House of Commons
Tuesday 30 January 2018
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
The Secretary of State was asked—
I have set up a taskforce bringing together small and medium-sized businesses, the Government, local government and trade unions to assist with the impact on small and medium-sized enterprises and the supply chain. The taskforce has delivered a range of supportive measures, including assistance from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs for those experiencing difficulties and more than £900 million of support from UK lenders.
I thank the Secretary of State for his answer, but, with 30,000 small firms thought to be owed money by Carillion due to late payments and fees, will he look at the idea of project bank accounts that hold money in trust in ring-fenced bank accounts to make sure this situation does not arise again? The Specialist Engineering Contractors Group wants Britain to follow what is already happening in Australia, where such project bank accounts are used in all large public and private building contracts.
I will indeed look at that, and it has been one of the recommendations of the taskforce. It is important that we learn all the lessons and apply them quickly, and this is one such suggestion.
Sir Robert Syms—where is the fellow? I call Antoinette Sandbach.
The local authority pension fund forum has called for a review of accounting standards, having received opinion that there are substantial legal flaws in international reporting standards. The opinion states that the standards do not enable anyone to make a meaningful assessment of a going concern, which is a highly relevant issue for Carillion. Will the Secretary of State support such a review?
The day that Carillion went into insolvency I wrote to the Financial Reporting Council, and I spoke to its chairman, to ask it to investigate the auditors and those who are regulated as accountants. The FRC has agreed to do that, and it announced yesterday that the investigation is under way. I would expect it to learn the lessons for any changes to the regulations that it applies.
Will the Minister confirm whether the advice to firms that have lost money as subcontractors of Carillion is that they take out a loan? Does he think it is acceptable that those firms should be charged interest on taking out a loan, rather than getting the money they are owed for jobs they completed as supply chain businesses of Carillion?
On the first day of the insolvency, I had in the representatives of all the supply chain organisations. The first request they made was that we get the banks in to make sure that they treat leniently their customers who were caught up in the insolvency. The banks agreed to do that, and they put funds aside to support and assist those customers. Each bank has made commitments that it will apply leniency to any terms and conditions faced by those businesses.
My right hon. Friend has almost answered my question, because I was going to say that cash flow is as important as profitability. The problem with lack of cash flow is when the banks become too heavy and foreclose on smaller firms.
That is exactly the point that the businesses made. That is why I asked the banks to attend in person to meet those businesses, and it is why the banks gave those commitments and guarantees. It is important for Members with constituents who may be affected that the banks have made that commitment and have made a promise that they will deal individually with anyone who is so affected. The measures are on each bank’s website, but any colleague should come back to me if they experience a problem.
This morning, at a joint Select Committee hearing on Carillion, we were told by the chief executive of the Financial Reporting Council that, before and after the collapse of BHS, he had asked for greater powers to regulate companies and take action before things go badly wrong. He told us that there was a lack of Government interest in making the necessary changes. In the light of the collapse of Carillion and the threat to thousands of jobs and suppliers in the supply chain, are the Government interested in taking action now?
I do not agree with the hon. Lady. I engaged the FRC immediately, and it is very important that we and the FRC learn the lessons. We will apply whatever is appropriate that comes from those inquiries.
The hon. Member for Poole (Sir Robert Syms) says that he was not told of the grouping. If that is so, it is a discourtesy—I hope it is not so. Maybe it got lost in the post. Let us hear from the fellow.
The collapse is really bad news for many smaller businesses, many of which will have their capital wiped out. What discussions has the Secretary of State had with banks about forbearance in keeping those businesses going so that there is proper competition in this market for the future?
I apologise to my hon. Friend if he did not receive notice of the grouping—I am sure that is my error.
On engagement with the banks, each of them has responsibilities to its customers to help them through difficult times. The banks have explicitly committed to help them with any cash flow difficulties that they experience, and I expect the banks to deliver on it.
The hon. Lady raises an excellent question, and I want to pay tribute to the CITB, which has been working closely with its Scottish colleagues, for a magnificent response. It has been able to not only contact but offer continuity to all the apprentices—I think I am right in saying that—to give them the ability to continue their training. That was a formidable, agile response to an urgent situation, and it deserves the praise of the House.
In July last year, the Government were warned by the Federation of Small Businesses and the Specialist Engineering Contractors Group that Carillion was transferring risk to its subcontractors. They highlighted that Carillion’s payment period was doubled from 65 to 120 days, that Carillion made money on the back of early payment by charging fees, and that regulation 113 of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015, which relates to 30-day payment, was not being enforced. Will the Secretary of State outline what actions, if any, he took on receipt of that information?
The lessons and the scrutiny of what went wrong in Carillion, both on the part of its directors and its scrutineers, and in the oversight that took place across the whole of the public sector in terms of contracting, need to be looked at and will be looked at, including by Select Committees of this House. Whatever actions are required from that, we will take.
So it is clear that no action was taken and that subcontractors were being mistreated again and again. But that is not all: the FSB and SEC Group also highlighted how retention moneys and project funds due to suppliers were not being protected from Carillion’s potential insolvency. As a result of the Government’s inaction, microbusinesses are now owed on average £98,000, small firms £141,000 and medium-sized firms £236,000, and large businesses are owed on average £15.6 million. Will the Secretary of State therefore explain to the House and all the businesses affected why the Government took no action last July and why many are on the verge of bankruptcy today?
Retentions and project bank accounts have been the subject, in response to those and other concerns, of a consultation on specific measures, which closed very recently. That came out of the recommendations that were made. Part of the taskforce that we have established includes these representative bodies, and they know that they have my commitment to take all the necessary actions to learn the lessons and protect any future concerns against things that could be learned from this case.
The national minimum wage and national living wage rates are recommended to the Government by the independent Low Pay Commission. To ensure that workers are paid fairly and that non-compliant employers are caught, the Government provide £25.3 million to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs for minimum wage enforcement —that is an increase from £13 million in 2015-16. Last year, HMRC secured arrears of wages for 98,000 workers, totalling £10.9 million.
I thank my hon. Friend for that answer and welcome him to his deserved new position. I very much welcome the national living wage as a way of boosting the wages of our lowest-paid workers. Does he share my surprise that there are those who criticise its generosity, given that the only international comparator is The Economist’s Big Mac index, under which we have the most generous minimum wage in Europe aside from that of its richest country, Luxembourg?
I completely agree with my hon. Friend on that. The next increase to the national living wage is to be a whopping 4.7%. The introduction of the national living wage was the biggest pay rise for low-paid workers in nearly 20 years. The latest increase will benefit more than 2 million people and is set to cover 3 million by 2020. The average earnings of a 25-plus, full-time worker have increased by £2,000 since 2016.
When will the Government accept the need to actually prosecute more firms that fail to pay the national minimum wage? Only when people are prosecuted for breaking the law, rather than being issued with warning notices, are they going to take it seriously.
I gently point out to the hon. Lady that the Government take robust enforcement action against employers who do not pay their staff correctly. We have increased enforcement funding to £25.3 million this year. The total value of penalties has more than quadrupled since 2014-15, and in 2016-17 a record £3.9 million was recovered in penalties, with one penalty of more than £1 million being issued.
Along with the steps the Minister has outlined, does he agree that increasing the tax-free threshold and taking the lowest paid out of tax altogether has made an enormous difference to many workers in this country?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend: 4 million people have been taken out of paying tax as a result of decisions taken by this Government. The employment rate is 75.3%, which is the joint highest rate since comparable records began in 1971. We have record numbers of people in work, and unemployment is at its lowest for 40 years. This Government are on the side of the worker and the lowest paid.
Low pay stifles investment and holds back productivity. We in the Scottish National party believe that the economy is stronger when a real living wage is paid. The Minister’s own Department has rightly named and shamed 350 companies for failing to pay even the minimum wage. Does he therefore agree that the practice of companies paying no wages at all through unpaid work trials is morally repugnant? Will his Department support the ending of that shameful practice?
I should point out to the hon. Gentleman that more than 160,000 people in Scotland benefit directly from the national living wage. The Government are looking closely at employment practices. We engaged Matthew Taylor to look into employment practices and to come up with new ways to support people, particularly those in the gig economy. We very much value that work and will be coming forward with recommendations in the very near future.
The Government will legislate to require quoted companies to publish and explain the ratio of their chief executive officer’s pay to the average pay of their UK employees. Companies will also have to provide a better explanation of how share price increases affect the value of complex, long-term incentive plans.
Does the Minister acknowledge that there is sufficient compelling evidence to conclude safely and beyond any reasonable doubt that collective bargaining significantly reduces income inequality?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise the issue of collective bargaining and how that affects employee pay and the wider pay of executives. I should point out to her one interesting fact: the average FTSE 100 CEO’s pay leapt from £1 million to £4.3 million between 1998 and 2010, but CEOs’ pay fell by 17% in 2016. Interesting.
It would take the average person in Barnsley East more than 176 years to earn what the average FTSE CEO earns in 12 months. Does the Minister agree that that is a sign of grotesque inequality in the UK? What is he going to do about it?
What private companies pay their directors is ultimately a matter for their shareholders, but the new pay ratio disclosure requirements mean that we will give shareholders and other stakeholders important new information on how pay at the top of companies fits with wider workforce pay. Companies will be forced to explain and defend their pay ratios and account for changes to the ratio over time.
Does the Minister agree that Britain’s biggest broadcaster, the BBC, is setting an appalling example to the nation over executive pay in failing to ensure gender parity?
I assure my hon. Friend that we absolutely and completely agree with fair pay. It is unacceptable that women who are doing the same job as men receive less pay. That must change. The BBC must act.
Hardworking people on ordinary incomes are understandably angry at the way executive pay has skyrocketed at a time when ordinary wages have remained flat. When can we expect to see these regulations that the Minister is talking about on publication of pay ratios, and can he confirm that this requirement will be in place for companies by June, as promised?
I have to point out to the hon. Lady that she may have her figures wrong. CEO pay has fallen, not risen. This Government are keen to ensure that there is more accountability and transparency in relation to the pay of top executives. We want to give the shareholders of companies greater power and ensure that there is greater accountability to shareholders and to the workforce.
Since 2010, Carillion has paid out more than £500 million in dividends to shareholders while, over the same period, running up a pensions deficit of £587 million, a deficit that is now threatening the security of thousands of hardworking people. While those people suffer, former Carillion CEO Richard Howson was rewarded with a bonus package worth £1.5 million in 2016. Will the Government join me in condemning this scandal and work with the Labour party to end the failed model of outsourcing using shell companies and in condoning excessive pay, or will it be just business as usual?
Please allow me to assure the hon. Lady that any payments due to directors and executives of Carillion have been stopped; nobody is getting paid and nobody is getting executive bonuses. The moment that the insolvency happened, the Secretary of State wrote both to the Insolvency Service and the FRC to ensure that there was a thorough investigation of all payments to directors. If necessary, PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Insolvency Service have the power to claw back all of those payments. I can assure her that we will be learning the lessons from the Carillion insolvency and ensuring that we do all we can to support businesses going forward.
Order. We have a lot of questions to get through, so we do need to speed up a little bit.
Seafarers: National Minimum Wage
The Government believe that seafarers should be paid fairly for the work that they do. My Department and the Department for Transport worked with trade unions and employers to publish new guidance that explains the responsibilities of employers to pay the national minimum wage. We are crystal clear that if someone works in UK waters, they are entitled to at least the minimum wage and that all employers—no matter where they are from—must pay it.
I am pleased to hear that, but is the Minister aware that UK seafarers are being undercut by rates of pay as low as £1.75 an hour? That is happening even though the legal working group on seafarers and the national minimum wage, which includes his Department, agrees that legislative change is needed to provide more protection. Will the Minister give a commitment to work with the RMT and Nautilus to end this brazen exploitation, starting with the application and enforcement of the national minimum wage for seafarers working between UK ports and offshore installations?
I reassure the hon. Gentleman that the guidance is clear that the national minimum wage applies on foreign registered ships when they are in UK territory. The new guidance is the first of its kind on the application of the national minimum wage specifically to seafarers, which shows that this is a priority for the Government. UK national minimum wage law must naturally have a limit, but if a person is employed as a seafarer in British waters, they will be entitled to the national minimum wage.
Apprenticeship Levy: SMEs
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Education are working together to establish a world-class technical education system, which is vital to our industrial strategy. This includes encouraging businesses, including SMEs, to offer apprenticeships. We are working with all employers to ensure that the apprenticeship levy works effectively and flexibly for industry and supports productivity across the country.
I welcome my hon. Friend to his role on the Front Bench. I have previously had conversations with my right hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening) in her former role as Education Secretary about finding new ways to support SMEs in my constituency to get involved in education, particularly through apprenticeships, which are important for my constituency as so few people there go to university. I will continue that approach with the Department for Education, but would my hon. Friend commit to meeting me to discuss how we might further support small businesses to train young people in Mansfield?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We are committed to supporting businesses in Mansfield through the D2N2 Growth Hub. Since its launch, it has engaged more than 5,100 businesses. He mentions young people in his constituency. The message from this Government is that we will support those who think university is the best route towards building the future they want and that we will also support those for whom apprenticeships or a non-university route is the best route. We do not want to put a limit on aspiration, whatever that aspiration may be.
I know that the Minister is new in his post, but he needs to wake up, for goodness’ sake. There is chaos and meltdown in the apprenticeship scheme, with a 62% drop in apprenticeship starts and further education colleges in bankruptcy. Small individual employers in the textile industry cannot get their apprenticeships through. Get a move on—do something about it, man!
I welcome the characteristic passion with which the hon. Gentleman delivers his question, and I share his objective in that we both want the best future for young people. As he knows, the apprenticeship system is going through a change. It will now be employer-led with a focus on quality. We are in the first year of the levy operating and we did expect a bit of a dip, but this situation will recover to deliver the future for our young people.
Further education colleges such as Newcastle-under-Lyme College and Stafford College are vital to the provision of apprenticeships, both under the levy and non-levy. But just having the levy on its own is not necessarily sustainable. Will the Minister ensure that all further education colleges have access to funding for non-levy apprenticeships?
My hon. Friend makes a good point, but the levy is very much in its infancy. It is going to raise £2.6 billion to fund apprenticeships for young people. We have to give it time to work, but I take his point on board.
Businesses still tell me that there is a skills shortage in my area. FE colleges have continually faced cuts by this Government. Given the introduction of the levy and the other policies that the Government have been talking about, at what point in time does the Minister believe the skills gap will be filled, to meet the needs of business and the wider community?
The hon. Gentleman mentions a skills gap in his local area. This Government are committed to delivering 3 million apprenticeships to plug that gap. Some 1.2 million are now being created, and I am determined that we will deliver on our target.
The Government enjoy a strong partnership with the aerospace sector through the Aerospace Growth Partnership. Since 2010, the sector’s turnover has grown from £24 billion to £34 billion, and exports have almost doubled. Following the excellent and wholly justified ruling of the United States International Trade Commission on Friday night, I am delighted that Bombardier in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency will be able to look forward to a bright future.
Hear, hear! I was overjoyed on Friday night when Bombardier unanimously won its case with the United States International Trade Commission. In paying tribute to the Secretary of State and to the Minister responsible for the aerospace industry, I ask that they stand resolute against any appeal that may be lodged and ensure that the C Series, now that it is finally ready for take-off, is the true success we know it can be.
I will indeed. I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for the stalwart way in which he and his colleagues stood up for their constituents and, indeed, the supply chain that covers the whole United Kingdom. Right from the beginning, this has been a joint endeavour between us, the Canadian Government, the company and everyone with an interest in the success of Bombardier.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the future of our space and aerospace industries is key to our economic future and that practical measures like the new Space Industry Bill will open up new opportunities?
I do indeed. Space is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy, and we are world leaders in it. Through the Bill, we will ensure that we have the right regulatory regime to underpin that.
Since the aerospace sector requires long-term planning and investment, does the Secretary of State not share my alarm at the threatened takeover of the leading tier 1 supplier GKN by a turnaround company specialising in maximising shareholder returns over five years maximum? Is this not a national security issue?
The right hon. Gentleman is a previous occupant of my post, so he knows that the powers that the Secretary of State has over these things have to be exercised in a quasi-judicial way. Therefore, I should not, and cannot, comment on that case. However, he will know, because he has written to me, that I have spoken to both chief executives, and I am keeping it under close review.
It is good to hear my right hon. Friend talk about the importance of aerospace. Will he consider the aerospace initiative that is being proposed in Kinross-shire in my constituency as part of the Tay cities deal, and will he or other colleagues meet me to discuss it?
My colleagues and I will be very happy to meet my hon. Friend to develop the full potential of aerospace in his constituency.
Keep Me Posted Campaign
Representatives of the Keep Me Posted campaign are dedicated advocates for consumer choice on billing. Neither I nor current BEIS Ministers have met them, but my officials have done so in the past and are familiar with their campaign and the valuable work they do.
Considering the levels of digital exclusion, including in broadband coverage in my constituency, will the Minister agree to meet me and Keep Me Posted to discuss the implications for our constituents?
In response to the hon. Gentleman’s point about exclusion, I think the House can celebrate the fact that, under this Government, 95% of the country will be covered by our superfast broadband roll-out. However, I take his point on board and will be delighted to meet him.
Will the Minister work with banks and utilities to ensure that charges for paper billing are restricted to the actual cost of providing that service and are not allowed to become a cumulative fee for those who need or choose paper bills?
Yes, I am happy to work with them.
I welcome the Minister’s commitment to meet the Keep Me Posted campaign. That is a very welcome development, particularly because older people in my constituency have made representations to say that they find it intolerable that they are not able to get paper bills. Will he assure me that he will take this on board for the whole United Kingdom?
Absolutely. I do agree that consumer choice is important. Many suppliers offer paper bills, but they are not cost-free. It is important to recognise that at a time when we are seeking to boost productivity, it is not unreasonable for businesses to incentivise more efficient billing processes. The regulatory framework varies by sector. Where charging differentials exist, we would look at that. I am happy to look at it across the whole United Kingdom.
While recognising the gradual shift away from paper statements and bills as they go online, it must be acknowledged that 16 million people over 15 years old still do not have basic online skills and 5.2 million households still do not have access to the internet at home, and they may face penalisation for requesting a paper bill or statement. What action, exactly, will the Minister take to ensure that people are not penalised for making what should be a legitimate consumer choice? What strategy will he put in place to make sure that people who do not have these skills at the moment can develop them in future?
The hon. Lady makes the very important point that we should make sure that those who need paper bills do receive them and are not unfairly penalised. Any discount made for paperless bills, or charge for paper bills, in sectors where this is allowed must be justified in relation to the relevant administration costs. We do not believe that the Government should intervene to make other customers for whom online billing and payment is perfectly acceptable bear the costs of providing a paper billing service.
Small Business Sector
We are actively supporting small businesses by enhancing the business support helpline and funding growth hubs in every local enterprise partnership area in England. The new Small Business Commissioner will help with payment issues, and British Business Bank programmes support nearly £4 billion of finance to more than 60,000 small and medium-sized enterprises.
I thank the Minister and welcome him to his new position. Sellafield in my Copeland constituency is one of Britain’s biggest single-site employers. It is about to award its multimillion PPP contract. What is he doing to promote the role of SMEs, rather than just large companies, when awarding those contracts?
I clarify to the House that PPP stands for “programme and project partners” and not, as many might have assumed, “public-private partnership”. The programme that my hon. Friend talks about will support Sellafield in decommissioning and contains provisions designed to support small businesses. In November 2015, the Cabinet Office agreed to a target of 31% of spend with SMEs for the Government’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. Moreover, as the Small Business Minister, I will look at what I can do to ensure that more is done to help small businesses to win Government contracts.
Will the Minister join me in commending the work of the Erewash Partnership, which helps entrepreneurs in my constituency to start up and grow their own small businesses? Will he consider what more Government can do to help such organisations expand their support services?
I am delighted to join my hon. Friend in applauding the work of the Erewash Partnership, which she will know was a previous winner of a national enterprise award—well done them. Through our industrial strategy, all businesses in every region will have access to a growth hub. We have announced a further £24 million of core funding over the next two years for growth hubs, including the D2N2, which I understand works with the Erewash Partnership. I am delighted to work with her to do what I can to support businesses in her constituency.
Stability among larger tier 1 suppliers is really important to SMEs in the automotive and aerospace supply chains. Given that, does the Minister agree that if the Melrose bid for GKN splits up and sells off that company, as is anticipated, that cannot be in the interests of either sector or SMEs in this country?
We are always sensitive and aware of the impacts on the supply chain. We need a strong supply chain, but I point the hon. Gentleman to the Secretary of State’s previous answer on that issue.
Support for the small business sector will be even more urgent given the findings of the UK Government’s leaked Brexit analysis, which shows that in all current scenarios, businesses across all sectors and all parts of the UK will be hammered with between 2% and 8% reductions in GDP growth. Will the Minister confirm what planning his Department has undertaken in the light of those figures? Is he declining to publish because it is too embarrassing?
The hon. Gentleman will know that that issue is the subject of an urgent question later on in the House. I would hate to spoil his fun, so I will leave it to others.
Carbon Reduction Targets
If you will indulge me, Mr Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to the hon. Lady’s predecessor, who made an amazing and powerful speech in the other place. It was quite astonishing.
We should all be proud of the excellent progress the UK has made in meeting its carbon reduction targets. The current numbers show that we have met out first budget, are on track to exceed our second and third budgets and are 97% and 95% of the way to meeting our fourth and fifth budgets. The clean growth strategy that I brought forward last year sets out an ambitious set of 50 policies and proposals that will help us to meet those targets.
I thank the Minister for her tribute to my predecessor, Baroness Jowell, who is much loved in Dulwich and West Norwood.
Southwark Council confirmed last week that it has invested its £150 million pension fund in a low-carbon investment, concluding that continuing to hold significant investments in fossil fuels in the context of climate change would present a long-term financial risk to the fund. Will the Minister tell me what conversations she is having with private firms with large pension funds to encourage and facilitate divestment from fossil fuels, which is now clearly the most responsible decision for pension fund members and the future of our planet?
The hon. Lady points out the very powerful fact that the Government can set policy and bring forward achievable targets, such as our renewables ambition, but we also need the private sector and private capital to be involved in financing this transition. I have numerous conversations with companies about what they are doing with their own investments and, equally, about what they will be doing to help other companies to invest in a more sustainable future. I refer her to the Powering Past Coal Alliance, which I launched with my Canadian counterpart last year and which is helping the world to get off the dirtiest form of fossil fuel heating.
Given that more than a year has now passed since the Hendry review reported on the potential contribution of tidal lagoon technology, when does my right hon. Friend think that Ministers will be able to respond positively to that report and give a green light to this important environmental technology?
I am left in no doubt by my right hon. Friend and others about how anxious people are to see this review go forward. We want to get our future investment in renewable energies right. We continue to look very closely at this, and I hope that we will be able to inform the House shortly.
The Minister will have seen the recent report by the Committee on Climate Change about the Government’s clean growth strategy in relation to the fifth carbon budget. Indeed, I know that she has seen it, because she wrote the committee a nice letter thanking it for its report. What plans does she have in place to rectify the shortcomings and omissions in that strategy, as identified by the Committee on Climate Change in its report?
As the hon. Gentleman and I both know, the report basically said there had been a sea change in our ambition for future climate reduction actions. I was extremely grateful to the committee, as I always am, for its scrutiny and information. We were the first country in the world both to pass a climate change Act and to set up an independent scrutineer. As we all know, we have to do more, particularly on business energy efficiency and new homes standards. I am looking forward to working in a consensual way, cross-party, to bring forward those measures.
Pilot Town Deal
I am delighted that the industrial strategy White Paper commits to considering a town deal for Grimsby, which I know has been warmly received by my hon. Friend. I welcome the strong public-private approach to driving forward ambitious plans for the regeneration of Grimsby. The Department and the project board are in close contact on the detail of this deal, and I hope that we will have a proposal for consideration in the very near future.
I thank the Minister for his reply, and I would point out that this deal also includes Cleethorpes—it is for Greater Grimsby. I know that discussions are continuing at official level, but I would welcome an opportunity for the Minister to meet representatives of the project board in the new future, so that we can give some political clout to this deal, which could provide a pilot for many provincial towns up and down the country.
I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend and members of the Greater Grimsby—including Cleethorpes—project board either as soon as I am able to leave Westminster or in Westminster. I encourage my hon. Friend to organise a meeting here so as not to lose any time in holding this important engagement—and if he wants to bring some local fish and chips, that would be fine.
Let us hear the voice of Grimsby.
The hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) will know that Great Grimsby is obviously the centre of the universe, certainly in northern Lincolnshire. This project is really important, and it is essential to improving jobs, skills, housing and culture in my constituency of Great Grimsby. It does seem to have been ping-ponged between the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Who is taking the lead, how much will the Government commit to ensuring its success and when will my very patient constituents start to see the change that they deserve?
I assure the hon. Lady that I am not a ping-ponger, and this shows the Government working together. We will continue to work together, and I will take responsibility for making sure this happens as soon as is possible.
The taskforce established to tackle the impact of Carillion’s liquidation includes the Department for Work and Pensions, and my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary is in regular contact with my right hon. Friend the Pensions Secretary. Those already receiving their pensions will continue to receive payment at 100% of the usual rate. Anyone worried about their pension situation can contact the Pensions Advisory Service; its dedicated helpline has now responded to over 800 calls since Carillion’s insolvency.
I thank the Minister for that answer, but I think it will be of very little comfort to many Carillion staff, past and present, when they hear that the deficit in their pension fund is approaching £1 billion. Public sector contracts have made some at the top of Carillion very rich indeed, so what action is the Minister taking to ensure that current and future pensioners do not lose out?
The hon. Gentleman will understand that issues in relation to pension schemes are a matter for the independent Pensions Regulator. However, the Pensions Regulator has been in contact with Carillion and the pension scheme trustees for a number of years about the funding of the pension scheme. I can absolutely assure the hon. Gentleman that the work of the taskforce is to look at what happened in relation to the Carillion insolvency, and to ensure that if lessons are to be learned, we will learn them.
The global headquarters of GKN is in my Redditch constituency. It employs 200 people, and concerns have been raised about the pension scheme there as well. The Pensions Regulator is warning that in the event of a takeover, there may be something to look at. What lessons is the Minister learning from Carillion in this case, and what further action does he need to take?
The Secretary of State, I think, has already outlined the approach with which the Government are handling the takeover of GKN, but I can assure my hon. Friend that the implications of business actions, and particularly takeovers, in relation to pension schemes are a priority for the Government. We will continue to proceed with care and caution to protect the interests of all members of pension schemes.
The Government work to ensure that our labour markets work for everyone. That was why the Prime Minister asked Matthew Taylor to carry out an independent review on modern working practices. The Government are considering the issues that the review has raised, including rules governing the use of agency workers. The review is comprehensive and detailed, and we have been giving the report the careful consideration it deserves. We will respond shortly.
Two thousand workers in BT call centres, some of whom handle 999 calls, are paid up to £500 less per month than permanent staff because BT uses the loophole known as the Swedish derogation under agency workers regulations. Taylor recommended its abolition; when will the Minister get on with it?
As I have outlined, the Matthew Taylor report does, in some depth, look at the Swedish issue. I am meeting Matthew Taylor this afternoon, and that issue will be one of those that we shall discuss. I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that in 2017, the employment agency standards inspectorate dealt with more than 800 complaints from agency workers. EAS investigations have protected an estimated 303,000 agency workers, and we will continue to defend their interests.
How many of those complaints under the agency workers directive led to successful prosecutions?
I will write to the hon. Gentleman with the answer.
The development of renewable energy is a tremendous UK success story. Thanks to our significant investment and the support of all of us, renewable capacity has quadrupled since 2010. Last year, 30% of our electricity generation came from renewable sources.
Yesterday, 10 UK trade associations wrote to the Secretary of State to express serious concern about delays to the long-awaited feed-in tariff consultation. Will he or Ministers agree to meet them to address both those concerns and the uncertainty facing small-scale low-carbon energy projects?
I am always happy to engage with anyone who would like to further the cause of renewable energy in the UK, so I would be happy to do so.
I call Mary Creagh. Not here—where is she?
More than half of Scottish energy consumption is met by renewable sources, including the Whitelee wind farm, based near Eaglesham in East Renfrewshire, which is the largest onshore wind farm in the UK, but can the Minister confirm that less-established renewable energy projects in Scotland will be able to compete for the £557 million of funding that is available as part of the clean growth strategies?
As my hon. Friend knows, because we have discussed it several times, we are looking hard at how we use that committed £557 million of support for renewable energy in a way that brings forward projects when there is significant local support. I look forward to continuing the discussion with him.
Scotland benefits from some fantastic geographical advantages that mean that it is a world leader in many of these things, but it is, of course, UK bill payers across the nation who are investing in the introduction of renewable energy, whether that is in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
Electric Vehicle Charge Points
We have a range of grant schemes to support the installation of charging infrastructure—on-street, off-street and at workplaces. At the autumn Budget, the Chancellor announced a £400 million joint public and private charging infrastructure investment fund.
My constituency is already home to the new electric London taxi, and we have recently heard the announcement of £80 million of investment in a new electric battery development facility in Coventry. Does the Minister agree that this presents opportunities for my constituency and the wider area to establish leadership in the electric vehicles sector?
It certainly does, and I have had the honour of visiting my hon. Friend’s constituency. On the day we announced the battery facility he mentions, the CEO of Jaguar Land Rover declared:
“We also intend to produce battery electric vehicles in the region, bringing the West Midlands to the forefront of modern mobility in the UK.”
That is the industrial strategy in action.
Chichester District Council has invested in 20 new electric vehicle charging points in carparks throughout the district. However, a constituent recently told me that it took him six and a half hours to get from Chichester to Oxford in his electric car because there were insufficient charging points during the journey. What is the Minister doing to join up individual council initiatives to ensure that there is a comprehensive network of charging points nationwide?
We are pressing hard on this. The Government are taking powers under the Automated and Electric Vehicle Bill to ensure that the infrastructure is rolled out. Government leadership, along with local authority engagement and a growing private sector, means that the UK now has more than 11,500 publicly accessible charge points. The Government have committed £15 million to ensuring that there will be one every 20 miles on the strategic road network. That is coming, and it will be coming soon.
Since our last Question Time, it has been my pleasure to introduce my new colleagues, my hon. Friends the Members for East Surrey (Mr Gyimah) and for Burton (Andrew Griffiths), to the Department and to see our agenda progressing. We announced the automotive sector deal, supporting British innovators and manufacturers with a joint commitment of millions of pounds of investment from industry and Government. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said that the deal would place the UK at the forefront of electric, connected and autonomous vehicles. I am delighted to announce that Lotus Cars has announced its intention to invest significantly to expand its production, creating 300 new jobs at its plant in Norfolk. Production will increase fivefold in the years ahead.
Energy distribution network operators charge obscenely high prices on our energy bills and make absurdly large profits for running safe, low-risk monopoly businesses that get energy to our homes. Does the Secretary of State agree that Ofgem has been far too soft on these firms for ages, allowing them to get fat and lazy at customers’ expense? Will he join me in urging Ofgem to get a great deal tougher in future?
I agree with my hon. Friend and welcome the decision by SGN, SSE and National Grid to refund excess returns to consumers—the others should follow suit. He is absolutely right, and in the next price control period, Ofgem should have a much tougher regime.
Order. May I gently remind colleagues that at topical questions progress is expected to be much quicker? We need short, sharp inquiries; people should not simply seek to bring into topicals what they would have asked had they been called—which they were not—in substantive questions. Pithy questions; pithy answers.
I shall try to be pithy, Mr Speaker.
GKN is a great British engineering company, forged in the first industrial revolution with strengths in defence, aerospace, automotive, batteries and the internet of things, which should place it at the heart of our future economy—high skills, high productivity and high wage—but the debt-driven hostile takeover threatens 6,000 UK workers, pension funds and the supply chain. The Secretary of State has said that he will not comment on individual cases, so may I ask him a general question? Does he believe that it is in the national interest for City investment houses to use debt to dismantle our industrial base?
The hon. Lady understands the constraints that I have in any particular takeover. As a feature of our economy, it is very important that we have investment into our companies from those with the capital to do so. That is why we have a regime that limits the grounds for intervention, but there are certain grounds that I will have to consider during the time ahead.
The sector has huge growth potential. The Government support the industry through the aerospace growth partnership and have committed £3.95 billion for it, which already supports 200 companies, including Safran and GE Aviation in my hon. Friend’s constituency.
Having just taken over the diversity portfolio in the Department, I share the hon. Lady’s extreme disappointment at companies failing to report. I will take this matter forward and perhaps work with her as a matter of urgency.
I will make three quick points: the Government are investing £70 million in the agri-tech catalyst and £80 million in four centres for agricultural innovation through the 2013 agri-tech strategy; and I pay tribute to Rothamsted Research as a key partner in agrimetrics. We are working together to deliver integrated solutions for the agricultural community.
Officials are meeting their counterparts in the Welsh Government so that they can understand and explore the proposal that has been made.
I take on board the very important question that my hon. Friend asks. The Government have invested over £2 billion to ensure that the Post Office is able to meet the needs of our constituents and the small businesses that rely on it. That means that 99% of UK personal bank accounts and 95% of small business accounts can be accessed to withdraw cash, and that customers can deposit cash over the counter or cheques in any one of the 11,600 post offices across the UK.
I am sure that the hon. Lady will be delighted to know that I opened Britain’s first subsidy-free solar farm last year. The great success of the policy framework and the investments that we have all made through our bills means that we are able to bring forward renewable energy without substantial subsidies. I would have thought that she would welcome the idea of getting more renewable energy for less investment.
Given that the Keep Me Posted campaign has pointed out that those who cannot or do not use the internet pay £440 a year more in household bills, will the Minister consider extending the provisions that already exist in banking to energy and telecommunications bills?
The right hon. Gentleman makes a very important point, which is why I agreed in a previous response to meet the campaign’s officials to see how we can work on this.
I remind colleagues of the merits of the blue pencil. If you have a prepared question and it is a bit on the long side, just scratch a bit out—very useful, and the question never suffers.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on his tenacity in campaigning on behalf of his residents. Following his representations on the impact of the proposed redundancies, I am happy to confirm that there will be additional flexibility in how the rapid response service can be used. That means that, while there is no additional funding, all workers made redundant from Cleveland Potash will benefit from the same flexibilities for job-focused training as have been made available to ex-SSI and supply chain workers.
We keep the insolvency regulations under constant review, in response both to Brexit and to lessons learned from our experiences domestically. I will work with the hon. Gentleman to make sure that his views are fed in.
Consumers in the south-west are paying extra on their bills because energy network companies are charging too much. We need greater competition and more teeth in the watchdog to do something about it.
I think that my hon. Friend is inviting me, as a fellow south-west MP, to agree with him. Network costs vary regionally because of different costs in serving customers. Ofgem took more than £15 billion out of network costs in its last price control framework, and I look forward to introducing various measures such as the price cap Bill, which I shall be introducing shortly, that I hope will be supported by all Members of the House. We want to ensure that we have energy bills that consumers can afford and that we protect the most vulnerable in the process.
Short, single-sentence questions are now the order of the day, as will be brilliantly exemplified by the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron).
I will see what I can do.
The universal service obligation for superfast broadband will be good news for businesses across the country, but the fact that the announcement has been made with no date makes it counterproductive, as that is slowing down broadband. Will the Government announce a date and say that registration can start immediately?
The hon. Gentleman will find that the date set out in the Digital Economy Act 2017 was 2020, but I am sure he will join me in congratulating the Government on their success in ensuring that 95% of the country now has access to broadband.
Will the Minister support Transport for the North’s strategic transport plan, which calls for a 50% increase in regional infrastructure spending across the north of England?
Infrastructure is a major pillar of the Government’s industrial strategy White Paper, and local input is essential. I welcome Transport for the North’s input, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport will welcome this, too.
The hostile takeover of GKN by Melrose threatens break-up, sale and closures. The Secretary of State has powers under section 58 of the Enterprise Act 2002 to intervene. Will he intervene to block this hostile takeover, which is not in the national interest?
I have explained to other Members the importance of exercising these powers in the required way and of not giving a running commentary in this House.
Does the Minister agree that competitive rates of interest should be offered to businesses and subcontractors that are affected by the LARC collapse, and that the 8.64% offered to LARC Construction in my constituency is simply too high?
I agree with my hon. Friend that access to competitive finance is essential, not just for businesses affected by LARC, but more widely, and particularly for small businesses. I am happy to meet him to discuss the issues if he would like me to.
It is a great pleasure to welcome back to the House the hon. Member for Redcar (Anna Turley). I know that the House will join me in doing so.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. It is great to be back.
We have ambitious plans on Teesside to create 20,000 jobs on the former SSI steel site. The biggest issue holding us back is, obviously, the ownership of the site. Can the Secretary of State update us on what conversations he is having with the official receiver and the Thai banks to enable us to fulfil our potential, create jobs, and bring investment back to the site?
I welcome the hon. Lady back to the House and commend her for her commitment to ensuring that we secure the best possible future for that site. I shall visit Teesside shortly to continue our discussions. There is great commitment on the part of both the Government and the local development corporation to finding the right solution. The ownership is not in the Government’s hands, but everything that can be done is being done.
A constituent of mine is a director of Tower Supplies, one of the leading small and medium-sized enterprises in the personal protective equipment sector, whose bid was recently rejected by Transport for London in the first round of the process with no explanation. The practice is for feedback to be given, but that does not always happen. Will the Minister work with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and other Departments to ensure that the system does not hinder SME growth?
The Government are committed to ensuring that more small businesses are able to bid for such contracts. We want to support SMEs through the procurement process, and to ensure that they can be competitive and win such contracts. I shall be happy to meet my hon. Friend and representatives of the company that she mentioned in order to find a solution.
When I met the Minister last week, I was told that the Carillion headquarters would continue to operate in the interim. What steps are the Government taking to safeguard jobs for the employees who work in my constituency?
I think that the hon. Lady and I spoke on the telephone on the day of the insolvency, and I think I have met her twice since then, along with other Wolverhampton colleagues, to ensure that she is kept fully updated. We are working closely with PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Insolvency Service in the best interests of not just the creditors but all those employed in the Carillion network. To date, things have been positive, but I will seek to update the hon. Lady further as more information becomes available.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Order. I think that this point of order flows from the exchanges that we have just had. Although ordinarily points of order are made later, I will—as I sometimes do—take this one immediately after questions.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. When I asked a question earlier, I neglected to say that I am a serving member of Chichester District Council.
That is a very belt-and-braces approach, for which the hon. Lady certainly cannot be criticised in any way. I thank her, as the House will, for what she has said.
Leaving the EU: Economic Analysis
To ask the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union to make a statement on the Government’s analysis of the long-term economic impact of Brexit on the economy.
I will begin by setting out our approach to publishing economic analysis, I hope once and for all.
I can confirm that—I think the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) will want to listen to this. I can confirm that when we bring forward the vote on the final deal that we agree with the European Union, we will ensure that the House is presented with the appropriate analysis that the Government have carried out, so that the House can make an informed decision. All Members must surely agree, however, that the Government cannot be expected to put such an analysis into the public domain before it has been completed. That would misrepresent our views. Furthermore, the Government cannot be expected to publish the analysis while the negotiations continue, which would surely harm the national interest. Parliament has rightfully agreed that Ministers have a duty not to publish anything that could risk exposing our negotiating position.
Let me now turn to the article that prompted the urgent question. It is a selective interpretation of a preliminary analysis. It is an attempt to undermine our exit from the European Union. As I have told the House before, the Government are undertaking a wide range of analysis on our exit from the EU. The next stage of that analysis, summarised in a draft paper presented to Ministers this month, has been a cross-Whitehall effort to support our negotiating priorities. It has not been led by my Department, and it is not yet anywhere near being approved by Ministers. Even the ministerial team in my Department has only just been consulted on the paper, in recent days, and we have made it clear that it requires significant further work. In fact, I saw this report myself only this morning. The analysis to which I believe this article refers is a preliminary attempt to improve on the flawed analysis around the EU referendum. It is there to test ideas and to design a viable framework for the analysis of our exit from the EU. At this early stage, it only considers off-the-shelf trade arrangements that currently exist; we have been clear that these are not what we are seeking in the negotiations. It does not yet consider our desired outcome: the most ambitious relationship possible with the EU, as set out by the Prime Minister in her Florence speech.
Such an agreement is in the interests of both the UK and the EU. Therefore, the scenarios in this analysis continue to suffer from the flaws we have seen in previous analyses of this type. Such analyses have been proved to be wrong in the wake of the referendum, not least because there is huge uncertainty around any forecast, especially in the long run and especially in the context of a major strategic choice.
It is the Government’s job to improve on this analysis, but to do so we first have to understand where it went wrong previously. That is what the analysis to which this article refers is: it is not a forecast for our preferred outcome of the negotiations; it does not yet properly take account of the opportunities of leaving the EU.
Finally, on 23 June 2016 the people of this country took a decision to leave the EU in the context of a wide range of economic information. The purpose of this analysis is not to question that decision, which this House voted overwhelmingly to uphold. I hope all Members of this House will agree that we should continue to respect the result of the referendum.
Not good enough.
Here we go again: Brexit impact assessments, take two. For the past year, we have called on the Government to publish Brexit impact assessments. It is a simple argument: on decisions of this significance, Parliament is entitled to know the likely impact of the Government’s approach to Brexit and thus to hold the Government to account. The Government have repeatedly refused our requests.
Last year the Secretary of State initially insisted that these reports existed in “excruciating detail”, but were so sensitive that nobody else could see them. After this House passed a binding Humble Address, the Secretary of State changed tack, telling the Brexit Select Committee just last month that no “economic forecast of outcome” had ever existed. Yet last night we learn that an analysis has been produced after all.
This is now piling absurdity upon absurdity, and there are some pretty obvious questions. When was this new analysis commissioned? In particular, was it before or after the Secretary of State gave evidence to the Brexit Select Committee last month on this issue? Is this the only report that has been prepared on the Brexit scenarios? If not, what other analysis has been done? Does this new analysis model the Government’s Brexit approach? If not, why not? If so, will it lead to changes in Government policy? Finally, and most importantly, will the Secretary of State publish this now—not in nine months, but now, so that we can hold the Government properly to account?
We have been here before. It took a great deal of time last year and the use of a Humble Address to force the Government to release documents relating to Brexit. The Secretary of State has the chance today to avoid a repeat of that exercise if he commits to publishing this new analysis in full; will he do so?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman raises the question of impact assessments, and what I can say to the House is that we have always been absolutely clear that we have a wide-ranging programme of analysis, which is evolving continually, but this economic analysis is not what is formally known as an impact assessment. [Interruption.] What I would say to the House—[Interruption.]
Order. There is excessive gesticulation from a number of hon. Members, which is unseemly and certainly unstatesmanlike.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman and the Labour party are completely neglecting our duty to safeguard the national interest in the course of these negotiations. I can understand why he and those behind him would want the reports in the press to be accurate. Fundamentally, they do not wish to leave the European Union. For them, good news is a disaster and bad news is a welcome confirmation of their world view. They await each set of employment figures with eager anticipation, only to have their hopes dashed when every set shows an ever-increasing number of people in work. They gleefully celebrate warnings from banks about the possibility of jobs moving to the continent, then they have to retreat when, a few months later, the banks assert the supremacy of the City of London. I do not blame them. They care passionately about remaining in the European Union and they want to overturn the result, but their strategy is becoming clear: demoralisation, delay and revocation. However, that is not what our parties stood for at the last election. Our parties were clear that we would respect the result of the referendum, and that requires the Government to deliver the best possible Brexit. That is what we are trying to do.
As I said in the opening words of my reply, when the time comes for a meaningful vote, the Government will ensure that the House is appropriately informed. However, we can see what some of this economic analysis could be worth. Let us take as an example the respected Bank of England. What institution could be more respected for its analysis? In August 2016, it made a quantitative forecast of the impact of Brexit, saying that exports would go down by 0.5%, but they went up 8.3%. It said that business investment would go down by 2%, but it went up by 1.7%. It said that housing investment would go down by 4.75%, but it went up by 5%. It said that employment growth would be zero—flat—but it went up to a new all-time high. The public deserve to see the national interest protected in these negotiations and to have a House of Commons of representatives who exhibit a healthy scepticism about economic forecasting.
It is perfectly obvious to everyone on both sides of the channel that if the United Kingdom leaves the largest and richest multinational free-trade area in the world and constructs new barriers by way of tariffs, customs or regulatory barriers between ourselves and that market, future generations will to some degree be poorer than they would otherwise have been. Does the Minister not accept that the Government should feel themselves under a duty to have the best-informed debate in this House and in the country on the possible consequences of likely scenarios now, when the Government are deciding what their ultimate policy is going to be, and continuously throughout the vital next 12 months when the final picture will start to emerge? Will the Minister stop pretending that this is something to do with defending our negotiating position or that it is some kind of perverse attempt to reverse the referendum decision, and accept that he has failed, actually, to protect the Government from political embarrassment?
The public have made a profoundly important strategic choice, which is to leave the European Union. That means that the Government need to deliver free trade on a new basis: on the basis not of political integration but of a new deep and special partnership with the European Union. It is the Government’s intention to deliver the best possible and most frictionless trading with our friends in the European Union, which it is in all our mutual interests to do. My right hon. and learned Friend talks about our duty, and he knows well that our duty is to look after the national interest of our constituents and of our country. That is exactly what we are seeking to do as we take these negotiations and this analysis forward.
Just yesterday, I was commenting in this Chamber that the only constants in the Government’s Brexit position are chaos and confusion. Far be it from me to get in the way of the Government undermining themselves, or of Tory feuding, but this situation counts, and their bluff and bluster just will not cut it any more. It is striking that the figures that have been released are very similar to the figures that the Scottish Government produced on Scotland’s place in Europe. If the Scottish Government can produce their figures, why can this Government not do so?
I reassure the hon. Gentleman that we are not copying the Scottish Government’s analysis and that we are doing our own homework. The Scottish National party’s position is clear: it wants to break up the United Kingdom and have a Scotland within the European Union. The actions that he describes must be understood in that context.
We have here some London-centric remoaners—that could be a way of describing the shadow Brexit Secretary—in the civil service who did not want us to leave the European Union in the first place and put together some dodgy figures to back up their case. They still do not want us to leave the European Union and are regurgitating some dodgy figures to try to reverse the result of the referendum. Does my hon. Friend agree with that analysis? If so, does he agree that this really is not a news story?
My hon. Friend makes a point that is very much in line with his long-held views. I should reaffirm that I am proud of the officials with whom I work. Irrespective of how they voted, they are demonstrating commitment to delivering on the decision of the British people. The intention of our current analysis is to improve on what has gone before and, as I set out in my initial response, we recognise that there were flaws in the previous approach.
A lack of transparency is not in the national interest. On 6 December, I asked the Brexit Secretary,
“have the Government undertaken any impact assessments on the implications of leaving the EU for different sectors of the economy?”
He replied, “Not in sectors.” Now we learn that that work has been done, and it is reported that chemicals, clothing, manufacturing, food and drink, cars and retail will be the hardest hit sectors. Will the Minister offer the House an explanation for the discrepancy between what the Exiting the European Union Committee was told and what we now know?
As I have explained, we have always said that our economic analysis was continually evolving across a wide range of activities—[Interruption.] Opposition Members laugh, but what else would they expect but for the Government to work continually on a developing analysis? As I may not have said in my opening remarks, I know that the Secretary of State only saw this particular document last night—I saw it this morning—and I think that that will explain the answers he has given.
Does my hon. Friend agree that businesses up and down the country, including in Redditch, will wonder whose side the Labour party is on when its Members take great pleasure in forecasts that predict doom and gloom? People may conclude that Labour is not on the side of this country’s hard-working businesses and entrepreneurs.
My hon. Friend is exactly right. Now that the decision has been taken, the vast majority of right-thinking people in the United Kingdom will expect it to be carried through with a good heart as a matter of choice. Time and again, we see a foot-dragging reluctance from the Labour party, which increasingly seems not to be respecting the choices of its own voters.
It is reported that the analysis shows that the north, the midlands and Northern Ireland will be hardest hit in all the scenarios. Will the Minister confirm that that is because all the scenarios assume that Britain is outside the customs union? Will he confirm, too, that the Government appear to have undertaken no analysis of the different customs union options and of the impact on our economy? Given how significant the situation is for northern manufacturing and for Northern Ireland and given that the CBI has said this is irresponsible and is letting down northern manufacturing, will he commit to conducting and publishing analysis before the customs Bill completes its passage through Parliament?
I am grateful to the right hon. Lady because she has given me the opportunity to reassure her that there is economic growth under all the scenarios in the economic assessment. The only question is to what extent and how fast, but there is projected to be economic growth across a 15-year period in all the scenarios.
Does my hon. Friend understand that many businesses in my constituency are already nervous about the apparently cavalier attitude of some Brexiteer opinion towards their continued success? Will he therefore confirm that the Government will seek to negotiate an arrangement and get a result that does not damage the long-term economic success of our country and the national interest of our people?
I can give my right hon. Friend that assurance. The Government are not cavalier. It is precisely because we take our duties seriously that we are continuing to develop our economic analysis, and I can of course reassure him that we are seeking to establish a free trade agreement and other partnership arrangements that are of unprecedented scope and ambition.
For the Minister basically to excuse his not publishing the information because he has not yet had the chance to edit, twist or distort it or to redact the information within it is a total and utter disgrace. The public have a right to know about their livelihoods and their futures, and it is deeply irresponsible and dishonest for the Government not to publish the information. It is a cover-up, pure and simple, and it stinks.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on going for the hardest possible hit that he can manage, but it is not good enough. The truth is that the hon. Gentleman has made it perfectly clear through his words and his actions that he does not accept the referendum result. It is perfectly clear that he is among those who wish to seek a revocation of the democratic decision of the British people, and he is acting in that spirit.
As an antidote, will the Minister read Professor Minford’s work? Alternatively, he might just go to the cinema to see “Darkest Hour”.
I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend. I can confirm that I will read Professor Minford’s work, and the transparency register will also show that I have met Professor Minford. I will continue to meet Professor Minford and to look at the work of Economists for Free Trade.
As the Cabinet squabbles in the middle of these tough negotiations, the Minister has no right to talk about the national interest. He must stop treating parliamentarians like chumps. He knows, we know and this analysis confirms that Brexit will cause huge damage to British jobs and British families. Will the Government and, indeed, the Leader of the Opposition now allow a vote on the deal so that the people can decide whether they want to pursue this damaging approach or to stay in the European Union?
The right hon. Gentleman reminds me that I did not answer the other point of my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne). I have been to see “Darkest Hour” and the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) does a good job of reminding me that some people do approach our current circumstances in an unnecessarily bleak spirit. I say to him once again that the economic analysis is clear that there is to be economic growth in all scenarios. I encourage him to go back to the report published by the Treasury Committee, on which I served, during the referendum campaign and look at the documented abuse of figures by the remain campaign. I urge him not to repeat that abuse of figures.
According to this analysis, the car manufacturing, chemical and food sectors, all of which are vital for my constituency, will clearly be adversely affected. Quite frankly, Minister, I take exception to being told that it is not in the national interest for me to see a report that would allow me to best represent my constituents. Parliament needs access to the best possible information on which to base our decisions.
I have great faith in my hon. Friend, and we of course appreciate the importance of cars, chemicals and food. As I said at the beginning of my response, when the time approaches for us to have a meaningful vote in Parliament, we will put appropriate economic analysis before both Houses to assist the choices that they make. However, we do not expect the European Union to publish all its analysis in a transparent manner, and we do not propose to go into the negotiations having revealed all our thinking.
I wonder whether the Minister thinks that perhaps the person in the Whitehall establishment who leaked this document would be better off moving, and working in Brussels. Was the methodology used in this report, or whatever it is, the same methodology that said the country’s financial future would tank if we did not join the euro?
We are carrying out the usual inquiries into who leaked the report. The hon. Lady is absolutely right that past economic predictions have been very poor, and poor for good reasons on which I would love to elaborate on another occasion. I have set out that particular critique of even the Bank of England’s forecasts, and she is absolutely right that, as I said earlier, we should have a healthy scepticism.
We would be in a strange position if Governments had to publish every bit of advice to Ministers and every bit of analysis that they profoundly believed to be wrong. The last Labour Government did not do that, and the Minister should resist publishing this analysis if he believes it is not in the national interest to do so. I also advise him that people are trying to divert the Government’s direction on Brexit—there is absolutely no doubt about it. Will he look into why this particular document was leaked on this particular day, the day that the withdrawal Bill has its first debate in the upper House?
My hon. Friend, the Chairman of the Select Committee on Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs, makes an important and authoritative point about the conduct of government. Opposition Members would do well to reflect on how they would wish to govern the country if, God forbid, the electorate should ever give them an opportunity to do so.
All of us in this House need to have an eye on the long-term functioning of our democracy and our constitution. With that in mind, I hear what my hon. Friend says. There is clearly a campaign to overturn the referendum result, and it can be seen at work in the media and in this House. We will certainly bear in mind what he says.
The Minister says that this cross-departmental analysis has not been co-ordinated by his Department, but on that there appears to be some confusion. When the Brexit Secretary gave evidence to the Brexit Committee last week, I asked him whether his Department is co-ordinating the cross-departmental work on the sectoral impacts of no deal, and he said, “Yes.”
If there is indeed no deal, we would likely fall out on World Trade Organisation rules. Will the Minister confirm that in one of the scenarios outlined in the report—the WTO option that is advocated by many Conservative Members—the impact of non-tariff barriers is the equivalent of a 10% tariff slapped across the economy?
That was quite a long question. There are two particular scenarios that are not modelled in this analysis. One is the policy choices that the Prime Minister rightly set out in her Florence speech, and the other is exiting in the unfortunate, and we think unlikely, circumstance of not reaching an agreement and how one might take the right policy choices in the event of trading on WTO rules. We will continue to take this analysis forward, and I look forward to the day when we are able to present appropriate analysis to the House before the meaningful vote.
Does the Minister recall, prior to the referendum, what became known as “Project Fear”? Everything was going to go wrong after the referendum if we voted to come out—something short of bubonic plague—but that did not happen. With those warnings, the British people still voted to come out, so of what relevance is another forecast now that predicts exactly the same as “Project Fear”?
My hon. Friend makes a good point, and I well remember “Project Fear” in all its manifestations. Most of us on the leave side thought at the time that those horror predictions would not come to pass after the vote and, happily, we have been proved correct. I look forward to continuing to prove economists wrong after they make horror story predictions.
Why have the Government assessed the impact of all the scenarios but not the one they say they want, the fantasy cake-and-eat-it one?
I am grateful for that question, because I can reassure the right hon. Gentleman and the House that we will continue to develop and expand our economic analysis. We cannot control the timing of leaks, and were we to have chosen to publish an analysis, as we will when we approach the meaningful vote, it will of course contain the relevant information.
My hon. Friend is of course right that this analysis does not question the result of the referendum, nor does it model his desired scenario, but what it does show is that modelling a fully comprehensive free trade deal with the EU post-Brexit, combined with the benefits of new trade deals, shows a net effect on economic growth of 1.5%. Where does he hope a special and deep relationship will differ from a fully comprehensive free trade deal post Brexit?
My hon. Friend may know that Michel Barnier tried to include financial services in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal, and we believe that we can go beyond what has been agreed in the past. The analysis does not include a comprehensive deal of the scope we would like to agree; it includes only an average based on past precedents. We believe that we can reasonably go further than we have before, and of course we are well apprised of the importance of financial services and of ensuring that the City flourishes.
If the economic forecasts and impact assessments published to date have been so wrong, why do the Government not tell the British people what it is they want from the EU by way of a deal, cost it and publish the results? Why is that so difficult?
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set out what we want in the Lancaster House and Florence speeches. We are heading down the path of successfully delivering on what the Government have said we wish to have.
We will continue to carry out a wide-ranging and developing programme of economic analysis, which will help to inform our negotiating position and our decisions.
Can my hon. Friend, the excellent Minister, name a single civil service forecast, leaked or otherwise, that has been accurate?
No, I am not able to name an accurate forecast. They are always wrong, and wrong for good reasons. [Interruption.] Members are chatting at me from a sedentary position. My long-standing views on the flaws in the epistemology of the social sciences and the consequences for econometrics are well set out in various forums, and I encourage Members to go and have a look at them. I am happy to recommend a reading list.
The Government are not protecting the interests of the British people but withholding information from them. The Minister keeps invoking the referendum, but of course that did not give us any indication of the form of Brexit that the public wish us to follow. Will he confirm that what the analysis shows is that the least worst option—staying in the single market and customs union—has been voluntarily taken off the table by the Prime Minister with no mandate whatsoever?
I encourage Members to google the hon. Gentleman’s name on The Sun website. They will find a wonderful picture of him, during the referendum, standing next to a poster proclaiming that the leave campaign wanted to leave the single market. He made the point at the time—[Interruption.] He certainly did, and anyone can go and find it on The Sun website. The point was made at the time, and the public chose.
It would not be possible to honour the decision of the British people if we allow the European Union to set the UK’s tariffs and if we become people in a political purgatory of perpetual rule taking from the European Union without any democratic say. It is the desire of this Government that our country should continue to be a democracy. For that reason, we will leave the European economic area and the customs union.
Does my hon. Friend agree that our post-referendum experience illustrates the danger of publishing incomplete and inchoate economic analyses? We were told prior to the referendum by the Treasury that we would enter immediate recession if we voted to leave. The International Monetary Fund told us that the economy would contract by as much as 9.5%. Both were made to look extremely foolish.
My right hon. Friend is exactly right, and he might have added to that catalogue of failures of the economics profession the failure to see the financial crisis. It is time for economists to re-examine their methods, for the reasons I indicated earlier. I am grateful to him for putting those past failures on the record.
Given that the leaked Government analysis confirms that, realistically, there are three ways that the UK might leave the EU, each with a very different impact on jobs, trade and livelihoods, why have MPs not been given a direct vote at the start of the process to determine what sort of Brexit the UK is pursuing? Is it not about time that we in this House are allowed to take back common sense and seek the sensible option of staying in the single market by staying in the European economic area and remaining part of a European customs union?
The hon. Lady is entirely wrong; the sensible and pragmatic way forward, which honours the result of the referendum and ensures that this is a democracy with an independent Parliament able to ensure that control is exercised over the laws of this country, is to carry forward my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s policy, as she has set out in Florence and in the Lancaster House speech.
Is it not about time we set up a charity called “Soothsayers Anonymous” for people who simply cannot kick the habit of predicting when conflicts are going to break out, when we are going to have opinion polls that are going to be accurate and when we are going to have economic forecasts regarding the EU that are going to be accurate, even though history has shown time and again that they are not worth the paper they are written on?
That is a very good point, but I am not sure we will make it Government policy to do it.
The Minister will be well aware that Sinn Féin has already used the Brexit decision to agitate for a border poll. I say to the British Government that they need to be very careful to ensure that Sinn Féin does not use any more negative impact assessments to feed its narrative. In those circumstances, what guarantees can he offer the people of Northern Ireland that the economy will not suffer as a result of Brexit? We must make sure not to feed Sinn Féin’s narrative.
The hon. Lady makes a sobering and important point, which the Government have heard. I say to her that in all scenarios in this economic analysis, there is economic growth—the question is only: how fast? It is this Government’s task to ensure we achieve the fastest GDP growth and indeed the fastest GDP growth per head, which is why we have brought forward a comprehensive programme on productivity. Of course we are most concerned to ensure the prosperity of the people, not only of Northern Ireland, but of the whole of the island of Ireland and right across Europe. That is why it is in our mutual interest to agree a comprehensive and deep free trade agreement.
Even though these forecasts do not look at the Government’s preferred outcome, does my hon. Friend not agree that the data they contain, however imperfectly, do underline the importance of building a bespoke deal around maintaining customs union-style arrangements and ensuring as great a level of access as possible to the single market?
I agree with my right hon. Friend on most of his points, but, as I said in an earlier answer, we do not think remaining in the customs union, so that the European Union set our tariffs on imports, would be the right thing to do. We think that would be the wrong choice for the UK. It would prevent us from operating an independent trade policy and plugging ourselves into the rest of the world’s growth, where multiple authorities, including the European Commission, have admitted that 90% of the world’s growth will come from. So on that particular point I disagree with him, but on the rest of his arguments and, in particular, on the need, in our mutual interests, for a good-quality trade agreement, he is right and I agree.
Ministers keep using the excuse that it is in the national interest to withhold information about the economic impact of Brexit—that is on the days when they admit such information exists. I will tell them what is really not patriotic: pursuing a policy that will make our country poorer than it would otherwise be, in order to satisfy right-wing, nationalist ideology. So will the Minister desist from saying that it is in the national interest to withhold this information, given that the only interest it serves is that of Tory Ministers embarrassed by its contents?
I simply do not accept the premises of the right hon. Gentleman’s question; he makes ludicrous suggestions. I consider myself to be an old English liberal and I think most of the Eurosceptics with whom I associate also consider themselves liberal in outlook, particularly on matters of trade and the economy. With that in mind, I cannot possibly accept his premise. The fact is that we are in a negotiation and no one seriously would expect us to go into—
Wash your mouth out.
The right hon. Gentleman says I should wash my mouth out, but I am happy to debate liberalism with him any time.
We are heading for an open, liberal, free trading future for the UK. Any suggestion of nationalism is quite wrong and quite ludicrous, and the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden) should retract.
The right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) looks as though he has just consumed a very bitter lemon, but I hope he recovers.
Does my hon. Friend share my dismay that pro-remain Members of this House who represent constituencies that voted to leave leap on incomplete economic analysis and profess deep understanding of complex economic methodology, yet fail to wrap their minds around the simple arithmetic of the referendum, which was that 52% voted to leave?
I must exercise some caution, Mr Speaker, because as you will know, Wycombe District, which is substantially larger than the constituency of Wycombe, did express the other view. However, what I think we need to do is come together to unite around the result as a country, and to choose for ourselves not to leave the EU because we must or because we ought, but to leave the EU successfully because we choose to abide by the democratic decision of the United Kingdom as a whole.
How can we unite together when the Government are withholding information from the rest of the House?
It is very difficult to answer the question of how we can unite together when certain Members of this House, including, I am sorry to say, the hon. Lady, keep provoking as much division as possible. She represents a party claiming to be liberal and democratic, and which once offered a real referendum on Europe, but we have had a real referendum on Europe and it is time for her to get behind the result.
The gloomy pre-referendum Treasury forecasts led many of us to vote remain with a heavy heart. The public made their decision, and we stood on an election manifesto saying that we would follow through on that decision. Will the Minister tell me why we should believe part forecasts—these forecasts, which have apparently been published, are not complete—given that the initial information put out before the referendum was flawed?
My hon. Friend makes a very good point, and “Project Fear” was mentioned earlier. It is most unfortunate that one fundamental tactic always used throughout the long and sorry history of misrepresenting the true purpose of the EU has been to demoralise the public. It is time for each of us in this House to take a lead in going forward in a spirit of buoyancy and hope.
The Minister would not accept the premise of the question from my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden), but this morning we heard from the former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith), who cast significant doubt on the Government’s own ability to forecast the impact of Brexit on jobs and growth. What assurances will the Minister give workers in my constituency, for example, those in the Jaguar Land Rover or Vauxhall supply chains, that Brexit will not fatally wound the manufacturing sector on Merseyside?
As I believe the record will show, I have said multiple times that in all scenarios in this economic analysis growth is forecast. So it is good news for the hon. Lady and for the country that in all of the forecasts—in all of the circumstances of the economic analysis—growth is forecast. She brings up the issue of the supply chain, so I also say to her that we are of course apprised of the imperatives of complex international supply chains, not just between the UK and Europe, but around the whole world. In particular, I draw attention to provisions in the Union customs code for inward and outward processing rules, which should assist manufacturers in her constituency.
Were the economists involved in these forecasts the same ones who said we would lose half a million jobs if people voted for Brexit? Since the referendum we have, in fact, gained 350,000 jobs.
I am not able to give my hon. Friend exactly that information, but perhaps some of the economists are the same ones. In my experience, civil servants, at all levels, dutifully carry out the instructions of the Government, and I am sure they are doing that in this case.
It might surprise the Minister to learn that I have read a number of his articles, and there is much in them that I disagree with. He talks a lot about liberty, accountability, transparency and democracy, but he does not seem to like any of those principles when they are applied to him and his Government, and when they shed light on the reckless course that this Government are pursuing. If they have not done a full, comprehensive analysis, they are incompetent. If they have done it, we should see it.
As I announced at the beginning of my initial response, the Government will make available to both Houses of Parliament the appropriate economic analysis before we make a decision on the meaningful vote.
No one in this House should dismiss the referendum result—that would be overstepping the mark—but it is our role, as the Government have accepted, to scrutinise the deal and ensure that it is the very best it can be for all our citizens, regardless of how, or indeed whether, they voted in the referendum. The impact assessments were made available to parliamentarians in absolute confidentiality, and I went to see them. I fail to see why that same process cannot be extended for this most recent and any further analysis. This is a one-time deal only, and I for one owe it to my constituents to prove to them that I have exercised full scrutiny.
I cannot accept the premise of my hon. Friend’s question. We have gone to and fro in the House about the meaning of the term “impact assessments”. What was made available to colleagues were sectoral analyses. I refer my hon. Friend both to the written ministerial statement setting out how meaningful votes will happen at the end of the process and to my previous remarks about the need to protect the integrity of our negotiating position. We will ensure that, when we reach the end of the negotiating period, parliamentarians are able to access appropriate economic analysis when we all take that important decision.
Last week, I asked the Treasury’s permanent secretary whether he could confirm that just a single one of the Government’s scenarios for a deal post brexit would lead to a better economic deal and outcome than what we have as members of the single market and customs union. He did not seem able to answer. Is not the truth that no such model exists? Has it not been confirmed today that, as a result of the Government’s dogmatic determination to pull us out of the single market and the customs union, it will not be my city, London, that is most affected, or indeed the industries in the City of London that are worst affected, but the key sectors of the economy right across the UK, with the impact felt worst in the west midlands, the north-east and Northern Ireland? How on earth could that possibly be in the national interest?
The hon. Gentleman said that there is no such model; the truth is that my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne) referred to a model earlier. Economists for Free Trade are very clear about their modelling. Other models are available—at the time of the referendum, Open Europe did some modelling and found that the effect could be plus or minus 2%. The truth is that there are profound uncertainties facing not just the United Kingdom in this negotiation but all economies in the world. All face three big issues: the growth of technology; a new phase in globalisation; and, of course, the continuing aftermath of the financial crisis which, as the hon. Gentleman well knows, has left interest rates at levels the Governor of the Bank of England has described as extraordinary if not emergency. Those three issues mean that all economies are on highly uncertain paths. The Government will navigate their way through the future with confidence and boldness.
Is the Minister aware that in the past 40 years the European Union’s share of global GDP has fallen from 30% to just 15% and that 90% of future world economic growth is going to come from outside Europe? Does he agree that the future is not regional relative decline; the future is global?
I do agree, and my hon. Friend makes an extremely good point. We need to make sure that this country is well positioned. He refers to the previous era of globalisation and particularly the emergence of China. The United Kingdom’s task is to take the right strategic decisions so that we can be plugged in not only to Asia but, I very much hope, to an emerging Africa, Latin America and the whole world, and so that we can participate on the basis of technologies that were unimaginable at the beginning of the EU’s life, not least the internet, inexpensive air travel and containerised shipping. Those three things have transformed our world for the better, and I hope and expect, as I am sure my hon. Friend does, that in future, over the course of our lifetimes, the world will improve in ways that we cannot yet imagine.
We have learned today that the Government’s own analysis suggests that the economy will grow by less than 5% in the case of a UK-EU trade deal. That is people’s jobs and livelihoods. Will the Minister confirm that the Government’s negotiating position has been decided not on the basis of the economic evidence but on ideology alone?
Let us not pretend that there is no ideology among those who wish to remain in the European Union, even at the cost of overturning a democratic decision, remaining in the EEA and surrendering democratic control and power. The figure to which the hon. Lady referred is wrong—it is not as she stated—but I do not propose now to walk through what is in the analysis which, as I have said, is currently a provisional draft and is not yet Government policy.
On Friday, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union was on Teesside to set up an optimistic free-trading vision for the UK after we leave the EU. Given that all estimates have consistently underestimated our economy, surely it is time to just get on with the job.
It is time to get on with the job. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend and his colleagues for their brilliant work agitating for free trade zones, which I believe should be an important part of the Government’s consideration.
The Minister is clearly making himself out to be a bit of a philosopher today, so I say to him that surely it is the mark of a democracy that those of us who take different sides do not question each other’s patriotism. If he does not trust the forecasts, will he take the sensible decision—like the one taken by the previous Chancellor, George Osborne—to get them out of the Treasury and say to the Office for Budget Responsibility, “You get the forecast done by the time of the spring statement”? Then we can all see what the truth is.
I have been careful not to use the word “patriotism” and not to question anyone’s, but the voters of the United Kingdom are entitled to look at the words and actions of their parliamentarians and ask what they are trying to achieve. Are they committed to adhering to the referendum result? Are they doing so with a spirit of confidence and boldness, and with buoyancy and hope, or are they trying to demoralise the public and overturn the result through delay and revocation? The hon. Lady should think very carefully about what her voters—and, indeed, all our voters—will think about our actions. I hope she will commit to carrying through their democratic decision.
It is in the national interest to get the best deal we possibly can. Does my hon. Friend agree that to do that we have to keep our cards close to our chest? These are tough negotiations, and to expose the goods and the bads in such negotiations plays right into the hands of an organisation that, let us face it, does not want us to leave anyway.
I think the EU’s willingness to see us leave is increasing by the day as we go through this process. It is important that the House knows that key figures throughout the EU pay close attention to our newspaper headlines, so it is important and incumbent on us all to remain committed, in that spirit of buoyancy and hope, to carrying through the referendum result.
We have been here before, because the same gloom-laden forecasts were made before the referendum and none of them was anywhere near the mark. Does the Minister agree that these long-term forecasts are as useful for predicting future economic performance as newspaper horoscopes? More importantly, will he assure us that despite the hysteria from the Opposition Benches, the Government will not be distracted from honouring their commitment to deliver the United Kingdom out of the single market and the customs union?
The hon. Gentleman’s question reminds me of the great economist Galbraith who said, if I recall correctly, that the only purpose of economic forecasting was to make astrology look respectable. There is a great deal of truth in that.
Another great economist, J. M. Keynes, said, “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” Will my hon. Friend confirm that a deep and special partnership must include services as well as goods, because services account for 80% of our economy, and that any deal that did not include all services would not be in the interests of the United Kingdom?
Of course I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of services, but I go further. It is extremely important that our ambassador to the World Trade Organisation, Julian Braithwaite, is chairing the relevant committee on services. It is in the UK’s and, indeed, the world’s interests that we take part in a global liberalisation of services in trade. That is key to unlocking the UK’s prosperity and, indeed, to unlocking Governments’ capacity to meet the commitments that they have entered into for their populations.
My constituents, many of whom are former Conservative voters, cannot understand why any Government would adopt policies that they knew would make them or the country worse off. The Minister’s tactic today is to rubbish his own commissioned analyses because they show that leaving the EU will be an economic disaster, to a greater or lesser extent. If he believes in Brexit at any cost, will he at least have the honesty to say so?
That is simply not the case. As I have not hesitated to say several times, the economic analysis does not show the country being worse off; it shows the country being better off under all circumstances. It shows GDP growing—
The shadow Minister says it is nonsense, but I can assure him that it is not. The economic analysis shows GDP increasing in all circumstances. The point of the Government’s policy must be to carry through faithfully the decision of the British people and to do so in a way that proves these doom-mongers and naysayers wrong.
In these negotiations, the UK is on one side, and 27 other Governments and the EU are on the other. Will my hon. Friend say how many of those Governments, as well as the EU itself, have confirmed that they will publish the entirety of their internal analysis on each option that they might be prepared to offer?
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. I am not aware that any of them is prepared to reveal that information, and he was absolutely right to mention it. I can assure him that I have given instructions to our teams to analyse the interests of other member states simply for the purpose of demonstrating that it is in our mutual interests to conclude a deep and special partnership.
As there is so much noise, I will call someone who has been behaving in a statesperson-like manner. I call Fiona Onasanya.
I refute the accusation that we do not accept what our constituents have voted for. In June, they were asked a simple question, which was something like this: would you like a divorce, yes or no? They answered that question, but they did not know who would have the children, who would get the house, and how the assets would be split. Will Ministers give us the detail of the impact analysis that has been done, so that we can advise our constituents on how leaving will affect them?
The hon. Lady makes a very interesting point, but I slightly regret her metaphor. We need to face up to the fact that the British public have rejected the idea of delivering free trade through political integration. Our task is to rise to the challenge of this new decision in strategic political economy and deliver free trade, which provides for democratic control of political power. I did listen carefully to what she said.
It is with growing admiration that I listen to the pronouncements of the Mystic Megs, and indeed the Mystic Moggs, who, with near papal infallibility, pronounce this, that or the other as being an absolute certainty. I agree with the Minister when he says that this is an uncertain process. All my constituents and businesses in North Dorset want to hear from the Minister is that he and the Government are committed to a pragmatic, common-sense solution to this issue that we are facing, to ensure economic growth, stability in jobs and prosperity in Dorset.
As I said in an earlier answer, I believe that that pragmatic way forward is as set out by our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in the Lancaster House and the Florence speeches, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for underlining the fact that it is the right way forward.
How dare the Minister suggest to my constituents that ignorance is bliss! My constituents were misled by the lies on the side of the Brexit bus. My constituents are now being deprived of the information that suggests that, up and down the north of England and in Yorkshire in particular, jobs and employment will plunge if we go out on the worst terms. Will he apologise to my constituents for misleading them?
No, I will not. I encourage the hon. Gentleman to listen to the arguments that I have made and to the answers that I have given. In all scenarios in this analysis, economic growth increases. He talks about people being misled in the referendum campaign; there were two campaigns and both are susceptible to criticism. I encourage him to look at the Treasury Committee’s report, which criticised the remain campaign quite heavily; otherwise, I should not have been able to sign up to it.
In my constituency, more than 2,000 people work in insurance. Britain is home to the world’s largest insurance market, and many European companies need access to our market. Does the Minister agree that it is in the interests of both Britain and Europe to seek a much deeper and more modern trade relationship than the EU has with any other third country?
I do agree with my hon. Friend. The United Kingdom has a comparative advantage in insurance, as it does in so many financial services. As I indicated earlier, it is in the interests of Europe and the world that we should be able to take that comparative advantage and put it to the service of the whole world.
Like that of the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb), who is no longer in his place, my constituency is the gateway to Britain from the Republic of Ireland and on the frontline of Brexit. Businesses that I have spoken to in the past few weeks and months want, because of the uncertainty, an analysis of what Brexit will mean for them specifically. Will the Minister tell the House when he was intending to share this information with local authorities, the devolved Administration and, indeed, their MP who needs to keep them informed?
I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr Walker), has been in contact with the Port of Holyhead, and we will continue our programme of engagement, well apprised of the need to keep talking to businesses, particularly those that provide our important infrastructure, such as the port in his constituency. He asked me when: I have said that, before the meaningful vote, we will make appropriate economic analysis available to the House.
During referendum week, I was fortunate to speak to 25 schools, taking a neutral position. I visited two schools in the past fortnight, and the vast majority of the students, who would probably have voted to remain, wanted us to get on with the job rather than unpick it. Does the Minister agree that it is essential that we respect the ballot box system that elected us, engage more with our constituents and get on with the job in hand?
I do agree with my hon. Friend. I particularly lament the way that so much of the demoralisation that has taken place has been aimed at young people. It is precisely because we are concerned for their future that we want to deliver a successful partnership with the European Union as we turn out to take advantage of that growth, 90% of which will come from the rest of the world. It is their future that we are concerned about, and it is their future that led people like me to campaign for leave on the basis of upholding their democratic choice to choose a Government and influence its policies.
These leaked figures indicate and expose the damage that will be caused by a Brexit outside the single market and the customs union. Is it not the case that the greatest failure of this Parliament, on the biggest issue of our time, and despite the damage that it will do to people’s livelihoods and standards of living, is that the British Government and the Labour Opposition share the exact same position?
As I have already said, all scenarios in this analysis show growth. The analysis is heavily caveated with the profound uncertainties that exist, not only for the UK and Europe but for the world. In that context, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept the answers that I have given today.
Following directly on from that, is it not right that we should approach such economic modelling with caution? History has proven to be wrong and flawed in the past. The information is incomplete. Does my hon. Friend, and philosopher longstanding, look forward to proving this analysis wrong as well?
I would agitate for a healthy scepticism about the use of mathematical economics, and we should go forward in that spirit.
What duty does the Minister owe to the British people, including my constituents, if not to tell the truth about the choices in the negotiations before us and what they will mean for jobs and businesses in Nottingham?
Over the long course of the history of the European Union, and indeed of the referendum campaign, people have not shown a particular willingness on a very wide scale to engage in the details of trade policy. This is an area where they do expect the Government—[Interruption.] The hon. Lady says something about our duty. Our duty is to get on with the job that the people have given us to do not only in answering the referendum question telling us that they wish to leave the EU, but in voting at the general election for a range of parties, all of which, including her own, said that we should leave the European Union. And to leave the European Union, we need to leave the customs union and the European economic area and restore democratic control and political power, and that is what we will do; that is our duty.
The naysayers who are talking this up are some of the same people who said that on 24 June we would drop off a cliff, exports would be down, foreign direct investment would be down, and jobs would be lost—the list goes on—but the opposite is true. Does my hon. Friend agree that it will not always be plain sailing—there will be difficulties along the way—but the end destination is worth getting to, and people up and down this country in increasing numbers are just saying, “Get on with it”?
I agree with my hon. Friend that we do need to get on with it, and, yes, the end destination is worth getting to, although, hopefully, there will be no end to this journey. We will journey out into a new life of prosperity and self-government, which will give us the dignity of self-control.
First, let me draw the attention of the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests concerning Weightron Bilanciai.
I have here a letter sent by the European Commission, which was received by British manufacturing firms, telling them that after Brexit all products certified for use by UK certifiers will no longer be eligible for sale in the EU. Those companies are now rushing to get their entire product range recertified, often at three times the cost, from European certifying authorities. What advice do the Government give to UK manufacturing firms that have products certified in the UK about what they should do in the run-up to Brexit and the need for recertification?
I expect us to conclude a free trade agreement with the European Union that includes agreements in relation to product conformity. I hope that we will make rapid progress through these negotiations now that we have made sufficient progress and are moving on to the next stage. I very much hope that everyone in this country, including manufacturers, to which the hon. Gentleman refers, will be given an accelerated degree of certainty as we progress through the negotiations.
Is my hon. Friend familiar with the PwC analysis that suggests that the UK could be the fastest growing economy in the G7 between Brexit and 2050?
I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing that out.
The Minister will be aware that I have submitted 23 questions to his Department asking what assessments the Government have undertaken—all to ensure that businesses and workers in my area are safeguarded. The Government have repeatedly refused to release even the titles of these assessments, so will the Minister confirm how many impact studies the Government have conducted and for how long he expects Members to have access to these documents before we vote on the final Brexit deal?
I think that the documents that we put out and discussed at great length continue to be available to colleagues. As I have said, we will lay before both Houses the appropriate economic analysis before the decision is taken.
Mr Speaker, you will recall from this morning that the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the hon. Member for Burton (Andrew Griffiths) ducked my question on the impact of these assessments on small businesses, so I will try again. Leaked or not, if the Minister is willing to be disparaging about his own civil servants who are producing his own reports, does he also reject the reports from the University of St Andrews that point out that small business will be hit by lower levels of investment and access to finance, lower growth and reduced product development opportunities?
I will make two points. First, as far as I recall, I have never been disparaging about civil servants with whom I have worked; it is quite the reverse. What I have been disparaging about is method in the economic sciences. That is quite different. Secondly, all the circumstances in this analysis predict growth. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer that I gave earlier, pointing out all the flaws in the predictions of the Bank of England. I ask him to start working out how he can play his part in leading this country forward with a spring in its step.
I refer the House to my declaration in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. In the past week, Mark Carney and Jaguar Land Rover have blamed Brexit on the fall in growth and business respectively. For Jaguar Land Rover, this is resulting in prolonged shutdowns and declining production. This is happening now. Will the Minister accept the reality of what is happening and publish the Government’s analysis?
I accept that Jaguar Land Rover does not sell as many cars as I should like it to. I consider it this Government’s duty to enter into trading arrangements with the whole world that facilitate the company’s complete success. I look forward to working to do just that with all the strength we can muster.
If work has been done on the regional impact of different Brexit scenarios, is not it in the national interest for regional devolved bodies and local councils to have this information, so that they can make appropriate plans for the future?
We will continue our programme of engagements with the devolved Administrations and the English regions. What we will not do is publish or reveal information we consider to be prejudicial to their interests and the national interest or that would harm our negotiations.
The information in today’s Government report directly reflects what industries and businesses on Teesside have been saying for months—that they will suffer if the Government totally abandon the single market and the customs union. Ministers may choose to ignore the reports, but will they please listen to what the industrialists and the businesspeople are saying? The Government need to be open and honest about the impacts and provide clarity on how these businesses can trade successfully after Brexit.
The Secretary of State went to the region only last week to make an important speech about the implementation period, precisely because we understand the importance of industries and businesses there. There is no question of our ignoring analysis. We are conducting the analysis to inform our position, as I have tirelessly set out.
This is about the UK Government doing their job, and they have spectacularly failed to do that. This leaked paper talks about the impact of Brexit on different areas of the UK, despite the Government telling devolved Governments and Administrations that they have no such information. The Minister failed to answer the question asked by my