There have been 14 exchanges between Edward Miliband and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
|Tue 21st July 2020||Oral Answers to Questions||5 interactions (230 words)|
|Thu 16th July 2020||UK Internal Market: White Paper||3 interactions (926 words)|
|Mon 29th June 2020||Business and Planning Bill||13 interactions (2,572 words)|
|Tue 16th June 2020||Oral Answers to Questions||5 interactions (279 words)|
|Wed 3rd June 2020||Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill||21 interactions (3,571 words)|
|Tue 12th May 2020||Covid-19: Business||3 interactions (786 words)|
|Mon 4th May 2020||Oral Answers to Questions||5 interactions (297 words)|
|Thu 26th September 2019||International Climate Action||3 interactions (143 words)|
|Mon 24th June 2019||Climate Change||3 interactions (644 words)|
|Wed 12th June 2019||Net Zero Emissions Target||3 interactions (211 words)|
|Mon 10th June 2019||Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme||13 interactions (1,083 words)|
|Tue 28th November 2017||Budget Resolutions||3 interactions (1,096 words)|
|Thu 12th October 2017||Retail Energy||3 interactions (118 words)|
|Thu 29th June 2017||Economy and Jobs||3 interactions (944 words)|
(2 months ago)Commons Chamber
My hon. Friend highlights an important point. Throughout the covid-19 period, the Government have provided unprecedented support for employment and worked in close partnership with the business community. I understand that it continues to be a difficult time for many businesses, but as he highlights, in that spirit of partnership, we expect all employers to treat their employees fairly and follow the rules.
The right hon. Gentleman will also acknowledge that the Government have provided unprecedented support to businesses across the whole economy. As I said, the key right now is to support businesses to open, to get the economy up and running. That is the best way that we can support businesses across the United Kingdom.
The furlough scheme will have been up and running for a full eight months, providing a huge amount of support for more than 9 million jobs. It is becoming more flexible and allowing people to return to work part time. The right hon. Gentleman will know that the Chancellor has also set out the job retention bonus which, if it is taken up by all employers, will represent a £9 billion boost for the economy. I say to him again that the key is to get the economy up and running and to get businesses trading.
(2 months, 1 week ago)Commons Chamber
For centuries, the United Kingdom’s internal market has been the bedrock of our shared prosperity, with people, products, ideas and investment moving seamlessly between our nations, safeguarding livelihoods and businesses and demonstrating that, as a union, our country is greater than the sum of its parts.
Today, I am publishing a White Paper on the Government’s plans to preserve the UK internal market after the transition period. Since the Acts of Union, the UK internal market has been the source of unhindered and open trade across the country, one which pulls us together as a united country. I know that the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) cares as much about our precious union as I do.
Since 1973, EU law has acted as the cohering force for the UK internal market. In 2016, the British people voted to repeal this legislation, allowing us now to articulate the continued functioning of the internal market. The Union’s economic strength is unrivalled. Since the Acts of Union, the size of our economy has multiplied over 170-fold. Successive UK Governments have legislated to share this prosperity and protect workers’ rights—for example, through the introduction of the national minimum wage and now the national living wage, and by providing for more generous holiday and maternity leave than required by the EU. Today we are announcing plans to continue this hugely successful economic Union. We will legislate for an internal market in UK law, as we leave the transition period and the EU’s single market. Our approach will give businesses the regulatory clarity and certainty they want. It will ensure that the cost of doing business in the UK stays as low as possible.
But let me be clear: preserving the coherence of the UK internal market will be done in a manner that respects and upholds the devolution settlements. On 1 January 2021, hundreds of powers previously held by the EU will rightly flow directly back to devolved Administrations in the United Kingdom. For the first time, because of our approach, the devolved Administrations will be able to legislate on a whole range of policy areas. Each nation that makes up our United Kingdom will hold an unprecedented level of powers after the transition period.
To respect devolution and uphold our internal market, we propose to legislate this year. Businesses across the UK will be given a market access commitment. That will be underpinned by the principles of mutual recognition and non-discrimination, which will guarantee that goods and services from one part of the United Kingdom can always be sold into another. The simple principle at the heart of this approach is a continuation of our centuries-old position that there should be no economic barriers to trading within the United Kingdom.
The economies of our four nations, within one United Kingdom, are strongly integrated. At the time of the last census, 170,000 workers commuted daily from one part of the UK to another. Scotland makes over £50 billion of sales per year to the rest of the UK, accounting for over 60% of all exports. Indeed, Scotland sells three times as much to the rest of the UK than to the whole EU put together. About 50% of Northern Ireland’s sales are to Great Britain, and 75% of exports of Welsh final goods and services are consumed in other parts of the UK. In some parts of Wales, over a quarter of workers commute across the border. It is in the clear economic interest of the whole United Kingdom that its internal market continues to function successfully and seamlessly, as it has done for centuries.
As part of our proposals, we will also clarify in law the position that subsidy control is a reserved matter for the whole United Kingdom. This has never been a devolved matter. The Government have been clear that, after the end of the transition period, the UK will have its own domestic subsidy control regime. We will develop our policy proposals on this in due course, consulting widely.
We will only recover from covid by working together. Just over two weeks ago, the Prime Minister set out how we would strengthen the incredible partnership between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland through our economic recovery. That will be underpinned by a strong UK internal market and avoid the damaging uncertainty for businesses of a fractured economy. It will provide the unquestionable advantages of continued open trade. It will benefit businesses, workers and consumers across the country through lowering trading costs and allowing different regions to specialise in sectors where they enjoy a comparative advantage.
Our proposals are designed for co-operation between all four nations. We invite all devolved Administrations to work together and to agree common approaches to cross-cutting issues such as regulatory standards.
The UK economy has some of the highest standards in the world. We go beyond EU rules in many areas, including health and safety in the workplace, workers’ rights, food, health and animal welfare, consumer protections, household goods, net zero and the environment. We will maintain our commitment to high standards, as we negotiate trade agreements that will provide jobs and growth to the United Kingdom. Through our common frameworks approach, we will support regulatory consistency across our internal market, so if the devolved Administrations seek to agree standards across the UK economy, I say simply this: come and work with us.
The UK internal market is a historic achievement for the United Kingdom, which for 300 years has supported unrivalled economic growth and innovation within our great Union. That has underpinned the best of our United Kingdom’s innovation and prosperity: the Scottish enlightenment, the steam engine, the world’s first vaccine, the telephone, the electric tramway, penicillin, radar, pneumatic tyres, the breaking of the Enigma code, the sequencing of DNA, and the world wide web. As we rebuild and recover from covid, we will work together as one United Kingdom to support jobs and livelihoods across our whole country. We will maintain high standards for consumers, and deliver our commitment to devolution by giving more power to the devolved legislatures. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his comments and for his support for the principle of the UK internal market. I hope that that is something we will hear echoed across the House as we open up to questions. Let me address some of the points that he has raised. The first thing worth noting is that he talked about anxiety. The real issue at the moment is giving certainty to businesses, so that they know from day one that they are able to operate as they do now within a coherent, seamless internal market. That is what this White Paper proposal absolutely gives them. I have spoken, as I am sure he will have done, to business representatives and organisations over the last 24 hours, and they have told me that this is one big issue off the risk register of companies.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about standards. I would point out to him once again that the UK has some of the highest standards in the world across a whole range of areas. I have listed issues around maternity and paternity pay, around the exclusions and around zero-hour contracts. I say to him once again—I am sure that this issue will be raised by others as well—that we are not going to be compromising our high environmental standards, our high animal welfare standards or, indeed, our high food safety standards in the deals that we do.
The right hon. Gentleman then raised the issue about working together. He will know that the common frameworks programme has been running for some time, and we have had consultations and discussions around that. If colleagues in the devolved Administrations want to have a discussion about standards, that is absolutely the right forum in which to do it. He also mentioned the state aid rules. I know that he will understand the reason that we want to continue to have this as a reserved matter. We want to ensure that there is effectively equality across the whole of the UK and that there are no distortions. I understand his desire for us to set out the details on this, and that will come.
In conclusion, the White Paper gives certainty to businesses. It is about protecting jobs and livelihoods, and about supporting businesses in making their investment decisions. That is good for consumers as well. It is about underpinning our recovery from covid as we seek to work together. I say to all colleagues that this is about businesses and people, not about politicians, and I hope that that is the spirit in which we will conduct the rest of this debate.
(2 months, 4 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
The Minister for Housing, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher), will deal with the details of that. The point of these measures is to get the economy going, which my hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Richard Fuller) is keen to do. I understand his point, and we will address it in Committee.
The Bill temporarily allows the issuing of one-year lorry or bus driving licence renewals, rather than the standard five years. Shorter renewals will be allowed if an applicant is otherwise healthy but unable to obtain the medical report required for a five-year licence. That will relieve pressure on GPs and allow drivers to continue to work. The Bill also reforms powers to exempt temporarily goods vehicles, buses and coaches from roadworthiness testing. That will allow the high demand for heavy-vehicle testing, which restarts from 4 July, to be managed in a manner that prioritises road safety by targeting higher-risk vehicles or operators.
In conclusion, the Government have stood shoulder to shoulder with businesses throughout the covid-19 emergency and now, as we emerge from this pandemic, we need to support our economic recovery and help businesses with more flexible ways of working. The great British economy, helped by a willing public, is reawakening from its enforced slumber. Taken together, the measures in the Bill are designed to provide a much-needed economic boost, and I commend it to the House.
I think we agree about the need for local authorities to have discretion, but they also need resources. In my borough, we have more than 1,300 licensed premises in a very small area of London, and a lot of licensing officers are needed just to deal with the flow of applications. Does my right hon. Friend not think that the Government need to address that?
The shadow Secretary of State will be aware that the Government measures taken across the economy, which he has welcomed, already raise issues of fairness between those who fall one side of the line and those who fall on the other side. What is his proposal for those sectors? Some businesses will fall just to one side, but who will be the expert to understand who fits where? I am all up for it if he can reconcile that, but there are risks, are there not?
What the right hon. Gentleman says about the sector-based nature of the grants scheme highlights the problem in his argument. All MPs in this place, I am sure, have been contacted by people—in the hospitality supply chain, for example—who were not getting support. It is so difficult to take a sector-based approach. Will he concede that that is not as easy as he thinks?
I speak as a business person as well as a Member of Parliament. In my view, the Chancellor made the job retention scheme very generous, continuing it a lot longer than many thought it would; and rather than have a sector-based scheme to help some people and not others, he has tried to help all employers and make it flexible for all the different categories of employer.
(3 months, 1 week ago)Commons Chamber
My right hon. Friend, I know, has been engaging with businesses through virtual networks across Warwickshire, and I thank him for the work that he is doing locally. What I would say to him is that, of course, we have ensured that loan schemes are available across the economy. Smaller businesses in hospitality, leisure and retail have been able to access a £25,000 grant. The key issue is to have a safe and phased reopening of the economy to get it going again, which is what we are currently undertaking.
I do welcome the constructive tone in which we have approached our exchanges over the past few weeks, but what I would just say to the right hon. Gentleman is that if he looks at the sum total of what this Government are providing, he will find that it is significant and incredibly favourable when compared with international comparators. On loans, as he knows, we have increased the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme to allow up to £200 million to be made available, and we will continue to support businesses. He will also know that in certain cases we do have individual discussions going on with businesses.
We have taken a whole-economy approach, as he knows, and I have set out the measures that we have put in place. With regard to the retail and hospitality sectors, we have provided specific support for them in the one-year rates holiday, as well as the additional support that is available, but the key issue here is the safe reopening of the economy, and that is what we want to continue with over the coming weeks.
(3 months, 3 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
My hon. Friend makes an incredibly important point. This is not about mandating; this is about giving choice. I expect that many companies will take up the temporary support that is being made available through these measures.
Expanding on the announcement I made on 25 March that companies would have an extended period for filing accounts, the Bill will also give businesses more time to meet a range of filing requirements. The extensions to the various filing requirements will be set out in regulations to be laid once the Bill receives Royal Assent. We will be giving businesses the maximum period allowable under the powers in the Bill for filing their accounts, confirmation statements and event-driven updates. We will also extend the period within which charges should be registered with Companies House to 31 days, which I believe strikes the right balance between providing businesses with breathing space and ensuring that lenders are protected.
In conclusion, the package of measures that the Bill introduces will give businesses the best opportunity to survive the effects of the covid-19 crisis and lay the foundations for a bounce-back in the UK economy. This Government are committed to supporting businesses. We are listening, and we are putting in place meaningful and common-sense measures to provide that support. Let me end by again paying tribute to the millions of business owners up and down our country who are doing their bit to keep Britain moving. In bringing these measures forward, we demonstrate again that we stand with them. I commend the Bill to the House.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way and for welcoming this Bill, which I do as well. Does he accept that what is so important about the Bill is that it includes and incorporates Northern Ireland absolutely? Northern Ireland is not cut adrift and the Bill does not have some special arrangement that the Assembly will manage; Northern Ireland is part and parcel of it. The measures have given collective support to businesses across all the United Kingdom and especially in Northern Ireland. Without British money, we would have been ruined. That is the bottom line.
I agree with all that my right hon. Friend has said. Does he agree that some extension will be needed for some of the sectors that may be hit for longer, such as the creative industries? Many in my own patch will be affected for longer because they will be closed down for longer, and they need special assistance.
I am extraordinarily grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for raising this point, because he will be aware that when a company is in a crisis situation and has so many wolves at the door, it has to make rapid decisions to salvage the assets and the business and continue, hopefully, to trade profitably. He is putting his finger precisely on the issue of what the rights of employees in that circumstance are and what protection there is for their pension benefits in the long term—that is a fundamental part of this issue. I am interested in his new clause on employee representation, which refers specifically to trade union representation; would he be prepared to broaden that out to include some broader sense of employee representation?
I welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his position and wish him well. I have a bit of concern about what I refer to as predatory companies, which look for companies that are probably heading towards insolvency and see them as an opportunity to gain something. I wonder whether it is possible to ensure in the Bill that such predatory companies that would prey on those in trouble, of which there are many, are prevented from taking over an asset that is probably solvent in the long term but is not in the short term.
The right hon. Gentleman touched on his amendment that would ring-fence 30% of assets for unsecured creditors; is he not concerned that if we did that, people who are willing to extend finance to businesses on a secured basis may be less willing to lend?
My right hon. Friend is right to mention steel and aerospace in particular, as they are crucial providers of jobs in south Wales, and we have the situations with BA and with the steel industry. Does he agree that we need to get support to them as soon as possible?
Would the right hon. Gentleman support the ideas that I have been doing some work on—as have lots of people—outside this place in relation to recapitalising the British corporate sector, not just in terms of debt to equity, but in finding ways to get much more equity into our businesses so that they are not weighed down by debt? That approach could be how we recover from this situation.
It is a great pleasure to follow the shadow Secretary of State. During this crisis, many of us have experienced groundhog day, and we have certainly just experienced it now; looking at the right hon. Gentleman at the Dispatch Box took me back to a period before 2015.
I warmly welcome the Bill. As the shadow Secretary of State said, the Secretary of State is right to set this legislation in the context of an extraordinarily impressive set of business measures—regardless of any tinkering around the edges that is needed—that the Government have put in place to tackle the covid crisis. We are right to recognise that in normal circumstances the Bill probably would have been split into two phases. Some of the changes that it contains are permanent, and have been debated and consulted on certainly since 2016, but maybe earlier. Other changes are rightly temporary, as they are urgent measures to address the challenges faced by many in the corporate sector who would not necessarily normally be experiencing such problems with insolvency. The flexibility is therefore clearly right.
As I have said, the Bill sets out a number of permanent and temporary concepts and provisions. I will spend a little bit of time reflecting on one or two of the permanent ones, before finishing with a particular temporary issue that affects my constituency. The Bill outlines the concept of moratorium, and it is quite clear what that is. It gives the challenged business a 20-day opportunity to consider a rescue plan. That can be extended for a further 20 days if the directors ask for it, and can, as I understand it, be extended for a whole year should the creditor or the court consent. The purpose of that is clearly obvious, and all that makes a huge amount of sense. During that period the directors retain control of the company and no legal action can be taken against it without a court decision.
However, the process is overseen by a monitor, a point on which I want to raise a few issues that I hope my Front-Bench colleagues will consider or at least address later. First, my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) has already raised with the Secretary of State the potential conflict of interest to do with whether the monitor is sanctioned by an independent regulatory body or is just a normal insolvency practitioner that could be taking work from one group of companies with one hand and, with the other, working against that in looking at insolvency. I hope my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench will carefully consider the point about regulation and bring something back quickly.
The second point concerns the criteria that the monitor has to use for the moratorium, the time it could take to assess whether the definition is met, and whether the criteria are too tightly drawn or could be met more quickly if they were more easily drawn. I recognise the need for the monitor to make a suitable statement about the moratorium. The current threshold is whether
“in the…monitor’s view, it is likely that a moratorium…would result in the rescue of the company”.
However, the monitor has a relatively short period in which to make that assessment. In normal circumstances there would be a huge amount of due diligence done on trading, future trading, inspection of management accounts, general financial arrangements and debt arrangements. Not only does that normally take longer than 20 days; it is potentially a costly process to undertake. Particularly given the spirit of what we are trying to do in the Bill, will Ministers consider whether it might be more effective to look at the definition of the criteria and approve a slightly lower threshold for what constitutes a company that could be rescued? That might be as simple as saying that “it is likely” that the moratorium could result in the rescue of the company, as opposed to saying that “it must”. That would be of considerable help in rescuing companies.
Break in Debate
I thank my hon. Friend. The House will be pleased to know that it will not need to listen to the next couple of minutes of my speech on the basis that he has just made exactly the point I wanted to make about the floating charge in particular. They are the normal financiers to those sorts of businesses. If they find themselves displaced in the ranking of credit priority, they are less likely to lend and that will have an impact. It was introduced in 2002 and has seen an extraordinary expansion of lending via those floating charge providers. It would seem odd that we are, in one place, trying to do one thing in one piece of Government legislation, and potentially undermining the impact of this very welcome Bill in another. I hope the Minister will, with his formidable powers of persuasion, speak to the Treasury about this matter.
The shadow Secretary of State says that he has long list. I am sure we all have, but I have only one point today, which is this particular issue. I ask the Minister to have a conversation with the Treasury about whether that measure, which it may or may not want to do, needs to be brought in now, because I think it will impact this Bill.
Finally, I want to talk about one of the temporary changes that directly affects my constituency. I welcome the flexibility that is being allowed to charities and bodies to move their annual general meetings or to hold them digitally. That is extremely sensible, but it does not cover all bodies. It does not cover charities set up under an Act of Parliament, or charities that are not CIOs—charitable incorporated organisations.
The wonderful Wimbledon and Putney Commons is such a body. It was set up in 1871 by an Act of this place and it has, in its constitution, a requirement that it meets in person, that all levy payers are instructed of the date of the annual meeting and that it must happen by the end of June. The measures in the Bill would undoubtedly help the conservators who run the common. The trouble is that it does not apply to them. May I therefore make a particular plea to the Minister to say in his winding-up speech either that the Bill will include all charities rather than just those set up under CIOs, or that all bodies set up by an Act of Parliament are included, such as the Wimbledon and Putney conservators—Wimbledon and Putney Commons. [Interruption.] I said conservators. For those who want a history lesson, I made that slip in my maiden speech, but I am not making it now. If that is not possible, I ask that there be a definitive statement that the Charity Commission specifically allows some temporary flexibility to those bodies. With that entreaty on behalf of Wimbledon Common, I thank you Mr Deputy Speaker.
(4 months, 2 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
I call Edward Miliband, with a time limit of five minutes.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his comments. I also thank him for the very constructive discussions that we have had, particularly last Friday, on a range of issues. He wrote to me yesterday on the issue of safer working and I hope he has received my response. I also want to thank him for the acknowledgement that what we have put out represents progress. I think there is consensus across businesses and trade unions for what we have sought to provide.
The right hon. Gentleman raised a number of issues, which I will try to address. His first question was about the R number and the numbers of people potentially going back to work. We have been very clear that we want to ensure that people are safe in the workplace and, at the end of the day, that we are saving lives. That is why we produced the guidance, which has been put together with the HSE and Public Health England. We are also very clear that people who can work from home should continue to work from home.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about the fact that there was some confusion. The Prime Minister made reference to the manufacturing sector and the construction sector; those sectors are already open. Millions of people are already going to work and their employers are doing everything they can to keep them safe.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about how employees can feel safe in the workplace. We have had this discussion previously. We know for a fact that many employers are already open, and they are working incredibly constructively with their trade unions. When I held my stakeholder calls as part of preparing the guidance, that was abundantly clear.
He talked about enforcement. I am pleased that he welcomes the extra money for the HSE; we need to make sure that we provide support if it is needed. I want to be very clear that the HSE is able to do spot checks and to be proactive. We ultimately want to make sure that if employees feel unsafe in a work environment, they are able to get in touch with the HSE or with their local authority.
He asked about parents and made a very reasonable point about schools. The Prime Minister set out the timetable for that. Again, it is a question of employers and employees working flexibly together. That is already happening in the workplace. I would say to all employers that they should look to see what they can do to support their workers to continue to work from home if that is at all possible.
Finally, the right hon. Gentleman raised a point about reopening, whether it is safe to open workplaces, and what to do about workplaces that are not safe. He is absolutely right. People should not have to feel that they are going into an unsafe work environment; frankly, from my experience, that is not what employers want either. We absolutely need our workers to feel safe. If they feel unsafe, they can get in touch with the HSE and with local authorities. I would say to all employers to please do absolutely everything you can, because it is in all our interests that the economy gets going again.
(4 months, 3 weeks ago)Commons Chamber
I also take this opportunity to welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his new role. We have already had two very constructive discussions. I hope that will be the tone of our future interactions. He raises an important point. We both want workers in our country to feel safe and confident that they are returning to a safe workplace. Work on the consultation is ongoing, and obviously I do not want to pre-empt it, but he makes some very important points, and of course he is always welcome to write to me. I will look at what he says very carefully.
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we have provided support for the hospitality, leisure and retail sector. There is a 100% rates holiday for all businesses in that sector, and we are also making £25,000 grants available to them. Under the grant scheme—the £25,000 and £10,000 grants—as of last Monday, £7.5 billion had been paid out. I hope he will welcome that. On the wider measures he talks about, we keep everything under review, and I will look at anything that comes forward.
(1 year ago)Commons Chamber
My right hon. Friend raises an important point. I assure him that my Department is looking carefully at many different innovations, including nuclear fusion, which is important to his constituency
The right hon. Gentleman raises an important point and, as he will no doubt expect, that is exactly the kind of area we are looking at. There obviously needs to be a pathway, as we cannot suddenly decarbonise in 2049, so we are now looking at the trajectory and at the development of different technologies, at how quickly we can deploy them and at the choices to get the best value for taxpayers’ money while setting a real example that we can demonstrate for COP 26 next year.
(1 year, 3 months ago)Commons Chamber
I very much support this motion and I congratulate the Government on bringing forward this legislation so quickly after the passing of the motion on 1 May accepting that there was a climate change emergency.
I hope that the motion will be approved this evening. If it is, we must not rest on our laurels but move immediately to provide the full policy framework so we can deliver what is an ambitious target. The good news is that much of the framework is already there: the Climate Change Act 2008, the industrial strategy, the clean growth strategy and the sector deals. Some pieces of the jigsaw have been put in place, such as the offshore wind sector deal—the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, my right hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Claire Perry), launched it in Lowestoft in March—which will help to revitalise the local economy.
Other pieces of the jigsaw are missing, however, such as a route map for decarbonising transport, a flexible policy framework for promoting local bespoke heating schemes and a comprehensive plan for meeting the domestic energy efficiency targets in the clean growth strategy, as put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Sarah Newton) in her ten-minute rule Bill last week. The UK has made significant strides in decarbonising the nation’s power supply, with offshore wind providing a means of regenerating coastal communities such as Lowestoft, but more work needs to be done, including providing a clear route to market for other clean energy technologies and getting on with delivering those big-ticket items of nuclear power and carbon capture, utilisation and storage, which are absolutely vital to delivering on the zero carbon goal. It is important for us not to be not a one-trick pony and concentrate only on power. We must immediately set about making significant strides in decarbonising transport and heat, as well as improving our performance in relation to energy efficiency.
The challenge is a big one, and the UK Government cannot deliver on their own. We need to be working with and leading other countries, and incentivising and encouraging the private sector to step up to the plate and invest. Norway is a country with which we have a great deal in common, as we share the North sea oil and gas basin. We must work with the Norwegians to ensure that oil and gas are produced in a low-carbon, efficient manner in future, and that we realise the full potential of carbon capture, utilisation and storage. Companies that were exclusively oil and gas businesses are responding to the winds of change and are making the transition to low-carbon forms of energy production. The Government must incentivise them to move as quickly as is practically possible, and to ensure that the highly skilled workforce on the United Kingdom continental shelf have every opportunity to move to jobs in the low-carbon economy.
The UK has a record of which we can be proud, but we now need to accelerate our efforts to meet the challenge, and the motion is the first step in that process. It is welcome, so let us now ensure that it is passed, and then get on with the enormous amount of work that is required for that challenge to be properly met.
It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), who has been one of the world leaders in the debate on this issue.
I welcome the Government’s announcement today. Climate change is without doubt the biggest danger to our planet. The UK has a very good record in this regard, but the planet has a very poor one. All of us will have to up our game massively to meet the challenge. Moreover, the next stages of the decarbonisation of our economy will be much more difficult than the progress that we have already made.
As I have said, the UK has a good record. The climate change performance index, which is collated by the independent organisation Germanwatch, lists it as fifth in the world, behind only Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania and Morocco. We are ahead of every other country that Members may want to mention, so it is not a question of the Government’s marking their own homework. We are a world leader in this area. Ours is the best performance in the G20. We were the first country to announce that we would abolish coal energy production by 2025, and are now the first to announce a net zero target of 2050.
It has not been mentioned yet in the debate, but we should not forget that all this progress has come not necessarily at a cost to businesses, although they are having to change, but principally at a cost to consumers. All these levies are paid by the consumer. In 2010, we were spending just over £1 billion. Today, consumers are bearing a cost of more than £7 billion a year, and the figure will be more than £9 billion by 2020. When we make more progress—as we will—we must do so in a way that is sensitive to, particularly, those on low incomes, because otherwise the burden will be entirely disproportionate.
Yes, we have made progress. As has been pointed out, 33% of our energy comes from electricity. However, that is only 19% of the total energy that is being produced. The next challenges, particularly those involving heating and transport, will be much more difficult. We need a stable framework. It is great that the Government have made their announcement, because it means that businesses will respond and feel confident that their investments will be supported in the future.
There is plenty of innovation coming down the line that will have nothing to do with Government action. I am thinking of, for example, transport as a service. When we do not own cars any more, but simply dial a number on our iPhones so that they arrive outside our doors, energy requirements for transport will be transformed. Solar energy and batteries will transform them as well. This is more about a technology disruption than about a transition. As the right hon. Member for Doncaster North said, it is about economics. It will be cheaper to run a car that is electric and autonomous than to run one with a diesel engine.
It has been good to hear this issue debated on both sides of the Chamber today, but if we are to deliver these solutions, we need a fact-based debate. We cannot simply say that we need to decarbonise our energy and that therefore we need to stop using gas, and then stop producing gas. Fracking has been mentioned today. Given that 90% of my constituency is covered by petroleum exploration development licences, we will need gas. The Committee on Climate Change says that the widespread deployment of hydrogen is critical to the decarbonisation of our economy. That can only realistically be achieved by stripping the carbon molecule out of methane. We will need gas for many decades to come. Let us talk facts, and not just base what we say on emotions.
I welcome the Government’s actions, and I have been delighted to speak in the debate.
(1 year, 3 months ago)Commons Chamber
I completely agree with my right hon. Friend and pay tribute to him for his leadership both as a Member of this House and a Minister in DEFRA in pursuing this at a national and international level. He is absolutely right that we need to change the way we do things, but the prospects of leaning into technology mean that we can do that in a way that does not make our lives more miserable or more constrained. No one could look back on the last 20 or 30 years and think that, having achieved what we have in terms of emissions reductions, we have done so at the expense of our quality of life. That is the guiding philosophy we should take: we should harness technology to make sure our lives can be better and greener and cleaner in the future.
I pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman for his own leadership in this. I think he will recognise that we are not credited simply with leadership in terms of legislation and targets but with achievement. Of the major industrialised countries we are the world leader in decarbonising our economy at the same time as growing that economy. We should be proud of that.
The right hon. Gentleman is quite right: the inclusion of the review mechanism in the Climate Change Act was a prescient one because it has allowed me to write to the Committee, which has resulted in the report to which we are responding today. I think five years is a good period of time in which to see how we and others are doing against that target and whether the pace of implementation is what is required.
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that policies to support that will be required. The essence of good policy is that it should not have unintended consequences. In terms of the automotive sector for example, I and Members opposite know that car companies need to be able to generate the returns in order to make the capital investment to install the new capital equipment that is needed to make electric powertrains, for instance, so getting that pace right so that they can have the returns to be able to reinvest is crucial; otherwise, there could be unintended consequences. The right hon. Gentleman talked about homes and wind, and of course all these things make contributions to meeting that target. The action from now on, including in the energy White Paper, is to set out the policy framework that supports our ambitions.
(1 year, 3 months ago)Commons Chamber
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that, but I think it was a fairly pointless question. I am not in a position to go back and change the past. I am here in this Chamber talking about now.
The Government have had far more income from the scheme than they ever imagined. Many of the beneficiaries who are still with us are increasingly suffering with industry-related health conditions and are in need of support. It would be relatively simple for the Government to shift the balance, perhaps by offering a 70:30 split or going even further. The risk to the Government and the taxpayer is not what it was in 1994. We can split hairs about when the right time to do this might have been, and it was probably several years ago, but we are here now and we are talking about it.
Colleagues have gone into great detail about the costs and benefits of changing the balance. I have sought to do so previously with Ministers, but I feel that the best advocates for the change are the mineworkers themselves. That is why I have sought to get them together with campaigners, trustees and the Government to discuss this. I believe it is now time for the Government to undertake a formal review of the arrangements and consider the case for reform in proper detail.
Former coalfield communities are among the poorest in the country, and older people in particular struggle to make ends meet without savings and without much support beyond their pension arrangements. These coalfield communities are among the hardest working and longest suffering in our country, as the hon. Member for Easington said. The miners worked in darkness so that we could have light and, although much of that happened before I was born, I have every respect for those constituents in my community who worked incredibly hard to look after the rest of us and to ensure that we could have the quality of life that we expected.
Ensuring that miners can keep more of the surplus from these investments will have a life-changing effect. Many of them are on low incomes and it would help to boost their lives individually while they are still around to spend that money. It would also help to boost whole communities, such as mine in Mansfield and Warsop. As my hon. Friend the Member for North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen) said, more money in miners’ pockets in communities such as Mansfield is money that will be reinvested back into those deprived communities and help to boost them.
Some have suggested an increased guarantee as a compromise to cover the scheme’s bonuses, but although that sounds nice—and sounds like Government doing something—it will not put any extra money into the pockets of those miners. It would merely guarantee what they already get. We have already seen that the risk of needing that guarantee is very small, so I do not think that that is good enough. This is a chance for the Government to show that we are on the side of people who have worked hard and paid into the system, and that we will help them. To me, that is what the Conservative party should be about, so I hope that the new Minister and his Department will work alongside the Treasury and the trustees to review the scheme and to ensure that the hard-working miners who gave so much to their communities, including in Mansfield, will receive their fair share. I look forward to discussing this with him further.
It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband). My constituency covers what was formerly known as National Coal Board Scotland west area—a thriving mining community in its day—and this is one of a series of debates brought over the years in a bid to seek a fairer distribution of the surplus from the mineworkers’ pension scheme. The scheme was, in effect, divided into four sub funds—the guarantee fund, bonus augmentation, guarantors, and investment reserve—with it being possible to vire moneys between some sub-funds, as appropriate, but the bonus augmentation fund is an exception, because there is no provision by which to make up any shortfall. The mineworkers’ total pension payable is protected, rises in line with inflation, and does not fall in cash terms.
There has been a long history of reasonable and fair requests for changes from former mineworkers, their widows, the Coalfield Communities Campaign and many others, including myself, whose relatives were miners. In my case, my father, my father in law and many other family members were miners. We empathise with those who served in the pits and who are seeking a pension commensurate with the daily dangers that they encountered at the coalface.
Break in Debate
They do not. There are six proposals, which I have written to the Treasury about, and the trustees felt that protecting existing bonuses earned is more important than a review of the 50:50 split at this time.
As I just said, I will be meeting the trustees, and their proposals relate to six points, about which I have written to the Treasury to share my analysis.
I am setting out my Department’s position. Whether a review is undertaken is a matter for the Treasury, and the Treasury’s position was set out in a letter from the Chief Secretary to the Treasury to MPs on 14 May. That position has not changed. I am sure that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury and other colleagues in that Department will want to reflect on any motion passed by this House, but I am trying to update the House in response to the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, who asked what the Government were doing about the proposals that had previously been under discussion—the proposals that have been brought forward by the scheme’s trustees.
The proposals have been considered for several months. They are balanced, and I support them. With the support of my Department, I have formally written to the Treasury to say that we support the proposals, because the trustees have identified that protecting already accrued bonuses is more important than the 50:50 split.
Break in Debate
We were doing so well in this debate, and I am heartened by the many contributions, especially from Conservative Members. I say that not to be mean-spirited but to acknowledge the contributions and the sympathy shown for the arguments that have been made, which I appreciate. I had hoped the Minister would be rather more positive in his approach to those contributions.
We have had brilliant contributions from the hon. Members for Mansfield (Ben Bradley), for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (Bill Grant), for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (Jonathan Edwards) and for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown), from my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) and from my hon. Friends the Members for Ashfield (Gloria De Piero), for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock), for Blaenau Gwent (Nick Smith), for Midlothian (Danielle Rowley), for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Gerald Jones), for Leigh (Jo Platt) and for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman).
We have also had notable interventions—too many to list—including from the youngest working miner to come into Parliament, my hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery), and from my inimitable hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner). We have had some terrific interventions, including from the hon. Members for North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen) and for Glasgow South West (Chris Stephens) and from my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mike Hill) and a number of others.
Justice knows no age and, irrespective of the ages of the Members of Parliament debating this issue, I think we can recognise the injustice that the miners, their widows and beneficiaries are suffering. The Treasury forecast was that it would receive, at best, £2 billion, but it has received more than £4.4 billion and there is an ongoing commitment.
The resolution, which I hope the House will agree, instructs the Government to conduct a review of the existing surplus sharing arrangements. My understanding is that the trustees want to do that, too.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House calls on the Government to carry out a review of the existing arrangements for the sharing of the surplus generated by the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme.
The right hon. Gentleman is a natural optimist, and I say that in no pejorative spirit. I am sad to have to advise him and the House of the correct procedural position. I am not making any evaluative judgment; I am simply making a statement of what is. The situation is that the only votes that bind in this place are votes on legislation and votes on taxation. This vote does not bind. It is an expression of the will of the House. I am sorry to say that there have been many occasions on which Backbench Business Committee debate motions have been passed but have not been implemented subsequently by the Government. I rather fancy that this matter will be returned to again and again and again if Members feel that the settled will of the House has not been honoured in practice. I will also add that a situation in which the settled will of the House is not then honoured in practice is bad for Parliament—period.
(2 years, 10 months ago)Commons Chamber
I rise to speak in support of the Budget and, in particular, the key strategic priority it places on the housing market and increasing housing supply. The Chancellor was right to say that we should have a national target for new home completions of 300,000 a year, but that number should not be a mere aspiration; it is an absolute necessity.
For many people in this country, getting on the housing ladder is becoming increasingly difficult. The prices of new homes to buy are rising much faster than people’s earnings. That has been the case for a long time. It is therefore no surprise that the percentage of people who are able to own their own home has declined. We are not looking at investment in the housing market just for homes to purchase. We need to build a lot more units that are affordable to buy and to rent, and we need a much more active strategy to do that. I was pleased that the Government announced that as part of the Budget.
I have supported the proposed development of the Otterpool Park garden town in my constituency, which would create up to 12,000 new homes. Any planning decision involves a degree of difficulty and it is important that we get the local consultation right, but we do need to prioritise building a lot more homes.
Building creates not only new places for people to live, but a considerable number of jobs in the construction sector. Many people who work in construction say that even now, it is difficult to find the people to do the work that is available. Therefore, it was right that a strong priority was placed on training people to work in the construction sector.
I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement of the £3 billion resilience fund to be spent over the next two years on preparations for Britain leaving the European Union. My constituency of Folkestone and Hythe contains the channel tunnel. Investing in preparedness to manage cross-border trade is a necessity. Anything that, for whatever reason, slows the progress of road freight in and out of the country will cause congestion and delay. That is bad for the economy and has a detrimental impact on people’s quality of life and the businesses in my constituency and elsewhere in Kent.
For me, a key priority in building the physical resilience we will need is not only to manage the electronic processing of freight as it passes in and out of the country, but to ensure that we have the physical infrastructure to hold lorries if they have to queue before leaving the country or if there is any requirement for customs checks as they arrive. The delivery of the lorry park on the M20 at Stanford West that was envisaged and proposed two years ago as a relief for Operation Stack is a vital piece of national infrastructure. I was disappointed that the Government had to withdraw their planning application to build it because of a judicial review, but I know that it is being looked at again. I see that the Financial Secretary is in his place. I raised this matter with him last week and welcome the letter he sent me to confirm that the ring-fenced budget of £250 million that the Government allocated for the delivery of that lorry park is still there. It is a vital piece of infrastructure and we need to ensure that it is delivered.
On the other spending commitments in the Budget, I welcome the additional £2 billion this year and into next year for the national health service. It is important that that reaches the places that need it most. The Health Secretary is not here, but I believe that greater consideration needs to be given to GP services and primary care in coastal communities, where the often complex, unique and challenging requirements have led to the average number of patients per GP being much higher than the national average. We are struggling to recruit GPs in such areas. I have spoken to the Health Secretary about that issue on numerous occasions and know that it is a priority for him. However, we need to ensure that the extra money for the health service goes to the parts of the country where it will make the biggest difference.
There has been a lot of talk about increasing investment in research and development and about increasing the research and development credit. That is incredibly important for the future of the economy, and I want to touch on artificial intelligence, which will be an important driver of growth in the future, as the Secretary of State set out in his remarks. Effectively, artificial intelligence is the robotic harvesting of the data footprint that we leave as we increasingly conduct our lives online and the designing of new products and technologies around that to meet people’s needs. That throws up a number of ethical issues.
Algorithms that run programmes are private property—they are copyrighted; they are not shared, and many platforms, such as Google and Facebook, fiercely guard the information—but we need to make sure that, when new services are designed based on our data footprint, companies behave ethically and responsibly and that we are able to check they are safeguarding the interests of the people they seek to serve through that technology. That is why the announcement of the creation of the centre for data ethics and innovation is incredibly important. The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, which I chair, will be looking at the distribution of disinformation and how companies’ algorithms either support or could act against it. There is, however, an important ethical question about the right of third-party organisations to check the work being done. Innovation through AI can, then, transform the economy, but it throws up some ethical issues that we have to get right.
The Government have taken an interest in driverless cars, but driverless cars, though an exciting technology, do not work without a signal to allow them to receive the information they need, which is why the creation of the national 5G network is so important. Without a signal, a driverless car would suddenly stop in the middle of the road. The investment in the 5G network requires investment not just in poles and masts but in fibre infrastructure. A key part of the industrial strategy has to be the move to a full fibre economy as quickly as possible. We simply cannot deliver on massively important new technologies such as 5G for the whole nation without that infrastructure to support it.
As an adjunct to that, I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Digital has talked about whether there should be a universal service obligation for 3G mobile signal. In many parts of the country, including Elham valley in my constituency, the 3G signal is weak. Ofcom will shortly be publishing a study on the real level of service delivery by mobile phone operators and whether it falls below the requirement stated in their licences. If it does, there will have to be some further inducement to act to make sure that basic coverage is better than it is. In the longer term, however, we need investment in a 5G network.
Finally, the joint working between the Government, the CBI and the TUC on retraining is crucial. Technology means that people’s jobs will change faster and faster throughout their lives, and people need the ability to retrain throughout their working careers to take advantage of this.
(2 years, 11 months ago)Commons Chamber
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who is always a doughty champion of consumers. It is right in a competitive market that decisions should be taken by the companies, but it is clear from the proposals that we have made that we expect responsibility to be exercised and that unfair advantage should not be taken, especially not of vulnerable consumers who are not as able to switch, for example—this may apply to payment methods, in the way that he described. That is absolutely part of the duty of the regulator to look after consumers.
Perhaps I could take this opportunity to reply to the point, which I did not respond to, that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown) raised about the other costs on consumer bills. We have commissioned a review by the energy expert Professor Dieter Helm that will be inquiring into just such things and reporting shortly.
I certainly have not joined the Marxist universe that the right hon. Gentleman inaugurated and that has been taken up with such enthusiasm by those on the current Labour Front Bench. The problem with the proposal that he put forward—one of many problems—was that it would have frozen energy prices when prices in the wholesale market fell, so consumers would have been paying more. That is a good reason why we should act with the grain of the market rather than imposing a policy that would have been disastrous for consumers.
It is important that Ofgem has the powers and it is exercising some of them. I have been clear and candid with the House that I do not think it goes far enough, so through this Bill we would require that. We are putting that forward with immediate effect for pre-legislative scrutiny. It is important that we establish that it has the support of the House and then Ofgem can act on that, but it has been clear in its statement that, as the Bill is scrutinised, it will prepare and consult on the implementation requirements so that no time is lost.
(3 years, 2 months ago)Commons Chamber
I shall oblige you, Mr Speaker, by falling within the limit. I want to speak briefly about the way the measures in the Queen’s Speech will contribute to the economic success of the west midlands, a region with a growth rate of more than 5% in the past two years. In fact, the growth rate of the borough of Solihull, containing my constituency, outstripped that of China at more than 7%—it is certainly an example of what the Chancellor called a fundamentally robust regional economy.
Without question, the stellar performance of the car industry has contributed to that success, but other branches of manufacturing have benefited as well. In turn, that has resulted in record low unemployment among the young people in my constituency. Some 6,000 of them have obtained apprenticeships, which has allowed them to benefit from some of the 100,000 new jobs created in the borough of Solihull alone since 2010.
The focus in the Gracious Speech is on an industrial strategy that will spread good practice, help to improve living standards and productivity, and ensure that the benefits of growth are shared. The manufacturing renaissance in the west midlands was boosted by regional growth funding, but the promise of the extra £23 billion for national productivity investment will boost it further.
The shortage of skilled labour in our region is holding back many young people from taking advantage of the jobs that are being created across the area. So I am delighted that the second pillar of the industrial strategy puts the emphasis on skills. The inclusion of a new system of technical education will benefit some of the 50% of youngsters who do not go to university, helping them to get well-paid jobs by learning STEM subjects, which employers value so highly.
On the council estate in my constituency a new engineering academy has opened and there is a new campus for my college of further education, which has two new streams of apprentice engineers for automotive and aerospace. I had my preconceptions challenged when I visited it because I found that the engineering apprenticeship students were 50:50 men and women. And I do mean women. Many of them had missed out on their education while they had their kids, and had come back to secure a qualification that would obtain them a well-paid job. They explained to me that the night shift in the car factory was a good solution to fitting work round their family responsibilities. They get back home to take their kids to school, get a bit of kip, get up again, pick their kids up from school, give them tea, oversee their homework, then their mum comes in and sleeps overnight.
It might surprise the House to hear, and I set the challenge to a visiting Secretary of State, just how much someone can earn as an experienced car production worker. The salary can be £60,000 a year, which allows someone to get a mortgage for the average house price in the west midlands of £183,000. One of the women said to me, “I can earn much more like this than stacking the shelves in a supermarket.” That for me is a clear example of aspiration. In time we will definitely reduce income inequality and change lives for the better through education-led regeneration. It is small wonder that Solihull College has been awarded a gold rating by the teaching excellence framework.
In my role as Second Church Estates Commissioner it is my job to link up what happens in both Houses of Parliament. I would like to share with the House what the Archbishop of Canterbury said in his contribution to the Queen’s Speech. He saw the importance of sharing growth across the whole economy. The Church of England is well placed to help; it is the largest provider of primary education. He sees it as particularly important that we raise the standards of education in schools, to give children all over the country the opportunity to take up the kind of jobs that I have just described.
As a member of the all-party parliamentary group for inclusive growth, I believe that the current rise in populism internationally reflects the challenge that Governments in all advanced industrial nations face in tackling the impact of globalisation. So I welcome the Government’s commitment to raise the living wage and the impact of raising the tax threshold, which has lifted so many people out of paying tax altogether.
There are new challenges on the way, with the digitisation of the economy, and we will need to demonstrate that technological progress can support rising living standards for all. My concern in listening to the shadow Chancellor is that the success of regions such as the west midlands would be put at risk by his plans if they ever became a reality, and that is why I am a supporter of this Queen’s Speech and the architects of our economic success.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for calling me to speak in this important debate on this very important topic. It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband); he will not be surprised to hear that I do not agree with everything he said, but I agree with his main point at the end—that it is up to politicians in the House to set out a compelling vision for how they are going to solve the big problems of the age.
Clearly, the economy—the continuing need to clear the deficit and pay down the debt—is one issue, but there are many others, some of which were tackled in last week’s Queen’s Speech. After my intervention on the shadow Chancellor, he kindly offered to send me a copy of his manifesto. I do not need that, but I was sad not to see any reappearance at the Dispatch Box of the “Little Red Book”. I do not know whether he still reads it regularly, but it may have been a guiding influence in the preparation of that manifesto.