The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was formed on 14 July, and it is my great honour to serve as its first Secretary of State. Over the summer, rapid progress has been made in joining up responsibilities for business, energy, climate change, science, innovation and consumer affairs and in creating a new focus on industrial strategy. This is a powerful Department, which is up to the task of promoting a competitive, low-carbon economy that works for everyone. As part of an excellent team of Ministers and officials, I will continue to work both locally and globally on the challenges ahead.
The Swansea bay tidal lagoon, along with Cardiff bay, Newport bay and Bridgwater bay, has the potential to create huge energy, as those bays have the second highest rise and fall of tide in the world. How is the feasibility study going, and when will we get a result? We need long-term funding for a project that will provide 8% of our energy.
The European Commission says that Apple should cough up £13 billion in taxes for earnings generated across the EU, including in the UK. Most UK businesses pay their fair share of taxes and expect all other businesses, large or small, to do the same. Will the Secretary of State confirm that he is doing everything he can to ensure that the very biggest companies pay up and that we receive our share of the £13 billion Apple tax pie?
The hon. Gentleman makes a reasonable point. Responsibilities come with being in business in this country, and paying taxes to contribute to the public services that we enjoy is one of them. He has my assurance that we will ensure that we pursue the correct tax from all companies that locate here.
The passion with which my hon. Friend makes his point attests to the opportunities within our approach to industrial strategy to ensure that there is growth across the United Kingdom, including in Yorkshire. He will know that I have taken a great interest in that in my previous roles, and he can be absolutely assured that that interest will not diminish in the months ahead.
No, I categorically rebut that. We must strike a balance between driving down the costs of all sources of low-carbon generation and ensuring that we deliver best value for consumers and taxpayers, and that occasionally requires reviews of tariffs.
Yes, I can certainly assure my hon. Friend that we plan to put science and innovation at the heart of our industrial strategy. Financial services, as part of the services sector, will also play an important part of our strategy as it is developed in the coming weeks.
The Government’s industrial strategy will position the UK as a global leader for the 21st century. The UK bio-economy is worth £220 billion in gross value added—13.6% of total GVA in 2014—with potential to grow by 13% by 2030. We shall continue to invest strongly in it.
I am certainly attached to the work that is done in Sheffield and the highly valued colleagues we have there. The decision was made some time ago, and many changes have been made. As we sort out the responsibilities of different parts of the Department, I will look carefully at what Sheffield can provide.
It is hugely encouraging that the Government are developing their comprehensive industrial strategy, which I believe will give a great boost to confidence in our steel industry. Will the Minister update the House on what early discussions he has had with the industry about its role in that?
Many will commend the Secretary of State for putting science, and in particular life sciences, front and centre in his industrial strategy. I wonder whether, as he plans the future of that industry, he could work closely with the Secretary of State for Health, given that the attitude to innovation of the industry’s largest customer, the national health service, will be critical to the industry’s growth in the decades to come?
I certainly will. I was interested to read my hon. Friend’s article in the newspaper earlier this week, which made that point. It is important that the Government take a collective approach, and I have already had discussions with my right hon. Friend the Health Secretary about how we can make the most of the NHS in life science.
My hon. Friend makes a good point. It seems essential to me that we should have a strategy for the whole country, but place is incredibly important, and the challenges of places such as Greater Manchester are different from those of Cornwall. We should reflect more clearly the different strengths and opportunities of different places in how we do business as a Government.
Does the Minister accept that the changes to subsidy for the biomass combined heat and power plants have been brought in too quickly, and that a longer grace period should have been granted before implementation? BSW Timber in my constituency, which is doing what the Government want by investing in renewable technology, stands to lose up to £3 million in support. Will the Minister meet me to discuss these changes and talk about what—
Brexit provides the UK with an opportunity to be the global leader in such energy technologies as offshore wind, energy storage, and carbon capture and storage. Can the Secretary of State confirm that the Government will reset energy policy so that the country can take full advantage of this great opportunity?
My hon. Friend is right that one of the historic strengths of the United Kingdom is in areas such as marine engineering and power engineering, which are at the heart of the opportunities that exist around the world as many countries look to develop their capacity in renewable energy. That provides a big opportunity, especially for his constituents.
We will certainly look carefully at the hon. Lady’s Bill. Employment protections are a priority for this Government.
The financial viability of many low-carbon on-site heat and power technologies is under threat owing to the reduction in the biogas tariff. Will the Department consider a separate tariff for the new gasification technologies, rather than treating them the same as other technologies such as anaerobic digestion?
As my hon. Friend knows, the Government are reviewing how the renewable heat incentive works and have been forced to make some changes to tariffs in order to provide better value for the taxpayer’s money, but I am more than happy to sit down with him and talk about his suggestion.
I welcome the Secretary of State to his place, as I do my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig), who I know will be a doughty champion for his new brief.
A new report from Professor Alex Kemp of Aberdeen University suggests that the re-engineering of the UK continental shelf fiscal regime may be necessary before we can reach the North sea’s full potential. What further support will the Government offer the oil and gas sector in the autumn statement?
I had a productive set of discussions with representatives of the oil and gas sector in Aberdeen in the summer. The industry, which is centred in Aberdeen but involves other places in the country, is very important. We have made big changes to the fiscal regime, as the hon. Lady knows, which have been beneficial, but we will continue to have discussions about that.
The Secretary of State described himself earlier as being engaged in an historic task of writing industrial strategy, but surely if he studies history, he will know that industrial strategy is written predominantly by civil servants, and that Ministers tend to fail. What steps will he take to engage businesses in Lancashire to make sure that we have a successful strategy?
I certainly will take such steps, and I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s point. Obviously an industrial strategy for the country should not consist of instructions from Ministers or civil servants to businesses and the rest of the country. We are engaging with businesses across the country and in every sector to ensure that they have the support they need.
Does the Secretary of State believe that it is conceivable that this country could negotiate full membership of the single market without accepting freedom of movement?
I welcome the Government’s continuing commitment to the northern powerhouse. Will the Secretary of State meet me and council leaders to discuss how we can maximise the contribution that northern Lincolnshire can make to the project and reap the maximum benefit?
I understand that the Secretary of State has met many businesses over the past few months. Will he list which of those businesses support leaving the single market?
We have 50 Airbnb properties in Newark, and Uber has cut the cost of a night out in Nottingham by almost 50%. Will the Secretary of State follow the lead of his predecessor by supporting innovative, disruptive technologies rather than letting us bury our heads in the sand?
My hon. Friend rightly highlights the importance of innovation in driving industrial growth, and it will undoubtedly be at the centre of the industrial strategy as it is rolled out.
Following the recommendation of the Select Committee to remove Paul Newby as pubs adjudicator, new evidence has emerged that shows that he failed to properly declare his interests and also misled the Select Committee. So far, he has refused to resign. Will the Secretary of State now restore confidence in that post by sacking him?