Oral Answers to Questions

Nick Fletcher Excerpts
Wednesday 20th March 2024

(3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I understand why the Labour party insists on bringing this issue up over and over again, but Mr Hester has apologised for his comments, we have welcomed his apology, and we are drawing a line under it. We are focused on what matters to the people of this country. I had letters last week from people telling me that we were wasting time focusing on issues that were not relevant to them. We need to focus on what matters to the British people.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher (Don Valley) (Con)
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Boys lag behind girls at every level at school, creating a gender attainment gap that has been in place for some 30 years. Will the Minister meet headteachers and a working group to see what we can do to reduce that gap?

Oral Answers to Questions

Nick Fletcher Excerpts
Wednesday 17th January 2024

(5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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Of course we want to see a peaceful resolution to this conflict as soon as possible. A sustainable permanent ceasefire with an end to the destruction, fighting and loss of life, the release of hostages and no resumption of hostilities would of course be the best way forward, but in order to achieve that a number of things need to happen: Hamas would have to agree to release all the hostages; Hamas would have to no longer be in charge of Gaza; the threat of more rocket attacks from Hamas into Israel would have to end; and the Palestinian Authority, boosted with assistance, would need to return to Gaza in order to provide governance and aid. That is a sustainable ceasefire that we will work very hard to bring about.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher (Don Valley) (Con)
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Q11. Today I was unsure whether to raise a national issue such as the desperate need for a Minister for men or a local issue such as Doncaster’s need for a new hospital or Edlington’s for a new leisure centre, but I thought the best thing I could do was ask the Prime Minister to come and have a tour of Doncaster, and while I am showing him around my home town I can press the need for a Minister for men, I can show him the site for a new hospital, and I can introduce him to the people of Edlington so that he can discuss their new leisure centre. Will the Prime Minister accept my invitation?

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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Thanks to my hon. Friend’s fantastic campaigning on behalf of his constituents, City of Doncaster Council has received more than £80 million in levelling-up funding to support its regeneration projects and most recently Doncaster has been awarded £20 million in our long-term plan for towns over the next 10 years, which I know he is working very hard to make sure is prioritised for local people. I will be delighted to discuss both projects and his other ideas when I come and visit him as soon as my diary allows.

Oral Answers to Questions

Nick Fletcher Excerpts
Wednesday 6th December 2023

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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I recognise the hon. Member’s campaigning on this issue and I have great respect for his position. Indeed, we have spoken on a number of occasions both here and on my visits to Northern Ireland. My focus right now is on getting the institutions up and running, and my overarching priority is to get public services in Northern Ireland back on track, which I know is an ambition that he and I share. Any reform of institutions is best dealt with with the support of all parts of the community. When it comes to restoring the current institutions, the Government are doing everything they can to support efforts, and I know that the Secretary of State will be in touch for engagement with the parties imminently on that point.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick  Fletcher  (Don Valley)  (Con)
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Q12.   Yesterday, 13 men died by suicide; today, 88 men will die of heart disease; tomorrow, and every day, 90,000 men will wake up in prison; and today we have 2.2 million boys living at home with no dad. Thankfully, we have an excellent Cabinet Minister for women, and an excellent Minister for Women. Will the Prime Minister meet me to discuss the merits of a Minister for men and boys? As Warren Farrell has said, when one sex loses, “both sexes lose”.

Rishi Sunak Portrait The Prime Minister
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My hon. Friend should be commended for his tireless campaigning on this issue. He is particularly right to focus on suicide, and I am grateful for his engagement with the suicide prevention strategy, which sets out the actions that we will take to reduce suicides in the coming years. It was thanks in part to his campaigning that on International Men’s Day we announced that we are appointing the first men’s health ambassador and launching a men’s health taskforce. I look forward to continued collaboration with him so that we can represent his concerns adequately.

Oral Answers to Questions

Nick Fletcher Excerpts
Wednesday 12th July 2023

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I am afraid that the shadow Front-Bench spokeswoman is confusing all sorts of different things. FTSE directors are not the ones who need support getting into the workplace. She is talking about a menopause action plan, but we have had one, completed and delivered it, while Labour Members are just talking about bringing one in, which shows that they are not paying attention. We are the only ones who will be doing what is right to promote gender equality in the workplace.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher (Don Valley) (Con)
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5. If she will hold discussions with Cabinet colleagues on the potential merits of including policy relating to men on the list of Government Equalities Office responsibilities.

Maria Caulfield Portrait The Minister for Women (Maria Caulfield)
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The Government are already taking action to improve outcomes for men and boys. For example, through the introduction of shared parental leave, men now have more opportunity to take time away from the workplace to care for their children. We continue to work closely across Government to embed equalities policies for both men and women.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher
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I thank the Minister for her answer, but does she believe that there should be a Minister for Men, as there is a Minister for Women?

Maria Caulfield Portrait Maria Caulfield
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I thank my hon. Friend for his hard work in this space as chair of the all-party group on issues affecting men and boys. He knows—this is with my health hat on—of the work that we are doing to improve lung cancer outcomes for men, and about the suicide prevention strategy that will be coming forward; we know that middle-aged men are at particular risk. I reassure him that the Equality Hub has responsibility for both men and women to ensure equality for all, and I will speak to the Minister for Women and Equalities so that we can be clearer about how that work impacts on men.

Ministerial Code: Investigation of Potential Breach

Nick Fletcher Excerpts
Tuesday 23rd May 2023

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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The Prime Minister does things properly and professionally, and it is right that he gets the information and bases his decision on that. He does that as Prime Minister on the whole remit of Government policy, and it is right that he should do it in these circumstances.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher (Don Valley) (Con)
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Does my right hon. Friend agree that once this nonsense has been dealt with, we should ask why, when and how this was leaked, because there is also a civil service code to be adhered to?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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Right now the focus is on gathering the information that the Prime Minister needs to take a decision on this. I thank my hon. Friend for his question. It is always a matter of concern when information gets out in unauthorised ways and circumstances, but the focus now is just on gathering this information.

Procurement Bill [ Lords ] (Third sitting)

Nick Fletcher Excerpts
Alex Burghart Portrait Alex Burghart
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It is wonderful to hear the hon. Gentleman supporting our Bill once more. Making contracts more accessible to small and medium-sized enterprises is a major purpose of the Bill. It is not always mega, international charities that are getting local contracts. In Essex, I see that is not the case.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher (Don Valley) (Con)
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I refer Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, which states that I am an owner-shareholder of an SME. There are other benefits of working for a main contractor, and that should go on the record. The Bill should make it easier for small enterprises to gain that work, but if a contractor works directly for the client, it becomes the main contractor. When it becomes the main contractor, it becomes responsible for the health and safety and everything that goes with it, so there is an awful lot of cover for smaller contractors to work for a main contractor so that the main contractor takes some of those responsibilities away. I know what we are trying to do here and it is a good thing to do. If small and medium-sized enterprises work for the main authority, they become responsible, so there is a cover that main contractors provide. They are not just taking the top slice for nothing; they are actually taking on responsibility for the entire project.

Alex Burghart Portrait Alex Burghart
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My hon. Friend makes an excellent point.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 18 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 19

Award of public contracts following a competitive tendering procedure

Doncaster Sheffield Airport

Nick Fletcher Excerpts
Monday 24th October 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher (Don Valley) (Con)
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On 13 July this year, Peel shocked my constituency with the announcement of the potential closure of Doncaster Sheffield Airport. This is the reason for the debate. Let me tell the House the story. I shall start with the place, then the stakeholders, how we got here, where we are now, questions for this House, and, finally, one last glimmer of hope.

Doncaster Sheffield Airport was originally RAF Finninglay. I remember going there as a very young boy. I was in the back of a Ford Escort, sat between two older brothers, with my legs sticking to black vinyl seats. It was not a pleasant journey, but, oh, what I saw when I got there: I saw Concorde for the first time, the Red Arrows, Harrier Jump Jets lifting vertically from the ground and then bowing in front of us before roaring off into the distance, and I heard the deafening sound of the Vulcan—what wonderful memories.

Sadly, Finninglay closed in 1996, but, to the joy of the people of Doncaster and beyond, the airport reopened in 2005 as Doncaster Sheffield Robin Hood Airporta silly name, but that is for another day. I was fortunate to fly from there the second day after it opened. It was a wonderful place, and Members can see why it is now so dear to me and my constituents.

I have briefly talked about the place. I want now to talk about the stakeholders. We have the employees who are to lose their jobs, the businesses that will no doubt have to move, and the public who love our airport. We have Peel, the landowners and operators of Doncaster Sheffield Airport, the combined authority and its elected mayors, past and present, Doncaster Council and its mayor, central Government and me.

Let us talk about the people first. The airport has won many awards. It is a great building in a great place with a great car park, but it is the people who make it. The friends of Doncaster Sheffield Airport, the staff of DSA, the contractors who make it all work, and the firefighters and security who keep all safe. Then there are the businesses on site and in the hangars nearby: 2Excel and the Yorkshire Aero Club to name just a couple; Tui and its staff; and the public from across the region. All of these have been amazing and have kept me going through their continued work to keep the airport open in tough times. Tens of thousands of people have signed petitions—a Facebook page of 15,000 people. They are great people, all wanting to save the airport. To all of them, I say thank you.

Now let me talk of the two key players: Peel and the combined authority. Peel is a huge landowner across our country. Board members include: John Whittaker; Steve Underwood; and Robert Hough. Peel owned Sheffield Airport. It closed that and built houses on it. It also owned Teesside Airport, and would no doubt have closed it had it not been saved by Mayor Ben Houchen. Peel has a precedent for doing that.

Oliver Coppard is Mayor of our combined authority and has been in position since May this year. Before this, it was the hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis). Oliver has devolved powers and moneys. Let me explain what that means. When people are asked whether they want more powers locally, they will say yes every time—why would they not? And that is what has happened here.

In 2018, under the leadership of the hon. Member for Barnsley Central, South Yorkshire became a combined authority with an elected Mayor. That means that powers move from central Government—this place—to the combined authority now led by Oliver. Our Mayor has powers over economic growth, education, infrastructure and transport. He also has a substantial amount of money that he can use to drive growth. This is gainshare money and is set out as £30 million a year for 30 years— a total of £900 million. He can borrow against this, too. Peel and our Mayor are the key players.

Doncaster Council is the local authority in which the airport sits. It has compulsory purchase powers and obviously deals with planning. The council is led by an elected Mayor, too.

Where do the Government sit? If these powers are devolved, there are only so many levers that they can use. The use of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 has been raised by Members. I, too, have written to the Secretary of State on this issue. The Act states that if there is a disruption to a service that could cause potential loss or injury to human life, the Act could be used. Why is this so relevant at Doncaster Sheffield Airport? For those who do not know, our airport has companies on site that offer coastguard and oil spill services for central Government. We also have the National Police Air Service operating from a specialist-built facility—good people doing good things across our nation.

When I read about the Civil Contingencies Act, I too believed it was a way forward. Sadly, at least at present, it appears not to be. I spoke to the company that offers those services and, although there may be disruption to its business operation, it can still offer the services. Is that argument dead? Maybe not, but it does not appear to be as fruitful as first thought. Perhaps the Minister can advise us.

So what can the Government do? They can use the weight of their office and the Department to press for combined authorities and companies to do the right thing. I thank Baroness Vere and my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Robert Courts) for their help and support. As the Prime Minister at the time said, we must do all we can to protect DSA, and I believe they have done much. Some may wish they could do more, and so do I—but that, I am afraid, is devolution. For them to do more, we would need to return powers to Government. Maybe that is the real answer.

Finally, there is me, a Back-Bench MP. Let me tell the House what I have done. Well, no, let us just say: much. This debate is not about me. It is a debate about saving Doncaster Sheffield Airport, and any other regional airport in the future. We have spoken of the site and we have spoken of the stakeholders. The question is how we got here.

It must be said that, as much as Peel has annoyed me, more than most over the past three months, it has at least put its money where its mouth is in the past. Many people believe that the Great Yorkshire Way, a wonderful road connecting the M18 directly to Doncaster Sheffield Airport, was paid for by the taxpayer, but no—much of the £60 million project was private investment, £11 million of it from Peel itself. As much as I would like to haul Peel over the coals at this stage, I cannot.

The sad fact is that Peel sought financial support from the combined authority for approximately three years, in the form of an equity share worth £20 million and then, reluctantly, in the form of a loan. For three years, I have been informed, Peel was led a merry dance by the combined authority, which provided a catalogue of excuses and delays without clear process. I have been led to believe that first, it claimed there was no money, despite devolution; secondly, it failed to grasp state aid issues and made no effort to lobby on them and finally, environmental concerns were given as the reason why the £20 million loan was not even put to the leaders of the combined authority in March this year.

Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) (Lab)
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We are all here to support the hon. Gentleman and we want to engage in a constructive debate, but I must say that what he has been told is not the case. If I am fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will clearly articulate what the mayoral combined authority did for Doncaster Sheffield Airport and to support Peel over the period when I was the Mayor. I completely understand why the hon. Gentleman makes that point, but I can assure him, as I can assure all hon. Members, that in the period from 2018 to the point of the mayoral election we worked incredibly hard to support Peel and to work with the airport. If I get the chance later on I will be very clear about precisely what we did.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher
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I will come on to that, because I want a public inquiry to get to the truth of this matter, but I will cover that in my speech.

The combined authority appears never to have properly embraced Doncaster Sheffield Airport as its own airport, and to have badly underestimated the economic loss to the region. It was complacent with Peel and favoured investment closer to its own patch in Sheffield.

This region has failed to behave sensibly under devolution, continuing to act in silos rather than devising and implementing a cohesive economic plan. The economic loss could be simply catastrophic. I asked Peel whether, if the £20 million had been made available this April, we would be in this position. Peel said no. Let me just leave that there for the House: if the £20 million had been made available, Doncaster Sheffield Airport would not be closing. The combined authority may disagree, but the fact remains that the £20 million never appeared and Peel has said it is the fault of the combined authority. That is why I want a public inquiry. If that is not the truth, then what is? A public inquiry will find out.

Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis
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The hon. Gentleman is being generous with his time. In April 2022, DSA indicated that it did not wish to continue developing the loan proposal at that time. It is hard not to conclude that what he has been told, although I think he is presenting it in good faith, is not the case.

May I put one point to the hon. Gentleman? He has raised concerns about devolution, both today and previously, referring to the powers and the money vested in the Mayor. For the sake of clarity, it would be helpful if he could say precisely what powers—he has mentioned the gain share—and precisely what money he thinks the current South Yorkshire Mayor should be deploying in support of Doncaster Sheffield airport. What powers and what money?

--- Later in debate ---
Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher
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Maybe we need to sit down with the Mayor of Teesside and see how he worked it out, because I have been told that he has exactly the same powers as Mayor Oliver Coppard and that Mayor Oliver Coppard has twice as much money as he does, yet he has bought an airport and he is moving forward with it.

Regarding the fact that DSA said it did not want the loan in April, this is why I want a public inquiry. I have been very careful about what I am saying, although I know I can say what I choose in this House, because I am telling the hon. Member what I have been led to believe. I want a public inquiry so that the people of Doncaster and South Yorkshire can get to the bottom of this question. If what I am saying is true, it is a disgrace.

Clive Betts Portrait Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab)
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The hon. Gentleman was just asked a direct question. It does not need a public inquiry to work out what the factual position is. Will he say very clearly what powers he thinks the Mayor has to go in and intervene with Peel, which clearly does not want to engage and does not want to sell?

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher
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Exactly the same again: Peel did not want to sell to Ben Houchen, but it did sell to Ben Houchen. It is no good sitting there and saying it did not—it did. Oliver Coppard has twice the money and exactly the same powers, and his job is economic growth for the area. Ben Houchen bought an airport off Peel that Peel never necessarily wanted to sell.

I will make some progress. The next question is where we are now. The combined authority failed to set up a mayoral development corporation and Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council failed to start a compulsory purchase order. They both say they cannot, but it is the threat that counts in a business deal. That is why I have championed the Civil Contingencies Act; it may not be viable, but it is the threat that counts.

I have tried to work collegially on this and, to be fair, in week 10, on the Friday before the announcement was to be made, the combined authority came up with a deal to cover Peel’s losses for 13 months. Although that is not a Ben Houchen deal, at least it was something. Peel would not lose any money, it would get the local council, the combined authority and the Government on-side, and it would get me off its back. If, 13 months from now, no buyer had been found and the airport was still making a loss, at least Peel would have tried; local jobs would have been saved during a cost of living crisis, the airport would have supported the local economy through this period and businesses on site would have had time to get their contingency plans in good shape. But no—Peel still says no.

There is something Peel is not telling me, and again, a public inquiry is needed. Why would Peel want to annoy local and central Government, its customers, its staff, the local people and me, when it could have its losses covered, and still say no? There is something Peel is not telling me, so a public inquiry is needed.

In the last week of the initial six-week consultation, the combined authority’s big idea was to put the airport on the market. These are the people in charge of economic growth for South Yorkshire. Five weeks after I, a Back-Bench MP, had written to Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Ryanair and numerous other airlines, our devolved authority in charge of economic growth went to the market.

I really cannot get my breath, but it is day 45 of this saga, and the combined authority is only just going to the market with our airport. I have tried to be collegial throughout my time dealing with this matter, to show a united front against Peel, but it has been harder than anyone can imagine—not being allowed to join meetings and, when I am, having to sit and listen every to reason why things cannot be done rather than reasons why they can.

Finally, we have three consortia around the table with Peel. Those talks went on through last week, but as yet I have heard no more. There is little time; people are about to lose their jobs. I have to ask whether we would have stood a better chance if the combined authority had gone to the market in week one instead of week five. I am sure we would.

Miriam Cates Portrait Miriam Cates (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Con)
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Thank you for being so generous with your time. As a fellow South Yorkshire MP, can I just say how grateful I am—I know that many of us in the House are—for the tireless work that you have done championing the airport?

Miriam Cates Portrait Miriam Cates
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Apologies, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am grateful for the work that my hon. Friend has done, on behalf of the people of South Yorkshire, trying to rescue the airport. Does he believe that the local authorities and the combined authority have underestimated its economic and social value? If so, why does he think that is?

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher
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Yes, massively. The important word in “combined authority” is “combined”—it is Doncaster, Rotherham, Barnsley and Sheffield coming together. I do not think the combined authority leaders, past and present, have told the leaders of those councils how important the airport is for the growth of the entire area and beyond. They have not sold it. They should have sold it; if they had, we would not be losing our airport. As I said, we need a public inquiry to find out the reasons for that, but I am afraid the silo working that I spoke about earlier is typical of Labour councils up and down the country.

Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis
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I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way. He said a moment ago that the current Mayor has twice the money that Mayor Ben Houchen has in Tees Valley. I would be grateful to hear the facts that underpin that, and I am sure the House would be most illuminated, because that is not my understanding. Let me also return to the crucial point about powers. What powers does the hon. Member think are invested in the Mayor that he is not using?

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher
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On the money, the South Yorkshire Mayor has £30 million per year for 30 years. That is £900 million. Ben Houchen, the Mayor for Teesside, has £15 million a year for 30 years. That is £450 million. I believe we are two years behind where we should be because Doncaster and Barnsley councils wanted to create a Yorkshire-wide mayoralty. Nevertheless, we are where we are.

With regard to powers, I say again that we have powers to set up mayoral development areas, we have compulsory purchase powers, we have community asset powers—we have all these different levers but, unfortunately, none of them has been used.

Alexander Stafford Portrait Alexander Stafford (Rother Valley) (Con)
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I am intrigued by those powers, and I think where the power lies is the nub of the issue. We have all seen the great success of Mayor Ben Houchen in Tees Valley, but why is that not happening in South Yorkshire? My hon. Friend talks about compulsory purchase powers. Is he saying that if the Mayor wanted to, he could—perhaps with Doncaster Council—buy the airport to save it, similarly to what Ben Houchen did, but that he has chosen not to do so?

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher
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The compulsory purchase powers sit with the local authority, and it could have used them. The argument will be that, to use compulsory purchase powers, it is necessary to go through a series of phases first: compulsory purchase has to be the last resort. I understand that, but the threat of its use would have made Peel sit down at the table far sooner, and we may have stood a chance of saving the airport. Using compulsory purchase orders when the airport has closed and been asset-stripped by its owners is not going to help anyone. We are where we are. As I said a moment ago, we have consortia around the table. Let us hope that things change in the next few days.

I could speak for another hour, but I know my time is limited. I want to leave the House with three questions. First, what can this place do to stop this happening again? Should we make all airports community assets? Should any sale or closure of an airport have to be agreed by the local Mayor or the Secretary of State? Should any operator have to give a notice period of, say, two to five years? I do not know, but something must be done.

Secondly, before any more devolution can take place, can it please be explained properly to the electorate what that means? I believe it has been a disaster for South Yorkshire so far. People really need to know what they are signing up for and voting for.

Thirdly, can we have a public inquiry? I need the people of Doncaster to know what has happened. It is important. They really need to know where to put their cross the next time they vote.

Jason McCartney Portrait Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con)
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I thank my hon. Friend for securing this important debate. Before he winds up his excellent speech, in which he has clearly laid out the issues, the work that he has been doing to solve them, and some solutions, may I just say that my West Yorkshire constituents have lobbied me too? This is a regional airport that they use, so on their behalf I say to my hon. Friend, “More power to your elbow.” I congratulate him on everything that he has been doing to campaign for this important regional airport.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher
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I thank my hon. Friend. That just proves that the airport is used by people from all across the north of England and is such a fantastic asset.

Peel has been stubborn—I believe desperately so—and its board, mainly John Whittaker and Robert Hough, will have to live with what it is trying to do and what its legacy will be. I am told that John Whittaker is a good man, and he can stop this at the click of his fingers. The question is, will he do the right thing? I hope so.

However, Peel is a business, and businesses make profit. Although I do not believe that greed is good, Peel is doing what businesses are supposed to do: making money. Sadly, I believe our elected Mayors have not done what they are supposed to do. They have been left wanting—absent at first, then slow and, in the words of local business leaders, chaotic. They have shown no vision and are championing our airport only now, when it is probably too late.

Just look at the difference between our Mayor’s social media account and Ben Houchen’s. Our South Yorkshire Mayor is tweeting childish memes when the people he represents—the people who voted for him—are losing their jobs and South Yorkshire is losing its future, while Ben Houchen’s social media is littered with success stories of investment, jobs and giving the next generation an inspiring future.

If we lose our airport, Peel will need to be held accountable, but the combined authority should be dissolved. It is not working, and it is not working for Doncaster. Our combined authority Mayor is buying trams for Sheffield while Doncaster gets second-hand buses and a closed airport. It is simply not good enough. And where is our Doncaster Mayor? Nowhere to be seen.

Alexander Stafford Portrait Alexander Stafford
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If, as is reported, Peel is planning to sell the site or get rid of it for houses to be built on it, who exactly would benefit from the council tax on those houses? Would the South Yorkshire Mayor and Doncaster Council get money directly from the rate payers who bought those houses? Does my hon. Friend think there is anything weird about that way of doing things?

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher
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My hon. Friend makes his point; as I say, I hope that those sorts of things will come out as part of the public inquiry.

I have said throughout our campaign that we must keep the faith. I am so saddened. I know that we cannot keep an airport open because people are fond of it, but Doncaster people really are fond of the airport, and I am too. I therefore want to try to end on a note of optimism that we still have a glimmer of hope. The consortia and Peel are still in the room and the combined authority offer is still on the table. I want them to know that if they save our airport, I will be their champion, and so will the good people of Doncaster.

It is a great airport and I know that, with the right owner and the right support, it would be viable. I therefore ask Peel one last time to do the right thing, reverse this ridiculous decision, accept the combined authority’s offer, give the sale the time it needs and let us turn Doncaster into the aerotropolis its founder, John Whittaker, once dreamed of.

Edward Miliband Portrait Edward Miliband (Doncaster North) (Lab)
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I speak as the constituency Member for Doncaster North. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Don Valley (Nick Fletcher) for securing the debate and for his efforts to help save the airport, which he has talked about. I also pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster Central (Dame Rosie Winterton), the Mayors of Doncaster and South Yorkshire and their teams, and my colleagues, including our shadow Transport Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh). I also mention Mark Chadwick of the Save Doncaster Sheffield Airport Facebook page, who has run a brilliant campaign, as the hon. Member for Don Valley said, and the local trade unions, which organised a rally on Saturday.

It is one minute to midnight as far as the airport is concerned. We in this House owe it to the workers who are at risk of losing their jobs, and to the whole community, to work together and do absolutely everything we can in the days that we have left; not to point fingers or play the blame game, but to try to keep the airport open. That is the focus of my remarks. On Saturday, I heard from people who have worked at the airport since it opened in 2005 and I heard the uncertainty, anguish and sense of pessimism that they felt. They expect us in this House to leave no stone unturned in seeking to keep the airport open.

Let us get the position clear: responsibility for this decision lies with Peel. Peel has taken the decision. It has refused the offer of a 13-month subsidy from the South Yorkshire Mayor to cover its losses and keep the airport open while a buyer is found. Indeed, looking at the situation, one can only reach the conclusion that it is determined not to sell because it wants to use the land for other purposes. The problem with the idea that the airport should somehow be purchased by the South Yorkshire Mayor has a flaw at its heart: Peel is refusing to sell. The issue of the compulsory purchase order is important, but it would take at least a year to go through that process.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher
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I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has ever done a business deal—I really do not know—but what we do is put on as much pressure as possible and use every lever from day one. That way, when we have the people in the room, they are thinking, “Is this going to happen?” I have kept quiet all the way through and have not said what I have wanted to say, because I wanted to show a united front with Opposition Members and the Mayor, but it has been like watching child’s play in front of my eyes. We should use every lever we have, pile on the pressure and hope that Peel will sit down and talk to us. I honestly believe that if I had not started this campaign on day one, the issue would have been swept under the carpet, because nobody on the Opposition side of the House wanted it.

Edward Miliband Portrait Edward Miliband
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When the hon. Gentleman looks back at this debate, I honestly do not think that he will think that kind of partisanship does him any favours. Of course the council has talked about doing a CPO and has discussed it with him, but it has tried to explain the time that would take.

Our focus needs to be on Peel. We need to send a united message from this House that it can still do the right thing, because there are credible bidders. I urge it to accept the generous offer of the South Yorkshire Mayor as it considers those bids from credible buyers. If it does not do that, its name will be mud in the city and region forever more, and deservedly so.

I also appeal to the Government through the Minister, although I know it is not her area of responsibility; she already answered an urgent question on it earlier. I will explain the background to the legal advice that my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster Central and I commissioned around the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. We commissioned that because of the national dimension of the services run from the airport, which include the National Air Police Service, search and rescue, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the airport fire service, oil spill dispersant work and military activity. They are national activities, which is why we think the Civil Contingencies Act is engaged. The short notice given to these services, which have been told to cease operations by 18 November, also gives them little time to prepare and find alternatives.

I will briefly turn to the legal advice of Lord Falconer of Thoroton, who was a co-sponsor of the Act. He is not a lawyer who we found on the street; he was the Lord Chancellor and was responsible for co-piloting the legislation through the House. We have made the legal advice available, and we can obviously make it available to Members here if they have not seen it. He says:

“It is my opinion that under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, the Transport Secretary”—

or, by the way, any Government Minister—

“has clear legal authority to intervene to prevent the closure of Doncaster airport...due to the disruption of essential services run from the airport”.

He goes on, and this is the key point:

“The shortness of the period before closure means for many, if not all, of these services an interruption of their life-saving services, and for some of them potentially a permanent reduction in quality. No doubt some of them will find alternative bases. How good they are and when remains to be seen. In this truncated timetable, in breach of the lease, there is the potential for disruption to these life-saving services.”

For those familiar with the Act, Lord Falconer is applying the test in section 1, which defines an emergency as an event or situation that

“involves, causes or may cause…loss of human life,…human illness or injury,…damage to property,…disruption of facilities for transport, or…disruption of services relating to health.”

He also says:

“There is no doubt that the disruption or interruption of the services described above constitute an event or situation which ‘causes or may cause’ any one of the circumstances described above.”

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher
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I want this to work—the Civil Contingencies Act to work—and I have spoken at length with the people offering such services, but they have said there will be no disruption to their services. I actually asked them, but it is not something I want to raise on the Floor of the House because we are again showing our cards to Peel.

The right hon. Member keeps on pressing this point, but I have been through it. I wrote to the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State has written back to me and said that she cannot use the Act. This is a Labour peer passing advice to a Labour Member of Parliament, but I still backed it and I still went to the Secretary of State. I have tried it, and I think this is taking us away from the argument that we are here because a £20 million loan never appeared, and that is why we are losing our airport. We have the consortia and Peel around the table, and what we now need to do is press as hard as we can for them to make the right decision. Going on about the Civil Contingencies Act, which we have gone through many times, is not helping.

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Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) (Lab)
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I congratulate the hon. Member for Don Valley (Nick Fletcher) on securing the debate and on the tireless work he has put in to try to save the airport, which I think is widely acknowledged. However, as has been observed by a number of right hon. and hon. Members tonight, we need to work together. We cannot afford for this to turn into a political row, because the stakes are too high. I think all of us recognise that Doncaster Sheffield airport is a huge economic asset for our region. South Yorkshire and the surrounding areas would be weakened and undermined if the airport were to close, so we all have an absolute responsibility to do everything we possibly can. However, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) said, the focus has to be on Peel.

I say this with all humility, but I have a pretty comprehensive understanding of the powers that are invested in the mayoralty and the money that is available to the Mayor. For four very difficult years, I worked with local leaders and national Government to make the most of that particular arrangement. I was sorry to hear the hon. Member for Don Valley say that he does not think it is working for South Yorkshire. Many very, very senior members of his Government and very many Conservative Members on his side do think it is working for South Yorkshire. I worked closely with a number of Government Ministers to ensure that it did.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher
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Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Let me just make a bit of progress, then I will give way. I want to reinforce the very important point that my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North made about making sure that Peel does the right thing.

A very good and reasonable offer from the Mayor was put to Peel. That offer would have enabled it to continue to operate the airport for up to 13 months. That crucial 13-month period would have provided the time and space to ensure that the ongoing negotiations with the three parties that have stepped forward were given every chance to succeed. Even at this very late hour, I still hope that Peel—I hope it is watching this debate tonight—does the right thing and gets back around the table with the Mayor and the combined authority to look at whether it might be prepared to reconsider. I am happy to give way if the hon. Gentleman wants to intervene.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher
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I thank the hon. Member for giving way. I just want to go back to the fact that he believes devolution is working for Doncaster. The city region sustainable transport settlements bid was for £570 million. Some £110 million of that was taken off the top straight away for the trams in Sheffield. The rest of the money, the £460 million, was then divvied up between Doncaster, Rotherham, Sheffield and Barnsley. Another item is the cultural money that has just come to South Yorkshire—£1 million from central Government to the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority. How much did Doncaster get? It got £38,000, or 3.8%. I just want him to confirm that devolution is working for Doncaster people, because I do not think it is.

Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis
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What I can confirm—I am, frankly, uniquely well placed to be able to confirm it—is that for the period of time I was the Mayor, I moved heaven and earth to work very closely with all local leaders to ensure that the money we had available to commit was committed in a way that was fair and equal. Frankly, I am very proud of the fact that none of the leaders were ever able to come to me to say, “You were favouring Barnsley or Sheffield or Doncaster.”

The hon. Gentleman makes a specific point about the money invested in Sheffield in Supertram. That is a very legitimate question for him to raise. I advise him to talk to colleagues on his own Government Front Bench, because it is almost always the case, as a mayoral combined authority, that you are bidding for—I hope the Minister will confirm this, because this was absolute in my experience and it was the experience of other mayors—pots of funding that are controlled by national Government. Always it is the case that there are very strict rules governing the way that money can be spent. While I was the Mayor, I moved heaven and earth. The hon. Member will remember that we had a number of good-natured constructive conversations to ensure that Doncaster got its fair share. I can look him and the House in the eye and say that Doncaster, along with Barnsley, Rotherham and Sheffield, always got its fair share.

There are issues relating to how national funding pots are structured and created. We do not really do devolution properly in this country. We do not devolve pots of money to mayoral combined authorities for them to commit based on their priorities. The money that comes from Westminster and Whitehall always has very stringent conditions attached. That is not how it should be, but that is the reality.

I was sorry to hear the hon. Member raising concerns—admittedly, that had been raised to him—about the approach from the combined authority in recent years. I categorically assure him and the House that, over the four years that I was the Mayor, we worked tirelessly to make sure that we did everything that we possibly could to invest not just in Doncaster Sheffield airport, but in GatewayEast, as he knows well, because it is in his constituency. GatewayEast is an area that has huge economic potential not only for Doncaster, but for the wider region. Throughout my tenure as the Mayor, there were numerous and significant interventions.

Let me give a flavour of those interventions so that the hon. Member might be a bit reassured. In referring to the Great Yorkshire Way, he made the point, rightly, that private investment went into funding that, but he should also understand—I hope he does—that, in March 2017, the mayoral combined authority provided £9.2 million for the construction of the Great Yorkshire Way. In March 2019, we granted a loan of £3.5 million for capital works, helping to support a key source of the revenue at Doncaster Sheffield airport. In March 2020, there was a second loan of £5 million to enhance passenger capacity. In June 2020, the MCA agreed to extend the £3.5 million loan period for the car park enhancement and defer all interest payments until 2024 to support the airport through the pandemic, which was clearly an incredibly challenging time for airports around the world.

In November 2020, discussions about a significant equity investment began. The MCA took that very seriously at the time: I appointed my then chief exec to lead on the negotiations and we appointed consultants to look very carefully at the business case. It was ultimately determined that the investment would not comply with the subsidy control rules. We sought to work around that, and that is why discussion started at that point about a £20 million loan.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher
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We are talking about the jewel in the crown of South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority—the one thing that can set the entirety of South Yorkshire area alight and bring investment into our area—and the hon. Gentleman said, “It has been given an £8.5 million loan in the last five years”. That is what it has had: an £8.5 million loan in five years for the jewel in the crown, for 1.8 million people’s economic growth and economic future. The Mayor has just spent £24 million, I believe, on some new trams. I am lost for words—I am sorry.

Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis
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The hon. Member has got his maths wrong. The first thing I said was that £9.2 million had gone into supporting infrastructure—

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher
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Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

No, I will not. I will make a bit of progress. I then went on to detail a series of other financial interventions that were set alongside a huge amount of activity that was going in to support the airport. Here is the critical point, which I made to the hon. Member earlier: in April 2022—bear in mind that, as he will recall, we were in purdah at that point—the Peel Group indicated that it did not wish to proceed with the work around the £20 million loan.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher
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Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

No, I will not; I am going to make some further points and I will give way to the hon. Member in a moment.

The truth of the matter is—I say this with all humility—that I was there; I was in the room, did the meetings, had the conversation and directed my officers to do the work. We worked very closely with Mayor Ros Jones, who has been a tireless supporter of Doncaster Sheffield airport for many years. The truth is that we completely acknowledged the huge value that DSA added to our regional economy and, as part of the work that we were doing, underpinned by a very detailed strategic economic plan that I am not sure that the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Alexander Stafford) has read, we produced a renewal action plan that provided the wider vision for the kind of economy—

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Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The other really important point for hon. Members to understand is that, in addition to the significant financial interventions and the clear recognition of the importance of DSA as part of the economic future of South Yorkshire, we did three other really important things as well; the hon. Member for Don Valley knows about them because he and I discussed them at the time. I was always of the view that one of the greatest things we could do to support the long-term economic viability of DSA was to continue to invest in the supporting infrastructure, to make it easier for people to get to the airport. That is why my then officers, working closely with Doncaster Council, did a huge amount of work to draw together the basis of a proposal that would have put an east coast main line station at Doncaster Sheffield airport. That, I think, could have been transformative for the airport and a lot of work, done closely with Transport for the North, went into drawing together the basis of that significant infrastructure proposal.

The hon. Member for Don Valley knows where we got to with that; it was a credible proposal that went forward to national Government. Unfortunately, it was not supported by national Government. Additionally, we also looked at what we could do to better enhance intra-regional connectivity. I was very conscious that there were transport infrastructure interventions that we could have carried out that would have made it easier for local people in the South Yorkshire area to get to the airport. Again, we were not successful in drawing down money to support that.

The third point, with which the hon. Member for Don Valley is very familiar, is that we put a lot of time and investment into developing a freeport proposal for the GatewayEast site. I will let the House into a bit of a secret: not everybody in South Yorkshire was necessarily in favour of that proposal because it potentially came with a range of measures that were not universally popular. However, the decision I took, working closely with the mayoral combined authority, was that, as part of the process of supporting Doncaster Sheffield airport and making it more economically viable in the longer term, we would play the game and work closely with national Government. On that basis, I took the decision to put forward a freeport proposal for GatewayEast, adjacent to Doncaster Sheffield airport. That proposal was not successful even though the Treasury’s own analysis, I think, subsequently scored our South Yorkshire bid better than other bids that were ultimately successful.

We tried to get the east coast main line station put in, and we put forward a proposal that was unsuccessful. We did work to improve intra-regional connectivity; that was unsuccessful. Then we put forward the freeport proposal and that was unsuccessful.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher
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The hon. Gentleman has questioned my maths. I am very good at maths: £5 million and £3.5 million is £8.5 million—that is the loan—and £9.2 million was used for the road. Peel put in £11 million, which is £1.8 million more than the combined authority put in. That is what I am trying to say.

I am not making excuses. I am asking why, if the airport is the jewel in the crown of South Yorkshire—I am sure that those are the combined authority’s own words—it is not being supported more. I am not giving excuses. I understand the hon. Gentleman’s comments about freeports; I am trying to get an investment zone for the area now, which will hopefully be even better than a freeport. But if the combined authority is not seen to invest in its own infrastructure and its own jewel in the crown, what does that say to the Government? “Are you prepared to invest in your own?” “Well, no, we’re not.” What is the point?

We need vision, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Alexander Stafford) says, that is what has been lacking. With silo working, it has become “Sheffield is trams and Doncaster is planes.” I am afraid that that is just not good enough.

Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I recommend that the hon. Gentleman spends a bit of time with my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts) to get a sense of the realities of local government finance. The reality is that the revenue that the Mayor has at any one time to expend is very limited. The hon. Member for Don Valley mentioned the £30 million of gainshare; there is a very strict split between capital and revenue.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield South East made the point that there are a range of other financial commitments that the mayoral combined authority has to service. There are other infrastructural investments that have to be made. The job of the Mayor is to look at things in the round and work out what money is available and where it can best be deployed.

The hon. Member for Don Valley did not mention the sum of £20 million, which is a very significant commitment from the mayoral authority. As I have said to him previously, in April 2022, when we had gone into purdah and I was going to be Mayor for a couple more weeks, the Peel Group indicated that it did not wish to continue developing the loan proposal at that time. That was an offer in good faith that had been worked up between senior officers in the mayoral combined authority and senior officials in the Peel Group, but they took the decision that they did not want to continue those conversations. That is the reality of it.

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Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis
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I will take the hint, Madam Deputy Speaker, and draw my remarks to a conclusion.

Members put it to the Secretary of State at Transport questions recently that we thought there was merit in having a grown-up conversation. The Secretary of State said that she did not want to do that. That is a great shame. Imagine what it must feel like tonight for the people who work at Doncaster Sheffield airport. They can see the clock ticking down and they are days, hours, away from losing their jobs, yet Government Ministers will not even sit down with Members of Parliament to hear their concerns. I would be happy to give way to the Minister if she can tell me that she is happy to arrange an urgent meeting with Members from across the House. In my time in this House, I can never remember a situation where a matter of such importance as this has not led to a ministerial meeting.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher
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I just want to quickly go back a bit, and then I will address the point that the hon. Gentleman is making. I believe that the £20 million loan was withdrawn around about 12 March and never actually made it to the cabinet meeting that was going to sign it off. That is when it should have been signed off. I believe that there is no record of it in the minutes. As I say, this is only what I am led to believe. There was no record of it in the minutes; it was not there. I do not believe that the Mayor for Doncaster raised it either. That is an important point, and maybe we can look at those minutes to see if it was there.

This is why am asking for a public inquiry. I am trying to be collegial here. I have tried all the way through this, and I will continue to try, but I have been excluded from meeting after meeting of Labour Members with regard to working groups and suchlike. I have also spoken to the Minister and the Secretary of State several times about the Civil Contingencies Act.

Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am mindful of your advice to draw matters to a conclusion, Madam Deputy Speaker, but would say to the hon. Member that we are trying to save the airport here. He might want to dig into the minutes but, as I said to him previously, the offer was on the table and in April 2022, Peel indicated that it did not wish to continue with developing the loan proposal at that time. That is the absolute fact of the matter.

My final point is to return to the frustration, which is held by many, that we have not had the opportunity to meet Ministers to impress upon them the importance of this issue. I very much hope that when the Minister comes to the Dispatch Box she will take the opportunity to confirm that she will urgently convene a meeting and give Members from right across the House and from all in the region who have been represented in the debate the opportunity to have a constructive meeting with the Secretary of State, given the importance of the issue. I very much hope that she will take the opportunity tonight to confirm that the Secretary of State will be prepared to do that.

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Katherine Fletcher Portrait Katherine Fletcher
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I ask the hon. Lady to bear with me for a moment, because I am planning to address that. I will first just address the call for a public inquiry made so passionately by my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley. A very high bar needs to be cleared for a public inquiry. Although we have gone away to look and understand the potential grounds for one, the recommendation is that a locally led review and solution could have similar and perhaps more positive effects in a shorter timescale than the full public inquiry that he calls for. He notes that South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority and Doncaster Council are integral to developing commercially viable solutions. Discussions between the authority, council and Peel are still ongoing, to assess the credibility of investors. As he outlined, powers sit with the local authorities and, as such, I think it would be right for the local authorities and their leaders to push for a locally led review, rather than having a public inquiry at this time.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher
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Would that not be people marking their own homework? That is all I am concerned about.

Katherine Fletcher Portrait Katherine Fletcher
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am probably at the point where my expertise in the aviation portfolio is far outweighed by that of my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Robert Courts), who is sat on the Bench in front of my hon. Friend and perhaps would be able to offer him some advice on that.

I wish to return to the point about meetings. I have mentioned Lord Falconer and his legal advice, and the meeting with Baroness Vere about the Civil Contingencies Act option. I am reliably advised that meetings with Department for Transport officials have been offered to the South Yorkshire Mayor by the Secretary of State as a prelude to further meetings. DFT officials are also having weekly meetings with the local authorities, often involving the chief executive of Doncaster Council. I will happily give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Witney if this is not correct, but I am also informed by officials that when he was previously aviation Minister he convened a meeting between Mayor Ben Houchen and Mayor Oliver Coppard in which this was included.

Doncaster Sheffield Airport

Nick Fletcher Excerpts
Monday 24th October 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Katherine Fletcher Portrait Katherine Fletcher
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The message to the people of South Yorkshire is that they have an incredibly strong local champion in my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Nick Fletcher), who has been working tirelessly to make it happen from day one. The previous aviation Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Robert Courts), who is present, has already met the combined authority. The hon. Lady asks where the power lies; it lies with the Labour mayoral combined authority—the local council. [Interruption.] Well, let me address the Civil Contingencies Act: it was introduced by the Blair Government. When the Minister brought it to the House, it was envisioned that it would be used in only the most serious circumstances and

“would be used rarely, if ever”.—[Official Report, 19 January 2004; Vol. 416, c. 1109.]

No Government have used it in 18 years. The Opposition—[Interruption.] The Labour party bringing in a law that was not serious; that would astonish me! What you are doing is trying to find a piece of politicking, instead of sitting down—[Interruption.] Sorry, it is my first go, Madam Deputy Speaker. You are—[Hon. Members: “You’re doing it again!”] The hon. Lady will forgive me, as it is my first go. [Interruption.] What we need is for the Peel Group to sit down with the commercial people, and that is what it promised to do when it sat down with the aviation Minister on 19 October.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher (Don Valley) (Con)
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I believe that this urgent question has been raised today to take away from the Adjournment debate on this subject tonight. The Opposition have actually shown an interest in this issue for the very first time. We have a combined authority that has been sadly lacking for over three years, and the people will learn the truth tonight about that. There are Opposition Members who have only shown any interest in the last fortnight. Certain Members on the Labour Benches, who have thousands of likes on their Facebook account, pin their books to their page rather than share the petition to save our airport, and they should sit there in disgrace. Does the Minister agree with me that, if the combined authority had done its job properly, we would not be in this position now?

Katherine Fletcher Portrait Katherine Fletcher
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I think my hon. Friend gives a wonderful preview of tonight’s Adjournment debate, and I look forward to it greatly.

Tributes to Her Late Majesty the Queen

Nick Fletcher Excerpts
Saturday 10th September 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher (Don Valley) (Con)
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I am deeply saddened, as I know the entire country is, at the passing of our Queen. I never actually had the honour of meeting her. Like most people, I saw her on TV and the occasional glimpse through her car window. Finally, I thought I had my chance when I became an MP and I could attend the opening of Parliament. I was first to put in a prayer card and first to the Chamber, and I was sitting in my place eagerly waiting for the proceedings to begin, only to realise as they took place that first in the Chamber means last out. There I was watching those on the Front Bench file out while I was trapped behind several annoying Members of Parliament who would not get out of the way. In fairness, it is not because they would not, but because they could not, and they had probably made the same error as me. Sadly, I never did get that glimpse. However, something I did get was a memory that came flooding back to me from my younger days. It was a message that said:

“He who is first will be last, and he who is last will be first.”

Like our Queen, I am a Christian, so while I have this moment, I want to let the House know of a recent sermon I heard—it is very short. The pastor spoke of being able to tune a piano from another piano, and then another piano, and so on. It can be done many times, but each time the next piano becomes a little more out of tune than the previous one. What should happen is that each piano should be tuned to the same tuning fork. That way they will all be perfectly in tune. His analogy was that we should all use Christ as our tuning fork, not the world. That way, each of us could try to live like Christ. I believe that our Queen, through her faith, did just that and, by doing so, showed the rest of the world what a life in Christ looked like—a life of faith, hope and, most importantly, love.

Since I became an MP, I have spoken much of the importance of good role models. I cannot think of a finer example than our late Queen. If we all seek to serve as our Queen did, putting God, duty and others first, then this world we all share will be a much better place for it, remembering always that he who puts himself first will be last, but he who puts himself last will be first. Our Queen always put herself last and others first.

I finish by thanking our Queen on behalf of us all in Don Valley for her 70 years of incredible service. On behalf of my constituents again, I would like to pass on our sincere condolences to the entire royal family. God save the King; long may you reign.

Oral Answers to Questions

Nick Fletcher Excerpts
Wednesday 7th September 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Elizabeth Truss Portrait The Prime Minister
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We are facing very serious issues as a country, partly as a result of the aftermath of covid and partly as a result of Putin’s war in Ukraine. What the British people want is a Government who are going to sort it out, and that is what I am determined to do as Prime Minister: sort out the energy crisis, get our economy going and make sure that people can get doctors’ appointments. That is what I am focused on.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher (Don Valley) (Con)
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I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her position as Prime Minister, but I would also like to thank her for her support for my campaign to keep Doncaster Sheffield airport open. Will she now help further by writing to South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard and Peel Holdings chairman John Whittaker to remind them of their powers, duties and responsibilities to the people of South Yorkshire and beyond? Will she use the full weight of her office on these decision makers to keep our Doncaster Sheffield airport open?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait The Prime Minister
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Regional airports, including Doncaster Sheffield airport, are a vital part of our economic growth. I will make sure that the new Secretary of State for Transport is immediately on the issue.