deal, or any seafood producers and exporters that she spoke to who are happy with Brexit? Can she name any Scottish farming sectors that are happy with Brexit?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is not my job to memorise names of Scottish businesses, and just as I said in response to a previous question, SNP Members are not serious. Perhaps if they stood up and actually represented their businesses in trying to make use of all the opportunities we have, they would be in a better place.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

When it comes to increasing trade with African countries, what steps are being taken to ensure that increased trade is carried out with companies that take human rights seriously and are ethically aware in the treatment of their workers?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are an advocate around the world for human rights. That is something that the Government take seriously and discuss across Government, including with trading partners with whom, as I said, we can have frank conversations. Through other bodies and institutions, including the work done by the Commonwealth, we continue to have those frank conversations.

Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (Alba)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. During Question Time this morning, the Minister for Industry and Economic Security, the hon. Member for Wealden (Ms Ghani), appears to have been confused about the nature of oral questions. I asked a supplementary question, which was ostensibly a polite request to meet the Minister to discuss matters of importance to my constituents. In her response, she chose to use a pejorative insult—clearly intended to be an insult—and that does not reflect well on the Government. I am a Member of this Parliament, just as any other Member, and I deserve to be able to ask questions about the interests of my constituency without that kind of harassment. She accused me of nationalism, but I suggest that the only nationalism on display is from those Benches—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. I do not know whether the Minister wants to respond.

Nusrat Ghani Portrait Ms Ghani
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

indicated dissent.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

If not, there was nothing disorderly, and I cannot continue the debate. What I can say is that the hon. Member has certainly put his view on the record.

Business of the House

Thursday 29th June 2023

(12 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
10.33 am
Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The business for next week is as follows:

Monday 3 July—Second Reading of the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill.

Tuesday 4 July—Estimates day (4th allotted day). There will be debates on estimates relating to the Department for Work and Pensions; and the Ministry of Justice, in so far as it relates to His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service.

Wednesday 5 July—Estimates day (5th allotted day). There will be debates on estimates relating to the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, in so far as it relates to energy infrastructure; and the Department for Education, in so far as it relates to adult education, post-16 education, further education and colleges. At 7 pm, the House will be asked to agree all outstanding estimates.

Thursday 6 July—Proceedings on the Supply and Appropriation (Main Estimates) (No. 2) Bill; followed by a general debate on building safety and social housing, to mark six years since the Grenfell Tower tragedy; followed by a motion on the role and status of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The subjects for those debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 7 July—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 10 July includes:

Monday 10 July—Debate on the first special report of the Committee of Privileges; followed by remaining stages of the Electronic Trade Documents Bill [Lords]; followed by Second Reading of the Northern Ireland Budget (No. 2) Bill.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the forthcoming business. I am glad she has announced that the Government will follow precedent and allow MPs to approve the Privileges Committee special report released this morning. Its conclusions are clear; it found that senior Tory parliamentarians took it upon themselves to undermine the procedures of this House, and shamefully that includes a serving Minister and a former Leader of the House. The report noted that the matter was made more difficult because two of the Members mounting the most vociferous attacks on the Committee did so from the platform of their own hosted TV shows. That undermines democracy and undermines this House. We owe it to the members of the Privileges Committee to give them our support.

Frankly, it is about time that the Prime Minister showed up and showed some leadership. If he does not stand up for standards, what does he actually stand for? I urge this House to endorse the report a week on Monday. That matters, because the public need to be able to trust the system we have. When Ministers mislead the House, whether intentionally or not, and fail to correct the record, or when an MP, a Minister or, worst of all, a serving Prime Minister lies to this House, and thereby to the public, the public need to know that we have proper processes for dealing with that, which we do. By undermining this Committee, the Members risk undermining democracy itself.

As we found out during last week’s vote, when it comes to upholding standards, this Prime Minister stands down. Is that what he is planning to do again with this report? Is he really still happy for senior MPs in his own party to undermine and attack Britain’s democratic institutions? Is it not time that he personally condemned those who sought to override Parliament’s standards system to get one of their own off the hook?

We have breaking news that the plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda has been ruled unlawful. I am sure the Leader of the House was expecting me to welcome the long-awaited impact assessment for that Illegal Migration Bill—I would call it the bigger migration backlog Bill or, now, the unlawful migration Bill. I use the words “impact assessment” with a heavy dose of irony, as it does not tell us how much the Bill would cost or what the impact of any of its policies would be, so it is not much of an impact assessment, is it? The Leader of the House has previously described impact assessments as very handy and most helpful, and I could not agree more. Why did the Government wait so long to publish the impact assessment and then publish this one, which is neither handy nor helpful? Is that perhaps why she should not be surprised—nor should any of us—by the breaking news from the court?

While the current Prime Minister focuses on keeping Boris Johnson’s sycophants in his own party happy, introduces new laws which by his Government’s own admission will not work and now seem to have been found illegal, and swerves scrutiny, people up and down the country are left facing the cost of Tory mortgage penalties and soaring rents. The Leader of the Opposition, a man of honour and integrity, will restore trust in politics. He will show leadership on the issues that matter to working people and act immediately to bring down the cost of living.

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

May I first put on record my delight at hosting my Royal Navy squadron, the 2nd Mine Counter Measures Squadron, this week? I thank all Members who came to see and thank them—particularly you, Mr Speaker, and I thank you for addressing them.

I am delighted that this week we announced the consultation on the Oliver McGowan code of practice on statutory learning disability and autism training. I want to place on record my huge respect for the McGowan family, especially Paula McGowan OBE, Oliver’s mum, for all that she has done to prevent the tragedy that happened to her family from occurring to others. I also send my good wishes to all celebrating Eid.

The hon. Lady raised the matter of the Privileges Committee’s special report, which was out at 9 am. I hope that the fact that a debate on it was announced in the business statement reassures the House about how seriously the Government take matters of privilege. I reiterate that it is in the House’s interests that we have such a Committee; it is there to defend our rights and privileges, and it is absolutely vital that Members of this House be prepared to serve on such Committees, so we are very happy to bring forward a debate on the report.

The hon. Lady mentioned the breaking news of the Court of Appeal judgment. It was a mixed judgment, because although what she says about the ruling on the policy is absolutely true, the Court also confirmed that Rwanda is a safe third country. This is clearly a matter for the Home Office to update the House on. We respect the Court’s decision, and I think there will be a statement later today from the Home Secretary on that.

The hon. Lady knows that I have pushed Departments to make sure that impact assessments are published in a timely way; they are important. I hope all Members of the House will also consider the impact of us not having systems that are fit for purpose. We have to direct our finite resources for these matters at the people we need to help. If our asylum systems are overloaded and we are not able to send back people who do not have the right to be here, we are not using the finite resources we have effectively.

The hon. Lady mentions the cost of living crisis, particularly as it relates to housing costs. I understand how frightening and stressful those costs can be; it makes life incredibly complicated when people have to juggle how they will get through the week. These are very difficult times, and we are determined to ensure that families and individuals can get through them. There are unprecedented global challenges that we are having to deal with; for example, we have to stick to the plan on Ukraine, and not waver in our support. As Members will have heard in the Chancellor’s statement on Monday, we have increased support for mortgage interest schemes, and there are all the other things that we have done regarding providers. There is also the new consumer duty placed on the Financial Conduct Authority, and of course there is the £94 billion for cost of living support measures. We will do everything that we can to ensure that families get through this difficult time, and further business will be announced in the usual way.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

On yesterday’s Order Paper, the first listed item of business, subject to urgent questions and statements, was the Holocaust Memorial Bill. There was a notice on the Order Paper that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities would make a statement on the estimated cost of the memorial. The statement says, in column 13WS of Hansard, that the House was to be updated on the forecasted costs

“Ahead of Second Reading of the Bill”—[Official Report, 28 June 2023; Vol. 375, c. 13WS.]

That written statement was not available at the end of Prime Minister’s questions at 12.36. It became available in the Library at 13.51, over an hour and a quarter later. It was not mentioned by either Minister in the debate on the Bill, and no Member of this House knew about it.

Will my right hon. Friend say to parliamentary Clerks, if not to the Cabinet, that that is no way to treat this House? Information that is important to the House should be available for a debate, especially as the statement said that the estimated cost of the memorial had gone up from £102 million to £138 million—an increase of over a third in one year. I hope she will agree that that is not the way to treat this place.

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

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this matter and for his contribution to the debate yesterday. He will know that I take these matters very seriously. We have stood up some additional training for the parliamentary teams and Clerks in Government Departments. We—my noble Friend Lord True and I—have also brought all the permanent secretaries over to Parliament and told them exactly what Members need to conduct their business well. He will know that I have also conducted, with the Commission, a survey of all Members to see what more we can do to ensure that they can do their job in the most effective way. I will certainly write to the Department and make sure it has heard his remarks today, and I will feed it back to the permanent secretary.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the SNP spokesperson.

Richard Thomson Portrait Richard Thomson (Gordon) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Leader of the House for the business and I endorse everything that the shadow Leader of the House said in relation to standards.

I would like to begin by paying tribute to former Scotland manager Craig Brown, one of two great Scots we lost this week. Winifred Margaret Ewing changed the course of Scottish politics when she won her triumphant by-election victory to this place in Hamilton in 1967. Winnie had the distinction of serving across three different Parliaments and opening the Scottish Parliament in 1999. There is no one who did more to popularise and internationalise the cause of Scottish independence. We will miss her greatly.

In Scotland this week, the iconic Caledonian Sleeper rail service was returned to public ownership, where it joined ScotRail, LNER—London North Eastern Railway—Northern Rail, Southeastern, Transport for Wales and TransPennine Express. Although they are often referred to as operators of last resort, experience shows that they make excellent operators of first resort. Perhaps the conclusion to draw is that some things just naturally belong in public ownership, like the water industry in Scotland. Given the current travails of Thames Water, may I suggest that the Leader of the House make time available for a debate on why the public interest should always take precedence over private profit not only in the rail sector but in the provision of water?

I understand that it is the Leader of the House’s custom and practice to spend almost as much time responding to what the SNP spokesperson says as criticising public services in Scotland. Before she gets to that, may I ask that she make time for debates on why six police forces in England continue to remain in special measures and why a report published today shows that NHS staff sickness in England has hit a record high, so that we can find out what the Government intend to do about it?

This is the first time that I have had the honour of responding for my party at business questions. As much as I am looking forward to the Leader of the House’s responses, I am looking forward very much to the inevitable YouTube clip that will follow. In Victorian times, similarly sensationalist outputs were often referred to as “penny dreadfuls”. I very much hope that the Leader of the House does not disappoint in that regard.

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

I shall try to rise to the challenge. I thank the hon. Gentleman for stepping in today.

May I start by welcoming the fantastic export figures that Scotland recently announced? They are a fantastic tribute to Scotland’s incredible creative businesses and producers, and I congratulate them on that.

I very much enjoyed the hon. Gentleman’s discussing rail travel in Scotland with no regard to the Scottish nationalist Government’s record on ScotRail. While we are on the topic of transport, I was briefly cheered this week that ferry services—[Interruption.] No, this is good news. I was cheered that ferry services were being stood up on the Uist route, but then news reached me that, due to demand outstripping availability, anyone in a camper van was not allowed to use them. I am sure it is nothing personal.

I do not wish to give a long answer, as it would upset the hon. Gentleman and you, Mr Speaker, although I am very sorry that again the SNP has taken an enormous amount of time over the past week to discuss independence but not cancer care, drug deaths, failing education standards, violent crime—at its highest since 2014—or its dismal record on climate change policies. I hope it will get back soon to talking about the issues that constituents are facing.

Pauline Latham Portrait Mrs Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

This morning, I spoke to a national police conference about the police’s new powers, under my Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022, which came into force this year, to tackle child marriage. The school summer holidays are traditionally when many young girls and boys are taken abroad to be married. Please could we have a statement about the preparations made to prevent child marriages this summer, including through criminal charges against those seeking to arrange such marriages?

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

May I thank my hon. Friend for her continued efforts on this very important matter. She will know that our dedicated forced marriage unit helps hundreds of victims a year and is providing support and advice to anyone in the UK. She will also know that the next Home Office questions are on Monday; I encourage her to raise this matter there, but I will also ensure that the Home Secretary has heard her desire for an update.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee.

Ian Mearns Portrait Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Leader of the House for the business statement.

The Backbench Business Committee formally agreed this week that, if awarded the time, on Thursday 13 July two debates will be held on behalf of the Liaison Committee. The subjects will be the second report of the Foreign Affairs Committee, “The cost of complacency: illicit finance and the war in Ukraine”, and the third report from the Health and Social Care Committee, “Workforce: recruitment, training and retention in health and social care”. If we are awarded the time, it is our intention to hold the second Sir David Amess memorial debate, otherwise known as matters to be raised before the forthcoming Adjournment, on the last day before the summer recess.

As chair of the all-party group for football supporters, may I express my sympathy for the family of Craig Brown? He always struck me as a football manager who, in dire circumstances, would keep his head when all around were losing theirs. He was a bastion of football and a manager of great renown for about four decades. I send my sympathy to his family. He was a rock of Scottish football.

Yesterday, at Prime Minister’s questions, I asked the Prime Minister whether he would find time for primary legislation on the scourge of the indeterminate number of youngsters—roughly 140,000—who are missing from school altogether in England. The Education Secretary nodded when I asserted, having been told by the Minister for Schools, that primary legislation would be required to set up a national register to track those children and first, keep them safe, and secondly, try to get them into education. Will the Leader of the House please use her efforts in Cabinet to find time for primary legislation for this very important piece of work?

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

May I join the tributes paid by the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Midlothian (Owen Thompson) to Craig Brown? I am sure the whole House would want to join those sentiments. I thank the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) for the helpful advert of forthcoming debates that his Committee is looking to schedule. I also thank him for his support and ideas about the Westminster Hall sitting hours changes that we have made this week—all credit to him for that suggestion and innovation.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise this very important issue of so-called ghost children. It is vital that local authorities really understand where those children are and whether they are in school settings that are not Ofsted inspected, as opposed to being home schooled. I know that the Education Secretary is looking at this matter with urgency. I have had discussions with her and her officials about it. The hon. Gentleman is right about primary legislation, but we are also looking at the data held by different Departments to help us get a clearer picture now of where those children are.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I strongly agree with doing something for the children missing from education.

May I ask the Leader of the House what the Government can do to assist local authorities in getting education, health and care plans completed within the 20-week guidelines? Very few local authorities—sadly, including mine—are managing to do that. It really matters. I have one primary school where 17 of the 27 children arriving in year R in September have some level of special educational needs and disabilities, and five have statements. There will be a £30,000 extra cost out of existing budgets just for that one class alone. Could we please have a statement from the Government, or time to debate this issue, to see what we can do to assist local authorities with those challenging issues?

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

My hon. Friend has raised a very important matter. As he will know, we are providing support through reforms, but we are providing workforce support as well. We are setting up regional expert partnerships through the £70 million change programme, and in order to increase specialist provision locally we are investing £2.6 billion in new special school and alternative provision places. That includes 33 new special schools, with a further 49 in the pipeline. Provision is vital, as is ensuring that people have access to it. We are also providing an additional 5,000 early years special educational needs co-ordinators. I shall ensure that the Department for Education knows of my hon. Friend’s interest in this vital issue.

Luke Pollard Portrait Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Lab/Co-op)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

On 21 February this year, during a Home Office statement on the Plymouth shootings in which we lost five people, the Minister for Crime, Policing and Fire, the right hon. Member for Croydon South (Chris Philp), said that it would take the Home Office 60 days to reply to the inquest findings, including a report from the coroner on how to avert any further such tragedy. That 60-day period expired today.

We were promised another oral statement and a chance for Members to scrutinise the Government’s response, but that response has been downgraded to a written ministerial statement, which means that Members of Parliament—including local MPs such as me—cannot ask questions on behalf of the families who are grieving and who want to avert a repeat of this tragedy. When will we have opportunities to bring Home Office Ministers to the House to ask them why they rejected so many of the coroner’s recommendations, which would have made gun laws better and safer for all our communities so that a tragedy such as the one we saw in Plymouth could never be repeated?

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

The hon. Gentleman has raised a vital matter. Public safety is an issue for all of us, but for the families left grieving in the wake of that terrible event, what he has requested will be a key piece of information. He will probably know that a written ministerial statement was published today, and he will also know that we are investing £500,000 in a new training programme for police firearms licensing officers.

These matters are important to many Members, but particularly to the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues in Portsmouth. Home Office questions will take place on Monday, and I suggest that he raise this issue then, but given the sensitivities involving the families, I shall also ensure that the Home Secretary has heard what he has said today.

Siobhan Baillie Portrait Siobhan Baillie (Stroud) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the chair of the all-party parliamentary group for wetlands, and as a lover of WWT Slimbridge, which is in my constituency, I was thrilled to learn that the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust had secured £21 million from Aviva. That is a massive endorsement which will make a huge difference to the creation of, and research on, salt marshes. Big business tends to be given a tough time by eco-campaigners, but many companies are investing in trying to improve the environment. Will my right hon. Friend agree to look into the work that WWT is doing around the country, and would she consider attending some of our parliamentary events, with or without her sword?

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

I should be very happy to attend some of those events, but it will have to be without my sword, because unfortunately the Tower of London would not let me take it home. I am sure all Members agree that my hon. Friend should be congratulated, as should those in her local area, on securing this fantastic investment to restore a coastal salt marsh that is key to so many species. As she will know, through our landmark Environment Act 2021 we have legally binding targets to halt and reverse the decline in species and reduce the risk of their becoming extinct. These environments and habitats are vital to biodiversity. So I say to my hon. Friend, “Good on you—well done”, and I shall be happy to help her in any way I can.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call Christine Jardine as the Lib Dem representative.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) (LD)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

First, I associate myself with the remarks that have been made about Craig Brown. In my previous career as a journalist, I was fortunate enough to meet Mr Brown on several occasions. He was a gentleman and our thoughts are with his family.

A recent report by Shelter revealed just how bad homelessness has become in Scotland’s four main cities, with Edinburgh being the worst case. Figures show that 5,000 people are living in temporary accommodation, including more than 2,000 children. That is a tenfold increase since 2002. Given the shortage of financial support from the Scottish Government for local authorities and the fact that homelessness is not confined to Scotland, is the Leader of the House willing to set aside time for a debate on how we can kick-start a co-ordinated approach with agencies to tackle this growing problem, and on how we can increase the number of social houses and the financial support available to local authorities?

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

I thank the hon. Lady for raising this important matter. As she knows, we have provided more than 2.2 million additional homes and delivered 632,600 affordable homes since we came to office. We have also helped many people take that step on to the property ladder. However, this is about not just housing supply but a whole raft of challenges that individuals and families face, and I know that this is a concern to many Members across the House. I am very happy to make sure that the Department has heard her call for time on the Floor of the House, and her plea has also been heard by the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), who is sitting behind her.

Jon Trickett Portrait Jon Trickett (Hemsworth) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Governor of the Bank of England earns more than £10,000 a week. The Bank made billions of pounds in profit from last year’s catastrophic mini-Budget, and the bonuses that are jointly earned by his staff add up to more than £23 million. How can he use his lofty position to criticise workers who are struggling to get a pay increase, when pay rises have fallen so far behind inflation? Can we have a debate in Government time to discuss this issue and bust the myth that wages are somehow creating the inflation problem that we have at the moment?

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I shall not rehearse the arguments that were made at Prime Minister’s questions yesterday, but pay restraint is an important part of our getting through this very difficult time and, in particular, tackling inflation. The next opportunity to question the Treasury team on this matter is not until after recess, so I shall make sure that they have heard his concerns.

Sam Tarry Portrait Sam Tarry (Ilford South) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

This morning, I spoke to a leading figure in the night-time and festival industry. Since 2014, the Home Office has allowed drug testing to take place at many festivals, potentially saving hundreds of lives. Just over a month ago, there was a screeching U-turn from the Home Office that was inexplicable to many festival organisers across the country. We had Glastonbury last weekend and we have many more festivals coming up across the rest of the summer.

For me, harm reduction has to be the focal point when organising those fantastic musical events. I would like a debate in Government time that gets to the bottom of that inexplicable Home Office U-turn, because in prior times the Home Office sanctioned this activity taking place on site at festivals, with Home Office branding. In fact, it has even permitted Greater Manchester police and Avon and Somerset police to allow this stuff to take place, as well as having their own forensic early warning systems in place, so that people can participate and make adult, informed choices about what they are and are not going to do in a much safer way.

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, and I know that this is of concern to other Members. Our position on this issue has not changed: drug testing providers must have a licence to test for controlled drugs, including at festivals. We have always had that condition in place and we have made that clear, and law enforcement has always had a responsibility to uphold that legal requirement. We have not received any applications for drug testing at major festivals this summer, and we continue to keep an open dialogue with any potential applicants. He will know that Home Office questions are on Monday, so he may wish to pursue the matter with the Department.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Norwegian constituent has made her life here with her Scottish husband and their son. She should be welcomed, but she had to win her right to residence via the courts. Six months on, her life is in limbo because the Home Office has not issued a biometric residence permit, which is preventing her from working, from accessing healthcare and from leaving the country. Can we have a statement on Home Office timescales for issuing residence permits? What can be done to expedite matters for my constituent, whose lawyer says this is the worst delay he has ever encountered?

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

I am sorry to hear about that unfortunate case. The hon. Gentleman will know, because I have advertised it many times—including, I think, to him—that the Home Office is offering surgeries and bespoke services to all Members, either face-to-face or remotely. He will know that Home Office questions are on Monday, and I encourage him to raise this matter with the Home Secretary and her Ministers.

John McDonnell Portrait John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I preface my remarks by saying that I completely appreciate how busy Ministers are and the workload they carry, which is why I have never before raised such a concern in Parliament.

On Sunday, there was a demonstration by detainees at Harmondsworth detention centre in my constituency. I emailed the relevant Minister on the various email accounts that are available to us, and I simply wanted to know what was happening. I was concerned about the welfare of the detainees and staff, many of whom are my constituents, and I received no response on Sunday. I thought that, in the normal run of things, we would have had either an oral or written statement on Monday, as we have had in the past. Nothing happened, so we contacted the Minister’s office again. Nothing happened on Tuesday, so we contacted the office again, and no response.

As you know, Mr Speaker, I also sought to raise the matter in the House on Tuesday, but other business understandably took precedence. I contacted the Minister’s office on Wednesday and basically said that, if I had not heard anything by noon, I would be raising a point of order. Twenty minutes before noon, I received a reply, which was inaccurate.

I understand how busy people are, but this is just unacceptable behaviour when I have constituents and others contacting me about this incident. There are continuing problems, so I ask the Leader of the House, first, to raise this with the Ministers concerned and say that this behaviour is not acceptable. Secondly, I would welcome a debate in the House on what is happening at Harmondsworth, because there are continuing concerns about the welfare of both detainees and staff, and this has continued year after year without resolution.

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

I am sorry to hear about the right hon. Gentleman’s experience. When there are particular incidents and situations, it is important that Members are able to get hold of the relevant people quickly, whether that be officials or Ministers. If he could take the trouble to send me an email with the details of what happened, I would be very happy to raise it with the Department.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I support the Leader of the House, and I am very concerned. Where a Member sees a serious incident in their constituency, I thought duty Ministers were available 24 hours a day. If the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) is unhappy, he should come back to me. I will be supporting the Leader of the House to ensure that Members are treated with the respect they are due. We should make sure Ministers are accountable on serious incidents.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I add my condolences to the families of Winnie Ewing and Craig Brown. Scotland has lost two legends, of politics and football, this week.

The Immigration Minister’s answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) on Tuesday drew a pretty furious response from the Scottish Refugee Council, among others. The Minister said that

“the SNP does not house refugees in Scotland.”—[Official Report, 27 June 2023; Vol. 735, c. 152.]

The truth is that Scotland has housed more Syrian and Ukrainian refugees per head than his own Government. Moreover, the largest hotel for asylum seekers in the UK is in my constituency.

This needs to stop. Mr Speaker, when you and your deputies are asked about the accuracy of a ministerial response, you rightly say it is not a matter for the Chair. May I therefore ask the Leader of the House for a debate on changing the Standing Orders of this House so that we can make Ministers more accountable for the answers they give at the Dispatch Box?

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

That is a timely question, because the Procedure Committee has just produced a report on “Correcting the record”. Its recommendations are that the obligations on Ministers should be extended to all Members of this House. We take these matters very seriously. It is clear that if incorrect information has been given to the House—I do not know the details of the particular matter the hon. Gentleman raises—the record should be corrected, and in my experience that is what Ministers do.

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

I recently met a group of residents who live in a new build block that has a heat network. That means that they cannot access the domestic energy market and are not protected by the price cap, which leads to extortionate costs. More than 50% of London’s 200,000 homes supplied by heat networks are social housing, meaning that some of the poorest Londoners have been subject to uncapped bills. May we please have a debate on what can be done to protect those users from the wildly fluctuating energy market?

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

I thank the hon. Lady for raising this issue. I encourage her to attend the next question session for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, which is next Tuesday, and raise it there. That Department is also running surgeries because of the complexity of the issues and the casework that hon. Members are dealing with in relation to the energy market and schemes such as the one she outlines. I encourage her to sit down with officials and have that bespoke surgery with them.

Christian Wakeford Portrait Christian Wakeford (Bury South) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

This weekend, Bury football club has its first outing, away at Thackley, since it went into administration in 2020. As this is such a pivotal moment in the club’s history, will the Leader of the House join me in wishing Bury FC the best of luck for its first new season? Will she also pay tribute to the fans and volunteers who have worked tirelessly to make this happen? Up the Shakers!

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think you want to add, “Can we have a statement or a debate?”.

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

I know that all Members of this House take great interest in ensuring that our wonderful football clubs survive and thrive. As someone who was a shareholder in Portsmouth football club and saw it through the largest and fastest ever community buy-out, I know how difficult that can be. I take my hat off to all the volunteers who have kept Bury FC going and kept it playing, and I wish it all the luck at the weekend.

Andrew Bridgen Portrait Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Reclaim)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Our language constantly evolves, with new words coming into common usage. Unfortunately, myocarditis is just such a word; very few of us would even have heard of it barely two years ago. When will the Government look into the reasons behind the explosion in cases of myocarditis, especially among the young, particularly given that this week evidence has emerged that it is affecting some new-born babies? May we have a statement and an urgent debate on this issue?

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

I encourage the hon. Gentleman to raise this issue with the Department of Health and Social Care. He will know that the next questions to the Secretary of State and his team are on 11 July. They will have in the Department people looking at particular therapy areas and they will also have good oversight of what research is taking place, whether in academia, research institutions or the third sector.

Barry Sheerman Portrait Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Is the Leader of the House aware that more than 40 years ago the Daily Mail, I believe it was, said that the Father of the House, the hon. Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley), and I were road safety nuts because we led the campaign for seatbelt legislation? All these years later, we have succeeded in saving many, many lives. However, there is evidence that some people are no longer obeying the seatbelt legislation as well as they could and that children are being killed. Is she aware that the World Health Organisation said last week that the biggest killer of children and young people worldwide is not disease, but death on the road? Will she help us by enabling a debate in Government time about how we can help, worldwide, to stop this killing of children?

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for all the work he does on those issues. As I know from my International Development Department days, he is right that road traffic accidents are one of the biggest killers and causes of trauma around the world. It is important to remind people of their obligations under the law and that such measures are a very good idea. I congratulate him on all he has done to secure those laws.

Amy Callaghan Portrait Amy Callaghan (East Dunbartonshire) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I add my condolences to the families of Winnie Ewing and Craig Brown.

I thank the Leader of the House for her commitment and her dedication to ensuring that there is proxy voting in this House.

Having had a recent issue of a dangerous dog in Milngavie, East Dunbartonshire, which attacked and killed another dog, will the Leader of the House prioritise animal welfare and make Government time for the recently dropped Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill?

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

I thank the hon. Lady for what she says about the proxy voting scheme. I thank her for the efforts that she has taken to ensure that the scheme is available to Members and their votes can be secured, and for sharing her experiences in the debates leading up to the scheme coming to fruition.

On her question, several hon. Members have raised the matter of the escalating number of attacks. The hon. Lady will know that we are committed to the measures in the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, but we will be bringing them forward in a different way, and I will announce that in the usual way.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

One thing that unites rural communities is our concern about access to medical services, which often challenge us. Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate on overnight medical cover in rural communities? From August, the out-of-hours provider of GP services in Cumbria has chosen to get rid of the on-call clinician at the Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal between 2 am and 8 am on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. That will mean that people in medical need in our community will need to wait for a clinician, if one is even available, to travel from Barrow-in-Furness or Penrith, up to an hour further away. Today we have launched a campaign to fight that cut, but should Parliament not protect vulnerable people in rural communities from damaging decisions such as that?

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that important matter. He will know that the next health questions are on 11 July and he can raise the issue then. I reassure him that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey), is focused on all aspects of rural life, as demonstrated in her recent report, so he may also wish to raise the matter with her.

Gerald Jones Portrait Gerald Jones (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Sarcomas are cancers that can affect any part of the body, inside or outside, including muscles, bones, tendons, blood vessels and fatty tissues. Sarcoma is rare; 15 people are diagnosed every day in the UK, but that is still around 5,300 people a year, including families in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney. Awareness of sarcoma is low, which limits the funding available for research. Will the Leader of the House facilitate a debate so that the House can raise awareness of sarcoma, which will undoubtedly help the vital need for research funding going forward?

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising awareness of the issue. He will know that the work we have done since we took office in 2010, not only at the Department of Health and Social Care but with the Minister for Life Sciences, has involved sharing intellectual property, enabling smart people around the world to work on these problems and collectively arrive at greater innovation faster. That is vital to creating innovation and ensuring that our NHS can take up new treatments and faster diagnostics. I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising the subject.

Justin Madders Portrait Justin Madders (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

On 2 August, it will be the 50th anniversary of the Summerland fire disaster on the Isle of Man. It was a terrible tragedy in which 50 people lost their lives, including family members of my constituents and of other Members’ constituents. I was astonished to learn that the House has never debated that terrible tragedy, so I tried to secure a debate in Westminster Hall next week, when the relevant Department will be responding, but I was unsuccessful. I will apply for an Adjournment debate, but if that is not possible, will the Leader of the House give us some time before the recess to debate the matter? It is important that we get matters on the record before the 50th anniversary.

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

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on getting that matter on the record today. I know that it will mean a great deal to his constituents that he has done so and that he is doing everything he needs to do to secure a debate. There will be further opportunities for him to raise the matter, but I shall make sure that the relevant Department has heard what he has said today.

Ian Byrne Portrait Ian Byrne (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Paula Barker) and I have written twice to the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the hon. Member for Harborough (Neil O’Brien), requested an urgent meeting with him, and tabled early-day motion 1283 regarding the imminent closure of Park View Medical Centre in my constituency of Liverpool, West Derby.

[That this House notes with deep concern the proposed closure of the Park View Medical Centre; notes that the medical centre is located in Tuebrook in the constituency of Liverpool West Derby and also provides GP services to many constituents of Liverpool Wavertree; recognises that the medical centre has been at the centre of the community for decades and provides vital primary care services to constituents in one of the most deprived areas of Liverpool; notes with alarm that the Liverpool Integrated Care Board has written to all patients at the practice to inform them that it will be closing in July and that all patients will be transferred to GP practices within 1 mile radius of the building; places on record that local residents have voiced their strong opposition to the closure of Park View Medical centre and are campaigning to save this vital service; notes that the Members for Liverpool West Derby and Liverpool Wavertree have written to Cheshire and Merseyside ICB to ask that they revisit the decision to close Park View Medical Centre with the upmost urgency and to request meaningful discussions to consider the urgent steps that can be taken to save the service and protect its long-term future; and calls on the Department of Health to support the wishes of the local community and to take all steps available to keep the Park View Medical Centre open to protect the health and wellbeing of the whole community and future generations.]

The whole community is furious with the decision by the integrated care board and they are calling on the Government to assist. Will the Leader of the House make Government time for a debate on the impact of primary care service closures and make representations to the Minister concerned to respond urgently to our letters, so that Park View can be saved for the long-term health and wellbeing of all of my community?

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

These local services are obviously very important. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will know how much they mean to his constituents. He can raise his concerns directly with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on 11 July, but one thing that the Secretary of State is doing is ensuring that we have additional data on the performance of the hon. Gentleman’s integrated care board so that he can benchmark it against others across the country. Having medical centres that people can access and that are in their local community is vital for good patient outcomes, and that is a big step forward that the Secretary of State has made.

Martyn Day Portrait Martyn Day (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (SNP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am concerned about the desperate condition of the sons of my constituent, Mr Omar, who were unable to collect their visas and passports from the embassy in Sudan owing to the war in April, since when they have managed to travel to Ethiopia. After a very long and difficult journey, they are malnourished, out of money, in need of medical treatment and have been waiting for two weeks for a visa vignette. I have been told repeatedly that there is no timescale for the issuing of that. Will the Leader of the House please ask the Home Secretary to make an urgent intervention in this case and make a statement to give us a timescale for future such cases?

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

I am very sorry to hear about the case that the hon. Gentleman raises. He will know that we have Home Office questions on Monday. However, following this session, I shall make sure that he has the contact details of the Home Office official who is overseeing these bespoke surgeries for Members. I encourage him to set up such a meeting today.

Richard Foord Portrait Richard Foord (Tiverton and Honiton) (LD)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

“Blessed are the cheesemakers.” That may be so, but exporting cheese from the south-west has become more challenging in recent years. Barber’s farm is a 191-year-old business. It claims to be the world’s oldest family cheddar cheese maker and is based in Ditcheat, between Somerton and Frome. On exporting, it says that it has become

“a paperwork nightmare that can lead to cheese and chilled foods stuck at ports everywhere.”

Please can we have a debate in Government time to ensure that west country farmers and producers can more easily export their dairy products?

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that important matter. He will know that our exports are the highest since records began. The export support service and the other schemes that are run by the Department for Business and Trade are offering bespoke support to businesses. I have made use of that in my own constituency. Officials from those services may visit that business or have a remote call with it to take it through how they can assist. Whether it is by finding the business an agent or helping it with particular elements of bureaucracy, it is a very effective service and I have to say that it has dramatically increased exports in my constituency, so I encourage him to do that.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

In the past month, more than 230 churches have been burned, at least 64 Christians have been killed, and 10,000 people have been displaced in the Indian state of Manipur in violence against the Kuki-Zomi tribal people. The scale of this violence is vast and, because of internet blackouts, it is very difficult to know the true extent of what is happening; the figures that I have given are conservative estimates only. As the Leader of the House represents all of us in this House to the best of her ability, will she convey our concerns about the risk of atrocity crimes in this region and ask the appropriate Minister to write to me explaining the steps that are being taken to help de-escalate this very critical situation?

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman again for raising the plight of people who often do not have the spotlight shone on what they are having to endure. I will certainly make sure the relevant Minister has heard his concerns and ask them to write to him with an update on the situation. He will know that we remain committed to defending freedom of religion or belief and to promoting respect and tolerance between communities.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Leader of the House for responding to questions for almost an hour.

Bills Presented

Northern Ireland Budget (No. 2) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Chris Heaton-Harris, supported by the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Michael Gove, Secretary Alister Jack, Secretary David T C Davis, John Glen and Mr Steve Baker, presented a Bill to authorise the use for the public service of certain resources for the year ending 31 March 2024 (including income); to authorise the issue out of the Consolidated Fund of Northern Ireland of certain sums for the service of that year; to authorise the use of those sums for specified purposes; to authorise the Department of Finance in Northern Ireland to borrow on the credit of those sums; and to repeal a spent provision.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time Monday 3 July, and to be printed (Bill 338).

Thames Water (Public Benefit Corporation) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Tim Farron, supported by Sarah Olney and Munira Wilson, presented a Bill to establish a new model of company structure for Thames Water, to be called a public benefit corporation; to require that public benefit corporation to consider public policy benefits, including reducing leaks and sewage dumping, as well as returns for shareholders; to limit the payment of dividends until a plan is in place to cut the corporation’s debt; and to require membership of the corporation’s board to include representatives of local environment groups.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 November, and to be printed (Bill 339).

Royal Assent

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that His Majesty has signified his Royal Assent to the following Acts and Measure:

Shark Fins Act 2023

Co-operatives, Mutuals and Friendly Societies Act 2023

Child Support Collection (Domestic Abuse) Act 2023

Offenders (Day of Release from Detention) Act 2023

Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Act 2023

British Nationality (Regularisation of Past Practice) Act 2023

Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023

Financial Services and Markets Act 2023

Diocesan Stipends Funds (Amendment) Measure 2023

Backbench Business

Thursday 29th June 2023

(12 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text

Fishing Industry

Thursday 29th June 2023

(12 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
11:27
David Duguid Portrait David Duguid (Banff and Buchan) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I beg to move,

That this House has considered the fishing industry.

I start by congratulating and thanking the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael), who secured this important debate. Unfortunately, he has had to go back to Scotland on compassionate grounds; I am sure the whole House will wish him well.

Fisheries, as I am sure everyone in this House knows by now, loom reasonably large in my constituency, as they do for others taking part in this debate. Peterhead, the largest town in Aberdeenshire, is also the largest whitefish port in Europe, while Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire’s third largest town, is Europe’s largest port for nephrops. Macduff, the other port town around the coast, is still a very active port, as well as being the headquarters for Macduff Shipyards, the only manufacturer of steel hull fishing boats in Scotland, with additional facilities in Fraserburgh and the town of Buckie in the neighbouring constituency, Moray.

Dotted around the rest of the Banff and Buchan and Moray coast, like the rest of our island nation, we have smaller ports, smaller boats and smaller operations—but they are no less a part of the wider fishing industry that has been a mainstay of coastal communities for centuries. Also located in those major port towns are a wide variety of seafood processors. The subject of this debate is the fishing industry, but I will speak on the wider concept of fisheries as a whole. It is not just about catching the fish; we are talking about the whole supply chain and, as with any food supply chain, if one part fails, the whole chain loses out.

I have touched on the manufacture of fishing boats, but there are a wide range of businesses and jobs that depend on a thriving fisheries sector. I remember a fisherman once informing me, when his boat was in for summer maintenance that year, that he had something like 40 different businesses, most of them local, working on his boat. I will not list all 40 contractors—he did—but only one was not from north-east Scotland: the guy who had to come and install his Sky box. That just goes to show how one boat can employ so many people in the local area.

Towns such as Peterhead and Fraserburgh exist largely to serve the fisheries sector. There are all the other businesses, shops, community services and public facilities that exist to provide for all the people who work in that industry and the families who live in the community. There is a lot of economic activity in those port towns, but as with all industries and communities, particularly in the light of events of recent years, such as the pandemic and the rise in fuel prices since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, they are not without their challenges.

Other Members will, I know, talk more specifically about the issues faced in their constituencies. I will touch on a few key topics. I will talk about Brexit, the pros and cons of the trade and co-operation agreement, and what I believe to be a general benefit overall of leaving the EU and the common fisheries policy. I will also talk about a range of challenges faced by the industry. Like everyone else, I will focus mainly on the challenges faced in my constituency, but there will be general concerns that many of us share. I will intersperse my remarks with questions for the Minister and her Department. If they can be answered today, great, but if not, a later response or meeting will suffice.

I will start with Brexit. We have left the common fisheries policy and are an independent coastal state. It seems strange to still be standing up and saying that, because it is a fundamental part of having left the EU, and, now that we have reached that status, it is a complete and utter no-brainer. However, it was by no means inevitable. At the very start of the negotiations on withdrawal from the EU—many of us in the Chamber bear the scars of that period—the EU chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, insisted that the UK could not leave the CFP and that EU fishing vessels must retain full freedom of access to UK waters. But we did leave the EU on 31 December 2020, and we left the CFP and took our place as an independent coastal state. Under the terms of the trade and co-operation agreement, which Opposition Members had gleefully predicted could not be reached, we left the EU with a deal—a deal that Scottish National party Members did not even vote for.

One major disappointment of the TCA, however, was the introduction of the so-called adjustment period, which we are still in the middle of. It is important to note that that it is aimed at helping the EU fisheries sector adjust before the day when that period comes to an end in July 2026, and to stress that full control over all vessels fishing in UK waters must fall to UK Ministers and officials, including those in the devolved Administrations. My first question to the Minister on this is: what are the Government doing in the meantime to ensure that, when July 2026 comes around, the most is made of those opportunities for British fishing interests, including what the industry would regard as “first call” on quota?

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman mentions the situation post 2026. I wonder whether he can respond to the point made by Mike Park, the chief executive of the Fraserburgh-based Scottish White Fish Producers Association, who told the Daily Record last week:

“One of the biggest negatives for me was the hyperbole spoken by the Michael Goves, the David Frosts, the Boris Johnsons, who all knew what was going on and they were still spinning it and spinning it. And they’re still spinning it because, here we are, they’re still talking about how post-2026, they will deliver. No, you won’t. Go and read the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. Europe still gets the same amount of fish after 2026.”

Is he correct?

David Duguid Portrait David Duguid
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman mentions Mr Park, whom I know extremely well. I am familiar with that Daily Record article, which is from, I think, last Monday. It was the first in a series of “Why Brexit is bad” articles. If I am not mistaken—and I stand to be corrected—that quote from Mr Park is not necessarily all that up to date. I talk to Mr Park on a—[Interruption.] The article was last week, but I am not sure the quote was that recent; I stand to be corrected on that. Opposition Members are good at pulling out quotes from the likes of Mike Park, Jimmy Buchan and other key individuals in the industry who are well respected in it, but I talk to them on almost a weekly basis, and I know one thing for sure: neither Mike Park, Jimmy Buchan nor any of those others would agree with the SNP’s stance of rejoining the EU and the common fisheries policy.

On Mr Park’s remarks about what happens in 2026, that is precisely why I am asking the UK Government to confirm what they are doing now, to ensure that when we get to that point, we are not caught out by any surprises. We can be sure that the EU fisheries lobby groups will be pushing hard to get all the advantages, so we need to ensure that we are doing the same.

I have always acknowledged the disappointment felt by many in the industry that the trade and co-operation agreement, especially with the adjustment period, did not get as much as we wanted as quickly as we would have liked. Over the course of the adjustment period, 25% of the EU’s fishing quota in UK waters will be transferred to the UK. For 2023, 140,000 tonnes of catching opportunities worth some £750 million have been secured for the UK. That is a £34 million increase on last year. As an independent coastal state, our Ministers and officials and those in the devolved Administrations have a far stronger voice in those annual negotiations than they ever would have had as merely one of 28 member states of the EU.

Anthony Mangnall Portrait Anthony Mangnall (Totnes) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I apologise for interrupting my hon. Friend, because he is making an excellent speech, but in case he is not going to mention it—I am sure he is—may I point him to the specialised trade committees within the trade and co-operation agreement, which are there for sanitary and phytosanitary measures and for fisheries and will allow us to put on to the agenda issues that we are concerned about in our relationship with France? Does he agree that we must use those specialised trade committees?

David Duguid Portrait David Duguid
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I totally agree. I would like to say that my hon. Friend had the foresight of predicting something I was going to say in my comments, but I was not, so I am grateful that he brought that up, because he is correct.

We now have control over our own fisheries regulations and management systems. Of course, we cannot apply regulations on vessels coming into our waters that do not equally apply to our vessels, but that is fine; that is how agreements between independent coastal states operate.

Robert Syms Portrait Sir Robert Syms (Poole) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The fact that we will get our own waters back in a phased way may well be necessary, because we need more boats and we need to attract people into the industry. One of the weaknesses we have is that it is a hard life being a fisherman, and many people do not want to go into the industry.

David Duguid Portrait David Duguid
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Sadly, my hon. Friend makes a valid point. Fishing, like farming or going offshore and working on an oil rig, is not for everyone; it is a hard life and a hard job. In many ways, we need to have grown up around it or been born into it. It is a generational thing. I will come back to that point later in my remarks, if my hon. Friend can be patient.

While we were under the control of the common fisheries policy, decision making always felt distant and imposed on our fishing industry from afar. Fisheries management is now managed more locally, with fisheries management plans run by local management groups to provide a formal and regular forum for engagement between fishermen, policymakers, scientists and regulators, not just for the good and the prosperity of the industry but for sustainability as well.

I have welcomed the fact that funding has been maintained, with £37 million being provided to replace the European maritime and fisheries fund, about £16 million of which goes directly to the Scottish Government to spend on fisheries and maritime issues. The £100 million UK seafood fund, which has also been welcomed, has been split between the topics of science and innovation, infrastructure, skills and training, and promotion of exports, which is a key element.

Can the Minister tell us what plans there are to help fund domestic marketing? She may be aware of the issues faced by those catching and supplying small haddock, for example, which is not traditionally an export species. How can the Government help to either promote more haddock consumption across the UK or open up new export markets for that fantastic product? I would also be interested to know what discussions the Department has had with Seafish, which I am told made a commercial decision last year to no longer promote seafood in the UK, preferring to focus on those growing export markets. I think everyone here would agree on the merits of fish as a high-quality, high-protein source of food with a relatively low carbon footprint.

On the subject of exports, I acknowledge that not every seafood exporter was fully ready to deal with the new export systems when they came into place immediately after we left the EU. I should also stress that many exporters—usually those who were already accustomed to exporting outside the European economic area—were ready to go with those new systems. The border operating model had gone through a few revisions, but had been available since it was rolled out in July the previous year. Funding and support had also been provided to impacted industries to help them prepare for the inevitability of the new systems. That included funding to devolved Administrations: for example, some £180 million was provided to the Scottish Government, which sadly I do not think was adequately applied to help exporters in Scotland. I also do not think the SNP Scottish Government helped the preparedness of our seafood exporters. I respect the view of the SNP as a political party that it did not want to leave the EU, but leave the EU we did, and it was something that we had to be prepared for.

It is also fair to acknowledge that even those exporters who had done everything right, who were accustomed to exporting around the world and got their paperwork systems in place, sadly fell foul of some of those IT systems crashing through no fault of their own. As such, I ask the Minister what assessment her Department has made of those export systems, and what improvements—for example, digitalisation and other time-saving methods—remain to be implemented.

I will now move on to the subject of spatial squeeze.

Kirsty Blackman Portrait Kirsty Blackman (Aberdeen North) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before the hon. Gentleman moves off the subject of Brexit and fish processors, he has talked about mitigations, for example. Does he now admit that for fish processors and those exporting, Brexit has been a negative, not a positive?

David Duguid Portrait David Duguid
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I go back to the response I gave to the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands). In the last few minutes, I have acknowledged the challenges that leaving the EU has brought, but also the mitigations that have been put in place. Ultimately, though, the fishing industry and the seafood processing sector in my constituency do not have an appetite to return to the EU and the common fisheries policy. I take on board that there have been challenges, but as Elspeth Macdonald of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation said, whether we are talking about Brexit, access to labour or access to exports, those issues all pale into insignificance compared with the impact that covid had, for example, and certainly the impact of the highly protected marine areas, which I will also talk about.

Spatial squeeze is brought about by less and less of our seas being available for commercial fishing. That can be for a number of reasons, such as offshore wind or the imposition of the marine conservation areas I have just mentioned. Neither I nor the fishing industry are against renewable energy or marine conservation in principle, but it is worrying to read last year’s combined report from the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, which predicted that almost 50% of waters could be restricted for fishing by 2050, compared with less than 1% in the year 2000. I realise that there are some special interest groups out there that would quite happily see the demise of the fishing industry for various ideological reasons, but I have already mentioned the huge impact that that could have, not just on the industry but on coastal communities as a whole.

On offshore wind and other renewable projects, all the industry is asking is to be at the table when planning decisions are being made—to be in the loop. I have seen that happen to reasonably good effect between the industry and some offshore wind developers, but sadly, that is not universal.

Similarly, on marine conservation, fishermen just want to be adequately consulted on not just on where but how, and even if, measures such as HPMAs should be applied. I cannot overstate how important it is to get that engagement right. In Scotland, the SNP and Green Scottish Government are in the process of implementing those HPMAs without adequate engagement or even a pilot scheme, not even waiting to see how the pilot schemes that are currently being carried out in English waters turn out. I completely agree with Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive of the SFF, who said yesterday:

“Nobody cares more about our marine environment than those who are dependent upon it for their livelihoods—from fishermen to salmon farmers to fish processors. Opposition to this policy, which lacks scientific rationale, is widespread throughout our coastal communities. The Scottish government needs to scrap it, not rebrand it, and carry out a complete rethink without pandering to the Greens whose desire to halt legitimate economic activity with a low carbon footprint is dangerous and damaging.”

Kirsty Blackman Portrait Kirsty Blackman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the hon. Member agree with his Prime Minister, who has said:

“I am committed to introducing pilots of Highly Protected Marine Areas in English waters, providing the highest level of protection for our seas, and safeguarding the 372 Marine Protected Areas”?

David Duguid Portrait David Duguid
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yes—it was a manifesto commitment. [Interruption.] No, this gets raised time and again. When my MSP colleagues raise it in Holyrood, SNP Members shout about how the UK Government are doing it and it was in the Conservative manifesto, but there are some major differences. At the moment, the UK Government are proposing 0.53% of English waters to be covered by HPMAs, while the Scottish Government are looking for 10%, which is 20 times as much. Not only that, but the Scottish Government only have the power to implement those HPMAs within the 12-mile nautical zone, so fishing could in effect be banned in a huge area of our fishing waters. Again, I go back to the points, made not just by me but by those in the industry, about how the policy lacks a scientific rationale and is just being pushed through for ideological reasons. I appreciate that the Scottish Government are due to make a statement in the next hour or so on their response to the consultation, and I eagerly look forward to hearing it.

Sheryll Murray Portrait Mrs Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does my hon. Friend agree that the way the Scottish Government are dealing with this will have a disproportionate adverse effect on small vessels, because they are unable to migrate to other areas?

David Duguid Portrait David Duguid
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend, as always, makes an absolutely valid point. There are all different sizes of operations, as I said earlier, and if one area is closed off to one particular group of fishermen in one community, it is much more difficult for smaller-scale fishermen in smaller boats to migrate to somewhere else to catch fish.

Another challenge faced by the sector is access to labour, as my hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Sir Robert Syms) mentioned. I know the Minister will be aware of this, but I reiterate that the catching sector is keen to work with the Government on it. For example, it welcomed the addition of offshore deck crew to the skilled worker immigration route in April 2021 and, more recently, the addition of fishing crew to the shortage occupation list.

One remaining stumbling block, however, is the standard of the written English test. The industry can find plenty of skilled workers who meet the requirements of the immigration system, but sadly not in the numbers required with the ability to meet the B1 English language test. I am already in discussions with the Home Office on this, as are other right hon. and hon. Members, with a request to reduce the English language standard—specifically for those fishermen who come in and out of the country on a rotational basis, with no desire to settle—from B1 to A2, which the industry believes is a far more appropriate level for the requirements of that job. I guess the question for the Minister is: can she help emphasise and reinforce this need with the Immigration Minister?

In the processing sector, the needs are different. Again, I have already engaged with the Home Office, asking that the facilitative support that the Home Secretary has offered to the catching sector is extended to the processing sector, and that the seasonal agricultural workers scheme is extended to include onshore seafood processing jobs of a seasonal nature. Unlike the tens of thousands of SAWS visas that have already been announced for agriculture, horticulture and some other food processing sectors, the seafood processing sector is only looking for a few hundred, or a couple of thousand at most. The ultimate aim is of course to use as many local workers as possible, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Poole has pointed out, this is a generational issue, and it will take time to build enthusiasm in our local communities for people to get into the fishing industry again.

I will bring my comments to an end. I was going to say something about the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s plans to introduce medical certificates, but when I look around, I see at least three hon. Members who will make more of that point than I can. If I can make one last request of the Minister, will she meet me and arrange to meet stakeholders from the Banff and Buchan fishery sector to work through some of these issues? She would, of course, be welcome in my constituency at any time.

11:48
Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this debate on the fishing industry.

Fiona SD 144, Seaforth HL 111, Sophie Leigh HL 9, Rockhopper of Percuel HL 138, Aura HL 294, Constant Friend BH 212 and Equity TH 377 are just some of the fishing vessels either sold or for sale from just one port in the north-east—Hartlepool—and there are many more along that coastline. The inshore fishing industry off much of the north-east coast was decimated two years ago, following the still unresolved mystery that led to the wipe out of the crustacean population. Sadly, today it is little better. Before I get into the detail of what needs to happen next, I wish to share with the House what has happened and is happening in fishing communities, particularly those in Hartlepool, Redcar and Whitby.

James Cole is chair of Whitby Commercial Fishing Association, which represents 20-plus small to medium-scale potting boats from Whitby and Staithes in north Yorkshire. He reports a huge reduction in catches in recent years and said:

“Our main concern is the 90%—”

Ninety per cent!—

“reduction in brown crab catches, and very little velvet crab to be seen either. Invasive speeches like starfish and whelks have taken over the die-off zone grounds.”

He adds that figures from the Whitby and Scarborough harbour office show a big drop in revenue from local boats. In the reporting first quarter of the year, Scarborough’s shellfish landings were down by 87.5%, and Whitby landings by 93%.

It is clear, however, that a very different picture is being painted by the North Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, which has appeared to claim that catches are robust. But the catch figures it relies on totally distort the reality facing inshore fishing communities. The catches reported included those from so-called “super crabbers”, which operate not inshore but 90 miles off the coast, and do not land catches in our area. One, MV Margilis, operates just 12 miles off our coast, plundering the sea life and giving it no time to replenish itself in the inshore areas. The Government, including the Secretary of State, have relied on those figures to deny any form of compensation to the inshore fishers, and claims of assistance being available have been misleading.

I have advised the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Jill Mortimer) that I intended to mention her in my speech, because she is one of those who has also relied on those figures. The hon. Member is being taken to task by the North East Fishing Collective, which issued a statement saying:

“It is with utter dismay and bewilderment that we find ourselves having to clarify the current situation for those concerned in order to have full transparency around the current issues that the fleet faces… It has been stated by the MP for Hartlepool that ‘prawners have experienced a temporary but significant reduction in their catches due to prawns burrowing into sands and moving away from usual catch areas.’ She also states that ‘the prawns and catches returned...but fishermen lost some valuable weeks of fishing.’… Whilst our MP may have spoken to some individuals, she has not spoken to the majority of the skippers in the fleet who are suffering indescribable hardship and lack of catches on the local prawn grounds where they have made their livings all of their working lives. These individuals have spent their careers fishing within the die-off zone and have first-hand experience which should have been collected and shared with the Minister of State at DEFRA in order to give a fair and accurate account for all involved.”

It is all the more important that accurate data is provided by Government agencies to spare Members of Parliament the embarrassment of making wholly inaccurate statements. A recent example was reported by fishers’ leader Stan Rennie. On 25 May he steamed north from Hartlepool for nearly two hours, and shot seven fleets of trammel nets from Hawthorn to Nose’s Point near Seaham, up to 4 miles offshore. On 26 May he collected 4 kg of cod, eight edible crabs, three lobsters weighing just 2 kg between them, and three monkfish. He said that instead of lots of crabs and lobsters, there were just starfish and brittle stars, which have taken over the barren ground. The other fishers report similar results, but many are now out of business. I am so aware that the Government have abandoned our north-east inshore fishers, and the Government’s capital investment in new boats or upgraded equipment for the fishers is useless in an environment where there is little, if anything, to catch.

Going back to the boats sold or for sale at Hartlepool, half the potting fleet has been sold or is for sale, as are a third of the prawners—all since the disaster of two years ago. It is time for the Government to look again at compensating our inshore fishers. We have heard in the past about the fisheries and seafood scheme to help fishers, but the Minister knows, as I do, that it is there not to keep people in business, but to invest in the future. Sadly, many do not have a present, never mind a future. We all know that for our fishing industry not just to survive but to thrive, we need a healthy sea, which we certainly do not have off large parts of the north-east coast.

We can argue until there are no boats left over the cause of the devastation that ruined so many lives. The Minister’s own independent scientific group could not determine what happened off the Tees, and reached the conclusion that it was probably some sort of pathogen—not the algae bloom that Ministers have depended on for months on end—but they simply do not know what happened. They could form an opinion only from the evidence provided to them, and they would have had no information about the deadly mix of contaminants being disposed of at sea.

In May I wrote to the Minister for Food, Farming and Fisheries, trying to look to the future and seeking more comprehensive testing of the sea and sea life as it struggles to make a comeback in the north-east. I told him of my meeting with one of his independent scientists and the need to ensure that the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science and the Environment Agency provided an inventory of all remaining available samples from the original events of October 2021 and June 2022, so that scientists could conduct further analysis of the die-off. I am advised that knowing where all the samples are, what they are of and how they were collected and preserved would aid retesting for a broader range of potential pathogens. That is essentially to recommend that the samples be archived for future study by academics.

We also discussed the need for regular monitoring. I was rather surprised to hear there was anecdotal evidence of some very young crabs being spotted on the rocks at Saltburn, near Redcar. It is perhaps a sign of life returning, or maybe just a one-off. We do not know, because no monitoring of consequence is now taking place. I said in my letter that the Minister and I should agree that there is a need for consistent, rigorous scientific surveys of the recovery process to be established through an ongoing monitoring programme. The scientists mentioned evidence, for example, from posts on social media, of new recruitment of juvenile decapods in the affected area, but that is no substitute at all for an ongoing programme to monitor the area’s recovery in a scientifically robust manner. That is critical to ensuring that recovery continues to progress as would be expected, and it would provide data on the post-impact effects of the removal of a significant component of the ecosystem.

I told the Minister that we cannot stop there. Ongoing monitoring efforts should also include a full suite of measures of environmental samples, as well as full faunal surveys. Environmental samples should include measurements of seabed oxygen levels, temperature and chemical contaminants in water and sediments. Faunal surveys that are spatially and temporally comparable and consistent should include targeted sampling of fauna to assess for disease. Any samples should be collected and preserved in a manner that will enable the full suite of analysis, including molecular screening, to be undertaken by the crustacean disease experts at CEFAS. Despite the ongoing devastation of the sea and sea life, sadly the Minister is not prepared to do anything for the north-east beyond the monthly water monitoring by the Environment Agency, which is done everywhere. He said that CEFAS will test the dredged materials disposal site this year on behalf of the Marine Management Organisation. That is simply not good enough. If there is failure to monitor emerging life on an ongoing basis, nothing will be done to nurture it.

The Minister should know that fishers, environmentalists, and the public on the north-east coast will not give up pressing for action, or showing up the Government for their inaction. Others continue to look for solutions; I am pleased to hear that a university is adopting artificial intelligence models used by the Norwegians to predict the effect of combining multiple contaminants at sea—a huge step forward from the UK approach of dealing with each contaminant in isolation. Early results are quite shocking. I hope that when we get further information, the Government will sit up and take notice. The cocktail of materials dumped from the Tees area may impact not just sea life but humans. I wonder what role those materials have played in local beaches losing their long-standing blue flag status.

In conclusion, I ask the Minister to review the Department’s approach to the affected area again, and to go beyond the routine testing regime that was outlined to me. I ask her to recognise that fishers and the supply chain continue to suffer. If they are not already out of business, they soon will be, unless we do something about this. I ask her to commit to working with universities and others on monitoring sea life over coming years, and to give us hope for a brighter future.

12:01
Sheryll Murray Portrait Mrs Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I declare an interest as chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on fisheries, and should make the House aware that for decades, I have had a very strong connection with the UK fishing industry. I wish to speak on a few matters faced today by UK fishers—although I use that term, I understand that women who work aboard fishing vessels often prefer to describe themselves as fishermen.

First, I will raise the matter of the ever-increasing competition for access to waters around our islands. Fishermen face continual displacement from large areas of sea due to vast offshore wind farms, and areas being designated as some form of marine protected area. Those designations are often made without any real consultation with the industry or its representatives. Please do not take that to mean that fishermen do not care about the marine environment or our energy security. However, we must ensure that all people are included in discussions about the use of our sea. By working together and listening to all voices, I am sure that we can manage the use of our waters in a way that works for everyone concerned, while protecting our valuable maritime waters for the future.

The report, “Spatial Squeeze in Fisheries”, jointly commissioned by the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations and the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, concludes:

“The ability of the fishing industry to continue to produce healthy protein and contribute to food security and coastal communities depends on its future viability. This in turn will require close collaboration and cooperation with other sectors that are increasing their spatial footprint in the marine area, to ensure that such developments and nature conservation restrictions occur in a way that is compatible with the continuation of fishing activity and the viability of fishing businesses.”

Has the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow), or the Minister for Food, Farming and Fisheries, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mark Spencer), had any discussions with fishing organisations about the report and its conclusions?

Turning to the 2026 negotiations, in January this year, the Minister for Food, Farming and Fisheries was before the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, of which I am a member. He stated that conversations with the EU had not yet started, but that his ambition was to secure the best possible deal for the UK. Could my hon. Friend confirm that that ambition will at least be for sole access that UK fishermen currently have inside the six-mile limit, and that it will be extended out to 12 miles or the median line?

Anthony Mangnall Portrait Anthony Mangnall
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for allowing me to intervene; she is making an excellent point. Does she agree with the former DEFRA Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), who wrote in Fishing News about the need for us to ensure that foreign vessels follow our regulation within our six to 12-mile limit? I agree with what she is asking for, but it is also essential that, if it is equipment, net sizes or anything else, foreign vessels should follow those rules in our waters, which they currently do not.

Sheryll Murray Portrait Mrs Murray
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I completely agree that all conservation measures that are set for UK fishermen should also apply to other member states’ vessels and that they should be enforced.

A further matter I wish to raise concerns the implications for the fishing industry of the “work in fishing” convention 2007, which resulted from the International Labour Organisation conference of May 2007. I accept that this is not within my hon. Friend the Minister’s portfolio, but I ask her to urgently speak to the shipping Minister about the requirements for fishermen to have a medical carried out by a GP. The draconian measure being introduced will prevent fishermen and fisherwomen going to sea if they do not have a medical by November this year. I can understand why that is necessary on large vessels, where operations are similar to those of other large merchant vessels, but to apply the requirement to small inshore fishing vessels is in my opinion an unnecessary and unacceptable expense.