All 39 Parliamentary debates on 28th Nov 2023

Tue 28th Nov 2023
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Commons Chamber
(Urgent Question)
Tue 28th Nov 2023
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House of Commons

Tuesday 28th November 2023

(7 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Tuesday 28 November 2023
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock

Prayers

Tuesday 28th November 2023

(7 months, 4 weeks ago)

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

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

[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Business Before Questions
David Fuller Case
Resolved,
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, That he will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House a Return of a Report, dated 28 November 2023, entitled Independent Inquiry into the issues raised by the David Fuller case - Phase 1 Report.—(Mark Fletcher.)

Oral Answers to Questions

Tuesday 28th November 2023

(7 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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The Secretary of State was asked—
Sarah Champion Portrait Sarah Champion (Rotherham) (Lab)
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1. If she will make an estimate of the proportion of households that spent more than 10% of their income on energy costs in (a) 2021 and (b) 2022.

Claire Coutinho Portrait The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Claire Coutinho)
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In England, the share of households required to spend more than 10% of their income on energy after housing costs was 21% in 2021 and 30% in 2022, following the invasion of Ukraine that year. We provided close to £40 billion of energy support to households and businesses last winter, one of the most generous levels in Europe. Since then, we have seen the Ofgem price cap fall from £4,279 at its peak in January 2023 to £1,928 from January 2024.

Sarah Champion Portrait Sarah Champion
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More than 20% of Rotherham households are living in fuel poverty, yet the Government’s flagship energy policy will not, by their own admission, save a single penny from those households’ energy bills. Bills are set to rise again in January. How can the Minister justify the Government’s appalling failure to act to support my constituents, struggling to heat their homes this winter?

Claire Coutinho Portrait Claire Coutinho
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The extra support announced by the Chancellor last week brings our total cost of living support to £104 billion over the period 2022 to 2025. That is one of the largest support packages anywhere in Europe. On top of that, we are providing £900 in cost of living payments across 2023 and 2024 to ensure that support gets to those most in need.

Simon Fell Portrait Simon Fell (Barrow and Furness) (Con)
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I recently bumped into Christopher Thexton, who is one of the “green doctors” working out of College House in Barrow. He does an amazing job with his team, going into homes to try to help people to save money on their energy bills and reduce the cost of living, whether that is help with energy debt, fixing drafts in their home or even changing the lightbulbs to make them more energy-efficient, but demand is massively outstripping supply. Can my right hon. Friend speak to whether any more support is available to such teams to help people on the ground to reduce their energy bills?

Claire Coutinho Portrait Claire Coutinho
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We are spending £20 billion on energy efficiency over this Parliament and the next. We can be proud of the steps we have taken so far. When we took over in 2010, just 14% of homes were energy-efficient. Now the number is 50%, and we have plans to go further.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Jeff Smith Portrait Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington) (Lab)
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An estimated 6.3 million households are in fuel poverty across the UK. Ofgem has announced that energy debt has reached £2.6 billion. With millions of people facing another difficult winter, the Government promised to consult on a social tariff to help the most vulnerable. Can the Secretary of State provide an update on that consultation?

Claire Coutinho Portrait Claire Coutinho
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People mean many different things by a social tariff, but fundamentally it is about providing people with support to help with their bills. Just in the autumn statement, we have increased the national living wage, which is worth £1,800 to people; increased benefits by 6.7%, which is worth £470; and cut national insurance contributions, which is worth £450. Those are all on top of the £900 cost of living support we already have in place.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Scottish National party spokesperson.

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan (Angus) (SNP)
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Thursday is Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, and recently the Scottish Fuel Poverty Advisory Panel estimated that nearly 30% of households in Scotland are facing extreme fuel poverty, up from 12% in 2019. Does the Secretary of State agree that at the very least that is concerning? Somehow a third of my constituents in the north-east of Scotland—home to a 50-year bonanza for His Majesty’s Treasury—live in energy-rich Scotland but find themselves in fuel poverty. Is that what Unionists mean by pooling and sharing resources?

Claire Coutinho Portrait Claire Coutinho
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We have taken energy prices going up incredibly seriously, which is why we have spent £104 billion protecting the British people. That is one of the most generous packages anywhere in Europe. If the hon. Member cares about the incomes of people in Scotland, I suggest that he backs British oil and gas jobs.

Nick Smith Portrait Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab)
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2. What recent assessment she has made of the impact of the US Inflation Reduction Act on levels of investment in low carbon industries in the UK.

Claire Coutinho Portrait The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Claire Coutinho)
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In the UK, we have seen nearly £200 billion-worth of investment in low carbon sectors since 2010. That is 50% more than the US as a share of GDP. At the global investment summit just yesterday, it was clear that businesses see Britain very much as open for business, and that was backed up by £29 billion-worth of investment.

Nick Smith Portrait Nick Smith
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In the summer, I heard about President Biden’s plan to use America’s industrial might to power up New York using offshore wind. Given that we need to turbocharge the green economy, why will the Government’s response to the Inflation Reduction Act not come into effect until 2025?

Claire Coutinho Portrait Claire Coutinho
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We have taken many steps already. We have set out new plans for auction round 6 of renewable energy and for permanent economy-wide full expensing. We changed planning, and we are unlocking the grid. The fund that the hon. Member mentioned will unlock supply chains across the UK. What have people said? Scottish Renewables has said it is

“a shot in the arm for the sector”.

The Offshore Wind Industry Council has said that it will help us retain our position as a “global leader”. It has been welcomed by Make UK, Energy UK and many other businesses as well.

Stephen Crabb Portrait Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire) (Con)
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Last week, the Chancellor’s autumn statement included an important commitment on the Government’s part to bring forward legislation to modernise the Crown Estate’s investment and borrowing powers, which is a vital step for deploying 16 GW of floating offshore wind in the Celtic sea. That will benefit the whole of Wales, and we hope in particular my constituency and the port of Milford Haven. When are the Government likely to bring forward that important legislation?

Claire Coutinho Portrait Claire Coutinho
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My right hon. Friend has been a doughty champion for the Celtic sea. He knows that we have a commitment to unlock an additional 12 GW of wind power in the Celtic sea. That is important to us, and we will bring forward the legislation in due course.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Sarah Jones Portrait Sarah Jones (Croydon Central) (Lab)
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Instead of properly responding to America’s Inflation Reduction Act, the Government held a meeting with businesses yesterday—you might not have seen it, Mr Speaker, as it did not make any of the front pages. Was the global investment summit not just a distraction from the same old fundamentals—business confidence is down, exports are down, and growth forecasts are down after 13 years of instability and uncertainty? Does the Secretary of State think that lack of business confidence is because her Government trashed the economy last year, because her Government told business to eff off, or because, as Mark Carney said, the Government have “juvenilised” the climate debate instead of using it as a driver of good jobs? Does she not agree with those from a global pension fund I spoke to this morning who said it is time we got some adults in the room?

Claire Coutinho Portrait Claire Coutinho
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What we saw yesterday was £7 billion from Iberdrola for UK electricity networks and renewables, and £300 million from Aira, the heat pump installer. In the last couple of weeks, we have had £500 million from Sea Wind, £2 billion from Nissan, and £186 million from Siemens Gamesa. What the hon. Lady should understand is that there is a difference between what the Government are offering, which is £29 billion of investment, and what Labour is offering, which is £28 billion of borrowing.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab)
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3. What recent discussions she has had with businesses on the Government's net zero targets.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry (Edinburgh South West) (SNP)
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16. What recent assessment she has made of the adequacy of the contribution of businesses to helping meet the UK's net zero targets.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne
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As a fellow Lancastrian, I hope you had a good Lancashire Day yesterday, Mr Speaker.

Graham Stuart Portrait The Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero (Graham Stuart)
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As a Yorkshire MP, I resent that remark. [Laughter.]

I meet regularly with business leaders and organisations. I chair or co-chair, among others: the Offshore Wind Industry Council, which I will be going straight to after questions; the solar taskforce; the green jobs delivery group, which met yesterday; the North sea transition forum, which I will attend tomorrow; and, from a strategic cross-cutting point of view, the Net Zero Council. Of course, the Secretary of State and I met global leaders yesterday.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne
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Well, as the Minister seems to meet so many business leaders, he must have heard their shock and horror about the Government’s roll-backs on net zero. Earlier this month, the Aviva chief executive officer Amanda Blanc said that the Government were putting our climate goals as a country “under threat”, putting at risk

“jobs, growth and the additional investment the UK requires”.

She is not wrong, is she?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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The hon. Gentleman has a well-founded and highly esteemed reputation for anger. Under this Government, this country has cut its emissions more than any other major economy on the planet, and we have the most ambitious plans for 2030. When I attend COP28 next week, we will be inviting and supporting others to join the UK, which under this Conservative Government has led the way on a pathway to net zero.

Joanna Cherry Portrait Joanna Cherry
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The Industrial Decarbonisation Research and Innovation Centre based at Heriot-Watt University in my constituency is doing incredible work on the green transformation across the UK’s industrial heartlands. It is working with all the biggest industrial clusters and is supporting more than 30 universities and research initiatives, looking at all aspects of the Government’s decarbonisation challenge. As such, it is well placed to assist business to meet our net zero targets. The problem is that its funding is coming to an end next March, and at present there is nothing to replace it. The science Minister promised me a meeting about this urgent issue several months ago, but it has been cancelled a number of times. Will the Minister advocate with his colleague so that I can get this meeting arranged and get funding in place for IDRIC to continue its fantastic work?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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I thank the hon. Lady for her question and for championing vital research, not least in Scotland. I am looking forward to meeting scientists when I am in Scotland over the next couple of days. We have all heard her request, and it will be noted.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee.

Philip Dunne Portrait Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con)
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My right hon. Friend mentioned that he will go to COP28 next week. Could he remind Members of the House, particularly those on the Opposition Benches, of the measures taken in last week’s autumn statement to help to promote the green energy agenda in this country?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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My hon. Friend is quite right. We must never forget the parlous state of this country in 2010. Less than 7% of our electricity came from renewables—that was the legacy of the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband). In the first quarter of this year, that was nearly 48%. Opposition Members raised the issue of people being cold and unable to pay their bills, but just 14% of homes were insulated properly; now, it is 50%. In last week’s autumn statement we heard announcements about the grid and—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. The Minister talks about emissions, and we are getting a lot of them from him today.

David Morris Portrait David Morris (Morecambe and Lunesdale) (Con)
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My constituents put in 10% of the energy into the national grid from two nuclear power stations. We are No. 7 on the template for new builds, so I would like to invite the Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Andrew Bowie) to come to Heysham to see for himself the good work of EDF and the new nuclear power programme that is coming to my constituency.

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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My hon. Friend is a stout champion not only of the pathway to net zero but of the jobs and prosperity that come with it. It is with great alacrity that I accept on behalf of my hon. Friend the Minister.

Anne McLaughlin Portrait Anne McLaughlin (Glasgow North East) (SNP)
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4. What assessment her Department has made of trends in the level of fuel poverty since 2018.

Amanda Solloway Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Amanda Solloway)
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The share of households in fuel poverty in England reduced every year between 2010 and 2021, with energy efficiency being the key driver. Although fuel poverty is devolved, we continue to engage with the devolved Administrations, including on specific schemes such as the energy company obligation and the warm home discount.

Anne McLaughlin Portrait Anne McLaughlin
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Across the world and in the United Kingdom, human rights are being eroded and fuel poverty is on the rise. This Government could address both by declaring access to energy a human right. It would mean that people could not be cut off willy-nilly simply because they could not afford to pay for their energy at that time. Does the Minister agree that energy should be a human right? If not, will she tell me which human beings she believes should not have the right to heat their homes?

Amanda Solloway Portrait Amanda Solloway
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As the hon. Lady indicated, the Government take fuel poverty incredibly seriously. Everybody has the right to heat. We have been helping people with their energy bills, including a £900 cost of living allowance, as well as all the great things that we announced in the autumn statement.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)
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5. What steps her Department is taking to support the development of community energy schemes.

Andrew Bowie Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Andrew Bowie)
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The Government have created a new £10 million community energy fund to support community energy projects in England. We are working with the sector on content and a timetable for a consultation on barriers for community energy projects.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady
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Does the Minister recognise the frustration and disappointment at the length of time and legislative barriers that remain for campaigning community groups who want community energy schemes to move forward? It is the most secure way of generating electricity. The Conservatives are supposed to be the party of free markets and competition, so why are they denying consumers the choice that would come with an exciting community energy scheme?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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Far from denying consumers opportunity, we are already beginning to work with organisations, such as the Community Energy Contact Group. On the content of the consultation we launched and whether it should include solutions to barriers, I will need to take a view when it responds.

Mark Pritchard Portrait Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con)
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My right hon. Friend the Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero earlier mentioned the solar taskforce. Will my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary liaise with his colleagues and the National Farmers Union on combining community energy schemes with farmers and the rural sector? The solar taskforce mentions acres of supermarket rooftops being available for solar, but makes no reference to farm buildings. It makes sense that community schemes, working with local farmers in rural areas, can deliver community energy and allow farmers to diversify.

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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I hear very much what my right hon. Friend says and understand his concerns. It is therefore with equal alacrity that I accept a meeting on my right hon. Friend the Minister’s behalf to discuss those issues moving forward.

Tony Lloyd Portrait Tony Lloyd (Rochdale) (Lab)
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6. If she will make an assessment of the impact of the mandatory code of practice for the involuntary installation of prepayment meters on vulnerable households.

Michael Shanks Portrait Michael Shanks (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (Lab)
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20. If she will make an assessment of the impact of the mandatory code of practice for the involuntary installation of prepayment meters on vulnerable households.

Amanda Solloway Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Amanda Solloway)
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The Secretary of State and I met CEOs of energy suppliers recently. We emphasised that Ofgem’s new rules must be implemented and lead to improved protections for vulnerable consumers. We are working closely with Ofgem and the industry to ensure that that is the case.

Tony Lloyd Portrait Tony Lloyd
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The Minister will be aware that the ban on the involuntary installation of prepayment meters will be lifted soon. That will mean families with children over two years old and pensioners under 75 who are still vulnerable will potentially face the higher cost of prepayment meters. There is the possibility, of course, that when they run out of tokens they will be cut off. Is that right?

Amanda Solloway Portrait Amanda Solloway
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First of all, we have been mindful of ensuring that there is no higher cost to prepayment meters. We are mindful of the fact that prepayment meters have a place in certain households, because we are very sure that we must not increase debt. However, one reason why we scrutinised the process so carefully is to ensure that it does not impact negatively on vulnerable customers.

Michael Shanks Portrait Michael Shanks
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I thank the Minister for that answer, but what is it about the code of practice that means two-year-olds are vulnerable but three-year-olds are not? What is the difference between those households? Why has Scottish Power been able to go to court to obtain warrants to install prepayment meters forcibly before it has been able to demonstrate any compliance with the code? Is that not the wrong way around?

Amanda Solloway Portrait Amanda Solloway
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Just for assurance, we have held conversations with Ofgem and suppliers to make sure no forced instalments have taken place yet. We are scrutinising the system to ensure that all vulnerable people are able to access the energy they need.

Meg Hillier Portrait Dame Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op)
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7. If she will take steps to increase the number of onshore wind farms.

Graham Stuart Portrait The Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero (Graham Stuart)
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This has been a record year for onshore wind, which is already the largest renewables technology. The latest contract for difference added an unprecedented 1.7 GW.

Meg Hillier Portrait Dame Meg Hillier
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The Minister seems to be comparing figures I have not seen. If it is a record year, why have we seen such a dramatic drop in planning applications for onshore wind farms and in the number of onshore wind farms delivered? From a peak of 64 applications in 2011, it went right down to zero in 2019 and now to 10 in 2022, the latest figures the House of Commons Library could provide. That does not seem like a record year to me. Is it not time the Government stopped shilly-shallying on onshore wind and backed the builders, not the blockers?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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The hon. Lady is renowned in the House for her arithmetic skills, but in this case they seem to have failed her. The 1.7 GW is a tremendous success. I share her enthusiasm for onshore wind where communities support it. In September, the Government announced changes to planning policy for onshore wind in England to help make it easier and quicker for local planning authorities to consider and, where appropriate, approve onshore wind projects where there is local support.

Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con)
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In the Kettering constituency there are 30 large wind turbines. Together with solar panels, they generate enough renewable electricity to power all 45,000 homes in the constituency. Is this not yet another case of where Kettering leads, others follow?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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My hon. Friend has championed, does champion and, I am sure, will continue for many years to champion the good people of Kettering, and the fact that they are providing such leadership on net zero and the delivery of renewables after our parlous inheritance from the Labour party. Let us make sure that we never go back to a system in which renewables are not brought on to our grid in the way they are today.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Alan Whitehead Portrait Dr Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab)
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The Minister is being a little shameless with his figures. We really ought to look at what is continuing to happen in England. In England, industry and other bodies warned that the supposed changes to onshore planning restrictions that were announced in September were far too timid to make any real difference to the dearth of new onshore wind.

I recently visited the site in Leighton Buzzard of the only turbine that has been put in place onshore in England since those supposed restrictions were lifted. It turns out that it has been in the planning process since 2014, and is not on a new site anyway. The Department’s renewable energy planning database shows that there are precisely zero new schemes in the pipeline in England. Should the Minister not go away and reconsider the remaining planning and funding restrictions on onshore wind so that it really can get going again?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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As I have said, I share the enthusiasm on both sides of the House for onshore wind. The Government have set regulations that require onshore wind developers to consult communities in advance of submitting a planning application, as well as having it consulted on post-submission. We make no apology for rolling out this transformation in renewable technologies in concert with communities, rather than seeking to ride roughshod over them.

Stephen Morgan Portrait Stephen Morgan (Portsmouth South) (Lab)
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8. When she plans to make a decision on the application for development consent for the proposed AQUIND interconnector project.

Andrew Bowie Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Andrew Bowie)
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The proposed AQUIND interconnector project is a live planning application currently being redetermined by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who is progressing the work in the normal course of business. That means that, as set out in the planning propriety guidance, I am unable to give any further information on the progress of this live case.

Stephen Morgan Portrait Stephen Morgan
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Portsmouth people have waited far too long for the Government to decide against AQUIND. Will the co-owner’s donation of more than £1 million to the Tories—including £6,000 to the Prime Minister’s constituency party and over £70,000 to the Chancellor—be a factor in the Minister’s decision on what is a disastrous project for Portsmouth?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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The Secretary of State is following a well-established planning process. I am sorry that I cannot say any more about this live case beyond what I have said already; it is with the Department and the Secretary of State for a decision.

Afzal Khan Portrait Afzal Khan (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab)
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9. What assessment she has made of the implications for her policies of the Climate Change Committee’s 2023 progress report to Parliament.

Claire Coutinho Portrait The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Claire Coutinho)
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The Climate Change Committee itself has said that there was “no material difference” in our overall projections after we made the changes to policies in September. The Government have taken considerable further steps since then, including our introduction of the zero-emission vehicle mandate, our agreement with Tata Steel on industrial electrification in Port Talbot, and reform of electricity grid connections.

Afzal Khan Portrait Afzal Khan
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The Climate Change Committee has stated that the UK needs to

“regain its international climate leadership”,

but last year the Prime Minister was uninterested in attending COP27. The committee’s recent report to Parliament made it clear that the UK was

“no longer a climate leader”.

Since then we have seen approval for massive oilfields, weakened climate targets, and the resignation of a Minister because the Prime Minister is so “uninterested”. COP28 is days away, and there is still confusion over whether the Government will push for the phasing out of fossil fuels. Given all that, is it not fair to say that the Government are failing to do everything possible to halt the climate breakdown?

Claire Coutinho Portrait Claire Coutinho
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The UK has one of the most ambitious climate targets in comparison with any of our international peers. The UN’s emissions gap report, published just last week, shows that the UK is expected to reduce emissions between 2015 and 2030 at the fastest rate in the G20 group. We remain extremely ambitious about climate change. We have over-delivered on all our carbon budgets to date, and the work that has been done shows that we will continue to do so.

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton) (Con)
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The committee’s recent progress report advocated a faster transition to lower-carbon energy. What fiscal and regulatory measures are the Government taking to encourage more capital investment by business in this important area?

Claire Coutinho Portrait Claire Coutinho
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We are already taking steps. We have set out new plans for another round of renewable auctions, and we have set out the most radical plans to unlock the electricity grid since the 1950s. We have also launched a new gigafund that will unlock supply chains across all these areas, and we can see that investors are voting with their feet.

Jim McMahon Portrait Jim McMahon (Oldham West and Royton) (Lab/Co-op)
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When it comes to national and household energy security, ownership matters, as championed by the Co-op party. The Labour party is committed to 1 million owners of UK-produced renewable energy, with 8 GW that will be cheap, green and owned by the people here in the UK, so why will the Government not meet that ambition?

Claire Coutinho Portrait Claire Coutinho
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I think the hon. Gentleman’s argument is completely wrong-headed. Let us look at what the UK Government have done since 2010. We now have the first, second, third, fourth and fifth largest offshore wind farms anywhere in the world. As I have said, the plans we have set out meant that yesterday we were able to secure £29 billion of investment into this country. That will drive jobs and prosperity. The Opposition’s plan is to borrow £28 billion, which would only drive up inflation.

Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller (North East Bedfordshire) (Con)
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Yesterday was Lancashire Day and today is Bedfordshire Day—happy Bedfordshire Day to all Members. It is the job of the Climate Change Committee to be enthusiastic about achieving our net zero goals. It is the responsibility of the Government to be fiscally prudent in achieving that objective. Does my right hon. Friend agree with the Prime Minister that we need to be clear with the British public all the way along about the costs that will be incurred to achieve our net zero ambitions?

Claire Coutinho Portrait Claire Coutinho
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My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. It is really important that we are honest with the British public. We are pursuing the most ambitious climate targets, but we will do so in a sensible way that protects the economy, grows jobs and investment, and ensures that we can deliver for the country not only on energy security but on our climate change ambitions.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab)
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I have to say that I spent the first 40 years of my life in Bedfordshire and I had no idea that Bedfordshire Day was a thing, but happy Bedfordshire Day anyway.

Fifteen years ago, the Labour Government introduced the Climate Change Act 2008, a landmark piece of legislation that has guided climate policy and progress in this country and inspired similar action around the world—admirably led, it has to be said, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband). But where is that leadership now? How can the Prime Minister show his face at COP when, in the words of the Climate Change Committee, his entirely cynical backtracking has created

“widespread uncertainty for consumers and the supply chain”,

has increased

“both energy bills and motoring costs”

and made

“Net Zero considerably harder to achieve”?

Claire Coutinho Portrait Claire Coutinho
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I think the hon. Lady is putting a lot of words into the Climate Change Committee’s mouth there. What it actually said was that, in terms of emissions, it would make no material difference. As I have said, the UN’s emissions gap report showed just last week that the UK was expected to reduce emissions between 2015 and 2030 at the fastest rate in the G20 group. This is yet more doom and gloom from the Opposition. If we look at what we have actually achieved, we can see that we have the most ambitious targets in the world and we have set out unprecedented levels of detail. We will continue to do so.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) (LD)
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10. What recent assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the energy bills support scheme alternative fund and the alternative fuel payment alternative fund.

Amanda Solloway Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Amanda Solloway)
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The Government provide energy bills support through the energy bills support scheme alternative funding to over 150,000 households, and via the alternative fuel payment alternative fund to nearly 90,000 households that could not automatically access this vital support.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine
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Energy bills are up 50% since 2021, but there was no mention of this in the autumn statement and £440 million earmarked for the most vulnerable households went unspent last year, yet in my constituency of Edinburgh West, pensioners, carers and disabled people who often have to use more electricity for life-saving equipment are paying those bigger bills. All of them are also paying higher standing charges than elsewhere in the UK. If the Chancellor will not commit to reopening the energy bills support scheme or the alternative fuel payment scheme, will the Secretary of State do so?

Amanda Solloway Portrait Amanda Solloway
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Of course, as a Government we are looking at the standing charges; it is imperative that we do that and Ofgem is working through that. We have also given an unprecedented amount of support to households and non-domestic organisations. I reiterate that there is support at the moment. We have the £900 for the cost of living. We also have the disability allowance and other allowances. To give assurance, I meet regularly with all stakeholders.

Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling (Clacton) (Con)
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11. What discussions she has had with National Grid on its planned timetable for building new substations, pylons and cabling in the east of England.

Andrew Bowie Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Andrew Bowie)
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I frequently meet the network companies to discuss their important work developing our electricity transmission network. I have also been pleased to meet communities and MPs from East Anglia to discuss concerns about network infrastructure. However, as the decision maker for planning consents, the Department does not get involved in individual projects.

Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling
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I feel moved to found a Clacton Day. Why not?

I have called for the old Bradwell site on the Dengie peninsula to be used for the arrival of undersea cables, as opposed to wrecking the environment of Essex and other areas with substations, pylons and so on. With the scrapping of High Speed 2 as an example, does my hon. Friend agree that public bodies now need to do a better job of assessing possible alternatives, instead of just barrelling forward with boatloads of taxpayers’ cash and destroying our beautiful countryside?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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I thank my hon. Friend for that question. As he knows from when we met to discuss this in June, the Electricity System Operator is responsible for planning the design and location of grid reinforcement, while transmission owners develop individual projects. I understand that Bradwell had been assessed but was not deemed appropriate for this project. However, I cannot comment on specific projects, in order to avoid prejudicing planning decisions. I would be very happy to meet my hon. Friend again to discuss this in further detail.

Kenny MacAskill Portrait Kenny MacAskill (East Lothian) (Alba)
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12. What recent discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on support for workers in the offshore wind sector.

Graham Stuart Portrait The Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero (Graham Stuart)
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This Government are proud to have made the UK a global leader in offshore wind, and the industry believes that UK jobs in the sector will rise from the current 30,000-plus to 100,000-plus by 2030—if, of course, Conservative stewardship continues.

Kenny MacAskill Portrait Kenny MacAskill
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Jobs for whom? That is the question. We have already seen the shameful situation of UK seafarers who work in the offshore wind sector being laid off, to be replaced by low-wage, exploited migrant labour. As the sector develops, as we see people go out to work on the turbines for longer and as we see the building of floating accommodation for them to stay on, there is a huge risk that those workers—not just those on the supply ships—will also face exploitation. Will the Minister work with Cabinet colleagues to ensure that the national minimum wage applies in the offshore sector beyond the 12-mile territorial limit? That is the solution to protect our workers, and those from abroad, from being exploited.

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, and I share his enthusiasm for making sure that we continue the development of good, well-paid jobs, and the development of the skills required to help people access those jobs, and that we do not have exploitation onshore or offshore during that development. It is a huge opportunity for the United Kingdom and for Scotland. Working together, I am sure we can develop it.

Tim Loughton Portrait Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con)
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As we know from the excellent Rampion wind farm in Sussex bay—hopefully it will soon be expanded—offshore wind farms support workers not just in energy production but in tourism, fishing and leisure too. This year we celebrate 50 years of the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. It is estimated that there are more than 6,000 wrecks around the UK coast, but only 57 of them are listed, so will my right hon. Friend speak to his colleagues in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport about how we can co-ordinate activity between new wind farms and marine archaeologists so that we can boost both our efforts to combat climate change and our cultural protection, which will give particular assistance to coastal communities?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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As ever, my hon. Friend puts his finger on an important point. Existing assets such as wrecks have so many uses, all of which need to be understood. Our seas look so large, but they have multiple uses for shipping, defence and energy. We are working to ensure that we have a strategic, joined-up energy plan and a spatial strategy so that wrecks, marine protected areas and other interests can all be protected in an integrated manner.

Daniel Kawczynski Portrait Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con)
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13. What steps her Department is taking to support people in Shropshire with their energy bills.

Amanda Solloway Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Amanda Solloway)
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The Government are continuing to provide up to £900 of cost of living support throughout 2023-24 to help vulnerable households, which is an increase on the £650 that we provided the previous year, as well as targeted support such as £150 through the warm home discount.

Daniel Kawczynski Portrait Daniel Kawczynski
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I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Farmers in my constituency and the neighbouring Ludlow constituency are among the most productive in the United Kingdom and, speaking as one of the Prime Minister’s trade envoys, we are very proud of their contribution to British exports. At the moment, they are rather adversely affected by rising energy costs. What additional assistance will the Government give to the agricultural sector to help this very important industry survive?

Amanda Solloway Portrait Amanda Solloway
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My hon. Friend is a champion for Shropshire and for the farming industry. Farmers in Shropshire constituencies and across the UK have already benefited from the energy bill relief scheme, which ended on 31 March and provided more than £7.4 billion of support.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Chair of the Energy Security and Net Zero Committee.

Angus Brendan MacNeil Portrait Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (Ind)
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I wish to welcome Faroese politicians who are here watching today. In the past year, the energy bills support scheme alternative fund was set up to help 900,000 households. As the Minister said earlier, only about 150,000—141,000, in fact—got the £400 promised, which means that 750,000 eligible households missed out on their £400. With one in four bill payers now in energy debt, will the Government keep their promise and make good to those 750,000 who missed out on that money when the scheme closed in May?

Amanda Solloway Portrait Amanda Solloway
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As I stated, the alternative fund was an incredible support and provided households with that support. The Government lent in to try to ensure that everyone who was entitled to the funding was able to receive it. Now that the scheme has closed, the money will return to His Majesty’s Treasury.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab)
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14. What steps her Department is taking to help energy-intensive industries to decarbonise.

Gill Furniss Portrait Gill Furniss (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough) (Lab)
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22. What steps her Department is taking to help energy-intensive industries to decarbonise.

Andrew Bowie Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Andrew Bowie)
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The Government have committed £20 billion to support early development of CCUS—carbon capture, usage and storage—and £500 million to the industrial energy transformation fund to help industry to decarbonise, with phase 3 expected to open for applications in early 2024.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
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We are still waiting for a lot of that to happen. The Tees Valley hosts a huge number of energy-intensive industries, but we have lost many of them over the years—a few years ago it was steelmaking, but more recently we saw the demise of the Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company at Darlington, which built the Sydney harbour bridge. The last ammonia manufacturing plant in the country, that of CF Fertilisers, closed its doors this year, as did Mitsubishi’s Cassel works, with both citing that their energy costs were way higher than those of their European and American competitors. What are Ministers going to do to ensure that we do not have any more closures as a result of their policy failures?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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It is a shame that the hon. Gentleman could not find it within himself to congratulate Mayor Ben Houchen on all the work he is doing to bring steelmaking back to the Tees Valley for the first time in a generation. The Government are engaging with the steel industry on a sustainable future, as announced on 15 September. Tata Steel expects to invest £1.25 billion, including a UK Government grant worth up to £500 million, in a new electric arc furnace. Frankly, the hon. Gentleman should start talking up the Tees Valley.

Gill Furniss Portrait Gill Furniss
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Sheffield has a proud history of steelmaking, so much so that we are known globally as the “steel city.” To this day, steel supports thousands of jobs in Sheffield, but repeated failures by this Government mean that more and more families are worried about the future of this key industry and the livelihoods that depend on it. Will the Minister commit to giving this vital sector the support it needs to decarbonise in a fair way, while ensuring that the industry has a green, sustainable and prosperous future?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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I thank the hon. Lady for that question and, yes, I can give that commitment, because we are already engaging in that work. We are working with companies up and down the UK to ensure that they are able to decarbonise and deliver secure, high-wage, high-skilled jobs into the future, which will be the backbone of this economy as we move forward.

David Duguid Portrait David Duguid (Banff and Buchan) (Con)
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First, let me thank the Government for the support they give for CCUS, and not least the Acorn project in my constituency. Does my hon. Friend agree that CCUS needs to be developed across the UK at pace? Does he recognise the particular value of new CCUS power stations, such as the planned project in Peterhead in my constituency, which will generate more than 900 MW and, in conjunction with the Acorn project, will do so 95% emission-free?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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Yes, I thank my hon. Friend and congratulate him on his relentless efforts to decarbonise the North sea and the north-east of Scotland, and his support for the Acorn project. I was pleased to join him and the Prime Minister at the announcement on that in the summer. As my hon. Friend knows, CCUS is a priority for this Government, and we are progressing at pace. Power CCUS will be a vital component of our route to net zero, which is why we are committed to supporting at least one power CCUS plant by the mid-2020s.

Alun Cairns Portrait Alun Cairns (Vale of Glamorgan) (Con)
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The Government are taking significant steps to support industrial clusters around the UK. They are each at a different stage of development and much of the technology is emerging as we speak, but the 2030 target is quite close and the scale of investment runs into billions of pounds. What engagement is my hon. Friend undertaking to discuss investment plans with individual businesses, to ensure that they meet the target and use the latest available technologies?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that investment is key to delivering our ambitious plans, which is why the Secretary of State was at the global investment summit yesterday. Working with the Department for Business and Trade and the Minister for Investment, we are engaging with companies on a daily basis, inspecting their investment plans to ensure they are fit for this country and the future, and will deliver the ambitious, world-leading targets we have set ourselves to decarbonise and provide the jobs of the future for this country.

Samantha Dixon Portrait Samantha Dixon (City of Chester) (Lab)
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15. If she will make an estimate of the number of households that had energy efficiency measures installed in (a) 2010 and (b) 2022.

Amanda Solloway Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Amanda Solloway)
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In 2010, 960,000 measures were installed. In 2022, around 200,000 measures were installed. In 2010, Government schemes were aimed at low-cost, easy-to-install measures. In 2022, our funding schemes focused on high-cost measures.

Samantha Dixon Portrait Samantha Dixon
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Upgrading homes to energy performance certificate band C would create a huge economic and social boost to Britain. In my constituency of Chester more than half of homes are below EPC C and almost 20% of the housing stock is classed as historic, as it was built before 1919. What plans does the Department have to upskill the workforce and speed up the roll-out of energy efficient homes, including historic buildings, such as the ones in my constituency?

Amanda Solloway Portrait Amanda Solloway
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The hon. Lady makes a good point about upskilling the workforce. Good progress has been made and around half of all homes will now reach the Government’s ambition of EPC C by 2035, compared with just 14% in 2010.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel (Witham) (Con)
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17. Whether she is taking steps to support the development of an offshore grid for wind farm energy in the east of England.

Andrew Bowie Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Andrew Bowie)
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Grid reinforcement is critical to delivering our world leading offshore wind targets. The electricity system operator is responsible for designing a modern grid that uses a mix of upgraded existing lines, offshore transmission networks and new underground and overhead lines to bring this low-cost, homegrown generation to consumers.

Priti Patel Portrait Priti Patel
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My constituents are angry about the ill-thought-out proposal by National Grid to impose 100 miles of pylons and overhead powerlines between Norwich and Tilbury. Will the Minister share with me, the House and my constituents what work he is doing to ensure that the Government do all they can to encourage National Grid and developers to build an offshore grid that will provide more investment and growth in renewables, and pull the plug on these awful pylons?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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As my right hon. Friend knows, I visited East Anglia a few months ago and I plan to visit again. I hear the frustration and the concerns of her constituents, which she has brought to the House today. As she knows, the ESO remains responsible for electricity network design. Offshore routing is more expensive and the costs would be borne by consumers across the country. However, we will continue to engage with the ESO as it develops proposals that strike the balance of offshore and onshore infrastructure.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the spokesperson for the Scottish National party, who must have a great connection with the east of England.

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan (Angus) (SNP)
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It comes as a great relief that the Minister is listening, certainly to my constituents and his own. There are extraordinary levels of cheap green Scottish renewable energy transmitted to large consumers in industrial bases in the south by the network. This north-south transaction should rightly be done by subsea transmission cables, negating the need for onshore pylons and their attendant visual blight, environmental degradation, loss of productive farmland, costly compulsory purchase and wayleave charges. Why are Angus and other Scottish communities now threatened with a new 400 kV pylon line, instead of transmitting that energy south using subsea methods?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I think there would have been better questions. Time is a bit tight, but please answer the question, Minister.

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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The hon. Gentleman should probably direct that question to my Scottish Government counterparts, who are in the same party as him. He wants to ride roughshod over the Scottish planning system to allow for a faster deployment of this new energy infrastructure across Scotland, including in his and my own constituencies. The Scottish Government have control over planning, the ESO have control over developing those plans and—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. Let us come to topical questions.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con)
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T1. If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

Claire Coutinho Portrait The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Claire Coutinho)
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Since my last appearance at departmental questions in September, we have shown that Britain remains open for business. Through our announcement on AR6, we have taken the next steps towards 50 GW of offshore wind energy. We have announced £960 million of investment in advanced manufacturing for key net zero sectors, including offshore wind networks, carbon capture, usage and storage, hydrogen and nuclear. We have set out the most radical plans to update the grid since the 1950s. I have signed a memorandum of understanding with South Korea to ensure closer co-operation on nuclear and offshore wind, bringing in £10 billion as well.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton
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Given the success of exempting the ceramics sector from the climate change levy, and the risks of carbon leakage from offshoring the industry, will my right hon. Friend seriously consider exempting the ceramics sector from the emissions trading scheme?

Claire Coutinho Portrait Claire Coutinho
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I know that my hon. Friend is a long-standing champion of the ceramics sector. The sector receives free allocations under the ETS, reducing carbon price exposure and mitigating its risk of carbon leakage. The Government are reviewing the free allocations policy and will consult this year to ensure that we effectively support at-risk industries.

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

Ed Miliband Portrait Edward Miliband (Doncaster North) (Lab)
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The world sorely needs leadership at COP28, but the verdict of our most globally respected climate expert, Lord Stern, earlier this month was damning. He said that the Government’s backsliding on climate action is a “deeply damaging mistake”—damaging for the UK, the world and the future of us all. Will the Secretary of State take this opportunity to place on record her response to Lord Stern?

Claire Coutinho Portrait Claire Coutinho
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The right hon. Gentleman should understand that we have the most ambitious climate target of any of our international peers. If he looks at the delivery today, he will see that we overshot on carbon budgets 1 and 2, and we are on track to overshoot on carbon budget 3. In fact, the UN gap report showed just last week that between 2015 and 2030 the UK is expected to reduce emissions at the fastest rate of any of the G20 countries.

Ed Miliband Portrait Edward Miliband
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The Secretary of State has no response to Lord Stern. The problem is that he sees a Government preaching one thing and doing another. Her negotiators at COP will argue to phase out fossil fuels, but she wants to drill every last drop at home and open new coalmines. She will tell developing countries that climate action is good for the economy, but the Government use climate delay to divide people here at home. Does she not realise that climate hypocrisy just trashes our reputation and undermines our leadership?

Claire Coutinho Portrait Claire Coutinho
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I completely reject that characterisation. At COP28, we will be talking about the UK’s leadership when it comes to cutting emissions. We had cut emissions more than any of our international peers by 1990. Even if we look forward to our targets for 2030, we see that we will still be cutting emissions by more than any of our international peers. That is something that the right hon. Gentleman would do well to welcome.

Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller (North East Bedfordshire) (Con)
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T2. Paragraph 3.10.14 of the National Policy Framework Statement EN-3 states that new solar farms should avoid the use of “‘best and most versatile’ agricultural land where possible”,using the designations of the agricultural land classifications. But there are concerns that field surveys can artificially downgrade land. Will my right hon. Friend say that both she and the planning inspectorate will be vigilant in protecting best and most versatile land and in ensuring the integrity of land classification?

Graham Stuart Portrait The Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero (Graham Stuart)
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I thank my hon. Friend for all his work championing both this area and the concerns of his constituents. As he rightly says, planning policy and guidance encourage large solar projects to locate on previously developed or lower value land and we will indeed undertake to be vigilant in ensuring that those principles are respected.

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Portrait Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Slough) (Lab)
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T4. Given the UK’s decline under this Government to seventh place behind the US and Germany in attracting green investment as per Ernst and Young’s analysis, what urgent steps is the Secretary of State taking to boost our competitiveness in green industries?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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The hypocrisy and the ignorance coming from the Labour party is extraordinary. We have decarbonised more than any major economy on this earth and we will decarbonise more to 2030, and we are doing it by unlocking a level of investment into renewable energy double that we have seen in the United States. So, Labour can take its selective facts and put them where the sun don’t shine.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I think that we have had a few problems with language already. I am sure the Minister will think carefully before he answers again.

Virginia Crosbie Portrait Virginia Crosbie (Ynys Môn) (Con)
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T5. What plans do the UK Government have to buy the Wylfa site and associated intellectual property from Horizon to expedite gigawatt development at Wylfa in my constituency of Ynys Môn? Will the nuclear roadmap lay out a clear role for large gigawatt-scale nuclear projects like Wylfa after Sizewell C?

Andrew Bowie Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Andrew Bowie)
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It would not be Energy questions without a question on Wylfa from my hon. Friend, who is such a champion for that technology and for her constituency. We all agree that Wylfa is a great candidate for new nuclear and one of several potential sites that could host new projects—[Interruption.] Ignore the luddites on the SNP Benches. As a first step towards a new national policy statement, the Government will consult later this year on a way forward to determine how new nuclear developments might be located.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
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T6. In energy-rich Scotland, roughly one in three households in my constituency is living in fuel poverty. A properly designed social tariff would at least alleviate some of that poverty. Why have the Government broken their promise of a year ago to consult on a social tariff?

Amanda Solloway Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Amanda Solloway)
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As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State indicated earlier, a social tariff can mean different things to different people. We are consulting suppliers and many stakeholders to ensure that what we are doing is the right thing. We are also looking at flexibility around the warm home discount.

Alexander Stafford Portrait Alexander Stafford (Rother Valley) (Con)
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T7. In February, the Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero assured me from the Dispatch Box that a decision on hydrogen blending was coming soon. Seven months later, in September, the Department’s consultation again promised that a decision would come soon. How can our constituents trust that this Government know what they are doing when they keep dithering over proven technology that would cut our carbon emissions, our constituents’ energy bills and our dependence on foreign gas imports?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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The Government aim to reach a strategic policy decision before the end of the year on whether to support blending of up to 20% hydrogen by volume into the GB gas distribution networks. We are building the evidence to determine whether blending offers strategic and economic value and meets the required safety standards.

Nick Smith Portrait Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab)
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T8. On the subject of facts, my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) just said that there are currently zero planning applications in the pipeline for onshore wind in England. Can the Minister please confirm whether that is true?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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As I have said in earlier answers, we are seeking to encourage more applications. As far as I know, the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) may be right, which is exactly why we are consulting on improving community benefits and have consulted on changing the planning system.

Anna Firth Portrait Anna Firth (Southend West) (Con)
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I welcome the fact that the UK is doing more offshore wind than any other country in Europe, but fishermen in Leigh-on-Sea are deeply concerned about the effect of expanding offshore on fish stocks. Can the Minister assure me that renewable power production on the south Essex coast will also focus on tidal, and will he join my vision to make Southend pier a shining beacon of renewables, completely powered by tidal energy?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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I share my hon. Friend’s enthusiasm for tidal. We have had a specific pot in previous rounds of the CfD precisely to develop that. We are the world leader in deployment and will continue to be, and I hope that her vision for her local area will be fulfilled.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist (Blaydon) (Lab)
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T9. Over the past year, the north-east has seen a dramatic collapse in the number of homes being upgraded through the Government’s sustainable warmth and eco schemes. That poor record is costing households in my constituency dearly. What is the Minister going to do to put it right?

Amanda Solloway Portrait Amanda Solloway
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I have previously answered questions on that and indicated that we have committed to making sure that we eradicate fuel poverty and support all people with their energy bills.

Chris Green Portrait Chris Green (Bolton West) (Con)
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With organisations such as the Dalton Nuclear Institute and the University of Bolton Institute for Materials Research and Innovation, combined with the Greater Manchester vision for “Atom Valley”, will my hon. Friend update the House on the part that it will play in Britain’s nuclear future?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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I thank my hon. Friend for his continued support for this growing and important sector. Alongside the work of the nuclear skills taskforce, we are currently in phase B of our advanced modular reactor research, development and demonstration programme. We aim to demonstrate that technology by the 2030s to decarbonise industry and we welcome his support in that work.

Mary Glindon Portrait Mary Glindon (North Tyneside) (Lab)
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As part of the recent floating offshore wind manufacturing investment scheme, ambitious and comprehensive bids for funding to support developments by three major industry players on the Tyne were unsuccessful. Will the Minister meet me and those key Tyne businesses to discuss what further opportunities the Department can bring to mobilise the high-quality assets of our great river?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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The Government are collaborating with industry to identify solutions to unblock barriers to offshore wind deployment. I know that the UK Infrastructure Bank is providing support to the Port of Tyne. The FLOWMIS project is currently live, so I cannot comment on it, but I would be happy to meet the hon. Lady to discuss these issues.

Thérèse Coffey Portrait Dr Thérèse Coffey (Suffolk Coastal) (Con)
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My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made a lot of progress in trying to bring together a holistic network, but it is too late for communities in Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex. In that regard, will she request that the electricity system operator publishes its survey of the Bradwell site, and that it undertakes a fresh one, with a full cost-benefit analysis, as a pilot for future connections?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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As my right hon. Friend knows, the ESO has conducted an investigation into Bradwell and its suitability, but I am happy to meet her again to discuss Bradwell, the location of future projects, and how we might work together to ensure that her constituents see the benefits of any future energy infrastructure built in that part of the country.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green)
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It now seems clear that the funds that the Government plan to commit to loss and damage at COP28 will come from the UK’s existing climate finance commitments. We cannot tackle the climate crisis by robbing Peter to pay Paul. Given that a properly resourced and operational loss and damage finance fund has to be a litmus test of success, will the Minister commit to looking at new and additional forms of funding, including a permanent windfall tax on fossil fuel companies and a tax on high-emission travel, to deliver new finance and make polluters pay?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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The hon. Lady is right to highlight loss and damage as we approach COP28. We were pleased to play our part on the transitional committee in getting a recommendation to COP, and we look forward to its being operationalised in the near future. I agree with her that, if we are to get the scale of finance that is required, particularly for the most vulnerable countries at the front end, we need to look at innovative ways of adding to that finance.

Alicia Kearns Portrait Alicia Kearns (Rutland and Melton) (Con)
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Wind energy projects have a standard compensation scheme for all local communities, but solar projects do not. Industry will not act, so I urge my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to bring in a standard measure for all solar projects to bring fairness to clean energy in our communities.

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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I thank my hon. Friend for her question and for pursuing this matter assiduously; we have met and discussed it, among other issues. I think both industry and communities would appreciate greater clarity about community benefits, and I look forward to discussing that with her further.

Imran Hussain Portrait Imran Hussain (Bradford East) (Lab)
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One in four households in my constituency is now living in fuel poverty, compared with the national average of one in 10. Why do the Government continue to give millions to gas and oil giants, which enjoy billions in bumper profits, while our constituents continue to be dragged into poverty?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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Regrettably, the content of so many Opposition Members’ questions this morning is absolutely not in line with reality. Oil and gas production in the UK not only typically has lower emissions than the alternative of imports, but supports 200,000 jobs, all of which would be at risk if the Labour party came to power. To answer the hon. Gentleman’s specific question, it is expected to raise £50 billion of tax over the next five years, all of which—including the safety of his constituents—would be at risk if Labour ever came to power.

Trudy Harrison Portrait Trudy Harrison (Copeland) (Con)
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Do my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the Minister for Nuclear and Networks, my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Andrew Bowie), agree that the very best location for two 470 MW Rolls-Royce small modular reactors is next to Sellafield, which will use some of the power and is a centre of nuclear excellence?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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My hon. Friend is another great champion for nuclear. It gave me great pleasure to visit her constituency just a few weeks ago to see the great work being done at Sellafield. As we have set out, we aim to deploy up to 24 GW of nuclear energy by 2050, and we remain open to all available technologies that will deliver it. We are developing a new national policy statement that will provide the planning framework for new nuclear power beyond 2025. We are consulting on a proposed way forward for determining how new nuclear developments might be located.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Including in Lancashire.

Sammy Wilson Portrait Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP)
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This year, receipts from the emissions trading scheme will reach a new peak of £6.2 billion. The effects of attacks on energy-intensive industries are felt by workers in the aluminium and steel industries, and this week by workers at Grangemouth, where one of our few remaining oil refineries is going to close. Despite what the Minister said earlier, is it not a fact that, rather than helping energy-intensive industries, net zero policies are destroying them and sending them overseas?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the EU has already legislated for a carbon border adjustment mechanism. Following our hosting of COP26, 90% of global wealth was covered by net zero pledges. At the beginning of that conference, the figure was just 30%. The right hon. Gentleman may not see it, but this is the direction the world is going in, and if he wants to future-proof British jobs he will get with the decarbonisation programme. Opposing it is to oppose the interests of his constituents and the sustainability of their of their jobs.

Sara Britcliffe Portrait Sara Britcliffe (Hyndburn) (Con)
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Melton CLP has of the biggest sites in Hyndburn and Haslingden. The renewables obligation certificate is due to end in 2027, and certainty is needed on whether the scheme will be extended or another scheme will take its place. Will the Minister give us some assurances as to what comes next?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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Mindful of how loquacious I am, I simply say to my hon. Friend that I will meet her to discuss the matter.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)
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Over the space of a year, living in a cold home cost 21 of my constituents their lives. One reason behind that tragic figure is that homes in rural communities are more difficult to insulate. On that basis, will the Minister urgently review the ECO4 and ECO+ guidelines to prioritise the hardest properties to insulate so that we cut bills and save lives?

Amanda Solloway Portrait Amanda Solloway
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Of course it is always a tragedy to hear such figures. I have regular meetings with the hon. Gentleman and I will have a meeting to discuss this issue further, because this Government are committed to supporting all vulnerable people, including all those who have disabilities and additional needs.

Speaker’s Statement

Tuesday 28th November 2023

(7 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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12:34
Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Nominations closed at 12 noon for the election of the Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. One nomination has been received. A ballot will therefore not be held for this position. I congratulate Sir Robert Buckland on his election as Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. He will take up his post immediately and serve as Chair until the end of this Parliament.

Ukraine

Tuesday 28th November 2023

(7 months, 4 weeks ago)

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

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

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

12:37
John Healey Portrait John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab)
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(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Defence to make a statement on the war in Ukraine.

James Heappey Portrait The Minister for Armed Forces (James Heappey)
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Since I last updated the House on 24 October, the situation on the ground has remained largely unchanged. The armed forces of Ukraine continue to make slow but steady progress in their fight to retake their country, while a small crossing of the Dnipro has been established. Russian forces have made small advances in the northern axis of a pincer movement with which they are attempting to surround the town of Avdiivka.

Over the weekend, Russia launched what was likely the largest wave of one-way attack drone strikes on Ukraine of the war so far, ahead of another likely winter campaign of strikes against Ukrainian energy infrastructure. Ukraine neutralised most of the incoming weapons from the latest assault, and international partners, including the UK, are working with Ukraine to further strengthen its defences.

We will continue to support priority areas for Ukraine in the coming months, including air defence and hardening critical national infrastructure sites. Our foundational supply of critical artillery ammunition continues. We also continue to develop Ukraine’s maritime capabilities, helping it to deny Russia sea control in the western Black sea. With Government help, a UK-based commercial insurance provider has developed an insurance facility for shipping using the Ukraine maritime corridor; the facility charges premiums in line with those under the Black sea grain initiative, which is crucial for re-attracting commercial shipping.

The UK has committed £4.6 billion of military support to date, as we continue to donate significant amounts of ammunition and matériel from our own stocks, as well as those purchased from across the globe. In addition, we have trained more than 52,000 soldiers since 2015. Our support for next year is being finalised, both internally within the Government and with our partners around the world, and will be announced shortly.

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

John Healey Portrait John Healey
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Early on Saturday morning, sirens sounded across Kyiv for six hours. Families took to shelters and fear spread across the city. That day, 75 drones were launched on Kyiv—the biggest strike on Ukraine since Putin’s brutal illegal invasion began, as the Minister said. With attention on the middle east, this is a wake-up call about Russia. Putin can still unleash fresh horrors on Ukraine, still shows contempt for international law, and still wants to redraw sovereign boundaries by force. Six hundred and forty-two days on, Ukrainians are living with fear every day, fighting every day, and dying every day. The defence of the UK starts in Ukraine, because if Putin prevails, he will not stop with Ukraine. I pay tribute to the UK troops who are training Ukrainian forces, flying out military aid and reinforcing regional security through NATO.

Last month, the Defence Secretary said:

“Let’s not forget about Ukraine.”

So why did the autumn statement do just that? There was no 2024 military funding or action plan for Ukraine. At the very time when Ukraine needs confidence that it has strong, continuing support from allies, the Prime Minister is stepping back. UK leadership on Ukraine is flagging: this year’s £2.3 billion of UK military funding runs out in March, while this month Germany announced €8 billion of military aid for next year. When will the Defence Secretary himself make a statement on Ukraine? When will Ministers announce the next delivery of UK weapons? When will the Government pledge funding for fresh military aid and publish a 2024 action plan for the military, economic and diplomatic support that Ukraine needs? When will the Prime Minister demonstrate by his decisions and actions that Britain will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes to win?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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I do not think there is any doubt in Kyiv—in fact, I know there is no doubt—about the UK’s continued support, and indeed its leadership on gifting within the international community. While I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman is keen to make a political point, I think that deep down he knows that too, because he speaks to the Ukrainians. I know, as he does, that they continue to regard the UK as the standard bearer globally for encouraging others to donate ever more and, crucially, to donate weapons systems with ever more complexity. I have no doubt—as I think, deep down, the right hon. Gentleman has no doubt—that the Ukrainian Government maintain their confidence in us as one of their key allies, if not their key ally, and that the UK’s leadership is certainly not flagging.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about the announcement of weapons. The reality is that we are giving a very broad range of weapons. While he might think it is militarily sound to focus on always giving something new, just being resilient in our ability to keep giving what we are giving is every bit as important to the operational planning that the Ukrainian armed forces need to do. This is not a set of gimmicks—a set of announcements. This is about the resourcing of a military operational plan that UK military operational planners are key in developing with the Ukrainians. I am entirely comfortable that across a whole range of weapons systems, the pipeline that we now have in place to deliver every month, not only from our own stockpiles and manufacturing capacity but from those that we can access globally, is a reliable, dependable part of the Ukrainian plan.

As for the plan for next year, I completely accept that the right hon. Gentleman is right to say that a number could have been given in the autumn statement, but surely it is more important to give a number that reflects the discussions that the chairman of the joint chiefs, the Chief of the Defence Staff and General Zaluzhny have had, and those that senior US, UK and Ukrainian politicians have had, in order to understand the Ukrainian ambition for their operations next year, so that we can resource that properly. All the way through, what the UK has done better than anyone else in the world is understand what the Ukrainians want to do next and get there first in delivering that capability, in so doing emboldening others to follow. As soon as the plan for next year is confirmed, I am certain that the amount that it will cost will be announced to Parliament and the plan firmed up, so that the right hon. Gentleman will be satisfied.

Julian Lewis Portrait Sir Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
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That is an intriguing rationale for the fact that we gave £2.3 billion for the first year of the war and £2.3 billion for the second year of the war. Can the Minister convey to his colleagues in Government that Members on both sides of the House would be dismayed if we gave less than £2.3 billion for the year ahead? In his discussions with the Chancellor, might the Defence Secretary remind him that, when he stood for the leadership of the Conservative party, he recommended not 2% but 4% of GDP to be spent on defence?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

Martin Docherty-Hughes Portrait Martin Docherty-Hughes (West Dunbartonshire) (SNP)
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At the weekend, the Ukrainian Government and peoples commemorated the holodomor—the genocide inspired by the Government of Joseph Stalin. During those celebrations, as the Minister rightly said, the Russian Federation launched its largest air attack on Kyiv to date, which included 75 Iranian-made Shaheds towards the capital. Part of the financing of the Iranian regime comes from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Back in January, Ministers intimated to the House and to Members that they were considering proscribing the revolutionary guard, a financer of the Iranian regime that is feeding the Russian Federation’s military might. When will the Minister’s Government stop considering and start proscribing it?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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These are not conversations to which I am directly privy, so I am loth to offer detail that I do not have. Suffice it to say that the debate is more nuanced than the hon. Gentleman implies in his question, but I suspect he knows that. When we proscribe an organisation such as the IRGC, which is so integral to the Iranian state, we can make it quite hard to have any sort of communication with the Iranian state, but those are matters for colleagues in the Foreign Office. I will bring his question to their attention, and encourage them to write to him or seek to respond in some other way.

Alec Shelbrooke Portrait Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell) (Con)
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I very much welcome my right hon. Friend’s comments about insurance for shipping in the Black sea to encourage grain exports. Can I ask him if the British Government intend to carry on doing everything they can to make sure that those exports happen? He will be aware that Lebanon relies on those grain exports, and with the current situation in that region, we must ensure that starvation does not become another factor in an already exceptionally tense situation.

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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There is lots in my right hon. Friend’s question—on all of which he is entirely right. First, many countries around the world are dependent on grain exports from Ukraine. It is a source of constant frustration to me and Government colleagues who go overseas on diplomatic missions to find that the Russians try to claim that somehow Ukraine is using food as a weapon of war, when it is they who are seeking to limit those crucial exports. Secondly, the more that Ukraine is able to export, the more that the Ukrainian economy survives and, potentially, grows. One consequence of the insurance initiative, alongside the military success or the naval success that the Ukrainians have had in the western Black sea, is that shipping from Odesa is growing, which is encouraging. It is a sign that the new front in the Black sea is succeeding not only militarily but economically.

Seema Malhotra Portrait Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op)
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In August 2022, the Defence Secretary’s predecessor, the right hon. Member for Wyre and Preston North (Mr Wallace), promised a 2023 action plan for Ukraine, but that is still nowhere to be seen with just over a month left in 2023. Surely, the UK must provide our friends in Ukraine with the long-term certainty of UK military support to repel Russia’s illegal invasion, which is so important to Ukrainian friends and family in Feltham and Heston and across the country. Will the Minister explain why this action plan has not been published, and when there will be one for 2024?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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The former Defence Secretary is a great man. The Opposition Front-Bench team has rightly sought to hold the Government to account for his commitment to an action plan, but I would reflect personally, in a rare moment of slight disagreement with him, that the masterplan for Ukraine next year is the Ukrainians’ plan for next year, and we, as their key leading supporter, have a duty to resource their plan. Understanding what that plan is and resourcing it, both through straight cash in-year as well as commitment over three to five years thereafter, are all things we undoubtedly need to do; I think there is complete agreement in the House on that. I understand the disappointment that the commitment was not made in the autumn statement, but for the UK to publish Ukraine’s plan would clearly be the wrong way of doing things; we need to understand what Ukraine’s plan is and then announce how we will resource it, and we will do so.

Alicia Kearns Portrait Alicia Kearns (Rutland and Melton) (Con)
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Ukraine is holding firm against one of the biggest militaries in the world and it still rightly refuses to see the mass loss of Ukrainian life. Will my right hon. Friend reassure me on the following two points? First, as there are reports that we are already seeing a reduction in artillery deliveries to Ukraine, is enough getting through? Secondly, following Medvedev’s threat to Poland, what are we doing to make sure our allies, such as Canada, meet their 2% of GDP commitment to NATO, as we need them to stay in the fight and protect that eastern flank?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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On the first point, “enough” is what there is. Part of military planning is to moderate consumption levels to meet the scale of deliveries. Ukraine’s military planning must reflect manufacturing capacity and stockpiles across the donor community. Enough is getting through, but we will not find a single Ukrainian general who would not want 10 times that amount if it were available. On the second point, my hon. Friend is absolutely right: we must ensure that the donor community remains foursquare behind Ukraine. In all probability the plans for next year will need to be more around consolidation than the plan for this year, but it is very important that those in the donor community see whatever consolidation is necessary as the right military, strategic judgment—and still worthy of maintaining donor support—rather than peeling away because it does not feel as sensational as plans in previous years.

Richard Foord Portrait Richard Foord (Tiverton and Honiton) (LD)
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The previous Defence Secretary the right hon. Member for Wyre and Preston North (Mr Wallace) was well thought of for the support he demonstrated for Ukraine, and in September last year he told the House that the Government had written “letters of comfort” to industry outlining the Government’s intention to place orders with manufacturers. In last year’s autumn statement the Treasury announced £560 million for the replacement of the UK stockpile, to be funded from the Treasury reserve rather than the MOD procurement budget. Where does the Minister think industry, Ukrainians and British service personnel should look for comfort given the silence in the autumn statement on the subject of continued UK support for Ukraine?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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I suspect the first line of the hon. Gentleman’s question would make it into the leaflets of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wyre and Preston North (Mr Wallace) if he were standing again as that was rare, but much deserved, praise. I am not sure I understand the rest of the hon. Gentleman’s question. The Ukrainians know what they are getting this year and they have seen time and again the UK seeking to lead the world and catalyse donations. We have been the first to go through every capability threshold; they know that and they continue to know that.

UK service personnel will take comfort from the fact that in the autumn statement the Chancellor promised to maintain the 2% commitment—we are actually comfortably exceeding that—and that the complete modernisation and recapitalisation of the fighting echelon across all three services is well under way, with investment, too, in sorting out all the strategic enablers that bring credibility to our warfighting force. I do not see where any further comfort is needed, either on the Ukrainian side or for the men and women of the UK armed forces. In fact, it is quite the reverse; I think they know exactly what the Government are doing.

James Sunderland Portrait James Sunderland (Bracknell) (Con)
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Will the Minister assure the House that political resolve in NATO will remain as strong as ever in the event that this campaign becomes enduring, protracted and attritional? Will he also assure the House about what is being done to ensure that all NATO countries step up and pay their 2%?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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NATO’s resolve is clear but its part in this is to deter escalation beyond Ukraine, whereas the donor community that has formed around Ukraine is a rather separate entity that extends beyond NATO’s borders; that is an important distinction. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that as we prepare for a summit in Washington at which our American colleagues will want to see progress in meeting the NATO commitment, all NATO countries that are not meeting the 2% commitment will perhaps want to consider their spending plans before getting on the plane to Washington.

Ben Bradshaw Portrait Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)
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How is it possible that our NATO ally Turkey has seen a more than threefold increase in exports to Russia this year of goods vital for Putin’s war machine, and what are the Minister and our NATO allies going to do about that?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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I am not familiar with that detail and will have to write to the right hon. Gentleman on it.

Mark Pritchard Portrait Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con)
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You, Mr Speaker, and the Minister will know that one strength that the Government and people of Ukraine have got from this place, both with their President’s two visits and the visits of Members of Parliament, is the cross-party consensus on UK support for Ukraine. Does the Minister agree that it is concerning—unless I have got this wrong—that today the shadow Secretary of State the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey), perhaps for the first time, slipped into party political fighting over this? I have a great deal of respect for the right hon. Gentleman and hope that will not be the case as we get nearer to the election because of the strength offered by this place through the cross-party consensus for support for the Ukrainian effort against Russia’s illegal invasion.

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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The right hon. Gentleman the shadow Defence Secretary has a job to do and it has been a feature and a great strength of the UK response that it has been largely non-partisan. I think the right hon. Gentleman saw an opportunity through the omission in the autumn statement, but I hope in my initial answer I was able to explain to him why understanding the Ukrainian plan must come first and announcing what the UK will do to support that plan necessarily comes second.

Gavin Robinson Portrait Gavin Robinson (Belfast East) (DUP)
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There is a benefit to having these regular sessions, and there is of course the opportunity for more regular ministerial statements rather than just urgent questions; I encourage the Minister to think about that in the future. He will remember that on the last occasion I raised the issue of lethargy and concerns that events in the middle east could be a distraction from support for Ukraine, and I questioned some of the political dynamics evident in the US system. On this occasion I want to invert that question and ask if he has assessed the impact of the ongoing issues in the middle east and their consequences for countries such as Iran and their support for Russia, and whether that might present an opportunity for Ukraine.

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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I must be careful not to stray into intelligence matters but my sense is that it would be overoptimistic to think that raised tensions in the middle east might lead to a reduction in Iranian support for Russia; I think that support is now well embedded. On the other side of the formula, as the hon. Gentleman implied in the first part of his question there is of course a concern that the wider donor community might be distracted by what is going on in the middle east, and it is important to take moments like this to reassure Ukrainians and remind friends and partners around the world that we must remain steadfast in our support of Ukraine even while we all work together to deter escalation in the middle east.

Jonathan Djanogly Portrait Mr Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) (Con)
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Effective military support to Ukraine is more than just about providing weapons; it is also about stopping Russia producing and getting its own weapons. The right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) asked about this in relation to Turkey but I would broaden the question: is the Minister aware of western technology being sourced by Russia and does he think we are doing enough to stop it?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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I am certainly aware that there was an alarming level of content from the west in a number of Russian systems that were compromised in the early part of the war. That leads to two further points. First, there is the reassurance that if we are constraining our supply chain to Russia—which the sanctions regime largely is, albeit not completely and we need to work on that—its capacity to develop complex weapons is diminished. Secondly, that also suggests that Russian industry does not have the ability to do these things itself.

Tony Lloyd Portrait Tony Lloyd (Rochdale) (Lab)
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It does seem now as if this war will be much longer than we had all hoped. In that context, political leadership will change. While it is important that NATO maintains its present position, NATO leadership may change over time. What steps can be taken, including by our Ministry of Defence, to make the case across the world that the defence of Ukraine is in the global interest, not simply the Ukrainian national interest?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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The UK has been making that case from the outset. The stated aim of the UK Government has been that Russia must fail in Ukraine and be seen to fail. That is first because that is the right moral outcome for Ukraine—it deserves to restore its territory and live as a free sovereign country—and secondly because if Putin does not fail in Ukraine, he will be emboldened to go again and again. Euro-Atlantic security over the next 30 to 50 years would be profoundly affected as a consequence.

Louie French Portrait Mr Louie French (Old Bexley and Sidcup) (Con)
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With much of the media and world now focusing on the ongoing conflict in the middle east, does my right hon. Friend agree that we must not lose sight of the ongoing suffering of Ukrainians at home and on the battlefield?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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I absolutely agree. We certainly are not allowing it to become a zero-sum thing where we focus only on the middle east or on Ukraine. We can do both, and the western Balkans and everywhere else where the UK’s interest is challenged.

Andrew Bridgen Portrait Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Reclaim)
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It is clear that despite heroic efforts by the Ukrainian people, at best a military stalemate will be achieved. What is the Minister’s estimate of the civilian and military casualties on both sides of this conflict to date? What are the prospects of negotiations to bring the bloodletting to an end?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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I will need to write to the hon. Gentleman with estimates on both sides. The number I have in my mind on the Russian side is 320,000 dead and wounded, but clearly there will be Ukrainian casualties as well, and those are numbers are military, not civilian. I will do my best to respond on that.

I am not sure that I accept the hon. Gentleman’s assessment that there is an inevitability to stalemate. The effort required to maintain the current apparent stalemate on land—in the Black sea, things are still quite dynamic—is incredible. It is not an inevitable consequence, but the consequence of an extraordinary amount of effort on both sides. If one side loses the strategic depth or patience to maintain that effort, it is perfectly possible that a very different outcome will be achieved one way or the other. That is why it is important we are completely committed to maintaining the current level of effort. As the question from the hon. Member for Rochdale (Tony Lloyd) pointed to, we continue to make that case to friends and partners around the world, so that the donor community remains strong, because there is nothing inevitable about the outcome of this war.

Alun Cairns Portrait Alun Cairns (Vale of Glamorgan) (Con)
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Russia’s financing of this illegal conflict is derived from international trade, particularly the export of oil. I have highlighted how Russia is circumventing the unprecedented sanctions that have been introduced. Does my right hon. Friend agree that in this dynamic situation we need to be constantly alive to how international trade is made, so that we can prevent and block the financing of this conflict? Will he agree to work with international partners in reassessing what further needs to be done?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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Absolutely. There is a military line of endeavour, but so too there is a diplomatic and economic one. The Minister for Europe—the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Leo Docherty)—was on the Front Bench to hear my right hon. Friend’s question. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to note the importance of advancing on all fronts with equal vigour.

Nia Griffith Portrait Dame Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab)
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The renewed attacks on Kyiv at the weekend and the threats to power plants remind us how widespread the impact of the war is on Ukraine. Could the Minister update us on what recent talks he or ministerial colleagues have had with Ukrainian Ministers about recovery and reconstruction? Can he give details of what the UK is doing to help now?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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The Prime Minister and other Ministers, including the Defence Secretary—this mostly sits in other Departments—meet the Ukrainians all the time to discuss exactly that issue. Indeed, the new Foreign Secretary was in Kyiv only last week. It is hugely important that alongside Ukraine’s military resilience, its economy and democracy remain equally resilient and are not strangled out of existence, which would undermine the existence of the state of Ukraine just as much as any military failure. In answering the previous question, I noted that it is important that we advance on all fronts, that we support Ukraine militarily, and that we help Ukraine to maintain resilience and even growth within its economy. It is important globally that a key part of that economy—the export of grain—flows as freely as possible, hence the amount of effort we are putting into the western Black sea.

Holly Mumby-Croft Portrait Holly Mumby-Croft (Scunthorpe) (Con)
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I thank my right hon. Friend for the work that he continues to do. He mentions the number of Ukrainian military recruits we have been able to help with training in the UK. Can he say any more about that training? How many recruits will we be able to assist in the coming months?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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Our aim is to maintain that pace. For colleagues who have had the opportunity to visit, I know it is regarded as one of the moments of a lifetime to see the determination in the eyes of those men who are training to go to war. To train for five or six weeks in the absolute certainty that active combat waits immediately at the other end of that training pipeline focuses the mind in an extraordinary way. I pay tribute to them for their courage and heroism in volunteering to undergo the training, but also to the brilliance of the UK and other nations’ armed forces that are here in this country delivering that training all day, every week of every month.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
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I have always loved the opportunity to put my support for Ukraine and Ukrainians on the record. I appreciate that the Minister is not the correct Minister for this point, but I can see that the Immigration Minister has arrived for the next urgent question. We have been getting a lot of casework about Ukrainians finding it difficult to get their biometric residence permits processed in any meaningful time, including one who has been waiting since July. Can the Minister help with making representations to the Home Office to ensure that people can get those permits in swift time, so that they can rebuild their lives?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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I make those representations now.

Greg Smith Portrait Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con)
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I welcome the continued work that my right hon. Friend and the whole Government do to support our friends in Ukraine.

May I return to the question of grain exports? Just a couple of days ago at a food security summit, President Zelensky was clear that he believes air defences are the missing link to secure those exports. Does my right hon. Friend share that assessment? If he does, how can we help make those air defences a reality?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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Air defences have been an important part of the Ukrainian response to Russia’s belligerence from the very beginning. Air defences are necessary to protect critical national infrastructure, the Ukrainian frontline and ports and other key economic infrastructure, as well as the sea lanes through which ships travel. The reality is that we are doing our best to source as much air defence globally as we can, and we will continue to do so.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)
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A few of us who are members of the all-party parliamentary group on the Holy See visited the Ukrainian Catholic cathedral in Mayfair this morning and visited the fantastic welcome centre that has provided so much support to Ukrainians who have come here seeking refuge and safety. One of the key messages we heard—I have heard this from constituents, too—was about the uncertainty they are facing as the visa programme extended by the UK Government is starting to come to an end. Can the Minister assure us that colleagues are working across Government to provide Ukrainians with the certainty they desperately need that they will continue to be welcomed here in the United Kingdom and will not have to pay for the privilege of extending their visas?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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The Home Office will be seized of the need to provide as much certainty as it can. Indeed, on Friday I had the pleasure of visiting the welcome hub in my constituency and met eight Ukrainian families who were asking me the same questions. As I explained to them—I share this with the House now—while I completely understand why they individually want as much certainty as possible, it is also important that Putin does not get to see all these countries across Europe that are hosting so many millions of Ukrainians between them offering them an opportunity to stay permanently. The danger is that we would end up with Ukraine losing millions of its best people to economies around Europe, when ultimately we hope they will be able to go home to a free, sovereign Ukraine.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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I thank the Minister very much for his determination and leadership, which we all endorse. Ukraine has reported territorial advances of 3 km to 8 km in the Donetsk region, which have been hard fought—the cost has been in lives and injuries—but the determination of Ukrainians to retake their land from Russia is as strong as ever. What can the Minister do to allocate more high-grade military equipment to strike Russia hard in its backyard?

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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The UK is doing a lot—indeed, it is doing more than most—and we have been the first to go through every capability threshold. Although unfortunately it cannot yet be discussed openly in public or even in the House, the UK has also been able to use our ability to support the Ukrainians in developing their own complex weapons. That, when the time comes, will be one of the great stories, but it is of course something that we are doing all the time.

Net Migration Figures

Tuesday 28th November 2023

(7 months, 4 weeks ago)

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

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13:10
Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab)
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(Urgent Question): To ask the Home Secretary to make a statement on the publication of net migration figures.

Robert Jenrick Portrait The Minister for Immigration (Robert Jenrick)
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The most recent published data from the Office for National Statistics estimated that net migration in the year to June 2023 was at 672,000. That places untold pressure on housing supply and public services and makes successful integration virtually impossible. As the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have repeatedly made clear, it is far too high. The Government remain committed to reducing levels of legal migration, in line with the manifesto commitment on which every single Conservative MP stood in 2019 and the express wish of the British public as articulated at every single general election in the last 30 years.

Earlier this year, we took action to tackle an unforeseen and substantial rise in the number of students bringing dependants into the UK to roughly 150,000. That means that, beginning with courses starting in January, students on taught postgraduate courses will no longer have the ability to bring dependants; only students on designated postgraduate research programmes will be able to bring dependants. That will have a tangible effect on net migration.

It is crystal clear that we need to reduce the numbers significantly by bringing forward further measures to control and reduce the number of people coming here, and separately to stop the abuse and exploitation of our visa system by companies and individuals. So far this year, we have initiated a significant number of investigations into sectors such as care companies suspected of breaching immigration rules. We are actively working across Government on further substantive measures and will announce details to the House as soon as possible.

Yvette Cooper Portrait Yvette Cooper
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Where is the Home Secretary, and what on earth is going on? The media were briefed that he was going to make a statement on net migration yesterday or today, but we have had nothing, and he is nowhere. The Immigration Minister has been everywhere, madly briefing all his ideas, but who speaks for the Government?

Net migration figures are now three times their level at the 2019 general election, when the Conservatives promised to reduce them. That includes a 65% increase in work migration this year, which reflects a complete failure by the Conservatives on both the economy and immigration. The Immigration Minister is complaining today—he will be furious when he discovers who has been in charge of the immigration system for the last 13 years.

Net migration should come down. Immigration is important for Britain and always will be, but the system needs to be properly controlled and managed so that it is fair, effective and properly linked to the economy. Net migration for work has trebled since 2019 because of the Government’s failure on skills and training, their failure to tackle record levels of long-term sickness and people on waiting lists, and their failure to make the system work. Social care visas have gone from 3,000 a year to more than 100,000 a year, yet this spring Ministers halved the programme for recruiting care workers here. Health visas are up, yet Ministers cut training places last autumn. Visas for engineers are up while engineering apprenticeship completions in the UK have halved.

Will the Government immediately agree to Labour’s plan to get rid of the unfair wage discount that means employers can pay overseas recruits 20% less than the going rate, and which prevents training and fair pay in the UK? Will the Government immediately ask the Migration Advisory Committee to review salary thresholds for skilled workers in shortage occupations, which have not kept up, and where the MAC has warned repeatedly about low-paid exploitation? Will the Minister link the points-based system to training and employment standards in the UK and have a proper plan for the economy and the immigration system?

The Government have no serious plan; they are just ramping up the rhetoric. They have no plan for the economy, no plan for the immigration system and no plan for the country. Britain deserves better than this.

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I listened to the right hon. Lady for five minutes or so and detected absolutely no trace of a plan from her—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. I am worried, because I can only allow two minutes. Please do not go telling everybody that I have allowed five minutes. Honestly, it was only two minutes.

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I will keep that as a secret, Mr Speaker.

The only policy that the right hon. Lady articulated is something that is barely used and would have a de minimis effect on net migration, but that should come as no surprise to any of us. She has spent her entire political career campaigning for uncontrolled migration. She has campaigned for freedom of movement—she backed a Leader of the Opposition who campaigned for freedom of movement. She has always supported and lobbied and campaigned for unfettered access to the United Kingdom. She said that there is chaos on the Government side of the House, but all we heard from her was rhetoric and posturing. It would be laughable if it were not so serious.

Every single Conservative Member of Parliament campaigned on a manifesto commitment to bring down net migration. I did not see that in the Labour party’s manifesto at the last election. Although she may be doing what she is because she is reading the polls or wants to posture, we are doing it out of deep political conviction. We believe that the number of people coming into this country is too high, that it places unbearable pressure on our public services and on housing, and that it is making it impossible to integrate people into this country and harming community cohesion and national unity. It is also a moral failure, because it is leaving people on welfare and enabling companies all too often to reach for the easy lever of foreign labour. For all those reasons, we are determined to tackle this issue. We understand the concerns of the British public, and I am here to say that we share them and will bring forward a serious package of fundamental reforms to address the issue once and for all.

Jonathan Gullis Portrait Jonathan Gullis (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Con)
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I congratulate the shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), as it is clear from the two ideas she laid out that she has read the 12 points in the New Conservatives’ immigration plan. She is more than willing to copy and paste, just as the shadow Chancellor would, had she had the opportunity.

My right hon. Friend has my full support, although I am sure that will not help him with those in No. 10. I am deeply concerned and confused. At the weekend, the Prime Minister said that migration was “too high” and needs to

“come down to more sustainable levels”.

That is the full-fat option, Yesterday, I got the skimmed option, with the Prime Minister boasting about our “competitive” visa regime. Are the Cabinet members who sit with my right hon. Friend full-fat, semi-skimmed or skimmed?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I support my hon. Friend in his lobbying and campaigning for the Government to take this issue seriously. He speaks for millions of people across the country who see the levels of net migration as far too high. Of course, it is right that we want the UK to be a country that is open to the very best and the brightest, and that is why we have taken action in creating visa routes such as the global talent one that the Prime Minister was promoting at the investment summit this week, but we must reduce net migration. That means taking difficult choices and making a tangible difference in the months ahead. The public are sick of talk. They want action, and they want us to bring forward a clear plan.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Scottish National party spokesperson.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
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I wish to take a different approach from the Westminster parties to the migration statistics. On behalf of the SNP, I thank those people who have come to make their home here and to contribute to our universities, public services and health and care sector, and who have made our society and our economy all the richer for their presence. Have the Government thought this through? Who will carry out the vital tasks of those who have come to our shores if they pull up the drawbridge and send people away? The CBI has said that two thirds of UK businesses have been hit by labour shortages in the last year. Pressures on services are helped, not hindered, by those people coming here. Those pressures on services are a result of more than 10 years of austerity from the Conservatives. Under-investment in those services is the fault not of immigrants but of this Government.

Interestingly, those who have come on small boats represent only 3% of the total, which is the flimsy basis on which the Minister and his colleagues want to disapply human rights laws, pull us out of the European convention on human rights and renege on our international commitments. It is clear that Scotland has different needs and attitudes towards migration. According to Migration Policy Scotland, six in 10 Scots say that immigration has a positive impact. In Scotland we need to deal with the challenges and the pressures of emigration over many decades. Can we finally have an immigration policy that meets Scotland’s needs? If the Government will not devolve that, Scotland will need independence more urgently than ever before.

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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Fortunately, immigration is a reserved matter, and we do not intend to leave it in the hands of the hon. Lady and her colleagues in the SNP Government. As she knows with respect to illegal migration and asylum seekers, the fine words that she says here in the Chamber are not matched by the actions of the SNP Scottish Government. For example, in June there were fewer asylum seekers in the entire city of Edinburgh than in a single hotel in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis). Her humanitarian nimbyism really sticks in the throat.

On legal migration, here is the difference between us: we see that there is a reason for people to come to the UK, but we also see millions of people on welfare or economically inactive, and we care about those people getting back into the workplace. We do not want companies simply to reach for the easy lever of foreign labour. That is not a route to sustainable prosperity and productivity. That is why my right hon. Friend the Work and Pensions Secretary and the Chancellor set out major measures last week. That is our vision for this country—one that genuinely drives up GDP per capita so that we can support and protect all our citizens.

Tim Loughton Portrait Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con)
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The figures are unsustainably high, but to put them in context, they also include 200,000 Ukrainians and 150,000 Hong Kong citizens. I wonder if those are included in the “something must be done-ism” from the Opposition. Can my right hon. Friend explain why 135,000 visas were granted to dependants last year, up from 19,000 just three years ago, and around 100,000 visas were granted to Chinese students, up 87% over the past 10 years? He mentioned care worker scandals and the 78,000 visas to care workers. Is it true that some visas have been granted to care workers to work in care homes that do not exist?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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My hon. Friend raises a number of issues, all of which are worthy of consideration and which the Home Office is working through at present. It is certainly true that a very substantial number of dependants have come to the UK alongside visa holders, whether students, care workers or skilled workers. It is a choice for the country whether we want to continue to pursue that. There is a strong argument that it is unsustainable for the country to continue to take so many dependants, who put pressure on housing, public services, school places and so on. We could base our visa system on different models to stop so many dependants coming into the country. We have seen a very substantial number of care worker visas issued, and those care workers bring dependants with them on almost a one-for-one basis. As my hon. Friend knows, we are actively considering that.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I call the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee.

Diana Johnson Portrait Dame Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)
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Although today we are discussing one single set of net migration figures, we know that net migration has hugely varying impacts in regions and communities. We also know that the most skilled migrants flow disproportionately towards London and the south-east. Has the Minister given any thought to developing a more regionalised approach to immigration, to ensure that communities across the country benefit evenly and fairly from it?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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In recent years we have given thought to the concept of creating a more regional system, but it is difficult to create in practice—I would welcome ideas from the right hon. Lady’s Committee. As a general rule, we have maintained one single United Kingdom immigration system, but there are a number of visa categories that reflect particular issues facing different parts of the country. Those include the seasonal agricultural workers scheme, which is focused on rural England, and global talent, which increasingly takes individuals with a science or technology background and will impact those parts of the country with a science cluster. The system is able to support different sectors and needs of parts of the country.

John Hayes Portrait Sir John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con)
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Does the Minister recognise that many myths about immigration are perpetuated by the unholy alliance of greedy globalist corporate businesses and guilt-ridden bourgeois liberals? One of them is that immigrants bring only economic benefit and no cost. In practice, dependants of the kind he described bring more economic costs than benefits, so will the Minister immediately introduce measures to restrict the number of dependants who can come here? In doing so, will he recognise that we are