House of Commons
Tuesday 19 October 2021
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
Health and Social Care
The Secretary of State was asked—
The NHS will receive an extra £5.4 billion for the second half of this financial year to support its response to covid-19. This includes an extra £1 billion to help to tackle the treatment backlog and £478 million to continue the enhanced hospital discharge programme, freeing up beds. This brings the total extra investment in health and care services so far this year, during the pandemic, to £34 billion.
My wonderful local charity York Against Cancer has been approached by York Hospital regarding the part funding of a da Vinci robotic cancer surgery system. This revolutionary machine allows for fewer and smaller incisions, meaning faster patient recovery, shorter hospital stays and, ultimately, better and faster cancer care. Will the Secretary of State assure me that he fully supports local collaboration, wherever needed, to introduce these machines and that he is doing everything he can to roll out this new technology across our health service?
I assure my hon. Friend that cancer care, whether provided through these machines, diagnostics or in any other way, remains an absolute priority for the Government. Colleagues will understand that some cancers were not diagnosed during the pandemic, and I join him in congratulating York Against Cancer on the work it is doing. I would like to learn more about this machine and to see how we can make it work throughout the NHS.
My hon. Friend is right to highlight the importance of mental health. He will know that one of the unintended consequences of the lockdowns is that, sadly, there were more cases of mental ill health. The NHS long-term plan commits to increasing investment in mental health at least as fast as investment in physical health, with at least £2.3 billion of extra spending on mental health by 2023-24, which I hope he welcomes.
Local general practitioners report that they are working as hard as they ever have, with full lists of appointments, but constituents are still unhappy that they cannot get appointments quickly or in the format they would like. Is there more the Government could do to help local GPs across the country to give patients the service that they want and that GPs want to provide?
We are hugely grateful for the tireless efforts of GPs and their teams throughout the pandemic. In our comprehensive new plan, which we announced last week, we are including a £250 million winter access fund to support GPs and make it easier for them to see and speak to their patients. A record number of GPs began training in 2021, and we are committed to increasing the number to 4,000 each year.
I start by paying my respects to Sir David Amess and James Brokenshire, who were sadly taken from us far too soon.
I welcome the Minister for Care and Mental Health, the hon. Member for Chichester (Gillian Keegan), to her new brief. I look forward to working with her.
We are all too aware of the growing demand for support across the NHS, but all too often mental health treatment is forgotten. With up to 10 million more people thought to require treatment as a result of the pandemic, with waiting lists soaring and with beds being cut, we need more than just warm words from the Government. Labour will guarantee treatment, not just an assessment, starting within a month, and we will recruit 8,500 new staff so that 1 million additional people can receive the timely treatment they so deserve. That is what came out of our conference from our party leader. There was nothing of equal value from the Prime Minister, bar recycled old pledges and money spent four times over. Why?
Sorry, Mr Speaker. I did not realise the hon. Lady had finished. What she calls old pledges are hugely significant, and they continue to play a significant role. The NHS long-term plan, as I said a moment ago, has £2.3 billion extra each year by 2023-24. That extra investment will support 380,000 more adults and 345,000 more children.
The hon. Lady is, of course, right that the number of cases of mental ill health has sadly grown during the pandemic, which is one of the reasons we published a mental health recovery action plan with an additional £500 million this financial year.
NHS dentistry is facing a capacity crisis. There is a huge backlog of urgent care and treatment, which is leaving many dentists overwhelmed. Patients, including those in Pontefract and in towns across the country, are now unable to get routine check-ups, which is making the urgent care crisis worse and creating a vicious spiral. Will the Health Secretary ask his Ministers to meet dentist groups and patient groups in Yorkshire to hear about the urgent crisis they are facing and set out an urgent plan to deal with the huge capacity crisis in NHS dentistry?
The right hon. Lady is right to raise the issue of access to dentistry for her constituents and those across England. Dentists have done a fantastic job faced with the challenges of the pandemic. We all knew that those were very real for dentists, who, of course, could not see their patients in the normal way, and they have done everything they can to help on that. The measures that have recently been taken—the review by the United Kingdom Health Security Agency on infection prevention and control—will help. Reduced access has been a major cause of the backlog. We are also working with our colleagues in the NHS to see what more we can do.
All Devon’s hospitals are on red alert, partly because of capacity issues caused by ongoing covid cases. Why does the Secretary of State think the UK now has the highest covid infection, hospitalisation and death rates in western Europe?
First, may I take this opportunity to congratulate all the health and care workers across Devon on the fantastic work they are doing? The right hon. Gentleman will know that the Government have set out clearly their approach to dealing with the pandemic and that we are very much focused on vaccinations, which are working, building a wall of defence, treatments and testing.
Further to the last question on NHS dentistry from the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), we are in a difficult situation across North Yorkshire, where there is no NHS dentist availability across the whole of Thirsk and Malton. It will take the NHS two years to recommission the service in Helmsley—the closed practice in Helmsley—and the Thirsk practice has just closed its doors with its current list of patients. Will my right hon. Friend set out exactly what we can do to increase the availability of NHS dentistry?
Again, my hon. Friend is right to raise this issue. As we have just heard from other hon. Members, there is a real issue with dentistry across England, including in North Yorkshire, and we know how the pandemic has had an impact on that. Dentists have tried to do the best they can in those circumstances. The changes we are making to infection prevention and control will help. We are looking at further measures, and I understand that my hon. Friend will be meeting the Minister shortly to discuss his issues in North Yorkshire carefully.
Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment: Backlogs
The number of people waiting longer than 62 days for treatment following an urgent referral for suspected cancer in England has come down considerably, from 35,000 people in May 2020 to about 19,000 people. The NHS is putting in place extra capacity to diagnose and treat cancer patients, with the aim of clearing the cancer backlog of patients waiting over 62 days from referral to first treatment by the end of March 2022.
To do that, we are going to need healthy NHS staff. I was alarmed to hear Cambridgeshire’s director of public health last week talking about the sheer scale of covid ripping through the school population and then into the parental cohort, many of whom, of course, will be working in the NHS. Peterborough currently has the highest number of cases it has had at any time during the pandemic. So what is the Government’s plan to keep NHS staff healthy, in order to allow them to tackle that alarming cancer backlog?
First, let me say that NHS staff have done a phenomenal job throughout the pandemic in helping patients with cancer or any other illness. A comprehensive plan of support has been in put in place, with this Department working with our NHS colleagues carefully to provide, for example, advice and help. Extra mental health support has been provided as well, and we are looking to see what more we can do.
My late constituent Anne began to suffer pain in April. She never had a GP visit. She had two visits to accident and emergency, which did not result in any treatment plan. Finally, after four months, she had a non-urgent visit to a urologist. Sadly, because at no point was she diagnosed with a terminal condition, she was not given access to hospice care and died in September. I put it to the Secretary of State that this is no way to treat an elderly lady and no way for her family to suffer. What is he going to do to guarantee that there will not be many more Annes in the months and years to come?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that case. I am very sorry to hear about his constituent Anne and send my condolences to her family for what has happened.
The hon. Gentleman will understand that, during the pandemic, sadly, many people stayed away from the NHS, on which there was a huge amount of pressure. Despite everyone, especially those working in health and care, doing as much as they could, it just was not enough for some people. There is not only emergency spending to deal with the pandemic pressures—this year there is an additional £34 billion—but much more investment in equipment and diagnostic processes, such as the community diagnostic hubs that we announced last week, which will help to make a real difference.
Unsurprisingly, I have become more acutely aware of stories about backlogs in cancer diagnosis and treatment, the impact of which should not be underestimated, so I welcome the Secretary of State’s sensitive and sensible response. Will he join me in recognising the multidisciplinary teams throughout the country that are working non-stop to meet cancer pathway targets, including Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, which continued to operate cancer services throughout the pandemic last year and has met the 62-day target for 26 months in a row? Will he consider a visit to the hospital that treated me and thousands of others, to hear how the team there continues to strive to achieve improvements in diagnostic services and outcomes for cancer patients in my constituency and others in Kent?
Yes. It is great to see my hon. Friend, who speaks with real knowledge on this issue. Not only would I be pleased to visit that hospital but I wish to join her in congratulating the multidisciplinary teams throughout the country—especially the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells multidisciplinary trust—that have been doing fantastic work on cancer.
The proportion of people starting cancer treatment within one month has dropped to the lowest level on record. Some 30,000 fewer people are accessing cancer treatment than we would have expected pre-pandemic, and winter pressures have already caused chemotherapy to be paused in Nottingham. The Government’s plans simply are not working and the Secretary of State is denying reality. Will he make a commitment today that there are now sufficient resources for cancer services throughout the winter period that will protect staff from redistribution, so that they can continue to deliver the care and support that cancer patients need?
The hon. Gentleman may have heard me say a moment ago that, of course, cancer remains a huge priority for the NHS. Very sadly, there have been people who have waited longer than 62 days after urgent referral. The number has come down considerably in the past year, to 19,000 as of May 2021, but that is still 19,000 too many, which is why the NHS is rightly committed to clearing that completely by March 2022. That requires a lot more investment. There is the additional £34 billion this year, but it requires long-term, sustainable investment, which is why the plan we have announced for long-term funding over the next three years, with additional funding of at least £12 billion a year for health and care, will make a real difference.
People with Learning Disabilities and Autism
I thank my hon. Friend for her work as the Minister for Care and particularly for starting the work on the Oliver McGowan mandatory training. We are currently trialling the training to improve awareness and understanding of learning disability and autism for all health and care staff. The improvement of health outcomes for people with learning disability was also championed by our dear friend Sir David Amess; I shall think of him every day in this role and try my very best to live up to his expectations.
I warmly welcome the Minister to her role, which I know she will do with great care. Will she expand a little on the roll-out of the mandatory training for all health and care professionals working in learning disability and autism, which is, as she knows, named in honour of Oliver McGowan? Will she say when it is likely to be rolled out nationwide and what sort of funding will be attached to it? Will she also say when the annual GP health checks for people with learning disability or autism are likely to be rolled out throughout the country on a face-to-face basis post covid?
We have started the trials and they are well under way. We are using three trial providers. Our final evaluation report is due in spring 2022 and I would be very happy to share that with my hon. Friend. The outcomes of this trial and the evaluation will inform the plans for the roll-out across the country. I am working closely with Paula and Tom, Oliver McGowan’s parents, who, incidentally, grew up in the same place that I did—in fact, two streets away. They are key stakeholders and, obviously, we will make sure that we set out the detailed plans for roll-out as soon as possible. I thank my hon. Friend and Paula and Tom for all the work that they have done in this area; it really is remarkable and will make a massive difference. On the annual health checks for people with learning disabilities, the NHS has already met its target two years ahead of time for 75% of people on the GP learning disability register to receive an annual health check. I would urge anybody to come forward to make sure that they take advantage of that very important step.
The Government have not responded to the report of the Health and Social Care Committee on the treatment of autistic people and people with learning disabilities and that response is now well overdue. Sadly, there is continued evidence of ongoing abuse of people with learning disabilities and autistic people. I point the Minister to the deaths reported at Cawston Park. There was a terrible report on that recently. This needs immediate and assertive action. Autistic people and people with learning disabilities are often trapped in inappropriate units for six years on average. By delaying their response, the Government are demonstrating apathy with regard to the terrible treatment in places such as Cawston Park and other units. When will the Government respond and act?
I share the hon. Lady’s concerns; it simply is not good enough. The events at Cawston Park—my first response as a Minister to an Adjournment debate was on that subject—were unbelievable and deeply traumatic. My deepest condolences are with the families of Ben, Joanna and Jon. I have committed to meeting with the families at the earliest opportunity so that I can understand their experiences directly. This is currently being arranged by officials and the Norfolk Safeguarding Adults Board. The Department continues to work at pace through the delivery board of cross-Government and cross-system partners to drive progress on implementing the Building the Right Support national plan, which is ultimately the answer to have much better support in the community. We will publish an action plan, outlining all of the plans that we have, how we will improve outcomes and how we will enable people to live well in our communities.
First, let me welcome my hon. Friend to her position. As chair of the all-party group on learning disability, I look forward to working with her.
On the point that the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley) raised, the Government have a plan to reduce the number of people in in-patient units—the assessment and treatment units—like the one at Winterbourne View, which delivered completely inappropriate treatment. When will that delivery plan be published? Her predecessor committed to doing it four months ago; she said that there was work to be done. Can my hon. Friend set out when it will be published so that we can press the Government on delivering those ambitious goals?
I look forward to working with my right hon. Friend. I have been along to the first board, although I have not yet chaired it. But we will be developing that action plan. I cannot commit to the date but I will let him know as soon as I can when we will publish the plan. We will be publishing a winter plan for the NHS, which will include lots of different support, in the next couple of weeks.
I thank the Minister for her response. Given recent statistics that show that one in 20 schoolchildren in Northern Ireland has an autism diagnosis, may I ask her what steps have been taken here on the mainland to ensure that children with learning disabilities or autism have guidance in their health journey and are never left overwhelmed without specialised support at those very necessary appointments?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. He is right to identify this concern. Compared with the general population, people with learning disabilities are three times more likely to die from an avoidable medical cause of death. That is why these annual health checks to ensure that we get early diagnoses for these people are so important. That is why I am delighted that many people are coming forward and that the NHS is two years ahead of its plan here in England. Hopefully, others will follow that lead.
New Hospital in Doncaster
We have now received applications from trusts to be one of the next eight hospitals in our new hospital programme, which will be the biggest hospital building programme in a generation. I understand that an expression of interest has been submitted, proposing developments at the Doncaster Royal Infirmary site. Although I cannot comment on this particular application at this stage, I can tell my hon. Friend that we aim to make our final decision in spring next year.
It appears that every time that I am fortunate enough to ask a question relating to health and social care, another disaster has happened at Doncaster Royal Infirmary. This time, it is a second water leak in the women’s hospital. Given that there is a maintenance backlog of £514 million and the newest part of Doncaster Royal Infirmary is older than the town of Milton Keynes, does my hon. Friend agree that a new hospital is not a “nice to have”, but an absolute necessity for the people of Doncaster? Will he please also visit Doncaster Royal Infirmary, although, with ceiling collapses and water leaks, he may need to bring a hard hat and some wellies?
I cannot comment on the selection process while it is under way, but my hon. Friend is a strong and powerful advocate for his constituents and for a new hospital in Doncaster. He has met me a number of times and continues to raise this matter in the House. I should perhaps have taken him up on his offer of a visit in the summer, when it was sunny, but I am still certainly happy to take him up on that offer.
If I may briefly be indulged, Mr Speaker—we do not often have the opportunity to do this from the Front Bench—let me say that I am grateful to the hon. Member for Tooting (Dr Allin-Khan) for her kind words about our late colleagues, James Brokenshire and Sir David Amess. The last time I saw David was a few weeks ago, when he posed for a photo that he wanted with me and then tried to impress on me the question of whether I would come to the wonderful town of Southend.
Walley’s Quarry: Odorous Emissions
I commend my hon. Friend for his tenacity on the issue of Walley’s Quarry and for continuing to stand up for his constituents. As part of the multi-agency response, the UK Health Security Agency provides expertise and support to the Environment Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. On 4 May, the Secretary of State took appropriate action, writing to the Environment Agency, which regulates the landfill operation, and urging it to use its regulatory and enforcement powers over Walley’s Quarry Ltd to resolve the problems at the site. It has been strongly recommended that the Environment Agency takes appropriate measures as early as possible to reduce offsite odours from the landfill site and to reduce the concentrations in local areas to levels below the health-based guidance values used to assess long-term exposure.
I welcome the Minister to her place. This ongoing public health emergency in Newcastle-under-Lyme has been a real trial for my constituents. Does she agree that in future the Environment Agency will need to take into account the effects on public health—both physical and mental health—of odorous emissions and the gases that escape from landfills, so that no other town has to go through what we have in the last year?
I assure my hon. Friend that the Environment Agency takes the situation very seriously and is working with the operators of the site to address it as quickly and effectively as possible. I am sure that he will be pleased to learn that the Environment Agency has re-evaluated its regulatory approach following the outcome of the judicial review, and on 14 October published its plan to reduce the levels of hydrogen sulphide emissions at the site.
I thank my hon. Friend for raising a question on this rare but important condition. Public Health England’s national disease registration service contributed data to a European Dandy-Walker syndrome epidemiology study back in 2019. The results identified that the condition occurs in about 2.7 live births per 100,000. More work is currently being done to report on the number of people living with the condition in the United Kingdom.
I thank my hon. Friend for doing the research on this question. One of my constituents, Steven Forster, came to see me during a surgery last summer. His granddaughter, Mia, is suffering with Dandy-Walker syndrome. As there is not the knowledge in the NHS about how best to treat the condition, like many families, when they do eventually find a doctor who has that knowledge, they have to travel a long way to see them and there is a huge cost attached to that. With that in mind, will my hon. Friend agree to meet some of the families across the UK who are trying to get together a support group on the issue, and consider putting together an NHS centre of excellence so that parents and carers know where to go for help?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising his constituent’s granddaughter Mia’s case. With over 7,000 rare conditions, awareness among healthcare professionals can be difficult. That is why in January this year the Government set up the UK Rare Diseases Framework whereby officials are working with partners including Health Education England to raise awareness of rare conditions such as Dandy-Walker so that we provide training for staff and target education for healthcare professionals. I would be happy to meet him and his constituent to talk about this and listen to some of their concerns and experiences.
Last month the Prime Minister announced an unprecedented investment in social care to support our own futures and those of our loved ones and our growing ageing population. This investment of £5.4 billion will support the wellbeing of the 1.5 million-strong workforce, offer professionalisation and provide hundreds of thousands of training places. It will also fund supported housing, better advice and capped care costs at £86,000, removing the fear of spiralling care bills.
I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s answer, but she will acknowledge that even the promised better integration of health and social care, although very welcome, will not be enough. We need a long-term plan covering workforce issues, the use of technology, and provision whereby people can live in their own home for longer if we are to achieve ultimate success. If we do not solve all those issues, then I am afraid we will not have fixed social care.
I agree with my right hon. Friend. The forthcoming White Paper on adult social care reform, which we will publish before the end of the year, will set out our vision for the sector. It will cover issues that affect care users, including housing and innovation within our housing models, access to information and advice, and funding for the workforce. I am very happy to be meeting him on 4 November in his role as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on adult social care to ensure that his insight and all the work that he and the APPG have done in this area are carefully considered.
I welcome the hon. Lady to her post. I listened carefully to what she said about the Government’s recent announcement. However, is not the reality, as the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services says, that all the additional money announced is going to the NHS in the first three years and little, if any, will ever make it to social care; there is nothing to deal with the overwhelming workforce pressures and increased levels of need we are experiencing right here, right now; and we will not see a single extra minute of care and support or an improved quality of life for older and disabled people or family carers? On top of this, at £86,000 the cap on care costs will not even stop people having to sell their homes to pay for care, and the vast majority of people will be dead before they ever reach the cap because it does not cover the costs of accommodation or food. How is this a long-term solution to social care, and is the Chancellor finally going to fill these gaping omissions in his Budget and spending review next week?
I am sure the hon. Lady is in fact delighted that finally a Government have come forward with a plan for social care. In addition to that, this Government have spent an extra £34 billion this year in the NHS and we have raised the levy, which, as she says, will fund both the electives and the catch-up from the pandemic—we all know that many of our constituents need this—but there is also the £5.4 billion that is the biggest investment we have had in social care in this country. As things stand, one in seven adults over 65 face care costs of over £100,000 in their lifetime. Nobody will be forced to sell their home, as people will now have a very clear cap of £86,000 that will give families peace of mind that their assets will not be wiped out, and people can already take a deferred payment agreement so that their payments can be deducted from their estate after they die. Most people I have spoken to truly welcome this announcement and are absolutely convinced that this Government will introduce it.
We all know that when the care sector is struggling, the NHS feels the pressure, and that is certainly the case in Gloucestershire at the moment. The demand for adult social care is increasing for us locally by 4% year on year, which is higher than the average, and the huge number of requests for new care packages means that there are now delays for domiciliary care, as the market cannot respond to demand. Will the Minister, who I welcome to her new post, tell the House and the Gloucestershire care sector that the Government are working to support us? Will she meet the six Gloucestershire MPs and the leader of the council to discuss this matter?
This is absolutely vital. The recent announcement of £500 million over three years to fund social care professionalisation is very warmly welcomed by the sector. It is a sector that employs 1.54 million people. It is larger than the NHS, construction, transport or food and drink. I am of course happy to meet my hon. Friend and other Gloucestershire MPs. I know this issue is a challenge. We have some short-term actions, and it is a key pillar of our long-term reform.
With the Government introducing a health and social care levy, will the Minister ensure that social care is not at the back of the queue for spending? Can she provide clarity about every penny of Barnett consequentials that will be given to the devolved nations?
I am sure that the Chancellor will be setting out what will happen with the Barnett consequentials. Yes, this issue is important. The most important thing to say is that this is the start—we have £5.4 billion over the next three years for us to embed some of the changes we need in the system, but this levy will continue, and social care will be a big part of and a big beneficiary from that levy in the future.
Will the Minister recommend what North Northamptonshire Council has just done, which is to pay its social care workers as a minimum the real living wage and to backdate that to April this year? That would be a small step in helping with this situation.
Yes, I completely agree. Some 95% of the jobs are with private providers, so it is important that they take care of their workforce. There is a lot of competition for labour and a lot of skills shortages in our country. Most workers are on just above the national living wage, but it worries me that a third are on zero-hours contracts, so there is a lot we can do to improve the terms and conditions of the social care workforce. My hon. Friend raises a good leadership example.
Free Prescriptions for People Aged Over 60
The Department’s consultation on aligning the age for free prescriptions with the state pension age closed on 3 September. The responses to the consultation are being reviewed, and we will outline the next steps in due course.
We know that low incomes are associated with worse healthcare outcomes and also that average prescription use is higher among those in more deprived areas. Will the Minister accept that increasing healthcare costs for those on low incomes will mean that health inequalities will widen, increasing the pressure on low-income families and the NHS this winter?
I thank the hon. Lady for her question. I reassure her that around 90% of prescription items in the community are provided free of charge. Those who are vulnerable and on low incomes, such as those on universal credit, income support and jobseeker’s allowance, already qualify for free prescriptions. It is really important that those over the threshold can also apply for the prescription prepayment certificate, where all their items will cost just about £2 a week. We are making sure that costs are low for those on low incomes.
Record levels of funding by the Scottish Government for primary care will protect free eye examinations and free prescriptions for people in Scotland and will also enable the abolition of all NHS dentistry charges. Will the Minister follow Scotland’s lead and commit to a similar policy for England?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. Although the Scottish Government provide free prescriptions, the money comes out of existing budgets, which means it is taken from elsewhere in the health service. That may be why, at the moment, three health boards in Scotland need the armed forces’ support to deal with their winter crisis.
Elective Procedure Backlogs
We have committed an additional £1 billion this year to increase elective activity and tackle the backlog, doubling the £1 billion already provided through the elective recovery fund. Over the next three years, we plan to spend more than £8 billion to fund the biggest catch-up programme in NHS history, which comes atop, of course, the record £33.9 billion increase in funding and the health and social care levy.
Before asking my question, may I make a declaration of personal interest, namely, my age? People of my generation and older are finding more and more delays in elective procedures, but the response of the Government, as we just heard, appears to be to just pump more taxpayers’ money into the bottomless pit of the NHS, resulting in ever more waste and lower productivity. Why do the Government—this Conservative Government—not use innovative private sector solutions to relieve some of the pressure on the NHS? Why do they not do what the Major Government did—hardly right-wing extremists—and give tax relief for private health insurance?
I have known my right hon. Friend for a long time and he is eternally youthful. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State set out, the record investment that we are putting into our NHS, particularly to address the elective procedure backlogs, goes hand in hand with innovation and reform.
To the specific point of my right hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh), the NHS is utilising the independent and private sector to carry out procedures for NHS patients. As he would expect me to say, however, tax breaks or similar are matters for the Chancellor, not me.
The thresholds of the elective recovery fund have a perverse impact, so hospitals with the least capacity are more unlikely to have the money to build their capacity. What steps will the Minister take to ensure that my constituents in York have funding from the Government to help build that capacity and have the elective surgery they need?
In respect of the elective recovery fund and the thresholds, the hon. Lady recognised that they are an additionality alongside the record extra investment that we are putting into our NHS. We are putting more resources in, alongside reform and innovation, to deliver that increased capacity. The elective recovery fund is also designed to stimulate activity and to reward additional costs over and above that activity. We believe it is the right approach to generate that increased activity.
The elective procedure backlog requires appropriate capacity for recovery and rehabilitation, much of which is provided by community hospitals, especially in rural areas. Is the Minister aware that on Friday, NHS Shropshire announced the imminent closure of Bishop’s Castle Community Hospital for patient safety reasons due to a lack of qualified nursing staff? Will he work with me to put pressure on the local NHS to develop a plan to recruit suitably qualified nurses and reopen the hospital as soon as possible?
In the context of elective surgery recovery, my right hon. Friend makes an important point about the role that community hospitals play in helping to drive down waiting lists. I am grateful to him for drawing that to my attention and I will look into the specific situation he raised. It is important that, alongside providing a service, it is a safe service. I am happy to work with him to see what can be done in that situation.
Delays in procedures are causing increased pressure on our adult social care system. In September, East Riding of Yorkshire Council told my constituent that there was not a single carer to be had for her mum in the whole of the East Riding, and that the family’s options were to put their mum into residential care or to deal with it themselves. I spoke to those on the Conservative-led council to check whether that was true, and they said yes. They are facing a huge shortage of carers and they asked for my support in lobbying their Government for increased funding for social care. Will the Government give East Riding of Yorkshire Council the extra funding it needs to raise the wages of carers and try to attract some of them back to the profession?
The hon. Lady is right to highlight that, essentially, social care and the NHS go hand in hand; they are two sides of the same coin. That is why we have made ambitious proposals, and will bring forward further proposals, for furthering the integration of those two sides.
The hon. Lady raised a specific case to illustrate her point. I, or perhaps more appropriately the Minister for Care and Mental Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Gillian Keegan), would be happy to meet her to discuss the details of that situation.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. In October 2020 the Prime Minister announced details of 40 schemes that we will be taking forward in line with our manifesto commitment to deliver 40 new hospitals by 2030, supported by an initial £3.7 billion investment for them.
This seems to be the crumbling hospital corner of the House, as we have already heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Nick Fletcher) about his concerns. In Norfolk, we have the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which is physically crumbling, and the ceilings and roofs are held up by wooden staves and acrow props. Although it is not in my constituency—it is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk (James Wild)—it serves the entire county, and eight Members of Parliament have written in support of the bid. Could I invite the Minister to visit the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to see for himself the state of its structure?
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend, who quite rightly recognises and highlights the work that my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk (James Wild) has put into championing the cause of this hospital. I understand that it has put in an application to be one of the next eight hospitals, which will of course be considered very carefully. I am very happy to visit Norfolk as well, but I would also highlight that one of the key issues at this particular hospital is the existence of RAAC—reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete—planks, for which we have already provided £20 million for remedial works this year.
With a £9 billion maintenance backlog, examples of which we have heard this morning, it is truly mind-boggling that the Department’s priority has been to try to change the definition of what a new hospital is, so let us cut out the spin on 48 new hospitals. Can the Minister tell us, of those 48—if we take out all the projects under way before the announcement was made, and those that are new wings, extensions or refurbishments of existing buildings—exactly how many new hospitals will be built by 2030? It is not 48, is it?
I am grateful, I think, to the shadow Minister. We have a very clear definition of a new hospital, which I believe is shared by the public. It also leans on VAT notice 708 and its definition of what constitutes a new build or a refurbishment. To his specific question, we are committed to our manifesto commitment of 40 new hospitals by 2030—we build, the Opposition complain.
If I may, I would like to take this opportunity to remember my friend and colleague James Brokenshire, who shall be sorely missed, and I would like to dedicate this statement to my colleague Sir David Amess.
Sir David was a friend, and I had the privilege of knowing his kindness, his compassion and his selflessness at first hand. For those who did not, Sir David’s record tells them everything they need to know. His first concern was never his own rank or status, but the cause of the underdog, the vulnerable, the marginalised and the forgotten. As well as on fuel poverty and in standing up for animal welfare, Sir David left his mark on my own brief in campaigning to tackle obesity, chairing the Conservative Back-Bench health committee and launching the all-party parliamentary group on endometriosis. That disease would never affect him personally, but it was raised by one of his constituents in his surgery—exactly like the one he was taking when he was killed. His legacy is the many lives that he touched, and I know that, like me, Members across the House will miss him terribly.
Of course I agree with every word of that very fine tribute to our two lost colleagues.
I represent an area of high housing growth so general practice provision needs to increase as the houses go up, but my clinical commissioning group tells me that NHS capital often appears at incredibly short notice and then disappears just as quickly. Can we try to get the provision of new general practices on a planned basis as the new houses go up?
My hon. Friend is right to raise this. Capital is allocated by two CCGs on a regional basis that is weighted by population, and, as he says, if that population changes, the weighting also changes. Additional funding can sometimes be allocated from section 106 or community infrastructure levy funding as well, but I am more than happy, if my hon. Friend would like, to meet him to discuss this further.
If I may, Mr Speaker, I will, with your indulgence, take a moment to express my deep sadness at the loss of James and David and my utter shock at what we saw this weekend, but also to remember David as someone who was always smiling, who always encouraged me, particularly as a rookie MP when my office was just down the corridor from his, who always asked after my children and who always gave me tips. I sometimes get in a bit of trouble for being friends with Tories, but I will hugely miss David and James and send my condolences and sympathies to their friends and families.
I also welcome the new Ministers to the Treasury Bench. In recent weeks we have seen a patient at Preston wait over 40 hours for a bed, we have seen a child with mental health problems wait nearly 48 hours for a bed at Ipswich A&E, we have seen ambulances backed up outside hospitals—in Norfolk a patient died of a heart attack waiting in the back of an ambulance—and we have seen ever more patients, who cannot bear the wait for surgery, paying for operations. This is an NHS not just under pressure, but under water. What is the Secretary of State personally going to do to avert a winter crisis of misery for patients?
I agree with every word the right hon. Gentleman said about our friends and colleagues, James and David, but I hope his friendship with me will not get him into trouble—I hope I have not given that away. He is right to ask about the huge pressure the NHS is facing, and all our constituents are seeing that wherever they live. It is picking up over the winter. Winters can usually be tough for the NHS but this winter will be particularly tough and the Government have set out the reasons why: the pandemic is still ongoing; and this flu season will, I think, be particularly tough, which is why we are having the largest flu vaccination programme alongside the covid programme this year. We are doing a lot alongside the vaccination programmes, especially in terms of resources. We have put an extra £34 billion into the NHS and care for this year, including much more funding for diagnostics such as the community diagnostics hubs that I announced a couple of weeks ago, in which we invested 350 million. We will very shortly set out with the NHS a detailed programme for the winter and how we can better deal with the pressures.
The Secretary of State mentioned the pandemic, but he must surely be concerned that yesterday we recorded close to 50,000 infections, and on every single day of the last three weeks 10,000 children have been diagnosed with covid. The booster programme is stalling with charities describing it as a “chaotic failure”, and only about 13% of children have been vaccinated. His wall of defence is falling down at just the point that vaccination is waning, so may I suggest that he ditches the complacency and fixes the vaccination programme now?
Our vaccination programme has been one of the most successful in the world, and the right hon. Gentleman may know that it has prevented 24 million infections, has prevented some 230,000 people from being hospitalised and saved 130,000 lives. I do not call that a failure; I call it a success.
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend, and I thank her for raising this issue. I share those concerns. Over the past year, the number of young people being urgently referred for eating disorders has doubled. In the light of that, I was astonished to learn that one of Facebook’s own internal studies, which was brought to light by Ms Haugen, found that 17% of teen girls said that their eating disorders got worse after using Instagram. Facebook did not think it was appropriate to inform parents, healthcare professionals and legislators. I do think it is time for Facebook to do the right thing and publish what it knows.
First, let me say that our GPs have done a phenomenal job during the pandemic. The nation really cannot thank them enough for what they did during the pandemic and what they continue to do. The GP access programme that I announced last week is about providing extra support for GPs to do what they love doing best, which is seeing their patients. The extra £250 million over the next five months will be ringfenced—it will be protected—and it will be there to expand general practice.
The hon. Gentleman is right to raise this issue. Whether it is for treatment for cancer or other illnesses, we do need more clinicians in the NHS. On meeting the ongoing demand, I was pleased to see that this year we had the highest number of students ever entering medical schools for general practice, for example, and across the board. He may be interested to know that, for the year to date, to June 2021, the NHS has 2,700 more doctors and 8,900 more nurses. There is more to do, and I am pleased that he raised this issue.
My hon. Friend is right to raise the importance of mental health and suicide. This is important, and I listened carefully to what he said. He knows that pharmacology already plays an important role in helping people with their mental health challenges, but he raises an interesting potential emerging treatment. He will know that scheduling is an issue for the Home Office, but I will be happy to meet him myself to discuss it further.
I thank my right hon. Friend and I share his concerns completely. Just to reassure him, NHS England provided £1.6 million to East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust to fund an additional 38 midwives, with 26 already in post. I would be happy to keep updated with him to see what the clinical experience is on the ground.
I would like to ask the Secretary of State about pressures in emergency care and comments that the new chief executive of NHS England made to the Health Committee this morning that we have shortages of 999 call handlers. Is he concerned about the time it is taking to answer some 999 calls? Do we have those shortages? What are his plans to address them if we do?
My right hon. Friend speaks with real experience, especially on tough winters for the NHS, and he highlights shortages across the NHS. He mentions 999 callers. There is a huge pressure at the moment on 111 calls as well, and emergency care generally, including ambulance services. A significant amount of support has been put in, especially over the past few months, with additional funding. We will set out a detailed plan with the NHS, coming shortly in the next couple of weeks, on exactly what more we will be doing.
Given the high covid infection rates and the risk of new variants of concern emerging that may be vaccine-resistant, what discussion has the Health Secretary had with the Chancellor on extending the contain outbreak management fund and on increasing public health budgets, which are 24% lower than they were in 2015?
The hon. Lady will know that in terms of the pandemic we are very focused on vaccinations, treatments and testing. She is right to raise the importance of testing and surveillance for possible new variants. That remains a priority for the Government and it is getting the support it needs from the Treasury.
My hon. Friend is right to raise the extra pressures that Kirklees is seeing. Public health officials and local council members are doing everything they can. Extra support is available—something we keep under review—but he is right to raise the importance of the booster programme. The more people who get boosted and the sooner they do so when they are eligible, the better it will be for not just them but the whole community.
Across the continent of Europe, mask wearing, ventilation in buildings and the use of green passes for events are commonplace. They also have much lower infection rates, hospitalisations and deaths, so while the Secretary of State addresses the backlog in the roll-out of vaccinations for children and of boosters, will he consider implementing the very good practice that can be seen in other countries?
In terms of the challenges of the pandemic and the challenges more generally over winter, the Government have set out a detailed plan. It depends very much on vaccinations, treatments, testing and surveillance, but we keep it constantly under review and, should we need to do more, there are contingencies.
May I add weight to what my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Aaron Bell) said earlier? I have a similar situation in my constituency at the Chalk Pit in Epsom. It is really important that we strengthen the public heath duties of the Environment Agency. Will the Secretary of State make that a priority of his discussions with his ministerial colleague?
I do not know how to respond to that, Mr Speaker, but I will carry on. In declaring an interest, I welcome the Government’s decision to give a third jab to people with compromised immune systems. There has, however, been confusion in the NHS about the difference between a booster jab and a third jab. May I therefore ask the Secretary of State where is the responsibility in the NHS for advising people and arranging the third jab, and what will be the time gap between getting a third jab and a booster, as opposed to the second jab and a booster?
The hon. Gentleman will know that the gaps between vaccinations, especially for different people in different groups, is a decision that the Government would be advised on by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, and as soon as we get that advice, we will always publish it and act on it. It is important that everyone comes forward who is invited for their third jab if they are immunocompromised or for their third jab as a booster jab. As he will know, not everyone who is immunocompromised can benefit from the vaccine, but he might be interested to know that we are working on procuring new treatments that will help significantly.
Thanks for the warning, Mr Speaker. I congratulate the Secretary of State and the new vaccines Minister—the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my hon. Friend the Member for Erewash (Maggie Throup)—on the roll-out of booster jabs. Over 3 million have been administered so far. May I attempt to strengthen their hands by asking for some of the pop-up vaccination centres, such as the Brent mosque, to get going with these booster jabs so that we can make sure that people in all communities have access to these much needed boosters?
One of the reasons that our country has one of the most successful vaccination programmes in the world has been the efforts of my right hon. Friend, and I want to take this opportunity to thank him for that. He is right to point to the importance of access to vaccines, and making that more mobile is exactly what we are doing.
Teenage vaccination rates in this country are lagging behind other countries. The latest data shows that the equivalent of 8,000 classrooms were empty over the past two weeks due to pupil absence, and schools such as Hampton High in my constituency had 11 teachers missing yesterday yet have been advised against reintroducing masks and have been told to teach 700-plus pupils outdoors. Does the Secretary of State think that that is sensible advice and will he ramp up the vaccination of teenagers, particularly over half-term next week?
We are ramping it up. I can tell the hon. Lady that to make the most of half-term next week, we will be opening up the national booking service to all 12 and 15-year-olds to have their covid vaccinations in existing national vaccination centres, which will offer families more flexibility. It is important that anyone who is invited as they are eligible for a vaccination—including young people—comes forward and takes up that offer.
Net Zero Strategy and Heat and Buildings Strategy
With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on the net zero strategy and the heat and buildings strategy—but first, if I may, I will congratulate my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary and his wife Harriet on the birth of their daughter on Friday. I can report to the House that both mother and baby are healthy and doing well, as is the Secretary of State. I am sure that the whole House will join me in offering our congratulations. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]
The statement is all about future generations as well, because we know that we must act now on climate change. The activities of our economies, communities and societies are changing our environment. If we do not take action now, we will continue to see the worst effects of climate change.
We have already travelled a significant way down the path to net zero. Between 1990 and 2019, we grew our economy by 78% and cut our emissions by 44%, decarbonising faster than any other G7 country. Since 2010, the UK has quadrupled its renewable electricity generation and reduced carbon emissions in the power generation sector by some 70%. In the past year alone, we have published the Prime Minister’s 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution, the energy White Paper, the North sea transition deal, the industrial decarbonisation strategy, the transport decarbonisation plan, the hydrogen strategy and more. Earlier this month, we unveiled a landmark commitment to decarbonise the UK’s electricity system by 2035.
But there is still a substantial length of road to travel. We must continue to take decisive action if we are to meet our net zero goal, so today I am pleased to announce two major Government initiatives: the net zero strategy and the heat and buildings strategy. This is not just an environmental transition; it also represents an important economic change, echoing even the explosion in industry and exports in the first industrial revolution more than 250 years ago.
We will fully embrace this new, green industrial revolution, helping the UK to level up as we build back better and get to the front of the global race to go green. We need to capitalise on it to ensure that British industries and workers benefit. I can therefore announce that the strategy will support up to 440,000 jobs across sectors and across all parts of the UK in 2030. There will be more specialists in low-carbon fuels in Northern Ireland and low-carbon hydrogen in Sheffield, electric vehicle battery production in the north-east of England, engineers in Wales, green finance in London and offshore wind technicians in Scotland.
The strategy will harness the power of the private sector, giving businesses and industry the certainty they need to invest and grow in the UK and make the UK home to new, ambitious projects. The policies and spending brought forward in the strategy, along with regulations, will leverage up to £90 billion of private investment by 2030, levelling up our former industrial heartlands.
The strategy also clearly highlights the steps that the Government are taking to work with industry to bring down the costs of key technologies, from electric vehicles to heat pumps—just as we did with offshore wind, in which we are now the world leader. Those steps will give the UK a competitive edge and get us to the head of the race.
We have spoken often in this place of late about the importance of protecting consumers, and consumers are indeed at the heart of the strategy. Making green changes such as boosting the energy efficiency of our homes will help to cut the cost of bills for consumers across the UK. Switching to cleaner sources of energy will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and, again, bring down costs down the line.
This plan is also our best route to overcoming current challenges. The current price spikes in gas show the need to reduce our reliance on volatile imported fossil fuels rapidly. Although there is a role for gas as a transition fuel, moving away from imports quickly is in the best interests of bill payers. With our ambitious set of policies, the strategy sets out how we meet carbon budgets 4 and 5 and our nationally determined contribution. It puts us on the path for carbon budget 6 and ultimately on course for net zero by 2050.
We are now setting up the industrial decarbonisation and hydrogen revenue support scheme to fund these business models and enable the first commercial-scale deployment of low-carbon hydrogen production and industrial carbon capture. We have also announced the HyNet and East Coast clusters as track 1 economic hubs for green jobs.
We have previously announced that we will end the sale of all new non zero emission road vehicles from 2040, and the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030. The strategy explains that we will also introduce a zero emission vehicle mandate that will deliver on our 2030 commitment to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans.
To increase the size of our carbon sinks, we will treble the rate at which we are planting new trees in England by the end of the current Parliament. We will be a global leader in developing and deploying the green technologies of the future. The strategy announces a £1.5 billion fund to support net zero innovation projects, which provides finance for low-carbon technologies across the areas of the Prime Minister’s “Ten Point Plan”.
We have also published our heat and buildings strategy, which sets out our plans to significantly cut carbon emissions from the UK’s 30 million homes and workplaces in a simple way that remains affordable and fair for British households. We will gradually move away from fossil fuel heating and improve the energy performance of our buildings through measures such as grants of up to £5,000 towards the costs of heat pumps, a further £800 million for the social housing decarbonisation fund to upgrade social housing, and a further £950 million for a home upgrade grant scheme to improve and decarbonise low-income homes off the gas grid.
The year 2021 is a vital year for action on climate change. In just two weeks’ time, the UK Government will host the crucial United Nations COP26 conference in Glasgow. As the Prime Minister has said, it needs to be a “turning point for humanity”, the point at which we pull together—and pull our socks up—to keep 1.5 °C in reach. Hosting COP26 will also give the UK a huge opportunity to showcase our world-leading climate credentials and set an example to other countries to raise their own ambitions. The net zero strategy will take centre stage in our display, setting out our vision for a UK that is cleaner, greener, and more innovative.
Mr Speaker, we are ready for Glasgow, and I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Minister for his statement, and send my warmest congratulations—as I have already done directly—to the Secretary of State on the birth of his new baby.
Let me start by saying that it is good that tackling the climate crisis is a shared national objective across the House, and that we want the Government to succeed at COP26 in just ten days’ time. However, there are two central questions about the strategy that has been published today: does it finally close the yawning gap between Government promises and delivery, and will it make the public investment which is essential to ensure that the green transition is fair and creates jobs? I am afraid that the answer to both questions, despite what the Minister said, is no. The plan falls short on delivery, and while there is modest short-term investment, there is nothing like the commitment that we believe is required—and we know why. When asked at the weekend about the Treasury’s approach to these issues, a source from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said:
“They are not climate change deniers but they are emphasising the short-term risks, rather than long-term needs”.
The Chancellor’s fingerprints are all over these documents, and not in a good way.
We have waited months for the heat and buildings strategy, but it is a massive let-down. We are in the midst of an energy price crisis caused by a decade of inaction. Emissions from buildings are higher than they were in 2015. The biggest single programme that could make a difference is a 10-year house-by-house, street-by-street retrofit plan to cut bills and emissions and ensure energy security. There are 19 million homes below EPC band C, but according to the best estimates of today’s proposals, they will help just a tiny fraction of that number. Indeed, there is not even a replacement for the ill-fated green homes grant for homeowners. Can the Minister explain where the long-term retrofit plan is? Did BEIS argue for it and get turned down by the Treasury, or did he not make the case?
According to the Government’s own target, we need 600,000 homes a year to be installing heat pumps by 2028, but the Government are funding just 30,000 a year, helping just one in 250 households on the gas grid. Why does the Minister’s plan on heat pumps fall so far short of what is required? As for transport, we agree with the transition to electric cars—and I support and welcome the zero emissions mandate—but we need to make it fair to consumers. We should at the very least have had long-term zero-interest loans to cut the costs of purchasing electric cars. What is the plan to make them accessible to all, and not just the richest? Will the Minister tell us that in his reply? On nuclear, I was surprised, given the advance publicity, that the word did not even cross the Minister’s lips. We have seen a decade of inaction and delay on this issue, so can he tell us why there is still no decision on new nuclear?
The failure to invest affects not just whether this transition is fair for consumers but workers in existing industries. Take steel: it will cost £6 billion for the steel industry to get to net zero over the next 15 years. If we want a steel industry—as we do across the House—we will need to share the costs with the private sector. However, there is nothing for steel in this document, and a £250 million clean steel fund some way down the road will not cut it. Can he give us his estimates of the needs of the steel industry and how he thinks they can be met?
The same is true of investing in new industries such as hydrogen. There is a global race in these areas and I am afraid that the UK is not powering ahead but falling behind. Germany is offering €9 billion for a new hydrogen strategy; the UK is offering £240 million, and we are putting off decisions until later in the decade. We see the same pattern across the board, including on land use, industry and transport, and because of this failure to invest, there remains a chasm between promises and delivery.
Finally, it was noticeable that the Minister did not say that the plan would meet the target for the 2035 sixth carbon budget, but surely that is a basic prerequisite of the strategy to 2050. At less than halfway to net zero, do the policies in this document meet the target, or fall short of it? Despite hundreds of pages of plans, strategies and hot air, there is still a chasm between the Government’s rhetoric and the reality? My fear is that the plan will not deliver the fair, prosperous transition that we need and that is equal to the scale of the emergency we face.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his warm words of congratulation to the Secretary of State and for his intention to join us in showing real leadership. I agree with him that this should not be a particularly partisan matter. The UK as a whole country expects to see our politicians working together, particularly in the run-up to our hosting the vital COP26. I will deal with his various points in turn.
On power, it is worth pointing out the success that we have had on renewables. The right hon. Gentleman was Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change up to 2010. When he left office, renewables were only about 10% of our power mix; now the figure is around 43%. Offshore wind costs have come down by two thirds. He mentioned nuclear, but I am just about old enough to remember the 1997 new Labour manifesto, which stated that there would be no new nuclear projects. It took Labour 10 years to do anything at all on nuclear.
The right hon. Gentleman called our investment in heat and buildings a modest one, but it is £4 billion. The difference between us is that we want to go with the natural choices that families make and to work with businesses, finding the natural point at which a homeowner needs to replace his or her boiler and to incentivise the take-up of a greener choice. He says that the £450 million investment is somehow inadequate, but I think that it will kick-start demand. Octopus Energy and others have said overnight that they think that they can make heat pumps at an equivalent cost to natural gas boilers by April 2022. I have confidence in the ability of British industry and British energy companies to innovate.
On energy-intensive industries, we have our £350 million industry energy transformation fund and we are speaking continually with the sector. We will keep the House informed on that. On nuclear, I have said that new money has been announced. There is the £120 million future nuclear enabling fund for optionality for future advanced modular reactors. Of course we are sticking to our commitment for a final investment decision on a further nuclear power station to be taken in this Parliament.
On hydrogen, the right hon. Gentleman is right to say that the German Government have done good work, through my good friend Peter Altmaier, the German industry and trade Minister, but the UK also has a world-leading hydrogen strategy, which was launched in August. We are aiming for 5 GW of low-carbon hydrogen generation capacity by the year 2030.
On the right hon. Gentleman’s final comment about 2030, our commitment is unchanged, but let us look at his commitment for a moment. [Hon. Members: “It was 2035.”] His leader, the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), backed a 2019 manifesto commitment to go to net zero by 2030. Such a commitment would cripple the hard-won economic growth that we have achieved over the past 30 years through our steady approach of growing the economy and reducing emissions at the same time. Even the GMB has said:
“Nobody thinks 2030 is a remotely achievable deadline.”
The CBI has said that there is no credible plan to achieving net zero by 2030. This Government have the right ambition. This is a transition, and it is full of opportunities for jobs and low and zero carbon growth across the UK. The right hon. Gentleman should be backing it in full in the lead-up to Glasgow.
If heat pumps and electric cars are going to help, we will need to generate all our electricity from green sources, so when will the Government commission the very large amounts of new generating capacity we will need to make them work when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine?
I thank my right hon. Friend for, as always, putting his question very directly, which I have appreciated over many years in the House. I have mentioned our commitment to nuclear and our commitment to the gas sector as a transition fuel. Fortunately, at the moment, we are dependent largely on domestic gas production, in that 50% of our gas usage comes from the UK continental shelf while 30% comes from Norway. The point here is to ramp up our commitment to low and zero carbon fuels. That makes sense for the environment, for our economic security and for our diversification.
The key point in the announcement today is the fact that Peterhead has once again been betrayed. All along, warm words have been paid to the Scottish cluster, but we have been stabbed in the back again. Classing the Scottish cluster as a reserve is an even bigger insult. What representations has the Minister had from the Scottish Secretary of State about what is happening to Peterhead? Can he also confirm that this is a political decision rather than a technical one, given that the Scottish cluster ticks all the boxes and would have contributed to the hydrogen production target?
The Minister keeps going on about nuclear, but the reality is that, at £23 billion, Hinkley is the most expensive power station in the world. Its strike rate is £92.50 per megawatt-hour, compared with offshore wind at less than £40 per megawatt-hour. What is the capital cost in billions of pounds that the Government are willing to commit to, given that it could be better spent elsewhere? What funding is coming to Scotland on the back of the announcement of the social housing decarbonisation fund and the home upgrade grant schemes?
If we look at Scotland in the round, we see that it has contributed £350 billion in oil and gas revenues over the years. Where is the UK Government’s match funding for the £500 million just transition fund that the Scottish Government have committed to the north-east of Scotland? The Minister talks about levelling up, but his levelling up does not include Scotland. We have the highest electricity grid charges in Europe, which puts renewable energy in Scotland at risk, as it is 20% more expensive than in the south-east of England. That also affects the UK’s net zero trajectory. Scottish energy consumers are now made to pay for their nuclear, which we do not want, and Peterhead has been sacrificed for the red wall constituencies. When it comes to Scotland, the UK Government are not helping us tackle climate change but are instead adopting a scorched earth policy as we head towards independence.
I spent significant time in Aberdeen last week, and I did not meet a lot of people who share the hon. Gentleman’s doom and gloom approach to all things when it comes to energy. I had meetings with Oil & Gas UK, Robert Gordon University, Harbour Energy, CHC Helicopter and Jim Milne of Balmoral Group, and I found a region and a city that are enthusiastic about the energy transition and our North sea transition deal.
I have already mentioned nuclear and the new funding that is available, and I am disappointed that the SNP remains resolutely anti-nuclear, which I think it will regret. I think the Scottish people do not agree with the SNP.
Today’s announcement on carbon clusters is for track 1, and it is not the end of the story—far from it. We have always been clear that we will have two industrial clusters by the mid-2020s, and four by 2030 at the latest. We have announced the Acorn cluster as a reserve. It met the eligibility criteria and performed to a good standard against the evaluation criteria, and we will continue to engage with it throughout phase 2 of the sequencing process to ensure it can continue its development and planning. We remain committed to track 2. This morning the Carbon Capture and Storage Association welcomed today’s announcement as “amazing news” for carbon capture and storage.
The hon. Gentleman asked about home grants. Of course, a lot of these policy areas are devolved. He might have a word with his SNP colleagues in Edinburgh and perhaps get them to participate, as they will get Barnett consequentials. Ironically, the heat pumps scheme for England and Wales will be administered by Ofgem out of its office in Glasgow. Those administering the scheme will not be eligible for it themselves unless the Scottish Government take action to match what the UK Government have said.
Finally, on the North sea transition, energy in Scotland and the move to net zero, I urge the hon. Gentleman for once to take a more positive approach and get with us, particularly as we prepare to host the world in Glasgow in just two weeks’ time.
Levelling up is very important, and it means all parts of the country, including rural areas, having the ability to become net zero. In constituencies like mine, many homes are not capable of being brought up to very high levels of energy efficiency and are not on the gas grid. What is the solution to make sure owners of those homes, who are perhaps not on the highest of incomes, can decarbonise their heat at an affordable price?
My right hon. Friend is right to highlight off-grid properties and the importance of making sure that the overall Government agenda, including levelling up, reaches those people. On top of my announcement, we have already committed £2.5 billion to off-grid properties through the home upgrade grant and will explore extending it to 2030.
I thank the Minister for giving me an advance copy of his statement this morning.
People across the country will want to know whether the promises made today will actually be delivered or whether they will, once again, result in failure. Will the Minister set out how the voucher schemes announced today will be delivered differently from the failed schemes of the past, such as the green homes grant?
The hon. Gentleman asks a reasonable question with a rather unreasonable preamble, if he does not mind my saying so. I do not think there have been failures of Government policy in this area. Actually, our overall record—not just this Government’s record but the record of the country as a whole over the past 30 years in reducing emissions while achieving economic growth—is one of success.
Of course we are learning from previous schemes, and we are making sure that this new scheme goes with the flow and is simpler and easier to administer. We will also make sure that the parameters are set very clearly in the lead-up to the launch next April.
I welcome the Government’s support for the HyNet cluster, which is a huge vote of confidence in north-west businesses. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this announcement will put the north-west and the UK at the cutting edge of hydrogen technology and will help to secure thousands of jobs in the north-west, including in Warrington?
I concur with my hon. Friend, who is a tireless champion for his Warrington constituents. We are delighted with today’s announcement. Carbon capture, utilisation and storage is a huge opportunity for the UK. When I talk to the industry, it makes strong points about how the UK is geologically, geographically and economically well suited to make sure that carbon capture, utilisation and storage is a big part of our low-carbon future, and I commend him for his support for the HyNet cluster in the north-west of England and across into north Wales.
There are two problems with the Government’s net zero strategy: “net” and “zero”. The latter because it is not zero—we know there are sectors, such as aviation, that will be pumping out millions of tonnes of emissions into the atmosphere beyond 2050—and the former because we know the Government are relying on negative emissions technologies that, frankly, are based on science fiction and for which there is no prospect of mass roll-out. We are banking on this to rescue us from the climate crisis, but it is a “burn now, pay later” strategy that is not fit for purpose.
That is sort of a question, for which I thank the hon. Gentleman. He might be a proponent of the Labour party’s net zero by 2030 policy. I am not sure whether the shadow Secretary of State supports that policy, which I think was ratified at the Labour party conference.
We have already talked about carbon capture, utilisation and storage, which is a sound technology in which the UK will look to be a world leader. The Climate Change Committee itself has said that it will not be possible for every single part of the UK economy to be net zero. That is the importance of the word “net” in all of this. It is about making sure that we get to net zero by 2050, so it does not have to apply across all sectors. Of course we want it to apply across all sectors, and the North Sea transition deal for the oil and gas sector has a commitment to go to net zero, but overall it is about making sure the country gets to net zero by 2050.
I congratulate the Minister on today’s announcement. We will be celebrating the decision to increase the home upgrade grant and, of course, the excellent decision to make the east coast cluster one of the two carbon capture projects in the initial stage. Does he agree that we must make sure that, following the success of our offshore wind deployment, we build industrial capability in carbon capture and storage and in hydrogen so that we can be an export superpower in these areas over the years ahead?
My hon. Friend and I spent many happy, productive years working together in the Department for International Trade to market our technological breakthroughs in clean energy, particularly in offshore wind. He makes an extremely strong point about CCUS. When I talk to people in the sector, one of the points they make most frequently is about the UK’s ability to be an early mover, to get in quickly and to take advantage of export capabilities. I completely agree and commend my hon. Friend for the work he did over quite some time as our exports Minister.
We are in constant dialogue with the steel sector, and the hon. Gentleman and I both know that half of steel production and half the jobs in the sector were lost under the last Labour Government. Steel has been facing worldwide pressure for some years, but we are strongly supportive of the UK steel sector. The Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, my hon. Friend the Member for North East Derbyshire (Lee Rowley), who now has responsibility for steel, frequently engage with the sector. We continually speak to the sector and will keep the House informed. Personally, I think our £350 million industrial energy transformation fund is a considerable commitment to the sector.
I welcome the steps set out by my right hon. Friend to unleash the potential of our whole country. Can he reassure my Ynys Môn constituents that they will benefit from the 440,000 net zero jobs being created by 2030 and the £90 billion of private investment? Will he accept my invitation to visit Wylfa Newydd and see at first hand why the Prime Minister is such a fervent supporter?
I thank my hon. Friend, who is a tireless advocate for Ynys Môn, particularly on the economy and jobs. Of course, Ynys Môn, the whole of Wales and north Wales will benefit from the new green jobs that this net zero strategy will help to foster. The new money announced today for the future nuclear enabling fund is for optionality for the future, so that we can make future decisions based on good information on nuclear. Obviously, that includes potential for sites such as Wylfa.
The Minister talks, in effect, of crumbs for Scotland, the renewable energy capital of Europe, with a few jobs as technicians offshore, whereas my constituency is the fourth most impacted by the cuts to working tax credit and universal credit. We can couple that with the escalation of fuel prices, so I want to know: why do the UK Government insist on levying connection charges not to France or the Nordic countries, but uniquely to Scotland, driving away investment, jobs and ambitions for our green future and for an end to fuel poverty in Scotland?
I did not quite understand the hon. Gentleman’s point about connectivity, but what I will say to him is this: Scotland is vital for the UK’s energy needs, both currently and in the future. On oil and gas, 50% of the gas currently consumed in this country comes from the UK continental shelf, and Scotland is vital for that. It is also vital for our future offshore wind capabilities, and other low-carbon and renewable energies. That is exactly the technology, capability and capacity that I saw last week in Aberdeen. Perhaps he might get a little more optimistic about Scotland’s future when it comes to energy, because I certainly am.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement and the Government’s commitment to helping all industrial clusters to decarbonise as we transition to net zero by 2050. As an energy-intensive sector, the decarbonisation of the ceramics industry will play a crucial role in this transition, which is why I am delighted to back the British Ceramic Confederation’s plans for a virtual ceramics sustainability hub, based in Stoke-on-Trent, to develop new decarbonisation technology, including carbon capture and storage. Does the Minister agree that Government support is vital to help the ceramic industry decarbonise by 2050? Will he meet me and other Stoke colleagues to discuss these ambitious plans for the creation of a virtual ceramics sustainability hub?
I am always ready to meet our three brilliant Conservative Members of Parliament for Stoke. I have met them over the years on a host of different topics, often in relation to ceramics and with the BCC. I remind my hon. Friend about the £350 million industry energy transformation fund and the fact that we will be in continuous dialogue with the three MPs and with the sector, and of course I would be very happy to meet her and her colleagues.
Once again, we hear warm words, big headlines and big figures from the Government, but too little detail, as the Public Accounts Committee has repeatedly highlighted. So I hope the Minister will make sure that there are repeated and meaningful reports to Parliament on these figures, good or bad, so that we can keep a track on this. Will he also look at the issue of people’s behaviour? As others have highlighted, there is a challenge on not just the money but the hassle factor, for example, in greening homes that are very challenging to insulate. How is the Department looking at that? Will he commit to do so?
The hon. Lady asks a set of very reasonable questions. First, I commend her for saying that the Government have announced big figures, because her Front-Bench colleague, the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), seemed to think they were very small figures. I agree with her that these are very, very big figures of Government money being committed.
The hon. Lady asked a reasonable question on people’s behaviour. Of course we want to make things as straightforward, simple and transparent for consumers as possible. We want people to be making the change—to be incentivised—and the Government are putting in the financial incentives. We want people to feel incentivised to make the right choices. That can be something as simple as making the scheme straightforward and easy to understand. That is where we will be moving on the replacement boiler programme, making sure that it is as easy as possible for people to understand when it starts next April.
The cost-effectiveness of heat pumps is critically dependent on the cost of electricity, and there is good reason to think that the overall of cost of renewables to the bill payer is still extremely high, including subsidies. So will the Minister subject his assumptions on his heat pump strategy to a comprehensive audit of the price of renewable electricity?
My hon. Friend is tireless in his ability and desire to get to the bottom of what lies behind Government figures. Perhaps I might commit to meet him, as, having taken on this brief four weeks ago, I know he takes a strong interest in all aspects of energy and climate change. Perhaps I might agree to meet him to discuss his concerns first, before committing to a new, huge audit of anything.
I welcome the Government’s setting an end date for the use of gas boilers, but of course switching to electricity for heating our homes makes sense only if the electricity used is not derived from fossil fuels. Because of the Lib Dems in government, the renewables sector has made big strides, but it is by no means accelerating in the way it should be. So will the Government take the opportunity before COP26 to announce an end date for using fossil fuels in the production of electricity?
We already have, as I mentioned in the statement, our commitment to a decarbonisation of our electricity system by 2035. However, may I take issue with her about renewables because we have had a massive amount of success, particularly since 2015? The cost of offshore wind, for example, has been reduced by two thirds since 2015, when there was a sole Conservative Government. We also have the commitment to have a really big increase in renewables. We currently have the world’s largest installed offshore wind capacity, at about 10 GW. We are committed to not resting on our laurels and to quadrupling that capacity in the next 10 years, to 40 GW.
The UK Government should be roundly applauded: we continue to be one of the nations in the world that decarbonises at one of the fastest rates, as my right hon. Friend has said. Operational carbon is just one of the pieces of the jigsaw, as is embodied carbon. What assessment has he made of regulating embodied carbon in the construction sector?
My hon. Friend makes a good point on the importance of the construction sector. Obviously, there has to be a read-across between Government policies, our commitment to infrastructure, our commitment to new homes and so on. So I will happily meet him to discuss the construction sector and its carbon footprint. On decarbonising the fastest in the G7, I thank him for his words of support. This has been a huge UK success story, particularly over the past 30 years. In the first half of my adult life, we have done really well as a country overall. I recall that in 1989 the Green party ran on a manifesto that said we could take action on global warming only if we either froze or reduced the size of the economy. This country, with its 78% increase in the size of the economy, while reducing emissions by 44% in the first half of my adult life, has shown the world the way forward to reaching net zero at the end of—well, I hope not at the end of the second half of my adult life, but in the second half of my adult life to come.
There are about a quarter of a million homes in Leeds with gas boilers. I have many constituents, as all Members have, who are struggling to pay the gas bill at the moment, let alone face the prospect of paying between £6,000 and £15,000 for a new heat pump, notwithstanding the grants that the Minister has announced today or the hope, which we all share, that the cost of heat pumps will fall. What is the Government’s plan for ensuring that all households in our communities are able to make the transition to a zero-carbon future, which we know must happen?
We remain absolutely committed to our existing target of 600,000 homes per annum having a heat pump by 2028, and the scheme announced today shows that direction of travel. We are not saying that the scheme will provide a heat pump for every house; it will kick-start the market. We have already seen really positive reactions. I mentioned the reaction of, among others in the sector, Octopus Energy, which said overnight that it thinks it can deliver an equivalent price—we will watch such commitments closely—by as early as April next year. That is where the opportunity lies for the right hon. Gentleman’s constituents and mine: not in the Government’s coming along and replacing everybody’s gas boiler, but by the Government’s sending a signal to kick-start the market and show that we want the private sector to respond positively.
Rugby is at the heart of National Grid’s gas pipeline network, which runs across the country from one side to the other. In the summer, I visited National Grid’s Churchover site, which is a substantial national asset. We know that harmful emissions from gas can be reduced in the short term by putting hydrogen up to 20% in the existing natural gas network, and in the longer term we can move to 100% hydrogen. Will the Minister confirm that, although we hear about stopping the installation of gas boilers, a substantial future for gas in our energy supply remains?
My hon. Friend makes a good point. Of course, gas has a substantial future in our energy supply, certainly in the short term. Currently, 50% of our gas comes from the UK continental shelf, so it is very important for us, notwithstanding high international wholesale gas prices. The Climate Change Committee has itself said that it is not inconsistent with net zero for there to be a contribution from the oil and gas sector, even in 2050. It is now a question of working with the sector, which is why we have done the North sea transition deal. We are working with the industry, in partnership with the Oil and Gas Authority, to make sure that we make the necessary transformation. A lot of the skills in the oil and gas sector are transferable to, for example, offshore wind.
As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on CCUS, I am delighted by today’s announcement that the Tees, along with our Humber colleagues, will lead the way on CCUS and hydrogen production. In the past, we have had several false starts, with the Government withdrawing funding, so I hope we get it over the line this time. How will the Minister ensure that Teesside workers will get the jobs and skills to develop the new industries and that the people of Teesside get a real dividend?
I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s warm congratulation on that decision. Perhaps he might have a word with some of his colleagues near him on the Opposition Benches. He makes a good point about Teesside. We will work closely with Teesside Members of Parliament and with the Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, with whom I had an excellent conversation on this subject just a couple of weeks ago, to make sure that the skills base in Teesside improves and continues to be trained to make sure that it can continue to meet the challenges of the low-carbon future. When I was up in Hartlepool in Teesside just a few weeks ago, I was incredibly impressed to see the new investment in, for example, cabling by an offshore wind company. That company was adamant that there were good skills there, but we must keep working to improve those skills as we go forward.
I welcome the Minister’s statement and the strategy itself, which says that 80% of fossil-fuel-heated off-grid homes could accommodate a low-temperature heating system. The potential to develop the most fuel-poor homes, many of which are in my constituency, is enormous. The Minister is right to mention the development and affordability of heating units themselves as things progress, but to fit such a unit, a person needs to insulate their home well and increase the size of their radiators. They may even need to increase the supply of energy to their home, as I found out in my own case. Will the Minister give careful thought to the up-front cost of fitting such a unit for a fuel-poor home, and all the other costs that make a home the home that people deserve?
My hon. Friend makes some excellent points. I spent part of my childhood in Cornwall and I thought that where I lived then was pretty far from here, but his constituency is yet further, so I know some of the challenges that face his St Ives constituents. We want to keep the scheme as simple, straightforward, transparent and easy-to-understand as possible, but my hon. Friend’s points about insulation and energy efficiency in homes are well met. I will continue to talk with him and other Cornish MPs, and with MPs from other parts of the country, as we move forward.
The north-east of Scotland is the home of the offshore industry and the obvious location for a carbon-capture project. Years ago, the Tories pulled the plug on the carbon capture and storage competitions before Peterhead won through, and it is now clear that the UK Government have put the holding of seats in the red wall of northern England ahead of saving jobs in Aberdeen and the north-east. How can the Government say they are delivering a just transition if the Tories put pork barrel politics ahead of supporting the ideal location for CCUS at St Fergus?
I get tired of the politics of division that we hear from the SNP all the time. It is the politics of pitting Scotland against, in this case, the north of England. We are a Government for the whole United Kingdom and I bitterly regret the hon. Lady’s language and her accusation that we have somehow put the north of England in a privileged position relative to other parts of the UK. We have been clear that in track 1 there will be at least two industrial clusters by the mid-2020s and four by 2030 at the latest. We have the Acorn cluster as a reserve. As I said earlier, it met the eligibility criteria and performed to a good standard. We will continue to engage with the sector so that it can continue its development and planning.
On behalf of Cornwall—no, I rise to speak on behalf of my constituency of Banff and Buchan, to which I shall turn in a moment. First, I thank my right hon. Friend the Minister for his visit last week to Aberdeen, where he expressed the Government’s ongoing and continuous support for the oil and gas sector and its valuable role in the energy transition to net zero. The North sea transition deal includes carbon capture and storage; far be it from me to correct the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown), but the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock) got it right: it is St Fergus, not Peterhead. Is it not entirely predictable from SNP Members? They have been practising their script since before the bids even came in—they gleefully declare betrayal.
Given the fact that the Government have already expended £31 million in the Scottish cluster, will my right hon. Friend meet me to discuss the Government’s plans to help the Scottish cluster to develop and plan not only as a reserve but certainly for the next track of negotiations?
I will of course meet my hon. Friend to discuss that. I thank him for taking a strong interest in my visit to Aberdeen last week. He is right that the oil and gas sector is in transition, welcomes the North sea transition deal and wants to work closely with the Government, the OGA, Oil & Gas UK and so on in continuing to make a massive contribution to Scotland and the whole of the United Kingdom.
On carbon capture, utilisation and storage, this is not the end of the story, as I said. We need to make a decision and make progress, but Acorn is the first reserve. If Members look at the rest of our policy, they will see that there is potential to expand our commitment yet further in advance of 2030.
The delivery of a target of 600,000 new heat pumps by 2028 requires significant resource; otherwise, only the very well-off will be able to afford the cost of both the heat pump and the additional insulation that most homes would need to make the pumps cost-effective. As the hon. Member for St Ives (Derek Thomas) said, many homes will need additional power supplies. Will the Government therefore extend their ambition and link the programme for adequate insulation with adequate funding for heat pumps, such that more people than just the very well-off will be able to deliver the changes according to the Government’s strategy?
The hon. Lady underestimates our commitment, because it is not 600,000 new heat pumps, but 600,000 new heat pumps per annum by 2028. This is a huge commitment, but it is a commitment that is best met largely by the private sector. That is why we strongly believe that the announcement that we made today on the grants of up to £5,000 will kickstart the private sector in providing these heat pumps. I have already pointed overnight to the welcome of this announcement by the energy companies, which think that they can get the price of those heat pumps down. That is the right strategy, rather than having the Government pay for everything to meet that commitment. I think it is about working with the private sector. The ball is now partly in the energy companies’ court to see whether they can get the price of those heat pumps down.
Many people in villages in North West Norfolk live in poorly insulated homes. Can my right hon. Friend ensure that the home upgrade scheme and other schemes in this strategy help my rural constituents to live in warmer, more efficient homes?
The comments that I made in relation to Cornwall earlier probably also apply to parts of north Norfolk. Of course I will commit to making sure that households that are in fuel poverty and that have poor insulation, including those in remote areas, will get the support that they need and deserve.
Many of us on the Labour Benches, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) and my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham), have been articulating the case for carbon capture, usage and storage for many years. Despite the shortcomings of the statement, including any clarity on whether the net zero strategy will meet the 2035 sixth carbon budget, the east coast cluster announcement is most welcome. Will the Minister ensure that the collective voice of working people, through their trade unions, is heard, and that all stakeholders, including Ben Houchen, the mayor, part company with the anti-trade union rhetoric and work in an inclusive and co-operative manner to ensure that the economic and employment opportunities are fully delivered for working people in my Middlesbrough constituency and across Teesside?
I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman on working with workforces. The commitment to net zero is a huge, country-wide endeavour and we must carry everybody with us. May I perhaps suggest that he has a word with the trade unions, because they have been extremely critical of Labour’s official policy, which is to get to net zero by 2030? As I have mentioned, the GMB has said that nobody thinks that 2030 is a “remotely achievable deadline”. Another said that it would be a huge upheaval, leading to job losses in the industry. I agree with what he has to say, but perhaps he might have a word with those on his Front Bench as well.
The transition to net zero emboldens politicians to use ambitious rhetoric, but they cross their fingers that the reality of implementation will be as planned. That is because, as my right hon. Friend knows, he is dealing with tremendous amounts of uncertainty over the fact that chosen technologies may not work or may be superseded, that anticipated unit cost reductions may not be achieved and that the first-mover advantage may result in heavy costs but illusory or temporary sources of competitive advantage. Can he advise me on what his Department is doing to calibrate correctly the extent of the use of taxpayers’ money, the extent of additional levies on business and the extent of additional burdens on householders in the achievement of his strategy?
Mr Speaker, as a former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, you can imagine that I take a strong and ongoing interest in exactly that sort of question. We at BEIS have those discussions with the Treasury and the whole of Government all of the time to make sure that the plan here is both achievable and affordable and that it will be realised to enable us to meet all of those targets that we have set ourselves. I am looking forward to interacting with my hon. Friend on any specific concerns that he may have going forward, but his question and his points are the sorts of things that are very much on our minds.
Obviously, £450 million for heat pumps across England and Wales is a good thing, but it is set to benefit only 0.3% of Welsh households, while the future generations commissioner calculates that the cost of decarbonising Wales’s housing stock stands at £14.75 billion. The Treasury has resisted every step on the road to COP26. Our economy, our environment and our communities need Treasury funding to step up to the mark to lead the transformational investment. That will give the private sector confidence. How confident is the Minister that this news will reach us within the next 10 days?
A very substantial amount of Government money is going into the heat and building strategy—I think it is in the region of £4 billion. I will correct the right hon. Lady. On this heat pump scheme that we have introduced, the idea is that it kickstarts the market and gets the private sector providing solutions. We have already seen a really good response to our signals from the private sector. That is exactly right, because the solutions to issues such as home heating will lie principally with the private sector.
Further to the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Jo Gideon) earlier, the ceramics sector in Stoke-on-Trent has faced significant energy price volatility recently. It does want to transition, but it cannot do so on its own while continuing to be competitive internationally. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that we have our fair share of the additional R&D money that this Government are committed to investing in the UK?
I am absolutely committed to that. My BEIS colleagues who look after research and development are absolutely committed to making sure that British ceramics are not sold short when it comes to R&D. We have a huge commitment to the sector overall, which my hon. Friend will know from the many years that we have worked together, particularly on trade issues as they affect the ceramics sector, including trying to break down trade barriers to make sure not only that our industry flourishes here in the UK, but that our exports do as well. I commend the work that he and all of the Stoke Conservative MPs have been doing for the sector for some years now.
Missing from the plan is the retrofit skills strategy. The City of York Council has a backlog of more than 6,000 maintenance and retrofit jobs to do. How does the Minister expect those skills to come forward and how will people be trained? Why has he left it so late to upskill the workforce?
I agree with some of the points that the hon. Lady makes about the importance of skills, but I do not think that it is about our delivering the message late. This Government’s commitment to skills and to reskilling if necessary has been absolutely clear. It can be seen right the way across Government in the very close work being done together by BEIS and the Department for Education. I see it in so many sectors. I will mention again my visit to Aberdeen last week. I appreciate that Aberdeen is some distance from her constituency, but the sector there has to be able to reskill a lot of people from offshore oil and gas to offshore wind. It is that kind of thing that we need to see on a transition and a long-term basis. It is exactly this idea of making sure that we can retrain and reclassify people from today’s skills to fit the skills for tomorrow. That is absolutely part of our commitment.
The Minister talks about ending the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030. To do so, we will need drivers to switch to zero-emission vehicles over the next decade. Despite the upfront costs of electric cars still being significantly higher, the financial incentives to switch continue to be diluted. I welcome the shadow Secretary of State’s support for the SNP Scottish Government’s interest-free loan scheme for new and used zero-emission cars, but the Government’s zero-emission vehicle mandate will not even be legislated on until 2024. Nearly half the decade will be behind us when the mandate comes in. Why are the Government moving this policy forward in first gear?
I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. The transport section in the net zero strategy is very comprehensive on this and very extensive on how we get more people to switch to electric vehicles. In terms of some of the details, I invite him to ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport who leads on this at the next Transport questions.
The other week, Lord Deben, the chair of the Climate Change Committee, speaking at the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, indicated that, if we are to hit the Committee’s targets, local government has an incredibly important role to play in the retrofitting of existing homes, the building of new homes, local planning policies and local transport policies. Is it therefore not disappointing that there is not one single mention of the role of local government in the Minister’s announcement today? What has the Minister to say about that?
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the annex of the net zero strategy, which sets out in some detail our response to Lord Deben’s annual report earlier this year. I think he will find in the annex a lot of the good mentions of local government for which he has been looking.
The zero-emissions vehicle mandate is welcome, although, as the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands) said, the Government do need to get a move on. They have been cutting plug-in grants year on year, and there are now reports that the Chancellor wants to axe them all together. What in this strategy will actually help to make the purchase of electric vehicles more affordable for the average consumer?
He is nodding in the affirmative, so that is one more.
Like the overall commitment, this commitment is very much on an ongoing basis. I refer the hon. Lady to the transport section of the net zero strategy and to the annex regarding the Climate Change Committee’s report.
The Minister says that he wants to work collaboratively, yet he did not reach out to the Welsh Labour Government or share plans, despite saying that he was going to. Of course, plans on net zero are welcome, but this is greenwash wrapped up with a great big green bow. Only the most well off will benefit from the heat pumps, and the Government have not made clear the new measures that householders will also need, including insulation, water storage and new radiators. The Government are also still building truly awful, inefficient homes. When are they going to step up and really take the action needed to meet the zero carbon commitment?
The hon. Lady has packed a lot into that question, but let me come back to her with two points. First of all, we have shared an advance copy of the plans with the Welsh Government and I spoke to the Welsh Government Minister yesterday on this very topic.
Secondly, the hon. Lady says that only the well off will benefit. Our target is 600,000 homes per annum; that will reach down very far into the homes in this country. I am absolutely confident of that, particularly given the commitments being made by different energy companies to make heat pumps cheaper. I mentioned earlier the commitment from one company overnight to make a heat pump of equivalent price to a gas boiler. That gives rise to good optimism about the affordability of this new technology.