Steel Industry: Contribution to the UK Economy

Tim Farron Excerpts
Wednesday 25th January 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)
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It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. I congratulate the hon. Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden) and all those who have contributed in this important debate.

I will focus on the role of steel in making Britain a sustainable economy. Steel plays a massively significant role in our ability to extend the railways, to ensure we have the green technology to build zero-carbon homes, and to make best use of the natural resources in this country—wind and particularly hydro power, which I will talk about in a moment. But while it is vital to the greening of our economy, we cannot ignore the fact that steel produced with coal is a major contributor to climate change. The steel industry contributes 5% of the EU’s carbon emissions and 7% of global carbon emissions, equivalent to the entire aviation industry. To cut to the chase, the good news is that the amount of steel produced using coal is now down to 70% and that produced by renewable means, in particular using electric arc furnaces, is up to 30% and rising. Increasingly, customers for steel are demanding that it be produced in green and renewable ways: for example, Volvo is now committed to building 100% of its trucks in a fossil-free environment.

I make these remarks because of my engagement with a great controversy in my county of Cumbria, where the Government recently gave the green light to the first coalmine for 30 years, ostensibly to support the steel industry. It is clear that 83% of the coal produced by West Cumbria Mining will be exported and not support the UK steel industry. Both Tata and British Steel have been clear that they have no plans to make use of that coal. British Steel has been clear that it is the wrong sort of coal with the wrong sulphur content, so it will be next to no use whatever to the production of steel.

Numerous people, including the hon. Member for Newport East, have mentioned the Government’s recent comments about the green switch and supporting Tata with £600 million to help move towards electric furnaces. Perhaps we will hear more detail from the Minister. Tata says that it will cost £3 billion. We also know that Salzgitter in Germany, which produces about as much steel as the entire British steel industry produces in a year, will be completely fossil-free within 10 years, so my fear is that we are not being ambitious enough.

Steel is utterly vital. I think about my constituency, where we need a passing loop on the Lakes line to dual the capacity of the railway line that takes people to Britain’s second busiest and biggest visitor destination after London. We desperately need zero-carbon affordable homes, and we need steel for that, too. We need to make more use of wind, and although the British Isles have a higher tidal range than any other country on planet Earth apart from Canada, we are using next to none of it, and steel is vital to the wind turbine and the wave turbine. The barrage is another way in which we could make use of tidal and wave power.

Steel is vital to our green economy. As Britain decarbonises with new infrastructure based on steel, let us make sure that we also decarbonise the processes we use to make that steel.

Oral Answers to Questions

Tim Farron Excerpts
Tuesday 17th January 2023

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nusrat Ghani Portrait Ms Ghani
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My hon. Friend was welcome to host BEIS colleagues at her event. BEIS recognises the potential for floating offshore wind in the Celtic sea region. Following the request for information, BEIS is continuing to engage with ports on their development plans to understand their investment needs in more detail. I know she has liaised and corresponded with the Energy Minister, and a letter is winging its way to her.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)
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Although the Government are rightly considering the advantages that can be gained from rural and offshore renewable energy, will the Minister also consider the possibility of using tidal power, and particularly tidal turbines? The United Kingdom has the biggest tidal range on Earth after Canada, and we are using nearly none of it. Is it not time to consider this innovative technology? Will she meet me and those seeking to get tidal energy out of Morecambe bay?

Nusrat Ghani Portrait Ms Ghani
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I believe that the largest number of contract for difference licences were awarded to tidal, and the Energy Minister will be more than happy to meet the hon. Gentleman.

Oral Answers to Questions

Tim Farron Excerpts
Tuesday 29th November 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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My hon. Friend will be interested and happy to learn that I met two apprentices at Sizewell yesterday, who have two of what we expect to be 1,500 new apprentice jobs. He is right to mention 10,000 jobs in the immediate area—perhaps there will be 20,000 across the country—and we expect more than 70% of investment in the project to come to the UK. I will gladly meet him and his colleagues to discuss that further.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)
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Cumbria’s energy coast, including nuclear, wind, wave and tidal, also has the capacity to create thousands of jobs in our county. When will the Secretary of State make an announcement in respect of his engagement with Cumbria’s energy coast to make best use—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. That is not a fair representation of the question. It is a poor effort, so I am going to let it go.

Oral Answers to Questions

Tim Farron Excerpts
Tuesday 25th October 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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We consider a whole series of critical factors, including funding mechanisms, planning considerations, the environmental impact and whether the benefits of coastal and flood defence and energy security can be included. Like the hon. Gentleman, I hope that we can see a way forward and that tidal and marine energy can compete with other technologies, as we bring about the transformation that was talked about under his Government but is being delivered under this one.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)
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The United Kingdom has the highest tidal range on the planet after Canada, yet we use so very little of it, especially when we consider that a massive majority of the supply chain for marine, tidal and hydro is British. There are so many jobs to be made out of all this. Will the Minister look particularly at the potential for tidal energy in Morecambe bay? I know that his hon. Friends on both sides of the bay agree with me on this, so will he meet with me and others who are in favour of getting green energy out of Morecambe bay to see whether we can take this forward?

Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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We are seeing these technologies mature, and the hon. Gentleman is right: tidal and floating offshore wind projects have won CfDs for the first time ever, which will help these industries grow and strengthen Britain’s homegrown renewables sector. As he says, we have tremendous tidal potential in this country. He mentioned a site further north, but the Severn estuary has the second highest tidal range in the world, so if we can get it right, there is huge untapped potential.

Ban on Fracking for Shale Gas Bill

Tim Farron Excerpts
Wednesday 19th October 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)
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I am grateful, Madam Deputy Speaker. Why on earth would the Government seek to perform another manifesto U-turn and support fracking—their amendment effectively lifts the moratorium on fracking? Two reasons are stated. One is an attempt to drive down energy prices, and the other is to tackle security of supply. Those are two massive issues. There is enormous energy poverty in my constituency in Cumbria, and everybody is rightly worried about the lack of energy security, particularly given the evil actions of President Putin. But if those were the real reasons, one would not pick fracking, and I am astounded and bemused as to why the Government have done so.

The right hon. Member for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng), former Chancellor of the Exchequer, stated that fracking would not materially affect the market price of gas. That is obvious, so that is pricing out the window. The fracking industry lobby group stated that shale gas would contribute less than 1% of Britain’s gas needs, and the British Geological Survey stated that shale gas under the United Kingdom is 15 times less in volume than originally thought. Fracking will have no impact on price, and it will do nothing meaningful when it comes to volume.

What fracking will do is add another fossil fuel into the mix at a time when we should be keeping all fossil fuels in the ground. Of all the threats that we face as a country and a community, climate change is undoubtedly the greatest, and fossil fuels should be kept in the ground. Fracking will also create massive seismic risk. The north-west of England, Cumbria and Lancashire, are two of the most geologically active places in the country. Fracking is madness. Opting for fracking is divisive and expensive, whereas renewables are popular and cheap.

Jamie Stone Portrait Jamie Stone
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I have gone on again and again about green energy and hydrogen creation. Hydrogen is green and clean, and we must get serious about this. Does my hon. Friend agree it is vital that all Governments in the United Kingdom work together fast, and now?

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron
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Green hydrogen is an essential part of the mix, and I agree with my hon. Friend. If the Government were trying to change policy quickly to do something that would make a radical difference quickly, they would be opting for renewables. After Canada, the United Kingdom has the greatest tidal range on planet Earth, and yet we are tapping almost none of it. Why are we not investing in wind and solar and allowing farmers to diversify?

Lee Anderson Portrait Lee Anderson (Ashfield) (Con)
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The hon. Member is generous with his time. I wonder if he can recall when his leader said:

“I love shale gas—it is much cleaner than coal and we need more gas. I hope we get loads of it”.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron
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When my leader, the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Ed Davey) was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, he was responsible for the United Kingdom increasing renewables by 20% every year, and that dropped by 3% when he left office. The hon. Member is concerned about leaders changing their mind, yet the Conservative party is led by someone with more flip-flops than Benidorm, so we will not take any lessons from the Conservative side of the House. Renewables are the answer. They are quick and they are popular.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron
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Other people need to get in. The Minister needs to be patient and wait his turn.

My concern is: what does this decision say about the Government? It is not rational to choose shale gas and fracking when it is obvious that it will not have an impact on reducing prices or improving energy security. Instead, the Government could be moving towards tidal, marine, hydro, wind and solar. It is not rational.

It is also not rational that, earlier, the Treasurer of His Majesty’s Household, the hon. Member for Calder Valley (Craig Whittaker), the Government’s deputy Chief Whip, wrote to every Conservative MP saying that the motion is not about fracking and is a matter of confidence. That causes a great problem for Government Members, who must vote either to end the moratorium on fracking—only 19% of the British people support fracking, and the overwhelming majority, including those in my constituency, are opposed to it, so that would be enormously unpopular—or to bring down the Government. That is an irrational thing for the Government to seek to put before the House.

We are beginning to see a pattern of irrational behaviour at the centre of our Government. If we care about our energy supplies, the cost of energy, the enormously painful cost of living—a threat to every single family in the country—and our economy, we cannot have those people in high office and leading the Government party consistently acting illogically and irrationally. The Government’s proposal is irrational. That is why they should give way. We should oppose fracking. I will vote to oppose fracking today, and I challenge Government Members to ignore their Whips and to vote to end fracking.

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Graham Stuart Portrait Graham Stuart
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That is a matter for party managers, and I am not a party manager.

Community support is so important. That is why, as we heard the Secretary of State say today, we have pledged that there will be the community veto we have heard so much about from colleagues including my hon. Friends the Members for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), for North Dorset (Simon Hoare), for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous), for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow), for Winchester (Steve Brine), for Gloucester (Richard Graham), for Bolsover (Mark Fletcher), for South Thanet (Craig Mackinlay), for Worcester (Mr Walker), for Rother Valley (Alexander Stafford), for Rushcliffe (Ruth Edwards), for Blackpool South (Scott Benton), for Ashfield (Lee Anderson), and for Leigh (James Grundy), as well as my right hon. Friend the Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Nick Gibb), my right hon. Friend and neighbour the Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight), and my right hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Sir Robert Goodwill), up the coast from me.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron
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rose—

--- Later in debate ---
Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Eleanor Laing)
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The hon. Lady raises a point as to whether a member of the Government has resigned. I have not been given any such information. I know no more than that and it is not a point of order for the Chair.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron
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On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you could clarify that the Minister closing the debate we have just had from the Dispatch Box informed his colleagues that it was not a vote of confidence, when we saw earlier, in writing from the Government Deputy Chief Whip, that it was. Could it be possible that Government Members voted in the Division just now without any clarity on what it was actually they were voting for?

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point, which of course is not a point of order for the Chair. My concern is that what is said on the Order Paper is correct and accurate, and it is. I thank the hon. Gentleman for the point he raises, but it is not one on which I can judge. Ministers are responsible for their own words.

Oral Answers to Questions

Tim Farron Excerpts
Tuesday 12th July 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
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I thank my hon. Friend for that thoughtful question. Obviously, all these things are under review, but I remind him that we replaced the social tariff with other support schemes for bill payers under the coalition. That remains our position, but we—both the Department and the Treasury, and indeed, the whole Government—study these positions and issues very closely indeed.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)
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It is very clear that the rising price of heating people’s homes will be devastating and go well beyond anything the Government have done to help households so far. For people living off-mains who are reliant on heating oil, for example—19,000 households in Cumbria alone—there is no cap whatever. They have seen their prices more than double over the past 12 months. What will the Minister do to ensure people in rural communities like mine are not hit even harder than the majority?

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
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As the hon. Gentleman knows, we reflected on this issue in an earlier question. The Government are providing support for those who are off the gas grid. For example, those who pay an electricity bill will qualify for the £400 reduction this year. We have also put £1.1 billion into the home upgrade grant, on top of the £2.5 billion already deployed, to make sure vulnerable households, which could well include some of his constituents, are able to profit from the energy measures being put forward by the Government. His question on the price cap is a reasonable question to put. The information I have directly from the trade body UKIFDA—the UK and Ireland Fuel Distributors Association—is that a price cap would be extremely difficult for its members, the people in the retail market for heating oil, because it becomes very difficult for a small business to hedge. However, it is something I discuss with MPs, the industry and the trade body regularly to see what more can be done, and the situation is under constant review.

Oral Answers to Questions

Tim Farron Excerpts
Tuesday 29th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lee Rowley Portrait Lee Rowley
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My hon. Friend is right to emphasise not only the importance of nuclear in concept but the huge significance of the supply chain, which is estimated to support more than 60,000 jobs across the whole of the United Kingdom, including in SMEs in Stourbridge and Ynys Môn. And if I may shove in my knowledge of early 2000s pop music, we are working hard to make the nuclear industry whole again. [Laughter.]

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)
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That was written by a member of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, so we will give the Minister that.

Energy security is of vital significance, particularly at the moment, and nuclear is part of the clean energy mix. Does the Minister understand that the United Kingdom, which has the second highest tidal range on planet Earth after Canada, is not making anything like sufficient use of that permanent tidal energy? Will he look again at his Government’s policies on tidal, marine and hydro energy and give a boost not only to Cumbria and its energy coast but to the whole country?

Lee Rowley Portrait Lee Rowley
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The hon. Gentleman raises an important point about the importance of a diversified and secure energy supply. This is one of the reasons that the Government are looking at all forms, including tidal, and it is why we would encourage people from across the House to agree not just with tidal but with nuclear as well.

Oral Answers to Questions

Tim Farron Excerpts
Tuesday 22nd February 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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George Freeman Portrait George Freeman
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With pleasure. My hon. Friend makes an important point: the Welsh dragon is roaring not just on the rugby pitch and in tourism, where Llandudno is the queen of Welsh resorts, but in the science, research and innovation economy. With the north Wales energy corridor, the south Wales life sciences cluster and plant health at Aberystwyth, Wales is a science and innovation engine that we intend to support. I pay tribute to his work in the area and look forward to visiting the Llandudno cluster as part of our work on supporting clusters around the UK.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)
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The Minister may be aware that many rural parts of the north feel that levelling up does not really apply to them, but of course it must and it should. The Minister may be aware of Cumbria’s energy coast. We are a country with plenty of wind, plenty of water and plenty of coast. We should bear in mind that, after Canada, the UK has the second largest tidal range on planet earth and we are making use of nearly none of it. Will he commit to making sure there is a tidal, marine and hydro-energy hub in Cumbria, based in Kendal where Gilkes is so wonderfully based?

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman
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I absolutely agree. As a rural MP, I do not need to take any lectures from the Liberal Democrats on the importance of rural innovation. I will address the specific point about tidal power: we have just put £30 million into it. It would be good hear the hon. Gentleman—and his party—applaud the nuclear industry, which is an important part of that region.

Covid-19: Requirements for Employees to be Vaccinated

Tim Farron Excerpts
Monday 24th January 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

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

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

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

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)
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It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Paisley. I am extremely grateful to the hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Martyn Day), who opened the debate, and to all the petitioners.

Like others who have spoken, I am hugely supportive of the vaccine—it works. Office for National Statistics data from November shows that, throughout 2021, the death rate was 28 times higher among the unvaccinated than among those who had been double-jabbed. It is utterly clear that the vaccine is our way out of this, and we should stand behind the evidence and encourage people to take it. But to compel people is utterly illiberal, utterly wrong and a challenge to our freedoms.

The petitioners rightly challenge us to consider how we treat our fellow citizens who are not yet vaccinated. Some are not vaccinated for good clinical reasons, and we know that they are covered, but others are hesitant—not resolutely opposed, but hesitant. Some are resolutely opposed, and a smaller number will be those who spread information that we would perhaps term “fake news”, which has a huge impact because it can lead to and feed the hesitancy of a much larger number. But for liberal, compassionate and practical reasons, we must agree with the petitioners and oppose compulsion.

Treating the unvaccinated members of our society as second-class citizens is utterly wrong. It is an attack on freedom and, as has just been mentioned, it is hardly going to win over hearts and minds. My challenge and ask of the Minister is: what are the Government going to do to step up their efforts to educate and inform, to tackle the common objections, and to answer them rigorously and regularly through challenge? Changing hearts and minds will take skill, patience and persuasion. I am certain that compulsion will do the opposite of what the Government think it will achieve.

Forcing people to be vaccinated who have chosen so far not to be will, understandably, turn hesitant people into hostile people. It will solidify resistance to the vaccine. It will give the small minority who wilfully spread misinformation the status of martyrs, making the whole exercise utterly counterproductive.

As has been mentioned, compulsion will have a particular and appalling impact on our health service at every level. We reckon that in my local hospital trust, which has three hospitals in the Morecombe bay area and more further north in the rest of Cumbria, at least 94% of NHS staff are already vaccinated, and that figure is growing by the day. To explode that by introducing compulsion is wrong on so many levels.

This might be a high estimate, but staff in the trust estimate that up to 800 staff across those three hospitals and in other parts of the NHS in our community could lose their jobs. If they are not vaccinated in a week and a half’s time, they will be on a trajectory to be out of a job by 1 April. That is an insult to those people, who have served us, kept us well, saved people’s lives and put themselves and their families in harm’s way over these two appalling years. Ministers clapped them, and now they will sack them. That is utterly wrong and ungrateful, above all else. As we have said, 3 February is just a few days away, so a U-turn now is urgent. This will cause colossal damage in our health service in a matter of days and weeks.

In our communities in south Cumbria and north Lancashire, at times, more than 50% of people diagnosed with cancer are waiting more than two months to get their first treatment. We know that for every four weeks that someone waits for cancer treatment, there is, on average, a 10% decrease in their likelihood of surviving that cancer. Thanks to figures provided by Macmillan, we know that through the pandemic, 740,000 cancer screenings were missed, and 60,000 diagnoses were missed. There are 60,000 people out there with cancer who do not know it, or who were not diagnosed until probably far too late.

That is a snapshot of the kind of pressure that our health service is under just when it comes to cancer, yet we are just weeks away from the Government potentially cutting the workforce by at least 5% in one go. That is unconscionable and wrong. Of course people must get vaccinated—I will plead with people to get vaccinated—but to compel them is an insult, an assault on liberty and counterproductive to the effort to increase vaccination. It will hugely undermine our national health service just at the moment when we need it the most.

Storm Arwen: Power Outages

Tim Farron Excerpts
Monday 6th December 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
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The right hon. Gentleman raises some good points, but I do not want us to prejudge the review. He has mentioned quite a few things that he thinks we were short of. I think he is saying that we were short of generators, for example. I have already said that 750 generators were deployed. Of course we need to look at whether we have the right number of generators in terms of the capacity, but I would not want to prejudge that important review and the process behind it. Let us wait and let the review run its course. We have learned some really important lessons from previous reviews, for example on setting up a dedicated phone line, the mutual support and the network of engineers from across the country. Let us not prejudge that review.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)
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Thousands of us in communities across Cumbria have had a devastating 10 days that have been exhausting and even harrowing. I am pretty sure that all of us would agree with the calls for a public inquiry to learn the lessons. I think everyone agrees that lessons need to be learned. However, with Storm Barra approaching, those lessons need to be learned literally overnight, and those lessons are about timeliness as much as anything. Why did it take five days for the Government to come to this House and address the issue? Why did it take until the middle of last week to scramble and deploy additional generators, when that could have happened on the Saturday, eight or nine days ago, so that families were not without heat and light for so long? The relevance of the Army is that it is significant in boosting the capacity of the engineers and also in going from door to door to reach vulnerable people who had no telecoms whatsoever. They include elderly people with care needs who were tucked up in bed to try to stay safe. I want to say a massive thank you to the people in those communities who stepped up to this challenge, and to the engineers who are out there making things better overnight, but what can the Minister say to my communities about how the Government will act to make things better next time?

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
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I do not think that a public inquiry is the right course. It would inevitably take a long time. It would be better to use the established and effective review mechanism that we already have in place, and I invite the hon. Member and all right hon. and hon. Members to participate in it and give their views. I would say that NEWSAC, the mutual aid scheme, was deployed as soon it practicably could be, actually in advance of the storm coming in. I think that that has worked well. On the role of the Army, it is principally a matter for the local resilience forums to make assessments of the resources they need and then to put in that call. From my experience in Aberdeenshire on Friday, I can tell the House that, when the local resilience forum put in that call, the response was close to immediate.