Levelling-up Agenda

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Wednesday 15th September 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kemi Badenoch)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I congratulate the hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) on securing this debate on a topic about which he has been very vocal. We both care very deeply about it, and I hope he understands that the Government feel the same way.

In a speech on this issue delivered exactly two months ago today, the Prime Minister said:

“it is the mission of this government to unite and level up across the whole of the UK, not just because that is morally right, but because if we fail we are simply squandering vast reserves of human capital and we are failing to allow people to fulfil their potential and we are holding our country back.”

Changing a situation in which for too many people geography turns out to be destiny is this Government’s defining goal. That is what levelling up means: opportunity for all, wherever and whoever.

Hon. Members raised a number of important points, and I will try to address as many of them as I can in the time allowed. Bids are being assessed by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Department for Transport and other relevant Departments. I cannot discuss them here, but successful bids will be announced this autumn. I wish all constituencies and local authorities that have put forward bids to the Government the very best of luck. We want to do as much as we can for everybody. Resources are not infinite, but we will do the very best we can.

The hon. Member for Barnsley Central said that it is about not words, but action, so I hope he will be happy for me to summarise briefly what the Government have done and what we intend to do. Opposition Members complain that we are not investing enough, but the fact is that last year’s spending review announced record investment in infrastructure with all the benefits that will bring. This year’s review, which will conclude on 27 October, will build on that progress. It will focus on strong, innovative public services, a transition to net zero and delivering our plan for growth. To emphasise the quantum of money, core departmental spending is set to grow in real terms at nearly 4% per year on average over this Parliament. That means, in 2024-25, £140 billion more per year in cash terms than at the start of the Parliament, so it simply is not true that we are not investing.

One of our more exciting policies that the Treasury has really been promoting is freeports, which create good-quality jobs. We think they will do so much. They will become magnets for dynamic, fast-growing businesses, generating prosperity in areas where people may sometimes feel that they have been forgotten. At the Budget, we announced eight new freeports, one of which is in Felixstowe. I know it is not Lowestoft, but it will have positive benefits for Norfolk and Suffolk, and will benefit areas such as Lowestoft.

My hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous) asked about coastal communities. He said a lot that I will address further in my remarks, but at Budget the Government invested quite a lot in policies that will benefit coastal communities—not just the levelling-up fund but the £5.2 billion flood and coastal defence programme, which starts this month. We are also allocating £1.2 billion over the years to support the roll-out of gigabit-capable broadband in hard-to-reach areas. I know he will appreciate that.

Jonathan Gullis Portrait Jonathan Gullis
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I want to quickly mention the fact that in Stoke-on-Trent, we have £9.2 million to install gigabit broadband, making us the first gigabit city in the country. That has been done with Government funding and VX Fiber. We brought that project in under budget and saved the Treasury £600,000. I thought this was a great opportunity for the Minister to congratulate the city of Stoke-on-Trent on delivering once again.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I thank my hon. Friend for making that point. I have been really bowled over by how the Stoke mafia have been such champions for their area, never talking it down. I thank him for reminding me about the amount we have given to Stoke. I believe we have also given Lowestoft about £24.9 million within the towns fund, so money is going to all the right places—the places that need this cash.

Building infrastructure is also essential, and we have launched a number of schemes, such as the towns fund. The hon. Member for Barnsley Central mentioned the UK Infrastructure Bank and said that it is all very well that we have it, but it is a critical thing. It is up and running and planning its first investment. Crucially, it will partner with the private sector and local government to kick-start major infrastructure projects, contributing not just to levelling up but to achieving net zero. A third of its initial £12 billion in funding is specifically earmarked for local and mayoral authorities, just like his. The expectation is that these investments will also spark a crowd-in effect, with private backers keen, themselves, to invest in the kind of infrastructure we need. The Government cannot do everything. We need the private sector to take part in this. I did not hear the hon. Member for Barnsley Central mention the private sector in his speech, and I hope that he might do so in his closing remarks. The private sector is crucial in delivering levelling up, and I am very happy to meet him and speak to him about what it can do. It cannot be just Government.

Hon. Members also talked about skills and education. Absolutely—I completely agree with them. Skills and education will be the cornerstone of our future economic success. Here, too, we are working hard to change lives, whether through the £95 million lifetime skills guarantee, the £43 million we have provided to expand employer-led skills retraining boot camps across England this year, or the £3,000 we have been giving employers for every apprentice they take on before the end of this month.

The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell) talked about health inequalities and her bid, which I wish her every success with. We very much recognise this; I am also the Minister for Equalities, and the Government have been doing quite a lot within this space. However, I remind all Members that funding is very tight. Last week, when we did vote for additional health funding, Opposition Members did not walk through the Lobby with us to vote for extra money for the NHS.

Returning to the point about what the Government are doing, local authorities have a part to play, as the hon. Member for Barnsley Central and others said. We are not into top-down politics, or Government imposing solutions by decree, whatever it is they say. We think national, but we do act local. That is why we have given local authorities the power to drive forward funding applications. We have given lots of powers to local authorities, and I would be very keen to hear what our mayors and local authorities are doing with those powers.

We are also trying to avoid what has historically been a siloed approach. The levelling-up fund, which is run by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Department for Transport, was designed together with the Treasury. That is an example of how we are doing better working together, and it is why I am very happy to respond in this debate, even though many of the issues that hon. Members have raised are managed and administered by other Departments.

We have also talked about taking a more flexible approach to devolution in England. I know that the hon. Member for Gordon (Richard Thomson) is requesting far, far more, but I am afraid that is not something we will grant at this time. We do want to do devolution better, rewriting the rulebook and giving new deals for counties, so that the people who know their communities best can do the best for them. Through the devolution deals, we have already committed £7.5 billion of unringfenced gainshare investment for nine mayoral combined authorities over 30 years, to be spent on local priorities.

I will also mention, specifically for the hon. Member for Barnsley Central, that through the city region sustainable transport settlements, eight MCAs are set to receive £4.2 billion over the next five years. Through the transforming cities fund, Sheffield city region—soon to be the South Yorkshire mayoral combined authority—has itself received a total of £171 million to fund local transport projects, including a new bus rapid transit link in Barnsley. That is just part of the investment that the Government are making across the country.

The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden) asked what exactly it means to level up. I hear that again and again. I feel that we repeat ourselves, but people still do not take it in. Levelling up is the chance for the Government to improve life chances and everyday life for people in underperforming places. Those places have not been underperforming since 2010—they have been underperforming for decades, under successive Governments.

We acknowledge the gains we have made and that there is still work to do, but structural issues are geographic for some places, and we believe that we have the right policies to tackle those. Many of the examples that my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) gave show how we can deliver that.

There were lots of accusations about the levelling-up fund being pork barrel politics for Conservative constituencies. I utterly reject that. It is absolutely untrue. It is also untrue nonsense that the Chief Whip is deciding which MPs will get funding. Those are just nonsensical media speculations. We, on this side of the House, know that we are doing right for the people of this country. That is why we have more Conservative seats than ever, and many, like Stoke, used to be Labour.

For those who are unsure, the levelling-up fund is intended to invest in infrastructure that improves everyday life across the UK. We recognise that it does not always go to the most deprived places. It is a formula that takes many things into account, and it will prioritise those bids, as has been said, from places in highest need.

Oral Answers to Questions

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Tuesday 7th September 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Julie Marson Portrait Julie Marson (Hertford and Stortford) (Con)
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13. What fiscal steps his Department is taking to encourage investment in green (a) industries, (b) growth and (c) jobs.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kemi Badenoch)
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The Prime Minister’s 10-point plan demonstrates our commitment to net zero. It sets out £12 billion of new Government investment in green industries. This will create and support up to 250,000 highly skilled green jobs in the UK. In addition to this £12 billion, our plan will attract up to three times as much private investment by providing regulatory certainty and robust green finance frameworks.

Bambos Charalambous Portrait Bambos Charalambous
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The recent Climate Change Committee progress report showed that the Treasury had not fully met a single one of its recommendations in the past year. Does the Minister think this is good enough, and what steps should be taken to rectify that?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I am afraid I do not think that is what the report has said. What I will say is that we will be releasing many publications this autumn around net zero, not least the net zero review. This final report will be published in advance of COP26. The report will inform sectoral decarbonisation strategies and the net zero strategy, and work on those will continue to develop at pace across Whitehall.

Catherine West Portrait Catherine West
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The recent cuts to the international aid budget have undermined the UK’s leadership in advance of COP26, so what urgent steps will the Treasury take to develop a carbon neutral programme of international aid going forward?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I will ask my counterparts in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office to answer the hon. Lady’s question directly—they are responsible for aid. What I will tell her is that there is a lot of stuff we are doing within our remit on international climate finance action, not least on the taskforce on nature-related financial disclosures.

Virginia Crosbie Portrait Virginia Crosbie
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Time and again, I speak with companies that want a freeport on Anglesey. I want a freeport on Anglesey, and local people want the jobs and local investment that will come with a freeport, but the Welsh Government say and do nothing. Will the Minister please urge the Welsh Government to work with me to deliver this game changer in my constituency of Ynys Môn?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I thank my hon. Friend for her letters and her continued campaigning for her constituency. We are working closely with the Welsh Government and remain committed to establishing at least one freeport in Wales as soon as possible. I encourage them to work closely with constituency MPs on that. As in England, specific locations will be chosen in a fair, open and transparent allocation process.

Jeff Smith Portrait Jeff Smith
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The Minister must recognise that climate inaction is not just a disaster for the planet but has a huge financial cost and economic consequences. We cannot dodge the critical decisions that we need to decarbonise the economy any more. How exactly will the Government hardwire our net zero targets into every decision in the upcoming spending review?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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The Government have used the Green Book to mandate that policies must be developed and assessed against how well they deliver on our long-term policy aims, including net zero. We did that at spending review 2020, where guidance required Departments to include the greenhouse emissions of bids and their impact on meeting carbon budgets and net zero, and allocations to Departments were informed by that information. That is how we will continue to carry out consideration of climate impacts in fiscal policy.

Julie Marson Portrait Julie Marson
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I thank the Minister for her response. With more than £10 trillion of assets under management in the UK, there is scope for more green innovation investment via the venture capital sector. I therefore welcome the measures she explained and the regulatory changes being driven by the Treasury, but will she meet me to discuss a potential office for venture, similar to the new Office for Investment, which could provide a centre for expertise and growth in this area?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I thank my hon. Friend for that question. The Government recognise the important role of financial markets in supporting the UK’s transition to a net zero economy. The British Business Bank is a Government-owned economic development bank that makes finance markets for smaller businesses work more effectively, and its remit includes venture capital. I note her point about a meeting and believe that my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary is happy to meet her on this issue.

Abena Oppong-Asare Portrait Abena Oppong-Asare (Erith and Thamesmead) (Lab)
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It is only 55 days until COP26 in Glasgow and households, consumers and businesses urgently need clarity and certainty about how the costs and benefits of our transition to net zero will be shared. Labour’s approach to tackling the climate crisis would have fairness at its heart, because we know that while some are planning to build personal heated swimming pools in their homes, millions of others are struggling with energy bills. The net zero review is supposed to consider fairness. At the last Treasury questions, the Chancellor told my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves) that the final report would

“of course be published imminently”—[Official Report, 22 June 2021; Vol. 697, c. 750.]

That was 11 weeks ago. Where is it?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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As I said, the report will be published in advance of COP26, but we have published other things that the hon. Member does not seem to have heard of or read. We have set out ambitious plans about the net zero target and published the energy White Paper, the industrial decarbonisation strategy, the transport decarbonisation plan, which has not happened anywhere else in the world—we are the first country to do a transport decarbonisation plan—and a hydrogen strategy. We will publish the heat and building strategy in due course. The Government have been busy setting out plans on net zero, and we would appreciate it if Opposition parties took some time to read them.

Steve Baker Portrait Mr Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con)
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The Government’s measures will have important consequences for taxpayers and energy bills. Will my hon. Friend therefore set out in detail the cost of net zero and the calculations behind that cost?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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We will put affordability and fairness at the heart of our reforms to reach net zero. Our latest estimates put the costs of net zero at under 2% of GDP—broadly similar to when we legislated for it two years ago—with scope for costs of low-carbon technologies to fall faster than expected. Most of those represent increased investment in growth markets of the future. However, I take my hon. Friend’s point. All I would say is that he should wait until the net zero review is published.

Meg Hillier Portrait Dame Meg Hillier (Hackney South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op)
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The hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker) and I may not have the same views on net zero, but we share a concern about how the Government will fund it. We will see, for example, a reduction in petrol vehicles, so what will happen to the tax on them? We have also seen yet another failure recently with the green homes grant. What is the fiscal plan for making sure that net zero achieves its targets while we maintain the Exchequer balances?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I thank the hon. Lady for that question. We recognise that this is an issue under intense speculation. We will publish a strategy that will set out many of the answers to the questions she is posing. What we have said is that we will put affordability and fairness at the heart of our reforms to reach net zero. The fact is that everyone in this House agreed with us when we set that target. For example, we have put in place plans to bring in electric vehicles by 2030. These will require changes not just in how we spend, but in our tax and regulatory system. The answers will come in due course.

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young (Redcar) (Con)
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As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on hydrogen, may I take this opportunity to welcome the Government’s world-leading comprehensive hydrogen strategy, backed up by £105 million of public funding to unlock £4 billion of private investment by 2030? Does the Minister agree with me that this is how we will build back better and create more jobs in places such as Teesside?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I thank my hon. Friend for that question. I do agree with him: building back better and building back greener are at the heart of this Government’s strategy. I thank him for raising those points, which will benefit Teesside and the north-east in general.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green)
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At the weekend, a young activist called Fatima challenged the Chancellor, asking why the Treasury is blocking action on the climate crisis. He replied that the Treasury has committed £12 billion of new money to the 10-point plan, but even that is not true, as he knows, and the President of COP26 has said that actually only a paltry £4 billion is new money. When will the Treasury start committing serious money to the green transition, in the region of the £85 billion that the TUC has said is necessary to put into green investment so that we go into COP26 as climate leaders, not climate laggards?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I will tell the hon. Lady what the Treasury is doing. We are issuing £15 billion of green bonds over the next year, and launching a world-first green savings bond ahead of COP26 to help finance the Government’s green projects. We set up the UK Infrastructure Bank to invest in net zero, backed by £12 billion of capital, which will also help to unlock more than £40 billion of overall investment in infrastructure. We are committing £11.6 billion in international climate finance over the next five years to help developing countries tackle climate change. The Budget also announced three UK-wide competitions that are part of the £1 billion net zero innovation portfolio. We have the towns deal, which is helping people create new green spaces, build back greener, create sustainable transport routes and repurpose empty shops. The fact is that the Treasury is doing everything it can to support the transition to net zero.

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Kenny MacAskill Portrait Kenny MacAskill (East Lothian) (Alba)
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T2. Scottish communities, other than those in Shetland, failed to benefit from the North sea oil and gas bounty landing on their shores. Now that the North sea’s offshore wind is casting ashore on East Lothian, will the Treasury ensure that East Lothian will actually benefit, as opposed to it all simply being transmission-stationed down south? Or will it go the same way as Scotland’s oil and gas: down to the Treasury?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kemi Badenoch)
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We support the UK oil and gas sector, especially as gas is a transition fuel to net zero. The sector supports 147,000 jobs directly in its supply chains. I take the point that the hon. Gentleman raises; if he would like to write to me with more detail, I think I will be able to give him more comprehensive answers.

David Evennett Portrait Sir David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con)
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I commend my right hon. Friend the Chancellor for all his determination to create new jobs and new investment and to upskill the workforce; I believe it is paying dividends, as we are seeing in the economy. Does he agree that further education colleges have a vital role in upskilling our workforce, both young and not so young, to get the best jobs for the future?

Oral Answers to Questions

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Tuesday 22nd June 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jason McCartney Portrait Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to encourage investment in green industries.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kemi Badenoch)
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The Prime Minister’s 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution set out £12 billion of new investment in green industries and will crowd in three times as much private investment. Budget 2021 built on the 10-point plan by encouraging private investment, using the tax system and continuing with the direct Government support announced at the spending review. It also included announcements on offshore wind, energy innovation and hydrogen.

Jason McCartney Portrait Jason McCartney
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Does the Minister agree with me that it makes sense to help, support and incentivise people on low incomes and pensioner households to convert to heat pumps and to insulate their homes?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Since June 2020, the Government have spent £1.5 billion on supporting low-income households to improve energy efficiency and install clean heat. A number of subsidy schemes for heat pumps are available and in development. The sector expects to install 67,000 heat pumps in 2021, which is up considerably from the 35,000 installed in 2019. At Budget 2020 we extended the renewable heat incentive, and announced the clean heat grant. That will provide grants for all homeowners towards the cost of heat pumps from 2022. Further funding decisions will be announced at the spending review.

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Kirsten Oswald Portrait Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire) (SNP)
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What recent assessment he has made of the effect of his fiscal policies on gender equality.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kemi Badenoch)
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The Treasury carefully considers the equality impact of both individual measures and fiscal events on those sharing protected characteristics, including gender, in line with both its legal obligations and its strong commitment to promoting fairness.

Kirsten Oswald Portrait Kirsten Oswald [V]
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I thank the Minister for that response, but there are glaring gaps. For instance, on women’s pensions, my constituent Kay cannot understand why she has to suffer because of the accelerated timetable for increases in women’s state pension age. What does the Minister say to her and to the Women Against State Pension Inequality who wonder why the Government have not undertaken an impact assessment of the detriment they have all faced?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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The Treasury complies with its public sector equality duty and takes into account all sorts of circumstances that need to be considered before putting forward any policies. We have had numerous debates about WASPI pensions over the last four years, and I am afraid this issue is settled. If the hon. Lady has specific issues with a particular constituent, I encourage her to take those up with the Department for Work and Pensions.

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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What steps his Department is taking to protect access to cash within local communities.

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Angela Richardson Portrait Angela  Richardson  (Guildford)  (Con)
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I welcome the launch of the national infrastructure bank. Road infrastructure projects are needed in my constituency to meet the additional 14,000 homes to be delivered in our local plan, which is why I am calling for the A3 to be tunnelled under Guildford to ease congestion. As we move towards our target of net zero and transition our vehicles to being electric and hydrogen-run, there will be a decrease in revenue raised by fuel duty. Will my right hon. Friend outline what steps he is taking to replace that revenue and to help fund road infrastructure projects such as my tunnel?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kemi Badenoch)
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that the Government will need to ensure that revenue from motoring taxes keeps pace with the change away from petrol and diesel vehicles so that we can continue to fund infrastructure such as the A3, which she mentions. I am sure that colleagues in the Department for Transport can speak about her petition specifically, but I would like to reassure her and her constituents that this Government will continue to focus on record, unprecedented investment in the strategic roads network over this Parliament, through the £27.5 billion road investment strategy, which will deliver about 70 major upgrades.

Rosie Cooper Portrait Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire) (Lab) [V]
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Does the Chancellor have confidence in the Financial Conduct Authority’s ability to appropriately regulate and sanction companies that defraud their investors? Furthermore, does he believe that if it is found that the regulator has failed to prevent this fraudulent activity, the Government have a duty to compensate?

National Insurance Contributions Bill

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Sarah Olney Portrait Sarah Olney (Richmond Park) (LD)
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The Bill seeks to achieve a range of aims, but like most things that the Government are currently attempting, it misses the opportunity to achieve a great deal more.

The Liberal Democrats welcome the provisions that will enable a 0% rate of national insurance contributions to be paid by employers of former members of the armed forces. Glass Door, a charity in my constituency that provides shelters and outreach for homeless people and rough sleepers, has described to me how past trauma is a key risk factor in becoming homeless and how the two groups most at risk are survivors of childhood sexual abuse and armed forces veterans. Like many Members across the House, I am deeply concerned about how we care for our servicemen and women, and I support all measures to assist them in their post-service life. The Liberal Democrats unequivocally welcome an incentive for businesses to bring them into new employment.

We also welcome the straightening out of any unintended tax consequences that have arisen from covid payments in the past 18 months. The British public have been extraordinary in their response to the crisis and have willingly played their part in staying at home to protect the NHS and save lives. For many individuals, that will have had a direct financial consequence, and it is absolutely right that any payments made to mitigate such financial consequences should be free from tax and national insurance. There is no doubt that people would willingly have gone out and earned national insurance contribution income if the Government had not asked them not to. It is only fitting that their financial sacrifices be properly recognised in our tax and benefits system.

I support the comments made by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) about tax avoidance schemes and the extent to which they are being promoted. I support measures to clamp down on such schemes, particularly where vulnerable taxpayers are being targeted and potentially lured, dare I say it, into investing in schemes that would bring them into default in their tax affairs; we have seen that happening in relation to the loan charge, as he mentioned. I would like to see the Government doing more to clamp down on these schemes, and I welcome any measures to do so.

The Bill also makes provision for 0% national insurance contributions for employers in freeports. The Government have made a great deal of their plans for freeports; they appear to have great hopes for their abilities to bring economic revival to our country following Brexit and the pandemic. The extent to which that looks likely to be achieved remains uncertain. The Government have not yet published an assessment of the likely impact of this national insurance reduction, which leads me to believe that that uncertainty is continuing. If the Government are unable to say how much the Treasury will lose from the cut in national insurance, one can conclude only that they do not yet have any confidence in how much they expect freeports to boost employment.

What is certain is that the Government have not yet brought forward any other plans to boost economic growth following Brexit and the pandemic. I regret that they are missing the opportunity to boost growth in other sectors and in regions that are not lucky enough to benefit from a freeport.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kemi Badenoch)
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The hon. Lady says that the Government do not have any additional plans for growth. We launched a plan for growth in the Budget with three pillars—infrastructure, innovation and skills—to tackle net zero post covid and take our opportunities for global Britain on leaving the EU, so she is quite wrong to say that we have not done anything to plan for growth.

Sarah Olney Portrait Sarah Olney
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I very much welcome the Exchequer Secretary’s intervention. I am happy to stand corrected, and I very much look forward to seeing the impacts of those plans right across the nation, because as far as I am concerned, the significant weakness of the plan for freeports is that it cherry-picks areas for investment while ignoring the needs of many other communities across the country. That is why I say that the Bill is a missed opportunity: because to target the national insurance cut just at areas that will have a freeport is to ignore the impact that such a cut could have across many sectors that could provide fantastic opportunities for employment as we come out of the pandemic. There is a very real danger that freeports will divert business activity from areas outside freeports, and that this measure will hit the public finances without any subsequent increase in economic activity.

I believe that the Government would make much better use of the national insurance contributions scheme by stimulating economic growth in ways proven to be effective. For example, an increase in the annual employment allowance to £16,000 could benefit every small and medium-sized enterprise. It would allow employers to take on up to five workers each without making contributions, which would be a substantial boost to communities across the country and would do much more to boost employment across the nation than these hand-picked benefits whose impact cannot be measured.

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Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kemi Badenoch)
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I would like to thank Members for their well-considered contributions to what has been a very productive debate, and I am very grateful for the support across the House on Second Reading. A range of perspectives has been presented here today, but I think we are all agreed that this is an important piece of legislation, which assists this country’s recovery from covid-19 and helps us prepare for a better future.

Before I address some of the specific points raised by Members today, I will briefly reiterate the Bill’s main measures and outline what they seek to achieve. First, this Bill supports the delivery of the Government’s freeports programme and boosts regional growth. It achieves this through the introduction of an employer national insurance contributions relief for businesses based in freeports that take on workers. This measure will play a major part in helping these new economic zones to create jobs, drive growth and revitalise local communities.

Secondly, this Bill delivers on a Conservative party manifesto commitment by introducing an employer national insurance contributions relief for organisations that recruit armed forces veterans. This will encourage firms to take on former services personnel, as so eloquently put by my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne), boosting veterans’ employment prospects. On this point, the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) raised an excellent point about working better with veterans charities, and I agree that this is something that employers and Government should do more of. In turn, this measure will allow even more businesses to benefit from veterans’ abilities, skills and experience, and I am sure Members would agree that this represents a valuable opportunity for firms up and down the country.

Thirdly, this Bill provides an exemption from self-employed national insurance contributions for test and trace support payments, which will apply retrospectively. This measure will ensure self-employed workers benefit from parity with their employed counterparts and are not penalised if they need to self-isolate and therefore submit a claim.

As I have outlined, the Bill supports workers and the wider economy, but it also contains measures targeted at those who threaten our country’s financial wellbeing. The final measure is the disclosure of tax avoidance schemes regime introduced by this Bill, which boosts HMRC’s powers to deal with the promoters of such unscrupulous arrangements. In addition, it will help ensure that taxpayers are better informed about the risks posed by avoidance schemes. This measure will deter the operators of such schemes and better protect consumers.

I will now move to the specific questions raised by Members. There were several questions from the Opposition Front Bench. The hon. Member for Ealing North (James Murray) asked why the self-employed national insurance contribution exemption was not legislated earlier. The answer is that class 1 NICs exemptions were made in regulations. However, the self-employed exemption requires primary legislation, and therefore is included in this Bill, as this is the earliest opportunity to legislate.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the upper secondary threshold for freeports and why, at £25,000, this is lower than for other reliefs and what the rationale was. The answer is that, unlike other NICs reliefs that are available to employers nationally and generally are targeted at specific groups of employees with particular characteristics, businesses operating in a freeport are likely to be able to claim the relief on almost all of their new hires. To balance generosity of support with the need to consider the public finances, this broader eligibility has been balanced by limiting the amount of salary that can be relieved. We have chosen to set this limit at £25,000 per annum, which is approximately the average salary in the UK. Employees with earnings at or below this limit will be eligible for full employer NICs relief, and employers will still be able to claim up to approximately £6,500 of relief on the salaries of employees earning more than this.

The hon. Gentleman asked why the relief was not starting until April 2022. The Government have been clear that this relief is only available on new hires from April 2022, and set this out in the “Freeports Bidding Prospectus” published in autumn 2020. The reason why is that having a clear start date is a simple approach that will support the freeport businesses. Further, a freeport tax site needs to be designated so that the location requirements can be met, otherwise there would be no reference in legislation for what geographical area constitutes a freeport tax site.

On the veterans scheme, I believe the hon. Gentleman asked why the relief was just for a year compared with that for freeports, and he said that it needed to be longer. The answer is that the relief provides employers with up to £5,500 in savings per veteran that they employ. The aim of that policy is to support veterans’ transition into civilian life through encouraging employers to hire veterans.

Finally, on corporation tax, the hon. Gentleman asked a question about the 15% rate. The reason the global rate of 15% was settled on is that, at that value, it will protect against multinational tax avoidance while leaving appropriate room for countries to use corporation tax as a lever to support their economic, fiscal and environmental objectives.

I now turn to some of the questions raised by the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), who asked why we are having freeports now, after they have not necessarily worked in the past. He has forgotten one thing: we have left the European Union. Leaving the EU means that we have an opportunity to do things differently. We have developed an ambitious new freeport model to ensure that towns and cities across the UK can benefit from fantastic new international trade opportunities. Freeports can attract new investment and employment in left-behind communities across the UK, and the further benefits include a simplified customs process. Our freeports will offer tax measures to incentivise private business investment, carefully considered planning reforms to facilitate much needed construction, and additional targeted funding for infrastructure improvements in freeport areas to level up communities and increase employment opportunities. This is therefore a much more ambitious policy than the previous freeports that the right hon. Gentleman referenced.

On the right hon. Gentleman’s question about evidence-based policy and the wider impact of freeports, we believe that the relief will significantly reduce the cost of taking on new employees and doing business in the freeport. That, along with other tax reliefs being offered as part of the wider package, will support businesses, but the Government have not yet agreed and finalised successful bidders’ tax site proposals. Any modelling that we have done to support the process remains sensitive to the locations chosen, and we will be in a better place to conduct more detailed modelling once tax sites have been agreed with the Government. The right hon. Gentleman asked whether that would be completed before the end of the passage of the Bill. That will not be done before we finish this Bill. However, the Government will outline the process for confirming tax sites in due course.

There were several questions about the Union. Freeports in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Fay Jones), the hon. Members for Gordon (Richard Thomson) and for Strangford, and my hon. Friend the Member for Aberconwy (Robin Millar). I say to all of them that we want to ensure that the whole of the UK can benefit. We are thrilled that there is demand for freeports across the United Kingdom, and we remain committed to establishing at least one freeport in Wales as soon as possible. Discussions about the best way to establish a freeport in countries outside England, such as Scotland, are complex. It would not be appropriate for me to elaborate on those private discussions. However, those are things that the Treasury is considering in detail.

On the point that the hon. Member for Strangford made about Northern Ireland, we are working with the Northern Ireland Executive to ensure that a suitable model for an NI freeport is developed. We will ensure that we meet our international legal obligations in Northern Ireland. It is appropriate that we take our time to ensure that the freeports model for Northern Ireland meets these obligations while delivering a competitive offer for the ports, businesses and communities in that country.

There was a question about displacement of economic activity from other local areas—I believe it was from the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington. That is something that we have considered. We still believe that this proposal will encourage new investment and create jobs in deprived communities, and will not cause harmful displacement.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to explain this Bill’s measures and the context behind them. To sum up, this Bill supports the regional growth that is integral to furthering our levelling-up agenda, and is part of our plan for growth, as I said to the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney). It plays a part in shielding self-employed people from the full financial impact of covid-19, while boosting our veterans’ employment prospects. It strengthens HMRC’s powers to tackle the organisers of tax avoidance schemes. There are clearly a number of points that we can expect to discuss at greater length when this legislation moves to Committee stage, but for the purposes of this debate I commend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

National Insurance Contributions Bill (Programme)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),

That the following provisions shall apply to the National Insurance Contributions Bill:

Committal

(1) The Bill shall be committed to a Public Bill Committee.

Proceedings in Public Bill Committee

(2) Proceedings in the Public Bill Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Tuesday 22 June.

(3) The Public Bill Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.

Proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading

(4) Proceedings on Consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which proceedings on Consideration are commenced.

(5) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on that day.

(6) Standing Order No. 83B (Programming committees) shall not apply to proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading.

Other proceedings

(7) Any other proceedings on the Bill may be programmed.—(Michael Tomlinson.)

Question agreed to.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Further to earlier points of order, as matters seem to have moved on, I seek urgent clarification on the process that we are in the middle of, given that Mr Speaker appeared to be deeply unhappy earlier and that we are now facing a wait of possibly up to two hours to hear from the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on a matter that the Prime Minister has already addressed the press about.

We understand that the Prime Minister was not available at 3.30; we know that and that is reasonable. Since then, though, the Prime Minister has addressed the press. His comments are causing concern and confusion, but the House has to wait two hours more. This is treating the House with disdain. Parliament is sovereign. What is more, the Prime Minister himself ran on a campaign of Parliament being sovereign—sovereign, Madam Deputy Speaker. Our constituents deserve better.

I wonder whether those on the Treasury Bench have had time to reflect on the matter since the earlier points of order. Can you tell me, Madam Deputy Speaker, whether you or the House have had any word from No. 10 about coming here now to clear up the confusion and whether the Prime Minister is willing to face questions from Members of Parliament on behalf of our constituents? I seek your urgent clarification, because we feel that the Prime Minister is treating this House with contempt.

The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Monday 14th June 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Written Statements
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Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kemi Badenoch)
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At Spring Statement 2019, the Government commissioned an independent, global review on the economics of biodiversity. “The Economics of Biodiversity: The Dasgupta Review” was published on 2 February [HCWS752].

Having examined its findings, I have today laid before Parliament the Government response to the Dasgupta review (CP 466).

In response to the review, the Government commits to: delivering a “nature positive” future, in which we leave the environment in a better state than we found it, and reverse biodiversity loss globally by 2030; and ensuring that economic and financial decision making, and the systems and institutions that underpin it, supports the delivery of a nature positive future.

The response sets out the ways in which the Government are already making significant progress towards delivering that future, for example, in England, re-orienting agricultural support to improve the environment, animal health and welfare, and reduce carbon emissions. The Government have also committed to spend at least £3 billion of the UK’s international climate finance on nature and biodiversity over five years, and have set out a 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution which will mobilise £12 billion of Government investment to create and support up to 250,000 highly skilled green jobs across the UK.

Building on our nature agenda, the response also sets out the ways in which the Government will go further in light of many of the review’s conclusions, including by:

legislating in England for a binding target for species abundance to be achieved by 2030, aiming to halt the decline of nature;

legislating in England for “biodiversity net gain” for nationally significant infrastructure projects through a new amendment to the Environment Bill which will be tabled shortly;

ensuring all new UK bilateral aid spending does no harm to nature;

committing up to £3 million additional support to the development of the taskforce on nature-related financial disclosures framework, which will support financial institutions and companies to report and act on nature-related risks.

working with the Office for National Statistics to improve the way nature is incorporated into our national accounts and maximise their use in policy-making; and

incorporating biodiversity into the UK Government green financing framework, which will determine which projects are eligible for financing under the UK Government’s green gilt programme.

The Government’s response to the review is published at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-economics-of-biodiversity-the-dasgupta-review-government-response

Copies of the paper are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

[HCWS87]

Covid-19 Health Inequalities: Quarterly Report

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Tuesday 25th May 2021

(3 years ago)

Written Statements
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Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kemi Badenoch)
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I am publishing today the third of my quarterly reports to the Prime Minister on progress to address covid-19 health disparities among ethnic minority groups.

Vaccination offers the clearest path out of the pandemic and remains the key step in addressing the disparities in risks and outcomes from covid-19. My report summarises the unprecedented programme of measures taken to tackle misinformation and to increase both vaccine confidence and uptake among ethnic minorities.

Over the last quarter the Government, together with national and local partners, have responded quickly, effectively and flexibly to drive vaccine uptake. Measures include:

A bespoke plan for vaccinations during Ramadan, including the use of “twilight jabbing”;

Establishing vaccination centres at around 50 different religious venues, with many more acting as pop-up sites, to build trust and confidence within local communities;

Piloting family vaccinations with a view to encourage uptake among multi-generational households, where the risk of infection may be higher;

Allocating over £7 million of additional NHS funding to local sustainability and transformation partnerships to enable targeted engagement in areas with health inequalities and with communities that are not vaccine confident; and

Providing local health leaders with comprehensive data on vaccine uptake among those most at risk from covid-19, allowing them to take targeted action.

My report also sets out progress with the community champions scheme, which was launched in January. The 60 local authority areas participating in the Government-funded scheme recruited 4,653 individual community champions by the end of March, who are now playing a vital role in combating misinformation and driving vaccine uptake.

These combined efforts have led to increases in both positive vaccine sentiment and vaccine uptake across all ethnic groups over the last quarter. Vaccine confidence has increased in three consecutive research periods and the vast majority of people say they have already been vaccinated, or would be likely to accept a vaccine.

The Government are not complacent. The relatively low uptake rates for some ethnic groups and emerging new variants remain areas of concern. The Government will continue to encourage everyone to take the vaccine when offered.

My report sets out a number of next steps, including improving our understanding of how the pandemic has impacted frontline healthcare workers, investigating any practical barriers to vaccine uptake by ethnicity, and improving the quality of ethnicity data in health records.

My fourth and final report will provide a further update and will include recommendations on how this work to address covid-19 disparities should be taken forward, as part of our longer term strategy to tackle health inequalities.

[HCWS56]

Finance (No.2) Bill (Fourth sitting)

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Tuesday 27th April 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Public Bill Committees
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James Murray Portrait James Murray
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Clause 126 enables HMRC and Border Force officers to use a civil penalty to combat the unauthorised removal of things that have been seized in situ. When HMRC seizes goods, they are normally kept, as we heard, in Border Force-controlled warehouses. When goods that have been seized are kept on the trader’s premises, the seizure is known as seizure in situ. Currently, the law does not refer to seizure in situ; therefore, if seized goods are removed without prior authorisation, no penalty can be issued. We recognise that the clause will amend that.

We want HMRC to take robust action to deal with those who import illicit items into the UK or seek to bring in things on which duty has not been paid. We want the detention and seizure of things to be a valuable tool in the fight against duty evasion. We therefore do not oppose the clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 126 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 127

Temporary approvals etc pending review or appeal

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kemi Badenoch)
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Clause 127 makes changes to customs and excise review and appeals legislation, to safeguard the right to appeal. To do this, HMRC will be given the power to temporarily approve a business, on application and subject to meeting certain criteria, in order that the business may continue to conduct controlled activities until the conclusion of its appeal into an earlier decision.

As Committee members may be aware, businesses in a number of regimes operated by HMRC require approval before they may conduct certain controlled activities. These include the alcohol wholesaler registration scheme, which regulates the sale of alcoholic drinks, and the raw tobacco approval scheme, which requires the approval of anyone conducting activities involving raw tobacco.

Approval is dependent on a business continuing to satisfy certain fit and proper criteria, which are defined in law. Where evidence shows that the business is no longer fulfilling those criteria, HMRC may, as a last resort, revoke its approval. As with all HMRC decisions, the recipient may request an internal review by an independent officer and, ultimately, has the right to appeal to a tribunal and higher courts.

On receipt of HMRC’s decision to revoke, a business must cease the controlled activity, even where it contests the decision. HMRC currently has no power to pause or suspend its decision, or to allow the business to continue with the controlled activities while it pursues its right of appeal.

Previously, it was believed that where a business sought relief from the courts, such a suspension could be granted. However, comments made by the Supreme Court in 2019 in OWD Ltd v. HMRC highlighted that that may not be the case. If neither HMRC nor the courts have the power to suspend revocation, it could, in theory, cause a business to fail before its appeal has been concluded, fundamentally undermining the right of appeal. It is in order to protect this right that changes are being made. To be clear, the process of temporary approval would apply only in appeals involving civil cases. Those cases where revocation of an approval is linked to criminal prosecution would not be considered.

The changes made by the clause create a new power for HMRC to issue temporary approvals in respect of the control schemes covered by this clause, as they all contain similar fit and proper criteria. Temporary approval would be conditional on the business providing sufficient evidence to support its case that, without that temporary approval, its appeal right is ineffective.

The clause also creates a new appeal right in relation to HMRC’s decision on whether to grant temporary approval. That will ensure that a business has every opportunity to seek protection following a decision by HMRC. The business must demonstrate that it would suffer irreparable harm—rather than just inconvenience—by not being able to conduct the controlled activity in the period between revocation and the outcome of its appeal. That does not alter HMRC’s position that it has judged the business to no longer satisfy the requirements to hold approval; the object of the change is to safeguard appeal rights and not to allow unfit businesses to gain extended periods to trade before an appeal is heard.

The evidential requirements for gaining a temporary approval are intentionally high, to protect revenue and ensure compliance. Any temporary approval would be issued with strict conditions, allowing HMRC to monitor activity closely; any new evidence of unacceptable trading would result in removal of this temporary approval, to protect revenue. HMRC will specify through its public notices the evidence that must be submitted with a temporary approval application, along with details of timings and other relevant matters. The legislation will come into force at a future date to be determined by HMRC and will be brought in by regulations made by statutory instrument.

In conclusion, the clause gives HMRC the power to grant businesses a temporary approval to conduct controlled activities in appropriate circumstances. This power does not currently exist, and it is right that we remedy that situation to provide fairness to taxpayers appealing a decision to revoke their right to trade.

Finance (No.2) Bill (Third sitting)

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Tuesday 27th April 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Public Bill Committees
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None Portrait The Chair
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With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

That schedule 20 be the Twentieth schedule to the Bill.

New clause 3—Review of impact of section 98—

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must review the impact on investment in parts of the United Kingdom and regions of England of the changes made by section 98 and lay a report of that review before the House of Commons within six months of the passing of this Act.

(2) A review under this section must consider the effects of the provisions on progress towards the Government’s climate emissions targets.

(3) In this section “parts of the United Kingdom” means—

(a) England,

(b) Scotland,

(c) Wales, and

(d) Northern Ireland; and “regions of England” has the same meaning as that used by the Office for National Statistics.”

This new clause would require a report on the effects of section 98 on progress towards the UK Government’s climate emissions targets.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kemi Badenoch)
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Clause 98 and schedule 20 reform the use of polluting diesel fuel by reducing the number of businesses that benefit from red diesel tax breaks from April 2022. Those changes will mean that most businesses across the UK will use diesel fuel taxed at the standard rate for diesel from April 2022, bringing them in line with ordinary motorists. That more fairly reflects the negative environmental impact of the emissions produced. It also ensures that the tax system incentivises users of polluting fuels such as diesel to improve the energy efficiency of their vehicles and machinery and to invest in cleaner alternatives, or just use less fuel.

Red diesel is a dye-marked diesel currently used mainly for off-road purposes, such as to power bulldozers and cranes in the construction industry. It accounts for around 15% of all diesel used in the UK and is responsible for the production of nearly 14 million tonnes of CO2 a year, as well as noxious gases such a nitrogen oxide and particulate matter. Red diesel is subject to a rebated rate of fuel duty of 11.14p per litre, which is 46.18p less than the tax due on standard diesel used by ordinary motorists. Businesses that use red diesel are therefore paying far less for the harmful emissions that they produce.

The Government have previously received feedback from developers of alternative fuels and technologies that they view the low cost of running a diesel engine as a barrier to entry for greener alternatives. Clause 98 and schedule 20 will amend the Hydrocarbon Oil Duties Act 1979, to reform the entitlement to use red diesel in most sectors from April 2022. As announced at Budget 2020 and confirmed at Budget 2021, the Government will grant entitlements to use red diesel for the following purposes: for vehicles and machinery used in agriculture, forestry, horticulture and fish farming; to propel vehicles designed to run on rail tracks and for heating non-commercial premises, which includes the heating of homes and buildings such as places of worship, hospitals and town halls.

In addition, following consultation last year on these tax changes, for which the Government received more than 400 written responses, the Government decided at Budget 2021 to grant further entitlements to use red diesel after April 2022 for the following purposes: electricity generation in non-commercial premises; maintaining community amateur sports clubs and golf courses; as fuel for all commercial water vessels refuelling and operating in the UK, including fishing and water freight industries; for private pleasure craft in Great Britain; and powering machinery and caravans of travelling fairs and circuses. The Bill will also extend fuel duty to biodiesel, bioblends and fuel substitutes used in heating.

In response to concerns raised by red diesel users during the consultation about their ability to run down fuel stocks in back-up generators, the Bill provides for secondary legislation to give HMRC officers the power to disapply the liability to seize vehicles or machinery where they are satisfied that those who are no longer entitled to use red diesel are acting within the new law.

New clause 3, which was tabled by the hon. Members for Glasgow Central, for Glenrothes, for Gordon (Richard Thomson) and for Midlothian (Owen Thompson), would require the Government to publish a report on the effects of clause 98 on progress towards the UK Government’s climate emissions targets

“within six months of the passing of this Act.”

Clause 98 will make changes to remove the entitlement to use red diesel from most sectors from April 2022; such a report could not meaningfully assess the impact of the changes within six months.

As the Government set out in our summary of responses to the red diesel consultation:

“As these tax changes are introduced, the government will monitor fuel duty receipts of red and white diesel to evaluate the extent to which current users of red diesel that have lost their entitlement to use red diesel are switching to greener alternatives. The Treasury will also work closely with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to evaluate the extent to which these tax changes are accelerating the development of greener alternatives and how this interacts with the work of the government’s energy innovation programmes, like the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio.”

The Government continue to take our world-leading environmental commitment seriously and remain dedicated to meeting our climate change and wider environmental targets, including improving the UK’s air quality; that is why we are reforming the use of red diesel from April 2022. Reducing tax breaks on red diesel will mean that approximately 3.6 billion litres of diesel, equivalent to 9.5 million tonnes of CO2, will now be taxed at the standard diesel rate. I ask the Committee to agree that clause 98 and schedule 20 should stand part of the Bill and to reject new clause 3.

Abena Oppong-Asare Portrait Abena Oppong-Asare (Erith and Thamesmead) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Dame Angela. I thank the Minister for her explanation of clause 98, which restricts the entitlement to use red diesel and related biodiesel for most sectors from April 2022.

We support the Government’s intention behind the measure, which was first announced in the 2020 Budget. There is a clear need to ensure that fuel duty rebates are as limited as possible in order to meet our net-zero commitment. I note that several sectors retain their entitlement to use red diesel, including agriculture, rail transport and permanently moored houseboats. More recently, the Government have announced further exemptions, including generating power from non-commercial premises for amateur sports clubs and for travelling fairs and circuses.

I have a couple of questions for the Minister about the impact on individual sectors. I know that the waste sector made a representation to the Treasury arguing that removing its red diesel entitlements

“could increase the cost of recycling, which may result in waste being diverted to landfill instead and the cost of recycled goods increasing relative to virgin materials.”

Would the Exchequer Secretary assure us that that issue was looked at carefully and that the impact on recycling was considered? Would she also say a little about compliance in the industries where the entitlement is being removed? She mentioned that the Treasury had been working closely with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to ensure that compliance was followed, but what monitoring and enforcement will the Government use to ensure that red diesel is used only for approved purposes?

May I turn briefly to recreational boat owners in Northern Ireland? The Government have confirmed that private pleasure craft in Northern Ireland will have to use white diesel from June this year in order to implement a ruling of the European Court of Justice. The Royal Yachting Association, British Marine and the Cruising Association have raised concerns about the practical effects of the decision, including the limited supply of white diesel for private pleasure craft users in Northern Ireland. Would the Minister reassure us that HMRC and the Treasury will work closely with those organisations to minimise disruption? Would she give us more information on the steps that have been taken so far to ensure that? Finally, will the Government take any further action to encourage the growth of cleaner fuel alternatives in sectors such as the construction industry?

Peter Grant Portrait Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Angela. I could repeat much of what I have to say about new clause 3 when we debate new clause 5, but in the interests of brevity I will not make the same comments again at that point.

We welcome the fact that the tax system is used to encourage individuals and businesses to operate in a more environmentally responsible and sustainable way, but it is important that when we make changes we are prepared to look at them afterwards to see whether they are having the expected impact. That can be quite difficult with Government changes to tax policy, because the policy aim is not always immediately obvious. How much of this change is an income-raising exercise for the Treasury, and how much is designed to reduce the use not only of severely environmentally damaging hydrocarbon fuels, but of other fuels which, although they may be less damaging, are damaging none the less?

Biofuels are not a guilt-free pass. Even though they may appear to be renewable, their use has an impact on the environment, for example where the resources of less well-off countries are used to grow biofuels for us to use instead of food to eat for the people who live there. We should not fool ourselves into thinking that simply by converting our excessive use of fuel to use of renewable fuels, we are somehow doing all we need to.

The second reason why regular reviews are needed is that as well as unintended consequences, there will be mistakes. One third of the Government amendments in Committee of the whole House were introduced to correct drafting mistakes, either in the Bill itself or in related legislation. People make mistakes—hon. Members may even have noticed the drafting mistake in the wording of our new clause 3, which the Exchequer Secretary so kindly pointed out. However, given that her objection to new clause 3 is that the timing does not work, I would appreciate a commitment from her that the Government will comply with the spirit of the new clause in a more appropriate timescale when the impact of the changes can be measured.

The Scottish National party supports the Government’s stated aim of encouraging a more environmentally sustainable and responsible approach to use of the earth’s resources; we just think that they should acknowledge that they might not always get it right the first time. They should build in a process by which we can review the policy after a reasonable time and make the changes that may be needed, sooner rather than later.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- Hansard - -

I will take hon. Members’ questions in turn, starting with the question on private pleasure craft in Northern Ireland.

From later this year, private pleasure-craft users in Northern Ireland will no longer be able to use red diesel for propelling their craft, as the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead mentioned. This will achieve consistency with the 2018 judgment by the Court of Justice of the European Union and ensure that the UK meets its international obligations under the Northern Ireland protocol. That is the primary reason for it, but it will also align with the way in which fuel used by private pleasure craft in the Republic of Ireland is treated, which should make it simpler for craft users to access the fuel that they need if they sail between Northern Ireland and Ireland. On the hon. Lady’s point about easy access to white diesel, I think that it will work in the same way as in the Republic of Ireland. The Government also intend to introduce a new relief scheme in Northern Ireland to ensure that the average private pleasure-craft user will not pay a higher rate of duty on non-propulsion use than they do now.

On new clause 3, we fully understand the point that the hon. Member for Glenrothes makes, but it takes time for us to be able to analyse what is happening with changes to tax. That is why we want to monitor fuel-duty receipts for red and white diesel, which will enable us to evaluate the extent to which the users of red diesel who have lost their entitlement are switching to greener alternatives. It is really important that we allow time for the policy to bed in before we carry out reviews, but the Treasury always keeps all tax policy under review. We want to ensure that we encourage the transition to net zero as well as maximising revenue for the Exchequer. We do not want to lose money, nor do we want emissions. I reassure him that we are all on common ground and will work together to achieve those stated goals.

On the sectors that continue to have the red diesel entitlement, I can tell the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead that we looked very hard at the sectors that could not easily switch to alternatives, and at those in which the impact on the consumer would be quite high, as opposed to those within the supply chain. That is how we came to specific sectors such as travelling circuses and amateur sports clubs, which we feel would benefit from continued red diesel entitlement.

On the question of biofuels, to respond to the hon. Member for Glenrothes, all users of biofuels will be taxed at the same rate as ordinary diesel, to reflect the fact that biodiesel releases just as much carbon dioxide when burned. The Government recognise that renewable biofuels deliver greenhouse gas savings, as they are sourced from feedstocks that extract CO2 from the atmosphere. To incentivise the use of these low-carbon fuels and reduce emissions from fuel supplied for use in transport, the Government introduced the renewable transport fuel obligation in 2008, whereby all road transport fossil-fuel suppliers in the UK are required to show that a percentage of the total road and non-road mobile machinery fuels they supply come from sustainable and renewable energy sources. Again, I remind him that the Government keep all of these rates under review.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 98 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 20 agreed to.

Clause 99

Rates of tobacco products duty

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- Hansard - -

Clause 99 consolidates changes announced and implemented in November 2020 concerning tobacco duty rates. The increases made then ensured that the duty charged on all tobacco products rose in line with the tobacco duty escalator, with additional increases for hand-rolling tobacco and to the minimum excise on cigarettes.

Smoking rates in the UK are falling. However, smoking remains the biggest cause of preventable illness and premature death in the UK, killing around 100,000 people a year and about half of all long-term users of tobacco. All these factors mean that we need to continue to encourage more people to kick the habit. We have already set out ambitious plans to reduce the number of smokers from 14% of the population to 12% by 2022, as set out by the Department of Health and Social Care in its tobacco control plan, and we have announced that we aim to curb smoking once and for all by 2030 in England. This includes a commitment to continue the policy of maintaining high duty rates for tobacco products to improve public health.

According to Action on Smoking and Health, smoking costs society almost £14 billion a year in England, including £2 billion in costs to the NHS for treating disease caused by smoking. In November 2020, my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary announced increases to tobacco duty that, in the absence of an autumn Budget, were implemented by a Treasury order. The order was made under existing powers in the Tobacco Products Duty Act 1979 and helped to protect revenues. However, the life span of an order made under these powers is time-limited to one year, so this clause consolidates those increases. This will ensure that the duty charged on all tobacco products increases in line with the escalator, which is 2% above retail price index inflation. In addition, duty on hand-rolling tobacco increases by a further 4% to 6% above RPI inflation. The clause also increases the minimum excise tax—the minimum amount of duty to be paid on a pack of cigarettes—by an additional 2% to 4% above RPI inflation.

These new tobacco duty rates took effect on 16 November 2020. Recognising the potential interactions between tobacco duty rates and the illicit market, the Government recently consulted on tougher penalties for tobacco tax evasion. This includes proposals for £10,000 fixed penalties and escalating fines for repeat offenders. The responses indicate that there is broad support for tougher sanctions and, as announced on 23 March, we intend to legislate in the next Finance Bill. The Government have committed to strengthening trading standards and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, so that these organisations can combat the illicit tobacco business even more effectively. This work includes creating a UK-wide HMRC intelligence-sharing hub.

The clause will continue our tried-and-tested policy of using high duty rates on tobacco products to make tobacco less affordable, to continue the reduction in smoking prevalence. and to reduce the burden that smoking places on our public services. I therefore move that the clause stand part of the Bill.

Abena Oppong-Asare Portrait Abena Oppong-Asare
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the Minister said, this clause incorporates the legislation on changes in tobacco duty that the Government introduced in the Tobacco Products Duty (Alteration of Rates) Order 2020. I spoke during the debate on that order, so I will not repeat the points that I made then. However, I do have a few questions for the Minister.

First, why did the Government not raise the tobacco duty at Budget 2021? I note that the Minister has quoted data from Action on Smoking and Health. After the Budget, it said:

“ASH is disappointed that the Chancellor hasn’t increased taxes on cigarettes by per cent above inflation as we recommended. The Government says it is willing to take bold action to make smoking obsolete, which we welcome, but that has to include further tax rises. Making tobacco less affordable is crucial to discouraging children from starting to smoke and delivering the Smokefree generation the Government has said it wants to see by 2030.”

I hope the Minister can respond to the concerns from ASH and clearly set out what the Government’s approach to tobacco duty will be going forward.

9.45 am

More broadly, I want to press the Minister on the issue of smoking and public health. We have seen the importance of public health more than ever over the past year. Many people are concerned that the dismantling of Public Health England will have an adverse effect on the nation’s health, including action on preventing harm through smoking. We need reassurances that the new Office for Health Protection will be able to fulfil that important role effectively. Of course, that is partly from funding, but the Government have cut the public health grant by more than a fifth since 2015-16, despite a growing and urgent need for investment in public health and prevention.

ASH has called on the Government to increase the public health budget by £1.2 billion in order to reverse the cuts that have taken place since 2015 and then to provide additional investment in the most deprived areas with the greatest need. Can the Minister update us on the Government’s plan for the public health budget? Finally, can the Minister tell us whether the Government will provide further funding to local authorities to support local smoking cessation services?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- Hansard - -

I thank the hon. Lady for her questions. What I would say about the Office for Health Protection is that it is being set up to improve the work that Public Health England was doing. I am assured by health Ministers that it will continue to tackle issues such as tobacco smoking and its health implications.

The current smoking prevalence rate is 13.9%, which is the lowest level on record and a great public health success story. The UK is seen as a global leader on tobacco control, and over the last two decades we have implemented regulatory measures to stop youth smoking, prevent non-smokers from starting, and offer support to help smokers quit. Local authorities are responsible for delivering local “stop smoking” services and support to meet their population’s needs and to address inequalities. The Government set the national policy through the current tobacco control plan, and we will publish the next tobacco control plan this summer in order to outline our ambition for a smoke-free society by 2030.

Given the success that we have had in reducing smoking, we believe that the duty rates have been set at the right level. We review our duty rates at each fiscal event to ensure that they continue to meet our two objectives of protecting public health and raising revenue for vital public services. The tax information and impact note published alongside the Budget announcement sets out the Government’s assessment of the expected impact.

We are committed to improving public health by reducing smoking prevalence. We co-ordinate our efforts through DHSC’s “Tobacco Control Delivery Plan 2017 to 2022”, and we will continue our tried and tested policy of using high duty rates to make tobacco less affordable and continue the reduction in smoking prevalence, which should reduce the burden that smoking places on public services, as I mentioned earlier.

The hon. Lady asked why we are introducing clause 99, given that no increase in tobacco duties was announced in the spring Budget. Although the autumn Budget was cancelled, the Government proceeded with the uprating of tobacco duties in order to safeguard revenues, maintain our commitment to the duty escalator and protect health objectives. The Tobacco Products Duty (Alteration of Rates) Order 2020, implementing the duty increases, took effect on 16 November 2020. However, the hon. Lady should note that although an order may be used to alter tobacco duty rates, the changes expire after one year, which is why the increases need to be consolidated into the Finance Bill. It is not the first time that a Treasury order has been used to increase tobacco duties; the same method was used in 2008. I hope I have answered all her questions.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 99 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 100

Rates for light passenger of light goods vehicles, motorcycles etc

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clauses 101 and 102 stand part.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- Hansard - -

Clauses 100 to 102 make changes to vehicle excise duty and the heavy goods vehicle road user levy. Clauses 100 and 101 relate specifically to vehicle excise duty, which is paid on vehicle ownership. The Government have uprated VED, as it is known, for cars, vans and motorcycles in line with inflation every year since 2010, which means that rates have remained unchanged in real terms during that time.

Since April 2017, cars with a list price exceeding £40,000 pay an additional supplement as well as paying the standard rate of VED, which means those who can afford the most expensive cars pay more than the standard rate imposed on other drivers. The expensive car supplement is paid in addition to the standard rate for a period of five years from the start of the second vehicle licence, but for a period of no longer than six years from when the vehicle was first registered. As a vehicle can change hands or be declared off-road through a statutory off-road notification, or SORN, the vehicle licence end date and the expensive car supplement end date will not always align.

Clause 102 relates to the HGV road user levy. That is an annual charge paid by UK hauliers alongside their VED, as well as a daily, weekly or monthly charge for HGVs from outside the UK accessing the UK road network. The levy was introduced in 2014 to ensure that all HGVs, which are heavy and can damage the road surface, contribute to the public finances and to reducing the wear and tear of the road network. In the light of the impacts of covid-19, the Government decided to suspend the levy last August for 12 months to support the haulage sector by reducing their costs.

Clause 100 makes changes to uprate VED rates for cars, vans and motorcycles in line with the retail prices index from 1 April 2021, meaning VED liabilities will not increase in real terms for the 11th successive year. The standard rate of VED for cars registered after 1 April 2017 will increase by £5 only. The flat rate for vans will increase by £10 and motorcyclists will see an increase in rates of no more than £3.

Clause 101 makes changes to ensure that registered keepers of cars with a list price of over £40,000 are issued with the correct annual VED refund, if they sell their vehicle or make a statutory off-road notification in the last year of the vehicle being liable to pay the expensive car supplement. Clause 101 will amend VED legislation, so that the rebate amount is equal to the number of months remaining at the higher rate of duty under the expensive car supplement and the number of months remaining at the standard rate of VED. This change in law will apply from 1 April 2021. Individuals and businesses will not need to do anything differently from what they do now, and this measure will not affect the amount of VED they pay.

Clause 102 will make changes to suspend the HGV road user levy for a further period of 12 months from 1 August 2021, to support the haulage industry and help the covid-19 pandemic recovery efforts. That means that UK-registered keepers of HGVs will save between £76.50 and £1,200 per vehicle again, as they will not have to pay the HGV road user levy when they renew their vehicle licence. Non-UK-based hauliers will also not need to pay the levy during this period.

In conclusion, the changes outlined in clause 100 will ensure that the Government continue to support motorists with the cost of living, while ensuring they continue to make a fair contribution to the public finances. The changes outlined in clause 101 will ensure that VED refunds are issued as intended when the expensive car supplement was introduced in 2017. Finally, the haulage sector supports many other industries, so the changes outlined in clause 102 to ease their financial burden temporarily will support them and help the economy to recover from the impacts of covid-19.

Abena Oppong-Asare Portrait Abena Oppong-Asare
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will briefly respond to each clause in the group. Clause 100 would increase the rate of vehicle excise duty for a variety of vehicles, as mentioned by the Minister. We support the Government’s general approach to incentivise the use of greener and more environmentally friendly vehicles. We do, however, believe that we need to see more action from the Government on increasing the availability and affordability of green and electric vehicles.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders described the 2021 Budget as falling

“short of the support needed to transform the industry and market to the net zero future to which both the Government and industry aspires.”

If UK car manufacturing is to survive the covid crisis and thrive as part of a net zero future, it needs the Government to develop a long-term strategy to support the sector. Labour urges the Government to do just that by implementing a strategy that accelerates the electrification process in a manner that provides a lifeline to the industry, stimulates investment and ensures the future of the automotive sector in the UK for the communities that rely on it. We have called on the Government to create new gigafactories by 2025, make electric vehicle ownership affordable by offering interest-free loans for those on low and middle incomes and accelerate the rollout of charging points, particularly in the areas that have lagged behind. That is the support the automotive industry needs.

Clause 101 is a simple change to allow for the rebate of the additional rate of vehicle excise duty where the vehicle was sold or declared off road, and we support that. As the Minister said, clause 102 extends the suspension of the HGV road user levy for a further year. We support the measures as the logistics and haulage sector continues to recover from the pandemic, as the Minister has just mentioned, and to ensure that vital supply chains continue to function.

I am concerned that the Minister has not mentioned the serious concerns that haulage firms have about the Brexit deal. Specialist haulage firms, such as concert trucks that service UK music tours, have been left in an extremely difficult position by the Government’s Brexit deal, as it allows for three stops in total across the entire European Union before they must return to the UK. That will have serious knock-on effects on other businesses that rely on the haulage firms to transport their equipment across the continent. Other haulage companies have felt the knock-on effect of the Brexit deal too, including having to prepare last minute for changes in customs requirements and a lack of trained staff at customs. While we welcome the extended suspension of the HGV levy, I urge the Government to do more to support the sector.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- Hansard - -

The Government are doing a lot to support the haulage sector. We have provided unprecedented support for businesses and individuals throughout the national restrictions, including the coronavirus job retention scheme and a number of access-to-finance schemes. We have decided to temporarily maintain support for the haulage industry as it plays a critical role in the functioning of our economy and supports many other industries, including our supermarkets and shops. Suspending the levy for a further 12 months is a significant measure to help not just pandemic recovery efforts, but also the industry as a whole. As the hon. Lady made reference to the point by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, that is something that the haulage sector specifically has received, but not every other industry has.

On the question of the impact of Brexit negotiations, I am afraid that is not a matter for the Treasury. I am sure officials will note her concerns and pass them on to the relevant Department. On the question of why the Government are not doing enough to incentivise the uptake of zero-emission vehicles, we use the tax system to encourage the uptake of cars with low carbon dioxide emissions to help us to meet our legally binding climate change target. Zero-emission cars and electric vans are liable to pay no VED. Furthermore, users of zero and ultra-low emission cars have beneficial company car tax rates in comparison with conventionally fuelled vehicles. From April 2021, the Government are applying a nil rate of tax to zero-emission vans within the van benefit charge. We believe that we are doing quite a lot to incentivise the uptake of zero-emission vehicles and electric cars.

Abena Oppong-Asare Portrait Abena Oppong-Asare
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for her comments. I want to go back to the point I raised about the haulage firms and the Brexit deal. I am concerned about how the Minister mentions that Brexit concerns are not a matter for the Treasury, because they are, particularly as clause 102 extends the suspension of the HGV road user levy for a further year. The Government need to look at the impact of that on haulage firms, in particular specialist haulage firms such as concert trucks that service UK music tours. They have been left in an extremely difficult position. The Government need to take that seriously, so I would like the Minister to take that forward and to ensure that such individuals get support.

--- Later in debate ---

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- Hansard - -

The clause makes changes to ensure that the long-haul rates of air passenger duty for the tax year 2022-23 increase in line with the retail price index. The change will ensure that the aviation sector continues to play its part in contributing towards the funding of vital public services.

Aviation plays a crucial role in keeping Britain open for business, and the Government are keen to support its long-term success. The Government recognise the challenging circumstances facing the aviation industry as a result of covid-19. Firms experiencing difficulties can draw upon the unprecedented package of measures announced by the Chancellor, including schemes to raise capital and flexibility with tax bills.

As APD is a per passenger tax, airlines’ liabilities have considerably reduced following the 87% decline in passenger demand caused by the pandemic between April and September 2020, when compared with the previous year. Aviation fuel incurs no duty and tickets are VAT-free, so APD ensures that the aviation sector makes a fair contribution to the public finances. Uprating APD rates in line with inflation is routine and has occurred every year since 2012. The Government announce the rates one year in advance, in order to give airlines sufficient notice of any changes.

The changes to be made by the clause will increase the long-haul APD tax rates for 2022-23 by RPI. The clause increases the long-haul reduced rate for economy class nominally, by just £2; and the standard rate for all classes above economy by £5—a real-terms freeze. The rates for long-haul travel by private jets will increase by £13. The rounding of APD rates to the nearest £1 means that short-haul rates will remain frozen in nominal terms for the 10th year in a row. That benefits more than 75% of all airline passengers.

APD is a fair and efficient tax, with the amount paid corresponding to the distance and class of travel of the passenger, and it is only due when airlines are flying passengers. The changes made by the clause ensure that the aviation sector continues to play its part in contributing towards funding our vital public services.

Abena Oppong-Asare Portrait Abena Oppong-Asare
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the Minister said, the clause will increase, from April 2022, the rates of long-haul air passenger duty in line with inflation while leaving the short-haul duty at its current rate.

As we all know, the aviation sector has struggled enormously during the pandemic, as international travel has in effect shut down. The industry is important to the UK economy and supports 250,000 jobs across the country. The sector’s recovery will be prolonged. Any restructuring must be supported with a transitional strategy for workers and our regional economies that capitalises on the opportunities to grow industry into green technology.

We believe that part of any aviation support must include a clear commitment to tackling climate change and leading the industry to use cleaner fuel and other cutting-edge low or zero emission technologies. Government support should be contingent on airlines retiring old and inefficient aircraft, so that they meet the new industry standards in accordance with the framework of the Paris agreement and the UK’s Climate Change Act 2008.

Several smaller airports, including Teesside and Newquay, were forced to shut their doors at the height of the pandemic. This is an uneven playing field between small and large airports, as staff wages and business rates make up a bigger proportion of costs for regional airports. Without further specific support, regional airports may no longer be viable. The sector has made clear its disappointment with the recent Budget, which failed to set out either the support or the vision for future aviation needs. Will the Minister update us on the aviation support package that the Government promised but which has yet to materialise?

Finally, we know that the Government are currently consulting on a new low band for domestic air passenger duty, and we will watch the outcome of that consultation closely. Will the Minister tell us how that will fit in with our environmental commitments?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- Hansard - -

The clause seeks to set APD rates for April 2022, so it will not take immediate effect. It will increase long-haul air passenger duty rates only in nominal terms, while short-haul rates will remain frozen at current rates, benefiting more than 75% of passengers.

With regard to the issues affecting the aviation industry, air passenger duty is marginal—a £2 increase on economy flights is not what will make or break the industry. We recognise the challenging circumstances faced by the industry as a result of covid-19, and all the firms experiencing difficulties can and have drawn upon the unprecedented package of measures announced by the Chancellor, as I mentioned earlier, including schemes to raise capital and flexibility with their tax bills. We have also provided bespoke support to the sector via the airport and ground operator support scheme. The majority of beneficiaries have been the smaller airports that the hon. Lady mentioned. At the end of the day, APD is a per-passenger tax. Airlines’ liabilities have reduced significantly since the start of covid, with receipts between April and September 2020 down 87% compared with the same period in 2019, so suspending APD would not be appropriate.

On the wider issues that the hon. Lady mentioned on the transition to net zero, we have introduced a wide range of scheme to support the decarbonisation of the aviation sector, including a £15 million competition to support the UK production of sustainable aviation fuel, and the inclusion of aviation in the UK’s emissions trading scheme, which we discussed in the last sitting. The Government will also consult on the overall strategy for the sector’s transition to net zero later this year.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 103 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 104

Amounts of gross gaming yield charged to gaming duty

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 4—Review of impact of section 104—

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must review the impact on investment in parts of the United Kingdom and regions of England of the changes made by section 104 and lay a report of that review before the House of Commons within six months of the passing of this Act.

(2) A review under this section must consider the effects of the provisions on the volume of gambling, including—

(a) the number of people who take part in gambling,

(b) the amount of money spent on gambling, and

(c) the gross gaming yield.

(3) In this section “parts of the United Kingdom” means—

(a) England,

(b) Scotland,

(c) Wales, and

(d) Northern Ireland; and “regions of England” has the same meaning as that used by the Office for National Statistics.”

This new clause would require a report on the effects of section 104 on the volume of gambling.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- Hansard - -

Clause 104 increases the thresholds for the gross gaming yield bands for gaming duty in line with inflation. Gaming duty is a banded tax paid by casinos in the UK, with marginal tax rates varying between 15% and 50%. To ensure that operators are not brought into higher tax bands because of inflation, gaming duty bands are increased in line with RPI inflation. That means that casinos continue to pay the same level of tax in real terms. The clause uprates the bands of gaming duty in line with inflation. That is expected by the industry and assumed in the public finances. The rates of gaming duty themselves will remain unchanged. The change will take effect for the accounting period starting on or after 1 April 2021.

New clause 4 seeks to place a statutory requirement on my right hon. Friend the Chancellor to review and publish a report on the impact of the increase in the gaming duty thresholds on the volume of gambling. The Gambling Commission publishes annually statistics on gambling participation, spend and gross gaming yield for each part of the sector, so an additional report would merely duplicate information that is already available. There is no change to the tax rate in the provision. Accordingly, the Government do not expect the change to have an impact on gambling participation, spend or gross gaming yield.

It is also important to say that new clause 4 is impractical, as the proposed publication deadline, together with the continued lockdown of casinos, would deliver an inconclusive report based on receipts data from a single shortened accounting period. I hope that the Committee is reassured by that and will therefore reject the new clause.

Abena Oppong-Asare Portrait Abena Oppong-Asare
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Clause 104 increases the bands for gaming duty in line with inflation, in effect freezing gaming duties for casinos. It is a relatively small measure, but clearly the taxation and regulation of gambling is extremely important. The Minister will know that hon. Members across the House have taken a keen interest in the issue. Will she therefore update us on the Treasury’s plans for gambling taxation more widely, including for online operators? In particular, what role does she see for taxation in this area as a way of tackling the adverse health effects that problem gambling can lead to?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- Hansard - -

rose—

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

I call Peter Grant.

--- Later in debate ---

Why is it that children cannot watch major sporting events without having gambling advertising forced at them all the time, for example? Why are they allowed to advertise gambling during peak-time TV when children are watching? The reason that is relevant to the Bill is that advertising is designed to encourage people to gamble more, and by gambling more they are helping to fill the Treasury’s coffers. I can understand the reluctance to let go of any part of that £3 billion, and I know that there are hard decisions to be made about how to replace it, but 395,000 lives being scarred and sometimes ended by problem gambling is an issue we cannot afford to ignore.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- Hansard - -

It is worth reminding hon. Members that this measure is a change to gambling taxation and is not related to the regulation of gambling activity, which is a matter for DCMS—I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows that. I take his point about the health effects and the impact on families. The Government continue to monitor the effectiveness of existing gambling controls. DCMS has launched a review of the Gambling Act 2005 with a call for evidence. This closed at the end of March and the Government will respond in due course.

We will also look at how we can ensure that the impact on the sector itself is proportionate, given that much of the casino industry has been closed down for the last year. We believe that the sector is already making a fair contribution to public finances, so this is not necessarily the time for an increase.

Revalorising gaming duty bands in line with inflation, as the Government have done, is assumed in the public finances. Freezing the bands would have a very small impact on the public finances, while pushing smaller, generally regional casinos into high duty bands, hence why we have done this in this way

I remind the Committee that the top rate of gaming duty is currently 50%. The system ensures that casinos pay their fair share of overall gambling tax receipts. This measure does not represent a tax cut. Given DCMS’s call for evidence, I am sure this is an area that Parliament will return to again and again.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

The question is that the clause stand part—

Abena Oppong-Asare Portrait Abena Oppong-Asare
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Dame Angela, I just have some questions for the Minister on gambling taxation more widely, particularly for online operators. Could she elaborate on that? What work is being done to tackle the adverse effects that problem gambling can lead to?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- Hansard - -

On the hon. Lady’s second question, that is a matter for DCMS. On her first question, I referred to that in relation to the tax rate. That is something that we in the Treasury will look to do along with DCMS as part of its review.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

Just to assist the Chair, if Members wish to come back in, could they wave, leap up with vigour or just indicate to catch my eye? Otherwise, I may get past the moment and they will have lost their chance.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 104 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 105

Rates of climate change levy from 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

None Portrait The Chair
- Hansard -

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Clauses 106 to 108 stand part.

New clause 5—Review of impact of sections 105, 106 and 108—

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must review the impact on investment in parts of the United Kingdom and regions of England of the changes made by sections 105, 106 and 108 and lay a report of that review before the House of Commons within six months of the passing of this Act.

(2) A review under this section must consider the effects of the provisions on progress towards the Government’s climate emissions targets.

(3) In this section—

“parts of the United Kingdom” means—

(a) England,

(b) Scotland,

(c) Wales, and

(d) Northern Ireland;

and “regions of England” has the same meaning as that used by the Office for National Statistics.”

This new clause would require a report on the effects of sections 105, 106 and 108 on progress towards the UK Government’s climate emissions targets.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- Hansard - -

Clauses 105 and 106 make changes to ensure that the climate change levy’s main and reduced rates are updated for years 2022-23 and 2023-24, to reflect the rates announced at Budget 2020. Clause 107 increases both the standard and the lower rates of landfill tax in line with inflation from 1 April 2021, as announced at Budget 2020. Clause 108 repeals the provisions in the Finance Acts 2019 and 2020 relating to carbon emissions tax, which were not commenced following the Government’s decision to implement a UK emissions trading scheme from 1 January 2021 instead.

The climate change levy came into effect in April 2001. It is a UK-wide tax on the non-domestic use of energy from gas, electricity, liquefied petroleum gas and solid fuels. It promotes the efficient use of energy to help meet the UK’s international and domestic targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. At Budget 2016, it was announced that electricity and gas climate change levy rates would be equalised by 2025, because electricity is becoming a much cleaner source of energy than gas as we reduce our reliance on coal and use more renewable sources instead.

Landfill tax has been immensely successful in reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill. That tax provides a disincentive to landfill and has contributed to a 70% decrease in waste sent to landfill since 2000. Reducing waste sent to landfill provides both economic and environmental benefits.

Peter Grant Portrait Peter Grant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

How much of the reduction in waste going to landfill is due to a reduction in waste being produced, and how much of it is waste ending up in farmers’ fields and play parks and just being fly-tipped illegally, at further increased cost to the environment, and indeed to the public purse, for clearing it up?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
- Hansard - -

I believe that a significant amount of it is due to the landfill tax. We have been looking at the rate in comparison year on year, and our analysis shows that the landfill tax is having a significant impact. There will always be fly-tipping, irrespective of what the tax rate on landfill is.

Clauses 105 and 106 make changes to the climate change levy rates for 2022-23 and 2023-24, to continue the rebalancing of electricity and gas rates announced in Budget 2016. The 2022-23 and 2023-24 rates were announced in Budget 2020 in order to give businesses plenty of notice to prepare for the changes. At Budget 2020, it was also announced that rates for liquified petroleum gas would be frozen to 31 March 2024.

To limit the economic impact of the tax rate changes on energy-intensive businesses, participants in the climate change agreement scheme will see their climate change levy liability increase by RPI inflation only. That protects the competitiveness of more than 9,000 facilities from energy-intensive industries across some 50 sectors.

When disposed of at a landfill site, each tonne of standard-rated material is currently taxed at £94.15, and lower-rate material draws a tax of £3.00 per tonne. These changes will see rates per tonne increase to £96.70 and £3.10 respectively from 1 April 2021. By increasing rates in line with RPI, we maintain the crucial incentive for the industry to use alternative waste treatment methods and continue the move towards a more circular economy. The changes made by clause 108 will repeal the provisions in the Finance Acts 2019 and 2020 relating to carbon emissions tax, which were not commenced.

New clause 5, tabled by the hon. Members for Glasgow Central, for Glenrothes, for Gordon and for Midlothian, would require the Government to publish a report, within six months of the passing of the Act, on the effects of what would then be sections 105, 106 and 108 on progress towards the Government’s climate emissions targets. As clauses 105 and 106 make changes to ensure that the climate change levy’s main and reduced rates are updated for years 2022-23 and 2023-24, such a report would not be able meaningfully to assess the impact of these changes within six months of the passing of the Act. The Government currently assess and monitor environmental impacts across existing tax measures, and do that alongside other, complementary measures, such as regulation and spending, to understand the impact of policy making in the round. That alludes to the point made by the hon. Member for Glenrothes about landfill tax.

Clause 108 repeals the provisions in Finance Acts 2019 and 2020 relating to a carbon emissions tax, which was not commenced because the Government decided that a UK emissions trading scheme administered by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy would be the best replacement for the EU emissions trading system from 1 January 2021.

As it was not commenced, the carbon emissions tax’s role in meeting the Government’s climate emissions targets cannot be measured. However, Opposition Members should be reassured that the UK ETS, a market-based measure covering a third of UK emissions, will help to deliver a robust carbon price signal. The energy White Paper committed to exploring expanding the UK emissions trading scheme to other sectors and set out our aspirations to continue to lead the world on carbon pricing in the run-up to COP26. The Treasury will continue to work closely with BEIS on the introduction of the UK emissions trading scheme and will keep all environmental taxes under review to ensure that they continue to support the Government’s climate commitments.

In conclusion, the changes made by clauses 105 and 106 will update the climate change levy main and reduced rates for 2022-23 and 2023-24, as announced at Budget 2020 and to deliver on previous Budget announcements. Clause 107 will increase the two rates of landfill tax in line with inflation from 1 April 2021, as announced at Budget 2020. Clause 108 will ensure that the statute book is up to date by repealing the provisions in Finance Acts 2019 and 2020 relating to a carbon emissions tax that were not commenced. I therefore commend the clauses to the Committee and ask that the Committee rejects new clause 5.

Abena Oppong-Asare Portrait Abena Oppong-Asare
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

If I may, I will address the clauses in reverse order. Clause 108 repeals the carbon emissions tax. As the Minister said, the Government introduced this legislation when deciding what to replace the EU emissions trading system with. We welcome the fact that the Government have decided to implement a UK emissions trading system, rather than a carbon emissions tax. The Minister and I recently debated regulations relating to the UK ETS, and I will not repeat the points I made then. However, I stress that our belief is that the UK ETS must be linked with the EU ETS in order to achieve a robust system of carbon pricing to meet our net zero target.

Clause 107 increases the landfill tax in line with inflation. We welcome this small, uncontroversial measure. We talked at considerable length about waste and recycling during our discussion of the plastic packaging tax. I repeat only the point that the Government should invest the revenue from these taxes into recycling facilities and technology. Finally, clauses 105 and 106 make a number of changes to the climate change levy over the coming years, including raising the gas levy and adjusting the climate change agreement rates. Could the Minister set out whether the Government intend to keep the climate change agreement scheme beyond its current period, and if not, what they will replace it with?

As we come to the end of the group of environmental clauses, I will make a few points about tax and our net zero commitment. In February, the National Audit Office published a report into environmental tax measures. The NAO criticised the Treasury and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs for failing to properly consider and evaluate the impact of these taxes on the Government’s environmental targets.

Does the Minister agree that we need information on the environmental impact of all taxes and reliefs? Will she commit to working with HMRC and other bodies to publish this information regularly? Currently, UK taxes with a positive environmental impact account for only 7% of tax revenue, and those with an explicit environmental purpose, such as the climate change levy or landfill tax, account for only 0.5%. So far, and particularly in the last Budget, we have seen a lack of vision from the Chancellor on the environment. We await the Treasury net zero review, but will the Minister set out what steps the Government will take in the short, medium and long term to ensure that our tax system plays a role in meeting our net zero commitment?

Peter Grant Portrait Peter Grant
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The reason why a regular report to Parliament is needed on these taxes is that despite the optimistic assessment that the Exchequer Secretary set out, there are far too many taxes, including the landfill tax. With far too many of the officially designated environmental taxes, and an awful lot of taxes that are not officially environmental but that have an impact on the environment, the Government do not have a very clear handle on what is going on.

In February, the National Audit Office report “Environmental tax measures” stated:

“The exchequer departments do not specify how they will measure the impact of environmental tax measures.”

Before the tax has even been introduced, nobody is clear about what environmental impact they want it to have. The report also states:

“HMRC’s approach to evaluation provides it with limited insight into the environmental impact of taxes.”

Whether those taxes’ main intention is to influence behaviour rather than raise money, or whether they are introduced as a revenue-raising measure that we hope will also have beneficial environmental impacts, the Government’s track record has been that they do not really know what they intend the environmental impact to be before they start, and they usually do not collect information to give a reliable assessment of what the environmental impact has been once the tax is in place. In fact, the revenue consequences of the very small number of taxes that are officially environmental taxes are dwarfed by those of tax reliefs against other forms of taxation for reasons of environmental sustainability.

I will not press new clause 5 to a vote just now, and we will not oppose clauses 105 to 108, but I want to give a message to the Government about their forward setting of objectives and their monitoring of the environmental impact of taxes of all kinds: they really have to do better, and they have to start doing better very quickly.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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On environmental impact, it is important for the hon. Gentleman to realise that where there are multivariable reasons why things occur, measurement will never be 100% accurate. We give the impact that we can measure; others may dispute it, but the Government have taken a view.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the landfill tax in an intervention that I responded to in my speech, but it is a tax that is devolved in Scotland. He did not tell us what the Scottish Government are doing differently from the UK Government—while he was criticising the UK Government’s landfill tax policy, I think he probably forgot that it was a devolved matter.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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No, I will not give way.

The overall impact on the environment has been positive, with the landfill tax contributing to a reduction. The hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead asked about recycling. The fact is that all these things are having an impact. We bring these taxes into play and they change behaviour; we cannot then say that it has nothing to do with the tax that the behaviour has changed. All these things are directly linked.

The hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead asked a specific question about climate change agreements. For my part within the Treasury, that is being dealt with by the net zero review, but those agreements are a BEIS lead. She also asked about linking the UK emissions trading scheme to the EU emissions trading scheme. We are open to linking the UK ETS internationally in principle and we are considering a range of options, but no decisions on preferred linking partners have been made. We are looking to innovate and create a scheme suited to the UK and to our climate commitments.

We started—as the hon. Lady will know, given our debates on the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme Auctioning Regulations 2021—by reducing the cap on emissions by 5%, compared with what it would have been within the EU. We will set up further plans ahead of COP26, but we are going further and faster than EU representatives on this matter.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 105 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 106 to 108 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(David Rutley.)

10.36 am

Adjourned till this day at Two o’clock.

Government Equalities

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Tuesday 27th April 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Ministerial Corrections
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The following is an extract from the oral statement on the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report.
Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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The actual figure is not 25% of black women, but 0.34%. It is a very confusing statistic because we often represent the numbers in terms of numbers per 800,000.

[Official Report, 20 April 2021, Vol. 692, c. 881.]

Letter of correction from the Minister for Equalities, the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Kemi Badenoch).

An error has been identified in my response to the hon. Member for Streatham (Bell Ribeiro-Addy).

The correct response should have been:

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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The actual figure is not 25% of black women, but 0.34%. It is a very confusing statistic because we often represent the numbers in terms of numbers per 100,000.

Oral Answers to Questions

Kemi Badenoch Excerpts
Tuesday 27th April 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling (Clacton) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to differentiate the rate of beer duty for on-trade and off-trade sales.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kemi Badenoch)
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The Treasury is considering the merits of differentiating products based on their place of retail as part of its alcohol duty review. We are currently analysing responses provided by stakeholders to our recent call for evidence and will provide further updates in due course.

Giles Watling Portrait Giles Watling [V]
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I thank my hon. Friend for her answer. It is all very well conducting calls for evidence and creating reports, welcome though they may be, but we live in extraordinary times that require extraordinary measures taken quickly. I implore the Minister to press her Department to act on this matter now. Hospitality in general, and pubs in particular, are facing closure every day. Will she act?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I know that my hon. Friend is a fierce advocate of pubs and brewers, and he has been proposing a duty differential for several years. I should stress that I am personally very interested in this proposal, but there are a number of complex issues associated with it, including how producers and wholesalers would account for and manage their stock of beer; how to ensure that any reduced rate is not exploited fraudulently; and how any differential would interact with the existing small brewers relief scheme. However, I would like to reassure him that we are looking closely at the proposals he has put forward.

Paul Holmes Portrait Paul Holmes (Eastleigh) (Con)
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What progress his Department has made on the establishment of freeports.

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Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab)
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What steps his Department is taking to increase the amount of UK steel used in Government infrastructure projects.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kemi Badenoch)
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There are global challenges in the steel industry, with vast overcapacity and supply outstripping demand. However, the Government have supported the steel sector extensively, including providing more than £500 million in recent years to help with the cost of energy. Our unprecedented package of covid support is still available to the sector to protect jobs and ensure that producers have the right support during this challenging time.

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock
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Steel is central in terms of good jobs, national security and combating climate change. There can be no post-pandemic economic recovery without a strong and healthy steel industry. Will the Chancellor therefore commit today to recognising the pivotal strategic importance of the steel industry by using the power of the Treasury to reduce the exorbitant electricity prices faced by our steelmakers—currently 82% higher than in Germany—so that our steel industry can compete on a level playing field?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I reassure the hon. Gentleman that that is something that we are doing. As I mentioned in my earlier answer, we have already spent £500 million across the sector specifically to deal with that point. Further, we are taking a number of steps to support the decarbonisation of the UK steel industry. For example, we announced the £250 million clean steel fund to support the decarbonisation of the steel sector, including its transition to new low-carbon technologies and processes.

Abena Oppong-Asare Portrait Abena Oppong-Asare (Erith and Thamesmead) (Lab)
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Jobs in the steel industry are crucial to the people of Hartlepool. In June, the first instalment of the EU research fund for coal and steel will be returned to the UK. Are the Government planning to ring fence that money to support the decarbonising and modernising of the industry, given the vital importance of protecting steel jobs for the future?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I thank the hon. Lady for her question. I mentioned in my answer to the hon. Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) the steps that we are taking to decarbonise the UK steel industry. As I said, there are global challenges in the industry and we have been supporting various companies. For example, last year, we provided a £30 million loan to Celsa, safeguarding a key supplier to the UK construction industry and securing more than 1,000 jobs, including more than 800 positions at the company’s main sites in south Wales. The Government will continue working with businesses to understand the issues that they are facing, including continuing to engage business sectors that are affected by covid and our changing relationship with the EU.

Gary Sambrook Portrait Gary Sambrook (Birmingham, Northfield) (Con)
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What fiscal steps his Department is taking to support the (a) retraining and (b) upskilling of workers.

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Ruth Cadbury Portrait Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab)
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What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Transport on providing sector-specific financial support to the aviation sector.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kemi Badenoch)
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We speak to our colleagues on a regular basis about a range of matters. The Department for Transport is in regular contact with the Treasury regarding the challenging circumstances facing the aviation sector as a result of covid-19.

Ruth Cadbury Portrait Ruth Cadbury [V]
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Furlough ends in September, which is of no help to the aviation sector and airport communities, which will take months to recover even partially as we wait for the world to unlock. Many aviation businesses are on the edge financially, and they employ staff in safety-critical roles where there is a risk of skill fade if they cannot be supported. They are seeking longer-term support, as are communities such as ours in Hounslow, where tens of thousands of people depend on the airport for their livelihoods. Will the Treasury address the specific challenge of the aviation sector and airport communities well before the furlough scheme ends in September?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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The Government recognise the challenging circumstances facing the aviation industry, which the hon. Member described. The industry can draw on the package of measures announced by the Chancellor, including not just the furlough scheme but schemes to raise capital, flexibilities with tax bills and employment support. The aerospace sector and aviation customers are being supported with over £11 billion made available through loan guarantees, support for exporters, the Bank of England’s covid corporate financing facility and grants for research and development. In addition, the renewed airport and ground operations support scheme, which the Chancellor announced in his Budget, will provide support for eligible businesses in England with their fixed costs for a further six months up to the equivalent of their business rate liabilities for the first half of 2021-22.

Marcus Fysh Portrait Mr Marcus Fysh (Yeovil) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to encourage business investment.

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Zarah Sultana Portrait Zarah Sultana (Coventry South) (Lab)
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What steps he is taking to (a) maintain jobs in the steel industry and (b) create new green manufacturing jobs.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kemi Badenoch)
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The Government have supported the steel sector extensively, including providing over £500 million in recent years to help with the costs of energy. At the summer economic update, the Government announced an ambitious £3.05 billion package for housing decarbonisation designed to cut carbon, save people money and create jobs. Alongside that, our covid support package is still available to the sector to protect jobs and ensure that producers have the right support during this challenging time.

Zarah Sultana Portrait Zarah Sultana [V]
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My constituency is home to Liberty Pressing Solutions, part of the Liberty Steel Group. The threat of the company’s collapse risks losing good, skilled, unionised jobs in Coventry and across the country. This would be a disaster for the city and for British manufacturing, so rather than waiting for the company to go bust before taking action, risking workers’ jobs, terms and conditions, will the Government step in now, with all options on the table, including bringing the business into public ownership, guaranteeing its future and retaining the skills we need to rebuild and to tackle the climate emergency?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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It would not be appropriate for me to comment on the details of individual companies, due to commercial sensitivities. We are monitoring developments around Liberty and continue to engage closely with the company, the broader UK steel industry and trade unions. I recognise that reports around Liberty cause worry and uncertainty to the affected workers and their families. What I would say to the hon. Lady is that there is a lot of stuff that the Government are doing that will help her constituency. For instance, we are helping to create new green manufacturing jobs by providing support to drive the electrification of the UK automotive sector, supporting thousands of high-quality jobs in the west midlands.

Gordon Henderson Portrait Gordon Henderson (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Con)
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What fiscal steps his Department is taking to help young people into work.

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Alex Cunningham Portrait Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab) [V]
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Will the Minister guarantee the future of the steel industry in Hartlepool? [Interruption.] Anybody will do.

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kemi Badenoch)
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As I said in answer to earlier questions on this issue, the Government are providing unprecedented support to the steel industry. If the hon. Gentleman has something specific to bring to my attention about the steel industry in Hartlepool, I am happy for him to write to me and I will look at the issues, but I have already answered the question and talked about the measures of support that are in place.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con) [V]
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On 31 January, in answer to the debate on justice for Equitable Life policyholders, this House was assured that all records were being retained and would be available in the event of their being needed. Equally, we were assured that there were no plans to destroy those records. I was therefore shocked that the Public Accounts Committee, in its hearing last week, was informed by Treasury officials that the records had been destroyed and would not be available. That makes getting justice for Equitable Life policyholders more expensive, so will my right hon. Friend agree to meet me and a small delegation of the all-party parliamentary group for justice for Equitable Life policyholders, so that we can get to the bottom of how we can move this long-running saga forward?

Sarah Olney Portrait Sarah Olney (Richmond Park) (LD) [V]
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The Association of Accounting Technicians has published its response to the consultation opened by the Treasury on its plans to reduce air passenger duty, in which it argues that a reduction would be wrong, as it “contradicts and greatly weakens government policy on seeking to reach ‘net zero’ by 2050”. Why does the Government’s tax policy not support their net zero goals?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I am not sure exactly what reduction in air passenger duty the hon. Lady is referring to. We are increasing air passenger duty in this year’s Finance Bill.