Tuesday 17 April 2018
[Mr George Howarth in the Chair]
I beg to move,
That this House has considered the matter of reducing fly-tipping.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth. I thank everyone who responded to the House of Commons post on fly-tipping and the Commons staff who have offered their time and support for this important debate.
Fly-tipping is bad for the environment and bad for public health. It is not a victimless crime, and it has been on the increase since 2012. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs estimates that the clean-up operation alone cost the taxpayer some £58 million last year. Local authorities cleaned up more than 1 million fly-tips last year—a 7% increase on the year before. Private landowners and farmers are seriously affected, too. Nearly two thirds of landowners have been affected by fly-tipping, including farmers and charities such as the National Trust, which experienced 232 fly-tips last year alone.
It is not fair that private landowners are held responsible for somebody else’s crime and have to clean up. Several landowners got in touch with us to emphasise that, and I am sure Members here this morning had lots of people contacting them. Waste is tipped in small quantities or sometimes on an industrial scale, with lorry loads, and it is the responsibility of the farmer and the landowner to clean it up. It then becomes their waste, and that is the problem. The National Trust has found that cleaning up fly-tipping forces it to divert money from projects aimed at protecting and enhancing the environment on its land. On average, it costs landowners more than £800 to clear up an individual fly-tip, and in some cases—if a huge lorry load has been dumped in the countryside—it costs much more.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing the debate, which is important to my constituents. He is right to highlight the impact on landowners, but does he also accept that the problem exists in urban areas and local streets? In Old Trafford in my constituency, we have a big problem of fly-tipping in alleyways, which impinges on local householders.
I thank the hon. Lady for that intervention. I accept that that is indeed the case. Fly-tipping can involve anything from a mattress or a sofa to large quantities of rubbish. Around our big conurbations, certainly in the midlands and other areas, there seems to be what I would call industrial tipping, involving lorry loads of waste, perhaps from hospitals or wherever. Everybody thinks it is being taken away legitimately, but it is tipped. The closer one is to larger conurbations, the worse the problem, especially for cases involving large quantities.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate. Does he agree with me that there is a correlation between what local authorities charge for disposing of waste and the incidence of fly-tipping? Nottingham City Council cut all charges for small items in 2013 and has seen a drop of two thirds in fly-tipping in its area.
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. When it comes to small-scale fly-tipping, if people can go to a tip and not be charged, it encourages them to dispose of waste properly. It seems to have had an effect in Nottingham, and I shall have a series of asks for the Minister at the end of my speech. However, it might not reduce industrial tipping, where people have to pay quite a lot for disposal because of the cost of landfill. That is where there seems to be a major problem.
If we could find who has carried out the fly-tipping, we could impound their lorries and take away their means of operation. That would also send a message to others that it is a dangerous job. We do not need to catch many people operating on an industrial scale if we are prepared to take really tough enforcement action.
The opportunity for tipping should be reduced. I have been working with my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton) in Walsall. Our tip is not open all week. Walsall council staff collected 108 fridges in a single day, as reported in our local paper, the Express & Star, so I am working to ensure that our tip is open all the time to make sure the opportunity for fly-tipping is reduced and people can dispose of their waste appropriately.
My hon. Friend makes an interesting point, because dumping fridges is dangerous and the gas in fridges needs to be recovered. Dumping fridges is not only unsightly, but very bad for the environment. If the waste-disposal site was kept open, there would be more chance for people to get there. We must give people every opportunity to do things the right way. Some people will still choose the wrong way, because it is easier to simply throw something on the ground. Some of my own land is miles from anywhere, and I wonder why people take so much trouble to go so far to tip waste when they could probably go to a waste-disposal site. Some places take it free of charge and yet some people still dump it out on the fields.
My hon. Friend is making a powerful speech. On the specific point about how far people go, in some cases they do not go far at all. They simply dump their stuff in their front garden, blighting neighbourhoods for years on end. Does he agree that perhaps more should be done in those cases as well?
My hon. Friend makes an interesting point. Such cases are probably down to the local authority, which can take action in the case of a local authority property, but if it is not such a property it is much more difficult. It is amazing to see what people dump in their gardens, and then the grass grows up through it and it is really unsightly; it can attract vermin and be hazardous. I will probably put myself into a minefield if I go too far down that route, buy it is essential that society behaves in a reasonable manner, so that our neighbours are able to live without unsightliness. Also, it is essential from an environmental health point of view.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for securing this important debate. Does he recognise that cuts have consequences? In York, since 2015, the fly-tipping service to pick up the rubbish has been cut from monthly to quarterly cycles and the number of complaints has doubled. In 2016, York Civic Trust’s annual report complained that York’s streets face decreasing standards of cleaning and rubbish collections.
My hon. Friend—I will say hon. Friend—has made an interesting point. I understand that local authorities are strapped for cash and have to try to make every penny count, but sometimes it is a false economy when they cut the frequency of collections, because there is more chance of people fly-tipping. I shall go on to that later, but she raises a really good point. Sometimes it is counterproductive to cut back on the number of collections. When the local authority has to collect it later, there is a clear-up cost. If everything was taken in the round, it might be more cost-effective just to collect it in the first place.
The hon. Gentleman is being very generous with his time. I congratulate him on securing this important debate. Fly-tipping is a real problem for my constituents in Barnsley East. It is not just a financial problem, but one that scars the environment. Does he agree that local authorities should be given more resources? Also, to pick up on a point that he made earlier, does he think that we should have a zero-tolerance approach to fly-tipping and be much harder when we catch those responsible?
The hon. Lady makes an important point. It is about the resources that local authorities have, but it is also about how local authorities choose to use those resources. Like many people in this House, I came up through district and county councils, so I know that there is a series of choices to be made even when times are hard. As I said in answer to the previous intervention, local authorities should look at whether it might be more cost-effective to do more collecting, even if money is tight, because the cost of clearing up is probably greater. I therefore put some of the onus back on to local authorities, but I will ask at the end for the Government to work much more closely with local government to try to stop fly-tipping.
Current enforcement rules are not working, as the increase in fly-tipping demonstrates. Fines need to be more severe so that they act as a real deterrent. Jane said that littering should be a crime with instant fines and names recorded. Persistent offenders should be made to pick up litter, and more needs to be done to enforce current laws—I think we would all agree with that. We also need more anti-fly-tipping education. We have many campaigns, but we probably need even more. If we can get to our schoolchildren and young people we have a greater chance of ensuring that the situation gets better.
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency should be given powers to remove vehicles belonging to fly-tippers. That is a really good point, because if we can capture and fine people who have done it, and we can take away vans, lorries and other vehicles, that would send a real message. At the moment, it is too easy to fly-tip, and people feel that the fines they get if they are stopped are outweighed by the fact that they have been able to dump a lot of material that they may have had to pay to put into a waste disposal site. Local authorities should consider reducing or scrapping charges to take away large or bulky items such as white goods—we have talked about fridges—which are among the most fly-tipped items. That would take away some of the incentive to fly-tip in the first place.
When South Staffordshire Council increased civic amenity site charges, the entire area was blighted by fly-tipping, including dumping of rubbish in woodlands, lanes and ditches. If councils scrapped charges at waste disposal sites for people bringing in trailers, and reduced charges for commercial waste disposal, it would encourage people to do it the right way. Local authorities should also consider making waste and recycling centres more accessible to everybody. The point has been made that such sites are not always open, and not everybody can get there on a Saturday morning, or whenever the waste site might be open; sometimes they are open during the week but not at the weekend. There are all sorts of ways we can make it easier. We have to give people every opportunity to do it the right way, and then come down heavily on those who do not.
There is constant fly-tipping in many areas, which undermines the sense of community pride and the community’s efforts to look after their area. Does the Minister agree—I am sure she does—that we need to prevent fly-tipping? Will the Minister increase the fines? I am not sure that it is her direct responsibility, but will she ensure that local government and others in Government take the opportunity to introduce extra fines?
To what extent are Ministers working with other Departments on addressing the problem? Naturally, a Minister from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is here this morning, but other Departments involved include the Home Office, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and the Ministry of Justice. Will the Minister work with the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government to create an anti-fly-tipping education campaign? We need to talk to the Department for Education, because this all needs to work across Government.
Will the Minister encourage local authorities to work more closely with private landowners so that we can identify fly-tippers and ensure that they are penalised? We need to be on the side of the innocent. That is a really important point. Very often it is left to landowners and farmers to pay large amounts of money to dispose of rubbish that was not theirs in the first place. Will the Minister encourage local authorities to open up access to waste disposal and recycling sites, so that people are not incentivised to fly-tip in the first place? Will the Minister encourage local authorities to stop charging people to have larger items, such as white goods, taken away?
We must ensure that all parties—local authorities, police, landowners, and the Environment Agency—work together. What can the Minster do on a national level to increase the consistency of the fly-tipping response across the country, so that people who fly-tip know that they have a reasonable chance of being caught? At the moment, people do not feel that they do. What can be done nationally to encourage more local partnerships to clean up fly-tipping? Finally, would the Government support a scheme to allow any landowner affected by fly-tipping to dispose of his or her waste free of charge? Landowners and farmers do not invite fly-tipping, and it is a huge cost to them to clear it up.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth. Fly-tipping is a problem that affects communities the length and breadth of the country, including in the area I represent. That is why I welcome today’s debate and congratulate the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) on securing it.
Levels of fly-tipping are spiralling across Coventry. The problem is particularly acute in the Foleshill and Stoke areas of my constituency. Those areas are blighted by domestic and commercial fly-tippers targeting streets, shared communal areas and open green spaces, often leaving them strewn with all types of waste. Alleyways are blocked with old mattresses, shopping trollies and even bathtubs. Streets are scattered with litter and bags of rubbish, and our parks are blighted by abandoned sofas and old electrical goods. I have witnessed the impact of fly-tipping on my local communities in Coventry. It is a scar on the local environment, and causes misery to law-abiding residents, affecting how they feel about the place they call home. Moreover, fly-tipping is a financial burden on our local authority that diverts money away from crucial services such as adult social care.
Coventry City Council takes the problem of fly-tipping seriously and is determined to tackle it head-on. It works hard to deter such criminal acts, to investigate and clean up incidents of fly-tipping when they occur, and to penalise those who engage in it. Last year the council prosecuted 35 people for fly-tipping, and it is pursuing 15 cases through the judicial system this year. None the less, the council recognises that more needs to be done to tackle this growing problem, which is why it has earmarked an additional £100,000 this year to create a new mobile team to combat fly-tipping. The additional resource will be used to target areas of the city where there have been high rates of fly-tipping and extra street-cleansing is necessary.
That shows that Coventry City Council is committed to fulfilling its responsibility for tackling fly-tipping at all levels. However, its ability to deal with the growing problem has been severely hampered in recent years by cuts to local government funding. By 2020, the council will have just half the money it had to run services in 2010. Needless to say, that places significant pressure on the provision of frontline services and has forced the council to make tough choices, one of which is to reduce the frequency of household bin collections in order to save more than £1 million a year. The council recognises that more needs to be done to tackle this growing problem, which is why it has earmarked the £100,000 for this year.
Coventry City Council is a very well-run authority and has been for many years. One of the things we used to do many years ago was provide a bulk lift; every single resident would clear out their attics, gardens and sheds and the council provided the money and the transport to take away the goods. We could not possibly think of doing that anymore. More anti-fly-tipping legislation, or campaigns to prevent fly-tipping or to provide free removal of white goods, are all admirable things, but it does not matter what we do; we need the money to do it. All of those things cost money and that has to come out of the rates. I beg the Minister to look once again at funding for local authorities so that they can carry out these important services for their residents.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) on securing this important debate and echo many of the points made by Members across the Chamber. We certainly do need tougher police action and tougher penalties for people who are caught fly-tipping, and we need to support local authorities. I am sure we would all welcome more funding if we can find it.
I want to make a suggestion that I have not yet heard mentioned by any of the organisations campaigning on this issue—I alert the Minister to the fact that I am that dreaded thing: a Back Bencher with a plan and a scheme. I would welcome her comments on this, as I have been giving the matter a great deal of thought, because this is an issue in Monmouthshire. I fully support the measures that have been set out and want to add another thought.
A particular problem, as my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton mentioned, is that the liability for any fly-tipped waste lies with the landowner. I suggest changing the liability and pushing it back towards the people who produce the waste in the first place. I started thinking about that after reading an article a couple of weeks ago—I think it was in Farmers Weekly, although I could not find it again—about a farmer who had had waste tipped on his land. He went through it and was able to establish where it had come from, then went back to the originators of the waste, who were able to say who had received the waste. As a result, a prosecution was brought against the cowboys who had taken away the waste. That made me think that there is room for some kind of voluntary licensing scheme, a little bit like that in force for anyone who wants to be a door supervisor.
In other words, we would give an organisation like the Security Industry Association the power to accredit anyone who wants to move away waste. Those who want to take away waste can apply for a licence—there would obviously be a charge for it—and would be able to establish themselves as legitimate operators. They would have to undergo training. They would not be able to breach any health and safety rules or tip waste illegally or they would lose their licence.
What about the people who produce the waste? Under a voluntary scheme, they would have the choice of going either to an accredited waste tipper or somebody not accredited, who might be cheaper. To make the scheme effective, anyone who chose to use a non-accredited company to remove waste would then become liable if that waste ever turned up somewhere it was not meant to be. It would clearly also be possible to make this a mandatory scheme, but that would involve a certain amount of extra paperwork and bureaucracy.
That is not a panacea, of course, but it is one of a number of moves that we could think about. It would get people who produce waste, whether small businesses or householders, thinking about whether they use one company that is a bit cheaper or another that is accredited. Using the accredited company might cost a little more, but they would not run the risk of having somebody knocking on the door in the months to come and demanding payment of a bill of thousands of pounds in order to remove waste that has been illegally tipped. It would quickly raise public awareness of the problem, because any company that had paid for a licence to get itself accredited would be making that very clear in its advertising, whether on websites or elsewhere. It would alert the public to the fact that, frankly, there are a lot of cowboys out there going around breaking the law. I offer it as a simple, constructive policy idea and I hope that the Minister might consider it.
This is a very interesting topic, and one that I raised with the Minister in my own debate not so long ago. It will come as no surprise to her that we will be covering many of the same points again.
For me, there is a clear difference between fly-tipping, litter louts and waste disposal sites. At one end of the scale we have the litter louts—those who drop litter out of car doors or who cannot be bothered to dispose of their cans and their plastics. At the other end of the scale we have properly managed and licensed sites for dealing with waste that will ultimately get recycled or sent to landfill. The fly-tipping piece is in the middle, and I believe that it needs to be separately recognised.
The Minister has done an excellent job of looking at how to tackle litter louts. This year she has increased on-the-spot fines and default penalties and has recently introduced a provision whereby those who chuck things out of their car windows can be held to account. I say all credit to her. With regard to waste sites, she has said that there should be provision to lock them and that rogue operators should be not only fined, but forced to clean up their own mess. I commend all of that, but I maintain that we still have a gap in understanding what we mean when considering fly-tipping.
Quite a lot of the litter that we see on the sides of our roads comes from commercial vehicles that have not necessarily deliberately fly-tipped; they might be items that were not properly secured on the vehicles. That is certainly the case in Dorset, and I daresay elsewhere across the country. Does my hon. Friend agree that is an additional category that should be looked at when we consider fly-tipping?
That is a very interesting point. That goes into the litter category, which the Minister has already begun to legislate on, and I would expand the category to cover that. In a sense, it is largely about intent. I think that littering is generally about being careless, which such a van owner would be, whereas fly-tipping is driven by economic gain. The formal sites are in a different category all of their own, as licensed operators. I urge the Minister to look at this more sensibly. As my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) has indicated, an important part of this is making the public aware.
A point about the responsibility and liability for those who create the waste was raised earlier. They are already liable and responsible under section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990. They are responsible for using those who dispose of waste in an appropriate and legal way. If they use an unlicensed organisation, they are responsible and can be fined. The problem is not that the legislation is not there; it is that it is incredibly hard to enforce.
With regard to raising awareness, there are some very simple things that could be done. First, every bin could have a label on it that says, “Be warned: unlicensed fly-tipping is illegal”—something catchy that makes people wake up to the fact that they are responsible and can be fined. There should be something making exactly the same point on every council tax bill that goes out. There are ways and means of doing this. If people realise that they can and will be fined, that will make a big difference.
For many of the cases in my constituency, the challenge has been evidence. Unless there is a photograph showing the dumping being done by a particular vehicle, the licence plate and the individual doing the dumping, it is hard to get a conviction. We should look at the evidence test, because perfection can be the enemy of the good. There are clear guidelines for holding people responsible that we cannot move beyond, but we must review the evidence that is required and look at what is reasonable in these circumstances to enable a conviction.
The agencies involved include the DVLA, which has been mentioned. The challenge is that the DVLA uses data protection to withhold information about the vehicle owner, as has happened to a number of my constituents. When I challenged the DVLA, it said, “Oh no, we normally give evidence in those circumstances,” but that is not the case. The Government should look at the stakeholders involved and at what we can do to enable such evidence as is available to be used.
The hon. Lady is making some excellent suggestions. A constituent came to see me at my surgery this Saturday to report commercial fly-tipping in Eccup—a small village on the outskirts of my constituency. He said that large commercial vehicles are dumping waste and suggested a national CCTV programme in hot spots to catch the evidence. I think CCTV is part of the solution to fly-tipping.
It is a very expensive solution. If we could do what the hon. Gentleman describes at a reasonable cost, that would be wonderful. He makes a good point, but in the countryside the cost of putting CCTV cameras around every single location would be extremely high, and making them impossible to dismantle would be a real challenge. It is a great idea for cities, where they can be put in inaccessible places, but the challenges in rural areas mean that it is not a viable solution.
The Minister should also review the licensing scheme. At the moment there is a grey area: it is unclear who has to be licensed and who does not. The Minister ought to look at increasing the number of bodies that are required to have licences. It should not just be those disposing of a certain quantity or type of waste; we should require any vehicle capable of disposing of waste to have some sort of licence.
There is also an issue relating to tracing the vehicle and the material being dumped. Currently we use tachometers and a number of other things to track commercial vehicles. It seems to me that if we issue a licence to a vehicle, we should include something to record where they have gone in a central system, so that when there is tipping we can check the recording. Nowadays, screwing metal barcodes to white goods is pretty common, so there must be a way of tracing the origin of white goods that are dumped. We should look at that for the future. Perhaps we should do what we do with cans and bottles: people should get their money back if they take their white goods to the tip.
One of the problems for most farmers is that insurance is prohibitively expensive. At the moment, something like 17% of farmers are insured, and the rest are not. The consequence is that the clear-up of fly-tipping is extremely costly. It seems to me that the insurance companies have a part to play in resolving that problem and making insurance much more achievable.
I have given the Minister a couple more ideas since the last time I spoke on this matter, for the residents of Devon and Teignbridge, in particular. I would very much like her to look at creating a new strategy specifically for fly-tipping, rather than for litter louts, which I think she has a done a grand job of dealing with, and formal waste disposal sites.
I am very pleased to be able to speak in this debate on fly-tipping. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) for securing it. Fly-tipping is a blight on many of our communities, both rural and urban. My hon. Friend is right to suggest that it is counterintuitive for local authorities. This is about local priorities, and I am afraid that it was not a priority for the previous Labour administration on my council.
My constituents in Stoke-on-Trent South have seen a number of incidents of this nature in the past, but I am pleased to say that the now ever-diligent city council is taking a stand and has a zero-tolerance approach to environmental crime. Although far too many alleyways and open spaces are blighted by this horrific behaviour, I am delighted to report that the recent results show vast improvements locally. The perpetrators face swift justice and are taken to court.
I do not plan to speak at length, but I want to bring hon. Members’ attention not only to the increasing problem of illegally dumped waste but to the deeply concerning industrial-scale black market industry that has developed as a consequence of it. My hon. Friend the Member for Cannock Chase (Amanda Milling) has done a considerable amount of work on this subject with the excellent Staffordshire fire and rescue service. She asked me to mention the Slitting Mill waste fire in her constituency, which took many months to extinguish. This issue affects many constituencies around the country, and I hope we can secure another debate on it soon.
The case of the Slitting Mill fire throws into sharp relief the huge problem that fly-tipping on a commercial scale can cause. There is a huge risk of fire and environmental damage, and it blights the aesthetics of our communities. Those risks are amplified when the dumping takes place close to critical infrastructure, where any fire is likely to compromise vital services—not to mention the devastating economic implications and disruption that can follow.
The hon. Gentleman is talking about the aesthetics of areas, and very serious matters including the health and safety implications. Does he agree that it is imperative that local authorities and Departments realise the economic implications? The old adage that we never get a second chance to create a first impression applies when we are talking about visitors, tourists and potential inward investors. We need investment to ensure that local areas benefit.
I totally agree. This is about inward investment and tourism, too, and fly-tipping detracts from that. It is important that we have a zero-tolerance approach to this unacceptable behaviour.
Stoke-on-Trent has experienced the dire consequences of waste being stored illegally. Hanbury Plastics—a site that never held an environmental permit to store waste—went up in smoke initially in February 2017, with a subsequent fire in November. I should declare a personal interest; the site is only about 600 yards from my home. At its peak, the site contained about 10,000 tonnes of waste. The Environment Agency continually issued legal notices to reduce that to a safe level of about 1,500 tonnes. The situation has been ongoing since 2014, yet the various agencies involved are seemingly powerless to act. Clearly, it is too late to prevent what happened at those sites, but many other waste sites around the country continue to operate above the law.
My hon. Friend is making a really good point. The term “fly-tipping” seems to cover a huge variety of waste—from black bin bags thrown out of a car on to the street, to the industrial waste that my hon. Friend is talking about. Does he agree that industrial fly-tipping is part of a wider criminality, which needs to be tackled? We need to ensure that local authorities work much closer with our enforcement agencies such as the police.
I totally agree. A black market is emerging around fly-tipping, with links to numerous other crimes. It is helping to fund other criminal activities.
The former Twyford factory in Stoke-on-Trent is another such site. I have corresponded with the Minister about it previously, so she knows about it. It poses a huge risk, with former industrial buildings now overflowing with flammable waste. This is a site right next to the west coast main line and the A500 trunk road. If it were to be set alight, there would be untold consequences right across the region. On further inspection, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service has gone to the lengths of saying that, in that scenario, it would probably be far too dangerous to attempt to firefight it. That is not to mention the likely damage that a fire would cause to the railway. Services would be disrupted and the smoke plume could even result in the closure of the M6.
The current legislative framework is far too complex, with responsibilities often split across competing agencies such as the Environment Agency, local authorities and the fire and rescue service. Clearly, there is a vital need for improved legislation to combat the increased number of illegal waste sites and inevitable fires, and for measures to deal with the consequences. As the situation stands, the complexity of the law leaves holes for underhand behaviour. The current scale of the problem was not envisaged by the existing legislation, which is particularly concerning given the organised nature of illegal waste sites, with frequent links to more extensive crime networks.
The Government have already made significant progress to ensure that action is taken, but more is needed to beef up those powers and to ensure that more robust powers are available to those agencies and decisive action can be taken. It is important to consider what more can be done to ensure that the cost burden of the extensive emergency response and the eventual clean-up of those sites does not continue to be felt so significantly by those agencies and by the Government, who can ill afford it. It would be encouraging to hear how the Government can help agencies to recover some of the costs from the rogue businesses that perpetrate those crimes.
Order. Could the two remaining speakers be mindful that I will call the Front-Bench speakers at 10.30? I am sure that there will be ample opportunity for them to make their case. I call Kirstene Hair.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) for bringing to the floor a problem that is a big issue in my constituency.
In Scotland, more than 26,000 tonnes of litter are illegally fly-tipped every year. There are around 62,000 separate fly-tipping incidents every year, costing Scottish taxpayers more than £11 million. While the maximum penalty for this crime is substantial in both England and Scotland, the use of a scale means that it is rarely meted out. In truth, the minimum fine on both sides of the border is typically less than £500. As such, although there is still a criminal penalty, on the rare occasions that a fly-tipper is caught, they can often escape with a slap on the wrist, even though a much stronger punishment is required.
In Angus in a five-year period, 1,870 incidents were reported, but only two prosecutions were made. Fly-tipping makes our communities less clean, less attractive and less pleasant places to live. It lowers people’s enjoyment of their own communities through no fault of their own, reduces house prices and can even pose a safety hazard.
It should be a basic responsibility of local government to ensure that communities are kept clean and that any fly-tipping is dealt with swiftly. Simply taking note of some fly-tipping and leaving it to be dealt with at a later date is not good enough. Local authorities owe that to the residents they serve. We have heard that different councils face different fly-tipping challenges; for example, Angus is a rural area that has to have a different approach to fly-tipping from that of a more urban area. Larger rural areas such as Angus naturally have more remote spaces where fly-tippers might choose to dump their rubbish. It is easier, therefore, for fly-tipping to go unnoticed for longer periods of time.
The residents of Angus have risen to the challenge of tackling this issue. I have been deeply impressed with the efforts of constituents such as Mrs Jacquie Steel who, along with groups such as the Angus Litter Summit, has selflessly organised community groups to pick up litter along rural roadsides. Additionally, through initiatives such as the adopt-a-street scheme, Angus residents assume responsibility for a specific part of their town and tend to it diligently.
The hon. Lady is making a very good point, and I agree with a lot of it. Increasingly, local people take it upon themselves to try to help in their community. Does she agree that enforcement alone will never be the sole answer to change behaviour, and that we need more prosecutions to be seen through?
I will come on to that point. Many hon. Members have said that we need visible prosecutions on a regular basis to discourage others from partaking in such activity.
To a significant degree, the fight against fly-tipping is about area, and rural councils simply have larger areas to patrol and to clean. That is why it was absolutely right for Angus Council to keep recycling centres open across the county. Our party took the right approach—Angus Conservative councillors were key in delivering that decision, whereas Scottish National party councillors wanted to close centres and reduce services, which undoubtedly would have increased fly-tipping in my constituency. Rural councils also have to consider larger areas that are relatively secluded and have no CCTV, reducing the possibility that an offender might be caught in the act. Fly-tipping relies in large part on the assumption that there is next to no chance of getting caught. We need to correct that assumption so that, as the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Laura Smith) mentioned, fewer people will take the risk.
Rubbish that has been dumped by fly-tippers often includes evidence that could lead to an offender being caught. Police must seek out that evidence insofar as is practicable. We can and should take a more proactive attitude to fly-tippers. That would lead to more offenders being punished and, given the right amount of publicity, less rubbish being dumped around our communities. A preferable step would be to establish a specific hotline for those in rural settings, to ensure that offenders can be pursued swiftly. Only through rapid prosecution will we deter others from partaking.
I strongly believe that we must start at the beginning, by changing our culture of litter. We must tackle this issue in our schools, making sure that children know from a young age that this type of behaviour is entirely unacceptable, what and how to recycle and how to make more conscious decisions about how we consume and reuse everyday products. Moreover, the less unnecessary packaging we have, the more recyclable packaging and items we have and the more we encourage people to recycle, the less rubbish there will be for people to dump illegally. I am pleased that the proportion of rubbish that is recycled is increasing both in Scotland and in the UK, but there is still more to be done.
I commend this UK Government’s commitment to reducing plastic pollution, which is particularly important for the marine environment in coastal communities such as Angus. The impact of plastics is high on the political agenda, as it should be if we are the generation to tackle the issue. A serious joined-up effort that includes all levels of Government and the police, taking a range of different approaches to the issue, can reduce fly-tipping and make all our communities even better places to live and more appealing for tourists to visit for many generations to come.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) for providing us with the chance to discuss a hugely frustrating issue.
My constituency marks the point at which London’s metropolis turns to beautiful countryside. As such, it has become the victim of fly-tipping on an industrial scale, as I am sure is the case in many other outer-London constituencies. There is money to be made in the business. Waste management licences are given to what look to innocent customers like legal waste contractors but turn out to be cowboys or organised criminals who dump materials from the city’s building sites into our environment.
Since my election, I have been talking to Conservative council representatives in Havering to discuss what we can do as a team to tackle this problem, which continues to be raised by local residents. In October, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs published figures from 2016-17 that showed that local authorities in England dealt with around 1 million fly-tipping incidents—a 7% increase on the previous year. During this period, my borough dealt with more than 4,000 such incidents. The total cost of fly-tipping to Havering residents and businesses between April 2016 and March 2017, including collection and disposal costs, is estimated to be well over £500,000. We now fear that the overall cost is closer to £1 million, which represents a huge burden on the local ratepayer.
I have been working with Councillor Jason Frost, the deputy cabinet member for the environment, to push for increased local authority fines. I met the Minister at one of her Tea Room surgeries to discuss the problem further, and I was encouraged that she and her Department are taking it seriously. The maximum penalties for fly-tipping on summary conviction are a £50,000 fine and/or 12 months’ imprisonment. However, although sentencing guidelines for environmental offences were reviewed in 2014, the maximum fixed penalty notice that local authorities can issue remains only £400 for small-scale fly-tipping. Councillor Frost believes that the fines need to be much more substantial to act as a proper deterrent.
Havering already uses to the maximum existing anti- fly-tipping measures, including joint police operations with covert officers, round-the-clock monitoring of roads, and surveillance cameras. However, as Steve Moore, our director of neighbourhoods, has advised us and a number of Members mentioned, much fly-tipping is now carried out by serious organised criminal gangs, not just casual chancers. Those gangs use false plates and stolen trucks, so traditional means of combating fly-tipping, such as CCTV, are not effective. Therefore, although increased penalties might help, we may well need to go further. If this is an issue of organised crime, it requires an equally organised response by police and other authorities such as the Environment Agency.
New regulations have given the Environment Agency and councils more effective tools to investigate and prosecute waste crimes, including the power to seize vehicles for a wider range of suspected offences. However, I should be grateful if the Minister advised us what further analysis has been undertaken of police operations to ensure that we understand who is behind such crimes, and what work the Environment Agency is doing to make its waste licensing regime much more robust. Will she also say why she thinks there was such a substantial increase in this problem in the latest year for which we have figures? Was that increase driven in any way by changes to environmental regulations or the cost of processing rubbish? Is it possible that well-intended changes have made waste disposal so expensive that people are cutting corners? I again thank my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton, and I look forward to learning more about the Minister’s strategy to tackle this scourge.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth. I congratulate the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) on securing this topical and important debate, which has been extremely interesting and informative, with many excellent contributions. The hon. Gentleman pointed out that the cost to the National Trust of dealing with fly-tipping diverts funds from more worthy projects. That illustrates the general point about fly-tipping across the country. I strongly agree with him about impounding vehicles, which could be done fairly simply. He made the good point that we need to be seen to be on the side of the innocent, and everyone here should agree with that measure.
Many Members made interesting points while discussing concerns about fly-tipping in their local communities. The hon. Member for York Central (Rachael Maskell) expressed serious concerns about whether cuts to local authority funding are a false economy. I believe that prosecutions in England were at a record low in 2017. The hon. Member for Coventry North East (Colleen Fletcher) illustrated well the problem in her area and reiterated the real cost of austerity to her communities.
The hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) has obviously given the problem a lot of thought, and the interesting accreditation scheme he mentioned seems worthy. What the hon. Member for Newton Abbot (Anne Marie Morris) said about labelling chimes with my thoughts about bins. The hon. Member for Leeds North West (Alex Sobel) made a good point about installing cameras in hotspots. We can count either the cost of doing something or the cost of not doing something, and I agree with him that we need to do the former. The hon. Member for Angus (Kirstene Hair) made a good point about fines not being substantial enough. I totally agree with her that they are too weak.
I will outline the measures that we are taking in Scotland to tackle the problem of fly-tipping and littering, which is without a doubt a national embarrassment and leaves us all with a sense of bewilderment and total frustration. It is a blight on our villages, our parks, our rivers and coastlines, and our towns and cities. Fly-tipping threatens our health and diminishes the beauty of the countryside in all parts of the UK—and it is all avoidable.
We do not always have to see the whole staircase; we just need to take the first step. Combating the underhand and antisocial problem of fly-tipping is a positive move towards protecting the environment. Fly-tipping is illegal for a reason: it is dangerous, ugly and terrible for our communities. There are even links between rubbish building up on our streets and increases in crime. It is mystifying that the wretched habit occurs even in areas of great natural beauty, such as Loch Lomond. Like others, I keep asking why people do it. Are they uneducated? Do they not care? Is it laziness?
As was mentioned, people travel miles to dump waste. Last year, I visited the Selby and Tadcaster area as chair of the all-party flood prevention group. I was shown around by the assistant of the hon. Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams). He pointed out that several heavily liveried lorries seemed to have travelled vast distances to fly-tip—to dump their hazardous waste—in his beautiful countryside. That is unacceptable, and I hope the perpetrators have been caught and severely punished.
It seems to me that fly-tipping is simply the result of costs and the operations of unregistered cowboy businesses and organised criminals, many of whom provide what they call white van pick-up services to people in our communities. For many—from micro businesses to larger organisations—costs are at the heart of the problem. We have all heard horror stories and been approached by local action groups who care about their communities. Lots of us work closely with non-governmental organisations and local authorities to try to address the environmental risks and costs to public health with public money, which would be better spent on other projects to benefit our communities.
My researchers tell me tackling fly-tipping and littering in Scotland is estimated to cost at least £53 million a year. I note from the paper that the Local Government Association produced for the debate that fly-tipping alone costs more than £57 million a year in England. Last year, more than 1 million incidents of fly-tipping occurred in England and Wales, and there were more than 40,000 incidents in Scotland. That represents a 7% rise in England and Wales and a small decrease in Scotland.
The Scottish Government are committed to developing a more circular economy, which will benefit both the economy and the environment. Last October, the Scottish Government and Zero Waste Scotland published their strategy for improving waste data in Scotland. Tackling fly-tipping is a key priority for Zero Waste Scotland, which is the Scottish Government’s resource efficiency delivery partner. The charity Keep Scotland Beautiful—I know many of its great staff—also works tirelessly in the community to educate and nudge people into good behaviour and awareness. If we feel frustrated, that must seem like a never-ending battle for them. How do we and those organisations get the message across that we all live in a common home and that as individuals we must realise that our actions count and that every right step we take will lead to positive change?
With Zero Waste Scotland, the Scottish Government have developed a communications toolkit for delivery partners, with the aim of improving understanding of how products and materials flow through our economy—waste flows—from the point of production to the final destination. We hope that that will raise awareness among everyone involved in the waste industry. In 2013, the Scottish Government set up a national environmental crime taskforce, which co-ordinates the efforts of local authorities, regulators, police and other stakeholders to tackle environmental crime, including waste crime. The tools and guidance on offer include FlyMapper, an app that Zero Waste Scotland made for local authorities and land managers. Importantly, that lets stakeholders report and map fly-tipping and identify growing problem areas in real time. There is also a behavioural change marketing campaign to discourage fly-tipping and littering, and we have introduced legislation to increase fixed penalties for both littering and fly-tipping.
We could do more, and I would support measures by any Government, Department or public body to issue fixed penalty notices. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency has new powers to discourage large-scale fly-tipping, and both SEPA and Revenue Scotland are taking action to recover landfill tax from illegally deposited waste. In addition to the FlyMapper app, the Dumb Dumpers website and helpline allow fly-tipping to be reported 24 hours a day.
Scotland is slightly different from the rest of the UK, in that I believe the figures used to make estimates in England in Wales are more than a decade out of date and do not include waste dumped on private land. Will the Minister confirm whether that is true? The Scottish figures do include such waste, but sadly, since reporting is voluntary, they could still be gross underestimates. This practice must not be allowed to continue. As someone with a deep commitment to environmental issues, I fully support the ambition of the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton to rid us of this scourge.
I am delighted to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth. I congratulate the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish), the Chair of the Select Committee, on hitting the jackpot so early on in our recovery from the Easter break. Next to potholes, this is one of the more popular topics on which people engage us, more than anything because of the unfairness of it—if fly-tipping takes place on their land or next to them, it becomes their problem. He is right to highlight it, and I know the Select Committee will continue to look at waste as a major topic of interest.
I will not go over the facts and figures, but we have had good contributions from the hon. Members for Angus (Kirstene Hair), for Hornchurch and Upminster (Julia Lopez), for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies), for Newton Abbot (Anne Marie Morris) and for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton), and from my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry North East (Colleen Fletcher). Others contributed through interventions, which will be on the record.
Fly-tipping is a major problem. We start with people dumping stuff casually, thinking they can get away with it. That is wrong, but at the other end of the scale, this is a major billion-pound criminal business. Next to people trafficking, the drugs trade and, dare I say, a little around the meat trade—we will pass over that quickly—this is the big business of the criminal underworld. People make millions out of it, so we cannot pretend it is something to ignore.
We have heard some of the facts and figures on how local authorities are affected, and there is the implication that, with the cuts and so on, they have found it difficult to up their game, but I will concentrate for the moment on the Environment Agency, which has also faced cuts in this area. I understand that it deals with 1,000 illegal waste sites a year, taking enforcement action, cleaning up and trying to prevent it from happening again, but it has been said to me that it is a bit like whack-a-mole at the fairground—I am a great animal lover—because every time the mole is hit, it comes up somewhere else. That is because of two things: the amount of money to be made out the business, and the way we deal with it in terms of fines and action, which is far too limited nowadays.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell) sent me something she would have spoken about if she could have been here—she sends her apologies; she had a prior engagement—about a firm in her constituency that effectively set up a mini-incinerator, burning all the time. It took a lot of action to get it shut down. When the firm came to court, a sentence of a £750 fine was imposed for one offence—the second offence could not be prosecuted—which was reduced to £562, with £374 costs, and the director responsible was fined £199. According to her, the nonsense went on for weeks and weeks, and the penalty bears no resemblance to the inconvenience caused. That shows how limited the fines and ability to do anything are.
First, I will start with a question to the Minister—she has plenty of time to think about it. At a private briefing that the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton and I went to, I was surprised when she said there is no evidence of an impact on the level of fly-tipping when local authorities put charges on collections for larger items. It would be good to get some empirical evidence, because that is not the view outside this place—it certainly is not that of constituents who I have talked to. My local authority did not charge for it while next door in Gloucester city they always charged and—dare I say it—Gloucester city’s larger items seemed to find their way into Stroud district; but we now charge, and I do not understand how that has not had an impact. It may not have been that much, but there has been talk of a 7% increase last year and it is coming from somewhere. If she could tell me about that or say there is an investigation to look at the impact, that would be useful, because we must have that empirical evidence.
Secondly—I have already talked about this—the fines regime is totally inadequate for today. It is based not just on the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 but on the Environmental Protection Act, which dates back to 1990. Some of the ways to prosecute and the fines regime are therefore nearly 30 years out of date. I know we update the measures, but as much as I love seeing the Minister at various Delegated Legislation Committees on this topic, it needs to be looked at as a whole. As I have said before—I hope the Government will take this seriously—the Opposition will co-operate in any way possible to update the 2005 Act. One of the problems is that there is a lack of strategy. We need one, because it is a big criminal business at one level, and it is really annoying for a lot of people. We are therefore willing to help in whatever way we can to make that Act fit for purpose, with a new Bill.
That is important, because certainly in England the recycling rate has begun to stall—in fact, in some parts of the country it is beginning to decline. I do not see the rush to incineration as anything other than the wrong solution, but there is a real requirement to recognise the problem of waste. I get countless emails from people saying, “We’ve got to do something about plastics,” and we have got to do something about waste overall. I therefore ask the Minister to take up that offer and, through the DEFRA team, see if something can be done in the next Session.
This issue exercises not just individuals and areas but organisations. We have had excellent contributions from the Country Land and Business Association, the Local Government Association, the Countryside Alliance and the National Farmers Union—and, as always, a good paper from the House of Commons Library—which all indicate how big a problem it is and how much we need to do.
I will conclude to give the Minister an awful lot of time to respond—no doubt, she has an awful lot to say, because this is a big topic. I hope we can see this not just as ad hoc misbehaviour—bad as it is—that needs to be dealt with. We must also look at the other end: the criminal and the organised, where people are making serious money and we are not bringing them to justice. Last week, I made a trip in my area to look at some of the notorious sites. Even if we do bring individuals to justice, the fines regime and penalties are so paltry that people can build up for them as a matter of course, and they get away with it time after time. People may build genuine businesses from that—that may be good or bad—but it is not right to use illegality to get there. I hope the Minister sees this as a good opportunity to be forthright about the ways in which we can move forward. The Opposition will help the Government in any way we can.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) on securing the debate. We have heard wide-ranging contributions from other hon. Members, recognising some of the work that has been done and some of the challenges still before us. I welcomed the opportunity to discuss fly-tipping with my hon. Friend at a recent event hosted by the CLA, which led me to take action to investigate the issue further. He will be aware that this is a long-term issue that needs to be tackled.
Fly-tipping really affects our country. That is why we have done more, and will continue to do more, to stamp out this anti-social crime that blights not only our countryside but our urban streets, and costs our economy greatly. My Department works closely with organisations across government to tackle fly-tipping, including local authorities, the Local Government Association, the Environment Agency, and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. We also encourage strong collaboration between local councils, the police, the Environment Agency, and local landowners and communities, to tackle this issue.
My officials recently met a number of fly-tipping partnerships to discuss and review their models. We will work with the National Fly-tipping Prevention Group to disseminate the information and increase collaboration and intelligence sharing on a local, regional and national scale. My officials are engaged with the police at a national level through the National Police Chiefs’ Council, and with police and crime commissioners. Indeed, tomorrow my officials will discuss fly-tipping with the police and crime commissioner for Dorset, who is the fly- tipping lead for the National Rural Crime Network. A representative from the National Police Chiefs’ Council rural crime team also sits on the National Fly-tipping Prevention Group, which is chaired by my officials.
I am aware of the difficulties faced by individuals and businesses when fly-tipping occurs on their land. Landowners have a legal responsibility for their land, which is why we encourage them to secure it against fly-tippers, always to report incidents of fly-tipping to their local council and the police, and swiftly to clear fly-tipped waste so that the site does not become a known dumping ground. Through the National Fly-tipping Prevention Group we publish advice for landowners of all types of private land, from farmland to industrial estates. The potential use of cameras was mentioned, and although a national CCTV network is unlikely, I am conscious that many landowners use CCTV to try to tackle and identify individuals who are dumping waste.
Cameras that are easily portable and can be put in trees are not so expensive now. We must catch many more people doing this because there is still too much pressure on the landowner and farmer to clear up the mess. They did not create the mess, but they end up with the cost of maintaining the environmental condition, and that is what infuriates everybody. We should do anything we can to encourage people to have some sort of camera, and to work more with the DVLA and others to catch the people driving the vehicles and bring them to book.
My hon. Friend mentions the DVLA, and often the Data Protection Act 1998 is used as a way not to pass on information. I am happy to take that issue away and discuss it with a Minister from the Department for Transport. He also mentions the challenge of costs. If somebody is convicted of fly-tipping, the landowner or occupier can pursue a court order under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to get the costs of the clearance reimbursed. I encourage councils and other agencies to keep going with attempts to convict, and to try to help private landowners.
Does the Minister accept that satellite technology now means that it is difficult to hide the things that people used to be able to hide? That is something the Department could consider more seriously. Such technology is already used in some parts of the United Kingdom, but that would be a good venture for DEFRA to take up.
I do not know whether satellite technology would help us in this case, and I am not an expert on how best to present evidence to get a conviction. However, I will certainly ensure that the point is understood by my officials, so that they can raise it with the National Fly-tipping Prevention Group and the police.
Local councils, as the responsible authorities, have a significant role to play in tackling fly-tipping on private land. Fly-tipping gangs dump waste irrespective of whether the land is publicly or privately owned, and all local councils should therefore investigate fly-tipping incidents on private land. If there is evidence, they should prosecute the fly-tippers, and they can then recover clearance costs via the courts, as I have just outlined. However, not all councils are minded to do that, and only about half are actively trying to tackle the issue.
I am very alert to the challenges regarding council resources. The hon. Member for Coventry North East (Colleen Fletcher) praised her council but was concerned about the available resources. I gently point out that although Coventry City Council’s website states that support from central Government has fallen—in 2010-11, £153 million came from the revenue support grant and business rates, and that is now £122.5 million—that is not quite a reduction of the level that I thought I heard the hon. Lady describe, which was considerably higher. I emphasise, however, that councils have many more powers and the opportunity to recoup costs, and it matters that they use those powers if the issue is a local priority. However, the national Government cannot force councils to do so.
I encourage all councils to be alert to fly-tipping and to use their powers. When councils ask us for powers, we will try to ensure that they get those powers in the future. Councils currently have more than 20 powers to choose from to tackle fly-tipping, and we have recently spent time working in Committees to give them more. We have strengthened a council’s ability to search and seize the vehicles of suspected fly-tippers, and we have introduced a fixed penalty notice for small-scale fly-tipping. An additional 20,000 fixed penalty notices were issued in 2016-17, but not all councils have decided to implement those powers. Again, I strongly encourage them to do so.
Will my hon. Friend look at my suggestion to move some of the liability towards people who produce waste? Virtually every Member present agrees that whatever we are doing is not currently enough to deter people from committing this crime.
I heard what my hon. Friend said, and he will appreciate that this matter is devolved to the Welsh Government. The Welsh Government have already carried out a consultation to make it easier for councils to fine householders who do not check how their waste is disposed of, but those powers have not yet come into effect. We require a further consultation, because I am conscious that householders may not realise that websites are available—such as that of the Environment Agency—on which they can look up the names of the firms that come around touting for business. There is an obligation to use the appropriate procedures, because otherwise people can be convicted. Fixed penalty notices were introduced because they tend to be a more straightforward way for councils to deter people. Through this debate and other consultations, I am keen to continue to raise the awareness of householders who must look into who is disposing of their waste, and who it is being passed to. Our current assessment of fly-tipped waste in England is that two thirds of it comes from private households. That is why we are doing what I hope my hon. Friend believes we should be doing. I am happy to hear any more ideas he might have and to share them with the Welsh Government—I am sure he will also do that through his own political links.
Let me single out and praise certain councils across the country that are excelling. In Hertfordshire, for example, funding from the police and crime commissioner has enabled the county council to set up an effective partnership group that is starting to see results. Buckinghamshire County Council is another great example. It decided to make this issue a priority, and its dedicated enforcement strategy has halved fly-tipping incidents over the past 15 years—it is now prosecuting more than one case a week. In Cambridgeshire, a local council is making use of section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which requires landowners to clear waste when the amenity of an area is being significantly affected. That has helped to tackle fly-tipping hotspots, such as the front gardens and alleyways that become dumping grounds, as has been mentioned by many Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton. I appreciate that councils have to decide whether to invest resources in tackling this, but there are powers that they can use to great effect.
It is often asserted—several hon. Members mentioned this, including the hon. Member for Stroud (Dr Drew)—that there is a connection between charging at household waste recycling centres and an increase in household waste being fly-tipped. There are anecdotal reports suggesting a connection, but the evidence remains inconclusive. The waste and resources action programme undertook a survey last year, but it did not show a strong link between the two issues. I am happy to write to hon. Members present and share that information with them. I know that there are calls for fly-tipped waste to be disposed of for free at household waste recycling centres. More generally, enabling waste tipped on private land to be disposed of free of charge would not provide the right incentive to deter fly-tipping or to secure land. I stress that it is up to councils to determine whether to charge, in line with legislation.
The Minister makes an interesting point about landowners acting to stop fly-tipping, but we must be careful. If people have to put huge boulders, or all sorts of things, in gateways just to stop people getting in to fly-tip, that is unsightly. I do not want the onus to be put back on to the landowner and farmer. It is the wrong way to do things. We must concentrate on the people who have illegally tipped in the first place.
My hon. Friend will be aware that much of the approach to tackling crime is to do with prevention. I understand what he said about the unsightly effects if we get landowners to try to reduce the opportunity for fly-tipping, but many people put extra locks and burglar alarms in their homes to deter people from targeting a particular home. That is an example of how people take an active interest in making their home robust against entry and crime. I understand my hon. Friend’s point and do not blame landowners. I am trying to be helpful.
I recognise that more can be done. The Government are hosting a roundtable on fly-tipping on private land next week. We will consider further what we can do. A key point is knowing the scale of the issue. Currently we cannot quantify the extent of fly-tipping on private land, as there is no established easy way for people to report it. However, we are changing that. We are learning from Natural Resources Wales, which has created a mobile app to record incidents. We will shortly be rolling out a similar app for England, with many benefits. The app will link through to the local council so that its enforcement team will instantly know when an incident has been recorded. It will also automatically plot the incidents on a map so that hotspots can be targeted. Such sharing of information will help the police, in particular, to identify issues quickly.
In response to a point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies), I would point out that we have just concluded a consultation on giving local councils and the Environment Agency the power to issue a fixed penalty notice of up to £400 for householders who do not take reasonable measures to ensure that their waste is provided to an authorised person such as a local authority or registered waste carrier. People can check online. The consultation closed on 26 March and we are considering the responses to determine exactly what proof a householder would need to provide to show that they had complied with the regulations. I want to make it clear that the approach is not about duffing up victims, but there are laws in place and we need to try to ensure that people obey them, rather than taking shortcuts. Subject to the outcome of the consultation, we intend to lay regulations in the autumn.
As to the broader question of tackling more forms of waste crime, we brought in regulations in February to strengthen the Environment Agency’s powers to tackle problem waste. It can lock site gates and require all the waste at a site to be cleared. We have just concluded a consultation on tightening the requirements to hold a waste permit and reviewing the waste exemption regime. As I have pointed out, there will be quite a lot more in our resources and waste strategy later in the year.
We will set out proposals to review the brokers and dealers regime. That is an important step to crack down on organised gangs who collect waste under the veil of legitimacy. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch and Upminster (Julia Lopez) highlighted, there are a lot of cowboy operators. We will be working closely with the waste industry to determine how best to ensure that those who are part of the trade fully understand their duties and responsibilities.
Much has been said about sentencing and we are reviewing it so that people who fly-tip will be punished appropriately. In 2014 we worked with the Sentencing Council to strengthen the guideline for environmental offences. The level of fines for organisations found guilty of fly-tipping has since risen, but fines for individuals have not undergone the same increase. My officials are liaising with the Ministry of Justice on that matter.
I am interested in the idea about insurance that was raised during the debate, and will add it to my next roundtable with the Association of British Insurers. As to consistency of response, we can only do our best by trying to share best practice with councils and police, and that is what we shall continue to do; I assure hon. Members that we work with other Departments. The hon. Member for Falkirk (John Mc Nally) highlighted action being taken by the Scottish Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Angus (Kirstene Hair) was right when she pointed out that there are not many prosecutions and that the fines that are given are quite low, and when she praised Angus Council for its work to ensure that recycling centres are open more widely. As to marine pollution, those things that blight the countryside and urban streets often also end up in the marine environment. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) mentioned illegal waste sites, and I assure him that we are taking action on those more broadly. The issue is less to do with fly-tipping than with the way people exceed their licences. We managed to get an extra £30 million out of the Treasury to support the Environment Agency in tackling that matter more, as we recognise the increasingly prevalent serious and organised crime links.
What I have been describing is a continuing journey, but I am pleased about the parliamentary support for more powers to be given to the Environment Agency and councils to tackle what is a real blight. I welcome the contributions that have been made to the debate today.
I thank the Minister for summing up and for the work she is doing on the matter. It is not easy to control fly-tipping. There were 25 Members in the Chamber at one stage in the debate, and that was after a late sitting last night, straight after a recess, which shows how important the subject is to many people. I thank everyone for their contributions to the debate, which was good-tempered and informative. We talked about making those who dispose of waste in the first place more responsible for their actions, for example through the DVLA, as set out by my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies). There were points about keeping waste sites open for people to dispose of waste rather than fly-tipping it, and about putting the onus back on those who are caught by having heavier fines. We must remember that those who fly-tip need to be prosecuted. Otherwise, landowners and farmers have to clear up, and there are many costs that are often unrecoverable.
The shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Stroud (Dr Drew), made an interesting point about satellites. On the Select Committee I have learned that it is amazing what those satellites can pick up—from an electric fence to goodness knows what. If they can do that, why can they not pick up lorries and vans going into the countryside? That might give us a clue as to who the people are. It is interesting and probably worth pursuing. We need to do all we can and bring everyone together, from local authorities to Government, to crack down so that we can have a countryside that is beautiful. We talk about greater access to the countryside, and we need to sort this issue out, otherwise farmers and landowners will understandably be concerned. Will greater access mean greater opportunities for people to take rubbish out and tip it into fields in our great countryside?
I welcome the debate and all the Members who took part, including the hon. Member for Falkirk (John Mc Nally), who had some good ideas from Scotland. We need to take all the ideas—I do not think that anyone has an instant panacea—and work together to reduce fly-tipping so that we have a greener, pleasant land.
Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 10(6)).
Health Services in Essex
I beg to move,
That this House has considered health services in Essex.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth. I am grateful to the Speaker for granting me this debate. I thank the Minister for his time, and I welcome him; I suspect that he may already be familiar not just with the great county of Essex but with many of the issues I will give an airing to. I am grateful for this debate and for the opportunity to raise a number of issues that I have discussed previously in the House relating to health services in Essex.
Before I go into the details of the way in which health services are working in my constituency and where improvements are needed, I pay tribute to the NHS staff who work tirelessly to save lives and help people to get better—not only my constituents but constituents across the county. I have naturally visited our local hospitals and general practitioner surgeries and had the privilege of joining our ambulance service at both its headquarters and its new base. I have been impressed with the staff I have met and I pay tribute to them. They have obviously had a great deal on with the winter pressures. I also pay tribute to the staff and leadership I have met in the local NHS, and to the Government for investing in our NHS.
I say that because, since I was elected in 2010, it is fair to say that we have had a number of issues. In that general election of 2010, the Labour party was talking about cuts to the NHS. Ever since then, it has sought to weaponise the NHS and to frighten and scare my constituents and the public about local service provision and the services available to them. The Conservatives in government have invested in the NHS, and the result, in Essex, is more patients being treated by more doctors and nurses.
I welcome in particular the recent announcement, of which the Minister will be aware, of investment in Anglia Ruskin University’s school of medicine, which will provide training places for 100 more people. My fellow Essex MPs, in particular my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford), and I made strong representations in support of the university’s bid.
I join my right hon. Friend in praising the new school of medicine to train the next generation of doctors in Chelmsford. I heard from the vice-chancellor last week that more than 400 people have already applied to be among that first intake of 100. Does she agree that investing in the next generation of doctors, especially GPs, is crucial to delivering better health services in the future, and that giving our bright young Essex kids that opportunity is key?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I will come on to the primary care side and GPs, because we face strong pressures on GPs, especially in relation to succession planning.
I also welcome the new investment to support the transformation and improvement of hospital services, including £69 million to support the Colchester and Ipswich merger. The NHS in Essex has also done remarkably well in cutting enormous swathes of bureaucracy. When I first spoke in Parliament about the NHS, I highlighted the enormous growth in the number of bureaucrats and managers in the primary care trusts and strategic health authorities under Labour, which took precious resources away from the frontlines. We need only go back to some of the records and even some of my own comments in this House to see the horrific numbers. Hundreds of millions of pounds were spent just on recruiting managers. We should be pleased that that bureaucracy has now been cut out, but there are challenges in the NHS that need addressing.
My constituency is served by two clinical commissioning groups, Mid Essex and North East Essex. The two hospital trusts are Mid Essex, which runs Broomfield, and the Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, which is about to merge with Ipswich. The recently established Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust provides mental health services, and we have the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust, which has also seen enormous change over the last seven to eight years.
Representing a constituency in the east of England, my hon. Friend the Minister will be familiar with some of those challenges. My constituency does not have a hospital of its own, but he will be relieved to hear that I am one Member of Parliament who is not calling for a hospital in my constituency. Colchester general hospital provides acute services to residents in the north-eastern part of the Witham constituency, and Broomfield hospital in Chelmsford provides acute services to residents in the rest of the constituency. Some services are provided in Braintree community hospital, but in Witham town itself and the whole constituency there is no NHS hospital and no significant out-patient service, just GP practices.
My part of Essex received no significant investment under Labour—a point worth labouring, particularly in light of the points I made earlier on. We now need new investment to meet the growing demand brought by a population increasing in age and in numbers. The area I represent is increasing in population and, in terms of demographics, the proportion of the population aged over 60 is increasing and the number aged over 85 will double. Across Essex as a whole, the proportion of residents aged over 65 is now 21%, higher than the 16% national average, which naturally adds pressures to health and social care services.
The three local planning authorities that cover parts of the constituency are Braintree District Council, Maldon District Council and Colchester Borough Council. Local plans adopted by those councils or going through public examination could add a total of at least 37,000 new dwellings by the early 2030s. In Witham town the population of 26,000 is set to grow by 20% over the next 20 years, and sites have rightly been identified in the town that will accommodate more than 2,000 dwellings, but the increases in population seen in recent years have not been matched by proportionate increases in the health economy. As a result, there are naturally strains on primary care.
Branch surgeries in Tolleshunt D’Arcy and Birch have closed. In both instances, leases on premises were expiring and, even though the local community proposed alternative options to maintain some GP coverage in those villages, a solution could not be arranged. Notification of closure plans was made fairly late, which limited the time available to find a solution. I encourage the Minister to review how branch closures are managed and to ensure that sufficient time and effort is put into finding alternative facilities to provide a regular GP presence, particularly in rural locations.
The Sidney House Surgery in Hatfield Peverel is one the Minister may know about, since we have corresponded over it. It is full and over-subscribed, yet as new development is planned for the village the NHS simply asks for a sum of money for capital improvements based on a mathematical formula, which has no regard for the real costs involved in upgrading GP services to meet demand. Ultimately, that means that developer contributions will either be used elsewhere in the NHS or not used at all and returned.
In Tiptree, a growing village that the Minister may know of because it is where the world-famous Wilkin & Sons is based, we can see what happens when housing growth is simply not matched by new GP provision. The ratio of patients to GPs is over 3,500:1, which leads to severe difficulties with patients waiting for appointments. In fact, not a day goes past when I am not contacted by a constituent in that village highlighting some of the pressures on waiting times and the difficulty in making appointments.
I hope that the Minister will consider how the NHS can secure developer contributions that genuinely reflect the costs involved in delivering new GP provisions that are relative to local needs. This is a really important point. We are not against growth in our villages—we understand that they need to grow—but it increases pressures, and our GPs and local surgeries must be supported in planning that growth in this part of Essex with existing communities, because they need to be confident that investment will be provided to ease the pressures that they experience.
We also need to see action on expanding hours so that people can access GP services, and on reducing the number of vacant GP posts in the county. That is why a new university is vital; it will help in securing and training GPs to fill those vital posts—succession planning, as I like to call it.
With the Witham constituency, and indeed Chelmsford, being part of the London commuter belt, it is difficult for people who work or who have caring commitments to children or elderly relatives to make GP appointments for early on in the day. New investment to support longer GP hours and seven-day access would be welcome, including more primary care access funding. This part of Essex is always open to any new pilots or initiatives to deliver the Government’s ambitions on improved GP access.
I am sure that the Minister has heard of my campaign for a new multi-purpose healthcare centre to be built in Witham town. I have already mentioned that Witham is a growing town. It is a great place to live and a fantastic place for many of the new housing developments that we are seeing. It is a commuter town. New healthcare services, including primary care, are vital. A new facility would ease burdens, which we of course want—particularly with the population growth that we are seeing.
The national average ratio of patients to GPs is around 1,700:1. The average in mid Essex is around 1,800. In Witham town, we have four surgeries and more than 30,000 registered patients covered by only 13 full-time equivalent GPs. That gives a ratio of 2,300—a third higher than the national average. The pressures are pretty stark and clear, and residents who are seeing new homes built obviously want to see this new centre built.
Our district council is being supportive and making funding available. Mid Essex CCG has put resources in place to develop a business case, and to its credit is working with me and all stakeholders to deliver the centre. We are now at the final hurdle. We want to get all GPs on side and ensure that they are all signed up so that we can get bricks on the ground. It would be helpful if the Minister and the Government backed the project, which would also give all local GPs the confidence to sign up to the healthcare centre.
I will quickly raise two other issues. First, on mental health services, the Minister will be aware of the situation with Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, which was established last year from a merger of two separate mental health trusts covering north and south Essex. Some legacy issues have recently been well documented in the media, but I have a constituent, Mrs Melanie Leahy, who lost her son, Matthew, in the most tragic circumstances while he was being treated by the trust. I have raised this case over a number of years, and the Government will know all the background to it. Police inquiries are being made into his death and into several other deaths as well. I urge the Minister to keep the historical cases under review, so that affected families are supported, we learn from past mistakes and robust action takes place where there has been neglect.
Winter led to unprecedented demands on the East of England Ambulance Service. Five years ago the trust suffered from poor leadership, but I pay tribute to everybody in the ambulance trust. It has been an absolute privilege to meet the paramedics in Witham and on the frontline who every day do amazing and brilliant work. The events of the winter remind us that the pressures are severe. The county council has helped with reducing pressures on social care and getting people out of hospitals and living independently back at home. I would welcome some words from the Minister on the action that the Department is taking to support our quite remarkable East of England Ambulance Trust to improve preparations for future winters and to give it the support that it needs.
Finally, although reforms, working practices and innovation have really helped to reduce pressures in the NHS, it is fair to say that, when it comes to funding, Essex has been historically underfunded compared with other parts of the country, which is down to challenging and changing funding formulae. I welcome the great deal of work undertaken by the Department of Health and Ministers to review funding, but I want to see more support, more reform and more investment in greater performance. Better performance should be rewarded through investment. I hope that the Department and the Minister will work with me to secure local funding and to secure a new facility in Witham. I thank the Minister for the time and attention he has given to discussing healthcare in Essex.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship once again, Mr Howarth. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel) on securing the debate and on her wider commitment to championing Witham and the health issues within her constituency, particularly her work on the health centre in Witham. I am pleased that she is not calling for a new hospital in the constituency, but she is absolutely right to highlight the changing demographics within her constituency—in particular, a growing elderly population—and how that requires local health services to adapt. As both an east of England MP and an MP representing a rural constituency, I recognise many of the issues to which she referred.
I thank my right hon. Friend for acknowledging the additional medical places to train the next generation of Essex doctors. Our hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford) rightly spoke about local demand for the places: there have been 400 applicants already, which signals why it was the right decision to place a medical school in Chelmsford and how important it will be to meeting the health needs of patients in the Essex area.
My right hon. Friend was also right to highlight the importance of developer contributions. As the Government meet the challenge set by the Prime Minister to increase the amount of housing, it is right that developers contribute to meeting health needs. Following a constituency case of my own that brought this issue to light, I commissioned a paper in the Department to ensure that we look again at how NHS England and CCGs secure the right contribution from developers into local health services. My right hon. Friend also mentioned a specific constituency case. I absolutely agree that we need to learn from past issues where they arise. As she will know, the Secretary of State has given great leadership on patient safety. It is something that he has personally challenged within the NHS family, and he is rightly putting it at the heart of the Government’s agenda.
My right hon. Friend also mentioned the ambulance trust. A huge amount of work has gone on to support the East of England Ambulance Trust after issues were raised by a number of our colleagues over the Christmas period, including by the right hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb). Members from all parts of the House will wish him a speedy recovery from his recent minor stroke. He held an Adjournment debate on the East of England Ambulance Service and raised issues that we have been addressing, including the risk summit, which I know is a priority for NHS England and NHS Improvement. I have met ambulance bosses, and my own constituency is served by the East of England Ambulance Service. It is right to put on the record that, under this Government, there has been a 30% increase in the number of paramedics, which signals the commitment that we have made to the ambulance service. However, it is also right that we look at issues such as the handover of ambulances and how we get that process working better.
I thank my right hon. Friend for her support for the Witham primary care centre, which will strengthen Witham’s primary care services. I understand that site options appraisals have been completed and agreed by the Mid Essex CCG, and discussions are ongoing with the developer and local practices to secure agreement. The CCG is hoping to finalise the business case by the end of June, although I understand that it is subject to final agreement by the local practices involved. She is absolutely right that local practices need to recognise the way that the constituency and Witham are developing and to adapt with that development in order to meet the growing needs of the town.
The health hub will offer primary care services, community health provision and elective care activity, replacing the majority of current GP facilities in Witham. The hub will use a greater skills mix, which has been identified as key to releasing capacity in general practice. The Government are committed to recruiting more GPs, but we are also looking at the skills mix that supports GPs—those who work with GPs—so that we address the way patients now present. They often present with a number of conditions, which requires a multitude of support and intervention. What matters, therefore, is the recruitment not just of GPs, but of physician assistants, the wider nursing team and the other support alongside GPs that is part of addressing the health needs of constituents in Witham and elsewhere. That is at the heart of what I understand is my right hon. Friend’s vision for the health centre, and is exactly where the Government are trying to take primary care—offering a broader suite of support and services to patients, who, as I said, often present with more than one condition. That requires a wider team.
I understand that the Sidney House and The Laurels practice has expressed a desire to be operationally involved in the scheme, although that option has yet to be fully explored. Funding support has been made available for the Sidney House and The Laurels practice, through the Mid Essex CCG’s primary care sustainability fund, to go towards the cost of additional staff to alleviate pressures. That funding is assisting the practice with a range of initiatives: training clinical staff, increasing the number of clinical staff and providing an additional 20 hours a week of administrative support. That additional support should enable the practice to increase capacity and access for patients. I understand that the new triage appointment system introduced at the practice has been well received by patients and is helping the practice to manage demand. That funding will continue, alongside more funding made available by the CCG through the recently established Primary Care Foundations programme. Mid Essex CCG is also supporting work across mid-Essex to alleviate pressures. That includes the roll-out of decision-making software designed to remove blockages in GP practices’ workflow.
My right hon. Friend raised the issue of GP access more widely in her constituency. We recognise that an ageing population and more people living with long-term conditions mean that primary care is under more pressure than ever, and we are taking steps to address that. That includes the additional funding to which my right hon. Friend referred. Funding will increase by £2.4 billion by 2020-21, going from £9.6 billion in 2015-16 to more than £12 billion by 2020-21. That is a 14% increase in real terms, which has been put in place by this Government. We have announced our ambition to expand the medical workforce, with an extra 5,000 full-time equivalent doctors working in general practice by 2020 as part of a wider increase to the total workforce in general practice of 10,000. We recognise that that is an ambitious target of double the growth of previous years, but it shows the commitment of this Government to our NHS.
As both my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford and my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham said, Anglia Ruskin University’s new school of medicine will have 100 publicly funded student places following the announcement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on 20 March. The £20 million school of medicine, currently being built on the Chelmsford campus, is the first in Essex. It not only is a physical representation of the effective lobbying by my right hon. Friend, my hon. Friend and other colleagues from across Essex and the east of England, but shows the physical commitment of this Government to addressing the health needs of constituents in Essex. The building, which is nearing completion, will feature state-of-the-art skills facilities, specialist teaching space, a lecture theatre and an anatomy suite.
Nationally, Health Education England has made 3,250 places in GP specialty training available per year since 2016. A suite of measures is being taken to assist primary care, sitting alongside the work my right hon. Friend has spoken about. I am talking about how we look at the health estate, how we bring services together and how we do that in a hub that adapts to the changing needs of communities such as the ones that she represents. Nationally, 52% of the population are benefiting from extended access to general practice, including evening and weekend appointments. That reflects the fact that many people in Witham and across Essex work and want greater flexibility of access to primary care. In the old model, people might be at home during the day and have time to go to the GP; today, people need a service that is adapting to the current workplace and the way families live and wish to access primary care.
The “General Practice Forward View” committed to investing £45 million in a national programme, to run over three years, to stimulate uptake of online consultations systems for every practice, and taking actions to support practices to offer patients more online self-care and self-management services. The issue is not just the hours of access to primary care, but the channel of access. That may be through the improvements in clinical service offered through the 111 helpline—the doubling of the number of clinicians answering those calls—but it is also about primary care having different ways of serving their constituencies through online platforms.
NHS England and Health Education England are working together to boost recruitment, to address the reasons why GPs are leaving the profession and to encourage GPs to return to practice. Furthermore, the Government have committed to developing the wider primary care workforce and supporting improved access in terms of both GP numbers and how patients can access those services. In Essex, the Witham primary care hub is expanding access within the community for patients, integrating care within the community setting, and the Sidney House and The Laurels practice is using CCG funding to improve its primary care appointments system and its IT.
I commend my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham for raising these issues. She is absolutely right to recognise that, as Witham grows and its health needs evolve, it is important that primary care in the town adapts to the changes in her constituency. In putting these issues on the record today, she has signalled the importance of that to Witham, and how the investment that this Government are making in medical school places at Chelmsford, in primary care nationally and in the ambulance service is addressing the needs that she has articulated today.
Question put and agreed to.
Leaving the EU: Tourism and the Creative Industries
[Mr Peter Bone in the Chair]
I beg to move,
That this House has considered the effect of the UK leaving the EU on tourism and the creative industries.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone, and to have the opportunity to debate the effect that Brexit could have on tourism and the creative industries in the UK. These are two vital and vibrant sectors of our economy, which I believe have largely been overlooked and underestimated in the Brexit debate. Their annual contribution to our economy needs to be acknowledged and protected. If Brexit goes ahead—I believe it is an “if”—these sectors will need special measures to prevent jobs from being lost and income draining from the economy.
It is no exaggeration to say that tourism and the creative industries are linchpins of our economy, which we cannot allow to be sacrificed on the Brexit altar of Conservative party self-preservation. Many of the millions of jobs and livelihoods that these industries support could be lost if we do not stop this dangerous economic self-harm. While they are significant separately, they also come together in some of our most iconic popular and cultural events, such as Glastonbury, the Proms and—for me, in my constituency, the most significant example—the Edinburgh International Festival and its Fringe. The Edinburgh festival is the biggest and most successful event of its type in the world, and has experienced seven decades of success—unending, growing success. It is a fantastic and awe-inspiring month-long festival of music, theatre, arts, books, comedy, street performers and now politics, but even it will not be immune to the threat posed by Brexit. You do not have to take my word for it, Mr Bone. The director of Festivals Edinburgh, which leads efforts to promote the city’s flagship events around the world, has said:
“There is a sense of threat and risk and making sure that Brexit doesn’t put us in a worse position.”
There are plenty of figures that illustrate the argument for both industries needing protection, but I will look first at tourism. Tourism encompasses about 250,000 small and medium-sized enterprises across the UK, and its growth is on a par with that of our digital industries. It supports approximately 3 million jobs, which are spread across every single local authority in Britain; this is not a problem that affects only one part of the country. Tourism brings in about £127 billion a year to the UK—9% of GDP. Around 37 million visitors come here every year, and in 2016 almost 70% of those visitors and 44% of what they spent came from other EU countries. Eight of our top 10 in-bound tourist markets are other EU states. Those visitors may now think twice about coming here. The UK’s tourism earnings from Europe will not be easily replaced by other markets, such as the USA and China, which require long-haul journeys and are much more difficult to access. In my own city of Edinburgh, almost 2 million international visitors spend £822 million a year—the figures are quite staggering. It is clear that if tourism begins to fail, or the industry begins to shrink, many areas, particularly our rural communities and parts of Scotland, will suffer badly. As I pointed out, jobs in every area of the country will be under threat.
There is a clear link to the hospitality industry and attractions, where, coincidentally, 50% of the workforce in Edinburgh come from other EU member countries. Those workers are now worried about their ability to stay and work in this country. The ripples of a decline in visitor numbers will reach far into other sectors of the economy—for example, aviation.
I congratulate the hon. Lady on securing this debate. As a remain voter, I am sympathetic to her position, but does she agree that sometimes one of the main drivers of tourism is the exchange rate, and one thing we have seen is increased tourism as a result of decreased value of the pound against the euro and other currencies, perhaps as a direct consequence of that Brexit vote? I know she will go on to develop this point, but does she also agree that the main concern is the workforce in the tourism industry—that so many workers in tourism are from Europe and overseas—and that, as in agriculture, that is a big problem that needs to be considered by the Government?
I do not agree that the decline in the value of the pound solves the problem, because it creates other problems elsewhere in the industry, as it suffered its biggest slump since the devaluation under Harold Wilson. However, I do agree that our main problem in this industry will be the workforce and how we will replace the workers who in parts of the country outside Edinburgh make up 20% of the workforce, but in Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland make up almost 50%.
Aviation is one of the UK’s success stories and supports 500,000 jobs in the tourism industry. The current ease of transit to and from the EU enables tourism to contribute £500 million a week to the economy, but 85% of the UK’s air traffic is through our EU membership.
On the first point, I think we are seeing record levels of tourism in this country, because the pound has dropped—I think that is more or less indisputable. On the aviation point, does the hon. Lady agree that abolishing air passenger duty would give a bigger boost to the UK economy with no cost? A number of studies show that if air passenger duty were abolished, Treasury income from other sources, because of increased economic activity, would benefit the UK as a whole.
While air passenger duty might have an economic impact, it cannot overcome the biggest single problem: it will not allow planes to take off. We need a deal on coming out of the EU that will allow our flights to continue to take off and land in Europe, and travel across Europe with the same ease that they do today.
For the creative industries, the figures are, if anything, even more impressive: these industries are worth an estimated £90 billion to the economy and account for one in every 11 jobs. That is something we often overlook. Those jobs are in fashion design, video games, television, theatre, furniture design, radio and many other sectors. International broadcasters alone invest more than £1 billion a year in Britain. It is our fastest growing sector and the UK is currently a world leader in the field, with creative exports from Stormzy and Shakespeare to “The Great British Bake Off”, which define what the UK is to visitors we want to attract from across the globe.
In the light of what the hon. Lady just listed and the importance of the creative industries to our wider economy, does she think it will be pertinent for the Government to appoint officials from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to the Department for Exiting the European Union?
That is not a point that I had previously considered, but I think it is well made. Perhaps that would help to alleviate the problems those industries might face and actually draw attention to some of them.
As I said, international broadcasters contribute about £1 billion to the economy. All of that economic strength—jobs, growth and potential—is undermined by Brexit. If our creative industries are not protected, world-class events such as the Edinburgh festival, Glastonbury and many others, will find that for musicians and artists who used to tour Europe freely, with no issues over EU crew, equipment licences or visas, the whole process will become slower, more expensive and in some cases not possible at all. Fashion, lighting and furniture designers will lose the benefits of cross-EU design rights. The video games, advertising, publishing, television and film sectors will lose access to the talent that is their lifeblood. Funding from Creative Europe is at risk.
If the UK’s creative industries are threatened, there will be an impact on tourism. As I said, the Edinburgh International Festival is the biggest event of its kind in the world. To put it into context, if we imagine the FIFA World cup coming to the UK every summer, we begin to understand the value and impact on the country’s economy that the Edinburgh festival has. In 2016 it was estimated that festival audiences accounting for around 4.5 million ticket sales generated £300 million for the economy, and that is not unusual.
The festival is the biggest, most high profile and most diverse in its scale and scope, with everything from street theatre to major orchestral concerts. Because of that, it offers a unique insight into why organisations representing our musicians, hotels, venues and performers are campaigning hard for protection against the potential damage of Brexit. The festival is regarded as one of the most important cultural events in the world. The Fringe in its own right is the world’s largest arts event, and there are affiliated events in film, art, books, science and television. Together they guarantee that throughout the summer my city is awash with tourists, often visiting the festival as a gateway to the rest of Scotland and the UK. Only the Olympics and the FIFA World cup are bigger attractions.
I congratulate the hon. Lady on an excellent speech. Does she agree that sharing art, music, sport and culture enriches people’s lives and our communities? In St Helens, we have had a twinning arrangement with Stuttgart for 70 years. We are very proud that people from there come to visit us, we visit them and we work together. Brexit should not put any of that in jeopardy. It is important we work together to ensure those partnerships endure.
I absolutely agree. The value of the creative industries to our economy is not simply in the money they bring in; it is in creating our culture and events for young people to enjoy, as well as bringing tourists to the country and maintaining that industry. The problem we face is that people might opt to take up opportunities on the continent or elsewhere after Brexit.
Music development organisations and other cultural groups might also find themselves without funding streams. That is the immediate effect, but collateral damage could be seen in other industries if the creative industries and tourism cease to be the cash cows the economy has come to depend on. Without freedom of movement, many of those who take part in these festivals may not wish, or be able, to stay. It is absolutely clear that if we are to protect those areas, which are central to not just our economy but our social and cultural wellbeing, our creative industries need changes now.
The hon. Lady makes a very good point about those working in the creative industries. Does she agree that without the right to work being protected, organisations such as Scottish Ballet in my constituency, which has a large international ensemble currently touring Scotland with the wonderful “Highland Fling”, might not be able to continue to attract the audiences it has or the talent it needs to put on such big performances?
The hon. Lady makes a very good point. It would not be stretching the point too far to say that not only Scottish Ballet, but Scottish Opera and every single arts event staged at the Edinburgh International Festival and other festivals in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK may face that problem.
The hon. Lady is from Glasgow. It is interesting to consider whether Glasgow would have benefited from the cultural renaissance that it has since 1990 if it had not been able to host the capital of culture that year. I was brought up in Glasgow. The difference that that single year of cultural events and the gathering of the creative industries in the city made cannot be overestimated.
We need to look hard at what the industries are asking for. Measures such as touring passports for musicians, special equipment licences and support for arts development are all ways that they can be helped. The creative industries must be at the top table. The hon. Member for Islwyn (Chris Evans) suggested that they should be represented in the Brexit Department. Indeed, they should. Membership of Creative Europe and Erasmus must be maintained, and the UK Government must agree to replace EU funding sources. Access to talent must be protected, touring performers must have a single EU-wide work permit, and mutual recognition of qualifications must be protected—the list is long.
There is a much simpler way of protecting not just the creative industries and tourism but every single industry in this country: taking the first opportunity we have to rethink the Brexit position completely. We must consider whether it is in fact better for all our industries for us to take an exit from Brexit and to allow the British people to decide whether it is what they actually want. The control that they desired might give them the opportunity to say, “Yes, we want to stay within the European Union.”
It is a great pleasure to appear under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. I congratulate the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine) on securing this important debate. Let me begin by echoing what she said about the Edinburgh International Festival: it is indeed the world’s largest festival of its kind, and the oldest. It is incumbent on us to remember that it was started just after the war, at a time of austerity. It is worth recalling that throughout our recent history we have invested in the arts, even at the most difficult times.
This debate gives us the opportunity to put on record how important the creative industries are to the whole of the UK economy and to raise issues as we approach Brexit. Much as I would love to reverse Brexit, I am not sure that I can agree with the hon. Lady that that is a likely outcome. We sad remainers are now focused—I certainly am—on making the best we can of a very unfortunate situation.
As a former Minister with responsibility for the creative industries, may I take this opportunity to welcome the current Minister to his position? I think that this is the first debate I have taken part in where he has been in his role. I can tell him privately, because I know that no one watches proceedings in Parliament, that he is already extremely popular because of how he has hit the ground running. It has been a great pleasure to me to see the importance of the creative industries rise up the policy agenda.
The creative industries were, in effect, put together by Chris Smith in 1997 when he became the Culture Secretary. He was the first to define what is quite a disparate sector, ranging from architecture to fashion, television and film, and to start to show the huge impact it has on every aspect of our lives. I am glad that under the previous Government we made great strides in supporting the creative industries. Some of that was basic policy infrastructure, such as the creation of the Creative Industries Council, which brought together the Departments responsible for business and for culture with the creative industries to looks at policies. I am very pleased to say that it has been carried on by the current Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy with the publication of an industrial strategy for the creative industries.
The introduction of tax breaks for many of the creative industries has had a huge impact on their contribution to the economy. I was struck by statistical analysis showing that the service economy contributed the most to our economic growth in a recent quarter—I cannot remember which quarter it was, but it was two or three quarters ago—and that the second biggest contributor from the service economy was the film industry. The film tax break now sees something like £1 billion of investment coming into the UK.
It was always my mission—I am glad to say that I succeeded, although I did not meet too much resistance—to persuade the then Prime Minister and the then Chancellor to visit a film set occasionally as well as a factory. That recorded the fact that film sets often contribute a significant amount to our economy. We have seen studios and employment grow, and that tax break ecology has now been extended to video games, visual effects and animation, as well as the arts, through theatres, orchestras and exhibitions. It has made a real impact.
I was privileged recently to attend the opening of a new animation company in London, Locksmith Animation, which has been started by two distinguished people from the film industry, Sarah Smith and Julie Lockhart. Using the latest technology, the company has the potential to rival Pixar. No one can be in any doubt about the contribution of the creative industries to our economy.
I am following the right hon. Gentleman’s speech closely. I do not share his pessimism about the impact of Brexit on the creative industries. Sometime in the early 1980s, the number of people employed in the creative industries in Manchester and Lancashire surpassed the number of people employed in the traditional cotton industry, so it is an important economic generator in the north-west. As the former Minister, does he agree that this country does not invest in the creative industries in a fair way when it comes to the regions? Far too much goes to London.
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. When I was the Minister, I was struck by how regionally diverse the creative industries were, particularly the video games industry. There are companies engaged in that pursuit in Leamington Spa, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle. It is a challenge. Sometimes it is straightforward economics: people want to base themselves in London to have access to the widest possible range of services, but it is incumbent on us—I am sure the Minister will respond to this—to recognise the diversity and talent in our regions. The recent merger of Tech North with Tech City UK has created a UK-wide tech quango, which is focused on highlighting tech success stories across the country. Different parts of the country have different specialisms in tech—I am moving slightly away from the creative industries.
The hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer) makes a valuable point, and the same criticism is often levelled at cultural funding. I am chairman of Creative Fuse North East, a project led by Newcastle University, which analyses the symbiosis between tech and culture. It is important to remember that culture is often a generator for success in the creative industries, so we must maintain a strong focus on investing in culture outside London. I am glad that the Arts Council has made great strides in doing that in recent years. We are very successful, and the creatives industries are now high on the policy agenda. I should give credit to the Creative Industries Federation, which was created two or three years ago to lobby on their behalf.
Tourism is a hugely important industry—the fourth or fifth most important in our country—that depends to a great extent on culture and heritage. By investing in and supporting culture and heritage, the Government support our tourism industry. We launched the tourism strategy in 2010, when the then Prime Minister gave a speech supporting tourism. One of my great bugbears is that far too few Prime Ministers—that is, none—ever make speeches about the arts. I hope that the Minister will continue to press the case to our Prime Minister that she should give a speech about the importance of culture and the arts in this country.
Despite the hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton trying to cheer me up, I am thoroughly depressed about Brexit. The small silver lining, which is worth recalling, is that our biggest export partner outside the EU is the USA, with whom we do not have a trade deal. A lot of that export investment depends on the creative industries, such as the film industry and the video games industry. Many of those creative industries are global service industries that will not necessarily be hugely affected by Brexit, such as advertising, architecture and publishing, where we lead the world. It is incumbent on us—including depressed remainers—to continue to beat the drum for the global success of the UK’s creative industries.
The right hon. Gentleman is very much missed from his former role, but during that time we had many discussions about the difficulties that artists, and musicians in particular, have in getting visas for the US. Does he share my concern that after Brexit they will have similar problems across Europe? What can we do to ensure that does not happen?
Yes, I do share the hon. Lady’s concern, but I must correct her: I do not think I am missed, because the new Minister is doing such an incredible job that he has wholly erased the memory of me. That is slightly irritating, but I am pleased that somebody as talented as him has taken on the role.
That concern goes both ways. The hon. Lady is incredibly perceptive, and I have worked with her very happily on many different issues. Talent is at the core of the success of our creative industries. If someone walks into the office of any successful business in any part of the country, they will hear a smorgasbord of different voices and meet people of a range of nationalities who have all been attracted by the success of the UK’s creative industries.
We simply cannot have a situation in which we make it as difficult as possible for talented people with the right skills to come to this country, and we must not find ourselves in a situation in which it is difficult for our successful companies to send their people abroad, whether that is a band of musicians or a team of people from an advertising or architecture firm. That must be at the front and centre of the Government’s thinking.
I was struck by an email I received today from a constituent, which is slightly tangential to the core subject of the debate. He runs a Brazilian management consultancy, which has an office in London because it believes in the openness of the UK economy. He cannot get a particular person with a speciality that would enhance the London business over from Brazil, and he has been trying for 12 months. It is a pathetic situation when the Home Office makes it so difficult for skilled people to come to this country and boost our economy.
The Minister should also keep an eye on the audiovisual media services directive. One of the UK’s success stories is that we have hundreds, if not thousands, of broadcasters based here, which can be regulated by Ofcom, the best communications regulator in Europe, and, as a result, transmit their services across Europe. As I was watching my BT Sport app in Europe last week, I was struck that, sadly, we cannot continue to take advantage of the digital single market, which allows portability for paid content. We will have to see what happens with that, but it is absolutely crucial.
The final hurdle—hon. Members will be pleased to know that I am coming to an end—is the French. They have carved culture out of every third-party free trade agreement between the EU and other countries. That was their No. 1 priority when the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership was negotiated. As sure as oeufs is oeufs, the French will try to carve out culture in any free trade agreement between the UK and the European Union, and Ministers will have to be vigilant about the impact of any French agenda on the future of our creative industries.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship once again, Mr Bone, and I congratulate the right hon. Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey). He and I are veterans of long standing of such debates, and we still bear the scars of the Digital Economy Act 2017, in which we both took a great interest. I also congratulate the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine) on securing this important debate. I was intrigued to see how she would combine tourism and the creative industries, but she did it in such an elegant way that we can all forgive her for bringing together those awkward-sitting issues.
I will confine my remarks to the creative industries. I want to be as blunt as I can. Leaving the European Union will be an absolute and utter disaster for our creative industries. We cannot start to comprehend the predicament that we will soon find ourselves in. The sharing, collaboration and enjoyment of creativity is practically the antithesis of the central tenets of withdrawal, isolationism and the ending of free movement that are at the heart of the Government’s Brexit.
The creative industries are quite particular—they are industries like no other—because they are fired by imagination, talent, creativity and invention. They exist to be appreciated, enjoyed and transferred across audiences worldwide without regard to border or territory. For success, they require the maximum conditions for international exchange and co-operation, which will allow them to develop and continue to thrive.
When it comes to supporting creative endeavour, our job as legislators is simple; indeed, it is only one thing. It is to try to create the maximal and optimal conditions for creativity to continue to develop, thrive and succeed. Pursuing Brexit is almost the opposite of that objective and that endeavour.
Let us just have a little, casual look at what is at risk here. The hon. Member for Edinburgh West said it—£92 billion is now generated by the creative industries for the UK economy. That is more than the automotive, life sciences, aerospace, and oil and gas industries combined. The creative industries are perhaps the fastest growing sector of our economy and I always like to say that these industries, and the growth we see from them, are like growing our economy on the imagination, the invention and the creativity of the British people.
Is it not the case that the UK is a world leader in intellectual property and will remain so after Brexit? If we choose to, we can join the European Patent Organisation, which already has non-EU countries as members.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for mentioning that point, and I will come on to discuss it, because I chair the all-party parliamentary group on intellectual property and I have a few choice words to say about where we are going with all this.
I want to say first, however, because it is important, that we are in the top three of all recognised sectors worldwide when it comes to the creative economy and creative industries. The hon. Lady is right that that has been achieved because we have a huge reservoir of talent and ability in these islands. However, we are not unique in that respect; the UK is not exceptional in having large swathes of talent. Lots of other nations have that, too, but we have harnessed that creativity, to ensure that it is supported, developed and allowed to thrive. We have created the conditions that have allowed creative endeavour to succeed.
As the hon. Lady suggested, one of those conditions is the environment that we have created. We have intellectual property arrangements, ensuring that copyright is protected and that our artists are able to secure a return for their endeavour, their ingenuity and their ability. We have created an effective business and support environment that has allowed our artists to develop and flourish. We have innovated, we have developed international relationships, we have collaborated and we have recognised and valued the international dimension of creativity. Brexit? It could make you cry, with the damage that it will do to all that.
The creative sector is very concerned about the impact of Brexit on our creative economy. The Creative Industries Federation has found that 96%—I repeat, 96%—of its members believe that Brexit is a fundamentally bad thing that will critically impact on the sector.
I listened to the Prime Minister’s Mansion House speech. There were lots and lots of things that I deplored in what she said, but the thing that sickened me most was the casual way she dismissed the digital single market, as if it was some sort of Brussels wheeze that got in the way of our national liberation. The digital single market is all about harmonising arrangements across the European Union. As the largest creator of content in the whole of the European Union, we designed the digital single market for goodness’ sake, and now we are joyfully leaving it. We will now be a third party when it comes to European arrangements, which is a profoundly bad position to be in, and we will not be looked at favourably by a European Union that we have so recently rejected.
Already, European nations are rubbing their hands and carving up all the institutions that they will acquire. The French are at it; the Germans are at it; and the eastern Europeans are practically gleeful about the opportunities that their content markets will now have, because we are leaving the European Union.
However, the biggest issue and the biggest threat that this ridiculous, chaotic Brexit will pose for our creative industries is the ending of freedom of movement. The creative industries probably need freedom of movement more than any other sector within our economy; the Department for Exiting the European Union itself found that, when it looked at all this sort of thing. For investment, harmonisation and collaboration in developing markets, we require the type of arrangements that exist within the EU, and to casually walk away as if the digital single market did not matter a fig is something that we should be appallingly ashamed at.
I believe there is only one thing we can do. We will never get back to the optimal arrangements of the European Union, of the digital single market, of harmonising across Europe and creating the conditions in which our creative industries can develop, thrive and grow markets. But what we have to do, Minister, is to stay as closely aligned as possible to the European Union. Even though we are now a third party, and it is likely that we will be rejected and treated poorly, the Minister must ensure that whatever the EU does in the digital single market is replicated within the United Kingdom, because if he does not, we will be in some serious trouble.
The Minister must also ensure that the creative industries and intellectual property are at the heart of any bilateral trade arrangement that is put in place. As I said, I chair the all-party parliamentary group on intellectual property and I have seen the report from the Alliance for Intellectual Property that warns, once again, of a “cliff-edge” Brexit and the impact that it would have on IP rights, reciprocity and all the things to do with our audio-visual sector, with portability and all the good things that we have been able to secure. We will lose all that. It is not going to come back, but we have to make sure that we are properly aligned.
I want to put a question to the hon. Gentleman, not on IP but in his capacity as a well-known musician. Here, I am not talking about Runrig or Big Country, but—obviously—MP4. As a musician, he will probably know that only 2% of the music industry workforce has said that it feels Brexit will have a positive impact on their chances of work; 50% feared that it would have a negative impact. Does he agree that the Government should listen to their concerns and consider seeking a live music touring passport, which is one of several measures being discussed by the industry?
What we are now in the business of doing is finding solutions to mitigate the damage. The Minister will have to try and find ways to mitigate the loss of the optimal arrangements that we have in place now as members of the European Union. The touring passport is an example of how we can mitigate it. We are not going to get back to the ideal conditions. They have gone; for some reason, this Government are determined to pull us out of what is working for us, and is fundamentally and profoundly good for this sector. So arrangements will have to be put in place.
The hon. Lady will have seen the reports from UK Music, the Musicians’ Union and the Performers’ Alliance, which are all telling us that we are now in the position of trying to redress some of the damage.
What is important to consider when it comes to musicians and other creatives is that not everyone is from a huge money-making enterprise that can afford agents, lawyers and managers. It is the smaller musicians and, I would argue, the musicians in the better bands—rather than the Coldplays, Mumfords and Adeles of this world—who will really struggle with this extra bureaucracy, any extra cost and any difficulty that is put in their way.
There is also a particular concern about the European Health Insurance Card and people’s access to healthcare when they are travelling around Europe, which may also go out of the window. That is something else that may not be the most obvious thing for musicians, or actors, to worry about, but it will affect them.
The hon. Lady is absolutely right. The ending of freedom of movement will not impact that harshly on some of the bigger, multinational companies—the big tech giants that dominate the sector now. What it will impact on are the small and medium-sized enterprises within our creative sector. It will also have an impact on start-up businesses and it could result in impeding risk and innovation in the medium and long term, thereby hobbling the very drivers of our creativity.
It is profoundly disappointing that we are leaving the European Union. We will have to look for measures that will mitigate that, and that will ensure that we are aligned as closely as possible with EU partners. The thing that depresses me most is that we have carefully crafted and created this environment that lets our artists, creators, inventors and musicians succeed worldwide, and be the best in the world, and how we can so casually throw that away for nothing—absolutely nothing—disappoints me. It is something that I still hope we will have the opportunity to consider once again.
It might help the remaining two Members who wish to catch my eye to know that we have to start the wind-ups at 3.30. By my calculation that is about 10 minutes each. If there is a Division at 3.45, do not worry because we can add time.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship today, Mr Bone. I congratulate the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine) on securing this debate. It is also a pleasure to follow such a passionate speech from my fellow musician, the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart). It is unusual for us both to be on the same stage as we have been exchanging places in MP4 recently.
The United Kingdom is a powerhouse when it comes to the creative industries and tourism; we punch far above our weight and we lead the world with some of the most innovative and advanced thinking that is out there in the creative sector. In 2016 the creative industries contributed a staggering £91.8 billion to the UK economy. The sector grew by 7.5% compared with growth of 3.5% for the UK economy as a whole. The sector provides for 6% of all UK jobs, and the total employment in the creative economy is around 3 million people. That includes around 76,000 jobs in Scotland and rising, contributing more than £4.5 billion to the Scottish economy. We in Scotland are proud to be a major contributor towards those figures.
Scotland saw the fastest growth in creative industries employment of all nations in the UK from 2015 to 2016, at about 13%. That is almost three times as high as in England, and more than England, Wales and Northern Ireland combined. A report commissioned for Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen in 2014 found that the creative industries in the north-east of Scotland, where my constituency of Banff and Buchan is located, employ around 6,000 people in more than 1,500 businesses. In the north-east of Scotland alone the sector generated annual revenues in excess of £600 million. The hon. Member for Edinburgh West has called this debate to discuss the future of our creative industries and tourism after the UK leaves the EU. I agree that there are challenges to overcome.
The creative industries rely on cross-border working, and many people in those industries travel regularly for work in the EU, just as European citizens come here. We know that around 7% of people working in the creative sector are non-UK EU nationals, roughly in line with the average across all industries, but a significant number none the less. I ask the Government to keep the needs of this industry in mind when designing a future immigration system, whether that be the needs of the creative industry, tourism, hospitality or indeed those of the fishing and fish processing sectors and food and drink in general, which I have spoken up for in this place on several occasions.
So far I have talked mostly about the creative industries, but I also want to talk about tourism. For those who have not visited—I highly recommend that they do—my constituency of Banff and Buchan has 48 miles of stunning Scottish coastline, with one particular stretch, between Portsoy and Pennan, having been voted as one of the top 20 most iconic coastlines in the world. That stretch of coastline is interesting. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey) talked extensively about the film industry. Portsoy was the site for the recent remake of the film “Whisky Galore!” and the old 17th-century harbour was almost a character in itself. Going back to the ’80s, “Local Hero”, a movie with Burt Lancaster, was set in Pennan. That goes to show how dramatic the coastline between those two villages is.
Also worth a special mention is the famous Aberdeenshire castle trail, which runs through my constituency via Duff House, Delgatie Castle and Fyvie Castle, among all the others across the north-east of Scotland. Banff and Buchan is also home to excellent heritage museums that highlight our traditional industries of fishing and farming. I should note that those museums show a living history, because those industries are far from dead in Banff and Buchan.
Golf is a popular pastime across Scotland—across the world, in fact—but Fraserburgh in my constituency has the seventh oldest, still operating, golf course in the world. National Geographic referred to the Banff and Buchan coast as
“one of the world’s outstanding coastlines”.
The local tourism board markets the area as “Scotland’s dolphin coast.” It is home to around 130 bottlenose dolphins, as well as 15 other species of cetaceans, including minke whales in the summer and autumn months. On a recent visit to Portsoy I saw someone with a telescope looking out to sea. I thought they were looking at dolphins, but it turned out they were looking for a bird that I had never heard of: the white-billed diver, which apparently comes south of Norway only very rarely. Portsoy is one of the few places south of Norway where that bird can be seen.
I very much hope that we can use Brexit as an opportunity to grow the industry and attract more visitors to our stunning shores. One example of this opportunity can be found in VAT rules. European VAT law currently limits the discretion of member states, including the UK before our exit, to set lower rates of VAT on some goods and services. That means we are limited in our ability to reduce so-called tourism tax below the current 20%. After we leave the EU, the Government will have the opportunity to reduce tourism VAT and make the UK an even more attractive destination for foreign visitors. I hope that they will consider seizing this opportunity and use Brexit as a springboard for our tourism industry.
I welcome what the hon. Gentleman has said and congratulate him on painting a very attractive picture of his constituency. On the opportunities after Brexit with regard to VAT, as he knows, we have been promoting that issue in respect of Northern Ireland, but there can also be opportunities right across the United Kingdom. We have heard a lot of pessimism, but there are opportunities to be grasped, particularly in tourism, and I commend him for what he said about VAT.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I agree that we have an opportunity to be a lot more positive about Brexit.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the possibility of varying VAT once we have left the European Union, but is he aware that 25 members of the European Union currently vary VAT on the tourism industry? In France, for example, it is only 9% for a hotel or a tourist attraction. It would be possible today for the UK Government to vary VAT on the tourism sector.
I have no reason to doubt the hon. Lady. That was not my understanding, but I will definitely look into that.
To conclude, we can be exceptionally proud of our creative and tourism industries in this country. I fully understand the concerns put forward by hon. Members as a result of Brexit, but I gently suggest that perhaps erring too much on the side of caution and pessimism is not necessarily the way to go. We are a world leader in this area, and that will not disappear overnight—far from it. The Government rightly speak about building a new global Britain after Brexit. Why not build it on the back of our sensational creative talent and beautiful destinations?
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. I congratulate the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine) on securing the debate and on a fantastic opening speech. I also want to express my disappointment that the right hon. Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey) is not in the Cabinet. He was overlooked on several occasions by Prime Ministers and, as we heard in his speech, he speaks from a position of experience and understanding of the industry. I think I speak for a lot of people who said they felt they had a friend when he was the Minister. I also want to congratulate the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), who is one half of the famous parliamentary rock band MP4: a classic line-up for a passionate speech. Once MP4 decide to go on that long-awaited British tour, we look forward to welcoming them to Blackwood Institute and Newbridge Memo and one of the larger venues that we can book.
Tickets cannot be touted.
We have to pay them.
Last month I met Gail Renard, chair of the Writers’ Guild. She was one of several people who came to meet me to talk about concerns about the impact of Brexit on the creative industries. Gail is a very interesting character. She met John and Yoko at one of their famous bed-ins. As I am a big fan of the Beatles, our meeting went on from half an hour to two hours while she told me everything about John and Yoko and their fantastic life together. But the one thing she wanted to get across to me was the real concern about freedom of movement.
The Creative Industries Federation has recommended that the Government implement sufficient structures to replace freedom of movement. The problem for those of us who were remain Members of Parliament in leave constituencies is that when we knocked on doors we were told that the No. 1 issue was freedom of movement—we were going to take back control of our borders. As we have seen, not only in the creative industries but in others, we were told that there were simple solutions to complex problems. Many people did not know about access to the single market or the customs union. The issues were not properly explained, and that was the problem with the Brexit debate.
That is why we are where we are. The problem is that selling freedom of movement to our constituents will be difficult. When they see “freedom of movement,” they think about immigration. They worry about immigration, and that is a problem for a British success story. Let there be no doubt: the creative industry is a growing sector of the economy. It is worth £92 billion—up from £85 billion in 2015. The sector makes more than 5% of the UK’s gross value added product. However, all that would be impossible without European funding. If we are to lose funding from streams such as Creative Europe, as well as part of the workforce, when there is no more freedom of movement, the future of the creative industries looks bleak.
Earlier this year, entertainment industry leaders expressed concerns about freedom of movement and other post-Brexit uncertainties at a House of Lords Committee sitting. It is high time the Government listened to them. The chief executive of One Dance UK has said that freedom of movement is a vital part of its business model. Its members travel to the EU for work eight times a year, on average. A poll conducted by the Musicians Union when it held an event here a year ago with Equity found that only 2% of the music industry believed that Brexit would be good for them. An industry that produced the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and countless other bands that broke America is worried about the future. However, the key issue expressed across the industry is that, because of unique working patterns that involve a lot of travel, freedom of movement is necessary for its continued success.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Wantage that Prime Ministers have not discussed the arts very seriously. The creative industries seem to be a bolt-on. They are not taken as a major contributor to the British economy. The sector provides a wide variety of jobs and career opportunities for people across the UK and Europe. Harry Potter, James Bond and Marvel films have been some of the highest grossing productions of the past decade. Only this week Robert Downey Jr. was welcomed to south Wales for the filming of a new Marvel film. We want to welcome more people like him. Many of those productions have been filmed primarily in the UK and across Europe, with a significant British and European workforce. In 2016 alone there were 131,000 EU nationals working in the British creative industries. Freedom of movement for workers in the creative industries is key to the success of those projects.
If we lose freedom of movement, we run the risk of limiting the production of international projects in the UK. Can you imagine, Mr Bone, if that situation affected the banking, construction or manufacturing industries? I am sure that the debate would be packed with speakers, but the creative industries seem to fall to the back of the queue. It can go on no longer. If international film production companies or musicians using large European workforces believe that it will be too difficult or costly for EU nationals to enter the UK to work, they will simply go elsewhere. I agree with the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire that there will be countries in Europe, and around the world, rubbing their hands together waiting for the creative industries to leave here and set up there.
Is my hon. Friend aware of the EU quota rules by which at the moment TV broadcasters are required to invest 20% of their revenues in making or commissioning original content, and to spend at least 50% of their time showing European works? If British works are no longer included in that 50% quota, companies with a choice as to where they make productions will not come to Britain. They will need to make sure they are made in a European country.
That is an extremely important point. What do we want to see on our television screens: low-budget foreign television productions or the high-quality drama and film productions we currently enjoy in this country? My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) will know that Wales has become a hub for BBC drama productions and for film, just as Scotland has—and Northern Ireland, with “Game of Thrones”. There is a real concern that we are almost gutting the industry.
There is also a knock-on effect. Music tours and festivals have a huge impact on larger companies but also on cafés, bars, hotels and other hospitality industries, and they attract huge crowds. We seem to be cutting our legs from under us. If limits are imposed, local enterprises will suffer. The Government need to ensure that there are either exemptions or sufficient structures in place to ensure continued employment and career growth for British and European workers in the entertainment and creative industries. The Government’s recent report on the creative industries gave absolutely no information on their plans for the sector’s future. The sector often has to plan out its projects far in advance, so it needs assurances now that its projects and workforces will not be hindered by our leaving the European Union.
There should be no doubt: there is a lot of money in the creative industries. Netflix and Amazon are competing for the same space; it is a great time for the industry. We must realise how important the creative industries are. Performing and visual arts, and film, TV and video are second and third respectively only to the IT, software and computer services sector. In 2015 those two sectors combined employed 517,000 people—20% of the entire creative industry workforce—and their economic outputs amounted to £24.4 billion, or 28% of the entire output. We cannot pretend that Brexit will not affect that. Many of those projects rely on freedom of movement. The Government should bring clarity to that.
I intervened earlier on the hon. Member for Edinburgh West. The Minister and I will probably bump into each other in the hallway tomorrow, as we are neighbours, and perhaps I can discuss the matter with him then. I would like the Government, if they take the creative industries seriously, to make two announcements. As I explained earlier, I would like officials from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to be seconded to the Department for Exiting the European Union. I would also like the Culture Secretary to set up a Cabinet working group on Brexit, given the importance of the creative industries to the economy. Outside Parliament, I would like representatives of the creative workforce to be on the Creative Industries Council, which is currently chaired by John McVay of Pact. No creative trade unions are on it. I would like Equity, the Musicians Union and other creative industries unions to be invited on to it. The issue is too important. We are now perhaps 18 months away from Brexit. As in other areas, there is a need for certainty, and I look to the Minister to provide it.
I thank hon. Members for keeping to time. The House is expected to divide at 3.54. That may help Front-Bench spokesmen.
It is, as always, a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone.
I thank the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine) for securing this important debate. As she said, tourism and the creative industries play a hugely significant part in the UK and Scottish economies. She is right to point out that Brexit could have hugely damaging consequences for both those sectors. It is incumbent on the UK Government to ensure that tourism and our creative industries are not damaged by Brexit.
My hon. Friend the Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), who made an excellent speech, hit the nail on the head when he said the creative industries are like no other. They are fired by imagination, talent and invention, and they exist to be appreciated, enjoyed and transferred across audiences, without regard to frontiers or borders. I fear that he was right when he said that leaving the European Union will be an absolute disaster for our creative and tourism industries. As has been said often in the debate, my hon. Friend speaks not just from a wealth of political experience but as someone who enjoyed a highly successful career as a musician in two of Scotland’s finest bands—Runrig and Big Country—although his credentials are perhaps now in question as he is a member of MP4, along with the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan). I suggest to both of them that they may want to get their European tour in sooner rather than later.
My hon. Friend and I, and indeed all SNP Members, desperately want Scotland to remain the inclusive, tolerant, outward-looking country that it is, and we are firmly of the opinion that that can best be done by protecting and maintaining our existing relationship with Europe. The free movement of people within the European Union—we have heard much about that today, including in the good contribution from the hon. Member for Islwyn (Chris Evans)—enriches the cultural life of everyone, not just in Scotland or the United Kingdom, but across the European continent. Anything that threatens that is, in my opinion, to be deeply regretted and is a backward and retrograde step.
Scotland’s creative community has benefited enormously from four decades of support and collaboration with our European partners. As well as culturally enriching us and bringing the welcome free movement of people, it has brought access to the European funding from which Scottish cultural and creative organisations have benefited over the past 40 years. It is entirely understandable that fear of losing access to that enormous pool of talent and vital pool of EU funding is causing huge concern in the creative sector. With restrictions likely to be placed on the free movement of people, including artists and performers, when asked before the EU referendum in 2016, 96% of members of the Creative Industries Federation stated that their preference was for the UK to remain in the European Union.
The latest figures released by the federation show that the concerns felt two years ago about Brexit are as strong as ever. In the most recent report, published in January, 80% of respondents said that they were not confident that Britain will maintain its leading global reputation post-Brexit—indeed, 21% said that a “no deal” outcome would make them consider moving part or all of their business out of the UK, and 40% said that a “no deal” outcome would be harmful to their ability to export. Grave concerns about the ability to continue to attract the best and brightest to work in the UK post-Brexit were laid out at the end of last year, with three quarters of firms surveyed saying that they employed EU nationals. A remarkable two thirds of those firms believed that they could not currently fill those posts with UK workers. Indeed, almost 60% of companies in the Creative Industries Federation survey said that they were already facing a skills shortage, even with current access to EU workers.
Those findings are not isolated examples of the grave concerns in the industry about Brexit. The significant skills shortages in the UK creative industries was also highlighted in a report by UK Music. As the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) highlighted, when UK Music asked its members what impact the UK leaving the EU would have on them, only 2% thought that Brexit would have a positive impact on their chances of work, whereas 50% feared that leaving the EU would have a negative impact. Such findings are repeated across the sector. Equity, the trade union that represents more than 42,000 performers and creative workers, conducted a survey that showed that 46% of UK bids for European funding are accepted, making the UK second only to Germany. It also showed that the UK receives 24% of all European Research Council grants. The message coming loud and clear from our creative sector is that the UK benefits from being a full member of the European Union. There is consensus across our creative industries that Brexit will be very bad for business, and I urge the Government to listen, engage fully, and act on the well-founded concerns and well-documented reality facing our creative sector as we approach Brexit.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh West skilfully and rightly highlighted the link between tourism and the creative industries, and specifically the Edinburgh International Festival which, as she rightly said, is a gateway to the rest of Scotland and the UK, as hundreds of thousands of visitors disperse from Edinburgh to every corner of the country. Along with others, their presence has a massive impact on our hospitality sector. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid) spoke about tourism in his constituency, which has 46 miles of coastline. I do not want to get into a debate or argument about whose coastline is bigger, but the coastline of Argyll and Bute is longer than the coastline of France. We know what we are talking about when it comes to having a coastline; we know what it is to have an important tourist industry.
Like much of Scotland, my constituency relies heavily on tourism, not just for the visitor pound, but for employment. We have some of the most breathtaking and unspoiled scenery anywhere in the world, and we are investing heavily in whisky tourism because massive numbers of European visitors come to Argyll and Bute every year to visit our vast range of distilleries. Indeed, whisky tourism is so great, and the whisky industry booming to such an extent, that no fewer than a dozen distilleries have opened across Scotland in the last few years and no fewer than 40 are in various stages of planning and construction, and hoping to come on stream in the next couple of decades. As we speak, tourism is booming. We in Argyll and Bute need those tourists to come, but I fear that Brexit will do nothing to help, and indeed will be hugely detrimental.
Just this week there was another significant investment in whisky tourism. That is welcome, but let us remember that there is hardly an hotel in Scotland that does not rely on the hard work of our EU nationals. Although it is not a patch on Argyll and Bute, Perth and North Perthshire is also a particularly beautiful part of the world, and my hon. Friend will be aware of the contribution made by the tourism industry and our highly valued EU nationals to the economy of his constituency. I commend him on his passionate defence of the digital single market, and I agree that the Prime Minister’s seeming delight at abandoning that vehicle for investment, harmonisation, collaboration and market development was bewildering to anyone who has ever engaged with the creative industries. I share the concerns of the right hon. Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey) about leaving the digital single market, and I sincerely hope that his voice will be heard by those on his side of the House.
The UK’s creative and cultural industries have benefited greatly—economically, creatively, and culturally—from being part of the European Union for the past 40 years. Nothing will improve the arrangements that we currently enjoy as a member of the EU, and the Government must redouble their efforts to ensure that this world-class sector is not destroyed by Brexit. It is glaringly obvious that remaining a member of the single market at the very least is the best way to do that, so that this country is still able to attract and keep the creative talent that is vital to allow people in that industry to work, perform and exhibit in this country, free from unnecessary barriers. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s explanation for why leaving the single market could ever be good for the creative industries.
I apologise to the Minister and the House, but because the SNP spokesperson spoke for 11 minutes that leaves only 16 minutes before the Division, two of which must be devoted to the person who secured the debate, so it looks as though we will have to come back after the vote.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine) on securing today’s debate. She rightly pointed out the huge workforce challenges that Brexit presents to the creative industries and tourism and she made important points about musicians and the need for a single EU work permit. I also congratulate the right hon. Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey) who in his characteristically self-deprecatory, tongue-in-cheek speech made some serious points about the importance of the creative industries. Quite rightly, he spoke about the film tax relief in which he played a big part, as well as the importance of protecting the single digital market post-Brexit. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say about that.
I also congratulate my hon. Friend—I shall call him that—the Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart). He described tourism and the creative industries as sitting awkwardly together. I rarely disagree with him, but I do on that point because much tourism is driven by culture and our creative industries, including the music industry, which he knows well, theatre and television. In my constituency of Cardiff West, the production of programmes such as “Doctor Who” and “Sherlock” has drawn tourism into the area. I recently visited Belfast and saw the “Game of Thrones” studios, and although I cannot tell Members anything about the studios because I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement, I can say that they have brought many visitors into Northern Ireland.
The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire also rightly pointed out that the creative industries are the fastest growing sector of our economy, and he made a startling revelation. I have always wondered what makes him cry, and we now know it is Brexit that makes him weep when he is alone at home. He made a substantial case for our creative industries and rightly mentioned UK Music, ably led by its chief executive Michael Dugher, and the Musicians Union, under Horace Trubridge’s new leadership. He was rudely interrupted—or intervened on—by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy), who continued her vendetta against Coldplay. I think she should remember that many people are employed in our creative industries as a result of Coldplay’s success and be careful not to tarnish one of our strongest performing bands, lest she cause unemployment in those industries.
The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid), who, as he pointed out, has recently been super-subbing in MP4 on television, told us about his constituency, with its golf and its beautiful coastline and how it is the home of the white billed diver. His description made it sound like the garden of Eden, but if “Whisky Galore” was filmed there, it might also have been the place where they invented original sin. I congratulate him on a very good speech and on making the point about VAT—although, as was pointed out to him, that is actually within the gift of the Government, whether or not we are a member of the European Union.
My hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Chris Evans) mentioned the Blackwood Miners’ Institute—I was there with him at the Manic Street Preachers homecoming gig a few years ago—and made some very important points about freedom of movement and about arts and the creative industries. It is important not to make a distinction between the subsidised arts and the creative industries. One of the strengths of what has happened in recent years is that those two things have been brought together into one viewpoint. The film industry receives tax credits, as the right hon. Member for Wantage pointed out, and yes, some of our theatres receive subsidies via the Arts Council, but they are all part of the same ecology that produces our fantastic creative industries and makes us a world leader in music, theatre, film and so on. The right hon. Gentleman also made the very important point about ensuring that the Creative Industries Council has workforce representation on it, which I have been campaigning for from the Front Bench for some time. The Government said that once they had published their creative industries strategy they would encourage the Creative Industries Council to have that representation, and I hope to hear from the Minister what he now intends to do about that.
I will respond to the debate more broadly by saying that the creative industries obviously face a real challenge from Brexit, as does the tourism industry. Like many in this room, I voted remain—unlike you, Mr Bone.
Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that when I sit in this Chair, I have no views about anything other than about keeping him in order.
And if you believe that, Mr Bone, you are an impartial Chair at all times. I completely accept that.
I also voted against triggering article 50, partly because of the huge challenges it presents to our creative industries. Just recently I met with a major broadcaster which, because of the loss of the status of licensing across the European Union single market, is moving 700 jobs out of the UK, to Amsterdam, Luxembourg or Dublin. It has already decided to do that because it needs to be sure that if it is licensed in one country it is licensed right across the European Union.
Since 2007, according to the Government’s own figures in an answer from the Minister, the creative industries sector has received something in the realm of £190 million in European Union funding from the European regional development fund alone, most of which has been spent in the nations and regions of the UK, including about £60 million in Yorkshire. That is much more redistributive spending on the creative industries and the arts sector that we often find from other sources of funding. Local authorities have suffered huge disproportionate cuts in the arts and in tourism. In tourism, the biggest cuts have been in local authorities, with more than 50% of cuts in tourism employees since 2009 being in local authorities. That is a huge issue.
My critique of the Government is that their recently announced sector deal for the creative industries is insufficient. They claim that it amounted to a £150-million package, but only £25 million or so is not money that has previously been announced. That is not the scale of ambition required. Also, announcements have been made recently about continuing with funding in relation to the music and dance scheme, the dance and drama awards, cultural programmes and so on, but none of that money is genuinely new either—it is just a continuation of what is already happening. The Government need to step up with greater ambition, along the lines of the Bazalgette report that was released last year. They need to do more on the workforce, on free movement, on skills and on freelancers. Lots of people working in the creative industries are freelancers; how about getting hold of the Bill that has been introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Spen (Tracy Brabin) to give freelancers shared parental leave? That is a great campaign. The Government have said that they are reviewing that, and I urge the Minister to think more about it and talk with his colleagues, in order to make it a reality. The Government could do more by having a cultural capital fund, as the Labour party promised in our manifesto. They could do lots more on all those sorts of issues.
On tourism, I will obviously say that Cardiff is the most beautiful part of the country and encourage right hon. and hon. Members to visit but, on a serious note, I have been travelling around the country to different tourist locations to talk to the industry about Brexit and the issues faced. The industry was unanimous in that devaluation is not the way forward as a policy on tourism. Britain will not become the most successful tourism sector it can be simply by relying on devaluing the pound and going for a cheap offer. We must ensure we have quality, and that includes investment in skills, in our cultural heritage and in the workforce.
It is also about time to look again at the idea of social tourism, which was so interestingly and ably promoted by an all-party parliamentary group back in 2011. Its report, called “Giving Britain a break: inquiry into the social and economic benefits of social tourism”, was about ensuring that we use up the spare capacity in our domestic tourism industry to help those families who most need a break. It would be good to see the Government introduce a social element in to their tourism policy, to ensure that families really benefit and our tourism industry benefits from being able to use up its spare capacity.
I do not want to take up much more time, because time is pressing. If we are going down this road to Brexit, a road that many of us in this particular debate do not seem to have supported, we must ensure that the Government show a great deal more ambition in relation to our creative industry and tourism sectors.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. We probably have about four or five minutes before the Division bell goes.
I thank the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine) and congratulate her on calling this important debate. I do not think I can do as well as the shadow Minister in name-dropping various pop groups and organisations that the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) might have been a member of in his earlier and current days, but I can certainly say that Brexit is happening. The people have spoken in the referendum.
I am much more optimistic than the hon. Member for Edinburgh West and many in the Chamber at the moment. We have heard a good deal of negativity and pessimism this afternoon, but I much prefer the view taken by my right hon. Friend the Member for Belfast North (Nigel Dodds), who is no longer in his place, who spoke about the opportunities and the optimism. It is always helpful to see glasses as half full rather than half empty.
I welcome the contributions from right hon. and hon. Members, and thank them for stimulating a lively debate in which the crucial role of the UK’s creative and tourism sectors has been recognised—I think that on that subject we are all in agreement. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey) made his address to the Chamber—with his usual charm, if I may say so. He is certainly missed in the sector, contrary to his self-deprecating remarks. He was Minister for some six years, and I think I am right in saying that the industry wrote a group letter to a national newspaper saying just how very much he would be missed. Frankly, his departure provoked an extraordinary letter of appreciation.
My right hon. Friend and others mentioned supporting arts in the regions. In this coming financial year, 75% of Arts Council England’s funding will be going outside of the London area. The Department is supporting the cultural development fund and the northern cultural regeneration fund. A lot of money—rightly so—is going out of London and into the regions.
As the Minister for the arts, heritage and tourism, I am responding to this debate on the effects of the UK leaving the EU on the tourism and creative industry sectors. We have created the best in this country, as many Members from all parts of the House have mentioned. In my view, we had the best before 1973, and we will have the best after we leave. I am also happy to say that my Department already works across Government, including with civil servants at the Department for Exiting the European Union, and there is no reason to think that we will not continue to do so. In fact, we always look to work together.
I will make some overall points about the sectors and the challenges of EU exit, and I will then respond in turn to some of the key issues raised by colleagues. I recognise that there is particular interest in the devolved arrangements for both sectors following EU exit. I am keen that the future arrangement works for all sides. I am particularly looking forward to meeting colleagues from the devolved Administrations this Thursday in Edinburgh to discuss their particular concerns about tourism in more detail. I want it to be an ongoing discussion. If I do not have time to talk about that ongoing discussion in the limited time available this afternoon, I will be pleased to follow up in writing.
Members will be aware that the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee recently published its report, “The potential impact of Brexit on the creative industries, tourism and the digital single market”. Some of the points raised in this debate echo the conclusions of that report. I have noted those conclusions, and the Government will submit our response in due course in the normal way.
To set the scene, Members will be aware that the sectors that DCMS represents are an absolutely huge success story for the UK—there is no doubt about that—and tourism and the creative industries are no exception. To a large degree, their success has gone hand in hand: tourism helps the creative industries thrive, as the shadow Minister mentioned, and vice versa. As an example of the close relationship, UK Music’s “Wish you were here” report for 2017 stated that there were 12.5 million music tourists in 2016—that is music tourists alone—and nearly 50,000 full-time jobs were sustained by music tourism. It is huge. In 2016, tourism was worth more than £65 billion to the economy, and it is still growing every year. In fact, it is growing exponentially. Provisional figures suggest that 2017—we have most of the figures—was a record-breaking year, with just under 39 million overseas visitors to the UK. That was an increase of 3% on 2016, which was itself a record year. The situation is extremely promising. The creative industries are also a major cultural and economic success for the UK. It is a high-value, high-growth sector that was worth nearly £92 billion to the economy in 2016.
These sectors play an important role in showing the world the very best of Britain and in strengthening global relationships. We are No. 1 in the world for soft power. There are many reasons for that, but one of the main ones is the strength of the sector. The sectors also play a role in demonstrating that we are open for business.
Will the Minister give way?
I am sorry, I do not have time.
We are not resting on our laurels. As Members will be aware, DCMS recently published its sector deal for the creative industries. That important piece of work sets out an ambitious proposal on how Government and industry will work together to accelerate growth and productivity. The sector deal is a landmark document, and I urge Members to look at it if they have not already. It recognises the critical importance of the creative industries to the UK’s economy, society and global influence. We intend to publish a similar deal for the tourism sector in due course.
I would now like to focus on the freedom of movement point that was raised by one or two Members, as it is a key issue that colleagues and stakeholders have raised. The UK tourism and creative industry sectors have strong ties with the European Union. There are a large number of international workers in both sectors and they regularly move across the EU. EU nationals form a significant proportion of the domestic tourism market.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
[Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]
As I was saying, the UK’s creative industries likewise require access to skilled workers from the European Union. It is important that UK and EU workers can quickly and efficiently transfer across member states on time-limited projects such as film co-productions, or as touring musicians and performers.
I have spoken to a number of tourism industry leaders since taking on this role, to build a strong understanding of the challenges and opportunities on freedom of movement and to ensure that the sector can continue to have access to the necessary skills. We are working closely with the Home Office, Revenue and Customs and the Department for Exiting the European Union to ensure that they are well informed of these issues. The new immigration system will not come into place until 2021, following the agreed implementation period. During that time, existing arrangements will broadly continue to apply to EU citizens coming to the UK to visit, work or study.
I turn now to the UK’s reputation as a tourism destination. Tourism continues to be a significant success for the UK. In 2017, the World Economic Forum found that the UK had the fifth most competitive tourism market in the world. Europe is our key market. The projected figures for 2017 are that, of the 39 million visits to the UK, nearly two thirds were by EU residents. Outbound as well as inbound visits are important and, similarly, of the 71 million visits overseas by UK residents, it is projected that three quarters were to other EU countries. Clearly, it is in both the UK’s and the EU’s interests to maintain this ease of travel and smooth entry at the border. We are also working closely with industry partners to promote transparency for consumers, and internationally to promote open global markets.
We are pressed for time, but another matter that I want to mention is access to EU funding streams for tourism and the creative industries. To provide some certainty for our sectors in the near future, Members will know that at the joint press conference between the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and Michel Barnier on 19 March this year it was confirmed that UK organisations could continue to bid for EU programmes until December 2020. Details of the next multiannual financial framework are expected later this year, and that will provide greater clarity on our position. We will seek to stay beyond December 2020 in programmes that are mutually beneficial to the UK and EU and will continue to actively investigate the funding streams that support our sectors.
On the regulatory framework, the UK and EU already have close regulatory alignment built on trust in one another’s institutions. That co-operation will continue. Discussions include European legislation on consumer protection as well as regulations on temporary working arrangements.
Brexit presents both challenges and opportunities for these sectors, as it does for the whole of the United Kingdom. Although much of the public debate focuses on the challenge, I have huge confidence in the tourism and creative industry sectors and in their abilities to capitalise on the exciting opportunities. I am keen that the Government should continue to support tourism—they will, so long as I am Minister for tourism, and beyond—and the creative industries at this very important time, listening to the views of our stakeholders. I would likewise be pleased to stay engaged with parliamentary colleagues on this topic. I firmly believe that tourism and the creative industries will continue to be a major economic driver for the UK and will only grow in importance in the years ahead. There is no reason to believe that the upward trends will not continue as we exit the European Union. Our culture and creativity play a huge role in making the UK a highly attractive place to visit and work.
I thank right hon. and hon. Members who have taken part in this debate for rehearsing all the arguments and laying out clearly why tourism and the creative industries need protection and special measures to help them through the challenges they are going to face if Brexit goes ahead—everything from the impassioned plea from the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) for our creative industries as world leaders, to the argument that I confess I did not mean to spark between the hon. Members for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid) and for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O'Hara) about who has the most beautiful constituency. I would not like to comment on either of them, except to say they are both wrong—it is Edinburgh.
I hope the Minister will take on board everything he has heard from this side of the Chamber today.
Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 10(6)).
Energy Drink Sales to Children
I beg to move,
That this House has considered the sale of energy drinks to children.
I am delighted to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I am pleased and proud to have been able to secure this debate. The UK’s growing childhood dietary and obesity crisis is something that the Government need to address. Government policy holds the key to that challenge and I hope that today’s debate will contribute to that.
To many of us, the sight of a child drinking a can of energy drink might not be something that we would even take a second look at—it has become so commonplace now—but in the last 10 to 15 years there has been an explosion in the popularity of these drinks, particularly among children and adolescents. It is estimated that between 2006 and 2014 the sale of energy drinks in the UK increased by 155%, and it is still growing. While the soft drinks market is generally declining, the global energy drinks market is projected to grow by 3.5% annually until at least 2020. On average, young people in the UK consume more energy drinks than those in other EU countries, which means that it is British children who are most at risk from the growing energy drinks market.
Furthermore, it is becoming clearer that many children and parents are just not aware of the health risks of regularly consuming these drinks. Many parents and young people will not be aware that on the back of a can of energy drink are the words, “Not recommended for children.” The Government rightly ensure that any product that is high in caffeine carries that warning. How can it be that the Government force companies to warn that their products are unsafe for children to drink, but follow with no enforcement measures or protections against children drinking them? Why are we allowing our young people to drink these highly caffeinated drinks, often several times a day, without any protection?
I asked myself that question after watching Jamie Oliver’s “Friday Night Feast”. The programme investigated the dangers and the prevalence of children regularly drinking these drinks. I was shocked. A massive 68% of those aged between 10 and 18 said they were consumers of energy drinks, with 12% of those saying they drank as much as 1 litre of energy drink per session. To put that in perspective, a single litre bottle of energy drink can contain the equivalent caffeine of five shots of espresso and 12 teaspoons of sugar. Even more shockingly, they can be purchased for as little as 79p. I like my coffee in the morning as much as anyone else, but I think Members would join me in my shock if ahead of us in the morning queue for our lattes we saw a 10-year-old child order and drink a double, triple or even quadruple espresso. Why are children allowed to purchase these energy drinks?
In my area of Teesside earlier this year a 16-year-old child was allowed to purchase 12 cans of energy drink from a single store. He went on to down five to six cans in a single sitting—the equivalent of approximately seven shots of espresso. He did it because he said he needed a boost to get through his session at college, but he was sent home from school later that day by teachers said to be fuming at his behaviour. Luckily, he had no immediate health problems as a result. However, had he drunk any more, it is possible that it could have caused cardiac arrest or other serious health problems. There are currently no protections or measures to limit the amount of these drinks that a child can purchase. It is a danger to young people and something that needs to be addressed.
One of the biggest problems is the way these drinks are promoted and advertised to children and young people. They are marketed as giving boosts to physical or mental performance, which means that children are purchasing and drinking them before school or sports, in the perverse belief that they are somehow improving their mental or physical health.
My hon. Friend might be aware that Ross High School in Tranent in my constituency introduced “fizz-free February” in 2017, stopping the sale of energy and carbonated drinks. They carried it on, with the consent of the pupils, and all the high schools in East Lothian joined fizz-free February in 2018. It is a voluntary action taken by the schools and children. Does my hon. Friend agree that more needs to be done to empower schools?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I congratulate those schools on showing leadership and having a beneficial effect on children’s ability to learn in school. He is absolutely right that the key is Government policy. There is too much confusion, and we should not rely on schools and shops preventing children from accessing energy drinks.
Studies show that regularly consuming large quantities of caffeine can result in increased blood pressure, sleep disturbance, headaches and stomach aches. Energy drinks have also been proven to affect children’s mental health, causing self-destructive behaviour, insomnia, problems with behavioural regulation and poor lifestyle behaviours, such as a poor diet and the consumption of fast food. It has also been shown that children who drink energy drinks are more likely to consume alcohol, smoke or take drugs in later life. Governments of all parties have introduced important and much-needed measures to tackle childhood obesity and poor dietary health, but I believe that if we leave this avenue open, children will be at risk of poor health impacts, both now and in their future life.
I am sure that many companies will say that they do not directly market their products to children, but energy drinks are highly sweetened and are often sold for as little as 30p, and the packaging sometimes contains marketing techniques such as video game rewards. In addition, studies have found that children perversely associate these sometimes unhealthy drinks with sporting activities. Many of the larger energy drink manufacturers sponsor extreme sports events such as the Red Bull cliff diving series, or major sporting occasions such as the Carabao cup.
Energy drinks are often associated with children’s favourite sports or a general culture of glamorous, adventurous, risk-taking behaviour. Many carry names such as Relentless, Monster and Boost, which often look thrilling and risky to children and have associations with danger and excitement. Young people report that they see such products advertised on television, in video games and through sports sponsorships, despite pledges from advertisers to reduce such advertising. In a recent study organised by Teesside University, in conjunction with four other universities in the north-east, one child said:
“If you’re playing on your tablet or something and you’re playing a game, an advert pops up for Relentless.”
Will the Minister promise to look at ways of strengthening the rules on how those companies advertise and promote themselves to children?
Consuming energy drinks affects not just children’s health but their education. Many teachers, teaching unions and school staff have expressed the view that students should not be able to purchase such drinks. A survey carried out by the NASUWT found that 13% of teachers and school leaders identified energy drinks as the main contributor to poor behaviour that they had witnessed. Teachers have previously said that such drinks are a contributory factor to classroom violence and falling asleep in class.
Many schools have already prohibited energy drinks from school grounds, but that is not enough on its own. Teachers need Government support. Banning energy drinks from schools does not prevent students from drinking them off site and then coming into school. A study commissioned by the Scottish Government found that one in four 13 to 15-year-olds purchased an energy drink when they went out of school at lunch time. Will the Minister commit to supporting teachers and schools by joining them in prohibiting children from buying such drinks?
I am sure that many Members have seen in the press that retailers such as Waitrose, Tesco and WHSmith, and many cinema chains and petrol garages, have already stopped selling energy drinks to under-16s. I welcome those steps and agree that they are important, but they are not enough. The Association of Convenience Stores estimates that 53% of independent convenience retailers do not sell energy drinks, but the lack of clarity about how often children can purchase and drink them means that there are still hundreds, if not thousands, of outlets where children can buy such drinks with no protection. I recently heard of an offer that enabled children to buy four cans of an energy drink for £1. I heard that one child was going in, buying four drinks and splitting them among his friends. They are readily accessible and very cheap, and there is not enough clarity or regulation, so retailers do not know how to handle it.
It is not enough for the Government to leave it to retailers, because only responsible retailers will take the responsible steps. That would leave children’s health to the lottery of whether their local shop will sell the drinks to them. When asked about this issue previously in Parliament and in written questions, Ministers have said that they will follow it and look at any scientific evidence, but there is already ample scientific evidence—at least 11 qualitative and quantitative studies have been carried out on the subject.
Teesside University has recently joined four other universities in the north-east to carry out research on this subject. It found that such drinks are readily available in many local shops, and that own-brand energy drinks are among the cheapest drinks available— nearly always cheaper than water. It also found that branding, marketing and social norms are important factors in shaping children’s consumption choices. Children have found that the information on the packaging is sometimes confusing. One child taking part in the study said:
“Some younger kids, they read the label but say they don’t know what…4.8 sugar means. They don’t know what it means—is that a lot or is it not a lot?”
The Government must take further steps to better educate young people about food choices and the effect that sugar, caffeine and other substances can have on the body. When asked about this topic previously, Ministers have referred to the upcoming childhood obesity plan, which the Minister is taking forward. Will he clarify whether the Government envisage changes to the sale of energy drinks being part of the obesity strategy, or will there be separate measures? Will he meet me to discuss this issue further?
We know that consuming energy drinks is not healthy for children, that teachers and parents want them prohibited, that many retailers do not believe it is right that children can purchase them and that, given that the packaging carries a warning, energy drink producers themselves do not think children should be consuming them. The Government have said in the past that they are willing to look at the issue, but will the Minister commit to listening to parents, teachers, manufacturers, retailers and health campaigners such as Jamie Oliver and implement a full ban on the sale of these highly caffeinated and, frankly, highly dangerous energy drinks to children?
All good things come to those who wait. After the delay, here we are.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship again, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate the hon. Member for Redcar (Anna Turley) on securing the debate. I know that there are competing pressures on Members’ time today, but I am surprised that there are not more here for this debate on a big, emerging issue that is gathering momentum. My ministerial colleagues and I have been asked about it at Health questions previously—perhaps that is what the hon. Lady was referring to. I thank her for introducing the debate and for setting out the case very clearly.
We all agree that the regular consumption of energy drinks by children is not appropriate at all. I say that as one who has young children. That applies especially to those under 16, as energy drinks often contain a lot of caffeine and sugar—I will talk about both. They are often coupled with other sources of caffeine and sugar in children’s diets. Too much of a good thing, or too much of a bad thing in this case, can lead to difficulties sleeping and headaches—I have heard stories about that—and there is obviously an effect in terms of tooth decay and weight gain. In addition to the health and wellbeing impacts of the risk to children of consuming large volumes of energy drinks, there is anecdotal evidence, notably from schools, that their consumption has a very negative impact on children’s behaviour and, in turn, their learning. The hon. Lady gave an example from her constituency, and I have heard about countless cases as a constituency MP and through the media. It is right that we are having this debate and that we continue to examine the issue of the consumption of energy drinks by children, but this is not just about children; adults should also look at the small print on such drinks, because too much is not good for anybody.
The hon. Lady gave some figures, and I will give some of my own. A 250 ml can of an energy drink usually contains about 80 mg of caffeine, which is similar to two or three cans of cola, a mug of instant coffee or, as the hon. Lady said, an espresso. Some of the smaller energy “shot” products contain twice as much caffeine.
EU food information regulations require specific labelling for high-caffeine drinks and foods where caffeine has been added for a psychological effect. Such labelling helps consumers to identify foods with a high caffeine content where they may not expect to find it. The British Soft Drinks Association’s code of practice states that high-caffeine soft drinks should not be marketed, advertised or promoted to children under 16. It is right about that, of course. Amid growing public concern, and in line with that voluntary industry code, we have recently seen major supermarkets banning the sale of such products to under-16s. When companies do the right thing, I always think it is worth putting that on the record. Asda, Aldi, Co-op Food, Lidl, Morrisons, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have all voluntarily decided to ban the sale of these products to under-16s and they deserve credit for that action.
It is important that the Government remain open-minded and continue to look at any new evidence that emerges. I promise the House that we certainly are and we certainly will. The European Food Safety Authority published an opinion on the safety of caffeine less than two years ago, in May 2015. It derived safe daily intakes for adults and children and concluded that, when consumed at those intake levels, caffeine raises no serious concerns for the general healthy population, but based on current evidence on caffeine safety, the Food Standards Agency, for which I have ministerial responsibility, advises that children or other people sensitive to caffeine should consume caffeine only in moderation. That advice has remained unchanged up to this point. The hon. Lady may be aware that in March, the Science and Technology Committee launched an inquiry into the consumption of energy drinks. We welcome the inquiry very much and we recently submitted our evidence on behalf of the Government—I know she will look for that.
In the light of renewed, obvious and justified public concern, recently the Food Standards Agency has undertaken a literature review to identify if any new robust scientific studies have been conducted since the 2015 EFSA review that I mentioned. On 20 March, the results of the review and the information provided by the #notforchildren campaign were presented to the UK’s committee on toxicity of chemicals in food, consumer products and the environment, for consideration. In particular, the committee is now considering whether a review of caffeine consumption in children and adolescents is required to ascertain whether the studies published since the EFSA opinion add significantly to the body of evidence.
Retailers have acted to restrict the consumption of energy drinks. I am pleased to note that alongside all the supermarkets that I mentioned, other prominent retailers such as WHSmith and Boots, which have a significant high street presence in my constituency and, I am sure, in the hon. Lady’s, have also voluntarily acted to restrict their sales to under-16s. She mentioned this but it is worth repeating that many small retailers, which may be seen as the villain in the piece—I do not think that the facts bear that out—restrict the sales of energy drinks to children. I understand that around half the Association of Convenience Stores’ nearly 50,000 shops have implemented a voluntary ban on the sale of energy drinks to under-16s. Good for them and thanks to them.
In schools, which were mentioned by the hon. Member for East Lothian (Martin Whitfield) and the hon. Member for Redcar, energy drinks are not permitted within the school food standards. Schools have the power to confiscate, retain or dispose of any item that is banned by the school rules, which can include energy drinks. Some schools already do that. I was very interested to hear about fizz-free February—I will google it later and see where it takes me.
The school food standards came into force in January 2015. They define the food and drinks that must be provided, those that are restricted and those that must not be provided. They apply to all food and drink provided to pupils on and off school premises. I am due to see the Schools Minister shortly about another matter, but I will discuss this issue with him and I thank the hon. Lady for raising it.
Does the Minister have any comments about the advertising of high-energy drinks through computer games and on social media?
That is an emerging policy area that I am taking very close interest in, as the Public Health Minister and someone with an interest in the public health and child obesity agendas. In the same way that the major retailers that I put on the record have shown what I suggest is a great deal of corporate responsibility, I suggest that the producers of these drinks might also take a long, hard look and consider their social and moral responsibility, so that they can stay within the spirit of the guidelines.
In the spirit of co-operation, because there was a mention of the Scottish Government’s study, what engagement has the Minister had with Public Health Ministers in the devolved nations? Does he agree that sharing ideas, approaches and policies across the UK and beyond will be the best way to tackle this issue?
I completely agree. Personally, I have not had that engagement, but I will check with my officials and I will be surprised if they have not. If the hon. Lady wishes to facilitate that engagement, I would be very happy.
I want to touch briefly on sugar. Many energy drinks contain high levels of sugar. Studies conducted in children and adolescents indicate that higher consumption of sugars, including the sugar-sweetened drinks that we are talking about, is also associated with a greater risk of tooth decay, weight gain and all the other health impacts—look at the challenges that we have in the health service with type 2 diabetes. Latest figures continue to show that our childhood obesity rates remain far too high. Almost a quarter of children are overweight or obese when they start primary school in England, rising to around a third by the time they leave. That is not good enough and the Government and I are far from happy about it. Intakes of sugar are currently more than double the recommended amount across all age groups. Teenagers are consuming just over 14% of their energy from sugar, and over a fifth of this sugar intake comes from sugar-sweetened soft drinks.
Key measures in what I think was a well received, world-leading childhood obesity plan, launched in August 2016, include the soft drinks industry levy, which seems to have been around for ages but came into force less than two weeks ago, on 6 April. We are already seeing improvements—a number of soft drink manufacturers have announced that they have or they will reformulate their products to reduce sugar levels. I have mentioned many times in this House the manufacturers that I think deserve credit for doing that and I hope more will follow. More than half of all drinks that we estimate would otherwise have been in scope of the levy have reduced their sugar content to below the levy threshold, which was the intention of the policy.
The sugar reduction and wider reformulation programme is being led and run by Public Health England, for which I have responsibility, and applies to all sectors of industry: retailers, manufacturers and the out-of-home sector, which includes restaurants, takeaways and delivery companies, cafés and the good old-fashioned pub. Public Health England will shortly publish an assessment of progress on sugar reduction, which I eagerly await. We will use that to determine whether sufficient progress has been made in our view and whether alternative or additional levers need to be considered.
The hon. Member for Redcar mentioned the possibility of revision to the child obesity plan. We always said that the child obesity plan was the start of a conversation, not the end. She mentioned Jamie Oliver; I pay great tribute to his work and that of his team, who I met recently just before the Easter recess when we discussed this issue and many others. We have always said that if we need to go further we will, and that assessment that PHE is carrying out on the initial impact of the industry soft drinks levy will be part of the determination of whether we need to do that. I have said in the House before and I will say again that the hon. Lady should watch this space.
In conclusion, the actions that we have talked about and the stuff that we look to cannot entirely eliminate the sale of energy drinks to under-16s. However, I assure hon. Members and the public that this is a matter that the Government, the Secretary of State and I are looking at very carefully. We will monitor the situation extremely closely in the light of the emerging scientific evidence and public concern—I understand that we have to take both into consideration. If we conclude that further Government action is needed to restrict the sale of energy drinks to children, we will not hesitate to act. Our actions have shown in the past that we never hesitate to act when the evidence points us in that direction.
Question put and agreed to.
Leaving the EU: Future Trade Remedies
I beg to move,
That this House has considered future trade remedies after the UK leaves the EU.
It is a pleasure to introduce this debate with you in the Chair, Mr Hollobone. If our future trade proves as free and fair as I know you will be, we will be making progress.
I am grateful for the opportunity to raise the hugely important and wide-ranging issue of the trade remedies that will be employed by global Britain after we leave the European Union. To bring focus to the debate, I will mainly address the position faced by the modern ceramics industry and other advanced manufacturing businesses in Stoke-on-Trent, but I am sure that other Members will be able to draw parallels with relevant trading sectors in their constituencies.
In 2017, the UK’s total trade in goods and services deficit was 1.4% of GDP. Importantly, that looks to be the lowest annual deficit this century. Indeed, I checked the Office for National Statistics historical data series, and it looks to me to be the lowest deficit as a percentage of GDP since 1998 and less than half what it was in Labour’s economic meltdown of 2008. I am not sure whether the Department for International Trade has made much of that fact, but perhaps it should. That, combined with the record foreign direct investment into the UK in 2017, shows that something in our trade policy is strengthening our international position. It is imperative that we identify what that something is—what works in our trade policy while we are an EU member state—and look to continue what works after we leave the EU or replace it with something at least as effective, and preferably even more so.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing the debate. Does he agree that we need transparency about how we calculate duties, not least in the steel industry, where we could do with great transparency about how we calculate the level of dumping, for example?
I agree that it is important that we have a transparent and open approach. It is certainly important to ensure that there is transparency through an independent trade remedies authority.
Most pressingly, I seek assurances from the Minister that we will have effective anti-dumping measures which ensure that there is a level and fair playing field on which free trade can be played out. Our job is to embrace the opportunities of Brexit and use Britain’s position as a leading member of the World Trade Organisation to push for free and fair trade globally. We need the same level and fair playing field globally that we pushed for on the regional stage of the single market as a member of the European Union.
Thanks to this Government, global Britain starts from a solid economic base, underpinned by a world-renowned and hugely attractive legal system with sound governance rules that has been hard built over centuries. The UK is a great place to do business. In a competitive world, it needs to be. I do not argue that we should reinvent the corn laws—far from it. British industry must continue its efforts to be more productive and innovative. Although our modern industrial strategy will create an environment from which winners can emerge, it will not pick winners, and it will not prop up or bail out those who fail to satisfy their customer base, diversify their product range or provide the right value for money with products that are worth every penny of their competitive price.
I am hugely encouraged that manufacturing productivity increased by 2.6% in the fourth quarter of 2017, not just because that might be a signal that we are finally resolving the productivity puzzle but because it shows that the renaissance of British manufacturing and export success is, unlike what some people claim, built on more than the current low trading range of the pound. It is true that the lower pound helps with finding new markets in the short term, but achieving longer-term competitiveness will be key to keeping those markets and expanding them when exchange rates change again. Getting domestic policies right, keeping taxes and the regulatory burden down and getting skills and the entrepreneurial spirit high is every bit as important to our future trade as the adoption of remedial measures sanctioned by the WTO.
By getting both domestic policies and international rules right, and having free and fair rules-based markets guiding both, we can continue to boost the number of UK firms that engage in export markets. That is not just theory; it is happening in practice. City A.M. reported only yesterday that, according to Lloyds bank’s latest business barometer, two in five businesses in the UK are planning to export for the first time or enter a new market within six months. The prospect of increased profits and turnover is the main reason why firms are looking to expand their business abroad. Almost one fifth explained that they were looking to export due to existing demand overseas, while only 13% were driven by exchange rates. There are big growth markets out there, and the Prime Minister is right to highlight and drive the amazing opportunities for trade across the Commonwealth.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing the debate, but it seems to me that we are entering a global trade war, largely driven by the protectionist policies of the United States. Is it his view that domestic industries are better protected within the EU customs union or outside it?
I do not think it needs to be. We should pursue opportunities globally. As I said, there are real opportunities out there in the Commonwealth—and, yes, with the United States, too—to improve our trade links and the opportunities of trade for British businesses, such as those in my Stoke-on-Trent constituency.
We need more businesses to be confident exporters. For that, they need the right skills, the right support from DIT, the right trading opportunities and trade agreements negotiated by Britain in the British national interest. We need of course to ensure that, as a nation, we make full use of digital technology and use the internet as a worldwide exports showroom and sales platform. But we also need to guard against material retardation of the establishment of new industries in the UK, either from barriers to entry due to costs or regulation here at home, or from imports that are unfairly and illegally dumped or subsidised by those who wish to nip competition in the bud.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this important debate, and I apologise that I have to leave shortly to be on the Front Bench in the main Chamber. Does he agree that it would help to ensure free and fair trade if the calculation of dumping were stated transparently in the Trade Bill, which is due to come back on Report? That would give a lot more confidence to industries that need confidence, such as ceramics and steel.
As the hon. Gentleman says, there are a number of issues, and I will come on to more of them.
Looking forward to our global future, although there is necessarily some uncertainty about the final Brexit deal because negotiations are still under way, I welcome the Government’s acknowledgement that free and fair trade must operate within a rules-based system and that options must be available for countering those who break those rules. That is to say that fairness means everyone playing by the rules—or, as Nigel Lawson once said, “Rules rule: OK?” However, those rules need to be clear, fair and consistent. If they are not, we risk pent-up grudges feeding economic nationalism, full-scale protectionism and eventual trade decline. I therefore hope that the Minister will give us additional assurances that will soothe industries that look for as much clarity and transparency as possible from the Government when making their investment decisions.
The British Ceramic Confederation, which is a founding member of the Manufacturing Trade Remedies Alliance, is keen to maximise confidence in the sector that the UK’s framework for post-Brexit trade will be effective and open to the full range of remedies allowed under WTO agreements. Those agreements allow for three types of trade remedy: anti-dumping measures, countervailing duties and safeguards. I will focus on anti-dumping measures, because there are genuine concerns among BCC members and others that measures that the UK has previously actively supported may fall short of the proposed new economic interest test. Part of the concern is that it is not clear how that test would apply in practice, because, of course, it seems to be billed as something different from a public interest test; an innovation that goes beyond the public interest test in its calculations. Clarity from the Minister on that would be welcome.
The hon. Gentleman is being generous. On the point he is making, if we look at the systems of New Zealand, Canada and the US, we do not see additional tests. It would therefore seem perverse for the UK to introduce additional tests, which are not necessary in the best cases we see around the world.
The hon. Gentleman is right. Some of what has been proposed has not been experienced around the world; we will be testing something out that has not been tried. I will move on now, and I will not take many more interventions as time is short, but it would be particularly helpful to know whether the intention is that trade remedies would be applied before any test or only after the test. As the Manufacturing Trade Remedies Alliance has argued, duties could always be refunded retroactively if any test found that trade remedy measures were not in the public interest.
Current trade rules have served the ceramics sector well against outrageous dumping by countries that have far less regard for the spirit of free trade and the necessary rules underpinning free market economies. For example, just 10 years ago, we saw huge volumes of ceramic tiles, giftware and tableware all made in China being dumped at a price that could not have covered the real cost of production. The investigations into those price anomalies found that they were such clear cut cases of dumping that the EU still imposes remedial duties today.
There are good reasons for maintaining those duties after Brexit. Not least is the fact that since the measures against tile dumping were introduced in 2011, employee numbers in the UK have increased by about 40%. Not every new job will have been created as a result of the anti-dumping duties—the economy recovered substantially and employment grew significantly across many sectors in that time—but it is clear from the evidence that anti-dumping measures underpin the ceramics sector’s ability to take advantage of the Government’s wider pro-enterprise policy agenda, giving breathing space for the industry to invest in becoming more resilient.
Indeed, as recently as 2016, an expiry review of anti-dumping measures in the ceramic tiles market found overcapacity in the Chinese industry equal to six times total EU annual consumption. The anti-dumping duties on Chinese tiles were therefore extended for a further five years. I hope that the Minister will confirm that those measures will apply at least for the rest of those five years once we have left the European Union. Similarly, in the giftware and tableware sector, UK employee numbers have increased by 20% since anti-dumping measures were introduced. Our ceramics manufacturers are currently preparing a complaint for an expiry review. If the complaint is successful, the investigation will take place while we are still in the process of leaving the EU, so for clarity the industry would surely welcome any indication the Minister can give that the continuation of any EU anti-dumping measures that might result from any expiry review will also apply in the UK market.
In addition, the ceramics industry is keen for Ministers to reflect on how difficult it can be to counter dumping if the definition of dumping is too narrow. Unscrupulous actors who seek to dump their goods will be unscrupulous in exploiting any loopholes they see. For example, it may not be appropriate to rely on the price in the home market from which imports come when those imports originate from heavily distorted economies—that is to say from countries where market situations are distorted by the interventions of the state, which is usually an undemocratic state working outside the norms of transparency and governance that we take for granted.
On dumping calculations, I am therefore eager to learn what view the Government take on ensuring that the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Bill makes it clear that there are circumstances in which the difficulty in determining normal value in the presence of state distortions means that provisions should be made for when it is not appropriate to use the domestic price. By clarifying how the Trade Remedies Authority would, in anti-dumping investigations, calculate the level of dumping for cases in which the domestic price of the alleged dumped imports cannot be used, there will be legal certainty and greater confidence in the ceramics industry.
I also wish to raise the Government’s proposed use of a minimum market share in relation to the acceptance of dumping—or indeed subsidy—complaints. I would be grateful for clarity on their intentions. Will a de minimis level be set and, if so, at what level? What rules for flexibility might there be in that level? For example, will there be flexibility if an industry has evidence that it is being materially retarded from achieving the minimum market share by dumping or subsidies, if previous injury from dumping has reduced an industry to the de minimis level, or if an industry plays a peculiarly important role in a particular area of the UK, though not across the UK economy as a whole?
As we leave the EU, almost everyone now agrees that the Brexit process should not be some sort of sharp shock; it should be a growing opportunity, with a smooth transition period in which to adjust to the new reality of global Britain. Will that transition include the retention of existing trade remedies for the ceramics sector, followed to their full course and renewed if necessary? Such an assurance from the Minister would be extremely welcome.
While the Department for International Trade will rightly be proffering carrots in seeking free trade deals for global Britain, in terms of opening access to the UK market, it should also let it be known that we will keep some big sticks in our trade policy array should tit-for-tat measures prove necessary. Brexit is a great opportunity for us to be a leading independent force in the WTO, and the champion of free and fair trade across the world. It will take time to convince all other members of our case, and in that time we will have to be ready to combat egregious distortions. However, the direction of travel should be clear: freer markets, freer trade, and an empowered and liberated entrepreneurial British spirit, with more of our world-class manufactured goods reaching global markets, all of it underpinned by a sense of enforceable fair play. That is the Brexit that my constituents voted for, and that is the direction in which I hope the Minister will be pleased to travel.
The debate can last until 5.45 pm. I am obliged to call the Front-Bench spokespeople no later than 5.23 pm. The guideline limits are: five minutes for the Scottish National party, five minutes for Her Majesty’s Opposition, 10 minutes for the Minister, and two or three minutes for Mr Brereton to sum up the debate at the end. Until 5.23 pm there is time for other contributions.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) on securing this timely and valuable debate. I am optimistic about the prospect of the United Kingdom having an independent trade policy after Brexit. That policy will rely in part on us having an effective trade remedies framework, as he mentioned.
The UK Government’s call for evidence, which ran between November and March to identify interests with respect to existing EU trade remedy measures, was a welcome development, and I look forward to the response. I doubt that the EU’s approach to trade remedies has been entirely perfect. The UK can formulate a better policy, more tailored to our interests as an independent trading nation.
As my hon. Friend said, different constituencies have different issues. In my constituency it is very much about oil and gas, agriculture and the service sector. Trade remedies are important to my constituents and the businesses that create the jobs on which the constituency very much depends. We are concerned about anti-dumping policy, because agriculture and trading in commodities are particularly exposed to that risk. The EU’s protectionist approach to agriculture has naturally discouraged countries from reducing barriers to agri-food from the EU. I hope that we can chart a different course, but we need to be careful that we open up opportunities with the rest of the world. The same goes for subsidies in agriculture, which is a heavily subsidised industry worldwide. We need a level playing field and we must be very conscious, if the EU carries on with its levels of subsidy, of the need to ensure that we do not allow that to distort our own agricultural output.
Oil & Gas UK has said that if the UK can get minimal tariffs with the EU and improved tariffs with the rest of the world, that could save the oil and gas sector £100 million a year. The sector will be worth something in the region of £1 trillion over the next 20 to 30 years, according to Oil & Gas UK’s own figures. It is an absolutely enormous sector. However, free trade does not mean being a doormat. When other countries’ subsidies go beyond what is reasonable and start threatening our industries, we should not be afraid to step in. Energy is a heavily subsidised industry in the rest of the world.
I will point out a couple of recent developments in the north-east, because it is important for our future trading opportunities and because I am conscious of the Department that is responding to this debate. I recently visited a social organisation called Elevator, which drives entrepreneurial opportunities, predominantly in the north-east of Scotland. The north-east of Scotland is the engine room of the Scottish economy, with 7% of the population and 15% of the economy. When the oil industry turned down in the north-east of Scotland, it had a huge effect on the Scottish economy and a significant effect on the United Kingdom economy. Many of the start-ups that Elevator is involved in are export-driven, and I encourage the Department to open an office—in Aberdeen, surprisingly enough—to develop those opportunities.
The global Britain opportunity is huge. In terms of future trade opportunities, it is important to note that the north-east of Scotland is a dollar-driven economy, where 60% of the service sector in oil and gas is exporting outwith the EU. The vast majority is outwith the EU. It has a target of doubling in size, and the natural areas in which it will look to grow will be the middle east, the far east and other oil and gas production areas.
Much has been said about the negative effect of Brexit and of changing our trading arrangements with the EU, but a recent survey found that over 50% of companies said they were not worried about Brexit causing a talent shortage. However, 33% were worried, so we need to ensure that we get the policy right.
I look forward to better trading agreements on Scottish fishing. Norway already has a better trading arrangement with Japan and the far east than we do, and there is an enormous opportunity to develop, since 80% of fish from British waters is eaten outwith the UK at the moment. We need to have a seamless deal with Europe and to develop new opportunities in the rest of the world. Taking back control of our waters will necessitate new trading deals and opportunities.
I am optimistic about the future. There is a balancing act to be achieved, and I firmly believe that the UK Government can do it better than the EU, and have a tailor-made deal that works for Scotland and the whole of the United Kingdom.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) for securing this debate on future trade remedies. He is ahead of the curve on this issue, because amid the wrangling over Brexit we have rather overlooked the profile that this issue will have. I believe that it will become ever more pressing as we chart a new path beyond the EU. It is therefore important at this stage, as we draw up our Trade Remedies Authority, that we get its basic structure right.
As I have said before in this House, we are lucky to be among the first generation of politicians in more than 40 years to be drawing up our own independent trade policy, but that means we are also very green as a nation in fully grasping trade legislation and its implications. None the less, these are issues of enormous relevance to consumers and to businesses of all sizes in our constituencies. It is all well and good for us to be free traders in principle, but in practice many of those principles can be sorely tested when producers in our own constituencies are challenged by international competition. Indeed, they can be tested to breaking point when that competition is able to undercut domestic businesses due to the state subsidy or economic structure of their own countries.
My hon. Friend spoke eloquently about the capacity of Chinese pottery firms to undercut domestic industries, with a speed that can pull the rug from under industries that have been carefully developed over many years. Equally, however, cheaper products from abroad can be a boon to other industries, for instance by providing cheap steel for car manufacture, helping to retain production on these shores and delivering cheaper prices for consumers. These are not simple issues and they must be carefully considered.
As a member of the International Trade Committee, which has been closely examining the Government’s plans to set up our own Trade Remedies Authority, I have been encouraging the Government to study the arrangements of respected trade authorities in other nations, particularly the US and Canada. Throughout the TRA process I have been concerned about the amount of power being vested in the hands of the Secretary of State, including over appointments to the TRA’s board. I am also concerned about whether the TRA will be sufficiently skilled and resourced for what can be extremely intensive investigations.
In the US, the body responsible for injury investigations alone, the United States International Trade Commission, has several hundred employees. Given the difficulty that the Select Committee has securing sufficiently knowledgeable domestic trade panellists, we have a considerable recruitment challenge on our hands. As we leave the EU, there is the chance to produce a more flexible and responsive trade remedies model. UK Steel sees the EU’s decision-making process as monolithic, with too much power in the hands of the Commission and a heavily politicised system. We have opted for an approach similar to Australia’s, but in a recent Committee session one of our panellists expressed concerns that producer interests are beginning to take a much stronger precedence in that system.
I still believe that we would do well to consider the bifurcated model of the US and Canada, with subsidy and injury investigated separately to avoid politicisation and bias. With our TRA’s chair and non-executive members all appointed by the Secretary of State, and with the Secretary of State retaining the ultimate say on the imposition of a trade remedy, I must confess that I am uneasy about the concentration of power in ministerial hands, given the prospect of a much more interventionist Opposition taking power.
Our new regime must be open and transparent, and have integrity and credibility. I therefore suggest that we try to take steps to ensure that the executive board of any TRA is open to independent scrutiny, perhaps through the Select Committee, rather than being only a matter for the Secretary of State to decide. I am sympathetic to my hon. Friend’s concerns about dumped and subsidised produce, and the issue of transparency on the economic interest and public interest tests. Trade remedies are currently a highly political issue, and it is vital that our own desire to secure trade deals does not prevent us from imposing trade remedies if we need to in the event of dumping.
It is also necessary to flesh out the appeals mechanism for trade remedies. There is much that remains up for grabs, with a lot being allocated to statutory instruments by the Secretary of State, and details remain patchy. I would be grateful if the Minister could use his contribution to the debate to assure us further of his Department’s progress in establishing a robust TRA in time for March 2019, if we are unable to secure the deal with the EU that we seek.
The hon. Lady makes a number of points that I find myself agreeing with. I am sure that I will get the opportunity to say this in my own contribution but, given what she has said about the Trade Remedies Authority being a transparent and fully representative body, does she agree that the amendments put forward by the Scottish National party and Labour, with the support of Plaid Cymru, to have representatives from all the devolved nations are vital?
I might be sympathetic to that, but there is a real concern that all those on the board of the Trade Remedies Authority should be able to rise above particular interests. Those particular interests could be strong industrial concerns in particular regions of the UK. Board members will need to be able to look at the UK as a whole and weigh up different arguments made to them. I would have concerns about being very prescriptive about exactly who should be on any board. None the less, there needs to be independent scrutiny of the Secretary of State’s decisions in making those appointments. On that note, my contribution has ended.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I agree with other hon. Members that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) has brought this debate to the Chamber in a timely manner. I can only hope that the Government will bring the Trade Bill to the Floor of the House on Report also in a timely manner. We all await it with great anticipation and bated breath. Those of us who sat on the Trade Bill Committee had a good and robust debate.
I share some of the concerns expressed by previous speakers, and I know they are shared by several sectors and organisations. As the Member for Livingston, I represent a constituency that has been at the forefront of Scottish manufacturing. The Minister and I have worked directly and personally on some challenges in my constituency, and I pay tribute to the work he has done in his ministerial role. I cannot reveal the details of the company or the organisation involved, but I know him to be extremely hard working and willing to work across parties. While we may not agree on the current approach and wording of the Bill, I know that he shares my determination to support Scottish manufacturing and to ensure that companies that face problems when trading abroad are supported. I wanted to briefly say that.
I feel that, in a recent debate on the Floor of the House, the Scottish National party’s position was somewhat misrepresented by the Secretary of State, which I am sure he did not mean to do. Our opposition was not to the notion of the Trade Remedies Authority—we accept that it will be needed, for the many reasons already outlined—but to the detail and the way it is to be set up, and the lack of engagement with the devolved nations and the lack of opportunity for them to have a say and to be represented. I take on board the point made by the hon. Member for Hornchurch and Upminster (Julia Lopez) about special interests, but surely we in this place can recognise that many membership organisations are set up with representation at UK level and fair representation for each of the devolved nations. As we leave the EU, knowing the way that Scotland and other parts of the UK voted in that referendum and the importance of trade to our economy, surely the Minister recognises the importance of Scotland and the other UK nations having a permanent seat and a commissioner. To reiterate, the SNP position is to have a commissioner in the TRA and—very much in line with what the hon. Lady said, and about it not being a London-centric Whitehall Department—to have TRA offices in the devolved nations, and even in regions of England. It is only fair and right that we take a sensible approach. This is not something that I want to be seen as being party political about. The Minister and his Department should give that serious thought.
A cross-party, collaborative approach was taken to the UK Green Investment Bank. Its headquarters are in Edinburgh, so it takes a different view and a different perspective, and it takes talent and opportunity from Scotland. We see that organisation invest across the UK while being outwith London. When we look at the TRA and the many challenges that face us post Brexit, devolving more power and opportunity to other parts of the United Kingdom is extremely important. I hope that the Minister will look again at the amendments we proposed—we will table further amendments on Report—and give them serious consideration.
The British Ceramic Confederation, which has been mentioned, has raised several legitimate concerns, and I hope that the Minister will give some more detail and indicate his views. One concern raised with me in a number of meetings with organisations and businesses is the lack of clarity and detail about the Government’s approach and about putting meat on the bones of the TRA. That is something we all feel strongly about.
The BCC is concerned that there is no indication that the TRA will use any special methodology when investigating countries with distorted local prices. That is crucial, as China and Russia, where domestic prices are not decided by market forces, are the main dumping culprits. I know that dumping concerns us all. It would also be interesting to hear how injury will be calculated. Some of these are very technical terms, but the BCC feels it is crucial, as that is how the UK will set its anti-dumping duties because of the decision to adopt the lesser duty role. It also raises the point of presumption, with the economic and public interest tests not being clear. It suggests that special consideration should be given within the tests to the need to remove injurious dumping subsidies.
ActionAid also gave me an excellent briefing recently, and I pay tribute to it for raising concerns about human rights and gender inequality. Those matters have been championed and challenged through the EU. I know that the Government always have warm words on human rights and on making sure that imported goods meet the highest standards, and I hope that that will be very much at the heart of the TRA and that it will take the opportunity to consider that.
I also hope that the Trade Bill will come back as soon as possible; perhaps the Minister will give a potential date. I would not like to press him too hard, but hopefully he has some thoughts on that. It is extremely important that we have clarity, because businesses are asking for it and want to know. In terms of the vision that he wants to set out, we have a clear view on Brexit and on the EU and remaining within the customs union and single market. However, as we set up these organisations, it is fair to say that there is an opportunity, in the sense that something new will have to be created.
There are major risks across all sectors of the UK and across all the devolved nations, and it is my firm belief that significant damage will be done to fishing, farming and manufacturing. However, the Government must be absolutely certain that, when setting up new bodies and organisations, those warm words are lived up to, that that promise of devolution to the devolved nations is taken as seriously as possible and that we are fully engaged in that process.
I go back to my point about looking at the amendments, having discussions and looking at the good work that was done on things like the UK Green Investment Bank. The Minister should give serious consideration to how the devolved nations will be involved in the TRA and how it will serve the nations and their sectors, because there is no doubt that the devolved nations of the United Kingdom have distinct sectors and deserve the opportunity to play their full part. I hope that he can give some hope and certainty to my constituents in Livingston and to businesses in my constituency, across Scotland and across the UK.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton). He made some extremely important points, which I shall touch on. I will also mention some of the comments from the hon. Member for Hornchurch and Upminster (Julia Lopez).
Trade remedies are a key element of our future trade policy. Without adequate trade remedies, we will become the dumping ground for not only Europe but the rest of the world. That point was made to us by Gareth Stace of UK Steel when he gave evidence to the Trade Bill Committee. Trade remedies are the means by which we protect our industries and our economy—meaning producers and consumers. What that protection looks like is very topical, given the imposition of tariffs of up to 25% on steel and aluminium imports into the US—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South is not the only one struggling with his words today.
Those tariffs have been imposed by President Trump on the spurious grounds of national security. The danger exists that United States-bound steel will now be dumped in the UK instead, as we saw China do just a few years ago, which led to a crisis and the appalling news for the people of the north-east with the closure of SSI in Redcar. That is why an international, co-ordinated approach on anti-dumping is essential and why a common approach is needed to trade defence.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) on securing this very important debate. I want to touch on the things that my hon. Friend the Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) has just said about dumping. In 2015-16, when the steel crisis was a huge issue, there were 92 EU trade remedies and those covering steel were vital in stemming the flow of under-priced Chinese steel, but ever since, the Tories have pushed back against any new measures in the EU to defend our industries from that arising again. I would like to know whether the Minister will give some assurances, particularly at this difficult time in the steel industry’s history, to reassure the manufacturers, the workers and UK Steel, which has been mentioned, that their industry will get the protection that it deserves and will survive the latest crisis.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the intervention. I was about to make the same point. She is absolutely right to say that we need to hear from the Minister what his intentions are.
The EU does not want the UK to be swamped with dumped goods, whether that is steel, ceramics or washing machines, because if that happened, such goods could enter the EU market from the UK. Equally, UK businesses do not want dumping, because it is unfair competition. Lack of protection in the UK risks thousands of jobs in the UK. It is no good the Minister’s saying that it means cheaper goods for consumers—as I have heard him say on countless occasions—because the workers whose jobs are at risk are consumers as well. No job means no wage to buy the goods. A lack of trade defence is bad for producers, workers and consumers, yet that is what there has been far too often. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Gill Furniss) is right to highlight exactly what happened in the steel industry, because when the Government failed to support EU trade defence measures against Chinese steel dumping and acted too late to intervene and save SSI, it was the Conservative group of MEPs, at David Cameron’s prompting, who were the cheerleaders in the European Parliament against Europe-wide action. That included their blocking attempts to end the use of the lesser duty rule.
However, protection and the use of trade remedies is not the same as Trump-style protectionism. Trade remedies should be about the creation of a level playing field that defends domestic producers against unfair competition from dumped goods. They are an essential policy tool to correct multilateral distortions. Failure to use anti-dumping measures, in the name of free trade, misses the point that for trade to be free, it also has to be fair. Adjustments are needed in the event of Chinese or Russian state subsidies or distorted pricing of raw materials, or to address Trump’s tariffs. The European Commission is due to vote soon on higher anti-dumping duties to tackle raw material distortions, so it is incredible for the Government to say, as the Minister has, that they will vote against those measures.
That brings us to the customs Bill—the Taxation (Cross-border) Trade Bill—and the Trade Bill. As the hon. Member for Livingston (Hannah Bardell) said, we should be debating the amendments to the two Bills on Report in the main Chamber, not having a general debate in this Chamber, but as we are, let us look at what the Bills will do.
The Government are planning to give themselves the power to decide not to act on behalf of UK industries, in favour of the consumer interest. That will be a political decision, balancing the interests of jobs in one area of the country against the interest of consumers—a point made to us by George Peretz, QC, when he gave evidence to the Trade Bill Committee. Trade remedies are essential to protect British industries, whether that is steel, ceramics, tyres, chemicals or pharmaceuticals. The Minister will no doubt say—he has said it before—that the lesser duty rule has been effective in tackling unfair trade. He wants to continue to apply it at the very moment when the EU is moving away from it, so tell us: where is the evidence to support that approach? I am glad that he is nodding, because I am looking forward to hearing his answer. Ask workers who used to work at SSI. Ask the MTRA. Ask industry and workers. They believe in strong trade remedies and they want to know the reason why the Government are taking a different approach.
The continued application of the lesser duty rule will see dumped goods diverted to the UK, and as we leave the EU, divergence in trade remedies will add to the damage done to the UK economy. The Minister is fond of saying to me and my colleagues that we are against the creation of a trade remedies authority. He knows that that is not true, of course, but that does not stop him saying it. The difference between him and me is that I want the Trade Remedies Authority to be effective. I take seriously the importance of trade remedies in creating a level playing field for our producers so that they can compete in international trade in a fair market. That is why we tabled a reasoned amendment on Second Reading of the Trade Bill that stated categorically our support for the creation of a trade remedies authority, but we believe that the Trade Remedies Authority should be representative of all sides of industry; it should include representatives of producers, trade unions and each of the devolved Administrations. We tabled amendments to that effect in Committee, as did the SNP. In addition, the chair of the TRA should go through parliamentary scrutiny of their appointment, rather than being placed in post by the Secretary of State; Parliament should also have its say on the membership and non-executive appointments. I totally agree with the hon. Member for Hornchurch and Upminster that the Select Committee on which she serves should be scrutinising all these appointments. The Government are using ministerial discretion in the establishment of the TRA before the legislation has been passed that sets it up, and the Minister should explain why, as ministerial discretion is usually reserved for matters of disagreement on spending within a Department.
British industry needs a strong, robust and independent Trade Remedies Authority that will use international best practice. Our amendments to the customs Bill and the Trade Bill will be designed to achieve the objective of giving our industry a level playing field. The Minister and his hon. Friends should support our approach or introduce their own amendments to do just that; otherwise, workers in the Potteries and many more across the country will face the possibility of the same fate as steelworkers faced in Redcar just a few years ago.
If the Minister would be kind enough to finish his remarks no later than 5.42 pm, that would give Mr Brereton time to sum up the debate.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) on securing the debate. As you will know, Mr Hollobone, it is relatively rare, so far, for the Department for International Trade to be in Westminster Hall, so I welcome this opportunity to set out some of our proposals on trade remedies. I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words about recent UK trading success, the record levels of investment and the UK’s role in supporting the global rules-based system of trade, which is extremely important at the moment—it is important that we get that on the record right away.
I know well that my hon. Friend is passionate about his constituency and about defending manufacturing in Stoke. He was the first MP from the region to approach me, very soon after his election in June 2017, to talk about the importance of trade remedies to his constituents. He also introduced me to the British Ceramic Confederation, whose representatives I have now met three times in connection with trade remedies, as well as the Manufacturing Trade Remedies Alliance.
I also thank the other Members who have contributed to the debate. I will get through as many of the points that were made as I can. I thank them all for their contributions in a short debate—perhaps it could usefully have been longer. I will try to reply to the hon. Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin), even though he is no longer here, but first let me say a few things about the actual contributions.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Colin Clark) made a number of important points. He of course is passionate about oil and gas in Scotland—as are we in the Department for International Trade—and about the capabilities and the future of fisheries exports from his constituency. We are working very closely with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to pursue that. I heard his call for a DIT office in Aberdeen. I can tell him that the majority of DIT’s oil and gas team is based in Glasgow and spends significant time in Aberdeen. I agree with my hon. Friend that there are significant opportunities in the future. Only yesterday I was speaking to Wood Group, which, as my hon. Friend will know, is headquartered in Aberdeen, about the significant opportunities that the Commonwealth markets offer them, which he also referred to.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch and Upminster (Julia Lopez) is an active member of the International Trade Committee. I gave evidence to her Committee—it must have been in early March—on the Trade Remedies Authority. It is a little bit early to say exactly how big this new organisation will be. We have yet to appoint the chair, let alone any members of it. However, I think an early indication of the sort of budget we are looking at is in the region of £15 million to £20 million a year. I referred at the Committee hearings to the size of the EU’s operation, which is about 100 people working on trade remedies within DG Trade. That will give some early indication of the sort of size we are thinking about for that body.
I thank the hon. Member for Livingston (Hannah Bardell) for her kind words. We have worked together on two or three issues with companies in her constituency. I have worked for their interests abroad, particularly on recent cases. She and I have a constructive relationship. I will answer a few points she made upfront. We talked about representation across the UK during the Bill Committee. She will know that the important thing is for the up to nine members of the board to think about how trade remedies work right across the UK and not to be beholden to any particular nation, region, interest group or company anywhere in the UK, but to have an expert view on how trade remedies might work throughout the UK.
I take on board the point that the right hon. Gentleman makes, but I fail to understand why somebody from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland would be any less able to understand the distinct nature of the economies of their country as opposed to taking a wider view. The two need not be mutually exclusive. In the spirit of co-operation, and doing the right thing and what is best for the UK as a whole, why not have representatives and offices across the UK?
I very much agree with the hon. Lady. It is perfectly possible and quite likely that of those nine members, one or more will originate from the devolved nations. The point is, however, that they should be appointed for their expertise in assessing some of these quite technical aspects, such as the determination of dumping, the calculation of injury and so on. The point is not to appoint them to represent a nation, region or particular stakeholder of the UK, but to have an interest across the board. She mentioned the possibility of satellite offices. I gave an indication of the likely size of the body.
I am puzzled by the Minister’s answer, as I was when he said the same thing in the Bill Committee. I do not understand why he does not see the benefit of having a mixture of independent members, who quite rightly have the expertise that he sets out, and a number drawn from different interest groups. There could be a balance of the two to reflect the needs of the different parts of the economy and the United Kingdom.
I feel that I have already answered this. We want a set of people who have expertise in the subject matter, rather than who come from a particular perspective, body, nation or region. That is the most important thing. Returning to the question of location, I think satellite officers would add cost, but I stress to the hon. Member for Livingston that we have yet to make a decision on where the location of the body should be. Again, that will be driven by where we can access the expertise that would be needed for this Trade Remedies Authority. I mentioned earlier that the Department for International Trade has placed a significant part of its operation in Scotland, for example through the oil and gas team in Glasgow, so as a Department we are not averse to placing something in one of the devolved nations of the UK.
I do not want to labour the point, but the hon. Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) goes on about his reasoned amendments. Mr Hollobone, given your long years in the House, you know perhaps better than anybody that when you put down a reasoned amendment, it normally means that you wish to vote for the reasoned amendment, because you wish to propose some way in which to improve the legislation, but you would not normally vote for a reasoned amendment and then vote against the Second Reading of the Bill. My point is that by voting against the Second Reading of the Bill, the hon. Gentleman showed that he disagreed with the central core of the Bill, part of which, of course, is to set up the Trade Remedies Authority.
This Government firmly believe in the benefits of free trade—I will come back to some of the other points raised in a moment—for consumers, earnings and jobs. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South spoke powerfully about the importance of the ceramics industry for his constituency, which is a huge UK success story as an industry. Other hon. Members have spoken about their own local industries as well. Our manufacturers benefit from trade. Manufacturing makes up 8% of our economy, but most of our exports. I think we all agree that free trade does not mean trade without rules, whether product safety or IP protection; some of the most important rules will be our system of trade remedies.
WTO members are permitted to take action where their domestic industry is suffering harm as a result of unfair trade practices such as dumping, where foreign companies sell their products in the UK for less than they are sold at home, or subsidies, which let foreign companies sell goods in the UK at a lower price than they would otherwise be able to. Members can also act in response to harm caused by unexpected surges in imports. In such cases, members can introduce safeguard measures to give industry time to adjust against unexpected surges in imports. Well-functioning trade remedies can level the playing field for domestic industry, by counteracting any unfair subsidies, dumping or unexpected import surges. They can also deter dumping and unfair subsidies from happening in the first place. It is important to have these first and foremost as a basic matter of fairness. Our industries should not lose contracts and our workers should not lose jobs because a foreign company has gained an unfair advantage. It would also be unfair if jobs were lost that could have been saved if only industry had been given time to adjust. That is why we are introducing a rigorous and robust system of remedies, which provides for the full suite of powers offered under WTO rules.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South raised points about existing EU trade remedies. He should bear it in mind that we have just finished a call for evidence on the existing EU trade remedies. That call for evidence closed on 30 March. The response was good. We will be looking at our response to that in due course. We have been clear that when we operate our own trade remedies system, we will transition those measures in the EU system that matter to UK business. We received over 70 responses from producers and other interested parties in that consultation. Most importantly, I can assure hon. Members there will not be one day when a UK industry that needs protection from unfairly traded imports will be left alone.
I will quickly answer the point made by the hon. Member for Scunthorpe about a transparent approach. The Government will use secondary legislation to set out the details of the TRA’s framework. That is very important. Mr Hollobone, you will know from your years in the House that secondary legislation is not on the face of it particularly welcomed by legislators, but it is important in this case to be able to have a dynamic body of law that particularly reflects recent WTO case law, rather than write all of these details on to the face of the two Bills that are currently passing through the House of Commons. In particular this secondary legislation will include the different dumping methodologies and the level of remedy required to address injury to UK industry. We are meeting trade bodies in the coming days to talk about some of those details. In the future, the TRA will set out the way in which it has carried out its calculations in any investigation as part of a commitment to transparency.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South asked about the de minimis threshold. At what level would an investigation simply not be taken on, because the amount of product produced in the UK was below a particular amount? If UK producers have a negligible share of the total UK market, the TRA would not initiate an investigation, as it would be unlikely to result in measures. For example, a company could be the only producer of widgets in the UK and therefore meet the WTO requirements to bring a case, but if that company produced a negligible proportion of the widgets actually bought in the UK—in other words, the total market that is there—putting duties in place would have a disproportionate effect on the rest of the market, much of which would not necessarily be consumers, but could be other businesses and industries purchasing that product. That is why we will have a de minimis threshold.
In special cases, the TRA could choose to waive the threshold, which, by the way, we have not yet set. That would help to avoid a scenario in which an industry’s market share is negligible precisely because of the impact of dumped imports, or in cases involving an emerging UK industry struggling to establish itself in the face of dumped or subsidised imports. I assure my hon. Friend that it will reflect a de minimis level, but there will be exceptions. The TRA will be able to overrule.
My hon. Friend asked whether EU measures will be transitioned for the full five years. We have agreed that EU trade remedy rules and regulations will continue to apply during the implementation period. We will assess which EU measures matter to UK industry, which the call for evidence that closed last month did, and maintain those measures at their current level until the TRA reviews them.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gordon mentioned agricultural imports. Our trade remedies framework will enable the TRA to investigate unfairly subsidised imports where they are injuring UK agricultural producers and to take action where appropriate. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is working on a safeguards regime for agricultural products to address the issues that my hon. Friend identified.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch and Upminster asked whether the TRA should consist of two bodies. There are, of course, always different views. There is not an exact parallel. We have looked at systems across the world, as she knows from the evidence I gave to the Committee. However, I believe that we are setting up the TRA with the right level of independence to allow it to reach informed and objective conclusions, which includes clear projections for the TRA’s independence, impartiality and expertise. Other countries that use a single-body trade remedy system include Australia and New Zealand.
It is standard practice for the chair and the non-execs to be ministerial appointments. The other members would typically be appointed by the chair. That is the practice we have followed in relation to the Trade Remedies Authority.
Will the Minister give way?
No, I am going to finish. I have perhaps not been able to answer every single point. Obviously, this is a matter for legislation that is still continuing its passage through the House. I hope that I have outlined some of the strengths of the trade remedies regime. We look forward to further engagement during the passage of the Bills.
I would like to thank all Members who have taken part in the debate, and the Minister for his response.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Colin Clark) for his important responses about industries in his constituency. My hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch and Upminster (Julia Lopez) also made important points about the challenges of unfair international competition and the setting up of the TRA. I am pleased that the Minister has referenced the importance of the TRA’s objectivity in the actions that it takes.
I do not agree with everything that the hon. Member for Livingston (Hannah Bardell) said, but I certainly agree with her points about the Minister. He is exceptionally diligent and very hard-working.
I will just ask the hon. Gentleman this question, as I did not get the chance to make the point to the Minister. I think it is great that the hon. Gentleman secured this debate, but does he agree that we need to have the Trade Bill back on the Floor of the House on Report, to have a substantive debate and get more information on the Trade Remedies Authority as soon as possible?
I love the Library staff and their briefings, particularly when they are as direct as this one. In the “Comment” section, it says:
“The Bill establishes the TRA but says relatively little about its functions or the Government’s approach to trade remedies.”
I could not put it better myself. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that business and all the nations of the UK need more information on this as soon as possible?
The measures that the Trade Remedies Authority will set out will be set out in the customs Bill, so I encourage the Government to introduce that Bill as soon as possible.
I did not agree with everything that was said by the Labour Front-Bench spokesman, but I agree that it was Conservatives who previously put forward these points in the EU and were the strongest advocates for the current trade remedies. It is about creating that level playing field and not about protectionism. I agree with that.
I thank the Minister for his responses and the clarity he offered about the transitioning. I am very pleased that it will include transitioning measures across from what is in place in the EU to the UK’s trade remedies regime. I also thank him for the clarity around some of the secondary measures.
Motion lapsed, and sitting adjourned without Question put (Standing Order No. 10(14)).