All 59 Parliamentary debates on 16th Jan 2024

Tue 16th Jan 2024
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Tue 16th Jan 2024
Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill (First sitting)
Public Bill Committees

Committee stage: 1st sitting & Committee stage
Tue 16th Jan 2024
Tue 16th Jan 2024
Tue 16th Jan 2024
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Post Office (Horizon System) Compensation Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading & Committee negatived & 3rd reading

House of Commons

Tuesday 16th January 2024

(6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Tuesday 16 January 2024
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock

Prayers

Tuesday 16th January 2024

(6 months ago)

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

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

The Chairman of Ways and Means took the Chair as Deputy Speaker (Order, 15 January, and Standing Order No. 3).

Deputy Speaker’s Statement

Tuesday 16th January 2024

(6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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11:34
Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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Order. I regret to inform the House that there is a technical fault in the audio system. There is not a technical fault here in the Chamber—there is one in my own voice, but that is something to be remedied in another way—but there is a technical fault which means that our proceedings cannot be broadcast. Apparently it is inappropriate for us to proceed without our proceedings being broadcast, so with great reluctance I am required to suspend the House in the hope that this fault will very soon be rectified. I am going to suspend the House for only 10 minutes, in the hope that the work can be done to enable us to be broadcast to those who are listening and paying attention. The House is therefore suspended for 10 minutes.

Sitting suspended.

11:45
On resuming
Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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In the hope that we are now broadcasting, we will commence. If the audio feed is not working properly —please do not let anyone judge by my voice whether it is or not—people observing from around the Palace of Westminster are more than welcome to come to sit in the Gallery and Members wishing to observe proceedings from their offices may come to observe from the Chamber.

Oral Answers to Questions

Tuesday 16th January 2024

(6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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The Secretary of State was asked—
Martin Docherty-Hughes Portrait Martin Docherty-Hughes (West Dunbartonshire) (SNP)
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1. What recent discussions she has had with Ofgem on trends in the level of consumer energy debt.

Douglas Chapman Portrait Douglas Chapman (Dunfermline and West Fife) (SNP)
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11. What recent discussions she has had with Ofgem on trends in the level of consumer energy debt.

Graham Stuart Portrait The Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero (Graham Stuart)
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The Secretary of State is unwell and sends her apologies both to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and to the House.

Ministers in the Department regularly meet Ofgem to discuss a range of issues. The Secretary of State met suppliers, alongside Ofgem, in November to discuss consumer energy debt and the protection of vulnerable customers. I know that many families are struggling with their energy bills this winter, which is why we are providing cost of living support worth £104 billion between 2022 and 2025.

Martin Docherty-Hughes Portrait Martin Docherty-Hughes
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I am grateful for that answer. Just a few days ago, the Office for National Statistics showed that the number of households who had been unable to pay their energy bills has increased by nearly 40%. Does the Minister, on behalf of the Secretary of State, who I hope gets better soon, accept that the UK Government’s failure to listen to stakeholders such as Citizens Advice, which is calling for the £400 energy bill discount to be reinstated, has led to soaring energy debt among those who can least afford it, such as my constituents?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question; he is right to highlight the issue of debt and families who are struggling. This is why we are providing £104 billion—or, on average, £3,700 per household—between 2022 and 2025, which is one of the most generous packages in Europe. In the autumn statement, we increased the national living wage, which is worth £1,800 to a full-time worker, and increased benefits by 6.7%—that is worth £470. Just last week, we also delivered a tax cut for 27 million people, which is worth £450 for the average worker. So we are taking steps, but we recognise the reality for many people that he set out.

Douglas Chapman Portrait Douglas Chapman
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In my country, energy debt is rising, as Scottish consumers pay a premium on their energy bill—it is a high price to pay to keep the lights on in England. In the light of that imbalance, has the Minister discussed abolishing the not-fit-for-purpose Ofgem? If not, should his Government not give full responsibility for energy pricing in Scotland to the Scottish Parliament?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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We have moved decisively to support families in Scotland and across the rest of the UK. I am pleased that the price cap has fallen by half since its peak last year, and we are making sure that our support is targeted at the most vulnerable. I have already laid out many of the measures we are taking precisely to ensure that people in Scotland and elsewhere are supported in what has been a tough time. Overall, we are, of course, looking to power up Britain. We have set out a plan to do that, precisely in order to have more of our power coming from Britain and to remove our dependence on foreign fossil fuels. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and his party will support us in our efforts to deliver that.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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I call the Scottish National party spokesman.

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan (Angus) (SNP)
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The situation for bill payers this winter is even worse than it was last winter, which is why the SNP has called for the reinstatement of the £400 energy support scheme. However, the Government have stubbornly refused to sufficiently stand by householders, who are freezing all over these islands, despite reports of increased hospitalisations and the doubling of burns from hot water bottles in Scotland. How will the Tories extend just a fraction of the interest they have shown in exploiting Scotland’s natural energy resources to the people of Scotland, who are freezing yet again this winter?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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As I set out in response to the hon. Gentleman’s colleagues, we have acted decisively, offering among the most generous support of any nation in Europe. We can be proud of the efforts we have made and I am pleased to see that the energy price cap is down so significantly.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con)
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2. What recent discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on supporting the growth of the nuclear energy sector.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con)
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7. What steps she is taking to increase nuclear energy capacity.

Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling (Clacton) (Con)
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14. What steps she is taking to increase nuclear energy capacity.

Andrew Bowie Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Andrew Bowie)
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Last week, I announced the biggest expansion of nuclear power for 70 years. We will deploy a fleet of small modular reactors and build up to 24 GW of nuclear by 2050. This will ensure we have reliable, cheap and low-carbon power to protect consumers from price volatility and hostile foreign regimes, bolstering our energy security.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
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A new civil nuclear road map is a welcome step in growing our nuclear sector, potentially creating jobs across the United Kingdom, from the north of Scotland to the south-west peninsula, and including sites like Wylfa. What assessment has he made of the economic impact of the potential growth of the nuclear sector for the south-west region, particularly given the nuclear expertise at sites such as Devonport and Hinkley Point?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right that the nuclear sector supports jobs across the United Kingdom, and it would be very welcome if Governments across this United Kingdom were to come together and champion that industry as it grows over the next few decades. The nuclear sector is vital to the economy of south-west England, as my hon. Friend knows, providing up to 11,000 jobs in construction alone at Hinkley Point C, and will go on generating highly skilled jobs for generations as we continue to build up this important part of our energy security.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman
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I thank my hon. Friend for his answer and the announcement of the nuclear road map. Small modular nuclear reactors can bring energy to our towns and cities across the country very quickly. They are under development right now, so when can we see the first one installed and providing power to the grid?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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My hon. Friend will be pleased to know we are bringing forward small modular reactors and that the next phase of the live SMR competition will launch within weeks. Our aim is for the competition to be the fastest of its kind in the world, to help facilitate final investment decisions for the project being taken in the next Parliament and operational projects being here in the UK by the 2030s. The launch will mark a significant step forward for eligible companies and for the UK’s broader nuclear ambitions.

Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling
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We have given away over the decades the massive advantage this country had with the Calder Hall development in 1956, so will my hon. Friend reassure me that we will regain that ground by pushing for more rapid development of a sensible nature, as the Finns have with their hole in the ground for storing nuclear waste? Will he inform the House with which nuclear vendors the Department is engaging?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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My hon. Friend is right to refer to the proud history we have in this country when it comes to civil nuclear—the developments at Calder Hall led the world—and the deep geological disposal that is happening in Finland right now. The plans in our nuclear road map will quadruple nuclear capacity by 2050. We are making rapid progress on Sizewell C and the SMR competition. We continue to work closely with countries such as Finland, with which I engage with regularly. It has built and operates large-scale geological disposal facilities, and signed up to the COP pledge to triple nuclear capacity.

Clive Betts Portrait Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab)
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I welcome the Government’s commitment to SMRs, which are the way forward for the future of nuclear. Sheffield Forgemasters is ideally placed to produce the essential parts for those reactors and has a memorandum of understanding with both Rolls-Royce and Hitachi. Will the Minister meet the Mayor of South Yorkshire, Sheffield Forgemasters and others in the consortium? The consortium now has access to significant development capital, so we can build the SMRs in South Yorkshire and create the thousands of well-paid jobs we want, as well as green energy.

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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I would be delighted to meet the Mayor of South Yorkshire. Through the nuclear road map, we are committed not only to ensuring our energy security and achieving a further drive towards our net zero objectives, but to building up the supply chain and creating those high-wage, high-skilled jobs at all levels across the United Kingdom. Of course I would be delighted to meet the Mayor of South Yorkshire and, indeed, anybody else who represents an area that wants to invest in this future and this great exciting moment for nuclear capacity.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)
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I, too, am in favour of new nuclear; it is an important part of a balanced green energy mix. Does the Minister share my concern that much of the investment in new nuclear in the UK is coming from overseas companies, and even the Governments of overseas countries, especially given that the emphasis is not just on reducing carbon emissions, but on energy security? Would he perhaps consider other forms of renewable energy, such as tidal power, for which the entire supply chain is British and which would be great for our economy as well as for tackling climate change?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I hold a contrary position. I am proud of the fact that this country is open to inward investment and, indeed, attracts attention from some of the biggest companies in the world to invest in our future energy security and net zero objectives. Of course, in unveiling all these exciting announcements, as we did last week, at the heart of what we are seeking to achieve is to create those high-wage, high-skill jobs as we move forward across the United Kingdom, building up that supply chain, and tidal will be an important part of the mix as well.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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I thank the Minister for that most progressive answer. The progress made in nuclear safety and the need for clean energy clearly indicate that the Government must invest in the security of this sector. That would lower energy costs and help us to meet our green targets, which we all want to meet and should meet. Will the Minister outline what progress has been made to secure this investment?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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As the hon. Gentleman knows, just last week we unveiled our civil nuclear road map. I committed to meet him and, indeed, anybody else from Northern Ireland to seek to build up the manufacturing and supply chain workforce in Northern Ireland, so that all parts of our United Kingdom can benefit from the once-in-a-generation investment that we are making right now.

Duncan Baker Portrait Duncan Baker (North Norfolk) (Con)
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3. What recent assessment the Government have made of the environmental impact of onshore wind farm cables.

Graham Stuart Portrait The Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero (Graham Stuart)
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The environmental impact of onshore windfarm cables is assessed through the consenting process. Minimising potential environmental impacts of new infrastructure is a Government priority. We are committed to ensuring that new electricity network projects mitigate environmental impacts at every opportunity.

Duncan Baker Portrait Duncan Baker
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Although I am a huge supporter of offshore wind, there is no doubt that the trenching through my beautiful countryside is not without its own set of problems. Flooding, agricultural run-off and pollution have all been hugely exacerbated since the summer with what has happened in North Norfolk. What measures do we really have to force wind companies to clean up and repair the countryside after the damage they cause when they trench through it?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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I thank my hon. Friend for his question and for persistently raising these issues to make sure that we get the transmission infrastructure that we need, but in a way that has the minimum negative impact on his constituents and others. I will follow up his question today by looking specifically at the regime, making sure that the companies concerned not only go through all the correct permissioning ahead of time, but are properly followed up to ensure that they deliver it in a way that does not leave the problems that he has itemised.

Alan Whitehead Portrait Dr Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab)
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On 28 November, I asked the Minister how many planning applications for onshore wind had been lodged in England since the alleged loosening of planning restrictions on onshore wind in September. The answer then was zero. Even now that the policy has had more time to bed down, the answer, I am afraid, is still zero, and I predict that it will be zero the next time we meet. In September last year, the Secretary of State said that the changes made in September

“will help speed up the delivery of onshore wind projects”.

Does the Minister think that the Government have succeeded?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. As he will be aware, in the last contracts for difference round, a great deal of onshore wind was successfully brought forward and it still constitutes the largest single form of renewable energy in the United Kingdom—the Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Andrew Bowie) will correct me if I have got that wrong. I share with the hon. Gentleman a frustration in making sure that we see that pulled forward, so that we see more projects in England as well as in the rest of the UK.

Alan Whitehead Portrait Dr Whitehead
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I am glad the Minister is frustrated about the complete failure of this alleged policy turnaround, but I am frustrated because if we had not had the absurd ban in the first place, the onshore wind development that would have taken place would have saved each family £180 on their energy bills. All Labour is suggesting is that onshore wind is treated like any other development. How long will it be before the Minister accepts the reality and concludes that he needs to go back and properly repeal the ban?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question and his personal commitment to this area, but he knows as well as anyone the parlous performance of the previous Government, which his right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) was a leading figure in. Less than 7% of our electricity came from renewables as recently as 2010. It is this Government that have led the world after a flatlining in carbon emissions from our electricity sector under Labour. We have seen renewables grow and, by October, we will see coal entirely removed from our mix.

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan (Angus) (SNP)
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New renewable energy generation demands new transmission infrastructure. This Government have been asleep at the wheel for 14 years, showing zero pace, ambition or grip in delivering that energy infrastructure, and that is why bills are so high. Nevertheless, we are where we are. Will the Minister confirm to the House for the record what National Grid has said: that UK Government policy is that when constructing new transmission infrastructure, overhead lines are the starting position?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. Of course, we have been moving at pace. We have had the Winser review and the connections plan. In the autumn statement and, indeed, the Prime Minister’s speech in September, there was so much to drive forward and change the transmission infrastructure, including halving the 14-year timeline to seven years. We are working flat out.

It should be noted that the reason overhead lines are preferred is the cost of undergrounding. Not only is it vastly disruptive, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Duncan Baker) said; either undergrounding or offshore is five to ten times more expensive than having overhead infrastructure, and sometimes even more than that. That is why it is the starting presumption. We want to power Britain from Britain and in a low-cost manner, so that when we get to the 2030s and we have decarbonised our electricity system, we have a low-cost electricity system, while ensuring that we install the infrastructure in a way that is friendly and supportive to communities.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist (Blaydon) (Lab)
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4. What recent assessment she has made of the potential merits of energy social tariffs.

Amanda Solloway Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Amanda Solloway)
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The Government remain focused on providing help where people need it most. We are already providing a package of support totalling over £104 billion, or £3,700 per household on average, from 2022 to 2025.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist
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Last year, the Government promised action to help the most vulnerable with their energy bills. In April 2023, the Secretary of State’s predecessor, the right hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps), said that

“a social tariff could be very helpful”.—[Official Report, 18 April 2023; Vol. 731, c. 111.]

Nearly a year on, we have heard absolutely nothing about a social tariff. Will the Minister explain to the House why the Government have abandoned plans for a social tariff?

Amanda Solloway Portrait Amanda Solloway
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As the hon. Member will know, we are continuing our support for vulnerable households, and it is important that we help households as best we can. As an example, we have the £900 cost of living payments and the warm home discount payment. Obviously, we will constantly monitor where we are and will ensure that we continue to support all those vulnerable households.

Angus Brendan MacNeil Portrait Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (Ind)
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There is indeed a need for a social tariff, whether it is a cost of living crisis or a lack-of-wages crisis, given that the Resolution Foundation reported at the beginning of December that average wages across the UK were £10,700 lower than they should be compared with other comparable countries, following the past 15 years. There probably is a lack-of-wages crisis hitting the UK.

Regardless, the Energy Security and Net Zero Committee said in our “Preparing for the winter” report, in paragraph 24:

“We urge the Government and energy suppliers to consider implementing a form of social tariff and other measures to protect vulnerable households from being cut off from their energy supplies.”

That was a unanimous report across Labour Members, Tory Members and, of course, the pro-Scottish independence voice on the Committee, but will we see some movement on this from the Government? It is important and needed by everybody, and it would be particularly welcome to my constituents in Na h-Eileanan an Iar.

Amanda Solloway Portrait Amanda Solloway
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As I have indicated, we are doing a lot of things to help people, including the most vulnerable in society. It is worth pointing out that it was announced recently in the autumn statement that the national living wage will be worth £1,800 for a full-time worker and that benefits will increase by 6.7%, which is worth £470 a year.

Kate Osborne Portrait Kate Osborne (Jarrow) (Lab)
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5. What estimate she has made of the number of households in fuel poverty in winter 2023-24.

Beth Winter Portrait Beth Winter (Cynon Valley) (Lab)
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15. What estimate she has made of the number of households in fuel poverty in winter 2023-24.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab)
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18. What estimate she has made of the number of households in fuel poverty in winter 2023-24.

Amanda Solloway Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Amanda Solloway)
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Fuel poverty is devolved. Statistics for England are published annually by the Department. The next English statistics will be published on 15 February and will include estimates of the number of households in fuel poverty in 2023 and 2024.

Kate Osborne Portrait Kate Osborne
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Just under a third of people in my Jarrow constituency are now living in fuel poverty, like Maureen, who told me she is struggling to find an extra £975 per month due to the disability price tag. That will be made worse by the recent news of the energy price cap rise. Can the Minister explain why the Government still insist on giving subsidies worth billions to the oil and gas industry through loopholes in the windfall tax? Would that money not be better spent cutting people’s bills?

Amanda Solloway Portrait Amanda Solloway
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I must point out the work the Government have been doing to help vulnerable people. Not only that, but we have halved energy bills. I have constant meetings with all stakeholders, including Citizens Advice and all the disability groups, and we are ensuring that we are supporting all vulnerable people in the cost of living crisis and as we go through this winter.

Beth Winter Portrait Beth Winter
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I also have increasing numbers of constituents with significant levels of energy debt coming to my office seeking fuel vouchers. Why are the Government pursuing the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill, which the Minister herself has said will not bring down bills, when economic forecasters warn that delays in decarbonising will leave consumers with higher prices? Is it not time the Government dropped the focus on fossil fuels and delivered instead the public investment in renewable energy that will bring down bills and go some way to averting the climate catastrophe?

Amanda Solloway Portrait Amanda Solloway
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We are committed not only to helping vulnerable people, but to making sure we are providing the best energy security we can. That is why we are committed to all the policies we have introduced.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones
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I listened very carefully to the answer the Minister gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Liz Twist), but I am still none the wiser, so I will ask again: can the Minister set out what recent discussions she has had with the Welsh Government about the social tariff, which the previous Secretary of State described as “very helpful”?

Amanda Solloway Portrait Amanda Solloway
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Just to reiterate, I have been having conversations with all stakeholders, and when I say stakeholders, that does not just mean Citizens Advice or Disability Rights UK, but across Government and with different devolved Departments.

Derek Thomas Portrait Derek Thomas (St Ives) (Con)
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I am sure the Minister will agree that energy security and supporting the most vulnerable in fuel poverty go hand in hand. The way to address security is by both securing supply and cutting waste. Can she set out what the Government and her Department are doing to reduce the waste of energy from people’s homes?

Amanda Solloway Portrait Amanda Solloway
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I want to acknowledge how hard my hon. Friend works for his constituents. Of course those are the things we are most mindful of: making sure we get energy efficiency not only in production, but in the way we use that energy.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab)
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6. What recent discussions she has had with businesses on the Government’s net zero targets.

Meg Hillier Portrait Dame Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op)
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16. What recent discussions she has had with businesses on the Government’s net zero targets.

Graham Stuart Portrait The Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero (Graham Stuart)
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I meet regularly with business leaders and chair several groups bringing together Government and industry so that we can drive progress towards net zero. That includes the Net Zero Council, which is meeting next week and includes members from right across the economy. Like me, they are delighted that the UK is leading the world in tackling climate change. We are the first major economy to halve its emissions, ahead of every other major economy, and we have one of the most ambitious decarbonisation targets in the world.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson
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Contrary to what the Minister has just said, and to what he said about onshore wind, this country has fallen on his party’s watch to seventh in the world for attracting investment in renewables. Well-paid jobs, lower bills and economic growth will all follow, but only if we attract investment, so why are the Government enabling what EY has described as the “diminishing of green policies” and undermining the economic benefits of net zero?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, which has a sort of comic element given Labour’s monumental failure to deliver renewables when it was in power, coupled with the fact that it wants to bring forward GB Energy. That, as his left-wing colleague, the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Beth Winter) just said, would be public investment. It would drive out private investment and destroy the transformation of the UK energy system that has happened under the Conservatives—it had flatlined under Labour. We have led the world and have now decarbonised more than any other major economy on the planet. Under the policies of this Conservative Government, which major world economy is predicted to decarbonise fastest by 2030? This one.

Meg Hillier Portrait Dame Meg Hillier
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If I may puncture the Minister’s rant, I would like to ask him what certainty his Government will give businesses. We need a £23 billion combined investment from the public and private sectors, but because targets have been missed, that figure will need to double or treble every year between now and 2050, according to a Public Accounts Committee report. The Government’s chopping and changing in delivering what they need to do is a big problem in businesses having the confidence to invest. That has happened on his watch, so what is he doing to improve the situation?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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I thank the hon. Lady for her question and for her work on the Committee in holding the Government to account. Of course, we have realised £198 billion of investment into clean energy since 2010, and we have a plan, which we set out in “Powering Up Britain”. The Labour party has only an intention to borrow £28 billion a year, putting up families’ taxes, putting up bills and destroying the most investable market in Europe that we have had to date. We will have another £100 billion of private investment by 2030, and the Conservatives will carry on our work leading the world in transforming our energy system so that we have lower-cost, home-produced energy while also delivering on net zero—things that signally did not happen under Labour.

Dominic Raab Portrait Dominic Raab (Esher and Walton) (Con)
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UK start-up Newcleo and French start-up NAAREA—Nuclear Abundant Affordable Resourceful Energy for All—have just announced a partnership to promote small modular nuclear reactors. What support are the UK Government providing, and what proportion of our energy mix does the Minister think this kind of initiative can support?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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My right hon. Friend is right, and it is great to see excitement across the Chamber about developing nuclear. It is just a shame that, when it came to the secondary legislation to enable the business models, Labour Members did not support it—they say one thing in one place and a different thing when it comes to making the laws of the land. I am pleased to say to him that, under the Conservatives, the plan is to bring the jobs, technology and opportunity of small modular reactors to this country, as part the ambition for up to 25% of our electricity to come from nuclear by 2050.

Katherine Fletcher Portrait Katherine Fletcher (South Ribble) (Con)
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I have been talking with businesses in South Ribble about achieving net zero. Businesses on Leyland business park are exploring geothermal, and we also have the huge advantage of the Howick Cross substation bringing in energy from offshore wind, onshore wind in Scotland, and the north-west and Welsh nuclear fleet. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in future, businesses will look to site themselves where there is reliable and accessible cheap energy, and that South Ribble is well placed to take advantage of that?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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My hon. Friend is quite right to highlight the benefits and attractions of South Ribble, and indeed the wider UK economy. It is not just that the areas that have those services will attract business within the United Kingdom: by rewiring and leading the world in delivering a low-cost, low-carbon energy system, we can attract more investment from abroad and have a renaissance, not least in the north of England but also in Wales and Scotland—all around the country. That is a result of the net zero policies that, uniquely, this country is managing to lead the world on following so many years of Labour failure.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green)
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The Minister will know that the Climate Change Committee has a key role in advising the Government on their path to net zero, but he will also know that 18 months on from the resignation of Lord Deben as chair of that committee, the Government still have not announced a replacement, despite 60 applications for the role having been submitted and several people already having been interviewed. Are the Government scared of having their record scrutinised, or are they simply determined to destroy any last shred of the UK’s climate leadership? Will the Minister tell us now when the selection will be announced?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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Given the hon. Lady’s lifelong passion for this subject, I find it extraordinary that she never, ever recognises the unique achievement of this country in halving emissions. I would have thought she would celebrate that. As the hon. Lady will know, the Climate Change Committee’s chair is not just a matter for the UK Government. The appointment of the chair of that committee has to be agreed by the devolved Administrations as well, and we are moving as quickly as we can.

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan (Angus) (SNP)
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Who is holding it up?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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The best thing, as barristers know, is to not ask a question unless you already know the answer, because it might not suit you. We are moving as quickly as we can to make sure that we have a chairman in place. I share the hon. Lady’s belief that it is an important role, and we want to have it filled as quickly as possible.

Simon Fell Portrait Simon Fell (Barrow and Furness) (Con)
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One of the most effective ways in which we can hit our net zero targets is by delivering an effective carbon capture and storage industry, and I was delighted to see the Government make an announcement just before Christmas about the next round of that. The Morecambe bay net zero project based in my constituency could deliver a gigaton of carbon storage, helping some of our most energy-intensive industries through this transition period. I invite my right hon. Friend to come and visit.

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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I am not the Minister who leads on carbon capture, usage and storage, so I may have just swerved a visit, but of course I am always delighted to talk to my hon. Friend. If I can lean on my colleague in the House of Lords who is responsible for that policy area, I will let him know of my hon. Friend’s kind offer. I share his enthusiasm: by capturing the renewables around the UK and converting them into low-cost electricity, as we are also taking forward hydrogen and using the natural blessing of having so much carbon capture capability, we can deliver this country the jobs, the opportunity and the low-cost energy system for the future. I look forward to my hon. Friend’s continuing support.

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy (Bristol East) (Lab)
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Having shared a constituency border with the former Member for Kingswood for 14 years, I know that he was genuine in wanting what was best for his constituents. He knew that a green transition would protect their jobs at Rolls-Royce and Airbus, help the science park to thrive, and bring opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises and the self-employed. He knew that home insulation and clean energy would bring warmer homes to Warmley and Woodstock, and lower bills to Bitton. He resigned because he had lost all hope that this Government would deliver on those things. He was right, was he not?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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Just to spell it out—because we do have to speak very slowly for the Opposition Front-Bench team—we have cut our emissions more than any other major economy, and our plans and the expectation of the UN are that we will continue to lead the world. That is leading the world: not talking about it, not promising to borrow £28 billion and put everyone’s taxes up, and then fluctuating on a daily basis. It is about delivery. We have delivered and will continue to do so.

If we want to see the reality of Labour on energy, we only need to go to Nottingham. There, Labour invested in Robin Hood Energy, which went spectacularly bust—a forerunner of a Labour Government, perhaps, if there ever were to be one. It is typical of Labour to reverse all the principles of Robin Hood: all Labour does is steal from the poor in order to pay for the bailiff.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda (Reading East) (Lab)
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8. How many homes had energy efficiency measures installed in (a) 2010 and (b) 2022.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
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19. How many homes had energy efficiency measures installed in (a) 2010 and (b) 2022.

Andrew Bowie Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Andrew Bowie)
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Because of our plan, half of homes now meet the Government’s 2035 energy performance certificate band C goal, a significant jump from 14% in 2010. In 2010, low-cost measures were targeted, with 960,000 installations. In 2022, funding shifted to high-cost measures to benefit low-income households and less-efficient homes, resulting in approximately 200,000 installations last year.

Matt Rodda Portrait Matt Rodda
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I fear that the Minister may be referring rather too much to new build homes. The reality is that in 2010 there were 1.8 million insulation measures introduced into cavity walls and lofts, yet in 2022, in comparison, there were only 80,000. That has left my constituents in Reading and Woodley, who mainly live in Victorian and 20th-century homes, struggling with very high bills, so what is the Minister going to do about that?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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The hon. Gentleman did not acknowledge that we have moved from 14% to 50% because of the actions of a Conservative Government. To answer his question directly, we are allocating around £20 billion to clean heat and energy efficiency over this Parliament and the next, which will benefit his constituents. That includes our Great British insulation scheme, worth £1 billion, which will deliver insulation measures to around 300,000 of the country’s least energy-efficient homes, saving them £300 to £400 each year by March 2026.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner
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I echo the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Reading East (Matt Rodda). I remember in 2008-09, long before I came into this place, working endlessly with Cambridge City Council and energy providers on encouraging people in the city to take up home insulation schemes. Since then, we have seen precisely nothing—nothing has been going on. Labour has a huge ambition for the future; what is the Government’s ambition?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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I know mathematics is not a strong point for the Labour party, but I will go over the figures again: 14% to 50% over the course of the last three Parliaments, delivered by the actions of this Conservative Government. We have a plan to continue to deliver for the least well-off in those homes that need more energy efficiency measures. As I just said to the hon. Member’s colleague, we are allocating £20 billion to clean heat mechanisms over this and the next Parliament, and we are going to continue to deliver for the British people.

Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con)
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Thousands of new homes are being built across the Kettering constituency. What is my hon. Friend doing, together with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, to decarbonise the future housing stock and improve energy efficiency in new build housing?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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We recently announced further details of the £6 billion extension that will be allocated from 2025 to 2028. This will support an extra 500,000 homes—prioritising those who need it most, but including new build—and is on top of support for 700,000 families to install improvements through the Great British insulation scheme and the energy company obligation by March 2026.

Imran Hussain Portrait Imran Hussain (Bradford East) (Lab)
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9. What recent discussions she has had with Ofgem on the compensation payment process for households that have had prepayment meters wrongfully installed.

Amanda Solloway Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Amanda Solloway)
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I have met Ofgem and suppliers to reiterate my expectations that the new rules will be followed. Ofgem has announced that if a supplier wrongfully installs a prepayment meter, it will be expected to compensate its customers appropriately.

Imran Hussain Portrait Imran Hussain
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Forcing the installation of prepayment meters in the homes of some of our poorest and most vulnerable constituents is, frankly, a scandal. Although the Government rightly paused forced installations last year, some energy companies have been allowed to resume this outrageous practice under a new rules regime, which the Minister referred to, that still faces many questions. Does the Minister think that in the middle of winter—in a week when we have seen temperatures drop dramatically—we can trust energy suppliers that have a history of unscrupulous practices in force-fitting energy meters in the homes of vulnerable people to, in effect, self-regulate? Will the Government instead legislate to ban the scandalous forced installation of prepayment meters once and for all?

Amanda Solloway Portrait Amanda Solloway
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I acknowledge how awful it was that people had their homes broken into to force fit prepayment meters, but there is also a place for prepayment meters to enable people and to support people out of debt. I reassure the House that I have scrutinised every level of the regime for prepayment meters, now that we are going back to reinforcement, to absolutely ensure that we will not see all the scandalous practices that happened before.

Alun Cairns Portrait Alun Cairns (Vale of Glamorgan) (Con)
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10. What steps she is taking to support the oil and gas sector.

Graham Stuart Portrait The Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero (Graham Stuart)
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The North sea is a mature basin and production will naturally decline in the coming years. The Government are committed to supporting our oil and gas industry and the energy transition, which is why we have the North sea transition deal and have introduced the Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill. We want to protect investment, the 200,000 jobs supported by the sector and the tens of billions of pounds coming in in taxes, as well as to use the existing industry to deliver the wider energy transition.

Alun Cairns Portrait Alun Cairns
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The Government’s action to use gas and oil reserves in the UK for the smooth transition to renewable sources is important for our energy security, but also offers great employment and wealth prospects in the process. Is the Minister aware that Offshore Energies UK published a workforce insight last year that highlighted that the number of people working in the sector could be increased by 50%? For that to become a reality, the sector needs to be stable and competitive. What commitment can my right hon. Friend offer to the stability and competitiveness of the sector?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is a declining basin, and it is so important as we go through the transition that we do not lose the skills and jobs of those people who are providing the oil and gas on which we currently rely. No country is doing more to decarbonise than we are, but we will continue to use oil and gas for decades to come. As our production falls even more quickly than our demand, and even more quickly than is required globally, it is essential that we support the industry, send the signal that my right hon. Friend suggested, and rebut the attitude of the Labour party, which would destroy those jobs, lose the tax and put up emissions.

Sammy Wilson Portrait Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP)
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I welcome the fact that, belatedly, the Government have accepted that, despite their net-zero policies, the oil and gas industry is important for the future in the United Kingdom. Does the Minister recognise that to benefit from the oil and gas in the North sea that will be released by the new licensing regime, we need to have refinery capacity? There has been little, if any, investment in refinery capacity, because of the uncertainty of the future and the carbon taxes placed on it. When will the Minister address that issue to ensure that we get the full benefit of the oil and gas that we extract from our shores?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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Effectively, we are part of a European market. Most of the gas that we produce is consumed in the United Kingdom, and most of our oil is refined elsewhere in Europe and contributes to European and UK energy security, as it is converted into product. It is one joined-up market for historical reasons, and our refineries are used predominantly for oil that comes from abroad, as opposed to that which comes from the North sea. These are multi-decadal investments, and as part of a managed decline in demand we will see refinery capacity reduced over time. We are doing absolutely everything to do this in the most sensible manner possible, and it is a shame that Labour Members would have us import more. They are all in favour of oil and gas jobs, so long as they are not in the UK, and they will bring in foreign imports from which we will get no jobs and no tax, with higher emissions. It makes no sense, and only the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) could champion such an insane policy.

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

Amanda Solloway Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Amanda Solloway)
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As chair of the all-party group on carbon capture, utilisation and storage, the hon. Member will know that the Government have committed £20 billion to support the early development of carbon capture, usage and storage, and up to £500 million for the industrial energy transformation fund to help industry to decarbonise, with phase 3 opening shortly.

Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham
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I welcome the investment in carbon capture—we just need to get on and make something happen there. Teesside is home to some of the most energy-intensive industries in the country, but instead of attracting more of those industries, including primary steel making, we are seeing plants closed down and jobs lost because investors do not see any industrial strategy from the Government. High energy costs mean that it is cheaper to import many of the goods that until now we have made at home. Why are the Government content to see this managed decline, rather than back the kind of strategy that will protect existing industries and drive investment and job creation?

Amanda Solloway Portrait Amanda Solloway
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This Government invest throughout the country with our levelling-up agenda, but we have of course been investing in the steel industry, and we are mindful to ensure that we have the skills that will take us forward for those future requirements.

Sarah Jones Portrait Sarah Jones (Croydon Central) (Lab)
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My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) was of course absolutely right: we have seen managed decline under this Government, with no coherent industrial strategy, total failure to get the grid connected where we need it, and different Departments giving mixed messages and providing complicated processes to access any support.

On top of all that, our industry has to pay twice as much on its energy bills compared with European competitors. A recent report by UK Steel stated that our steel producers have to pay £117 million more per year on electricity, forcing the Government to deliver a subsidy through the supercharger, which in turn raises bills for everybody else. Instead of such short-term policies, is it time for Labour’s industrial strategy, Labour’s grid reform and Labour’s mission to become a clean energy superpower, so that we can permanently cut bills for everyone, grow our economy and give Britain its future back?

Amanda Solloway Portrait Amanda Solloway
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This Government have demonstrated our commitment to help across the domestic and non-domestic sectors. However, we also recognise the vital role that the steel sector plays in our economy. In fact, the 2021 net zero strategy reaffirms our commitment to continue to work with the steel industry on decarbonisation.

Mary Kelly Foy Portrait Mary Kelly Foy (City of Durham) (Lab)
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T1. If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

Graham Stuart Portrait The Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero (Graham Stuart)
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The UK is the first major economy to halve its emissions. Since the Prime Minister’s speech in September, we have announced the £960 million green industries growth accelerator, helped to deliver the first global agreement to transition away from fossil fuels at COP28, acted to protect motorists from unfair prices at petrol stations, announced backing for 11 major projects to produce green hydrogen, and committed to the biggest nuclear expansion in 70 years. We have a plan. Our plan is working and it will get us to net zero. It will guarantee our energy security and bring consumers and the British people with us.

Mary Kelly Foy Portrait Mary Kelly Foy
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My constituents have told me they are no longer eligible to receive the warm home discount, which, along with Ofgem’s price increase, is making the cost of living even more severe in the City of Durham. Will the Minister meet me to discuss that? What, if any, discussions has he had with the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, the hon. Member for Mid Sussex (Mims Davies) about the impact of fuel poverty on disabled people?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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We are providing targeted support for the most vulnerable through the warm home discount. I am pleased to say that we have raised it to £150 and extended it so that it now reaches 3 million low-income households, giving them a rebate on their energy bills every winter.

Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con)
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T3. Kettering is one of the greenest constituencies in the country, because the wind turbines and solar panels in the constituency generate enough electricity to power all 45,000 homes. For the country as a whole, what percentage of our electricity was generated from renewables when the Conservatives came to power in 2010, and what is the percentage now?

Andrew Bowie Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Andrew Bowie)
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I thank my hon. Friend for that question. He will be delighted to learn that renewable generation has increased fivefold from 2010 to 2022. It has gone from a risible 26 TWh to 135 TWh. Some 40 GW of renewable energy has connected to Great Britain’s electricity networks since 2010. Since 2010, the UK has seen a more than 500% increase in the amount of renewable electricity capacity in the grid thanks to this Conservative Government.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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I call the shadow Secretary of State.

Edward Miliband Portrait Edward Miliband (Doncaster North) (Lab)
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In the past month, the former Prime Minister who legislated for net zero has condemned the Minister’s oil and gas policy. His colleague the former COP President has accused the Government of “not being serious” and the Government’s net zero tsar has resigned his seat in disgust. Why does the Minister think that that is?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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As we have rehearsed, the UK is the first major economy to halve its emissions. It is the one that is delivering more going forward. It is so important that we recognise that we will continue to need oil and gas for decades to come. The Labour party’s policy will do the opposite; it will weaken British jobs, reduce taxes and put up emissions, and that is why we remain committed, working across society, to ensuring that we deliver.

Edward Miliband Portrait Edward Miliband
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It is not just us who oppose the Minister’s Bill, but those on his own side—he has lost an MP over it. I know he brought down the last Government over fracking; he is trying to do it again with his new Bill. That is the reason that people have lost confidence. They see the hottest year on record and a Government backsliding on net zero. Is it not the truth that the Conservatives who know and care most about climate change no longer support this Government?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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The right hon. Gentleman would love to think that was the case, but the Conservative party is united in driving this forward and in delivering. We are powering up Britain from Britain. We have taken ourselves from the abject position left by him when he was in government, which so many of my colleagues have described. We must not go back to that, because it would put bills up, it would put emissions up, and it would stop us being the global net zero leader that we are.

Duncan Baker Portrait Duncan Baker (North Norfolk) (Con)
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T4. The Prime Minister recently visited Bacton gas terminal in North Norfolk, which is home to a third of the UK’s gas supply and in the future could be an enormous hub for green energy production in the east of England. Will Ministers reassure me that they will continue to consider Bacton as the future home for carbon capture, usage and storage technology as well as a hydrogen hub for the future in the east of England?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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I agree with my hon. Friend and the Prime Minister on the importance of Bacton, which, like all gas terminals across the country, has the potential to play a crucial role in our energy security. The decarbonisation of these terminals is vital to delivering both economic growth and net zero. The Hewett field, 20 km offshore from Bacton, was awarded a licence for carbon sea storage by the North Sea Transition Authority in 2023. I hear his loud voice—it will be heard on the Government Benches—about its potential to be a hydrogen hub as well.

Sarah Green Portrait Sarah Green  (Chesham and Amersham) (LD)
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T2. Data released last year suggests that Britain has one of the largest queues in Europe of wind and solar capacity waiting to be connected to the grid. Will the Minister provide an update on what steps the Department is taking to reduce those waiting times?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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The hon. Lady is absolutely right to highlight that issue. At the autumn statement, we announced plans to halve the time it takes to build new critical powerlines as well as reducing average delays from five years to no more than six months. The connection action plan at the more local level will release more than 100 GW of capacity and give powers to the system operator to terminate stalled projects. We are seeking across multiple Departments—led by this one—to deal with the issues that she rightly raised.

Cherilyn Mackrory Portrait Cherilyn Mackrory (Truro and Falmouth) (Con)
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T7. A&P Falmouth in my constituency has submitted an application to the Government for floating offshore wind manufacturing investment scheme funding in readiness to support the first floating offshore wind project in English waters. With Government support, it could supply electricity to 45,000 homes in Cornwall. The scheme is shovel-ready, pragmatic and deliverable, with huge support from local stakeholders as well as being vital to building the supply chain further in the south-west. Will my hon. Friend, alongside Department for Transport colleagues, carefully consider the application to help me deliver that for Cornwall, the south-west and the Celtic sea cluster?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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It is incredibly encouraging to hear about what is happening at A&P Falmouth. As my hon. Friend knows, the floating offshore wind manufacturing investment scheme is providing up to £160 million to support investment in UK ports. However, while FLOWMIS is still live, I am afraid I cannot comment on individual applications.

Debbie Abrahams Portrait Debbie  Abrahams  (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab)
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T5.   More than 15% of families in my constituency live in fuel poverty, with a median energy efficiency score of just 65. How much of the 2019 general election manifesto pledge to spend £9.2 billion on improving energy efficiency has gone on retrofitting existing properties and not on new builds?

Amanda Solloway Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero (Amanda Solloway)
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I will have to write to the hon. Member with the figure, but the Government remain firmly committed to new builds as well as to retrofitting.

Vicky Ford Portrait Vicky Ford  (Chelmsford) (Con)
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T10.   Many Chelmsford residents have already switched to electric vehicles. Those who live in houses with driveways pay just 5% VAT when they charge their cars at home, but those who live in terraced houses, who are often less well off, have to pay 20% VAT when they use a commercial charger. I fully understand that tax is a matter for the Treasury Ministers, but does my right hon. Friend agree that if we could level out this tax, we could make electric vehicles more affordable to all people and thus help with our transition towards a lower carbon economy?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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As we make the transition, it is essential that we do so fairly, not least for those with less. We have committed to keeping the transition to electric vehicles affordable for consumers, and we support innovations for those without a home charger such as cross-pavement cable channels and peer-to-peer charging schemes. I know that my right hon. Friend will continue to raise the VAT issue. As she rightly said, all taxes, including VAT reliefs, are kept under review by the Chancellor.

Samantha Dixon Portrait Samantha Dixon (City of Chester) (Lab)
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T6. The hospitality sector is very important to Chester. Talking to the Chester business improvement district this morning, and following comments from chef Gary Usher, it is clear that the damaging impact of sky-high energy bills is still felt extremely significantly. What hope can the Minister offer hard-pressed restaurateurs in Chester and across the country?

Amanda Solloway Portrait Amanda Solloway
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I am aware of the challenges facing all the industry. I have ongoing talks with UKHospitality and other groups. There are things that we can do, such as blend and extend, and we are looking at the brokers, and ensuring that third-party intermediaries are doing their jobs correctly.

Luke Evans Portrait Dr Luke Evans (Bosworth) (Con)
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Driving down to Parliament, I pass petrol stations. In my constituency, prices were 136.9p and 137.9p. However, at the service stations, they were 164.9p and 167.9p. That is a massive difference, which the public just will not tolerate and want something to be done about it. What will the Government do?

Amanda Solloway Portrait Amanda Solloway
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Road fuel prices are down for a second consecutive month. Petrol prices are now at a level not seen since early October 2021, following our work to bring transparency to the market. Today, we launched the consultation to require petrol stations to report real-time prices, which will mean that drivers can compare prices and get the best deal, and prices will fall through greater competition.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist (Blaydon)  (Lab)
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T9. I am sorry to hear that the Secretary of State is ill, but could the Minister explain why she has taken money from Michael Hintze, funder of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, an organisation that peddles climate science denial? Does he think that is appropriate?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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I apologise for the Secretary of State not being here. I will write to the hon. Lady promptly in answer to her question.

Thérèse Coffey Portrait Dr Thérèse Coffey (Suffolk Coastal) (Con)
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Transparency is important in the development of the energy sector. National Grid is refusing to publish its assessment of Bradwell as a potential landfall site for cables and interconnectors. It must be logical to prioritise brownfield sites with existing connections to the electricity network. Will my right hon. Friend please require National Grid to publish fully its assessment so far?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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When my right hon. Friend thinks that something is important, she does not let it go. That message will go out clearly from this Chamber, and I will happily work with her to see whether we can find a resolution and give her the information and insight that she requires.

Charlotte Nichols Portrait Charlotte Nichols (Warrington North) (Lab)
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Following the recent state visit from the Korean President, when he identified nuclear as one of the key sectors for future collaboration in the UK-Korea trade deal, and the publication—albeit two years later than promised—of the civil nuclear road map last week, could the Minister please detail what conversations are taking place with the Department for Business and Trade to maximise inward investment opportunities for the nuclear supply chain in Warrington North and across the UK?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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I thank the hon. Lady for her question and for her support for our nuclear road map published last week. As she knows, we look forward to increasing the opportunities to co-operate with South Korea on civil nuclear, including on fuel supply chain safety, security, non-proliferation, decommissioning and the development of new reactors in both countries. That will benefit jobs and the supply chain around the UK, specifically where there is a strong history of a nuclear industry, such as in her constituency, which she champions.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher (Don Valley) (Con)
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The additional power supplies from offshore wind farms are creating the need for further pylons, yet if we doubled the voltage of power lines from 400 kV to 800 kV, we might not need them. That is used in China and America, and would stop the need for all the additional power lines running up and down the country. Will the Department look into that?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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It will be useful for us both if I write to my hon. Friend and set out the technical assessments, constraints and issues around that, because he makes an interesting point.

Nia Griffith Portrait Dame Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab)
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The Government have finally committed to a carbon border adjustment mechanism to protect our energy-intensive industries from being undercut by imports made with dirtier energy or in more heavily polluting processes. Will the Minister explain why the Government are delaying that until 2027, when the EU is introducing equivalent legislation a whole year earlier? Will he speak urgently to ministerial colleagues about bringing that date forward, both to protect our industries and reduce our carbon footprint?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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I thank the hon. Lady for her support for the introduction of a carbon border adjustment mechanism. This is to make sure that we do not have carbon leakage—to use the jargon—where carbon costs imposed on companies here lead to that production simply going abroad, with no betterment to the planet. His Majesty’s Treasury takes the lead on this particular policy, but I will ensure that her sentiments are passed on to my Treasury colleagues.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
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Can my hon. Friend confirm that, given all the questions about carbon accounting, sustainability and value for taxpayers’ money, the Government will not be guaranteeing Drax billions more in subsidies?

Andrew Bowie Portrait Andrew Bowie
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As my hon. Friend knows, we will shortly be consulting on potential support arrangements to help facilitate the transition of large-scale biomass generation to power bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. Power bioenergy with carbon capture and storage could deliver negative emissions to support our climate change targets and the UK’s energy security.

Business of the House

Tuesday 16th January 2024

(6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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12:45
Penny Mordaunt Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
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With permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I will make a short business statement about an addition to this week’s business. Following the announcement by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that the Government intend to proscribe Hizb ut-Tahrir under the Terrorism Act 2000, the business on Thursday will now be:

Thursday 18 January—A motion to approve the draft Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2024, followed by a debate on a motion on the loan charge, followed by a debate on a motion on HS2 compensation. The subjects for these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

I will announce further business in the usual way on Thursday.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I call the shadow Leader of the House.

Lucy Powell Portrait Lucy Powell (Manchester Central) (Lab/Co-op)
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I thank the Leader of the House for updating the House on the business for Thursday, and for advance sight of it. It is good to see her announcing a change in business as a statement, rather than a point of order, and I know that Members will appreciate that proper approach.

There have long been serious concerns about the activities of Hizb ut-Tahrir, which have been exacerbated in the light of Hamas’s barbaric terrorist attack on Israel on 7 October. It is right that the Government have looked at the evidence and intelligence on the threat posed by the group, and Labour supports the decision to proscribe it.

I also welcome the fact that urgent time has been found to debate the order this week. Those who incite violence and promote or glorify terrorism have no place on Britain’s streets. In that context, what progress has been made on proscribing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, either via a statutory instrument, as the Government are using this week for Hizb ut-Tahrir, or by a new process to deal with hostile state actors for which there is wide cross-party support in this House?

Finally, I have to say that when I was first notified of an emergency business statement today, I did wonder whether the Government were having a rethink about their Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill in the face of the usual infighting and chaos. Can the Leader of the House take this opportunity to confirm that, whether the Bill is or is not amended in Committee today or tomorrow, there will still be, as programmed, Third Reading at the end of tomorrow’s business? There has been some suggestion that the Government may still table their own amendments and push Third Reading back to another day. Would that not be further proof of the Prime Minister’s weakness and the fact that, when it comes to governing, they are just making it up as they go along?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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First, I thank the hon. Lady for her support for the statutory instrument that we are bringing forward. The Home Office has taken its time to consider the matter, but it is very clear that the activities the group is involved in fall into that category. They need to be dealt with swiftly, which is why we brought forward the SI at the first available opportunity.

The hon. Lady talks about the point of order I made last week. She will fully appreciate that this is a different situation. I am making a business statement today because we are changing the business that was previously announced. Last week, I was simply giving Members advance notice of forthcoming business, because if I had waited until our exchanges on Thursday, it would have meant an unsatisfactory amount of time for right hon. and hon. Members to prepare amendments.

I will certainly ensure that the Home Secretary has heard the hon. Lady’s query about the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Its activities are not restricted to what is happening overseas; it is engaged in activities on British soil against British citizens. I know that there is a great deal of interest in that in all parts of the House.

As the hon. Lady will know, the progress of the Rwanda Bill is subject to the House, and I shall make further business announcements in the usual way.

Mark Francois Portrait Mr Mark Francois (Rayleigh and Wickford) (Con)
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As a member of the Defence Committee, I know that it is an open secret that Iran is paymaster to, and helps to train, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthi rebels in Yemen—there is no doubt about that throughout the international intelligence community. I warmly welcome the decision to proscribe Hizb ut-Tahrir. However, given what I have just said, and given the action that we have taken against the Houthi rebels in order to maintain freedom of navigation on the seas, can the Leader of the House foresee any circumstances in which she could return to the House in the near future to make a similar announcement about proscribing the IRGC?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank my right hon. Friend for his very helpful question. I know that this is an issue of great concern to many Members. He will appreciate that the Home Secretary and the Government will want to make any future announcements in a timely way while also considering all the effects that such a course of action might bring about, not least to our ships and their insurance, but I shall ensure that the Home Secretary has heard what he has said.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Does the Scottish National party spokesperson wish to ask a question?

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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I call Kevin Brennan.

Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab)
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Given that the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee is not present and that the announcement has an impact on Thursday’s Backbench business, can the Leader of the House give us any information about the timing of the debate? Will there be a timetable motion, as there would be if the business were taken in a Committee upstairs—probably allowing an hour and a half in normal circumstances—and why has the Leader of the House decided that it should be taken on the Floor of the House rather than upstairs?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I apologise to the Backbench Business Committee—I know that this will eat into its time on Thursday—but this is an important matter that we want to deal with swiftly, and we therefore felt that it was appropriate for it to be dealt with on the Floor of the House.

Martin Docherty-Hughes Portrait Martin Docherty-Hughes (West Dunbartonshire) (SNP)
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I thank the Leader of the House for the statement and welcome the intention to hold the debate on Thursday. In response to the right hon. Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois)—a fellow member of the Defence Committee—the Leader of the House said that the Home Secretary would come back to the House “in a timely way”. As the right hon. Member highlighted, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps supplies the Houthis, especially with drone materials, and it was also committing international action last night in northern Iraq. Rather than talking of a “timely way,” many of us in the Defence Committee would say, “Time’s up.” I wonder whether the Leader of the House could reinforce to the Home Secretary the fact that across the House there is a clamour to proscribe the IRGC at the soonest opportunity.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for that helpful question. I will ensure that the Home Secretary has heard what he has said. The actions that he has described are not new; I think that, on average, that organisation has been behind about 500 attacks during any recent year against international shipping and people going about their daily business, and, as I have said, it is also engaged in activities in the UK. As a member of the Defence Committee, the hon. Gentleman will know of some the issues that surround this decision, but I am sure that if and when the Home Secretary makes his decision, he will want the House to be alerted at the earliest opportunity.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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I welcome the statement and clarification of the business for Thursday. The Leader of the House will be aware of the high levels of terrorism and the severe threat to people in Northern Ireland from the Real IRA and the New IRA. There is surely a connection between such terrorist groups in Northern Ireland and those who have sympathy towards the Hamas terrorists—is it not wonderful how terrorists across the world come together to murder innocent people?

With regard to the business on Thursday, may I ask the Leader of the House—ever mindful of the fact that only certain things can be said in the House—if it might be possible to indicate whether the threat from the Real IRA and the connection with the proscribed Hamas can be clarified evidentially, and if so, what measures will be taken to reinforce the action of stepping down hard on the Real IRA and the New IRA?

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising this important matter. As he will know, it is not a matter for me in connection with the business of the House, but he has characteristically made the point that he wished to make and put it on the record, and I shall ensure that the Home Secretary has heard it.

Points of Order

Tuesday 16th January 2024

(6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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12:55
Meg Hillier Portrait Dame Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op)
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On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Last week I attended a Committee considering a statutory instrument on the immigration health surcharge, and, as would be expected in such a forum, I was asking questions of the Minister—in this instance, the Minister for Legal Migration and the Border, the hon. Member for Corby (Tom Pursglove)—who was unable to answer a number of those questions.

I should give credit to the Minister—I have alerted him to my intention to raise this point of order—because he has since written to me, ahead of the House finally agreeing to the statutory instrument yesterday, and I thank him for that courtesy. However, that was not the first time that I have been in a statutory instrument Committee and Ministers have been unable to answer questions. In this case it was off the back of a detailed impact assessment conducted by the Home Office, but on other occasions Ministers have been unable to supply answers on fairly basic information.

I wanted to raise the matter with you, Madam Deputy Speaker, because it seems to me that this is an inadequate and inopportune way for the House to operate. We are there to scrutinise the legislation of the Government of the day, and we are hampered in doing so if Ministers are unable to give us answers and instead promise, variously, to write to us or tell us about the issue involved at a later stage, or sometimes even brush off the questions. I wonder whether you would like to say anything on this matter, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I thank the hon. Lady for her point of order and for giving me notice of it. I assume that she did inform the Minister that she intended to raise it.

Obviously, Ministers are responsible for their own replies to Members in Delegated Legislation Committees, as they are in the Chamber. I note that the hon. Lady said that the Minister did her the courtesy of writing after the event, but I think we would all believe—and it is certainly my view—that Ministers should have all the relevant information to hand when responding to a debate. The Leader of the House is here and has clearly listened carefully to what the hon. Lady has said. I am sure that she will take that point back, as will others on the Treasury Bench.

Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab)
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Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I can tell the House that this is not an isolated incident in statutory instrument Committees, but surely it is not good enough, because the Ministers who are answering questions about an impact assessment have signed that impact assessment and dated it to confirm that they are responsible and fully aware of its contents. If Ministers are indeed signing off impact assessments on statutory instruments and presenting them to Committees without knowing the contents, that is an extremely troubling revelation.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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I note the point that the hon. Gentleman has made. Let me say again that this is up to individual Ministers; we cannot test them from the Chair before they respond to a debate on a statutory instrument.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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I sense that the Leader of the House might like to provide a brief response.

Penny Mordaunt Portrait Penny Mordaunt
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Further to the point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. We take these matters very seriously, and I will ensure that the points that Members have raised are brought to the attention of the Departments that have been mentioned.

I would just add that a great deal of work has been done by the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments, which has been looking into how we can improve these processes, the quality of impact assessments and so forth, and a large training programme takes place in Departments. My noble Friend Lord True and I have also undertaken sessions with Ministers dealing with statutory instruments, involving training and improving the quality of what is put forward to enable the House to scrutinise legislation properly.

There will be incidents, I am sure, particularly with complex briefs, where someone cannot recall the information while at the Dispatch Box, but as the textbook example set out by the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Dame Meg Hillier) with regard to my hon. Friend the Minister for Legal Migration and the Border shows, when those situations arise, Ministers are very aware of their responsibility to get back to hon. Members before those statutory instruments come into effect.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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In that helpful intervention the Leader of the House has outlined the programme that is in train, and I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members will keep their beady eyes on the situation and Ministers will ensure that they are as well prepared as possible.

Bills Presented

Unpaid Trial Work Periods (Prohibition) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Stewart Malcolm McDonald, supported by Kirsten Oswald, Ms Anum Qaisar, David Linden, Deidre Brock, Patricia Gibson, Alison Thewliss, Allan Dorans, Stuart C. McDonald, Dr Philippa Whitford, Alyn Smith and Ian Blackford, presented a Bill to prohibit unpaid trial work periods; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 15 March, and to be printed (Bill 144).

Military Action (Parliamentary Approval) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Richard Foord presented a Bill to require parliamentary approval for the deployment of UK armed forces for armed conflict; to provide for exemptions from that requirement in cases of emergency or in respect of compliance with treaty obligations; to make provision for retrospective parliamentary approval in certain circumstances; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the first time; to be read a second time on Friday 26 January, and to be printed (Bill 146).

Scotland (Self-Determination)

Tuesday 16th January 2024

(6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)1.1 pm
Neale Hanvey Portrait Neale Hanvey (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (Alba)
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I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Scotland Act 1998 to transfer the power to legislate for a Scottish independence referendum to the Scottish Parliament; to provide that that power may only be exercised where the Scottish public has demonstrated its support for the holding of such a referendum; to provide that no such referendum may be held sooner than seven years after the previous such referendum; and for connected purposes.

Madam Deputy Speaker,

“I’m standing up for the right of self-determination. I’m standing up for our territory. I’m standing up for our people. I’m standing up for international law. I’m standing up for all those territories—those small territories and peoples the world over”.

Those are the words of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, recounted in her memoir “The Downing Street Years”. She went on to say:

“The principle of self-determination has become a fundamental component of international law and is enshrined in the UN Charter”.

That principle she spoke of—the principle of the self-determination of peoples—was enshrined in the United Nations charter when Prime Minister Winston Churchill signed the 1941 Atlantic charter. Any notion that Scots freely entered into the Union by an act of self-determination has no credibility whatsoever. In 1707 a majority of Scottish parliamentarians may have been persuaded, but the people were never consulted. The Acts of Union in 1707 between England and Scotland created the kingdom of Great Britain, establishing a single political entity yet preserving the territorial, legal and institutional integrity of each partner country.

The UK’s constitution is not codified in a single document, so the question of whether the Acts of Union can be unilaterally dissolved by one party is not clear. However, the accepted position hitherto is that the Union is a voluntary association of equal partners and that Scotland has an unquestioned right of self-determination. Scotland’s distinct constitutional tradition is best expressed by Lord Cooper in the case of MacCormick v. Lord Advocate:

“The principle of the unlimited sovereignty of Parliament is a distinctively English principle, which has no counterpart in Scottish constitutional law”.

In the pleadings of the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) in her Prorogation case to the UK Supreme Court, it was noted that the 1707 parliamentary Union between England and Scotland may have created a new state but did not create one nation. In recent years the UK state has steadfastly refused to acknowledge or honour that principle or the democratic wishes of the Scottish electorate. According to the distinguished academic and legal practitioner in international law, Professor Robert McCorquodale,

“the people of Scotland are distinct within the UK and have a right to self-determination…And as the people of Scotland are a people for the purposes of the right to self-determination…the choice of the means to exercise it is for the people to decide and not for the state.”

These are not obscure or arcane points of law; they are precise and purposeful, and according to Professor McCorquodale such treaty obligations are

“binding under international law on all states”.

The question of whether the ancient nation of Scotland should be an independent country once again continues to be the subject of much debate. In short, with current support sitting at 50% across the population and above 70% among younger people, the matter is far from settled. It is entirely proper for any country to review such important matters because Scotland will only become independent as and when a majority of the people of Scotland choose that path. This demands the use of a democratic mechanism that is constitutional and satisfies international legal precedent. This Bill seeks to standardise and codify such a requirement in line with the motion passed by this House that endorsed the principles of the 1989 claim of right and acknowledged the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs.

At that time the claim of right was supported by every political party save the Tories. In particular, Liberal Democrat MPs such as Ray Michie and Charles Kennedy were forthright in their support for the principle of Scottish sovereignty. They were following a home rule tradition in that party which never for a second disputed Scotland’s right of self-determination, albeit they thought Scotland should choose a form of federalism rather than independence. It would be unfortunate today if, having already deserted their historic commitment to the European cause, the Liberal Democrats were to follow that by deserting their historic commitment to respecting Scotland’s national rights. This morning the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine) called this Bill, which favours neither one side nor the other, “divisive and unnecessary”, when it is anything but. It is in fact both liberal and fundamentally democratic.

The effect of this Bill should be uncontroversial for every Member. It merely establishes in law an equivalent mechanism to the principle already conceded by the UK Government in relation to a border poll in Northern Ireland. First, it establishes that the power to legislate for a referendum requires a democratic mandate from the Scottish public to do so. Since 2014 that criterion has been met in successive general elections to the Scottish Parliament, most recently in 2021 when a majority of MSPs were elected and a majority of votes were cast in favour of a manifesto commitment to deliver an independence referendum. Secondly, the Bill states that no such referendum may be held any sooner than seven years after any previous such referendum. Should Members of this Chamber deny Scotland her legitimate claim on self-determination, that will put beyond doubt that the voice of the people of Scotland is not welcome in this place and that a new approach must be considered.

This Bill offers both remedy and route. It places the power to decide firmly where it belongs, in the hands of the people of Scotland, and it does so by transferring the power to hold a referendum on independence to the Scottish Parliament. It is a parallel initiative to that being led by my Alba party colleague Ash Regan MSP in the Scottish Parliament. Ms Regan has brought forward a draft Bill that will allow for a referendum to be held to ask the people of Scotland if they think that the Scottish Parliament should have the powers to negotiate and legislate for independence. Its purpose is to consult the people of Scotland on their opinion on extending the provisions of their Parliament to hold such a referendum—a proposition supported by the expert legal opinion of Aidan O’Neill KC. Both proposals have at their heart the democratic imperative that Scotland’s political destiny must be in the hands of the people of Scotland, not in the hands of the Westminster Parliament or the Supreme Court. How does the behaviour of the UK Government or the repeatedly espoused position of the Opposition party constitute access to meaningful political process, as claimed in the recent UK Supreme Court judgment?

In the aftermath of the 2014 referendum, the all-party Smith commission agreement was signed by all Scotland’s main political parties—SNP, Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat—and it stated:

“It is agreed that nothing in this report prevents Scotland becoming an independent country in the future should the people of Scotland so choose.”

While each have failed to deliver on that commitment, this Bill provides a necessarily equitable and democratic mechanism for the people of Scotland.

In 1889 in this place the equality of the UK partner countries was asserted by a Liberal MP, William Ewart Gladstone, when he said that

“if I am to suppose a case in which Scotland unanimously, or by a clearly preponderating voice, were to make the demand on the United Parliament to be treated, not only on the same principle, but in the same manner as Ireland, I could not deny the title of Scotland to urge such a claim.”—[Official Report, 9 April 1889; Vol. 335, c. 101.]

John Major, when he was Prime Minister, said of Scotland that

“no nation could be held irrevocably in a Union against its will.”

It is increasingly apparent that this is not a Union of equals. The UK is wilfully subverting the will of the people of Scotland by denying them their established human rights, as enshrined in the UN charter and in international treaty obligations that the UK state entered freely.

I cited the words of Lady Thatcher at the opening of my speech, but she went further:

“The Scots, being an historic nation with a proud past...have an undoubted right to national self-determination... Should they determine on independence, no English party or politician would stand in their way, however much we might regret their departure.”

Whether I like it or loathe it, we are in this Union. I hold that it is incumbent on every MP elected on an independence ticket to explore every option with courage and conviction. Today this Chamber faces a choice: affirm that this is a voluntary Union of equals or tell the world that Scotland is a mere possession to do with as it wishes. This Bill is a necessary condition of securing Scottish democracy, and I commend it to the House.

13:11
Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) (LD)
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I congratulate the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Neale Hanvey) on securing this ten-minute rule Bill and on his knowledge of Liberal political history. I have to confess, though, that my overwhelming sentiment on hearing of this Bill was, “Oh, not again!” Surely this has been settled not just by the Supreme Court ruling but by the repeated occasions on which the people of Scotland—including me and other MPs here—the electorates of several constituencies and the majority of people at the last general election, and in the referendum, made it clear that, no, we cannot be held in a Union against our will, but that our will is to stay.

On the anniversary of parliamentary approval of the Act of Union in 1707, we are going over the same nationalist argument again and again—an argument that was rejected in the referendum and at the general election. This could and should be a day when the people of this country might expect their elected representatives to be considering the importance of what has gone before, as a result of that Act, what we have achieved and built, and what we can continue to build and improve upon as part of the Union. As a liberal and a Liberal Democrat, as the hon. Gentleman said, I fundamentally believe in home rule for Scotland, I fundamentally agree that the United Kingdom needs to change and I agree that the people of Scotland deserve incremental increases in power, but that is because I believe in a federal United Kingdom and have said so on numerous occasions, and I will continue to do so.

In the past 45 years, there have been three referendums on Scotland’s political future, on the Scottish people’s future and on the state of the constitution. Every single one of them was facilitated by the United Kingdom Government and, on every occasion, the Scottish people have benefited. We have devolution as a result of the second referendum, and surely even devolution sceptics can see the good that has come from our Parliament. We have seen the benefits of devolution not only in Scotland but in Wales, and we have seen great changes in Northern Ireland and, let us not forget, the London Assembly.

The third referendum, on independence in 2014, was facilitated by the UK Government, who felt that the Scottish Parliament and Scottish parliamentary elections had proven that there was a mandate. I know this because I worked on that referendum—I declare that interest—and, as a result, we have more devolved powers. This country has come so far on devolution since the turn of the new century, and power is now closer to the people most affected by it. It would be dreadful to undermine that, to throw the baby out with the bath water, with a separatist argument. Let us be clear that that is what some colleagues want.

It is not a secret that I fundamentally disagree with my colleagues on the Alba and SNP Benches about independence and where Scotland should be heading, particularly at a time when we need to work together in this place to solve the ills that are blighting people across these isles. I repeat that, in doing so, the UK Government are not a block on more devolution but have worked to enable it.

Whatever nationalists might tell us, independence is not an answer to our problems. It is not even the question that most people in Scotland want to raise. That question is about inflation, interest rates and the cost of living. My constituents constantly ask me about instability across the globe and what we will do about those issues. Yes, they want change, but they want a different Government and a different approach. They do not want separation, and they regularly tell me that they are fed up of hearing about it. They are tired of the negativity and of their world, and their children’s world, becoming smaller because of their Government’s mismanagement and ideological decisions. They want to address the problems with our education system in Scotland, with our NHS in Scotland and with our public services in Scotland, all of which have declined during the period of a nationalist Government who have prioritised only independence. We are suffering, and we do not want to do it any more. If the nationalists lifted their heads from their ideological manifesto on separation, and if they listened a little more to the people of Scotland and stopped taking their support for granted, perhaps they would know that themselves.

The people of Scotland may not like this particular UK Government, and there are times when, frankly, I wholeheartedly agree, but they can see an opportunity for change coming in the next few months. Perhaps that is why the nationalists are putting new impetus into their cause—because they see that there is an opportunity for change coming and that people may choose to change the Government rather than the constitution.

We all know that the United Kingdom is not perfect. Of course it is not. What governmental system is? It needs reform. I believe we need to move forward to a more federal system, but we do not need more division and more rancour at a time when the list of problems in this country is longer than any of us would like. The proposition before us would do little to address those very real problems faced by my constituents and everyone else in Scotland; as I say, it would be just one more division, with more arguments and the same old grievances. It is time to move on, accept that the will of the Scottish people, as expressed regularly, is to remain in the United Kingdom, and work to improve it and improve the lives of all of the people of the UK. The Scottish people have expressed their will. As we have all said, we cannot be held in a Union against our will, but our will is to stay in that United Kingdom. I ask this House not to waste any more time on an argument that the Scottish people have settled and will settled again at the next general election.

Question put (Standing Order No. 23).

13:19

Division 45

Ayes: 48


Scottish National Party: 38
Plaid Cymru: 3
Social Democratic & Labour Party: 2
Alba Party: 2
Conservative: 1
Green Party: 1
Independent: 1

Noes: 228


Labour: 147
Conservative: 57
Liberal Democrat: 13
Democratic Unionist Party: 6
Independent: 3

Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill

[1st Allocated Day]
Considered in Committee
[Dame Rosie Winterton in the Chair]
Rosie Winterton Portrait The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I remind Members that in Committee, Members should not address the Chair as Deputy Speaker. Please use our names when addressing the Chair, or Madam Chair, Chair, Madam Chairman or Mr Chairman are also acceptable, so there are lots of options.

Rosie Winterton Portrait The First Deputy Chairman
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That is my name— I mentioned that.

Clause 2

Safety of the Republic of Rwanda

13:33
Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
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I beg to move amendment 45, page 2, line 33, leave out “a safe” and insert “an unsafe”.

Rosie Winterton Portrait The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 1, page 2, line 34, at end insert—

“(1A) The Secretary of State must lay a report before Parliament no later than one year after this Act is passed, and at least once in every subsequent calendar year, on whether in the judgement of His Majesty's Government the Republic of Rwanda is a safe country.”

This amendment requires the Secretary of State to monitor on an ongoing basis whether Rwanda remains a safe country and to report the outcome to the House.

Amendment 46, page 2, line 41, leave out “not”.

This amendment would require a court or tribunal to consider review or appeals of decisions relating to the removal of a person to Rwanda.

Amendment 47, page 3, line 3, leave out “not”.

This amendment would require a court or tribunal to consider claims about actions of the Republic of Rwanda.

Amendment 35, page 3, line 4, leave out paragraph (a).

This amendment would permit courts and tribunals to deal with systematic risk of refoulement from Rwanda.

Amendment 56, page 3, line 12, at end insert—

“(d) any claim or complaint made by a person on the grounds that the Republic of Rwanda is not a safe country if the person has—

participated or engaged in any activity, or made any communication containing serious allegations, which has led directly to bringing into question the safety of the Republic of Rwanda in general or in relation to that person, or

(ii) colluded or conspired with any other persons who have participated or engaged in any activity, or in any communication containing serious allegations, which could lead directly to bringing into question the safety of the Republic of Rwanda in general or in relation to those persons.”

This amendment would prevent a court or tribunal considering a claim that Rwanda is not a safe country from persons who deliberately tried to put themselves in jeopardy if they were removed to Rwanda.

Amendment 10, page 3, line 13, leave out subsection (5) and insert—

“(5A) This Act and the Illegal Migration Act 2023 will have effect in relation to removals to Rwanda notwithstanding—

(a) any provision made by or under the Immigration Acts,

(b) the Human Rights Act 1998,

(c) EU derived law and case law retained under sections 2 to 7 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018,

(d) any other provision or rule of domestic law (including any common law), and

(e) international law, including any interpretation of international law by the court or tribunal.

(5B) Nothing identified in paragraphs (a) to (e) of subsection (5A) may prevent or delay the removal to Rwanda of an individual under this Act or the Illegal Migration Act 2023, or affect the interpretation or application of any provision of this Act or the Illegal Migration Act 2023, including the actions or policies of public authorities, in relation to the removal of a person to Rwanda.

(5C) To the extent that any provision or requirement included in paragraphs (a) to (e) of subsection (5A) has been given effect to in legislation (including the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993, the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 and the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc) Act 2004), that legislation does not apply in relation to provision made by or by virtue of this Act or the Illegal Migration Act 2023 in relation to the removal of an individual to Rwanda, and shall not prevent or delay the removal to Rwanda of an individual under this Act or the Illegal Migration Act 2023.

(5D) A person or body to which subsection (5E) applies may not have regard to international law, in the circumstances mentioned in subsection (5G).

(5E) This subsection applies to—

(a) the Secretary of State or an immigration officer when exercising any function related to removing, or considering for removal a person to Rwanda under this Act or the Illegal Migration Act 2023,

(b) a court or tribunal when considering any application or appeal which relates to a decision or purported decision to remove, or to consider the removal of a person to Rwanda under this Act or the Illegal Migration Act 2023.

(5F) No inference is to be drawn from this section as to whether or not a person or body mentioned in subsection (5E) would otherwise have been required to have regard to international law.

(5G) The Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993 is amended as follows.

(5H) In section 2 at the end insert ‘except in relation to the removal of a person to Rwanda under the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act 2024 and the Illegal Migration Act 2023’.”

This amendment specifically excludes the legislation raised in AAA v Secretary of State of the Home Department [2023] UKSC 42 as potential blocks to removal and excludes from consideration any international law (including the ECHR and anything put out by its court).

Clause stand part.

Amendment 19, in clause 4, page 4, line 11, leave out from “whether” to the end of line 14 and insert

“and in what manner a person is to be removed, or considered for removal, to Rwanda under this Act or the Illegal Migration Act 2023”.

This and other amendments to Clause 4 are intended to remove the ability of individuals to block their own removal through suspensive claims and to limit such claims to rare situations where there is bad faith on the part of decision-makers in relation to decisions as to medical fitness to travel.

Amendment 48, page 4, line 13, leave out from “circumstances” to end of line 14.

This amendment is intended to allow the decision-maker to consider whether the Republic of Rwanda is not a safe country in general.

Amendment 20, page 4, line 18, leave out from “that” to end of line 22 and insert

“are expressly permitted by this Act or by the Illegal Migration Act 2023”.

This and other amendments to Clause 4 are intended to remove the ability of individuals to block their own removal through suspensive claims and to limit such claims to rare situations where there is bad faith on the part of decision-makers in relation to decisions as to medical fitness to travel.

Amendment 49, page 4, line 20, leave out from “circumstances” to end of line 22.

This amendment is intended to allow the court or tribunal to consider whether the Republic of Rwanda is not a safe country in general.

Amendment 37, page 4, line 23, leave out subsection (2).

This amendment ensures that decision-makers are still able to consider the risk of refoulement when making individual decisions on removals to Rwanda.

Amendment 50, page 4, line 23, leave out subsections (2) to (7).

Amendment 2, page 4, line 27, at end insert —

“(2A) Any review or appeal under subsection (1) may be considered only after the person in question has arrived in Rwanda.

(2B) The Secretary of State may provide any necessary technical assistance, including access to video-links, to the person in question if it appears reasonable to a Minister of the Crown that such assistance should be provided in order to enable the person in question to request a review or make an appeal after their arrival in Rwanda.

(2C) The Secretary of State may provide any necessary incidental or medical assistance to the person in question if it appears reasonable, in the circumstances of that individual person in question, to a Minister of the Crown that such assistance should be provided in order to enable the person in question to travel to, and if necessary to be looked after or quarantined following arrival in, the Republic of Rwanda.

(2D) Any decision by a Minister of the Crown in relation to subsection (2B) or (2C) shall be final for all purposes and may not be considered or questioned in any tribunal or court.”

This amendment would allow reviews and appeals to take place only after the person had reached Rwanda; allow video-links for an appeal made from Rwanda; authorise the provision of any necessary medical help or quarantine on the way and if necessary after arrival in Rwanda; and prevent the courts from questioning decisions on assistance made by Ministers.

Amendment 3, page 4, line 28, leave out subsections (3) to (6) and insert—

“(2E) No order for an interim remedy under this section may be made by any tribunal or court.”

Amendment 21, page 4, line 34, leave out from “is” to end of line 37 and insert

“expressly permitted to do so by this Act or by the Illegal Migration Act 2023”

This and other amendments to Clause 4 are intended to remove the ability of individuals to block their own removal through suspensive claims and to limit such claims to rare situations where there is bad faith on the part of decision-makers in relation to decisions as to medical fitness to travel.

Amendment 57, page 5, line 1 , at end insert—

“‘compelling evidence’ may not include foreseeable risk of any kind of harm to a person if that person has—

(i) participated or engaged in any activity, or made any communication containing serious allegations, which has led directly to bringing into question the safety of the Republic of Rwanda in the particular individual circumstances of that person, or

(ii) colluded or conspired with any other persons who have participated or engaged in any activity, or in any communication containing serious allegations, which could lead to bringing into question the safety of the Republic of Rwanda in the particular individual circumstances of that person.”

This amendment would prevent the Secretary of State, an immigration officer or a court or tribunal considering a claim that Rwanda was not a safe country for the particular individual circumstances of a person if that person had deliberately tried to put themselves in jeopardy if they were removed to Rwanda.

Amendment 22, page 5, line 7, at end insert —

“(8) The Illegal Migration Act 2023 is amended as follows.

(9) In section 8 at the end insert—

‘(18) In relation to notices under subsection (2) which specify Rwanda as the country of destination —

(a) paragraph 2(b) does not apply, and

(b) subsections (3) to (7) do not apply.’

(10) After section 8 insert—

8A Finality of decisions

(1) Subsections (2) and (3) apply in relation to persons named in notices as described in subsection 8(18), and all matters, decisions, or conclusions reached in relation to their selection, processing, detention, and removal.

(2) These matters, decisions, and conclusions are final, and not liable to be questioned or set aside in any court or tribunal.

(3) In particular—

(a) the decision maker is not to be regarded as having exceeded its powers by reason of any error made in reaching the decision;

(b) the supervisory jurisdiction does not extend to, and no application or petition for judicial review may be made or brought in relation to, the decision.

(4) Subsection (5) applies only in relation to decisions as to medical fitness to travel to Rwanda.

(5) Subsections (2) and (3) do not apply so far as the decision involves or gives rise to any question as to whether the decision maker is acting or has acted in bad faith.

(6) The court of supervisory jurisdiction is not to entertain any application or petition for judicial review in respect of a decision relating to a removal or proposed removal to Rwanda that it would not entertain (whether as a matter of law or discretion) in the absence of this section.

(7) In this section—

“bad faith” means dishonesty or personal malice, and does not include unreasonableness or actions taken which are inconsistent with international law;

“decision” includes any purported decision;

“first-instance decision” means the decision in relation to which permission (or leave) to appeal is being sought;

“the supervisory jurisdiction” means the supervisory jurisdiction of—

(a) the High Court in England and Wales or Northern Ireland,

or

(b) the Court of Session, in Scotland,

and

“the court of supervisory jurisdiction” is to be read accordingly.’

(11) After the cross-heading ‘Entry, settlement and citizenship’, insert—

29A Exclusion of certain provisions relating to entry, settlement and citizenship

Sections 30 to 37, and the other legislation therein mentioned or referred to, shall not apply if they have the effect of preventing or delaying any removal notified under this Act to Rwanda.’

(12) After the cross-heading ‘Legal proceedings’ insert—

37A Exclusion of certain provisions relating to legal proceedings

(1) Subsections (2) and (3) apply in relation to persons named in notices as described in subsection 8(18).

(2) Suspensive claims, as defined in section 38, are not available in relation to such persons.

(3) Where suspensive claims (including any appeals) have been commenced prior to the giving of notice, such claims and any pending appeals are null and void and shall not prevent removal or have any other legal effect.’”

This amendment limits the ability of courts to review, and restricts suspensive claims that may be made, in relation to the decision to remove a person to Rwanda.

Clause 4 stand part.

New clause 6—Changes to the classification of Rwanda as safe

“(1) A Monitoring Committee overseeing removals to Rwanda must be established

and maintained in accordance with Article 15 of the Rwanda Treaty.

(2) Section 2(1) of this Act does not apply if—

(a) the Monitoring Committee established under subsection (1) has formally concluded that the Republic of Rwanda is in breach of its obligations under that Treaty,

(b) the Secretary of State has advised against travel to the Republic of Rwanda, or

(c) if a court or tribunal has found the Republic of Rwanda to be unsafe in accordance with subsection (3) below.

(3) On an application for judicial review, if a UK Senior Court determines that credible evidence exists that the Republic of Rwanda is no longer safe on the basis of non-compliance with its obligations under the Rwanda Treaty, nothing in this Act shall prevent a court or tribunal from further considering an application for judicial review brought by an individual so affected.”

This new clause places the Monitoring Committee for the Rwanda Treaty on a statutory basis, and places conditions on when the classification of Rwanda as ‘safe’ can be suspended in accordance with material conditions and/or non-compliance with obligations under the Rwanda Treaty.

Amendment 28, in clause 9, page 6, line 38, after “Act” insert “except section 2”.

This is a paving amendment for Amendments 29 and 30.

Amendment 29, page 6, line 39, at end insert—

“(1A) The Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument bring section 2 into force.”

This Amendment makes the commencement of Clause 2 (Safety of the Republic of Rwanda) subject to a commencement order.

Amendment 30, page 6, line 39, at end insert—

“(1B) The Secretary of State may not make an order under subsection (1A) before—

(a) at least 30 days have elapsed since the Rwanda Treaty entered into force, and only if

(b) the Secretary of State is satisfied with the extent of the implementation by Rwanda of its domestic obligations under the Rwanda Treaty since the Treaty entered into force.”

This Amendment makes the commencement order for Clause 2 (Safety of the Republic of Rwanda) contingent on the Secretary of State being satisfied with the implementation by Rwanda of its domestic obligations under the new Treaty.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The SNP has brought forward these amendments to this appalling Bill not because we really believe that there are improvements that can be made to it, but because that is the limitation of the process we have in front of us this afternoon. The Bill is irredeemably awful in each and every provision and clause, and in the intent behind it. And it will not work. Like the hostile environment that came before, the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 and the Illegal Migration Act 2023, which got Royal Assent only 180 days ago, it will fail to reach its objectives because it fails to engage with reality. The more I hear from Members on the Government Benches on the issue, and from the many Home Office Ministers who have come and gone, I can only feel that they just do not understand why people seek sanctuary on our shores. They are astonishing in their ignorance and baffling in the lack of effort they put into understanding.

One reason people come to the UK is its—now clearly defunct—reputation for fairness and the rule of law, which the Bill comprehensively shreds. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants has highlighted the impact that all of that has had on the people it deals with, and told me about a Kurdish client who fled Iran under a death sentence from the Iranian Government. On arriving in the UK, he was issued with a removal notice to Rwanda. He said:

“The reason I came to England was that I knew I will be safe in the UK, and also, I was trapped by the smugglers…When I received the news”—

that he would be sent to Rwanda—

“it felt like death again to me.”

He was relieved by the Supreme Court ruling because he thought he would be safe, but now he has had the rug pulled from underneath him yet again.

Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Madam Chairman. The hon. Lady’s speech seems more appropriate for Second Reading. It would be helpful if she could direct her attention to the amendments, about which we are interested to hear what she has to say.

Rosie Winterton Portrait The First Deputy Chairman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is actually amendments and clause stand part, so that gives a wider scope than perhaps the right hon. Gentleman realises.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am glad the right hon. Gentleman has had your advice, Dame Rosie, on the subject of the debate.

To put the issue into context, every single week I sit in front of people at my advice surgery and listen patiently to the stories of the constituents who come to see me. I have read their Home Office statements: they have been through trauma, made perilous journeys at unimaginable cost, been tortured and bear the scars, both physical and mental. They have seen their relatives murdered, run rather than be forcibly recruited into an army that would kill and rape their loved ones, and been victims of trafficking and slavery. They have been unable to hide their views or their identity from those who would persecute them, and seen the stable life they had built crumble before their eyes. They never planned to be sitting on a random Friday morning in a community centre in Glasgow, in tears, before a Member of some other country’s Parliament. They do not understand why this UK Government treat them so poorly, disbelieve them, force them to wait, prevent them from working and keep them apart from the only loved ones they have left. I cannot comprehend it either.

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

On that point, will the hon. Lady give way?

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will if the hon. Gentleman can tell me why the Government treat people so cruelly, I will.

Michael Fabricant Portrait Michael Fabricant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have been listening with interest to the compassion that the hon. Lady is expressing, but could she tell me how many illegal asylum seekers per head of population Scotland is accommodating, and how many illegal asylum seekers per head of population England is accommodating?

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman should inform himself, because there is no such thing as an illegal asylum seeker in the first place.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman can sit down; he has made his point.

Fellow human beings, from Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon, Tamils from Sri Lanka, Ahmadiyyas from Pakistan—all of those and more—have given me just the tiniest of insights into their lives. It is a privilege to know them and to help them as much as I can as their MP.

Glasgow is home to many different nationalities and it gives me great pleasure to attend community events and celebrate the diversity that enriches us: to learn to dance the attan sway and to teach Afghan Scots to do the Gay Gordons and Dashing White Sergeant in return; to sing, very badly, alongside the wonderful Maryhill Integration Network Joyous Choir; to share the most delicious food with AfricAlba and Africa Future; or to play football, as badly as I sing, in the refugee football tournament that is held every year in Scotland, organised by Councillor Abdul Bostani.

Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Dame Rosie. I do not want to try your patience, but clause 2 is about the safety of Rwanda and what the hon. Lady is saying has nothing to do with that at all.

Rosie Winterton Portrait The First Deputy Chairman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order. Please can he leave it with me? It is rather discourteous to keep disrupting the debate. I assure him that I will keep a close eye on proceedings. If the hon. Lady veers off track, I will make sure she gets back on track, but can we not have the debate disrupted constantly like this?

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would like to come along to listen to Olivia Ndoti and the women at the Women’s Integration Network in Glasgow. Perhaps he will hear from people from Rwanda—this Government grant asylum to people from Rwanda, because their country is not safe.

I do not believe that anyone who supports this awful Bill can do so knowing the people it will affect. It is laid out in such cruel terms that they would remove the rights of our fellow human beings simply for seeking sanctuary and safety. It undermines our obligations under international law and denies the need for individualised protection, which is guaranteed under the anti-trafficking convention. That this Government seek to declare a country safe by legislating for it to be so is an absolute affront. Amendment 48 simply seeks to change “safe” to “unsafe”. For every decision maker to be forced to declare any country safe—regardless of the facts in front of them, regardless of their own knowledge and regardless of circumstance—flies in the face of the justice and the rights that the UK is supposed to stand for. It is illogical. Amnesty has called this “treating fact as false”.

Tim Loughton Portrait Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Amendment 45, as the hon. Lady has just said, would permanently designate Rwanda an unsafe country. She has just complained about decision makers having to designate it the other way. Therefore, first, what is the difference? Secondly, is that not offensive to Rwanda? Thirdly, is that not worrying to the 100-plus refugees from Libya whom the UN recently settled in Rwanda? Under what circumstances would she then agree to legislation that recognised Rwanda again as a safe country?

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I believe that it is fundamentally unwise to recognise countries as safe in perpetuity, because things are unsafe. This amendment highlights the illogicality of this Bill. These things should not be legislated on at all. The hon. Gentleman mentions the Libyans who are being transited through Rwanda. They are not settling in Rwanda; they are being transited through Rwanda to other countries such as Canada.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I wish to make some progress. The hon. Gentleman will be able to contribute later on.

I wish to touch on what the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has said about this. It has reviewed the updated UK-Rwanda scheme and it says:

“It maintains its position that the arrangement, as now articulated in the UK-Rwanda Partnership Treaty and accompanying legislative scheme, does not meet the required standards relating to the legality and appropriateness of the transfer of asylum seekers and is not compatible”—

it is not compatible—

“with international refugee law.”

Equally, this Bill does not have any kind of sunset clause, or a set of circumstances by which it can acknowledge a change in the situation in Rwanda. That is foolhardy, and it is bad legislation. The clauses that talk about mere monitoring of the situation do not go far enough. That is a prime example of the incompetence of this legislation and how it cannot really be made to work.

There has been ongoing tension, for example, with the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo, where recently re-elected President Tshisekedi has been quoted as saying in relation to Rwandan-backed M23 rebels:

“If you re-elect me and Rwanda persists…I will request the Parliament and Congress to authorise a declaration of war. We will march on Kigali. Tell Kagame those days of playing games with Congolese leaders are over.”

I ask Conservative Members what would happen to their precious treaty and to this legislation should such a situation escalate. None of us wants to see that, but it could happen. More importantly, what would happen in the interim to anybody the Home Secretary had sent to this unsafe situation in Rwanda? They would not be able to bring them back. That person would be stuck in a situation of conflict.

It is beyond me how Conservative Members, including former Ministers and members of the legal profession, can sign up to amendments shredding the rule of law and human rights. Our amendments 46 to 50 are, at the very minimum, an attempt to reinstate the powers of our courts and tribunals to do their work. They are the people qualified to make these decisions, and they do so for the most part with great diligence. Their services are stretched and there is much more that could be improved were the UK Government not chucking away hundreds of millions of pounds on distractions such as this legislation that they bring here today.

The Government have recently published their consultation response on safe and legal routes, following the Illegal Migration Act 2023, and it offers nothing. It offers no change whatsoever—no new safe and legal routes that would help to resolve the situation. The Refugee Council has presented a credible alternative, and the Minister could not be less interested.

I honestly do not know what to say about the amendments of the former Minister, the right hon. Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick), and his cabal. It sickens me that they would treat people in this way. Surely the only way in their minds that they can justify treating asylum seekers in this way is if they consider them to be less. If they do not matter, they can therefore be shipped off as if they were some kind of inconvenient waste. This is stirring up fear and hatred of people who only came here to ask for our protection. These are real lives; it is not some political game. I say to Conservative Members who are focused on this Tory psychodrama that this is about real people and real people’s lives. We on the SNP Benches see them as humans, just like us. Shame on all those Members.

13:45
I would like to have seen much more from the Labour party in opposing this vile legislation. Labour Members concern themselves today simply with the risk of refoulement, not the tawdry practice of offshoring asylum seekers. Labour’s new clause 6 merely seeks to monitor the shoddy deal, not to dismantle it. Last week, they would not be clear whether it was the principle of Rwanda or just the costs that they found problematic. I ask the shadow Minister, would he revoke this legislation?
We are seeing courts being overruled and people being treated as if they were less than human—as if they were not entitled to the rights that we all expect. These are dark days. This is not normal and nor should it become so. We on the SNP Benches will fight this rotten Bill all the way—today, tomorrow, and any opportunity that we get. Not in our name.
Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick (Newark) (Con)
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I rise to speak in favour of the amendments in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash).

A single question—at least on the Conservative Benches—hangs over this debate: what works? It does not matter whether this is the most robust piece of immigration legislation that we have ever considered. That is not relevant. It does not matter whether this is a suitable compromise between this faction or that. That might be a noble aim, but it is not what we are here to do on behalf of our constituents today. What matters is whether this scheme works. Why does that matter? It matters because illegal migration is doing untold damage to our country. It is costing us billions of pounds. It is exploiting tens of thousands of people. It is leaving a trail of human misery across Europe, north Africa and beyond. People are drowning in the English channel and will continue to do so month after month. We must fix this problem. We in this House have the power to do so, and the responsibility is on our shoulders. The question is: are we willing to do it.

The current Bill does not work. The test of whether it works is not whether we can get a few symbolic flights off in the months ahead, with a small number of illegal migrants on them. The test is whether we can create the kind of sustainable deterrent that we set out to achieve— the sustainable deterrent that my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel) set out to achieve when she secured this groundbreaking deal with Rwanda. It is the kind of deterrent that protects not just this country for generations to come from the scourge of illegal migration, but the whole continent of Europe. I can tell all right hon. and hon. Members that, having spoken to almost every Interior Minister and Immigration Minister not just in Europe, but in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Turkey, they all ask, “When will you get this policy up and running? Will it work?” And they want it to work. They know that if we can create a sustainable deterrent, we will stop people coming, we will secure Europe’s borders and we will save lives. In an age of mass migration, this is one of the most important challenges that we face.

Chris Bryant Portrait Sir Chris Bryant
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I completely agree with the right hon. Gentleman about one thing: this Bill will not work. I do not think it will work if it includes the amendments that he has tabled, either. That is because he and I have come to a completely different position on the nature of the deterrence and whether it would work at all. It seems to me self-evident that there must be an enormous deterrent if you have to get in a tiny boat, risking your life as a pregnant woman with children beside you, having paid thousands of pounds to a vile, despicable people trafficker. What evidence does he have that this plan, this gimmick, is any more of a deterrent than that?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

If the hon. Gentleman were right, hundreds of thousands of people would not be making that very journey every year. Millions of people in the world want to make that journey. There are thousands of people in France seeking to pay people smugglers to come to our country. The only way we will stop that is if we break the people smugglers’ business model once and for all, so that it is clear beyond doubt that if people come to this country, they will be detained and swiftly removed to Rwanda or another safe country.

Where the hon. Gentleman is wrong is that he, like those on the Labour Front Bench, believes completely erroneously that we can arrest our way out of this problem. The National Crime Agency does not support them in that contention, and I have not seen any evidence that that will work. Nobody who has looked into this problem believes that the fungible and complex gangs that stretch across Europe and beyond, which import boats for next to nothing from China, Bulgaria and Turkey, can just be arrested out of existence. Everyone says the same thing: “Create a deterrent.” That is what the Rwanda policy does.

Chris Bryant Portrait Sir Chris Bryant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will not give way again to the hon. Gentleman. Let me move forward and speak more directly to our amendments, because that is the purpose of today.

The amendments tabled in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone are in four groups, two of which will be discussed today and two tomorrow. They seek to address the evident flaws of the Bill, and they represent the last opportunity for us to get this policy right. I shall speak directly to mine, and my hon. Friend can speak to the one that he leads on. Mine speak to individual claims. This is a point I have made time and again.

All my experience at the Home Office teaches me that every single illegal migrant who comes to this country will try every possible way to avoid being removed. We know that; that is what they do today. It is human nature that people would do that. We have to legislate for human nature, not against it. Every legal representative and lefty lawyer will try everything they can to support those claims. We see it every time, and experience teaches us that.

The Bill improves the situation; it makes it tighter, but in respect of only the general safety of Rwanda, not an individual’s circumstance.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will give way to the hon. Lady in a moment. As night follows day, every migrant will say, “Rwanda may be generally safe”—I believe that it is—“but it is not safe for me.” That is one of the central intellectual incoherences, as the Government’s own lawyers have said, at the heart of the Bill. It envisages that Rwanda is generally safe but, for a range of unspecified reasons, foresees that it will not be safe for others. Of course, as we have seen in the past, one person will mount a successful challenge, and that will create a precedent. Every legal representative and non-governmental organisation like Care4Calais will then school everyone to make exactly the same challenge and, time and again, we will lose those cases in the courts. The Bill, in that respect, is legally flawed, but it is also operationally flawed because of that.

Let me explain to those who are, understandably, not as well versed as those of us who have been Ministers in this field: we have only 2,000 detained spaces in our immigration removal centres in this country. On a single day in August, 1,200 arrived illegally on our shores, so in a weekend, all the detained capacity in the whole United Kingdom would be consumed. When hon. Members are considering whether the Bill works, they should see it through that lens.

We have to get people out of the country within days, not months, and the operational plan behind the Bill foresees that it will take months for people to be removed from the country. What will happen is our detained capacity will be filled, and people will be bailed to hotels. They will then abscond and never be seen again. Within a single week in August, this scheme will have failed. That matters for the country and, of course, for the Government. It matters for trust in politics and Westminster, because we will have told people that it was going to work, knowing that it would not work. It also matters for all those other European countries that want the scheme to succeed in protecting our borders.

Tim Loughton Portrait Tim Loughton
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My right hon. Friend makes a good case for deterrents but, I fear, a bad case for his amendments. As the Home Affairs Committee found out, when the Rwanda scheme was announced, a big surge of people in Calais tried to regularise their status in France because they did not want to risk being sent to Rwanda, so deterrents do work. He has just said that this is the last opportunity to get this right. Does he not acknowledge that there is a large chance that his amendments would make the Bill unworkable, not least in the eyes of the Rwandan Government? In that case, there would be no deterrent, so what is the alternative?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Let me address that question head-on. I have known my hon. Friend for a long time—he was not born yesterday. That argument is not a plausible one, in my opinion. The argument that the Rwandan Government would walk away from the scheme was raised not just at the eleventh hour, but at one minute to midnight. It is predicated on the belief that the Government of Rwanda would walk away from a scheme on the grounds that it might conceivably fall foul of the European convention on human rights, which Rwanda is not a party to, when the only reason we would fall foul of the convention would be conduct in Rwanda itself. I do not find that a plausible argument.

If that were the correct response, why then pilot a Bill through Parliament where the very front page says that the Government cannot attest to the Bill’s compliance with international law? Why would the Prime Minister say that he is willing to ignore foreign judges when his own legal advice says that that is in breach of international law? Why would we pursue a policy that the UNHCR said yesterday is, in its opinion, in breach of international law? That is not a plausible argument from the Government.

It was unwise of the Government to solicit that press release from the Government of Rwanda. I do not think that we should cast blame on the Government of Rwanda, because they are honourable people who want this scheme to work, and I have the highest opinion of our interlocutors in Rwanda. It is for that reason that I want to do what we said we would do when my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham created the scheme, which is to work with them in good faith to get the job done.

Rob Roberts Portrait Mr Rob Roberts (Delyn) (Ind)
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Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I will not give way at the moment; let me make some more progress on explaining the amendments, if I may.

The way that flights will work when the scheme commences is not under the Illegal Migration Act 2023 at all. The first several months of flights will involve a group of individuals whom my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham and her officials at the time selected when the Rwanda policy was first devised. Those individuals have been in the United Kingdom for years. We have lost contact with many of them and none of them can be subject to the protections in that Act.

Even if hon. Members believe that the serious and irreversible harm test within that Act is a very strict one—I will come to that in a moment—that will not apply to the flights that will go off in the months ahead. It might not apply to any flights that go off before the next general election. If we want those flights to be full of illegal migrants and for there to be a deterrent effect, hon. Members need to support the amendments I have set out, which create that strict approach.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas
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Will the right hon. Member give way?

Pete Wishart Portrait Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP)
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Will the right hon. Member give way?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I will give way in a moment. When we come to those individuals who are subject to the strictures of the Illegal Migration Act, the Government’s contention is that the serious and irreversible harm test is a very high one. I do not think that is right. The Supreme Court’s judgment lowers the bar. The revealed preference of the judiciary is to be generous towards illegal migrants and to make the scheme difficult to operationalise. As this is the last legislative opportunity for us to tackle the issue, I suggest we get it right and narrow the opportunities for the judiciary to intervene, or else we are going to find that these flights are symbolic flights, with very few individuals on them at all.

Rob Roberts Portrait Mr Roberts
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I want to touch on something the right hon. Gentleman said earlier about whether the Bill will work at all. He has often gone on the record talking about the Albania scheme, which has been very successful: there are 90% fewer Albanians coming across. In the year to September last year, 2,749 illegal migrants were returned to Albania. They did not require the amendments. The law that we currently have allowed them to be returned, and I do not remember hearing about any appeals from those people. On that basis, and given that this Bill is stricter than what we currently have, why will it not work, if the Albania scheme already works?

14:00
Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I have heard that argument advanced before, and of course I am proud of what we have achieved with the Albania scheme, but that is to judge two quite different propositions. The Albania scheme takes somebody who is in the United Kingdom and asks them to return to their home country, which is a European, highly developed country. That is a very different proposition from enforcing somebody’s removal from the United Kingdom to a third country to which they do not wish to go. Also, as the hon. Gentleman may know, very few small boat arrivals have been removed to Albania. Almost all those individuals who have gone to Albania have been time-served foreign national offenders in our prisons, individuals who have voluntarily chosen to return to Albania and those who have been in the United Kingdom for a long time.

The success of the scheme rests on taking people off small boats, detaining them for very short periods of time and then removing them swiftly to Rwanda. For the reasons I have set out, I think that is extremely unlikely to succeed at any scale in the way the Bill is currently structured.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas
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I just point out to the right hon. Gentleman that people arrive in small boats because legal routes have been blocked. When it comes to his amendment in particular, clause 4 of this disgusting Bill already provides a very limited route for individuals to challenge their removal to Rwanda based on their individual circumstances, yet my understanding is that he is seeking to go even further to override individual legal protections—even decisions that contain errors would not be open to challenge under his amendment 22, as I understand it. How on earth is that fair, just or justifiable?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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On the hon. Lady’s first point, we have had this argument many times before, and she is completely wrong. This country is one of the world’s most generous countries in supporting those in need around the world. Since 2015 we have issued more than half a million visas on humanitarian grounds, more than at any time in our history. On her point about my amendment, it is not correct to say that we would not enable people to challenge on their individual circumstances; they could, but those challenges could not be suspensive. Individuals would arrive in the UK and within days—which is critical to the success of the scheme—they would be removed to Rwanda. There they could bring forward claims as they might wish, but it would not block the flights, and that is critical. Without that, the scheme will simply not succeed.

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman.

The amendment also says there very narrow grounds on which individuals will not be put on flights, grounds that the Home Office is very used to dealing with through fitness to travel requirements. That is a concept that is well known and understood and I am certain it would work.

What does the amendment do that is different? It narrows down the reasons for which individuals could make claims and makes the scheme legally and operationally workable for the first time. We have tried to be constructive in tabling amendments. The Prime Minister set a test for me, and for anyone who shares my determination to tackle this issue, as follows: that he would accept any amendment, whether or not it strengthened the Bill, if there were respectable legal arguments in international law in their favour. We can argue about whether that test is the right one. Personally, I feel very strongly that there are times when contested notions of international law should not surpass either parliamentary sovereignty or, above all, the interests of our constituents, and border security and national security are the prime responsibilities of any Government. But that was the test, and we have met the test.

We instructed a very eminent lawyer, John Larkin KC, former Attorney General of Northern Ireland, to provide us with an opinion. The opinion says that each and every one of the amendments in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone are compliant with international law. Unless the goalposts have been shifted by the Government, I see no reason why the Prime Minister and the Minister could not accept the amendments and enable us to strengthen this Bill once and for all.

In conclusion, at the outset I said there was one question hanging over this debate: what works? However, there is a further question: how much are we willing to do to stop the boats? How willing are we to take on the vested interests, balance the trade-offs and take the robust steps that will actually work? The only countries in the world that have fixed this problem, latterly Australia and Greece, have been willing to take the most robust action. Are we? I am. I want to stop the boats and secure our borders.

This is a difficult issue, but we are not a parish council struggling with some kind of intractable legal problem. We are a sovereign Parliament. The power is in our hands. We have agency. The law is our servant, not our master. I urge all right hon. and hon. Members to support the amendments in my name and the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone and create a scheme that works. That is what our constituents expect of us and that is the promise that the Prime Minister has made to them and the whole country.

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab)
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I rise to speak in favour of amendments 35 and 37 and new clause 6, tabled in my name and the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), the shadow home Secretary.

I start by reminding the Committee and anyone watching at home that the Labour party is opposed to this Bill in its entirety, for the simple reason that we are opposed to the Rwanda scheme in its entirety. We have been clear that we need to stop the Conservative small boats chaos and we need to fix our broken asylum system, but those aims can only be achieved by way of measures that are based on common sense, hard graft and international co-operation, as opposed to headline-chasing and government by gimmick from those on the Conservative Benches.

The Conservatives like to accuse us of opposing everything that the Government are doing to stop the Tory small boats chaos, but that is simply not the case. We on the Labour Benches fully support measures such as the deal with Albania, because that is the sort of sensible, pragmatic action that can make a tangible difference. We have repeatedly made our support for that course of action crystal clear, if only the Conservatives would care to listen. However, the Labour party will never support any proposal that is unaffordable, unworkable or unlawful.

Janet Daby Portrait Janet Daby (Lewisham East) (Lab)
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Does my hon. Friend agree that the Government are being extremely neglectful with the public purse by throwing money at a Rwanda scheme that simply will not work?

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right: it is quite remarkable that a party that used to pride itself on being the party of fiscal rectitude is throwing £400 million of taxpayers’ money at the Government of Rwanda for precisely nothing. So far, all they have got for it is that they have sent three Home Secretaries to Rwanda, but not a single asylum seeker.

The Rwanda plan is all of the above: it is unaffordable, it is unworkable and it is unlawful. It is unaffordable to the British taxpayer because a truly staggering £400 million of our taxpayers’ money is on the way to the Rwandan Government without a single asylum seeker landing in Rwanda. It is unworkable because we know that the Rwandan authorities are capable of taking less than 1% of the 30,000 who crossed the channel in small boats in 2023, according to the Court of Appeal. In order for a deterrent to be effective, it must be credible. Surely even the most ardent supporter of this policy would acknowledge that such a tiny chance of being sent to Rwanda will never deter someone who has risked life and limb and crossed continents to escape persecution and violence.

Wera Hobhouse Portrait Wera Hobhouse (Bath) (LD)
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The Foreign Office recently admitted that hundreds of Afghans who are eligible for resettlement have not been brought into the UK. They exemplify the need for safe and legal routes. Are they not exactly the people who are risking life and limb because they do not have access to legal and safe routes, which the Government should provide?

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock
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The hon. Lady is right. The Afghan schemes are a case in point. The Afghan relocations and assistance policy has more or less collapsed, the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme is not working at all, and which nationality is always in the top two or three that are crossing on small boats? The Afghans. It is pretty straightforward.

We oppose the Rwanda policy because it is not a deterrent; it is a distraction. It would be far better, as the shadow Home Secretary, I and others have set out many times in this Chamber, to redirect the vast quantities of taxpayers’ money being wasted on the Rwanda scheme into a new cross-border police unit and a new security partnership with Europol that can smash the criminal smuggler gangs upstream.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab)
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My hon. Friend is making an important point about how we need to co-operate much more intensively with the law enforcement agencies across Europe. The brutal fact is that these gangs are putting people into boats that were made for rivers, not seas, in treacherous conditions. Who in their right mind would go in one of those dinghies in the English channel right now? But people are being forced to do that by the gangs. We need to smash the gangs, and we can do that only by working with our colleagues across Europe to ensure that we bring the situation to an end.

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. If we accept that international co-operation with our European partners and allies must be at the heart of dealing with the gangs, as he so eloquently sets out, the possibility of that co-operation is fundamentally undermined when our Government are flagrantly prepared to break international law, which should underpin the trust that is a prerequisite for all such co-operation. Co-operation based on joint working and intelligence-sharing with our partners and allies is possible only if Britain is deemed a trustworthy partner.

That brings me to the third reason for our opposition to the legislation and the amendments tabled by so many Conservative Members. We find ourselves in the utterly extraordinary position of debating a Government policy that has been found to be unlawful by the highest court in our land. Amendment 35, which I will come to shortly, reflects that very fact. We find ourselves confronted by a Government who are seeking to legislate for an alternate reality. Although Ministers appear to believe that they can pass a Bill that determines that the sky is green and the grass is blue, that does not make it so.

William Cash Portrait Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con)
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Has it escaped the hon. Gentleman’s notice that one claim was dismissed by the Supreme Court judgment on Rwanda? That was an Iraqi in the case of ASM. The reason was very simple: the Court made it crystal clear in paragraph 144 of its judgment that the issue in question, as far as that claimant was concerned, was undermined by clear and unambiguous words in an Act of Parliament. In other words, the sovereignty of Parliament prevailed.

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock
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Of course Parliament is sovereign, and of course we in this place are sent here to make laws, but we must make those laws with restraint; we must make them while respecting the judicial function. The separation of powers is fundamental to our identity as a liberal democracy, so although the hon. Gentleman very often talks about the sovereignty of Parliament, it is vital that his comments are always founded on the principle of separation of powers and the checks and balances that it gives us.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con)
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Just to tease out a little more Labour policy on the specific issue that the hon. Gentleman referred to, is he ruling out any consideration of this House determining to overturn the wrongful convictions of hundreds of sub-postmasters simply because that would set a new precedent in the relationship between this House and the courts?

12:14
Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock
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Well, that is an interesting one; I did not have talking about the sub-postmasters scandal on my bingo card today. Parliament is free to legislate in any way it wishes, but it has to do so in full recognition of the view of the courts. I know that a number of eminent legal experts have raised concerns about the Government’s proposed approach on the sub-postmasters. We have to see precisely how the detail looks, and it is our duty in this Parliament to scrutinise it carefully to ensure that we are not setting dangerous precedents. I would argue that there is no doubt whatsoever that the Bill before us would set a profoundly dangerous precedent because it seeks to directly overturn the findings of the highest court in our land, and that is a toxic approach.

John Redwood Portrait