House of Commons
Tuesday 28 November 2017
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
Oral Answers to Questions
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
The Chancellor of the Exchequer was asked—
Low-paid Workers: Wage Growth
The national living wage will rise to £7.83 from April 2018. In total, that represents a pay rise of over £2,000 for a full-time minimum wage worker since the introduction of the national living wage in 2016, which has helped to reduce the proportion of full-time jobs that are low paid to the lowest level in at least 20 years. At the same time, in-work benefits support the incomes of poorer households and universal credit will mean that it always pays to progress in work. Sustainable long-term pay growth relies on improving productivity, which is why we are increasing the national productivity investment fund to more than £31 billion.
The Chancellor’s predecessor, George Osborne, boasted that the minimum wage would be more than £9 an hour by 2020. That forecast has now been downgraded. Now that we are in the middle of the longest fall in living standards in history, why should the very poorest people pay for the crisis? They will lose £500 a year compared with the promise that they were made just this spring.
As I have just pointed out, those on the national living wage have actually gained £2,000 a year. The commitment on the national living wage was, and remains, that it will reach 60% of median earnings, and it will continue to do so. On the hon. Gentleman’s other point, he will note that real household disposable income per head, a much more appropriate measure of living standards, is almost 5% higher in 2016 than it was in 2010.
In my constituency, one key thing that is important to wage growth is to ensure that we attract businesses that create high-skilled and high-paid jobs. Will my right hon. Friend join me in encouraging all of those involved in future developments, including the redevelopment of the Rugeley B power station, to ensure that we attract high-tech and innovative businesses?
Yes. Indeed, that was the central theme of the Budget. If we are to ensure prosperity for all our people in the future, we must embrace the technologies and businesses of the future and create the jobs of the future. We must be prepared to invest in the infrastructure that is needed to support them and in giving our people the skills that they will need to take advantage of those high-paid jobs.
I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows that the blanket pay cap across the public sector has indeed been removed—that was announced in July by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss). That will mean that individual Secretaries of State can look at the particular circumstances of the workforces for which they are responsible—recruitment and retention challenges and opportunities for improving workforce efficiency—and make proposals to the pay review bodies accordingly.
Will the Chancellor confirm that Conservatives want people to keep more of the wages that they earn and that, when we came to power in April 2010, disgracefully, people earning as little as £6,500 a year had to pay income tax? Now they can earn more than £11,500 before incurring an income tax liability.
Yes, £11,850—my hon. Friend is exactly right. It is by keeping to our commitment that we made in our manifesto of increasing the personal allowance to £12,500 by 2020 that we will ensure that people keep more of their income. Going back to the original question, people on the national living wage are now £3,600 a year better off after tax than they would have been in 2010.
I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman was listening to the answer that I gave to the hon. Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting) a few moments ago. We have ended the blanket pay cap across the public sector and are allowing Secretaries of State to make recommendations to the pay review bodies that reflect the circumstances of their individual workforces.
My constituency is in the top 10 constituencies for the highest proportion of people on the minimum wage, so the rise to £7.83 will be most welcome. Does the Chancellor agree that moves such as that and increasing the personal allowance will help us to further reduce income inequality in my constituency and the country at large?
My hon. Friend is exactly right. The uncomfortable fact for the Opposition Front Benchers is that income inequality in this country is now the lowest it has been since the mid-1980s—lower than it was at any point during the 13 years of the Labour Government.
Will the Chancellor confirm that, according to last month’s Office for National Statistics figures, median disposable income is £600 higher than in the previous year and £1,000 higher than before the 2008 crash? Does he agree that it is the policies of this Government, with their jobs miracle, that have made that possible?
Yes, and it is one of this Government’s proudest achievements that we have created 3 million new jobs in this country since 2010. The right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) might reflect on his prediction in 2011 that the Government’s policies would cost the economy 1 million jobs. That turned out to be slightly wide of the mark.
As the hon. Gentleman will know, in the end wages can only be paid for by the productive output of workers. Increasing the productivity of workers in the British economy, so that they can produce more and earn more in a way that allows their firms to remain competitive while paying them more, is the way forward, and that is what the Government will pursue.
Universal Credit: Household Income
Universal credit has already been very successful in getting more people into work by ensuring that work always pays, and that has boosted household incomes.
I am not surprised that the Government announced small changes to their discredited universal credit programme in the Budget last week, following months of criticism, unanimous defeat on an Opposition day motion, discontent across the whole House, rising debt arrears and even evictions. But what is surprising is that, rather than halt the botched roll-out and fix the failing system, the Government have chosen to put back only £1 for every £10 cut from the system.
I think we should remember the 1.4 million people who spent the previous decade under Labour trapped in poverty because every pound they earned was taken away in benefits. We have introduced universal credit so that every extra hour of work pays, and all the evidence suggests that it is much better than the previous scheme. Employment pays, and people on universal credit are more likely to be in work.
Would my right hon. Friend like to comment on the irresponsible scare stories put out by the BBC—first on Radio 4, then on “BBC Breakfast”, on its website and across all its media platforms—that up to 100,000 people on in-work universal credit would receive no benefits over the Christmas period?
I think it is disgraceful that that fake news was put out on our national broadcaster, when universal credit is actually helping people get into work and earn extra money. It is particularly poor that some of the lowest-income people in our society have been unnecessarily worried when, in fact, under universal credit, everybody can receive an advance on their payment.
Even after the Budget’s limited changes to universal credit, it will still make young single-parent families with school-age children £6,000 a year worse off—those are OBR figures. We should remember that without further action to stop that, the Government will push 1 million additional children into poverty. I would like to know what they will do about that.
I can tell the hon. Lady that poverty and income inequality are, in fact, at a 30-year low, thanks to this Government’s policies. What universal credit does—rather than leaving people on the scrapheap, which is what happened under the Labour Government—is help people get into work. What we have seen is that the fastest growth in employment has been among the lowest-income people in our society.
I welcome the changes in universal credit announced in the Budget speech. Did my right hon. Friend note that, in its Budget analysis, the Institute for Fiscal Studies described the changes in universal credit as
“well targeted at those who find it difficult to cope with the six week wait”?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. What we have been doing is making changes to universal credit to make sure it works for absolutely everybody. We have rolled it out gradually to make sure it is effective, unlike the previous botched efforts of tax credits under the previous Labour Government. We have learned the lessons. We are helping more people get into employment. We have the lowest unemployment since 1975, and the people who have benefited most are the lowest earners in our society.
Universal credit is being rolled out in Bishop Auckland over Christmas, affecting 10,000 households. On the Government’s figures, we know that it will take £20 million out of the local economy. Surely the Minister can see that that is bad for jobs and bad for local shops.
With respect, I do not think the hon. Lady is taking into account the extra income that those families will earn because they are more likely to be in work under universal credit. That is where the benefit is. Rather than keeping people in a poverty trap, where they were losing £1 for every extra £1 they were earning, work always pays under universal credit, and people are able to earn the money they need to support their families.
Major Digital Infrastructure
The Government are investing more than £1 billion to stimulate the market to build the next-generation digital infrastructure the UK needs for its future. At the autumn Budget, we launched a £190 million challenge fund for gold-standard full fibre broadband, provided £160 million to develop 5G networks and invested £35 million to improve mobile connectivity for rail passengers.
Last week, I held a Westminster Hall debate on the Scottish Government’s catastrophic failure to deliver superfast broadband for rural communities across Scotland. In that debate, the Minister for Digital confirmed that millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money has not been released by the Scottish Government to help roll out superfast broadband. What discussions has my hon. Friend had with Ministers from the Scottish Government to ensure that money gets to where it needs to be—rural communities in need of better broadband service?
The Government are supporting the roll-out of superfast broadband right across the UK, and that has included allocating more than £120 million to help the Scottish Government deliver 100% superfast coverage in Scotland by 2021. To be specific, the Minister for Digital discussed progress with the Scottish Government on 6 November and had further discussions this week.
This is not good enough. If we are going to tackle the appalling productivity levels in our country, we need to invest in this sort of infrastructure, we need to invest in skills and we need to invest in top-class management. The Minister should get his act together and do it.
Thank you, Mr Speaker; it is nice to be back. I welcome, on behalf of my constituents, the digital announcement in the Budget last week—and the sight of a grown-up team in charge of the economy, unlike the reheated Marxists opposite. On productivity, does the Minister agree that we need public sector leadership to create a private-public partnership on digital infrastructure? May I also welcome the announcement in the Budget of a public sector leadership academy, so that we can invest in our public sector leaders?
When will local authorities be told the basis on which they will be invited to apply for the new money that the Government have earmarked? Will the Minister assure me that it will be distributed on the basis of an area’s need, and not just the population numbers?
Air Passenger Duty: Regional Airports
The Government recognise the importance of regional airports, not least for the productivity of smaller local communities. That is why, despite the fact that there is no VAT on airline tickets or duty on aviation fuel, we have frozen the APD rate for long-haul economy flights, as was announced in the Budget.
I thank the Minister for that reply. Many of the flights from our regional airports are internal domestic flights, on which passengers end up paying APD twice—on both legs of their journey. To support our smaller regional airports, will he consider cutting APD on internal flights by 50%, as I believe we will be able to once we leave the EU?
My hon. Friend raises an interesting point. This is something that we have looked to address in the past. In 1998, the European Commission ruled that we were unable to do that under state aid rules, but of course once we have left the European Union, depending on the details of the agreement under which we do that, we may be able to revisit this.
The Treasury’s own modelling shows that Newcastle airport in my constituency will be the most affected by the devolution of air passenger duty to Scotland, so what progress have the Government made on ensuring that any impact is mitigated for English regional airports?
As I have said, in this Budget we have frozen APD for long-haul economy flights. That comes on the back of a number of actions that we have taken over the years to reduce APD. In 2014, we cut it and exempted children from it on economy flights. We will continue to review it, as we do all taxes, in the light of the issues that the hon. Lady has raised.
In the light of the Chancellor’s very welcome announcement last week about a possible review of air passenger duty in Northern Ireland, will the Minister take account of the fact that all our airports—Belfast City, Belfast International and Londonderry—suffer a very serious disadvantage when competing with airports in the Irish Republic, which all have significantly lower APD, and review matters accordingly?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. In the Budget, the Chancellor made it very clear that we will have a full call for evidence and undertake a review of matters relating to both APD and VAT, and their impact on tourism, which we recognise is so vital to the Northern Ireland economy.
Regional Economic Growth
The Government recognise the importance of closing the economic gap between regions of our country as an economic and social priority, and the industrial strategy is focused on doing that. If we eliminated just half of the productivity gap with London, we would add £300 billion to our gross domestic product; that is £4,600 for every man, woman and child in this country. That is why the Budget announced a raft of measures designed to move forward our progress on that.
The economic case for a wider Yorkshire devolved settlement is compelling, so much so that in Yorkshire it is supported by the CBI, the Institute of Directors, the Federation of Small Businesses, the TUC and many of the Chancellor’s own colleagues in local government. Does he recognise the strength of the economic argument, and, if he does, can he speak to his colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government?
The Government are committed to the Sheffield city region deal, which will bring £1 billion of new Government investment to the area. We recognise the debate that is going on about a possible wider Yorkshire-based deal and we are happy to consider that, if it can be done in a way that does not disrupt the existing deal that has been agreed for the Sheffield city region.
The Bank of England deputy governor recently argued that Brexit could lead to a “sharp step down” in the UK’s productivity growth. That is likely to hit regions in different ways, and today the Social Mobility Commission talked about the “widening geographical divide”. What impact does the Chancellor believe the extra resources that he has talked about in the light of preparation for Brexit will have on tackling regional productivity issues and social mobility?
We know some of the things that drive our low productivity performance. Regional differences are one of them, and others are low levels of capital investment in private businesses, relatively low levels of public infrastructure investment and poor skills. We set out in the Budget a raft of measures that will address all of them. The end result is that this Government, on average, over this Parliament will be investing £25 billion a year more in real terms than the Labour Government invested over their period in office.
To encourage economic growth in Stoke, the local council is offering serviced plots of land to finance directors and managing directors to build big houses, bring their businesses and invest, creating more jobs and more economic growth. Does the Chancellor agree that that model could be followed elsewhere? Does he agree that it shows that, as in all other areas of social policy, self-build and custom house building has a great deal to offer, including for economic growth?
Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the potential for £40 billion of investment in the north-east of Scotland region oil and gas industry, as a direct result of the tax relief announced in the Budget, and could he encourage the SNP and Scottish Labour to get on board?
I am absolutely happy to agree with my hon. Friend. The North sea as a basin is coming towards the end of its life, but none the less there are many billions of barrels of oil to be exploited there, involving very large amounts of economic activity in the region and potentially significant receipts to the Treasury. The measure that we have taken will stimulate economic growth in the region and, if all goes well, generate a windfall to the UK Exchequer.
Thanks to this Government’s investment of £22 million pledged via the local enterprise partnership, Cheltenham can look forward with confidence to a cyber-hub, creating a centre of cyber-excellence in the home of GCHQ. Is that not exactly the kind of project that will drive opportunity and boost productivity in constituencies such as mine?
No wonder the hon. Member for Mid Norfolk (George Freeman) referred to a leadership academy; three quarters of the Cabinet are queuing up to get into it. What impact does the Chancellor think a £1 billion, two-year grant—equivalent, let us say, to the one he gave to Northern Ireland—would have on regional economic growth in, for example, the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) in the Sheffield city region?
I do not like to blow my own trumpet, but on the whole I think my jokes were better than the hon. Gentleman’s. As I said to the hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis), the Sheffield city region deal would bring £1 billion of new Government investment into the area, which will stimulate local economic growth and job creation, and support upskilling in the area and improvement of the infrastructure. Doing these deals around the country and making funds available to local authorities—they know best what is necessary for their areas —is the way to deliver enhanced economic growth.
I will give the Chancellor another opportunity to answer a similar question in relation to improving regional productivity. What would be the impact in, let us say, the south-west region, in the constituency of his hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double), if the Chancellor provided for that area a £1 billion, two-year grant commensurate with that for Northern Ireland?
Manufacturing Industry: Lesser Duty Rule
When we leave the European Union, we will ensure that we have a robust remedies regime in place. It will ensure that we have robust measures to take against dumping, excessive subsidy and import surges. Part of that will be a lesser duty rule, as we have with the European Union at present, to ensure that the measures we take are proportionate in protecting our producers at the same time as protecting the interests of consumers and other downstream businesses.
I thank the Financial Secretary for that answer, but he will be beware that the provisions of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill will be some of the least generous in World Trade Organisation countries once we have left the European Union. Will he meet me and the British Ceramic Confederation, which genuinely wishes to work with him to make the Bill better, so that we can protect British manufacturing once we are outside the EU?
Government Expenditure: Young People
Next year, we will start paying down the debt for the first time in 17 years, which will reduce the burden on future generations and help our young people.
Today’s state of the nation report makes very clear the barriers to social mobility facing many young people in England. Given this Government’s record of cuts to social funding and school funding, raising tuition fees, high youth unemployment and failure to produce affordable housing for families and young people, these findings are not surprising. What action will the Minister take to combat the intergenerational divide for young people right across the country?
I point out to the hon. Gentleman that youth unemployment rose under the previous Labour Government and was 20% when they left office. They let down young people, with stagnating standards in English and maths, rampant grade inflation and rising youth unemployment. Under this Government, we are increasing the number of apprenticeships, we have improved the school curriculum, we have brought in new academies and free schools, and youth unemployment is at its lowest level for over 13 years.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the railcard extension for under-30s announced in last week’s Budget will support young people by significantly lowering their commuting costs and encourage more of them into employment?
My hon. Friend is right that that will of course help young people. We have introduced the stamp duty cut for first-time buyers, which will help many in their 20s and 30s to get on to the housing ladder for the first time. We are also putting new money into maths and computer science to help young people get the skills they need to succeed in the modern economy.
UK Economic Growth
The UK economy is fundamentally strong: we have seen 19 consecutive quarters of growth; unemployment is at its lowest level for 42 years; and the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts that a further 600,000 people will be in work by 2022.
To enable economic growth among small and medium-sized enterprises in Northern Ireland, they need superfast broadband. That is critical in bringing more jobs, more opportunities and better wages, and in balancing work and family life. Will the Minister outline what he will do to ensure that that happens?
The Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts last week did show the UK economy growing over the forecast period, but only just. My hon. Friend will be aware that much of the economic growth has relied on household spending. Is he also aware of the Bank of England’s financial stability report, published this morning, which shows that household finances are starting to deteriorate somewhat? Can he provide confidence that the Government are aware of that and say what they are doing to help households maintain their balance sheets?
Will the Economic Secretary explain why the Government have decided to sell their shares in RBS now, at a loss of over £26 billion? The public bailed out RBS and have sustained its losses and paid its fines. Why, just as it appears to be on the brink of returning to profit, should the public not only miss out, but make a massive loss? Is it not the case that selling those shares and reclassifying housing association debt is the only way that the Government can claim that net debt is falling?
The Government are not selling the shares now. The Budget set out our intention, which it has always been, to return the bank to the private sector and sell those shares by the end of 2018-19. I am sure the hon. Gentleman recognises that the balance sheet is half the size it was in 2008, when his party paid 502p a share. The bank is therefore in a very different place from the mess we inherited from the Labour party.
National Living Wage
In the Budget, we announced the largest increases to the minimum wage youth rates in 10 years. On average, they increased by 4.9%, which was greater than the increase for the over-25s.
I am afraid that the argument the Government have put forward blows a hole in the idea that they are building a country that works for everyone. The reality is that under-25s are not included in the national living wage. Why do we have state-sanctioned pay poverty under this Government and why, shamefully, are apprentices paid as little as £3.70 per hour under this Budget?
As I have just pointed out, younger workers are getting a bigger rise than those over the age of 25. The reason there is a lower rate is that it is vital to ensure that young people get into work, get work experience and build up their skills. We do not want to end up where we were at the end of the Labour Government, with 20% youth unemployment and young people losing out on opportunities for life.
Major Infrastructure Projects
We are expanding the national productivity investment fund to provide £31 billion of investment. That includes a £1.7 billion transport fund to transform our great cities and a more than doubling of the housing infrastructure fund to £5 billion. We have published the “National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline” and are delivering the largest rail modernisation since Victorian times, the biggest road investment programme since the 1970s and two of the largest engineering projects in Europe—Crossrail and HS2. Taken together, that means that the Government will invest, on average, £25 billion more per annum in real terms than was invested during the 1997 to 2010 Government.
I welcome the investment in infrastructure, in particular in the Oxford to Cambridge corridor, which will bring significant benefit to my area. It is important that when we plan more houses, we get the infrastructure in place before the housing. Does the Chancellor agree with that proposition?
I agree with my hon. and learned Friend. The Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford corridor has the potential to be a globally significant growth corridor, and I agree with the National Infrastructure Commission that to realise this potential we need a joined-up plan that covers jobs, homes and infrastructure. Local and national Government must work together, with developers and investors, to align the delivery of these elements and ensure that infrastructure is in place to support housing growth in the corridor.
Over the last few months, we have seen many accidents on the main artery through my constituency, on the A38. I am currently working with partners to ensure the much-needed urgent improvements on the road. Will the Treasury make sure that the extra investment in our roads can enable this work to get under way?
Yes, we have committed to investing over £2 billion in the strategic road network in the south-west, including the first steps towards transforming the A303-A358 route and upgrading sections of the A30. Safety is one of the Government’s top priorities, and improvements to strategic roads with safety concerns, such as the A38, will be considered for inclusion within the portfolio of schemes in the second road investment strategy.
The Chancellor will know that even after the Budget the south-east and London will still receive a disproportionate share of infrastructure spending. Will he undertake to give an annual report to Parliament detailing both the spending and the likely economic impact of that spending across different regions?
I am certainly happy to look at the information we hold and whether it could be presented in a way that satisfies the hon. Gentleman’s requirements. It is a legitimate question. Much of this infrastructure investment will have an impact across the country. For example, investment in HS2 will benefit parts of the north of England far more than many of the areas through which the railway will run.
With all this money swilling about for major infrastructure investment, will the Chancellor explain why the rail funding formula has been ignored and Scotland’s rail budget has been cut by £600 million over the next investment period?
Yes, we do have plans, of course, for investment in the region, including the lower Thames crossing project, but I recognise the challenge that my hon. Friend presents. If there is to be a significant expansion of housing in the region, it is essential that the strategic infrastructure be put in place, and it will be essential that we capture uplifted land value to finance it. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will bring forward proposals in due course to ensure that we can capture land value uplift for that purpose.
In the last year, the British Government have disgracefully reneged on a promise to electrify the main line to Swansea, and there was no announcement on the Swansea bay tidal lagoon in last week’s Budget, so what specific infrastructure projects in Wales are the British Government investing in?
The hon. Gentleman says the Government have reneged on a promise to electrify the railway. What passengers care about is the quality of service, the frequency of service, the reliability of service and the speed of the service, and train technology has moved on, such that all those requirements can be met with the new hybrid trains being deployed on that network.
The UK is a world-leading place to start a business. Start-ups create jobs, attract investment and bring innovative products and services to market. The UK’s small and medium-sized enterprises have created 2 million new jobs since 2010. We want our start-ups to grow and succeed in the new economy, and that is why the Chancellor announced at the Budget a comprehensive package to unlock over £20 billion of new investment in innovative businesses.
Start-ups and small businesses, including those in my constituency, form the backbone of local economies. I shall be visiting some of them this weekend as part of Small Business Saturday. Can my hon. Friend update the House on what more is being done to support micro and small businesses?
I shall be visiting small businesses in my constituency of Harrogate and Knaresborough as part of Small Business Saturday. I agree entirely with my hon. Friend: small businesses are indeed the backbone of local economies. That is why the Chancellor responded to the No. 1 ask of business in the Budget by announcing a £2.3 billion package to reduce business rates—it follows the business rate relief announced in the 2016 Budget, which was worth approximately £9 billion over five years —and why our modern industrial strategy will provide continued funding for growth hubs to ensure that businesses can access support locally.
What assessment has the Minister made of the impact on the economy of small businesses that have been started up by disabled entrepreneurs? How can he champion that activity, and harness the full potential of people with disabilities for our economy?
The hon. Lady has made a valuable point, and I entirely agree with her. Simply by raising the question in the House and discussing it in our political system, we are highlighting the fact that disability should not be a problem when it comes to starting businesses.
As a result of the Government’s action to bring the public finances back under control, the Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast a sustained reduction in debt as a share of GDP from next year onwards. Debt will fall from 86.5% to 79.1% of GDP by 2022-23. That will be the first sustained decline in debt for 17 years.
Further to the answer that the Minister gave a few minutes ago on the sale of RBS shares to deal with Government debt, can he confirm that the Government will abide by the commitment of the Chancellor’s predecessor not to sell below the acquisition price?
As the right hon. Gentleman will have heard from my earlier reply, that bank is in a very different place from where it was in 2008 when the shares were purchased. That reflects the action that has been taken to simplify the balance sheet and to make the bank safer and more streamlined.
Youth unemployment has decreased by 8.3% since 2010 and is now at its lowest rate for more than 13 years, but we are not complacent, which is why we are investing in skills to get more of our young people into jobs.
The Government have made significant progress in reducing youth unemployment, but in part of the area that I represent in the black country too many young people are emerging from education with a lack of basic skills, which is holding the region back. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need to continue to invest in skills, particularly for those young people who lack basic skills, so that they can take advantage of the opportunities that are out there?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We are providing extra money in the Budget to triple the number of computer science teachers and give £600 to every school and sixth-form college where students take core or A-level maths, to ensure that all young people have the best possible start in life.
The Budget laid out the Government’s vision for a global Britain after we leave the European Union, and our ambitious plans to tackle the long-term challenges that we face so that we can build an economy that is fit for the future. Our balanced approach enables us to give households and businesses the support that they will need in the near term, as well as investing in the future of this country. Through investment in research and development, infrastructure, skills and housing, we will seize the opportunities of a rapidly changing economy, while being fair to the next generation by reducing a national debt that remains too large.
Members will have heard last week about the Government’s failure on productivity and growth and about the OBR’s downward revision of its forecast for the economy over the current Parliament. Can the Chancellor tell us how much worse off someone on the national living wage will be in 2020, compared with the forecast in March, as a result of the Government’s failure on wages?
As I have already told the House today, as a result of the increase that we announced in the Budget, somebody on the national living wage will be £2,000 a year better off than when it was introduced in 2016. That is before tax. If we take into account the effect of the significant increase in the personal allowance threshold, which has reduced tax for 30 million people and taken 4 million people out of tax altogether, the same full-time worker on the national living wage will be £3,600 a year better off compared with 2010.
We know that late payments are a serious issue for many small businesses, and that is why we are acting to tackle unfair practices. As my hon. Friend mentioned, we have legislated to improve transparency, requiring large businesses to report on their payment practices. All 32 of the Government’s strategic suppliers have signed the prompt payment code, and we have appointed Paul Uppal as the UK’s first small business commissioner to support small businesses in resolving disputes with larger firms.
Why have the Government not brought forward an amendment of the law resolution in today’s Budget resolutions? This is almost unprecedented and a tactic used only when the issue to be dealt with is urgent. It will restrict the ability of hon. Members on both sides of the House to move amendments and to address the range of economic and social needs of our community.
The right hon. Gentleman is wrong: it is not without precedent. We did not move an amendment of the law resolution in relation to the Finance Bill that has just gone through Parliament. It is a small but worthwhile modernisation measure that focuses the debate on the measures that we are putting before Parliament in the Finance Bill.
I will tell the Chancellor why he did not bring forward an amendment of the law resolution: it is because he wishes to avoid debate on some of the key issues facing our communities. Let me raise one of those questions, which was totally neglected last week in the Budget. The Chancellor received representations from Action for Children, the Local Government Association and Barnardo’s on the crisis in children’s services. Sir Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of Action for Children, has said that
“children’s services are on an unstable and dangerous footing. We’re calling on the Government to prioritise the services children need before this crisis turns into a catastrophe”.
What was in the Chancellor’s mind when he prioritised giving nearly £5 billion to the banks rather than plugging the gap in children’s services for those most in need in our society?
There will be more than adequate time to discuss the measures in the Finance Bill, but the debate on the Finance Bill is a debate about the measures being put forward by the Government under the Finance Bill. That is what Parliament is here to debate and that is what we will have time to debate under this arrangement.
The Government recognise the vital importance of R and D, driving up investment in business and improving our productivity, which is why R and D investment as a proportion of GDP is on the rise, and we will push further towards our target of 2.4%. In the Budget we announced an increase in R and D expenditure tax credits from 11% to 12%.
In the Budget, more than £1 billion of the so-called extra money for Scotland was in the form of financial transaction money—that is money that the Scottish Government have to pay back. The block grant for spending on frontline services is down £230 million in real terms. How can the Chancellor suggest that a £230 million reduction for Scotland is a good deal for our country?
Scotland’s spending power has been increased by £2 billion in this Budget, including financial transactions, which support fantastic schemes such as Help to Buy, but what we need to see is the Scottish National party Government using their powers to deliver for Scotland, including by improving their appalling results in English and maths education.
We support the English wine industry, and that is why the autumn Budget announced a freeze on wine duty. Under EU law, duty on higher strength sparkling wine must be the same as that on higher strength sparkling cider, and if we reduced the duty on higher strength sparkling wine, it would mean reducing the duty on a category of alcohol that is effectively associated with problem drinking. I recognise how much of a champion my hon. Friend is of English wine, and he is right to highlight the fact that there are opportunities ahead.
I think that is the closest we are going to get to gratitude from the Scottish National party. The fact is that it was a mistake by the SNP to sign up to that in the devolution agreement. Despite that, we did not want to punish the people of Scotland, which is why we have taken action on that VAT as well as freezing whisky duty, thanks to the representations of our fantastic Scottish Conservative colleagues.
The Government are committed to a fair tax system in which those with the broadest shoulders bear the greatest burden, and I am pleased to confirm that my hon. Friend is correct—or almost correct. The latest statistics show that in 2017-18, the top 1% of taxpayers are forecast to pay 28% of all income tax liabilities, and that in 2015-16, income inequality fell to its lowest level since the mid-1980s—under a Conservative Government.
The railway is vital for continued growth and prosperity in south-west England, which is why this Government have invested £400 million in the south-west network. That includes £10 million for the coastal section around Dawlish. The Government have also committed to doubling the spend on renewals in the next control period, and the south-west will benefit from that significant investment.
Manufacturers such as Kenwood in Havant are boosting productivity by adopting new techniques and technologies as the fourth industrial revolution accelerates. Will my right hon. Friend continue to support SME growth through R and D and innovation?
My hon. Friend knows that I will. It is only by embracing technology, looking to the future, committing to accepting inevitable changes and working with our workforces and companies to ensure that we are ready for it and ready to take full advantage of it that we can raise living standards sustainably, and that is what we intend to do.
I am always happy to meet the hon. Gentleman. As he is aware, this is a policy area for the FCA, and I am sure that it will set out further details in due course on how historical debt will be covered.
As I have said, we are raising the minimum wage for younger workers at a higher rate— 4.9% this year—than for the over-25s, but the most important thing is that we help young people to get the experience and training they need to get into workforce, instead of leaving them on the scrapheap, which is what happened under the previous Labour Government.
As we are about to have a row in the House about documents being published, may I ask about another document that has gone missing in action, namely the Government’s White Paper on services, financial services in particular, in the light of Brexit? On 16 November, I tabled a question to the Department for Exiting the European Union about when it would be published, but no answer has come as yet. The City of London corporation says that the sector contributes £72 billion to this country’s economy, so it is an important document and I am sure my right hon. Friend agrees.
Yesterday, I attended a summit organised by East Midlands Councils to consider how we can improve investment and the infrastructure in the region. However, I learned that public expenditure in the east midlands on economic affairs, public transport and, notably, transport is the lowest of any region in the entire country. [Interruption.] I know, Mr Speaker; I was equally as shocked given that it is the finest region in the country. In all seriousness, will the Chancellor commit to ensuring that the mighty east midlands will have its fair share in future?
It is important to have a strong level of investment in all the regions of our country. My right hon. Friend is clearly a huge champion for the east midlands, and I have met her in the east midlands to discuss the opportunities there. I can confirm that we will be working together to ensure that the east midlands benefits, particularly from HS2.
Despite the clear wrongdoings in the banking sector highlighted by the RBS Global Restructuring Group scandal, small and medium-sized enterprises cannot access justice because the banks are too wealthy to sue. The all-party parliamentary group on fair business banking and finance is calling for an independent financial services tribunal to provide accountability. Will my hon. Friend agree to meet me and the group to discuss our proposals?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have seen increasing demand on the NHS, which is why we have put in an extra £6.3 billion to help us achieve our accident and emergency targets, to help to reduce waiting lists and, importantly, to help us ensure that nurses and other public sector workers are able to get the pay rise they deserve.
Leaving the EU: Sectoral Impact Assessments
Before I call Sir Keir Starmer to ask his urgent question, I would emphasise to the House that the purpose of my selecting this urgent question today is to give an opportunity to the Minister to explain to the House what action the Government have taken in response to the order of the House and an opportunity for other Members to question him on those matters. It is not an occasion for the House to debate whether or not a contempt of the House may have occurred. There may or may not be later occasions for that matter to be discussed. This is the correct procedure, and I know the House will trust me to know of what I speak.
(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union if he will make a statement on the release of the impact assessments arising from sectoral analysis carried out by Her Majesty’s Ministers to the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union.
This House passed a motion on 1 November asking that impact assessments arising from sectoral analyses be provided to the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union. This Government take very seriously their parliamentary responsibilities, and have been clear that they would be providing information to the Committee.
In the past three weeks, Departments have worked to collate and bring together this information in a way that is accessible and informative. I am glad to be able to confirm that this information has been provided not only to the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union but to the House of Lords EU Select Committee and, indeed, to the devolved Administrations. I can also, Mr Speaker, with your permission, inform the House that we have initiated discussions with the parliamentary authorities to make this information available to all colleagues through a reading room.
We were clear from the start that we would respond to the motion, but also that the documents did not exist in the form requested. Indeed, I made it clear to the House during the debate on the day that
“there has been some misunderstanding about what this sectoral analysis actually is. It is not a series of 58…impact assessments.”—[Official Report, 1 November 2017; Vol. 630, c. 887.]
As I said, the sectoral analysis is a wide mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis contained in a range of documents developed at different times since the referendum. The House of Commons itself has recognised that, although Ministers should be as open as possible with Parliament, the Government also have an obligation to consider where it will be in the public interest for material to be published.
Furthermore, it is important to recognise that, in some cases, there is commercially confidential information in the analysis and that, in many cases, the analysis was developed to underpin advice to Ministers on negotiation options in various scenarios. It is well understood, as has been the case under successive Administrations, that such advice to Ministers must remain private.
In the light of all that, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union made a statement on 7 November in which he explained that, given the documents did not exist in the form requested, it would take
“some time to collate and bring together this information in a way that is accessible and informative to the Committee.”—[Official Report, 7 November 2017; Vol. 630, c. 1333.]
He committed that the reports would be provided within three weeks. In providing the information to the Committee yesterday, we have met that commitment. Parliament has endorsed the responsibility of Ministers not to release information that would undermine our negotiating position. Contrary to what has been asserted in some places, the Committee did not give any firm assurances that what was passed to it would not subsequently be published in full. Where there are precedents for Government agreeing to pass information to Select Committees in confidence, these have been on the basis of assurances received before material is shared or a clear set of rules, such as those governing intelligence material.
When he met the Secretary of State, the Chairman of the Select Committee did say that he was willing to enter into a dialogue—after the Select Committee had received documents from the Government. But that is not the same as an assurance that, if we provided confidential or sensitive material, it would not be published, and it is not in keeping with the usual practice of Committees on these sensitive issues. As such, the sectoral reports provided do not contain information that would undermine the UK’s hand in negotiations or material that is commercially or market sensitive. But the House should be in no doubt that this has been a very substantial undertaking. We have been as open as possible, subject to the overwhelming national interest of preserving our negotiating position. We have collated more than 800 pages of analysis for the Committees, less than a month from the motion being passed, and this covers all the 58 sectors. We now consider the motion of 1 November 2017 to have been satisfied.
“Transparency” and “accountability” are two words this Government do not understand. On 1 November, after a three-hour debate, this House voted in favour of a Humble Address requiring all 58 sectoral analyses to be passed to the Brexit Select Committee—not some of the reports, not redacted copies, but the full reports. The Government did not seek to amend the Humble Address, nor did they vote against the motion. After your advice to us, Mr. Speaker, the Government accepted that the motion was binding. It is simply not open to the Secretary of State to choose to ignore it and to pass to the Select Committee the documents he chooses. Whether he is in contempt of Parliament is a matter we will come to at some later date, but he is certainly treating Parliament with contempt.
The Secretary of State says, and the Minister has reported, that he did not get assurances from the Select Committee about how the documents would be used. The Minister therefore had better answer some pretty blunt questions this afternoon. What assurances were sought that were not given? He had better tread carefully, because there will be an audit trail here and if he cannot answer that question, if he did not pursue the assurances, if he did not suggest a course that was rejected, his cover for not disclosing these documents will be blown.
This is not a game. This is the most important set of decisions this country has taken for decades and they need to be subjected to proper scrutiny. In my experience, the biggest mistakes are made when decisions are not tested.
May I remind the Minister and the Secretary of State that, until this House passed the motion on 1 November, Ministers routinely claimed that these analyses were extensive and authoritative? They say that they have now put the documents together. In September, they answered a freedom of information request. The first question was, “Do you hold the material?” to which the answer was, “Yes.” That calls into serious question the explanation now being put before this House.
Finally, I am deeply concerned that the sum total of documents generated by the Government’s work on the impact on the economy of their approach to Brexit can be squeezed into two lever arch files. That is the volume of paperwork I would have expected for a pretty routine Crown court trial in my old world. If that is the case, we should all be worried. Is that the extent of the analysis? Either way, this a very sorry state of affairs.
Let me address some of the misconceptions in the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s statement. We have not edited or redacted reports. At the time the motion was passed, and subsequently, we were clear that the documents did not exist in the form requested. We have collated information in a way that does not include some sensitive material, but the documents, which he freely admits he has not seen, do not contain redactions. It is noticeable that the original suggestion of redactions in the debate on 1 November came from him, speaking from the Front Bench for the Opposition. He also said in the debate that he had
“accepted all along that the Government should not put into the public domain any information that would undermine our negotiating position”—[Official Report, 1 November 2017; Vol. 630, c. 881.]
He accepted that there is a level of detail, and confidential issues and tactics, that should not be discussed. Those were statements he made in the debate itself.
Let me tell the right hon. and learned Gentleman the logical consequences of that position. He has suggested that mechanisms are available that allow for the sharing of material in advance for Select Committees, and he is of course right—I addressed that in my opening statement. My Secretary of State met the Chair of the Select Committee and discussed these terms. It was very clear that, as the Chair has himself said in Parliament, he wanted to receive all the documents first before he would give any assurances as to the way in which they would be treated. On that basis, we had to be clear that we had to protect commercially sensitive information.
In the absence of any restrictions on what the Select Committee might do with the documentation, the Government had to be mindful of their obligations not to allow sensitive information to be public, but let me be clear again: we have been as open as possible within those obligations. The material we have provided to the Select Committee is very substantial. It is bizarre for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to dismiss it without having yet seen it. When Committee members have had an opportunity to consider it fully and to reflect on it, I think they will reasonably conclude that the Government have fully discharged the terms of the motion.
We have shared more than 800 pages of analysis with the Select Committee. The analysis describes the activity in each sector and the current regulatory regime for the sector. The report set out existing frameworks from across the globe for how trade is facilitated between countries in the sectors, as well as sector views, which cover a range of representative cross-sector views from businesses and organisations throughout the UK. We have taken care to incorporate up-to-date views from stakeholders, such as views on the proposed implementation period.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked: does this represent the sum of the Government’s analysis? Of course it does not. The motion referred to sectoral analyses and we have responded to that motion by sharing those sectoral analyses. I note the Select Committee’s statement following its meeting this morning and I welcome the fact that arrangements will be made for Committee members to view documents in confidence. When they do, I think they will find that there is a great deal of useful and valuable information here. I assure the House and the Committee that the Secretary of State will also be accepting their request to discuss the content.
I assure the House that my Department takes its responsibilities to Parliament extremely seriously. We have provided a vast amount of factual information to help the Committees and this House in their scrutiny. I am confident that we have met the requirements of the motion, while respecting our overriding duty to the national interest.
If the Government wished to resist the publication of the papers that they had, they should have voted against the motion, and if they wished to qualify or edit the papers that they had, they should have sought to amend the motion. We cannot allow, post Brexit, the reduction of parliamentary sovereignty to a slightly ridiculous level. Will the Minister at least consider the possibility of sharing, at least with the Chairman of the Exiting the European Union Committee, the papers in the original form they were in when we voted on the motion, before this editing process started? The House would then no doubt be guided by the Chairman of the Select Committee on changes and omissions that are legitimately in the national interest and should be made.
I share my right hon. and learned Friend’s commitment to ensuring that the House can scrutinise valuable information in this respect, but the problem with the motion that was passed is that it referred to sectoral impact analyses. We were clear from the start that the documents it referred to did not exist in the form that was required. We have therefore pulled together sectoral analysis for the scrutiny of the Select Committee. I think that that will prove valuable to the Committee.
On a day in June 2016, the people of the United Kingdom were asked one question on one day. As a result of the answer they gave to that one question, there is no going back on Brexit. On 1 November, Parliament was asked one question, but for the intervening 27 days the Government have done everything possible to deny and defy the instruction—it was not a request—that they were given by this Parliament, to which, we are told, sovereignty is being restored by the Brexit process.
I remind the Minister that the question of what the Government will provide to the Select Committee is not for the Government or, indeed, for the Select Committee to decide. This Parliament has decided, and there is no discussion, debate or negotiation as to the extent to which that decision will be complied with. It must be complied with in full; otherwise, as the letter published recently by the Chair of the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union makes clear, the Select Committee will have to consider whether to table a motion on contempt. How is that going to look to our European partners? What will it do to the credibility of the Government, and particularly of the Brexit team, if they end up being held in contempt by the Parliament to which they claim to be returning sovereignty?
Will the Minister confirm that the resolution of the House was about not what was made public but what was provided to the Select Committee? In those circumstances, does he not accept that what must be made available to the Select Committee is everything—absolutely everything? If the Government are not prepared to comply with that instruction, they should not be in government. Will he tell us categorically whether he accepts that a decision on what to publish, within the bounds of parliamentary privilege, is for the Select Committee alone, and will he confirm that he and his Government are prepared to trust the judgment of that Committee to exercise on behalf of the House responsible judgment about what the public are entitled to know?
The hon. Gentleman asks a number of important questions. I would hope to hear some welcome from him for the fact that we have shared the information in these reports with the devolved Administrations. When I gave evidence to Select Committees recently in Scotland, we were pressed on whether we would do that. We do respect the fact that the Select Committee has the complete choice and discretion over what gets published of the information that is shared with it. That is why the Government have published the information to the Select Committee in the way that they have.
My hon. Friend has every right to ensure—as the EU has given out in its guidance—that not all confidential information is necessarily made available; otherwise, that might restrict our negotiating position. May I also urge him, however, to have that discussion with the Chairman of the Select Committee and ask him specifically what is it he was expecting that he has not got in terms of the documents?
I welcome the willingness of the Secretary of State to appear before the Select Committee—a decision that we made this morning. May I ask the Minister to convey to him our wish that he should do so very speedily indeed?
Given that it is quite clear that the Select Committee has received edited documents—in other words, they do not contain everything that is in the possession of the Government—may I say to the Minister that that is not in keeping with the motion passed by the House of Commons? I also say to him that I made it very clear to the Secretary of State what procedure the Select Committee would use to consider the reports and, if I may put it like this, I do object to any suggestion that the Select Committee, or I as Chair, cannot be trusted to do our job.
I have great respect for the right hon. Gentleman, and I will certainly communicate his message to the Secretary of State. On the point he makes about the information in the analyses, what the motion referred to was not what existed at the time. What we have tried to do is ensure that there is full information available to his Committee. When he has had the chance to scrutinise that and ask questions of Ministers about that, he will find that information very useful to his scrutiny.
As my hon. Friend has said, there are 850 pages of these documents and so far the Chairman of the Select Committee is the only Member who has actually seen them. I understand that the documents have been sent to two Select Committees of Parliament and to the devolved Administrations. As a former Chairman of a Select Committee, I can say that leaks are not without precedent. I would not want the Government to make available any information that, if it became public, could undermine our negotiating position.
Why, when the Bank of England has published the frankly chilling implications of no deal, do the Government insist on selectively editing the sectoral reports? Is it true, as I was told by a DExEU insider, that what the Government have done is release selective sensitive documentation, while withholding the bulk of that sensitive information?
I find that I agree with the comments of the Father of the House and the Chairman of the Select Committee, but I do understand that there is a dilemma for the Government. One recent motion clearly says that all documents should be delivered. A previous motion in this House says that the Government should not produce anything that damages our negotiations. Those motions are not clear, so would it not be an idea for the Government to come back with another motion clarifying the situation?
In June, the Secretary of State said on “The Andrew Marr Show” that
“We’ve got 50, nearly 60 sector analyses already done.”
In September, that was reiterated in response to my freedom of information request. In October, the Secretary of State confirmed that to our Committee and said that the reports were in “excruciating detail” and that the Prime Minister had seen the summaries. In November, we heard that they never existed. On what basis can completed reports be uncompleted, and on what basis is it right that the Government do anything other than give the reports in full to the Select Committee, in line with the resolution of this House?
The Government have provided the reports covering the 58 sectors to the Select Committee, and I look forward to the Select Committee being able to scrutinise them in detail. The hon. Lady has been persistent in pressing for as much of this information as possible to be put in the public domain. Her Front-Bench team have also been persistent in recognising that that could not be done with all the information, subject to negotiations, without damaging our national interest.
The issue now is not whether it is in the Government’s interest to publish these documents. If the Government did not want to publish them, they should have voted down or amended the Humble Address. In all precedent, this is a binding motion, unlike the previous motion passed earlier in the year, which was not a Humble Address and not a binding motion. To meet this motion, it is not at the discretion of the Government to decide what to take out; it is at the discretion of the Select Committee. I therefore urge the Government either to meet the terms of the motion in full, or to seek to put down a new motion.
I take my hon. Friend’s expertise in parliamentary procedure extremely seriously, and I recognise the point that he is making. We do feel that we have responded to the motion in full by preparing for the Select Committee sectoral analyses. The point that I make to him is that the sectoral analyses did not exist in the form that was requested in the motion at the time.
This situation is entirely of the Government’s making. The motion passed by this House did not give the Government discretion to take this information and decide for themselves what to give to the Select Committee and what not to give to the Select Committee. The Government have not complied with the motion, which they did not resist. There is another underlying point here—apart from questions of parliamentary privilege and contempt—and it is this: do we believe that the public have a right to know the consequences of the options facing the country on Brexit? I believe that they do. Does the Minister agree?
The right hon. Gentleman knows that we have responded to the motion. We accepted that it was binding. We have therefore brought forward information for the Select Committee. We have gone further than that by bringing forward information for the Lords Committee and for the devolved Administrations, and we are now in discussions to ensure that that information can be provided in confidential reading rooms for the whole House. Of course, what is not in the interests of the public of this country is to publish information to the other side that could be sensitive to our negotiating position; that is what this House has repeatedly voted for us not to do.
Most people would accept that it is perfectly reasonable to exclude commercial market and negotiation-sensitive information but, unfortunately, that was not expressly excluded in the terms of the Humble Address on 1 November. Will my hon. Friend look carefully at the option of the Government bringing forward a revised motion that expressly excludes that information from the material to be supplied to the Select Committee?
My hon. Friend, like many of my hon. Friends, raises an interesting point. It is something that we will look into. What we have done is to ensure that the Select Committee has information on the sectoral analyses that the Government have conducted, which is an important step taken in response to a motion of the House.
In his letter of 2 November, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), the Chair of the Select Committee, wrote:
“once the material has been provided to the committee, I would be very happy to discuss with you any particular concerns you may have about publication of parts of the material so that the committee can take these into account in making its decision on release.”
On 27 November, the Secretary of State wrote:
“we have received no assurances from the committee regarding how any information passed will be used.”
Does the Minister agree that that letter is a blatant misrepresentation of what was agreed and that the Secretary of State should withdraw that remark and apologise for it to my right hon. Friend?
It is extremely important that we understand exactly what was voted on and what the Select Committee seeks disclosure of. I am reminding myself of the motion, which was in two parts. It first referred to the list of sectoral analyses, and then went on to make it clear that it was
“the impact assessments arising from those analyses”
that should be provided to the Select Committee.
The hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra) referred to the evidence provided by the Secretary of State to the Select Committee back in October. I remind myself of his answers to questions 131 and 132 in that session, in which he made it clear that those impact assessments existed “in excruciating detail” and that the Prime Minister had been provided with a summary, which she had read. Will the Minister confirm that what this House now seeks the Government to disclose are the impact assessments?
My right hon. Friend is, as always, forensic in her questioning. We were very clear when we were debating this motion that exactly what it referred to was not available at that time. Of course, there are various assessments and documents held by the Government that have been worked on over time, addressing the individual sectors. We have actually sought to provide the Select Committee with a great deal more information than existed at the time of the Secretary of State’s evidence to it, and I think that that will be valuable to the Committee in its scrutiny.
The main issues dividing the House at this stage in the Brexit negotiations are our continued membership of the customs union and of the single market. Ministers say constantly that they do not want to reveal anything that could weaken their negotiating hand, but the Government have made their position clear and the European Union has accepted that the Government want a hard Brexit, so why would it damage the Government’s negotiating position to put that information out? Can the Minister confirm that the information in the edited documents will help Members to reach a view on whether we should stay in the customs union and the single market?
I can confirm to the right hon. Gentleman that the information in the edited documents will be valuable to the House, but it is wrong to describe them as “edited documents”. I would describe them as comprehensive sectoral analyses that the Government have provided for the Select Committee and will be providing, on a confidential basis, to the House.
In response to the right hon. Gentleman’s question about the customs union and the single market, I remind him that he, like I, stood on a manifesto that said that we will respect the referendum result and confirmed that the UK will be leaving the customs union and the single market.
The Minister is making a gallant and courteous defence of a situation that is unlikely to satisfy everybody in this House because of the terms of the Humble Address, but there are two aspects of this that need to be separated. The first is the requirement to provide everything to the Select Committee, which the Humble Address did call for. The second is the fact that surely no one in this House would want our country to go into the negotiating chamber in a weaker position as a result of decisions taken here. The shadow Secretary of State himself recognised that there is a way of dealing with these things, which is to redact what would be sensitive. Unfortunately, the Humble Address did not cover that, so I believe that it is now strongly in the Government’s interest to table a motion to amend the Humble Address, which many of us in the House would strongly support.
The crucial issue is the Government’s failure to be open and transparent with the public and Parliament about the consequences of their approach to Brexit. They are not just doing that with regard to these papers, because they also refuse to give clear examples of the spending reprioritisation that is taking place in Departments as a result of the assessments in the papers and the Government’s policies on Brexit. Will the Government publish a breakdown of the funding that they are giving each Department to cope with their approach to Brexit?
The hon. Gentleman’s question strays quite a long way beyond the matter that we are discussing at the moment. We will absolutely continue to engage with Parliament and its Select Committees to support their scrutiny. We will provide them with as much information as we can, consistent with the national interest.