Fracking: Local Consent

Ian Paisley Excerpts
Tuesday 15th November 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

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

Helen Morgan Portrait Helen Morgan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank you, Mr Paisley, for your chairmanship, and the Backbench Business Committee for allowing this debate. I also thank the Minister and the Opposition spokesperson, the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy), for attending the debate. To clear up any confusion, at the start I was expressing my disappointment that there were not more Back Benchers here to put on the record their concern about their communities being able to consent to a very controversial process.

I am also grateful to the Minister for clarifying the Government’s position; I think that we all agree that that U-turn is welcome. However, while there is still this shadow of doubt, it would be nice if the Government committed to putting some formal consent process in place to safeguard communities in the event of a future change of heart.

I thank the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) for his kind words, for giving us the Northern Ireland perspective, and for clarifying that the issue is controversial across the whole United Kingdom, not just in rural England.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Bath for her kind comments. She is a formidable environment campaigner, who we are proud to have in our party, and she made an excellent speech, expressing that local empowerment is at the heart of what Liberal Democrats stand for and believe. I am grateful for her contribution.

I cannot remember the last time that anyone described me as exciting, so I thank the Minister for that kind comment; I hope that it was well intended!

I am grateful for the comments made today. Everybody has made valuable points. We strongly feel that the local consent mechanism should be put in place to safeguard our communities.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

I congratulate the hon. Lady on leading her first Westminster Hall debate.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered local consent for fracking.

Energy Prices: Support for Business

Ian Paisley Excerpts
Thursday 22nd September 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This support is comprehensive across the non-domestic sector.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP)
- Hansard - -

The Secretary of State has provided the clarity that many companies in Northern Ireland now require, but legislation will now be required to assist businesses. Thousands of businesses in Northern Ireland are small and medium-sized enterprises, and they cannot wait for legislation, so will he commit to an emergency instrument or provision before December of this year?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This House, when called upon, can act remarkably swiftly. The intention is that we should introduce legislation in October, pass it by the end of October, and that it should take effect from 1 October, to ensure that non-domestic users in the whole of the United Kingdom are helped, and that everybody in Northern Ireland is helped. That is the broad timeframe, and I hope that the House will co-operate with it, because it is necessary for expedited legislation.

Large Solar Farms

Ian Paisley Excerpts
Wednesday 9th March 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

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

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP)
- Hansard - -

Thank you very much, Sir Charles. It is an honour to follow my hon. Friend from across the House, the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Brendan Clarke-Smith), as a co-sponsor of the debate. I thank him for introducing this important subject so well. Principally, it is about large solar farms here on the British mainland, but we have similar issues challenging us in Northern Ireland. I am all for harvesting our natural resources for energy, but that policy must be consistent with others. We cannot just have carte blanche for one of them.

I will make six points, very briefly. First, solar cannot deliver power output value for land use. Secondly, large-scale solar is useless without battery energy storage plants, which can pose inherent dangers to human health and the environment. Thirdly, large-scale solar developments are a poor use of valuable agricultural land.

Fourthly, there are human rights abuses in the solar supply chain, and the UK taking economic advantage and benefit from those abuses should be called out and challenged. Fifthly, the use of coal-powered electricity in the solar panel supply chain means that we reduce our carbon footprint here at the expense of somewhere else. That is not right. Finally, there is a lack of consideration of end of life recycling of solar panels, or of those subject to being upgraded. That should also be examined.

I will focus on only three of those matters, which you will appreciate, Sir Charles. The first is the value for land use. Take, for example, Sunnica’s proposed solar development in Cambridgeshire. Sunnica claims that it will be a 500 MW solar power station, delivering 23.5 million MWh over 40 years, and it will occupy 11 sq km of valuable arable land. That is impressive. However, when you break down the facts, per year that is 588,000 MWh, which, when divided by 8,760 hours per year, is only 67.2 MW, not 500 MW. That is an important distinction because 67.2 MW is less than one seventh of the rated power of the scheme.

Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock (West Suffolk) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Sunnica scheme is largely in my West Suffolk constituency, as well as in east Cambridgeshire; it is across the boundary. The hon. Member is quite right to draw attention to that point, but will he comment on the fact that the biggest generator of energy in the proposed scheme is a battery farm rather than a solar farm? It seems absurd that the two must be lumped together. One might almost argue that Sunnica has put a smaller solar farm on a battery project to try to build a battery farm in the middle of the Suffolk countryside.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley
- Hansard - -

I think that the right hon. Member has just put his finger on a very important point. That was flagged up in some of our constituencies in Northern Ireland, where it is used as cover for other applications and other things.

The Sunnica solar power station that has been applied for will take up 600 times more land to deliver the same average power as the local gas power station, so the land use is not good value for money. Those figures encapsulate just how problematic it is to expect any significant power from large solar farms.

The second issue I want to touch on briefly is that large-scale solar developments are a poor use of valuable land. In Ukraine, vast harvests of grain are gathered each year, but it is very unlikely there will be a planting season this year because of the war, and there will certainly be a very narrow harvest period at the end of this year. We get some of our grain from there; it is a bread basket for part of the world. As our country did in the last great war, we need to start setting aside vast swathes of our arable countryside and insist that we become food secure and grow our own food. I am very proud of Northern Ireland food production. With fewer than 40,000 farmers, we feed more than 10 million people in the UK. We have to multiply, develop and increase that.

It is essential that we address the key issue of allowing developers to get away with putting vast industrial plants on good, grade 1, arable land that we could grow grain on, or have cattle graze on, to develop our food security. For me, that is an essential point. The war that Russia is illegally conducting in Ukraine should be a warning signal to us all. We should get ahead of that now by ensuring we have the land planted for next year’s harvest, which is a very important point.

Finally, I want to make a point about human rights abuses. A 2021 report by the Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice at Sheffield Hallam University, entitled “In Broad Daylight: Uyghur Forced Labour and Global Solar Supply Chains”, concluded that the solar panel industry in China has high exposure to supply chain compromise by human rights abuses—in other words, child labour and abuse of people working in those plants. We are buying plant equipment to put in this part of the UK, but allowing the abuse of people’s rights in China to do it. We should not allow China, which now dominates the world in these markets, to dominate our valuable production of—

Oral Answers to Questions

Ian Paisley Excerpts
Tuesday 22nd February 2022

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that question; I think I have an existing commitment to go to his constituency. In fact, in my five months in this job, I think I have been four times to Scotland, and one of those visits was to the Whitelee wind farm, just south of Glasgow, to look at precisely what he mentioned . It is the UK’s largest onshore wind farm, which generates extra energy to produce hydrogen on-site, which will hopefully power Glasgow’s buses and dustcart fleet for years to come.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

Does the Minister believe that the best way to stimulate the UK hydrogen strategy is to build hydrogen products that the public ultimately use, such as buses, trains and heavy goods vehicles? Will he commit to joining that up to the Department for Transport and encouraging it to get on with hydrogen bus development that will stimulate the entire economy?

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman and I know that Northern Ireland has an incredible capability and tradition in bus making. He is absolutely right that hydrogen-powered buses have a big future. I mentioned Glasgow City Council’s commitment to move to hydrogen buses, thanks to the Whitelee wind farm; I imagine that we will want to do something similar in Northern Ireland. I look forward to further engagement with the Northern Ireland Executive on the topic.

Covid-19: Requirements for Employees to be Vaccinated

Ian Paisley Excerpts
Monday 24th January 2022

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Westminster Hall
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts

Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

Each debate is chaired by an MP from the Panel of Chairs, rather than the Speaker or Deputy Speaker. A Government Minister will give the final speech, and no votes may be called on the debate topic.

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

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

Before we begin, I remind Members that they should wear a face covering when not speaking in the debate. That is what the House of Commons Commission would like Members to comply with. I also remind Members that they are asked by the House authorities to have a covid lateral flow test before coming on to the estate, and to give Members and staff space when they are seated and entering and leaving the Chamber. I call Martyn Day to move the motion.

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

I beg to move,

That this House has considered e-petition 599841, relating to requirements for employees to be vaccinated against covid-19.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Paisley. This might be one of the more interesting debates to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic. It has implications for health and business, and there are serious ethical questions.

The concept of mandatory vaccination is not new. Historically, children were required to be vaccinated against smallpox in the mid-19th century by the Vaccination Act 1853, which made it compulsory. Now, following on from mandatory vaccination for care home staff in England by 11 November, frontline health and social care workers in England will need to be fully vaccinated by 1 April, which means that they will need to have their first jag by 3 February.

Several countries have taken harsh stances on requiring vaccinations, such as Italy, which is requiring all over-50s in the workforce to be vaccinated. Given these recent developments, this is not some theoretical or abstract debate; it has considerable real-world implications for us here and now.

The petition was started by Ryan Karter. It has already gathered more than 175,000 signatures, and it still has several months to run until it closes on 1 May. The Government responded on 25 November, and I will comment on the response in due course. I am grateful to the creator and all those who have signed it, as the scale and speed with which it is being signed is a clear measure of the public interest in the issue.

The petition states:

“Make it illegal for any employer to mandate vaccination for its employees.”

At its heart is support for the principle of informed consent. In speaking to Ryan prior to this debate, he made me aware of several reasons he had for starting it, not least of which was the concern that mandatory vaccination for frontline health and social care workers will lead to a loss of workers, increase the pressures of staff shortages, and be unfair and disrespectful to essential workers. That is a theme I will expand on later.

Ryan also has concerns over vaccine safety, the evidence of their efficacy, and the failure of current policy to account for natural immunity to covid. The petition goes on:

“All British people should have the right to bodily autonomy and must never be coerced into receiving a medical intervention they may not want.”

That does not seem a particularly radical position to advocate, especially as the principle of consent is an important part of medical ethics and international human rights law. It is highlighted on the NHS website, which states:

“Consent to treatment means a person must give permission before they receive any type of medical treatment, test or examination.”

It adds,

“This must be done on the basis of an explanation by a clinician”,

and,

“Consent from a patient is needed regardless of the procedure”.

That is a position I find comforting and reassuring.

What do the UK Government say? In responding to the petition, the Government make a number of points. On the efficacy of vaccination, the response states:

“The vaccines are the best defence against Covid-19 and uptake of the Covid-19 vaccination has been very high across the UK. Vaccination reduces the likelihood of infection and therefore helps break chains of transmission.”

I assure the Minister that in that aspect he has my full support and agreement, and the weekly publishing of the covid-19 vaccine surveillance report evidences that fact. However, it should be noted that the reports state:

“Vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease with the Omicron variant is substantially lower than against the Delta variant, with rapid waning. However, protection against hospitalisation remains high, particularly after 3 doses.”

The Government’s response to the petition states:

“Government has identified limited high risk settings where there is strong public health rationale for making vaccination a condition of deployment. The Government has recently announced that health and social care services will need to ensure that workers who have direct face to face contact with service users have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, following consultation.”

It should be mentioned that within the NHS there is an existing, long-standing precedent requiring vaccination against hepatitis B for those undertaking exposure-prone procedures due to the potential health risk involved. Having said that, the expansion of this position to cover covid-19 is on a very different scale.

--- Later in debate ---
Martyn Day Portrait Martyn Day
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Member has read my mind. She makes a well-put point, which I was just about to come on to. I have a slightly different figure, but the principle is the same: it cannot help the situation.

In November, a Department of Health and Social Care impact assessment found that as many as 73,000 NHS staff in England could lose their job as a result. I do not think we will split hairs over a few thousand; we will not know the exact number until we find out how many people have had their first dose by 3 February. These Government policy job losses would come on top of the long-standing staff shortages experienced by the health service. Some estimates put the figure at 99,000 current vacancies in NHS England. If we do the maths using the figures I have just quoted, we could be looking at 172,000 vacancies in England come April. That position is not going to help the NHS provide care at this time of great pressure. It presents a very real threat—one which may put patients at risk and place further pressure on a significantly depleted workforce.

There are growing calls for this policy to be, at the very least, delayed. Pat Cullen, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, has said:

“We are calling on the Government to recognise this risk and delay a move which by its own calculations looks to backfire… To dismiss valued nursing staff during this crisis would be an act of self-sabotage.”

His reference to self-sabotage is very well put. Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, has said:

“We are in the middle of an NHS staffing crisis, borne not only from covid absences, but also long-term problems that need long-term solutions. Now is not the right time to introduce more bureaucracy.”

The BMJ has highlighted that recruitment agencies are concerned about the effect of the policy on their ability to place staff, as well as the additional bureaucratic burdens of processing documentation, which is likely to take around 45 minutes per locum. I hope that the UK Government will listen to those concerns and the petitioners, look at the example of the devolved nations and think again, before they do serious damage to workforce levels and capacity in the NHS.

On requirements by other employers for staff to be vaccinated, the Government’s response states that

“an employer who proposes to introduce a requirement for staff to be vaccinated will need to consider the existing legal framework, including the law on employment, equalities and data protection. Whether or not it is justifiable to make COVID-19 vaccination a condition of deployment will depend on the particular context and circumstances.”

Some UK businesses have declared that all employees must be vaccinated or face a review of their contracts. The legality of that has been disputed by employment lawyers and trade unions, although, of course, it may be legal if it is written into contracts. For most of the UK, power over employment law is reserved to Westminster; only in Northern Ireland is it devolved. Decisions over companies’ requirements rest with those businesses.

On legal protections for workers, the Government response states:

“In addition to contractual and common law protections, there are relevant statutory frameworks, such as the Equality Act 2010, which provides protection against unlawful discrimination. The Employment Rights Act 1996 provides various general protections, including against unfair dismissal and unlawful deductions from wages. In addition, collecting, storing and using information about workers’ vaccination status will engage the law on data protection. Employers will need to ensure that they have acted in accordance with their legal obligations when making decisions on requiring a COVID-19 vaccination.”

That sounds like a potential minefield of complexity if ever there was one.

Last April, the Equality and Human Rights Commission said:

“Employers are right to want to protect their staff and their customers, particularly in contexts where people are at risk, such as care homes. However, requirements must be proportionate, non-discriminatory and make provision for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.”

From an employment law and non-discrimination perspective, the safest route is to encourage vaccination, not to mandate it.

As I draw my remarks to a close, I note that there are so many points that could be made in this debate but limited time to make them. I have only scratched the surface while setting the scene, and I look forward to hearing what other right hon. and hon. Members have to say. I reiterate my main point that an “educate and encourage” strategy would be a better approach and that there is still time for the Government to change tack on mandatory covid vaccination for England’s NHS workers.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

I am not going to set a time limit. If Members stick to no more than six minutes, they will have ample time to get everything in and it will allow everyone to have a free-flowing debate.

--- Later in debate ---
Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am very pleased to be here, Mr Paisley. I think this is my second consecutive Westminster Hall debate under your chairmanship—you will soon be here as much as I am, at this rate.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I jest. I congratulate the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Martyn Day) on setting the scene so comprehensively. In the light of the contributions from hon. Members, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that there is a clear case to make on behalf of workers, and I will speak about that as well.

On 7 December 2020, 90-year-old Margaret Keenan—a grandmother originally from County Fermanagh—rolled up her sleeve at University Hospital Coventry and took her place in history. Each of us remembers that day exceptionally well. I know that we do, Mr Paisley, because she was from Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, but I believe that she was an inspiration to every one of us who took our jabs and boosters.

Mrs Keenan became the first person in the world to be vaccinated against covid-19. Since then, almost 10 billion doses of the three main vaccines have been administered around the world. We thank our Government, and the Minister, for that incredible initiative. I have absolutely no doubt that many people are alive today because of the vaccine roll-out. It is just unfortunate that others did not get that chance. There is no doubt that all those who quickly followed in Mrs Keenan’s path helped to create the turning point in the first pandemic in living memory. In countries that quickly rolled out the vaccine programme, it has had a major impact on cutting hospitalisation and death rates.

I do not think anyone can ignore the fact that more than 200,000 people have signed the petition. Although that shows how many people felt moved to sign it, my interpretation of petitions is that they reflect only a small proportion of overall support, because many people who would have agreed with a petition’s intent and wording did not get to sign it.

I heard in the news today that Israel is considering a fourth dose of covid vaccine for the over-60s. The evidential base indicates that a fourth dose seems to make the over-60s resistant to many other diseases as well. Maybe that is something that our Government should be looking at to ensure that our people are safe in the long term.

To date, 9.87 billion doses of the vaccine have been delivered worldwide, and 4.09 billion people—52.5% of the world’s population—are fully vaccinated. We should recognise that as a remarkable undertaking and an achievement of human effort and medical science since that very first dose just over a year ago in December 2020. It has been achieved purely through voluntary effort and by successfully persuading people that getting vaccinated was the right thing to do not only for themselves, but for the people around them. I use the word “persuading” because that is what the Government should be doing rather than coercing or strong-arming people into doing things that they feel strongly about.

We must recognise, however, that vaccination has not eradicated covid-19. We have not vaccinated our way out of the pandemic, however much that might have been intended. New variants have emerged, and people are talking about the B.1s and C.1s, so people have become re-infected and have continued to transmit the virus—that was mentioned on the radio today. I am a supporter of the vaccine programme. I am triple-vaccinated because I chose to be vaccinated, as has just over half the world’s population, but I strongly believe that being vaccinated against this virus should remain a personal choice.

How life changes. I bet that a year ago every one of us in this room was out clapping for our NHS staff on Thursday nights—I know that my family and I were, because we recognised what those in the NHS were doing. Yet a year later we have a different policy, as if none of that mattered any more. It mattered a year ago, and we were prepared to say so; it should matter now, too. I am not sure whether the Minister is deputising for someone else, or maybe I have got that wrong, but in any case, I am concerned that Government policy seems to be to coerce and strong-arm people into getting a vaccine. I have to stand by those who come to see me about this matter.

Mr Paisley, you and I have discussed the nurses, NHS care staff and other staff who routinely work on wards making things happen. They have chosen their vocation and made a commitment. Many of them have shed tears about the Government following through with a policy that will take their jobs away from them. In her invention, the right hon. Member for Tatton (Esther McVey) rightly mentioned the figures. Where will we be with cancer and cataract operations, or treatment for heart disease and strokes? We all know the conditions for which there are now long waiting lists, and those lists will just get longer if we pay off 80,000 staff, 115,000 staff, as the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk said in his opening speech, or 175,000 staff, as others have said.

It is a foundation principle of medical ethics that consent must be given for any medical procedure. Making vaccination against covid-19 a requirement for employment is opening the door to imposing penalties on those who, for their own reasons, do not comply with the law. As I have said, I have been contacted by many constituents who work in healthcare and have expressed very real concerns that mandatory vaccination for covid-19 will lead to a two-tier workplace—yes, it will—that will see vaccinated employees rewarded by financial incentives over those who choose not to be vaccinated. That is happening across the world.

Every one of those staff has dedicated themselves to their excellent work. We all know that our healthcare workers are driven by their duty of care and commitment to their chosen field while being in the most underpaid, under-resourced and overworked profession. If we lose that number of staff from the healthcare sector in February because they have made a personal choice, waiting lists will get longer and diagnostic investigations will not take place in the timescale that we hope to see.

I commend the healthcare workers who choose to come forward to be vaccinated. We need to make the distinction between vaccine refusal and vaccine hesitancy. Hesitancy is based on trust, and is something we can work on. Rather than directing health system resources and political muscle towards imposing penalties for non-compliance, we would do better to invest further in education and more efforts to facilitate meaningful conversations between concerned people and healthcare professionals.

We cannot and should not become a society or Government that penalises or sanctions people for making a personal health choice. The hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) made an excellent point about libertarianism. It is a policy of his party that I share—by the way, I do not share all Liberal Democrat policies; just this one. This is about liberty, freedom and choice, and about people following the vocation they love without being penalised for that choice.

When we make legislation for the workplace, as for anywhere else, we must always balance public objectives against individual rights to freedom of choice and freedom from discrimination. We must recognise that trust is a major factor for people from some ethnic and religious groups, some of whom will have a problem with vaccination from a religious point of view. Should they be penalised because they work in the NHS? The Government would do better to build confidence in the vaccine programme and see vaccination rates increase, instead of creating a legal requirement for the workplace.

Let us use this Westminster Hall debate to build trust in the vaccine programme and respect choice, because choice is not only part of the informed consent process, which we should all adhere to, but a valued and inherent sign of respect for the person. To pursue compulsory vaccination flies in the face of all that is key and core for our NHS workers, including doctors, nurses, care staff and others. I believe that we must stand by them.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

Before I call the SNP spokesperson, I thank all Back Benchers for self-regulating their time during the debate, which has landed perfectly for everyone. Thank you for doing that without me having to set a time limit.

--- Later in debate ---
Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend. He talks about the impact, and we understand the concerns about that. That is why, apart from the measures that I outlined a second ago about making it as easy as possible to have the vaccine and giving the grace period and the ability to flex within that, the NHS is planning further increases in engagement with targeted communities, where the uptake is lowest. That includes extensive work with ethnic minority communities and faith networks to encourage healthcare workers to receive the vaccine.

We have obviously had an analysis of the equalities implications. That was published in the equalities impact assessment, alongside the consultation response. We are obviously engaging with colleagues such as my hon. Friend to hear about real-world results and impacts and respond accordingly. But as the chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, has rightly said,

“people who are looking after other people who are very vulnerable do have a professional responsibility to get vaccinated”,

so we remain committed to bringing these measures in on 1 April.

Outside these specific settings—health and care—it is fair to say that there could be some other circumstances in which it may be lawful for an employer to require staff to be vaccinated. There is no general “Yes, it is lawful” or “No, it’s not lawful” answer to that question. It will depend on the facts and details of each case. There is a lot for an employer to consider.

For example, what is the current evidence on the consequences of covid-19 both for the individuals and for the organisation? What are the employer’s reasons for imposing a requirement to be vaccinated? Given the particular work being undertaken, are those reasonable? And what are the circumstances of the individual employee? Are there Equality Act 2010 considerations in play? An employer would need to weigh the answers to all those questions and more before being confident that it was lawful to require employees to be vaccinated.

I should be clear that there is a difference between how an employer might treat those who are already employed and those who are not. When it comes to those who are not already employed, there is more scope for an employer to establish a requirement to be vaccinated, subject to the employer satisfying themselves that they can pass relevant legal tests, such as on discrimination. The employer might make such a requirement a condition in the contract; it then becomes more a matter of whether to accept the contract. It would then be a matter of personal choice, just as a prospective employee might consider a requirement to work a number of late or early shifts, or weekends.

For those already in employment, the issue is really about what might happen if they refuse to be vaccinated. After all, an employer cannot physically force someone to have a vaccination. There is the issue of the consequences of refusing to be vaccinated. Could an employee be suspended without pay, refused access to certain shifts, roles or tasks, or disadvantaged in some other way? Could they fairly be dismissed? Those are the key concerns that people will have. I do not believe that it is appropriate to make vaccination a special case. Such cases should be treated in the same way as other instances where an employee feels that they have been treated unfairly at work.

Employment law provides an extensive framework to protect employees from unfair treatment, including unfair dismissal. That framework applies to refusing to be vaccinated just as much as it does to other circumstances. This framework, rather than imposing a blanket set of prescriptive terms and conditions about when a dismissal is fair, allows the facts of each case to be weighed and considered, so that what is fair and what is not can be properly established in the light of any evidence, the employer’s situation and the business circumstances. I strongly believe that the legal framework for employers around the country allows for the interrogation of all relevant facts, provides the right checks and balances, and ensures that employers can take action as a result of someone’s refusal to be vaccinated, where that is appropriate.

I conclude by acknowledging that there is a fine balance to be struck. On the one hand, we obviously want people to recognise the benefits of the vaccine, and as a matter of choice, we want to ensure that they have all the injections and boosters needed to minimise the impact of the pandemic on them, their friends and neighbours, the health service and the economy. On the other hand, we want to ensure that vulnerable people are properly protected and do not face unnecessary risks. The employment law framework and the steps that we are taking to make vaccination a condition of employment in certain settings strike the right balance.

Once again, I thank those who contributed to the debate. It has been a valuable discussion. I also thank all the workers in the NHS, who have kept us safe throughout this period, and who continue to do so, despite the winter pressures. We will always make sure that we work with those valued workers, who serve our public so well.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

Mr Day, would you like a minute or two to wind up? I would like to put the Question, though; I think that is important.

Martyn Day Portrait Martyn Day
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you very much, Mr Paisley. It has been a great pleasure to take part in today’s debate. On behalf of the Petitions Committee, I thank everyone who came along to take part. We had a well informed, educated debate. The Minister said something in his summing up that I fully agree with: we need everyone to get vaccinated, but I hope that we can make that a choice for them, and can comply with the principle of informed consent.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Steven Bonnar) pointed out, if Argyll and Bute can reach the figure of 99.8% of people being vaccinated through a policy of education and engagement, that can be done without mandating. If we mandate, we risk what has been described as a serious act of self-sabotage. There are few policy decisions where we can look over the dyke and can see what is coming, but if we lose anywhere from 70,000 to 100,000 staff from NHS England, it will create a workforce crisis that could have been avoided. I hope that the Minister takes that message back to the Government.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (in the Chair)
- Hansard - -

Thank you, Mr Day, and I thank the Minister for taking five interventions, making the debate go so well, and giving everyone the opportunity to raise valuable points.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered e-petition 599841, relating to requirements for employees to be vaccinated against covid-19.

Oral Answers to Questions

Ian Paisley Excerpts
Tuesday 16th November 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I pay tribute to the fantastic work that my hon. Friend has done representing his constituents over 11 and a half years. He will know that I personally, as a Minister, have always been committed to the east of England. I have visited him in Lowestoft, I have visited offshore wind projects, and I would be very happy to speak to him about how we can drive the R&D programme and how East Anglia and his constituents can benefit from the UK’s science superpower status.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP)
- View Speech - Hansard - -

Is it not the case that the most exciting industrial development in the UK at present is hydrogen production? Does the Secretary of State welcome the pioneering work by JCB, under Lord Bamford’s direction, along with the partnership with Queen’s University Belfast, to produce the first working hydrogen combustion engine, which has made the past the future? What support will the Secretary of State give to capitalise on that engineering excellence to ensure that British jobs and British tech flow from it?

Oral Answers to Questions

Ian Paisley Excerpts
Tuesday 25th May 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Watch Debate Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP)
- Hansard - -

What steps he is taking to support the UK’s hydrogen economy.

Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Kwasi Kwarteng)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The second point of the 10-point plan was all about hydrogen. The forthcoming hydrogen strategy will set out clearly what we hope to see and are committed to seeing for the hydrogen economy in 2030.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley [V]
- View Speech - Hansard - -

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. Will he go a little further and explain how, and commit that the strategy will actually deliver specific jobs in Northern Ireland, as well as in the rest of the United Kingdom? Will he continue to agree to meet me and other parliamentary colleagues to ensure that Northern Ireland gets a fair share of the hydrogen strategy as it is rolled out? As he knows, this is so important to the future economy of Northern Ireland.

Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will certainly continue to agree to meet the hon. Gentleman at any time. There are very important hydrogen projects in Northern Ireland. I speak to Mr Bamford and others, particularly in relation to Wrightbus, which I understand is in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. There is a huge opportunity, and I would be happy to meet him and others to discuss the prospects at any time.

Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

Ian Paisley Excerpts
Tuesday 9th March 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP) [V]
- Hansard - -

Can I say at the outset that I was very disappointed that the Secretary of State could not bring himself to mention Northern Ireland in any detail at all during his opening comments? Yet the economy and recovery of Northern Ireland as a Province have kept pace with the rest of the United Kingdom during the entirety of the last 10 years.

Covid has had an impact and we welcome the measures that have been introduced by the Chancellor. Some 250,000 jobs have been protected through the jobs retention scheme here in Northern Ireland, 210,000 people have been assisted through the self-employment income grant and 39,000 businesses have been helped by the loan guarantee scheme. That is a practical outworking of being part of the Union and part of the fifth largest economy of the world. Northern Ireland wants to play its part and it is right that we should therefore be mentioned.

Northern Ireland has had the added nightmare, of course, of coping with the Northern Ireland protocol, which poses more of a long-term, systemic threat to the Northern Ireland economy than the short shock caused by the covid crisis. The protocol must go and we welcome the steps in that direction that are being taken.

However, the Budget will be measured on how it delivers on the economic promises that it makes, especially the green revolution promises. For me, the measurement will be investment in the green economy of hydrogen. The Prime Minister has set a target of 5 GW of hydrogen by 2030. I want to pose this question to the Front Bench: does the Secretary of State agree that the hydrogen strategy must marry supply with demand? The Government can kickstart this supply and demand approach by turbocharging their investment in 4,000 zero-emission buses and making at least half of these hydrogen buses. Combined with this, we must reform two things—the renewable transport fuel obligation and the bus service operators grant. These reforms will support bus operators to buy hydrogen buses made across the United Kingdom, and therefore unlock major investment and job creation schemes in green hydrogen production across all four parts of the United Kingdom.

In Northern Ireland, we would also of course welcome a cut in corporation tax, which would help us to outpace the tax haven that is the Republic of Ireland.

UK Space Industry

Ian Paisley Excerpts
Thursday 4th February 2021

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP) [V]
- Hansard - -

I declare at the outset: I am a member and officer of the all-party parliamentary group on space, like some other Members who have spoken.

One highlight of my political career was the opportunity to meet Major Tim Peake—indeed, I have met him twice—shortly after which I was able to get his biography, which is one of the best reads about the impact that space can have on an individual’s life. It challenges young people in particular never to be afraid to ask the necessary questions. Indeed, I believe that that book should be on the national reading curriculum for schools, because it really encourages young people to gain knowledge of space and understand how space can contribute in so many different ways to the nation’s wellbeing. Major Tim Peake is an inspirational character and we are very fortunate, as a nation, to have him.

I also wish to mention Airbus’s role. It employs more people in the UK space programme than the US aerospace and prime defence companies combined. The United Kingdom is actually at the cutting edge of a lot to do with space but probably does not blow its own trumpet sufficiently well to promote what it does.

Northern Ireland plays its part in the space sector. Its strategy supports the growth of the UK space sector by exploiting key upstream resources and developing world-class space downstream capabilities. Northern Ireland’s regional aerospace cluster contributes £1.3 billion to the overall UK aerospace industry, making it Europe’s eighth largest aerospace region in revenue terms, and its innovative and skilled companies are involved in every major aircraft programme globally. Northern Ireland’s space strategy programme contributes well above its weight.

Not enough is said about how space is a distinct opportunity for UK leadership on the world stage. Indeed, it underpins the ability to enable ambitious diplomatic, security and prosperity objectives. In security alone, 90% of Ministry of Defence capability is dependent in some way on our space programme. On prosperity, space technologies underpin £300 billion per annum to the UK economy, making this a massive programme. In diplomacy, space brings £150 million in official development assistance to more than 40 countries. We have before us an opportunity to build our space programmes, invest in our National Space Academy and make sure that space is the future for the UK.

Oral Answers to Questions

Ian Paisley Excerpts
Tuesday 16th June 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As I am sure the hon. Gentleman will know, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is working with the tourism sector, and there is regular dialogue with it. I recognise the concerns that he has raised about this sector, which is closed, but that is why we have provided particular support through a rates holiday for hospitality businesses.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP)
- Hansard - -

What steps he is taking to develop hydrogen technology in the UK.

Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait The Minister for Business, Energy and Clean Growth (Kwasi Kwarteng)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are investing up to £121 million between 2015 and 2021 in hydrogen innovation, supporting the application of new low-carbon hydrogen technologies across the value chain. I have had valuable discussions with businesses on the importance of scaling up hydrogen supply, including with Wrightbus, in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley
- Hansard - -

I echo the sentiments expressed about our late colleague, Jo Cox.

The Minister will be aware that Germany announced in the last number of weeks that it is investing £5 billion in hydrogen technology. It joins the long list of countries investing billions of pounds, which includes Norway, the Netherlands, Portugal, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia, as well as the EU. The £121 million to which he referred is very welcome, but it will never make us the leader of the pack in this industry. Let us move on from trials, Minister. Let us move on to real investment in this technology and become the world leader that Britain and the United Kingdom can be in this wonderful technology, which will create jobs and provide more employment across the whole UK.

Kwasi Kwarteng Portrait Kwasi Kwarteng
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s enthusiasm for that technology. The countries that he describes have announced commitments to spending the money; they have not spent the money yet. We will be following and pursuing that technology very rigorously, with full Government backing, in due course.