There have been 17 exchanges between David Hanson and HM Treasury
|Tue 8th October 2019||HMRC Impact Analysis: Customs||3 interactions (46 words)|
|Wed 10th April 2019||British Steel Pension Scheme: Transfers (Westminster Hall)||3 interactions (76 words)|
|Tue 29th January 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (32 words)|
|Wed 16th January 2019||Animal Welfare (Service Animals) Bill (First sitting) (Public Bill Committees)||7 interactions (134 words)|
|Thu 20th December 2018||Christmas Adjournment (Westminster Hall)||8 interactions (52 words)|
|Tue 6th November 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (17 words)|
|Thu 11th October 2018||Freeports (Westminster Hall)||3 interactions (26 words)|
|Tue 3rd July 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (46 words)|
|Tue 22nd May 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||5 interactions (70 words)|
|Thu 10th May 2018||Banking Misconduct and the FCA||3 interactions (76 words)|
|Mon 19th March 2018||Leaving the EU: UK Ports (Customs)||3 interactions (48 words)|
|Tue 27th February 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (40 words)|
|Tue 9th January 2018||Parole Board and Victim Support||3 interactions (45 words)|
|Mon 4th December 2017||Public Sector Pay (Westminster Hall)||19 interactions (308 words)|
|Mon 6th November 2017||Paradise Papers||3 interactions (42 words)|
|Tue 24th October 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||5 interactions (66 words)|
|Wed 5th July 2017||Public Sector Pay Cap||3 interactions (50 words)|
I gently remind the hon. Gentleman that the burdens that he claims will be placed by this can not only be mitigated by voting for a deal but will be as nothing compared with the burdens that will be imposed on the UK economy by a Labour Government dedicated to nationalising, without full compensation, a swathe of industries and expropriating a large number of people by transferring property into the hands of employees. I think those things will impose much greater costs on the economy than anything that has been contemplated today.
In the event that we had no deal and this £7.5 billion of estimated costs were incurred, that it was not mitigated and that there were no behavioural reactions by businesses, there would be some costs—we do not know what they would be—and it would be up to businesses to decide how those costs should be allocated between consumers, employees and other stakeholders.
My hon. Friend makes a really good point. The FCA is a large organisation based in London. I believe it does not have sufficient resources to help consumers on the ground in places such as Port Talbot or Shotton, or across the country, where pensioners need support at their homes.
My right hon. Friend gets to the nub of the situation. Who does one trust when one has a pot of gold and people want access to it? He poses a really important question. The FCA has got to help our steelworker pensioners and their families.
It can be argued that this was a unique situation, but many of the underlying problems that allowed it to happen are still there. Rogue financial advisers do not face sufficiently tough consequences from the regulators. The FCA’s register has been improved, but consumer information sometimes remains unclear. The support for people who might have been mis-sold pensions is insufficient.
I recognise that some steps have been taken to improve co-ordination between regulators. That is welcome, but much more needs to be done. At the moment, the pension sharks have generally received administrative sanctions only, but I think they need to face serious penalties. Will the Minister scrutinise the effectiveness of the FCA’s enforcement regime? Steelworkers say the FCA needs to impose heavy financial penalties on bad financial advisers. I think it needs to employ its powers much more often, as it seems this has not been done sufficiently.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on his article proposing new ideas. He raises one example of some of the exciting prospects for the post-Brexit economy that will help to revive some of the industrial areas throughout Britain.
I am pleased to say that I recently had an opportunity to talk to Tom Enders and his successor Guillaume Faury, the incoming chief executive of Airbus, and to assure them of the Government’s commitment to make the UK a hospitable and attractive place for Airbus to continue to do business.
I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his intervention. That is correct, and we need to ensure that this law is strengthened across the United Kingdom.
I would also like to pay particular tribute to Mossneuk primary school in my constituency, which had Finn and Dave through. Every single pupil in primary 6 sent letters to the First Minister of Scotland every day for a month to ensure that this legislation happens in Scotland. I thank everyone involved, all of the organisations, and Dave and Finn. I and my party fully support the Bill.
I could not resist the opportunity to say what a delight it is to see you, Ms Buck, in the Chair. We both came into Parliament in 1997 and this is the first time I have served on a Committee where you have been in the Chair. May I say how expertly you have handled proceedings this morning?
I am sorry for not being here at the start. I wish I could blame Southeastern trains. The only accusation I can make against them is that they caught me out by being on time this morning.
Break in Debate
It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Buck, to meet Finn and Dave Wardell before the sitting, and to have the active support of the policing Minister—quite the occasion and a real honour. I pay tribute to my friend of many years’ standing, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North East Hertfordshire. He was an outstanding Minister, and it is fantastic to see him turning his attention to Bills such as this. This important Bill will champion the cause of our much loved service animals and it recognises the strong feeling on the subject in the country and the public support for a fantastic campaign. Congratulations to all involved. After yesterday’s events in Parliament, it is great to see how on important issues we can come together—
The right hon. Gentleman suggests cheekily that we did yesterday. I am not so sure I agree with that, but today we will stick with animal welfare where we have broad agreement.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North East Hertfordshire has brought together an impressive cast. We have former policing Ministers present, my right hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead and the right hon. Member for Delyn, and two former animal welfare Ministers, the right hon. Member for Knowsley and the hon. Member for Poplar and Limehouse.
Before the House adjourns for the Christmas recess, there are a number of points that I wish to raise. I will not sulk at this wonderful debate being downgraded—some might say—to Westminster Hall. It is not quite like having it in the Chamber; it is cosy and intimate, and we will just have to see it develops.
I recently met Chris Green, director of the Summer Camps Trust. Thousands of children benefit every year from the experience of summer camp, learning new skills, meeting new friends and enjoying the countryside. Many young people are also trained to be team leaders, giving them valuable skills for the future. I urge the Government to look into the wider provision of summer camps.
My local football team, Southend United, have broken their losing run. I am glad to say that, under their excellent owner and manager, we are now looking perhaps to reach the play-offs and have a stadium. I visited them in August, when they hosted the Community and Education Trust, which involved three teams of young people who were planning a social action project. I commend the National Citizen Service for providing opportunities for young people to give something back to the community in which they live.
Earlier this year I visited Heycroft Primary, an excellent local school, for a fundraising event in aid of mental health charities Young Minds and Mind. The wonderful organiser, Kelly Swain, educated herself about self-help wellbeing therapies, and her aim is to make a difference to families who suffer from mental health issues. The day was a great success, and I look forward to working with her in the future.
My constituent Mark Rice recently drove over a faulty manhole cover and sustained significant damage to his car. Apparently the local council are not responsible for this, and neither is the water company. So who is responsible for this? Mr Rice has had to pay for the repairs, and he is rightly concerned that this will affect his future insurance premiums. I encourage the Government and the water company to look into this case and see if we can get an answer.
Another of my constituents, Ms Pauline Morris, recently met me to discuss non-invasive prenatal testing. Such a test can provide the parents with indicators on the presence of Down’s syndrome. I thought that the usual amniocentesis tests was enough, but apparently it is not any more. Too many women have to go through the old-style test, which can, depending on the results, necessitate further and potentially dangerous tests. The solution is non-invasive prenatal testing. The chairman of the Southend clinical commissioning group has informed me that the test will be rolled out over three years. That is not soon enough, and I call again on the Government to see whether they can speed up this non-invasive testing.
A Southend lady called Sue Lesser launched a book called “Take a Poem with Breakfast”. The collection, written by her, is dedicated to all people living with dementia—it is really in honour of her mother, who suffers from it—and any profit will go to the Alzheimer’s Society. I hope that she sells out of copies of her book.
I spoke in a recent debate in Westminster Hall, when it was a pleasure for me to congratulate all the staff and volunteers at Southend University Hospital on the wonderful work they do. Del and Lindsay Rudd contacted me earlier this year to tell me about their personal experiences. I was not surprised to learn that the renal unit is, in the words of Del and Lindsay,
“a credit to the Hospital, the Town and the NHS.”
I could not agree more. Another constituent, Helen Prince, came to my surgery. She is an ambassador for the 70/30 Campaign, which is working towards a 70% reduction in child abuse and neglect by 2030. As a parent myself, I absolutely support her campaign and I hope that everyone in the House will sign up to it as well.
I have been trying to get some answers on behalf of my constituent, Carolyn Mason. Anyone can set up an employment agency—indeed, I used to run one before I became a Member of Parliament. I think the regulations are too lax at the moment. Ms Mason is a reputable owner, but there is some sharp practice going on in the industry generally.
Last week I asked the Leader of the House for a debate on the stress and anxiety caused by scam telephone calls and emails. All of us, as Members of Parliament, receive them all the time. Sadly, my constituent Ben Giles recently lost half of his savings as a result of such a call—this is a highly intelligent gentleman. I cannot stress enough the importance of stopping this wicked practice.
I dread to think how many accidents happen when pedestrians cross busy roads. Another constituent, Cliff Short, is better placed than most to comment on the situation, as he has been a police officer and a taxi driver for some 30 years. After identifying zebra crossings as a point of danger—extraordinarily—Mr Short created “red zebra”. When pedestrians approach a crossing, the flashing beacon switches from yellow to red, alerting drivers of the presence of a pedestrian. It is a simple but potentially life-saving idea, so I hope the Department for Transport will look at it.
I am proud to be the president of the Leigh Orpheus male voice choir, which sang in the Palace of Westminster earlier this year. This is its 50th anniversary.
Recently, a number of my Essex colleagues went on a boat trip down the River Thames. A number of people might say that it was a pity it did not sink, but we successfully negotiated the way from Tilbury to Southend pier. The trip was to support Essex Port of London Authority, to learn more about planned infrastructure projects, and to look at the Thames crossing and a potential new Thames barrier. We heard about opportunities for the expansion of the port of Tilbury and the benefits to the economies of both Essex and Kent. I support both those projects. Essex PLA is looking at providing a commuter service from the end of Southend pier into the City of London.
Hippo Cabs is a wonderful organisation that ensures that elderly residents who are disabled actually have a life. It offers a first-class service. I very much support Mr and Mrs Biswas, who run that wonderful service.
We yet again had our annual centenarian tea party in October. I have worked out that, in 34 years, I will qualify for one myself if I am around then. It would perhaps be unique for a Member of Parliament to do that. The pupils of Westcliff High School for Boys did a splendid job of engaging with those centenarians.
At long last, at Fair Havens, our wonderful new hospice, we had a sod-turning ceremony in October. We are about £850,000 short, but it will be opened in February 2020.
Like the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers), Southend had a visit from the Taiwanese ambassador recently. It was a wonderful visit, and he said that he enjoyed it more than Cleethorpes. [Laughter.] He didn’t actually. He was shown the Forum, the Focal Point gallery, South Essex College and Ventrica, a local company. I hope there will be some trading opportunities opened up into the future.
We have a wonderful jazz centre in Southend. Digby Fairweather welcomed Sir Michael Parkinson to open it. I hope that people throughout the United Kingdom and the wider world will visit it.
Last month, I visited the local watch station of the National Coastwatch Institution, which provides a vital service in monitoring the coastal waters and keeping watch for emergencies such as overturned boats or fishermen in trouble—I do not know whether it would have helped the Essex Members if our boat turned over. Other activities such as surfing, diving and canoeing are also monitored. We should not take its service for granted.
We had a wonderful active ageing day in Southend. It reinforced the idea that if people keep active as they age, they will live longer.
Earlier, the House paid tribute to Les and his two colleagues, who have a combined 120 years of service to this House—absolutely fantastic. We are very grateful to all the people who help us go about our business in the House. They are wonderful.
I recently hosted a reception for the National Association of Boys and Girls Clubs. I was once patron of Basildon Boys Club, which does a fantastic job. Belonging to a club gives young people a great start in life, a place to go, things to do, and helps them develop positive relationships, so I really do commend them.
This November was complex regional pain syndrome awareness month. I met the charity Burning Nights and CRPS patients to hear about what more can be done to support those living with the painful condition. We laugh about people who have got a back problem, but it is not very funny to have one. The problem cannot be seen. In the UK, an estimated 15,000 people are diagnosed with the condition each year. There is some lack of awareness among GPs and others, so we need to do more to raise awareness about it.
I have been honoured to be the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on endometriosis. I would like to give a special mention to a local constituent, Carla Cressy, who has been instrumental in forming the group, which has a wonderful make-up. Through her charity, she has been campaigning for greater support for the 1.5 million women in the UK living with that dreadful condition. Raising awareness of endometriosis in schools and among healthcare professionals and employers is critical to ensuring patients get the right treatment and support. I look forward to the meeting next month with the Under-Secretary.
We were all invited to the reception in the House of Commons organised by the British Toy and Hobby Association, which does a very good job in raising awareness of unsafe and dangerous toys. Local charities in Southend were very grateful for the toys it donated.
Hollie Gemmell is a parish nurse and fitness consultant in Southend. She organises dance shows designed to help the elderly reminisce, exercise and have fun. Her shows are very popular. She really does a wonderful job for elderly people.
Last week, Southend Borough Council approved ambitious plans for building an exciting and prosperous future for the town. Looking forward to 2050, the plans set out a vision for Southend that will create a place to live, work and visit that we can all be proud of. It includes investment in our roads, regeneration for our High Street, which my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) mentioned this morning, and open spaces to help us flourish as a digital city. I welcome this opportunity.
I make no apology for thinking that it is obviously an oversight that Southend is not already a city. I will not desist from raising this issue in the House at every opportunity until we become a city.
In the Amess household on 25 December, the word “Brexit” is banned. Every time I leave my house, someone stops me and wants to talk about Brexit. When I go shopping, everyone wants to talk about Brexit. When I am on the train, they want to talk about Brexit. I am sick to death of hearing the word “Brexit”, so on 25 December, it will not be mentioned in our house. Regardless of what the House decides, I will be leaving the European Union at 11 o’clock on 29 March next year. I wish all colleagues a very happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous new year.
Thank you, Mr Hanson. I was expecting to come a little further down the list, but I am delighted to be called so early.
It is something of a relief to be attending a debate with time for issues other than the B word—although we are all mentioning it. Although Brexit has been all-consuming of the Government’s time, energy and actions, the day-to-day reality for my constituents and those outside the Westminster bubble is quite different. There are 130,000 children who will wake up on Christmas morning without a permanent place to call home. My local accident and emergency unit is so full that my constituents have been left queuing outside it in the cold. The pressure on our police means that antisocial behaviour is running rife in my local town centre—an area crying out for more bobbies on the beat. Although the Government have found billions of pounds for contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit, our vital public services teeter ever closer to breaking point.
I want to use my time today to bring to hon. Members’ attention three of the issues most important to my constituents. Let me start with housing. A year ago to the day, I spoke in this debate about the homelessness crisis across the country. I have reread my speech, and it is disheartening that every single word is still applicable one year on. In fact, if anything, the situation is now worse. Some 80,000 households across England will spend this Christmas trapped in temporary accommodation. Last year, I brought to Parliament’s attention the 86 homeless families in my constituency housed in a converted warehouse in the heart of one of south London’s busiest working industrial estates. One year on, many of those families are preparing for yet another Christmas in that so-called temporary limbo. They do not have the facilities to cook a Christmas dinner. They have no space for a Christmas tree, with families of up to five people sharing a single room, and there is little chance of presents, with every penny possible set aside to save for the extortionate deposit that may one day provide the golden ticket needed for the private rented sector. How many more families must be trapped in this limbo before the Government make absolute priorities of tackling homelessness and building the social housing and genuinely affordable homes for which we are so desperate?
The second issue is universal credit, which has been at the forefront of debate over recent months. For my constituents, the botched roll-out of the supposed flagship reform of the benefits system has undoubtedly caused chaos and misery. Take my constituent Mrs D, who wrote to me earlier this week and said:
“Universal credit has been a complete shambles for my family. We’ve explained to the children that Santa won’t deliver much this year and that there won’t be a Christmas dinner. Universal credit doesn’t make work pay, it puts you in debt.”
Another constituent of mine, Mrs L, was made redundant last year after 10 years working as a school administrator. Since January, she has worked on an agency basis for an employment agency. Universal credit assesses a person’s circumstances within a set monthly assessment period, however, so the dates of their universal credit claim and monthly pay packet are of paramount importance. For Mrs L, that has proven to be a nightmare. She anticipated a payment on 22 November, but was not paid until 18 December and, for the first time in her whole working life, she finds herself in rent arrears. She is now so worried about the irregularity of her payments that she questions whether it is in her financial interest to work for the agency. That makes a mockery of the idea that the system helps people to get into work. How much longer will the Government stand idly by while the least well-off continue to fall through the broken net of universal credit?
I will use my remaining time on a more positive note, to highlight a quite different organisation in my constituency, which is changing the lives of so many young, vulnerable constituents. The WISH Centre is a charity that prevents self-harm, and offers a community-based model that provides therapy and counselling in schools and at the centre. Over recent months, the Centre for Mental Health conducted an evaluation of the WISH Centre. The results were outstanding and worthy of being brought to the attention of the Chamber.
The report found that an extraordinary 81% of young people who have been helped by the WISH Centre have either significantly reduced their self-harm, or have stopped altogether. The young people themselves describe the project as holistic; it focuses on their strengths and builds resilience at each individual’s own pace. The report highlights the relief brought to sufferers, parents, carers and teachers, and evidences cost savings in both mental health and school budgets. Its recommendation is clear: the WISH approach should be introduced by clinical commissioning groups and authorities across England. Fortunately, the WISH Centre is actively looking to share its methodologies more widely, and I will happily introduce any hon. or right hon. Member to the scheme, if they would like more information.
With the Government trapped in Brexit turmoil, I sincerely hope that the Christmas period will bring them time to reflect on the day-to-day reality of those who I have described.
“People just walk past us and they are supposed to be going into that building to change the world that we live in.”
Those are the words of Jamie Leigh, who has been sleeping rough outside the gates of the Parliamentary Estate. I sincerely hope that the Government offer her more hope in 2019.
I too was expecting to come later in the order of speeches—Christmas has come early for me. Happy Christmas to everyone, and thank you to all the staff who run this place. I have said that now, so I will not repeat it.
I want to raise the subject of the danger caused by a drug called isotretinoin, which I have already spoken about—perhaps four times—in the House since becoming an MP. To date, I have to say, the collective view of the House has had little impact on actually sorting it out. Isotretinoin, also known as Accutane or Roaccutane, is a drug used to treat severe acne primarily in teenagers—mainly boys. It has dramatic effects: it clears acne up pretty quickly, but its side-effects can be enormous. It can cause severe depression and impotence in those who use it.
My concerns stem from contact with constituents, particularly one lady. She is the mother of a young man who has suffered enormously from isotretinoin. At the age of 16, he was given the drug for eight months. As a result, he suffered—forgive my language—complete erectile dysfunction, which has had a life-changing effect on him and, indeed, on his mental state. He is now in his early 20s, and it has of course had a dramatic effect on him. He has been through university, too.
Unsurprisingly, his mother is distraught, in particular because her son is now almost unwilling even to discuss the matter. I believe that we can all understand that. It must be very difficult for a young man to discuss such a matter with his mother. I, personally—I know I am from another generation—could not even have dreamt of talking about such a matter with my mother. I am really pleased that things have moved on, but I can still see the real difficulty for young men who have to discuss or bring up such matters.
I gather that there is an impact on young women, too: they can suffer a lack of libido. It is certainly considered a pretty dangerous prescription for a young pregnant woman, and doctors are careful about prescribing it if there is any chance that a young woman is pregnant. Pregnancy, however, can come as a pretty big surprise—it certainly has in my life and in my family. There is no fail-safe. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but we have all been there, have we not?
Isotretinoin can work very well, but for a small percentage of people, when it strikes, it has devastating effects. There is now well-documented evidence that it leads to suicide. I have brought those cases up when I have spoken about the matter before, but I do not intend to repeat them. Suffice to say, I am pretty sure that there is a direct link between the use of isotretinoin and some suicides.
If someone is depressed and feels that their life is over and that they are finished, they give up the will to live, which I have seen in some soldiers. I have seen a soldier who, when told of his injuries, said—forgive my language—“Oh, shit,” and he died, right there and then. I am quite sure that that could be the case for young men and women—particularly young men—in this situation.
I know that isotretinoin is a miracle drug for some—my daughter tells me that a lot of her friends use it—but for that small percentage of people who are deeply affected by it, causing problems such as depression and erectile dysfunction, it is devastating. Medical professionals warn people about the drug, and are careful about prescribing it, but I wonder whether, in view of the risks that we do not know about, we should be prescribing it at all.
I checked to see whether I personally could get hold of isotretinoin pills, and do so with relative ease and without a prescription. Of course, I used the internet. I did that yesterday. In this country, obviously, a prescription is required, but not so for companies based abroad. For example, a Canadian company called Online Pharmacy came up almost immediately. It offers Accutane—the same thing—and 10 pills cost £49.24. Delivery by air costs about £11.24, although I do not understand why that is quite so expensive from Canada to the UK, and apparently takes two to four weeks—I did not realise stuff would take that long to get across the Atlantic by air. The parcel, when it arrives, has discreet packaging so that no one knows what it contains—I am thinking of teenagers here, hiding it from the parents. It worries me, obviously that our teenagers—I still have two—can simply order this stuff and receive it, while parents have no idea. Incidentally, Online Pharmacy also promised to provide two free Viagra tablets, which is somewhat darkly ironic considering the problems I am talking about.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency—our regulator, on this side of the Atlantic—issues warnings to healthcare professionals on the risks, such as in October 2017, but nothing more instructive than that. The agency has declared that the matter is being closely monitored but, considering the anecdotal evidence and what are to me the clear problems caused for a small percentage of people who use it, that is not good enough. As I mentioned, there have now been four debates in Parliament in which Members on both sides of the House have expressed concern, and so I suppose I am representing them all today. I bring it up again because we had this debate in Westminster Hall about six months or so ago, and I want it to be kept to the forefront. I represent all parts of the House when I speak today.
Surely it is time for the Department of Health to establish a major investigation into this drug and, perhaps as a precaution, to order that prescribing it should be halted until we are absolutely certain that we can at least identify those people at risk, or mitigate those risks much more than we can now. I am sorry to raise such a difficult problem, but I do so only because, on behalf of all Members of the House, I think that we should continue to press for this matter to have a proper investigation by the Department. I wish everyone to think carefully before use of isotretinoin—in particular those people who might be listening and thinking of using it, which includes my kids’ friends—because I really think that it can have tragic outcomes.
God bless, everyone, and happy Christmas. I also thank those staff who come in and out all the time—I never quite know what they do, but they seem to be here for 10 minutes and then flit out. They flit in and flit out, and those of us who sit here hour after hour wonder whether we could take a break. I am sure they go out for a quick drink or a cigarette. I thank those staff who sit here listening to the likes of me warbling on for far too long. My warbling ends now—happy Christmas, everyone.
It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart), whom I have got to know quite well through serving together on the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs. He brought a very important matter to the House’s attention with his characteristic compassion and worldly-wise experience.
There have already been several good speeches. I fear that the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) is leaving, but his was a tour de force, a lesson to us all. I understand that in Southend, his Christmas address to the nation is viewed much as the state of the union speech is seen in the United States. I cannot possibly comment on all the matters mentioned, so I will refer to one, which was the rise of Southend United—Bradford City are in the same division. They are beginning to win games, and I note that our fixture at Valley Parade against Southend is on 19 January. The hon. Gentleman will be most welcome if he can escape from Southend for the weekend.
I intend to put three matters before the House. On the sporting theme, I will discuss Keighley Cougars, the rugby league team in Keighley. At this time of year, many of us visit primary schools, whether as the local MP, or as a parent or grandparent, and I will discuss one school in particular which has been improving over the past few months, Oldfield Primary School. Then I want to bring to the attention of the House a couple of early-day motions that might have passed people by.
First, I will talk about Keighley Cougars. Since the 1950s, this is the 20th occasion on which Keighley rugby league has been mentioned in this House. It was first mentioned by one of my illustrious predecessors, Mr Hobson, in the 1950s when he described Keighley rugby league club as one of the 30 “big fish” professional clubs at the time. I will not go through all 19 references, but it would be remiss of me not to mention Mr Gary Waller, who sadly passed away shortly after I returned to the House last year. One of my first duties was to pay tribute to him. He was very much involved in Keighley rugby league at its height in recent times—it was called “Cougar-mania”, in the 1990s.
Before the Super League, the Keighley Cougars were the first team to bring a bit of razzmatazz to rugby league. They went up the divisions and, in April 1995, they were leading division two and looking forward to promotion to the top division. What happened? They had three games to go, and they were told by the emerging Super League that they were not good enough for it: London and Paris—can you believe it, Mr Hanson—would be in the Super League, but not Keighley Cougars.
The Keighley Cougars did much good in the town. We have heard about local organisations doing good in their towns, notably from my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh). When Keighley Cougars were at their height in the 1990s, crime actually fell in the town by about 15%, because people had something to believe in and the youngsters had something to get involved in.
I will not rehearse the history since that period, but it has been difficult, now reaching its nadir. Over the summer, the club was taken over by Austria Holdings. The controlling force, one might say, behind Austria Holdings is a Mr Shane Spencer. The rugby league did not judge him to be a fit and proper person to run Keighley Cougars so someone else held the licence.
On 11 December, Austria Holdings gave up control of Keighley Cougars (2010) Ltd. According to Companies House, Mrs Claire Auty took 75% control over Keighley Cougars. Keighley Cougars is still in special measures with the rugby league, which will not let it sign contracted players for the new season, only months away. It is a very suspicious situation because the day afterwards, there were bankruptcy proceedings against the said Mr Shane Spencer in Wakefield court, which have been adjourned until 4 January. Keighley Cougars fans are deeply worried. I have called upon Mr Shane Spencer to stand aside; we do not know who Mrs Claire Auty is and she has made no statement as far as I am aware about what she intends to do with Keighley Cougars. We need new ownership.
I looked back at all those references to Keighley Cougars and Keighley rugby league in Hansard; many are about conflict between rugby union and rugby league, and how rugby league felt it was not getting a good deal down the decades. I can announce that Keighley RUFC, chaired by Mr Graeme Sheffield, has confirmed that it is quite happy to ground share with Keighley Cougars next season. There are a couple of consortia that will come to the fore—I understand the rugby league has had at least two approaches.
It is incumbent on the Rugby League, particularly after those bankruptcy proceedings on 4 January, to take firm action—it has the powers to do that—and to issue the licence for Keighley Cougars to another more secure and presentable group of individuals, hopefully with a supporters’ trust so that Keighley Cougars can rise once again. It is on a terrific site—the cricket club is next door; Steeton AFC now play at Keighley Cougars. It could be part of the regeneration of Keighley, but we need firm action by the rugby league, just as it took firm action to save the Bradford Bulls a year ago.
I will move on to the second item I want to bring to the House’s attention: Oldfield Primary School, which is a small village primary school that had a bad Ofsted report in the spring. It was two days away from going into a federation of local community schools called the Footprints Federation. It did badly in the Ofsted report, but over the last few months it has shown remarkable improvement. My office has been inundated with letters from parents. I will read one, which commends the new headteacher, Angela Vinnicombe, who is the head of the Footprints Federation, and her staff. My constituent says:
“The difference they have made to the teaching, the learning, the building itself and more importantly the morale and enthusiasm of the staff and children is absolutely second to none. Quite frankly I am gobsmacked as to how this has not been recognised by the relevant bodies and I’m hoping you could have a voice in this matter”.
What has happened, David Hanson—sorry, Mr Hanson. I got slightly carried away. One of the advantages of meeting in this Chamber is your chairmanship. If we were in the main Chamber, that would not be possible. If we revert to the main Chamber next year, I hope you might be elevated because there may be some changes afoot, I hear.
Anyway, the “relevant body” that the parent was worried about is, in fact, the regional schools commissioner, Vicky Beer. It is hard to get hold of Vicky Beer; I think it would have been similarly difficult a century or so ago to get hold of the Viceroy of India. I have managed to get through to some of her officers. The regional schools commissioner has decided that the school should be academised. I do not like to take an over-ideological approach to education—there are good academies in Keighley and there are good community schools. But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I have asked for a meeting with the Minister for School Standards and I hope he will grant that, so I can bring down one parent, one governor and one teacher to plead the case.
Children are having their Christmas lunches and festivities, unsure of the future. The preferred academy is Bronte Academy Trust, which runs three schools in my constituency. It has good teachers and staff. It has had one or two teething problems and has only been going since 2016. Some parents and teachers from Bronte Academy Trust have approached me and said that they do not really support what is, in effect, a hostile takeover. Bronte Academy Trust will be better sticking to improving the three schools it already has. I hope that we can take a non-ideological approach and think principally about the education of the children at Oldfield. I will visit the school as soon as it comes back on 3 January.
I promised I would refer to a couple of early-day motions that Members may have missed. One has a Christmas theme and the other looks ahead to the new year. The first, with the Christmas theme, is early-day motion 1931 in my name on Boxing day trains. I will not labour the point because I have mentioned it before in debates, but it is a disgrace that there are no Boxing day trains except for on four lines in the south-east of England. I have constituents who cannot return home to Yorkshire for Christmas from London because they have to be at work on 27 December or they lose their jobs.
There are many bank holiday sporting fixtures—I will come back to two or three of those. There are retail sales—our high streets need that boost. The good news is that, in a debate on transport in Yorkshire yesterday, the Rail Minister offered to meet me in January to look at Christmas and Boxing day 2019. I hope that the shadow Rail Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for York Central (Rachael Maskell) will also agree to meet me, so by next December we can have a cross-party commitment on Boxing day trains. There are already Boxing day trains in Scotland to an extent.
Let me turn to the second early-day motion. One of the great things of this year was England’s sporting success in the World cup. In Keighley, at the said Keighley Cougars, we had a cross-community showing of that semi-final match. I speak as the chair of the all-party parliamentary group for Portugal—that may have escaped your attention, Mr Hanson. I was elected this week and it was a close-run race. Next summer in Portugal, England will play football in the UEFA Nations League finals. My hon. Friend the Member for Hyndburn (Graham P. Jones) has drawn attention to the fact that it will be hidden away on subscription TV. It will not be available to the nation—we will not be able to have community showings of it. I hope the Government will take some action on listed events. I call upon Comcast, which has taken over Sky, as a gesture to the English nation, to make the game available free to either the BBC or ITV, so the nation can enjoy it as a whole.
Finally, we are looking forward to Christmas and I am particularly looking forward to attending midnight mass at Leeds Roman Catholic Cathedral. For the second year in a row it will be live on the BBC, such is the quality of the choir—last year on BBC 1 and this year on Radio 4. After my Christmas lunch, my attention will to turn to Boxing day; as a sporting enthusiast, Mr Hanson, you will know there are plenty of sporting fixtures to look forward to—even if you cannot get to them by train.
Last year, I managed to place some charity Christmas bets; as someone observed, only one of the four actually came home. I must put on record that this year’s bet is with Betfred in Ilkley, which has put up the majority of the bet—it put up £80 and I put up £20. If we win, all the money goes to the homelessness project Bradford Nightstop. I am backing Leeds and Burnley to win, Bradford to eke out a draw at Sunderland and, for racing fans, I am backing Waiting Patiently, the Yorkshire-trained horse, in the King George at Kempton. Happy Christmas to one and all.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Keighley (John Grogan). His remarks about his connection with rugby league remind me that my late father set up all the BBC camera positions for every rugby league ground in the country when he formulated its coverage of the sport. Indeed, he was an extremely good friend of the late Eddie Waring, who of course was originally the rigger for the cables at rugby league grounds and became a commentator only in an emergency, when the commentator failed to turn up.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hanson. I want to report on a few things—some on which progress is being made, which is good news, and some on which work still needs to be done. Of course, some of us are still celebrating last night, when Tottenham overcame Arsenal 2-0 at the Emirates. More importantly, though, disgracefully, a bottle was thrown by a thug in the crowd at the man of the match and goal scorer, Dele Alli. That raises serious problems for all football grounds. If people get into the habit of doing that, players and linesmen might be seriously injured. We need to reflect that people can be competitive at football and support their team, but they do not need to behave in a thuggish manner.
Let me refer to the Select Committees on which I have the honour of serving, which do excellent work. I do not expect Members’ sympathy, but those of us who suffer on the Procedure Committee wrestled for some weeks with the question, “What does ‘meaningful’ actually mean?” I am not sure we came up with the answer, and I look forward to the Government’s finally coming up with one in the new year.
I press my hon. Friend the Minister to encourage the Leader of the House to provide the Backbench Business Committee with more time in the main Chamber. We did not have business in the main Chamber for nine weeks, which, in my view, made us almost redundant as a Committee. That is extremely regrettable, because the debates we put on are well subscribed and very positive.
I cannot comment on a specific taxpayer, but I can say that HMRC does publish quarterly the names of those who deliberately default on taxation, as a method of bringing them forward to settle with HMRC. We have brought in a further 21 measures in the Budget to raise a further £2 billion by 2023-24 by clamping down on avoidance and evasion.
HMRC has had an additional investment since 2010 of £2 billion. It has 28,000 full-time equivalent staff engaged in the mission of tax inspection and clamping down on avoidance and evasion. We have one of the lowest tax gaps in the entire world, at 5.7%. That is far lower than was the case under the previous Labour Government. In fact, if we were stuck with the levels of poor tax collection under the Labour party, we would lose revenues equivalent to employing every policeman and policewoman in England and Wales.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hanson, and thank you for the opportunity to contribute.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (Mr Clarke), and other hon. Members present, on being the driving force behind this debate, to which it is a pleasure to contribute. In the year and a half that my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland and I have been in Parliament, he has been a doughty campaigner on this issue, and has sent me and other new MPs many letters, pieces of information and general perorations telling us about the wonderful opportunity of freeports. I am grateful to have the opportunity to agree with him officially and on the record.
I came here to listen as much as to speak, because this is an area of interest to me but not one that I know a huge amount about. Some of the speeches have been incredibly useful in helping somebody who is new to the subject understand it. People may ask why a Member of Parliament for one of the most landlocked constituencies in the country—roughly 70 miles away from either coast—is talking about freeports, and while other Members have been speaking, I have been trying to work out a way in which I could make a connection. I attended Transport questions earlier, and we received the extremely good news that the go-ahead has been given for the regeneration and connection of the final stretch of the 250-year-old Chesterfield canal, which links to the River Trent at Stockwith, near the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers), before reaching the North sea at Hull. The canal was threatened for years and years because of the potential for High Speed 2 to rip it up. Hopefully, we can push for a freeport at the end of the Chesterfield canal at some point in the next couple of decades, when that regeneration occurs.
The real reason I am here is that it is so pleasing to see a debate in this place about the power and the opportunity that economic capitalism and liberalism could unleash on populations such as those in the constituencies of the hon. Members who have spoken, before spreading to other constituencies like my own. In the year and a half that I have been here, I have looked over the Order Paper every single day. Often, it seems to be a never ending set of requests for more activity and more intervention, and for more to be done by the state. Sometimes, it is incumbent upon Members to stand back and realise that some of the wider powers and bigger forces that actually improve lives in this country can only act when we let government get out of the way and let people and commerce thrive in the way that freeports would allow if instituted properly, as my hon. Friends have outlined. I am extremely pleased that we are all agreeing that the forces of liberalism and capitalism—much-maligned in recent years—have the power to do good, make our areas richer, put money in people’s pockets and drive our country forward.
Secondly, I want to speak about the opportunities arising from Brexit, which have already been touched on. It is so refreshing to be in a debate in which we do not necessarily talk much about Brexit—although I am going to touch on it in a moment—but about the opportunities that it can bring. This being one of the first debates in the new term, I hope that it is a turning point, and that we can now look beyond Brexit rather than being completely consumed by the seemingly interminable process of it, which I fear will require us to go through significant time, energy and tears yet.
I concur with my hon. Friends the Members for Cleethorpes, for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, and for Hornchurch and Upminster (Julia Lopez), that if we are to leave the EU—we are leaving; my constituents voted 63% to leave—we need to leave in a way that gives us the most flexibility, the most opportunity and the most ability to innovate in the coming months, years and decades. That is the prize and the opportunity that our country needs to grasp. If we do not do that—if we fall between two stools and fail to recognise that we have the power to stand on our own two feet independently, while remaining hugely friendly with our European friends and allies—we will not be delivering the Brexit that people voted for in 2016 and, more importantly, we will not be obtaining the opportunities or the value that could come from Brexit. I wholeheartedly endorse the comments made by my hon. Friends: Chequers in its current form does not work and it does not give us the opportunities we have been talking about today, and I will not support it if it is put to a vote in the House.
The third reason for my speech is that this is an opportunity for us to innovate, to change, to look at how our regulations do or not work, and to boost our commerce. The most nimble and most independent countries will thrive in the next few decades, and innovations such as freeports offer us the opportunity to do so. As my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland outlined, examples such as Jebel Ali in the United Arab Emirates, which has 140,000 people working there and receives nearly a fifth of all direct investment in the UAE, demonstrates the kind of opportunities that we may be able to grasp if we take them.
There are also manufacturing opportunities. My constituency is an old manufacturing area, as well as an old mining area, and it still has a significant amount of manufacturing. If freeports can contribute in any way to bringing back some manufacturing, with a focus on high-skill manufacturing, building on what we have, we should all welcome that.
In summary, I am still trying to work out how to get a freeport 70 miles away from a coast. I will continue to think that through at my leisure. Divergence is sometimes an opportunity, as this is. I hope that we, as a Government and a country, will take up such opportunities, because if we do we can be extremely successful in the years to come.
Thank you, Mr Hanson, and it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. I warmly thank the hon. Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (Mr Clarke) for bringing the debate to the Chamber.
The hon. Member for North East Derbyshire (Lee Rowley) said early on that he was present to listen rather than to speak. Given some of the comments we have heard and will continue to hear about Brexit, clearly we need to start listening a lot more, because we need to learn new tricks if we want our economy to survive and to be a real success.
I do not want to detract from the cross-party consensus, but Brexit takes away the European Union customs union—or is likely to—which in effect is a huge economic free trade zone, with no costs from borders or additional taxation in each individual member state of the EU. In the absence of the customs union, therefore, we will have to invent or reinvent a freeport or free zone area in our own country to compensate.
Even so, many EU countries have freeport or free zone areas—22 countries have such arrangements, I think. In Spain, for example, elements of free trade zones are found on the Mediterranean coast in the ports of Barcelona and Cadiz; in the north, on the Atlantic coast, in Vigo; and in the airport area in Madrid, which was fairly landlocked last time I looked—though perhaps not as much as eastern Derbyshire. Closer to home, the Isle of Man has a free zone, as do other countries in the EU. From my perspective, the great bonus of freeports is the boost to economic activity in areas where trading conditions need a shot in the arm to increase jobs, economic vibrancy, trade and exports.
According to many reports, Brexit will have a more detrimental effect in Northern Ireland, north-east England, Wales and Scotland than elsewhere. In Scotland, according to a fairly recent report, we are looking at a 9% reduction in gross domestic product if we go into Brexit under World Trade Organisation rules. If there is a no-deal Brexit, the GDP of north-east England is expected to drop by some 16%, and 80,000 jobs in my country will be at risk. I hope that we do not get to that stage, but the warning signals are clearly there.
To have the most impact, free trade or freeport zones are best placed outside London and the south-east. If someone is determined—as I am sure the Minister is—to address economic inequality throughout the UK, we need to consider how to boost the economy in other parts of the UK—the parts that will be worst affected by Brexit. The British Ports Association has said that freeports would be most beneficial where a port has plenty of land so that value-adding economic activity can also take place.
All Members who have spoken in the debate have made a case for their own neck of the woods, and I am delighted to let everyone know a little about my constituency. Our local port, Rosyth, has all the ingredients necessary for the successful operation of a freeport: a lot of available land, much of it on brownfield sites; a rail link that is greatly underutilised but nevertheless only a mile from the main east coast line; and a motorway system that includes the new, iconic Queensferry crossing, providing a 15-minute corridor between the port of Rosyth and Edinburgh airport. We also have a talented workforce—the usual situation in Scotland, as I think every Member would accept—and the desire to become the beating heart of the Scottish economy, ready to take on opportunities wherever they may appear.
An opportunity that no one has yet mentioned is an unwanted feature of climate change: more and more sea routes are being created to the north and through the Arctic. Ships can now move along the northern coast of Norway, past Russia and to China, with a number of months in the year seeing more seaborne activity. In a northern port such as Rosyth, with easy access to those waters, we see that as a bonus.
We also have to take care. As the hon. Member for Redcar (Anna Turley) pointed out, freeports cannot be introduced to push along a low-wage economy or to act as a centre for illegal trade just because some of the rules have been softened or relaxed. They might also be disrespectful of the environment—even in a freeport, the “polluter pays” principle must still apply.
The British Ports Association briefing, which I think we all received, made for some encouraging reading: 95% of trade is carried by sea, whether imports or exports, container traffic or bulk goods; 60 million passenger journeys are made between the UK and the rest of Europe every year; and 500 million tonnes of freight pass through all ports in the UK, which employ almost 100,000 people. We have a really good ports sector on which to build, and that is a real feather in our cap, a real hand-up and a great start in developing our port facilities.
I am a member of the all-party group on freeports, under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers), and I believe that we will be able to highlight some of the pros and cons of freeports. We are all determined to grow our economy, to create jobs and to deal with some of the vagaries of Brexit in the parts of the country that will be hardest hit. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the possibility of creating a super-freeport zone. If that included a specific focus on inward investment and a wider economic corridor, we could gain different benefits from a wide range of enterprises, and perhaps bring in an innovation hub linking universities and colleges in whichever area the freeport might sit.
I look forward to hearing the Minister’s views. An early announcement on freeports and how they will be financed will be very welcome.
The key to dealing with the challenge that my hon. Friend outlines is to ensure improvements in the supply of housing. We have a consultation under way on the national planning policy framework, which will get more houses built, and we have measures to support demand by making Help to Buy equity loans available to those who are seeking to enter the housing market. This Government will remain committed to increasing the supply and to supporting those who need help, in order to make effective demand in this market.
Our objective is to increase supply, not to increase the profits of house builders. To do that, we need to ensure that the planning system can be responsive to the demand that we are creating by supporting people with measures such as Help to Buy equity loans, and that is what we intend to do through the national planning policy framework changes.
The most important thing is that those young people are in jobs, and under Labour we saw unemployment rise to 20%. Youth unemployment has reduced by 40% since 2010. I recognise that we need to see those young people get better skills. That is why we are investing in IT training, that is why we are developing the maths premium so that more students study science, technology, engineering and maths, and that is why we have developed the apprenticeship levy to get more people into apprenticeships.
The social and economic costs of organised crime, of which money laundering is a key facilitator, total tens of billions of pounds a year. The Government are committed to tackling illicit finance in the UK and have implemented recent measures including the Criminal Finances Act 2017 and the updated money laundering regulations, both of which were brought into law in the past year.
I acknowledge the report of the Select Committee. This Government stand by the rule of law. We do not do random confiscations but, alongside the work being undertaken, work is under way across Whitehall to examine what further steps are necessary. I am eager that we go as far as we can, and we must do so in ways that are consistent with our values.
Again, that is an excellent intervention. It is almost as if planned, because I am about to turn to the question of dispute resolution.
The FCA’s recent consultation into extending the Financial Ombudsman Service clearly sets out the complex landscape of commercial disputes, but it also identifies what it can and cannot do as a regulator to bridge this gap. The all-party group is very clear that it cannot possibly support the proposed extension of the Financial Ombudsman Service as a stand-alone solution to problems that have beset the business community for so long. Even with extended powers, it will not be sufficient to cover complex cases or those that sit outside the regulatory perimeters. The FCA’s consultation makes it very clear that it has limited powers and that a complete solution must include action by the Government and this Parliament. It is not an either/or; we need both.
Again, I am grateful for that intervention. Clearly, at the end of the day, this goes to the question of a public examination of what has happened and where things have gone wrong. RBS is obviously still held by the public through the shares we bought when we bailed it out, but even without that, there is still a responsibility to make sure that the banking and financial sectors apply rules and laws equitably, fairly and transparently, and do not seek to put down small and medium-sized businesses to their own benefit.
As I have already said, we will make sure that those elements of infrastructure—the places where goods can be checked on an intelligence-led basis and the technology that is required to keep our customs borders moving—will be in place by the appropriate time.
As the right hon. Gentleman will know, these matters are subject to negotiation at the present time, but what we will make absolutely certain of is that there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, that there is no customs border effectively within the Irish sea, that the Belfast agreement is respected, and that we have a relatively frictionless movement of goods across the Northern Ireland-Irish border.
We have announced new policies on reporting the private sector pay gap. The pay gap has come down under this Government and we are now seeing a record number of women in work, and the reason is that we have taken the difficult economic decision to close the deficit and ensured that we have allowed the private sector to flourish.
First, I point out that those on the lowest pay have seen their real wages rise by 7% since 2015, which is the highest level for some time. Also, it is women who are more likely to be in work, with record levels of employment. We have also given additional flexibility to public services to ensure that they can recruit and retain.
Order. I gently point out, in respect of this extremely serious matter, that the statement has now been running for over half an hour, but we have had only 10 Back-Bench questions. To be candid, we need shorter questions—not people’s observations, comments, tributes and commendations—and then brief replies from the Secretary of State.
My right hon. Friend is right. The cap has depressed the wider economy. It is now starting to depress wages in the private sector, and it is seriously depressing public sector workers. It has failed all round. The Government need to accept that they have failed and should stop trying to put the blame elsewhere. They announced, for instance, that the police can have a rise, but they will not fund police authorities to pay for it. Council workers can have a rise, but they are cutting the money available to local authorities. Health service workers can have a rise, but they will take it back from somewhere else. The Government must stop making excuses and recognise that the policy has failed.
Two things need to happen: first, all of our public sector workers should at least get a proper living wage: not the spurious national minimum wage, but a real living wage. We cannot run public services on the backs of poorly paid workers any longer. Secondly, the Government need to let proper negotiations begin in the various pay review bodies. My right hon. Friend is right: at the very least they should look at the discrepancies that have been created and how far public sector workers have fallen behind. Then they need to fund those pay rises. That would be good for public sector workers, the wider economy and our regions, and in the end it would be good for our country. It is time to abandon the policy and give people a decent wage.
Thank you, Mr Hanson, for calling me to speak so early in today’s debate. Given the large number of people who wish to speak, I will try to keep my comments relatively brief. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington North (Helen Jones) on setting out so powerfully how the Government are on the wrong track with regard to public sector pay. I also wish to declare an interest: two trade unions, Unison and the GMB, gave financial support to my constituency Labour party in the 2017 general election.
Right across the United Kingdom, we rely on our public servants each and every day to do the jobs that keep our communities and our country functioning—whether working for our local councils, maintaining our highways, cleansing our streets and villages, teaching in our schools, providing home care to the elderly, or working in our emergency services or Her Majesty’s armed forces. All those roles have one thing in common: they provide essential pubic services, and it is absolutely right that those public service workers need and deserve a fair pay rise.
The Government’s pay cap has been in place since 2010 —seven long years. Throughout that time, our hard-working public servants have endured significant financial pressures. Inflation has risen by 22% over this period, while public sector pay has risen by just 4.4%. Wage freezes and the Government’s pay cap have lasted throughout this time, bringing financial misery to public service workers and their families, and causing huge damage to services. For example, an average public sector worker, paid the median public sector wage in 2010 and subject to the two-year pay freeze followed by the pay cap, has seen the value of their wage drop by £4,700.
The pay cap and years of below-inflation pay awards are also having a significant impact on recruitment and retention, and are one reason why nurses have been leaving their profession in droves. Local government is having trouble recruiting and retaining staff, with the workforce survey revealing that 71% of councils are reporting issues. That recruitment and retention crisis applies across the public sector.
Although the Government have made pay offers in excess of 1% for some sectors, the pay cap effectively remains in place for the vast majority of public sector workers. It is important that the Government do not cherry-pick pay rises for some public sector workers, which could be seen as an attempt to divide.
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It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hanson. I, too, thank my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington North (Helen Jones) for introducing the debate on behalf of the Petitions Committee.
Hundreds of people in North Tyneside signed the petition, and I have received emails from dozens of constituents asking me to be here today—some of them are former colleagues with whom I worked before becoming an MP. Thousands of people in North Tyneside work in the public sector. In fact, North Tyneside Council remains one of the largest employers in the borough, with over 3,000 employees. Many other constituents of mine are among the thousands of workers in Government Departments at Tyneview Park, Cobalt business park and Benton Park View, which was known as “the Ministry” for many years. It is not surprising that there has been so much support for the petition locally, particularly given that many of those workers saw their pay frozen between 2010 and 2012, with only a 1% increase each year since then, meaning that basic pay for local government workers has, on average, fallen by 21% in real terms since 2010.
The Public and Commercial Services Union, of which I remain an associate member, represents over 180,000 members in the civil service and related agencies nationally. Its members have seen the value of their incomes plummet, with pay being cut on average by £3,000 under the pay cap. Because of pay restraint in all our communities we have seen huge reductions in disposable income in the local economy, to which many Members have referred. That is only made worse by large public sector job losses.
Furthermore, the pay cap has also led to problems with recruitment and retention in essential public sector jobs, putting more pressure on our already overstretched services. Perhaps that is why a recent poll by the TUC revealed that 70% of the public support scrapping the pay cap. It would make sense, as research from the Institute for Public Policy Research demonstrates that a significant portion of the cost of increasing public sector pay
“would be returned to the Treasury almost immediately in the form of higher taxes and lower spending on means-tested benefits”,
which, sadly, many of our public servants rely on. It would also bring more money into the economy and thus create further jobs.
I pay tribute to the public sector unions, mainly Unison and PCS, for pressing the Government on this issue, and calling for an end to the pay cap, with an above-inflation pay increase for all public sector workers. I hope that the Minister will heed the results of the recent ballot by PCS of all its members, in which 99% said the pay cap must be scrapped and 80% said they would be prepared to strike if the Government would not back down.
Some of the people who were balloted are my former colleagues, whom I described in my maiden speech in June 2010 as committed to delivering good services. I think every Member here knows that that is true. I went on to say:
“As Members of this House, we are elected public servants and we should do all that we can to protect our colleagues across the public sector from Government cuts.”—[Official Report, 30 June 2010; Vol. 512, c. 902.]
Seven years on, I stand by what I said then, and ask the Minister to show due respect and appreciation for all public sector workers. Pay up now and end the public sector pay cap across the board.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hanson. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington North (Helen Jones) for bringing this subject to us.
I have received a number of emails from constituents highlighting the effect of the public sector pay cap on them. One of my constituents—a single mum of two, who is also a nurse working part-time shifts—has been struggling to make ends meet, and Christmas is fast approaching. She needs extra money but is unable to do extra work due to childcare costs. The cost of living is increasing, but her wages do not reflect that.
I was a nurse for 40 years—I was elected to Parliament in the June election—and during that time, like many other nurses I experienced the pay cut. Many of us would say that we got three-week, not four-week, pay. When it came to the fourth week, many of us who could do extra work would do it, although we were overworked already. People with childcare responsibilities could not do that.
I am not only talking on behalf of the nurses; I am also talking on behalf of the support staff, who are on even lower pay. They would work 70 hours a week, which is not legal under the working time regulations, but what else could they do to keep a roof over their head? I was approached by a GP on Sunday, who asked me to talk about the fact that he cannot get practice nurses in his surgery because the wages are too low.
That is what happened to us throughout that time. I ask the Minister to look at this matter. I am a Unison member, and on its behalf I want to ask whether the Government will guarantee that the new deal on NHS pay, including the Agenda for Change, will get additional funding, and will not be paid for through cuts to annual leave and maternity pay. I can tell him this now: nurses and staff will not go for that.
Break in Debate
Because of the pressure of time, I will not, so that more people can speak.
The reward of those public servants is rising demand, rising workload and falling living standards. That is the impact of not only pay restraint but major cuts to, for example, local government budgets, leading in turn to problems with increments, shift changes and fewer people being employed, so those left having to do more. In our constituencies we can all see the impact on them and their families, as they have to turn to debt advice, pawning household goods, taking out payday loans and food banks, such as the home carer I met in a food bank in my constituency—a proud woman with two kids who loved her job but could not make ends meet without going to the food bank.
If public servants are suffering, so too are public services, through the turnover of labour and the stress on staff—very often, staff complements are stretched to the maximum and those who work in public services are demoralised. There is an impact on local economies, because if public servants get a pay rise, they do not salt away their money into Cayman Islands bank accounts; they spend it in the local economy, creating wealth and jobs. There is a grotesque contrast between the way that public servants are treated and what has been revealed in the paradise papers. This is a Britain where we have a Conservative Government that stand back and allow tax dodgers to get away with it, and then the Prime Minister says during the general election campaign to a nurse that there is no such thing as a magic money tree. Yes, there is, and they grow on the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and Jersey, helping the wealthy to avoid their responsibility to society.
I am grieved because I am from a family of public servants: when my dad came off the roads he was a train driver on the London underground; my mum was a nurse; my Uncle Mick, who lived with us, was a street cleaner. They believed in public services, as the country believes now in public services and public servants, but public servants have been let down by a failing, uncaring Government. It is interesting that a monastic vow of silence has been taken by those opposite, who have been reluctant to get up and defend what their Government are doing. The unmistakable message from this debate is that they may stay quiet but we will not. Labour is on the side of public servants.
It is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Mr Hanson. I wish to declare an interest; I used to be employed by Unison, which brought forward the petition and also donated to my general election campaign, together with Unite and GMB.
The Government’s austerity agenda has not only done great damage to our public sector services but brought our NHS to the brink of collapse. Indeed, in Hartlepool, our local hospital is at risk of haemorrhaging services, which is unacceptable to the people. I know from experience that relentless cuts and redundancies have led to remaining staff being over-stretched and under extreme pressure. For more years than I care to remember, those same workers have suffered pay restraints and pay caps. In the light of inflation, that has meant, in effect, that they have suffered a real-terms pay cut. It is a sad indictment of the situation created by this Government that health workers and other public sector workers in my constituency are resorting to food banks.
Things have got so bad that Unison gives out school uniform grants and other welfare provisions for those trapped in in-work poverty, and local branches increasingly issue food bank vouchers to their members who are in need. It is unacceptable that this situation has arisen and that NHS and other public sector workers are struggling to get by on low pay. The pay cap has been cited as one of the reasons why nurses have been leaving the profession in droves, yet its main purpose—addressing Government debt—has failed. Since the cap was introduced, Government debt has grown by around 50%, to reach £1.7 trillion in May this year. Our hard-working NHS staff should not suffer the burden of propping up—
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On a point of order, Mr Hanson. I need your advice. I was not able to put in to speak in this debate because I am not able to be here for the whole debate, but this matter was raised with me by two constituents and I came here to listen because I hoped that I would be educated. I have sat here and heard the Government being castigated. I wanted to intervene, and I was trying not to counteract your advice that we should not just intervene and leave the Chamber, but unfortunately the hon. Gentleman would not let me intervene. How do you think I can best make my point, other than through this point of order?
Thank you, Mr Hanson. I have not finished yet. I am grateful for the patience of the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) and I am glad that a Government Member wants to speak, so I will take this opportunity to give her a chance to do so.
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You should ask your Minister how he will deal with these issues. If you care for the people, you should not ignore the workers, and you should not ignore the nurses—
I apologise. If the Government care for public sector workers, they should not ignore teachers and they should not ignore nurses. They should not ignore the 5.5 million workers in this country, and their families, who are struggling because of the cuts that the Government have made.
It is painful that only a handful of Government Members have turned up for this important debate. That shows that they do not care about our workers, who provide such a wonderful service to our country. As my hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham (Laura Pidcock) said, if those workers stopped work today, the country would collapse. The Government need to take care of these workers and listen to them, and they should stop cutting their livelihood.
As the hon. Gentleman will know, those are not figures that I have at my fingertips. As he will also know, confidential arrangements are rightly in place in many of the structures to which he refers; indeed, he, and perhaps even the headquarters of his party, might even be held within one of those arrangements. Of necessity, that particular information is not fully available.
That is one of the reasons why we need to make sure that we are reducing our debt and reducing our deficit in order to reduce the interest payments that came as a result of the previous Labour Government leaving us with the highest deficit in history. We have an independent Bank of England, and it is very important that as a Government Minister I do not tell it what to do on interest rates.
In 2010, there was a significant gap between wages in the public and private sectors whereby public sector workers received an average of 5.76% higher pay. Today, wages are comparable, and when we take into account more generous pension benefits, there is an additional 10% pension premium in the public sector.
It seems that the right hon. Gentleman cannot take yes for an answer. There is not a public sector pay cap. We have said that individual Secretaries of State will be responsible for making proposals on their workforces dependent on specific circumstances. We are facing very different issues in the NHS and in the armed forces. What is important is that we look at the evidence and make sure that we can recruit and retain the best possible workers in the public sector, but we also need to make sure that we do not price out of the market people working in the private sector.
I completely agree with my hon. Friend that doctors and other medical staff do a vital job and have faced real challenges. We are reducing the agency spend in the NHS over time. It is important that we look overall at the affordability for the public sector. That is the remit of the independent pay review bodies. They hear evidence from the experts on the frontline and make their recommendations. We accepted the recommendation for doctors that was put to us. We accepted the recommendation for nurses and other NHS workers as well. We respect that pay review body process.
The Government are taking action on energy costs. We are also making sure that public sector workers receive increments in addition to the 1% that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned. We are taking action as a Government to raise the tax threshold, so that people on the basic rate are now paying £1,000 less tax. He needs to take account of the whole package; I think that he is cherry-picking some bits.