House of Commons
Thursday 14 June 2018
The House met at half-past Nine o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Business before Questions
University of London Bill [Lords] (By Order)
Motion made, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
Bill deferred until Thursday 21 June (Standing Order No. 20(2)) .
Oral Answers to Questions
Exiting the European Union
The Secretary of State was asked—
Rights, Standards and Protections
The UK has a long-standing tradition of protecting rights and liberties. The decision to leave the European Union does not and will not change that. The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill retains the rights, standards and protections derived from EU legislation and treaties as they exist immediately before our departure from the EU. That will ensure that, so far as is practicable, all rights will apply as they did before exit. I have no doubts about the abilities of this House to uphold our rights, standards and protections after we leave the EU.
Given the Prime Minister’s insistence that the Government have committed not to roll back workers’ rights, can the Minister explain why Conservative MPs voted against yesterday’s Lords amendment to protect employment, equality, health and safety, consumer and environmental rights and standards after Brexit?
Our commitment to workers’ rights is unwavering. On the hon. Lady’s specific point, the fact is that, if that amendment had been taken forward, it would have severely damaged our capacity to have a functioning statute book as we left the European Union.
Is not it right that we in this country are not able to exercise some of the rights that people would wish us to exercise? The freedom to be able to transport live animals for slaughter is a freedom that we would prefer not to have. As soon as we leave the European Union, we will be able to take control of those things for ourselves.
My hon. Friend raises a point on which I am sure that many of us have received correspondence. I look forward to the day when it is within the powers of this House to change those rules.
Is not it right that we have a customs union that protects workers’ rights, with the right to allow state aid, the right to allow public ownership, and the right to be able to ban outsourcing and competitive tendering should the Government wish to do so?
If you will allow me, Mr Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman’s capacity to use parliamentary procedure to bring an enormous range of issues into his question. I suggest that he might wish to call an Adjournment debate if he feels that he has not had sufficient opportunity during the passage of the withdrawal Bill to debate all the issues that he raises.
In reference to the honour of the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr Hepburn), I would simply point out that rights, standards and protections do amount to a pretty broad category, and he has behaved, as usual, in a perfectly orderly, if innovative, manner.
Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the most fundamental rights is to decide who determines our legislation and where that legislation comes from, and that that is exactly the right that we are protecting when we listen to what the people have told us and withdraw from the European Union?
Yes. The fundamental political right is that power should derive from the consent of the governed. In leaving the European Union, we will re-establish that consent on a basis that has been traditionally understood, which is that it is this Parliament that will determine the laws of the United Kingdom.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission has said that the loss of the charter of fundamental rights will lead to a significant weakening of the current system of human rights protections in the United Kingdom. Given that that is the advice of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, what specific steps is the Minister taking to prevent the loss of human rights protections following the loss of the charter of fundamental rights?
We disagree with the commission. The charter of fundamental rights is only one element of the UK’s human rights architecture. Most of the rights protected in the charter are also protected in domestic law by common law, the Human Rights Act 1998 or other domestic legislation. The fact of the matter, which the hon. and learned Lady does not seem to wish to accept, is that this House has voted repeatedly on this very question.
Does the Minister accept that animal welfare and environmental protection are extremely important to British agriculture? What guarantees will the Government put in place to make sure that there is no diminution in that regard? He need not take my word on this—he can take the word of the National Farmers Union.
We have had wide-ranging debates about animals and animal rights, and the hon. Gentleman will know that that is a subject of continuing interest for the Government. The Government have tabled amendments on environmental protections, and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has brought forward a range of proposals on animal rights. I look forward to us carrying those forward.
Mr Linden, you are now much preoccupied with consulting your electronic device, but if you are still interested in contributing to our proceedings, let us hear you.
Mr Speaker, the Secretary of State’s departmental colleague, Lord Callanan, wants to
“scrap the working time directive, the agency workers’ directive, the pregnant workers’ directive and other barriers to actually employing people”.
Which one does the Minister think should happen first?
The Government’s position is that the UK firmly believes in strong labour protections while also embracing the opportunities that arise from a changing world of work. We do not need to stay aligned with the EU to have strong protections for workers, and a key tenet of the Government’s industrial strategy is continually to improve labour standards in domestic legislation.
Northern Ireland Border
The Secretary of State and I have regular discussions with ministerial colleagues about how to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and the joint report in December made it clear that the UK is committed to avoiding any physical infrastructure or related checks and controls. By accepting Lords amendment 25, the House has reiterated that position.
I am grateful for that reply, but does the Minister’s reassurance fly in the face of some of the facts on the ground? The Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland has stalled the sale of three police stations on the border and submitted a business case for up to 300 officers. Have the Minister and his Cabinet colleagues discussed that proposal and will they be supporting it?
The UK Government could not have been clearer about our commitment to ensuring no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. Although the funding settlement for the PSNI is a devolved matter for the Northern Ireland Administration, which we all want to be restored as soon as possible, the UK Government do not intend to allocate any resources for policing a hard border after our exit from the EU, or for the furtherance of any steps that would contradict or undermine the clear commitments we have made.
Were we to leave without an agreement, we would not put a border there, so if anyone wants one, they would have to put it there, wouldn’t they?
My right hon. Friend raises an interesting point, but it is our intention to leave with an agreement. We have been clear that our first priority is to secure the absence of a hard border through the future relationship between the UK and the EU.
Our Government, the Dublin Government and Brussels have all said that they do not want a hard border. Does the Minister have an understanding from the EU that a hard border, whoever might want it, would be totally impossible to police because of the hundreds of crossing points that everyone in Northern Ireland would use, even if someone tried to implement a hard border on the ground?
The hon. Gentleman speaks with considerable experience and knowledge of the issue. He is absolutely right. That is why, from what I have seen and conversations I have had, London, Dublin, Belfast and Brussels have all been clear about the need to avoid the creation of a hard border.
When we talk about the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, are we putting the cart before the horse? Surely we need to focus on UK-EU customs arrangements so we know exactly where we are. We buy 850,000 German cars every year, and £3 billion of flowers and bulbs from the Dutch. Irrespective of what Wetherspoons did yesterday, we still drink more Champagne than the French and will continue to do so.
My hon. Friend is right about the advantages of ensuring frictionless trade between the UK and the EU, and that is the Government’s policy.
Would not this Parliament, and the entire island of Ireland, be reassured by what the Minister is saying about a border if the Government had allowed more time for Members of the House to discuss these hugely serious issues? What will the Government do about that, and will the Minister discuss with his Cabinet colleagues how we discuss these issues in Parliament, rather than listening to the waffle of the Minister?
I seem to remember spending quite a lot of time discussing that issue in Committee, including being harangued by the hon. Gentleman to ensure that the Bill contained a specific reference to the Belfast agreement. Thanks to the changes we have made, and the acceptance of Lords amendment 25, there is now that specific reference, which I am sure he will welcome.
I remind Members that the Prime Minister said that we are leaving the EU and it is our responsibility to find a solution to the Northern Ireland border. On Tuesday, the Government accepted the Patten amendment and rightly committed us to no controls, no checks and no infrastructure on the border in Northern Ireland. How on earth can the Government ensure that that will happen without the UK, Northern Ireland, Ireland and the EU being in, as a minimum, a customs union?
As the hon. Lady knows, we are committed to ensuring customs arrangements that allow for no physical infrastructure at the border. As she also knows, we have put forward our own proposal for a backstop in the EU negotiations, which is an important element of that. We want to secure this for the future relationship between the UK and the EU.
The Secretary of State and I regularly discuss exit issues with Cabinet and ministerial colleagues, including customs. The Prime Minister is clear that we are working towards a customs solution that keeps trade with the EU as frictionless as possible, avoids a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and establishes an independent trade policy.
Can the Minister tell us how many times the Government’s two working groups on future customs arrangements have met, and how close are they to finally reaching a conclusion between the Government’s two unworkable and undesirable customs options?
Those working groups are meeting regularly to advance the work on both of the options. As agreed yesterday, the Government will provide by 31 October a statement to Parliament on the steps taken to negotiate a customs arrangement with the EU.
Does the Minister agree with the president of the Confederation of British Industry, who warned yesterday:
“If we do not have a customs union, there are sectors of manufacturing society in the UK which risk becoming extinct”?
No, I agree with the Conservative and Labour manifestos that said that we should be leaving the customs union and ensuring that we have an independent trade policy, but we also want to deliver the frictionless trade that businesses up and down our country need.
In the discussions with the European Union, have the Government made it clear that we would not tolerate a solution that put the customs border down the Irish sea, or for that matter, between England and Scotland, as some others want to do?
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. We have made that abundantly clear, and the Prime Minister has been very clear that no UK Prime Minister could accept such a solution.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting the chamber of commerce from Portugal. While, of course, it was sorry to see us leaving the European Union, its biggest concern with regard to the customs union was how long it was taking for the entire process to be put together—I hasten to add that we then had a potted history about how Parliament works, sadly. Can I ask the Minister to ensure that, whatever comes through this, we send a message to the Portuguese that they are absolutely with us and trading with us in the future?
Absolutely. My hon. Friend makes an important point. Portugal is our oldest ally in the world—in fact, I think the longest-standing alliance in the world is between England and Portugal—and we want to ensure that the trade between us can continue to flourish, as we do with the trade between the UK and many other EU member states.
Does the Minister think that the sight of Ministers and Whips negotiating in real time their position on the customs union, either from the Dispatch Box or on the Benches, helps or hinders the UK’s negotiating position with the rest of the European Union?
The Government are determined to present the right answer on customs to make sure that we have the frictionless trade we all want to see between the UK and the EU. The sight of the Scottish National party abandoning their parliamentary responsibilities is perhaps not one that encourages confidence from anyone.
Half the Labour party seem to be voting against Labour’s amendments nowadays. We meet regularly with the CBI and with different business groups up and down the country. They are all very clear on the benefits of frictionless trade, and that is the policy of the Government.
The media inevitably focused on the personalities involved in the Cabinet row over a customs backstop last week, but it is the detail of that policy that really matters, so I ask the Minister a very simple question: are we to take from the fact that the Secretary of State and his other two colleagues are still in post that the Government’s position is not to accept, under any circumstances, a customs backstop that is not time-limited?
The Prime Minister has been clear that the backstop arrangements would be time-limited, but I say to the hon. Gentleman that the fact that our entire ministerial team is in post is a sign that our party is united, unlike the Labour party, which has now had 100—100!—resignations from its Front Benchers or Parliamentary Private Secretaries.
Not really an answer, Mr Speaker. Last week’s backstop paper only dealt with customs, but we know that a solution to the Irish border issue requires agreement on far more than that; it requires full regulatory alignment on goods to facilitate all aspects of north-south co-operation. Does the Minister accept that, and will the Government be making the case for full regulatory alignment on goods in future discussions with the EU?
As the hon. Gentleman will know if he has looked at the detail of the joint report, we are talking about alignment in those areas necessary for the functioning of the border and ensuring that there is no hard border. That does not mean full regulatory alignment across all areas; it means specific areas relating to agriculture and industrial goods that could otherwise result in tax at the border. We were clear in our presentations to the EU that there is further discussion to be had on that.
We reached agreement on more than three quarters of the legal text of the withdrawal agreement, locking down full chapters on citizens’ rights, the implementation period and the financial settlement. We continue to build on the progress of March, technical talks have continued and we are focusing on negotiating the right future relationship. These conversations are now well under way, with detailed discussions on future economic and future security partnerships.
In my latest meeting with Michel Barnier on Monday, we discussed a range of issues, from questions of the Northern Ireland protocol, which has just been discussed in the House, to product standards and market access. It was a productive and positive discussion. We will continue to work hard and at pace, and will set out further details in the Government White Paper in due course.
My constituents voted more than any others in the country to leave the European Union. In the past couple of days, this House has worked hard to deliver that. I know they will be grateful for the all the Secretary of State’s work. Does he agree that there is no record anywhere in the world of an international negotiation in which a Parliament in place of a Government has delivered a successful micro-managed outcome?
My hon. Friend is exactly right. As we made clear in the debate this week on consideration of Lords amendments to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, we cannot accept amendments that allow Parliament to instruct the Government on what steps we should take in international negotiation because that undermines one of my three tests, and because such a move would be constitutionally unprecedented.
The current constitutional arrangements have served this country well for hundreds of years over thousands of treaties. Those who have argued for something different did not argue for the House of Commons to negotiate directly our accession to the European Union, or the Lisbon, Amsterdam or Maastricht treaties. It is rather odd that they make such an argument now.
In the light of the House’s rejection of Lords amendments on the European economic area and customs union, will my right hon. Friend now head to Brussels with renewed vigour to support many of my constituents who voted for Brexit, and who want the Government to get on and deliver the result?
I would hope that my vigour does not need renewal, but I will take my hon. Friend’s wishes as I am sure he meant them.
We had a constructive debate in both Chambers and I am pleased that we are now in the final stages of the Bill. This crucial piece of legislation is designed to deliver continuity of law after exit, and ensures that from day one we have a functioning statute book, which will give certainty to both individuals and business. We will build on the hard work at home and in Brussels, and continue to work towards a withdrawal agreement and future framework in October.
I concur with the comments of my Cornish colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Scott Mann). People in my constituency simply want the Government to get on and deliver the Brexit that they voted for. Will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State confirm that the Government’s position remains that they will take back control of our borders? Will he therefore resist all calls for us to join the EEA, which would precipitate continued freedom of movement and not deliver what the majority of people voted for?
Yes. As my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General stated in yesterday’s debate on the Lords EEA amendment, continuing to participate in the EEA agreement beyond the implementation period means accepting all four freedoms of the single market, including free movement of people. In the last election, both main parties clearly said that they would not accept that. It is therefore clear that continuing to participate in the EEA agreement beyond the implementation period would not deliver control of our borders or our laws, which the British people voted for. That point was made by a number of Labour MPs in yesterday’s debate—the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) is not here, and I do not often compliment her, but she made one of the best speeches of the day on exactly that subject.
Our proposals are designed to deliver the best access to the European market consistent with taking back control of our laws and borders. That is what we will do.
The Government’s proposal for a backstop in Northern Ireland did not include an approach on regulatory standards, which is presumably one reason why Michel Barnier, in rejecting it, said that it would lead to a hard border. Do the Government intend to submit a revised proposal to the EU negotiators before the June European Council?
The right hon. Gentleman is uncharacteristically inaccurate. Michel Barnier did not reject our proposal. He said in a tweet after his press conference that he would be discussing it with us, which he did on Monday.
The Government have rejected giving Parliament a meaningful voice in the Brexit deal, but does the Secretary of State recognise that the businesses we represent are crying out for some sort of clarity so that they can deliver on the investment that drives jobs in my constituency? When will he deliver that clarity?
Again—the hon. Lady is wrong. The Government have provided 250 hours of debate on this Bill alone, and there are probably a dozen other pieces of primary legislation, including the withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill later this year. There is a huge range of areas in which Parliament has its say and will have its say. To come to the point about business investment, in the past year high-tech investment alone—the most important for our future in many ways—was three times in the UK that of any European country. Indeed, it was as much as the next three countries put together.
Political leadership in negotiations is clearly key to their success, but in response to a question I tabled the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker), informed me that until last Monday the Secretary of State had met Michel Barnier only twice since December—once in February and once at a press conference in March. Two meetings in six critical months. Can the Secretary of State explain his absence? Does paralysis in the Cabinet leave him with nothing to say? Or has he simply been side-lined by officials closer to the Prime Minister?
Is it not wonderful to have the Labour party, of all people, accusing us on this? I am looking at the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman)—don’t worry. I read a tweet only this morning in which the Labour Whips Office was celebrating the fact that only 75 Labour Members rebelled against the amendment yesterday.
I am slightly pleasantly surprised to see the Secretary of State still in his place—[Interruption.] I suspect that if I am surprised to see him in his place, the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister are significantly more surprised. Particularly as the negotiations go on to look at our future and long-term relationship with Europe, they will inevitably impinge significantly on matters that are properly and constitutionally devolved to the three devolved nations of this Union. This week, we saw the Government force through without debate provisions allowing Ministers unilaterally to remove and change the powers of those devolved nations. Will the Secretary of State tell us what assurances the people in the devolved nations can have that our interests will not be sold out during the next stage of the negotiations?
First, might I say that I am touched that the hon. Gentleman is pleasantly surprised that I am still here? I am very pleasantly surprised to see so many of his colleagues with him today.
On the important substantive question, the Government came up with a number of proposals during the course of the Bill which sought to arrange the mechanism by which powers are passed from the European Union through to the devolved Administrations. Those proposals were welcomed by the Welsh Administration but not by the Scots one. Nevertheless, we are continuing in our discussions with the Scots Administration to endeavour to come to an agreement, and while we are doing our work on the White Paper, we are also talking to them about the policy elements of that so they can have an input.
I remind the Secretary of State once again that it was not the Scottish Government who refused the legislative consent motion but the elected Parliament of Scotland. Four out of five parties agreed that the Government’s actions were not acceptable. Will the Secretary of State confirm that as the Government’s intentions stand, it would be perfectly possible for the Government to return from Brussels with a deal that substantially damaged the interests of the three devolved nations of this Union, and that the only option that Members of Parliament from those nations would have would be to accept that sell-out or to accept a car crash no deal? That is the Government’s intention just now, is it not?
I made it very clear from the beginning of the negotiation process and the policy creation process that we treat the interests of every nation in the United Kingdom extremely seriously and will defend them to the utmost of our ability. There will be a statement later from the Scottish Secretary on the Sewel convention.
Single Market: North-west Economy
The Department for Exiting the European Union is working with all Departments at both ministerial and official level to ensure that our preparations for exit from, and new partnership with, the EU are on track. We are committed to seeking the best possible deal for the United Kingdom—one that works for all the regions of the country, including the north-west. I was delighted to visit the region earlier this month, and meet local businesses to discuss their views on Brexit.
Despite the very positive work being done by organisations such as the St Helens chamber of commerce, the latest polling shows that confidence among businesses in the north-west has fallen by 22 points, to just 33%. I am intrigued to know to what the Minister attributes that; is it the fact that this Government’s chaotic and shambolic handling of negotiations means that there is a real anxiety among businesses that we will crash out of the single market with no deal?
I very strongly disagree with the hon. Gentleman’s analysis. During my visit to the north-west I was pleased to meet with thriving businesses that are looking forward to the economic opportunities flowing from Brexit, such as trading with an expanded global marketplace. Together with huge investment in the north-west, such as the Mersey Gateway bridge and the northern hub in Manchester, the port of Liverpool, for example, stands potentially to act as an expanded gateway for global trade. This week’s Office for National Statistics trade figures show that exports are rising—by 7% to the end of April—faster than imports. That is good news for ports like Liverpool, good news for the north-west region and good news for the country.
As well as the north-west, all other regions in the UK are important to the Union, including the devolved nations, so can my hon. Friend confirm that no area will be treated unfairly when we leave the EU?
Absolutely; the integrity of the United Kingdom is paramount as we pursue these negotiations. I am very encouraged by the Government’s commitment to securing a unique and mutually beneficial free trade agreement with the European Union, that supports our businesses, our jobs and our economy.
Given that all the analyses show that Scottish GDP would fall by 2.9% in the least-worst scenario of our staying in the single market and the customs union when we leave the EU, what GDP figure are the Government working towards with their current negotiating position?
Let us look globally: we have an economy that has increased output—those are the CBI’s figures—we have the OECD upgrading growth forecasts for this year and next, and we have the lowest net borrowing in over a decade. That is a very different picture from that suggested by the predictions that were made two years ago. Let us base our position on facts, not scaremongering about the future.
Free Trade Agreements
We have been clear that the UK will be leaving the EU’s customs union and the single market in March 2019. Only by leaving the customs union and establishing a new and ambitious customs arrangement with the EU will we be able to forge new trade relationships with our partners around the world. If the UK were to remain in the customs union, we would be unable to implement our own trade deals or to set our own tariffs. That would not give us control over our trade policy and it would not be respecting the referendum result.
Any policy whereby Britain leaves the European Union but remains in the customs union would mean surrendering our trade policy to a third party, and would mean that we were required to open our markets to other countries without guaranteed reciprocal access to theirs. Does my hon. Friend agree that no independent, self-respecting nation could tolerate such a position?
I agree with my hon. Friend. A customs union creates an asymmetrical relationship. Turkey is an example of a country in a customs union with the EU but not in the customs union with the EU. The effect of that is that if the EU signs a free trade agreement with a third country—let us say, the US or Canada—goods from the US or Canada can enter Turkey tariff-free, but Turkish goods still face a tariff barrier in Canada or America, which puts Turkish businesses and exporters at a significant disadvantage. With free trade as the big prize for Brexit, Labour’s support for a customs union makes no sense at all.
I do not know whether you are a cider drinker, Mr Speaker, but say the word Somerset and you inevitably think of cider. Last week I held an event for the cider industry trade, to which I invited all the cider makers from Somerset. There was a great deal of positivity and emphasis on the fact that we can grow in the world market when we leave Europe. Does my hon. Friend agree that yesterday’s decision will help us negotiate unfettered and that that will benefit our south-west industries?
I agree with my hon. Friend. You may well agree, Mr Speaker, that cider is a delicious drink and, if I may be so bold, like me you may have had many a joyous occasion, perhaps in your teenage or university days, where the memories were enhanced precisely because of the consumption of cider.
I am very pleased that companies, particularly in my hon. Friend’s constituency and her region, have a can-do attitude to Brexit and are looking forward to the increased global trading opportunities. Brexit presents those opportunities, especially for the food and drink industry.
When I have met elected representatives from places as far apart as Wellington and Washington, they have been very keen to do trade deals with the United Kingdom post-Brexit. Will the Minister confirm that that would not be possible if we remained part of the customs union?
Yes. Remaining in a customs union or the customs union with the EU would not be compatible with having a meaningful, independent trade policy. It would mean that we would have less control than we have now over our trading relationships with other countries. Neither leave nor remain voters would want that.
The hon. Lady has given an extremely clear and helpful answer, but the problem is that we have a lot of questions to get through and I want to accommodate colleagues. If all Ministers could be brief, that would be great.
Car manufacturing in this country is world leading, but the president of the CBI has said that if we leave the customs union it would become extinct. What contingencies do the Government have to replace the 800,000 jobs affected, including the 30,000 jobs in the north-east of England?
I disagree with the hon. Gentleman’s description. The automotive sector is one of our great success stories and the Government will continue to support it. Just this April, Vauxhall announced an investment of more than £100 million in its UK plant, to build the next generation of Vivaro vans. We are seeing more and more success in the sector. We have to support that, and that will be an ambition of our future trade agreement with the EU.
As well as the motor sector, the food sector has expressed concern that rules of origin in the supply chain could have a real impact post-Brexit if we are not part of a customs union. What is the Department’s approach? Is it considering a broader definition of “local origin”? How else will it help those sectors deal with rules of origin post-Brexit?
The hon. Lady is right to highlight the issue of rules of origin with regard to the sector. We want to ensure as limited friction as possible, with a tariff-free arrangement for goods, so that we have the integrated supply chains that are vital to the success of the sector.
Will the Minister comment on the Foreign Secretary’s analysis that the Government’s EU negotiations are heading for “meltdown”? Is that not just another example of the chaos and division at the heart of Government?
I think that the hon. Lady’s interpretation is incorrect. The Government are making—[Interruption.] Let us look at the progress the Government have made. We have agreed an implementation period. Led by the Prime Minister, we secured agreement in December on EU citizens, and we are now in the phase of talking about the exciting future relationship with the European Union. I am looking forward to the opportunities and success that will be led by this Government, not the predictions of failure.
EU Withdrawal: No Deal Preparations
It is in everyone’s interests to secure a good deal for both sides and we are increasingly confident that that can be achieved. As my right hon. Friend will be aware, we continue to implement plans for all scenarios. Some delivery has already become evident; more will become public over the coming weeks and months. As an example, I congratulate my colleagues in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, who have made progress on our preparations for exiting Euratom. The Nuclear Safeguards Bill has completed its passage through Parliament, and international agreements have been signed with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the USA, helping to ensure continuity as we leave Euratom.
I am pleased to hear that prudent preparation is being made for leaving without a deal. Does my hon. Friend accept, however, that to provide reassurance to business and the wider public—not to mention to inform our interlocutors in Brussels—the nature and extent of that preparation should be more widely communicated?
I hear my right hon. Friend’s case and I agree that it is prudent for all Departments to prepare for all possible outcomes. We will continue to engage with business to reduce uncertainty wherever we can. Over the next few weeks and months, our preparations for what is an unwanted contingency will become increasingly visible to him and the country.
Deal or no deal, will we still be members of Europol and the European arrest warrant this time next year?
We will be bringing forward and publishing our plans for the future relationship in due course.
EU Scientific Co-operation
As the Prime Minister set out at Mansion House and reinforced at Jodrell Bank, the UK is committed to establishing a far-reaching science and innovation pact with the EU, facilitating the exchange of ideas and researchers, and enabling the UK to participate in key programmes alongside EU partners.
Ongoing co-operation is clearly in both our and the EU’s interest, but world-leading scientists often explain how they need to move to and fro between different countries in order to build knowledge. Will the Minister ensure that the visa system post Brexit will enable researchers to have that flexible mobility?
We have been very clear throughout the process that we want the UK to continue to be able to attack the brightest and the best and to be a magnet for key talent around the world. The announcement of the new start-up tech visas is a good indication of how UK immigration policy can contribute in this space.
The Minister mentions that we want to attract the brightest and the best but missed some of what the hon. Lady’s question was about, which is of great concern to my constituents in the University of Bristol: the free flow of researchers and scientists around the European Union and the exchange of knowledge. They, and scientific firms in my constituency, say that they are already struggling. What further clarification can he please give?
We have reached some important agreements already with regard to the implementation agreement and the continuation of our existing membership of Horizon during the whole of the period until the end of the multi-annual financial framework. We now want to secure the science and innovation pact, which we have been discussing in our meetings with the Commission, and those meetings have been constructive and positive.
As a trustee of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, may I ask the Minister what assurances he can give me that the UK Government will provide at least as much funding, through whatever mechanism, after we leave the European Union as is now given to the universities and institutes around this country?
My hon. Friend asks me an interesting question, which is probably more appropriate for a Treasury Minister to answer, but I recognise its importance. The UK is stepping up investment in R&D with our target to ensure that 2.4% of GDP is spent on it. That will make us one of the leading countries in the world for investment in research.
The Rheumatoid Arthritis Pathogenesis Centre of Excellence in Glasgow relies not only on the movement of people and talent but on the movement of medical samples across borders. What will the Minister do to ensure that medical samples can travel unfettered across the EU after Brexit?
The hon. Lady raises a very important point. Having visited the university in Glasgow to talk about some of these issues, I recognise the world-leading research that takes place there. Of course we want to ensure that patients in the UK and the EU continue to benefit from the exchange between us. That is why we have talked not only about co-operation in science but about the benefits of the UK’s continued participation through associate membership of the European Medicines Agency.
International Business Community
The ministerial team undertakes regular engagements with the international business community, both in the UK and abroad. In addition to regular visits to Brussels the ministerial team has undertaken 27 trips across EU member states this year. That is supported by business engagement conducted by our embassies.
I am grateful to the Minister for her reply. Over the past 50 years, considerable expertise has been built up in the North sea energy sector, which has led to enormous global export opportunities. What steps are the Government taking to ensure that that continues after we leave the EU, with particular emphasis on the emerging offshore wind sector?
The UK has been an active member of the North sea’s energy co-operation initiative since 2010. The aim is to explore the most cost-effective way of developing offshore grid infrastructure to exploit the considerable renewable energy resources in the North and Irish seas. The UK brings significant experience and expertise to this co-operation. Working together with other countries through this initiative will enable us to maximise the considerable business opportunities in the emerging offshore wind sector.
Business is getting more nervous as it watches the Government negotiating more with themselves than with the European Union. Can the Minister confirm that it is Government policy to ensure that there are no new impediments to trade for our world-leading service industries, such as financial services, education, the creative industries and others?
Considerable amounts of data have been released recently showing an increase in confidence in various sectors, whether it is retail, services, manufacturing or construction. We have to build on that, which is why the Government are committed to reducing barriers to trade to enable our businesses, our exporters, our manufacturers and our service sector to thrive outside the European Union.
The Minister referred to the offshore wind sector. She visited my constituency, the port of Immingham and neighbouring Grimsby a couple of weeks ago. Does she agree that the facilities there for serving the offshore sector, and the wider trade deals that could follow Brexit, are greatly to the advantage of northern Lincolnshire?
I was delighted to visit the ports of Immingham and Grimsby at my hon. Friend’s invitation. I was very impressed by the energy estuary, which is located there, and by the wealth of experience and output. It is the energy powerhouse for our nation.
The Conservatives are already arguing about what promises were made, or not made, at the Dispatch Box on Tuesday night; the Cabinet cannot agree a position on the EU; and the Brexit Secretary threatens to resign every other week. What message does that send to the international business community?
Well, let us look at the facts. As I said, CBI data shows an increase in output generally, the OECD revised its forecasts upwards for this year and next, and there is record low unemployment throughout the country. Those are signs of an economy that is confident and optimistic about the future, not one such as the hon. Gentleman describes.
May I gently say that with ingenuity, the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid) could shoehorn in his question about fisheries policy, which is a matter of significant interest to the international business community? He is not obliged to do so, but we can happily give him a go.
The Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker), was pleased to meet the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations yesterday. He is keen to keep engaging with the sector. We have been absolutely clear that when we leave the EU, we will leave the common fisheries policy. Indeed, from 2020 we will be negotiating as an independent coastal state. Let me reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid) that our plans for exit from the common fisheries policy are not affected by the backstop discussions.
Local Government Funding
My Department continues to work closely with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and with other Departments across Government, to ensure that local government is prepared for the potential effects of EU exit. This work includes assessing any funding issues for local government.
Plymouth City Council’s new Labour council has established a Brexit scrutiny committee to look at the impacts of Brexit on vital public services. What conversations is your Department having directly with local authority leaders to help it to understand the impacts on the vital public services that many millions of people rely on?
I do not have a Department, but the Minister, fortunately, does.
Both the Secretary of State and I have met many local authority leaders around the country. We are keen to engage with them so that we understand their concerns about EU exit. Importantly, the UK will continue to participate in the 2014 to 2020 EU programmes until they close, and, thereafter, EU structural funding will be transferred through a UK shared prosperity fund. Comments from local authorities will be very well received.
Proceedings would be incomplete if we did not hear from the conscience of Kettering.
UK Citizens’ Rights
The UK has reached an important agreement on citizens’ rights with the EU that is fully reciprocal, but it is of course important to recognise that it is the responsibility of member states, rather than of EU institutions, to implement some aspects of that agreement.
Do the reciprocal rights that the EU is meant to have agreed extend just to the country in Europe in which UK citizens are living, or do they extend right across all 27 member states?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. We are clear that we would like to secure onward movement rights for UK citizens living in the EU, and we will return to this issue in the next phase of negotiations. In several other areas, it is right that the rights are reciprocal between the UK and the EU and that they apply throughout the whole EU.
I appreciate the Minister’s comments about UK citizens living abroad, but does he agree that we still need clarity for EU citizens living here? The David family in my constituency have lived and worked here for 20 years. Both their children were born here, but although one of them is entitled to a UK passport, the other is not. They have now had five different pieces of conflicting advice from UK departments about their passports and citizenship. Is the Minister prepared to meet me to talk about their case and to see whether we can get some clarity on it?
I would be very happy to meet the hon. Lady to discuss this case. We are working closely with Home Office colleagues to ensure that the new settled status system is clearer and easier to use than what has gone before.
Before I turn to my departmental responsibilities, may I say that today is a sombre day, one year on from Grenfell? I am sure that I speak on behalf of the whole House when I say that our thoughts are with those who suffered bereavement and loss a year ago.
This has been an important week in our policy area. It was Parliament that gave the people a decision on our membership of the EU, by way of a referendum, and it is Parliament that is carrying out their instruction. The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill returns to the Lords as a much studied, much debated and, I think, much better piece of legislation. It demonstrates the Government and Parliament delivering what the people voted for, and I know that Members in the other place will have taken note of the decisions taken and views expressed in the Commons in the past few days.
The agricultural sector in England has had the opportunity to be consulted on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ plans for the industry post Brexit. As the whole UK prepares to leave the EU, does my right hon. Friend agree that farmers in Scotland would be best served if the Scottish National party, rather than continuing its tactic of manufacturing grievance with this Government, consulted Scottish famers on Scotland’s future agricultural policy?
Leaving the common agricultural policy will deliver significant opportunities for farming, as the consultation to date is already showing. My hon. Friend is right that there has been consultation with the farming sector in England, but the Government are committed to working closely with the devolved Administrations and stakeholders to deliver an approach that works for the whole UK, as I said earlier, and that reflects the needs and circumstances of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. That being said, I agree entirely with my hon. Friend: all of us who are involved in these procedures, bar those of the Scottish nationalist party, have learned the lesson that if we actually want to make things happen, we have to turn up and deal with the issues.
May I join the Secretary of State in his comments on Grenfell on behalf of the Opposition and, I am sure, the whole House?
It is good to see the Secretary of State in his place. On the back of an earlier question, I have done a quick tally, and I think that this year he has threatened to resign more times than he has met Michel Barnier.
On Tuesday, to avoid a defeat in this House, the Prime Minister offered a series of apparent concessions to her Back Benchers. Yesterday, after a meeting with the Prime Minister, the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) told Sky News that
“we are going to get a meaningful vote on both deal and no deal. I have no doubt about it”.
Later, the Solicitor General told the “Today” programme:
“I have a problem both constitutionally and politically with a direction given by Parliament”.
Who is right?
My responsibilities are with the Government, so of course I am entirely with the Solicitor General—that follows automatically. Let me put in front of the House what I said during that debate, which is that whatever proposal is put back to the Lords, it has to meet three criteria: first, that we do not bring about the overturning of the referendum result; secondly, that we do not undermine the ongoing negotiation with the European Union; and thirdly, that we do not change the constitutional structure that has served this country well for hundreds of years, under which the Government negotiates and Parliament passes its view at the end of the process.
Let me press the Secretary of State a little further, because this is a really crucial issue in the process, so we must get it right. Will he say clearly, yes or no—will the Government’s amendment, to be published later today, make it clear that, should the proposed article 50 deal be voted down, it would be for Parliament to say what happened next, not the Executive?
I am afraid that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will have to wait to see the document when it is published. As he says, it will be published later today.
Not only would it lead to further division and strife, as my hon. Friend puts it, it would also create an incentive for the European Union to give us the worst deal possible, and surely that must trump all other points.
Since the referendum, and contrary to the predictions at the time of the referendum, we are seeing an increase in exports outpacing imports, an increase in manufacturing, and an increase in sales in particular sectors, such as the car industry. We must build on those successes. Leaving the customs union will enable us to develop an independent trade policy beyond the EU and with other countries, and leaving the single market will give us power and control over our rules and regulations.
My hon. Friend makes a good point. The green section of the withdrawal agreement includes an express indication that, during the implementation period, we will, for the first time in 40 years, have the freedom to negotiate, sign and ratify trade agreements with third countries, opening our markets for British manufacturers, exporters and businesses, which is a surefire way of generating growth, jobs and prosperity.
I think the hon. Lady may have misheard me. I said that there would be no resources spent on going against our commitments on the border. That is the point I was making. Obviously, resources allocated by the Government are really a question for the Treasury and the Northern Ireland Office.
We have been engaging with businesses up and down the country to build a strong understanding of the challenges and opportunities that Brexit brings, particularly in relation to immigration, and that will help us to design a new immigration system that ensures that employers have access to the skills they need. I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that I discussed her proposal with the Minister for Immigration very recently. The Government are alive to my hon. Friend’s arguments, and we will continue to consider them as we deliberate.
I am very glad that we have legislation now that ensures that the devolution system is respected. That has been recognised by the devolved Government in Wales, and I still think that there is an opportunity for the devolved Government and the devolved Parliament in Scotland to come forward and recognise that fact.
My hon. Friend, who is a great champion of science in the UK, makes a very important point. We want to continue to attract the brightest and best to the UK, particularly those looking to work in our world-leading science and innovation sector. As I said earlier, the announcement of the new start-up visas is an important step in showing that a UK immigration policy can do that.
May I ask the Secretary of State directly whether he thinks that he and his team have the right level of competencies to conduct these difficult negotiations? Is not it about time that he thought very carefully about bringing in some new talent? I would suggest perhaps David Miliband, Gordon Brown and even the former Chancellor of the Exchequer. They might actually help him do a job that needs attention to detail and real competence.
The attention to detail that delivered the financial crisis of 2008 is precisely what we do not want.
The people of Willenhall and Bloxwich voted enthusiastically and overwhelmingly to exit the EU. Will the Minister assure them that they will get a Brexit deal that they recognise as Brexit?
I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. We are determined to take back control of our laws, borders and trade policy. We will ensure that we go forward as a normal, independent country, where people know that it is this Parliament that governs their lives.
If the Government are so confident of achieving this wonderful trade deal with the EU—outwith the single market and the customs union—that they keep talking about, why are they so frightened to put that deal to the public to see whether it is the kind of Brexit that they expected?
The hon. Gentleman really must learn to pay attention during these questions. The simple truth is that creating such an incentive for the European Union would actually be the one thing that undermined the negotiations.
In any divorce, the assets are divided. Including the £39 billion divorce bill, from the day we joined in 1973 to the day we leave, we will have given £250 billion in today’s money to this organisation. What proportion of the assets are we going to get back?
First of all, I refute the idea that this is a divorce. I prefer to think that we are loving siblings who have decided to grow up and move out into the house next door. We have reached a fair financial settlement, and I am pleased that we have.
The Secretary of State will understand that the natural consequence of proceedings on Tuesday was that amendments regarding Northern Ireland, the devolved regions and the border did not get the thoughtful or considered reflection that they should have. Will the Minister use his influence to ensure that, should those amendments come back to this House, any programme motion will be framed in such a way that thoughtful and considered reflections can be made during our proceedings?
The hon. Gentleman raises a good point. We did spend quite a lot of time discussing some of these issues during the earlier stages of the Bill. I think the amendment that was eventually passed reflected some of that debate, as well as the very good debate in the Lords. But of course these are very important issues, and we will look carefully at the programme motions for any further stages.
Yesterday’s remarks by the outgoing head of the CBI are very serious and need to be taken in that context. Do the Government have any plans to provide a detailed response to those remarks, given the importance of them to the auto industry and many other industries?
We take all remarks from business and business leaders very seriously. We have to make an assessment as to what is in the best interests of the whole country. We also have to balance—for example, with respect to customs union—the interests of existing companies and companies that may make the most of opportunities in the rest of the world when we get freedom from the common commercial policy. My direct answer to the end of my hon. Friend’s question is that we will be publishing a White Paper in the near future, and the matter will be addressed in that White Paper.
Can the Secretary of State confirm that any separate regulatory alignment deal for Northern Ireland will be available to Scotland?
As we said in our proposal to the European Union, the backstop proposal was for the whole of the United Kingdom, and everything else will be for the whole of the United Kingdom, with minor variations that currently exist in Northern Ireland.
Will the Secretary of State join me in appreciating the irony inherent in the news today that even businesses set up by Members of his own party are announcing their intention to move business to Ireland and are warning their investors of the uncertainties of Brexit?
Let us also focus on the recent investment decisions that we are hearing about. We have a record number of foreign direct investment projects in the UK. We have just heard that Amazon will be investing more money to create 2,000 or so jobs in the UK. Multinational global companies in pioneering sectors are choosing the UK, after our decision to leave the European Union, to build their businesses and grow jobs.
The Dutch Government are offering advice on Brexit to Dutch businesses. The Irish Government are offering grants to Irish businesses affected by Brexit. In the absence of anything from this Government, the North East England chamber of commerce has produced a checklist. The Secretary of State seems to think it is unreasonable for businesses to demand greater clarity or progress, but could he at least offer them some advice?
We have done a huge amount to engage with business. As I said in response to earlier questions, we will reveal more of our plans in the next few weeks and months, and as we do that, we will engage in more detail with businesses right across the country.
The UK Government have long used the fact of being in the EU as an excuse for not implementing the international code of marketing of breast-milk substitutes. Will the Government make it their policy to adopt that code after we leave the EU?
The hon. Lady has raised that point before in these questions. She will appreciate that that is not necessarily a question for this Department, but she points to an area in which the UK may have greater flexibility in the future, which we should welcome.
The Secretary of State listed a series of conventions and mandates that he wants to see respected in the Brexit process. I notice that he did not mention the mandate of the 62% of people in Scotland who voted to remain and the 20-year-old Sewel convention, which determines the relationship between this place and the Government in Scotland. Does he seriously think that ripping up the 20-year-old devolution settlement on this island is a price worth paying for a hard Tory Brexit?
As I have said, we are absolutely committed to the devolution settlement. The arrangements we have reached respect that devolution settlement. In a week in which we have seen a lot of debate about meaningful votes, it is a shame that the SNP colluded in a series of meaningless votes, three times voting on the same thing twice, which ate into the time available to debate these issues.
(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the UK’s future participation in the Galileo Public Regulated Service.
The Government have been clear that our preference is to contribute fully to Galileo as part of a deep security partnership with the European Union and that negotiations should be allowed to run their course. That includes UK involvement in the design and development of Galileo’s encrypted signal for use by Governments, the Public Regulated Service.
On 13 June at the European Space Agency council, member states agreed to proceed with the procurement of the next phase of Galileo. UK companies are not eligible to bid for those contracts. By forcing through that vote while excluding UK companies from the contracts on security grounds, the European Commission has put all of this at risk. The Commission also published slides setting out the EU’s response to the UK’s technical note on Galileo published on 24 May, which explained our requirements for future participation in the programme. The EU proposal does not meet UK defence and industrial requirements, and we could not justify future participation in Galileo on that basis.
The UK has explained that without full, fair and open industrial involvement, guaranteed access to the signal and full understanding of the system’s technical characteristics, Galileo would not offer the UK value for money or meet our defence needs, and that we would be obliged to walk away, resulting in delays and additional costs to the programme that will run into the billions. The Government will need to consider the implications of the recent ESA vote, but we are looking at other options, including a UK global navigation satellite system.
The future of the UK’s relationship with Galileo is extremely important, and yesterday’s release from the Commission reveals the enormous gulf between the UK Government’s position and the Commission’s view. This matter must be dealt with urgently.
The strategic defence and security review highlighted the importance of Galileo for our armed forces, saying:
“we will enhance the resilience of military users and key domestic resilience responders using new technologies incorporating the European Galileo system.”
Having secure access to global positioning and navigation systems is vital for our armed forces, given the increasing threats to GPS integrity from cyber-attacks, jamming and spoofing. Will the Minister tell us what arrangements will be in place for the armed forces if the UK is excluded from the public regulated service, and what implications that will have for their ability to conduct planned operations?
The Commission’s latest release is clear that the UK outside the EU cannot have the same relationship with the programme as we would have as a member state, but it does say that access to the PRS is possible for third countries if a specific agreement is in place. Is that what the Government plan to do, and if so, what urgent steps is the Secretary of State taking to get such an agreement? How many times has the Secretary of State personally met or spoken to Federica Mogherini about the specific issue of Galileo?
We do not simply want to be third-party users of the EU Galileo systems; we want our industry to be at the heart of the design process. However, the Commission is insisting that working on the design and development of security-related and PRS elements is restricted to EU member states only. The UK space industry is worth nearly £15 billion annually to UK plc, with over 40,000 direct employees and 1,400 apprentices. What discussions has the Minister had with industry stakeholders about the impact of the UK dropping out of Galileo?
Finally, the Secretary of State and his Ministers have made repeated reference to a UK alternative to the Galileo system. Will the Minister tell us what steps they have taken to explore such an alternative, and what discussions about it they have had with key non-EU allies? We know that this would be an extremely expensive endeavour to undertake, so what contingency money has been set aside for the project and what advice has he received about a timeframe for delivery? Galileo and the PRS are of major importance to us, and I hope that the Minister will be able to provide us with some concrete answers.
I thank the hon. Lady for her questions. Indeed, it is important that we have a very strong cross-party view on this issue, because all Members of this House would find the idea that the UK is being excluded on security grounds to be completely unacceptable. The merest concept of the UK being considered a security risk should be challenged by all Members of this House, and I am sure the hon. Lady will join me in highlighting our disappointment that such a decision has been taken.
On the questions asked by the hon. Lady, at this point in time the PRS system under Galileo will not be in operation until the mid-2020s, and in the meantime we will be working under the current GPS system. The hon. Lady is absolutely right that the Ministry of Defence has made no secret of the fact that we consider the capability we will offer our military from Galileo to be increasingly important and crucial, and it is an issue of real concern that we will have to look at this in very great detail.
The hon. Lady asked whether the Secretary of State and Ministers are looking at this issue and talking to the industry. I assure her that the Secretary of State has had numerous meetings on this issue, and I have personally taken it up with every single counterpart from the European Union whom I have met over the past few months, including with the junior Defence Minister from Poland yesterday. The Department has communicated this very strongly to our counterparts, and we are disappointed that we have not as yet secured the agreement we need.
May I stress that the agreement we need is one that will be good for the security of Europe and for the security of the United Kingdom? I state again that the United Kingdom, in leaving the European Union, has made it very clear that we are not leaving our obligations to the security of Europe. Those obligations are unconditional and, frankly, we find it disappointing that the European Union has not taken those guarantees and assurances in the spiritin which they have been offered.
On discussions with the industry, I applaud the hon. Lady for acknowledging the strength of the UK industrial offer on space. Indeed, only recently when I spoke at the defence space conference, I highlighted the opportunities we see for the future of the space industry in the United Kingdom. We are now having to look extremely carefully at the possibility of developing our own options.
I stress again that this Government would prefer to remain involved with the Galileo project, but given the strength of this industrial sector and the strength of what we can offer the Galileo project, I think it is really a case of the European Union doing damage to itself, while we are in a position to move forward, building on the strength and expertise of the industry in the UK, to ensure that we meet the requirements of UK defence and the wider defence sector. I assure the hon. Lady that we will not allow any flight of expertise from the space sector as a result of the decision taken yesterday.
I hope we are planning on getting even.
I can understand my right hon. Friend’s frustration, and I say again that I genuinely feel that the United Kingdom’s exclusion on the basis of what I consider to be a false security case is unacceptable, but this is not about getting even. It is about doing the right thing for the industry, the United Kingdom and our defence capabilities. I would prefer to get the right decision.
This is an extremely concerning situation and clearly demonstrates how shambolic the negotiations are. It is in the UK’s strategic defence interest to maintain a UK-EU security partnership. We will not build or maintain trust by taking a high-handed approach to the negotiations. Back in April 2017, I asked a series of written questions about our commitment to Galileo. The then science Minister, the hon. Member for Orpington (Joseph Johnson), replied:
“it is too early to speculate on the UK’s future relationship with specific EU programmes”.
Is it still too early to speculate? When I asked
“what contingency he plans to put in place in the event the UK is unable to access the Galileo or GPS navigation systems after the UK leaves the EU”,
“The UK’s arrangements to access the encrypted GPS signals will be unaffected by UK exit from the EU.”
What representations has the Minister made to the European Space Agency about future access to contracts and the encrypted signal? For the second time, I ask: what contingency plans are in place in the event the UK cannot access Galileo? No doubt we have the expertise here in the UK to develop our own system, but where does that leave UK-EU collaboration, which is critical to our future security?
I would again stress that it takes both sides to come together. The United Kingdom has been very clear that it wants to continue to be involved in and contribute to Galileo, but those requests have been rebuffed. Clearly, we hope that this situation can be resolved and reversed, but the good will that the UK has shown has not resulted in similar good will from the European Commission, which is a significant concern.
On the question about ministerial discussions, I can stress that those discussions have been across ministerial responsibilities. Defence has been involved, but others have clearly also been involved. In many ways, the frustration for Ministers is that although the bilateral discussions with counterparts in Europe have invariably been positive, it seems that the Commission sees this as a negotiating tactic. The United Kingdom has been clear that it will never negotiate on the basis of our security concerns. That is a key point we are highlighting. From a security perspective, we have always been committed to the security of Europe. It is a shame that the Commission does not share our good will.
On our obligations to industry, I entirely agree with the hon. Lady that we have the capability and capacity to develop our own system in due course. The Galileo system will not be online until the mid-2020s. We have had deep and meaningful discussions with the defence industry on alternative options, and I stress again that, if need be, the United Kingdom will respond and develop its own system, but we would prefer to ensure that the Galileo system works for the security of the whole of Europe.
This is a classic example from the unelected Commission of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. I encourage my hon. Friend to do all he can to resolve this matter, but if we cannot, I would say to him, without fear, that the other options he mentioned should be considered very strongly and that we should work with British industry to develop our own systems.
I agree with my hon. Friend that we do not want the European Union or the United Kingdom to cut off their nose to spite their face, but we will not take any risks with the security of our armed forces or the capabilities they need. Our space industry is responsible for 6.5% of the global market. We have an ambition to grow that to 10%. Be in no doubt: our discussions with the space sector show that, although it is very disappointed with the Commission’s decision, it is also very excited at the prospect of developing our own capability.
The European Commission’s approach in this matter is counterproductive and, in suggesting that the UK could suddenly become a security risk after we have left, frankly insulting. If the current position holds, does the Minister share the concern some have expressed that some manufacturing capacity on space and satellites, which is currently located in the UK, might move to the EU?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his very clear statement on the comments made about the UK being a security risk. I think that that is appreciated by all Members. Is there a concern about UK industry leaving as a result of this decision? Of course there would be concern, but the key point is to respond to those concerns. That is why various Government Departments, including the Ministry of Defence, have been in constant communication with the defence sector. Indeed, if it were not for this urgent question I would be on my way to meet companies involved in the space tech sector in Oxford at this very moment. I will still be visiting them, but after this urgent question. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the prospect of developing our own initiative is very much to ensure that the skills that are so crucial for the future economic prosperity of the United Kingdom are retained in the United Kingdom.
The Chancellor is reported to have said that if we fail to continue in the Galileo programme we will build our own GPS system. Does the Minister have any idea of the cost and the timescale?
I thank my right hon. Friend for her very pertinent question. It is the case that the Chancellor has been very clear and across Government we have been very clear on this, but it would be too early for us to highlight the actual cost involved. She should have no doubt about the fact that the cost involved would be no greater than our current contribution to the Galileo project, and I think the benefits to the UK could be even greater. I assure my right hon. Friend that the Chancellor’s support on this issue should be taken as a clear sign.
Surely the Minister understands the size—18 hugely expensive satellites and so many years of research and development—of the Galileo project? My contacts in Cambridge say it would be catastrophic for us to be excluded, not just because of security and defence but for international air travel and much else. He must not underestimate how damaging this is. It is a symptom of leaving Europe and European co-operation.
I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of this matter, which is why he should also address his concerns to the European Commission. This will be damaging both to our partners in Europe and to the United Kingdom. We have done everything in our power to highlight the fact that we want to continue to contribute fully to the programme. Those efforts have been rebuffed thus far. That is a great shame and it is a mistake on behalf of the European Commission, which places all our security at risk. I stress that we will continue to invest in our capabilities if that has to be the situation.
I commend my hon. Friend for his response to the urgent question and for seeking to build cross-party consensus to condemn the European Commission’s reaction, which is clearly undertaking protectionist policies in part because it sees the strength of the space industry developing in this country. EU-based companies are currently considering relocating some of their space capability to various regions around the UK to take advantage of the skills we have here.
The Prime Minister has been very clear to the EU that defence and security matters should not be affected by Brexit, and that we wish to have a continuing strong partnership with our EU nations. Does the Prime Minister intend to bring this matter up at the EU Council or at the NATO summit in July to ensure that our partners in Europe recognise that we are making a very fulsome offer for continued security co-operation, including on the Galileo project?
I thank my hon. Friend and predecessor in this role for his question. I also thank him for his work highlighting the contribution of defence to UK prosperity. As part of that work, he highlighted the contribution that defence makes to the space sector in the United Kingdom. I would argue that our lead in the space sector in the European context is coveted by others. It is key that we again express our willingness to work with our partners in Europe, but if that is again rebuffed we should build on the skills and the developments of the industry in the United Kingdom and highlight the fact that we could still push this issue forward with our fantastic industry capability.
Can the Minister confirm that the possible threat to the Galileo project and the future of the British space industry was fully considered during the EU referendum debate?
Many and varied issues were discussed during the European referendum campaign. It is certainly the case that nobody, on either side of the campaign, took the view that the democratic decision of the British people would be met by a decision from the European Commission that would threaten the security of the whole of Europe. Nobody thought that such a response was likely.
It would be a shame if our defence and security services were not fully a part of the Galileo system, but we can get around that. We have a world-beating, world-class space technology industry in our country. Does the Minister agree that, if that industry were not involved in the Galileo project, the project would be the poorer for its non-involvement?
My hon. and gallant Friend strikes the nail on the head. He is absolutely right that this decision will be damaging for the capabilities of the whole of Europe. In view of the Prime Minister’s statement on our willingness to co-operate on security issues, the situation that we are now facing is genuinely disappointing. Again, he highlights the fact that we have the capability, skills and expertise to develop our own system if that is what we have to do.
I declare an interest as a trustee of the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh. The Government have said in response to a written question:
“In the long term, we believe that”
a British global navigation satellite
“system could be operated for around the same annual cost as the UK’s current contribution to the EU’s Galileo programme.”
Could the Minister tell us: what are the short-term costs?
The written answer highlights the fact that our current contribution is about £200 million a year. The total billed cost would be estimated at about £4 billion. So in the short term we still want to ensure that we have an involvement with Galileo: that is still our aim. The Prime Minister will take this issue up, and it is clearly important that she does so. It should be noted that, thus far, every single satellite utilised within the Galileo system has been built in the UK, so I wonder whether this urgent question should be taken in every other Parliament in Europe as a result of the decision taken yesterday.
A decision that would cut the UK out of Galileo would set very difficult precedents for our future ongoing partnership on security. Yesterday’s decision was made by the European Space Agency Council. May I join my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr Dunne) in calling for this now to be raised at a higher level, such as through NATO or at this month’s European Council?
I hear my hon. Friend very clearly. I have no doubt that the Department will ensure that our representations are made to the Prime Minister, and I am absolutely confident that she will be raising these issues at the NATO conference and at further meetings with the European Union.
We know from the National Audit Office report that the funding gap in the Minister’s Department is about 20 billion quid. What will it be if he has to set up his own Galileo system?
I now feel as though I am back at Defence questions and having to explain that the National Audit Office report on the so-called black hole was based on the worst-case scenario occurring in every single project, with no efficiencies whatsoever being generated. The truth of the matter is that we are increasing defence spending. There is an important message here: the United Kingdom is currently one of the few countries in the European Union that is meeting our NATO obligations and that is willing to put taxpayer-funded money into our protection. I know that that type of issue upsets the hon. Gentleman, but the reality is that we take the defence and the security of Europe seriously. [Interruption.] On the question of how much, we have a large and increasing defence budget—increasing above inflation every year—and we will be able to do this if we need to.
Encrypted signals and encrypted signals intelligence are absolutely vital for our armed forces and other agencies to communicate safely and securely. Is not it the case that this flawed decision produces one beneficiary in national security terms, and that is Russia?
My hon. Friend makes a crucial intervention, and this decision will be welcomed in very few European capitals. However, the question depends on the unlikely situation of the United Kingdom not responding to the current situation by developing its own capability. My hon. Friend said that such capability is crucial for our armed forces, and I find it inconceivable that Parliament would allow such a situation to arise. I am sure there will be cross-party support for any decision we take to ensure that that capability is available to our armed forces.
This decision has immense implications for the security of our region, and it is frightening to think that our missile defence capability and our ISTAR capability could be damaged in this way. I commend the Minister for the tone in which he has responded to the debate this morning. It is imperative that that reasonable tone continues, as well as a recognition that Britain remains as committed as ever to NATO and the defence of Europe. This issue also has implications on further discussions that we will need on Permanent Structured Cooperation—PESCO—and the European Defence Fund. How does the Minister see our ability to let the Commission, and others across Europe, understand the grave implications for regional safety and security that this small-minded decision has led to?
I thank the hon. Lady for her kind words, and I commend her for her fantastic work on behalf of our armed forces and for her contribution to defence issues in this House. She rightly touches on the impact of this decision on the security of the whole of Europe, including the United Kingdom, and I hope that in bilateral discussions with colleagues in other countries, she will highlight the dangerous nature of this decision. She asked about the European Defence Fund. Bilateral discussions with my counterparts have indicated that they would like us still to be involved with that, and we have been clear that that is our intention. Does this decision throw doubt on that? I think the answer is yes. Will we carry on negotiating and discussing in a constructive manner because we believe strongly in the common defence of Europe? The answer to that is also yes and I hope the hon. Lady will continue to support us in our endeavours.
British intelligence agencies, including GCHQ in my constituency, make an enormous contribution to European security. In those circumstances, for Britain to be threatened with exclusion on the grounds of security is unreasonable, unfair and bordering on the insulting. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Prime Minister should make it crystal clear in June that, in forthcoming negotiations, security should remain inviolable and not a matter for negotiation?
First, I pay tribute to the workers at GCHQ, many of whom are my hon. Friend’s constituents. I visited GCHQ last Thursday, and he is right to highlight the contribution that people there make to the security not just of the United Kingdom, but across Europe and on a global basis. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend—I think the Prime Minister should raise this issue and highlight once more that we do not consider a threat to our security and that of Europe part and parcel of our negotiations to withdraw from the European Union.
The UK’s space industry is world class and world leading, and a good example of that is Clyde Space in Glasgow, which is a world-leading manufacturer of cube satellites. The CEO of Airbus, Tom Enders, has called on Britain and the European Commission urgently to find a solution to this issue for the safety of the entire region. What reassurance can the Minister give to industry stakeholders that this issue will be resolved so that they do not move elsewhere, especially bearing in mind the huge time constraints on the procurement process for Galileo?
The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that the Government argued strongly that UK companies should not be excluded from the current round of contracts offered through the Galileo project. We have met industry partners and representatives on an ongoing basis. I have done that as well in my role as the Minister responsible for defence procurement. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we will continue to engage fully with this UK industry because we know how important the industry is for our future prosperity. We want to give confidence to that sector of our economy that there is a strong future for it in the United Kingdom. We have the technology and skills, and we will need to reassure the industry that the Government are fully committed to ensuring that we have the capability we need from the Galileo system in a UK context, if that is what has to happen. I stress, however, that our preference would be to have a reasonable response to our very fair request to the European Commission.
What discussions have the Government had with non-EU NATO allies on the possibility of a NATO-wide scheme, which would actually suit Britain quite well?
I know for a fact that this issue has been raised with NATO allies, certainly by Defence Ministers. In terms of whether it is the way forward, we have always believed that NATO is a key component of our security, which is why we are one of the few nations within NATO that meets the obligation for a 2% spend on defence. Everybody within NATO understands the importance of having these systems in place. We understand the challenges to the current system that we are utilising, and I therefore have no doubts that this issue will be raised by representatives of this Government at the NATO conference.
My constituency neighbour, the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Sweeney), is absolutely right about how crucial the satellite manufacturing and space industry is to Glasgow, as is the world-class space research that takes place in the University of Glasgow and other institutions in the city. As well as discussions with industry, what discussions has the Minister been having with the university sector and research institutions about the impact on their contracts and research as a result of the possible withdrawal from the Galileo programme?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. He is absolutely right to highlight the key importance of academia to this issue. While I have not been in contact with any universities on this matter, I am assured that the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation has. The university sector has a huge contribution to make to the development of the UK space sector, and I think that those discussions should be ongoing, as they have been over the past few months.
This decision shows that there are key elements in the European Commission who are determined to punish the United Kingdom for Brexit, even if it is at their own expense. Our response to this decision has implications for the wider negotiations, so I urge my hon. Friend not to go back on bended knee, but to make it clear that, given that our good will has been rebuffed, and given our status as a security guarantor for the continent of Europe, unless this decision is reversed at the European Council, we will proceed forthwith to set up our own bespoke system.
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. It is certainly a huge disappointment that our straight offer on this issue, which was a very clear statement of intent to remain fully involved in the Galileo project, has been rebuffed. Time and again, Members—certainly on the Government Benches, and I think across this House—who were on different sides of the referendum campaign have been very clear that, while we have taken a democratic decision to leave the European Union, we have no intention of leaving or abandoning Europe. Those positions were made very clear in our negotiations on Galileo. It is a huge disappointment that they have as yet not been responded to in kind by our European Commission partners. I think that this issue will have to be taken up at a very high level. It has to be highlighted that the loss to the Galileo project from the UK not being involved should not be underestimated. But, if necessary, as I have said several times this morning, the United Kingdom will move ahead to develop our own system.
Does the Minister fear that the decision is a precedent, or is it a mere blip with regard to future negotiations about the myriad agreements, particularly in science and defence, that are coming that will need to be discussed?
I sincerely hope that this decision will be reversed and, therefore, it will be a blip on the journey towards a sensible solution to the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. Again, we have made it very clear—the Prime Minister has made it very clear, as have Members across this House—that we are fully committed to security co-operation with our European partners. We want to be involved in the European Defence Fund. We want to remain involved in Galileo. We certainly want to continue to contribute to NATO in the way that we have over the years. Our messaging has been very clear on this issue, and it is hugely disappointing that the European Commission has responded in the way that it has. This issue will continue to be taken up by this Government, and I sincerely hope that good will will prevail.
Are there currently any non-EU member states that participate in Galileo and whose companies have access to contracts from Galileo?
My hon. Friend makes an important point, but of course, there has not previously been a country that has been so heavily involved in Galileo and committed to the project being threatened with exclusion. The key issue is this: do we have more to contribute to Galileo? The answer is yes. Do we want to carry on making that contribution to Galileo? The answer is yes. Do we have the capability to develop on our own if we need to? The answer, again, is yes. The decision is now clearly one for the European Commission. In my view, it made the wrong call yesterday—the wrong call for the security and prosperity of Europe—and I think it is absolutely essential that we move forward very strongly in partnership both with those countries within the European Union and with those partners within the system who are not currently in the European Union.
To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to make a statement on the announcement by Rolls-Royce of 4,600 redundancies over the next two years.
As the right hon. Lady has said, Rolls-Royce announced this morning that as part of an ongoing restructuring of its business, it intends to reduce the size of its worldwide management and support workforce by up to 4,600. As the company’s main management base is in Derby, it has said that that is where the biggest reduction will be felt. Although the company will embark on a statutory consultation with staff and unions, it is obvious that the news will come as a blow to the workforce, and that this is a very worrying time for the dedicated and talented employees who did nothing to bring it on themselves, but who will be affected.
Rolls-Royce is one of our most important companies. It is a world leader in new technology, and plays a vital role in our industrial strategy. I spoke to Warren East, the chief executive, yesterday evening. Mr East explained that the company’s view is that the job losses are a necessary part of a drive to make the business more efficient and therefore more competitive. The jobs are principally in management and corporate support facilities rather than engineering and operational roles. Rolls-Royce has informed me that the announcement does not reflect a reduction in growth by the company; indeed, it reflects the reverse. It has a growing order book amounting to more than £170 billion,[Official Report, 25 June 2018, Vol. 643, c. 3MC.] and Mr East told me that it would need more staff directly employed in both the manufacture of components and assembly to meet that demand. The company has told me that it will continue to recruit engineers, technicians and apprentices. It is continuing to invest in research and development. It invested £1.4 billion last year, and about two thirds of that investment was in the United Kingdom. Last year it filed 704 patents, more than any other single UK company.
When I visited Rolls-Royce at Derby just a few weeks ago, it was to break ground on the new test bed, part of an £150 million investment to ensure that the next generation of aero-engines will be built in Derby for many years to come. We will work closely with the company, the unions, the local enterprise partnership, councils and, of course, the right hon. Member for Derby South (Margaret Beckett) and other colleagues to ensure that each and every worker is supported in finding new work. We will continue to support a company, and an industry, of which we can be proud, and our biggest contribution will be to ensure that everyone in Derby, and in Britain as a whole, is able to benefit from a growing, modern economy that creates good jobs now and will do so long into the future, so that when jobs are lost, people can find new ones to support themselves and their families.
I thank the Secretary of State for his statement. I hope that he understands clearly the enormous economic and social impact that this announcement will have—particularly, as he said, on the city of Derby, but throughout the east midlands and anywhere else in the country where manufacturing is considered important, and particularly where manufacturing excellence is highly regarded.
I was pleased to hear the Secretary of State say that he recognised the huge importance of a world-class company such as Rolls-Royce, especially as we approach our departure from the European Union. These are the kind of jobs, and this is the kind of industry, that we want for the future, because of its export potential and because of its potential throughout the world. However, will the right hon. Gentleman say a little more about what the Government can do to address some of the problems that will be caused as an inevitable consequence of the announcement? I heard the company’s chairman say this morning that he hoped that most of the redundancies would be voluntary, and that the company would abide by agreements made with the trade unions, but that there might be some compulsory redundancies. What can the Government do to ease the situation?
I was pleased to hear the Secretary of State note the company’s emphasis on the need for continued investment. I know that, as he said, it is continuing to hire engineering expertise and to maintain its apprenticeship programmes, and to do the things that we hope it will do for the future of the company and of our country, but I want to press him a little more on just how close a relationship the Government have with Rolls-Royce. I know that he visited the company recently, but I think that that was his first ever visit.
I am mindful of the fact that we have corresponded with the Department about the issue of investment in small modular reactors. The company invested substantial resources of its own money in that technology, without any corresponding commitment, even in decision making frankly, by the Government, which I know has been a great disappointment to the company, especially as this technology is thought to have great export potential.
The Secretary of State referred to the need for continued investment, and I note that the title of his Department includes the words “industrial strategy”, which I welcome, but if there is an industrial strategy, what is it if it does not include a strong partnership with companies such as Rolls-Royce that might, one would hope, avert announcements like today’s?
I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for bringing this matter to the House in such a timely way. She has a long record of engagement with what is not only a very important employer but a very important national force. It is important to stress the point I made in my statement, and which Mr East has emphasised: the company is expanding its production. It expects to employ more apprentices, technicians and engineers, and has a growing order book; it has a waiting list for orders to be placed. As the right hon. Lady knows, that is in the context of growth in manufacturing in Derbyshire and across the east midlands, and it is very important that that is supported.
The skills among the employees whose jobs are under threat are valuable. The fact that they may be in management does not mean that they are not highly valued, in an economy nationally and in the east midlands that has a great demand for those skills. We will work very closely through the rapid response service that the Department for Work and Pensions provides to make sure that opportunities are offered, whether they are new jobs for existing employees or new opportunities to train in an expanding manufacturing sector in the east midlands. As the right hon. Lady knows, Infinity Park, for example, is continuing to attract new investment; just in recent days Airbus has announced an intention to establish an important facility there.
Our relationship with Rolls-Royce is very close, and it is at the heart of the industrial strategy; it is one of our most important aerospace partners. I have met numerous times with the management of the company all around the country. Since 2015 some £150 million of Government investment has been deployed in partnership with Rolls-Royce. It has been a major force in shaping our industrial strategy. Precisely for the reasons the right hon. Lady mentions, the industries in which it is engaged—aerospace, defence and the power sector—are some of the industries in which Britain leads the world, and we will do everything we can to drive that expansion forward.
I thank the Secretary of State for what he said about Rolls-Royce, but is it not true that it announced its restructuring programme in January and that that was followed by very good year-end results in March? Is it not absolutely necessary that as Rolls-Royce has growing revenues, it must now restructure itself so that it is simplified and has the agility and pace of production to remain one of the world’s leading industrial technology companies?
My right hon. Friend is right to stress that it is important for any British company in an internationally competitive market to be efficient. The company has been very clear about its intentions: that it is a growing company in a growing market. But having made a number of profit warnings over recent years, the management have been on a programme to make it more efficient. It is in all of our interests that this company, which is so important to the UK, continues to be successful around the world and to be at the leading edge of innovation, as it has been and as we are determined to see it be in future.
When I left school in Derby in 1972, Rolls-Royce employed around 35,000 people. Today, it employs just under 12,000. If these job losses go ahead, the workforce will be reduced to around 8,000. That is a huge reduction. The company made a £4.5 billion profit last year, and when the Prime Minister hosted a meeting with the aerospace industry in March, she talked about a successful collaboration with the industry. Indeed, the Secretary of State has talked this morning about the close relationship with the industry and with Rolls-Royce. But talk is cheap. Is it not time for the Government to legislate to have workers on the boards of companies so that there is somebody there to represent the interests of the workforce? At the moment, we are seeing expanding order books while the workforce is diminishing. Is not this a failure of shareholder capitalism, which basically sacrifices jobs on the altar of higher shareholder dividends?
I understand why a Member with a strong constituency interest in the workforce there would be anxious and combative in defending their interests. I will ensure, as will the trade unions, that the interests of the workforce are strongly represented. It is not true that all the redundancies will be at Derby, although the hon. Gentleman is right to say that a proportion of them will be. It is important that the company should adhere to its agreement with the trade unions, and I will of course make sure that it does that. In terms of the hon. Gentleman’s overall statement about the efficiency of companies, I think he should just reflect that his desire to overthrow capitalism would make it very hard for anyone to find work in any private company at any time.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the aerospace industry has gone from strength to strength under successive Conservative Governments? Looking more closely at Redditch, many of my constituents work for another engineering giant, GKN, and they want to know what the Government are doing through the industrial strategy to support and encourage the skills for the next generation of young people in engineering subjects, so that these companies can flourish in the future. Will he update the House on those plans?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that aerospace is one of the sectors in which our already strong reputation is growing. Through the industrial strategy, we are making a big investment in research and development and also in training, including retraining, so that an expanding industry can have access to the skills that it needs in the future. This will benefit her constituents and those of many others around the country.
I also thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby South (Margaret Beckett) for securing this important urgent question. This is deeply disturbing news, not just for the city of Derby, which relies heavily on Rolls-Royce for local employment, but for the sector as a whole. Despite Rolls-Royce making a substantial profit of £4.9 billion last year, this recent restructuring means that more than 4,000 workers will lose their jobs. This is on top of 5,000 job cuts already announced by the company after a series of rationalisation programmes. What discussions has the Secretary of State had with the company to ensure that it will honour previous commitments that there will be no compulsory redundancies?
Will the Secretary of State also outline what assessment the Government have made of the economic impact on local communities that are reliant on Rolls-Royce jobs? There is a real risk that redundancies of this scale will have a detrimental effect on the future of skills in a sector with a substantial skills gap. What action will he take to ensure that these vital skills are not lost? What measures will the Government take to directly support a reinvigorated local industrial strategy? Finally, will the Secretary of State tell us whether he has made any assessment of the causes and of the potential knock-on effect on jobs in the supply chain, and what steps he is taking to support the automotive and aerospace sector more generally?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her constructive questions. When it comes to redundancies, as I said to the right hon. Member for Derby South (Margaret Beckett), there will be a statutory consultation. Rolls-Royce has confirmed to me that it will of course abide by its agreements with the trade unions and will seek to avoid compulsory redundancies wherever possible.
As for the impact on the supply chain, it is significant that this news comes in the context of a company that is continuing to expand production and manufacturing and its use of components—the principal suppliers to the business. The job losses are coming from management support, which will of course have an impact on the local economy. We will be working closely with the local enterprise partnership to ensure that the opportunities that exist in Derby and the west midlands are taken up.
The hon. Lady will know that unemployment has fallen substantially in the east midlands, so good opportunities are available. For example, she mentioned the automotive sector, and Toyota at Burnaston, which is not too far away from Derby, has invested a quarter of a billion pounds in the next generation of vehicles. We will ensure that the employees who are not continuing at Rolls-Royce will have our full support. Vacancies will be drawn to their attention, and they will have help with skills to ensure that they have everything they need to enjoy prosperous careers in the future.
I, too, recently visited Rolls-Royce’s campus in Derby in my capacity as envoy for the Year of Engineering, and I saw all the good work and investment that is going on. That said, this is obviously unsettling news for those in the management function of the business, whose jobs are potentially at risk. What assurances has my right hon. Friend had, or what assurances can he seek, on the behalf of the management and business process apprentices employed by the business to ensure that they are not affected?
My hon. Friend raises an important point. The company has a firm commitment to apprenticeships, and I will emphasise the importance of continuity in the training offered to apprentices.
Any job losses are clearly a concern, so the potential loss of 4,600 jobs is a huge concern. I have constituents who work at the Inchinnan Rolls-Royce plant, so will the Secretary of State advise us of whether the restructuring will have any impact on jobs in Scotland?
While people often talk in general terms about having too many chiefs and not enough Indians, does the Secretary of State share my worry that it seems counterintuitive that Rolls-Royce says it will employ more engineers, continue to increase investment in R&D and expand massively while it is restructuring and downsizing the management? That does not sound quite right to me. Will the Secretary of State confirm that the Government will work urgently with Rolls Royce, the unions and staff affected by the job losses to ensure that they can find alternative employment, if required, and that they get suitable retraining to find other jobs?
Will the Secretary of State advise the House on whether Brexit will have an impact on Rolls-Royce, in terms of the customs union? The company has already said that it is thinking about relocating the jet engine design approval process to Germany from the UK, so could that have an impact on jobs? What impact will the rules of origin have on the company’s manufacturing? What discussions has the Government had about the potential impact on Rolls-Royce’s aspirations for small modular nuclear reactors?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his questions. It is too early to know the distribution of the proposed redundancies across the United Kingdom. As I said to the right hon. Member for Derby South, the management headquarters is obviously in Derby, so the expectation is that most of the UK job losses will happen there, but the company and I will keep Members up to date as the consultation takes place.
As for the combination of an intention to expand the production of aerospace engines and a growing order book with the need for fewer managers, that is not uncommon across competitive industries, and most industries are becoming simpler in their internal processes. That is not to say that the skills, commitment and loyalty of those who are affected are not extremely high and that they will not be in strong demand elsewhere, and it is important that we support that. We will provide all the help and assistance we can if retraining is needed.
The hon. Gentleman asks about Brexit, and Rolls-Royce has been clear that this is about making the company more efficient. It has no relation to Brexit, although it is fair to say that the continued ability to operate a just-in-time production system once we leave the European Union will, of course, be very important to the company.
I represent constituents who work at Rolls-Royce both in Coventry and in Derby. This is clearly a sad day for those affected by this decision and their families, but I am heartened that Rolls-Royce is looking to expand the number of engineers at the company and to take on more apprentices. How will the Government work with companies such as Rolls-Royce, and with other manufacturing companies, to make sure we can bring through the next generation of engineers and bring them into our economy?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. In fact, the demand for engineering skills is increasing right across the country, including in both the east midlands and the west midlands. Rolls-Royce itself plays an important role in training engineers. I met some of the young engineers in Derby, and they can look forward to a wonderful career in engineering.
Through the industrial strategy, as my hon. Friend is aware, we are placing greater emphasis on science, technology, engineering and maths skills in schools and colleges, and we are creating institutes of technology. With the aerospace and automotive sectors in the east midlands and west midlands, we are now creating more places for apprentices through those joint initiatives so that we can supply the growing order books, based on the skills that are needed.
I worked at Rolls-Royce when the company collapsed in 1971, and I can tell the Secretary of State that a lot of people at Rolls-Royce will be very worried indeed about their future. We have a plant just outside Coventry, as the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr Jones) mentioned. What will be the impact on, for example, the Ansty plant in Coventry and the Bristol plant, and on other plants across the country? Equally, this will have an impact on the supply chain, because I do not believe Rolls-Royce has 4,000 managers.
The announcement was made at 7 o’clock this morning that there is a proposal to reduce the headcount. Rolls-Royce has specified that the reduction will be in the management and support functions, rather than in the engineering and operational aspect. When further information is made available, I will make sure the hon. Gentleman, as the Member for a constituency with a great interest in the matter, shares in that information.
It is important to emphasise that the aerospace sector is characterised by growth. The proposed redundancies at Rolls-Royce—I make no bones about it—are clearly devastating news for those who may be affected but, overall, aerospace, including Rolls-Royce in this country, is enjoying higher order books. We will work together to make sure that, including in the test beds we have established together, we are at the forefront of the latest technologies in the future, as we have been to date.
Rolls-Royce is a worldwide brand of which our competitors are clearly jealous. What extra assistance can my right hon. Friend or the Department for International Trade provide, as we leave the European Union, to increase the opportunities for Rolls-Royce worldwide?
Rolls-Royce is already one of our most successful exporters. All around the world, my Department and the Department for International Trade work closely to support the company’s export push. The industry is very competitive, and there is a requirement to be at the cutting edge of technology, so our investment in research and development is an important boost to that future international competitiveness. When it comes to trade promotional support, there is already a close relationship between the company and the Government.
The Secretary of State has talked about the aerospace industry in this country doing well and growing, but he will be aware that BAE Systems is making people redundant at Brough. Will he say a little more about what he is doing to protect the home of the Hawk by encouraging orders for it from around the world?
The hon. Lady knows—we have had previous exchanges on this across this Dispatch Boxes—that the future of the employees there depends on defence export orders. I think she would acknowledge that there is no one more vigorous than our colleagues in the Ministry of Defence, the Department for International Trade and my Department when it comes to meeting businesses and those who are in defence procurement to emphasise the good quality and importance of our aerospace industry right across the country.
As my right hon. Friend knows, I am a big supporter of the value of the industrial strategy for midlands manufacturing, so what specific role does he see for Rolls-Royce within it?
Rolls-Royce has a huge role nationally, but of course it also has a particular role in the east midlands. We see that in the number of people who acquire their skills, and in many cases their inspiration to go into careers in engineering and advanced manufacturing, from the experience of having Rolls-Royce in their midst. That is one reason why we have such a close partnership with it, as I said to the right hon. Member for Derby South. We have made £150 million of joint investment with it since 2015, which shows the depth of that commitment. The reason for that is not just the importance of the company succeeding, but its galvanising effect on the rest of the UK economy.
Today’s devastating news will affect a lot of families, and the promise of jam tomorrow may not satisfy them. There are also reports that Rolls-Royce is intending to move some operations into Europe. Will the Minister confirm what discussions he has had with Rolls-Royce to prevent these moves as a result of our departure from Europe?
As I said to the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown), Warren East has been clear that the proposals that have been made today have nothing to do with any Brexit discussions; they are about the efficiency of the operation. When we talk to those in the aerospace sector, as I do, we find that Rolls-Royce is prominent among them in emphasising the absolute importance of ensuring our ability to export free of tariffs and with a minimum of frictions, and that that is fundamental to the sector’s ability to be as prosperous in the future as it has been to date.
The aerospace industry is one of the jewels in the British industrial crown, so will the Secretary of State tell the House what reassurances he has given the industry with regard to Britain’s exit from the European Union?
I have extensive consultations with all players in the industry. I listen to them, and make clear in our discussions in government and in our negotiations that what they require in precision terms to be able to operate the efficient system that they do at the moment must continue. As the hon. Gentleman says, this is a jewel in the crown of British industry. It is an industry where demand is expanding around the world. We have a wonderful opportunity to continue that success, and it is vital that we should be able to continue to trade with our European partners without any interruption to that.
Normally when the House is told of big job losses at a company it is because that business is in financial trouble, but Rolls-Royce is profitable and has a growing order book. It would seem that it is making these job losses in order to become more efficient. It would also seem from what the Secretary of State is saying that a lot of those who are, sadly, going to lose their jobs have very highly transferable skills. Will he ensure that the local enterprise partnership and neighbouring LEPs have the resources they need to place those highly skilled people in alternative employment?
I will certainly do that. My hon. Friend characterises the situation this well; this company has issued profit warnings in the past and has committed to take action to be efficient. These are the decisions of the management, but I think every Member of the House would acknowledge that it is important that our companies are competitive. He is right to say that the skills of the people employed in Derby, whether in management or in other supporting roles, are in great demand in the expanding economy there; unemployment has halved since 2010 in the east midlands. I will work with the neighbouring LEPs to make sure they have every support and that businesses that want to employ those people have every support in identifying what could be talented and welcome additions to their workforce.
Rolls-Royce is an iconic industrial asset for Britain, and its relationship with Glasgow goes back as far as the second world war. Even to this day it drives huge innovation in the city, from the Advanced Forming Research Centre to supply-chain companies such as Castle Precision and East Kilbride Engineering Services, all of which benefit from the huge industrial presence of Rolls-Royce. One difficulty that the company has had in recent years is the development of new products, particularly for the small airliner market, which is restricted because of this country’s lack of capacity for long-term industrial investment through state investment banks. Will the Secretary of State consider how we can support industrial development in the longer term by developing such capacity in the UK through a state bank for new product development?
Part of the reason for the development of the industrial strategy, which prominently includes the aerospace sector, is so that we can have the long-term support that is required. When I talk about I support, I mean for research and development programmes, which can take many years to come to fruition. We are known as and have a reputation for being one of the best places in the world for that, and that is a deliberate policy objective. It is exactly the same with skills.
On what the hon. Gentleman describes as a state bank, we have various means, including the British Business Bank and UK Export Finance, which have been set up to support businesses in pursuance of our industrial strategy. Rolls-Royce is an active participant in that.
Given Rolls-Royce’s announcement of nearly £5 billion profit for 2017, this news, or certainly the scale of it, will have come as a shock to Rolls-Royce workers throughout the UK, including those in Inchinnan in my constituency. My thoughts are very much with those workers and the affected families. In addition to what the Secretary of State said to my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown), will he outline what his Department is doing to assist Rolls-Royce to ensure that no further jobs are lost?
The plans that the company has set out today, as several colleagues have said, are part of a programme to improve efficiency to which it committed some years ago. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that for people who are employed there, the fact that the company has an expanding order book and is continuing to invest in research and development and production will be small comfort, because they will be losing their connection with an employer for which I am sure they have been proud to work over many years. We will do everything that we can to make sure that those employees, whose skills are in demand, are matched with other employers who I hope and intend will be able to make use of their talents and give them a flourishing future career, such as they have enjoyed with Rolls-Royce in the past.
Business of the House
May I start by congratulating the Clerk of the House on his knighthood?
Will the Leader of the House please give us the forthcoming business?
I certainly share the hon. Lady’s pleasure at the award to the Clerk of the House.
The business for next week will include:
Monday 18 June—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill, followed by a motion to approve a statutory instrument relating to the draft European Union (Definition of Treaties) (Canada Trade Agreement) Order 2018, followed by a motion to approve European documents relating to EU trade agreements: EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement, followed by a general debate on acquired brain injury.
Tuesday 19 June—Opposition day (14th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.
Wednesday 20 June—If necessary, consideration of Lords amendments to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, followed by a general debate on NATO.
Thursday 21 June—Debate on a motion on the importance of refugee family reunion, followed by a debate on a motion on the future of the Erasmus+ scheme after 2020. The subjects of these debates were determined by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 22 June—The House will not be sitting.
The provisional business for the week commencing 25 June will include:
Monday 25 June—Remaining stages of the Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill [Lords]. The shocking and heartbreaking scenes a year ago today at Grenfell Tower will stay with us all forever. That night, 72 lives were tragically lost, and the lives of so many were changed forever. The strength, dignity and determination shown by the survivors and the families of all those affected have been truly inspiring, and I pay tribute to them all.
Our overwhelming priority over the past year, and going forward, is to ensure that the survivors of this terrible event get the homes and the support they need and the truth and justice they deserve. A minute’s silence will be held across the United Kingdom at 12 noon today in remembrance of all those who lost their lives and all others who were affected. We will not forget them.
Just before we proceed to questions, I wish to say this: I thank very warmly the shadow Leader of the House and then the Leader of the House for what they said by way of tribute to the Clerk of the House, Sir David Natzler. For those who do not know—many will be aware of this—David joined the House in 1975 and he has served with distinction and without interruption for 43 years, and we look forward to him continuing to serve us. In serving us, he applies his intellect and his energy to facilitate the House and he does so with the keenest and most admirable spirit of public service. David, you are much appreciated in this place.
In reference to what the Leader of the House very appositely said about Grenfell, a lot of Members will want to take part in the minute’s silence, and a number of Members will be taking part in commemorative activity much later today.
I thank you, Mr Speaker, for the tribute to Sir David. We are used to using the “Sir” after his name, but now we will have to move it to before.
I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business. I am glad that we are having another Opposition day, and pleased that she thinks the Opposition can fill in the gaps in the Business of the House.
I have a gentle reminder to the Leader of the House. She may want to let the House know when we will have an updated draft of the list of ministerial responsibilities, as there has been a change in Home Secretary and another resignation by a Minister. We also have a Foreign Secretary who says that negotiations are in meltdown; that the Government lack guts; and that he wants the leader of another country to negotiate—that sounds like no confidence in the Prime Minister. We then have a Brexit Secretary who threatened to resign until he got his backstop—I thought we only had backstops in rounders. She may want to keep the list of ministerial responsibilities in draft form.
The Government said that the White Paper sets out their negotiating position, but there is no White Paper. The House of Commons Library has confirmed that no one has any information about the content or the title of the White Paper, except that it will be published after the meeting of the European Council on 28 and 29 June, which therefore means that it will be in July. It is like the emperor’s new clothes: the Government are strutting about saying that we are negotiating, but there is nothing in it. When will the White Paper be published with content?
Will the Leader of the House confirm whether the subcommittees looking at the customs agreement, or a customs partnership, are still meeting? I ask that because she will know that the amendment that was agreed yesterday referred to a customs arrangement, so it seems that there is a name but no content.
The Prime Minister said at Prime Minister’s Question Time that the Government have a position and that it needs parliamentary support. That is not the constitutional role of Parliament as I understand it. The previous Prime Minister, David Cameron, understood the role of Parliament. On 29 August 2013, he said with regard to military action that, even without a motion, it was very clear that
“the British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that, and the government will act accordingly.”—[Official Report, 29 August 2013; Vol. 566, c. 1556.]
So Parliament can direct the Government; this is a parliamentary democracy.
What is going on in the rest of the country? This week is Carers Week, and many hon. Members attended the event in the Attlee Suite. There are 6.5 million carers in the UK, saving the economy £132 billion a year. When can we have a debate on the future of social care funding? I congratulate the founders of John’s Campaign, who have been fighting since 2014 for the right of carers to stay with people with dementia. Nicci Gerrard’s father, Dr John Gerrard, had dementia; his family faced restricted visiting hours and he deteriorated. Together with Julia Jones and Francis Wheen, they presented the chief nursing officer for England with a book of pledges by NHS acute trusts that allowed unrestricted visiting hours. It reminds me of the words of Margaret Mead, who said:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
They should be congratulated on their personal efforts.
Will the Leader of the House schedule a debate on students? There were 146 student suicides in 2016—the highest in records going back to 2001. Perhaps she could combine it with a debate on the report on tuition fees by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, which found that the student loan book will grow to over £1 trillion over the next 25 years. Interest rates are set to rise to set to rise to 6.3%, but the Committee has suggested that they should be at the same rate—1.5%—that the Government use when they borrow. The report says that the system of fees and loans is “deeply unfair”. For instance, nurses will pay back £19,000 more than lawyers.
May we have a debate on our early-day motion 1383 that we tabled on 12 June, praying against the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 (Cooperation and Information Sharing) Regulations 2018, which seek to hand over large amounts of student data to various unaccountable organisations.
[That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 (Cooperation and Information Sharing) Regulations 2018 (S.I., 2018, No. 607), dated 21 May 2018, a copy of which was laid before this House on 23 May, be annulled.]
As the Leader of the House and you, Mr Speaker, have said, today marks the first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire. We remember the 72 people who lost their lives, the survivors and the families.
This Saturday is the second anniversary of the death of our dear friend and colleague Jo Cox. We know that a number of our colleagues in this House are facing threats to their lives, and we stand by them.
As England play Tunisia on Monday, I hope that the House will join me in remembering three generations of Walsall football club fans—Joel Richards aged 19, his uncle Adrian Evans and his grandfather Patrick Evans—who died in the attack in Tunisia three years ago.
On a happier note, there is still time to arrange an EqualiTeas event, to remind us of the journey that women have taken from behind the grille to the Floor of the House.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for covering a wide range of subjects.
First, on the list of ministerial responsibilities, it will not be lost on the hon. Lady that her party appears to be dropping Front Benchers like flies. I gather that yesterday’s total was six, which is a great shame, but not only that: there were also 90 rebellions against the Labour Whip. That demonstrates how very unfortunate the Opposition are on the subject of fulfilling the will of the people in the referendum of June 2016. The hon. Lady will appreciate that Walsall voted overwhelmingly to leave, so she may consider whether she is fulfilling the democratic will of the people of Walsall.
I certainly join the hon. Lady in remembering her constituents who died in Tunisia. It was an absolute tragedy. In doing so, at this time of great excitement about football, I wish the England team great success in their adventure.
The hon. Lady asks about the White Paper. The Prime Minister said it all. We will bring forward the White Paper after the June Council. July comes after June; need we say more? The negotiations are well under way. As the hon. Lady will know, it is for the Executive—the Government of the day—to put forward proposals for legislation. It is then for Parliament to amend and, ultimately, approve or reject that legislation. That is how Parliament works. I am surprised that the hon. Lady has any doubt about that.
During Carers Week, I join the hon. Lady in commending all those who do so much to care for friends and family. She also mentioned the appalling issue of student suicides. The situation is utterly unacceptable. She will be aware that the Government are doing everything we can to look at the issue, particularly regarding what more can be done to prevent the harm that is being caused by appalling abuse on social media.
The hon. Lady mentioned threats to colleagues. Mr Speaker, as you and I said on Tuesday in response to a point of order, threats of violence to hon. and right hon. Members across the House are utterly unacceptable and will not be tolerated. I encourage any Members who are experiencing such abuse and threats to go to the parliamentary police service, who will monitor social media and take action where they possibly can to prevent this type of violence against Members.
Finally, the hon. Lady asked when there will be a debate on the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 (Cooperation and Information Sharing) Regulations 2018. She will be aware that, as ever, business is announced on a Thursday in business questions. We have been doing that for some time, and it is the convention that when the Opposition request a debate through the usual channels with reasonable notice, that debate will be forthcoming.
Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on illegal encampments? Yet again, so-called Travellers, which they absolutely are not, have turned up in public spaces and parks in Essex and areas such as Southend, causing havoc and at a cost to the council tax payer. I know the consultation is about to finish, but I hope the Government will look very carefully at the recommendation by our right hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois) to go for the Irish option.
My hon. Friend raises an issue that is vital to lots of hon. and right hon. Members, particularly at this time of year when the pressure rises because the incidence of illegal encampments rises. He will recall, I am sure, that Members have had the opportunity to discuss this issue in three parliamentary debates in the last year. The Government are very concerned about unauthorised Traveller encampments and their effect on communities, and the consultation, which I hope he has fed into, will remain open until 15 June.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for next week. I echo her sentiments about the victims of Grenfell, and I congratulate you, Sir David, on your very well-deserved knighthood.
There are weeks when you get a sense that the tectonic plates have shifted and things will never be the same again—and no, I am not referring to Scotland beating England at cricket. The people of Scotland have been observing this place very closely this week. They have seen this Government disrespecting our Parliament and treating its institutions with utter contempt, with 19 minutes to turn the devolution settlement on its head—19 minutes in which no Member of Parliament from Scotland was selected to speak. Those were amendments designed in the unelected House of Lords, and we the Members of Parliament elected by the people of Scotland have had no opportunity to debate them. What sort of democracy is on offer in this House?
I warned the Leader of the House about giving—[Interruption.] Mr Speaker, look at the Government Back Benchers braying and shouting, just as they did yesterday; it is no wonder the people of Scotland are appalled by their behaviour. I warned the Leader of the House about giving sufficient time for debate, and she singularly refused to listen. She has to take responsibility for what happened the other day. She is in charge of business. I do not want to hear anything about Labour Members taking up the time for votes. Yes, they have the tactical guile of the Foreign Secretary at an ambassador’s ball, but they can vote on what they wish. It was she who designed that programme motion, and it was she who had to make sure that time was protected for debate.
Surely now the time has come for us to stop the practice of going round and round in circles for a headcount vote. Over two-and-a-half hours were wasted standing in cramped Lobbies when we should have been in this Chamber debating important issues to do with the repeal legislation. Nothing could be more useless and counterproductive, and we must end this nonsense.
Lastly, the people of Scotland are now watching fully the events here, and more and more of them are saying, “Enough.” If this is the way Westminster treats Scotland, Scotland will make its own decisions about its own future.
Order. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I am sure that the Leader of the House will want to respond fully to his inquiries, and the opportunity for that will arise shortly. However, it seems to me that it would be seemly for us to prepare for our one-minute silence.
We shall now observe a one-minute silence in respectful memory of those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire a year ago today. I had been intending to invite all present to join us in this commemorative silence, but it has not proved necessary to do so because everybody is so minded.
The House observed a minute’s silence.
Colleagues, thank you.
In the light of what happened at Grenfell, it hardly seems right to dive straight back into debate. Nevertheless, that is what we must do.
I thank the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) for his comments, and I of course accept his right to challenge in every way in this Chamber. I say to him that the Government’s programme motion, which was approved by the House—by 321 votes to 304—provided six hours in total, with three hours for each set of amendments. As you said, Mr Speaker, there was no constitutional or procedural impropriety. It was up to Members, if they did not like the programme motion, to defeat it. There were 11 votes, which took about two hours and 40 minutes, leaving very little time for the devolution amendments the hon. Gentleman mentioned. It was of course a matter for the House to choose to divide on a number of issues that were broadly similar to one another, each of which was won by the Government with a double-digit majority.
The hon. Gentleman talked about the lack of debate in general on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. I say to him that, prior to the 12 hours of debate on the Bill this week, Parliament had collectively spent 258 hours debating the Bill, including a total of 15 hours on the subject of devolution, so it is simply not the case that there has been no debate on this matter. Across both Houses, 1,390 amendments have been tabled, of which 1,171 were non-Government amendments. There has been an enormous amount of debate, and there continues to be a huge amount of debate.
On the subject of the Sewel convention, I say to all SNP Members that we have followed the spirit and letter of the devolution settlement at every stage of the process. The devolution settlement itself envisaged situations in which the UK Parliament might be required to legislate without the consent of a devolved Administration. On this issue for the UK, we have sought to work closely with—[Interruption.]
Order. This is rather unseemly. To be fair, the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) asked a question and the Leader of the House is in the process of answering it, so he should not be conducting a side discussion with some Government Back Bencher. [Interruption.] Somebody says it is “uncouth”. I am always rather gentle and understated, so I would not say that. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire is still doing it; it is a rather obsessive characteristic of his. Let us hear the reply of the Leader of the House.
The hon. Gentleman did tweet at 10.37 am to ask all his followers to watch the business question, so he obviously had something in store for us.
I would like to finish the point. The Government have tried very hard to reach agreement with all the devolved Administrations. Since the Scottish Government walked away from an agreement, they have offered no new proposals to try to bridge the gap. Their demand for a veto on how the UK internal market operates is just not acceptable, and that is never how devolution was intended to work.
May I associate myself with the remarks about Sir David? It is a welcome recognition of his distinguished service to the House. May I also say what a privilege it was to stand here and mark the deep sorrow we all feel about Grenfell? It sends a wider message to the wider world.
May I ask the Leader of the House for a debate on emissions reductions? If we were to be granted one, it might be helpful for Members to know that the all-party group on electric and automated vehicles, in partnership with AXA, will be demonstrating a pod in the space opposite Old Palace Yard on 20 June—next Wednesday—between 10 o’clock and 4 o’clock. The pod was produced by Westfield Technology Group, a British company, and can show us how to proceed towards the Chancellor’s avowed target of having the first driverless cars on British roads by 2021.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise such a crucial issue of our time. I am pleased to say that emissions of toxic nitrogen oxides fell by almost 27% between 2010 and 2016. The Government have published a new clean air strategy that aims to cut air pollution and save lives, and of course we are currently passing legislation on automated vehicles that will place us at the forefront of clean driving. I am proud, too, of our commitment to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it in.
The estimates day debates are forthcoming. We believe the dates will be something like 2 and 3 July. Applications for debate slots—there will be four over the two days—should be submitted to the Clerk of the Backbench Business Committee by lunchtime tomorrow. A time-sensitive application has also come in. The Government launched their tobacco control plan on 18 July 2017, and we hope there will be a Backbench Business debate on 19 July to debate its anniversary. That application is sitting with us at the moment.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the Great Exhibition of the North, which launches on 22 June—next Friday—in Newcastle and Gateshead, with the great opening ceremony happening on the Gateshead side of the river. At the moment, however, we have a problem with rail services in the north of England. Many people wanting to get to the venues for the exhibition will have to rely on Northern Rail and TransPennine Express—I hope it stays fine for them—but the services are dreadful at the moment. Last Sunday, I travelled from Newcastle to Southport for a speaking engagement and it took me almost six hours. It can be done in two and half hours by car. We need urgent intervention so that people can actually get to the exhibition.
First, may I say good luck to all those taking part in the Great Exhibition of the North? It sounds like an amazing opportunity for local businesses and the community to come together. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Transport Secretary is doing everything possible to sort out the appalling situation with Northern Rail, and he believes and is reporting that the situation is improving. The hon. Gentleman will also be aware that the great north rail project means an investment of more than £1 billion designed to deliver space for 40,000 more passengers and over 2,000 more services a week, but nevertheless there can be no excuses for what has happened in recent weeks, which has been just appalling. I also heard his bid for a Back-Bench debate on tobacco on 19 July, and I particularly commend the Backbench Business Committee for this afternoon’s very important debate on Windrush.
Further to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess), and in advance of any future debate, in the light of the end of the consultation tomorrow, will my right hon. Friend encourage the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to come to the House to inform us about what support he has received for the so-called Irish option of making deliberate trespass a criminal offence?
I know my hon. Friend will have plenty of support from across the House for his suggestion, which originally came from my right hon. Friend the Member for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois). I am sure the Minister will come to the House in due course, once the consultation is closed, with further ideas on what more can be done. I draw the attention of hon. Members to Housing, Communities and Local Government questions on Monday, where they may wish to raise this issue directly with Ministers.
Six months ago, Carillion went bust and work stopped on the Midland Metropolitan Hospital. It still has not restarted. This week I received a parliamentary answer from a Health Minister turning down a proposal because it involved additional public capital input. Frankly, if Ministers think they will be able to finish this hospital without putting up more cash, they are living in cloud cuckoo land. May we have a debate or a statement from the Health Secretary to tell us when he is going to stop dithering and start building?
The right hon. Gentleman raises a very specific project. I can absolutely sympathise: we are all keen to see new hospitals and improved hospitals in our constituencies. Health and Social Care questions are next Tuesday, so he may want to raise the issue directly with Ministers then.
As my right hon. Friend might be aware, today’s newspapers report that Stracathro Hospital in my constituency is being considered for closure. That is of great concern to my constituents. Only recently, the Scottish National party Government in Edinburgh closed the mental health unit in Stracathro, which was of great use to my constituents. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that we can debate in this place the importance of keeping health services provided locally and indeed rural services as a whole?
My hon. Friend, who is a big champion for her constituency, raises another local hospital issue. As she rightly says, this is a matter for the Scottish Government and NHS Tayside. I understand that written assurances were given earlier this year by both the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport and NHS Tayside’s chief executive that there was no threat to her hospital. She might like to seek a Westminster Hall debate to discuss this further, or of course there are Health questions next Tuesday.
When does the Leader of the House plan to allow this House to debate the Procedure Committee report into baby leave?
As I have said on a number of occasions, I am absolutely supportive of the need for new parents to have that essential time to form an early bond with their babies. I am very grateful to the Procedure Committee, which has tried to look at what is quite a significant constitutional change—[Interruption.] As the hon. Lady and other Opposition Members are pointing out, they are themselves members of the Procedure Committee. I am extremely grateful to them for their work on trying to address these issues. They will appreciate that this requires quite a significant constitutional change. It is important to ensure we have the right solution that provides parents with that opportunity to be with their babies. I intend to bring forward a general debate within the next few weeks to inform a broader range of discussion that will enable me to respond to the Procedure Committee’s report. I believe that is due by 15 July.
The Leader of the House has previously met my requests for debates on acquired brain injury and on knife crime and encouraged me in my campaign for nuclear test veterans, so mindful of my earlier question on Network Rail felling trees, may I turn her attention to the local authorities that, irrespective of emissions, in Newcastle, Edinburgh and Sheffield are felling thousands of trees, and the Campaign to Protect Rural England tells us that greedy developers are building on land from Howard’s End to Watership Down? Will she ask the Environment Secretary to turn his brilliance, shining a light, on how we can build a sylvan future of hedges and haymaking, forests and fields? I want no less for the next generation—as I know you do, Mr Speaker—than Arcadia.
Not for nothing is the right hon. Gentleman regarded as a specialist and perhaps even a rarified delicacy in the House.
I love the way that my right hon. Friend puts his questions and tempts me to always deliver on his requests, which is a very clever way of approaching business questions. He will appreciate that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is totally committed, as was I when I was doing that job, to improving our environment and to being the first generation that leaves our environment in a better state than we found it in. That means ensuring many millions more trees are planted and that we protect those precious trees, including those that are on Network Rail land. Housing, Communities and Local Government questions are on Monday. He might like to raise his specific point directly with Ministers then.
Mr Speaker, although I know you did not hear the taunt shouted at my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford) in this place on Tuesday, people in Motherwell and Wishaw did hear the word “suicide” yelled across the Chamber. The families and friends of the far too many young men in and around my constituency who have recently committed suicide were rightly appalled—as am I. My office is arranging suicide awareness training for local parliamentarians, their staff and local organisations. Will the Leader of the House liaise with the appropriate House authorities to provide such training to all Members?
I am not aware of the specific circumstances that the hon. Lady raises, but I would say—and I am sure you would say, Mr Speaker—that language in the Chamber is a matter for the Chair. Nevertheless, Mr Speaker and I have both made clear that unacceptable language—threatening, violent and offensive language—should not be used at any time, let alone in the Chamber. What I can say to the hon. Lady is that cross-party a number of us are working on an independent complaints procedure that will change the culture in this place and ensure that all people who work here, regardless of their position and what they do in this place, will be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.
As I think the hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Marion Fellows) knows—and I respect her sincerity and the force of what she has just said—I indicated earlier in the week that I simply did not hear the term used at the time. However, I emphasised, once it was brought to my attention, that I utterly deprecated it. It is not a term that should be bandied about in the spirit of political polemics. As the hon. Lady says, it is something that touches a lot of people very deeply. I echo what the Leader of the House says: we should weigh our words carefully.
May we have an urgent debate on the Home Office’s very welcome but seriously overdue commitment to move to a fairer funding formula for the police? Back in 2004, damping was brought in, which means that many police forces such as Bedfordshire received millions of pounds less than the national funding formula says they should get. In Bedfordshire, that equates to 90 police officers. May I ask the Leader of the House to convey to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, as well as to the Home Secretary, the real anger on this issue of the people of Bedfordshire at the way their police force is underfunded by this unfair issue of damping?
My hon. Friend raises something in which many Members take a great interest. The Home Office will be looking again at the funding formula in the next spending review to provide all police leaders with the financial certainty they need. Following the 2018-19 settlement, the Bedfordshire police and crime commissioner has announced that she will increase officer numbers by at least 100 over the next two years. I assure my hon. Friend that the Government will listen very carefully to all forces and reflect on all evidence before taking funding decisions.
The Leader of the House will know that we had a fantastic year in Hull as the UK city of culture last year. However, despite a strong police presence in recent weeks, the scourge of individuals who are addicted to the synthetic drug, spice, and walking round the city centre in a zombie-like state is causing real problems for citizens who want to go about their daily lives shopping there. Today, the BBC is reporting that this negative publicity has resulted in businesses not investing in the city, including Pret a Manger not opening a branch. May we have a debate about what additional enforcement action we need, and also about how the cuts to public health budgets are affecting drug treatment services around the country?
The hon. Lady always speaks up for Hull, and I am always delighted to congratulate Hull on its success as the city of culture. She raises an incredibly concerning issue that is affecting many communities right across the country—the increased use of psychoactive substances. It is a major problem. Through the serious violence strategy, the Home Office, with police officers, are looking very carefully at what more can be done. All hon. Members will be aware of the recent spike in drug-related crime, which is a very grave issue. The hon. Lady may well want to raise the issue at Home Office questions so that she can discuss it directly with Ministers.
Next Thursday is the International Day of Yoga. We have a series of events for Members, including open-air yoga in Victoria Gardens and yoga in Committee Room 14—and, I believe, in a Committee Room in the House of Lords. You might choose, Mr Speaker, to exercise another sanction on Members who get excited in the Chamber on that day. May we have a debate in Government time on the beneficial aspects of yoga for health and wellbeing?
I cannot quite imagine the prospect of you, Mr Speaker, requiring hon. Members to stand on one leg, perhaps, or in other yoga positions in the Chamber in response to poor behaviour, but it would be quite amusing and I am sure the public would find it highly entertaining. My hon. Friend raises a very important issue. I know that many people find yoga incredibly relaxing and it is of great benefit to their general wellbeing. He may well want to seek an Adjournment debate so that he can promote it to Ministers.
My Easterhouse constituent, Mr Tabogo, is currently in an immigration detention centre near Heathrow airport, with the idea of moving him back to Cameroon where he will face a military court. As a result of his being removed from Scotland, he does not have access to legal aid—a similar position to people in Northern Ireland. May we have a statement in Government time about this absolutely ridiculous situation?
The hon. Gentleman is raising, as he often does, a concerning constituency matter. I encourage him to take it up directly with Ministers, who seek to ensure that our immigration system is fair to those who want to come here and contribute to this country but is robust in dealing with those who are here illegally. If he wants me to take it up on his behalf, then could he please write to me after business questions?
There is a rather arbitrary proposal by the Mayor of London to extend the low-emission zone to the north circular road. Without any exemptions, my constituents in Chingford will find it very difficult to get to their hospital without having to pay vast sums of money to go back and forth and into local communities. We need to look at exemptions for local travellers. May we have a debate about this?
While we are on the subject of Chingford, with your blessing, Mr Speaker, I want to wish Harry Kane the greatest good luck. He is the greatest striker in the world and happens also to be a Chingford boy, thus one of our own.
My right hon. Friend raises two very important points. I certainly join him in wishing Harry Kane the best of luck.
My right hon. Friend is right to raise the subject of the Mayor’s plans for low-emission zones in London. I know that there are grave concerns about the Mayor’s tendency to take credit for things that go well and blame central Government when anything is not going his way. It is for him to take action against the appalling air quality in certain parts of London, but it is also for him to facilitate the ability of innocent citizens to go about their daily business, whether for work or to hospital and so on. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise that challenge to the Mayor.
As an Arsenal fan, I must say to the right hon. Gentleman that I hugely look forward to Harry Kane deploying his brilliance for England, much more than I ever look forward to him deploying his brilliance for Tottenham. He is a great player and a great representative of our country.