Wednesday 18 June 2014
[John Robertson in the Chair]
Washwood Heath Marshalling Yard
Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Mr Evennett.)
It is a great privilege to speak in this debate, and I am even more pleased that I am not speaking and advancing my case alone. I am enormously grateful for the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr Mahmood), and my neighbour in Birmingham, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey). I am glad that hopefully, a bit later this morning, we will be joined by the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), and with your permission, Mr Robertson, I also have a few short remarks to make for the hon. Member for Solihull (Lorely Burt), who is recovering from surgery but very much wanted to be here to support the case that I will put to the Minister.
Together, we are a powerful team, and the argument that we want to advance is that all of us are great supporters of High Speed 2. We believe that High Speed 2 could be of huge importance to our country and to our home city of Birmingham, and it is particularly appropriate that the birthplace of the steam engine, Birmingham, is the first place that High Speed 2 will connect to London.
I have been a supporter of High Speed 2 ever since Lord Adonis first presented the plans to Cabinet in around 2009 or 2010. He made his case not only with his customary force and clarity, but with a very keen sense of history; in that first presentation to Cabinet, he reminded us that it was not a new idea, but that it had been around for some time. In fact, I think it was Churchill who anticipated the need for extra capacity and high speed after the second world war, as part of our country’s plans for reconstruction. We have been waiting ever since for concrete plans to be put on the table.
When I was Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 2010, negotiating spending reductions across Government, it was particularly impressive that Lord Adonis at the Department for Transport was prepared to make the trade-offs necessary in the DFT budget to present a plan that was not simply a bit of blue-sky thinking, but had an enormous amount of detail behind it and a financial package to go with it. He had thought an awful lot of things through that would be needed to turn ideas into reality. At that stage, however, he was obviously operating at 20,000 feet, so to speak. It was impossible back then to foresee and anticipate every design detail that would be needed in the final plans.
At that stage, no doubt, some imperfect decisions crept into the blueprints. I say that not to criticise, but simply to understand. We are dealing with HS2 Ltd, not with an organisation that has been designed according to some celestial blueprint. It is a human institution, and in all human institutions—even those appended to the Department for Transport—sometimes imperfections creep in. A big imperfection and a big mistake has crept into these plans. That big mistake is the notion that we should destroy a third of the industrial land in the great city of Birmingham and put a marshalling yard on it, just to create a few hundred jobs in a decade’s time at the cost of creating 7,000 jobs in the short term.
With your permission, Mr Robertson, I would like to acquaint the Chamber with a bit of the site’s history. I want to set out its economic potential and then conclude by putting some questions to the Minister. He is a good Minister who knows and is on top of his brief. He understands the background to this debate, and I know that he will provide us with full answers this morning.
The site that we are talking about—a third of the industrial land in the city of Birmingham—is old. It was brought into industrial use as the country passed through the high noon of the Victorian age, towards the end of the 19th century. One of the greatest entrepreneurs in Birmingham’s history, the great Joseph Wright, created what was then called the Metropolitan locomotive works on an enormous site. Over the course of 10 or 20 years, a huge industry was built up, manufacturing locomotives that were shipped all the way around the world. In the 1880s and 1890s, Britain began sending billions of pounds around the world to build the world’s railway systems; many of the locomotives that ran on the new railway tracks in India and other parts of the empire were, as often as not, built in Joseph Wright’s great Metropolitan coachworks.
As the years went by, Joseph Wright was joined by the second great entrepreneur of east Birmingham, Herbert Austin, who founded Morris cars, and who, in the early part of the 20th century, built up the great Nuffield Organisation. In due course, he built the site that was to become the great LDV site next door to the Metropolitan coachworks. At its peak in the 1920s, 4,000 manufacturing workers were employed on the site.
Around that great site in east Birmingham, the last great entrepreneur of east Birmingham—not an industrial entrepreneur, but a civic entrepreneur—C.B. Adderley, the late Lord Norton, laid out the streets of Saltley, and that is the community that we are talking about today. The de-industrialisation of the ’80s and ’90s hit our community very hard. First, what had become Metro Cammell closed down. Then, sadly, despite our best efforts and despite the offer of support at the time from my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), LDV finally went into liquidation around the time of the last election. What emerged was a great wasteland in east Birmingham, and partly as a result of the de-industrialisation, in east Birmingham—in my constituency of Hodge Hill, in the constituency of my neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Shabana Mahmood), and I am afraid to say, to an extent in Erdington—we have very high and unacceptable levels of unemployment. Indeed, 45% of those who are out of work in the great city of Birmingham are in Ladywood, Hodge Hill and Erdington. There are 10 constituencies in our city, and 45% of the city’s unemployed are in just three of them.
With the liquidation of LDV and the ill-judged liquidation of Advantage West Midlands after the 2010 election, something different became possible. For the first time in literally 100 years, it was possible to stitch back together a site that is the size of 105 football pitches. It is the greatest single site pretty much anywhere in the west midlands. Crucially, it became possible to develop the site holistically and put in place new access routes that were impossible in the past.
In the early part of our discussions with HS2 Ltd, we listened with increasing irritation to the idea that just because one owner of part of the site—St Modwen, which owned the western part of the site—had had planning permission, but was unable to get the site developed, somehow the site was not developable. I hope that that argument does not feature in the Minister’s remarks today. If those pages are in his speech, I hope he rips them out, screws them up and puts them on the floor. They are irrelevant to the argument.
Only when the site came together for the first time in a century was it possible to put through the site access routes from the east and to the north of the site. St Modwen’s site on its own, on the west end of this great industrial land, has only the narrowest of roads connecting it to the outside world, and it goes through a number of residential seats. It is the worst possible access imaginable to an industrial site. In putting this great jigsaw puzzle back together, the possibility is opening of putting big new roads in, leading straight on to the M6, if we so choose. It becomes, for the first time, not just a site where new access roads are possible, but where those access roads could connect to the great backbone of the M6.
I was of course immediately taken with the potential of developing the site holistically for the first time in a century, so in 2011 and 2012 I asked the master planners at Birmingham city council to give us a sense of the jobs potential of creating an holistic plan for developing a site the size of 105 football pitches. I was pretty shocked by the answer that I got: having done some detailed work, they told us that between 5,000 and 7,000 jobs could be created on the site if it was developed holistically, with new access routes to the north and the east. A site with that power, with that number of jobs, would of course not only have an enormous impact on unemployment in the east of the city, but bring into the coffers of Birmingham city council £5 million in new business rates every year.
However, the last Conservative-Liberal administration in the city appears to have overlooked a great jewel, and to have not made sufficiently robust arguments to HS2 about a different way forward. This is a great prize for any city, and particularly for us in east Birmingham, because of the high unemployment with which we are cursed. The Library tells us that in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington, 3,917 people are on jobseeker’s allowance. In Ladywood, 7,363 people are out of work. In my constituency, the figure is 5,379. There are 16,500 people claiming jobseeker’s allowance in our three constituencies; that is out of a city total of just over 37,000, so 44% of those on jobseeker’s allowance live in our three constituencies—the constituencies that surround this great industrial space. For those who are interested, the bill that the taxpayer picks up for those unemployed citizens—our residents—is £73.8 million a year. If we developed the site to its full potential, as set out by the master planners at Birmingham city council, we could halve that bill. We could save the taxpayer £35 million of unemployment benefit if we put jobs, not sheds, on the site. That is why we have been making this argument for the past couple of years.
I know that High Speed 2 needs a marshalling yard. We are supporters of High Speed 2 and we want it to be a success. We want it to happen fast. We very much welcome the work that David Higgins has done to take cost out of the equation. However, we must think more laterally about where the alternative sites might be. The Minister knows as well as I do that alternative sites are available. During the past two or three years, we have heard an increasingly dull account of why it was not possible to develop those sites as a marshalling yard. What we get is references to “operational issues”, but no one—not the Minister’s predecessor, not the Secretary of State and not David Higgins, the head of HS2—has been able to tell me in any detail what on earth those operational issues are. I have yet to see one analysis that brings together any extra cost of putting a marshalling yard elsewhere, netted against the value of the opportunity that we know exists. That includes the savings on the dole bill, the increases in business rates and some of the other economic advantages that we know we could secure. No one has been able to give me that sum, so in a way I am here to speak for taxpayers, and to say that taxpayers are funding High Speed 2, the unemployment bills and the shortfalls in Birmingham city council’s budget. We want to know holistically how these sums add up.
The Minister is a Transport Minister who speaks for the Department for Transport. I know from my experience in Whitehall that sometimes Whitehall fails to join things up, but in a decision of this economic consequence, what the taxpayer is owed is one sum that brings together on one piece of paper the cost to the Department for Work and Pensions, Birmingham city council, the Department for Transport and HS2. We need to have that sum. I am not saying that the Minister should lay it out for us this morning, but I know that he will want to write to me after the debate with those calculations, because I know that, like me, he wants taxpayers to know the full facts and the full truth.
Unless the plans change, we are confronting the most grim of scenarios, because we are set to lose not only the great prizes that I think are there for the taking, but hundreds of job in the short term. As the Minister knows, the site is not completely empty. It is home to the great Business Post, to Cemex, which makes most of the railway sleepers that our country needs, and to other great businesses, such as Taroni’s. In fact, by my calculations, there are some 850 jobs on the site today, but those businesses are closing. They are increasingly frustrated and they are haggling and arguing with a normally non-communicative HS2, because they now have to close down, so we will lose 850 jobs in the worst unemployment hot spot in the country during the next couple of years. Why? For the prize of perhaps 500 or 550 jobs in 10 years’ time. The scenario that we are confronting could not be worse. The Minister will forgive me for saying that this is a thoroughly misguided decision. It would be a misguided decision anywhere, but in the worst unemployment hot spot in the entire United Kingdom, the decision should not be taken lightly.
As I said, the hon. Member for Solihull would very much have liked to have been here this morning, but is recovering from surgery. She would, in the ceremonial nature of these things, congratulate us on having the debate. She says that High Speed 2
“is founded on the fundamental principles of regeneration and enhancing the economic prospects of the UK and specifically those communities located near to the lines and terminals.
The irony therefore is not lost on me or indeed other colleagues from across all the main parties…when one considers the social and economic desecration that siting a Rolling Stock Maintenance Depot at Washwood Heath would have on that local community.
As someone who is a supporter of HS2 and in particular has taken a keen interest”
in the decision to locate the depot at Washwood Heath,
“I very much welcome the chance to debate this issue, an issue which for too long has been left unresolved.”
Like me, the hon. Lady draws attention to the very high unemployment levels in the area. They are double the national average. Youth unemployment in my constituency is the highest in the country. I very much welcome the support that she is giving as part of a cross-party alliance of Birmingham MPs calling on HS2 and the Government to think again, and to do so quickly.
I want to conclude with some thoughts on what the Minister should do next. I would obviously like the yard to be moved elsewhere. If the decision is taken not to move it elsewhere, I would like the Minister to show me, in pounds and pence, how the deal makes sense. I want him to take into account the opportunity cost—the potential for a reduction in the dole bills in east Birmingham, and the potential for extra business rates to flow into the coffers of Birmingham city council.
If HS2 is not prepared to budge, and we are not prepared to adopt plan B for the site, I want to see big ambition for jobs growth in east Birmingham. I do not want vague promises that “We will do our best.” I want a number. I want to know what the Department for Transport’s ambition is, to the nearest hundred, for the number of jobs that will be created in east Birmingham, and I want to know when HS2 and the Department for Transport want to see those jobs go on offer. I want local labour market agreements to go alongside any new plans to develop the Curzon street terminus in east Birmingham. I want to know what promises will be made and fulfilled for extra skills and training.
The point is really very simple: High Speed 2 should be a big positive for our city. It brings with it the promise of thousands of extra jobs across the west midlands and gives us vital capacity, but there is now a cross-party alliance of Members of Parliament saying to the Minister that we do not want High Speed 2 to be good for just some; we demand that it be good for all.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson.
I would like to start by telling the tale of two great plants. The first is the Jaguar Land Rover plant. When I was elected in 2010, the Jaguar plant in Erdington was on its way to closure. I remember meeting the management and shop stewards before the general election, and there was a funereal atmosphere. After I was elected, my first priority was to work with the Government, the new management brought in by Tata, the work force and a range of other players to put together the complex jigsaw that led to the historic decision by Tata in October 2010 to invest £5 billion. I will never forget that day. We stood outside the Jaguar heritage centre in Erdington, and I said that a plant with such a great history—it manufactured the Spitfire during the war and two generations of Jaguars afterwards—was now safe for the next generation. A factory with a great history had a great future.
Secondly, as deputy general secretary of the old Transport and General Workers’ Union, I was involved in a successful campaign to win an order for LDV that helped to keep the factory going. Tragically, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne) said, LDV ultimately closed in 2009—a particular factor was that it did not succeed in securing a key order. LDV also had a remarkable history of motor manufacturing: the bodies for the Morris Minor were first produced there in 1948, and Morris commercial vans commenced production in 1974. It was a tragedy that a second factory with a great history ended up with no future.
Why do I paint that background? Because High Speed 2 impacted on both factories. In the case of Jaguar Land Rover, bizarrely, it was proposed that the High Speed 2 route would take out the Jaguar rail terminal. However, constructive discussions with the Government and the Secretary of State followed, involving my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill and the hon. Member for Solihull (Lorely Burt), who cannot be here today. The outcome of those discussions was the welcome decision to re-route the High Speed 2 line to avoid taking out the Jaguar terminal.
In the case of LDV—sadly now history—I will do my best to describe the bizarre proposal as it affects Washwood Heath. I remember meeting an LDV worker in Kingstanding in 2010—I met a lot of them, as many live in my constituency. He had lost his job early in 2009 and subsequently been out of work. He was absolutely devastated; he was a skilled man who worked for LDV for 25 years. I stayed in touch with him and met him only last month. He had managed to get back into secure employment. He and one of his LDV mates—an old friend—both said the same thing to me: they asked with incredulity, “Why put a maintenance depot on the old site where we worked for so many years when it is perfectly possible for the depot to be put elsewhere? Why not develop that great site, as we understand the council is proposing, for commercial and manufacturing use?” They kept asking, “Why Washwood Heath?” One of them went on, “Not least because, Jack, we need the jobs here locally. Where I live in Kingstanding, one in four young people are out of work. We desperately need those jobs. I would like to see that site, where I went to work for so many years and that generated thousands of jobs when I worked at LDV, generating thousands of jobs again.” He is absolutely right: we do need the jobs, which are at the heart of Birmingham’s ambitious plan for economic growth. Because of the excellent work that has been done by right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill, in alliance with a number of potential developers and sources of finance, we are talking about not just jobs on that site but good jobs—high-quality jobs.
I would like to draw a parallel with Jaguar Land Rover. I was in the Jaguar plant last Friday. It has an excellent programme to train young people, providing a ladder into apprenticeships and giving hope to the young unemployed in my constituency. That is exactly the kind of hope and opportunity that we would like to create by making sensible use of the Washwood Heath site.
Like my right hon. Friend I am a strong supporter of High Speed 2. At the heart of the argument for that project is the contribution it will make to the growth of our country as a whole. Britain cannot succeed through London and the south-east alone. There is cross-party support for High Speed 2, so there is no question about the principle; it is a grand, ambitious project that should go ahead. Nevertheless, would it not be bizarre if something designed to develop and create jobs actually causes the sacking of workers currently in a job and the denial of opportunities on a grand scale—potentially 5,000 to 7,000 jobs at the next stage?
I live in the real world and know that the issue is not without difficulties, but where there is a will, there is a way. I hope that, just as they engaged constructively with local MPs on re-routing the line in the best interests of Jaguar Land Rover, the Government will engage constructively with MPs to see the marshalling terminal developed elsewhere and the site used in the way that our city so desperately needs.
It is a great privilege to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson.
I welcome the fact that my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne) has secured this debate on an issue that is important to his constituency and the neighbouring constituencies of Birmingham, Erdington, Birmingham, Ladywood and my own constituency, Birmingham, Perry Barr—it is important across Birmingham. Birmingham has a huge history of engineering and manufacturing, as my right hon. Friend pointed out. It is a great place, and Washwood Heath is the perfect site to house what he proposes, rather than the HS2 marshalling yard.
My right hon. Friend was right to say that all the Opposition Members present have been great supporters of HS2. I had the great privilege to serve with my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood) on the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill, which was a step forward in securing the high-speed line. We believe it is important to secure that because it will create a new transport mechanism for the whole country. More importantly, it will allow us to create valuable jobs.
Like nowhere else, Birmingham has facilities available, and we are prepared. We have engineering capability in our city. In my constituency, we have an advanced manufacturing zone that currently supports a lot of the great work being done in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) by supplying Jaguar Land Rover. We want to see more people there because that would allow us to build more capacity to support the services that my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill mentioned. If a broad base were already set up, it would make that much easier. Birmingham would be far more advanced than any other city. That is why it is important that we do this.
I agree with my right hon. Friend that we need local job agreements, as such agreements are important to our constituents. As a nation, we are providing a huge infrastructure and, ultimately, our constituents and the people of this country should benefit more than anyone else. Most other places have such agreements, and we should seek to deal with that issue in our discussions on the European Union stipulations. It is important that we do that to move forward.
Just to prove a point about what we do in Birmingham, Perry Barr, I was hugely privileged earlier this year when we got a brand-new Engineering Employers Federation training facility, which the EEF paid for itself—the EEF received no grants for that at all. It is a fantastic new training centre off Holford drive in my constituency, and it regularly takes on more than 300 new trainees from companies that still serve our great city and the region. They are trained on a 34-week programme in proper engineering facilities. We need to get back to the days when we had proper manufacturing machinery: computer numerically controlled lathes and millers, normal milling machines, welding equipment and all those things that we tend to forget and walk past. They are the tools that provide engineering skills and capability. It is important for us to consider the way in which engineering has built Birmingham, and we need to get back to that.
Huge improvements have been made by Jaguar Land Rover. When it was said that we could not carry on with manufacturing, it was a complete fallacy, as has been proved by the new management at Jaguar Land Rover. Birmingham and the people of Birmingham can do it, as has been proved time and again. We have facilities and further education institutions in the city. We have South and City college, which serves both my constituency and the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill. Indeed, he also has a construction centre operated by South and City college in his constituency. I am sure that the college will be able to step up to the plate and provide more national vocational qualification level 3 training facilities, which are hugely needed.
We have facilities that will enable us to move forward and provide the support that an engineering base needs in Birmingham. We have done that, and Birmingham is far ahead of any other city. As my right hon. Friend said, it is important that we create jobs in Birmingham. It has been forgotten for too long nationally. Other cities have prospered that, with all due respect, do not have the facilities and skills that Birmingham has had traditionally. I can declare that because I trained at Delta Metals when I was a lot younger than I am now. I went through an apprenticeship, and it was a great place for manufacturing and engineering, which allowed me to progress.
It is important that we encourage the entrepreneurs of the future. As my colleagues have said, entrepreneurs such as James Watt developed the engineering skills that allowed this country, and at that time the empire, to move forward. If we are to move forward as a nation, we need to get back to the principles of making things that add value. Engineering and manufacturing do that, and we certainly have those capabilities. Birmingham has—excuse the pun—a huge track record of delivering engineering, and I support my right hon. Friend.
It is always a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne) on securing this important and timely debate. He has consistently drawn attention to the impact that the proposed maintenance depot could have on his constituency and on Birmingham as a whole, and he has presented a powerful case this morning, ably supported by my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) and for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr Mahmood).
Today’s debate is especially well timed because Birmingham city council and Centro will be the first organisations to have their petitions heard by the Select Committee on the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill. I am sure that, as a consequence, many interested parties will be following this morning’s proceedings with even closer attention than usual. I take this opportunity to congratulate Birmingham, along with Derby, Manchester and Doncaster, on reaching the shortlist for hosting the proposed high-speed rail further education college. All my hon. Friends, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr, talked about Birmingham’s track record, and the things that will allow it to make a strong case as the competition proceeds.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill, made it clear in his opening speech that he is a strong supporter of High Speed 2, and I am grateful for his powerful contributions on Second Reading of the hybrid Bill and in the Adjournment debate he secured last January. He is entirely right to make the case for the project while seeking the best possible outcomes for his constituency and for Birmingham, but I will say a few words about the benefits that HS2 will bring not only to that city but to the wider west midlands before returning to the specific issues of Washwood Heath.
Birmingham’s economic health is closely tied to the operational health of the west coast main line, which is a vital economic artery for the region. As hon. Members for the west midlands know all too well, the west coast main line is also where our capacity constraints are most acutely felt. Passenger numbers have doubled over the past 20 years, placing enormous demands on our infrastructure. The railways are carrying the same number of passengers as they did in the 1920s on a network less than half the size, and the west coast main line is now the busiest passenger and freight rail line in Europe. Network Rail has warned that by 2024 the line will “effectively be full.” As record passenger growth continues, the day of reckoning may arrive sooner.
Annual passenger growth has averaged 5% over the past decade, but the Office of Rail Regulation recently confirmed that passenger numbers grew by 5.7% last year. The reality of those numbers is borne out by the thousands of commuters who are left standing every day as their trains approach Birmingham and other cities. The difficulty of running more commuter trains over mixed-use tracks, on which they have to compete with freight and fast inter-city services for paths, is well understood. By contrast, the process whereby local trains are squeezed off the network completely has not been well reported, but its effects are already being felt in the west midlands.
Geoff Inskip, the chief executive of Centro, told MPs last year that after the £9 billion west coast modernisation project some communities actually received a worse service than before:
“If we look back at the timetable changes that took place in December 2008, we put in more services to London, but those were at the expense of local services. Therefore we had worsening of service frequencies at local stations and loss of direct local services between, for example, the black country and Birmingham airport and Coventry.”––[Official Report, High Speed Rail (Preparation) Public Bill Committee, 9 July 2013; c. 18, Q32.]
Looking at those changes in detail, we see that Walsall lost its half-hourly service to Birmingham International airport. Both Walsall and Cannock lost their direct trains to the north beyond Rugeley Trent Valley, and there was a worsening of journey times on the line from Birmingham to Northampton.
I recently visited Barlaston station on the west coast main line and saw for myself what the consequences will be if that process is followed through to its logical extreme. A passenger train last stopped at Barlaston, just south of Stoke-on-Trent, in 2003. Services were suspended to allow work on the west coast modernisation project, and they have remained suspended ever since, in part because its paths have been reassigned to enable more inter-city trains.
Nearby Stone managed to reopen its station in 2008, and it has seen a dramatic increase in usage, but following a recent change in timetables, a journey from Barlaston to Stoke on the official bus replacement service takes around an hour, whereas the same trip would have taken five minutes by train. That is a particularly stark example of the effect that the capacity crunch is having on the network, and it can also be seen in Birmingham. Attempts to reopen the Camp Hill line, which served important communities in the south of the city, such as Moseley and Kings Heath, have been repeatedly frustrated by the lack of spare capacity at New Street station.
As the pressures on the network grow, we need action to prevent local services and freight trains from being squeezed off the network completely. Given the experience of the west coast modernisation project, which cost the taxpayer at least £9 billion and 10 years of disruption, a high-speed line is the best solution. The clear message is that there is a real need for more capacity on our railways, both to allow grade separation of traffic and to accommodate growing demand for inter-city, commuter and freight services.
We also need to plan ahead to make sure that our cities maximise the benefits that HS2 will bring. When I visited Birmingham in March, I was struck, as I think anyone would be, by the scale and vision of its plans for regenerating the Eastside area and integrating the Curzon Street station with local public transport. I hope that through the petitioning process a stronger consensus will be achieved between the city council, Centro, and HS2 Ltd on the best way to achieve those aims.
The petitions of Birmingham city council, the national exhibition centre, Centro and Birmingham airport all make it clear that they strongly support the principle of building HS2, but they are, understandably, seeking changes that they believe will maximise those local benefits, as my hon. Friends have done today. I do not propose to go through all the modifications that they are seeking, although I take some pride in the fact that it was Opposition Front Benchers who secured an assurance from the Government—from the Minister—that the Select Committee would be able to hear petitions related to passive provision for a future link to HS1, something that I know the city has been concerned about.
The council seeks changes for the Washwood Heath site. It is vital that it receives a fair hearing when it gives evidence to the Bill Committee. Specifically, it is asking: for a minimised land take for the depot; for provision for training and skills development; and for the HS2 network’s control centre to be based at the site. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill, has previously said that Washwood Heath represents a third of all brownfield land that is suitable for industrial development in Birmingham. Unemployment is clearly a serious problem in the surrounding area. As the former site of the LDV works and those of Metro Cammell—later Alstom—the land has a proud manufacturing history, so the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington, about the need for not only jobs, but good, high-quality jobs, are absolutely understood.
The site has been cleared for redevelopment, so it makes sense to minimise the land that HS2 will require as far as is reasonably practical, and to reach an early decision on the overall footprint of the proposed train maintenance depot. Of course, it is an important principle that the Select Committee should be able to govern its own affairs, and we should not seek to prejudice its decisions, but I am sure that the promoter, HS2 Ltd, has taken a careful note of the arguments put forward this morning.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill, said that regeneration and economic development are an essential part of the HS2 project, and he rightly calls for clarity on job creation and training opportunities. Presumably, this is a matter that can be explored in more depth through the Government’s long-awaited jobs and skills strategy. When I last asked the Minister about the report’s progress, he said:
“We expect it to be set out in more detail in the latter part of 2014.”—[Official Report, 26 February 2014; Vol. 576, c. 388W.]
That was in February. Can the Minister confirm today that the report is still on course to be produced in 2014, and is he able to give a more precise date for its publication?
I would also like to ask a question about the network control centre. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill, secured a debate on this matter in 2013, the then Transport Minister, the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker), said:
“There is also the potential to locate the HS2 control centre at Washwood Heath, generating a further 100 jobs.”—[Official Report, 25 January 2013; Vol. 557, c. 644.]
Indeed, that is one of the requests that Birmingham city council made in its petition, but HS2 Ltd’s rolling stock depot and stabling strategy, which was published in April, stated:
“The HS2 network control centre will also be located on the Washwood Heath site.”
Will the Minister confirm that the matter has now been settled? Does he have confidence in the figure of 650 jobs being directly created at the site, and what estimate has he made of the indirect job creation, both when the line is built and in the run-up? My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill, rightly asked for ambition and certainty, and I hope that the Minister will respond positively today.
HS2 will bring great benefits to Birmingham. It will place the city at the physical and operational heart of the national high-speed network; it will create and support thousands of jobs and provide new links to our country’s great cities. As a Nottingham MP, I know how poor those links can be, and that HS2 would revolutionise the connections between the east and west midlands.
Labour supports HS2, but, given the scale of public investment involved, it is essential that value for money is maintained, and that the petitioning process looks at the specific objections that have been made and at the arguments put forward today. I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill, who has brought these issues to national attention, and I look forward to the Minister addressing the questions that have been raised.
I congratulate the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne) on securing this debate on the location of the HS2 rolling stock maintenance depot at Washwood Heath. There is no doubt he speaks with genuine passion and conviction on behalf of his constituents. I know how important the area is for jobs and regeneration in his constituency. I hope that he will accept that we closely share his interest in maximising the benefits that the site can deliver. I also understand the history and heritage of the site. Indeed, I suspect he might wish me to point out that locomotives were also built in Glasgow, as well as in the north-east and Leeds. This country has a great engineering heritage. Of course, it has been the home of many great vehicles over the years, culminating in the Leyland Sherpa. Many will remember the LDV vehicles.
Before I go into the proposed use of the site for HS2 and what is being done to maximise the economic benefits for that area, I want to say again how important the Government believe HS2 is for the country. I appreciate the points made by the hon. Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood). The two main parties share the view that HS2 is important.
HS2 is a crucial part of our plans to develop the right infrastructure for future economic growth. HS2 will create 24,600 jobs during construction and maintenance, support 100,000 jobs around stations and depots, and create up to 2,000 opportunities for apprentices. In fact, some external estimates are even higher, with some predicting that HS2 will underpin the delivery of 400,000 jobs, and 70% of jobs supported by HS2 are expected to be outside London. I am sure the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill will agree that, while benefiting the whole country, HS2 offers significant opportunities for those in the west midlands area and in his constituency.
The new terminus station at Curzon Street, the interchange station near Birmingham airport, and the west coast main line will put Birmingham and Solihull at the centre of the country’s transport infrastructure, creating huge opportunities for growth in the area. The Curzon Street station will be a catalyst for the development of the Eastside area of the city and offers real regeneration potential for the Digbeth area. The interchange station will act as a focus for the economic development plans of local authorities and the area’s local enterprise partnership. HS2 will bring construction jobs and operational jobs when the line is open. It will support wider jobs and wealth creation, improving the prospects for businesses and people across the west midlands.
HS2 could help to support growth in employment of more than 8,000 jobs in the regeneration and development areas around the Birmingham stations. Centro estimates that the figure will be closer to 10,000 jobs, with as many as 22,000 jobs created in the wider region once phase 2 is completed and economic output is increasing by £1.5 billion.
The right hon. Gentleman’s constituency will also benefit. The Washwood Heath rolling stock maintenance depot will itself create employment in this area; approximately 640 jobs will be created and I am pleased to confirm that figure. These jobs are not dependent on the realisation of commercial opportunities or other redevelopment of the site. They are real jobs linked to a funded scheme that has the backing of Parliament. Bringing the depot to this site, which has an historical association with the railway, will kick-start the wider regeneration of the area.
The right hon. Gentleman raised questions in relation to the selection of the site for the rolling stock maintenance depot. I reassure him that a vigorous process for the identification of the site has been undertaken. A number of technical requirements informed much of the site selection process. Additionally, the key factors influencing the site selection process included location, size, access to the HS2 network and sustainability. The initial assessment concluded that a west midlands location was more appropriate than a site in the London area.
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way with characteristic generosity. He outlined the criteria that were used to conclude that Washwood Heath was the right site. I know that he cares about the interests of the taxpayer, as I do. I could not help but notice that he did not include on that list any assessment of the extra business rates that could be developed and delivered through alternative use of this site, and he did not flag up any savings to the unemployment bill, although savings of £74 million a year could be achieved through alternative development of the site. Therefore, I am concerned, as I know he will be, that there should be a holistic, whole-of-Government, whole-of-taxpayer analysis of whether the site is the right one and not simply an analysis based on the narrow and particular concerns of HS2 Ltd. If he is not able to bring forward such a whole-of-Government assessment of costs today, will he undertake to do so in due course?
The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point. However, looking at the wider economic area of the west midlands, there have been tremendous opportunities for investment. Jaguar Land Rover is building an engine plant and there are other big investments coming in. As the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr Mahmood), said, we have finally got it and understood that manufacturing jobs and making things in this country for export are very important. That is how, in many ways, we have created jobs in this country. The unemployment figure falls month after month after month, and the number of people claiming benefit falls month after month after month. That is in marked contrast to the record of the previous Government, who seemed to bet the farm on the City of London and jobs in financial services.
Perhaps I can outline to the right hon. Gentleman why we feel this site is the best site, and the operational considerations that were factored into the decision to house the depot at Washwood Heath. Those considerations include the need for trains to slow down as they approach the depot, which means it is operationally better for the depot to be on a slow section of the route. Washwood Heath is also close to Curzon Street station, where trains will start their journey. If the depot were located on a section of the route where trains do not start their journey, the train running costs would be increased.
After the assessment, a long list of potential sites in the west midlands area were identified and evaluated. That resulted in a shortlist of sites and a further evaluation to enable a preferred option—Washwood Heath—to be identified as the most suitable rolling stock depot location.
Washwood Heath was selected as a preferred option because of its proximity to the Curzon Street station; it is situated off the main HS2 line of route; and the site is centrally placed within a future national high-speed network. From a sustainability perspective, the site is not in the green belt. The process is documented in HS2 Ltd’s report entitled, “Rolling Stock Maintenance Depot Selection”, which was prepared in September 2010.
Recognising the right hon. Gentleman’s concerns and those of the landowners at Washwood Heath, which have emerged since the selection process that I have just described, HS2 Ltd updated its assessment, looking at the concerns raised and the alternative sites proposed for the rolling stock maintenance depot. That assessment concluded that Washwood Heath remained the preferred option for the depot, and it was considered by Ministers in May 2013. That conclusion was largely due to the fact that Washwood Heath is operationally better than the other sites that were considered.
The remaining question is how best to utilise the residual land at Washwood Heath that will not be required for the depot, to deliver the benefits to the local area that the right hon. Gentleman rightly seeks for his constituency. Once the railway is constructed, approximately 16 hectares—that is 40 acres in English—of land will be available for development purposes, and HS2 Ltd is continuing to work with Birmingham city council to maximise both the amount of residual land and the employment opportunities that can be brought to the area.
Through the west midlands HS2 strategic board and its jobs and skills working group, HS2 Ltd is working closely with both Birmingham city council and a broader group of stakeholders to maximise the employment and skills opportunities that HS2 will create. That process includes the development of an HS2 jobs and skills charter, and an HS2 jobs and skills master plan. We have already heard that Birmingham is on the shortlist of four locations for the HS2 skills academy, the further education college that will be very important in delivering the skills training required to ensure that British people have the skills to take the jobs that become available through the HS2 project.
During the construction of HS2, the nominated undertaker will ensure, in so far as it is lawful to do so, equality of opportunity to encourage the recruitment of local, disadvantaged or under-represented groups. That is in accordance with the HS2 sustainability policy, which states that contractors will work with HS2 Ltd to improve skills, jobs, education and the economy through its investment along the route.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the impact on businesses that are based on the Washwood Heath site. UK Mail, formerly Business Post, has its headquarters and national distribution hub on the site, which is why HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport have successfully agreed a package of advance compensation with the company to allow it to relocate to a purpose-built facility at Ryton in Coventry, which is currently under construction. That site is about 20 miles away from the Washwood site. UK Mail is also proposing to open a north Birmingham hub that is close to the proposed site, which will create approximately 70 jobs.
In addition, HS2 Ltd is in discussions with the other major landowners, including Cemex, regarding their acquisition and relocation, and it has published a business relocation policy that underpins that activity. I should also point out that, if I were in the business of manufacturing concrete sleepers, I would see a very prosperous and successful future ahead, given the unprecedented investment that we have put into the existing rail network as well as into high-speed rail, which is on the horizon. Indeed, we are investing £38 billion to improve the classic rail network.
The Minister says that Cemex has a bright future and he was absolutely right to say so. I was therefore highly alarmed to read the letter to me from Cemex, which said that, given the strategic importance of Cemex to the reconstruction of our railway system, the company is incredibly frustrated that no specific detailed plans have come forward from HS2 Ltd to address what is now a pressing need to develop relocation strategies. Cemex also makes the point that securing planning permission for a new site for its business will take about two years; that is how long it takes to get planning permission for that kind of business. Therefore, the prospect of a closure in the short term without clarity about the long term is not only a matter for Cemex and the 300 or 400 people whom it employs but a matter of strategic criticality to the Minister’s plans and ambitions for railway construction.
I absolutely understand the point that the right hon. Gentleman makes and I will ask HS2 Ltd to give me an update on the progress of those negotiations. Obviously, the time scale for building the project is a long one, and I hope that that will allow an opportunity for Cemex and other businesses that are affected up and down the route to be able to ensure continuity of operation and employment.
HS2 Ltd is in active discussions with AXA, Birmingham city council and others, to identify and resolve as many ongoing concerns as is reasonably practical.
I specifically asked about the jobs and skills strategy, which the Minister mentioned, and when that might be published. He also mentioned the jobs and skills charter and the jobs and skills master plan, which I am not sure that I have seen. Will he say a bit more about those and when they might be in the public domain?
I undertook to publish that information by the end of 2014 and that is still the case, although I am afraid that I cannot give the hon. Lady more detail on the date. However, if HS2 Ltd tells me that that information is available, I will give it to her.
HS2 Ltd has met Cemex a number of times since March 2014, with a view to making progress on relocating the business under the code. The next meeting is on Monday 23 June.
Taxpayer analysis is difficult—the right hon. Gentleman talked about how to weigh up the costs of unemployment and everything else—when based on aspiration about jobs, rather than real jobs on this site, so I am not sure whether we can agree a firm basis or set of assumptions upon which the type of analysis requested could take place. To be fair, assessment would also need to include employment opportunity costs and costs of alternative sites. Just because this site would not be available, say, for an overseas investor, does not mean that investment would not come into the United Kingdom: it could go to a number of possible sites around the country, including in the west midlands.
HS2 Ltd is meeting Birmingham city council and Centro as we speak. I am sure that the issues raised by the right hon. Gentleman, including maximising the regeneration of the residual land, will be on the agenda.
I confirm that the control centre will be based on the Washwood Heath site. The 640 jobs are to be created at the depot and we estimate that between 870 and 1,700 jobs could be created on the residual land.
It is also important that we get the terminology correct, to ensure that we all have a consistent understanding of the plans for the Washwood Heath site. The term “marshalling yard”, which is often used by the right hon. Gentleman, underplays the investment of more than £100 million in this area and the range of entry level, intermediate, technical and professional jobs that that will create.
I am afraid that I need to apologise to the right hon. Gentleman, because I have to reiterate the difference between aspirational plans that could create jobs, and the Government’s detailed plans to create actual jobs on the site.
I thank the Minister for giving way to me a third time. I should welcome his views on whether the way through is to agree that, given the opportunity cost of developing the site in the way that he proposes and given the clear risk of economic damage, the jobs and growth plan that he has undertaken to publish by the end of the year should include a defined level of ambition for creating jobs in east Birmingham. That would be the least he could do. As part of that, there should not simply be a plan for the residual land, because as he knows that land does not become available until the 2020s. He will be as concerned as I am with the blueprints, which he will have seen, to put 8 hectares of balancing pond on this land. I love a good lake as much as the Minister, but in east Birmingham we need jobs, not lakes. The great River Tame runs alongside the north of the site, so taking 8 hectares of balancing pond out of the equation would be a good idea.
I hope that, as the Minister develops the jobs and growth plan, we can agree that there should be a defined level of ambition for east Birmingham and we should not simply be talking about the residual land. We should be looking to minimise the land take during the construction period, because, of course, that is the here and now.
I will certainly ask HS2 Ltd whether it needs all the residual land for the construction of the project. Of course, the cost of not having an operationally viable rolling stock maintenance depot is that we will not have a viable project. I have already outlined the benefits to the UK economy in general and the west midlands economy in particular from HS2. Indeed, if HS2 were not to go ahead, hundreds of thousands of jobs would be at risk.
The right hon. Gentleman suggested that 5,000 or 7,000 jobs could be created on the site, but our opinion is that such employment densities are unlikely to be achieved. It is unlikely that manufacturing users would necessarily achieve higher employment densities on the site and, certainly, it is unlikely such densities would be secured for 100% of the site. Our consultants estimate that a figure of 3,700 jobs is more likely.
It is quite a big number. However, warehousing and similar development on sites throughout the country would undercut the level of jobs aspired to.
In response to the right hon. Gentleman’s concerns in relation to Jaguar Land Rover, I confirm that, while the area is safeguarded, there are no plans to take out this yard. I am pleased that Jaguar Land Rover continues to be successful. I have had six of their products over the years and am very proud of Jaguar Land Rover and what it is doing. There is a tunnel in the area where the Jaguar Land Rover freight road is located.
The Minister helpfully disclosed the Government’s own assessment of the potential to create 3,700 jobs. Will he confirm that their estimate of what could happen is four times greater than the proposal currently on the table for the marshalling yard, if it goes ahead?
Indeed. We have been absolutely honest about this. The density of employment in the yard, under the proposals, is not as high as the density under high-value engineering or even warehousing or other uses for the site. However, the advantages to the west midlands as a whole from this project will bring jobs to the area. At the moment, month after month, more jobs are being created in the private sector, which have more than compensated for jobs lost in the public sector.
The 6 hectares of balancing pond is critical infrastructure to help manage flood risk in the area. Any development in the land would need to deal with water attenuation. This is not unique to the use of the land as a depot. It is important, from a water management point of view, that something is done about water if large areas of concrete are being laid on the land.
The Minister will be familiar with the site, although possibly not as familiar as I am. I am sure that he recognises that the great River Tame runs alongside the north boundary of the site. He will have his work cut out justifying that 6 or 8 hectares of balancing pond are needed to manage the flood risk, when there is a mighty river to the north of the boundary.
I am grateful to the Minister for clarifying the 3,700 figure and for confirming to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) that that is four times the number that will be created under current plans. I am grateful that the Minister has accepted that the jobs and growth plan could include a defined level of ambition for job creation in east Birmingham. Does he agree that 3,700 is the right ambition that we should be shooting for, as a job-creation target, and will he confirm that when introducing his plans during 2014?
I am slightly nervous to challenge any figures given by a former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, given that his figures were so correct when he was in that role. I should like to make it clear that the aspiration for 3,700 jobs is based on floor-space density. However, the depot itself will create 640 jobs and the residual land will have the potential to create 1,700 jobs. That is 2,340 jobs on the site. Real jobs are being created through this project, not aspirational jobs, which would be great to have, but in some cases could be pie in the sky.
We and HS2 Ltd are working hard not only to implement a scheme that will bring the widest possible benefits to the country as a whole, but to help all those who will be affected. HS2 Ltd is already engaged with those parties who have raised concerns through the petition management process on the rolling stock maintenance depot at Washwood Heath, and we remain committed to working with those parties as we move to the Select Committee process. In that regard, HS2 Ltd’s intention is to continue to work with Birmingham city council and key landowners to enable the rolling stock maintenance depot to co-exist with additional employment uses, thereby maximising the economic benefits of the land. The Government and HS2 Ltd will continue to support the right hon. Gentleman’s aspirations for Washwood Heath, with the rolling stock maintenance depot integral to those plans.
Independent Living Fund Recipients
The independent living fund has transformed people’s lives. The ILF does exactly what it says on the tin: it liberates people who would otherwise not be able to live independently. It lets them make choices about how they live, things we often take for granted—when to get up or go to bed, what and when to eat. It allows them to work, to be active in the community and to live in their own homes. I challenge the Minister to guarantee to those in receipt of ILF that they will not become less independent as a result of his Government’s decision to close the fund in June 2015. That is what people fear; that is what they are frightened of—they fear losing their jobs, the staff whom they employ to support them and their independence. They fear being forced out of their homes and into institutions.
As my hon. Friend might be aware, in Wales the responsibility will go to the Assembly and then to local authorities. I have approached my authority, and it is uncertain what exactly is happening. There is a lot of fear out there among people who are totally reliant on the ILF payment to lead as normal a life as possible. They are being hurt now.
Will my hon. Friend give way?
Thank you, Mr Robertson, but it is important to recognise the number of Members present wanting to take part. I very much welcome that.
The Minister is a good Minister, and I am sure that he is not naive enough to believe that passing responsibility to local authorities absolves him of the responsibility for the decision. I am afraid that he will not get away with devolving responsibility and blame for the consequences of the decision to others.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on bringing this important debate to Westminster Hall. Does he agree that the dignity, the independence and the human rights of disabled people who need that high level of support can only be met by the continuation of the ILF?
I agree with my hon. Friend, which is why I am asking the Minister for guarantees that people’s independence will not be compromised under any future arrangements.
Disabled People Against Cuts calculates the existing annual cost of support at around £288 million, and yet the Government have only identified £262 million to transfer to local authorities. That discrepancy is not a good start. The Government are giving no reassurance that that money will be ring-fenced to spend only on support for disabled people to live independently, rather than be absorbed into broader council budgets.
Does the hon. Gentleman think that the structure in which the funding is delivered is more important than the services being delivered?
Absolutely. It is the services that matter, but any change in structure needs to guarantee people’s independence in future. Tinkering with structures and risking people’s futures is not something that anyone can do at the drop of a hat. I very much agree that what matters is services, not structure, but why change the structure if it is delivering, creating all the uncertainty and concern that is around?
According to Scope, £2.68 billion has been cut from adult social care budgets in the past three years alone, equating to 20% of net spending. That is happening when the number of working-age disabled people needing care is projected to rise by 9.2% between 2010 and 2020. In a recent survey, 40% of disabled people reported that social care services already fail to meet their basic needs, such as washing, dressing or getting out of the house, and 47% of respondents said that the services they received do not enable them to take part in community life. It is not surprising that people are desperately worried about their future.
Thank you, Mr Robertson. I am glad that that is clear now.
My hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin) is making an excellent speech on behalf of people who are worried about those vital resources, which will not be ring-fenced. Does he agree that there is an issue, as he has pointed out, about devolving to local authorities? My local authority is cash-strapped; 1,000 people will lose their care packages this year. Will the change not simply put a burden on unpaid family carers? Is that not a double burden, because people with the most difficult physical problems might be hard to lift and move—except by trained carers—which risks injury or fracture to them, as well to the carer doing the lifting?
My hon. Friend is right. She speaks with a lot of experience and insight into the issue, which she has campaigned on for a long while. She is right that the other group of people who might find themselves under significant pressure are the family carers of those now in receipt of ILF.
The worry, as my hon. Friend has indicated, is that the continued underfunding of social care will mean that the care system will simply not be able to support disabled people to live independently. The lack of reference to independent living in the definition of the well-being principle in the Care Act 2014, which local authorities will need to take into account when providing care, further fuels that anxiety.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. The point that I wanted to make is that, in Islington, 100 people are dependent on ILF. Although the local authority has undertaken to continue that support next year for those currently in receipt of ILF, the authority cannot give any guarantee that that funding will go on in future, in particular given that Islington council is facing 40% cuts over the year. Discretionary funding such as for independent living will be difficult to find.
My hon. Friend is right. Interestingly, we have cases coming in from all parts of the United Kingdom, which illustrate that the issue is deep-seated in all our communities.
Not only are people in receipt of ILF worried, but their friends, carers and families are too. The cases of two of my constituents illustrate that well. Ashley Harrison, for example, is a Scunthorpe United fan, like me cheering on the Iron at Glanford Park. At 10 months old, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy; he will turn 30 this year. Ashley has lived in his own bungalow since 2006. The ILF allows him to employ his own team of carers. Ashley is an inspirational man, a fighter, but he is worried about the control over his future being taken away from him. His mother says:
“The closure of the ILF would be nothing less than devastating for us as a family. Since Ashley was awarded his ILF allowance the whole family’s lives have changed for the better. ILF understands Ashley’s needs and always do everything they can to constantly improve Ashley’s life and enable him to live independently.
As a family naturally all we have ever wanted is the best for Ashley, which the ILF has helped us achieve. The ILF has always seemed to be the leading and positive force at meetings ensuring that social services match and meet Ashley’s needs. Without the ILF we all face a very uncertain future. The uncertainty that Ashley faced in his early years prior to receiving his ILF award have been daunting, frustrating and of course a constant battle with social services.
The alleged ‘smooth transfer’ over to social services is already proving to be nothing of the sort. Each and every meeting we hold (which are incredibly frequent) leave us having to justify Ashley’s needs as a disabled person. The assessments they ask us to complete are totally unsuitable for the severely disabled.
All of the disabled people living independently with the help of ILF are living their lives to the full. The fear is that if ILF closes these people will lose their human rights and dignity to live their lives as they should.
As a mother who has fought the last 30 years for Ashley to have the life he wants and of course deserves, I dread to think what the next generation of disabled people will have to endure without the positive support of the ILF.
I beg you to listen to myself as a mother of a disabled son and also listen to all those disabled voices who deserve to be heard.
Give each and every person the ability to live and achieve their dreams just as you and I can.
The Paralympics just proves how amazing disabled people can be!”
I am sure everyone will be moved by that testimony. It is an irony that, in my constituency, some recipients of ILF are among the most active people in the community, whether they are working, doing sport in the community or promoting disability rights. Debbie Domb and Kevin Caulfield are two of the most active people in my constituency, and they do a lot of positive good. The removal of ILF will be bad not just for them, but for my community as a whole.
I absolutely agree.
Let me move on to my second constituent, Jon Clayton, who illustrates what my hon. Friend said. He also receives ILF. Like Ashley, he employs carers who understand his disability. His sister writes:
“My brother Jon is quadriplegic, having been involved in an accident which was not his fault at the age of 18. He is now 54.
He is one of life’s truly inspirational people; an accomplished mouth artist—a gift he only knew he had after his life changing accident—living independently in his own home. He freely gives his time mentoring other disabled persons, helping them come to terms with another life. A life without limbs. A life without walking.
He has always sought to live as normal a life as possible. Having gone through marriage, divorce, being a step father, losing a partner.
He is both ordinary and extraordinary.
He relies heavily on his full time carers. Carers who he personally has ensured are trained to an appropriate and exceptional level to look after a person with specific and defined needs. One false move and he could (and has) spent 18 months bed bound with a pressure sore at the expense of some ill trained nurse.
His carers are trusted to ensure and give a high level of care, entrusted with the most personal of tasks from catheter changing, toileting, dressing…This has been part of Jon’s life since his accident. Something he has taken on with humour and dignity.
If the ILF is removed Jon will be unable to live independently. Being able to engage in what you and I would consider a normal life. He will be unable to travel, have holidays, visit family, visit friends.
The ILF has enabled independence. Given life, where life seemed over.
I would therefore urge you to do all you can to prevent this life enabling function—the ILF—from being eroded.”
Does my hon. Friend think it is a disgrace that, last month, when people such as his constituent turned up at Tothill street, the doors of the Department for Work and Pensions were locked against them? Those people simply wanted to hand a letter in to the Minister’s office, but no one was available, and I had to take the letter in by the back door.
I am sure all those who turned up to present the letter will want to thank my hon. Friend for carrying out that duty on their behalf. Obviously, it would have been much better had they been able to access the Department themselves, and I am sure the Minister and his colleagues will reflect on that. Sometimes these things happen, sadly, but the Minister has heard my hon. Friend’s concern, and I am sure he will want to address it.
A fundamental concern for Jon, Ashley and others is whether they will be able to employ their specialist staff in future. The question was raised with North Lincolnshire council, which responded on 9 June 2014 with these words, which are rather bureaucratic:
“We appreciate this situation may cause you concern as an existing Independent Living Fund customer and would wish to reduce any worry or anxiety you may have.
Allocation of future monies will be based on your updated assessment and support plan and on future Local Authority funding so at this stage we cannot give any specific guidance on the amount of monies that you may receive from us or cannot give guarantees on the future employment status of any Personal Assistants you may currently employ.”
As hon. Members can imagine, such “reassurances” serve only to heighten anxiety and build mistrust.
I return to my central question: will the Government guarantee that Ashley, Jon and all those currently receiving ILF will not lose their independence as a result of the Government’s decision to close the fund? I believe that that decision is aimed at saving money, but it might end up costing far more in other budget areas, such as health.
A better way forward would be for the Government to engage with ILF recipients—they clearly had an opportunity to do so recently when my hon. Friend the Member for North Tyneside (Mrs Glindon) went with recipients to the DWP—to learn from their experience and to find ways of shaping future services that are cost-effective, but that continue to deliver true independence.
Does my hon. Friend agree that another profoundly worrying aspect is that the coalition Government have been in situ for four years? The worry he describes has been expressed by my constituents Rosemary and David Burslem for four years, but it is still unresolved. What we are seeing from the Government is a hospital pass to other people, who will have to make the difficult decisions the Government have deliberately left for four years and have now misjudged.
That is why I keep repeating my question to the Minister. This is happening on his watch; he is a good Minister, and he is a man who, I believe, cares, but he cannot wash his hands, like Pontius Pilate, of the future of these individuals. He needs to nail his colours to the mast, and today he has an opportunity to do that by guaranteeing that, as a result of the Government’s decision, there will be no detriment to people currently receiving ILF. My hon. Friend is right to emphasise that people have been living with this worry and concern for the past four years, which has affected the health and well-being not only of ILF recipients, but their families, friends and carers.
My hon. Friend is making a powerful case on behalf of all users of the ILF. Does he agree that it is not surprising they are concerned about the impact of the closure, given that the Department’s own equality impact assessment says it will be for individual local authorities
“to determine how to allocate the funding transferred to them…This is likely to have an adverse effect on ILF users because of monetary reductions in the amount of support a person receives and because of changes in how that support is delivered”?
When the Government’s own equality impact assessment tells them the closure will have that impact, they must surely respond.
That is deeply worrying, as my hon. Friend says. That is why it is good the Minister has the opportunity today to give people those guarantees and reassurances and to address the concerns raised by the Government’s own impact assessment.
Disabled People Against Cuts points out that, for the 17,500 people in receipt of ILF,
“the closure of the Fund will have a devastating impact on the lives on these individuals and their families. It also has a much wider significance because at the heart of this is the fundamental question of disabled people’s place in society: do we want a society that keeps its disabled citizens out of sight, prisoners in their own homes or locked away in institutions, surviving not living or do we want a society that enables disabled people to participate, contribute and enjoy the opportunities, choice and control that non-disabled people”—
like us—“take for granted?”
Does my hon. Friend agree that the ILF has proved to be a source of social and economic emancipation on an extra-statutory basis? No other scheme delivered by government—local or otherwise—could do that. The ILF has developed a specialism, an insight and a sensitivity that cannot be replaced by anything else.
That is an excellent point; the support provided by the specialists who understand the area of work has been transformational. The independent living fund was a visionary way forward for disabled people. It would be worse than a sadness—it would be a tragedy for us all—if the Government, in pursuit of micro-benefits, were to lose for society a macro-benefit. We cannot wash our hands of what happens, and that is why we are here today, arguing on behalf of disabled people and the recipients of the ILF. Let us consider the words of Mahatma Ghandi:
“The greatness of a nation can be judged by how it treats its weakest members.”
People like Jon and Ashley are not weak but strong; but the ILF gives them independence, and liberates their strengths. Now is the Minister’s opportunity to guarantee that their future independence will not be compromised by the closure of the ILF.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this morning, Mr Robertson. I congratulate the hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin) on securing, and colleagues on taking the time to take part in, this short debate. I suppose that most people will know me by now, and know that I will answer questions as directly as possible; where I cannot answer I will, obviously, write back.
Can I guarantee that no one in receipt of ILF money today will be adversely affected by the changes that we are going to make? No, I cannot, and no Minister of any colour or persuasion could. I want to highlight one point: in July 2010 the scheme closed to new entries. People who have needed the sort of support that ILF has been giving since 1988 have, since 2010, been getting it from local authorities. The hon. Member for Wrexham (Ian Lucas) made a point about waiting four years. One of the reasons was the delay when we were taken to court—and it is a democratic right for that to happen. The court made a decision, interestingly enough, not on what we were doing, but on process—on whether there was enough evidence that we had taken the Equality Act 2010 into consideration. I was appointed to my present portfolio almost in the same week.
My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard) asked whether the issue was about process and who was delivering the help, or about whether we can get the help to the people who deserve it, such as the constituents of the hon. Member for Scunthorpe, and others whom I met in my constituency last night, who talked pragmatically about the future of ILF, and how the scheme will work. Most—nearly all, I think—local authorities are now in the transitional process with us. Following the court ruling, once I announced my decision that we would be going ahead—it appears I may be challenged on that as well—I looked specifically at the process, not at the decision that had already been made. In 2015, we will be transferring all the funding—it is not a cut—that was in ILF.
Bear with me: I am very short of time and I did a deal with the hon. Gentleman before we started that I would take less time so that other hon. Members could intervene. If the hon. Gentleman intervenes on me now, it will make it difficult. I am more than happy to write to him on any issue if he wants me to.
I understand fully people’s concerns about the change in practice; those concerns arise with any change affecting any benefit, but there really should not be concern. The people who now deliver the care to people in the community are exactly the same as those who will deliver the version of the ILF that is provided in the future. All that I can try to do is ensure that we monitor what happens as carefully as possible, to see that people’s rights and needs are met as the scheme is transferred out. It is important that none of us underestimates the skill and dedication of the people who go out to do the reviews. I have a team in London. Obviously a certain salami-slicing goes on; we want to try to get that money down and into the system, so there are the same people doing assessments. Will some of those assessments have to be tweaked, over a period of time? Absolutely, they will be, and we will help. We will give as much assistance as we can with that.
I want to touch on what the hon. Member for North Tyneside (Mrs Glindon) said about the delegation to the Department for Work and Pensions. I am sure that it was peaceful, well-mannered and nice, but that is not always the case. If the hon. Lady looks at the side of the building she will see that paint has been thrown over it, and there have been nasty incidents outside. If she wants to come to see me privately I shall talk about that. That is why the security people were there: we do not know what will happen until people turn up. If I had been there, I would have met the hon. Lady. She knows my door is always open. I have seen her, and if she wants me in future to meet a group of the people who were with her, I shall be more than happy to do that, but there have been nasty incidents and the security situation is understandable. The hon. Lady frowns at me, but those things have happened—she just needs to take a look at the side of the building.
Okay, I will shout; but there was certainly no slight intended to the hon. Lady or the people with her. Security make the decision, and like all Ministers I must bear with them on that. I would obviously meet at any time and place.
The subject is enormously emotive and important, but we must not make assumptions about what will happen. My reason for thinking that we can have some confidence is that the scheme has been closed since 2010, so people with exactly the same needs as the people we have heard about in the debate have had them met by the new system. They have been helped by it. It is vital not to have a two-tier system, as we do at the moment. People who have needed a version of the ILF since 2010 have had that from the local authorities, but people such as those I met last night, who are on the scheme, are having their assessments, and the change is taking place. Did families say to me yesterday that some of the questions seemed bizarre, given the disabilities of the person concerned? Yes—and I am taking that issue up. Colleagues may want to liaise with me and work with me; I think that is the key to this.
I will be honest and frank: the scheme is closed to new entries and the money will go out to local authorities. We will monitor what happens very carefully. Will there be teething problems? Yes. Will there be issues to do with the forms? Yes. However, I think we desperately need to get away from the process and from thinking that my Department, or a part of it, is the best place from which to bring a benefit right into the communities and to the individuals who need it. That is not the case. I came new to this.
I am grateful. Does the Minister agree that because new entrants since 2010 will come within the scheme, and the budget that he transfers will be the same as it is now, inevitably people who are now receiving money from the ILF will have their income reduced?
No. I completely do not agree with that logic. I know where the hon. Gentleman is coming from. [Interruption.] He can shake his head as much as he likes, but I am always honest and straight. Do I agree with him? No, I do not, and the reason is that those people are already being helped. Those who were in the scheme, who have come in since July 2010, are already being helped by the money that is in the local authority part, not by the money that is coming across from us. The money that is coming across with the ILF is the funding that sits with the ILF now. That is how it is, and we may have to disagree. If I am wrong factually, I shall write to the hon. Gentleman and tell him.
I do not have powers to ring-fence it, and we have had such debates before. It was a Treasury decision not to ring-fence money that is to go down to local authorities in that way. I am bound by that, and I agree with that.
An important point is that we are not just going to give the money to local authorities and say, “That local authority is doing really well, but we know that one is doing really badly, and we are just going to let it get on and do that.” As the disabilities Minister, I will want to publish a league table showing how it is being done, and which local authorities are good.
I am not going to give way.
It is really important that we all participate and make sure as best we can that the system works. It appears to be working. There will be anomalies, and I am sure that tomorrow morning my postbag will be full of letters from people saying they have joined the scheme since 2010 and it has not worked. As yet I have not found that, but I am sure I will. It is an enormously emotive and important subject, but those are people I desperately want to help. That is why I am doing this job. I would not do it for any other reason.
Do I think the scheme will help? Yes. Do I think that localism is better than a top-down approach? Yes, I do. I understand the concerns; but let us see how things roll out. Let us look carefully at the work that has been done since 2010 for the people who did not join the scheme but have gone into local authorities. Some of the scare stories that are out there, especially in some parts of the press, and from some lobby groups, are unfounded. I think that we can move forward, subject, of course, to what happens in the courts in the next few months.
Melbourne Declaration on Diabetes
[Dr William McCrea in the Chair]
It is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Dr McCrea, for what I think is the first time.
Diabetes is the fastest-growing health threat in the UK, the EU and across the globe. I will first talk a little about what diabetes is. It is a condition in which there is too much glucose in the blood because the body cannot use it properly. That happens because the pancreas does not produce any insulin, or does not produce enough, or because the insulin it produces is unable to work properly. That is a problem because insulin is the key that unlocks the door to the body’s cells so that glucose can enter them. Diabetes means that the body is unable to use glucose as fuel; instead, it builds up in the blood.
There are two main types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. They are different conditions with different causes; the treatments can be different as well. Both types are serious, lifelong conditions that can lead to devastating complications if they are not managed well, but with the right treatment and support people with diabetes can reduce their risk of developing such complications.
People with type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin. About 10% of people with diabetes have type 1; I myself have had type 1 diabetes for nearly a quarter of a century, and I am still here. No one knows exactly what causes it, but it is not to do with being overweight and it is not currently preventable. It usually affects children and young adults, starting suddenly and getting worse quickly.
People with type 2 diabetes do not produce enough insulin or else the insulin they produce does not work properly. About 85% to 90% of people with diabetes have type 2. They might get it because their family history, age or ethnic background put them at increased risk. People are also more likely to get type 2 if they are overweight. It starts gradually, usually later in life, and it can be years before people realise they have it.
There are of course exceptions with both types: there are people who have got type 1 quite late in life and there are quite young people, including children, who have type 2, which is not always the consequence of the weight a person is carrying at the time of diagnosis. As with all things, the exceptions mean it is difficult to make a comprehensive diagnosis of what is happening, precisely why it is happening and how it can be prevented.
In the UK, around 3.2 million people have diabetes, and the condition costs the NHS over £10 billion a year. Within the EU as a whole, one in 12 adults have diabetes, and one in three people with the condition apparently do not know that they have it. In this country we have done a lot of work on trying to find what was referred to as the missing million—the people who have diabetes but had not been diagnosed. I believe the figure is now around 750,000, so around 250,000 people have been diagnosed as a result of greater awareness. I will be referring to that a little later.
According to the International Diabetes Federation, globally there are 382 million people with diabetes, a figure that is expected to rise to 592 million by 2035. The number of people with type 2 diabetes is increasing in every country in the world, and 80% of people with the condition live in low and middle-income countries. The greatest number of people with diabetes are between 40 and 59 years of age, and diabetes caused 5.1 million deaths in 2013. A really frightening statistic is that every six seconds a person dies from diabetes somewhere in the world. It is a global problem—a global pandemic—and requires a global response.
That is really what the Melbourne declaration on diabetes was all about. Parliamentarians representing 50 different countries came together to talk about what was happening in their countries and what the problems were, and to discuss how we could co-operate better. We recognised that many bodies work transnationally: patient bodies, medical professionals and pharmaceutical companies all meet regularly on a transnational basis. One group that does not is parliamentarians, yet it is the parliamentarians who can initiate debates, vote on budgets, raise awareness and put pressure on Governments in a way that other bodies cannot. In a sense, the parliamentarians are the missing link.
The aim was to bring those parliamentarians together to work together to commit themselves to be advocates in the fight against diabetes and to recognise the global challenge. Those who attended committed themselves to raising the profile and working for the benefit of people with diabetes wherever they live in the world. Since the declaration was signed, over 100 parliamentarians have signed up as members and many more have declared themselves supporters. Two newsletters have been published and are hosted on the International Diabetes Federation website, a Twitter account is now active, and debates have occurred in Russia, Bolivia, Malta, Kenya, Scotland and now here today in the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
There are so many issues to address. One is prevention. Far more needs to be done on that. We may have reduced the number who are missing their diagnosis, but there are still 750,000 people out there with diabetes whose condition will develop and whose cost to the health service will increase the longer they go undiagnosed. Health education is vital, to make people aware of the risks involved. We also need information out there to combat people’s fears that if they are diabetic they will have to inject themselves with needles all their lives. Only 10% of people with diabetes are type 1 and have to take insulin subcutaneously by injection—believe me, when someone is confronted with the fact that they have to inject themselves with a needle or they are going to die, they no longer worry about injecting themselves with a needle—so 90% of people with diabetes do not have to worry about that. They can be treated by diet and tablet, and different regimes.
There is still a stigma. There are Members of this place who have diabetes but do not want other people to know about it, although it is good that increasingly Members are prepared to come forward. The situation is the same in other professions. One great thing the all-party group on diabetes achieved was a change of policy in the police, the ambulance service and the fire service: people who admitted that they had diabetes were being retired immediately, but now instead they are given individual annual medical assessments to see what they can and cannot do. Sacking people simply because of a condition seems such an obvious injustice, especially as many of them can control that condition and hold down their job as well as any other person so long as they are monitored and have that medical assessment.
Prevention will save millions. There is no doubt that the bulk of the cost of diabetes to health care systems is at the point when the complications come in and a person with diabetes has to be hospitalised. It is an interesting phenomenon that people with diabetes stay longer in hospital beds than people without it. That includes people who have been admitted to hospital for something that has absolutely nothing to do with their diabetes, or who have come in for elective surgery. The change of environment on going into hospital disables them in terms of being able to control their condition. Increasingly now, many hospitals are saying that, as people with diabetes basically self-medicate 365 days of the year, if they go into hospital, they may as well carry on self-medicating, because they know their body better than the health service is likely to.
The savings to the health service from prevention are quite phenomenal. Early diagnosis is also important, as it reduces complications, so we need to encourage people to come forward and be tested. That is linked to the need for education and information so that people do not fear being tested or being diagnosed with the condition.
Sadly, many people with the condition are not getting the checks that they are supposed to get from our health service. Diabetes UK has taken that up and argues that everyone should be entitled to 15 checks whenever they go to their GP for an annual check-up. The fact that they are not getting all 15 checks suggests that something is not working correctly in the system. Some GP practices are excellent, but others are not so good and we must ensure that everyone gets the minimum 15 checks.
The pump device for those who are insulin-dependent is a small device about the size of a pager. It is attached to the patient and provides insulin doses, almost mimicking the pancreas. It is a very good regime, particularly for children who do not want the paraphernalia of injection pens and so on. They can enjoy a life in which other children do not recognise that the diabetic is different. They must still check their blood sugar, but we are looking and hoping for the development of a single device that both tests blood and injects insulin, completely mimicking the pancreas. It is out there, but it is not yet widely available. The cost must come down and more testing is needed, but that is the future. People must live with diabetes now and the level of pump prescribing here is well below that in other EU countries. Any child who is diagnosed with diabetes should be automatically put on a pump unless there is an objection. It is the obvious way to get a child to control their condition early and to enable them to enjoy their life along with other children of the same age.
The treatment of people in care with diabetes leaves a lot to be desired, and a lot more needs to be done in the various care inspection regimes to ensure that people with diabetes who go into residential or nursing care are properly looked after.
There are questions about research. Are we spending enough on research on a cure? Are we researching better conditions and finding the best treatment regimes for people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes?
Children with diabetes must be supported in school and I hope that the Children and Families Act 2014 will go some way to helping parents with some of the problems. Some schools have refused to deal with a child with diabetes or to help them to test their blood sugar levels and take their insulin. Some schools insist that a parent must be in attendance at the school, which often means taking someone out of a job to be a full-time carer of their child with diabetes in school. Surely that is not desirable.
There are complications with transition when children move from primary school to secondary school, and then to university. They often have to deal with three health care regimes: paediatrics, adult care and student care services. Problems often arise as a consequence of those transitions.
I mentioned discrimination in the workplace in relation to blue light services. We were able to campaign against that to help to tackle it. That discrimination is still out there. People must have the courage to come forward in cases where there has been discrimination on the grounds that they have diabetes. There is probably much better understanding now in the workplace about diabetes, but there are still pockets of ignorance that need to be tackled.
All that occurs in the UK, with its well-developed health care service, many aspects of which are the envy of other countries. The Commonwealth study that has come out this week shows that the UK health service is at No. 1. That is testament to everyone who works in the health care service. They deserve our congratulations on delivering such a fantastic service cost-effectively for the majority of people who need to access services. I may list a whole load of issues and problems, but it would be wrong to be all doom and gloom and to think that we are lagging behind. We are way ahead, but we want to be even further ahead and to bring other countries up to our level. We must and can do more.
Internationally, the 66th World Health Assembly adopted a global target to halt the rise of diabetes and obesity by 2025. Every nation needs a national strategy and action plan to prevent and manage the diabetes pandemic. It is unfortunate that we no longer have a national service framework for diabetes in this country. The Government should think again about that because without a national plan and national strategy, it is difficult to determine whether we are achieving what we want to achieve in terms of reducing the number of people with diabetes, diagnosing those who have the condition and ensuring that treatment is as good as the best anywhere in the UK.
The Parliamentarians for Diabetes Global Network, which was set up through the Melbourne declaration, can help to facilitate the objective that the World Health Organisation has laid down for health care systems around the world. The network’s priority in its early years will be to build a coalition of advocates for action to prevent the pandemic at local, regional, national and transnational levels, with the focus on raising the matter in Parliaments and Assemblies across the globe to spread better understanding and awareness of diabetes and the urgency with which it needs to be addressed.
Following the declaration and events in Parliaments around the world, the ExPAND Policy Toolkit for Diabetes has gone live and will greatly assist the aims of the declaration. It is a practical guide to help diabetes advocates to challenge national Governments and to raise the profile of diabetes. It is the first comprehensive resource aimed specifically at helping MPs and other policy makers to shape and influence national policy to ensure that we prepare our health care systems for the challenges of the 21st century. With input from parliamentarians for parliamentarians, it provides a one-stop resource covering the economic case for investment, evidence of what works and best practice from across Europe, as well as practical steps for leading and developing new policies on diabetes that are fit for purpose. Key topics include prevention, self-management, innovation and person-centred care. There are also dedicated chapters on the care and treatment of children and older people. It is hosted on the International Diabetes Federation’s website and is available for any parliamentarians who want to avail themselves of its usefulness. The toolkit was the result of more than a year’s work by a network of parliamentarians, patient representatives and other opinion formers from across Europe.
The Melbourne declaration is a clarion call for action across the world and the ExPAND Policy Toolkit for Diabetes is a resource to turn words into action, but we also need momentum to reach that tipping point where no one questions why the global pandemic of diabetes receives priority attention for resources to prevent, to diagnose and to treat the condition.
It is always a pleasure to speak about diabetes. I am a type 2 diabetic, so the matter is important to me. I congratulate the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr Sanders) on securing the debate. I know of his passion for the subject, and it is always good to participate in a debate initiated by him. I hope that others will contribute and help him to pursue his ideas. I am fully behind the Melbourne declaration on diabetes. I am delighted at the attention the illness is receiving, and I look forward to great steps being taken to curb the effect of diabetes in our country and the world.
Many people have referred to diabetes as a ticking time bomb. We focus on many diseases, such as cancer and heart disease, in that way. Diabetes is a ticking time bomb because of the numbers of people who have it and do not know, or who will potentially be diabetic in the near future. I am sure that we are all very aware that it is estimated that there are 382 million people worldwide with diabetes, most of whom are aged between 40 and 59. Again, that middle-aged group is where the focus seems to be, and their number is expected to rise to 592 million by 2035. For one second, consider again that the figure will rise from 382 million to 592 million by 2035—another 200 million people will be diabetics by that time.
In 2013, diabetes caused 5.1 million deaths, which is one every six seconds. That is the magnitude of the issue of diabetes and what it is doing and has the potential to do. In world monetary terms, diabetes is taking up some $548 billion in health spending in 2013, right across the world. That is 11% of worldwide expenditure. Those figures get into what it means to be diabetic, and why the condition is a ticking time bomb not only for the United Kingdom, but for the world. The statistics are harrowing. It is an international problem. It is a disease that we are often too blasé about, and we must not let this dire situation continue. We must adequately assess the issue of diabetes and tackle the problem head-on.
I want to mention our colleague, Edwin Poots, the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland. He has initiated a programme to bring in 400 insulin pumps to help type 1 diabetics and their families. He has also initiated training along with that, so that people who have the pumps are adequately trained in administering the insulin, and in helping the control of diabetes. Good things have been done in Northern Ireland, but good things have been done in England as well. As the Minister will know, I ask all the time about a strategy, not only regionally, but for the whole United Kingdom.
Obesity and diabetes-related illnesses combined cost the NHS an estimated £15 billion a year, and 80% of the available funding for diabetes is spent on treating preventable complications, because it is not diabetes that will eventually, to use strong terms, kill someone, but the complications. It can affect people’s kidneys, liver, circulation, heart and eyesight.
While my hon. Friend is on the issue of the cost to the NHS and to all of us as taxpayers, does he agree that any additional resource that is deployed in early detection, and in trying to ensure greater awareness in communities across the UK, will vastly be outweighed by the savings, in terms of what the taxpayer would have to pay out otherwise? That has been outlined by both the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr Sanders) and by my hon. Friend.
I thank my hon. Friend and colleague for that comment. He is absolutely right, and I will come on to some issues that I feel the Government need to address early on. He is correct to say that vast savings will be made if there is early detection. The need for early detection was mentioned by the hon. Member for Torbay, and other Members will make the same comment.
Although it is great that money is available to treat this illness, we must not merely chase after it, putting a plaster on it after it has inflicted damage. That is clear. We need to ensure that money is spent not only on treating it, but on prevention methods—which makes me wonder whether my hon. Friend the Member for East Londonderry (Mr Campbell) was looking over my shoulder at my notes, because he made the next point that I was coming to. We cannot allow ourselves to accept the fact that 3.2 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with diabetes. Again, that is the magnitude of the problem. We must look to the causes and stamp them out at the root.
One thing that we can address is the preventive measures that need to be taken. We have talked many times in the House about the sugar content in food. The right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), who is not here today, introduced a measure, which I was happy to put my name to, addressing the issues of sugar in manufactured products that we eat. We need to take that issue forward, and in the future, I hope we will be in a position to take legislation on that subject through the House with the support of food manufacturers, so that we can address the issue of the food we eat. We do not need all the sugar or salt that is in food. There is a way of addressing issues outside the Chamber—issues that are outside Government control—but something needs to be done at a manufacturing level.
Our annual intake of sugar is 33.7 kg per capita. To put that in perspective, it is equivalent to eating nearly 34 average-sized bags of sugar each year. Imagine if the sugar was piled up on the table here; it would block my hon. Friend the Member for East Londonderry from sight completely. That is how much sugar we are all eating every year, and some people even eat more. Surely when discussing the Melbourne declaration on diabetes, the Government need to take another look at sugar levels in our food. What steps are the Government taking on diabetes prevention to ensure that the next generation is not blighted by diabetes in the way that this one is? Projections show that if current trends continue, in 2025, 5 million people in the UK will have diabetes. Again, the magnitude of the issue is clear, so what are the Government doing to ensure that that does not happen? What preventive measures are they putting in place to decrease that number?
The correlation between weight and diabetes has been made clear: 80% of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. The Government need to do more to increase education on the danger of being overweight or obese and tighten controls on how much sugar goes into our food. Those are all issues that I feel we need to take on board.
What is so frustrating is that up to 80% of type 2 diabetes could be delayed or prevented. I am not saying that in any judgmental way, because many in the Chamber will be aware that I am a type 2 diabetic, as I declared at the beginning of my speech. The truth of the matter is that I have to blame myself and my lifestyle choices for the onset of the disease. It was the Chinese carry-out five nights a week, with two bottles of Coke—not a good diet for anybody. That is the reason why I was almost 18 stone and had to lose weight very quickly. Aside from that, it was also a lifestyle with high levels of stress. When the two are combined, diabetes will knock on the door of nearly everybody, as most of us know.
While I am on the subject, many people can be diabetic even though they are not necessarily overweight. It can happen through them having a stressful lifestyle. How many others living the same lifestyle are not aware of the damage that they are doing to their bodies in the long term, and how can we do better in highlighting that? I have to take two Metformin tablets in the morning and two at night. That dosage could have to be increased; a doctor could come along, as he often does, and say “By the way, you just need a wee blood pressure tablet now to keep you right as well.” People wonder just how many tablets they will have to take before they reach the age of 65 and retire, if they are spared until that age.
What are the Government doing to diagnose diabetes early and treat it effectively, preventing or delaying the complications that cause so much human suffering, require costly treatment, and reduce life expectancy? Only one in 10 people who are newly diagnosed with diabetes are offered education on how to manage their condition, despite strong evidence that education is a cost-effective way of giving people the knowledge that they need to manage their condition. On managing diabetes, after someone is diagnosed as diabetic, what help is given to them to ensure that they manage that in a sensible way? I accept that the person also needs to acknowledge that they have to manage the condition. I remember Dr Mageean, my doctor, telling me when I was first diagnosed, “Jim, it is up to you what you do.” He was very clear and said, “You must manage this yourself,” but at the same time, I think we need a wee bit of help, perhaps from Government and from the health service in particular, just to ensure that we know what that all means for everyone involved.
It is estimated that in my small Province of Northern Ireland, 80,000 people have diabetes. That awful statistic worries me very much.
The point about education is interesting. According to the National Audit Office, the estimated amount that the NHS could save annually through people better understanding and managing diabetes is £170 million. That is just from improved awareness and education.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. That reinforces the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for East Londonderry and by me: prevention saves money for the NHS. I accept that the Minister’s budget is restricted, and that we cannot spend outside of that, but if there are ways and means of reducing the money that is spent and ensuring that we can still deliver the NHS that we are all very proud of, we should try to do that as well.
On 12 February 2014, I asked the Minister what discussions had been had with the Health Minister in Northern Ireland on UK-wide strategies for diabetes, obesity, heart disease and rare diseases. The Minister said that there had been no discussions with the Northern Ireland Executive on those issues. I am asking that question again, as she is here. I respect her greatly—she knows that—and I value the work that she carries out in this place, but I honestly believe that a UK-wide strategy is needed. We had one until 2013, but then it was not carried on. I believe that it would be to the benefit of all the regions of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland if that UK-wide strategy was started again, so I ask the question again.
There is cross-House approval of and support for the Melbourne declaration on diabetes, which pushed for an international effort in the fight against diabetes, and that is what this is all about. Are the Government willing to work with the devolved Administrations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to use resources wisely and create a UK-wide strategy against diabetes? They have done it before; let us do it again, and do it even better this time.
The director of Diabetes UK Northern Ireland, Iain Foster, has said:
“We are in the middle of a diabetes epidemic…With the numbers rapidly increasing it is now more important than ever that everything is done to prevent serious complications which cost the NHS millions”—
as the hon. Member for Torbay said—
“and are absolutely devastating for the individuals and families involved.”
Let us never forget that it is not just those with diabetes but the families around them who are affected by the debilitating effects of diabetes on the individual.
Will the Government commit to implementing fully the NHS health check, which should be offered to everyone aged 40 to 74, to help identify people at high risk of type 2 diabetes? I say with respect that that programme has been patchily introduced so far, so there could be a lot of improvement. The Government need to do more to ensure that those at high risk benefit from lifestyle interventions to help to prevent the disease. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has recommended increasing the proportion of people with diabetes who get the nine annual checks. That should happen as a matter of course when people are in their GP surgery, or in hospital for whatever reason.
Those checks help people to manage their condition and to identify any signs of complications early. However, there is a large geographical variation in the proportion of people getting them. Again, if we had a UK-wide strategy, we could ensure that there were no differences geographically in who gets the nine annual checks and who does not. Will the Government commit to increasing the number of people who receive the checks? That is a positive way forward. It is another way of doing the preventive work that we need, and will ultimately lead to the savings that we need.
In 1922, insulin was discovered by John Macleod, Dr Banting and Charles Best, yet 92 years later, in 2014, we are still fighting against the dreadful disease of diabetes. In the UK this year, 59,000 people will die unnecessarily from diabetes. I strongly urge the Government, in the wake of the Melbourne declaration on diabetes, to take serious strides in the UK in preventing and controlling diabetes.
It is, as usual, a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dr McCrea, and it is a pleasure to follow the hon. Members for Torbay (Mr Sanders) and for Strangford (Jim Shannon). The hon. Member for Torbay, in particular, has been making a superb contribution across this entire policy area for many years. As someone who is also “blessed” with type 1 diabetes, I look to him for inspiration, and he readily provides it on a regular basis. I cannot thank him enough for introducing a debate in this House on this subject yet again. His work as chair of the all-party group on diabetes, as president of the Parliamentarians for Diabetes Global Network and in the Global Parliamentary Champions for Diabetes Forum is commendable. His position and work there mean that the UK can be a world leader in ensuring high-quality treatments and support for those with diabetes. I am very sincere in all those comments. They are heartfelt.
The hon. Gentleman spoke on this subject in April, in a debate to which I contributed. He raised some very important issues, not least of which was the importance of an approach that respects the distinction between causes and treatments of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In opening today’s debate, he has again raised matters of the utmost importance and concern, which I will also touch on.
The Melbourne declaration on diabetes was formally adopted on 2 December 2013, as we have heard, at the first Global Parliamentary Champions for Diabetes Forum. The declaration contains eight action points for parliamentarians, including encouraging the creation and adoption of a national plan that acknowledges that diabetes is a national health priority and that leads to action. I will focus my remarks today on the need to create an action plan. I hope that the Minister, whom I welcome to her place, can confirm that the Government are committed to that, especially given the clear will of parliamentarians from those parties that have contributed today, although I know from discussions and conversations with colleagues right across the House that there is a clear understanding of the need to support an action plan as a way forward.
There are more than 380 million people with diabetes in the world, and that figure is expected to reach almost 600 million by 2035. That is deeply worrying. In the UK, 3.2 million people are living with diabetes. That includes almost 35,000 children. One pound in every £10 spent by the NHS is spent on treating diabetes and the complications that arise from it. We have heard an awful lot about the economic and financial modelling of the effects of diabetes on the NHS. I think that we need to spend more time on that as a country. Diabetes UK says that diabetes is responsible for 20,000 premature deaths each year, and that 80% of cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented or delayed. Let us just think about that: 80% of cases could be prevented or delayed. The financial savings that we could make, irrespective of the improvements that we could make to the lives of those people who go on to develop type 2 diabetes, are phenomenal.
We must always be aware of the distinction between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Type 1 is a chronic, life-threatening condition that affects 400,000 people in the UK, including 29,000 children. Type 1, as we have heard, is not caused by lifestyle factors such as obesity, lack of exercise or poor diet. I should know, and I never resist the temptation to remind people that I did the London marathon earlier this year. Thanks go to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, if its representative is in the room. I want to do it again next year, by the way. Whereas those with type 2 diabetes can sometimes be treated with a change in diet and exercise and modest medication, those with type 1 diabetes need multiple insulin injections or pump infusions every day. I did mine before the debate started. My blood glucose level was 14.7, which is not particularly good—I will be getting told off for that.
Each year, a person with type 1 diabetes will undertake more than 2,000 finger-prick blood tests, have 1,500 insulin injections and count the carbohydrates in more than 1,000 meals. It is clear that any action plan will have to develop coherent and effective strategies for both conditions. A one-size-fits-all strategy simply will not do, so I hope that the Minister can reassure us today that she will not be cutting corners. Any plan must be workable and tailored to meet the specific needs of both conditions.
Diabetes UK has done excellent work, as always, on this matter. Its briefing in advance of today’s debate was superb. It endorses the view that there is a clear need for a national action plan. It has identified five key areas that must be included. Those are improvement in support for self-management; integration of care; improving safety; a focus on children and young people with diabetes; and prevention of type 2 diabetes. I am sure that if the Government introduced a comprehensive action plan built on those five principles, it would receive the support of the entire House.
Starting with self-management, it is obviously crucial that individuals and their families can successfully manage their condition, and the keystone of that is effective care planning and education. Positive care planning and strong education can ensure that an individual is equipped with the tools and resources needed effectively to manage their condition. Diabetes UK calculates that each year, care in a clinical setting totals about three hours, whereas self-care accounts for almost 9,000 hours. Improving self-management is not optional—it is absolutely essential. I appreciate that it could be culturally difficult for us to achieve that as a Parliament and a country, but it is something we absolutely need to crack.
Opposition Members have long advocated the benefits of integrated care across the whole NHS. With diabetes, a person will routinely have contact with many parts of the wider health care system, such as primary, community and secondary care. To improve integration, Diabetes UK has identified five key points that would, in effect, provide an integrated diabetes care pathway. Such a pathway would require strong networks of clinicians, commissioners and patients, a more integrated system of commissioning services, better information-sharing across services and the improving of skills in primary care, all of which should be overseen by effective clinical governance. Those actions are not out of reach, and the Government could easily ensure that they are part of any action plan.
The third point I want to cover is patient safety. There are major issues regarding the safety of in-patients with diabetes in hospitals. According to research undertaken by Diabetes UK relating to the past year, about 40% of in-patients experienced at least one medication error, more than a fifth experienced one or more hypoglycaemic episodes and fewer than a third were seen by a member of the diabetes team. Those problems can, as the hon. Member for Torbay said, contribute to patients with diabetes having to remain in hospital more than three days longer than patients without diabetes. Again, we should consider the cost implications for the health service in these tough times. Any plan the Government introduce must surely address that, because it is bad for patients, clinicians and the health service.
There must also be space in the Government’s plan to address young people’s experiences. There are 35,000 children with diabetes in the UK, which has the fourth highest number of children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in Europe. Many children and young adults experience a marked deterioration in their care as they make the transition from children’s to adults services. Adolescence is often a time when many lifelong behaviours are established, including those that are health-related, so it is essential that young people can complete the transition at a time that is right for them. A deterioration in care and a forced transition have been shown to disengage young people from the service, resulting in worse outcomes and complications. There is an acute need to address that.
In the last debate on this issue, in April, I referred to support and education for young people, which are key to ensuring that they can manage and cope with their condition. Being diagnosed with any form of diabetes can be overwhelming if the proper support is not in place.
My next point relates to a focus on preventing type 2 diabetes. Recent reports by the British Medical Journal have shown that a third of adults have higher than normal blood glucose levels, which is an indication of pre-diabetes, and many health professionals project that there will be a huge increase in the numbers of those with type 2 diabetes. I am sure that that worries policy makers on both sides of the House, whether on the left or the right or in the centre. As I said, any action plan must take into account the differences between type 1 and type 2. Critically, any strategy for type 2 must be based on prevention.
I would be grateful if the Minister could outline what the Government are doing on the points I have raised, and I would expect her to be able to give us some indication of when they are likely to introduce a plan to address the issue. Given the importance of such a plan, I hope she will make a statement to the House when any plan is published, to give Members who are not present the chance to scrutinise the Government’s proposals. Indeed, I would go further. Every time we have such a debate, it strikes me that there is a real wealth of experience and understanding of these issues across the House. It would, therefore, be a tremendous gesture—not for its own sake, but from the point of view of those living with this condition—if Members who understand type 1 and type 2 diabetes were allowed to contribute their knowledge and experience to the production of a better plan that would better suit those with this condition.
Through the Melbourne declaration, the International Diabetes Foundation makes the incredibly important point that
“disadvantaged people in every country carry the greatest burden”
with regard to diabetes. That is important when looking at the levels of clinical care for diabetics across clinical commissioning groups throughout England. Speaking to diabetics around the country, I have seen for myself that if we are to make self-management as effective as it can be—we have a long way to go on improving not only the culture but the clinical ability of CCGs and other primary care providers regarding self-management—we must make a concerted effort to look at the literacy and numeracy of some of the people with this condition. Every day, before every injection, people must undertake a fairly simple and routine mathematical calculation of their insulin to carbohydrate ratio, but many of them simply cannot do the maths. There is no assistance, tool or device on the market to help them make those calculations simply, so we need to look at that, because it is a big cultural issue. There is an issue with not just numeracy, but literacy, and there are also issues about social exclusion, which I am sure we are all aware of. We need to put some time and effort into understanding and resolving those issues if we are properly to increase self-management among diabetics.
NHS England published “Action for Diabetes” earlier this year, but Diabetes UK said that it was not sufficient and did not present a comprehensive strategy or action plan. I have read it, and I think that is a fair comment. Diabetes desperately needs a national service framework—there are no two ways about that. The service around the country is incredibly patchy when it comes to not just the nine key diabetic tests, but other diabetic support services. Perhaps the Minister can tell us how the Government will ensure that CCGs step up to the plate. We really need a detailed plan, and I hope she can tell us when one will be introduced.
Will the Minister also tell us how many diabetics are missing their checks? That information should be understood and collated centrally, because the issue is of strategic national clinical importance. What are the clinical and financial effects on the service of people missing their appointments? We are failing people with diabetes, and that did not begin in 2010.
I touched earlier on self-management, which is incredibly important, but so are innovation and the use of data. For me as a type 1 diabetic, the most important issue in managing my condition is having access to data about it, such as my blood glucose readings and my insulin ratios. We need a framework and a strategy for medical innovation that incorporates diabetes research—from not just a scientific point of view, but a patient’s point of view—in a profound way. How can we become the best country in the world, in terms of medical companies and other pharma-based industries developing new and innovative ways of treating diabetes?
I wear all sorts of devices to monitor my fitness and my sleep—whether it is a Jawbone, a Misfit Shine or a Nike fuelband, believe me, I have them all. The data they capture about the individual is of incredible medical importance. We need, on a cross-party basis, to establish a strategy under which this country can genuinely innovate and become a global leader, with a view to enabling companies to produce the best suite of devices, applications and so on to assist in dealing with type 1 and type 2 diabetics. I look forward to the day when my data can be captured in real time and shared with my GP and my pharmacist, so that I do not have to phone up, text or e-mail to get my insulin prescription. My GP and my pharmacist will have the information and the algorithm, they will know when my prescription needs to be ready and how much I am using, and my doctor will know how I manage my condition. We can hothouse innovation—my office and I are doing an awful lot of work on this—but we need to make that innovation part of not only a national diabetes strategy, but a biotech and medical innovation strategy.
Finally, I say to the Minister that we are here to help. Will she please use the experience that exists across the House and not miss this opportunity to act?
Before I call the Minister, I want to mention that several Members have apologised for not attending because they are taking part in another debate. They wanted to be here and asked me to pass on their apology to the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr Sanders) and the Minister.
Thank you, Dr McCrea. I am aware that some colleagues who would normally be with us for a debate on this important topic have been speaking in the main Chamber. No doubt they will catch up with the debate online, at some point. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Mr Sanders), who opened the debate, and all those who have spoken. It has been another thoughtful debate on a topic that is very important, as he said. I congratulate him on his recent election as the first president of the Global Parliamentary Champions for Diabetes Forum. I am not sure whether he modestly did not mention that, but I give him credit for it. It is a tribute to his effective championing of the issue, and the global initiative is important.
As my hon. Friend said, we must not underestimate the global threat posed by diabetes. Other hon. Members have mentioned the numbers involved; the International Diabetes Federation estimates that by 2035 there will be 600 million people with diabetes worldwide, which is about one in 10 of the planet’s population. I think that the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) described that as a ticking time bomb, but the debate has drawn out the fact that for the most part we do not have to accept that as inevitable. There are things that we can do, and it is right that we are beginning to talk about the issue as a global community, in global health terms.
In the UK, 3 million people are affected by diabetes. It is estimated that by 2025 the figure will be 4 million if we do not make progress. We estimate that around 850,000 people have undiagnosed type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is a priority for the Government. We have set clear objectives for the NHS and Public Health England to do more on prevention and to improve the care and management of people with diabetes. I accept that there is a challenge about the need for a national action plan. I have had meetings with Diabetes UK and it is one of the things mentioned in its briefing. We have set up clear objectives for the NHS and Public Health England and we ask them to deliver against those, so my contention is that we do indeed have a national plan, but that we may be carrying it out within a slightly different framework from the one advocated. The degree of priority we give it, and the importance that the Government accord to ensuring that the health and care system work together at all levels to give people with diabetes the care and support they need, should not be underestimated.
I hope that while I have been the Public Health Minister I have reassured colleagues about the personal priority that I give to the issue of diabetes. Indeed, my first public outing, slightly terrifyingly, was to speak to a meeting organised by my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay. Almost certainly, everyone in the room knew more than I did about the subject, but I attended to show, very early in my ministerial role, how important the issue was to me.
I have met the national clinical director. I try to have reasonably regular meetings with him, because the issue is such an important one. I have a continuing relationship with the all-party group on diabetes and the other diabetes campaigning groups and Members in the House. With respect to type 1 diabetes, I met my and other Members’ constituents at the JDRF event, which I have attended several times. It is always humbling to meet those fantastic young people who have learned very young to manage and live with a difficult condition.
What is NHS England doing to improve the management and care of people with diabetes? As I mentioned, I have several times met Professor Jonathan Valabhji, the NHS England national clinical director for obesity and diabetes. He has been generous with his time in attending parliamentary events, and is a great supporter of the work of groups and Members in the House. He regularly attends events focused on diabetes and is focused very much on improving outcomes for people with all types of diabetes.
Earlier this year “Action for Diabetes” was published, which describes the actions that NHS England is taking to improve diabetes care. It covers many areas, some of which have been highlighted during the debate, including developing GP contracts and incentives; working with primary care services to trial and roll out case-finding; and decision-support tools to help to detect and diagnose diabetes earlier. A national conversation is also going on about obesity and taking care of one’s own health. Hon. Members have touched on that with regard to the prevention of type 2. Every member of the public is a part of that conversation. We did not talk much about individuals during the debate, but I think we would all agree that we need constantly to emphasise personal responsibility in relation to preventable or avoidable type 2.
I sometimes worry—I talked about this with the head of Diabetes UK shortly after becoming a Minister—that, because few deaths are recorded as being due to diabetes, rather than its complications, there may be a slightly more relaxed attitude among people who think they might develop diabetes, which they would never in a million years have towards a disease such as cancer, which they would immediately identify as a threat. Through debates such as today’s, and the work that we all do, we can emphasise the fact that, although people may not know many people who can be said to have died of diabetes, they will know many whose diabetes contributed to premature death or a long period of ill health. There is more work for us to do, to get that message out. That is how we can empower people to help themselves.
The Minister could not have said a truer word, because many people see diabetes as a disease that they can manage—one that is not too bad. However, she is right: the complications are far reaching and can lead to consequences that are final. In my speech I talked about education, because people must manage the condition themselves, but they need to know what they have to manage. That is my point: some people need the information reinforced, with the seriousness that the Minister expressed.
That is right. We need to make sure of that. People cannot be empowered without information. We also know, having a duty to address health inequalities, that some people and groups in the community find things much harder. I was taken by some of what the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Copeland (Mr Reed), said about deploying technology more. Work is going on, but I agree with him that we could go further faster with that, to find ways to empower people who may not have a good sense of what to do to take care of their health, and who find it harder than others to obtain the available advice. We must work harder to reach them and I shall talk about NHS health checks in relation to that.
As to the commissioning of integrated care, NHS England is working with other organisations to help to promote services that are integrated around patients’ needs across all settings. There has been much emphasis on that. That body is implementing what it calls a customer service platform to allow patients with diabetes to self-manage, through booking their own appointments, managing their prescriptions, monitoring the care they have received and being able to view their personal health records. That picks up on some of the shadow spokesman’s points.
NHS England has also produced a sample service specification for the management of type 1 and type 2 diabetes that is based on National Institute for Health and Care Excellence standards. It provides a model for commissioning integrated care for those with diabetes, and also highlights the specific needs of those with type 1 diabetes, where they differ from the needs of those with type 2. If the current trial of the service specification is successful, it will be offered as a tool that all clinical commissioning groups can choose to use to deliver high-quality care. That is therefore an important piece of work in progress.
There is always a challenge for any of us in making sure that the rest are as good as the best. Occasionally when we talk about the challenges of our current health infrastructure I worry about the assumption that there is a model out there, somewhere, that would absolutely guarantee the delivery of completely consistent care in a given area, across the country. In a country such as ours it is not possible to give such a top-down guarantee. Yes, we must find a way to drive care from the top, with a clear sense of direction from the strategy and mandate that we have given the NHS and Public Health England, but we must also put the tools in the hands of the clinicians, as I have been discussing. Most importantly, we must empower individuals and patients to know what they can expect and to demand good care. Nevertheless, I genuinely do not think that we could devise any system in which we could just issue a notice from the centre to say exactly how care will be delivered consistently across the country. We must find other ways to do it.
I understand the Minister’s point, but we are talking about nine very simple, fairly cheap tests for people with type 1 diabetes that must be done in a primary care setting by medical professionals. We are talking about blood tests, the blood being processed and the resulting data being made available, all of which are critical to the self-management of the condition. Surely we can insist on those nine tests for every single type 1 diabetic patient.
I think that the shadow Minister has slightly misunderstood what I said. Those are the tests and that is exactly the standard to which we want everyone to work. What I am saying is that there is no top-down guarantee. We cannot sit in Whitehall and say, “It must be done like this and that is the end of it.” We have said that that is the standard, and NHS England has set a range of other standards, but to deliver that and to drive that consistency of excellence throughout the country requires a range of tools. We must acknowledge that. That is not to say that we accept patchy service—far from it—but we cannot do it with top-down diktat only; we must drive change at all levels of the system and drive towards excellence.
On that point, there is a difference between a treatment, which must be down to the clinician and what is right for the patient, and tests, which should be the same for everyone. They are just tests that would then dictate the right treatment regime, if additional interventions are required. There ought to be a mechanism to ensure that the tests are consistent for every patient with diabetes in the country, otherwise what is the point of having them?
I agree. The Government, NHS England and Public Health England are all looking at how we drive that consistency. How do we drive consistent excellence? What tools can we use to do that?
Perhaps it would be helpful if I gave an example. Public Health England is developing a tool to drive improvements in diabetes care and iron out variation. It will be launched later this year, and although I am not able to give much detail now, I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay will be interested when it is launched. It will provide a clear picture of how diabetes care and outcomes vary across the country and among practices, which will support decisions on how to make improvements.
The Government have made transparency of data a real priority, and being very transparent about what is being delivered and identifying variation is one of the ways in which we can drive the rest to be as good as the best. I suppose I am trying to explain that, although I could send out a memo tomorrow outlining my national diktat on diabetes, that is not how we drive change. It is crunchy, it is detailed and it is about getting to that local variation and ensuring that we drive up standards in every way possible. That is one of the tools we are developing, but there are others as well.
In my speech, I called for a strategy that was not just regional but UK-wide, and I hope the Minister can respond to that. Other Members have spoken about the need for an English strategy, but there must also be one for Wales, one for Scotland and one for Northern Ireland. All four must work together so that we can address the issue together. The Melbourne initiative is very much worldwide, so although people refer to England, we must go further. What are the Government doing to initiate a UK-wide strategy?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, health is a devolved matter. That is not to say that I am not at all interested in what is going on in Northern Ireland—far from it—but it is nevertheless a devolved matter. As I have said to him in other debates, there is clearly an awful lot that we can learn from each other. People can learn from everything that I report to the House on innovation and the progress that we make in England, as well as, indeed, things that other Health Ministers report from other parts of the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, I currently have no plan for a UK-wide strategy because health is a devolved matter.
If the hon. Gentleman does not mind, I am going to make some progress.
Of course, the fact that health is a devolved matter does not mean that we cannot find areas of joint working, and the Melbourne declaration shows us the way forward on that. That is probably where we end up—the fact that it is devolved does not mean that we cannot share learning and knowledge, learn from one another’s initiatives, or operate in that global context.
I hope that the Minister will accept that I am not being argumentative, but we had a UK-wide strategy until 2013—last year—so we have shown that we can work together. All I am asking really is: why do we not initiate a similar plan to what was there before 2013—a 10-year plan that started in 2003—and have the four regions work together? That is exactly what the Melbourne initiative is about, and we could do it because we have done it before.
I want to discuss another area in which we can make a difference by empowering patients. Colleagues might be interested to hear about the patient experience of diabetes services survey, part of the national diabetes audit, in which I know there is always great interest in the House—we regularly answer a number of parliamentary questions about it. The survey measures the health care experiences of people with diabetes in England and Wales. It collects information online from people with diabetes by asking questions about their care using a short, validated questionnaire, and it is being tested.
Any diabetes service in England and Wales should be able to use the survey to get feedback from patients. We want to publish the first results this month or this summer. That is going to be an interesting extra tool in the box, not only to help to drive excellence and drive out variation, but to empower local services to understand at a local level what is going on and how satisfied their patients are with the service being provided. That can lead only to upward pressure to improve services, not least from patients.
Let me talk a little about the NHS health check programme. Alongside the work being done by NHS England to improve the management and care of people with diabetes, the Government are working on prevention and earlier detection, which all Members mentioned. We are continuing to roll out the NHS health check programme, which identifies those aged between 40 and 74 who are at risk of diabetes and other vascular diseases and helps them to reduce that risk. More than 15 million people are currently eligible for an NHS health check. Our economic modelling has shown that the programme has the potential to prevent more than 4,000 people a year from developing diabetes and to detect at least 20,000 cases of diabetes or kidney disease earlier. It is all about helping people to better manage and improve their quality of life.
In the past year, almost 3 million NHS health check offers were made and almost 1.5 million appointments were taken up, during a time of great change across the health system. We are now looking to challenge the system to go further and faster and to continue to increase the number of people who participate in the programme. I have been out and about and seen some great local initiatives. I visited an NHS health check team in Southwark and witnessed the important conversations they were starting with people in their local area.
Another example is Bolton, where health trainers have worked with 134 people identified as being at risk of diabetes through the NHS health check. The health trainers have supported people to make lifestyle changes such as eating more healthily and increasing physical activity levels, and they have helped almost half the group to return their glycaemic level to normal. That is really good evidence of effective intervention.
In Tower Hamlets, where more than 50% of the population are from ethnic minority groups, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes has been growing rapidly. To help to combat that, Tower Hamlets has incorporated the health check programme into its managed practice network scheme. I have talked to staff about that and heard about how they are approaching it. Tower Hamlets has worked hard to ensure that all diabetic patients have a care plan, and that focus has resulted in a 70% increase between 2009 and 2012. There has also been a lot of focus on the take-up of retinal screening for people with diabetes, and, again, there has been a significant rise.
We are seeing that such local interventions can really work. I firmly believe that a localist approach is important in some of these areas, because there is no one-size-fits-all approach that we can devise in Westminster that will work for every community. Such local innovations are important. I constantly challenge myself to think about how we can ensure that we spread the word about some of this great local action. We have started initiatives in that regard, but Parliament has a great role to play, and I encourage Members to tell us of effective local initiatives, so that we can spread the word.
Research on the NHS health check programme carried out by Imperial college London and Queen Mary university of London is under way. That research will improve our understanding of who is taking up the opportunity, their risk of cardiovascular disease and the incidence of diseases such as diabetes in those groups. When that work comes back, it will help us to understand how we can make those interventions count more.
We have already talked a little about obesity and sedentary lifestyles. Physical activity is a big priority of this Government, and I have had a couple of meetings in the past couple of days alone on the cross-Government action we are taking to try to hardwire physical activity into all aspects of life. We have a long way to go yet because, for too long, physical activity was left in a silo marked “health” when it is more important than that. We know that all parts of local and national Government need to address inactivity; that is one of the factors that can help to prevent diabetes.
I also want briefly to address the responsibility deal. The Government have been working with business—the hon. Member for Strangford mentioned this—on its responsibility to consider calorie reduction and clearer labelling of food. We are starting to see calories and other contents displayed on the packaging of many more foods, as we roll out consistent food labelling on a voluntary basis across the country.
The Change4Life social marketing campaign, which is one of Public Health England’s flagship programmes, is encouraging individuals to make simple changes, and it is trying to work with people in the way that the shadow Minister mentioned. The campaign is trying to talk to people in language that makes it straightforward and easy for them to understand the good choices they can make for the health of both themselves and their family.
The national child measurement programme’s findings on childhood obesity are encouraging. We know that far too many people are overweight and obese, but we are seeing signs of encouragement. In 2012, childhood obesity rates fell for the first time since 1998, so we must not despair over the actions we have all taken and advocated over many years. We are beginning to see that such action can have an effect, but we must never underestimate how far we have to go.
In 2013, the global burden of disease study showed that the UK has the lowest rates of early death due to diabetes of the 19 wealthy countries included in the analysis. The last data on diabetes care showed a 60% completion rate for all eight care processes recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which is a five percentage point improvement on 2010. We see progress, but we know there is much more to do. The Melbourne declaration is a timely reminder of the serious threat posed by the disease across the world, as well as here in the UK. I assure the House and my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay, who led this debate and leads the all-party group in such an exemplary way, that diabetes is a priority on which we continue to work hard. We are pleased to see progress, but we do not underestimate how much more there is to do. Such debates are welcome opportunities to keep the issue firmly on Parliament’s radar.
When the Minister came to the all-party group, I do not think anyone recognised that it was her first meeting because she carried it off with distinction and quickly won over a lot of friends in the group. She has been a consistent friend throughout the period.
One of the challenges of a bottom-up approach, as has been highlighted in this debate, is getting people to use the information that is out there to drive up standards. People need to be aware of where the information is and how they can best use it, which is a challenge not only for diabetes but across the health service. I thank all hon. Members for their contributions.
Dust Pollution/Fly Infestation: Avonmouth
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dr McCrea.
First, I will provide details of an unacceptable state of affairs for my constituents in the village of Avonmouth, and then I shall outline my deep concern about procedural failures by the agencies involved to safeguard residents, with a view to gaining the Minister’s feedback on how we can ensure that such a situation never happens again, or that if it does—heaven forbid—how we ensure that action to help residents is urgent and effective. Residents living in Avonmouth village have had severe complaints about a number of pollution issues, including dust and noise. I shall cover those as well as the most recent incident: a vile infestation of flies throughout the community.
The problem arose about two months ago. Boomeco, a waste firm, had won the contract from local councils to ship refuse-derived fuel material—RDF—from Avonmouth docks to Scandinavia. Boomeco oversaw a sequence of failures involving the inadequate packaging of waste and inadequate overland transport of waste, which resulted in bags splitting open—with birds helping by pecking the bags open further—flies laying eggs in the waste, and a subsequent explosion of newly hatched flies as the weather became warm.
Residents began raising their alarm and concerns in early May, but despite action being taken to remove the source of the flies, no action was taken by any party to remove the flies that were already in the community until I, as the MP, realised that the normal mechanisms of gaining help were not working and sought, by exceptional means, emergency intervention from the elected mayor, George Ferguson. That resulted in Bristol city council’s environmental health department distributing fly spray and fly paper, and fumigating people’s properties, albeit some six to eight weeks after the problem first arose.
Residents’ main frustration has been the sluggishness of all agencies to respond to their urgent concerns about the health hazards posed by the infestation of flies in homes and local businesses. I was given repeated reassurances by the Environment Agency that the problem was either in hand or about to die out the next day, or indeed that there was no problem at all.
In terms of resolving the problem at its source, the Environment Agency revoked Boomeco’s licence to operate. I understand that, on 2 June, all cargo from Boomeco was removed from the port with the area cleansed, and that no other RDF will be placed there. I also understand that although the Environment Agency judged that the source of flies had been removed, the port of Bristol has required another RDF handler, Churngold, to remove its RDF cargo from the site, and that some of it was loaded on to a ship last week and Churngold has been required to clear the site of RDF by 21 June, if not sooner, after which the site will be cleansed. However, there has been sustained unwillingness from the Environment Agency and environmental health bodies in particular to acknowledge the difference between removing the source of the problem and removing the manifestation or residue of the problem: the infestation of flies that is still embedded in Avonmouth village.
I have raised questions with the Environment Agency about the adequacy and nature of its inspection systems for port tenants, and I am seeking information on the number of unannounced inspections that it is undertaking. I am also concerned by the agency’s inability to reflect the reality of a situation in its assessments. In providing evidence of my concerns, I will give examples of apparently inadequate assessment relating to dust and noise pollution.
After several weeks of trying to get action from the relevant bodies to solve the fly infestation problem, I was sent an e-mail from the Environment Agency on Friday 6 June stating:
“My team also called on a number of residents. Views about fly numbers were mixed, but there was a general view that the fly numbers were not at problematic levels.”
I am sorry to say this, but either that team was not in an Avonmouth anywhere near Bristol or did not speak to residents, or it was seriously misleading about what the residents said.
In my extensive conversations with many residents in the area on that day, there was not a single one who did not think the flies were a serious problem. It was because that concern was so high and the flies were such a problem, and after realising that formal routes were not working, that I directly requested that the elected mayor use emergency contingency funding, if necessary, to get fumigation, fly spray, fly paper and anything else that was needed by residents. I am astounded that the Environment Agency claimed that flies were not a problem, but that explains why action was not forthcoming—the myth was propagated that there was no problem to solve.
The Environment Agency assessors also appear to have been inadequate in their assessment of dust pollution in the area. Residents have raised concerns about the content of dust that is falling on their houses, and especially about the magnetic nature of some of that dust. Of course, it is inevitable that ports produce dust, but it is unacceptable if a port is responsible for there being illegally toxic or dangerous dust in communities. It is the Environment Agency’s job to establish if that is the case, but I am not confident that that job has been done properly.
I hope that you will forgive me, Dr McCrea, but I realise that I should have started my speech by drawing attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I hope that you will acknowledge that as if it was done at the start of the debate. I offer my apologies.
I am not confident that the job of assessing the dust has been done properly because, for example, when assessing the contents of a resident’s fish pond filter, the Environment Agency’s assessment—that there was no problem—was in direct conflict with the opinion of a fish expert who examined the filter and advised an immediate clean-out of the pond due to the toxic nature of its contents. Residents are worried that Environment Agency assessments of other dust samples have been incomplete and inadequate, and I understand that they have had to pay for sample assessments to get a more adequate breakdown of the dust’s contents.
It has also been reported to me that an Environment Agency officer’s assessment of the noise levels of a tenant of the port was lacking in several key respects. Given the quality of other information that the agency has provided, I am afraid that I do not find that hard to believe.
I have also been disappointed by Bristol city council’s attitude on the legal viability of serving abatement notices on firms that break legal noise levels. I have urged the council to seek a second legal opinion from a non-council lawyer and reconsider its legal options. By being slow in serving abatement notices for any illegally high noise levels, the council is setting a precedent that even though activities may involve illegal noise levels, they are acceptable, which may have implications for licensing. That is of grave concern.
Let me return to the most recent pollution incident: the flies. A large number of bodies are involved in this case—North Somerset council and Bristol city council, whose refuse was being shipped; Boomeco, which was responsible for shipping it; the port, which is the landlord of Boomeco, the tenant; the Environment Agency; and Bristol city council again, as it has environment health responsibility for the area—so the onus of responsibility for the ongoing incident is complex. However, I am concerned that there is no plan in place to ensure that in such an emergency situation—anyone living in the area will say that it is an emergency—action comes first, with ascertaining responsibility for who picks up the bill coming second.
Will the Minister please make it clear what responsibilities those different bodies have for ensuring that residents are kept safe from such health hazards? What responsibility do they have to ensure that an emergency plan is ready, and what actions can the Government take to ensure that they have such a plan so that residents are protected?
I understand that, according to Government requirements, the port of Bristol does not have any choice about handling RDF cargo. Will the Government reassess the suitability of ports that are in such proximity to communities handling that waste? Will the Minister examine whether the Environment Agency’s assessment mechanisms are fit for purpose? The agency has lost the trust of local taxpayers, and I am deeply concerned by its ability to assess not only the fly situation accurately, but the dust and noise pollution. I have asked the EA locally to undertake a review of why its assessments appear to have been so inaccurate.
Finally, can the Minister give any reassurance to residents that the Government will look closely at why such incidents occur and put all measures in place to ensure that they do not? Will the Government do all that they can to urge Bristol city council, the Environment Agency and all other bodies involved to do their utmost strenuously to tackle this ongoing problem? There is still a plague of flies even as I speak—it has not subsided. If, by any diabolical combination of circumstance, a pollution incident does occur, will the Government work with local bodies to ensure that residents are at the top of the priority list for help, rather than being treated like second-class citizens in a third-world country, as many people in Avonmouth currently feel is the case?
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Dr McCrea. I congratulate the hon. Member for Bristol North West (Charlotte Leslie) on securing this debate, which is important for her constituents who have experienced issues that have caused them great disquiet and inconvenience. I thank her for bringing those issues to our attention, so that we can, I hope, address some of the potential underlying causes as well as the symptoms, which are hopefully being dealt with as we speak.
The Environment Agency will carry out a joint air quality monitoring exercise with Bristol city council and Public Health England at the port, during which they will sample airborne dust and establish the prevailing direction from which the dust arises, allowing the agency to characterise its nature. This exercise will start shortly, but may need to continue for some time if we are to trace the source or sources of the dust accurately. A range of activities are potential sources of dust. For example, there is a stockpile of coal at the docks. If the dust is attributable to any of the operations subject to an environmental permit granted by the Environment Agency, it will work with the operator to minimise those emissions.
In respect of the fly infestation, I understand from the Environment Agency that one company was responsible for storing household-type waste destined to be used as refuse-derived fuel or RDF. This black-bag waste is sorted and baled at a waste management site a couple of miles away from the docks and sent to the docks for storage prior to export. The Environment Agency had allowed the company to operate under a regulatory position that allowed the temporary storage of this material without an environmental permit, provided that the operator met specific environmental controls.
Following complaints raised in May, the Environment Agency withdrew the regulatory position and asked the operator to remove the stored waste. The Environment Agency has confirmed that all the RDF waste had been removed from the site by 3 June. The area has been cleaned and has remained clear since then. A second company—the hon. Lady mentioned it—is carrying out a similar waste operation, but is not thought to have contributed to the recent fly infestation. As she also mentioned, that company, too, has now been asked to cease its activities by the port authorities.
I am assured that the Environment Agency has been engaging with the hon. Lady and will continue to do so. She has clearly expressed her dissatisfaction with some actions taken by the agency. I know that she met the agency recently to explore—
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
I offer my commiserations to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol North West, but congratulate her on an energetic campaign for the chairmanship of the Select Committee on Health.
Before the Division, I was discussing the Environment Agency’s approach to engaging with my hon. Friend and residents. While she mentioned previous failures in communication, I hope that we have now moved on and that the agency is keeping her fully briefed. I will respond to my hon. Friend’s questions, but I will first continue to cover the issues raised with me by the Environment Agency in preparation for the debate.
The necessary legislative safeguards are in place to ensure that the risk to the environment and human health from waste management is minimised through the environment permitting system. I have made it clear to the Environment Agency that it has my full support in taking a tougher approach against those who, by their actions or omissions, demonstrate a deliberate and often repeated disregard for the law and the environment. In December last year, I wrote to the chairman of the Environment Agency, Lord Smith, and outlined areas for action, including greater scrutiny of prospective operators, such as of their financial resources, and increasing the inspection of poorly performing sites.
It has been estimated that the cost of waste crime to the UK economy is between a staggering £300 million and £800 million a year. That figure could of course be substantially higher as the full nature of waste crime means it is difficult to estimate the true cost, including tax evasion. Good progress in tackling waste crime has been made in some areas, however. For example, the number of active illegal waste sites is at its lowest for four years. In the year ending 31 March 2013, the Environment Agency’s task force closed down nearly 1,300 illegal waste sites, which is more than in any previous year. Reported fly-tipping incidents have also fallen year on year. The National Fly-tipping Prevention Group has also published its fly-tipping framework, which includes best practice on prevention, reporting, investigation and clearance of fly-tipping. The Sentencing Council guidelines to the courts on environmental offences will come into effect next month, meaning that the courts can hand down penalties that will act as a greater deterrent to offending. Despite the tough constraints on public finances, we secured an extra £5 million in the 2014 Budget specifically for tackling waste crime. We are committed to using the funding to target effort and resources on those areas where it will make the biggest difference.
The Environment Agency established a waste fires task and finish group in July 2013. Several hon. Members have raised waste fires as a potential problem, so I passed on those concerns to the agency to ensure that we get the processes right and that intervention is early when things are going wrong. My hon. Friend contended that matters that have been raised with the agency at an early stage have not been followed up quickly enough, so I will feed that into my discussions with the chief executive. Much more needs to be done, however. Earlier today I was speaking at the waste industry and profession’s annual conference, where I outlined the work that DEFRA and the Environment Agency are doing to tackle waste crime and poor or sub-standard operations. I will be writing to the key stakeholders about that shortly.
My hon. Friend mentioned refuse-derived fuel, which is produced both for the domestic market and for export and is limited to material that cannot be effectively recycled. The combination of fuel and technology is sufficient to deliver clear environmental benefits. That is why we issued a call in March for evidence to businesses, councils and stakeholders involved in the RDF industry. The aim of the call was to gain a greater understanding of the RDF market in England, and of any issues associated with the market, some of which my hon. Friend has outlined here, and how they might best be addressed. The call closed on 9 May and we are currently analysing the responses.
My hon. Friend asked who had responsibility for different aspects of regulation and enforcement. To clarify, the Environment Agency has responsibility for measures to prevent harm to the environment and to prevent harm and nuisance at the sites that it regulates. It has been said that the sites in question were not permitted, which is something that we will discuss with the agency. The local authority is responsible for the temporary storage of waste that is in transit. Public Health England is responsible for offering advice to ensure that the local community is protected if there are health concerns. Many of the issues about material in transit through the port will be the responsibility of the local authority. I will reflect on the issues my hon. Friend has raised and will write to her to examine how the responsibilities should apply in this particular case, so that the residents of Avonmouth can be reassured that they are properly protected from harm and nuisance.
Regarding the suitability of the docks and their proximity to the residents whom my hon. Friend represents, the Environment Agency has powers to take action against any harm or pollution caused by waste. Where a site operates on a permanent basis, the EA imposes conditions in an environmental permit to mitigate any risk from a particular site, which brings us back to whether the site in question was permanent and whether it should have been operating under a formal permit, which would have allowed more conditions to be imposed. I have set out that the EA will be monitoring dust levels, which I hope will be of some reassurance to my hon. Friend, so that we have proper evidence to trace back any potential causes of dust nuisance for her residents, which can then be dealt with.
My hon. Friend asked whether I think that the Environment Agency is fit for purpose. Yes, I do. I have worked with many people from the agency throughout the recent extreme weather events and on tackling waste crime. The agency’s structure and professionalism are of a high standard. That is not to say that we cannot improve in everything that we do. If anyone from the Government stood here and said that every agency was perfect, they would soon get short shrift. I will reflect on the issues that my hon. Friend has brought here on the behalf of her residents. Perhaps we can correspond in writing regarding any further concerns, in particular about dust monitoring. I thank her for bringing the subject to the attention of the Department and of the Chamber.
It is a pleasure, as always, to serve under your chairmanship, Dr McCrea.
I am pleased to have secured this debate on a pressing issue that could have serious consequences for jobs in my constituency and the rest of the UK. I have several concerns about the regulations and several questions that I would like the Minster to address. I am worried that the EU regulations, which come into force on 1 January 2015, could put at risk over 350 jobs in my constituency and 2,000 jobs in ports across the UK. I am concerned that the European Commission and the Government have not done enough to measure the impact of the directive on local economies such as that in Hull. I am grateful to the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers and the UK Chamber of Shipping for their briefings on a topic that is clearly a concern for all. The UK Chamber of Shipping and the RMT have produced estimates on the impact of the implementation of the regulations, and it is unclear whether the Government have fully assessed the evidence and are satisfied that the regulations will not dramatically undermine the shipping industry. I hope the Minister can provide some assurances that the Government have properly investigated the evidence and additional costs associated with the regulations.
I am persuaded that in an attempt to do all that we can to protect jobs, shipping companies should be given more flexibility to implement new rules in a way that does not undermine jobs. What does the Minister think of that? I will, however, add a cautionary note for the shipping industry. I am conscious that it has had several years—I believe since 2008—to prepare for the changes and substantial amounts of tax relief, in the form of tonnage tax, to aid transition. I hope that the additional costs are not used simply to reduce the payroll bill and that the industry does not use existing loopholes in legislation to meet additional costs by recruiting low-cost crew at non- UK ratings. However, the Government have a role to play in the transition and I solicit the Minister’s views on the possibility of providing mitigating support to maritime businesses to ensure stability in the shipping sector.
The Humber is the UK’s busiest trading route and positive things are happening in the estuary. Companies such as Siemens and Associated British Ports are investing millions into Hull, and there is no doubt that affordable shipping between Hull and Europe is imperative to this investment. That is why we need certainty that nothing will undermine our local shipping industry and the economic development of our ports. We need our ports to be open for business and to ensure that exporters are not priced out of using ferries sailing out of Hull.
Over the coming years, shipping and freight to the Humber will be more important than ever. I am therefore worried by a report in the Financial Times, in which Jens Holger Nielson, chief executive of Samskip, a freight company that runs into the Humber, says in response to the regulations that they will
“shut transport routes and companies across Europe”.
I congratulate my hon. Friend for shining a spotlight on such an important issue. In addition to the point that he has rightly made about the likely impact of the regulations on the shipping industry and jobs, are we not also likely to see forecourt diesel prices driven up, with all that that means, and the danger of thousands more lorries on our roads as the price of transport by ship goes up relative to road transport? Does he agree that the Government need to say what they have done to avert that and what they will do now to ensure that common sense prevails?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that intervention. He is absolutely right, of course, and I will return to that point.
As the Minister is aware, the route between Harwich and Denmark is to close after 140 years, because of declining demand and the £2 million annual cost of cleaner fuel. I am concerned that other routes will follow. Echoing such fears, the Transport Committee reported that the regulations could reduce shipping activity, affect ports and roads, and cause job losses.
Any attempt to reduce sulphur emissions is commendable and no one is arguing against reducing them per se, but I am concerned that this so-called green policy will in fact have a detrimental effect on the environment—as my right hon. Friend said. I agree that increased costs will see a modal shift, with freight travelling by road instead of by sea; road freight emits around 10 times more CO2 per tonne than shipping.
In April 2008, the International Maritime Organisation agreed to reduce sulphur emissions from shipping to ensure that ships only use fuel that emits 0.1% sulphur in designated sulphur emission control areas. The entire eastern and southern seaboards of the UK sit within that control area, so every ship coming in and out of ports from Falmouth to Aberdeen will be required to comply with the regulations on 1 January 2015. At least 220 usual routes operating from the UK will be affected and there is real concern that increased costs will see the closure of many of those routes, resulting in job losses.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this important debate. Does he agree that not only shipping companies are likely to be affected, but fantastically successful ports such as the port of Southampton, which contributes directly to around 15,000 jobs in Hampshire? It is critically important for us to have transitional arrangements so that the private sector investment that has continued in Southampton for many years carries on in future.
I agree with the hon. Lady, and I thank her for her intervention. For me, the issue is mainly about the loss of employment, and she is right to mention her own constituency because I am sure that she is concerned about employment there. Although the IMO adopted the regulations, it also definitely recognised that flexibility would be required to allow companies the transition time to adapt to the new era without damage to businesses. The hon. Lady made that same point.
Following an inquiry by the Transport Committee, it reported that the regulations would see an 87% rise in fuel costs, and shipping companies estimate that approximately €55 million will be added to annual fuel bills. To meet such increased costs on the North sea routes will probably be economically unviable. I am told by P&O Ferries and other shipowners that, in reality, ferries tend to run on tight margins. The costs will create a problem not only for ship operators, but for exporters, leading to a detrimental effect on our region’s exports and tourism.
Hull’s local economy relies heavily on tourism, and Hull city council’s 10-year plan sees tourism as a major contributor to the economic regeneration of the city. Hull will be the city of culture in 2017 and we are working hard locally to ensure we have reliable and affordable transport links. As a result of increased fuel costs and in order to overcome the extra expenditure, ferry operators will no doubt pass them on to their customers or, worryingly, reduce services. It is therefore of great concern that the regulations could have a severe impact on the number of tourists coming through our ports and weaken the much-needed tourism economy.
No one disputes the need to reduce sulphur emissions, but, if we consider the resulting increased use of road haulage and accept that shipping produces considerably less carbon emissions per tonne kilometre than any other commonly used means of freight transportation, the environmental argument for the policy in the regulations is undermined.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for securing the debate, which is timely, because today the Freight Transport Association is celebrating its 125th anniversary. Does he accept that the argument that we need to focus on is how the regulations will be implemented, and the timing, because the UK Chamber of Shipping has accepted and, in my understanding, is content with the move on sulphur emissions?
I agree entirely with the hon. Lady; it is true that timing is the issue. Some argue that businesses have had long enough, frankly, and that some assistance has been provided through tax subsidies. However, as a Member for Parliament for east Hull, where unemployment is high, when businesses tell me that they are worried about job losses, I have to be concerned.
The Hull and Humber chamber of commerce has also expressed worries that the regulations will have a negative impact on the local road haulage sector—job losses in that sector as well perhaps. It argues that increased costs will inevitably be passed on to consumers, such as road haulage firms, and those firms may see it as necessary either to travel longer distances by road, with shorter sea crossings, again increasing CO2 emissions, or to relocate to other areas of the UK where the implications of the fuel cost increase are less dramatic. Both options are damaging to the economy and indeed to the environment.
As I have said a few times in my remarks, no one has a problem with reducing sulphur emissions, but I am not convinced that the regulations will achieve that goal. I am not convinced that the Government have fully considered the evidence or the true impact that the regulations will have on jobs, the environment, our roads and the shipping industry. We absolutely have to ensure that sulphur emissions are reduced, but that needs to be balanced with growth in a fragile economy. The Government plan to review the effects of the policy in 2019, but I ask the Minister to consider a review much earlier, perhaps 12 months after implementation.
Hull is having a tough time and we need to work hard to protect every local job in my city. Our roads are at bursting point and the last thing that we need next year is heavier lorry congestion. I urge the Minister to push the European Commission for more implementation time and to do all that he can do to ensure that jobs and the environment are fully protected.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Dr McCrea. Like other Members, I congratulate the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner) on securing this important debate. The sulphur regulations will undoubtedly have an impact on the shipping industry, jobs and the environment. I will answer a number of his points but also put on record some of what the Government have been doing. Some of the information that has been put about is perhaps slightly disappointing.
The hon. Gentleman was right to identify at the start of his speech that the fundamental issue is air pollution and its impact on human health and the environment. Everybody accepts that air pollution is bad for people’s health. We are talking not just about quality of life, although that is important, but about costs to industry and the commercial sector when people are off work because they are sick, and costs to the national health service for treating those who need treatment. Reducing sulphur emissions will undoubtedly provide benefits to public health, in both inland and coastal communities. Reducing the emissions will also provide benefits to the environment. Sulphur is linked to acid rain, which affects plant life and crops, and can upset the balance of delicate marine eco-systems.
For exactly those reasons the Government have worked consistently with the International Maritime Organisation, or IMO—the international body with the knowledge and expertise to regulate international shipping appropriately and proportionately—to develop measures to regulate pollutant emissions from ships. Throughout the whole of that process, under both this Government and the previous Government, the aim has been to develop measures that are effective and proportionate, with a view to implementing them in a way that minimises both the regulatory burden on and the cost to industry.
In the IMO, pollutant emissions from ships are controlled by annex VI to the international convention for the prevention of pollution from ships, more commonly known as MARPOL. Although it is true that a number of operators have worked to reduce emissions, sadly some have taken no steps on the issue. The regulations, which date back to 2008, and some of the new limits in MARPOL annex VI stem from the recognition by the international shipping community and the Government that the new limits need to be supported. The limits will help air quality and will also have consequential benefits for human health and for the environment.
I agree with the Minister—I know many shipping and ferry companies based in my region do, as well—that the intention of reducing emissions is admirable, but there is a twofold concern, which he has already raised. One element is the cost of the changes: one local ferry company has calculated that it will have to spend £320 million on converting its fleet. But it takes three months to convert each ship, and it is those time scales that are of most concern to companies.
My hon. Friend is of course right, and she will hear in my speech what I did immediately I became shipping Minister, some 21 months ago, to recognise that. She will also want to hear about some of the work we are now doing with companies to reassure them about how they can minimise costs.
My hon. Friend will also recognise, as did the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East, that the Government and the EU are not seeking to impose on the industry something that was announced only today, yesterday, a month or a year ago. The industry has had over six years to get its head around the regulations. Indeed, it is worth reading into the record what the view of the UK Chamber of Shipping was when the proposals were first announced back in 2008. I quote directly from the chamber of shipping’s document:
“The IMO’s proposal to progressively reduce sulphur emissions globally to the equivalent of 0.5 per cent sulphur content in all fuel by 2020, and in designated sensitive coastal areas to 0.1 per cent sulphur content equivalent by 2015, is a major move forward. These realistic deadlines also give the oil industry the time it needs to ensure that the required quantities of low sulphur fuel will be readily available.”
That was its view in 2008, and at that stage it recognised that the time scales were realistic.
A time scale was put in place for reducing the global sulphur limit. There is a separate, staged timetable for reducing levels to the more stringent limit in designated emission control areas. In almost all respects, the IMO MARPOL standards have been incorporated into EU law, in the directive on sulphur in marine fuels. The origin of the requirements does not lie solely in the UK. It is not that the UK Government are placing burdens on the shipping industry; on the contrary, the requirements are part of an international worldwide agreement, stemming from international and European agreements. The industry was fully consulted on those at the time.
I have to say that I am pretty disappointed that the UK Chamber of Shipping continues to react as if the sulphur limits are new and are somehow inherently undesirable, or else that the UK Government should have avoided them. The fact of the matter is that the regulations are about the protection of health and protection of the environment, which is a legal obligation. The UK Chamber of Shipping has been brought into the Government’s deliberations at every opportunity. It is well aware of what the Government can and cannot do legally and of the fact that we have pushed back continually to try to change the time scales.
Again, in 2009 the UK Chamber of Shipping wrote to The Guardian:
“The latest IMO legislation was recognised by governments and the shipping and refining industries as a prime example of ambitious but pragmatic rule-making.”
It recognised that in 2009, so to pretend today that the regulations are something new is slightly disingenuous.
Does the Minister accept that the chamber of shipping is saying that ferry operators are concerned about job losses and about their businesses failing as a result? That is an issue for me, as Member of Parliament for east Hull. Will he address that directly—is there anything he can do as a Government Minister?
The hon. Gentleman is right to be concerned. If he waits a few minutes I will tell him directly what the Government have done and are doing now.
The idea that is being put forward today, namely that these are new regulations and a crunch is coming—there is not; there is a date for implementation coming—is not supported by all of the chamber’s own members. On the contrary, some members of the chamber belong to the Trident Alliance, which is a coalition of shipping owners and operators who share a common interest and do not share the views being put across.
I accept that shipping is not the only source of pollutant emissions, but without the controls, polluting emissions from ships will grow significantly because of the reductions made by other modes of transport: unless action is taken, by 2020 shipping will account for more than half of all sulphur emissions in Europe.
As everyone has recognised, the limits undoubtedly pose challenges for shipowners, particularly for those whose ships operate predominantly or exclusively in an emission control area. The Government appreciate that some shipowners, and ferry operators in particular, have raised concerns about the cost of complying with the new limits. From our discussions, we are conscious that the impacts are not spread evenly, and that routes for multipurpose vessels—those carrying both passengers and freight—are likely to see the highest costs. We also recognise the importance of ferries and jobs.
Throughout the whole process we have therefore sought to implement the sulphur limits in a way that maximises the opportunity for the industry to minimise the economic impact. I became shipping Minister in 2012, and immediately in October of that year and again in 2013 I chaired round-table meetings of industry stakeholders, including from shipping, the ports, abatement technology—more colloquially known as scrubbing technology—oil refining and logistics sectors, to consider how we could make sure that people could work to comply with the regulations in a way that minimised regulation and cost. As a direct result, we commissioned a survey to look at the economic costs to industry.
I thank the Minister for what he has done with the shipping sector. Whatever the sector needs, whether it be incentives or a boot up the backside, that work needs to carry on. Does he recognise that it is not just the sector itself that is affected, but the ports and jobs connected to ports? In Portsmouth we are putting a lot of money into our commercial port. Will he give us an assurance today that our ambitions—whether on ferries, cruise liners or freight—will be able to be met if the directive is implemented?
I certainly hope to be able to do that by the end of my speech, and to explain some of the things we are doing. Portsmouth, like so many other places, including Hull, has a booming port industry. There is a renaissance, particularly in my hon. Friend’s port and in my home town of Southampton, from where there are huge exports, the like of which would not have been dreamed of 15 years ago. That is a tribute to the port industry, which is now a great success.
As a direct result of the round-table discussions, which were also about commissioning work on the economic costs, I immediately contacted the Secretary-General of the IMO and made exactly the point that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East made: we must not wait for a review of the 2020 regulations, but should start a review immediately. I persuaded the IMO that it should start the review promptly following the implementation of these regulations.
Another outcome of the meetings is that the Government are looking at ways of helping the industry. My officials have been working closely with the UK Chamber of Shipping—which is why I am so disappointed—for a considerable period. We have solicited an assurance from the European Union that it will meet individual ferry operators who approach it to discuss a route to compliance. I accept that there are important issues to address, but both those things are a major step forward in helping the industry with the prospect of the regulatory burden.
One question is whether, as ships are encouraged to use fuels with a lower sulphur content, there will be sufficient fuel available. That is why the review is so important. It is equally important to look at other issues. Do we have an opportunity not to implement the sulphur limits? No, we do not because we would fail to meet international treaty obligations. More than that, we consistently spoke to EU fellow nations, none of which was prepared to deflect or move away from the time scales. If we do not implement the new limits, non-compliant UK-flagged ships will still be subject to enforcement action at UK ports. We do not have the opportunity or option of avoiding the limits. We cannot delay implementing the limits even on vulnerable routes. There is no exemption and that is why we have worked with the EU to allow ferry operators to discuss flexible implementation.
We held extensive discussions with other north European states that will be affected by the limits that will apply in the North sea. We pressed for exemptions for vulnerable routes, but there was no support from other members. The Government have not only pressed the case for ferry operators directly with the EU, but negotiated with other countries.
Shipowners have the option of installing scrubber technology or the exhaust gas cleaning system and we have been working with them on the cost of those systems. I recognise that significant capital is required and the Department is exploring the scope for securing EU finance under the trans-European network programme and affordable capital from the European investment bank for shipowners and ports that want to benefit from investment in that green technology.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East referred to a possible modal shift from sea to road and the identification of total fuel costs. Again, we are consulting on draft UK legislation. Part of that consultation is directly about the cost, but if we look at whether the implementation of the 0.1% sulphur limit will lead to a rise in costs for motorists, even if every ship in the emissions control area used 0.1% sulphur fuel rather than the abatement technology, we see that would still be less than 10% of the total market for middle-distillate diesel fuel. There will be a potential cost for motorists, but it will not be as great as stated. It is highly unlikely that every ship will use that. Many will use the scrubbing technology and I hope that the Government will be able to secure EU finance to enable shipowners to make transitional arrangements.
We have also been discussing with the industry our plans for applying a much more pragmatic approach to enforcement. It is important that enforcement is consistent and fair. My officials have already discussed with other member states and the Commission how to ensure a fair and consistent approach throughout the EU, so that services from UK ports are not unfairly disadvantaged.
It is important to look beyond compliance with the limits in the control area. I have been working closely with the Secretary-General of the IMO on the availability of 0.5% sulphur fuel in 2020, which will be the next challenge. l am pleased with the leadership that the UK has shown. We have been prominent, with the support of the Dutch and the Americans, in ensuring that the IMO is committed to engaging constructively and undertaking an early review.
There is no doubt that the sulphur limits are coming in in 2015 and prospectively in 2020. However, if the review shows that the fuel is not available, I will certainly negotiate with the IMO to push that limit back because it would be unfair to impose that on the industry. This Government and, to give them credit, the previous Government have worked with the industry to find ways of mitigating the cost and the regulatory burden and to ensure that jobs in this country are protected. That is why we are working to secure finance and transitional arrangements for people to implement scrubbing technology.
I hope that I have been able to reassure my hon. Friends and the hon. Gentleman that the Government, unlike the image that might have been presented, are taking the matter extraordinarily seriously. We have done so during my time in office and before. We have actively worked to support British shipping and the all-important jobs that come with it.
Question put and agreed to.