House of Commons
Tuesday 25 October 2016
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
The Chancellor of the Exchequer was asked—
Creating an economy that works for all is a key priority of this Government. All regions are benefiting from the £12 billion local growth fund, and our industrial strategy will boost sustainable economic growth across the UK. Devolution deals are giving areas the tools they need to make the right economic decisions. We are supporting the northern powerhouse and the midlands engine, and we are investing more than £100 billion in infrastructure across the UK over the course of this Parliament.
I thank the Chancellor for his reply and am encouraged by it, but there has always been a feeling in northern Lincolnshire that we are somewhat peripheral from the northern powerhouse and that the focus has been too much on Leeds and Manchester. Could he reassure us that that is not the case? North East Lincolnshire Council has a number of innovative regeneration projects in process. Will he or one of his team agree to meet a delegation from north-east Lincolnshire in order to pursue them?
I reassure my hon. Friend that that is not the case. North-east Lincolnshire is very much a focus of the Government’s attention. We have agreed growth deals with the Humber local enterprise partnership worth more than £110 million, including support for a regeneration programme for the centre of Cleethorpes. I am sure that one of my ministerial team will be very happy to meet him and his council colleagues.
The floods in Yorkshire, including in Leeds, last Boxing day caused devastation, and many businesses have still not reopened. What conversations is the Chancellor having with insurance companies, which have restricted cover, increased premiums and put up excesses, thereby not only risking creating ghost towns in many of our communities, but risking jobs, too?
That is a matter on which my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office leads, but I have a considerable understanding of the problem, as my own constituency was subject to serious flooding in 2013-14. I will talk to my right hon. Friend and make him aware of the hon. Lady’s concerns.
May I thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing Nottingham to begin to take over Parliament today? My right hon. Friend the Chancellor knows of the great benefits of the queen of the east midlands, because he used to work in Nottingham, and he believes in the huge value of infrastructure projects. Is he minded, as he prepares his autumn statement, to bring forward HS2, making sure that the east midlands hub is in Toton in my constituency, and the electrification of the midlands main line, all of which will help the great city and county of Nottinghamshire?
Nottinghamshire is, indeed, a part of the country that I know well and have a great deal of affection for. The Government are completely seized of the need for infrastructure investment to support the productivity performance of our economy. My right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary will look at the priority to be afforded to different specific projects and will make statements in due course.
Given that the east and west midlands together could generate significant growth for our economy if they got the right road, rail and skills infrastructure, and given that today is Nottingham in Parliament day, will the Chancellor acknowledge that the autumn statement should bring forward those ambitions for the midlands engine?
The Government are committed to the midlands engine. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that the midlands conurbation overall has a weight of population and economic activity that allows it to be a rival to the hub of London and the south-east. As I said to my right hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry), announcements about specific projects will be made in due course by the relevant Minister.
One of the most important ways in which the Chancellor could boost economic growth outside—and, indeed, in—London and the south-east is by energising small business. Will he consider reviewing the small enterprise investment scheme, in the hope of simplifying it and of thereby seeing a wall of private cash invested in starting and maintaining small businesses?
My hon. Friend is right. Ensuring the supply of funding to start-ups and smaller enterprises as they grow is a key to the future of our economy. I assure him that all schemes, taxes and other such structures will be reviewed in the run-up to the autumn statement, and I will let him know my conclusions on 23 November.
Is the Chancellor of the Exchequer aware that his predecessor introduced a scheme that was based on robbing Derbyshire County Council of £155 million in cuts and promising to give it less than 20% of that money back? No wonder the people in Bolsover marketplace do not call it the northern powerhouse; it is the northern poorhouse.
I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will want to look at the allocation of funding to local authorities, including Derbyshire County Council. As the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner) will know, there are many powerful advocates for Derbyshire on both sides of the House.
I wish the hon. Member for Solihull (Julian Knight) a speedy recovery. He may ask his question from his seat.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. The Chancellor will be well aware that the west midlands has a trade surplus with China, thanks to Jaguar Land Rover in Solihull and wider manufacturing. On their visits to BRIC nations, previous Chancellors have been keen to trumpet business in the northern powerhouse. Will this Chancellor help the cogs of the midlands engine to turn by taking west midlands businesses with him on future visits?
Indeed I will. It is an important part of the role of a Chancellor to act as a champion for businesses in the north and the midlands, and to draw the attention of inward investors such as the Chinese and the Indians, who are already heavily invested in the west midlands, to the opportunities that exist in the UK beyond London and the south-east. Such opportunities are not always as obvious to foreign investors as those that exist in London.
In order to boost growth outside London and the south-east, there should be a laser-like focus on manufacturing and its associated innovation research and development, but the UK’s record on R and D spending is lamentable compared with that of our international competitors. May I ask the Chancellor how he intends to remedy that? Will he take the opportunity of the autumn statement to reverse the decision to convert innovation funding from grants to loans?
We have supported £22 billion of R and D spending across the UK through the tax credit system. The hon. Gentleman is right; the UK’s productivity performance is weak compared with that of its principal competitors, and our investment in R and D is significantly less than that of many of our principal competitors. I promise him that we are acutely aware of that challenge, and I will address that challenge in the autumn statement on 23 November.
I will take that as a veiled good news story at some point to come. In order to boost growth we need to take exports more seriously, including to the EU, given that our trade balance has gone into reverse over the past two years. To effect that, what efforts is the Chancellor making to rule out a hard Brexit, with visas, tariff barriers and an end to the customs union, all of which the Treasury says could lead to the loss of £66 billion of revenue, a reduction in GDP of around 7.5% and a threat, estimated conservatively, to half a million jobs?
I know that the SNP does not like a good news story, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have been able, by 23 November, to think up a suitable response just in case there is such a story on that day.
On the wider issue of managing Britain’s exit from the European Union, the Prime Minister has been very clear. We understand the instructions that we have received from the British people, and within our obligation to deliver those we will seek to get the very best deal we can with the European Union that maximises the amount of trade in goods and services between our companies and the markets of the European Union, and between European companies and the UK market.
Financial services are one of the sectors most exposed to Brexit, but it is not just jobs in Canary Wharf and the square mile that are at risk; it is jobs throughout the UK, in Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Edinburgh and beyond. The messages that the Government have sent so far have been incoherent and counterproductive. Firms need assurance that they will get comparable access to the single market and the ability to retain EU nationals who work for them. Will the Chancellor help finally to put an end to his Government’s chaos today and make a promise to deliver both?
The hon. Gentleman is right to identify financial services as one of the areas that is particularly concerned about the way in which the exit from the European Union is managed, because the industry is particularly dependent on the passporting regime that is in place. He is also right to draw attention to the often overlooked fact that 75% of financial services jobs are outside London. This is an important UK-wide industry.
On the specific points that the hon. Gentleman makes, I have certainly sought to reassure financial services businesses that we will put their needs at the heart of our negotiation with the European Union. We understand their need for market access. We also understand their need to be able to engage the right skilled people. I have said on the record—I am happy to say this again today—that I do not believe that the concerns the British people have expressed about migration from the European Union relate to those with high skills and high pay. The problem that people are concerned about relates to those taking entry level jobs. I see no likelihood of our using powers to control migration into the UK to prevent companies from bringing highly skilled, highly paid workers here.
Double Taxation Treaties: Developing Countries
In negotiating double taxation treaties, the UK’s objective is to reach an agreement that allocates taxing rights on a basis that is acceptable to both countries.
Restrictive tax treaties inhibit the ability of developing countries to spend money on public services, such as schools and education. Research from ActionAid shows that, along with Italy, the UK has the highest number of such treaties. Is the Minister willing to work with the Department for International Development to change that?
I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. In fact, double taxation treaties help developing countries. They often remove uncertainty about the way in which businesses choose to make investments, and they open up the route to fairer and more open trade. The majority of the UK’s double taxation treaties are based on the OECD model double taxation convention, and we work very closely with countries to reach mutually acceptable treaties.
What plans does the Minister have to carry out assessments of the impact of the UK’s tax treaties on developing countries, and will her Department offer poorer countries the opportunity to renegotiate treaties that do not do enough to support their development?
As I have said, there is a rolling programme of renegotiation to make sure that treaties reflect modern standards. More broadly, the UK has a very proud record on capacity building in this area. We lead international efforts to support developing countries in tax capacity building. One example is that DFID funds the Global Forum, the World Bank and the OECD to provide technical assistance to partner countries. We can be proud of that record.
In negotiating double taxation regimes with developing and advanced nations, will the Minister look at transfer pricing in terms of establishment provisions so that we can broaden the tax base and stop the likes of Apple, Amazon and Google gaming our tax system?
The UK is committed to ensuring that UK companies pay a fair share of tax in the countries in which they operate. On all the wider aspects of international tax fairness, I reiterate that the UK has taken a very strong stance across the board on a number of issues. I am always happy to speak to my hon. Friend about this issue because he is very much an expert, and I would welcome his views on all such issues.
The Government have taken steps to maintain a world-class business environment that helps UK manufacturers to thrive. That is why we have cut corporation tax from 28% to 20%— it will fall further, to 17%—and why we have supported £22 billion of research and development through tax credits for UK companies. This environment helps our manufacturers to grow as innovative, competitive companies.
I welcome the Minister’s response, but what message is he sending to international manufacturing companies with operations in Britain about this country’s future international competitiveness as we leave the European Union?
Our message is straightforward: Britain is open for business. As the Prime Minister has said, we are and will continue to be a confident, outward-looking country.
Manufacturing depends on long-term investment. What assessment has the Minister made of the impact of our potentially leaving the European Investment Bank, and what progress has there been in any discussions about us maintaining our stake?
The UK is in discussions with the EIB.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that reducing anti-competitive market distortions is both a great fiscal way to promote manufacturing and a way of ensuring our country is best placed for new trade deals?
I agree that removing distortions in the economy results in a more efficient economy. The UK Government have a record of doing that, by, for example, reducing corporation tax.
Apart from lowering corporation tax what other steps will the Chancellor and his ministerial team take to incentivise manufacturing industry in Northern Ireland?
The freedom for Northern Ireland to set its corporation tax rate is an important measure in itself. We look forward to further progress on that. Of course, there will be an autumn statement next month in which the Government will set out their economic policy. I have mentioned corporation tax and R and D tax credits, which we have made more generous. Those measures will have helped manufacturing businesses in Northern Ireland and elsewhere.
I welcome the Government’s ongoing commitment to the northern powerhouse given the impact that that can have on manufacturing, in particular in my constituency, and the allocated funds for the A64 at Hopgrove. Does the Minister agree that such investments must seek maximum economic benefit? The current proposal from Highways England will simply kick an existing pinch point down the road if we do not see the dualling of that carriageway on the A64.
That had an extremely tangential relationship with the matter of manufacturing industry, therefore meriting an extremely pithy response.
I look forward to examining the case for dualling the A64 and the benefit that would provide to manufacturing industry.
Last month, the Chancellor proudly dismissed his predecessor’s plans to cut corporation tax to 15%. This week, however, we hear of plans hatched by senior Government figures to cut corporation tax as low as 10% as part of a so-called Brexit nuclear option, despite the fact that both the British Chambers of Commerce and the Institute of Directors have stated that cutting corporation tax would not be at the top of their wishlist. Will the Minister put an end to his Government’s reign of chaos and confirm his long-term position on corporation tax, so that businesses have the stability they deserve?
I am not sure whether I would use the phrase “reign of chaos” if I was a Labour Front Bencher. Let me be very clear. The UK Government have rightly reduced corporation tax from 28% to 20%. We have legislated for it to go down to 17%. If there are any further announcements they will be at a fiscal event, whether an autumn statement or a Budget.
I am afraid that the Government chaos we have seen on corporation tax is sadly replicated on investment. The Chancellor promised to tear up his predecessor’s Budget and develop an industrial strategy, before denying he was planning a spending splurge. A recent Ipsos MORI poll showed that almost two thirds of Britons agree that the country is not doing enough to meet its infrastructure needs, and the Opposition agree. Will the Minister end his Government’s chaotic record on investment and confirm how much he plans to invest in infrastructure, on what, and where he will get the money from?
On the subject of corporation tax, I point out that it was not that many months ago that on one day the shadow Chancellor condemned the reduction to 17% while in Committee the Labour party voted for it. I will be clear that it is no good coming forward with incredible plans to spend £500 billion on infrastructure without any idea of how those plans will be paid for. The Chancellor will make a statement on 23 November on our policy on this issue. The Labour party really needs to change track if it is to have some credibility.
Priority School Building Programme
The £4.4 billion priority school building programme was established to rebuild or refurbish those school buildings in the very worst condition across the country. The programme’s second phase was announced in May 2014 and feasibility studies are now being carried out. In addition, we are allocating £4.2 billion across 2015 to 2018 to schools, local authorities, academy trusts and voluntary aided partnerships to maintain and improve their schools.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. For many years now, Todmorden High School in Calder Valley has been the top priority for a rebuild. It is currently taking a good chunk of maintenance money from other schools just to stay open. Will my right hon. Friend look at this carefully, so that we can finally give the pupils of Todmorden high school the school they deserve?
I understand my hon. Friend’s disappointment, and that of his constituents, that Todmorden was not successful in its application to the priority school building programme. We need to prioritise schools with blocks in the very worst condition. I understand that Todmorden’s buildings are now receiving some investment through the local authority, which will have competing priorities for capital resources, but I am sure my hon. Friend will continue to make the case for the school.
Given the £180 million overrun on phase one, will the Government be tempted to backfill with second-rate private finance initiative buildings? What role will PFI have in the programme?
Let me address our record. We have spent £18 billion since 2010 on the school estate and we are committed to a further £23 billion so that pupils can be taught in facilities that are fit for the 21st century. We of course want to ensure that that is funded in the most appropriate, value for money and sustainable way.
Regional Infrastructure Development
World-class infrastructure is central to raising our country’s productivity. About 3,000 infrastructure projects have been delivered across the UK since 2010, with another 600 projects worth over £480 billion in the pipeline. We are investing over £13 billion in transport across the north, with £5 billion in the midlands. Nationwide, we are making the largest investment in roads across the UK in a generation, and rail is experiencing a level of investment not seen since Victorian times.
I thank the Chancellor for that answer. Will he ensure that the Lower Thames Crossing option C, preferred by the Highways Agency, is quickly taken forward? That will enhance the investment in Medway and the whole of the Thames Gateway area, facilitating house building, encouraging business growth and supporting existing infrastructure in the Kent area.
I commend my hon. Friend for the way he has campaigned on this issue. We recognise the importance of this crossing to supporting the economy on both sides of the Thames, particularly given the constrained capacity at Dartford. It will produce significant benefits locally, regionally and nationally. The Government will be making a decision on the location and route in due course.
Conservative-controlled Southend-on-Sea Borough Council was very disappointed that it was unsuccessful in its bid to the coastal communities fund. Will my right hon. Friend agree to meet me, the leader of the council John Lamb and others, so we may share with him why we need investment in infrastructure, particularly as Southend is the alternative city of culture next year?
My hon. Friend makes a good point. The Government recognise the ongoing growth potential of Southend. The Government’s substantial investment to date in Southend includes over £40 million through the South East local enterprise partnership growth deal and the 2014 city deal. The Government announced last year that the coastal communities fund would be extended over this Parliament. At least another £90 million of further funding is available to promote sustainable economic growth and jobs in the UK’s coastal communities. I strongly encourage Southend-on-Sea Borough Council to apply to this fund.
Given my right hon. Friend’s welcome commitments on regional infrastructure and my plethora of conversations with his Cabinet colleagues, Ministers and the leader of Lincolnshire County Council over the past few days and years, will he now commit to working with us all to secure the funding for the dualling of the eastern bypass around my constituency of Lincoln, which will greatly support not only the further development of the city but the whole of Greater Lincolnshire?
I recognise my hon. Friend’s commitment to his preferred version of this project. Funding has been made available for the provision of the Lincoln eastern bypass, in the county council’s preferred version of single carriageway road. As my hon. Friend will know, the county council is not in favour of restarting the process from scratch and introducing further delays, so I am afraid I cannot give him any confidence that additional funding will be made available to adopt a dualling solution.
I was pleased that in the last Budget statement, the previous Chancellor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr Osborne), announced a new Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission to focus on delivering essential infrastructure development for this crucial region. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that this commission, which is led by Lord Heseltine, will continue to be supported?
Yes. I am glad that my hon. Friend has raised this point. The Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission has been asked to develop an ambitious plan for north Kent, south Essex and east London. I am grateful to Lord Heseltine and his fellow commissioners for leading this important work, and I look forward to receiving the interim report ahead of next year’s Budget, when I will respond to it.
When the Chancellor came to the Treasury Select Committee last week, he was unsure whether analysis of the effects of leaving the European Union was being done by region. He has had a week to find out, so will he now give us an answer?
If the hon. Lady checks the video, she will find that I was not unsure. I was advising my civil service colleague that I understood that we were doing such regional analysis. We are carrying out regional analysis, which will help to inform the Prime Minister’s negotiating strategy.
Does the Chancellor agree that energy efficiency should be a priority for infrastructure development, both nationally and regionally? To that end, will he seriously consider earmarking the proceeds of the shale gas sovereign wealth fund for energy efficiency measures so that we can not only save on bills, but create jobs and encourage innovation?
I am not necessarily in favour of earmarking or hypothecation of funds for that specific purpose, but the right hon. Lady makes an important point. We have a serious challenge on this country’s energy capacity over the next 20 years, and we are going to have to invest eye-wateringly large sums of money—perhaps £100 billion—just to ensure that the lights stay on. Of course it makes sense to look at ways of reducing demand for energy through energy conservation measures alongside the demands for new energy generation plants.
Last week, the Infrastructure Minister in the Northern Ireland Executive announced that a major infrastructure project in Belfast would be stopped because it was unlikely to be completed before we leave the EU so the funding would be lost. Has the Infrastructure Minister had any discussions with the Chancellor about this project, and will the right hon. Gentleman assure the Northern Ireland Executive that any funding gap for any project started before we leave the EU will be bridged by the Treasury?
I am not aware of the project to which the hon. Gentleman refers. As far as I am aware, the Northern Ireland Executive has not been in touch with the Treasury about it. We have, in fact, made two announcements. I announced that all projects signed in the normal course of business before the autumn statement would be guaranteed, irrespective of whether they continued to be funded by the EU after our exit. I subsequently made a further statement saying that after the autumn statement any new EU-funded projects would, provided they passed a UK value-for-money and strategic priorities test, get the same guarantee: however long they last, they will be funded by the UK Treasury once EU funding stops.
This Government continue to be in chaos over their flagship so-called northern powerhouse. I live there, and I see it every day: they have no long-term industrial strategy. Meanwhile, notwithstanding what the Chancellor said earlier, regional economies are suffering from a lack of sustained investment in their infrastructure, and particularly transport infrastructure, by comparison with our major European partners—a problem now compounded by Brexit. What plans does the Chancellor have to end this uncertainty and finally bring about a rebalancing or an enhancement of regional transport infrastructure expenditure?
I urge the hon. Gentleman not to talk down the north and the significance of the northern powerhouse. The northern powerhouse is an important part of the Government’s strategy, and the new Prime Minister has made clear her commitment to it. The hon. Gentleman is, however, right to draw attention to the shortfall of infrastructure investment in the United Kingdom overall, by comparison with our principal competitors. That is an issue that we must address at national level. We must look for the best value for money—the projects that will make the greatest contribution to closing the productivity gap across the UK—and that is what we will do.
EU Budget: UK Contribution 2017-18
The Office for Budget Responsibility is responsible for forecasting contributions to the European Union. It will update its forecast in this year’s autumn statement, but the forecast for the UK’s gross contribution in 2017-18 was £12.6 billion at the time of the Budget.
Notwithstanding all the spending pledges that have been made today and recently, hospitals, schools, police and roads in my constituency certainly need a spending boost. Does the Minister agree that the sooner we leave the European Union, the sooner that money will be available to them?
The amount of any money saved will depend on the overall fiscal situation and the broader economic environment. Decisions on spending will be made in the round in autumn statements and Budgets, but while we remain members of the European Union, we must of course comply with the requirements to pay into it.
May I press the Chief Secretary on this point? On the day of the referendum, I met an NHS worker who had voted to leave the European Union precisely because she thought that more money would be available for the NHS, thanks to the “£350 million a week” that was emblazoned on the Vote Leave bus. When we leave the European Union, will we get that money?
It is certainly not for me to justify or explain the pledges that were made by the leave campaign, but I will say that public spending decisions must be made in the context of the economic and fiscal situation.
I appreciate that getting back some of our EU contribution was a factor in the decision to leave the European Union, but will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government are, at least at this stage, open to the idea of making some contribution in the future if we are to secure some sort of access to the single market for financial services, or, indeed, making some contribution in relation to passporting and equivalence?
What is important is for the United Kingdom to secure the best possible deal in our negotiations with the European Union. I do not think that it makes sense to bind our hands and close down options at this point; nor do I think it right for us to provide a running commentary on the matter.
Wales will continue to receive convergence funding while we are in the EU, but will the Treasury nevertheless honour the Prime Minister’s pledge to electrify the Great Western Railway line all the way to Swansea in order to make it part of the pan-European network and stimulate manufacturing and exports?
That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, but, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made clear, the Government are committed to improving our infrastructure.
Economic Growth: Midlands
The Government are committed to helping the midlands to unleash its economic potential and make it a powerful engine for growth. We are backing skills and innovation. We are supporting the automotive and aerospace industries. We have made investments, and we are putting power in the hands of local people by devolving budgets from Whitehall to a new mayor for the midlands. I hope that it is in order, Mr Speaker, for me to mention our excellent candidate, Andy Street.
Earlier this year, a Grant Thornton report suggested that the east midlands could contribute £53 billion to the UK economy by 2025, reflecting the central role that Leicestershire and the east midlands continue to play in driving the country’s growth. Does my hon. Friend agree, however, that if we are to sustain that record of success, it is vital for us to continue to deliver on investment in Leicestershire’s road, rail and broader infrastructure?
Order. May I remind colleagues of the merits of the blue pencil?
Good advice, Mr Speaker, as ever.
I thank my hon. Friend for his interest in the east midlands. I agree that improving transport between and within our major cities is vital to help them fulfil their productive potential. As the Chancellor has said, we are investing over £5 billion in transport infrastructure to put the midlands at the heart of a modern transport network.
May I press the case for the continued electrification of the midland main line and that there be no further delays to this excellent project?
Yes, he can.
Tax Credits (Concentrix)
If anyone feels their tax credits have been incorrectly withdrawn owing to errors by Concentrix, they should urgently contact Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, which will review all complaint cases and will, and indeed does, pay redress where appropriate.
Labour welcomes the cancellation of the Concentrix contract and the fact that it will be administered in-house by HMRC staff. Will the Minister reassure the thousands of single parents and families, many in my Neath constituency, that their tax credits erroneously stopped by Concentrix will be reinstated immediately so their children can be kept safe and warm and not go unfed as winter approaches?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right to draw the House’s attention to the importance of prioritising vulnerable claimants. HMRC held a further drop-in for colleagues recently, on 19 October; it was attended by 15 Members, and a number of complaints and issues were raised, which we are on the way to resolving.
On restarting claims, the key is to get the right information. HMRC has taken back a vast number of cases, and I will say more about this tomorrow. The priority is to get the right information, to get claims started again as soon as the facts are established.
When the Minister wrote to me after I asked a previous question, she said:
“Amounts to be paid to the supplier are reduced if actual performance fails to meet standards set in the contract.”
Does that include penalties for withdrawing tax credits when they should not have been withdrawn?
The terms of the contract between HMRC and Concentrix are obviously in the public domain, and it is right that when performance is not as per the contract there are associated deductions, but I will be in a position to give the House more information about the contract in tomorrow’s Opposition day debate.
A number of my constituents have been affected by this issue, not least a frontline police officer who had her benefits withdrawn, which meant her childcare could not be paid and she was potentially not going to be able to go to work. Luckily, my office intervened and we were able to get her benefits, but what is the Minister going to do to compensate people for upset and unjust treatment?
There are two points here. First, as I have said, if people feel their tax credits have been incorrectly withdrawn because of errors they should contact HMRC, which will review that and redress can be made. Secondly, customers can ask for mandatory reconsideration if they do not feel that their circumstances have been correctly identified. Sometimes that is because people do not send through the right information.
The UK will leave the European Union and will introduce control of migration between Britain and the EU. Working with officials across Government, the Treasury continues to undertake a range of analyses to inform the UK’s position for the upcoming negotiations and we have made it clear, I am afraid, that we are not going to provide a running commentary, but we do want the best outcome for the UK and that means pursuing a bespoke arrangement that will allow our companies maximum access to the European market.
The Chancellor’s predecessor had many a failed target and plan, one of which was a target of £1 trillion in exports by 2020, a target that is nowhere near being reached even with full access to, and membership of, the single market. Meanwhile other countries such as Germany currently export more than we do to China and other growth markets. Does the Chancellor agree that the failure of the Government to improve the UK’s export performance has left us unable to take full advantage of opportunities outside the EU and more vulnerable to—
Order. I think the hon. Lady should leave a full version of her question in the Library of the House.
The Government can of course support and enable exporters, but we cannot do their job for them. It is for British exporters to make their businesses competitive and to go and sell their wares around the world, but we will do everything we can to support them in that endeavour.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that unless, bizarrely, the European Union were to impose trade sanctions on the UK, there would be absolutely nothing to prevent us from having access to the single market when we leave the EU?
My hon. Friend is right in the sense that every nation that is a member of the World Trade Organisation, as we are, has the right to access other members’ markets on WTO terms. However, WTO terms would be quite challenging for some of our industries. For example, in the automotive industry, WTO terms imply a 10% tariff on cars entering other markets.
The Chancellor will know that West Yorkshire is the beating heart of the manufacturing economy in this country, but my manufacturing leaders, and the EEF, feel left out of the loop in relation to their future after Brexit. Can he reassure them, because they are very disturbed about the future?
I can certainly reassure the hon. Gentleman that manufacturing industry is very much in the forefront of our thinking as we approach these negotiations. I am sorry that I have not had a chance to go to West Yorkshire, but I have been engaging with businesses in all sectors of the economy, including many businesses from the north that have attended round-tables in Downing Street over the past few weeks to set out their concerns so that we can take them properly into account.
In welcoming my right hon. Friend’s robust stance on this matter, may I suggest that as there is a large balance of payments deficit with Europe, specifically in the automotive sector, it would be in the EU’s interest to strike a decent deal with us, as he intends to do?
Our intention is to get the very best deal we can with our neighbours in the European Union to allow access for our companies to trade their goods and services into the EU. However, I would just caution my hon. Friend: to look at the economic arguments alone is to miss an important point. There is a political debate going on here in Europe, and European politicians are very conscious of the impact of Britain’s departure on their political project. I do not think we can be certain that economics alone will dictate the course of this negotiation.
Leaving the EU: Regional Funding
The Government have provided a guarantee for all European structural and investment fund projects signed before the autumn statement. We have also provided a guarantee for all ESIF projects signed after the autumn statement and before the UK’s departure from the European Union, provided that they pass the value-for-money test and are in line with domestic strategic priorities.
I have listened closely to the Chancellor’s previous answers about regional distribution of investment. The latest figures show that only a quarter of national infrastructure projects are in either the north-west or the north-east of England, with just one of the top-funded 25 projects in that area. With further damaging cuts to public sector net investment due in the remainder of this Parliament, when will the Government address this inequality, match their rhetoric with action and start properly funding the northern powerhouse?
I make three points to the hon. Lady. First, we will have an autumn statement in just over four weeks’ time, and I will be able to set out more of our forward plans at that time. Secondly, I am not sure off the top of my head what the population proportion of the UK is in the north-west and north-east regions, but if the figures that she has quoted are correct, I am not so sure that a quarter of infrastructure investment represents disproportionate underfunding. I would need to check that. Thirdly, the very large investment in Crossrail, a strategically important national project, has had the effect of skewing infrastructure investment towards London over the past few years.
Smart Energy System
I thank my hon. Friend for his interest in both these important topics. The National Infrastructure Commission has estimated the benefits of a smart energy system to be between £3 billion and £8 billion a year by 2030.
I am grateful to the Minister for his response and am pleased that he agrees with the advantages of a smart energy system. Ahead of the autumn statement, will the Minister look at the role that the Treasury might play in digitising our energy system by accelerating the deployment of storage technologies, demand-side response and the upgrade of our distribution networks so that we can achieve the productivity gains he expects?
The Treasury will continue to work with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to drive forward a smart energy system. The Government have committed to implementing the National Infrastructure Commission’s recommendations in full.
My principal responsibility is to ensure the stability and prosperity of the economy. In the current circumstances, that requires a combination of near-term measures to respond to the shock that the economy has received and longer-term measures to manage the structural adjustment as the UK transitions out of the EU and to address the UK’s long-term productivity challenge.
Today is my 30th wedding anniversary, so will the Chancellor join me in wishing the long-suffering Mrs Double a happy anniversary? Does he agree that the marriage tax allowance is a demonstration of this Government’s support for marriage? However, take-up has been low, so ahead of the autumn statement is the Chancellor considering increasing the allowance? If he is not, may I encourage him to do so?
I certainly join in wishing my hon. Friend and his wife a very happy 30th anniversary. Taking my queue from last week, I probably will not suggest how Mrs Double might commemorate the event.
My hon. Friend is quite right to highlight the value of marriage in society. I hope that I can reassure him that the Government remain firmly committed to supporting this important institution through the marriage allowance. Eligible couples could benefit by up to £432 this year, and we have just passed the landmark of 1 million families who have made successful applications. I agree with my hon. Friend that take-up of the marriage allowance is not high enough, but HMRC will launch a new campaign early next month to increase awareness and take-up.
Bringing the Chancellor back to Brexit and the role of his Department—happy anniversary, by the way, to the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double)—before the referendum, as the hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie) said, the Treasury published a paper warning that the impact on Government receipts of leaving the single market would be a loss of up to £66 billion. Last week, Tom Scholar, the permanent secretary to the Treasury, told the Treasury Committee that the figures were “not directly applicable”. The Chancellor then questioned his own Department’s calculations by referring to mitigating factors that were not taken into account. There is fumbling chaos about Brexit not just in the Cabinet, but in the Treasury as well. Will the Chancellor clarify his Department’s exact calculation of the outlook for public finances if access to the single market is not achieved?
The right hon. Gentleman can characterise it however he likes, but the simple fact is that all economic modelling must make assumptions. The model that the Treasury produced in April assumed no policy response by Government—we know that there has been a monetary response in the form of the monetary expansion delivered by the Bank of England on 2 August—and that an article 50 notice would be served immediately after the referendum, which we know was not the case.
As for the ongoing work, the right hon. Gentleman will have to wait until 23 November when the Office for Budget Responsibility will publish its forecast.
No figure is attached to anything that the Chancellor has said, which again confirms the chaos in Cabinet and in his Department. Can I ask the Chancellor to pass on my thanks to the officials who helpfully published on the Treasury’s website a document labelled
“Public Sector Finances Briefing – Official: Sensitive for internal use only”?
The document at least gives us some reliable information in that it confirms that the Government are failing to meet predictions on tax receipts and deficit reduction. It also reveals that that data are based on
“activity from before the referendum so any post referendum downturn will exacerbate this.”
Does that not prove once and for all that far from fixing the roof while the sun shone, this country was scandalously economically ill-prepared and politically totally unprepared for the Brexit decision?
Just so that the right hon. Gentleman is absolutely clear, it is quite wrong to suggest that my Department does not have any figures—it does, but I am just not giving them to him.
As for the document that the right hon. Gentleman spent such a lot of time yesterday rather unsuccessfully trying to tout around the media, it was published by mistake, but all the figures in the document have already been published elsewhere. All of them are in the public domain.
I think that all Treasury Ministers would be delighted to congratulate Aqua Cooling on the innovation award it has won. As has been said, the Government have committed to supporting research and development in British businesses, providing one of the most generous R and D tax credit schemes in the world to UK small business. I am delighted to say that it was claimed by more than 18,000 small and medium-sized enterprises in 2014-15.
I am sorry to be boring, but all these issues will be addressed at the time of the autumn statement, when we will have the latest fiscal projections from the OBR.
As my hon. Friend and the House will know, an announcement has been made that the airports committee this morning decided to move ahead with the north-west runway at Heathrow, and my right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary will be making a statement to the House very shortly. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that regional connectivity is vital. Regional slots at Heathrow have been squeezed out by the pressure on the runways there, and we will ensure, as a part of this package, that regional slots are protected in the future.
Tens of thousands of UK jobs depend on euro-denominated clearing in the UK. Will the Chancellor tell us how important he regards its still being permissible in the UK after we leave the European Union?
The right hon. Gentleman has put his finger on an important issue. As he will know, the European Central Bank has already had one go at trying to prevent euro-denominated clearing from taking place in the UK, and it is no doubt a very iconic issue for many of our European partners. It is an important part of the overall financial structure in London and it is not easily separated from the other activities that operate in London, but in terms of the jobs and value attached to it, it is a relatively small part of the total.
Following the announcement at Budget 2016, UK Asset Resolution Limited has launched a programme of sales of the Bradford & Bingley mortgage assets that it holds. That will be designed to raise sufficient proceeds to repay the £15.65 billion debt to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme and, in turn, the corresponding loan from the Treasury. It is expected, subject to market conditions and ensuring value for money, that this programme of sales will have been concluded in full by the end of 2017-18.
The Government gave £5 million in funding for the refurbishment of the Burrell collection in my constituency, with the money coming from cash collected from the LIBOR scandal. Will the Chancellor consider a similar funding scheme for Holmwood house in my constituency, given that it is the bicentenary of the architect’s birth next year and it needs some TLC?
I am glad that at this stage of the process before the autumn statement, I am able to say that all submissions will be carefully considered, and if the hon. Gentleman would care to let me have something in writing, I will happily look at it.
The Government are reviewing the potential options to support regional airports, following the discussion paper that was published last year, and of course we will set out full details of our response in due course. We received 53 responses to the consultation. They were good, constructive, valuable responses and we are looking carefully at them.
What is the Chancellor’s assessment of the effect of inflationary pressures on the prices of goods and food over the next 12 months?
Clearly, the decline in the value of sterling will have an inflationary impact. How quickly that passes through into the UK economy is a subject of modelling by all economists who carry out these types of analyses. The Bank of England will very shortly be publishing its next inflation report, and that should give an indication of the forward trajectory.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, as he has asked me a very important question. He knows that the operation of monetary policy in the UK is independent of Government. Monetary policy, including measures such as quantitative easing, has been highly effective in supporting the economy. Because of the fiscal implications of an indemnity for the Bank, packages have to be formally agreed by the Chancellor. Although I cannot prejudge any hypothetical request, no request for quantitative easing has ever been refused, and I see no reason why circumstances would be different in future.
The latest reports on the dash for cash in RBS’s Global Restructuring Group show even more misconduct by this bank. Given that we own a majority of RBS shares, does the Chancellor not believe that the UK Government have an obligation to the people of this country to conduct a robust investigation into the allegations of misconduct?
The Financial Conduct Authority is looking at this important issue, and we will wait on its view.
Michael Fabricant—not here. That is unprecedented in the history of my being in the Chair. I have never known the hon. Gentleman not to be here, but, fortunately, Mr Philip Davies is here.
No UK taxpayers’ money has been used in the EU’s lending to other member states. Only in the event of default would the UK be asked to pay its share.
What impact has the Secretary of State made of his predecessor’s austerity economics on the nation’s prosperity and would he like to apologise for that divisive and discredited ideology?
I assume that the hon. Lady means what assessment I have made. Since 2010, we have brought this country back from the very brink. We have borrowing down from more than 10% of GDP to around 4% with more to deliver. We have created 2.7 million new jobs, making this economy the fastest growing in the G7 for the past three years, and the fastest job creator in the developed world. That is a record of which we can be proud.
We believe that HS2 is part of modernising our transport system and ensuring that we have infrastructure fit for the 21st century.
In light of the upcoming report of the RBS’s Global Restructuring Group and given that past systems of redress for small businesses have been ad hoc and have failed, will the Chancellor meet the all-party group for fair business banking to see whether we can involve a permanent and effective system of redress?
The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point, but we should wait until we receive the FCA report before we proceed.
Mr Speaker, you will have seen the latest Office for National Statistics survey that found that Newark is the happiest place in mainland Britain. However, what is testing the people of Newark is the appalling state of their local roads. Will the Chancellor do another favour for Newark, and in his autumn statement bring forward the new Newark northern bypass?
As a former resident of my hon. Friend’s constituency, I am delighted to acknowledge that it is the happiest place in Britain. Certainly some of my happiest times and memories are of living there. As I said earlier, we are currently in the process of receiving submissions from hon. Members across the House, and I would be very happy to receive a written submission from my hon. Friend.
As the Chancellor is considering investment in roads in his autumn statement, will he look sympathetically at the need for investment to support the substantial Carrington development in my constituency, both in the M60-M62 network and in the relief road that will be necessary to support journeys in and out of the Carrington area?
I do not know the project that the hon. Lady talks about. I assume that it is a housing development, and we are certainly interested in the way in which infrastructure investment can not only deliver in its own right, but enable much-needed housing development. If she would like to let me have a written submission, I would be happy to look at it.
I am afraid that this will be the last topical question.
Does the Chancellor support Cheltenham’s Cyber Innovation Centre, and does he agree that spending on our world-class defence and security assets, such as GCHQ, can play a vital role in nurturing the high-tech civilian jobs of tomorrow?
Yes. I was privileged as Foreign Secretary for two years to have oversight of GCHQ, which is truly a world-class facility, and using that facility not only to ensure Britain’s security but to create a cutting-edge business sector is an entirely sensible thing to do. I welcome the success of the Cheltenham Cyber Innovation Centre.
Private Members’ Bills
(Urgent Question): To ask the Leader of the House of Commons if he will make a statement on the Government’s response to the Procedure Committee’s second report of this Session on Private Members’ Bills and if he will provide time for that report to be debated.
The Procedure Committee published its report last Tuesday, 18 October. In my evidence to the Committee last Wednesday, 19 October, I said that the Government were considering the report and intended to respond in detail within the normal two-month timeframe. I am happy to confirm that commitment to the House today.
I thank the Leader of the House for his answer. Too often on Fridays, when we have private Members’ Bills, this House bleeds. It bleeds credibility and it bleeds standing. The Government are well aware of that fact. The Procedure Committee has been trying for the past three years to bring its concerns to the attention of the House and to gain Government support for some of our modest recommendations to restore some credibility and some faith in the process.
Our recommendations—the Committee’s recommendations —would not necessarily mean that what happened this past Friday would not happen again, but they would demonstrate to the public that we in this place, Back Benchers, take legislation seriously and we take Back-Bench legislation seriously. The truth is that, without the will on behalf of the Government to change Fridays, we will still have too many days when we leave this place downcast and somewhat ashamed at the proceedings that have gone on before us.
We have a listening and concerned Leader of the House. I hope that he will receive our recommendations in a positive way and accept some small part of them, particularly that part that would allow the Backbench Business Committee to assign up to the first four private Members’ Bill slots to Members. That would encourage serious legislators in this place to invest time and energy, working with one another for a year or more, to come up with a legislative proposition that, if it did not command the support of the House, would at least demand the attention of the House when it was brought before it.
My hon. Friend has provided a succinct summary of some of the key recommendations of his Committee’s report. He has campaigned strongly and honourably for procedural changes to try to enhance the status of Friday debates on private Members’ Bills. I gave him an undertaking in an evidence session with his Committee last week that the Government would look seriously at his Committee’s most recent report. Clearly, we will need both to consider his recommendations and to have collective discussion in the Government before publishing our response, but that we will do.
I thank the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker) for his urgent question. I well remember as a new Member coming in here on a Friday when there was a debate on a private Member’s Bill on daylight saving and Members took so long to talk it out that it was dark by the time we left the Chamber.
One of the recommendations is that the Backbench Business Committee should decide which Bills are worthy of going forward. May I ask the Leader of the House whether the Committee will be expanded on a cross-party basis? It currently has two members from the Opposition, five from the Government party and one from the Scottish National party. The smaller parties are not represented at all.
Does it not appear that the Government would be in control of which Bills are picked? Therefore, will the Committee’s terms of reference and the objectives have to change? Will the Leader of the House have to provide extra time for these Bills, or will they eat into other House business that is currently protected such as Opposition days and Backbench Business debates? When the Bills are picked by the Committee, will they become part of days devoted to Backbench Business debates? If the Government say that they support a Bill, rather than talk it out as the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr Gyimah), did last Friday, can they not set up a Bill Committee to go through the clauses and amend the measure, just as we do for other legislation? Alternatively, they can come clean and say that they do not support the Bill.
Will the Leader of the House have to look at changing the right of a Member to present a Bill under a ten-minute rule motion and at the procedure for doing so? Finally, he kindly said that he will report back to the House within two months—is that before or after Christmas?
Our intention is to publish the Government’s response within the two-month timeframe that has been long established under the conventions of the House. We will respond in detail to the proposals from the Procedure Committee. I am always willing to look with an open mind at proposals, whether from the hon. Lady or from other hon. Members, for changes to our procedures that command significant and, ideally, cross-party support. I do not intend this to be in any way a rejection of what she said, but sometimes proposals are made that, when examined more closely, turn out to have the support of a minority of Members, who feel strongly, but which do not command widespread support.
To respond to another point that the hon. Lady made, it remains the case, as it always has, that if a promoter of a private Member’s Bill has sufficient support among colleagues in all parts of the House to deal with closure motions or insist on a Second Reading, they can do so. Their ability to do so would reflect a genuine surge of support for their Bill from the House as a whole.
As someone who has probably had the privilege of listening to more Friday debates than any other serving Member, I support the vehemence of my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker), if not all the recommendations of the Procedure Committee. I hope that the Leader of the House is prepared to allow a fuller debate in which different ideas can be put forward, because we have really got to change the present arrangements.
I am happy to discuss further with my right hon. Friend his particular experience as a former Chairman of Ways and Means. I will consider the request for time to be made available, although I would gently say that time is available in the House for debates that is not within the gift of the Government but within the gift of Back Benchers.
I do not think that we have ever witnessed such a depressing and dispiriting spectacle as the one we saw on Friday. A Government Minister got to his feet to talk out a private Member’s Bill. It was not political knockabout or a party political issue: it was a private Member’s Bill designed sensitively to try to ensure that generations of gay men were pardoned for crimes that no longer exist.
The public could not hold the way in which we conduct business in the House in more contempt. On Friday, they were proved right, and every single fear about the way in which we conduct business was justified. I totally support the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker) in his attempt to ensure that we do something about the appalling way in which we deal with private Members’ Bills. It is the one opportunity that we have as Back Benchers to engage in the legislative process and to ensure that we get things on the statute book. We cannot continue to do things as we did on Friday, so I appeal to the Leader of the House to look at the report, treat it seriously and introduce solid plans so that we never, ever get the disgrace of Friday on the Floor of the House again.
I repeat the undertaking that I have given once this afternoon that the Government will indeed consider the report from the Procedure Committee very carefully and publish our response to it. As regards last Friday, the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr Gyimah), was speaking at 2.30 pm, having spoken for 26 minutes. During that time he took seven interventions, including at least two from the Scottish National party Benches, and refused four SNP requests to give way. I would have hoped that, on reflection after the weekend, the hon. Gentleman and his party would be willing to welcome the fact that the Government’s chosen course of moving an amendment to a Government Bill ensures that the legislative change that the hon. Gentleman and I both want to see will come into effect more swiftly and with many fewer risks that somebody convicted of an offence against a child would receive a pardon than would be the case if we had gone ahead with his hon. Friend’s Bill.
Order. I intend to terminate exchanges on the urgent question 30 minutes after they started. I would like to accommodate all colleagues, but extreme brevity is required. We will be led in this exercise by Mrs Cheryl Gillan.
The Leader of the House and I entered the House at the same time in 1992 and we spent an awful lot of time in this Chamber, often sitting through the night. Friday is a good constituency day for many Members of Parliament. Would the Leader of the House look at the possibility of debating private Members’ Bills on other days of the week or even in the evenings when Members are here?
As my right hon. Friend knows, that subject has been raised many times. The views and interests of Members vary a great deal on the issue that she has addressed to us.
The Chair and members of the Procedure Committee are to be congratulated on putting forward what I believe are, taken together, a set of good proposals that point the way forward. Will the Leader of the House, who has a reputation as being a reasonable man, acknowledge that the current procedures as they now operate bring this House into disrepute? Does he accept that this short report—the main body of it is only 18 pages long—provides a way forward, and will he undertake to look at it quickly and arrive at what we hope will be a favourable decision as quickly as possible?
We will certainly consider the report as quickly as we can, but equally we want to make sure that we have given serious and proper consideration to the various proposals that the Committee has made. It is important that legislation, whether it stems from Government or from a private Member’s Bill, is thoroughly scrutinised in the House of Commons and enjoys a clear majority of support across the House. It would be wrong for legislation that lacked that support or that scrutiny to hit the statute book.
You will remember, Mr Speaker, that, before I was fortunate to be in government, I was a regular attender on Fridays. Who knows, now that I am back on the Back Benches, I may well become so again. From my observations it seems to me that the real problem with Fridays is that many colleagues profess support for measures, but do not consider them important enough to bother appearing here in this House of Commons when it is sitting. That is the problem, and Members have it within their own power to deal with that by turning up here and supporting measures that they feel command the support of the House.
My right hon. Friend makes a very good point. Last Friday a closure motion was moved, but only 57 Members were present to vote in its support.
I am surprised by what sounds like complacency from the Leader of the House. He knows that one of the reasons that Members cannot always be here is constituency obligations. When we know that his own Minister is going to talk out a Bill, that devalues this place. More than 130,000 people signed a petition when my National Health Service Bill was talked out earlier this year, so can he demonstrate greater seriousness and greater urgency in tackling this massive area of reputational damage to this House?
I said that we would consider seriously the proposals from the Committee. The hon. Lady needs to reflect on why her Bill failed to get the support of the majority of MPs.
Does the Leader of the House agree that if people are particularly unhappy about a Bill not getting through on a Friday, they should make the effort to turn up to support it, because if at least 100 people turn up to support the first Bill that is taken, it will go through despite any opposition or attempt to block it? Does he agree that it is not too much to expect any Bill that goes through this House to have the support of 100 MPs?
I do not always agree with my hon. Friend, but on this occasion he makes a very reasonable point.
The thing is that tens of thousands of people were watching the debate last Friday as though it really were a matter of life and death for them, because it was about their own sense of shame, how society had treated them, and whether they would have a possibility of real exoneration. For all the fine words that we hear about 100 Members and all the rest of it, the truth is that last Friday brought the House into disrepute. I have no beef with the Minister; the problem is that the system encourages Ministers to do that week after week. The system is bust and it needs mending.
I repeat that as a result of the course that the Government have chosen, Turing’s law will now be enacted within weeks as part of a Government Bill, together with safeguards to ensure that anyone who is not supposed to receive a disregard or pardon will not be able to secure it by subterfuge.
I fully support my hon. Friend the Chair of the Procedure Committee. Will the Leader of the House respond to the question he has been asked as to whether he accepts that the existing arrangements bring this House into disrepute? I believe that they do.
We will respond in full to the Committee’s report. Over the years, many criticisms of the private Members’ Bill procedure have been made from different quarters. I will take seriously the proposals the Committee has made. However, we also need to ensure that under our procedures, legislation does not reach the statute book, perhaps even creating criminal offences affecting our constituents, unless there is clear demonstrable support within Parliament among a majority of Members for it to be enacted.
Does the Leader of the House understand that the people watching the unedifying carryings-on in this place when private Members’ Bills, such as that of my hon. Friend the Member for East Dunbartonshire (John Nicolson), are talked out, feel appalled and completely disfranchised? Does he truly think that his Government are acting in good faith in letting this situation continue any longer?
As I said, no complaints were made last Friday about filibustering. The Minister took a very large number of interventions during the course of his remarks, as is his normal courteous practice when speaking from the Dispatch Box. The hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (John Nicolson), the promoter of the Bill debated last Friday, was told by the Government about a month ahead of the Second Reading debate that they would not be able to support it as he had at that time envisaged it.
May I urge my right hon. Friend, when he schedules the debate on the Procedure Committee’s report, to provide sufficient time to allow a full discussion of all the aspects of the private Members’ Bill procedure, because part of the problem seems to be that not every Member of this House fully understands what the procedure is?
It is a good bit of advice to all Members of the House, recently arrived or more senior, to be thoroughly cognisant of its procedures and to do additional homework from time to time.
As this weekend, yet again, we are plunged needlessly into winter darkness, what happened to the Daylight Saving Bill is a very good example of the Leader of the House being wrong when he says that if a Bill has overwhelming support it can proceed. That Bill did proceed, but the Government killed it by not implementing its provisions. Will he fully accept the recommendations of the Committee in order to restore public confidence and the reputation of this House?
That is obviously a matter for other Ministers, and I shall draw the right hon. Gentleman’s remarks to their attention. However, there was, I recall, very strong opposition in certain parts of the United Kingdom, particularly from Scotland and Northern Ireland, to the daylight saving measure that he supported.
I voted for the closure motion on Friday. The problem was that there were not enough Members here; that is the reason the Bill did not proceed. However, there are occasions when a Bill does get to Committee and can pass this House on Second Reading but is blocked by the lack of provision of a money resolution. That needs reforming. We need to debate this as soon as possible, because there are areas that do need reform.
The issue of money resolutions was mentioned in the Procedure Committee’s report, so the Government will respond on it in due course.
Instead of listening, it seems that the Leader of the House is hiding behind excuses about the closure motion not being supported, complacency about filibustering, and the fact that the Minister spoke for 26 minutes. The Minister treated this place, and the viewing public, with contempt. Will the Leader of the House commit to his Government not treating this place with contempt?
I completely reject the aspersions that the hon. Gentleman casts on the Minister, who handled last Friday’s business in a thoroughly reasonable and courteous fashion. The hon. Gentleman might ask himself why, if he and his colleagues genuinely wanted the Bill to reach the statute book, it was published only a couple of days before the Second Reading debate.
As a veteran of sitting through talk-outs and the sleep-out, I have seen all sides of the private Members’ Bill process. Does the Leader of the House agree that while there may be merit in the Backbench Business Committee being able to schedule Bills that have widespread support, it must still remain difficult to get it debated, and the key reform is that people should show up to debates?
My hon. Friend makes a very telling point.
Is not the real reason there is a bankruptcy of confidence in the private Members’ Bill system that the Government can always kill a Bill by using methods that are sometimes hidden and sometimes open? We need a shaft of sunlight on this system so that we can restore some confidence. Let us have a debate on it.
The convention for many years, under successive Governments, has been that the Government make their view on private Members’ Bills plain during the course of a Second Reading debate. I return to the point that a private Member’s Bill that enjoys genuine majority support within the House has a decent chance of success.
This Friday, I will have the opportunity to present my Bill, which has all-party support and has been properly scrutinised before getting to this place. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we should not have a lottery to get serious legislation on to the statute book, but require the case to be argued before a Committee before we get to that stage?
In the light of the Procedure Committee’s recommendations, I would be genuinely interested in whether my hon. Friend’s suggestion represents the view of the House as a whole, or whether more Members feel that they might lose out through the abolition of the lottery, which very many Back-Bench Members in all parts of the House prize as a great annual occasion.
When I was briefly Deputy Leader of the House, I had responsibility for private Members’ Bills. I found that, in practice, it was not Ministers in other Departments who were opposed to them, but officials in the Cabinet Office who did not want to devote the time to the briefings. The right hon. Gentleman has the opportunity to be a reforming Leader of the House and to improve on the performance of his recent successors—will he take it?
We shall consider all the recommendations of the Committee and respond within the timescale that the House usually expects.
As I am someone who, in the previous Parliament, had the privilege of bringing a private Member’s Bill through this place, I hope that the Leader of the House will give serious consideration to reforms to the system. When I listened to coverage of the day’s proceedings on Friday night, my toes curled with embarrassment at the shabby treatment of the Turing Bill.
As someone who has also managed to get a private Member’s Bill on to the statute book, I understand my hon. Friend’s sense of pride. I reiterate that the Government, and the Minister in particular, have nothing to apologise for in the way that Friday’s business was handled. The fact that we now have an amendment tabled in the name of a Liberal Democrat Member of the House of Lords means, most assuredly, that the Turing Bill will be on the statute book much more quickly than if we had resorted to the private Members’ Bill route.
In too many places the Standing Orders of this House give power to the Government at the expense of Parliament. Will the Leader of the House admit that he will not make changes to the private Members’ Bill process because he does not want the Government to cede any power?
I point out to the hon. Lady that, through such measures as the creation of the Backbench Business Committee and the provision for the direct election of Select Committee Chairs, we now have a Parliament—a legislature—that is more powerful, less deferential and more outspoken than at any time during my 24 years of service.
Jolly good thing, too.
Will the Leader of the House remind the Procedure Committee that there are, in fact, 52 Fridays in any year; that Members can attend all 13 private Members’ Bill Fridays and still have 39 constituency Fridays; and that, given that they involve creating laws of the land and that there are 650 Members, asking 100 Members to turn up to support any Bill really is not too much to ask?
I agree completely with my hon. Friend.
A constituent wrote to me after last Friday’s filibustering to say, “How on earth can this happen in this day and age?” If the Leader of the House responds positively to the report, will that not at least do something to improve the reputation of this House?
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was one of the 57 who voted in favour of the closure motion, or whether he was elsewhere at the time. Anyone who read the Minister’s speech on Friday in Hansard, or his subsequent article in PinkNews, will understand and sympathise with the arguments that he posed and will welcome the Government’s proposed legislation to give effect to the Turing Bill.
Is it not the case that the Government accepted the Sharkey amendment simply because my hon. Friend the Member for East Dunbartonshire (John Nicolson) won a raffle? Does he agree that the Procedure Committee’s report brings us closer to the Scottish Parliament system, whereby a Bill that can demonstrate genuine cross-party support can continue to progress through the legislative process, or does he think that that is not the best way to proceed?
The reason we are introducing this legislation is that it was a Conservative manifesto commitment.
SNP Members regard Friday as an extremely important opportunity to work in our constituencies. It is, therefore, not only frustrating for us, but incredibly disrespectful to our constituents, when private Members’ Bills are talked out. Will the Government look seriously at the report’s recommendations, in particular those that tackle the issue of filibustering?
No complaint was made about filibustering during the debate on Friday. Members on both sides of the House took part, and my hon. Friend the Minister spoke for a perfectly reasonable length of time and took seven different interventions during the course of his speech. The hon. Lady ought to reflect on that and welcome what the Government have done, which is provide a better, surer course of action than that proposed by her party.
May I correct the Leader of the House? In my speech I explicitly said that if the Bill was deliberately talked out by the Government, what should have been one of the brightest days in this Parliament’s history would become one of its darkest. May I therefore invite him to withdraw the suggestion that no complaints were made during the debate? Will the Leader of the House also confirm that several of the interventions that the Minister took were specifically from Back Benchers pleading with him to sit down, stop filibustering and give the democratic, elected Chamber the chance to make a decision?
Given that the Leader of the House is convinced that if a Member cannot get 100 Members in here to support a Bill, it does not deserve to go through, will he tell us how many Members were in this Chamber last night when the Health Service Medical Supplies (Costs) Bill was given its Second Reading?
Order. That last point has absolutely nothing to do with the Procedure Committee report. I am sure that the coming off of the topic was entirely inadvertent on the part of the hon. Gentleman, and it therefore requires no reply.
We will respond to the report in due course. The problem with the Bill that was debated last Friday is that it was flawed, in that it would have made it possible for people who are living today to receive a blanket pardon, even if they have been properly convicted of offences against minors or offences involving non-consensual sex. That is why the Government consistently took the view that the disregard procedure needed to be followed, and why we have taken swift action to provide for such a scheme though proposed Government legislation to give effect to the Turing Bill.
With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about airport policy.
Last year, the independent Airports Commission delivered its final report under the chairmanship of Sir Howard Davies. I would like to pay tribute to the quality and professionalism of the commission’s work and express my thanks to all its members. The commission concluded that we need more capacity in the south-east and put forward three viable options for expansion. It unanimously agreed that the proposed north-west runway at Heathrow presented the strongest case. In December, my predecessor came to the House to announce that the Government accepted the commission’s assessment of the need for additional capacity, but made clear that further work was required before a decision could be made on the location of a new runway. That work is now complete.
This is a momentous step for our country. The decisions taken earlier today, which I shall outline in a moment, are long overdue, but they will serve our country for generations to come. I know that some Members have strong convictions on this issue and that everyone in this House will understand the significance of this announcement for jobs; an economy that works for everyone; passengers; the global importance of our country; the environment; and people affected by expansion. It also sends a very clear message that this country is open for business.
It is not an easy issue or a simple process. I make no apologies for the fact that we have taken time to get it right, but today also shows that this is a Government who are unafraid to take difficult decisions and get on with the job. Before I outline the decision that the Government have reached, I want to explain how today’s announcement fits within the planning process and the opportunities that Members will have to contribute.
In the new year, we will bring forward a draft national policy statement, which will include the details of the proposed scheme. As required under legislation, it will be subject to a full and extensive public consultation, followed by a period of parliamentary scrutiny. Only once Members have voted on the final national policy statement and it has been designated will the airport be able to make a detailed planning application.
Strong connections with global partners and the ability to trade with new and growing markets are vital to securing Britain’s place in the world. The UK currently has the third largest aviation network in the world—second only to the United States and China—contributing more than £22 billion to UK GDP. We have the second largest aerospace manufacturing sector, which generates annual exports of £26 billion. Our aviation industry supports almost 1 million jobs and invests £1.7 billion every year in research and development. Last year, UK airports handled more than 250 million passengers—up 5% on 2014—and 2.3 million tonnes of freight.
Heathrow is the busiest two-runway airport in the world, and Gatwick the busiest single-runway airport. Indeed, the London system will be almost entirely full by 2030, with the exception of a small amount of capacity at Luton, and that will be taken up soon afterwards. If we do nothing, the cost to our nation will be significant, amounting to more than £20 billion over 60 years through delays, fewer flights and passengers having to fly from airports elsewhere. In addition, the wider impacts on our economy will be in the region of £30 billion to £45 billion. That is why the decision we have reached today is so important to the future of our country, not just to tackle the immediate shortage of airport capacity, but to set our country on a course to even greater prosperity for future generations.
I have spent a considerable amount of time this summer visiting the different schemes, talking to their promoters, and assessing their strengths and weaknesses. I have been genuinely impressed by the quality of choice available to us and the detailed work that has been put into the three plans. Any one of them would bring benefits to our country. At the end of its work, however, the Airports Commission made a clear and unanimous recommendation to the Government—that we should accept the proposal to build a new north-west runway at Heathrow, subject to a package of measures to make expansion more acceptable to the airport’s local community. Since the publication of that recommendation, my Department has studied in detail not only the report, but new and supplementary information that has emerged about the different options since.
The commission’s report and the subsequent information formed the basis of the discussion that took place this morning at the Cabinet Sub-Committee. As a result of that discussion, the Government have decided to accept the recommendation. We believe that the expansion of Heathrow airport and the north-west runway scheme, in combination with a significant package of supporting measures on the scale recommended by the Airports Commission, offers the greatest benefit to passengers and business, and will help us to deliver the broadest possible benefit to the whole United Kingdom. That approach will deliver the greatest economic and strategic benefits for our economy. It will strengthen connectivity for passengers right across the United Kingdom. It offers a major boost to freight operators. It can be delivered within carbon and air quality limits and, crucially, it comes with world-leading measures to limit the impacts on those living nearby.
In addition to the benefits identified by the commission, the scheme will deliver the connectivity and hub capacity that the UK needs to compete with fast-growing European and middle eastern hubs. The airport’s location means it is more accessible to business and the rest of the United Kingdom by both road and rail. Access to Heathrow is more resilient, and it is better placed as the national freight hub. Ultimately, the proposal will bring the largest benefit to passengers and the wider economy: up to £61 billion over 60 years. But we are not alone in this view. UK airlines and businesses are also clear that Heathrow is the right place to expand.
Before I continue, I would like to pay genuine tribute to the promoters of the other two schemes considered by the Sub-Committee. As I have said, both presented well-developed and compelling cases for new capacity. In particular, I would like to place on record the fact that Gatwick, despite not being selected today, remains a key part of our national transport picture and will continue to do so in the future.
I want to be clear that expansion will not be at any cost to local people, to passengers or to industry. We have to make three assurances. The first is about making Heathrow a better neighbour. We must tackle air quality and noise, and meet our obligations on carbon both during and after construction. Air quality is a significant national health issue that the Government take immensely seriously. That was why we undertook further work, which confirms the commission’s original conclusion that a new runway at Heathrow is deliverable within air quality limits. We remain committed to ensuring that that remains the case. The airport has already committed to industry-leading measures to mitigate air quality impacts. Furthermore, the Government will grant development consent only if we remain satisfied that a new runway will not impact on the UK’s compliance with its air quality obligations.
The broader issue of air quality is something that the Government take very seriously, and the updated evidence base shows clearly that the biggest challenge we face is not the expansion of an airport, but the levels of emissions in urban areas more generally. That is the very reason for our national air quality plan. As part of our ongoing work on air quality, my Department has embarked on a joint project with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Treasury to identify further ways in which we can tackle the issue. By the time a new runway opens in the next decade, we intend to have made substantial progress on tackling such air quality challenges across our nation as a whole.
On the issue of noise, no airport can be silent, but technology is making aircraft quieter. The new generation of aircraft coming into service have a noise footprint that is typically 50% smaller on departure, and at least 30% smaller on arrival, than that of the aircraft they are replacing. Although planes are getting quieter, however, they still have an impact, which is why we will expect a six-and-a-half hour ban on scheduled flights each night to be a requirement for development consent. That would also see the airport held to clear and legally enforceable noise performance targets. Even with expansion, therefore, fewer people will be affected by aircraft noise than is the case today. We also recognise the importance of providing local residents with a clear, predictable timetable of respite from aircraft noise. That is something local communities value, and we will ensure that it continues once a new runway is built.
I recognise that the decision will have a big impact on people who live close to Heathrow, which is why we have insisted on a world-class package of supporting measures. Communities affected by the decision will be supported by up to £2.6 billion towards compensation, noise insulation for homes and schools, improvements to public facilities and other measures. For those whose homes need to be bought to make way for the new runway, Heathrow plans to pay 25% above the full market value of those homes and to cover all costs, including stamp duty, moving and legal fees. That offer is significantly above the statutory requirement. In addition, I can announce the creation of a community compensation fund. Local authorities will benefit from our policy of local retention of business rates.
The second assurance is on costs for airlines and passengers. A new runway will bring in new capacity to meet demand and allow for greater levels of competition, which will lower fares relative to no expansion, even after the costs of construction are taken into account. This is an investment in our country’s future. It will deliver major economic and strategic benefits to the UK, but they must be delivered without hitting passengers in the pocket. The Airports Commission has made it clear that that is achievable, as has the Civil Aviation Authority. It is important to send the message that this is not expansion at any cost, but the right scheme at the right price. I expect the industry to work together to drive down costs for the benefit of passengers. As the regulator, the CAA will have a vital part to play in achieving that and ensuring that new capacity fosters competition. Its aim should be to deliver a plan for expansion that keeps landing charges close to current levels, and I have full confidence in its ability to do so.
The third assurance is about how the expanded airport will benefit the whole of the UK, not just by creating jobs across the airport’s UK-wide supply chain, but by giving even more of the UK access to important international markets by strengthening existing domestic links and developing new connections to regions that are not currently served. The airport expects to add six more domestic routes across the UK by 2030, bringing the total to 14. That will strengthen existing links to nations and regions such as Northern Ireland, Scotland and the north of England, and allow the development of new connections to regions such as the south-west.
I am determined that Heathrow will meet those pledges and that the Government will hold the airport to account on them. Furthermore, the Government will take all necessary steps, including, where appropriate, ring-fencing a suitable proportion of new slots for domestic routes through public service obligations to enhance connectivity within the United Kingdom. It is important to stress that this is a decision in the national interest; it is not just about the south-east of England.
A new runway will strengthen the aviation sector across the whole nation, but we need to do even more. Our airspace is out of date. Modernising it will boost the sector and help to further reduce noise and carbon emissions. We will soon introduce proposals to support improvements to the airspace and to manage noise, which will include a consideration of the way in which affected communities can be engaged and whether there is a role for a new independent aviation noise body such as the commission recommended.
Let me turn to what happens next. There have been recent suggestions in the media that the process has been slowed down or somehow delayed. In fact, the opposite is true. Members will remember the saga of the planning process behind terminal 5, which took years to resolve. Following that, the national policy statement process, which was created by the previous Labour Government in the Planning Act 2008 and improved through the Localism Act 2011, was designed to speed up major projects, but in an open and fair manner. By setting out now why we believe that there is a need for new runway capacity, along with the supporting evidence, we will fulfil our legal obligations to consult the public and allow Members to vote on the proposal before it becomes national policy. That is what the law requires. That means that Heathrow will be able to submit a planning application safe in the knowledge that the high-level arguments have been settled and will not be reopened.
Today, the Government have reached a view on their preferred scheme, and the national policy statement that we will publish in the new year will set out in more detail why we believe it is the right one for the UK. It will also set out in more detail the conditions we wish to place on the development, including the supporting measures I outlined. We want to make sure that we have considered all the evidence and heard the voices of all those who might be affected and, of course, of those who will benefit. The consultation will start in the new year, and I can announce today that I have appointed Sir Jeremy Sullivan, the former Senior President of Tribunals, to oversee the consultation process. This is an independent role, and Sir Jeremy will be responsible for holding the Government to account and for ensuring that best practice is upheld.
The issue of runway capacity in the south-east has challenged successive Administrations for decades. There are strong feelings both for and against a third runway at Heathrow. This is not the scheme that was previously promoted in 2009. It does much more to mitigate environmental impacts, to compensate communities and to distribute benefits across the nation. This is an issue of vital national interest that touches every part of our United Kingdom. It is vital to the economic prosperity and global status of our nation, and I commend this statement to the House.
Although I thank the Secretary of State for giving me advance sight of his statement, it cannot pass without comment that this decision has been widely leaked throughout the media during the past number of hours in advance of it being sent to me and of being announced to the House. It is simply unacceptable for such a decision to be announced in this manner; it is totally disrespectful to Members and the House. Be that as it may, aviation is crucial to our nation’s economy and our future as an outward-looking trading nation. That will be even more the case in the light of the vote to leave the European Union, so we welcome the fact that a decision on the preferred location has now been made. I hope we can put the years of procrastination and delay behind us.
Despite the Secretary of State’s proclamation that the work is now complete, today’s announcement is not the end of the process, but merely the start of it. It beggars belief that it has taken Ministers more than a year since the publication of the Davies report even to make a start. Just what have they been doing for all these months, apart from worrying about splits in the Cabinet, or about the Foreign Secretary throwing himself in front of the bulldozers and former mayoral candidates triggering by-elections? There is no justification for dithering on this scale. The Secretary of State has failed to provide the shorter timescale for getting to the national policy statement that was set out by the Transport Committee.
We cannot bring back the time that Ministers have already wasted, so over the coming months it will be vital that there is proper engagement, and full and fair consultation with all the interested parties, so that we secure an outcome that stands the test of time. It is essential that there is proper forensic examination and scrutiny. Labour has consistently said that support for any such decision will be conditional: first, on sufficient capacity being delivered; secondly, on meeting the UK’s legal climate change obligations; thirdly, on local noise and environmental impacts being managed and minimised; and, fourthly, on the benefits not being confined to London and the south-east.
Labour fully recognises the need for runway expansion in the south-east of England, but following today’s announcement, it could be a decade before an additional runway is operational. We face capacity challenges here and now, but we heard nothing in the Secretary of State’s statement about how the Government intend to tackle the immediate shortage of airport capacity. What are his plans to utilise existing capacity in the south-east at Stansted and Luton—and, indeed, elsewhere?
There was also no mention of more utilisation of our international gateways. What message does that send to Stansted, Manchester, Birmingham and East Midlands, and what message does it send about the Government’s commitment to the so-called northern powerhouse and the midlands engine? Surface access to many of our international gateways around the UK needs improving, yet it is unclear what action the Government are taking. That is why Labour is calling for the new National Infrastructure Commission to examine the road and rail needs of airports outside the south-east. I urge the Secretary of State to support that proposal as well as Labour’s call to update the West Anglia line to improve rail services to Stansted, and to have better connectivity to Luton airport.
The Government must ensure that we do not fall short of our legal climate change obligations. We have but one planet, and it is essential that the UK plays a leading role in ensuring that agreed reductions in carbon emissions are met. Sustainable Aviation believes that UK aviation could reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by up to 24% by 2050 through the deployment of sustainable alternative fuels. Other countries have made considerable progress but, sadly, the lack of commitment and clarity from our Government caused the collapse of the British Airways green sky project. May we hear more from the Government about what steps will be taken to meet our climate change targets, particularly on developing sustainable fuels and progressing the consultation on the inclusion of aviation in the renewable transport fuels obligation?
After the Davies commission, the Government announced that they wanted to look further at environmental matters and, in particular, at air quality. As was revealed in The Guardian last week, David Cameron’s former policy adviser at No. 10 warned the then Prime Minister a year ago that he was “exposed on Heathrow”, because the Government did not have an answer about the effect on air quality. Indeed, the need for further work on air quality was the reason given for the delay, yet there was not a single reference in the Secretary of State’s statement to explain what work on that has been completed or how such work has informed his position. Will he publish—I hope he will—the additional work that he tells us the Government have done post-Davies so that those inside and outside the House can scrutinise it properly?
It is essential that the unacceptable levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulates from diesel engines are reduced because their direct impact on the health and wellbeing of tens of thousands of citizens simply cannot be ignored or tolerated. Direct measures are needed to lower emissions across the nation, especially in areas with a high concentration of emissions. I urge the Secretary of State to be unrelenting in his pursuit of improved air quality.
The commission recommended establishing an independent aviation noise authority, so will the Secretary of State immediately advise us about the Government’s intentions in that respect? Our air traffic management infrastructure is ancient, and modernisation would secure great dividends not only in terms of carbon emissions, but through considerable mitigations on noise and air quality. What steps is he taking to ensure that the modernisation that is so urgently needed is prioritised and progressed?
On our fourth test that the benefits of expansion are not confined to London and the south-east, it is essential that landing slots affording better connectivity and trading links for our nations and regions are maintained in the longer term. Any assurances that the Secretary of State can give in that respect would be most welcome. Will he also assure the House that the entire UK will be afforded a proper opportunity to engage in the construction process? Perhaps some of the HS2 Ltd protocols can be adopted. You never know, but we might be using UK steel.
The location of an additional runway cannot be the sum total of aviation strategy, so I urge the Secretary of State to press ahead with the full range of measures that are necessary to sustain our successful aviation industry. We must also ensure that the best interests of all the United Kingdom are served, and that the legitimate environmental concerns that have been raised, and that will continue to be raised, are fully addressed. We must do all that we can to protect our precious planet for the generations to come.
I will start with the point about the announcement. You know, Mr Speaker, how seriously I, as a former Leader of the House, take such issues. You will also be aware that this matter is highly price sensitive. Indeed, when the Airports Commission published its initial reports, they were launched in a way—they were announced at the start of the morning—that was consistent with a market announcement. That is the approach we have taken with this announcement. I have come to the House at the earliest opportunity to make a statement, and I will take all the questions that Members have for me.
On the timeframe, the hon. Gentleman asked me what we have been doing for the past year. We have been doing precisely what he asked about: working on the issue of air quality. Today and over the coming days, we will publish additional material so that Members, the public and others who are interested will be able to scrutinise in detail the work we have done and the route we have followed to reach this conclusion. Given the particular importance of air quality, he would expect us to make sure that we had done the additional work to satisfy ourselves that this can be done in line with what we all accept are our necessary priorities for reducing emissions levels.
The hon. Gentleman talked about what will happen during the coming months. As I said earlier, yes, there will be a full and proper consultation. That consultation is set out clearly in statute—[Interruption.] Despite the murmurings of Opposition Members, the consultation is set out in an Act that Labour rightly passed to improve the process of going ahead with such a national project. That is the process we will follow. We will do so in as timely a way as we can, but we cannot short-change a process set out in primary legislation.
On the capacity challenges here and now, there is absolutely nothing to stop new routes being set up tomorrow. We have capacity at Stansted, and new routes have come into Heathrow and Gatwick in the past 12 months. We are not preventing the airports around London that still have capacity—
You’re not doing anything!
The hon. Gentleman talks about not doing anything. With respect, the Opposition do not appear to understand that the airports themselves go out to sell opportunities around the world and bring in new routes. The leaderships of those airports sell Britain as a great destination to fly to and do business in. They will carry on doing that.
There are clearly some big surface access issues to address in connection with this new scheme. However, I remind the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Andy McDonald) that we are close to completion of Crossrail, which will make a major difference to connectivity to Heathrow, we will shortly be starting improvements to the M25 between Heathrow and Gatwick, and the new Thameslink routes are due to open in about 18 months’ time, which will significantly improve links to Luton airport. Things are already happening to improve surface access links to our airports.
Climate change is a very important issue that we take very seriously. I was delighted by the agreement reached at the International Civil Aviation Organisation summit in Montreal recently, which sets a way forward for the aviation industry with international agreement. That is a significant step forward. We agree that a significant challenge remains that we must monitor very carefully, but the Airports Commission said very clearly that the expansion could take place and we could meet our objectives. That is what we intend to do.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned sustainable fuels, and good work is being done on those, by Virgin in this country, for example, and by airlines around the world. The technology will improve as the years go by.
The hon. Gentleman asked what we are doing on air quality. I agree with him that it is a bigger issue for our country, affecting very many of our urban areas. It requires a broad-ranging response to deal with it through clean air zones, as set out in our national air quality strategy, and other measures that we are working on that go beyond that strategy and continue a process of improvement over the coming decade.
I said in my remarks that I would consult on a noise authority and that we would bring forward plans for airspace modernisation. On regional connectivity, I am happy to restate our commitment to hon. Members from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, northern England and the south-west. We are very clear that this expansion must include binding provision for links to those parts of the country. This has to be a benefit to the entire United Kingdom and it will be. On the hon. Gentleman’s last point, Heathrow airport is committed to ensuring that the project will be built using UK steel.
Will my right hon. Friend acknowledge, in the light of the very courageous decision he has announced to the House, that in the 10 years before the extra runway at Heathrow is available great pressure will descend upon Stansted, to which he has referred? Does he understand that my constituents will expect the same level of compensation and care for them against noise disturbance, and wish the recommendations of the West Anglia task force to be implemented as soon as possible, as life will otherwise become intolerable for everyone on that railway line, whether passengers, employees at the airport or regular commuters?
My right hon. Friend has been a passionate advocate for the communities around Stansted for a very long time; I remember visiting the airport with him when I shadowed this brief a decade ago. This is something we must be immensely sensitive to, and I give him a commitment that we will be. We are now looking very carefully at the proposals he was involved in shaping and the set of recommendations that he published recently. I want everything done as soon as is practical to make sure that the links to Stansted are as good as those to London’s other airports.
I welcome the Secretary of State to his place and thank him for early sight of his statement. After what has been world-leading prevarication from his Government, we welcome this decision, which finally almost ends what the Scottish Chambers of Commerce has called the “economic illiteracy” of failing to make a decision. True to form, however, the Government’s indecisiveness could not resist one last piece of bad taste fudge to stick in people’s throats. The lack of a vote in this House for more than a year will not allow people and companies a true end, and the soap opera will therefore continue.
That said, we welcome the announcement of Heathrow as a preference. Although airport expansion of this type disproportionately benefits the south-east of England, it has strategic consequences for Scottish air routes. In preparation for this announcement, and after more than 18 months of meetings with, among others, airports, campaign groups, business bodies and the UK Government, the Scottish National party Scottish Government have agreed a memorandum of understanding with Heathrow that will bring, among many other things, jobs, an engineering hub and route support to Scotland.
It is now time for the UK Government to ensure a full and fair deal for Scotland. We must see a commitment to addressing those needs. A lot is required. Will the Secretary of State commit to meeting the following wider challenges? First, as he has intimated, will he work with me and the Scottish Government to develop genuine route support and public service obligations, and address Scotland’s needs in relation to this development? Secondly, will he make a proper commitment to supporting aircraft biofuels and giving genuine encouragement to carbon-reducing technology in aircraft? Thirdly, will he go further than he did in his statement and commit to starting immediate work to replace the airspace strategy for the UK, which is more than 50 years old?
I am grateful to the SNP for its support for today’s announcement. The hon. Gentleman talked about the lack of a vote. I remind him that this is the law. We are following a process that is set out in statute—he is surely not suggesting that we should not follow that process. We will do so in as timely a way as possible, but we have a duty to follow primary legislation.
The hon. Gentleman talked about the benefits the expansion can bring to Scotland. I absolutely agree and will be delighted to work with his party and my counterparts in other parties in Scotland to ensure that Scotland gets a good deal out of all of this. It is not just about Scotland, however, but about the whole United Kingdom. It is about Northern Ireland. It is about making sure that skills development happens in Wales. It is about ensuring better links to the south-west of England, and good links to the north-east—I am going to Newcastle tomorrow, and the north-east is one region that I hope will benefit from today’s announcement. This is about the whole United Kingdom and so I have every intention of ensuring that our work is about the whole UK.
The hon. Gentleman raised the airspace modernisation programme. The CAA has already started preparatory work on that, and we need to press ahead with it, not simply because of today’s announcement but because we need to change many of the things that unnecessarily use up fuel and cause additional carbon emissions, such as the stacking structures. That work is beginning. We will consult on it extensively over the next two years. That modernisation has to happen alongside the development of the runway plan.
The Government have chosen a course that is not only wrong but doomed. It is wrong because of the million people who will suffer directly on the back of the environmental harm this project unavoidably produces. It is doomed because the complexities, cost and legal complications mean that the project is almost certainly not going to be delivered. I believe it will be a millstone around the Government’s neck for many years to come—a constant source of delay, and of anger and betrayal among those people who will be directly affected. There are so many questions one could ask at a statement of this sort that I would not know where to begin, so I simply use this opportunity to put my absolute opposition on the record.
I very much respect the sincerity of the views that my hon. Friend holds and the commitment he has made to his constituents on this issue. I know how strongly he will disagree with the decision we have taken today. I hope that he will at least respect the fact that all of us in politics have to do what we believe is right. I am doing today what I believe is right. His views are very much what he believes is right. Not all of us can get it right all of the time, but we have to do what we believe is best for our country, and that is what I am doing now.
The decision to build a new runway at Heathrow is the right one, but it is absolutely vital that the Secretary of State delivers on his pledge to ensure that the benefits of expansion are felt in every nation and region of the UK. The Davies commission noted the difficulties in reserving slots for domestic flights from regional airports posed by the EU slot regulations. Now that the UK has voted to leave the EU what assessment has he made of the decision for potential measures to protect and enhance domestic connectivity?
The slot issue is one avenue for us to follow. We want to have a detailed discussion with regional airports, airlines and Heathrow itself about the best mechanism. I am absolutely clear that the planning consents, which I hope and believe will eventually be granted, and the national policy statements we prepare must contain provisions that protect connectivity. We need to work out the best way of doing it. It is not just about having a handful of slots at 11 o’clock at night; it is also about connectivity with international flights. We have to get this right for the whole United Kingdom and I give a commitment that that is what our agenda will be.
Respected outside experts have estimated the need for £11.5 billion of taxpayer support for the third runway and even the Airports Commission suggests up to £5 billion, yet post the Cabinet meeting this morning, the Government website says that the expansion costs will be paid for by the private sector. I listened carefully to the Secretary of State’s statement, but he did not reiterate that commitment. Will he tell the House how much the taxpayer will have to put in for runway 3 and the associated surface works?
The most fundamental point is that Heathrow has committed, and will be held, to a plan that: first, does not increase the current level of road transport to the airport; and, secondly, increases public transport access to the airport to 55% of those using it. Those will be obligations that it will have to fund. The Government’s financial advisers have said that that is viable and investible. There are question marks about what schemes are actually part of the surface access. Some of them we have to do anyway. For example, we are about to start improvements to the M4, which will benefit Heathrow and improve access, but they are not solely about Heathrow. There are, however, some very clear obligations in terms of actual deliverables that the airport will have to meet and pay for.
I welcome the fact that the new Government have made this important decision and I welcome the fact that they have made the right decision. In Northern Ireland, there is a wide consensus that Heathrow is the right decision. It will lead to thousands more jobs, and major investment in tourism and business. I therefore warmly welcome what the Secretary of State has said. I also welcome what he said about slots and domestic connectivity, but may I press him on whether there will be any Barnett consequentials through investment and infrastructure?
First, I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his support, and for the support of his party and colleagues in Northern Ireland. It is very much my belief that Northern Ireland will benefit enormously from this decision, and so it should. I hope it benefits not simply in terms of connectivity: I hope to see some of the work being done in Northern Ireland as we aim for a UK-wide supply chain and encourage the airport to achieve that. On other aspects, we will work hard to ensure that we deliver the best possible outcome for all parts of the United Kingdom, that we listen and consult, discuss issues such as the one he raised and try to make sure it is as beneficial as possible to the people he represents.
As the chair of the Gatwick co-ordination group, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on this announcement and make clear to him the relief with which this somewhat overdue statement will be received by all the people represented by colleagues in the group. It will have been clear that keeping Gatwick in the game has delivered welcome improvements in the Heathrow proposition, but, as everyone who uses the Brighton main line will know, the Gatwick proposition, frankly, was not practical. Local authorities would have had to have found housing for the workforce to support the Gatwick option. Before this process began, Gatwick management ran the best single runway airport in the country and had a very good set of relationships with local communities. Will he now invite Gatwick management to go back to those priorities now that the scheme is over?
My hon. Friend has strong feelings about Gatwick expansion, as did many of those in his constituency and in his neighbouring constituencies. What I would like to say about Gatwick is that we need to understand the important role it plays in the economy of the southern part of the country—the Surrey-Sussex economy—and in the economic development of that area and the south coast. I recognise the very real amount of work that Gatwick airport put into its proposal, which, as I said, was very impressive and carefully crafted. I know it will be immensely disappointed with today’s decision. As I said earlier, I believe Gatwick will continue to be a really important part of our transport infrastructure and I send it all my best wishes.
Well over 50 colleagues are still seeking to catch my eye and I am keen to accommodate them, but doing so will be brevity-dependent.
The Secretary of State said in his statement that he plans to bring forward proposals to support improvements to airspace and how to manage noise, including the way affected communities, such as mine in Hounslow, can be best engaged. He stated that that would include consideration on whether there is a role for a new independent aviation noise body, but he also said that the commission had recommended one. Why has that been downgraded?
I have not downgraded it. I want to make sure there is proper independent noise monitoring. It is just a question of working out the best way to do that. The commission did not set out detailed plans. I will be discussing with interested parties how best to secure that.
A global trading nation clearly needs world-class infrastructure and I think this is the right judgment in the national interest. Will my right hon. Friend reflect on the damage done to our international competitiveness by this country maintaining the highest level of taxation on aviation?
Air passenger duty creates a lot of debate in this country. I am absolutely certain that none of us on the Conservative Benches would wish to maintain any tax higher than we needed to. We are, by instinct, a low-tax party, but we are also dealing with some quite challenging financial and public finance circumstances and therefore cannot always do the things we wish to do. Nevertheless, I am sure the Chancellor will have heard my hon. Friend’s wise words, ahead of planning for the next two financial moments.
In 2009, the Committee on Energy and Climate Change suggested that a maximum 60% air passenger growth to 2050 could be compatible with UK climate change goals, provided various fantasy conditions are met. However, the Government’s own analysis shows that even without a new runway there will be 93% growth by 2050. That implies that aviation will take up to two thirds of the UK’s entire carbon budget in 2050, a scenario that is quite simply incredible. Given that the Committee advised against taking international offsetting as a substitute for domestic action, will the Secretary of State explain how this decision can possibly be compatible with our climate change objectives?
We listened to the Airports Commission, which did detailed work on this. It recommended that this was an approach we could take and meet our obligations. We have validated that work since and we still believe that to be the case. I was encouraged, as I said earlier, by the ICAO agreement, which I hope will make it easier for the aviation sector to meet those obligations.
The business opportunities arising from the expansion are substantial for Buckinghamshire. Bucks Business First and the Buckinghamshire Thames Valley local enterprise partnership have both welcomed today’s announcement. It will continue to reinforce Buckinghamshire as a prime location for businesses to locate to. However, will the Secretary of State undertake to do an assessment of the impact on the local economy of the potential disruption and cumulative effect of having two major projects, namely Heathrow expansion and HS2, being constructed within the same timeframe and in close proximity?
Clearly, we have to work to ensure that the impact of two major projects on surrounding communities is minimised to the maximum possible extent. I know everyone involved in both projects will seek to do that. Undertaking two ambitious, modern future-looking projects is a sign of the direction that defines the approach we are taking to governing the country. We want to prepare for a stronger and better future for Britain.
Is not the biggest loser from the Tory civil war over Heathrow neither the Foreign Secretary nor the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) but transport everywhere else? For over five years, there has been an obsessive focus on London and the south-east. While welcoming this decision, may I ask the home counties-based Cabinet to listen to what William Hague has said today, and set out in the autumn statement a clear timetable for HS3, linking Manchester Airport to the great cities of the north?
I am not sure that Manchester Airport needs to be linked to the great cities of the north, since it is in one of the great cities of the north. Let us be clear first about what we are doing in the north. Across the north of England, a wide range of essential transport projects are happening: £350 million is being spent on improving the rail network in the right hon. Gentleman’s home city of Liverpool, and the construction of the link road between the M56 and the M6. Those are two long overdue projects. He knows that support for the next generation of the Manchester Metrolink is also happening. This is a Government who are doing things for the north of England. I have to say that if I look back on the Labour party’s years in government, I see that these projects were always on the drawing board but never actually happened.
I believe that this decision is misguided and not ultimately in the nation’s interests. Will the Secretary of State assure me that in the consultation and scrutiny to come there will be good and adequate scientific data, because the evidence will show that Heathrow expansion is neither possible nor deliverable? In the Minister’s words, we do not want expansion “at any cost”; this is the wrong scheme and the price is too high.
I know how strongly my hon. Friend feels about this issue. I give her an assurance that we will do this job properly. The appointment of Sir Jeremy Sullivan—an exemplary former judge who led an important part of our judicial system, as those who know him will acknowledge—will, I hope, give people comfort that we intend to take the consultation process properly and seriously.
The Secretary of State will know of my campaigning on the establishment of an independent aviation noise authority. About 70% of Edinburgh airport’s traffic goes over my constituency, and a recent flight path trial—the first in 40 years—caused havoc. This noise authority is for everyone in the UK; it should not be dependent on this decision. Will the Secretary of State include me in the discussions as an interested party and bring them forward as soon as possible?
Absolutely. Every Member will be included in the discussions as part of the consultation process. I will happily do what the hon. Lady asks.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on taking the right decision in the interest of the United Kingdom. Will he remind us of how much passenger traffic, and particularly freight traffic, is currently being lost to mainland European airports as a result of lack of capacity in our south-east? Does he agree that in order to bridge the gap, we need to use all the currently available capacity?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is important for people to understand this issue. It is sometimes argued that connecting traffic does not add value to the United Kingdom. However, connecting traffic combined with our own domestic traffic can often make viable a new route to an important trading centre. Winning back some of those transfer passengers in order to ensure that routes to developing markets can be opened up from this country is therefore an important part of securing our trading future.
With news of the replacement of the route to Chengdu with a new route serving New Orleans, why are the Government putting the commercial interests of an expensive airport whose primary passengers are tourists ahead of the health and quality of life of 300,000 people, the costs to passengers and the costs to the taxpayer?
I have talked to the boss of IAG, the parent company of British Airways, about the Chengdu decision. It has a number of routes to China and other parts of Asia. It has simply taken a commercial decision that the Chengdu situation has not proved viable. The issue is not about an individual route, but about connectivity for the future and the opportunity to open up new possibilities. It will not always be British Airways that opens up those routes; other airlines might choose to fly from developing markets to the United Kingdom. Those are the opportunities that we will need for the future. That is why we believe that expansion is necessary. If we are to open up new trading opportunities around the world, we must have the capacity to offer those new links. If we look at the price at which a slot trades at Heathrow airport, we realise that demand far exceeds supply.
I, too, congratulate my right hon. Friend on taking a decision that is absolutely rooted in the national interest. Will he confirm that Heathrow has the support of all three of the devolved Administrations?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It does have that support, as well as support from business and the trade unions. That is not to say that the Gatwick proposals were not strong or attractive, but the Heathrow option was undoubtedly the one that gained the most support.
Heathrow has clear advantages over Gatwick for the south-west of England, both in respect of access to Heathrow and the hoped-for slots for our regional airports such as those at Exeter and Newquay to connect internationally. The Secretary of State must say much more about what he is going to do about air quality. He is quite right to say that road transport contributes by far the bulk of our emissions and our pollution, but he has not today said a single thing or produced a practical policy to tackle road transport and diesel in particular.
If the right hon. Gentleman wants a specific example, I can tell him that this morning we published the consultation document that will pave the way for significant expansion of the availability of electric charging points around the country. My view is that we all need greater diversity of our car fleet for the future, and we are already moving ahead with plans for low-emission zones in our cities. This is not an airports issue but a national one, and active measures are already in place to encourage diversification of the car fleet. Electric vehicles are being built in this country—for example, the Nissan Leaf is being built in Sunderland, which is the main centre in Europe for the production of that vehicle. We are seeing more and more of these cars on our streets, and I think that will continue into the future.
I commend my right hon. Friend for his strong statement. It is great to see the Government making some forward progress on this issue. Will he assure my constituents and many people in the local area that full consideration will be given to the environmental impact and noise control?
It is really important to find the right balance. Around Heathrow, a large number of people, particularly those who work there or whose family members work there or whose businesses depend on the airport, support the expansion. There is a significant amount of support for what I have announced today, but those people will rightly expect that we ensure we look after the environment in which they live, that appropriate compensation will be in place where necessary and that appropriate measures are in place to support local communities. I give my hon. Friend an absolute assurance that that will be the case.
Hallelujah—a decision has been made. The right hon. Gentleman should be in line for a “Minister of the Year” award. This is good news for Doncaster, good news for the north and good news for the UK. However, when we look at investment in infrastructure, we find that Crossrail costs £15 billion—nine times the combined expenditure for the rail projects planned for Yorkshire and the Humber, the north-east and the north-west. We see this as an opportunity for our regional airports, including my own, so will the right hon. Gentleman meet me and other MPs with regional airport interests to discuss how we get people to our airports to take advantage of the new slots?
We would be happy to meet Members who have regional airports in their constituencies. As I said earlier, this process needs to involve Members of all parties—and it will do.
My right hon. Friend will not be surprised to find out that I, too, support everything in his statement. This United Kingdom is open for business, and Heathrow is the doorway. He said he wanted to make Heathrow a better neighbour. The neighbourhood for Heathrow is considerable, and it includes the effect of stacking over areas that affect Gatwick—with a detrimental effect on people in my constituency. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that when the Civil Aviation Authority looks at airspace, it reflects on the opportunities to make Gatwick a better neighbour as well?
The modernisation of UK airspace will hopefully make all airports better neighbours. This is a system that has barely changed for decades, and it is certainly not designed for the current patterns of usage. We very much believe that we need to modernise the use of airspace in a way that reduces stacking, for example. I know, because my constituency adjoins that of my hon. Friend, that stacking certainly affects our area. This modernisation is better for passengers and better for people on the ground; and it will also save fuel and thus reduce carbon emissions.
A majority of Labour MPs and a majority of Conservative MPs support the expansion at Heathrow. Given that this project is likely to span multiple Parliaments, will the right hon. Gentleman take the opportunity to set a good example for both parties and ensure that collective responsibility will apply to any votes in this House?
The Prime Minister has been very clear that she does not want to force—indeed, I do not think the public would expect us to force—MPs who have long-standing principles of disagreement over this issue to go against their own views. There are different views on both sides. There are senior figures on the Opposition Front Bench and on the Government Front Bench who disagree with this decision. The hon. Gentleman is right that the majority of Members believe that Heathrow is the right place for expansion. Of course, the whole House will, as part of this statutorily defined process, have to vote and approve the decision. I think we should respect people’s long-standing views and not ask them to go against what they have argued in the past.
This is a devastating decision—for the national economic interest as well as for my constituents, hundreds of whose homes will be bulldozed, and for the millions of people affected by the very loud noise from Heathrow airport. Notwithstanding that—we could rehearse the arguments for ever—if during the consultation period the facts, the economics and the timescale on which the decision has been based, or Heathrow’s commitment to invest in the project, are called into question, will the Government have an open mind about changing their decision?
The Government decided very clearly today on their recommendation, which will have to be validated in the statutory process. It must be voted on and confirmed by the House, and that is what will happen. However, we are not entering the process with a view to changing our minds
If the vote took place tomorrow, the Democratic Unionist party would give the Government their support, because we believe that this is good for Northern Ireland. We welcome the Secretary of State’s assurances about extra slots, extra routes, and a place in the procurement process for firms from Northern Ireland. In the meantime, however, will he tell us whether slots that are currently available for airports in Northern Ireland will be safeguarded at Heathrow, and also whether there are any Barnett consequentials for the Northern Ireland Executive?
I hope that the right hon. Member for Belfast North (Mr Dodds) will forgive me: I forgot to answer his earlier question about Barnett consequentials.
This project is funded by the private sector, and there are no Barnett consequentials in a private project. There are Barnett consequentials when we invest in our infrastructure in the public sector, but I fear that there will not be any as a result of spending by Heathrow airport shareholders. As for the question of slots in the meantime, we always want to protect connectivity with Northern Ireland—indeed, we have just done so in the case of the route from Londonderry to Stansted—and we would be extremely concerned if routes to Belfast were in any jeopardy.
I congratulate the Government on grasping this nettle, although I personally believe that the Heathrow hub was a cheaper and less disruptive option, and I am sorry that it was ruled out.
I feel that an opportunity has been lost here. As a party, we believe in competition. Surely it would have been better to agree on extra runway capacity at both Gatwick and Heathrow, which would have settled the matter for a long time henceforth. What is Gatwick’s future following today’s announcement?
I pay tribute to the promoters of the Heathrow hub scheme, having already paid tribute to the other promoters generally. The scheme was very innovative and very different, but for two prime reasons we felt unable to endorse it. First, it did not allow respite for the surrounding communities, because the same two corridors would be used for taking off and landing all the time. Secondly, the scheme’s promoters could not ultimately provide the certainty that it would be built and adopted by Heathrow airport, if we opted for it rather than for the main route. Those, to my mind, are two strong reasons. However, I pay tribute again to the promoters. It was a very innovative concept, and we gave it very serious thought. After visiting and listening to the promoters, I considered very carefully whether it was the best option. In the end, however, my judgment was that the north-west runway was the better one for Britain.
“I hope…the Government will recognise…widespread hostility to Heathrow expansion and say no to a third runway.”
Those are not my words, but the words of our present Prime Minister. Why are the Government disregarding “widespread hostility”, and bulldozing through a third runway which will inflict crippling noise, significant climate change effects, health-damaging pollution and catastrophic congestion on 1 million Londoners?
Because we do not believe that it is going to do those things; because we do not believe that it will create the air pollution to which the right hon. Gentleman refers; because we do not believe that it will impose catastrophic congestion—I have already explained the position relating to public transport access and improved infrastructure around the airport—and, most fundamentally, because we believe that it is in the interests of the United Kingdom.
As my right hon. Friend knows, a decade ago I was among those who were most sceptical about this proposal, but there are times, are there not, when the House must look beyond the immediate issues, on which he touched today, and out to the next 30, 40 or 50 years. In view of the decision that the country has made on Brexit, now is surely the time when we must grab that future and build at Heathrow in order to create a link with the east.
I think the message that Britain is open for business is one of the most important messages that we can send to the world. When are we ever going to create this gateway to the future if not now, at a time when we are changing our role in the world? I think we all regret the fact that, notwithstanding our ambitions, it still takes time to do, but we really must get on with it now.
The Department’s answers to questions that I tabled asking what protections there were from noise pollution at City airport for constituents such as mine were woefully inadequate. It is clear that once expansion has taken place there will be scant regard for protections for the public, whether from industry or the Government. It is hardly surprising that people roll their eyes when the Secretary of State comes here and tells us that there will be all these environmental protections. In order to convince people that he is in earnest, would he be prepared to make those requirements legally binding, with penalties in place, before any permission is granted for this expansion, so that people can be confident that there will indeed be environmental protections?
My view is straightforward. The commitments that are made in relation to compensation for the public and amelioration must form a binding part of the eventual agreements.
Order. I am grateful to the Doorkeeper, who was beetling around the Chamber looking for the wallet of some hapless fellow, poor chap. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.
I am glad to say that I have not lost my wallet, Mr Speaker.
I warmly welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement, but if Heathrow is to meet its emissions targets a large number of people will have to be persuaded to travel by rail rather than car, so will he say something about the western rail link proposals? Will he also consider providing fast rail links between all London’s airports?
Both the western and the southern rail links are part of the schedule for Network Rail’s future projects. Heathrow airport is due to pay part of the cost of those links, since they involve broader issues than this project alone, but as a result of today’s decision their construction will need to be accelerated. Links between airports are not currently being considered, but if the economy of the south-east continues to grow and develop, they may well be considered in the future.
I do not share this cosy consensus on airport expansion. Half the population each year does not fly; for environmental reasons, I have not flown for several years. The Secretary of State said today that this expansion would “further reduce…carbon emissions.” What a joke! Because of climate change, the Government should not be in the business of encouraging people to fly and encouraging more air freight, let alone subsidising increased airport capacity and higher total emissions. I urge the Secretary of State and the Government to think again.
We take the issue of climate change very seriously, and the Government have introduced a raft of measures to address it, but we must also ensure that we have the prosperity that enables us, for instance, to fund our national health service and our old age pensioners. Having a thriving, modern economy with strong links around the world is an important part of that.
I was pleased to hear the Scottish National party’s spokesman, the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry), confirm that we are “better together”. I was also pleased to hear the support from the right hon. Member for Belfast North (Mr Dodds) for bringing the four nations of the United Kingdom together.
I strongly welcome my right hon. Friend’s announcement, which is very important to the south-west of England. Will he redouble his efforts to ensure that he holds the promoters to their commitments about regional connectivity, which he said he would do in his statement? Will he also ensure—my hon. Friend the Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) referred to this—that people in my constituency and elsewhere in the south-west can travel easily to the expanded Heathrow airport, and thence to the world?
My hon. Friend is right about the need for a commitment to the south-west of England in particular. I was in the south-west last week. We talk a great deal in the House about transport in the north and transport in the midlands, but I think that we also need to talk about transport in the south-west. There are many projects that are necessary to secure the economic future of the south-west. This project is part of ensuring that there is connectivity with places such as Newquay, and easy access for people such as my right hon. Friend’s constituents. That is why the western rail link must be a good priority for the future.
The Prime Minister was right when she said that the third runway was a bad idea. She may have caved in to the Heathrow lobby, but will the Secretary of State accept that the level of opposition from councils, mainly Tory-controlled, from local communities, and from Members of Parliament—most notably my right hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell)— means that the chances of the toxic third runway being built are vanishingly small? Will he be sure to keep the Gatwick option open? We are going to need it sooner than he thinks.
I know how strongly Members in London feel about this decision, but, having listened to Members today, I have a sense that the balance of view around the country is that we need this connectivity because it is in the interests of the whole United Kingdom. As a Government who believe in delivering an economy that works for everyone, we must operate in the interests of the whole United Kingdom, and that is what we are doing today.
I welcome the quick decision by the Secretary of State since taking up his position over the summer, but I regret the decision not to include Gatwick at least as one of the options. Will he agree to look again at the Gatwick option as the one that is deliverable in the short term and that is more open for competition, for the benefit of passengers long term?
I know that a number of people have said, “Can’t we do both?” I am clear that today we are looking at the Airports Commission report, which set a clear path and said that a new runway would be needed by 2030 and that potentially there would be a need for further capacity by 2050, but only if that could be achieved alongside carbon limits. Therefore, today is about taking the long overdue decision as to how we take that path to 2030, and that is where our focus is.
As the MP representing Newcastle airport, I know that the airport and the wider north-east business community welcome this decision. It enables both the safeguarding and growth of our connectivity to the UK and the rest of the world. However, given the time it has taken to arrive at this point, may I urge the Secretary of State to have some urgency in getting spades in the ground? When will we see the increased capacity and trading opportunities we vitally need in the wake of Brexit uncertainty?
I can save myself and my office a phone call today by telling the hon. Lady I will be visiting her constituency and her airport tomorrow to make precisely the point about the importance of regional connectivity. [Interruption.] No, I probably will not have a spade with me; I do not think Newcastle airport wants me digging it up.
I want this to move ahead as quickly as possible. There is a statutory process we have to follow. There is then a detailed period of design. This has always been something that will be ready for the middle of the next decade. I would love to wave a wand and have it quicker than that, but these things take a long time to design and construct, quite apart from the regulatory process. I know, however, that everybody involved will want to move as quickly as possible.
This is the right decision for Wales, as it is for the whole of the UK. Will my right hon. Friend say a bit more about what specific powers are available to him and whether he needs to seek further powers to ensure this becomes an outstanding example of British procurement, so that we maximise opportunities for our labour pool, supply chain and, not least, the steel industry?
I have been very clear, and this drives to the heart of the debate about costs. I understand the point made by some of the airlines about wanting to ensure that the best possible value is delivered in this project, because ultimately the cost is borne by their passengers. I want to see the maximum possible benefit across the UK. I have extended to the Civil Aviation Authority the power to have a strong supervisory role over this process, not to dictate how the project is designed in detail, but to make sure that there is value at the heart of both the supply chain and the contracting. I want to make sure that this is a value-for-money proposition and that it delivers what we need at a price that is right for passengers.
The advent of Crossrail means my constituency on the London-Essex border has enormous potential to capitalise on the benefits for Heathrow, both for passengers and for business and jobs. I therefore welcome the Transport Secretary’s statement. When does he anticipate the third runway being open for business?
On the current timetable, in around nine years’ time. I wish it were quicker than that, but it is not. That is the length of time it takes to go through a process such as this—not just the regulatory process, which has been greatly simplified since 2008, but the sheer complexity of design, the acquisition of land, the preparation of sites and the construction not just of a runway, but of the terminal buildings. So this is not a short-term project. I know the decision on the issue has been kicked around for years, but the new Prime Minister and I have wanted to move as quickly as we could. We wanted to take the time over the summer to ensure we really understood the three projects before we decided today. We have done that; we now want to get on with it.
In the national interest, I welcome the Government’s confirming what the Airports Commission has said is right for this country, and I also welcome my right hon. Friend’s warm words about Gatwick. Can he give assurances that surface access to Gatwick will continue to be enhanced, particularly the rail route, as we go forward?
I do not think that any of us could think that the Brighton main line was the priority, for a whole variety of different reasons. We have to deal with the short-term issues and challenges, but we also need to think about how we can best deliver the necessary improvements for the medium and longer term. There is no doubt we need a modernisation programme, but we also need a programme that causes the minimum possible disruption to passengers.
Connectivity to Heathrow is essential for areas in Greater Manchester and beyond. However, does the Secretary of State agree that in tandem with expanding Heathrow, new point-to-point routes with emerging economies are essential from other international gateway airports, such as Manchester, and what is he doing to encourage that?
To be frank, I am not sure I need to do anything to encourage Manchester airport as it is doing a cracking job already. It had its runway expansion a few years ago and has made good use of it. It is a thriving airport with links around the world. I am hugely impressed by what it has achieved.