House of Commons
Wednesday 12 June 2019
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
Women and Equalities
The Minister for Women and Equalities was asked—
The welfare system treats individuals of all genders equally. It provides support and incentives to claimants to enter employment and progress in work. The Department for Work and Pensions and indeed the whole Government are committed to ensuring that all claimants have access to the right tailored support when they need it.
This question is about to completely contradict what has just been said. Under universal credit, lone parents under the age of 25 receive a lower payment than under the legacy system. This is totally arbitrary and discriminates heavily against women, who make up 90% of lone parents. Will the Minister urge the DWP to rethink the policy?
As the hon. Gentleman will know, over the last two Budgets we have put in an extra £6 billion to support the most vulnerable in universal credit. Sadly, he and his colleagues did not vote to support those changes.
Does my hon. Friend agree that ensuring that universal credit is fair and flexible for women is a vital part of supporting women’s economic empowerment?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. In the universal credit system, we have one-to-one support provided by work coaches, and it is working. We have just seen the figures released yesterday by the Office for National Statistics showing that the rate of women in employment is at a record high.
The Minister is also wrong with respect to national insurance contributions being attributed, or rather not attributed, to women who have more than one period of maternity leave within two years. Will he go back to look at the correspondence I have sent to the Department about this very serious problem?
Of course I will look at the correspondence and make sure that the appropriate Minister meets the hon. Lady.
With regards to the DWP’s pensions policy, this Women and Equalities Minister—the fourth—has had the opportunity to reduce the gender pay gap and tackle discrimination against those with disabilities, women and LGBT and BME people before another Prime Minister and another reshuffle. What is she going to achieve in this term?
We in the DWP have introduced a range of measures across the whole Government to make sure that we are supporting those across all sectors of society into work. As I said, the hon. Lady just needs to look at the jobs figures: we have joint record high employment, record high women’s employment and record high ethnic minorities in employment.
Hate Crime Action Plan
The current action plan runs from 2016 to 2020 and it was refreshed last year to ensure that it remained fit for purpose. The Government are delivering on these commitments, but we will of course continue to review what needs to be done to tackle hate crime, including what will follow the current action plan.
I thank the Minister for that reply. She will know that, disturbingly, the latest police figures record a 17% increase in hate crime. Does she accept that this is at least in part encouraged by the casual racism of some in public life, and does she agree that anyone who compares Muslim women with “letter boxes” and describes African children as “piccaninnies” is not fit to be Prime Minister?
The hon. Gentleman is quite right to remind us all that our use of language is very, very important in public life. There are many examples across the House, it is fair to say, where, for example, people have liked Facebook pages which they then come to regret. I think there is a particular duty on all of us to ensure that the language we use is respectful, tolerant and reflects 21st-century Britain, which is a vibrant, multicultural, diverse country with much, much talent and potential among all our people.
Queer bashing is still a fact of life in modern Britain, depressingly, however we have changed the laws, and it is still a fact that young gay boys and girls are six times more likely to take their own lives than their straight counterparts. Does the Minister accept that every time somebody in public life—not necessarily an MP, but in the Church or wherever—spouts language that undermines the fundamental sense of respect that there should be for every different form of sexual identity in the UK, they increase the poison in the well and that leads to more queer bashing and more suicides?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to focus on this. Of course, recent events have shown just how despicably some people will behave when confronted with a relationship or situation with which they clearly do not feel comfortable. That is not what our country is about. Our country is a diverse, tolerant, welcoming country, and each and every one of us can play our part in making sure that that message is clear in the way we behave and speak and the words we use.
First, can I ask or perhaps suggest that all this whataboutery is parked, because it does not suit this House? Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) had access to my question, because I would also like to ask the Minister this. As we are speaking about the hate crime action plan, will she distance herself from people whose comments directly lead to an increase in hate crime, such as her colleague who described gay people as “bumboys”, black people as “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles”, and Muslim women as “bank robbers” and “letter boxes”, which, according to the Government’s own funded reporting centre Tell MAMA, such led to an increase in attacks on Muslim women?
Again, I am genuinely sorry because I am afraid I am not familiar with some of the instances the hon. Lady has just set out. [Interruption.] Really. But the point of the action plan is that it focuses on the five themes of preventing hate crime by challenging prejudicial beliefs and attitudes, responding to hate crime within our communities, increasing the reporting of hate crime, improving support for victims of hate crime and building our understanding of hate crime. Again, each and every one of us in this House and beyond can play our part in tackling the hate and showing that we are a modern, diverse and welcoming country for everyone.
Census: National Minorities
I respect the passion of my hon. Friends from Cornwall in their campaign for Cornish national identity. However, the Government will be guided by the ONS’s recommendations to the Government and Parliament regarding particular questions in the next census. Everyone who wishes to identify their chosen national identity will be able to do so in the 2021 census.
I thank the Minister for his response, but the Cornish continue to be the only UK national minority unable to identify themselves in the census by way of a tick box. Does the Minister agree that this falls short of equality of recognition for the Cornish?
Ultimately, as I have just said, the Government will be guided by the ONS’s recommendations, and ultimately the final questions will be decided by this House.
Does the Minister agree that while it is important that all recognised national minorities should receive their place in the census, we do need to be very careful that we do not put forward nominations for what are not recognised national minorities and be accused of social engineering?
When filling in the census, particularly given the fact that we have moved mostly to online filling in, everyone will be able to use either one of the tick boxes or the search and type facility for common responses that people may wish to use. Everyone will be able to fill it in in the way they wish and to identify their own identity. As I say, the Government will be guided by the ONS’s recommendations about what should be the suggested ones in the form of tick boxes.
I note the Minister’s response about the online versions, but people filling in the paper version, particularly religious minorities, will not be prompted what to fill in—for example, the Jain community. Will he do everything he can to make sure that those from religious communities can fill in their religion?
I recognise the demands that have been made about a Jain religion tick box, but it is worth noting that the religion question is a voluntary one. Again, there is an opportunity to put in on the paper form what religious identity people have. Most people use that seriously, but as many of us will know, some people decided to declare they were Jedis.
The female employment rate of 72% is a record high. The industrial strategy is transforming our economy, ensuring that everyone can access, and progress at, work. We have a range of parental and other leave entitlements, and we are working with businesses to promote flexible working. We will invest £3.5 billion in early education this year, making childcare more accessible.
We have record numbers of women in work, but more than 50,000 women a year feel they have no choice but to leave their jobs simply because they are pregnant. Will the Minister look carefully at my ten-minute rule Bill, which is a way to try to provide proper protection for pregnant women, so more of them can stay on in work when they are pregnant and continue to work when they have young children?
I commend my right hon. Friend for her passion, and for her work as Chair of the Select Committee and her ten-minute rule Bill. As she will know, we recently conducted a consultation on maternity and pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, which finished at the beginning of April. We are currently reviewing more than 600 responses, and we hope to publish the results as soon as possible.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for highlighting that issue. I am proud to be a Minister sitting on the Front Bench among many other females: that just shows that women can do it. One of our priorities has been getting women on boards, and we are on track to reach our target of 33%, but it is crucial that we feed into the pipeline and get women into those executive positions. Hopefully, some of us in the House will be good models for them.
The huge success of the Conservative approach to apprenticeships has enabled many women to secure well-paid jobs in manufacturing. Will my hon. Friend join me in commending the work of companies such as Jaguar Land Rover, which trains equal numbers of men and women as engineering apprentices, despite the challenges that they face?
I strongly commend the work of organisations such as JLR. In my constituency, BAE Systems has high-level apprenticeships for women engineers, which is great. We need more women in higher executive roles, and an apprenticeship system is one of the great vehicles that we can use to achieve that.
As was pointed out by the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller), 54,000 women lose their jobs each year because of maternity discrimination. The Women and Equalities Committee has long recommended an increase in the employment tribunal time limit for maternity discrimination claims from three to six months to break down some of the barriers. Why have the Government not implemented that?
The hon. Lady will know that the consultation which finished in April dealt with that very issue. However, we also sought views on the position of parents who have been on adoption leave or shared parental leave and are returning to work. As I have said, we are looking through the 600 responses to the consultation, and are keen to publish the results as soon as possible. Let me emphasise, however, that the law is clear: discrimination against pregnant women coming back from maternity leave is unlawful.
Let me begin by saying that I hope the whole House will join me in wishing good luck to England and Scotland for their world cup matches this Friday.
We have set up a taskforce, which I co-chair with Plan International and Procter & Gamble. It will improve data and evidence on period poverty, and improve access to period products for all women and girls. Internationally, we have committed the United Kingdom to leading a new campaign of action to end period poverty and shame globally by 2030.
Will the Minister join me in celebrating the great work done by the Red Box project, which is helping me to distribute sanitary products to schools across my constituency?
I do congratulate Red Box, and also the many organisations throughout the country which Members will know well in their own constituencies. As well as bringing together the manufacturers, the taskforce brings together a network of all those organisations so that we can combat period poverty across the UK.
The Minister may or may not be aware that Derry City Council is one of the few councils in Northern Ireland that have taken steps to address period poverty among their staff. Has the Minister had an opportunity to discuss these matters with local councils, which have a responsibility to their staff?
The Departments of Health and Education have initiatives involving schools and colleges and people in hospitals, but there are many other settings in which we need to combat period poverty, and the workplace is just one of them. That is the purpose of the taskforce, and we shall be talking to all employers in the public and private sectors.
State Pension Age: Equalisation
The Government of the day decided more than 20 years ago that they were going to make the state pension age the same for men and women in a long overdue move towards gender equality, and this change was clearly communicated. We need to raise the age at which all of us can draw a state pension so that it remains sustainable now and for future generations.
We know from House of Commons Library data that the number of women aged 60 claiming out-of-work benefits has increased since 2013 by more than the total number of claimants of all other ages, so what further evidence do we need that this UK Government have totally failed this cohort of women?
I am sure the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that additional money was put into the system—an extra £1.1 billion—which means that women in this cohort will benefit.
The fact is that 1950s-born women suffered discrimination and lower pay leading to smaller or no private pensions to fall back on, so it beggars belief that they then had to suffer the equalisation of the state pension age. Given the past injustices, the lack of notification of the Pensions Act 1995 and the way the Pensions Act 2011 Act has been rolled out, who in this Government is going to take responsibility for fair transitional arrangements?
As I said, additional money was put into the system, but ultimately this is a question of fairness between generations. We need to make sure that we keep the state pension sustainable, and of course we have to reflect improvements in life expectancy.
It will not be lost on those in the Chamber that the Minister has again repeated the myth that these changes were “clearly communicated”. The Work and Pensions Committee said in 2016 that the Department did not live up to expectations and that communication “was very limited”, so can the Minister look us in the eye and genuinely say he thinks he did communicate this to women and did not lead them up the garden path?
At the risk of repeating myself, this is a question of making it clear that we have provided extra support, but this is a question of fairness and I know the hon. Gentleman will want to make sure that intergenerational fairness is reflected in these changes.
Women entering Custody
Last summer our female offender strategy set out priorities for supporting women at risk of entering the criminal justice system. As part of that strategy we will be publishing a national concordat shortly, setting out how public services should co-operate to protect these vulnerable women.
The number of prison officers leaving within a year of starting their role has risen dramatically since 2010, so what are the Government doing to ensure that prisons have experienced staff to assist female prisoners, who often have complex needs, and what steps are the Government taking to support women’s centres, which play a huge role in preventing vulnerable women from entering the criminal justice system?
That is two questions for the price of one, which I will seek to answer. As the hon. Gentleman will know, we are recruiting significant numbers of prison officers—over 2,000 more—but also significantly increasing our spending on women’s centres to make sure that every police and crime commissioner area has a centre.
As a welcome reform of probation services is ongoing, now is the time to look at how we can improve delivery of these services. Will the Minister commit to looking at making specialist gendered support such as women’s centres, female drug rehabilitation clinics and women’s refuges mandatory as part of the probation services across the country?
The hon. Lady makes an important point. We know that women leaving prison have a range of quite distinct needs: they have higher reoffending rates than men, 39% go into unsettled accommodation, and a third are not on out-of-work benefits a month after leaving prison. There is a wide range of issues that we need to look at, and we will take the hon. Lady’s point seriously on board.
All employees with 26 weeks of continuous service have the right to request flexible working; that accounts for over 90% of employees. We will consult on creating a duty for employers to consider whether a job can be done flexibly and to make that clear when advertising. We have also established a flexible working taskforce with business groups and employee representatives to promote wider understanding and the implementation of flexible working practices.
Lots of women working in industries such as retail return from maternity leave to find that they are held back from progressing in their careers because their new caring responsibilities are interpreted as a lack of flexibility. What more can the Government do to challenge this short-sighted behaviour in a minority of employers?
I note my hon. Friend’s expertise in the retail sector before being elected to this House. The retail sector gender pay gap is 9.1%, compared with 17.9% overall, but the Government are not complacent and the sector continues to take steps to tackle gender inequality, including through the British Retail Consortium’s “Better Retail Better World”. This has involved more than 30 leading businesses committing to reducing inequality as part of the sector’s contribution to the sustainable development goals.
The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees or people seeking work based on race. The Government are committed to a society where everyone can enter work and progress on merit, regardless of their background. That is why the Prime Minister has launched a consultation on mandatory ethnicity pay reporting alongside the new race charter.
I thank the Minister for her answer, but 35% of black and ethnic minority workers in the west midlands have been encouraged to adopt a western work name by their boss at least once in their career. That is a truly shocking and unacceptable state of affairs in 21st century Britain, so what is the Minister prepared to do to stamp out such discrimination in the workplace for BME workers?
The hon. Lady is quite right. Let us be clear that discrimination of any kind in the workplace is not tolerated, and is unlawful in some cases. The Prime Minister has a strong commitment, which is why she introduced the mandatory ethnicity pay reporting consultation. I would also like to highlight to the hon. Lady that the business diversity and inclusion group, which I recently chaired, very much wants to ensure that no one in the workplace will be discriminated against because of their colour or gender.
This year’s Pride takes place at a time when LGBT issues are firmly in the public consciousness. It is a reminder, 50 years on from the Stonewall riots in New York, that Pride is just as important today as it was then. Still today, LGBT couples fear holding hands in public. Still today, LGBT people are the victims of prejudice and violence, and still today, some people think it is inappropriate to teach children that other children might have two mums or two dads. I ask all Members of this House to support Pride in the coming weeks and to continue to work towards equality for all.
Women overwhelmingly bear the brunt of domestic work, spending an average of 10 hours more per week on household work than men. The Office for National Statistics has estimated the value of this work at £1.24 trillion, which is more than the UK’s retail and manufacturing sectors combined. What work is the Department doing to quantify and value this household work?
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. We have been working on a women’s economic empowerment strategy, which looks at the responsibilities that women take on at every stage of their lives, and at the impact of that on their financial and physical wellbeing. We will publish the strategy very shortly.
I thank my hon. Friend for her unrelenting campaign to ensure that this issue is brought before the House. Forced marriage is a terrible form of abuse, and this Government and this Prime Minister have made protecting women and girls from violence and supporting victims of forced marriage a key priority. We have introduced a range of measures to tackle this crime, including creating a specific forced marriage offence and criminalising the breach of forced marriage protection orders.
Earlier, one of the Ministers said that they were unfamiliar with some of the comments made by the Conservative candidates for the leadership, so I would like to do my public duty. The right hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Dominic Raab) has refused to lift non-disclosure agreements that he has entered into with some women, and he wants to abolish the Government Equalities Office. The right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) referred to black people as “piccaninnies” and Muslim women who wear the niqab as “letter boxes” or bank robbers. The right hon. Member for Tatton (Ms McVey) says that there is a problem with kids learning about LGBT+ issues. The right hon. Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom) said that having children would make her a better Prime Minister. The right hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Sajid Javid), said that he did not condemn all paedophiles. Finally, the Minister for Women and Equalities’ preferred candidate, the right hon. Member for South West Surrey (Mr Hunt), is going to halve the abortion limit to 12 weeks. In the light of all that, will the Minister confirm whether equalities will progress or regress under the new Prime Minister?
On the accusations that the hon. Lady makes against my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, may I gently point out that it was under his tenure that the scheme for Northern Ireland was introduced, funded from England’s NHS budget? I also gently say that the hon. Lady may like to concentrate on her own side’s performance on equalities. The Conservative party has had two female Prime Ministers, and we may have our third in a few weeks, so I encourage the Opposition to get their own act together before casting aspersions on ours.
The Government intend to require businesses to consider whether a job can be done flexibly, but will the Minister argue for flipping that question, so that jobs are flexible by default and that employers must make the case for any job not to be flexible?
Flexible working is just as important to men as it is to women when they seek to strike a balance between family life and a career. I thank my hon. Friend for welcoming our intention to consult on the duty on employers to advertise jobs as flexible, where possible. The Government are not considering making all jobs flexible, but I spoke at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s festival of work this morning, and making flexible working the norm was very much the topic of conversation.
There is still a lot more to do on levelling the gender pay gap, and I am delighted to announce today the next round of grants to support women who face significant barriers when returning to work. The Adviza Partnership, the Regular Forces Employment Association, which is the forces employment charity, Mpower People, Westminster City Council, the Shpresa Programme, Beam, and Liverpool City Council are some of the awardees, and they will create opportunities for the most disadvantaged women in our society to achieve their full potential.
Climate change is not gender neutral and will impact the poorest countries most, exacerbating inequalities. Will the Minister for Women and Equalities join me in congratulating the Prime Minister on ensuring that our country is the first in the world to legislate for net zero?
This is an incredibly important issue that plays into all the factors that determine whether women and girls around the world are able to reach their full potential. I am extremely proud that our Prime Minister—a female Prime Minister—has been the UN Secretary-General’s resilience champion on climate change and has taken this proposal forward.
I have committed myself to that cause in ways that previous Defence Secretaries have not by wearing a uniform myself. There has been considerable progress, and I refer the hon. Lady to some statistics that will be published tomorrow that are encouraging in that respect. We now have women on the boards of all three services, and I hope to make some further announcements shortly.
Will the Minister join me in welcoming the fact that the UK was recently announced as one of the best places in the world for female entrepreneurship under the Dell scorecard?
I join my hon. Friend in welcoming the fact that this country is a great place for women, indeed everyone, to do business. This is one of the challenges facing us in our new future outside the European Union and, with women like us in our country, we have a very bright future indeed.
The hon. Lady makes an extremely good point, and I will take it up with the relevant Department.
What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to support women facing multiple barriers on returning to work after taking time out for caring duties?
In addition to the returners programme that we have announced today, we have ring-fenced some of that money and an additional £100,000 of funding to particular areas for women who face immense barriers to getting into work or who may have never worked but wish to do so. That includes learning English for those who have not previously had the chance.
I am sure the whole House shares our concern at the recent events we have seen not just in London but in Southampton. As I have said before, we are clear that this is a modern, diverse society, which is precisely why we are introducing sex and relationships education to schools across the country to ensure that our children learn tolerance and understanding.
Domestic abuse and modern-day slavery are two issues that disproportionately affect women. Will my right hon. Friend join me in thanking the Prime Minister for everything she has done to improve the legislation in this area and to help those women affected by these issues to have better prospects and a better future?
It is my great privilege to agree with my right hon. Friend, whom I thank for all the work she has done recently to scrutinise the draft Domestic Abuse Bill. I thank the Prime Minister for her commitment to women’s issues and to addressing domestic abuse and modern slavery. Only yesterday, I was at an important event at which we discussed the impact of domestic abuse on male victims. People in the room said that they would like me to pass on to the Prime Minister their thanks for everything she has done to put women on the agenda of this country and this Government.
The Prime Minister was asked—
Employment: West Midlands
Before I answer my hon. Friend’s question let me say that Friday marks two years since the devastating Grenfell Tower fire. The survivors and bereaved, many of whom lost everything, have endured so much with such dignity. Our highest priority has been to ensure the survivors receive the support they need, and we must learn all we can to make sure no one ever has to go through their experience again.
This week is also Carers Week, which gives us all the opportunity to pay tribute to the enormous contribution that paid and unpaid carers make to our society.
Turning to my hon. Friend’s question, I met the Mayor during my visit to the Kings Norton headquarters of the adi Group, which was an excellent opportunity to see a successful west midlands company doing its part to give young people a career. Yesterday’s job figures show that employment has risen by over 300,000 in the west midlands since 2010, which is something to be celebrated.
I also celebrate my hon. Friend’s birthday today and that of the Mayor of the west midlands, who I believe had a birthday yesterday.
May I associate myself with my right hon. Friend’s earlier comments, if not the birthday greetings, for which I thank her? The west midlands was the first region in the country to launch its industrial strategy, and I think it is the best regional industrial strategy. As this strategy is a shared endeavour between the region and the Government, what further help can she and the Government give to realise its full potential?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the Government’s industrial strategy and to recognise the shared work that goes into those industrial strategies between government, the region and business. We will be investing £20 million towards this region becoming the UK’s first future mobility zone—that will be introducing new technologies to encourage more seamless and efficient journeys; investing up to £50 million to put the region at the forefront of 5G developments, as the new innovative home to the UK’s first multi-city 5G test bed; and £332 million from the Government’s transforming cities fund to extend the city region’s Metro system. This shared vision for inclusive growth shows how we can reach our potential and do so in a way that benefits all communities.
Today would have been the 90th birthday of Anne Frank had she survived, but she died in the Nazi Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. In her diary, she wrote many things, but one that really applies to all of us at all times is:
“Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness.”
We should remember her life and all that she has inspired in so many others ever since the second world war.
Later this week, I will be joining those families and survivors commemorating the second anniversary of the Grenfell fire, in which dozens of people died. As Sunday’s fire in the flats in Barking reminds us, there is still much more to do to ensure that people are safe in their homes in all parts of this country.
As is traditional, I am sure the whole House will join me in welcoming the new Member for Peterborough, my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Lisa Forbes), who is sitting behind me today.
The country is in crisis over Brexit. Manufacturing is in crisis. The Prime Minister’s Government have brought us to this point and now the Conservative party is, once again, in the process of foisting a new Prime Minister on the country without the country having a say through a general election. This Prime Minister created the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in July 2016. Has the Prime Minister actually delivered an industrial strategy since then?
First, may I echo the comments of the right hon. Gentleman in recognising what would have been the 90th birthday of Anne Frank? Nobody can have read the testimony of Anne Frank in her diary without being deeply moved and deeply shocked by what she had to live through, and that is another reason why everybody across this House and across our society should do everything we can in the fight against antisemitism. May I also take this, my first, opportunity to welcome the new hon. Member for Peterborough to her seat in this Chamber?
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and our industrial strategy. It is obvious that he had written his question before he heard the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), which of course referred to not only our national industrial strategy, but our regional industrial strategies, which are making a real difference in creating the record levels of employment we see in this country.
The answer the Prime Minister gave has a sort of unreality about it all really. [Interruption.] Let me explain, as I am trying to help Conservative Members. If they could contain their excitement for a moment, I thought I would remind them that the labour force survey shows that compared with 2016, when BEIS was set up, there are now 147,000 fewer people working in manufacturing in Britain, that apprenticeship starts are down 25%, and that manufacturing output fell by 3.9% between March and April this year, which is the largest fall for nearly two decades.
In the last year, Jaguar Land Rover, Honda, Vauxhall, Ford and Nissan have all announced UK job losses. Does the Prime Minister think her Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has been good for that industry?
This reveals an awful lot about the right hon. Gentleman’s and the Labour party’s approach to these issues. The point of the industrial strategy is to make sure that we have the economy with the jobs of the future, which is why it is good to see that, in that industrial strategy, we have key challenges such as artificial intelligence and data, which will underpin the work we are doing in clean growth, mobility, the health service, and so much more.
On Monday, I was pleased to attend London Tech Week, to speak at the event and do a roundtable with tech businesses in this country, to welcome the tech unicorns developed in London and the five tech unicorns developed in Manchester, and to welcome the over £1 billion of investment in the tech sector in this country announced at that time. We are looking to the jobs of the future. That is where the high-skilled, high-paid jobs are, and that is what this Government are delivering.
Last week, Ford announced it would end production at its Bridgend plant. UK car production has been virtually halved in the last 11 consecutive months. Ford has also said that a no-deal Brexit would put a further 6,000 UK jobs at risk, with thousands more at risk in the supply chain. Nissan, Toyota, BMW and JLR have all made similar statements. Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to reiterate her Government’s assessment that a no-deal Brexit would be disastrous for Britain? I think some of her colleagues sitting behind her and alongside her need reminding of that.
Obviously, the announcement by Ford is very worrying. It is an uncertain time for workers and their families in Bridgend. Ford has committed to supporting employees throughout the consultation process and beyond, including with redeployment opportunities to other Ford sites in the UK. My right hon. Friends the Business Secretary and the Welsh Secretary have spoken to Ford, and we are working closely with them and the Welsh Government—the First Minister of Wales spoke to me as well. We are also working with local stakeholders and trade union representatives to ensure that those skilled and valued workers are supported throughout the process.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to talk about no deal and his concerns about a no-deal situation. It would come a little more sincerely from him if he had not gone through the Lobby regularly and consistently voting to increase the chances of no deal by voting against the deal.
The Prime Minister may not have noticed, but her deal was rejected three times by Parliament.
Another industry failed by the UK Government is UK steel. Why did the Government not agree a deal to support our steel industry?
I think the point the right hon. Gentleman makes is exactly the point I was making. Had he really believed that we should be leaving the European Union and doing so with a deal, he would have voted for the deal. We could have left the European Union and moved into that brighter future already.
We did work with British Steel. We worked with its owner, Greybull Capital, and lenders to explore all the potential options to secure a solution for British Steel. As the emissions trading scheme agreement the Government put in place shows, we were willing to act. We continue to work with the official receiver and with the British Steel support group, which includes management, trade unions, companies in the supply chain and local communities, to pursue every possibility and every possible step to secure the future of the valuable operations at sites in Scunthorpe, Skinningrove and Teesside. I am to meet a group of Members of Parliament from the region whose constituencies are affected later today.
Since the Government did nothing to protect the steel industry in Redcar, I hope that they will do a bit better in Scunthorpe, where 5,000 jobs are at risk. The Select Committee on Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy raises questions about whether the Government actually entered into the negotiations in good faith.
Another sector that has been failed by the Government is the renewables industry. Solar installations are down by 94%, onshore wind is coming to a grinding halt, and they have failed to back the very important, very exciting and innovative Swansea bay tidal lagoon. They are failing on cars, on steel, and on renewables. I know that the Tory leadership candidates have been falling over themselves to confess to their past indulgences, but can the Prime Minister name an industry that is legal that her Government Ministers have actually backed?
The right hon. Gentleman talks about solar power, but let us look at the facts: 99% of solar power deployed in the UK has been deployed under a Conservative Government, and last year, renewables generated a record amount of electricity. That is indeed a record that this Government can be proud of. While he is talking about renewables, I am very surprised that he has not taken the opportunity to stand up and thank this Government for our announcement today that we will legislate for net zero on emissions by 2050.
The legacy of the Prime Minister’s Government is one of failure. They claimed that they would tackle burning injustices; they failed. They told pensioners that their benefits were safe; now, they are taking away free TV licences for the over-75s. They promised action on Grenfell; two years on, there is still flammable cladding on thousands of homes across this country. They promised a northern powerhouse; they failed to deliver it, and every northern newspaper is campaigning for this Government to power up the north. They promised net zero by 2050, yet they have failed on renewables, and are missing—[Interruption.]
Order. The right hon. Gentleman will not be shouted down; it is not going to happen. Do not waste your breath. It is not productive, and it is terribly boring.
They promised net zero by 2050, yet they have failed on renewables and are missing their climate change targets. They promised an industrial strategy; output is falling. Which does the Prime Minister see as the biggest industrial failure of her Government: the car industry, the steel industry, or the renewables industry? Which is it?
The right hon. Gentleman can pose for his YouTube clip as much as he likes, but let us actually look at what this Government have delivered. What we have delivered is a racial disparity audit that deals with the inappropriate inequality of public services for people from different communities; record investment in transport infrastructure in the north; a record employment rate; the lowest unemployment for 45 years; wages growing faster than inflation; a record cash boost for the NHS; better mental health support; more homes being built; stamp duty cut; higher standards in our schools; and we are leading the world on climate change. That is the record of Conservatives in government, which we are proud of, and we will never let him destroy it.
I thank my hon. Friend for her words. I am very proud that we are committing to ending that, to ensure that we make our contribution to dealing with climate change, by today laying the legislation for a net zero emissions target by 2050. This puts us on the path to become the first major economy to set a net zero emissions target in law. Once again, this is the United Kingdom leading on the issue of tackling climate change, and delivering on the Conservative promise to leave the environment in a better state for the next generation. This is about long-term climate targets and we are proud of our world-leading record, but I absolutely agree that it is vital to continue this work to ensure that we protect our planet for generations to come.
It is right that today we mark what would have been the 90th birthday of Anne Frank, a young woman who got a diary for her 13th birthday. We should never forget the trials and tribulations of those who paid the utmost price in that genocide and in the genocides that have followed since.
An attack on women’s rights, tax breaks for the rich paid for by raising national insurance in Scotland, closing down Parliament to ensure that a catastrophic no-deal Brexit can be imposed—does the Prime Minister think that any of those policies are respectable, never mind acceptable?
The time will come when the right hon. Gentleman will be able to ask my successor questions at this Dispatch Box. He raises the issue of people paying in Scotland, but I remind him that only one party in Scotland has a policy to ensure that people in Scotland pay more tax, and that is the Scottish nationalists.
You would have thought, Mr Speaker, after the time that the Prime Minister has spent at the Dispatch Box, she would have realised that she is supposed at least to try to answer the question.
The state of politics in this place is humiliating. The Tory leadership race is a total horror show. The EU was clear: use the time wisely. Yet the Tories are obsessing with themselves at the expense of people across these islands; just when we thought that things could not get any worse, they are lurching even further to the extremes. The Prime Minister once described her party as the “nasty party” but, with leadership candidates such as the one announcing today, it is about to get a whole lot nastier. Does the Prime Minister agree that the fantasy fairy stories of the Tory party’s candidates are nothing more than an assault on our common sense? Tonight, will she vote to stop any no-deal madness?
The motion on the table tonight is about whether the Government should hand control of business in this House to the Labour party and the Scottish National party. That is something we will not do. The right hon. Gentleman talks about the need to use this time wisely when he could have been using the time wisely. Had he voted for the deal that we negotiated with the European Union, we would have left the European Union and would have been out with an orderly exit.
I thank my hon. Friend for his question and for the work that he has done over the years on this particular issue. I was pleased to be at the International Labour Organisation conference in Geneva last night to speak about our campaign against modern slavery, and to recognise that 90 countries have now signed up to the call for action against modern slavery which I launched in the United Nations. We see other countries following our legislative example—for example, the Dutch Senate recently, Australia, and President Buhari of Nigeria showing great leadership in sub-Saharan Africa on this issue. I am very pleased to see the impact that the Modern Slavery Act 2015 has had, such that a British citizen has been convicted in British courts for being part of a gang who trafficked Nigerian women to Germany, despite the fact that none of that crime touched the UK. She was a British citizen; she was prosecuted here, thanks to our Modern Slavery Act.
The hon. Gentleman knows that I will not stand at this Dispatch Box and speak about decisions that Her Majesty the Queen might make. What I would say is that we see a situation this afternoon, in a motion, where the Labour party and the SNP are trying to take control away from the Government of the business of this House. Governments are able to govern by having control of the business of this House, and that is what everybody should recall.
I first ask my hon. Friend to pass on my best wishes and thanks to May for her comments and to congratulate her on a long life, and on the interest that she has shown in politics and in what is happening in this country. On the second part of his question, I simply say to him that I have not changed my mind. I believe that we should be working to deliver on the result of the first referendum, where we gave the people the choice and they chose to leave the EU. I continue to believe that we should do that with a deal because I think that is in the best interests of this country.
We do indeed need to ensure that we can see a sustainable future for our social care system. That is why, at the earliest opportunity, the Government will bring forward a social care Green Paper, and it will be open to all across this House to be able to contribute to the consideration of that.
Does the Prime Minister share the growing sense of alarm both in Hong Kong and internationally at the potentially destructive effects of the new extradition law on civil liberties in Hong Kong? Does she further agree that we in the United Kingdom have a special obligation to Hong Kong and should never be fearful about speaking up for freedom and values on that island?
This is an important issue. We are concerned about the potential effects of these proposals—particularly, obviously, given the large number of British citizens in Hong Kong. It is vital that the extradition arrangements in Hong Kong are in line with the rights and freedoms that were set down in the Sino-British joint declaration. We have been unequivocal in our views. We have been very clear, from the outset, in engaging with the Hong Kong Government and with the members of the Hong Kong Legislative Council and Executive Council—at all levels—about our view on this issue. As I say, it is vital that those extradition arrangements are in line with the rights and freedoms that were set down in the Sino-British joint declaration.
What I think is fair is what this Government are doing: under this Government we have seen the top 1% paying more in income tax than they ever did under a Labour Government. What is more, we have been delivering tax cuts, with over 3 million people taken out of paying income tax altogether and over 30 million people with a tax cut. That is what is fair: more money in people’s pockets. That is what we, as Conservatives, have done for people.
The Prime Minister will remember that, just two months ago, I raised the case of Nicola Morgan-Dingley. Nicola was 36, a marathon runner and a fit and healthy woman when she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. Just two weeks ago, she came to see the Health Secretary to talk about what more could be done to help women suffering from breast cancer. Sadly, on Sunday, Nicola lost her battle. Charities such as Breast Cancer Now are demanding that women in families with a history of breast cancer should have access to testing earlier. Will the Prime Minister leave a real legacy by ensuring that those women have the opportunity to beat cancer by accessing testing earlier?
May I first extend my deepest condolences to Nicola’s family and friends? The news that my hon. Friend brings to the House is terrible. I am sorry that this has happened, particularly so shortly after Nicola was able to speak with the Health Secretary. I will look at this issue with him. One of the benefits of the 10-year plan that we are putting in place and the cash boost we are giving to the national health service is the ability to put more emphasis on early diagnosis, which is so important. We will certainly want to look at that element.
We are taking what will be seen by many as a radical, key step in dealing with this issue. We have been making good progress as a Government over the years. It is important that we give this commitment. We are about 2% of the problem across the world, so it is important that others follow our lead. That is what we will be working to see.
There can be little doubt that this Prime Minister knows what a feminist looks like and I would like to thank her for all she has done to progress equality. Does she agree that there is still a long way to go?
I thank my hon. Friend for her comments. I agree that there is still a long way to go. That is why we continue to take action. That is why my right hon. Friend the Minister for Women and Equalities continues to look at what more Government can do to help women in the workplace with their responsibilities, to ensure that women are able to take their full place in our society and that as a country we are able to benefit from the enormous talents that lie in our female population.
The hon. Gentleman refers to my staying here. I will indeed be staying in the Chamber of the House of Commons, because I will continue as the Member of Parliament for my constituency. I am a woman of my word. I gave my party my word as to what I would do, and I stand by that. He says that he does not want us to be in this position. I am tempted to say that we would not be in this position if he had voted for the deal.
In the light of yesterday’s Charity Commission report and today’s report by the Oxfam independent commission, does the Prime Minister agree that there is a role for Government and other major donors in ensuring and enabling a strong, ethical structure for the whole aid sector, with good governance, so that as well as doing good, these important bodies do no harm?
My right hon. and learned Friend has raised a very important issue. The former International Development Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt), took action immediately when concerns about the actions of non-governmental organisations first became public, and she and the UK have led the way. I know that the current International Development Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart), is looking very closely at the report and at what further action we can take. The action that we as the UK have taken is not just about our interaction with NGOs; we have brought the international community together to look at that issue and we will continue to lead.
The hon. Gentleman has indeed raised this issue with me previously. My thoughts and those, I am sure, of the whole House are with Oliver and his mum, Emma. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Health and Social Care Secretary has in fact this morning written to the hon. Gentleman about the issue. Obviously, we have the process whereby NHS England looks at these issues. I understand that NHS England has made a revised and improved offer to Vertex Pharmaceuticals. Vertex should have heard the concerns and very real case studies that have been raised by Members in this House. I believe that Vertex should now accept the offer that NHS England has put on the table, so that this drug does become available to Oliver and others.
Until recently the probate registry has provided an excellent service, but that is no longer the case. There are extensive delays due to proposed rationalisation, the introduction of new technology and the prospect of increased probate fees. This poor service is causing difficulties to practitioners, and distress to families due to the loss of house sales. Will the Prime Minister do everything she can to ensure that the service improves rapidly, and can she confirm that the proposed probate fee increases will now be withdrawn?
I recognise the situation described by my hon. Friend and the delays it must be causing for many people dealing with these issues. I will ensure that the relevant Minister looks very carefully at the issue and responds to him.
We have been clear—I have said it and the Secretary of State has said it—that performance in the north is and has been unacceptable following the timetable changes on 18 May last year. Passengers in the north deserve better, which is why are working closely with a variety of organisations, including Network Rail, Northern, TransPennine Express and Transport for the North, to improve services and punctuality. We have also appointed an industry expert, Richard George, to look at the issue, review the performance and make recommendations to improve reliability. That should drive improvements, but we will not hesitate to take the action necessary.
When I meet constituents over 75 years old, I see a lifetime of contribution to our economy, society and Great Britain. Can the Prime Minister do anything at all to reverse the decision to take away their free TV licence?
I believe that the BBC got a good deal in 2015. Indeed:
“The Government’s decision here to put the cost of the over-75s on us has been more than matched by the deal coming back for the BBC.”
Those are not my words, but the words of the director general of the BBC after the deal in 2015. I think that taxpayers now expect the BBC to do the right thing.
Of course we are all concerned about homelessness and rough sleeping, and when we hear and see the stories that the hon. Lady cited. The latest figures on rough sleeping show that the number of people sleeping on our streets is down for the first time in eight years. That is because action has been taken. It is a step in the right direction, but of course we need to do much more. That is why we have set up the new strategy to end rough sleeping altogether, which is backed by an initial £100 million. We are determined to make sleeping on the streets a thing of the past.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, for the families who have worked hard all their lives to own their own home, like many people in Stoke-on-Trent South, we must resist Labour’s attempts to threaten their livelihoods with a pernicious land tax?
I absolutely agree. Sadly, that is an idea that the Labour party has brought forward in the past. We rejected it wholeheartedly then and we must continue to reject it. As my hon. Friend said, many people in his constituency and others have worked hard to achieve that dream of owning their own home, and we should support them.
Actually this Government have taken a lead on single-use plastics. We have been taking action on plastics and I am pleased to say that we are also encouraging other countries around the world. Our alliance with a number of countries in the Commonwealth on this issue is also seeing action being taken. We are particularly concerned for small island states in relation to marine plastic. We will continue the fight against single-use plastic, but this Government have a record to be proud of.
Our national health service is brilliant because of the people who work in it. The new people plan recognises that and the importance of investing in training staff and truly valuing them, from the top to the bottom of the NHS. Will my right hon. Friend do all she can to ensure that that is put into practice so that our constituents get the healthcare that they need and want?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to recognise the fact that our NHS depends on the excellent people working within it. I would like to thank all the staff across the NHS for all they do day in, day out. The people plan is a very important opportunity to take action now and in the long-term to meet challenges of supply, reform, culture and leadership and to make the NHS a better place to work. The interim plan sets out several practical steps that the NHS will now take to increase the supply of clinical staff, and the final people plan will be published after the spending review. This is a very important element of the 10-year plan for the NHS and I wholeheartedly support the efforts to improve the NHS as a place to work for its staff.
We take the issue of prisoners’ brain injury very seriously and, indeed, action is being taken by the Ministry of Justice to look very carefully into the issue. Obviously, I look forward to the debate that will take place—[Interruption.] Well, I have had many invitations across the Chamber in the past. I have never quite had this invitation from the hon. Gentleman and I have to say, I think I will approach the invitation to work with him with caution given some of the arguments that we have had in the past, but I welcome the fact that I will be able to—or expect to be able to—contribute to the debate on that Bill when it goes through this House. It is a very important piece of legislation, which I want to see genuinely transforming what we can do to deal with domestic violence.
I recognise that cancer survival rates are at their highest in this country, but it remains an inconvenient truth that we are failing to close the gap with international averages. The last Government estimate suggested that 10,000 lives are being needlessly lost because we are failing to close that gap. I know that my right hon. Friend recognises the importance of early diagnosis but, when she has the discussions with her Health Secretary, will she look at a key recommendation from the all-party group on cancer, and many others in the sector, to put the key one-year outcome indicator into the heart of our cancer strategy? The only way that we can improve our one-year figures is to diagnose earlier.
My hon. Friend has been campaigning long and hard on that issue and I congratulate him on the passion with which he has done so. As I said earlier, it is right that, in the 10-year plan for the NHS, early diagnosis is one of the elements and, particularly on certain aspects of cancer, they are looking very carefully at what can be done to ensure early diagnosis, so I am sure they will look at my hon. Friend’s proposal.
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman will get an opportunity to ask me another question at PMQs over the coming weeks, but I take this opportunity to recognise the significant work that he has done with the Holocaust Educational Trust. As we recognise that this would have been the 90th birthday of Anne Frank, it is very important that we recognise the work that is done by that trust, and his contribution to it.
The hon. Gentleman raised the issue of the stronger towns fund and he is absolutely right. We have a notional allocation of £212 million for the west midlands. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government met him to discuss the design of the fund when he made a recent visit to Dudley. We intend to publish a policy prospectus on the stronger towns fund before the summer recess, but it is there exactly so that places such as Dudley can harness their unique strengths and grow and prosper.
Has my right hon. Friend found time today to look at the ombudsman’s report on mental health services in my region, with its worrying criticisms of leadership failures? And I have now been involved in 10 leadership parliamentary elections, so will she reflect on the fact that I will be supporting my colleague who respects the referendum result, makes Southend-on-Sea a city and continues to prioritise mental health services?
Ten leadership elections and never a candidate! My hon. Friend has missed his opportunity again. I am sure that all the candidates have heard the point that he made.
I have not had a chance to look at the ombudsman’s report. I am concerned—we have seen over the years a number of parts of the NHS where the mental health services have not been delivering what they should be delivering for individuals. It is important, as we have put mental health as a central part of what we want to see developing and improving in the health service, that we look at not only the money that is being put in, but how, at local level, trusts are operating and delivering services.
The hon. Gentleman might not have been a candidate so far, but he is scarcely at the midpoint of his parliamentary career, and we know not what awaits us, or him, in the future.
On the climate emergency, the Prime Minister will know that I want her to go further and faster, but I congratulate her on facing down the Chancellor by legislating for net zero by 2050. However, if she wants a positive climate legacy, we need deeds, not just words, so there are three things that she could do in the six weeks she has left. Will she cancel the expansion of Heathrow airport? Will she divert the money for more road building into public transport? And will she scrap fracking once and for all? That is the way that she would show us she is serious: will she do it?
I said a few weeks ago that I hoped the day would come when the hon. Lady would welcome action that the Government were taking on climate change and I thank her for her comments on what we have announced today. This decision was taken across Government and it is supported across Government. It is an important decision for the future. She says we need action, not just words. She will have noticed that we have not just said that we are going to have this net zero target—we are actually introducing legislation to put that in place. That is action, not just words.
Order. We come now to the statement from the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Dr Greg Clark. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to await a quieter and more appropriately respectful audience, I am happy to play ball with a little bit of judicious delay—[Interruption.] And filibustering, as the Chancellor observes, helpfully and I think good-naturedly from a sedentary position.
Net Zero Emissions Target
I am very grateful, Mr Speaker, for your permission to give this statement on the proposed legislation I have tabled today to end our country’s contribution to global warming. There are many issues in this House on which we passionately disagree, but there are moments when we can act together to take the long-term decisions that will shape the future of the world that we leave to our children and grandchildren.
Just over a decade ago, I was the shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change when the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) secured Royal Assent for the landmark Climate Change Act 2008. I was proud, on behalf of my party, to speak in support of the first law of its kind in the world, setting a legally binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050 relative to 1990 levels. Today, I am proud to stand on the Government side of the House to propose an amendment to that Act that will enable this Parliament to make its own historic commitment to tackling climate change—a commitment that has been made possible by many years of hard work from Members across this House of Commons on both sides, and beyond. I thank in particular Lord Deben for his leadership as chair of the independent Committee on Climate Change, as well as its members and staff, and the hon. Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) for their recent Bills that paved the way for today’s proposed legislation. I also pay tribute to the extraordinary work of my friend and ministerial colleague, the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth.
Today, we can make the United Kingdom the first major economy in the world to commit to ending our contribution to global warming forever. The United Kingdom was the home of the first industrial revolution. Furnaces and mills nestled in English dales, coal mines in the Welsh valleys and shipyards on the Clyde and in Belfast harbour powered the world into the first industrial age. We now stand on the threshold of a new, fourth industrial revolution—one not powered by fossil fuels, but driven by green growth and clean, renewable technologies. Once again, the United Kingdom and all its parts stand ready to lead the way. It is right that economies such as ours, which made use of carbon-intensive technologies to start the first industrial revolution, now blaze a trail in the fourth industrial revolution. Whether it is through our global offshore wind industry, our leadership on green finance, or our unrivalled research base that is leading the charge on electric vehicles, we are showing the economic benefits of how cutting emissions can help to grow our economy.
Through our industrial strategy, the UK is already forging that future, leading the way in the development, manufacture and use of low-carbon technologies. By responding to the grand challenges we have set, including on the future of mobility and clean growth, we are already creating thousands of new jobs right across the country. We are showing that there is no false choice between protecting our planet and improving our prosperity: we can and must do both.
Indeed, low-carbon technology and clean energy already contribute more than £44 billion to our economy every year. In 2017, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the UK reached their lowest levels since 1888. Last year, we secured more than half of our electricity from low-carbon sources. Just last month, we set a new record for the number of days we have gone without burning any coal since the world’s first public coal power station opened in London in 1882.
We have said that we will completely phase out unabated coal-fired power generation by 2025, ending the harmful impacts to our health and environment for good. Together with Canada, we have launched the Powering Past Coal Alliance, which has now seen 80 national and local governments, businesses and non-governmental organisations join together in a pioneering commitment to phase out unabated coal.
However, if our actions are to be equal to the scale of the threat, nations across the world must strive to go further still, and we in the United Kingdom must continue to fulfil our responsibility to lead the way. That is why, in October, following the latest evidence from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Government wrote to the independent Committee on Climate Change to seek its advice on our long-term emissions targets. Just last month, it issued its response, recommending that we legislate for the UK to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, taking into account our emissions from international air travel and shipping. So I am today laying a statutory instrument—in fact, it is already before the House—that will amend the Climate Change Act 2008 with a new, legally binding net zero emissions target by 2050.
Ending our contribution to climate change can be the defining decision of our generation in fulfilling our responsibility to the next, but it will require the effort of a generation to deliver it. I am grateful to all those business leaders, faith leaders, scientists and climate campaigners who have written to the Prime Minister, me and many Members in this House to express support for this landmark proposal. It will require Governments and political parties of all colours to work with all sectors of business and society. We must fully engage young people too, which is why a new youth steering group, led by the British Youth Council, will be set up to advise the Government—for the first time giving young people directly the chance to shape our future climate policy.
The assessment of the independent Committee on Climate Change is based on the latest climate science. It drives our ability to take action on the international stage, and it considers current consumer trends and developments in technology. The committee has concluded that a net zero 2050 target is feasible and deliverable, and can be met within the exact same cost envelope of 1% to 2% of GDP in 2050 as the 80% target when that was set, such has been the power of innovation in reducing costs.
It is, however, absolutely right that we should look carefully at how such costs are distributed in the longer term, as Professor Dieter Helm recommended in his report to the Government. The Government are also today accepting the recommendation of the Committee on Climate Change that the Treasury lead a review into the costs of decarbonisation. This will consider how to achieve the transition to net zero in a way that works for households, businesses and the public finances. It will also consider the implications for UK competitiveness.
In fulfilling the scale of the commitment we are making today, we will need technological and logistical changes in the way we use our land, with more emphasis, for example, on carbon sequestration. We will need to redouble our determination to seize the opportunity to support investment in a range of new technologies, including in areas such as carbon capture, usage and storage, and in hydrogen and bioenergy.
However, as the committee also found, the foundations for these step changes are already in place, including in the industrial strategy and the clean growth strategy. Indeed, there is no reason whatever to fear that fulfilling this commitment will do anything to limit our success in the years ahead—quite the reverse. In our industrial strategy, we have backed technology and innovation, including the UK’s biggest ever increase in public investment in research and development.
The International Energy Agency’s report on the UK, published last week, found:
“The United Kingdom has shown real results in terms of boosting investment in renewables, reducing emissions and maintaining energy security”.
By doubling down on innovation in this way, we can expect to reap the benefits as we move forward to meeting this target by 2050.
I believe that by leading the world and harnessing the power of innovative new technologies we can seize the full economic potential of building a competitive, climate-neutral economy, but we do not intend for a moment for this to be simply a unilateral action. If we are to meet the challenge of climate change, we need international partners across the world to step up to this level of ambition. While we retain the ability in the Act to use international carbon credits that contribute to actions in other countries, we want them to take their own actions and we do not intend to use those credits.
We will continue to drive this, including through our bid to host the COP 26 conference. As the IEA report found last week, the UK’s efforts are
“an inspiration for many countries who seek to design effective decarbonisation frameworks.”
Just as we have reviewed the 2008 Act in making this amendment today, so we will use the review mechanism contained in the Act, within five years, to confirm that other countries are taking similarly ambitious action, multiplying the effect of the UK’s lead and ensuring that our industries do not face unfair competition.
Finally, I do not believe that this commitment will negatively affect our day-to-day lives. No G20 country has decarbonised its economy as quickly as we have. Today, the UK is cleaner and greener, but no-one can credibly suggest that our lives are worse as a result—quite the reverse. We are richer, in every sense of the word, for being cleaner, for wasting less and for cherishing, not squandering, our common inheritance.
We may account for less than 1% of the world’s population and for about 1% of global carbon emissions, but by making this commitment today we can lead by example. We can be the ambitious global Britain we all want our country to be. We can seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to tackle one of the greatest threats to humanity, and we can make this a defining, unifying commitment of this otherwise riven and often irresolute Parliament—one that is agreed by all, honoured by all and fulfilled by all.
In the first industrial revolution, we applied the powers of science and innovation to create products and services in which this country came to excel, but which came at a cost to our environment. In this new industrial revolution, we can innovate and lead all over again, creating new markets and earning our way in the world in the decades ahead, but in a way that protects our planet for every generation that follows ours. When history is written, this Parliament can be remembered not only for the times that it disagreed, but for the moment when it forged this most significant agreement of all. I commend this statement to the House.
It is very good indeed to see the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, the right hon. Member for Devizes (Claire Perry), in her place in the Chamber, and we welcome her here.
I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement. I echo his thanks, not least to the Committee on Climate Change, and to my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves) and the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk). I, too, would like to welcome the right hon. Member for Devizes (Claire Perry) back to her place.
I begin by welcoming the statement. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was just wrong, in my view, recently to exaggerate the costs of achieving net zero, and it is good to see the Government listening instead to the experts at the Committee on Climate Change. The Labour party committed to a target of net zero emissions before 2050 at its 2018 conference, and it is welcome to see the Government move in a similar direction.
Now that the Government are prepared to legislate their duty, it is now imperative that they urgently take the strategic decisions necessary. Sadly, at last week’s Prime Minister's questions, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, referring to the UK’s carbon budgets, said:
“We are not off track”—[Official Report, 5 June 2019; Vol. 661, c. 136]—
in meeting those targets at all. It is, however, a matter of fact, confirmed by the Committee on Climate Change and official BEIS statistics, that the UK is off track to meet its fourth and fifth carbon budgets. It would be helpful if the Secretary of State took this opportunity to correct the record, and to tell the House—if the Government are off track to meet their existing carbon budgets—what immediate strategic decisions he will make to ensure that the public can have confidence in the Government’s ability to meet even more stringent targets. That confidence can certainly be restored, but the Secretary of State must recognise that urgent commitments to investment and new legislation will be needed
Today’s statement is a welcome first step, but the Secretary of State has already recognised the scale of the task that lies ahead. Since 2015, when the Conservative Government secured a majority, they have systematically dismantled the policy frameworks that were designed to tackle climate change. They have effectively banned onshore wind, reduced almost all support for solar power, scrapped the zero carbon homes standard, sold off the UK Green Investment Bank, removed support for tidal power, and relentlessly pushed fracking—fracking, of all things! Moreover, there has been a 98% fall in home insulation measures since 2010.
At this point the Secretary of State will mention offshore wind, so let us be clear about that. The Government have committed themselves to bringing 30 GW of offshore wind on stream by 2030—well done!—but that is significantly less than the 50 GW that the Labour party has pledged, and dramatically less than the 75 GW that the Committee on Climate Change says we could need by 2050. Greenpeace has described the slow pace at which the Government have made contracts for difference available as “bewildering”, and analysis by Green Alliance has found that the Government are pushing the sector into a boom-and-bust cycle.
I could go on—these policy decisions have put the UK back by years—but, as climate change is still reversible, so is the Government’s track record. I am trusting the Secretary of State today to promise the House that, as one of his lasting legacies, he will turn that record around. I welcome his collegiate tone, because there are many—not least the Committee on Climate Change, the Labour party, other Members of Parliament, numerous industry groups, and energy and climate organisations—who have the ground-breaking ideas that are necessary. The Secretary of State need only reach out to those who are desperate to help him.
Achieving net zero before 2050 is necessary and affordable, and there is no need to rely on international offsets, which—let us be honest—does look like cheating. At this point, may I ask the Secretary of State whether aviation and shipping are excluded from the net zero targets, and if so, why? To achieve net zero, however, we will need huge levels of investment. We will need co-ordinated planning and new laws, and, as with any emergency, we will need significant Government intervention. I do not believe that that is ideological, or even party-political; it is just common sense, and that is why it is at the heart of Labour’s plans for ushering in a green industrial revolution.
I welcome today’s announcement, but I must ask the Secretary of State of State when he will start to act in accordance with it.
I thank the hon. Lady for her welcome. It contained some caveats, but it was there nevertheless, and I am grateful for it.
I think that the hon. Lady should take this opportunity to reinforce the joint determination—which is noted around the world—of parties in this House of Commons to commit themselves to leading the world. We have delivered on that. I do not know whether the hon. Lady has seen this week’s report from the International Energy Agency, but it is something of which she, and all of us, should be proud. The IEA—the world’s foremost body in commenting dispassionately on energy matters—says in its report:
“The United Kingdom has led the way in the transition to a low-carbon economy by taking ambitious climate action at international and national levels.”
That is its headline conclusion. As I said in my statement, it has also commented that the Government’s efforts—and I think we can include the efforts of successive Governments—are
“an inspiration for many countries who seek to design effective decarbonisation frameworks.”
This is a moment at which, for all the fractiousness of current debates, I think the House can be proud of the decisions that have been made.
The hon. Lady asked about carbon budgets, which were established by the Climate Change Act. As she will know, for the two carbon budgets that have been met—most recently in 2017—we have achieved surpluses of 1.2% in the first and 4.7% in the second, and we are on track for a surplus of 3.6% in the current one, which will end in 2022. As for the carbon budgets that follow, which run until 2032, at this stage—and we are talking about 15 years or more from now—we are already 90% of the way there.
An important feature of the report from the Committee on Climate Change is its recognition of the astonishing returns from investment in innovation. When the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) and I were debating the Climate Change Bill across the Dispatch Boxes—the right hon. Gentleman will remember this—the Opposition came close to defeating the then Government on the question of imposing an emissions performance standard on new coal-fired power stations: we were defeated by just a few votes. The need for such a performance standard is now cast into history, because we have no new coal-fired power stations and we are closing the existing ones. Such is the pace of change. So I am absolutely confident that we will meet the ambition that we have set today.
The hon. Lady mentioned solar power. The Committee on Climate Change has commended the action we have taken through the feed-in tariffs. They were always intended to kick-start the solar industry. The scheme cost £1.2 billion a year, and £30 billion has been spent on supporting the industry. It has been successful, as intended, in bringing prices down. Just as in every other advanced economy, as intended from the outset, it has now closed, but has been replaced by an export guarantee that allows those supplying surplus energy in the market to be paid for it.
Proposals of that kind have been endorsed by commentators around the world. In choosing to make this big increase in research and development, we can be confident that we can maintain and fulfil our ambition not only for the environment, but for the job creation in every part of the country that comes with a consistent and determined act of leadership. I am grateful for the support of the Opposition in that regard.
Today’s announcement has been broadly welcomed—by, among others, the Confederation of British Industry—but our energy-intensive industries such as steel, ceramics and cement are currently paying a higher price for energy than is paid in comparable countries. What reassurance can the Secretary of State give industries such as those that other industrial economies will follow our lead, and that the measures that will have to be introduced if we are meet the zero target by 2050 will not place those industries at a competitive disadvantage?
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. One of our requirements, which has been recognised by the Committee on Climate Change, is our need to invest in the energy-intensive industries in particular, to improve their energy efficiency so that they can compete effectively and also to enable us to capture, store and, in some cases, use the carbon they generate. The commitment to carbon capture, use and storage is one of the steps we must take to meet those ambitions.
I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement. I also welcome the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, the right hon. Member for Devizes (Claire Perry), back to the Chamber—although she is no longer present—and echo others in thanking the Committee on Climate Change for its work.
We welcome the statement. It is important that we all work together to address this challenge. We especially welcome the intention to follow the Scottish Government by including aviation and shipping in the targets, but why not have the ambition to match the Scottish Government’s emissions plan? In Scotland the target date for zero net emissions is 2045 rather than 2050, and the carbon-neutral target date is 2040. So let us see if we can step up that ambition.
Even before the actions contained in Scotland’s climate change plan, actual emissions were down 3.3% between 2016 and 2017 and down to nearly half of the emissions levels of 1990. The Secretary of State’s Government must be more ambitious. The Committee on Climate Change said that this is “feasible and deliverable”, as was mentioned in the Secretary of State’s statement. Will he also accept the Committee’s recommendation which agrees with the CBI on the National Infrastructure Commission’s call that in the 2020s we really need to push ahead with renewables to meet the 2050 target?
The Secretary of State said that he is taking these actions to
“tackle one of the greatest threats to humanity”,
yet the Committee on Climate Change, the National Infrastructure Commission and the CBI all say that investment in onshore wind and solar has stalled for political reasons. The CBI has said we should take the politics off the table for onshore wind, so will the Secretary of State drop the Tory ideological opposition to onshore wind?
Finally, there is another choice other than nuclear: carbon capture and storage utilisation. St Fergus near Aberdeen could be operational quickly, by 2023 with the right investment and commitment. At minimum it could capture 5.7 gigatons, equivalent to 150 years-worth of all of Scotland’s 2016 gas emissions, so will the Secretary of State reverse the betrayal over Peterhead and that carbon capture programme being withdrawn and commit to investing in St Fergus in order to deliver these benefits, not only for Scotland but for the UK and the rest of the planet?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He seemed to be welcoming the Committee’s report but criticising the Government for not agreeing with its recommendation to set a date of 2045 for Scotland and 2050 for the United Kingdom. That was its clear advice and we are following it. There were particular reasons, such as the greater potential for afforestation in Scotland, why it regarded a 2045 target as appropriate. I hope the hon. Gentleman will not take it amiss when I agree with the first part of what he said—that we should follow the Committee’s advice—rather than the second part, which is that we should then disagree with it.
On the points about carbon capture and storage, part of the opportunity and requirement for net zero is that it is possible to take carbon out of the atmosphere, especially from industrial processes, and of course Scotland and its industrial clusters will have an important part to play in that.
The hon. Gentleman mentions the National Infrastructure Commission, and again I welcome his respect for its expert analysis. We support what it says about increasing renewables. I hope that in the same spirit he will support its recommendation that we should have more new nuclear power—something he opposed. I do not want to be excessively partisan on an issue that I know from my discussions with the Scottish Government is a common commitment that we make to maintain and increase our ambition and at the same time create jobs in every part of the UK including Scotland.
Yesterday I was in Washington, where I was reminded that this is a fiercely partisan issue there that divides politics, perhaps more than any other. It is something to rejoice in that here there is a very bipartisan view on it. I am very proud that this Government have taken this decision today. They have listened to the scientific evidence and are acting on it, but does my right hon. Friend agree that this is the easy part? We have to carry our population with us as we decarbonise our economy further, change the way we travel, farm and move around, and be a beacon for other countries to do the same.
I completely agree with my right hon. Friend and pay tribute to him for his leadership both as a Member of this House and a Minister in DEFRA in pursuing this at a national and international level. He is absolutely right that we need to change the way we do things, but the prospects of leaning into technology mean that we can do that in a way that does not make our lives more miserable or more constrained. No one could look back on the last 20 or 30 years and think that, having achieved what we have in terms of emissions reductions, we have done so at the expense of our quality of life. That is the guiding philosophy we should take: we should harness technology to make sure our lives can be better and greener and cleaner in the future.
I warmly welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement and join those who have paid tribute to the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, because this idea had been lying around for a couple of years in the long grass of Government and it was she who took it out of that long grass and helped make it happen. I also welcome the five-year review mechanism because we might well need to bring forward the net zero date from 2050; that might not be the original intention of the review mechanism but it may be necessary. May I however ask the Secretary of State to recognise that in its advice the Climate Change Committee said very specifically that as well as setting the target itself, the Government must put in place the policies to meet the target? That means, as it said, a 2030, not 2040, cut-off date for new petrol and diesel vehicles; a proper decarbonisation plan for our 27 million homes, which we do not have; and an end to the moratorium on onshore wind—a moratorium I believe is now economically illiterate as it is now our cheapest fuel available? Can the Secretary of State assure us that henceforth there will be leadership not just on targets but on action?
I pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman for his own leadership in this. I think he will recognise that we are not credited simply with leadership in terms of legislation and targets but with achievement. Of the major industrialised countries we are the world leader in decarbonising our economy at the same time as growing that economy. We should be proud of that.
The right hon. Gentleman is quite right: the inclusion of the review mechanism in the Climate Change Act was a prescient one because it has allowed me to write to the Committee, which has resulted in the report to which we are responding today. I think five years is a good period of time in which to see how we and others are doing against that target and whether the pace of implementation is what is required.
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that policies to support that will be required. The essence of good policy is that it should not have unintended consequences. In terms of the automotive sector for example, I and Members opposite know that car companies need to be able to generate the returns in order to make the capital investment to install the new capital equipment that is needed to make electric powertrains, for instance, so getting that pace right so that they can have the returns to be able to reinvest is crucial; otherwise, there could be unintended consequences. The right hon. Gentleman talked about homes and wind, and of course all these things make contributions to meeting that target. The action from now on, including in the energy White Paper, is to set out the policy framework that supports our ambitions.
I warmly welcome the Minister’s statement today and his beautifully articulated ambition for the UK. Cornish engineers, scientists and miners were at the forefront of the first industrial revolution, and the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly local enterprise partnership clean growth strategy shows that we want to play a pivotal role in this fourth industrial revolution. Will my right hon. Friend congratulate a team from Cornwall that yesterday won money from the Faraday challenge? Cornish Lithium and Wardell Armstrong came together to make sure we can set a path for extracting lithium from Cornish mines and create a supply chain here in the UK for the batteries we will need to power up this fourth industrial revolution.
I agree with my hon. Friend and I am grateful for her warm words. She is absolutely right to point out some of the possibilities for Cornwall, including the sources of lithium that are going to be in demand as we decarbonise and electrify cars and other forms of transportation. There are great opportunities for Cornwall and I know that companies there will be creating new jobs on the back of that prospect.
May I start by welcoming the statement and the commitment that the Secretary of State and the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth have given to this? May I also say how proud I am to be a Member of a Parliament that continues to lead the way globally in tackling climate change? I am pleasantly surprised that the Bill I presented to Parliament yesterday has been adopted so quickly by the Government. However, I would say to the Secretary of State that if we are going to will the ends, we also need to will the means, and I urge him to go back to the reports from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee and look again at bringing forward the target date for phasing out petrol and diesel vehicles, getting on with the demonstration projects for carbon capture and storage, improving the energy efficiency of our homes by genuinely ensuring that all new homes are zero carbon, and asking more from our house builders. If we do that, we have a chance of meeting the targets that we are now signing up to.
The hon. Lady is a very influential member of this House, and when she publishes a Bill, the Government respond with alacrity. I will draw on the expertise of colleagues on her Select Committee, who have participated in the preparatory work that is needed to review the policy framework to support our ambition, and I dare say that her Committee will hold me and the ministerial team to account in terms of our implementation of the work that is needed.
Today is a fantastic day, and this commitment will be warmly welcomed by my constituents in Winchester and, I hope, by the young people watching in the Gallery who have picked a good time to come in. May I ask my excellent right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who has spoken so passionately on this, what role he sees local authorities playing in this new zero ambition and what targets we as a Parliament might set them so that they can match their words with action—not on everything, but on things like retrofitting existing housing stock and protecting the natural environment from developers? What targets can we set them?
My hon. Friend answers his own question in giving me some examples. It is important to acknowledge that each place has different challenges and different opportunities. My hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Sarah Newton) talked about the potential for the exploitation of lithium in Cornwall, for example. Every part of the country will have its role to play. One of the areas in which local authorities have a signal role to play is charging for electric vehicles. If people have the confidence to accelerate the take-up of electric vehicles, that will make a big contribution to decarbonising the economy.
I too welcome this announcement. This is a significant day on the journey that our country must make towards a zero carbon future, although we recognise that some of the steps we have yet to take will be a little more challenging than the ones we have already taken. May I pick up the point that the Secretary of State just referred to? Part of the green revolution will have to be built on electric vehicles, not least because a third of our remaining emissions come from transport. We are seeing new electric cars being developed and the range extending, but having talked about responsibility of local authorities, will he explain who is going to pay for the charging infrastructure, particularly in residential areas, as this will be essential if consumers are to have the confidence to buy the cars, which will lead the manufacturers to make more of them?
The right hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point. This is a shared responsibility, and part of the funding that we have made available—more will be needed—is to ensure that both the private and public sectors contribute to establishing a network that is not only available but dependable and also rapid in its ability to charge. That network needs to cover every part of the country—cities as well as rural areas.
The Secretary of State will recall the green deal. Will he ensure, now we have a new target, that we have a commensurately robust plan to incentivise households?
I do recall the green deal, and it is fair to reflect that as we take decisions and adopt policies in this area, not every one of them is going to work in the way that is intended. It is an area in which we are innovating, and my view is that we should innovate in technology as well as in policy. I hope that the House will not be too harsh when innovations are attempted that perhaps do not work out in the way that was predicted. However, my right hon. Friend is right to say that we need to give incentives to individuals as well as companies to participate in this roll-out, and through the clean growth strategy and the forthcoming energy White Paper, he will be able to see more of that in the weeks ahead.
I welcome this historic announcement by the Secretary of State and congratulate him and the Minister of State on this achievement. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that any transition must be a just transition for the communities that are experiencing this if we are to avoid the social devastation that we saw in coalfield communities such as mine, where the mines were abruptly closed in the 1980s and 1990s with no plan? Given that there is no accompanying policy to today’s announcement, may I suggest that he follow the advice of the Environmental Audit Committee’s report, published on Monday, which is to phase out taxpayer subsidies for fossil fuel exports so that we are not exporting carbon dependency into low and middle-income countries while preaching about our own virtues here at home?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady. The work of her Committee will be important in scrutinising the policies that are set in place to meet our ambitions. I have not seen the report to which she refers, but it will be my bedtime reading this evening.
I very much welcome this announcement. In two weeks’ time, the EYE—eco, young and engaged—project that I founded in 2008 will hold its 11th eco-summit in Worthing, attended by 250 local schoolchildren, to share environmental best practice. Does my right hon. Friend agree that those who most enthusiastically embrace the need to take urgent action on climate change are our youngest citizens? If so, what more can we do to turbo-charge plans to do more in their schools and to lead by example on becoming more carbon neutral by doing more on renewable energy, energy monitoring, understanding food miles and environmentally friendly school transport plans?
I am grateful for the support of my hon. Friend, and, as I said in my statement, we have created a particular role for young people to advise on the policy framework in the knowledge that the consequences of climate change will be felt most particularly by the younger generations. There is a further opportunity. If we succeed, as I hope we will, in hosting the conference of the parties next year, that will provide a big opportunity for young people across the world, and especially in this country, to participate in the deliberations on some of the most important decisions that the world will take. I very much hope we will be able to give that opportunity to young people.
Well! There is an embarrassment of riches. The right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey) is of course a former Secretary of State, and he is a Kingston knight, but just today, I am going to call before him a Norfolk knight, Sir Norman Lamb.
Thank you very much indeed, Mr Speaker. I warmly welcome this statement. It is a significant milestone, but does the Secretary of State agree that we now need to significantly increase the sense of urgency, particularly in decarbonising the heating of buildings and transport? We have no incentive at all to increase energy efficiency in the heating of homes other than for the most vulnerable households, we are still waiting for the consultation on building regulations to deliver zero carbon, and the plug-in grant for vehicles has been cut. This surely is not good enough, and we need to increase that sense of urgency.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman and I congratulate him on his well-deserved knighthood. I think everyone will recognise the reasons for it—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Angus Brendan MacNeil) will have to wait in line, I fear. The right hon. Gentleman is correct to say that we need to decarbonise all parts of the economy. That means reviewing our policies in every area, and it is important that we should do that. He mentioned the plug-in grant for electric vehicles, and one of the desirable features of policies is that a commitment can be made to kick-start the development of an industry to bring costs down, with the intention of withdrawing that commitment when the market has taken flight. We must not get into a position where we can never propose something without it needing to be there in perpetuity, because that would reduce our overall potential for innovation, which, as he knows from his work as Chair of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, would not be good for the UK or for science and innovation.
Anyone who truly cares about passing on a cleaner, greener, better globe to our children and grandchildren will warmly welcome the content of today’s statement and will be glad that the whole House has risen above party-political bickering to do just that. The Secretary of State mentioned the manufacturing of electric cars, so will he congratulate Dyson in my constituency on investing £250 million in research and development at Hullavington in my constituency? Will he seek to try to persuade Dyson to make good use of vacated automotive manufacturing facilities nearby, perhaps by manufacturing vehicles at the Honda site in Swindon?
I agree with my hon. Friend, and I congratulate and praise Sir James Dyson. He is one of our most brilliant inventors and entrepreneurs, and he makes a big contribution to our country, not only through the people he employs, but in the education training that he gives. I share my hon. Friend’s ambition for us to be able to attract Dyson to locate manufacturing facilities in the United Kingdom. We have the research, the brains, the skilled workforce, and the facilities. I hope, in time, that we will be able to celebrate further opportunities that Dyson may have in the United Kingdom.
I do welcome this report, but I would welcome it a lot more if the Government had followed all the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change, not just the ones that do not cause ideological indigestion. In particular, the Committee recommended that the emission reduction effort needs to be done here at home, not outsourced to poorer countries. Carbon offsetting basically slows decarbonisation, and it deprives poorer countries of the low-hanging fruit that they need in order to meet their own reduction targets. Will the Secretary of State therefore review the decision to rely on dodgy loopholes, and will he ensure that the domestic action is all done here at home?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for welcoming the commitment, but she knows that the Climate Change Act 2008 includes the use of credits. The Committee on Climate Change has not recommended that we should repeal that part of the Act, just that we should not aim to make use of them. We support, accept and agree with that recommendation, so we will not be making use of credits.
The Crawley-headquartered Virgin Atlantic had its first biofuel flight last year, and the Gatwick-based easyJet is now flying the new A320neo, which has a much-reduced carbon output. In moving towards net zero emissions, what support can the Government give to the world-leading UK aviation industry, so that it can play its part in ensuring that we can be an island trading nation while leading the world on environmental protection?
The aerospace sector deal that was concluded as part of our industrial strategy includes the research and development of electric power for aeroplanes, which positions us at the forefront of the development of that technology. That has the obvious benefits of contributing to the reduction in omissions and creating further success for what my hon. Friend correctly describes as an important and successful industry in this country.
The UK is making good progress on clean electricity thanks to policies introduced by successive Governments, but we are not yet making the progress we desperately need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transport. What does the Secretary of State think the key problems and challenges are, and what we are going to do about them?
If the hon. Lady reflects on the progress that is being made, she will see that the accelerating take-up of electric vehicles makes a major contribution. Through the industrial strategy, we have funded the research and development of new electric powertrains for commercial vehicles—vans, lorries and agricultural vehicles—which will be important. We need to double down on that commitment, but we made the right strategic judgment three years ago when we targeted the future of mobility, including electric vehicles, as being one of the principal contributors not just to tackling climate change, but to creating jobs in the economy.
I congratulate the Secretary of State on this important announcement. As he says, the challenge is now all about implementation. May I therefore encourage him to look closely at the Marine Energy Council’s proposals for how to stimulate the production of that side of green energy, which is still the Cinderella of the sector? In addition, may I ask him to work closely with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to reduce the amount of illegal plastic waste currently being exported in a disgraceful way to Malaysia and elsewhere in south-east Asia, which will, if not stopped, damage our strong environmental commitments?
I agree with my hon. Friend and recognise his long-standing campaigning and his contribution to creating a clean environment. In the quest to pursue the possibilities of new technologies and their research and development, I agree that marine and tidal technologies have an important role to play. Since 2010, we have made available over £90 million in grant funding, and we will continue not only to do that but, working with our universities and businesses, to accelerate the research and development that is taking place in all parts of the United Kingdom.
In wholeheartedly welcoming this statement, may I ask the Secretary of State to do two things? First, will he reverse the Government’s decisions to abolish the zero-carbon homes regulations, to ban onshore wind, and to proceed with a third runway at Heathrow? Secondly, will he agree to meet me to discuss how we can decarbonise capitalism, particularly in the City of London? Given that the City funds 15% of global fossil fuel investment, if we can decarbonise the City, that can have a massive impact on the whole world.
I acknowledge the right hon. Gentleman’s experience and contribution to the cross-party efforts that have been made in this area. When it comes to wind, we sometimes have to make some strategic calls, and the decision we took to provide funding and incentives for the development of the offshore wind industry has allowed it to develop to the extent that we are now the world leader, creating jobs right across the country, so it was right to champion offshore wind. He also mentions the City, and it is important to recognise the contribution and the leadership that the green finance expertise in the City of London offers to the world. The City will be extremely important in financing many of the investments that will be needed in the years ahead.
I note that this statement marks 30 years of global British leadership on this issue, under both parties. Margaret Thatcher was the first P5 leader to devote the entirety of her speech to the United Nations General Assembly to this issue. Turning to the cost estimates, does the 2% envelope include the likely benefits that will come from the technology that will be generated from investment in this area? On the flipside of that, if British leadership fails to take the rest of the world with us, what kind of estimates have been made of the costs of protecting our country from the consequences of climate change?
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. Mrs Thatcher was the first world leader to declare a climate emergency. I recently reread the speech that she made to the UN, and I would commend it to any Member of this House. Its prescience and rigour are remarkable, and it bears reading again today.
The 1% to 2% cost estimate of the Committee on Climate Change is exactly what the House voted for in 2008. It is a gross figure, not a net figure, and does not include the benefits. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that it also does not include the consequences and costs of a failure to tackle climate change, although the committee’s report sets out in great detail some of the negative consequences were we and the rest of the world to fail to act.
I, too, welcome today’s statement as an important step forward. I hope the Secretary of State will join me in congratulating Birmingham City Council, which last night declared a climate emergency and a much more ambitious date to achieve zero carbon status. I hope he will also congratulate Birmingham Youth Strike 4 Climate, which has helped to lead this campaign in our region.
It would be a misreading of economic history if the Secretary of State forgot the mission critical role of a creative, active state in making industrial revolutions happen. In our region that means we need municipal energy companies to drive forward solar in the cities, green development corporations to help us build green council houses, an office of community wealth building to target the procurement spend we put into the market each year, a national education service to make sure we have the skills, and a regional investment bank to make sure we have the capital.
Will the Secretary of State work with us to help our region be the first to become zero carbon? That is the target we would like to set because, of course, we sparked the carbon revolution in the first place.
As the right hon. Gentleman says, the west midlands has a distinguished role not just in the history but in the future of industrial production in this country and around the world. He is right that that sense of place is important and that it is crucial the Government play an active role in this at every level. We just need to look at the success of offshore wind, which was driven, in part at least, by a framework in which private companies could invest with confidence, knowing that they would be supported.
It is open to local authorities and to companies to take decisions themselves as to when they can be carbon neutral, and many have done so. I am interested to hear that the right hon. Gentleman’s council has followed suit. He knows that the west midlands industrial strategy, which was mentioned in Prime Minister’s questions, has a substantial recognition of the opportunities across the region not only for participating in solving climate change but in reaping the benefits of the technologies.
I welcome the announcement. My right hon. Friend will appreciate that this has policy implications right the way through central Government, devolved authorities and local government. Can he reassure the House that central Government will lean forward and engage with every part of the United Kingdom to make sure we deliver this target so that we avoid negative targets such as the zero landfill target in Scotland, which sees opportunities lost and waste shipped to northern England, and so we see positive initiatives like the international environment centre in Alloa and, hopefully, geothermal in Clackmannanshire?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have set out a global ambition, and it would be absurd if we were divided within this United Kingdom on how we achieve it. We will work together to take advantage of all the opportunities, including in Scotland, to achieve the transition we need.
This is an important commitment, but will the Secretary of State make sure he publishes the impact assessment and the cost-benefit analysis so that, if we want to bring this forward to 2045, we can continue to review it and do so? Is it not a glaring omission that Brexit is not mentioned at all in this statement? There are a number of ways in which the European Union helps us to reduce carbon emissions. Will the EU emissions trading scheme continue? What will happen to the EU funding for low-carbon projects? Many of us believe that we should remain in the European Union if we want to leverage our impact on carbon reduction.
Sometimes I agree strongly with the hon. Gentleman, and on climate matters we have a record of leading in the European Union. The legislation that was passed and the achievements we have made are in advance of other European countries. It is within the capacity of this Parliament and this Government to make the necessary changes. I want us to lead Europe, as well as leading the world.
I warmly welcome this announcement. Will the Secretary of State join me in encouraging everyone inside and outside this House to see decarbonisation as an opportunity to be grasped, not a burden to be managed? Combining technology, particularly artificial intelligence, can lead to lower costs, economic benefits, efficiencies, cleaner energy and, of course, high-quality employment opportunities for our constituents.
I agree with my hon. Friend, whom I congratulate on being reappointed as the Prime Minister’s envoy on engineering, which makes a huge contribution. We need to have the skills to be able to take up the jobs and to implement the changes that are being made here. Training the next generation of engineers will be crucial.
From his work on the Science and Technology Committee, my hon. Friend knows the importance of innovation in this. Innovation enjoys prominent billing in my response today, and with just cause because it will be one of the ways in which we succeed.
It is a simple fact that we cannot reach net zero without a change in diet, a radical rethink of land use, at least a halving of food waste and embedding sustainability in the food chain from farm to fork. It is all well and good for Ministers to talk about carbon sequestration from soil and planting more trees, but that is very much the safe ground. We need to see a far more ambitious strategy both from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to achieve the reduction in emissions from food and farming that we need to see. Will the Secretary of State start by endorsing the National Farmers Union’s commitment to reach net zero by 2040?
I am always strongly supportive of the NFU and its work to make food and farming not only sustainable but a source of prosperity for this country. The hon. Lady is absolutely right that there are challenges and opportunities in how we use land. Across Government, and I hope across this House, we can work together to make sure those opportunities are reaped and applied so that we can benefit from them in this country and export them around the world.
This is hugely welcome. A legal commitment to net zero will help to preserve our planet while encouraging the kind of tech and innovation that we can export around the world. It is hugely welcome in Cheltenham, too.
I congratulate the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State on their decisive and historic leadership on this issue. What is the plan to ensure that other countries face up to their responsibilities, too?
I commend my hon. Friend for his well-supported Climate Change (Net Zero UK Carbon Account) Bill and for his fantastic speech in support of it, in which he urged us in this direction. It is a source of great pleasure to me that we can meet his ambitions.
We will have an early opportunity to advance this cause with our international partners and with all countries around the world if, as I hope, we succeed in hosting the next conference of the parties, which takes place next year.
We would not be here discussing this today if not for Extinction Rebellion and the hundreds of thousands of young people who, week after week, grabbed this issue and brought it back into the mainstream. With that in mind, and given that many local authorities have more ambitious targets, will the Secretary of State agree to include in his plan at least an opportunity to meet this target at a much earlier time?
I have referred to the hugely important contribution that young people have made in advocating the action we are taking, and they are joined by many other campaigners in this country and around the world. The substantial report of the Committee on Climate Change, which I hope the hon. Gentleman will have a chance to study in detail, makes a proposal that is not plucked out of the air but is evidenced and referenced. In adopting and legislating for this target, we are doing so on the best possible advice. That is the best way to proceed.
I enthusiastically welcome today’s net zero announcement, because this issue has an impact on all of us, and especially on young people. I therefore particularly welcome the announcement of a youth steering group to advise the Government on this issue, and perhaps we could employ this model in other policy areas. When will we find out a little more about the role and purpose of this group?
Everything my hon. Friend does is with enthusiasm. We will publish the details of the terms of reference and composition of the group in the next few days, and I hope it will meet with his approval.
The Secretary of State knows that the reason for our leadership on emissions is that we have relocated much of our manufacturing to China and elsewhere, and closed our coalmines. Is he aware of the predictions of Professor Yangyang Xu, published in Nature magazine, which simply show that because there is more methane production than originally projected and less sulphur, which has a cooling effect, we are expected now to reach the 1.5° threshold not by 2040 but by 2030? In the light of that, will the Secretary of State look again at the assumptions underlying the report on which he is predicating his 2050 target, with a view to bringing that forward? Will he listen to some of the pressure groups, such as Extinction Rebellion, which want firmer action, be it getting rid of fracking, or action on wave, solar or wind, and move forward more quickly, because there is a desperate emergency and this statement is simply too little, too late?
The hon. Gentleman is wrong in saying that the reduction in emissions comes simply from exporting our production; he does a disservice to the hundreds and thousands of men and women who work in our renewables industry and lead the world in the development of offshore wind. It is a source of great national pride and I hope he will join in that. The Committee on Climate Change is a serious and substantial body that has done an important piece of work. It was rightly established by his party when he was in government, and those on both sides of the House have respected its advice. The Committee references and is impelled by the latest climate science, which, as he says, requires a more urgent response than was previously committed to. That is exactly why it has provided this advice and exactly why we are legislating to implement it.
Cornwall was early in declaring a climate emergency, and it will be glad to hear today’s commitment, not least because of the opportunity to create well-paid, skilled jobs by doing the right thing. The Committee on Climate Change recommendations talk about a massive skilled jobs programme and we have seen the need for that today. We are talking about the roll-out of smart meters, which helps to address the climate change emergency; the need for storage, as we heard from my Cornish colleague; home efficiency improvements; and even the management of waste food. Those things all require new skills and existing skills that people do not have at the moment. Will the Secretary of State work with the Department for Education and, in particular, with the Treasury to make sure that further education colleges, which are well placed to deliver these skills, have the money and have it quickly?
I will indeed do that. Let me give the example of the offshore wind sector deal, where one of the major commitments between the industry and government was to establish the skills needed in the supply chain to be able to create those jobs and allow the industry to flourish. This does not just apply to offshore wind; it applies across the clean energy sector. That is a good model for how to proceed.
I, too, welcome today’s announcement. However, the Liberal Democrats are setting out more ambitious targets to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, together with clear interim targets to make sure that we do not kick the can down the road and avoid difficult decisions now. Does the Minister recognise that today’s announcement somewhat contradicts Government policies on, for example, fracking, which is a fossil fuel, and on withdrawal from the European Union, which undermines international co-operation?
No, I do not. I am disappointed that the hon. Lady seems to be speaking on behalf of the Liberal Democrats in withdrawing the support for the Climate Change Act 2008, which set up the Committee to give advice to the Government. The Committee has been clear in saying that the ambition of 2050 is the right one for the United Kingdom. If she reads the report, she will respect the evidence on which that is based. It is always possible—and in our exchanges we have said that the Act provides for this ability—to review that progress and for the Committee to give further advice. I have said that in five years’ time we will go back to the Committee to ask it for an assessment of how we are doing.
What are the Government doing to support bioenergy and carbon capture and storage technology to enable the energy estuary of the Humber to become the UK’s first net zero industrial cluster?
The hon. Lady knows that the Humber is one of the prime areas that can benefit from the capture of carbon by the high emitters of CO2. We have a commitment to invest in carbon capture, usage and storage, and I know that across the Humber we have a strong contender for part of that investment fund.
Last night, at the Renewable Energy Association dinner, its chair, Nina Skorupska, said that the Committee on Climate Change should be renamed the committee for climate emergency. With that in mind, this net carbon zero statement is going in the right direction. A practical step to help what the Secretary of State is talking about would be to build a 600 MW interconnector to the Hebrides, rather than a 450 MW one. That would give us 33% more capacity for only 5% extra cost, and the extra electricity it would produce would probably drop wholesale prices and even eradicate that. Given today’s statement, will he make sure that Ofgem sees the big picture and gives the 600 MW the green light? Ofgem is currently not fit for purpose in this regard, because if it keeps its blinkered formula, its policies will result not in 600 MW or 450 MW, but in net zero MW.
I know that the hon. Gentleman is frustrated at the decision that Ofgem has taken. He and I had a successful and productive meeting in Stornoway a few years ago, as he will recall, to make it possible for remote islands to benefit from wind. He knows that Ofgem has an independent role, but I will follow up on his concerns.
This morning, the all-party motor group, which I chair, met a wide range of senior representatives of UK automotive companies, and there was a real welcome for the announcement that the Government have committed to net zero by 2050. However, they also noted that there is so much more to do if we are going to get there. That has to include a step change in infrastructure investment, making sure that the rapid charging points are available in the quantities and places needed, and that they are interoperable, and ensuring that the grid can cope. They also noted that we have to manage the transition more effectively, which means ending the confusion in the Government’s signals about intermediate technologies, about the regulatory frameworks to be put in place and about the kinds of incentives that can help to change consumer behaviour. In that context, may I gently say to the Secretary of State that cutting back on the plug-in car grant does not necessarily help, in a market that is not yet mature?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for conveying the support of the automotive industry, which has a crucial role to play in this transition. He is right about, and in earlier exchanges I have paid particular attention to, the importance of getting that transition right, so that it does not have unintended consequences of depriving of investment an industry that is crucial to making that change. Of course we will look at all the policy components. The plug-in grant was established and has been successful in launching an industry—or, at least, in expanding the early take-up of an industry. It was intended that it should come to an end when its budget was exhausted, but of course, through the spending review, decisions will need to be taken on how the industry can be supported in future.
The Secretary of State was correct to refer to the important role that the Clyde shipyards played in the first industrial revolution, but of course they will also have an important role to play in the next green industrial revolution if there is an appropriate industrial strategy. That is why I am dismayed that in respect of the offshore wind sector deal that the Government announced, they buckled to the lobbying by large energy companies and diluted the requirement for 60% of manufactured content to be made in the UK down to 60% of through-life content. As a result, EDF is sending the £2 billion contract for manufacturing a wind farm off the coast of Fife to Indonesia, instead of building it in the BiFab yards that lie 10 miles away on the coast of Fife and employ 1,000 people. Will the Secretary of State address this glaring inconsistency in the offshore wind sector strategy and ensure that we maximise British manufacturing of heavy engineered products in British renewable energy projects?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that our heritage and skills in shipbuilding are now being put to use throughout the country in marine energy and offshore wind in particular, but he will acknowledge that the commitment in the sector deal was to increase UK content. That was the right ambition to establish and it was agreed between the industry and the Government, although it can of course be kept under review. We always want to see content produced in the UK, including in the very shipyards that the hon. Gentleman mentioned that were so important in our first industrial revolution.
I warmly welcome the commitment to net zero emissions. Does the Secretary of State agree that to help to achieve that we need to do far more to encourage people out of their cars where possible, and to make more journeys by cycling or walking? We know what works to achieve European levels of cycling; will the Secretary of State commit to looking into the evidence and meeting me and the all-party group on cycling to see what further can be done to achieve those targets?
I would be delighted to do that. I am a strong advocate and have campaigned for and achieved the establishment of some important new cycle routes in my constituency. They are a good example of something that makes a contribution to the environment as well as giving us all opportunities to enjoy the fresh air and in many cases the countryside, including in the hon. Lady’s beautiful constituency.
My Lancashire constituents want to step up and play their role in meeting the climate emergency, including by choosing greener transport options. Will the Secretary of State look into opening disused rail lines, such as the one into Fleetwood, as part of the strategy? Does he recognise that fracking locks us into a reliance on fossil fuels for years to come? Will he review the Government’s support for fracking?
I will of course talk to my colleagues in the Department for Transport. As the hon. Lady said, we need to look into all the options to give people a choice of how to get about that is environmentally sustainable. On gas, whether derived onshore or offshore, the Committee on Climate Change has always been clear that in the transition to net zero there is a role for gas in all scenarios. In my view, if we have a domestic contribution to that, that helps with the resilience of our energy supplies.
The Secretary of State rightly referred in his statement to the historic opportunity before Parliament to make real progress in tackling climate change by achieving net zero carbon emissions. In order fully to realise that opportunity, will the Government reconsider existing policies—such as those relating to maximising the extraction of offshore oil and gas deposits—to ensure that they comply with the aspiration outlined this afternoon?
As I said to the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith), the Committee on Climate Change, which advises not only the Government but the House and the country on this issue, recognises the need for a transition and that gas and oil will be required in that context. As we recognise the jobs and exports generated by gas and oil, it seems to me that we should do that as efficiently as we can and with the best deployment of technology that we possibly can.
As the Secretary of State knows, I am usually supportive of our bid to host COP 26, on which I led on a joint letter with the hon. Member for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland (Mr Clarke) that was signed by more than 100 Members, but I am concerned that we are due to miss the fourth and fifth carbon budget targets. The explanatory notes that accompany the statutory instrument laid this morning say that the Government will leave headroom for emissions from international aviation and shipping. When will we adopt a Norwegian-style plan on aviation and shipping emissions that will eradicate those emissions and mean that we can meet our carbon budget targets?
We have followed the advice of the Committee on Climate Change and our plans for net zero cover the whole economy, including international aviation and shipping. We await the committee’s advice on how to legislate. One opportunity that our hosting the COP would bring forward is the ability to accelerate international agreements. I hope the hon. Gentleman would welcome that.
I join others in welcoming the legislation, but does the Secretary of State genuinely believe that the machinery of government is currently organised in such a way as to facilitate the type of ambitious policy response that we will need in this Parliament in order for the target to have credibility? He will know that we used to have a clean growth inter-ministerial group, but no such body now exists. Does he agree that, given the scale and pace of the transition required, we will almost certainly need to make changes to the institutional architecture of government to co-ordinate and drive progress across all Departments?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that we should have the best arrangement. In fact, that inter-ministerial group does exist, and my hon. Friend the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth chaired its most recent meeting just last week. The hon. Gentleman should reflect on the creation of my Department, which brought together the responsibilities for business and industry with energy and climate change, because that is a recognition that if we want, as we must, to take action to achieve the targets, we must make sure that the economy is run and companies operate in a way that supports that action. It is a practical example of just the kind of thinking and acting that the hon. Gentleman advocates.
The 2050 deadline is of course important, but anyone who has seen how Parliament is squandering its time ahead of 31 October will understand that deadlines are not sufficient in and of themselves. What is the Secretary of State going to do on two critical issues: what is he going to do to rescue the Moorside nuclear deal and Wylfa; and will he meet the team behind the strategic business case that is being put together for the plan for a tidal barrage across Morecambe bay and the Duddon, which could be transformative?
I am happy to meet anyone who has a contribution to make, both to reducing our emissions and to achieving technological advances. On the nuclear industry, the hon. Gentleman knows that the financing of new nuclear power stations has been done commercially, and we are reviewing the financing model to see whether a different approach might address some of the difficulties that private sector investors have had in financing the scale of investment required for new nuclear. That review will report soon.
On behalf of the Democratic Unionist party, I welcome the Government’s continuing commitment to deal with this vital issue. It is important that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland does its bit to safeguard the environment for our children and grandchildren. Will the Secretary of State confirm that other countries are also committed and will do all that they can do to address the issue with equal determination?
I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman said; I know that he has regular discussions with the Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth and is a strong advocate. Northern Ireland is one of the parts of the United Kingdom that has benefited strongly from clean energy and its deployment. We will continue that effort and I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s support.
Points of Order
On a mundane but important point of order, Mr Speaker. The House of Lords Commission gave the following ruling on passes for parliamentary assistants in its last report:
“Members may not sponsor a pass for anybody whose primary role is to support an All-Party Parliamentary Group.”
That may have been to deal with some problem of misuse—I do not know; I cannot speak to that—but I am concerned about it. I see the right hon. Member for Twickenham (Sir Vince Cable), the leader of the Liberal Democrats, is in his place; some years ago, he changed the law—under some influence from me, I think—to make Members of Parliament authorised people under the whistleblowing Act. Organisations such as the all-party group on whistleblowing therefore need staff in the House. Could the House authorities make representations to the House of Lords to make sure that that is taken on board and corrected?
I think this has some relevance to security, and the Chair would not normally pronounce on such matters in the Chamber, but I want to reflect on the right hon. Gentleman’s point, because it is important and potentially has ramifications for other Members and groups. Rather than give a knee-jerk response that is insufficiently considered, I will give a considered response at a later date. I hope that will be helpful. If I may say so—and I will—“mundane” and the right hon. Gentleman simply do not go together.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In a brief answer in Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy topical questions yesterday, the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the hon. Member for Rochester and Strood (Kelly Tolhurst), who, helpfully, is on the Treasury Bench, announced that she intended to order the recall of 500,000 tumble dryers made by Whirlpool UK, an action that she described as “unprecedented”. In fact, over 5 million such machines were manufactured with a fault that makes them liable to burst into flames without warning, and they have caused several hundred fires, including one in a 19-storey block of flats in my constituency that destroyed 20 flats and could have caused serious loss of life.
This is the most serious consumer safety issue for many years, yet we have had no statement from the Government on when and how the recall will take place, and why it has taken four years for them to act. I am wondering whether you, Mr Speaker—perhaps with the assistance of the Minister—can say how these matters will be addressed in this House.
It is certainly open to a Minister to seek to respond, and it looks as though one is minded to do so.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to clarify what I announced in the House yesterday. Since the Office for Product Safety and Standards review, we have kept Whirlpool’s actions under review. A letter was issued to Whirlpool, it was given 28 days to respond, and it did just that. We have informed it of our intention to issue a recall. That is part of the regulatory process. That is what I was updating the House on. We had 10 days to inform Whirlpool of that, and I believe that Friday is the deadline for that. I hope that satisfies the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter).
It may well be the summit of the hon. Lady’s parliamentary ambition to satisfy the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter), but it may be that some years—or possibly decades, from my experience—are required before she can hope to attain that dizzy height. The hon. Gentleman does not look particularly satisfied. Nevertheless, the hon. Lady has discharged her obligations to the House, and we are grateful to her for doing so. If, as I surmise from the hon. Gentleman’s countenance, he remains dissatisfied, he knows that there are means by which he can secure fuller ministerial attention to this matter, and the House’s attention to it, in days to come.
They are killing people.
This is indeed a matter of the highest importance, involving life and death, as the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) helpfully observes.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Welsh media today report that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will remove diplomatic support from the First Minister of Wales on his visit to Brussels today unless he toes the UK Government line, whatever that is. There is no bigger critic of the Labour Welsh Government than me, but I am outraged, as I am sure the people of Wales are, at the complete lack of respect shown to the Government of my country by the British Government. Welsh people pay taxes, too, and the FCO is supposed to serve their interests, too. Could you, Mr Speaker, advise me on how I could raise this issue as a matter of urgency with those on the Treasury Bench?
To some extent, the hon. Gentleman has achieved his own salvation by airing the matter in the Chamber. That is not a point of order as such, but I am minded to observe that, although there is a lot of repeat business in the House in the form of attempted points of order, I can recall no occasion, during my occupancy of the Chair, in which such a concern has had to be aired, so it is indeed a most significant matter. I am taken aback by what the hon. Gentleman reported to me in advance, and has now raised orally on the Floor of the House. He has achieved some satisfaction by alerting those on the Treasury Bench to his concern. My advice is that he should go to the Table Office and table questions on this matter. I know that the dedicated and highly capable staff of the Table Office will be happy to assist him in that important endeavour.
Non-Domestic Rating (Lists)
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Secretary James Brokenshire, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr David Lidington, Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Greg Clark, Jesse Norman and Rishi Sunak, presented a Bill to make provision to change the dates on which non-domestic rating lists must be compiled; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 402) with explanatory notes (Bill 402-EN).
Parental Leave (Premature and Sick Babies)
Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to extend entitlements to parental leave for parents of babies born prematurely or requiring neonatal care; and for connected purposes.
As well as being the MP for Glasgow East, and above all else, I am Isaac and Jessica’s dad. Both Isaac and Jessica were born prematurely and spent the early weeks of their lives in neonatal care so, from the outset, I declare a deeply personal interest in the issue that I am seeking to legislate on today.
My wife and I understood that having children at all might be difficult but, in February 2015, we learned, to our immense joy, that we were expecting our first child. Owing to a pre-existing medical condition, Roslyn was told that hers would be a complex, high-risk pregnancy with a higher chance of ending in stillbirth.
In the early hours of 26 June 2015, our son Isaac was born prematurely at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow. During an aborted labour that evolved into an emergency caesarean section, Isaac’s heart rate plummeted. His blood sugars were incredibly low and he could not breathe without assistance. Within a few moments of being born, he was whisked away from Roslyn and me and transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit, where he spent the earliest part of his life in an incubator, hooked up to countless machines and wires. In that unit, over a period, Isaac received amazing love, care and support from our national health service, which stabilised his breathing, allowed his heart rate to recover and built up his blood sugars. It would be days before we could even hold him. Our only contact with him was holding his tiny hands through holes in the incubator.
Three years later, just last September, we went through all that again for the birth of Jessica. Jessica’s hospital stay was even longer, due to protracted breathing difficulties that culminated in her spending the first eight months of her life on oxygen. I still vividly remember watching her turning blue and having to be resuscitated by nurses in the neonatal intensive care unit.
I say all this because sadly this is the norm—the reality—for many parents across the United Kingdom. Each year, around 100,000 babies are born premature or sick, and will have an extended stay in neonatal care. I speak for every family on the neonatal unit when I say a heartfelt thank you to NHS staff for supporting our children, and us as families, through an incredibly distressing, uncertain and vulnerable time.
That stress, uncertainty and vulnerability show that current legislation is simply not fit for purpose. UK employment legislation takes no account of the fact that some babies will spend much longer in hospital after being born, especially if they are born premature or sick. As a result, parents, particularly dads, require extra paid parental leave beyond that covered under current arrangements. My statutory paternity leave had run out by the time Isaac and Jessica were discharged from the neonatal unit. Sadly, that is the case for so many parents who face the brutal decision to return to work while their child is still in hospital. Research by the charity Bliss found that two thirds of dads had to return to work while their baby was still receiving specialist neonatal care.
The Government know that there are major challenges for us; that is why they commissioned a review on barriers to the labour market for parents of premature and sick babies. Unfortunately, despite that review concluding, the Government still refuse to publish the details or to take action, hence why I feel the need to bring a Bill here via the private Members’ route.
One of the biggest problems is that so many families face an employee/employer lottery out there, a lottery that so many of us simply cannot afford to play. A number of employers in the public and private sectors have gone above and beyond to ensure that employees can be with their family on the neonatal unit and still receive pay. One such example is Waltham Forest Council. Employees there are entitled to an extra week of leave for every week their premature baby spends in hospital before their due date. In the private sector, another good example is Sony Music, which also ensures that employees are entitled to full pay during the period in which a baby is born before full term.
That is great if someone works for Waltham Forest Council or Sony Music, but the vast majority of us do not work for them. My Bill would, therefore, ensure that families no longer face an employment rights lottery when heading into the neonatal unit.
Across the world, other countries have already taken action to provide better rights and support for the parents of premature and sick babies. In Sweden, maternity leave commences at the point of discharge. In Ireland, maternity leave and pay are extended by the amount of time between birth and the original expected birth date. Here in the UK, however, we are seriously lagging behind and failing parents when they need us most.
Lawrence Quayle, a former retail worker, is just one of those parents. He was left with no choice but to be signed off as sick after his son Leo arrived 15 weeks early. Lawrence said:
“When I told my employer that my wife had gone into early labour, there was a dispute between my line manager—who was supporting me—and her manager about whether I could start my paternity leave early. I was dealing with HR when my son was just a few days old and needed me at his cot-side.
Eventually, I was given my paternity leave but because Leo was in intensive care at a hospital 60 miles from home, I knew I’d need more time with him and to support my wife.
Things with Leo were very touch and go and there were a number of occasions where it looked like we could lose him. I was told I couldn’t take any annual leave and could only take unpaid leave—which I simply could not afford.
I ended up being signed off from work with stress for two months. The strain this put on my relationship with the managers at work meant that I chose to leave the company shortly afterwards.”
Lawrence’s story is a perfect illustration of how current employment legislation simply fails families when they need our protection and support most. By allowing the Bill to proceed today, we can right that wrong and truly tackle a burning injustice that could be so easily extinguished for the parents of all those future Isaacs and Jessicas who, too, will start their life in neonatal intensive care. I therefore commend the Bill to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
That David Linden, Paul Masterton, Rachel Reeves, Ben Lake, Layla Moran, Jim Shannon, Alison Thewliss, Chris Elmore, Luciana Berger, Gavin Newlands, Maria Caulfield and Caroline Lucas present the Bill.
David Linden accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 403).
Leaving the EU: Business of the House
I beg to move,
(1) That, on Tuesday 25 June—
(a) Standing Order No. 14(1) (which provides that government business shall have precedence at every sitting save as provided in that order) shall not apply;
(b) precedence shall be given to a motion relating to the Business of the House in connection with matters relating to the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union;
(c) if more than one motion relating to the Business of the House is tabled, the Speaker shall decide which motion shall have precedence;
(d) the Speaker shall interrupt proceedings on any business having precedence before the Business of the House motion at 1.00 pm and call a Member to move that motion;
(e) debate on that motion may continue until 2.00 pm at which time the Speaker shall put the questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on that motion including the questions on amendments selected by the Speaker which may then be moved;
(f) any proceedings interrupted or superseded by this order may be resumed or (as the case may be) entered upon and proceeded with after the moment of interruption.
I move the motion in the names of the Leader of the Opposition and of the leaders of the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Greens, and I am thankful for the support of the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin).
This is a genuinely cross-party motion—so much so that for a short while at least it appeared even to have the support of one of the Conservative leadership candidates, the Secretary of State for International Development, but I assume that after a phone call from his Chief Whip he thought better of it.
The motion makes a simple proposition: that, on 25 June, Parliament and not the Executive will have control of the business of the House. That would ensure an opportunity for the House to bring forward a further business motion to set out, at that later date, a schedule for the stages of a parliamentary Bill relating to our departure from the EU.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?
I will in a moment, but I want to set out what we seek to achieve.
I want to be clear: the motion does not introduce legislation today; it does not specify what form any subsequent legislation should take; and it does not prevent the Executive from seeking to pass a Brexit deal. Instead, it is a first and limited step to ensure that Parliament cannot be locked out of the Brexit process over the coming weeks and months. It paves the way for Parliament to take further action, including to prevent no deal, should the House consider that necessary.
Crucially, the motion means that if the next Prime Minister were foolish enough to pursue no deal without gaining the consent of this House, or to prorogue Parliament to force through no deal, Parliament would have the means to prevent that. It is a motion to empower Parliament. It would introduce a safety valve in the Brexit process and be a reminder to all Conservative leadership candidates that this House will take every step necessary to prevent no deal.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman be good enough to tell us exactly which constitutional authority he refers to? Every single constitutional authority that has ever been written is clear that we operate on the basis of parliamentary government, not government by Parliament. Can he cite an example of that being abrogated in any constitutional authority?
The Bill that we passed in March mandated the Prime Minister to seek an extension of article 50. We are in unprecedented times. Parliament has to have the ability to speak on this issue. When we face the suggestion by some leadership contenders that Parliament be prorogued and shut out of the process, we are forced to take action.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend as alarmed as I am by the cavalier way in which certain contenders fighting the election for the leadership of the Conservative party seem to think that they can cast Parliament aside to ensure that they have their no-deal Brexit, when this Parliament clearly would not allow a no-deal Brexit to pass? In those circumstances, is not the responsible and right thing to do to give this Parliament the chance to prevent such outrageous shenanigans?
I agree with every word of that intervention, and I am grateful for it.
The motion makes a simple but important proposition. Let me address why. Primarily, after nine years of austerity, a no-deal Brexit would make the huge social and economic challenges that the country already faces much worse. In the words of manufacturers organisation Make UK, it would be an act of “economic lunacy”. To quote the CBI, it would take a “sledgehammer” to the economy, and Toyota has said that “no deal is terrible” and would “create big additional challenges”. Only yesterday, I was with GMB representatives at the Ford plant in Bridgend. They were very clear about the appalling impact of no deal on jobs.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is in exceptional circumstances that the Trades Union Congress and the CBI say exactly the same—that no deal is utterly reckless and irresponsible?
I hope it is not the only time that the CBI and the TUC say the same, but they obviously do on this issue.
We have spent many hours in this Chamber debating the Government taking Henry VIII powers; now Conservative leadership candidates are trying to take Charles I action. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that an internal conflict in the Conservative party is creating a constitutional crisis in this country?
It did not end well for Charles I. We find ourselves in a very serious position. Having been through the best part of three years of debate and argument about Brexit, there is a suggestion that Parliament should be shut out of the process, with no further business until November. That is completely unacceptable.
Some highly irresponsible Tory leadership contenders are traipsing around the country advocating no deal when before the referendum they were saying, for example,
“mutual self-interest suggests we’d cut a very good deal”,
or talking about
“a free trade arrangement that continues to give access to UK goods and services on the European continent.”
There are many other examples where those very same candidates, prior to the referendum, were offering the best deal possible, but now seem to be advocating crashing out—which would not affect them personally, financially speaking, I am sure, but would affect many of their constituents.
I agree with that intervention and I am grateful for it. This translation, or attempted translation, of the vote to leave into a vote for no deal is to misrepresent the arguments and what was said at the time of the referendum.
The hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) asked us to contemplate examples of where a Parliament helps to set its own business rather than just the Government doing so. Of course, he does not have to look too far—only to Holyrood, where business is set by a Committee of the House. When we are discussing an issue as grave as a no-deal Brexit, would it not be a gross abdication of all our responsibilities if Parliament did not act to stop this Government pursuing such a ridiculous policy?
I agree. It would be an abdication of our responsibilities not to support this motion and give this foothold to Parliament to have proper involvement in what happens next.
Some Conservative leadership contenders are of course in favour of no deal, while the former Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), seemed this morning to be hedging his bets—it was not even clear whether he is clear or not, as it were. Does the shadow Secretary of State agree that there is no such thing as a clean and simple no deal, or a managed no deal, any more than a fall from a high building is managed until you hit the ground?
There is no such thing as a managed no deal. No deal would be chaotic and highly disruptive—for the economy, as I have already set out, but also in other areas. I was Director of Public Prosecutions for five years. I worked in Europol and Eurojust, and I worked with the security services day in, day out. I know all too well that no deal would cause immense disruption to judicial co-operation and to joint criminal investigations going on at the moment, and throw a wrench into vital arrangements on extradition and shared databases. I know the Secretary of State shares my concern about these issues.
No deal would make us less safe. I think, ultimately, that is why the current Prime Minister, whom I knew and worked with when she was Home Secretary, came to realise that no deal was never a credible policy. She did at one stage say that no deal should be the default and that it was her deal or no deal, but towards the end she recognised that it was not credible, for a number of reasons, but I think, ultimately, because of the impact, or likely impact, on national security and counter-terrorism provisions. These are not light issues for us to brush aside and to not even have a voice on if we were to go down this route.
Then there is Ireland. The UK has a solemn vow to protect the Good Friday agreement and avoid a hard border in all circumstances. It is one of the most important treaties this country has ever entered into, and it is one that we cannot break or undermine. We should be clear that a no-deal Brexit risks that. I know how concerned communities on both sides of the border are about that.
The motion is simple and important. It is also necessary. Over recent weeks, we have witnessed the Conservative leadership contest descend into the disturbing, the ludicrous and the reckless. It has become an arms race to promise the most damaging form of Brexit or to make the most absurd and undeliverable promises. No wonder the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) is the front-runner, against that criteria. But not to be outdone, the right hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Dominic Raab), whom I shadowed for a short time when he was Brexit Secretary, has told us that he is so committed to protecting democracy that he is willing to close down Parliament to force through no deal. That is how strong his commitment is to democracy.
What is my right hon. and learned Friend’s assessment of the likely reaction in the palace were an unelected new Prime Minister with no mandate to close down Parliament when Parliament had voted time and again, overwhelmingly, against no deal?
I do not know, and I hope that that never has to be tested.
Does the shadow Secretary of State share my anger and frustration at the way in which those words around taking back control have now been cynically reinterpreted to mean a reckless new Tory Prime Minister taking all the control for themselves and certainly not sharing it with the people—and much less their parliamentary representatives?
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise for interrupting the flow of debate. I understand that the motion before us is about the business of the House on 25 June, yet we seem to be having a far-ranging debate on the merits, or otherwise, of a no-deal Brexit and the outcome of the Conservative leadership election. Have I missed some additional paperwork on this matter, or is this now a debate on the principles of no deal, which I absolutely would not support?
No. The hon. Gentleman is a perceptive denizen of the House, and he has not missed any relevant paperwork. He is right about the procedural character of the motion. There is a degree of latitude as the background to the debate—the context in which it is taking place—is aired, but I am sure that ere long colleagues will wish to focus on the procedural specificity of the motion, both for their own sakes and possibly to satisfy the parliamentary palate of the hon. Gentleman.
I was about to respond to the intervention by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas). I do think it is fundamental that we deal with the argument that it is in any way proper to close down Parliament at such a critical stage of the exercise. The idea of Parliament not sitting and not having any business until November is unthinkable, and we have to take action to prevent that from happening. I double-took when the right hon. Member for Esher and Walton said that, and wanted to check that it is actually what he said, but of course it is. My office did try to read more about the former Brexit Secretary’s plan on his campaign website. However, they were met yesterday with this rather ominous message:
“Access to dominicraab2019.com is denied because it belongs to a category that we block to protect customers using the Parliamentary network.”
Quite right too. [Laughter.]
I always knew that the parliamentary ICT people would get it right in the end.
After a few weeks’ respite from this, we seem to be back on to it, but I am not sure that we have moved on. People have said that this House has expressed the view that we do not want to leave with no deal. However, there are only two ways in which this House can do that: it can either revoke article 50 or vote for a deal. It has done neither. When are the shadow Secretary of State and Opposition Front Benchers going to decide which they choose—revoke or a deal?
I just want to be clear about what today is about. It is not about the substance. It is about the business of the House so that the House can decide what to do next. The House can move forward only with a majority. If there is a majority against no deal, and I believe there is, that majority needs to be heard now more than ever. That is all that this motion is about. The alternative is simply to say that it is perfectly acceptable for an incoming Prime Minister to push Parliament to one side at the most critical stage of the exercise and say, “It doesn’t matter if Parliament doesn’t want no deal—I’m not going to listen to it. In fact, I’m not going to even let it sit.”
I am going to make some progress.
This is a serious point, because the Tory leadership race is now increasingly offering, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, a choice between no deal, no deal and no deal. Candidates are openly threatening to sideline or silence this House on an issue that would affect all our lives and the fabric of this country for a generation. That is reckless and it cannot be allowed to stand.
We may be using a novel parliamentary mechanism today—I accept that—but it is not the first time that I have had to make this kind of argument from the Dispatch Box. Time and again, I have stood here saying that Parliament must have a meaningful role in the process. When it got to the cross-party talks in April this year, there was a near consensus that they should have happened two years before. This pushing away of Parliament has been a huge part of the problem. The Prime Minister fought against us far too often, but every time this House fought back. Now we must focus on the next fight. We face the very real challenge that the next Prime Minister will force through a no-deal Brexit without the consent of this House or the British people.
I know there is a great deal of fear that the successful Tory candidate may be somebody who wants no deal, but it could also be somebody who wants to try to secure a deal. If that were the case, would it be the Labour party’s position that we would re-enter negotiations, to try to get an agreement that this House can support?
I am grateful for that intervention. As I made clear at the outset, this motion does not prevent a deal being passed by the House. It simply allows Parliament to have a say—a foothold—in the event that an incoming Prime Minister tries to force through no deal or shut Parliament out altogether.
To return to the substance of the debate, does the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept that if Government cannot control the business in this place, we risk ignoring the wishes of the electorate when it comes to elections, and election manifesto promises will turn to dust if this sort of thing is allowed to continue?