Oral Answers to Questions

Michael Gove Excerpts
Monday 27th June 2022

(3 days, 2 hours ago)

Commons Chamber
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Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (SNP)
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22. What recent discussions he has had with elected members in the devolved Administrations on the (a) equity and (b) transparency of the (i) levelling-up fund and (ii) UK shared prosperity fund.

Michael Gove Portrait The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations (Michael Gove)
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The UK shared prosperity fund will deliver funding to all parts of our United Kingdom, and our allocation approach gives every region and nation a real-terms match with EU funding. Details are published on gov.uk. We have engaged with the devolved Administrations at all levels on the design of the fund, and their input has helped to inform the most appropriate mix of interventions and local allocations for each part of the United Kingdom.

Jamie Wallis Portrait Dr Wallis
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Does my right hon. Friend agree that by directly investing in local communities, such as my Bridgend constituency, levelling up is extended so that all of Wales benefits?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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My hon. Friend puts it very well. The UK shared prosperity fund, the levelling-up fund and, indeed, the community ownership fund, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales is championing today, together help communities such as Bridgend, which my hon. Friend represents so effectively, to provide more opportunities to more citizens.

Robin Millar Portrait Robin Millar
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My right hon. Friend will share my surprise to hear that the Welsh Labour Minister for the Economy wrote to all council leaders in Wales on 14 June saying

“Welsh government will not help deliver UK government programmes in Wales we consider to be flawed.”

Will my right hon. Friend assure the residents of Aberconwy that such directions will not be allowed to frustrate the sharing of prosperity in Wales?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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My hon. Friend raises a very important point, and I am disappointed. Vaughan Gething is a nice guy but it is a mistake, when we are decentralising power and resources to local government in Wales, for the Welsh Government and the Senedd to take that position. It is vital that we work together in the interest of the whole United Kingdom. This Parliament has been clear about ensuring that funding is available to local government and councillors in Wales of every party. The Welsh Government’s approach does not serve Wales well.

Mick Whitley Portrait Mick Whitley
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This Government fought and won the last election with a commitment to ensuring that post-Brexit funding will, at a minimum, match European Union subsidies, but the shared prosperity fund allocated to the Liverpool city region is £10 million a year less than we previously received from the EU. Will the Secretary of State concede that this is the latest in a long line of broken Tory promises? And will he commit to reforming an out-of-date, inadequate and wholly arbitrary funding formula that has seen some of the most deprived communities in the country lose out on vital sources of funding?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I respectfully disagree with the hon. Gentleman. If we look at not just the UK shared prosperity fund but the other investment in the Liverpool city region, we will see that this Government are absolutely committed not just to matching but to exceeding the support that was given under the European Union. I am looking forward to visiting the Liverpool city region later this week to discuss with the combined authority Mayor Steve Rotheram and others how levelling up is working on the ground.

Stuart C McDonald Portrait Stuart C. McDonald
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The recent Public Accounts Committee report reminds us:

“Economic development is a devolved power”,

but decisions that would previously have been made according to Scottish Government priorities are now

“based entirely on UK Government’s assessment of priorities.”

In short, that is not decentralisation; it is a power grab. What will the Department do to address the PAC’s scepticism about how closely devolved priorities have been accommodated within the shared prosperity fund and other policies?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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The hon. Gentleman will, I am sure, be aware that I had the opportunity of speaking to the Scottish Parliament’s Finance and Public Administration Committee, which covers these questions. I was struck by the fact that Scottish National party MSPs and, indeed, a Green MSP were all eager for the UK Government to play an even more assertive role in deploying the levelling-up and UK shared prosperity funds. The rhetoric of a power grab 12 months ago has been replaced by a desire to work constructively. I should note, of course, that the Chairman of that Committee is the partner of his party’s Front-Bench spokesperson here, the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson). Those MSPs are, I think, closer to their communities than distant West—Westminster figures.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
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That’s easy for you to say!

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I know. Some politicians don’t eat their own words—I swallow mine whole.

It is those MSPs who are closer to their communities, and unlike the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald), they want the UK Government to work with them.

Stephen Crabb Portrait Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire) (Con)
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It has been very good to work closely with Pembrokeshire County Council over the last 12 months on a successful bid to the levelling-up fund to improve Haverfordwest town centre. Does my right hon. Friend agree that when it comes to Wales, local authorities really value the new direct relationship with the UK Government, and that the levelling-up fund creates new opportunities for partnership that do not exclude devolved Government and provide more opportunities for local Members of Parliament to get in and help their communities work on solutions?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. When I talk on calls to local authorities in Scotland, as well as local authorities in Wales, it is striking how grateful they are that the UK Government are taking a pro-devolution, pro-decentralisation approach. That is in stark contrast to the Welsh Assembly Government and the Scottish Government, who are centralising power in Cardiff and Edinburgh and not listening to the communities so well represented on these Benches.

Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) (Lab)
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Further to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mick Whitley), South Yorkshire will also be disadvantaged because of a miscalculation in the previous round of funding that has been baked into the new allocation process. This means that while Cornwall will get £229 per head, South Yorkshire will get £33 per head. I do not begrudge Cornwall a penny of that money, but I am sure that the Secretary of State will understand why I want a fair deal for my constituents in South Yorkshire. Will he help me get it?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point and for reminding the House that we have stuck to our manifesto commitment to ensure that, as well as Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Cornwall was absolutely protected. I take his point about the calculations for South Yorkshire. I look forward to working with him, South Yorkshire MPs and Oliver Coppard to ensure that appropriate resource is provided. Just the other week, I had the opportunity to see the great work that is being carried forward in both Sheffield and Barnsley on his behalf.

Mike Amesbury Portrait Mike Amesbury (Weaver Vale) (Lab)
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Despite a manifesto promise to

“at a minimum match the size”

of the EU structural funds, the shared prosperity fund means £371 million less a year for English regions, as illustrated by hon. Members in the Chamber today. Of course, that cut comes at a time when the Conservative-led Local Government Association rightfully argues that the current council settlement falls £2 billion a year short of what is needed because of sky-high inflation. How does the Secretary of State plan to respond urgently to that plea?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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It is important that we fund local government appropriately, and we can do so only because of the way in which our economy has been well managed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—[Interruption.] I am afraid that every time we hear from Labour Front Benchers, we hear another plea for more spending, but never, ever do they give an explanation of where the money will come from. The last time there was a Labour Chief Secretary, he left a note saying that there was no money left. Lord preserve us from another Labour Government, who would borrow and spend and take this country back to bankruptcy.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson, Patricia Gibson.

Patricia Gibson Portrait Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP)
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Despite the Secretary of State’s bluster, he will be aware that the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy has written to him—I have the letter right here—to express her deep concerns about the UK Government’s lack of engagement during the drafting of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill and about how it cuts across devolved responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament. Will the Secretary of State meet representatives from the Scottish Parliament specifically to discuss the democratic imperative of respect for the powers of that Parliament? Or does he simply not recognise the democratic legitimacy of the Scottish Parliament?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I love to visit the Scottish Parliament; all sorts of wonderful folk serve in it, not least my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Douglas Ross), and others who do such a brilliant job in holding the Scottish Government to account—

Patricia Gibson Portrait Patricia Gibson
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He’s not here!

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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Well, he is holding the Scottish Government to account. Nobody else is doing it.

I had the opportunity to appear in front of Mr Ken Gibson a few months ago—what a pleasure it was. The Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government are our partners in making sure that we can make levelling up a success. An example of that is the fact that the Cabinet Secretary whose letter the hon. Lady so elegantly holds has been working with the UK Government to deliver two new freeports in Scotland that would not have been possible if we were still in the European Union. I am glad to see the Scottish Government embracing one of the benefits of Brexit.

Marsha De Cordova Portrait Marsha De Cordova (Battersea) (Lab)
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5. If he will impose a legally binding deadline for remediation works on tower blocks in England that are deemed unsafe as a result of (a) cladding and (b) other associated fire risks.

Michael Gove Portrait The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations (Michael Gove)
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The Government are providing funds to remediate unsafe cladding in buildings above 11 metres and have secured unprecedented pledges from developers to fix the buildings they constructed. Today, I have written an open letter to all building owners of properties with critical building safety defects to remind them that we have taken powers, through the Building Safety Act 2022, to compel them to fund and undertake the necessary work to make all buildings safe.

Marsha De Cordova Portrait Marsha De Cordova
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We still have no legal deadline in place to fix cladding and fire safety issues and no justice for Grenfell, and thousands of buildings, including in my constituency, are still unsafe. The Government have been dodging their responsibilities for more than the past five years. In January, the Secretary of State said that leaseholders are “blameless” and that it would be “morally wrong” for them to pay. Why, then, does he think it is fair for so many leaseholders, including in my Battersea constituency, to potentially have to pay £15,000 for non-cladding costs to correct problems that they did not cause?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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The hon. Lady makes a number of important points. It is fair to say, and most people in the House would acknowledge, that, although progress over the past five years has not been everything that it should be, in recent months we have succeeded in securing commitments from developers to remediate the buildings for which they are responsible. With the publication of the open letter today and the passing of the Building Safety Act, a requirement has been placed on freeholders to pay for the work that is required. We have a cap on the commitments that any leaseholder has to enter into and that cap is consistent with the precedent in Florrie’s law. I look forward to working with the hon. Lady, as an assiduous constituency Member of Parliament, to make sure that those whom she serves are relieved of any obligation beyond that which is fair to ensure that their buildings are safe.

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con)
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Most of the new build properties built in North West Durham are built to a high standard, but sadly some are not, and when they are not, people get in touch with my constituency office. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that by further extending the rights of residents to seek compensation for issues arising from poor workmanship during construction we will help millions of new homeowners throughout the country to have the opportunity to pursue developers for poor workmanship, so that no one is left in substandard new housing?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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My hon. Friend is a brilliant campaigner not just for his constituency but for those who are in poor housing. Although the overwhelming number of new homes are built to very high standards, some do not meet the quality and decency thresholds that they should. I will work with my hon. Friend to achieve precisely the goal that he outlined.

Grahame Morris Portrait Grahame Morris (Easington) (Lab)
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6. What support his Department is providing to deliver housing regeneration in former industrial areas.

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Alan Whitehead Portrait Dr Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab)
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T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

Michael Gove Portrait The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations (Michael Gove)
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I had the enormous privilege on Wednesday last week of attending the unveiling of the Windrush memorial, which marks the fantastic contribution made to this country over more than 70 years by migrants from the Caribbean and the wider Commonwealth. I wish to place on the record my thanks not just to the Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Kemi Badenoch), but to Baroness Floella Benjamin for the fantastic work she undertook to ensure that that fitting memorial could be unveiled.

Alan Whitehead Portrait Dr Whitehead
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I welcome the proposals to extend the decent homes standard in the private rented sector in the just published, “A fairer private rented sector” White Paper. Is it the Government’s intention to include their stated targets on private rented sector energy efficiency in homes in the decent homes standard? If they do that, what sanctions will the Government be proposing for landlords who fail to make their properties energy-efficient?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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The hon. Gentleman is right that energy efficiency is a critical part of making sure that homes are decent, safe and warm, and we will be considering what steps and what proposals we might be able to put in place to ensure that landlords live up to their responsibilities.

Peter Aldous Portrait Peter Aldous  (Waveney)  (Con)
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T3.   Local authorities such as Suffolk County Council are facing major challenges in recruiting social care staff. That is cascading right through the health and social care system and causing major difficulties for hospitals in discharging patients, getting on top of the backlog of operations and getting ambulances quickly back on the road. Can my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State outline the discussions he has had with local government to remove this logjam?

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Lisa Nandy Portrait Lisa Nandy (Wigan) (Lab)
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We have had a week of travel chaos while the Transport Secretary has sat idly by, and there is another crisis on the horizon: the local government cleaners, social workers and refuse workers who cannot afford to feed their families on the wages they are paid. They need and deserve a pay rise. The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities knows that workers and council leaders struggling with record Tory inflation cannot square the circle alone. Nobody wants rubbish piling up in the streets, nobody wants older people left in their homes, and nobody wants families left to break. Will he commit to making a better fist of this than his hopeless colleague at the Department for Transport? He should do as they ask and come to the table to protect our vital workers, who kept this country going during the pandemic, and the communities they serve so well.

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I am surprised that the hon. Lady talks about “Tory inflation”—presumably the inflation in Germany is Social Democratic inflation, inflation in France is En Marche inflation, and inflation in the United States is Democrat inflation. The truth is that when it comes to dealing with the cost of living crisis and ensuring that our economy is on the right track, she and her colleagues would be better served by using their links with the trade unions to get workers back to work, rather than she and her colleagues supporting the RMT in strike action that gets in the way of our economy moving forward.

Lisa Nandy Portrait Lisa Nandy
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It would be laughable if the Government’s failure to do their job had not brought this country to a standstill and was not about to get much worse. The Secretary of State talks about Labour Members doing their jobs, but the last time we had strikes on this level was under the Thatcher Government in 1989, and he was on a picket line—I prefer his earlier approach. If he is serious about getting the economy moving, why does he not do his job?

My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham North (Alex Norris) talked about the billions of pounds that the Government have poured down the drain on levelling up, because the Secretary of State does not have the first clue how to spend it. He knows that the only way out of this low growth, high tax spiral that his Government have created is to get the economy firing on all cylinders. Can he remind me again whose job that is? It is his. If he will not do it, why will he not get out of the way and give that money to local council leaders so that they can?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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That was beautifully scripted. I offer my support to the hon. Lady in her leadership bid; I am behind her 100% of the way, as, I am sure, are her friends in the RMT and that other figure who joined Labour MPs on the picket line last week: Arthur Scargill. She talks about going back to the future, but she would take us back to the future of the ’80s with strikes, inflation and borrowing. She is the Marty McFly of politics: someone who lives in the past, even as she aspires to greater things.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I say to both Front Benchers that it is totally unacceptable to take that length of time in topical questions. Back Benchers are the people who are meant to be asking topical questions, so please consider the rest of the Chamber.

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Patricia Gibson Portrait Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP)
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Will the Secretary of State confirm his willingness to meet me, North Ayrshire Council and key partners to discuss the robust proposals for a fusion energy plant at Ardeer in my constituency? Does he agree that a successful Ardeer bid would provide a step change in local and regional economic prosperity, as well as being a catalyst for long-term sustainable investment in North Ayrshire?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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Yes and yes. Even though they are not in my party, I must say that North Ayrshire’s elected representatives in this House and in Holyrood do a fantastic job for their constituents in championing nuclear power.

Dan Carden Portrait Dan Carden (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab)
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T2. I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. There is an alcohol harm paradox, whereby people in the most deprived communities drink less but suffer larger consequences. In Liverpool, 88% of alcohol is sold at below 50p a unit, and 24% of the population drink at high risk. More and more premises are seeking to open. Will the Secretary of State look again at making public health a licensing objective and review the way that licensing fees are set nationally so that they could be set at a local level?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I am sure the whole House knows of the hon. Gentleman’s courage and principle in campaigning on such questions. He makes a valid point. A health disparities White Paper is forthcoming soon and I will discuss his precise point with my right hon. Friend the Health and Social Care Secretary.

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Fleur Anderson Portrait Fleur Anderson (Putney) (Lab)
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T5. The Secretary of State promised an overhaul of the building safety fund to put an end to the endless delays to the funding that people in unsafe buildings desperately need, but the delays continue. Three blocks in my constituency—the Swish building, the Radial development and Percy Laurie House—have all been pending for well over a year now, and they have heard nothing from the fund. Will the Secretary of State meet me to discuss these blocks, and stop these and many applications getting stuck?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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Absolutely. In the first instance, I will ask Lord Greenhalgh to investigate, and then we will of course follow up with a meeting.

Peter Gibson Portrait Peter Gibson (Darlington) (Con)
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Burtree in the north of Darlington has been granted garden village status. However, the current difficulties posed by nutrient neutrality guidance from Natural England are causing delays not just for this developer, but others. What can my right hon. Friend do to rectify this situation? Moreover, can I press him to do all he can to unblock the bureaucratic backlog between Homes England, the Treasury and his Department, to enable Burtree to progress?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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Absolutely. On nutrient neutrality, we are working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Natural England to resolve this question. On the second point, I will apply appropriate pressure to tender parts.

Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab)
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T7. The Secretary of State will be aware of my interest in flood prevention from my ten-minute rule Bill—the Flooding (Prevention and Insurance) Bill—and how important the issue is to Hull and the East Riding. Will he be following the Labour Government in Wales in enacting schedule 3 to the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 for England, which would ensure minimum standards of sustainable drainage systems on every new property?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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Sustainable drainage systems are a vital part of future developments, so I will look closely at the recommendation the hon. Member makes.

James Grundy Portrait James Grundy (Leigh) (Con)
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While currently only local authorities can initiate levelling-up fund bids, has my right hon. Friend given consideration to giving other organisations, such as community interest companies or charities, the ability to submit LUF bids, so long as they have the backing of the local MP?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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That is an intriguing idea, and it would be a significant development. My hon. Friend is, I think, probably the most effective Member of Parliament in the borough of Wigan, and can I say that I look forward to working closely with him on that?

Mohammad Yasin Portrait Mohammad Yasin (Bedford) (Lab)
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Since the Tories came into power, 800,000 fewer households aged under 45 own their homes, nearly 1 million more people now rent—often at a cost higher than a mortgage—and the number of truly affordable homes and new social rented homes being built has fallen by over 80%. Is the Secretary of State ashamed of this record, which is failing a generation of young people?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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No, but there is more to do.

Nickie Aiken Portrait Nickie Aiken (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con)
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I was very proud when this Government repealed the Vagrancy Act 1824 under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, and the last thing we should do is demonise and criminalise people who rough-sleep and beg. I absolutely appreciate that there can be antisocial behaviour with aggressive begging, but we have legislation —more robust and more modern legislation—that deals with that. Therefore, I was concerned to see that clause 187 of the new Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill disregards the repeal of the Vagrancy Act. When is a repeal not a repeal?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. The question was too long.

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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There will be no return to the Vagrancy Act. We will work with the Home Office to ensure that there are appropriate measures to deal with any form of antisocial behaviour, but criminalising rough-sleeping and begging is not on the agenda.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)
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I have leaseholders in my constituency of Warwick and Leamington who are unable to sell their properties because the properties have not been painted for 40 years, despite the freeholder’s obligations. Why have the Government actually postponed their leasehold reforms from this Parliament?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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They are coming: we are going to introduce those reforms in the next Queen’s Speech.

Greg Knight Portrait Sir Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con)
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Is the Secretary of State aware that in 2019 I took through Parliament the Parking (Code of Practice) Act with all-party support? This measure mandates the Government to introduce a code to make parking fairer for motorists. In view of the overwhelming support for this measure on both sides of the House, why are the Government now dragging their feet on the matter?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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There is a challenge to some of the proposals we are putting forward, with which we have to deal in the courts.

Carol Monaghan Portrait Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) (SNP)
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Scotland receives 40% less money from levelling-up funding than it received from the EU. When does the Secretary of State estimate Scotland will get the same amount of funding as we had as a member of the EU?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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Scotland is just as generously funded as ever before, but it would be even better for Scotland if the Scottish Government were not spending £20 million on campaigning for independence, because as we all know, breaking up the United Kingdom would be an economic disaster for Scotland.

Tim Loughton Portrait Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con)
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Ministers are aware of the long-standing limbo the learned societies of Burlington House find themselves in because of the proposed rent increases from the Government, and I declare an interest as a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. Apparently the Secretary of State has promised the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) a meeting to get everybody around the table to sort this out. May we urgently have that meeting before the summer recess, and will he give us a date now?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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My hon. Friend is a distinguished archaeologist and antiquarian—although still a youthful-looking antiquarian. Yes, we will have that meeting; it will happen before 22 July and I will invite both my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant).

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP)
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The Secretary of State has mentioned that there will be more opportunities for all of the UK as a result of the levelling-up programme, and of course we welcome that. He also knows there is a subsidy control mechanism in operation in Northern Ireland that prevents Northern Ireland from benefiting from levelling up and other generous benefits that flow from this place. Will the Secretary of State today ensure that everyone on his side of the House—and I encourage Members on the Opposition side of the House to do this too—votes for the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, in which clause 12 will remove that impediment to progress?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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The Foreign Secretary will open the Second Reading debate, and I hope people will listen to everything that she and indeed the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland say, in order to make sure Northern Ireland can fully participate in all the benefits of being part of the UK.

Jane Hunt Portrait Jane Hunt (Loughborough) (Con)
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I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

There are two villages in my local area that will essentially become one due to a development that was granted approval on appeal. How is the Secretary of State addressing the current problem of the lack of a five-year land supply circumventing local planning decisions?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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The Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill and our forthcoming national planning policy prospectus will address precisely that question.

Peter Grant Portrait Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP)
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I welcome the Secretary of State’s new-found enthusiasm for the Scottish Parliament. Does that enthusiasm extend to recognising the mandate that Parliament has to honour the manifesto commitments on which a clear majority of its Members have been elected in 2021, 2016 and 2011?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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In 2014 the people of Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom and were told at the time by the Scottish National party that it was a once in a generation vote. Eight years on from that vote it would be folly indeed, at a time when there is war on the European continent, we face cost of living challenges and we are all committed to working together to deal with the legacy of covid, to spend even more money attempting to break up and smash the United Kingdom instead of working to heal and unite.

Paul Holmes Portrait Paul Holmes (Eastleigh) (Con)
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Eastleigh Borough Council is scheduled to have £670 million of debt by 2025, with no sign of it reducing. Does the Secretary of State think this is acceptable, and what plan does his Department have to tackle such profligate councils?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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As Eastleigh Borough Council is so profligate, I presume—I do not know; I do not have the facts in front of me—it must be a Liberal Democrat-controlled council, because profligacy and fiscal incontinence on such a level could only be engineered by the opportunistic gang that masquerades as the Liberal Democrat party.

Homes for Ukraine Update

Michael Gove Excerpts
Wednesday 22nd June 2022

(1 week, 1 day ago)

Written Statements
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Michael Gove Portrait The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations (Michael Gove)
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The Homes for Ukraine scheme will allow eligible children and minors under the age of 18 who have already applied through the Homes for Ukraine Scheme to come to the UK without a parent or guardian, the Government announced today, 22 June 2022.

This policy will initially apply to the 1,000 children who have already applied to the Home Office but are unable to travel as they are not travelling or reuniting with a parent or guardian.

After working closely with the Ukrainian Government, the changes will enable a child to apply for a visa if they have proof of parental consent. This must be certified by an authority approved by the Ukrainian Government such as notary authorities or Ukrainian consul abroad.

Extensive sponsor checks will also be carried out by local authorities ahead of any visa being granted, with councils able to veto any sponsor arrangements they deem unsuitable.

The sponsor should also, except in exceptional circumstances, be someone who is personally known to the parents.

The Government are working with the Ukrainian Government, devolved Administrations, local authorities and charities and voluntary groups.

[HCWS123]

Housing, Communities and Local Government

Michael Gove Excerpts
Monday 13th June 2022

(2 weeks, 3 days ago)

Ministerial Corrections
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Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas
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I wonder if there is a page missing in my copy of the Bill, because I was looking for the net zero test, which I am sure the Secretary of State would agree ought to be applied to all planning decisions, policies and procedures, yet it is conspicuous by its absence. Does he agree that if we are serious about using this Bill to really level up, then we need to have that net zero test? Can he commit to that now?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I will say three things as briefly as I can. First, the national planning policy framework that will be published in July will say significantly more about how we can drive improved environmental outcomes. Secondly, there is in the Bill a new streamlined approach to ensuring that all development is in accordance with the highest environmental standards. Thirdly, as the hon. Lady knows, under the 25-year environment plan and with the creation of the Office for Environmental Protection, the non-regression principle is embedded in everything that we do. The leadership that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has shown, not least at COP26, in driving not just this country but the world towards net zero should reassure her on that front.

[Official Report, 8 June 2022, Vol. 715, c. 822.]

Letter of correction from the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations, the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove).

An error has been identified in my response to the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas).

The correct response should have been:

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I will say three things as briefly as I can. First, a document setting out how we intend to change national planning policy that will be published in July will say significantly more about how we can drive improved environmental outcomes. Secondly, there is in the Bill a new streamlined approach to ensuring that all development is in accordance with the highest environmental standards. Thirdly, as the hon. Lady knows, under the 25-year environment plan and with the creation of the Office for Environmental Protection, the non-regression principle is embedded in everything that we do. The leadership that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has shown, not least at COP26, in driving not just this country but the world towards net zero should reassure her on that front.

Social Housing and Building Safety

Michael Gove Excerpts
Thursday 9th June 2022

(3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Gove Portrait The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations (Michael Gove)
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I beg to move,

That this House has considered social housing and building safety.

The events of the night of 14 June 2017 were unimaginably horrific. The fate of those living in Grenfell Tower is something that none of us can ever forget. I am sure I speak for Members across the House of Commons when I say that the 72 innocent people who lost their lives—18 of them children—will forever be in our memory. Today we are approaching the fifth anniversary of that tragic night and we all, particularly those of us in government, have a chance as a House to reflect on the tragedy and the important questions that it posed. We have to be clear: what happened that night should never have occurred. Each of us has a right to be safe in our home. The situation in which the residents of Grenfell Tower were placed was unforgivable. The fact that those in the tower were not safe exposed failures that had been overlooked for too long—failures in building control and safety that it is vital we address.

As we reflect on this tragedy, we should bear in mind that there had been warnings before that night. Residents of the tower and others had warned about how the voices of those in social housing were not heeded. In reflecting on what happened, we should reflect not only on the failures in regulation and building safety but on the way in which social housing tenants had not had their rights respected or their voices heard as they should have been. We all have to do better to ensure that issues of life and death are never overlooked again, and that everyone in this country can live their life in safety and dignity, in a home that is warm, decent and safe.

I am glad that we are joined in the Public Gallery by some of those directly affected, including bereaved families, friends and survivors who, for almost five years now, have been living with the ongoing consequences of this tragedy in north Kensington. Since I was given this responsibility as Secretary of State last September, I have been genuinely humbled to hear the personal stories of those affected by the tragedy. I thank them for the vigour, energy, sincerity and determination of their campaign. It cannot have been easy—by God it cannot have been easy—to live with the memories of what happened five years ago, but the people joining us here today, and their friends, relatives and neighbours, have campaigned with dignity and resolution over the last five years to ensure that appropriate lessons are learned.

I can think of few better representatives of community spirit, few better activists for a better world, than those from Grenfell United and the other organisations representing the next of kin, bereaved relatives and survivors. It is important the Government recognise that those voices and that activism should result in action. Again, I apologise to the bereaved, the relatives and the survivors for the fact that, over the last five years, the Government have sometimes been too slow to act and have sometimes behaved insensitively. It is important that we now translate the actions they are demanding into real and lasting change. As I hope I have done, and as I will always seek to do, that involves acknowledging what we got wrong as a Government and what went wrong more widely in our building safety system.

It is clear from the wonderful documentary work on the experience of those in Grenfell Tower that their representatives had warned before the refurbishment about some of the dangers, some of the high-handedness and some of the lack of consideration for which the tenant management organisation and others charged with tenants’ welfare were responsible. Lessons need to be learned about that.

It is also the case that, in the immediate aftermath of the fire, many of the institutions upon which people in North Kensington should have been able to rely failed them. We have to be honest about that, too. There is nothing I can say from the Dispatch Box today that can make up for those failures. All we can do is seek to learn from those mistakes and make sure we work with the community to ensure that nothing like this tragedy ever happens again.

My Department has a dedicated team of civil servants who are working to make sure those lessons are learned and the community’s voices are heard, and I thank all the officials who have worked with the community over the past five years, and who in many cases have become close friends of those affected, for their work. I also thank other professionals in the public sector who have worked with the community and families. I particularly want to thank those in the NHS. The health and wellbeing of many survivors of the tragedy has been impaired in a terrible way, and the commitment of NHS professionals to working with those who have been affected is admirable and worthy of our support and, certainly on my part, gratitude.

I also wish to thank two colleagues, Nick Hurd, a former Member of this House, and Baroness Sanderson, who have been advising the Prime Minister on how we can support the Grenfell families. Both of them were, of course, appointed by the former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), and I would like to thank her as well for the continuing close personal interest she takes in the issues that the Grenfell tragedy has brought to the forefront of all our minds.

I also want to thank the independent Grenfell Tower Memorial Commission, and I stress that it is independent; it includes elected community representatives, and it has been working hard to ensure that we can have a permanent and appropriate memorial to honour those who lost their lives in the tragedy. I recommend to all Members of the House the commission’s recent report. It makes for powerful reading and gives us all an opportunity to reflect on what the right way is to ensure that there is a fitting memorial for those who have lost their lives. The scene of that fire is both, of course, a crime scene and a sacred place, because for all those who perished that night we want to make sure that their memory is never forgotten. That is why my Department wants to work with the commission to ensure that its report is brought to fruition.

I also want to thank those who have been working with the public inquiry, under Sir Martin Moore-Bick. I know that when the inquiry was set up many representatives of the community were concerned that its work might not meet the needs of the hour, but I think that Sir Martin and his team, particularly the counsels to the inquiry—the lawyers who have been working diligently to get at the truth—have done us all a service. They have laid bare a series of mistakes that were made by those of us in government and by others, and they have exposed what I believe is wrongdoing on the part of a number of organisations. I do not want to pre-empt the conclusions of the inquiry and the steps that will necessarily need to be taken to ensure that justice is done. Sir Martin’s inquiry’s first report made a series of recommendations and it made uncomfortable reading for some, but it also ensured that the decision by my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead to set up the inquiry has been vindicated. We now need to ensure that we take seriously all the forthcoming recommendations when the inquiry concludes.

Of course, we in government have not waited for the inquiry to conclude in order to take action. Not all of the steps that should have been taken have been taken, but in recent months we have been seeking to ensure that in respect of the direction of travel set out by the inquiry, and by others who have looked closely at the problems that underlay our regime of building safety, appropriate steps have been taken.

It should not have taken a tragedy such as the Grenfell Tower fire for us to realise that there were problems in our building safety regime and in our regulatory regime. But now that we have had an opportunity to reflect, study and look at the multiple and manifold failings, we know that a significant amount of work, which we are undertaking, requires to be completed as quickly as possible. We know that shortcuts were taken when it came to safety. We know that unforgiveable decisions were made, in the interests of financial engineering, that put lives at risk. We also know that in my Department individuals sought to speak up and to raise concerns but those voices were not heeded. That must rest on my conscience and those of Government colleagues. Many of those involved in construction, from those in the construction products industry to those directly involved in the refurbishment and remediation of buildings, just behaved in a way that was beyond reckless. That is why it is so important that the collective fight for justice that the Grenfell community have asked for results in those responsible being brought to book. In the meantime, we have been seeking to ensure that we put in place a regulatory regime that repairs some of the damage of the past and that money is made available to repair buildings in which people still find themselves in unsafe conditions.

Hilary Benn Portrait Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) (Lab)
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The Secretary of State is being eloquent and honest in his apology for what happened—the collective failure. However, on the point that he has just addressed, he will be aware that there are cases where professional fire safety advisers have told leaseholders that the cladding on their building is not safe and does not comply with the new rules, but when those leaseholders have made applications to the building safety fund they have been turned down. Some of them are now having to contemplate spending £70,000 to £80,000 and waiting another eight months to put the panels in combination on a rig and then set fire to them. If those tests, the BS 8414 tests, go ahead and they show that the cladding does burn and causes a risk, will he undertake that the building safety fund will look again at the applications for funding, so that those buildings get the money, enabling work to begin, and people can feel safe in their homes?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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The right hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. He has been, if I may say so, a consistently clear and authoritative voice on behalf of those who have found themselves in an incredibly difficult situation. The leaseholders he has described should not be in that position. There have been problems with the building safety fund—there absolutely have. Let me promise him that I will look at the specific case that he raises and, indeed, the wider issues and see what we can do to make sure that the building safety fund, which has not been discharging funds at the rate, at the pace and in the way that it should, does better.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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The thoughts of myself and my party are with the families. It is hard to believe that it has been five years. Even these days, we still pray for the families who have suffered such pain and heartache.

It is quite clear that the Secretary of State is totally committed to making the changes that are necessary to ensure that this never happens again. May I ask him about sharing those changes and regulations with the other regions—the Northern Ireland Assembly, for instance? In particular, we have similar buildings in Belfast and Londonderry, and perhaps in Antrim as well, which are regulated or owned by our housing associations and councils. Is it his intention to share the recommendations with the other regions to ensure that we can all benefit from better safety?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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Yes, absolutely. The hon. Gentleman’s question gives me the opportunity to say thank you to Ministers and officials in all the devolved Administrations who have been working with my Department to learn some of the lessons about building safety. We have also been discussing how some of the progress that we have made at a UK Government level in getting money from developers in order to contribute to remediation can also apply in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. In particular, I thank Jayne Brady from the Northern Ireland civil service for the work that she has been doing with officials from my Department in this area. I know that the hon. Gentleman’s own party and others are committed to learning appropriate lessons.

I mentioned the importance of making sure that we had a fit-for-purpose new regime and that we took the appropriate steps necessary. One other person I would like to thank is Dame Judith Hackitt. The work that she did has ensured that we could pass the Building Safety Bill into law in order to make the Building Safety Act 2022 an effective framework for regulation. We have a new building safety regulator, led by a new chief inspector of buildings, which operates within the Health and Safety Executive. We will have a new national regulator for construction products and a new homes ombudsman to improve oversight and standards. We have new statutory duties placed on those carrying out design or building work to make sure that they have the relative competence for their roles, which means that building control will be a properly regulated profession and that all construction products marketed in the UK will be properly regulated in future. To follow on from the very good point made by the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), if products are unsafe, they can be withdrawn from the market. There are also strengthened provisions in the legislation to hold industry to account.

As well as the Building Safety Act, the Fire Safety Act came into force this year, and it implements in principle the first nine of the inquiry’s 15 phase 1 recommendations. Changes to regulations include the requirement that the owner and manager of every residential building, whether or not it is high rise, should be required by law to provide fire safety instructions, including instructions for evacuation. We have taken steps, as I mentioned earlier, to say to all developers that they must contribute to both remediating the buildings for which they were responsible and contributing to a fund to ensure that neither taxpayers nor leaseholders are held liable for problems that they did not create and for which they should not pay.

I should stress that, as well as introducing effective regulation, we have made it clear that many of the materials that are unsafe have been banned. It is the case that combustible materials on the external wall of any new residential building more than 18 metres high are banned, and there is a provision for sprinkler systems in all new blocks of flats that are higher than 11 metres.

We are making sure that we have the right regulatory system in place, that we get developers to pay and that the most dangerous materials are banned. All those steps are necessary, but they are not sufficient. We also need to make sure that those companies that have operated in a way that genuinely brings the system into disrepute know that we are coming after them. That is why, when it came to the particular case of Rydon Homes, one of the companies that was part of the group that was responsible for what happened in Grenfell Tower, I have been clear that they are suspended from any participation in the Government’s Help to Buy scheme. I have also been clear that Kingspan, one of the organisations responsible for the material that contributed to the fire, was a wholly inappropriate partner for Mercedes-Benz when it was suggested that it should somehow seek to launder its reputation by sponsoring Mercedes-Benz’s Formula 1 team. It is also the case that I will be taking steps to ensure that freeholders who at the moment are evading their responsibility to pay for and to contribute to remediation can be pursued. More will be announced by the Government in the days to come to make sure that we take all the steps necessary to deal with everyone who has responsibility in this matter.

I should also say that, as well as making sure that Government do everything they can to bring people to justice, when the inquiry concludes, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, quite properly independent organisations, will be making their own decisions about whether criminal prosecution will be necessary. I know that that is an issue of profound concern to the community. I can assure them, having talked to both the police and the CPS, respecting, of course, their operational independence, that both have worked hard to ensure that the evidence is there for any action that they consider to be appropriate to be taken in due course.

As well as making sure that we learn the right lessons on building safety and get the new regime that tenants deserve, we also must ensure that the wider voice of social tenants everywhere is heard loud and clear. I thank the inspirational young campaigner Kwajo Tweneboa, who I know is in the House today, who has done so much working with ITV and others to draw attention to the continuing plight of social housing tenants. Kwajo’s work, and the work of so many other campaigners, has underlined and redrawn to our attention the fact that there are people who are living in our capital city today—five years after Grenfell—in circumstances that are beyond squalid and inadequate. It has been the case that some housing associations and some local authorities have been heedless and neglectful of their obligations, and the steps that we need to take are clear. That is why the Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Eddie Hughes), is bringing forward new legislation to give effect to the changes in social housing that are required.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP)
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I appreciate what the Secretary of State has said because, obviously, there is a job of work that needs to be done, particularly for young people, with regards to housing. I therefore encourage him to take up the offer by Órla Constant from Centrepoint to visit the work it is doing and to share the lessons learned, and the opportunities available, from those projects for young people to get them into housing and to encourage them to start a better life for themselves and their families.

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I know he is passionate about helping young people, particularly those at risk of homelessness and those who need decent homes. It is thanks to him that I have had the opportunity to meet people from Centrepoint, an amazing charity that has done such good work for so long. I look forward to the opportunity to see more of the work it is doing, which he has championed, to help those who are most in need of support to have a safe and decent roof over their heads.

I mentioned the legislation we are bringing in, which of course follows on from the publication of a new vision for social housing by my late colleague James Brokenshire. I think we would all want, as we reflect on James’s life and legacy, to recognise that one of the issues about which he was most passionate was making sure that the vulnerable and the voiceless had a champion in Government. It was his determination to set us on a path to stronger rights and better protections for tenants in social housing that has resulted in the legislation that my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North is bringing forward.

Under that legislation, we will ensure that tenants know that they will be safe in their home, that they will be able to hold their landlord to account and that complaints will have to be dealt with promptly. They will know that they need to be treated with respect and that those who work in housing, to whom I am enormously grateful, will have the support and the extra professional training that they need to ensure that they work effectively with tenants. We also want to ensure that, in those circumstances—I hope they become progressively rarer—where there are real and genuine problems and an urgent need for action, there are new powers for rapid inspection and for unlimited fines, to ensure that appropriate steps are taken.

Ruth Cadbury Portrait Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab)
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I thank the Secretary of State for the Bills he is bringing forward. He talks about bringing in legislation to improve safety for social rent tenants, which is good—but is that in parallel with the safety that leaseholders and private sector tenants in similar kinds of blocks also expect? Will everybody who lives in or owns a flat that is safety compromised be as safe as his legislation seeks to make social rent tenants?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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Yes, that is our intention. The hon. Lady’s question gives me an opportunity to restate and underline one or two things, to make them perhaps a little more clear than I had hitherto. To my mind, and this is very much the theme of this debate, there are two big issues that the Grenfell tragedy threw into the starkest relief, which we should have addressed beforehand and which the tragedy makes it imperative that we do not forget.

The first issue is building safety. We have a compromised and weak regime that needs to change. We need to improve regulation, ensure that those buildings that are unsafe are made safe, and ensure that the people in those buildings do not pay for it, but that it is those who were contributors either to the system overall or to the state of those buildings who pay. That is one important set of issues.

There is another parallel and related set of issues. We know, because we can hear on tape the voices of those who were in that tower saying beforehand that they were not being listened to, at a time when changes were being made to their own home, that they were not paid attention to. That symbolises a wider problem of too many people in social housing not having their voices heard or their interests and lives protected. Of course, the two come together.

The tragedy raises other issues, on which I, my Department and others have reflected, and which I hope this House will return to as well. As the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury) rightly says, people in the private rented sector need their rights protected. We have some legislation that we will be debating in this House in due course that is intended to better protect the rights of those in the private rented sector by, for example, getting rid of section 21 evictions. I know the very close interest she takes in housing, so I hope we will have an opportunity to look at that Bill; if she has thoughts about how we can ensure that we do an even better job for those in the private rented sector, I look forward to working with her.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
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I appreciate my right hon. Friend’s response to the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury). Not today, but will he and his colleagues turn their minds to how to provide greater security and fairness to the quarter of a million park home residents and the 6 million private leaseholders who are affected both by fire safety and by other unfairnesses, where the Government have proposals from the Law Commission to enact?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I am very grateful to the Father of the House. I have received hundreds, if not thousands, of letters and postcards highlighting the plight of park home residents and referencing the work that he has led. There is much more that can be done there; I will not say more from the Dispatch Box today, but I look forward to working with him on that.

On the question of enfranchising leaseholders, the Father of the House is right, and so is the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy), my shadow, that we need to legislate to enfranchise them. We are going to do so in the next parliamentary Session—within this year, as it were. It is important that we do. That is a commitment we must uphold. There are urgent measures, which we debated yesterday, about housing supply, but it is absolutely right that we end the absurd, feudal system of leasehold, which restricts people’s rights in a way that is indefensible in the 21st century.

Clive Betts Portrait Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab)
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I apologise to the House for being late to the debate; I have been chairing a meeting of the House of Commons Members’ Fund, which I gave prior notice of. The Secretary of State rightly talks about help for leaseholders and others living in blocks that have been affected by Grenfell-style cladding, other cladding and other building safety defects. That is an important issue, but coming back to social housing, he is aware that there is still a problem: apart from ACM cladding, there is no automatic right to funds for social housing landlords. Ministers have said before that that is still under consideration. If it is not provided, there will be a massive black hole, particularly in housing association funding, which means they will build fewer houses than we want them to.

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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The Chairman of the Select Committee is right to draw attention to that issue. One of the important questions is making sure that, even as we crack down on those social landlords who may not be fulfilling their responsibilities, we also understand that the overwhelming majority of people who work for and in housing associations are striving every day to provide a quality service and to ensure that more people can have a safe roof over their head. We must make sure that they have the resources required, including the resources necessary to meet their building safety obligations. I look forward to working with the National Housing Federation and the Chartered Institute of Housing to see what more we can do to help them in that area, and in others.

I know we only have three hours or so for this debate and there are a number of other hon. Members who want to speak, so I will conclude by saying thank you, again, to the bereaved, the relatives and the survivors of this tragedy for the immense forbearance, dignity and courage they have shown. I hope we will have an opportunity at least every year to report back to this House on the progress we are making on the issues for which they have fought. I am sure I speak for everyone across the House when I say that on the 14th all of us will pause, reflect and honour everything through which they have been. Our commitment to ensure that a tragedy like that never happens again is universal across this House.

Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill

Michael Gove Excerpts
Michael Gove Portrait The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations (Michael Gove)
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I am delighted to be able to move the Second Reading of this Bill. The Government are getting on with the job, and no Department is doing more than my own. There are five Bills in the Queen’s Speech generated from our Department. As well as the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, there is legislation to improve conditions for those in social housing, to improve the rights of those in the private rented sector, to ensure that business rates can be updated so that our economy thrives, and to get rid of the pernicious employment of boycott, divestment and sanctions policies by those who seek to de-legitimise the state of Israel. I hope that all five pieces of legislation will command support across this House. They are designed to address the people’s priorities and to ensure that this Government provide social justice and greater opportunity for all our citizens.

This Bill looks specifically at how we can ensure that the Government’s levelling-up missions laid out in our White Paper published in February can be given effect, how we can have a planning system that priorities urban regeneration and the use of brownfield land, and how we can strengthen our democratic system overall.

Robert Halfon Portrait Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My right hon. Friend will know that perhaps one of the most exciting pages in the levelling-up White Paper is page 238, which announces that there will be a new hospital health campus in Harlow over the coming years. He knows how important that is because of the fact that our current hospital estate is not fit for purpose despite the incredible work that staff do. Can he confirm that the timeline for our new hospital will be announced in the coming months?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

My right hon. Friend makes an important point. Of the more than 400 pages in the White Paper, page 238 is perhaps one of the most important, not least because it contains an image of what we can hope to see and what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care will be announcing, which is action to ensure that my right hon. Friend’s constituents get the state-of-the-art, 21st-century hospital that they deserve. That would not happen, I am afraid, under the Opposition, because it is only through the investment that we are putting in and the sound economy that has been created under my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s leadership that we are able to ensure that the citizens of Harlow get the hospitals that they need.

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I am always delighted to give way to the hon. Lady.

Caroline Lucas Portrait Caroline Lucas
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I wonder if there is a page missing in my copy of the Bill, because I was looking for the net zero test, which I am sure the Secretary of State would agree ought to be applied to all planning decisions, policies and procedures, yet it is conspicuous by its absence. Does he agree that if we are serious about using this Bill to really level up, then we need to have that net zero test? Can he commit to that now?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I will say three things as briefly as I can. First, the national planning policy framework that will be published in July will say significantly more about how we can drive improved environmental outcomes. Secondly, there is in the Bill a new streamlined approach to ensuring that all development is in accordance with the highest environmental standards. Thirdly, as the hon. Lady knows, under the 25-year environment plan and with the creation of the Office for Environmental Protection, the non-regression principle is embedded in everything that we do. The leadership that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has shown, not least at COP26, in driving not just this country but the world towards net zero should reassure her on that front.

John Redwood Portrait John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am pleased that the Secretary of State believes in more devolution. How much extra devolved power will our councils get to settle the very important issue of how much housing investment we should welcome?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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My right hon. Friend gets to the heart of two of the most important measures in this Bill: strengthening local leadership and reforming our planning system in order to put neighbourhoods firmly in control.

Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

May I follow up on my right hon. Friend’s point about local leadership? What more are we going to do about devolving fiscal responsibility to local authorities? Ultimately, if local authorities have true powers of leadership, they must have the means of raising revenue in their own areas in a way that does not increase taxation but offsets it, so that local decisions are funded locally.

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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My hon. Friend, who was a distinguished local Government Minister, makes an important point—a point that was made just as eloquently and forcefully by Ben Houchen, the Mayor of Tees Valley Combined Authority, when he talked about the vital importance of leaders of combined authorities and others having more control over business rates and other fiscal levers. This legislation and the devolution negotiations that we are conducting with Ben and others are designed to move completely in that direction.

Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On the subject of metro Mayors, the Secretary of State will have seen that the decarbonisation summit took place this week. Metro Mayors met and made an offer to the Government to work more closely with them on the transition to net zero. Has the Secretary of State seen the detail of that offer, and if not, will he get in touch with Mayor Tracy Brabin and look at what more can be done to work closely with the Mayors on this important agenda?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point. Across the 12 metro Mayors, we have seen examples of leadership on the environment and the move towards net zero, and indeed on the modernisation of transport systems. I know that the Mayor of West Yorkshire is particularly keen to ensure that transport and spatial planning are aligned to drive progress towards net zero. I will do everything I can to work with the Mayors of West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire.

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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Talking of South Yorkshire, I can see that the Chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee wants to intervene.

Clive Betts Portrait Mr Betts
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I want to follow up on the two questions that Conservative Members have asked about transferring powers to local authorities and Mayors. I can see in the Bill welcome proposals to expand combined authorities to more parts of the country, particularly to county areas. What I cannot see anywhere—if I am wrong, the Secretary of State will point me to the precise clause—is the making available of more powers that are currently not devolved to any local authorities. Are any such powers going to be devolved, and if so, in which clause do they appear?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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The Chair of the Select Committee brings me to an important point, which is that this legislation is complemented by other activity that Government are undertaking on levelling up. That activity involves negotiations with metro Mayors, for example in the west midlands and in Greater Manchester, on the devolution of more powers. When my good friend the former Member for Tatton initiated the programme of devolution to metro Mayors, he did so by direct discussion with local leaders. We will be transferring more powers, and we will update the House on the progress we make in all those negotiations. I noted a gentle susurration of laughter on the Opposition Front Bench, but I gently remind them—I sure the Chair of the Select Committee knows this—that when Labour were in power, the only part of England to which they offered devolution was London. This Government have offered devolution and strengthened local government across England.

As I look at the Benches behind me, I find it striking that in this debate on this piece of legislation, which is about strengthening local government and rebalancing our economy, the Conservative Benches are thronged with advocates for levelling up, whereas on the Labour Benches there are one or two heroic figures—such as the hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) and the hon. Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery), who are genuine tribunes of the people—but otherwise there is a dearth, an absence and a vacuum.

Talking of dearths, absences and vacuums, may I commend to the Labour Front Benchers the speech given by Lord Mandelson today in Durham—a city with which I think the Leader of the Opposition is familiar—in which he points out that Labour has still not moved beyond the primary colours stage when it comes to fleshing out its own policy? In contrast to our levelling-up White Paper and our detailed legislation, Lord Mandelson says that Labour is still at the primary stage of policy development, but I think it is probably at the kindergarten stage.

We have put forward proposals, and we are spending £4.8 billion through the levelling-up fund and similar sums through the UK shared prosperity fund, to make sure that every part of our United Kingdom is firing on all cylinders—and from Labour, nothing. When it comes to addressing the geographical inequality that we all recognise as one of the most urgent issues we need to address, it is this Government who have put forward proposals on everything from strengthening the hand of police and crime commissioners, to strengthening the hand of other local government leaders, and providing the infrastructure spending to make a difference in the communities that need it.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con)
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My right hon. Friend rightly makes a powerful case for devolution and increased democracy, but is he aware that under this Bill, a combined authority can be created that transfers powers from second-tier councils to itself, without needing the councils’ consent? That is different from the position under the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009. Does he agree that that would be tragic for real devolution to the lowest possible level, and that the consent of district councils to the transfer of any powers must be secured?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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My hon. Friend makes an important point, and it gives me an opportunity to pay tribute to and thank those who work at district council level. As we look at the pattern of local government across this country, it is important to recognise that one size does not fit all. Although I am a strong advocate of the mayoral combined authority model, and it has clearly brought benefits in areas such as Tees Valley and the west midlands, we need to be respectful of district councils and the structure of local government in those parts of the country that do not—and, indeed, need not or should not—move towards that model. I look forward to engaging with him and the Association of District Councils on how we can make sure that our devolution drive is in keeping with the best traditions in local government.

As my hon. Friend reminds the House, the devolution proposals outlined in the Bill extend the range of areas that can benefit from combined authority powers, and they strengthen scrutiny. One criticism that has sometimes been made of the exercise of powers by Mayors in mayoral combined authorities is that there has been inadequate scrutiny, particularly by the leaders of district authorities within those MCAs. Our Bill strengthens those scrutiny powers, and in so doing strengthens local democracy overall. That is in line with the progress that the Government have made, including on the Elections Act 2022, which the Minister for Local Government, Faith and Communities, my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Kemi Badenoch), brought in.

When we talk about levelling up, and particularly when we think about changes to our planning system, we absolutely need to focus on effective measures to regenerate our urban centres. One challenge that the country has faced over the last three or four decades has been the decline in economic activity and employment in many of our great towns and cities. We need to make sure that people’s pride in the communities where they live is matched by the resources, energy and investment that they deserve.

I saw some of that energy on display when I was in Stoke-on-Trent just three weeks ago, under Abi Brown, the inspirational Conservative leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council. Real change is being driven to ensure that all the six towns that constitute Stoke-on-Trent have their heart strengthened, their pride restored and investment increased.

Jonathan Gullis Portrait Jonathan Gullis (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Con)
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Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I am just about to refer to my hon. Friend. In order to ensure that people have the tools they need, we need to tackle some of the things that generate urban blight. We need to deal with the problem of empty shops, vacancies and voids on our high street, which not only depress economic activity but contribute to a lower footfall and less of a sense of purpose, buzz and energy in our communities. That is why, following on from the ten-minute rule Bill introduced by my hon. Friend, we will be bringing forward compulsory rental auctions, so that lazy landlords who leave properties void when they should be occupied by local community trusts, businesses or entrepreneurs will be forced to auction those properties, to ensure that we have the entrepreneurs that we need and the small businesses that we want on the high streets that we love.

Jonathan Gullis Portrait Jonathan Gullis
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May I personally thank the Secretary of State? He came to the great towns of Tunstall and Burslem to see at first hand the regeneration of brownfield sites to create hundreds of new homes, and to look at the blight of rogue and absent landlords on our high streets in the town of Tunstall. He has sat down and met me on many occasions to look at this legislation, and it is a big win for the city of Stoke-on-Trent, as well as for Members from across this House. I want to put on the record a “Thank you” on behalf of the people of Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke.

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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The communities of Tunstall, Burslem and Kidsgrove could not have a better advocate than my hon. Friend, and I could not have a better ally in shaping measures on urban regeneration. To drive urban regeneration, we will be increasing the council tax surcharge on empty homes. That is a means of making sure that we deal with that scourge and bring life back to all our communities.

Critically, we will also reform the compulsory purchase rules, because the way those powers operate often thwarts the desire of Homes England and others involved in the regeneration business to assemble the brownfield land necessary to build the houses and to get the commercial activity that we want in those communities. The reform in the Bill will ensure that the assembly of land required for urban regeneration becomes easier, so more of the homes that we need are built in the communities that need them in our towns and cities, rather than on precious green fields. The legislation also introduces new measures to facilitate the creation of the urban development corporations that have been integral in the past in driving some of the changes that we wish to see.

A significant part of the Bill seeks to reform the planning system, which I know is an issue of concern across the House of Commons. We all recognise that we have a dysfunctional planning system and a broken housing market. There is a desperate need for more new homes to ensure that home ownership is once more within the reach of many. It is more than just the planning system that needs to change: as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will outline later this week, changes need to be made to everything from the mortgage market to other aspects of how Government operate to help more people on to the housing ladder. Planning is part of that.

As well as making sure that we have the right homes in the right places, we must recognise, as the Bill and my Department do, why there has been resistance to new development in the past. Five basic and essential factors have led to resistance to development and our Bill attempts to deal with all of them. First, far too many of the homes that have been built have been poor quality, identikit homes from a pattern book that the volume of housebuilders have relied on, but that have not been in keeping with local communities’ wishes and have not had the aesthetic quality that people want.

One of my predecessors in this role, Nye Bevan, when he was the Minister responsible for housing in the great 1945-51 Government, made it clear that when new council homes are built, the single most important thing should be beauty. He argued that working people have a right to live in homes built with the stone and slate that reflect their local communities and were hewn by their forefathers, so that when someone looks at a council home and a home that an individual owns, they should not be able to tell the difference, because beauty is everyone’s right. I passionately believe that that is right and there are measures in the Bill to bring that forward.

Ruth Cadbury Portrait Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab)
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The Secretary of State rightly references the important role of local people in new developments, but the Osterley and Wyke Green Residents’ Association and Brentford Voice have expressed their concerns that the national development management policies in the Bill give the Secretary of State powers to overrule local people and the local plan, and that unlike for national policy statements, there is no requirement for parliamentary approval. In reality, is the Bill not the latest in a long line of power grabs by this Government?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I am allergic to power grabs. I am entirely in favour of relaxing the grip of central Government and strengthening the hand of local government, which is what the planning reforms here do. The reference to the national development management policies is simply a way to make sure that the provisions that exist within the national planning policy framework—a document that is honoured by Members on both sides of the House, of course—do not need to be replicated by local authorities when they are putting together their local plans. It is simply a measure to ensure that local planners, whose contribution to enhancing our communities I salute and whose role and professionalism is important, can spend more time engaging with local communities, helping them to develop neighbourhood plans, and making sure that our plans work.

Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con)
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May I suggest some powers that the Secretary of State might like to grab?

Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne
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I suggest that the Secretary of State addresses a problem to which national parks are particularly prone, where a historic lawful development certificate is acquired because a caravan was previously located there, affording huge development on the basis of permitted development rights over which the national park authority and the planning authority have no control. That is a power that needs to be grabbed and given back to local authorities.

Bob Seely Portrait Bob Seely (Isle of Wight) (Con)
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And areas of outstanding natural beauty.

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I hear the important point about national parks, and the echo from my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Bob Seely) with reference to areas of outstanding natural beauty. The environmental protections in the Bill should meet that need, but I look forward to working with my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend in Committee to ensure that the protections are there.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Portrait Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con)
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My right hon. Friend has referred to the national development management policies. There is great concern that they will override local planning authorities, which spend a great deal of time preparing their local plans that are then approved by Government inspectors. It would be quite wrong if national Government overrode them, and it would destroy the careful balance that has existed since the Town and Country Planning Act 1947, in which planning was devolved to local authorities.

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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My hon. Friend gives me the opportunity to reassert that the NDMPs will not override local plans. Local plans have primacy—that is perfectly clear in this legislation. As a result of strengthening the plan- making system, we will make sure that we deal with the issues and questions that have led particular communities to resist development in the past.

I mentioned the importance of beauty. Specifically, for example, we will strengthen the role of design codes in local plans. Through our new office for place, which is a successor in some respects to the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment but even better in its drive, we will be in a position to ensure that beauty is at the heart of all new developments. In particular, I pay tribute to my predecessors in this role, my right hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Robert Jenrick) and the late James Brokenshire, who worked to ensure that beauty, quality and higher aesthetic standards were at the heart of new architectural developments and did so much to reset the debate away from where it has been in the past and towards a brighter future.

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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Talking of brighter futures—

Clive Betts Portrait Mr Betts
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On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am sure that the Secretary of State would not want to inadvertently mislead the House. In response to the question from the hon. Member for The Cotswolds (Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) about the conflict between local plans and national policies, he made a comment—

Clive Betts Portrait Mr Betts
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I am trying to help the Secretary of State so that he does not inadvertently mislead the House.

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I am happy to give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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I thank the Secretary of State. The hon. Gentleman is a senior Member of the House. It does not seem to be a point of order for me, but a point of argument with the Secretary of State, who is willing to give way. Will the hon. Gentleman withdraw his point of order so we can allow the Secretary of State to continue?

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for withdrawing his non-point of order. I hand the Floor back to the Secretary of State.

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I understand that the hon. Gentleman wishes to intervene; I am delighted to give way.

Clive Betts Portrait Mr Betts
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I thank the Secretary of State for giving way. Clause 83(2) proposes a new section 38(5C) to the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, which says:

“If to any extent the development plan conflicts with a national development management policy, the conflict must be resolved in favour of the national development management policy.”

That is what it says—it overrides the local plan. It is in the Bill.

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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It has always been the NPPF’s function to have those national policies, which have been agreed and which ensure that plans are in conformity with what this House wills our overall planning system to be. It is no more than a more efficient way to make sure that the existing NPPF and any future revisions of it are included in local plans.

Another reason why we sometimes see opposition to development is infrastructure. One of the critical challenges that we must all face when we contemplate whether new development should occur is the pressure that is inevitably placed on GP surgeries, schools, roads and our wider environment. That is why the Bill makes provision for a new infrastructure levy, which will place an inescapable obligation on developers to ensure that they make contributions that local people can use to ensure that they have the services that they need to strengthen the communities that they love.

Of course, section 106 will still be there for some major developments, but one of the problems with section 106 agreements is that there is often an inequality of arms between the major developers and local authorities. We also sometimes have major developers that, even after a section 106 has been agreed—even after, for example, commitments for affordable housing and other infra- structure have been agreed—subsequently retreat from those obligations, pleading viability or other excuses. We will be taking steps to ensure that those major developers, which profit so handsomely when planning permission is granted, make their own contribution.

Marsha De Cordova Portrait Marsha De Cordova (Battersea) (Lab)
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On the issue of viability that the Secretary of State has just raised, how does the Bill seek to prevent developers from going back and using viability as an angle to, say, reduce the number of affordable homes that they are expected to build in any new development?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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The reason for the infrastructure levy is that it ensures a local authority can set, as a fixed percentage of the land value uplift, a sum that it can use—we will consult on exactly what provisions there should be alongside that sum—to ensure that a fixed proportion of affordable housing can be created. The hon. Lady is quite right to say that there are some developers that plead viability to evade the obligations that they should properly discharge.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)
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The Secretary of State will be aware that, at the moment, someone can build tens of thousands of houses but people wait years and years for increased general practice capacity. Those from the Rebuild Britain campaign whom I met this morning tell me that they believe that integrated care boards and trusts will be prevented from requesting section 106 money to mitigate the impact of new housing, and medical facilities are but one of 10 types of infrastructure that there is no duty on local authorities to provide. Is he really confident that this will be better under the current Bill?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I am absolutely confident it will be better, but my hon. Friend makes a very important point, which is that section 106 agreements—sometimes they work, and in many cases they do not—do need to be improved, and the proposals for our new infrastructure levy should do precisely that. However, the way in which the infrastructure levy will operate is something on which we will consult to ensure that it covers not just the physical infrastructure required but, as he quite rightly points out, the provision of critical healthcare.

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) (Lab)
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Will the Secretary of State give way?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I am anxious to make just a wee bit more progress, because I am conscious that there are lots of folk who want—[Interruption.] Oh, all right then.

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins
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The Secretary of State is being generous with his time. This is about the infrastructure levy and the timing of its payment. At the moment, it appears that payment is going to be on completion, which benefits developers, but not the local authorities and place makers that will need to put in the infrastructure up front.

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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The way the levy is going to operate will mean that, if the development value—the value uplift—for the developer is greater over time, local communities can get more of it. It is a way of making sure that there is appropriate rebalancing. Again, one of the things I want to stress, because it is important to do so, is that there are strengthened powers in the Bill to deal with some of the sharp practices we sometimes see in the world of development and construction. There are stronger enforcement powers, stronger powers to ensure that we have build out and stronger powers to deal with the abuse of retrospective planning permission within the system. I look forward to working with the hon. Lady and others to ensure that all those enforcement powers are fit for purpose.

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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Ah, yes—brilliant! I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Dr Spencer).

Ben Spencer Portrait Dr Spencer
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I thought there was going to be a bit of a fight there over who would intervene. I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way, and I welcome the provisions on planning enforcement. A key intervention, however, is to break the business model of rogue developers. Would he look again at the debate we had last year on my Planning (Enforcement) Bill, so that we can enhance these important powers to break this model and ensure that people cannot profit from gaming the planning enforcement system?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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Yes. The reason I was so pleased to be able to give way to my hon. Friend and constituency neighbour is that I think his legislation and the arguments he made were incredibly powerful. I am a bit wary about criminalisation, but I am keen to explore with him and others how we can have effective tools—real teeth. We have some proposals in the Bill, but they may not go far enough, which is why I hope we can discuss in Committee exactly what we need to do to ensure that enforcement is stronger.

I should say—I touched on the environment briefly earlier—that as well as making sure we have new development that is beautiful, that is accompanied by infrastructure and that is democratically sanctioned, we need to make sure we have new development that is appropriately environmentally sensitive. Let me repeat—

Laurence Robertson Portrait Mr Robertson
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Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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Oh, yes. I do beg my hon. Friend’s pardon.

Laurence Robertson Portrait Mr Robertson
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I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. Just before he entirely leaves the issue of infrastructure, to which he is right to draw attention, one of the big problems is that the water companies do not provide adequate drainage systems when new builds are being proposed, so should they not have such systems in place before new developments actually start?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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My hon. Friend is getting me on to a subject that I have often touched on in the past, which is the role of water companies overall. When I was fortunate enough to be Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, I was able to talk to the water companies about the way in which they have privileged financial engineering over the real engineering required to ensure that new developments are fit for purpose, and in particular about how we deal effectively with a lack of investment in infrastructure, such as a lack of effective treatment of waste water. The way in which some of the water companies have behaved, frankly, is shocking, which is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will be bringing forward more proposals to ensure that the water companies live up to their proper obligations, because it is a matter of both infrastructure and the environment.

I mentioned earlier that the environmental outcome reports, which the Bill makes provision for, will strengthen environmental protection, and of course the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is helping to ensure that biodiversity net gain is integrated fully into the planning system to make sure we have the enhanced environment that all of us would want to pass on to the next generation.

As we recognise the need to develop homes in the future that are beautiful, with the right infrastructure, democratically endorsed and with the environmental externalities dealt with appropriately, we also want to ensure that they are parts of neighbourhoods, not dormitories. That is why it is so critical that we deal with one or two of the flaws—I will put it no more highly than that—within the current planning system. Such flaws mean, for example, that we can have developers that, because they do not build out, subsequently exploit the requirement for a five-year housing land supply to have speculative development in areas that local communities object to. We will be taking steps in this legislation and in the NPPF to deal with that.

We will also be taking steps to ensure that the Planning Inspectorate, when it is reviewing a local plan and deciding whether it is sound, does not impose on local communities an obligation to meet figures on housing need that cannot be met given the environmental and other constraints in particular communities. There are two particular areas, I think, where the Planning Inspectorate —and it is simply following Government policy—has in effect been operating in a way that runs counter to what Ministers at this Dispatch Box have said over and over again. That has got to change, and it is through both legislation and changes to the NPPF that we will do so. We will end abuse of the five-year land supply rules, and make sure that, if local authorities have sound plans in place, there cannot be such speculative development. We will also make sure that, even as we democratise and digitise the planning system, we are in a position to make sure that the Planning Inspectorate ensures not that every plan fits a procrustean bed, but that every plan reflects what local communities believe in.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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Wow! Yes, I give way to my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox).

Liam Fox Portrait Dr Liam Fox (North Somerset) (Con)
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Will my right hon. Friend go further for the sake of clarity, and make sure that there is, if not an equation, at least a clear mechanism by which local authorities can net off the contradictory elements—floodplain, green belt—so that they are not asked to build houses in inappropriate numbers simply because of a national target?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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Exactly right—my right hon. Friend is spot-on. We do need to have a more sophisticated way of assessing housing need, and that is something we will be doing as part of revisions to the NPPF, but the protections my right hon. Friend quite rightly points out are integral to ensuring that there is democratic consent for development.

Jane Stevenson Portrait Jane Stevenson (Wolverhampton North East) (Con)
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In Wolverhampton, we have developed right up to my northern boundary, which borders South Staffordshire. That land is currently under proposal for housing, and my residents in Wednesfield and Fallings Park really object to losing their beautiful green space and green belt. Could the Secretary of State reassure them that their views will be taken into account, even though this crosses local authorities and is at the edge of the West Midlands mayoralty?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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Absolutely. First, my hon. Friend’s constituents could not have a better champion. Secondly, green belt protection is critical. Thirdly, we will ensure that a local plan protects those areas of environmental beauty and amenity. Fourthly, we will also end the so-called duty to co-operate, which has often led some urban authorities to offload their responsibility for development on to other areas in a way that has meant that we have had not urban regeneration but suburban sprawl.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I am happy to give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Strood (Kelly Tolhurst) and then my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (Dr Evans) and my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Bob Seely).

Kelly Tolhurst Portrait Kelly Tolhurst (Rochester and Strood) (Con)
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On the issue of constraints, can my right hon. Friend give us some further detail about whether the local authority could argue for constraints on the basis of economic areas, for example? Could that be an opportunity to save my dockyard from closure, following a proposal for flats to meet a housing target?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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Again, a variety of factors can be part of a sound local plan. Indeed, at the moment, permitted development right provisions that allow us to move from commercial to residential are capped at a certain size to ensure that we recognise that some commercial sites should not be moved over to residential. In a way, that is often sensible, but not always, and certainly not when we are thinking about an historic dockyard that has existed since the days of Samuel Pepys.

Luke Evans Portrait Dr Luke Evans (Bosworth) (Con)
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The Secretary of State is making a great argument on solving some of the flaws in the system. He may not have been privileged enough to be at the debate that I held yesterday on neighbourhood planning. One of the problems that came out was that, if a council does not have an up-to-date local plan—my Liberal Democrat-run borough council does not have one—neighbourhood plans get ridden roughshod over. What can my community do to stop and prevent the sprawl that happens in my constituency?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I am shocked—shocked, I tell you—that a Liberal Democrat authority does not have a plan in place and, as a result, housing numbers are spiralling out of control. Imagine what would happen in other beautiful parts of our country such as Devon, in a community such as Tiverton, or Honiton, if Liberal Democrat politicians were in charge. I reassure my hon. Friend that this legislation will ensure that if you have a local plan in place—preferably one put in place by Conservative councillors—you will safeguard your green spaces and natural environment, and you will not have those developers’ friends—the Liberal Democrats—concreting over the countryside.

Bob Seely Portrait Bob Seely
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On the Isle of Wight, we are separated by sea from the mainland. Our local building industry builds between 200 and 300 homes a year, and we cannot really build more. The standard methodology gives us ridiculous targets of 700-plus, and the nonsense of the mutant algorithm would have given us 1,200-plus. Even in the current consideration, we are forced to offer targets that realistically we cannot hope to build. What reassurance can he give the Island?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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My hon. Friend makes an important point. I think it is the case that the thinker who coined the phrase “mutant algorithm” is my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Neil O'Brien), who is now an Under-Secretary in the Department and working with me and the Minister for Housing to address precisely the concerns that he outlined. We need to build more homes, but we also need to ensure that how we calculate need and how plans are adopted is much more sensible and sensitive.

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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Talking about sensible and sensitive, I give way to my right hon. Friend.

Theresa Villiers Portrait Theresa Villiers
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The Secretary of State is saying much that suggests that he believes we should rein in the Planning Inspectorate and give back to local authorities more control over planning, but that is not in the Bill. So is he today at the Dispatch Box saying that he will table amendments to the Bill along those lines?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I will say two things. First, I hope to work constructively with Back Benchers across all parties to ensure that the Bill is strengthened. I have never seen a piece of legislation introduced to the House that could not be improved in Committee, and I know that this Bill will be. I also look forward to good ideas, if they come, from Opposition Front Benchers.

Secondly, it is also the case that the publication of a revised NPPF and NPPF prospectus will help us to appreciate what the nature of the further amendments should be. As my right hon. Friend knows, in one or two areas of the Bill, there are placeholders, where more work requires to be done. I am frank about that and I look forward to working with her.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I am conscious that lots of people want to speak in the debate. I will accept interventions from the four people who are standing up, but I fear that I cannot take any more interventions. I will then briefly end.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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Order. The Secretary of State has just said what I was hoping he would say, so I do not have to say it. Sixty-two Members wish to speak in the debate. The time limit will be very short for each speech, and every intervention made is stopping somebody from getting to speak later. I have noted who has made the most interventions.

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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I give way to the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western).

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)
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The Secretary of State is being generous. On housing and the constraint of local authorities, in my constituency, we have an over-supply of 4,000, which a previous Housing Minister described as “very ambitious”—in other words, too much development. May I bring him back to the lack of GPs in infrastructure supply through development? Will he make NHS Providers a statutory consultee in any of these developments?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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Let me reflect on that in Committee.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am interested in what the Secretary of State has said about the re-emphasis on the environmental protections. Of course, in urban areas, that is often urban green space rather than green belt. I have a case in Haughton Green in my constituency where the council closed Two Trees high school. When it closed the school, it said that there would be housing on the footprint of the school but that the fields around the school, in a heavily urbanised area, would be protected, so there would be a green doughnut. It now says that it has to build on the entire site to meet the Government’s housing targets. With what he just said, does he give hope to the people of Haughton Green that the council can look at Two Trees again?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - -

I cannot comment on a specific planning application for reasons that the hon. Gentleman knows well, but I appreciate the strength of his point and will ask the Minister for Housing to engage with him more closely on both that specific issue and the broader policy points that he raised.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

As the Secretary of State knows, York also has a Liberal Democrat-run council, and the challenge we have is that the council is not building the tenure of housing that my local residents can afford either to rent or to buy. So how will this legislation really shift the dial on affordability?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - -

I have a lot of sympathy for the hon. Lady and the situation in which she finds herself. I know that she is a doughty champion for York—it is a beautiful city, and a potential home for the House of Lords if it does not want to move to Stoke—and that York needs the right type of housing and commercial investment. I look forward to working with her and with Homes England, and also to consider what we can do in the Bill to deal with some of the consequences of some of her constituents foolishly having voted for Liberal Democrats at the local level.

Munira Wilson Portrait Munira Wilson (Twickenham) (LD)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Secretary of State was asking for good ideas on things that have been missed in the Bill. On building more social and affordable housing and GP surgeries, there is a missed opportunity here to ensure that public sector-owned assets such as land and buildings, including police stations, can be sold for slightly below market value where a GP surgery is needed or housing associations want to build social housing. He is aware that I have been campaigning for that on Teddington police station in my constituency, which the Labour Mayor wants to sell to the highest bidder for luxury housing, even though the community wants a new GP surgery and more affordable housing. Will he put that provision in the Bill?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - -

Well, this is a first. It is the first time—certainly in the last seven years—that there has been a Lib Dem policy proposal that makes sense. I am nostalgic for those coalition years when, every so often, there was a Lib Dem policy proposal that made sense—they normally came from people who are no longer in the House—and that one does. Yes, she is absolutely right.

Madam Deputy Speaker, I should probably quit while I am ahead. We have consensus on one particular area where reform is needed. I stressed earlier, in introducing the Bill, that it sets out to ensure that urban regeneration becomes a reality, that our planning system is modernised, that the missions we have to level up this country are on the face of the Bill and that we are accountable to this House. There are so many colleagues who want to contribute, because that mission is so important. I beg leave to ask the House to give the Bill its Second Reading. With that, Madam Deputy Speaker, I will sit down.

Intergovernmental Relations Quarterly Report

Michael Gove Excerpts
Thursday 26th May 2022

(1 month ago)

Written Statements
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Michael Gove Portrait The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations (Michael Gove)
- Hansard - -

Today, the UK Government published the report of our engagement with the devolved Administrations in quarter one of 2022 on gov.uk.

The report covers a period where we have seen unprecedented events, and gives an insight into the extensive engagement between the UK Government, Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive between 1 January and 31 March 2022. During this reporting period the Administrations collaborated on a number of areas, not least the domestic response to the Russia and Ukraine crisis, including the Homes for Ukraine resettlement scheme, and continuing work on covid-19 recovery.

The report is part of the UK Government’s ongoing commitment to transparency of intergovernmental relations to Parliament and the public. The UK Government will continue with publications to demonstrate transparency in intergovernmental relations throughout 2022 and beyond.

[HCWS68]

Oral Answers to Questions

Michael Gove Excerpts
Monday 16th May 2022

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Kelly Tolhurst Portrait Kelly Tolhurst (Rochester and Strood) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

2. What steps he is taking to ensure that leaseholders do not have to pay for remediation work in buildings where the developer is at fault.

Michael Gove Portrait The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations (Michael Gove)
- Hansard - -

The Building Safety Act 2022 protects leaseholders from costs associated with historical building safety defects. Qualifying leaseholders and buildings of above 11 metres in height are fully protected from unsafe cladding remediation costs. There are also robust and far-reaching protections from non-cladding costs, with leaseholder contributions being a last resort and firmly capped. Where a freeholder is linked to the original developer, leaseholders will now pay nothing.

Kelly Tolhurst Portrait Kelly Tolhurst
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Leaseholders in my constituency have been pleased with the progress that has been made through the Building Safety Act. However, it is disappointing that some developers are yet to sign up to the building safety pledge. Could my right hon. Friend outline what support is in place for leaseholders in buildings of over 11 metres who find themselves in that situation?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - -

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that particular question. Some 45 of the biggest 53 developers have so far signed the pledge to remediate buildings for which they are responsible. However, I know there are developments in my hon. Friend’s constituency where the developers are not among those who have signed up yet. We will be moving developer by developer and owner by owner to ensure that those responsible relieve leaseholders of their obligations, and I will stay closely in touch with my hon. Friend as we make progress.

John Cryer Portrait John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We have all had cases where a developer who is at fault closes down on a Friday evening and then reopens on the Monday morning under a different name, as that avoids any kind of sanction or prosecution. Will the Secretary of State look at allowing the prosecution of individual directors only in those extreme cases of deeply questionable developers?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - -

Yes, absolutely.

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My right hon. Friend has done excellent work on protecting leaseholders over the cladding scandal as a result of revisiting Government policy. Will he revisit another Government policy that affects leaseholders badly: the encouragement of building new floors on top of existing apartment blocks? Having experienced this disaster myself, I know only too well how shoddy workmanship then leaves leaseholders picking up the bills for a development that they did not want and they had to endure for months on end.

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - -

My right hon. Friend has, with his characteristic assiduity, already raised this question with me both formally and informally, and I appreciate the unfortunate consequences that some have to face, but we obviously need to balance protecting the rights of leaseholders with ensuring that, through the proper application of permitted development rights we can in a sensitive way increase accommodation and make sure that we have a process, particularly in urban areas, that allows us to provide more homes without encroaching on valuable green land. As ever, however, we need to keep under appropriate supervision the use of permitted development rights, and the case my right hon. Friend raises will be one that weighs on my thinking.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Secretary of State will know that an associated problem for many leaseholders is the very high cost of insurance premiums; that affects many of my constituents in Cambridge. What is he doing to address that?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - -

My noble Friend Lord Greenhalgh, Minister for building safety and for fire safety, has been in conversation with the Association of British Insurers, and Baroness Morgan of Cotes has been discussing with him exactly how we might move to a happier situation. I hope to be talking to both insurers and mortgage lenders in the next few weeks in order to move the landscape forward.

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

I greatly welcome the legislation that will protect leaseholders when developers are at fault, but what happens if a developer undertakes work, such as cladding, which at the time met building regulations but subsequently has been shown to be unsafe? Who gets protection then?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend raises an important question, and here I have an opportunity to thank those developers, as well as the House Builders Federation, who have acknowledged that they were part of a regulatory system and that even those who sought to do the right thing were on occasions required to accept an ethic of shared responsibility; they have accepted it and for that reason leaseholders, who have no responsibility and no blame to shoulder, are protected.

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

3. What recent discussions he has had with elected members in the devolved Administrations on the (a) equity and (b) transparency of the UK shared prosperity fund.

Michael Gove Portrait The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations (Michael Gove)
- Hansard - -

The United Kingdom Government have engaged with each of the devolved Administrations on the design of the UK shared prosperity fund both at official and ministerial levels, and our engagement with Ministers from the devolved Administrations in the weeks leading up to the publication of the UKSPF allocation helped to inform the most appropriate mix of interventions and specifically the allocations for each nation.

Peter Grant Portrait Peter Grant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

No doubt one thing that will have been raised in those discussions is the fact that this year Scotland’s share will be £151 million less than we would have got in EU structural funds had we not been dragged out of the EU against our will, despite the fact that both the Tory party manifesto in 2019 and a personal pledge from the Secretary of State at the Holyrood Finance and Public Administration Committee earlier this year assured us we would get at least as much as would have come from the European Union. Why have those two promises been broken, and, most importantly, what has happened to Scotland’s missing £151 million?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - -

The normally pertinacious Member is misinformed: it is the case that Scotland receives just as much. I fear he is probably missing out the money Scotland receives from the European Union as a result of money we gave to the EU, and as funding slowly moves down, the great thing about leaving the EU is that we have control of how these funds are spent; we can decide how they are spent. If the hon. Member wants to take us back into the European Union perhaps he will explain to voters in Scotland why he wants to take us back into the common fisheries policy, why he wants to abandon the trade deals we have secured that benefit Scotland’s distillers and farmers, and why he wants power to be exercised by unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels rather than elected representatives here.

Huw Merriman Portrait Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

4. What steps his Department is taking to reform planning policy.

--- Later in debate ---
Anthony Browne Portrait Anthony Browne (South Cambridgeshire) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T2. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

Michael Gove Portrait The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations (Michael Gove)
- Hansard - -

Across Government, the Places for Growth programme has seen civil servants relocated from London and the south-east to different parts of the United Kingdom, whether it is Treasury civil servants going to Darlington in County Durham, Home Office officials going to Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire or indeed my own officials relocating to Wolverhampton in the west midlands.

There was speculation in some newspapers at the weekend that that estimable effort by civil servants should be joined by Members of the other place. I would wholeheartedly welcome the relocation of the House of Lords to one of our great cities. In particular, the attractions of the six towns that constitute Stoke-on-Trent, as I saw last week, are formidable. If the House of Lords were to relocate to Stoke-on-Trent, it would be assured of a warm welcome in one of the most attractive places in England.

Anthony Browne Portrait Anthony Browne
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Northstowe in my constituency is the biggest new town in the UK for 50 years—the biggest since Milton Keynes. It now has 1,000 houses, but it has no dedicated community centre, no permanent café, no pub and no shop. Thousands of frustrated residents lack anywhere to go for a pint of milk or a pint of beer. This new town is also causing environmental problems. There is flooding in the neighbouring village of Swavesey, and the neighbouring village of Longstowe is running short of water. Both problems arise from the failure of the local planning authority. Will my right hon. Friend tell me what his Department might do to address these problems and to make sure they do not happen again as Northstowe is built out to 10,000 homes?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I remind people that topical questions are meant to be short and quick, not “War and Peace.”

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - -

Steps taken in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill and changes to the national planning policy framework should absolutely address the problems my hon. Friend identifies. Of course, the biggest problem he identifies is the fact that, sadly, South Cambridgeshire has a Liberal Democrat-controlled local planning authority that does not care about community but pursues a narrow political agenda, to the detriment of all.

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

With rent levels surging in the private sector and with the local housing allowance frozen once again, millions of hard-pressed tenants across the country are at risk of arrears and eviction. We know that rent tribunals are not an effective safeguard against punitive rent rises, and that the risk of such rises is likely only to increase when section 21 no-fault evictions are finally scrapped. Will the Secretary of State therefore tell the House why his planned renters reform Bill appears to be completely silent on protections for tenants against unaffordable rent rises?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - -

Our renters reform Bill will specifically ensure that people in the private rented sector are protected, and I look forward to working with the hon. Gentleman to ensure that the Bill satisfies the need of the hour.

Craig Tracey Portrait Craig Tracey (North Warwickshire) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T3. North Warwickshire Borough Council does a fantastic job of serving our local community, despite operating on a budget of only £9.5 million, which is certainly the lowest in Warwickshire and must be one of the lowest in the country. Will the Minister agree to come to my constituency to meet the council and to see for himself the excellent work it does, and to see how it could put the levelling-up funding on offer to excellent use?

Helen Morgan Portrait Helen Morgan (North Shropshire) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T5. Just last year, Shropshire’s Conservative-run council missed out on three levelling-up bids, and it missed out on a bus service improvement plan bid, under the Bus Back Better fund, this year. There is no doubt that Shropshire has need of these funds, so I would like to understand: what steps is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that levelling-up funds are allocated on the basis of need, rather than through some opaque bidding process that seems to be influenced by a council’s ability to direct resources at that bid?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - -

We allocate levelling-up fund bids, as the Local Government Minister pointed out earlier, on the basis of appropriate competition in order to ensure value for money, but I have had a chance to talk to the excellent Conservative leader of Shropshire Council, Lezley Picton, to make sure that she and her superb team of Conservative councillors can deliver for the people of Shropshire, as Conservatives always have.

Craig Williams Portrait Craig Williams (Montgomeryshire) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T4. I thank my right hon. Friend for delivering the shared prosperity fund, with historically high funding for mid-Wales and Montgomeryshire in particular, at more than £200 per head. I particularly thank him for the golden thread of rurality that we find in this formula, and I press him to continue delivering for rural communities.

Stephen Morgan Portrait Stephen Morgan (Portsmouth South) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T6. It is clear that the Government’s approach to levelling up is a postcode lottery based on their own political ambitions rather than a genuine desire to help communities. With Portsmouth’s high streets in dire need of investment and our city’s cultural attractions struggling with the cost of living, when will the Minister stop moving the goalposts and finally stop short-changing Portsmouth?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - -

That scored quite high on the cliché count, with “postcode lottery”, “moving the goalposts” and “narrow political calculation”. Instead of rehearsing for YouTube clips, the hon. Gentleman would be better employed looking at what we have done, not just for Portsmouth and Southampton, but for communities including Liverpool and Birkenhead, where this Government have been responsible for ensuring that local government receives the support it needs. If he wants to hang on to his seat, he would be better employed concentrating on delivering for his residents, not making party political points.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Secretary of State, don’t spoil a good day. You are having a good day so far, don’t ruin it.

--- Later in debate ---
Douglas Chapman Portrait Douglas Chapman (Dunfermline and West Fife) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Last week’s Bloomberg report suggests that levelling up in Scotland is just not happening. Given that Scotland is self-sufficient in gas and has great offshore renewables, should not the stewardship, licensing and revenues be linked to the Scottish Government budget, rather than to Her Majesty’s Treasury? Minister, when will these negotiations start? Can we kick-start some serious levelling up?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - -

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the issue of the importance of the Scottish Government and the UK Government working together on levelling up. That is why I am so pleased that, working with the Finance Minister in the Scottish Government, Kate Forbes, we have been able to agree a prospectus for two new freeports in Scotland. I am sure that Fife will be one of the communities, areas and local authorities that will be working with the UK Government to exploit the opportunity that freeports provide outside the European Union.

Selaine Saxby Portrait Selaine Saxby (North Devon) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T8. I welcome the proposals to ensure that empty shops have to be rented, but will the Minister explain whom they will be rented to? Will this enable upper floors to be converted to much-needed affordable housing? When will we see progress on filling key visible empty units in town centres such as Barnstaple?

--- Later in debate ---
Stephen Timms Portrait Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In the Homes for Ukraine scheme, it is left to the individuals involved to sort out matches with hosts for themselves, often through ad hoc Facebook groups. It is not surprising that that has led to reports such as:

“Ukrainian refugees using Facebook groups to seek a safe home in the UK are being put at risk of sexual exploitation”.

Criminal record checks on their own cannot prevent such exploitation. What assurance can the Secretary of State give in respect of the rigour and effectiveness of the separate home checks that are undertaken for the scheme?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - -

The right hon. Gentleman raises an important question. I am very grateful to the more than 100,000 UK citizens who have signed up to offer their homes for the scheme. As well as criminal record and police national computer checks before visas are granted, there are vetting and barring and other checks, often conducted by local authorities, at the time that individuals find themselves in homes. I would be more than happy to provide the right hon. Gentleman and others with a full briefing about the processes we undertake.

Darren Henry Portrait Darren Henry (Broxtowe) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

T9. In my constituency, the borough council has recently built new housing specifically for military veterans. As an ex-serviceperson myself, I was delighted to see this. Will the Minister please outline what more the Government are doing to make sure that there is housing for our veterans?

Catherine West Portrait Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

For many in the privately rented sector, the Government are like Nero, fiddling while Rome burns. When are they going to get on and publish the timetable for the renters reform Bill? Last week’s was the third Queen’s Speech in which the Bill has been mentioned, yet there is still no timetable, while section 21 evictions are on the increase in many of our constituencies.

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - -

The hon. Lady suggests we are being Neronian in fiddling while Rome burns, but I prefer to think that we are like Julius Caesar: we have crossed the Rubicon, alea iacta est—the die has been cast—and the Bill will be on the statute book in this parliamentary Session.

Ian Levy Portrait Ian Levy (Blyth Valley) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Forget-Me-Not group in Blyth is working hard to secure better opportunities for everyone in its local area of Cowpen Quay; however, the group needs a base in the community to house and deliver its services. This is grassroots levelling up, so will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State agree to meet me to discuss exactly what we can do to help these people?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the work of the Forget-Me-Not group in Blyth, which is doing amazing work in Cowpen Quay. I will do everything I can to support the group and will meet my hon. Friend to do so.

Cat Smith Portrait Cat Smith (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will Ministers join me in recognising and commending the work of Ellel parish councillor Lisa Corkerry? She is never afraid to don the marigolds, grab the litter pickers and clean up Galgate. Lisa would like to know when the Government are going to provide adequate funds for local authorities such that she can put her efforts into making her community better rather than clearing up the mess left behind by others.

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - -

The local councillor the hon. Lady mentions sounds like an absolutely brilliant champion for her local community. I would love to know more, particularly about what we can do to help in practical terms, and I look forward to working with her.

Alun Cairns Portrait Alun Cairns (Vale of Glamorgan) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Energy performance improvements to domestic dwellings are an important part of the Government’s agenda in respect of climate change obligations, as well as in respect of the cost of living. May I draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to private-rented off-grid properties, for which it is much more difficult and expensive to achieve energy performance improvements than for normal domestic dwellings?

Grahame Morris Portrait Grahame Morris (Easington) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Many agree that investment in levelling up should be not a competition but a considered plan created in partnership between central and local government to address the areas of greatest need. Ministers are meeting many Conservative MPs, but will the Minister meet me to discuss the levelling-up bid for my area to fund the Horden masterplan as well as to identify funding for other much-needed regeneration schemes in Easington Colliery and Peterlee town centre?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - -

Durham is on the up and east Durham must be part of that story, so, of course, we will make sure that a Minister meets the hon. Gentleman to discuss what we can do to help.

Margaret Ferrier Portrait Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (Ind)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Full fibre broadband coverage is essential to the Government’s aim to level up, but we lag behind most of Europe in rolling it out. What discussions has the Minister had with the Culture Secretary to ensure that the Government have a strategy to work with industry to improve coverage and speed up progress in rural and urban areas of the devolved nations, which currently have the poorest broadband?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - -

The Culture Secretary and I talk daily. One thing at the top of our agenda is ensuring that we have connectivity across the whole United Kingdom. We are, of course, working with the devolved Administrations to make sure that every citizen of the United Kingdom benefits from UK Government investment.

Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sure that the Secretary of State will want to acknowledge the increasingly important role played by metro Mayors. May I therefore encourage him to make contact with Mayor Tracy Brabin, the excellent metro Mayor for West Yorkshire who now chairs cross-party group of Mayors, the M10, to ensure the closest working relationship between national, regional and local government?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - -

I take the opportunity to thank the hon. Gentleman for his years of service as metro Mayor for South Yorkshire, during which, all party political differences aside, he did a superb job. I also congratulate his successor, Oliver Coppard. I look forward to working with Oliver and, of course, Tracy Brabin in the years ahead.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

One of my constituents wants to sponsor a family of Ukrainian children, but the pause in applications has delayed the family’s ability to travel to the UK because they are travelling separately. The delay cannot be about safeguarding, as Ministers have claimed, because it has made them less safe. Will the Secretary of State intervene with his ministerial colleagues and enable Ukrainian children who are at risk to reach sanctuary in this country as soon as possible?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - -

I cannot comment on any individual case, but it is absolutely the Government’s responsibility to ensure that as many Ukrainian parents and children benefit from our scheme as possible. We have to balance safeguarding concerns with the policy of the Ukrainian Government, but the hon. Gentleman raises an important question, and more will follow.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The levelling-up White Paper offered practically no new investment for the north-east, but it did have grandiose missions. Now we see from the draft Bill that those missions—and targets—can be changed at will by Ministers. Is not that a cheater’s charter, and are the missions worth the White Paper they are written on?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - -

Newcastle has benefited from great civic leadership from Nick Forbes, who, sadly, is no longer the leader of Newcastle City Council as a result of a Corbynite coup. I want to thank him for his leadership. I stress that the missions can change because we live in a democracy, and this House should be capable of deciding the destiny of this nation. For that reason—[Interruption.] I know that the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah) finds the idea of democracy laughable, but democracy, I am afraid, returned a Conservative Government in 2019 to level up and unite this country, and that is the mission we will fulfil.

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan (Angus) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Secretary of State likes to discuss the shared prosperity fund in abstract policy terms, but let us bring it back to brass tacks. In Angus, in 2019, we received £2,750,186 from the EU’s structural fund. Can he assure my constituents that we will get at least that, plus inflation, minus the Union Jack ribbon?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - -

Whether they are in Arbroath, Montrose or Kirriemuir, people will recognise the vital importance of UK shared prosperity funding and other funding. When the hon. Gentleman talks about “no Union Jack ribbon” is he really suggesting, for example, that UK armed forces based in Arbroath and Montrose should leave? Is that what he is suggesting? Is he suggesting that we rip up the Union Jack in order to make a narrow, nationalist political point? Does he want the Marines to leave his constituency? That is what it sounds like to me. It sounds to me that he is more prepared to make a narrow, partisan nationalist point than to see this country defended at a time of testing.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am almost tempted to call another question, but let us move on.

Intergovernmental Relations Annual Transparency Report

Michael Gove Excerpts
Thursday 31st March 2022

(3 months ago)

Written Statements
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Michael Gove Portrait The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations (Michael Gove)
- Hansard - -

Earlier today, the UK Government published the first annual report of our engagement with the devolved Administrations on gov.uk. This report has been laid as a Command Paper in both Houses.

The report covers a historic year for the UK, and gives an insight into the extensive engagement between the UK Government, Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive between 1 January and 31 December 2021. During 2021 the UK Government and the devolved Administrations collaborated on a number of areas, not least an effective response to covid-19 including the roll-out of the UK’s vaccination programme, the successful delivery of COP26 in Glasgow, and further implementing city and growth deals to boost prosperity in all parts of the UK.

The report is part of the UK Government’s ongoing commitment to transparency of intergovernmental relations to Parliament and the public. The UK Government will look to continue to develop its public reporting and transparency in intergovernmental relations in 2022.

[HCWS758]

Green Freeports in Scotland: Bidding Prospectus

Michael Gove Excerpts
Monday 28th March 2022

(3 months ago)

Written Statements
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Michael Gove Portrait The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations (Michael Gove)
- Hansard - -

On 25 March, the UK Government and the Scottish Government jointly launched the bidding prospectus for green freeports, expanding the freeport programme to Scotland. The bidding period will close on 20 June 2022. The green freeports in Scotland bidding prospectus can be found at the below page:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/green-freeports-in-scotland-bidding-prospectus

Green Freeports will be at the forefront of delivering the Government’s net zero and levelling up agendas in Scotland. Green freeports will promote regeneration in our local areas by attracting high quality employment opportunities, promoting decarbonisation, increasing trade, and attracting investment to form innovative business clusters. This collaboration between the UK Government and the Scottish Government is evidence of the opportunities available to the whole of the UK through joint delivery of ambitious programmes.

The green freeport programme is based on the same model as the English programme and offers the same raft of incentives. Devolved elements of the offer were created in conjunction with the Scottish Government, with the UK Government sharing the lessons learnt and expertise gained from the English freeport programme.

The customs and tax models are designed to incentivise businesses to invest in green freeports. This is supplemented with seed funding to develop key infrastructure to help level up communities. New measures that speed up planning processes will accelerate this development and new initiatives will encourage innovators to drive additional economic growth and create new jobs. Potential green freeports will have to outline a decarbonisation plan which will not only help protect our environment, but help to reduce our dependence on, and vulnerability to, the fluctuating international fossil fuel market.

Green freeports will be selected according to a transparent and fair competitive bidding process. Officials from the UK and Scottish Governments will jointly assess bids, with Ministers from both Governments having an equal say on the final selection. Both Governments will look for a commitment from prospective green freeports to collaborate closely with key partners across the public and private sectors.

The UK Government will build upon this success and continue to work with the other devolved administrations to extend the freeport programme across the rest of the UK.

[HCWS722]

Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

Michael Gove Excerpts
Tuesday 15th March 2022

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Ministerial Corrections
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The following is an extract from the statement on the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme on 14 March 2022.
Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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The scheme will be open to all Ukrainian nationals and residents, and they will be able to live and work in the United Kingdom for up to three years.

[Official Report, 14 March 2022, Vol. 710, c. 619.]

Letter of correction from the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations:

An error has been identified in my statement.

The correct information should have been:

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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The scheme will be open to all Ukrainian nationals resident in Ukraine prior to 1 January 2022, and they will be able to live and work in the United Kingdom for up to three years.