House of Commons
Tuesday 1 May 2018
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
The Secretary of State was asked—
Competition and Consumer Protection
The industrial strategy makes it clear that a competitive UK economy in which firms compete on price, service and innovation is one that serves consumers best. Our recently published Green Paper, “Modernising Consumer Markets”, sets out proposals to ensure that consumers benefit from new technologies and, in particular, that consumers’ data must be used to benefit them and not to act unfairly against them.
I welcome that response. In ensuring that markets work for consumers, it is important that they work for vulnerable consumers, including those with mental health issues or dementia. Will my right hon. Friend enlarge on what he is doing to ensure that the markets work for those sorts of consumers?
It is important that providers of services take into account the struggles of people suffering from mental ill health or dementia. The Green Paper sets out proposals requiring that minimum standards be applied, especially for utilities. In that regard, I applaud the work of the Alzheimer’s Society, which has launched the dementia-friendly utility guide, in which several companies are participating. That will help to make sure that people who deal with vulnerable consumers can assist them with bills, booking appointments and suchlike.
Does my right hon. Friend think that the competition regime that we have in the UK is fit for purpose, and are there sufficient resources to enable it to review all the major deals that seem to keep happening?
I do think it is necessary to keep it under review, hence the Green Paper, because with the rise of new technologies, there are new challenges for regulators and new perspectives are required on mergers. We have increased the funding for the Competition and Markets Authority. My hon. Friend will have noticed that I appointed as chairman of the CMA Andrew Tyrie, who I think everyone on both sides of the House would recognise is a good, robust champion of the consumer.
The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. Again, this is at the heart of the Green Paper, which looks at how new technologies can disadvantage consumers. In fact, in the case that he mentions, prosecutions are in train. Very robust action is being taken against that kind of abuse.
Will the Secretary of State come down from the clouds? He knows that the biggest damage to all consumers in this country is coming from leaving the European Union. Did he see the LinkedIn report this morning that says that talented people in our country are fleeing overseas? Is that good for consumers?
That was an ingenious piece of shoehorning, I must say. Part of our commitment is to make sure that we have a free trade agreement with the rest of the European Union that allows us to continue to serve markets right across Europe and the world. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the success of employment, including in his constituency in recent months, he will see that companies are employing people at rates not seen for many years.
Small Business Sector
The British Business Bank supports over £4 billion of finance to over 65,000 small businesses. The start-up loans programme has further delivered more than 54,000 loans, totalling over £400 million. We are tackling late payments through the Small Business Commissioner, and 38 growth hubs across England provide access to information and advice. Through the industrial strategy we plan to unlock over £20 billion of investment in high-potential businesses, including through establishing a £2.5 billion investment fund.
I thank the Minister for his response. As in many parts of the country, Mansfield has struggled to support shops and other town centre businesses. Will he explain what action the Government are taking to support such businesses and to regenerate what were formerly bustling town centres?
I recognise the work that my hon. Friend has done to support businesses in his constituency. The Government have made 100% small business rate relief permanent while increasing the threshold of the relief, taking 600,000 of the smallest businesses out of business rates. We have introduced the employment allowance, giving employers up to £3,000 off their national insurance contribution, and we have established the Future High Streets Forum to provide businesses with Government leadership to better enable our town centres to grow.
I recently visited the food manufacturer Scratch in my constituency, which is just launching a new dough-free pizza. It has taken on an additional 25 members of staff and has asked if more could be done to support it, particularly around reducing its business rates, which would go a long way to supporting it and the local high street.
I recognise the hon. Lady’s point. It is good to see that kind of investment and growth in small businesses. We are investing in apprenticeships and skills—44% of apprenticeship participation is in small companies—and, as part of our industrial strategy, we are establishing a technical education system that rivals the best in the world. We are also investing £406 million in subjects such as maths and digital and technical education to support the kind of small businesses she talks about.
Microbusinesses have told me that they are struggling to get their voice heard—for instance, on their concerns about implementing data protection legislation and the implications of Brexit. What is my hon. Friend doing to make sure he hears and understands the concerns of microbusinesses?
Every week, the Secretary of State meets representatives of the business community from across the country, and I hold a forum with small businesses once a month to ensure that the Government are finely attuned to their needs. The Department is determined not only to understand the issues facing small businesses in our country, such as those my hon. Friend raises, but to ensure that legislation is fit for purpose.
The all-party group on disability, which I chair, has published an inquiry report highlighting the fantastic contribution of entrepreneurs with disabilities, but they still face many challenges, such as in accessing finance. Will the Secretary of State meet the all-party group to discuss this issue and ensure a truly inclusive economy?
I thank the hon. Lady for the question and the great work the all-party group does. I absolutely recognise that encouraging people with disabilities to start their own businesses and contribute in this way is good not only for the British economy but for them. I would be delighted to meet her to discuss the matter further and to see what we can do to support those businesses, particularly through things such as the British Business Bank.
Project bank accounts ring-fence the money for suppliers in construction contracts yet were not used by the Government with Carillion. As a result, 30,000 mostly smaller businesses are likely to lose money, and some will struggle to survive, so will the Minister confirm that the Government will now use project bank accounts to protect businesses and jobs in their own supply chain and guarantee there is no repeat of the Carillion fiasco?
The hon. Gentleman will know that the Government took swift action, led by the Secretary of State, when Carillion collapsed, to ensure we understood the issues relating to the construction industry, including by setting up a forum with trade representatives. He will also be aware that we consulted on project bank accounts in the construction industry. That consultation finished just a few weeks ago. We are considering the responses and will respond shortly.
Non-UK EU Nationals: Small Businesses
Non-UK EU nationals account for 7% of total UK employment. Scottish businesses have had the opportunity to feed into the Migration Advisory Committee’s analysis of the role of EU nationals in the UK. We appreciate the strong contribution that EU nationals make to small and large businesses, and we have already agreed to protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK under our withdrawal agreement with the EU.
In my constituency, fruit and veg producers and the tourism industry rely heavily on EU seasonal workers. Does the Minister recognise the damage that continued uncertainty is doing to those businesses? Two years on from the referendum, when will they get a bit more certainty so that we can maintain those EU seasonal workers who contribute so much to our economy?
I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that there should not be uncertainty. We have made it clear that we do not regard the referendum result as a vote to pull up the drawbridge. The United Kingdom will remain an open and tolerant country which recognises the valuable contribution that migrants make, and welcomes those with the skills and expertise that will make our society even better. The Government commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee to report on EU patterns of migration in different sectors and different parts of the UK, and it will do so by September 2018.
Analysis shows that EU citizens contribute £4 billion a year to the economy in Scotland. We see that happening in small businesses along Shettleston Road, for example. Does the Minister agree that the devastating effect of free-movement restrictions will have a colossal impact on small businesses in Shettleston and in Scotland as a whole, and will he support the calls from the Scottish Trades Union Congress for immigration to be devolved to Scotland?
Our position on immigration policy and who should be responsible for it is clear, and has not changed. Since the referendum we have been engaging widely with, among others, the devolved Administrations and businesses in Scotland to ensure that we fully understand the requirements, but let me make it absolutely clear that the Government understand the issues of businesses and will ensure that the system works for them.
My hon. Friend is no stranger to the Ribble Valley. He knows that it is a jewel in the crown for the hospitality trade, which employs a great many EU citizens. Does he agree that post-Brexit there will still be many opportunities for people in the EU to come to the United Kingdom and work in the hospitality trade?
I can report that I have experienced the hospitality in the Swan with Two Necks, and I recommend it to the House.
As my hon. Friend will know, the Migration Advisory Committee is looking at exactly the issue that he has raised, but he is absolutely right: EU migrants play a massive role in our hospitality industry, and the hospitality industry is one of the reasons people visit this country.
Does my hon. Friend agree that Brexit provides a welcome opportunity for us to attract talent to our shores from all countries, not just those in the EU, and can he assure me that the Government remain committed to ensuring that all businesses have the access to the workforce from overseas that they need?
Absolutely. We have a competitive workforce here. The economy is thriving, partly because of the contribution made by the people to whom my hon. Friend has referred. I particularly commend her for the work that she has done in relation to the soft fruit seasonal workers scheme.
The Federation of Small Businesses says that the right of EU staff to remain in the UK is vital. In Scotland, 45% of tourism and leisure businesses rely on EU staff for their workforce. They fear that they will not be able to recruit for their future needs, and their fear is heightened by the possibility that the immigration skills charge—which is currently up to £1,000 a year—will be applied. Can the Minister categorically assure employers that they will not be subjected to any charge for EU workers post-Brexit?
We will set out in due course the system and the scheme that will operate post-Brexit. I can, however, assure the hon. Gentleman that I regularly meet representatives of the Federation of Small Businesses, and we will ensure that the workforce is there for those businesses.
The Scottish Affairs Committee, the Home Affairs Committee in its report, and the Economics Committee in the House of Lords all see the sense of a differentiated immigration system for Scotland. Can the Minister confirm that he, too, accepts that there is a clear case for a policy that recognises the different needs of businesses in Scotland?
This Government well understands the needs of businesses both throughout the UK and specifically in Scotland. As the hon. Gentleman will know, the Home Office will shortly present further details of the scheme that is to be introduced.
Good Work Plan
We are proceeding with work on 52 of the 53 review recommendations made by Matthew Taylor, and we are currently engaged in consultations on how best to implement those measures. We are committed to ensuring that we protect and enhance workers’ rights in the modern economy, and to legislating for that purpose. We will ensure that employment law and practices keep pace with modern ways of working, while striking the right balance between flexibility and worker protection.
The Minister may be aware that workers at McDonalds are taking strike action in Cambridge today. One of them, Sheila, told the Cambridge News at the weekend that although she has worked for 18 years, her work is insecure, she never knows what hours she will work, and fresh fruit and vegetables are luxuries. What has the good work plan to offer Sheila?
Matthew Taylor set out in the good work plan how we can further enhance the protections for workers such as Sheila. There is a huge amount of day-one protections, and we are looking at what we can do with flexible working and zero-hours contracts to give greater certainty and security to workers exactly like Sheila.
The Government response to the Select Committee report on a modern employment framework stated:
“The Government wholeheartedly agrees that strong action should be taken against employers who repeatedly ignore both their responsibilities and the decisions of employment tribunals.”
Those are fine words, but if they are to be meaningful the Government must back them up with action and put in place rules to prevent or deter repeat offenders from bidding for public sector contracts; will they do that?
The Government recognise that unfortunately some employers continue to offend repeatedly in this way. We are looking at what further measures we can take in the work plan, and more widely in the work of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to ensure that such repeat offenders are clamped down on.
Given the work that the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee and the Work and Pensions Committee have done on the gig economy, will the Government undertake to ensure that, when they introduce a Bill based on the Taylor report, we will have a chance to stage pre-legislative hearings?
We have worked closely with the right hon. Gentleman’s Select Committee, and, as he knows, we greatly value his contribution. We are consulting on the work of Matthew Taylor, and I pledge to the right hon. Gentleman today that we will work hand in hand with his Committee to ensure that it properly scrutinises that proposed legislation as it comes forward.
The world of work is changing as businesses respond to changes in customer demands. Does the Minister agree that many workers enjoy and appreciate the flexibility of the freedom to choose when they wish to work?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. New technologies have provided a huge number of new and exciting work opportunities for people, but we also want to ensure that we not only enhance and capture that potential, but offer protections for those working in the gig economy, to make sure they are not disadvantaged.
Jaguar Land Rover
This is a concerning time for workers at the JLR factory and in the wider supply chain, particularly the 1,000 or so temporary workers involved, but I can assure the House that I speak to the company regularly; in fact, I met JLR’s managing director Jeremy Hicks on 17 April, the day after the announcement. The Government, including my Department and the Department for Work and Pensions, are ready to support those affected, and it is important to recognise that, despite this announcement, the UK automotive industry remains a great success story, in particular JLR.
Following the announcement of these 1,000 job losses at JLR, the Government were urged to work with the unions and assist the workforces in whatever way necessary. What meetings has the Minister had with the unions about these job losses?
I have not met with the unions specifically on these job losses, because they have not asked for a meeting. [Interruption.] The hon. Lady asks why, but I would be delighted to meet them. I hope Members on both sides of the House realise that my door is always open to trade unions—the steel industry in particular would accept that—and I am pleased to meet anyone the hon. Lady suggests, with her, to discuss the automotive industry.
Get plugged in.
As usual, my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) makes a good point—although, unusually, on this occasion he did not mention the John Lewis Partnership. Our Faraday battery challenge, which he indirectly refers to, will ensure that this country is at the forefront of battery technology, and JLR and other companies are firmly behind it.
The hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) applied a self-denying ordinance, which is not a common feature of our proceedings, but colleagues will have noticed that there is a lot of chuntering from a sedentary position from the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) about castles and the importance of being plugged in. He should fear not; we have not forgotten him, and nor will we.
I have a lot of respect for the hon. Gentleman, but in this case he is ignoring the fact that my Department and the Department for Transport speak regularly with all the car manufacturers about the evolution from diesel and the internal combustion engine to what will be a brilliant industry for Jaguar Land Rover and all the other companies, involving the eventual production, by 2040, of pollution-free cars.
The Minister is right to say that, taken as a whole, the auto sector is a great employment success story. Does he agree that that continues to be evidenced by ongoing investment?
My hon. Friend makes a good point. All the recent decisions on new contracts by manufacturers in Europe have gone to British firms. This is most recently typified by the announcement by Toyota, near Derby, of its investment in a new model, and I am confident that this will continue. The automobile industry is doing very well. It is investing hundreds of millions of pounds in new products to be produced in UK factories.
Last year, the Treasury announced a £400 million public-private sector fund to develop charging infrastructure for plug-in cars. This is vital for the development and growth of that market. To date, however, no one has even been appointed to manage that fund. Will the Minister tell me when the fund will be operational?
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the money is already spent. It is our intention to launch a request for proposals to secure a fund manager this summer. Further details will be included in the Department for Transport’s forthcoming zero-emissions road transport strategy.
Following figures showing that car registrations plunged in March by 15.7% compared with 2017, Jaguar Land Rover announced that 1,000 jobs would be cut at Solihull and that it was temporarily reducing production at Halewood. Sadly, reports suggest that the Solihull workers were told this news at a mass meeting that lasted only 10 minutes, with no opportunity to ask questions. We have heard some hints from Members today, but will the Minister tell us whether he has made any assessment of the causes and the potential knock-on effect on jobs in the supply chain? What steps is he taking to support workers and to reverse this worrying trend in the whole automotive sector?
The hon. Lady will know that JLR has been clear that this restructuring is part of the cyclical nature of automobile production. It is very confident about this country; it is employing a lot of apprentices and skilled people and training up its workforce to take part in the next phase of automobile expansion.
I am not sure that that has actually answered my question. Automotive is not the only sector in crisis. This year alone in retail, Toys R Us has collapsed, Maplin has gone into administration, New Look has announced job losses, Carpetright is planning a company voluntary arrangement and retail profit warnings across the UK have hit a seven-year high. The chief executive officer of The Entertainer has stated:
“The Government just haven’t got it. They need to take some responsibility for the high street’s decline.”
Can the Minister explain why Government action in this sector—from woeful action on business rates and income stagnation and under-investment in retail innovation—has been so lacklustre, and what urgent action he is taking to help a sector that is currently in crisis?
The hon. Lady will be aware that the same thing is happening in the retail sector all over the world. I would be very pleased—on another occasion—to find out whether there are any exceptions. The Government have taken action. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy—who is the Minister for retail, among many other things—launched the Retail Sector Council recently. A lot of thought is going into this, to change retail into a modern, leisure-driven shopping choice.
Offshore Wind Sector
There are already 14,000 people working in well-paid jobs across our coastal communities in support of this vital sector. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that we are leaders in both the quantity of offshore wind installed and innovation, and it was great that GE announced last week that the world’s biggest offshore wind turbine will be tested in the UK.
The Minister will be aware that an offshore wind revolution is taking place along the Norfolk coast and, as she mentioned, there is scope for the creation of many jobs. Will she join my campaign to set up an offshore wind energy academy at the Construction Industry Training Board’s Bircham Newton site in west Norfolk to further enhance such skills and to create a centre of excellence?
Joining the skills that we already have in one sector with those in another is an excellent suggestion, and I will be delighted to meet my hon. Friend to discuss it.
Offshore wind is an integral part of the clean growth strategy, which the Government have submitted to the United Nations as their official mid-century decarbonisation plan. However, the independent Committee on Climate Change says that the strategy will fail to meet even our existing targets for 2030. Will the Minister tell us when “mid-century” shifted forward 20 years? Why do the Government think a plan that fails even to deliver a 57% reduction in emissions by 2030 is appropriate to meet the much tougher reduction of a more than 80% reduction by 2050?
Once again, I am amazed at the hon. Gentleman’s ability to turn one of the great success stories of this country—in fact, he wrote an article about this last week that was so poor that he did not even retweet it. The point is that we have—[Interruption.] If he stopped chuntering, perhaps he might learn something. He is most impolite. We have led the world in decarbonising our economy. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we were the first country to set up statutory carbon budgets, and we are on track to meet the first three, as well as to get close to the budgets, based on current policies and proposals, in 10 and 15 years’ time. He will also know that we are the first developed nation to have said that we want to understand how we will get to a zero-carbon economy in 2050, and my request to the committee—[Interruption.] He is doing it again, Mr Speaker; his mother would be horrified by this level of discourtesy. We were the first country in the world to ask how we will get to a decarbonised economy in 2050, and I would hope that we could enjoy cross-party support for something so vital.
I do not want to quibble with the Minister, but I do not think that the hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) ever indulges in anything quite so vulgar as sedentary chuntering. He is occasionally given to facial expressions, which are not prohibited by the Standing Orders of the House, and he has penchant for what might be described as the feline purr.
Will the Minister join me in congratulating the Bibby Line Group on the £80 million that it has invested in two ships to service our offshore wind turbines.
Indeed I will. Not only are we leaders in offshore wind servicing, but there are huge opportunities to work with our world-leading oil and gas industries. We are good at installing, maintaining and servicing complex offshore installations.
And now no chuntering or purring, but simply Gardiner oratory. I call Mr Barry Gardiner. [Interruption.] I thought the hon. Gentleman was coming in a second time. The House is deprived, but I am afraid that it will have to rest content with that situation.
Creative Industries Sector Deal
I congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on your ruling that facial chuntering is not in fact a form of chuntering. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House will be delighted to take that into account in future.
As for the creative industries sector deal, Sir Peter Bazalgette’s review forecast that the creative industry deal will increase exports, sustain growth, boost jobs and narrow the productivity gap between the south-east and the rest of the UK. The deal launched only on 28 March, so it is in its early stages, but I will be carefully monitoring it and working with the industry to ensure that the deal delivers the expected benefits.
How can the creative industry sector deal benefit local economies and communities across the country, particularly in Mid Derbyshire?
My hon. Friend is always talking about Mid Derbyshire and how the University of Derby supports the creative industries sector. She has told me about Mr Paul Cummins, a very creative chap who was responsible for the Tower of London poppies, which went all over the world. The creative industries sector has a £2.5 million regional development fund, managed through a strategic action plan, which is exactly what my hon. Friend is talking about. Her local enterprise partnership is involved, and the university is working with businesses in the area, including small and medium-sized enterprises in the creative and digital industries, to aid local job creation in areas such as Cromford Mills in her constituency.
I commend to the Minister the excellent article by one of our finest musicians, Howard Goodall, who is not from Wrexham but is very welcome to visit, recounting the difficulty he had in performing his work in the United States. Does the Minister agree that the creative industries plan will be fatally undermined if we do not have an agreement with the EU to allow the free movement of musicians and other creative artists?
I am sure that Howard Goodall will be delighted to visit Wrexham after he has been to Watford. I am sure the point about being able to work and live in the European Union will be taken into consideration in the negotiations ahead, and I would not like the European Union, after we leave, to be deprived of a man with such talent.
The £160 million agri-tech strategy, which was launched five years ago, has proved a success. We are building on that strong track record through our industrial strategy, including a further £90 million of funding announced in February to bring the UK’s world-class agri-food sector together with expertise in robotics, artificial intelligence and data science. This will make it easier for farmers and agricultural supply chains to embrace new technology, enhancing their competitiveness and improving productivity.
My hon. Friend will know the importance of the agri-tech sector to the county of Shropshire. Can he give more details of how the transforming food production challenge will support our agri-tech sector in Shropshire?
The transforming food production investment combines UK academic and industrial strengths, taking a whole system approach, to integrate world-leading research, advanced technologies and farming practices. It will support the development and deployment of precision agricultural technologies and solutions.
The campus of Scotland’s Rural College in Gordon and local agri-food business Harbro are playing a key role in agri-tech. Does the Minister agree that continued funding for agri-tech, and the resulting big data, is essential to developing opportunities for global Britain?
I completely agree with my hon. Friend. We recognise the excellent contribution that Scotland’s Rural College and Harbro have made to developing agri-tech through partnering with the centres for agricultural innovation, where they are aiding the adoption of data-driven products. As I have said, we are investing £90 million in the transforming food production challenge, which will really help the UK to capture significant global challenge.
The agri-tech sector has tremendous potential in this country, but if we are to get all the manufacturing jobs out of it, as well as the innovation, we need to do something about the most expensive corporate property tax in the entire EU. Will the Minister tell us whether the Government are still sticking to their manifesto commitment to have a wholesale review of the business rates system, so we can have a competitive system for the agri-tech sector?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that, in the Budget, the Chancellor announced that he will be bringing forward proposals on that manifesto commitment in due course.
What proportion of all biomass used to produce energy in the last year came from wood, and what proportion of that came from domestic wood? Will he follow Scotland’s example of good practice?
The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point, and one that we will follow up with detailed statistics.
Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon
Helping businesses create high-quality, well-paid jobs across the country is integral to this Government’s industrial strategy. On the Swansea tidal lagoon, taking into account that job creation capability, as well as the decarbonisation potential and the cost to UK taxpayers, is an integral part of that analysis.
It is understood that major infrastructure projects give rise to opportunities for companies throughout the UK supply chain. The proposed Swansea lagoon project certainly falls into that category, and it could provide companies throughout my constituency and South Yorkshire with opportunities to supply products and processes to the project. Will the Minister therefore assure me that a holistic approach that places a value on jobs and investment throughout the country is being used to assess the viability of this project?
The hon. Lady, as always, speaks up powerfully for her constituency. I assure her that exactly those assessments are being made, both by ourselves and by the Welsh Government, to whom there have been very specific requests from the developer. It is right that we are having a cordial, open-book conversation about what commitments are actually being asked for, because this all comes back to UK consumers and/or UK taxpayers.
The Minister mentions that the Welsh Government have committed, in January, to provide substantial equity and loan investment to get the Swansea tidal lagoon project off the ground. Indeed, they are anxious to explore with the UK Government how this might be incorporated into an overall support package for the lagoon. Over and above contacts between officials of the two Governments, what meetings has she or other Ministers in the Department held with Ministers in the Welsh Government to examine and progress this offer?
The hon. Gentleman is right to say that these conversations have to happen jointly. There have been numerous meetings between my officials and officials in the Welsh Government, and I have met the Welsh Environment Secretary and her special advisers to discuss this and many other issues.
The Government have moved swiftly to support businesses, establishing the Carillion taskforce to ensure the co-ordination of support for firms affected by Carillion’s insolvency. This has included extra support from the banks of nearly £1 billion; British Business Bank support to the tune of £100 million; and work with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to ensure firms have advice and guidance through the business payment support service.
Since my last question about Carillion, 239 jobs have now been lost in Wolverhampton, which is a huge loss to our city. The Express & Star, a local newspaper in Wolverhampton, has said that hundreds of suppliers and subcontractors will be left unpaid, which means more job losses. How does the Department plan to provide support for those businesses and their workers?
The Government recognise that there will be an impact on the supply chain and on lots of small businesses that supplied Carillion. That is why we acted quickly to ensure that the banks were aware of those situations and the pressures that would be put on those businesses, to make sure the support was in place, with access to loans and finance, to ensure that we limit the impact as much as is possible. The hon. Lady will know that, so far, 11,450 jobs have been protected in the Carillion network, and we are doing more to ensure that we protect the rest.
The Minister will be aware that Carillion regularly contravened the prompt payment code without actually acting illegally. Is it not time to examine the possibility of giving the code a statutory basis, so that in future cases there could be prosecutions?
The hon. Gentleman makes a very valid point. We want the prompt payment code to be fit for purpose and for it to do what it says on the tin. That is why I am in discussions on the prompt payment code and why the Chancellor said in the spring statement that we would consult on late payments. He wanted to end the scourge of late payments, because this is so important for small businesses up and down the country.
District Heating Sector
A formal assessment has not yet been made, but the hon. Gentleman and I have exchanged correspondence on this important issue. It is vital that we create a market framework that works to deliver the benefits of energy cost reduction and carbon reduction from these networks but that protects consumers. I know he has a passionate interest in this, given the eight networks already operating in his constituency.
Not a month goes by in which I do not receive scores of emails from desperate constituents who are paying over the odds and are ill served by district heating networks. They are not getting a fair deal and cannot afford to wait for the Competition and Markets Authority’s partial market study to report. For their sake, I urge the Minister to give serious consideration to introducing statutory regulation now. Will she meet me to discuss the issue?
I am always happy to meet the hon. Gentleman, as he knows. It is interesting, because on average consumers are paying less and have the same level of satisfaction as they have with other heating options. Well designed and well regulated frameworks can really deliver a benefit for consumers, which is why we are investing more than £300 million, but the hon. Gentleman and I should get together to discuss his constituents’ particular concerns.
Forgive me, but I want to get to other colleagues’ questions as well, so if it is a short sentence, I will take it, but if it is not, I will not. No? All right.
Will the Minister tell us why it has taken so long to disburse some of the £320 million fund for district heating schemes? So many local authorities and other bodies want to apply for funding, but the Government are being slow in disbursing the money.
I am not sure I agree with that, partly because we have to get this right and make sure that there is a competitive market and that consumers do not feel that these things are being imposed on them. We should celebrate the fact that we have £300 million to take these pilots forward. Pilot projects are under way in Manchester, Sheffield and Barking, and I look forward to funding many more.
I should declare that I worked for the John Lewis Partnership for three years, from 1979 to 1982, and was therefore a beneficial owner of part of the company. That is not the only model to encourage employees, of course; share ownership is developing more widely as part of generally non-employee-owned companies. I look forward to the private sector making the business case for this model through the Employee Ownership Association, which is the representative body for employee-owned businesses.
Does the Minister agree that, taken as a sector, the UK’s 300 employee-owned businesses have higher than average productivity? Will he follow the example of the Scottish and Welsh Governments and more actively promote the sector, particularly to small and medium-sized businesses that are looking for a succession plan?
That is very interesting. I will look with care at what is happening in Scotland and Wales. We are generally in favour of employee-owned companies and companies with employees who have a share in them.
The retail sector is a vital part of the UK economy and we want it to thrive. In March, as part of our industrial strategy, I created the Retail Sector Council. Through that group, Government and industry will work together to contribute to the sector’s future direction, to boost its productivity and economic health.
The retail sector is hugely important to my constituency, from the Metrocentre through to the small fruit and veg shops on the high street. Given that the retail sector is the UK’s largest industry, will the Minister explain the rationale behind the Government’s decision to do so little for the sector in the industrial strategy?
The hon. Lady just is not correct. The Government recognise the importance of the high street and the retail sector, which is why we have provided more than £18 million in dedicated funding. It is also why in the 2017 autumn Budget we announced measures worth £2.3 billion over five years to cut business rates and improve the system’s fairness, which will support the retail sector.
Paris Climate Change Agreement
The hon. Gentleman will know that investment in renewable energy is vital so that we can get towards our interim targets, as well as the 1.5° C target. With a combination of the binding statutory budgets, the investments we have made and some good policy design, we are cranking ahead with renewables. More than 30% of our energy came from renewables last year, and I am sure we will all celebrate the fact that just in the past month we went for 77 hours without coal contributing to our grid.
Satellite data shows that 5% of the methane produced by fracking is leaked through fugitive emissions. Given that methane is 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in global warming terms, that makes fracking twice as bad for climate change as coal. Will the Minister commit not to proceed with fracking and to proceed with the Swansea bay tidal lagoon project to deliver on climate change?
I think the hon. Gentleman has seen some of the same slides that I have seen, which show a hypothetical model put forward by some scientists. We are of course always concerned about fugitive methane emissions, and we will bear that in mind going forward.
Germany, France, India and China are building coal-fired power stations by the hundreds while we are relying on more and more expensive sources of energy. Does the Minister not recognise the damage done to our economy by pursuing means of expensive energy while turning her back on cheap energy? Does she really believe that erecting a few windmills will affect the world’s climate, which is determined by the sun and by natural forces beyond the control of man?
It is always good to listen to the right hon. Gentleman on this point. We could debate the science, but the truth is that we and 57 other countries, states and cities around the world have committed to phase out coal, because it is the most polluting fossil fuel. We do not need it, because we have a big investment in renewables and we have clean gas as part of our energy mix, which we must maintain going forward.
We are running late, but I am very keen to hear the voices of Harlow and of Washington and Sunderland West. We will begin with Harlow—I call Mr Robert Halfon.
The Department has no current plans to develop projects through public-private partnerships. There are a number of areas where the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy co-funds projects with businesses, including in the areas of innovation and skills.
Does my hon. Friend not agree that the public-private partnership between Harlow College and Stansted airport in building a skills academy is exactly the kind of public-private partnership that we should be following? Harlow will now be the skills capital of the east of England. Will he use the Harlow example for the rest of the country?
My right hon. Friend is right: Harlow often leads the way in a number of areas, and I wish to congratulate him on the opening of the Stansted Airport College. The new apprenticeships build on the 1.3 million apprenticeship starts since May 2015.
Automotive Industry: Cleaner Fuels
We are investing nearly £1.5 billion between April 2015 and March 2021 to grow the market for ultra-low emission vehicles. That is one of the most comprehensive programmes of support globally.
Two weeks ago, Nissan in my constituency announced job losses, which were more than likely owing to a decline in diesel sales and the switch in production to newer, cleaner models. Therefore, notwithstanding what the Minister said, can he give us some details on what he is doing to support the automotive sector in moving from diesel to cleaner fuels?
The hon. Lady will know that Nissan is one of the biggest investors in cleaner technology, and through the industrial strategy challenge fund we are supporting the next generation generally. In her constituency, the production of the new Nissan Leaf, which is the most popular electric car in world, began in Sunderland last year with batteries actually made there.
Well, I know that!
We are very grateful to the hon. Lady, who says that she knows that, but I am also most grateful to the Minister.
Over the past six weeks since our last questions, I have launched, as colleagues have heard, the creative industry sector deal, a partnership with industry to unlock growth for creative businesses across the UK. Last week, more than 50 leading technology businesses and organisations united to launch another sector deal worth £1 billion to put the UK at the forefront of artificial intelligence. Our industrial strategy is building confidence across the economy, which I saw at first hand in Luton a few weeks ago with the announcement that Vauxhall’s new Vivaro van will be made in the UK, securing 1,400 jobs and the long-term future of the plant.
Many small businesses in my constituency of Southport are still struggling despite the Government’s various business rate relief schemes. What programmes and initiatives aimed at small business can my right hon. Friend recommend to help small business owners who are struggling in my constituency?
I remember with great pleasure visiting a small dairy business—a milk business—with my hon. Friend. I hope that it is thriving. Since that visit, I am delighted to say that a number of loans from the Start Up Loans Company, totalling about £800,000, have benefited businesses in Southport. The Liverpool city region growth hub has been established to give advice and support to small businesses, too.
I welcome this morning’s news that the EU has secured a further 30-day exemption from the US’s steel tariffs. However, that merely prolongs the uncertainty facing the sector. What steps is the Secretary of State currently taking to secure a full UK exemption when the temporary one ends on 1 June, and when will his Department respond to the steel sector deal, a proposal crucial to the long-term sustainability of the sector?
I can reassure the hon. Lady that there have been full negotiations between us, the Americans and the European Union from the day that this started, and I have briefed her regularly. I have a call on Thursday morning with the chief executive officers of all the steel companies, which she is very welcome to join. I assure her and everyone else in this House that every effort is being made to help the steel industry.
The sector deal will help, and has had an enthusiastic reception from the industry. This country is leading the way in the development of artificial intelligence. The Alan Turing Institute is attracting scholars from across the world. One part of the deal is to ensure that we have an extra 8,000 specialist computer science teachers in schools to ensure that the next generation can reap the rewards.
I will be happy to discuss the matter further with the hon. Lady. She has raised a hugely important point about how we include in a mortgage mix or a financing mix the value of companies and households installing measures to reduce their energy bills. The green finance taskforce, which has just reported to us, had some suggestions, and I would be delighted to discuss them further with the hon. Lady.
My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that the current support for existing coal to biomass conversion will end by 2027. I am aware of many of the concerns about biomass, and we are looking at the issue carefully. However, sustainable, low-carbon bioenergy can help us on this transition, particularly away from coal burning.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, this is why we have the Competition and Markets Authority, which is virtually certain to conduct an inquiry into this matter, precisely to look into all the aspects to which he referred. I mentioned that the CMA has a new chair in Andrew Tyrie, and I am sure that the issue will receive the most rigorous scrutiny.
My hon. Friend is right to highlight a concerning issue. My officials are meeting representatives of the wood panel industry today, but I would be delighted to follow up with a personal meeting with him and his constituents.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his good wishes. Having just returned from my paternity leave, I reassure him that, although I am not legally allowed to take shared parental leave, the Government are very supportive of Ministers being able to take up such provisions. The Government want more families to benefit from the joy that comes from shared parental leave, which is why we have invested over £1 million in an advertising campaign to increase take-up.
The Government have created the £10 million degree apprenticeship development fund to support the development of infrastructure across England and to raise awareness of apprenticeships, among other aims. A degree apprenticeships website has been created by the National Apprenticeship Service and UCAS to highlight vacancies.
My colleagues in the Department are very clear that we need to make it possible, through our agreement with the European Union, to trade not only without tariffs but with the minimum of frictions. The hon. Lady describes some elements of that. It is absolutely the purpose of the negotiations to avoid the introduction of any unnecessary frictions.
The Government have been clear that we are unconditionally committed to European security and want to continue working together to develop defence and space capabilities. We feel that the Commission’s approach runs counter to what has been agreed as part of article 50, where a shared intent was agreed for strong UK-EU co-operation on defence in the future.
The Minister will know that I have Jaguar Land Rover in my constituency. What will be the impact on Jaguar Land Rover of the changes to tax on diesel engines?
The hon. Gentleman knows, and the House knows, that there has been a fall in sales of diesel engines, not just in this country but across Europe. That has been the reason for some of the termination of the contracts there. We will be setting out, as a Government, the future regulatory path to clean up our roads of emissions. In doing that, we will be consulting with the industry.
When does the Secretary of State anticipate being able to make an announcement about the Greater Grimsby town deal?
I do not have a date in mind, but my hon. Friend’s persistent urging of me will make sure that it will be as soon as it can practicably be done.
Have the Government made any assessment of whether social care providers will go bankrupt this year due to the ruling on sleep-in shifts and the minimum wage, and whether this will have any impact on social care? If so, will they provide that assessment to the House?
The Government are well aware of the challenges involved in sleep-in legislation and the national minimum wage and are working closely with providers. We are also in discussions with the European Commission and will bring forward plans in future.
When will we see the review of Companies House procedures that I mentioned in my Adjournment debate on 20 November last year, which covers people who transition from one sex to another, whose records are sometimes left on the Companies House register? The previous Minister agreed to look at that.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that very important question. I remember the Westminster Hall debate that she had on this issue. The Government are minded to protect the rights of the transgender community. She will know that I recently brought forward a statutory instrument to allow directors to remove their addresses from the Companies House register in order to protect safety. I would be delighted to work with her to see what we can do to provide greater protections for the transgender community in this area.
The industrial strategy rightly sets out opportunities arising from the new technology and STEM—science, technology, engineering and maths—sectors but says little about the increasing importance of skills that are unique to human beings, such as care. Does the Secretary of State recognise that part of our answer to increasing automation should be expanding employment in the care sector and the value we attach to it? If so, will he start treating this as a strategic priority?
It is indeed such a priority. I am delighted to see a copy of the strategy in the hon. Lady’s hands. In fact, one of the four grand challenges that we have set out regarding areas in which we can be a world leader is to develop the opportunities that arise from an ageing population, and care is absolutely central to that.
Point of Order
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Last night in the House of Lords, Lord Roberts said:
“My mind went back to Berlin in March 1933 when the enabling Bill was passed in the Reichstag, which transferred the democratic right from the Parliament into the hands of one man—that was the Chancellor, and his name was Adolf Hitler.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 30 April 2018; Vol. 790, c. 1856.]
As someone who is Jewish and very proud of our Parliament, I find those remarks absolutely disgusting. They are shameful for our country and for our Parliament, and completely unacceptable. Can you advise me of ways that this House can send a message to that peer that such trivialisation of evil is unacceptable and that he should withdraw those remarks?
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order, and I understand and respect, not least having known him for a quarter of a century, the strength of feeling that he has just articulated on the matter. I am sorry to have to say to him, but I do, that the Speaker of this House has no role in policing or overseeing utterances in the other place. I do not think it is for me formally to take the matter forward. However, the right hon. Gentleman received strong support from colleagues for what he said, and if he wishes to write to the noble Lord and to enclose a copy of what he has said in this Chamber, I think he will feel that he has done the right thing, and it may elicit a response. I think we should always speak with great care and sensitivity in either House, and I thank the right hon. Gentleman for what he said. We must now move on, because we have heavy business today.
Tributes (Speaker Martin)
I informed the House yesterday that there would be an opportunity today for hon. and right hon. Members to pay tribute to the former Speaker of the House, my immediate predecessor, Michael Martin, latterly Lord Martin of Springburn. On behalf of all Members, I want to start by paying tribute to the memory of Michael Martin, and in doing so, I send my deepest sympathy to his wife Mary, to his daughter Mary, to his son Paul and to his grandchildren.
A Glaswegian former sheet metal worker, Michael was the son of a merchant seaman and a school cleaner. As some will know, he was born in a tenement in the nearby Anderston area on the north bank of the River Clyde in 1945. As I said yesterday—I make no apology for repeating it today—Michael Martin was passionate about and proud of his roots. Specifically, he was proud, and rightly proud, of the way in which he had overcome a difficult start in life to rise to one of the highest ceremonial offices in the land.
After leaving school at 15, he began his political journey as a shop steward for Rolls-Royce aero-engineers. In the 1970s, he became an organiser with the National Union of Public Employees, and after a period as a Labour councillor, he became Member of Parliament for Glasgow Springburn in 1979. He subsequently served for three decades as Member of Parliament for his people, to whose wellbeing and to whose advance he was throughout his career utterly dedicated.
As a Member of Parliament, Michael immersed himself in Commons life, and he eventually spent over a decade as a member of the Speaker’s Panel of Chairmen. He also became Chairman of the Scottish Grand Committee before devolution. After serving as Commons Speaker Betty Boothroyd’s Deputy from 1997, he was elected by Members of this House to succeed her in 2000. In doing so, he became the first Roman Catholic to serve in the role since the Reformation.
I think it is true to say, and I see around the House Members who recall Michael Martin—this is hugely to his credit—that he never forgot where he came from. In his coat of arms, which is still exhibited in Speaker’s House, he included a 12-inch steel rule, which signified his time as a sheet metal worker, and a chanter from a set of bagpipes, of which I must advise the House he was a keen and highly accomplished player. Indeed, he staged the first Burns night supper in the Palace of Westminster. The tradition has been continued since under various auspices, but his was the first.
As Mr Speaker, Michael quickly set about making his mark on the role by holding an unprecedented press conference, which provoked his critics into saying that he had broken the convention of keeping one’s distance from the media. He also dispensed with the traditional tights worn by his predecessors in favour of dark flannel trousers. If I may say so, he continued the precedent set by Lady Boothroyd of declining to wear the traditional wig. As colleagues will have noted, I have followed Betty and Michael in that regard.
Sadly, despite the many improvements Michael sought to make in the House of Commons to increase its diversity and his step of establishing an apprenticeship scheme, it was the MPs expenses scandal that led to his resignation from office in May 2009. Today, however, we remember Michael as our colleague and, to many, a friend. Fundamentally, he was a decent, public-spirited, hard-working, unpretentious person who sought to make life better for the people whom he was privileged and elected to represent.
Michael was well known across the House for his care and concern for Members, for their staff and for the staff of the House. He was a fine campaigner, and he was very protective of Back Benchers. If memory serves me correctly, he was not the favoured choice of the Front Benches when he became Speaker, but he garnered huge support—that says something about his effectiveness and his popularity—and, colleagues, he also had a great sense of humour. On a personal level, as I mentioned yesterday, he was always very kind to me, and I have met many Members who say the same from their own experience. To this day, I still remember the lovely letter of congratulation he sent to me after my election as Speaker.
Michael Martin was a good man, and he served people faithfully. Above all, as people who knew him well will know, he was devoted to his community and he loved his family. He loved his family, and he was loved by his family. I hope on behalf of each and every one of you that I can today extend our heartfelt sympathy to his family.
To lead the tributes from the Front Benches, I call the Leader of the House.
On behalf of Her Majesty’s Government, I join you, Mr Speaker, in expressing our sadness at the death on Sunday of the former House of Commons Speaker, Michael Martin—latterly, Lord Martin of Springburn. As we remember his life and contribution to this place today, the thoughts and prayers of the whole House will be with his family and friends.
First elected to the House of Commons for the seat of Glasgow, Springburn in 1979, Michael Martin was dedicated to the people of Glasgow. He was a proud Scotsman who never forgot his roots, and some Members, including my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, experienced his bagpipes playing at his annual Burns night supper, which I gather was something of a special event. He demonstrated that pride during his time as a Back-Bench Member, during his spell as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Denis Healey between 1981 and 1983 and, of course, during his time as a Cross-Bench peer in the other place.
As a Back-Bench Member, in addition to representing his constituents in Glasgow, Michael Martin was a member of the Trade and Industry Committee between 1983 and 1987. In 1987 he became First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means, and he was elected to the position of Speaker in October 2000. In the debate before his election, he said:
“My apprenticeship has been one of serving the House as a Chairman of Standing Committees, the Administration Committee and the Scottish Grand Committee. I have never sought to be a Whip, a Front-Bench spokesman or a Minister…I have enjoyed defending the rights of the House.”—[Official Report, 23 October 2000; Vol. 355, c. 14.]
Michael Martin served as Speaker for almost nine years. He was introduced to the House of Lords in August 2009, where he was an active Cross-Bench peer. While his tenure as Speaker was not always the easiest, in recent days a number of former and current Members have remembered the time that he took to welcome them as new Members.
Today we remember the contribution of Michael Martin to this House and send our sincere condolences to his family—to Mary, their children and grandchildren—and to his friends.
On behalf of the Opposition, I thank you, Mr Speaker, for your kind words, and the Leader of the House for hers, in leading the tributes to Lord Martin of Springburn. Like her, I was not a Member when he was the Speaker of the House. Every Speaker has their own style and is a Speaker of their time, and he had to contend with some challenges. But we can remember the fact that he left school without qualifications at 15, and from a poverty-stricken background he ended up as the first Catholic Speaker, in one of the most senior posts in public life.
Michael Martin worked as a sheet metal worker at Rolls Royce, and then as a full-time organiser for the National Union of Public Employees—NUPE. There he met another union organiser who ended up as Leader of the Opposition. He entered Parliament in 1979 for Glasgow, Springburn and then for Glasgow North East, serving this place for 30 years. He was a member of numerous Committees and he clearly knew how this place worked. When elected Speaker, he sat in the chair without tights—as you said, Mr Speaker—a practice for Speakers he abolished. He started his tenure by holding a press conference—a very progressive move. He also served in the other place from 2009—nearly 40 years of public service.
You mentioned Michael’s kindness: a Member told me how anyone from a working-class background was always shown support so that they did not feel out of place in Parliament. A member of staff, who was also from a Glasgow housing estate, told me how Michael wrote to her mother saying how proud she should be of her daughter’s contribution in Parliament.
To Michael’s wife Mary, his son Paul, his daughter Mary Ann and his family, we send our condolences at this difficult time. Lord Martin was a politician, trade unionist and public servant, who was born on 3 July 1945 and died at the age of 72 on 29 April 2018. We salute his journey from poverty to the Speaker’s chair, from Anderston to Westminster. May he rest in peace.
I will come to the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith), who is an immensely senior Member, but we do not want to squander him too early. He is so senior, we will hold on for a moment. I call Nadine Dorries.
I endorse everything that has been said. The shadow Leader of the House was right: when I got here as somebody from a working-class background, Michael was kindness and support itself. I will never forget receiving a letter at home during my first summer recess in 2005, and being shocked to discover it was from the Speaker. It was a letter of praise and encouragement, informing me that when I came back in September I might feel daunted again, but not to be. He was a testament to social mobility, how someone could come from his background to this place. The first time I saw him I remember thinking that he looked like Father Christmas sitting in the Chair and he embodied all those virtues of kindness and welcome. He was the first Speaker I ever encountered and I will never forget him. He professed his love for his family every time he spoke to me. He always mentioned his daughters and his family. That is all I have to say. I think that everybody who knew him will have the same sentiments.
I thank you, Mr Speaker, for your very kind remarks, and I thank those who have followed you.
On behalf of the Scottish National party, I join the tributes paid to Michael Martin and send our deepest condolences and sympathies to his wife Mary and the whole family. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of them.
Very few of the current SNP group served in this House under Michael Martin’s Speakership, but those who did, and the former Members who did, have spoken fondly of their memories and the high regard in which he was held by Members right across the House. He was, as you and others have said, Mr Speaker, proud of his Glasgow roots and his Scottish heritage. His love of the pipes was well known, and I believe he once had the unique honour of playing his set of pipes at the top of the Elizabeth Tower.
Some of our longer serving staff members recall the occasion when the Serjeant at Arms informed the SNP group that bagpipes would not be permitted at a reception on St Andrew’s Day. When this came to the attention of Speaker Martin, he immediately intervened and ensured that the pipes were liberated and heard loudly across Portcullis House. I am also informed that two weeks before his resignation the recipe of his Speaker’s whisky was changed. Apparently, the few bottles that now remain change hands for exorbitant prices on eBay and so on.
There are few of us in the SNP who served under Michael, but my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O’Hara) did have the unenviable task of standing against him in the 1987 general election, attempting to overturn his robust majority of 26,000. The story goes that one day Michael stopped a woman in Duke Street to ask for her vote, only to be told that she would be voting SNP. Michael responded robustly, advising that the young candidate was, shall we say, something of an upstart, to which the woman replied, “Really? That’s my son you’re talking about!” My hon. Friend to this day claims that his mother did vote for him and not Michael Martin, but perhaps we will never know.
In later years, some of our Members who now represent Glasgow constituencies—my hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady), for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) and for Glasgow East (David Linden)—lived in his constituency. Despite any political differences they might have had, they were all well aware of Michael’s diligence as a constituency MP, and of the affection and high regard in which he was held by the local community.
I am sure you will agree, Mr Speaker, that being Speaker of the House is not an easy task, but the tributes today make clear the respect the whole House had for Speaker Martin. He began a process of reform and modernisation that you, Mr Speaker, have continued, and which will no doubt carry on into the future. That can rightly be considered an important part of his legacy.
To have risen from his roots in poverty to the Chair of the House was a significant and considerable achievement. Michael was an inspiration to many. Michael, rest in peace.
I rise, very briefly, to join your tribute, Mr Speaker, which I appreciated very much.
On two occasions in my time in the House, I had cause to work closely with Michael Martin. The first occasion was when, after my Maastricht rebellions, I was banished by the Whips Office—they were able to do that in those days, as Mr Speaker will know—to an in-House Committee which met but infrequently. They thought that would be a punishment, but it was an absolute pleasure because Michael was the Chair of the Committee. He greeted me and said, “I know why you are here and it is not because you are interested in the running of the House!” He then regaled me with tales of the pipe major and many of the pipers in the Scots Guards, with whom I had served, and their chequered careers; the number of times they had gone up in the ranks and down in the ranks due to too much post-piping whisky. He offered to give me an example of just how they maintained their rank while playing well and he did just that. We missed a number of committee hearings as a result of his piping—I do not know who chaired them, by the way, even to this day—but he seemed less than interested in that and more interested in the piping side of things. I got along with him famously and the Whips never knew what a pleasure it was to be banished to that Committee.
The second occasion was when I had the misfortune to be elected leader of the Conservative party. I was the first Catholic to be elected as leader. I know just how difficult being the Leader of the Opposition is, particularly if one’s party wants to have an argument in an empty room most of the time, which I have some sense of, if not a little pleasure in. Michael took me to his room and chatted away to me about the difficulties. During our conversations, we settled on the fact that both of us were the first Catholics to serve in our positions. He was very proud of that, as was I.
Our roles did not quite end in the way we might have wished and that is one thing that I am very sad about. This House was going through a very difficult time and it was inevitable that the Speaker would, to some degree, become a focus of that. I want to put on record my view that this decent man was taken to task in a way that I did not think were his just deserts. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] He took on his shoulders a lot of what had happened. I think his early departure is something the House may someday want to look at and ask whether it was fair to him in the way that he had been to it.
I am sad at Michael’s passing. He was a decent man and a good man. We did not necessarily treat him with the respect and decency he deserved, and I am sorry for that.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman very warmly for what he has said. I think the reaction of the House shows that colleagues feel the same.
If the right hon. Gentleman understands, I would like to call the successor but one to Michael’s constituency. I will come to the leader of the Liberal Democrats in a moment.
I was deeply saddened to learn about the death of Lord Michael Martin of Springburn and Port Dundas, the former Speaker of the House of Commons and my predecessor as the Labour Member of Parliament for the Glasgow North East constituency.
Michael was a lovely, decent and compassionate man who rose from Springburn sheet metal worker to become the first Roman Catholic Speaker since the Reformation. Throughout his career as a councillor on the Glasgow Corporation from 1973 and then as the local MP for Springburn spanning seven general elections from 1979 to 2009, his steadfast dedication to representing his constituents remained a constant hallmark of his commitment to public service. His efforts were reflected in the immense respect and regard in which he was held by the community he represented for over three decades. Michael helped to pioneer the modern housing association movement in Glasgow. He was a founding member of North Glasgow Housing Association, which is now the largest community-run housing association in the city. It has improved the quality of life for many Glaswegians over the years.
Michael epitomised all that was good about the Labour movement and the opportunity that it has afforded for the advancement of working-class people over the last century. He inspired many local young people into a vocation in politics. I have been particularly moved by the number of constituents who have contacted me in the past couple of days to express their gratitude for the help that Michael provided to their family or to their neighbours. To this day, on every single street in my constituency, Michael is fondly remembered, even though he never sought any great recognition for his efforts. He often referred to the lesson in the Gospel of St Luke about Jesus healing 10 lepers, but only one coming back to thank him. Michael sought to help people humbly, quietly and without any need for praise.
At the time of Michael’s retirement from the House of Commons, his Glasgow colleague Mohammad Sarwar shared with the House a letter he had received from a 16-year-old constituent who had previously visited the House as part of a school trip. Her name is Kayleigh Quinn, and she wrote:
“I am deeply upset that Mr Martin has been compelled to resign from his post. As someone from the same working-class Glasgow background as Michael Martin, I am extremely proud of what he has achieved in his political career.”
Today, Kayleigh is an organiser for the Labour party in Glasgow and one of the leading figures in the Scottish Labour party. That is Michael Martin’s real legacy: how he inspired young people.
I was particularly gratified to meet Lord Martin last July, in the week before I made my maiden speech in this House after regaining Glasgow North East for the Labour party following a brief interlude. He told me of his delight that his seat was now back in “safe hands”, and I hope to live up to that expectation.
Another project that Michael was instrumental in setting up in our constituency was the Alive and Kicking elderly people’s social club in Balornock, which I visited earlier this year. I was quickly reminded of Michael’s ubiquitous presence and legacy in the constituency when I spotted the brass plate commemorating him opening the club on 15 December 1988—exactly one month before I was born. I also remember visiting the Speaker’s House soon after I was elected and being confronted by a 14-foot oil painting of my predecessor. I thought that that was a very effective device to make his successors feel simultaneously inspired and inadequate. I will always remember finding that and thinking of the great impact that he had made on this House and in his constituency.
Michael’s example of kindness and dedication to fighting for the interests of his constituents is something that will always inspire and guide me as his successor as the representative of the people of Springburn and Glasgow North East in the House of Commons today. My thoughts are with Michael’s family—especially his wife Mary, his children Paul and Mary, and his three grandchildren—at this difficult time. I encourage all Members to consider signing my early-day motion 1214 in memory of Michael.
Michael Martin would have been an MP for nine years when his successor but two was born. It is worth noting that if had he remained in the Chair until now and then gone on for a few more years, he might have been Father of the House as well as Speaker. How he would have heard the nomination and dragged himself to the Chair I am not quite sure, but he probably would have found a way.
It is worth noting that some of the criticism of him was absurd. A quarter of a million pounds was thought to have been spent on Speaker’s Green, which was supposed to have been his garden. The fact that it is a bike rack and a goods yard for the rebuilding of the Palace shows how sometimes our journalists think that a story is too good to check. He put up with that with good nature, and it is worth noting that his reason for retiring from the speakership was the unity of the House.
He and I once had a conversation when he was Speaker about how it might be possible to have a debate in the House about the conduct and role of the Chair without that being an implied criticism of the Speaker. Perhaps you as his successor, Mr Speaker, might find a way for that to happen every two or three years, because there are many things that happen when a Speaker might like to get the sort of direction that Speaker Lowther claimed that he had when he had Charles I to deal with.
Speaker Lenthall—forgive me.
The Speaker whom I think had the problem with how the House dealt with expenses was Michael Martin’s predecessor. I have said this in the House before, so it will be no surprise. If his predecessor had backed up Elizabeth Filkin over the expenses rows involving a number of MPs, perhaps the standard of behaviour among some Members would not have fallen so low or become so widespread. I think that he, in effect, was carrying some of the consequences of what happened before him.
I am parliamentary warden of St Margaret’s Church in Parliament Square. I am glad to say that we have had inclusiveness in the Chair—I do not think you need to be socially mobile to get into the Speaker’s Chair, and being able to be there as someone who is Jewish, someone who is Christian (Methodist) such as George Thomas, or someone who is Christian (Roman Catholic) such as Michael Martin, is a sign of the inclusiveness of this place and something that I am proud of.
I am also proud that Michael Martin, when he was a Back Bencher—he continued doing this for a bit when he was Speaker—would come to the monthly communion services that are held at St Margaret’s, which are followed by a breakfast in Speaker’s House for which we are grateful, Mr Speaker. Having a Roman Catholic joining in with Christians of other denominations in a monthly service was an example of the inclusiveness that he showed by example, even if some of the prelates in his Church did not approve.
I would like to add to the warm tributes that have been made and send condolences to Speaker Martin’s family. I can perhaps close the historical loop that was initiated by the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Sweeney), because I knew Michael Martin at the beginning of his political career rather than at the end. As it happens, we were both elected to Glasgow City Council for neighbouring wards in the same year. Despite our somewhat different backgrounds, we became good friends and colleagues.
I remember him well as somebody who was totally devoted to his ward, his local community, the Labour movement—his origins were in the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, now Unite, though he became a white-collar organiser—and his Church. I mention that because at that time in Glasgow’s political history, there had been a long period of Labour rule, and that was interrupted briefly for three years when it was ruled by a combination of Conservatives, nationalists and something called the Progressive party, which was anything but—it was a legacy of the sectarian tradition in Glasgow. I think one needed to understand that to understand what Michael fought for.
At the time we were on the council, nobody would have claimed that he was a policy wonk. He was not high profile, but he was a very effective behind-the-scenes operator who made things happen. I remember being involved with him on two campaigns in particular. The first was when Mrs Thatcher, I think in 1971, abolished free school milk. That was a particularly potent issue in Glasgow, and it was something about which he cared passionately because of the poverty of his upbringing. There was still rickets in schools in Glasgow, and there was enormously strong feeling about this. In the ruling group in Glasgow Council, we decided not to implement the Government legislation. As a result, he, I and various other colleagues were very nearly disqualified from public life. I mention that in the context of his own convictions.
The other major campaign that he organised, which stemmed from his AUEW background, came a year later, when the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders’ crisis came to the fore. There was an enormous mobilisation in the city and within the west of Scotland in support of the shipyard workers. As a member of the union and with his organisational skills, he played a very important part in helping to deliver that.
I did not see him again for another 25 years. I came into the House through a somewhat different political journey, but our friendship resumed. I remember him as he was: an amiable, likeable man with flashes of great kindness. I remember in particular the kindness that he showed to one of my former colleagues, the late Patsy Calton. When she was dying of cancer, he went out of his way to put a protective arm around her, and many of us on the Liberal Democrat Benches remember that episode.
He was extremely effective in his networking and his work behind the scenes on the Chairmen’s Panel, but we should also remember that he was a politician. He took a very firm stand in Glasgow when there was a severe and ugly outbreak of feeling against asylum seekers in his constituency and the Sighthill developments. He was a strong campaigner for apprenticeships, building on his own history. To me, and I think many other people, he is somebody we should have great respect for. Particularly as he left under a cloud, I think that we should remember now that he was a fundamentally decent, good man whom this House should honour.
Order. I am keen to accommodate remaining colleagues who feel that they need to speak, and there are no doubt several who do, but I just gently point out to the House that the subsequent business is likely to be of intense interest, and therefore there is a premium on brevity.
I would like to join in the sympathies that have been expressed so far. I was fortunate to join this House four years after Lord Martin did, and we became friends. He had friends across the House, and as soon as he discovered that my grandmother came from Glasgow, we became even closer friends. He was an outstandingly collegiate person. He was an excellent member of the Chairmen’s Panel, as it was called then, and a very, very good Deputy Speaker.
As you know, Mr Speaker, I then had a brief time out of the House—I am grateful that the electorate decided to give me a break. When I came back in 2001, Michael Martin had made the journey from Deputy Speaker to Speaker, and he was incredibly kind to the new intake. He went out of his way to welcome them and showed a really strong interest in all of us. You mentioned, Mr Speaker, that he may not always have been a favourite of Front Benchers. Many of us spent much of the first decade of this century on the Opposition Front Bench. He was a friend of the Opposition Front-Bench team, because he supported us in ways he did not have to. He was understanding and patient. He built up our confidence and cut us a lot of slack, and I will never forget his kindness to me when I first joined the Front Bench in 2001. Like you, Mr Speaker, he set the bar very high when it came to making Speaker’s House available to colleagues and outside organisations, charities and friends. He used that extraordinary resource to help people and build happiness.
I was deeply upset when a tiny number of colleagues criticised Michael’s handling of expenses. His instinct was always to honour parliamentary sovereignty and to put Parliament in the driving seat when it came to sorting out the problems with the expenses regime. In many ways, he was right in that approach, and one only has to look at the performance of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority subsequently and the way in which parliamentary sovereignty has been taken away to see that he has been vindicated. I think that history will judge him very differently from how a small number of colleagues and the press judged him at the time.
I would like to remember someone who was a fundamentally decent person. He commanded respect wherever he want in this Palace among not just MPs, but members of staff. He built up vast pools of loyalty among the people who worked for him, and he was someone who was always decent and fair. I will remember him with great fondness, and my sympathies and heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to his family at this difficult time. He has been taken from us at too young an age.
I want to make three brief comments, first because some of the recent obituaries have not been very complimentary about someone who, as we have heard, was essentially a very decent man and human being. Secondly, it was reported that he was unhappy about being called “Gorbals Mick” by the Lobby, because he was in fact an Anderston boy and a Springburn MP, as you described, Mr Speaker. As a Gorbals boy myself, I never understood why the Lobby thought that was some kind of insult.
Thirdly, and most importantly, very few people outside this place know how accommodating Speakers, in occupying that distinguished office, are in affording access to the state apartments, hosting charitable events and supporting Members. You have not only continued that, Mr Speaker, but extended it. I had occasion to host a visit from a doctor friend of my wife’s whose teenage son was seriously damaged due to his suffering from a condition called Fragile X syndrome—a combination of a learning disability, sight and hearing problems, autism and, I think, a bit of Tourette’s. He was fixated on this wonderful building and the office of Speaker, which was then occupied by Michael Martin.
Michael invited us to the state apartments, and when he saw the Speaker, he shouted, “Martin, Martin!” His mother suggested, “Actually, it’s Mr Speaker or Mr Martin,” but Vincent was not having any of it, and neither was Michael—“Martin” was the name and “Martin” was good enough for Michael. When he invited us in, he sent Vincent’s mum, me and my wife to have a glass of champagne—he was in between receptions, with one ongoing—and took Vincent on a personal visit to the inner sanctum. That young man’s life was much enhanced by meeting Michael and being welcomed by him. Michael did not need to be as kind as he was, but he was. Many of us remember him fondly and send our condolences to his family.
Michael Martin was Speaker when I was first elected in 2001. As others have observed, he was capable of tremendous kindness—to his family, his friends, his constituents and Members from all parts of the House—throughout his time. I suspect that the last of these kindnesses might have been the most difficult to sustain, but throughout his time in the Chair, he never failed to do so.
We will all have our own memories of Michael’s warmth and kindness. I will always remember him going from the Speaker’s Chair to shake the hand of my late colleague Patsy Calton after she had taken the Oath following her re-election in 2005. At that time, Patsy was in the latter stages of her fight against cancer—she died a few weeks later—and Michael went from the Chair to her because she had taken the Oath in a wheelchair. That act of simple kindness and humanity summed him up as a man and as a Speaker. Yes, he maintained many traditions of the office, but those traditions were never allowed to get in the way of what mattered. If it was a choice between the traditions of the House and simple humanity, the traditions could quickly be dispensed with.
If someone did not already know it, they had only to spend a few seconds—or possibly a few syllables—in Michael Martin’s company to know that here was a Scotsman, and a Glaswegian at that. He was not the first person to occupy the Chair who spoke with a broad accent—the late George Thomas, the Viscount Tonypandy, springs readily to mind—but I am certain that no other occupant of the Speaker’s Chair ever had to endure the sniping and snobbery that Michael Martin had to, although if it bothered him, he never showed it. As a Glaswegian and a Scot, he was comfortable in his own skin. He was proud of his Scottish identity and his working-class Glaswegian roots, and if anybody did not like that, frankly it was their problem, not his.
Much of what has been said today has focused on the personality and character of the man—and understandably so. He served as a Member of this House for 30 years, occupying the Speaker’s Chair for nine. He has a legacy. We have spoken much in recent weeks about the modern convention of the Government requiring Parliament’s approval before launching military action. When doing so, we should remember Michael Martin’s role in establishing that convention. I will never forget the debates leading up to the invasion of Iraq—they were momentous parliamentary occasions. Tony Blair brought a motion to the House on which we could vote. The Opposition of the day were also in favour of the military action and duly tabled an amendment outlining their position. It was not, however, materially different from the Government’s motion, and in an act of constitutional probity, and also of political bravery—it was against the party from which he had come—Michael Martin selected instead a cross-party amendment putting the view that the case for war had not been proven. Yes, Tony Blair, to his credit, allowed Parliament a vote, but it was thanks to Michael Martin that we were given a meaningful choice.
Like you, Mr Speaker, I extend my sympathies to Mary, their children and their grandchildren, but we should do more than that. We should remind the Martin family that in this Palace of Westminster, because of the efforts of Michael Martin, their family will always be welcome among our parliamentary family.
When I first came into the House in 2001, Speaker Martin was in the Chair and immediately made me and my colleagues welcome. He was impeccable in his kindness. I remember several occasions when I had cause to speak with him, and he never failed to be polite and to assist. I distinctly remember the parliamentary party of the Democratic Unionist party once having concerns about parliamentary proceedings—I do not remember why—and we arranged a meeting with the Speaker to see if he could be of assistance. Of course, we met him and had a cup of tea, and he was impeccably polite as normal, and as I would expect a Speaker to be, but what struck me was not the kindness, the politeness or the cup of tea but the fact that within a day or two the issues we raised were dealt with. Not only was he impeccably polite; he was efficient.
We pass on our regards and our thoughts and prayers to the Martin family. As a Speaker and a family man, he was not arrogant—he did not slap Members down—but he ruled resolutely and was always a Speaker to whom Back-Bench Members could turn to get issues resolved. We will always remember Speaker Michael Martin.
Mr Speaker, I thought that your words combined warmth and dignity in a way that was a fitting tribute to a man of warmth and of dignity. I thank you for that.
As I listened to your words about Michael Martin, and about how he loved his family and how his family loved him, I thought immediately of how much he loved this place—how much he loved this Parliament—and it is with some melancholy that I say that this place did not reciprocate as it should have. He was not loved by Parliament as much as he loved Parliament. He was cruelly treated—very often, I have to say, on the basis of snobbery: of cruel, cruel snobbery. But if I have an abiding memory, it is of when he—and you, Mr Speaker, followed in this tradition—opened up Speaker’s House. On some occasions, the experience was slightly extraordinary. I once found myself sitting between Cardinal Keith O’Brien and the Reverend Dr Ian Paisley at dinner; I was something of a cordon sanitaire.
I shall never forget the time when Michael Martin invited Scouts and Guides from Maryhill and Springburn to Speaker’s House. He was the epitome of the avuncular. He delighted in the company of his ain fowk—his own people. He wanted to show them that it did not matter where they came from or what their background was, they too could be in Speaker’s House. I am sure those Scouts and Guides will always remember that.
May I say gently, Mr Speaker, that his great kindness to new Members, which has often been referred to, was not entirely altruistic? Twenty-one years ago my good friend Tony McNulty and I were both elected to this House, and we found ourselves in the Tea Room. Michael Martin, then a Deputy Speaker, came up and remarked to me that he and I shared the same birthday, and proceeded to talk about the similarities between us on that basis. He then mentioned that Tony McNulty had attended the Salvatorian College, and referred to some of the Salvatorian fathers he had known. He then advised both of us that if we wanted to know anything about modern politics, there was only one book that we should read. Tony, who was something of a nerd in these matters, asked “Would that be “Erskine May?” Michael Martin said, “No, no—“‘The Godfather’”. [Laughter.] He gave each of us a copy, and when he left Tony and I looked at each other and said, “If the rest of our parliamentary career is going to be as friendly as that, we shall be absolutely fine; we’ve found our feet.”
To our amazement, we discovered that Michael was at that time casting out the possibility of being elected as Speaker. This came as a considerable shock to us, but we both voted for him with enthusiasm. On 3 July each year, he would always make a point of calling me, as we were the birthday boys on that particular day.
Michael Martin was a man of extraordinary kindness and decency. He was not well treated by the House, but I think the words that his wife Mary, and his children Paul and Mary, will hear coming from the House today will be of some consolation. Michael Martin: may light eternal shine upon him, and may he rest in peace.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that magnificent tribute.
Mr Speaker, I mean this genuinely as a compliment. Michael Martin was a fine man and a fine-looking man, not unlike yourself, and, as I have told you before, I have no doubt that both of you would have looked better in tights and wigs; but let that be.
I had several run-ins with Michael Martin. Indeed, he once told me in front of the whole House that I should go and sit in a dark room “until the feeling goes away”. But it was a bit like offending you, Mr Speaker: if a Member took his rebuke like a man, it was all over, and it was back to his ordinary, easy-going charm and his deep commitment and friendship within the House.
I particularly recall his summoning me when I was called up to serve in the Army in Iraq in May 2003. He was a former soldier himself, a former Territorial, and it was absolutely clear to me that he was genuinely concerned for my welfare and that of my family. He gave me some very good advice indeed. He was a thoroughly good man.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman. I am so glad that he said what he did.
I want to pay a brief tribute to Michael Martin as a symbol of the social mobility of a generation of the working class in the post-war years. My dad was born in a tenement in Maryhill, just next door to Springburn, and I know that their generation did not always have an easy time of it, facing prejudice and snobbery, particularly if they were of the Roman Catholic faith.
Mr Speaker, you said that Michael Martin was the first Roman Catholic to hold your great office of state since the Reformation. Catholics now regularly hold high office in Scotland and across the UK, but that was not always the case, and a significant degree of sectarian abuse from certain quarters is still directed towards those of us in public life who are from the Catholic tradition. Let me add my very personal and sincere thank you to Michael Martin for breaking through that particular glass ceiling. May he rest in peace.
One of the great honours that the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Sweeney) and I have is sharing the community of Carntyne, where many of my family come from and where many of them still live today. I had the pleasure of spending some time at the weekend with the Labour Councillor Frank McAveety, discussing some memories of Michael Martin and his days in Springburn Labour party—some of which cannot be repeated in this House, I am afraid.
I think there is something hugely inspiring about the fact that this is a guy who was a sheet metal worker in Glasgow and was raised to his position in the House of Commons. He did not come here and pull the ladder up behind him, and he made sure that apprenticeships were available. That is something that chimes with me, as a former modern apprentice.
Let me return to the subject of Carntyne and the members of my family who live there. Not all of them will have been Labour voters, or Scottish National party voters, and I still do not know how some of them voted. What is left with me, however, is the memory of my gran, who lived in Michael Martin’s constituency, saying—this was probably the greatest tribute that could be paid to someone by a wee old lady in Glasgow—“He was an awfully kind man.” I think that that is how we in the House should remember him.
I am exceedingly grateful to the Leader of the House, to the shadow Leader of the House, and to all Members who have spoken with warmth and sincerity of our sadly departed colleague. We remember Michael today, and we remember him, as Members have said, with affection and respect.
Road Traffic Offenders (Surrender of Driving Licences Etc.)
Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision about the surrender, production or other delivery up of driving licences, or test certificates, in relation to certain offences; to make provision in relation to identifying persons in connection with fixed penalty notices, conditional offers and the payment of fixed penalties under the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988; and for connected purposes.
The primary purpose of the Bill is to streamline the processes for the electronic endorsement of driving licences, but it would also strengthen the rules for the surrender of a driving licence when a driver faces disqualification. It would primarily amend the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 and the Road Traffic (New Drivers) Act 1995. It would eliminate the unnecessary burden on drivers by removing the need for a physical licence to be produced.
It may be helpful if I give some background information about why the requirement to produce the driving licence, as part of the enforcement of road traffic law, is such an issue for all concerned. Before the requirement for a paper counterpart to the driving licence was abolished, the counterpart would have been physically endorsed with details of offences and penalty points. Since the removal of the paper counterpart, no physical documents are endorsed when a person receives penalty points, either from a court or as part of the fixed penalty process. Instead, penalty points are recorded on the electronic driver record held by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. The provisions in the Road Safety Act 2006 which removed the counterpart did not remove the requirement to surrender licences as part of the court and fixed penalty processes, because at that point the automation of the computer systems of the police and court services was unable to accommodate that change.
The surrender of a licence, which was vital when physical documents had to be endorsed, no longer serves any practical purpose. It also creates unnecessary administrative burdens for courts, fixed penalty offices, police and, importantly, motorists. In recognition of that, the Bill removes the requirement to surrender a driving licence as part of the fixed penalty notice, and the conditional offer processes, for all road traffic offences. That will mean that licences will no longer have to be handed over, or posted, before a person can accept a fixed penalty notice or a conditional offer.
As some Members will know, fixed penalties and conditional offers are widely used to enforce “moving traffic offences” such as speeding. Currently, if a person does not have their licence with them when they are stopped for a road traffic offence, the police officer cannot issue a fixed penalty notice. Instead the police officer can give the driver an interim notice which requires them to attend a police station, and at the police station the driver must surrender their licence and exchange the interim notice for a fixed penalty notice. My Bill amends this procedure. It allows police officers to issue a fixed penalty notice without checking and retaining the physical licence, as long as they are reasonably satisfied of the driver’s identity. This also means that the driver will no longer have to attend the police station to surrender their licence under these circumstances.
Another aspect of my Bill focuses on the process under the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988. This Act provides that when a driver is prosecuted for a motoring offence that could result in a disqualification, they must deliver or post their licence to the court in advance of the hearing, or take it to the hearing if they attend. The Bill proposes to remove any need for these drivers to deliver or post their licence before the hearing, leaving only the duty to take their licence to court if there is a hearing and if they attend. This will not only remove the unnecessary burden on drivers having to get their licences to court prior to a hearing, but will also remove the burden on the court of having to handle the driving licence administratively if the driver does not end up being disqualified.
The Bill will also provide courts with the power to require the driver to surrender their licence to the court if they are disqualified. However, where a driver is disqualified but does not attend the hearing, or does not produce the licence, the Bill empowers the DVLA to serve notice on the disqualified driver to send their licence to it. If a driver fails without reasonable excuse to comply with the notice within 28 days, they will have committed an offence and could be liable to a fine of up to £1,000.
Similar adjustments are made to the Road Traffic (New Drivers) Act 1995 procedures and offences, which contain various references to the court, fixed penalty or conditional offer processes involving production and surrender of driving licences. Again, the DVLA will be empowered to serve a notice on a disqualified driver requiring them to send their licence to it.
Under the powers provided in this Bill, where a driver has already been required to surrender their licence to the DVLA and has failed to do so, police officers and vehicle examiners are given the power to require production of the licence from the driver. Failure to surrender the licence to a police officer or vehicle examiner in these circumstances will be an offence and will also incur a maximum fine of £1,000.
There are numerous benefits to be had from removing this administrative requirement. Motorists and employers will welcome these changes, as the inconvenience for such a vast number of drivers serves no practical purpose, when all that happens is that the licence is receipted and then returned to the driver concerned without anything being done to it.
This Bill is greatly supported by both the police and the court services across Great Britain as it will enable them to continue to make savings in their processes and optimise their use of digital services. While there will be initial set-up costs associated with removing the requirement to surrender the licence, they will be absorbed by the departments involved in the process.
Members will also be pleased to learn that the measure is expected to provide savings of approximately £2 million a year to the Government, by removing the need for these physical documents to be surrendered. There will also be cost and efficiency savings for the police and courts, because fewer staff will be required as driving licences will not be handled or returned to drivers. In addition, there will be a reduction in stationery and postage costs for these departments. Motorists will also see a reduction in costs from the time saved in not having to forward the licence to either the fixed penalty office or the court.
It is expected that in the longer term this measure will allow for further Government savings, and removing the requirements for physical documents to be surrendered will enable the courts to digitise greater parts of the court service and fixed penalty processes for road traffic offences, in line with their current digitalisation goals.
I hope that my Bill will provide an opportunity to streamline these processes and maximise digital services across Government by removing what is now considered to be a redundant process, and I commend the Bill to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
That Mr Alister Jack, Alex Burghart, Eddie Hughes, Mrs Kemi Badenoch, Leo Docherty, Mr Simon Clarke, Julia Lopez, Andrew Bridgen, Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg, Mr William Wragg, Richard Drax and Colin Clark present a Bill.
Mr Alister Jack accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 11 May, and to be printed (Bill 201).
Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [Lords]: Programme (No. 2)
That the Order of 20 February 2018 (Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill (Lords) (Programme)) be varied as follows:
(1) Paragraphs (4) and (5) of the Order shall be omitted.
(2) Proceedings on Consideration shall be taken in the order shown in the first column of the following Table.
(3) The proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the times specified in the second column of the Table.
Proceedings Time for conclusion of proceedings New Clauses, new Schedules and amendments relating to gross violations of human rights, to public registers in Crown Dependencies and British overseas territories of beneficial ownership of companies, or to Scottish limited partnerships Two hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion for this Order, or 4.30 pm on the day on which proceedings on Consideration are commenced, whichever is the later. Remaining proceedings on Consideration 6.00 pm on the day on which proceedings on Consideration are commenced.
Time for conclusion of proceedings
New Clauses, new Schedules and amendments relating to gross violations of human rights, to public registers in Crown Dependencies and British overseas territories of beneficial ownership
of companies, or to Scottish limited partnerships
Two hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion for this Order, or 4.30 pm on the day on which proceedings on Consideration are commenced, whichever is the later.
Remaining proceedings on Consideration
6.00 pm on the day on which proceedings on Consideration are commenced.
(4) Any proceedings in legislative grand committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 6.00 pm on the day on which proceedings on Consideration are commenced.
(5) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 7.00 pm on the day on which proceedings on Consideration are commenced. —(Sir Alan Duncan.)
Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill [Lords]
Consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee.
Before we begin with Government new clause 3, I want to refer to the procedure for this debate. As the House will know, I have decided not to use my discretion to select the late starred new clauses and amendments from the Government, which were tabled yesterday afternoon and which appeared in print for the first time only this morning.
New Clause 3
Periodic reports on exercise of power to make regulations under section 1
“(1) The Secretary of State must as soon as reasonably practicable after the end of each reporting period lay before Parliament a report which—
(a) specifies the regulations under section 1, if any, that were made in that reporting period,
(b) identifies which, if any, of those regulations—
(i) stated a relevant human rights purpose, or
(ii) amended or revoked regulations stating such a purpose,
(c) specifies any recommendations which in that reporting period were made by a Parliamentary Committee in connection with a relevant independent review, and
(d) includes a copy of any response to those recommendations which was made by the government to that Committee in that reporting period.
(2) Nothing in subsection (1)(d) requires a report under this section to contain anything the disclosure of which may, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, damage national security or international relations.
(3) For the purposes of this section the following are reporting periods—
(a) the period of 12 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed (“the first reporting period”), and
(b) each period of 12 months that ends with an anniversary of the date when the first reporting period ends.
(4) For the purposes of this section—
(a) regulations “state” a purpose if the purpose is stated under section 1(3) in the regulations;
(b) a purpose is a “relevant human rights purpose” if, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, carrying out that purpose would provide accountability for or be a deterrent to gross violations of human rights.
(5) In this section—
“the government” means the government of the United Kingdom;
“gross violation of human rights” has the meaning given by section 1(6A);
a “Parliamentary Committee” means a committee of the House of Commons or a committee of the House of Lords or a joint committee of both Houses;
a “relevant independent review”, in relation to a Parliamentary Committee, means a consideration by that Committee of whether the power to make regulations under section 1 should be exercised in connection with a gross violation of human rights.”—(Sir Alan Duncan.)
This new clause requires periodic reports to be made about the use of the power to make sanctions regulations. A report must identify regulations relating to gross human rights violations. It must also specify any recommendations made by a Parliamentary Committee for use of that power in relation to such violations, and include the government’s response.
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:
New clause 1—Scottish Limited Partnerships: partner requirement—
“(1) For the purposes of preventing money laundering, where a limited partnership registered in Scotland has general partners at least one of those must be a British citizen.
(2) Where a limited partnership registered in Scotland has limited partners at least one of those must be a British citizen.
(3) In this section—
a “limited partnership registered in Scotland” means a partnership registered under the Limited Partnerships Act 1907;
“British citizen” has the meaning given in part 1 of the British Nationality Act 1981.
“general partner” has the meaning given in section 4(2) of the Limited Partnership Act 1907;
“limited partner” has the meaning given in section 4(2A) of the Limited Partnership Act 1907”.
New clause 6—Public registers of beneficial ownership of companies registered in British Overseas Territories—
“(1) For the purposes of the detection, investigation or prevention of money laundering, the Secretary of State must provide all reasonable assistance to the governments of the British Overseas Territories to enable each of those governments to establish a publicly accessible register of the beneficial ownership of companies registered in each government’s jurisdiction.
(2) The Secretary of State must, no later than 31 December 2020, prepare a draft Order in Council requiring the government of any British Overseas Territory that has not introduced a publicly accessible register of the beneficial ownership of companies within its jurisdiction to do so.
(3) The draft Order in Council under subsection (2) must set out the form that the register must take.
(4) If an Order in Council contains requirements of a kind mentioned in subsection (2)—
(a) it must be laid before Parliament after being made, and
(b) if not approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament before the end of 28 days beginning with the day on which it is made, it ceases to have effect at the end of that period (but without that affecting the power to make a new Order under this section).
(5) In calculating a period of 28 days for the purposes of subsection (4), no account is to be taken of any time during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than four days.
(6) For the purposes of this section, “British Overseas Territories” means a territory listed in Schedule 6 of the British Nationality Act 1981.
(7) For the purposes of this section, “a publicly accessible register of the beneficial ownership of companies” means a register which, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, provides information broadly equivalent to that available in accordance with the provisions of Part 21A of the Companies Act 2006.”
This new clause would require the Secretary of State to take steps to provide that British Overseas Territories establish publicly accessible registers of the beneficial ownership of companies.
New clause 14—Public registers of beneficial ownership of companies in the Crown Dependencies—
“(1) For the purpose of preventing money laundering, the Secretary of State must provide all reasonable assistance to the governments of the Crown Dependencies to enable each of those governments to establish a publicly accessible register of the beneficial ownership of companies registered in that government’s jurisdiction.
(2) The Secretary of State must, by the deadline set for the implementation of the European Union’s 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive, prepare a draft Order in Council requiring the government of any Crown Dependency that has not introduced a publicly accessible register of beneficial ownership of companies within their jurisdiction to do so.
(3) The draft Order in Council under subsection (2)—
(a) must be laid before Parliament after being made, and
(b) if not approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament before the end of the 28 days beginning with the day on which it is made, ceases to have effect at the end of that period (but without that affecting the power to make a new Order).
(4) In calculating a period of 28 days for the purposes of subsection (4), no account is to be taken of any time during which Parliament is dissolved or prorogued or during which both Houses are adjourned for more than 4 days.
(5) For the purposes of this section, a “publicly accessible register of beneficial ownership of companies” means a register which, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, provides information broadly equivalent to that available in accordance with the provisions of Part 21A of the Companies Act 2006 (information about people with significant control).
(6) For the purposes of this section, “Crown Dependency” means—
(a) any of the Channel Islands;
(b) the Isle of Man.”
New clause 19—Scottish Limited Partnerships: UK bank account requirement—
“(1) For the purposes of preventing money laundering, where a limited partnership registered in Scotland has general partners at least one of those must have an active UK bank account.
(2) Where a limited partnership registered in Scotland has limited partners at least one of those must have an active UK bank account.
(3) In this section—
a “limited partnership registered in Scotland” means a partnership registered under the Limited Partnerships Act 1907;
“general partner” has the meaning given in section 4(2) of the Limited Partnership Act 1907;
“limited partner” has the meaning given in section 4(2A) of the Limited Partnership Act 1907.”
Government amendments 10 to 12.
Amendment 32, in clause 1, page 2, line 17, at end insert—
“(i) further accountability for, or act as a deterrent to, the commission of a gross human rights abuse or violation.”
This amendment would enable sanctions to be made for the purpose of preventing, or in response to, a gross human rights abuse or violation.
Amendment 33, page 2, line 35, at end insert—
“(5A) In this section, conduct constitutes “the commission of a gross human rights abuse or violation” if each of the following three conditions is met.
(5B) The first condition is that—
(a) the conduct constitutes the torture of a person who has sought—
(i) to expose illegal activity carried out by a public official or a person acting in an official capacity, or
(ii) to obtain, exercise, defend or promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, or
(b) the conduct otherwise involves the cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of such a person.
(5C) The second condition is that the conduct is carried out in consequence of that person having sought to do anything falling within subsection (2)(a)(i) or (ii).
(5D) The third condition is that the conduct is carried out—
(a) by a public official, or a person acting in an official capacity, in the performance or purported performance of his or her official duties, or
(b) by a person not falling within paragraph (a) at the instigation or with the consent or acquiescence—
(i) of a public official, or
(ii) of a person acting in an official capacity, who in instigating the conduct, or in consenting to or acquiescing in it, is acting in the performance or purported performance of his or her official duties.
(5E) Conduct that involves the intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering on another person is conduct that constitutes torture for the purposes of subsection (2)(a).
(5F) It is immaterial whether the pain or suffering is physical or mental and whether it is caused by an act or omission”.
This amendment, which is consequential on Amendment 32, would define what constitutes the commission of a gross human rights abuse or violation. The commission of a gross human rights abuse or violation would include the torture of a person who had sought to expose the illegal activity of a public official, or the torture of a person who had sought to defend human rights or fundamental freedoms, by a public official or a person acting in an official capacity.
Government amendments 13 to 17.
Amendment 20, in clause 56, page 43, line 7, after first “1”, insert
“, section (Public registers of beneficial ownership of companies registered in British Overseas Territories)”.
This amendment is consequential on NC6.
Government amendment 18.
Amendment 31, in title, line 5 after “objectives”, insert
“or to further accountability for, or act as a deterrent to, the commission of a gross human rights abuse or violation”.
This amendment to the long title would be consequential on Amendment 32.
This group contains new clauses and amendments regarding three related issues that I will discuss in turn: imposing sanctions for gross human rights violations, or what is now popularly known as the Magnitsky amendment; Scottish limited partnerships, which are of deep concern, particularly for the Scottish National party; and public registers of beneficial ownership in the overseas territories. In two of those areas, the Government are taking action to tackle abuses and tighten up standards: through Government amendments on Magnitsky and through a consultation document on Scottish limited partnerships.
Will the Minister give way on that point?
It is a bit early, but I will do so if the hon. Lady insists; I am ever obliging to the hon. Lady.
The Minister mentions the consultation on SLPs. Does he not accept that there has already been a consultation on SLPs and that it closed over a year ago, so to have another consultation is just wasting time?
If I might say so ever so politely to the hon. Lady, she is jumping the gun slightly given that I am only at the end of my first paragraph, and as she knows there have been some detailed discussions through the usual channels. I will address the matter she has asked about in more detail later on; if I may, I will tackle the three issues to which I have referred in the order that I raised them, in order to satisfy the House that we are looking at all concerns in detail and genuinely.
First, sanctions for gross human rights violations have clearly been an issue of significant concern to Members on both sides of the House, as was made clear by many who spoke on Second Reading and in Committee. I fully recognise why Members and many people outside this House want to include gross human rights abuses in the Bill explicitly as a reason why sanctions can be applied, particularly in reference to the abhorrent case of Sergei Magnitsky in Russia.
In her speech to the House on 14 March, the Prime Minister made clear the Government’s intention to bring forward a Magnitsky amendment to the Bill, and as the House can see we have fulfilled that obligation by doing so for discussion in the House today. As a result of that commitment, we have worked closely, constructively and genuinely with Members on both sides of the House, including some who have campaigned for this amendment at great length, particularly my right hon. Friends the Members for Newbury (Richard Benyon) and for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell). I also genuinely thank the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman), my opposite number, and the hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds). Together we have worked to put together a form of words that now enjoys cross-party support. We have tabled amendments that we hope will capture the maximum possible consensus in this area.
I am truly grateful for everything that the Minister and all those he has referred to have done in relation to the Sergei Magnitsky amendment. It is obviously important that he has captured the consensus of the House, but it is even more important that we capture all those, in particular those from Russia, who have come to this country and used it for money laundering purposes and for hiding their assets. Is he confident that we will be able to do that as a result of this legislation?
I am confident of that, as I will explain further in a moment.
As is traditional on Report, it is important that I explain what the amendments do, if ever so briefly. Amendment 10 relates specifically to putting gross human rights abuses on the face of the Bill as a basis on which sanctions may be imposed. Amendments 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17 are consequential to that, introducing technical changes that will follow. Amendment 13 links the definition of a gross violation of human rights to the existing definition in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, so that it includes the torture of a person by a public official or a person in an official capacity, where the tortured person has sought to expose the illegal activity of a public official or to defend human rights or fundamental freedoms. That will ensure that all gross human rights abuses or violations are explicitly captured.
The Minister will not be surprised to know that I fully support the Government in bringing this change forward, as I am sure all Labour Members do given that we have been asking for it for some time. On the subject of sanctions, will the Government publish the names of those who have been sanctioned under the Bill, notwithstanding what subsection (2) of new clause 3 says about not risking damage to
“national security or international relations”?
There is an obligation to report, which I will come to in a minute. I would be happy to explain the exact details to the hon. Gentleman, although of course they are still being devised on the back of the obligations laid down in the Bill.
New clause 3 requires reports to be made—this relates to the question that the hon. Gentleman has just asked—about the use of the power to make sanctions regulations, including the specifying of any recommendations made by a parliamentary Committee on the use of that power and the Government’s response. It is right and proper that independent review of the powers should be carried out by Parliament. This is a strong set of measures to address the Government’s approach to imposing sanctions for human rights abuses, and I would like to put it on record again that the Government are committed to promoting and strengthening universal human rights and holding to account states and individuals who are responsible for the most serious violations.
Will the Minister outline how he envisages such parliamentary review operating? Will it be done through specific Committees, or on the Floor of the House? Will we be able to have confidence that that procedure is robust enough to ensure that the review is appropriate?
The hon. Lady hits on a point that illustrates the important distinction between the Executive and the legislature, even though the Executive are drawn from the legislature. We, as Ministers, are the Executive. The hon. Lady is a Member of the legislature. I will not say, “Long may that continue”, but it might. It is therefore inappropriate for us to determine in primary legislation exactly how the House should go about its business. That is for the House itself to decide. We believe that we have included in the Bill the proper impetus for the House to be able to structure itself as it wishes—through the Joint Committee on Human Rights or the Foreign Affairs Committee, for example—while saying in advance that we as the Executive will have an obligation to report back and respond to any such independent activity.
Along with other colleagues, I absolutely share the objectives of the Magnitsky provisions. I have been in touch with Bill Browder, for whom Sergei Magnitsky worked at the time of his brutal murder by the Russian authorities, and Mr Browder has made it absolutely clear to me that if this does not lead to the full publication the names of the people who are being sanctioned and to absolute clarity on the nature of the independent review that has just been mentioned, the Bill will have failed in its objectives. It is important that the Minister understands what Mr Bill Browder is saying on this matter.
I can say that any person sanctioned under this Bill will have their name published on an administrative list, which will be publicly available. I hope that that will reassure the hon. Gentleman, the House and all those interested in this issue.
I was about to ask the same question, and the answer that the Minister has just given will be enormously reassuring to many of us, particularly because the thing that many of these kleptocrats and organised criminals really fear is the glare of public disclosure.
I hope that I will be able to continue to address the House with similar such effect this afternoon.
I doubt that there is anyone in this House who does not want the overseas territories and Crown dependencies to have open, public registers of company interests. If my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield’s new clause 6 does not pass, how will the House be able to have confidence that the Executive will make sufficient progress as though we had compelled them to issue Orders in Council?
I will be saying more about the overseas territories in a moment. I fully recognise the interest that my hon. Friend has shown, over many years, in the importance of protecting the interests of the overseas territories, particularly in the Caribbean. I will be able to give him deeper reassurance on this in a moment, but if I may, I will continue with my points in the order that I was planning to make them, by addressing the Magnitsky issue first, then Scottish limited partnerships, before turning to that rather more vexed issue.
Looking at the Scottish National party Benches, I turn to the separate amendments on Magnitsky tabled by the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss). While we agree with the driving principles behind the amendments, we are satisfied that the package of amendments that we have tabled—which have been signed by Members on both Front Benches—sufficiently cover the same objectives. I hope that the hon. Lady will feel that they do. As she knows from our discussions in Committee, we have approached this entire issue in a spirit of cross-party co-operation. Indeed, she has played an important part in that in her campaigning.
I should like to take this opportunity to say that, having heard what the Minister has said on this matter and others, I am content not to press my amendments relating to Magnitsky.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady. I am hoping for a similar response on other parts of the Bill as I proceed gingerly through the new clauses and amendments that we are discussing today. I hope that, when I proceed gingerly, no one can see that I am here at all.
Opposition amendments 31 and 32 would insert a purpose into the Bill to allow sanctions regulations to be made for the purpose of preventing, or ensuring accountability for, a gross human rights abuse or violation. As the hon. Lady has already suggested, however, our amendment 10 would add a similar purpose, so I sense that we have found common ground here. Also, just to make the record clear, Opposition amendment 33 would define what constitutes a gross human rights abuse or violation on the face of the Bill. Government amendment 13 provides a similar function through reference to a definition already existing in other legislation, as I have just explained, which is preferable for maintaining a tidy statute book. I therefore hope that our amendments meet the goals of the hon. Lady’s amendments. I sense that they do.
Setting aside a technical assessment of the Bill, I think that, on Magnitsky, we have got there. This is a very important moment for the House, and for the defence of human rights that the United Kingdom is always proud to show. All parties have come together to find consensus on ensuring that the proper legislative powers are in place to address gross violations of human rights. That is a matter of deep concern to Members on both side of the House, to many people outside and internationally. If the amendments are agreed to today, as I am sure they will be, we can truly say that we have spoken together, united in favour of human rights, and that the voice of the United Kingdom sits alongside other countries that have adopted such legislation, and we can score it as a great achievement of which we can all be proud. Once again, I pay tribute to those who have so relentlessly and persistently campaigned for it. It is not just a triumph for the House; it is a personal triumph for them. In saying that, I look once again to my right hon. Friend the Member for Newbury in particular.
Turning to Scottish limited partnerships, we recognise the concerns that have been raised, and I assure the House that the Government are committed to making further progress. SLPs and other forms of limited partnership play a vital role in the asset management sector for the funding of asset-based contribution pension schemes and for oil and gas exploration, which matters enormously to Scotland. That makes it all the more important not just that their legitimate use is supported, but that legitimate action is taken to prevent their misuse. As hon. Members will be aware, the past decade has seen a vast increase in the number of SLPs, with the growth rate far outstripping that of the number of limited partnerships established in the rest of the UK, and we recognise the concern that SLPs are being used inappropriately. Following clear evidence of certain SLPs being misused, the Government brought them within the scope of our register of beneficial ownership. Since then, the rate of new SLP registration has declined by approximately 80%, but we recognise that more needs to be done.
Yesterday, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published a consultation document on limited partnership reform following its call for evidence last year. The document sets out clear options for reform. The Government propose that all those registering a limited partnership would need to be registered with an anti-money laundering supervisor. They would need to carry out due diligence before establishment, with the possibility of supervisory action. That due diligence will necessarily include identifying the beneficial owners of the SLP, including its general and limited partners when they exercise control over the SLP. That addresses the substantial purpose behind new clause 19, which would require at least one of both the general and limited partners in an SLP to have an active UK bank account, and so require that they will have been subject to due diligence for anti-money laundering purposes.
Such measures would address the substantial purpose behind the new clauses on the subject. We are further consulting on how best to require limited partnerships to retain a physical presence in the UK to ensure that there is a UK link against which any necessary enforcement proceedings can be taken. Additionally, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is seeking views on whether all limited partnerships should be required to file an annual confirmation statement with Companies House. Taken together, the proposals would tighten the checks on SLPs, ensure that they retain a UK presence and expose more details about their workings to public scrutiny. They would not disproportionately burden limited partnerships that operate entirely lawfully, but they would go further in reducing their potential for illicit misuse.
New clause 1 would require that, where a Scottish limited partnership has general and limited partners, at least one of each must be a British citizen. That would have the unintended side effect of disrupting the legitimate uses of corporate partners within sectors, including the venture capital sector. The Government consider that the measures on which the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is consulting will do more to bring transparency to limited partnerships and to prevent them from being misused, without damaging their legitimate usage. The Department’s consultation will be open until 23 July, and I encourage all interested Members to continue engaging with the process of reforming limited partnership structures. Given the work that the Department is leading, and the Government’s clear plan to continue reforming limited partnerships, I respectfully ask that hon. Members do not move their respective amendments in this area and that they work hard with us to ensure that we can produce an outcome with which they are fully satisfied.
The Minister mentioned increasing the regulation of SLPs, but a regulation from last year meant that SLPs had to register their beneficial ownership within 28 days or face a £500 daily fine. Only 43% of them have provided that information, meaning that £2.2 billion in backdated fines has accrued. When does the Minister intend to collect that money and enforce the regulations that already exist for SLPs?
It sounds as though the hon. Gentleman is going to make a robust submission to the consultation, and I urge him to do so, because I fully take the point that if something can be required but it does not work operationally, then obviously it will not be delivered. I urge him to record what he believes are the facts and submit them to the consultation.
I express my gratitude to Members who have tirelessly continued to raise their concerns on the issue of SLPs—I can spot one from where I am standing—and I hope that what I have said today, and the content of the consultation published yesterday, provides reassurance that the Government are genuinely committed to reform in this area.
Turning to beneficial ownership in the overseas territories, as the House will now appreciate, the Government’s plan for tackling the issue had been to table a new clause, which we did, that sought unity in the House, which I believe we had a good chance of securing. The new clause sought to enhance the measures on beneficial ownership in the overseas territories but stopped short of legislating for them, thus avoiding constitutional conflict. As Members will be aware, however, some amendments were not selected today, and we of course fully respect the procedural basis on which Mr Speaker chose not to select them.
New clause 6, tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield and the right hon. Member for Barking (Dame Margaret Hodge), would put a duty on the Government to work with the overseas territories to set up public registers of company beneficial ownership by 31 December 2020. If they do not do so, the new clause would require the Secretary of State to prepare a draft Order in Council, aiming to legislate directly. Opposition new clause 14 would require the Secretary of State to provide all reasonable assistance to the Governments of the Crown dependencies to enable them to establish a public register of company beneficial ownership, and if, by the implementation of the European Union’s fifth anti-money laundering directive, they have not, the new clause would require the Secretary of State to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the Privy Council legislates to require each Crown dependency to do so.
The UK has strongly supported co-ordinated international action to promote beneficial ownership transparency. The UK was the first G20 country to establish a public register of company beneficial ownership and has committed to creating a new beneficial ownership register for overseas companies. At EU level, the UK went beyond the requirements of the fourth anti-money laundering directive in establishing a public register and supported the inclusion in the fifth anti-money laundering directive of a provision that will require all EU member states to have legislation in place to support publicly accessible registers by the end of 2019.
We are also committed to seeing the overseas territories and Crown dependencies take further action, and they have already made significant progress through consensual joint action. We are grateful, and we respect all the work they have done in this area. All Crown dependencies have central registers in place. Of the seven overseas territories with significant financial centres, four already have central registers or similarly effective arrangements. They are able to provide UK law enforcement authorities, on request, with access to such information, even at very short notice—it can be within 24 hours, or even within one hour in urgent cases.
Will the Minister give way?
I will give way only briefly.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his generosity in giving way. Does he agree that, although this is progress, it will be effective only if we have the light of transparency and these registers are available publicly, and not just to law enforcement authorities?
I can answer with an unequivocal yes. That is a shared objective on both sides of the House. The only thing on which we have different opinions is the manner in which we get there. The objective is clear. The arguments are very finely balanced, and the hon. Lady may want to listen carefully to what I am about to say. We recognise the need to tackle illicit finances across the globe, including in the Crown dependencies and overseas territories. We are concerned, however, that the economic impact of imposing public registers on the overseas territories will be significant.
Furthermore, the overseas territories are separate jurisdictions, with their own democratically elected Governments. They are responsible for their own fiscal matters, and they are not represented in this Parliament. Legislating for them without their consent effectively disenfranchises their elected representatives. We would have preferred to work consensually with the overseas territories to make those registers publicly available, as we have done in agreeing the exchange of notes process.
Will the Minister give way?
No, not for the moment.
We do not want to legislate directly for the overseas territories, nor do we want to risk damaging our long-standing constitutional arrangements, which respect their autonomy. However, we have listened to the strength of feeling in the House on this issue and accept that it is, without a doubt, the majority view of this House that the overseas territories should have public registers ahead of their becoming the international standard, as set by the Financial Action Task Force.
We will accordingly respect the will of the House and not vote against new clause 6. Unless my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield chooses not to press the new clause, we accept that it will become part of the Bill. In the same spirit, I would appreciate it if the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland chose not to press new clause 14, which would add the Crown dependencies to that stipulation.
Her Majesty’s Government are acutely conscious of the sensitivities in the overseas territories and of the response that new clause 6 may provoke. I therefore give the overseas territories the fullest possible assurance that we will work very closely with them in shaping and implementing the Order in Council that the Bill may require. To that end, we will offer the fullest possible legal and logistical support that they might ask of us. Alongside that, we retain our fullest respect for the overseas territories and their constitutional rights, and we will work with them to protect their interests.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to take part in the debates on Report of this important Bill. I will follow the same order as the Minister in discussing the amendments.
I took the rather unusual step of signing the Government’s Magnitsky amendments, new clause 3 and amendments 10 to 13, so this House can present a united voice to the whole world in expressing our abhorrence for gross human rights abuses and our determination to tackle them together.
I thank the right hon. Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon) and my hon. Friends the Members for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) and for Dudley North (Ian Austin)—the latter is not in the Chamber at the moment—all of whom have campaigned on this issue for a long time. Her Majesty’s Opposition believe that human rights should be at the centre of foreign policy. The only way gross human rights abuses will stop is if those who perpetrate them, order them and facilitate them are brought personally to account. They must pay the price.
Sanctions against individuals for gross human rights abuses were originally conceived as a response to the terrible treatment of Sergei Magnitsky, but we believe there is a wider problem. We note, for example, that the United States has sanctioned Maung Maung Soe, one of the generals responsible for the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Myanmar.
Last year, the Criminal Finances Act 2017 enabled the Government to freeze the assets of people responsible for such crimes, and this Bill will enable us to ban visas and prevent such people traveling here. The only question is why it took so long for the Government to come round to seeing the importance of this measure.
We introduced so-called Magnitsky amendments in Committee that would have given us the same ability as Canada and the United States to implement targeted sanctions. Unfortunately, the Government initially did all they could to reject our amendments. They rejected them in principle on Second Reading; they reordered the consideration of the Bill; they suspended the Committee; and then they downright voted against the amendments. After the Salisbury incident on 4 March, the Prime Minister announced a complete U-turn. We are pleased the Government have seen the light, but it is unfortunate that it took such a tragic event for them to change their mind.
I am pleased to offer the support of Her Majesty’s Opposition to new clause 6, tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Dame Margaret Hodge). I congratulate her on her long campaign, which began when she was Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. She has stuck with it over many years, and we see in the Minister’s announcement today that the campaign was well worth while. I also congratulate the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) on putting together a fantastic coalition of support for this change.
We believe the time to act has come. In 2014, David Cameron wrote to the British overseas territories recommending that they introduce public registers—the UK introduced a public register in 2016—and new clause 6 sets out a timetable for them to do so by 2020. Money laundering through London is estimated by the National Crime Agency to total £90 billion, and it is facilitated by the secret ownership of companies allowed in tax havens. Unfortunately, the British overseas territories and Crown dependencies are major actors. They enable the corrupt to live in comfort on their ill-gotten gains and facilitate tax avoidance and evasion on a spectacular scale. The UK is estimated to lose £18.5 billion each year. I am only surprised that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not also sign new clause 6.
The poorest countries in the world are estimated by the United Nations to lose £100 billion a year through these tax havens, which dwarfs any aid flows we supply. That is another reason why new clause 6 is very much to be welcomed.
The scope for hiding large funds facilitates serious international crimes: drug dealing, people trafficking, sanctions busting, illegal arms sales and terrorism. Over and again, the names of the British overseas territories and Crown dependencies come up when these crimes are finally uncovered.
Clearly, it is important to remember that this is not just an overseas territories issue but a global one. Is the hon. Lady worried that this legislation will just displace all the activity to states such as Delaware, which do not have this transparency, and we will not gain any of the real benefits?
Of course the hon. Gentleman raises a worry, which has been expressed. My right hon. Friend the Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) and I were in the United States a fortnight ago, when we met several members of the US Congress who are keen to crack down on Delaware, Nebraska and the other states there. Leading by example, which is what the last Administration did, is a way to make progress on this issue. I will come back to the international links later in my speech.
What does the hon. Lady say to the 50,000 or 60,000 inhabitants of the Cayman Islands, who were given a constitution in which the responsibility for the governance of their financial and economic affairs was solemnly conveyed to them by this Parliament? The measure she is supporting will require that constitution to be amended so that the section that conveys on them the power to make their own orders in these affairs will have to be removed. What does she say to them?
My understanding is that the position on the British overseas territories, as set out by a White Paper when the hon. Member for North West Norfolk (Sir Henry Bellingham) was a Foreign Office Minister, is that it is appropriate for this House to legislate for the Cayman Islands and the overseas territories if it is considered necessary. Given the long list of crimes, which I have just read out to the House, that are facilitated, it can be argued completely that when we are making changes in this respect, this is an international, foreign policy issue, as that is what we are talking about; we are talking about the financing of international crime and of terrorism. This is not like trying to intervene in street lighting or purely local matters. It simply has a completely different import for the world.
I understand the point the hon. Lady is making and, as a lawyer, I very much appreciate the importance of the international fight against crime and money laundering, but will she concede that at least some overseas territories take their obligations very seriously? For example, Gibraltar, which is part of the EU as well, has already publicly accepted that it will transpose the fifth anti-money laundering directive, which includes a public register of beneficial ownership, into place by December 2019? In a sense, such places do not need to be legislated for, because they are willing to do this. It is important to be proportionate in our approach, is it not?
Of course what the hon. Gentleman says about the fifth anti-money laundering directive is right, in so far as it does put obligations on Gibraltar. That was why I have linked new clause 14 to the fifth anti-money laundering directive, because clearly it is easier, in terms of international competitiveness, for many jurisdictions to move together.
The hon. Lady mentioned the 2012 White Paper on the overseas territories, in which we said that in extreme cases we would legislate on such matters but that we would always try to build consensus first, because of our great respect for the constitutions of those territories. I plan to make a few remarks about that, but given that the Government’s announcement today, will she confirm that she will not press new clause 14, which would extend new clause 6 to the Crown dependencies?
I will come on to that at the end of my speech.
I was explaining that these crimes are significant and that we see money being laundered in the UK, and I wanted to give the example of Mr Temerko, who was once a senior figure in Russia’s defence industry and who rose to become a key player in the Russian oil giant Yukos. His engineering company, Offshore Group Newcastle Ltd, had a large site up in Hadrian’s yard in Newcastle, where it was doing some energy work. The company won a grant from the Government’s regional growth fund in 2013, but it later went into administration and the work in the north-east was left unfinished. OGN Ltd is owned by a parent company based in the secrecy jurisdiction of the British Virgin Islands. Clearly, the effects of the lack of transparency are not felt solely in London; they are felt across the United Kingdom.
As I have said, I acknowledge that progress has been made, in so far as registers of beneficial ownership or “similarly effective systems” have been set up, but these are not transparent.
After the incident in Salisbury, I was led to understand that the Government were cracking down on money laundering in this country, particularly in respect of these Russian oligarchs. Does my hon. Friend not agree that the Government should pursue this a lot further than they have been doing?
I certainly agree with that. Obviously, the law enforcement agencies—the National Crime Agency, the police and the Serious Fraud Office—need more resources. They would then be in a better position to crack down on this money laundering.
The purpose of transparency is not for the entertainment and titillation of the curious; it is to facilitate the authorities’ ability to track down illicit flows, because they can see the connections and links. This effectiveness of transparency was demonstrated by the fact that the Panama and Paradise leaks enabled Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to open civil and criminal investigations into 66 people, to pursue arrests for a £125 million fraud, to tackle insider trading and to place dozens of high net worth individuals under review.
I am extremely pleased that the Minister said what he did about not opposing new clause 6, which stands in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Barking. I welcome his change of heart on that. He has, in the written ministerial statement he produced this morning, bigged up the role of the Financial Action Task Force, and I was a bit surprised by that, as the FATF is a rather unsatisfactory forum. It is an inter- governmental body with no legal personality or explicit formal authority under international law and no enforcement powers. It has 37 members, which include Russia, China and the Gulf Co-operation Council. Foreign Office Ministers have been eloquent in recent months in saying that the United Nations Security Council is ineffective in upholding international law because of the Russian veto, yet here, when we want to tackle the financing of major crimes and terrorism, they seem content to hand over their moral compass to the Russians. The FATF is also highly secretive; in answer to my questions, Ministers have refused to publish future agendas or papers for discussion. Even the UK does not always ensure its FATF representative has a thorough-going commitment to reform—for years it was a person who had his family money in a secret Bahamas trust. So I will be very pleased if the House can unite behind new clause 6 this afternoon.
I turn now to new clause 14, which would require public registers in the Crown dependencies. The case in principle for acting to improve transparency in the Crown dependencies—the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man—is substantively the same: their secret ownership arrangements facilitate both money laundering and tax evasion.
The hon. Lady will have heard what the Minister said in his speech about the response that the Isle of Man and other Crown dependencies are able to give within hours, whenever a request is made for information that falls within a terrorist category. Does she accept that the Crown dependencies forthrightly, earnestly and efficiently provide information to our law enforcement agencies within hours, when it is requested?
The hon. Gentleman makes the same point about the Crown dependencies as other Members have made about the British overseas territories. The current situation is as he describes it—if the law enforcement agencies want information and ask for it, the authorities in the relevant jurisdictions give it to them—but the problem is that, to crack down on serious and organised crime, it is really useful to see the whole picture, and we can see the whole picture only if we have all the information. That is the point of transparency and that is the lesson from the Panama and Paradise papers.
My hon. Friend is making a brilliant speech. Have we not learned that dark money will move to wherever the law is darkest? If we bring transparency to the overseas territories, most of the money is simply going to be relocated to the Crown dependencies, unless we change the law to cover them, too.
That point was made to me by the Minister and his officials when we discussed the Bill, and my right hon. Friend is absolutely right that, because we are making changes in respect of the overseas territories, we need to make changes in respect of the Crown dependencies.
My hon. Friend is making an extremely good speech. Does she agree that the time for secrecy in all these jurisdictions is now over? We need transparency so that we can minimise the abuse—whether tax evasion, tax avoidance, or the laundering of criminal money—that is becoming more and more of a feature in these jurisdictions. Does my hon. Friend agree that once we have our own house in order, we can then campaign internationally to close down all tax havens?
My hon. Friend has succinctly made my whole case for me. She is absolutely right. Those people who think that the situation in the Crown dependencies is not as serious as that in the British overseas territories need only to remember the 957 helicopters that were registered on the Isle of Man to avoid VAT.
I shall make a little more progress, because many Members want to speak.
I have linked new clause 14 to the fifth anti-money laundering directive, so that we would see a number of jurisdictions moving together. I am pleased that the Government have accepted the secrecy jurisdictions and that we have a role with respect to the overseas territories, but we need an effective path to bring change according to a timetable, within the current Parliament, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Barking’s new clause 6 would provide that. I will not press new clause 14 to a vote—I was not going to press it in any case—because I think we can reach an agreement on how to proceed on these matters.
Let me start by saying how grateful I am to all right hon. and hon. Members from all parties who support new clause 6. I am particularly grateful to the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), who has worked with me on this important issue and shown his particular skills and experience as a former Government Chief Whip.
The fact that the new clause commands such wide support throughout the House speaks volumes for what it says. Our proposal is right in principle and will be effective in practice. When it is passed—I am grateful to the Minister for conceding that the Government will not oppose it—this simple measure to require British overseas territories, our tax havens, to publish public registers of beneficial ownership will transform the landscape that allows tax avoiders, tax evaders, kleptocrats, criminals, gangs involved in organised crime, money launderers or those wanting to fund terrorism to operate. It will stop them exploiting our secret regime, hiding their toxic wealth and laundering money into the legitimate system, often for nefarious purposes.
Transparency is a powerful tool. With open registers, we will know who owns what and where and will be able to see where the money flows. We will thereby be better equipped to root out dirty money and deal with the related issues, and we will be better able to prevent others from using secretive jurisdictions to hide their ill-gotten gains.
Does the right hon. Lady accept that open registers are not the panacea that she is describing? Indeed, the UK currently has open registers, but the name and address of an 85-year-old was used fraudulently to register 25,800 companies, without anyone discovering that fraud.
Open registers are an essential tool. They are necessary, but they are not sufficient. We also need a strong regulatory framework for the establishment of companies and strong policing arrangements to ensure that the regulations are implemented.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to pay tribute to Members from all parties, including the Conservative Members who bravely supported her even when the Government attempted to buy them off. On behalf of many Members from different parties, may I say how grateful we are for the tenacity that she has shown and the excellence with which she has pursued this campaign? It shows Parliament in a good light, and the measures that the House is set to approve will do a great deal of good.
I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words, but it really has been a team effort, with people from throughout the House and across all the political tribes.
New clause 6 would simply put into legislation proposals that David Cameron first articulated in 2013, when he spoke about ripping aside the “cloak of secrecy” and repeated the well-known mantra, “sunlight is the best disinfectant”. It would do no more and no less than fulfil the commitment made by the then Prime Minister five years ago.
Britain sits at the hub of the world’s largest network of secretive jurisdictions, and British tax havens are central to the movement of illicit moneys around the world. The secrecy under which they currently operate facilitates wrongdoing on an industrial scale. We have a weak regulatory regime, some of which was enacted by the previous Labour Government and needs reform, and sadly we have lax policing of our system. Couple that with the secrecy that prevails, and Britain and our overseas territories have increasingly become the most attractive destination for crooks, kleptocrats and corrupt individuals who engage in financial skulduggery. If we do not accept new clause 6, we will be in danger of sacrificing our traditional reputation as a reliable jurisdiction by our failure to challenge the secrecy.
I very much echo the sentiments of my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Toby Perkins). Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is impossible for us to get unexplained wealth orders to work unless we put in place registers not only for our countries and the overseas dependencies, but for the Crown dependencies, too?
I entirely concur with my right hon. Friend’s important point.
Let me take Members through the argument, because it is important that we understand what we are dealing with. First, on the scale of the problem we are tackling, the National Crime Agency reckons that around £90 billion a year is laundered through the UK. We know that developing countries lose three times as much in tax avoidance than they get in all the international aid that is available to them. Half the entities cited in the Panama papers were corporations registered in just one of our overseas territories: the British Virgin Islands. We know that, in the past 10 years, £68 billion has flowed out of Russia into our overseas territories. That is seven times more going to the overseas territories than has come to Britain. We know that there are 85,000 properties here in the UK that are owned by companies registered in our tax havens, half of which are in just two constituencies in London, and a sample survey done by Transparency International suggests that two out five of those properties have Russian owners.
Tax avoidance and financial crime are not trivial irritants. The problem is widespread and it is corrosive. If we fail to act, we are complicit in facilitating the very corruption that this Government and this Prime Minister have told us that they are determined to tackle. Let me say that
“if we want to break the business model of stealing money and hiding it in places where it can't be seen: transparency is the answer.”
Those are not my words; they are the words of the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, in September 2015.
I shall deal briefly with the arguments that have been put forward by some in opposition to our proposal. Some say that we should not legislate on these issues for our overseas territories. I agree that it would be far, far better for all of us if those overseas territories willingly enacted public registers, but we have now had five years, and it is clear that they will not act without real pressure from us. Our new clause gives them a further three years—until the end of 2020—to adjust to a transparent regime. Of course, we should provide all the support and assistance they require to modify their economies to the new environment.
The present practice is unsustainable. The fifth money laundering directive from the EU will bring in public registers across the EU by the end of 2019. As the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) said earlier, that, will mean that Gibraltar will act before the implications of this Bill are felt in 2020. Countries across the world—from Nigeria to Afghanistan—are now beginning to commit to public registers, so this is flowing with the tide of practice across the world. We should be showing leadership on this, not trying to be the last man, or the last woman, standing against what is morally right.
So far, we have been talking about public registers of beneficial ownership of companies. Does my right hon. Friend accept that this should also apply to beneficial ownership of trusts? It seems incomprehensible to me that we in this country should keep the trusts quite separate and quite hidden.
I completely concur with the point made so forcefully by my hon. Friend. No doubt that will be subject to further campaigns for a change in legislation over the coming period.
May I just follow up on that last point? It is not just trusts that are an essential and major omission here. It is also other kinds of assets, including real estate, mineral rights, debt and bonds. Unless we have complete and comprehensive registers in due course, my worry, and the worry of others, is that we may be over-claiming the benefits of transparency. It may be a necessary step, but it certainly does not cover all those other areas, which, arguably, are more important.
I welcome the contribution from our anti-corruption champion—the hon. Gentleman was appointed by the Government to fulfil that role. Indeed, he is right, but I hope that he will work with me and others in ensuring that we get better coverage for the public registers. However, that should in no way limit what we are attempting to achieve today, which will be a remarkable, important and really world-changing measure in the fight against corruption.
Our overseas territories are an integral part of Britain and they should be guided by the same values as us. Clamping down on corruption and toxic wealth is morally right. We will never be a truly global Britain on the back of stolen principles. Other Members have mentioned the White Paper that was published by the Government in 2012 on our relationship with our overseas territories. I simply refer Members to one phrase in that document:
“As a matter of constitutional law, the UK Parliament has unlimited power to legislate for the territories.”
The Government put that phrase pretty high up in that White Paper, so they are jealously guarding their powers in relation to the overseas territories. These are powers that we should always be reluctant to use, but they are also powers that both sides of the House have employed in the past.
In 2009, we gave the people of the Cayman Islands a solemn pledge in this House. We said, “We will not legislate for you in these areas of public responsibility without your consent.” By this measure today, we are breaking that promise to them, and it is beneath the dignity of this Parliament to do away with that promise and that pledge of good faith.
I simply draw the attention of the hon. and learned Gentleman to what his Government stated in 2012 in the White Paper. In that White Paper, they set out the fact that they were jealously guarding their right to legislate as and when that became appropriate. That is what his Government said in 2012.
On a point of record, I believe that that was in our previous two manifestos, so I am not quite sure why we, on the Government Benches, are arguing on this point.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention.
For the sake of clarity, let me just say that, in the past, Conservatives have used this power when they legislated to ensure that capital punishment was abolished in all our overseas territories. A Labour Government used the power to ensure that we brought to an end discrimination on the grounds of sexuality in our overseas territories. One of us—I never remember which—used the power to intervene in the Turks and Caicos when there were problems with the administration of governance.
The right hon. Lady has conceded that we use with reluctance our undoubted power to exercise our jurisdiction in these territories and she has given the very important areas in which this House has already done that. Does she accept that, when such vast sums of dishonest money are being channelled through the territories, and when such obviously little progress is being made in many of them to deal with the matter, that is a situation that justifies our jurisdiction? As the Cayman Islands have a rather better record than some of the other British overseas territories—they do co-operate very closely with our law authorities, as the dependent territories do—it is open to their Government to consider the matter and act on their own accord given the steer that this House is giving to them.
I completely concur with the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s succinct remarks. People have said to me that the areas in which we have intervened—we do intervene with huge reluctance—are moral issues. I cannot think of another issue that is more moral than trying to intervene to prevent the traffic in corrupt money and illicit finance across the world.
Does the right hon. Lady agree that corruption also costs lives and violates people’s human rights?
Absolutely. That is why the Magnitsky amendment, which we have just passed, is absolutely central to our proceedings and legislation on anti-money laundering.
I thank the right hon. Lady for giving way and I congratulate her on this excellent cross-party consensus. Is she not concerned that the hon. and learned Member for Torridge and West Devon (Mr Cox) seems more concerned about a promise made to the Cayman Islands than about the people of his own constituency and of the UK who are suffering as a result of corruption and money laundering? Does that not seem odd?
The truth is that the traffic in illicit money has an impact not just on people here in the UK—for example, through the acquisition of properties here—but worldwide. We see that in the losses in tax revenues, particularly to the poorest developing countries.
Will the right hon. Lady give way?
I do not think that the hon. and learned Gentleman and I are going to agree. I am going to make some progress because I know that other Members wish to say certain things.
Openness and transparency do not stop the overseas territories from choosing to try to compete on tax. Although I would not approve, they can all set a corporation tax rate of zero. If they believe that that is a way of attracting financial services into their countries, they are free do so. We are asking for openness and not much more. I do agree with their argument that our registers need to be improved, but that is not an either/or; it is a both/and. We need both to improve our registers and ensure transparency in our overseas territories. To those who argue that the money will transfer to other tax havens, I say this: there may well be some leakage, but our tax havens play a disproportionately large role in the secret world that makes tax havens. If we lance that boil, it will be far easier for us to secure transparency elsewhere and much harder for other tax havens to sustain their business models.
Our campaign on transparency is not and has never been partisan. My party believes passionately that transparency is vital in the battle against financial crime and money laundering, but all Members of this House—from all the political tribes—share our determination to eliminate the wrongdoing that inevitably springs from the secrecy that pervades our tax havens. We cannot sit here and ignore the practices that allow Britain and our British overseas territories to provide safe havens for dirty money. If we can act to root out the corruption, we must do so. Our proposal is simple but powerful. It is easy to implement but lethal in its effectiveness. It is not just legally possible; it is morally vital. Britain and our overseas territories will not get rich on dirty money. We must act now and new clause 6 is an important move in doing so. I ask the House to support it.
I draw the attention of the House to my declaration in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
Before I speak about new clause 6, I would like to thank my right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe and the Americas on two other issues, the first of which is the Magnitsky amendment, for which many of us made the case on Second Reading, especially with regard to a degree of independent input from the House into the visa banning and sanctions regime. No doubt aided by the dreadful events in Salisbury, we have all now got to the same place, and I am grateful to him and his colleagues for ensuring that that is the case today.
The second issue—I know from our time together at the Department for International Development that my right hon. Friend understands this well—is about trying to ensure that no unnecessary restrictions will stop money flows for humanitarian charities and non-governmental organisations that often operate with great bravery in extremely difficult and contested areas. I understand that very good progress has been made on that, and I hope that he will keep an open mind if there are future difficulties in that regard.
I turn to new clause 6. It has been a tremendous pleasure to work with so many colleagues from both sides of the House, and I am grateful to many of my own colleagues for standing firm in the face of considerable pressure. It has been a very pleasurable experience to work closely with the right hon. Member for Barking (Dame Margaret Hodge) over the past six months, and the House has clearly benefited hugely from her distinguished period as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee. I think that this is the fourth time that we have been around this track, so it is now time for the House to assert its authority and nudge the Government into the right place. I am therefore delighted that the Government have indicated that they will accept new clause 6. I cannot forbear to point out that this is evidence that, in a hung Parliament, power passes from the Cabinet room to the Floor of the House of Commons. I was going to urge the House to support new clause 6 and, with the deepest respect, reject the Government’s starred amendments, which were tabled at the last moment yesterday, but in fact you did not select them, Mr Speaker.
New clause 6 builds further on the coalition Government’s important work, including at the UK-led G8 summit, in bearing down on money laundering, corruption, tax evasion, terrorist financing and fraud. Much of the money, as the Paradise papers and the Panama papers make clear, passes through British overseas territories. Public registers help us to understand who owns what and how these ill-gotten gains are flowing. The House should be in no doubt that a huge amount of this money is filthy lucre. The National Crime Agency has calculated that £90 billion is laundered through the UK each year—that is truly startling. This laundering can only be done, by and large, through British overseas territories, which are central to this nefarious activity.
The House should focus on the figures mentioned by the right hon. Member for Barking: 85,000 properties in the UK are owned by companies incorporated in our tax havens, and half of those properties are in just two London boroughs. Some 40% are acquired with Russian money and bought through shell companies incorporated in our tax havens. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Openness and transparency are the key to stamping this out. We are talking about the laundering of illicit money from modern day slavery and the sex trade; money from the proceeds of crime, terrorism and corruption; and money that is stolen from Africa and Africans by bent politicians, dictators and war lords.
Convincing research suggests that nearly £70 billion flowed out of Russia through our overseas territories between 2007 and 2016, as the right hon. Lady mentioned. This money belonged to kleptocrats, crooks, gangsters and terrorist gangs.
It is not just crooked money though, is it? The World Bank’s International Finance Corporation invested £400 million through Cayman-based investment vehicles in 2015 alone, and that money supported projects in 24 developing countries. There is good as well, is there not?
Of course, and that is exactly the sort of fact that would be displayed by an open register. My hon. Friend makes my point for me. That is the sort of openness that we seek. We seek to expose the sort of money that I have outlined and that the right hon. Member for Barking so eloquently described.
David Cameron’s Government understood this clearly. He showed real leadership by insisting that what he called the “shroud of secrecy” must be ripped away in this fight against money laundering and tax evasion. If the House had drawn back from agreeing to new clause 6 today, it would have sent a terrible signal against what has previously been a really strong strand of global Britain. It would have been a huge relief to thieves and money launderers around the world that our tax havens would have remained open for business.
I turn to the four matters of concern to the overseas territories in the hope of reassuring them that the House is putting in place a practical measure that is not as serious as some of them seem to believe. The first concern is the belief that the measure will damage the overseas territories’ economies and destroy their income. No doubt the same arguments were used against the abolition of the slave trade. It is true that there may be some immediate but modest effect, but consider the nature of much of the funding that the overseas territories are handling and that I and others have described. In fact, the economy of the British Virgin Islands, for example, may actually improve, because much of its business is professional, transparent and completely proper. In the past, I have myself invested in an international property fund in the BVI that was properly governed. In such cases, people from different jurisdictions can put funds in without a tax charge, but when they take funds out, they pay tax in the jurisdiction where they live. So it is perfectly possible, and in my view quite likely, that if open registers are fully implemented in a jurisdiction such as the BVI, some of the serious international financial organisations and banks will choose to go there although they do not do so today.
I declare an interest as chairman of the all-party group for the British Virgin Islands. I sympathise, in many ways, with much of what my right hon. Friend is saying, but if there is a temporary hit to the BVI economy because of real difficulties in transitioning to the new arrangements that he has outlined, what help should the Foreign Office try to give to the BVI?
I will come to that point in a moment, but I hope that my hon. Friend will extol to his friends in the BVI the fact that this is not something that they should regret and seek to avoid, but something that offers them real commercial and economic opportunities.
The second argument, as we have heard, is that the territories already have closed registers that are available to law enforcement authorities and HMRC which, in the case of terrorism, will react promptly—almost within an hour. That is of course true, but it completely misses the point. That point is made eloquently but passively by the Panama and Paradise papers: it is only by openness and scrutiny—by allowing charities, NGOs and the media to join up the dots—that we can expose this dirty money and the people standing behind it, and closed registers do not begin to allow us to do that.
I understand my right hon. Friend’s desire to achieve this measure and recognise the work that he has done on it, but I want to follow on from the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk (Sir Henry Bellingham). The Government of Spain, for example, often use broad-brush terms such as “tax haven” against the law-abiding British territory of Gibraltar. Will my right hon. Friend extol the fact that Gibraltar has complied and continues to comply absolutely with all EU requirements? We do not help the overall cause by allowing British territories that comply with the rules to be tarred with the same brush as those that do not, as some people will use that against law-abiding British Gibraltarian citizens’ interests.
My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point about Gibraltar. I have heard him speak about that subject in the House previously, and what he says is absolutely right. Last night, I received a three-page letter from the Chief Minister of Gibraltar. I was at a loss to understand why he felt that new clause 6 negatively affected him, since he has already committed, through the EU directive, to implement the whole of the new clause one year earlier than is specified. I therefore feel that the Chief Minister and my hon. Friend should be content with new clause 6.
I entirely agree that the Government of Gibraltar achieve the standards described by my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), and I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) that as they are about to go further, the new clause does not affect them. I recall, however, that that was not always the case. Twenty or 30 years ago, persuading the then Government of Gibraltar that access to EU financial markets required an altogether higher standard of regulation and compliance was not an easy task, and we had to imply that we might take steps to exercise our powers unless something was done about it. That might be a useful precedent for the overseas territories in the Caribbean with regard to the step that the House is taking today.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Father of the House, given his longevity and distinguished ministerial experience over many years, will be familiar with the points that are being made about Gibraltar and, indeed, about the importance of clamping down on money laundering.
Thirdly, the overseas territories pray in aid the prayer of St Augustine—“Oh Lord, make me chaste, but not yet”—and argue that all the hot money will go to the Dutch Antilles. But it is a little bit like the battle against malaria. We seek to narrow the footprint of that disease—in this case, of illicit money—to diminish the areas affected, and then eradicate it. Through this measure, we will significantly narrow the footprint of tainted money. We should bring the same vigour and determination to the fight against poisoned money as we do to the fight against deadly insects.
I worked as a repackaging lawyer who used to set up these companies around the globe—[Interruption.] For European investors, I hasten to add. I gently point out that it is very easy to set up a Delaware business trust, and as more moneys flow into Delaware business trusts, it may be difficult to persuade the American authorities to take the same steps as these, laudable as they are, because otherwise the trusts will be worth even more money to Delaware and the United States. Will my right hon. Friend consider that?