House of Commons
Wednesday 3 November 2021
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
The Secretary of State was asked—
UK-EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement
This is an incredibly significant week for the whole planet, as countries from around the world gather in Glasgow to negotiate on climate action. We are facing a climate emergency, with no time to lose; we must keep 1.5° alive. I am sure that the whole House will join me in urging all countries at COP to make a real commitment to change. I know that we will all want to take this opportunity to thank Police Scotland for working so hard to ensure a safe and secure COP26. It is supported in that by 7,000 police officers from other UK forces. I am very pleased that the UK Government have brought COP26 to Glasgow, and I am sure the city will receive a long-term boost from being in the world spotlight.
The UK Government have agreed a deal with the EU that fully delivers for Scotland and the rest of the UK. Our deal provides Scottish businesses with exceptional access to EU markets. It is the first time the EU has ever agreed a zero-tariff, zero-quota deal. I regret that the SNP refused to support that deal.
Brexit-induced labour shortages are having a real impact on several sectors of the Scottish economy, with social care, hospitality, and food and drink among the worst hit. For some, the impact has been catastrophic, with up to a third of Scotland’s harvest of some crops left to rot in the fields. Those are the direct consequences of this UK Government’s hard Brexit deal and their ideological decision to abruptly end freedom of movement. The Secretary of State knows that, and he knows that the EU provided over €1 billion in Brexit support to Ireland, so will he back Scotland’s employers and support a compensation fund to mitigate the Brexit damage inflicted on Scotland against our will?
The hon. Lady will know that I backed the increase in the seasonal agricultural workers scheme from 2,500 to 30,000. The National Farmers Union of Scotland is well aware of that; I led on those negotiations. She will know that the EU settled status scheme has been successful. We were told that fewer than 3 million people would apply but in fact over 6 million have applied. Some of those workers have remained in their countries; they can come to the UK freely, as she knows, but they remained in their countries during the pandemic, and the pandemic has been a factor. We also have the shortage occupations list, which creates lower salary requirements for skilled workers. This Government are doing everything they can, but we have to recognise that there is a pandemic effect on labour shortages at the moment.
The Secretary of State will be aware that the principal export market for most businesses in my constituency is in England. Does he share my frustration that the Scottish Government, rather than supporting those businesses with exports to other parts of the United Kingdom, continue to pursue an independence agenda, which could only mean more barriers for those businesses?
The Secretary of State will remember that Scotland voted to remain part of the European Union, and that despite every compromise offered, this Government ploughed ahead with Brexit, knowing full well the damage that it would do to Scotland and that it was against the wishes of the people in Scotland. Now, the Office for Budget Responsibility has projected that the UK’s economy will be 4% smaller because of Brexit, and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs found that Scottish exports were actually higher last year, during the height of the pandemic, than they are this year, after Brexit.
I know that the Secretary of State mentioned the pandemic, but that means that Brexit is having a worse impact on Scottish exports than the pandemic. Although he could have fooled me with his lack of mask, Mr Speaker, I am going to presume that the Secretary of State is not in favour of the pandemic and its effects. Given that the effects of Brexit are worse, why does he support it?
The hon. Lady quotes the OBR. Actually, the OBR prediction was for economic growth to be 4% in March. The reality is that it has corrected that, and its prediction is now for economic growth to be 6.5% in 2021 and 6% in 2022. Actually, our economy is recovering strongly, and it is the fastest-growing economy in the G7.
This alternative reality is an international embarrassment. As my hon. Friend the Member for East Renfrewshire (Kirsten Oswald) already mentioned, the EU provided over €1 billion to Ireland as a Brexit compensation fund to combat its effects. Since we know that Brexit is damaging Scotland’s economy and since this place clearly thinks itself so superior to the EU, without mentioning existing funds can the Secretary of State tell us when Scotland will receive its Brexit compensation fund and how much will be in it?
We have just had a Budget where the Chancellor has given £41 billion in the block grant, up £4.6 billion and the largest ever block grant received by the Scottish Government since devolution began in 1998. On top of that, this week there was almost £200 million in structural funds support through the levelling up fund, the community renewal fund and the community ownership fund. More money is going into Scotland than ever before to support Scotland as we go through the pandemic. It is a matter of enormous regret that last night, when the Budget vote took place, the SNP did not support all that extra funding for Scotland.
The EU announced earlier this week that it would be removing the tariffs on American whisky, in a further de-escalation of the trade dispute between the US and the EU. Clearly, there has already been positive news for the Scotch whisky industry with the five-year suspension, but will the Secretary of State work with me to encourage the UK Government to remove all tariffs on American whisky, which would further support the distillers in Moray and the industry across Scotland?
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. I know that there are over 40 distilleries in his constituency, so I understand why he feels very strongly about this issue. I agree with him. We were successful in taking the 25% tariff away, but it needs to be removed completely and not just suspended for a number of years. The way to do that is for us to also remove our tariffs on bourbon. I would be very happy to meet him to discuss that.
Brexit has been nothing other than an unmitigated disaster for Scotland. We now have food shortages, labour shortages, businesses unable to export their products and food rotting in the fields. Is it not about time, instead of all this mealy-mouthed nonsense, that the Secretary of State got to his feet and apologised to the people of Scotland for dragging our nation out of the European Union against its national collective will?
I simply do not recognise what the hon. Gentleman says. We have been through the pandemic and it is far too early to say what any impacts are to make predictions, but what we do know is that our economy is growing. We are doing fantastic trade deals around the world, which will benefit the Scottish economy, and Scottish food and drink. He just needs to get positive about that: stop talking down Scotland’s businesses, stop talking down Scotland, and start to get optimistic about the opportunities we face.
Scottish Fishing Industry
My Department continues to work closely with the Scottish fishing industry. Following the success of our Scottish Seafood Exports Taskforce, which made real progress on issues identified by industry, we are continuing to bring together industry and Ministers through our Scottish Seafood Industry Action Group to continue that productive engagement.
I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. As a newly independent coastal state seeking this week to negotiate with Norway an agreement on Arctic cod, what is he doing to break the monopoly of the foreign-owned and rather slyly named UK Fisheries, which has had more than its fill from Svalbard and has for decades fleeced the Scottish fishing industry over the UK quota on Arctic cod?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. I am well aware of the representations the catching sector in Scotland has made over quotas it lost when we were a part of the common fisheries policy. That saw Scottish quotas swapped for the benefit of a foreign-owned vessel. I am sure that being an independent coastal state must mean that we look after our truly domestic businesses first and foremost.
I hope the Minister is aware that the next few weeks will be the most important weeks of the year for businesses exporting fish to continental Europe. Nothing should be done that will affect confidence in the reliability of supply from these shores. These are the same people who were absolutely hammered in the first week of the year as a consequence of the shambolic start to the year. They were promised compensation by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs at that stage. I have spoken to one supplier in Shetland who has been told that if he had allowed his fish to rot on the quayside, he would have got full compensation, but because he sold it at a significant discount in the domestic market, he will get nothing. Surely that it is not how it was supposed to work?
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for raising that point. If he cares to send me the details of that firm, I will certainly follow that up with my colleagues in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and make sure that the scheme has been working as it should have been.
Scotland’s Shipbuilding Industry
The UK Government’s commitment to shipbuilding in Scotland is unwavering. Over the past 15 years, we have delivered: six Type 45 destroyers, launched from the Clyde; two aircraft carriers, assembled at Rosyth; five offshore patrol vessels, built on the Clyde; and we have ensured a bulging order book for the future—eight Type 26 frigates have been ordered, with three of them already under construction on the Clyde, and five Type 31 frigates have been ordered and are destined for Rosyth.
I am pleased that the first deal has been cut for the Type 31 frigate, HMS Venturer, which is being built at Rosyth. With the fleet’s construction due to support 1,250 jobs and 150 apprenticeships, does my right hon. Friend agree that such projects are integral to the Union?
I absolutely agree: the shipbuilding industry makes a huge contribution to strengthening the Union. It directly supports UK security and prosperity, and it supports 25,200 jobs across the UK and 7,000 direct jobs in Scotland. I was fortunate to visit BAE Systems in Govan recently and I met the excellent workforce building HMS Glasgow; I am assured that she will be a very fine ship.
I do share my hon. Friend’s disappointment that the Scottish Government-owned shipyard was unable to compete in the tenders for two new ferries for Scotland. That disappointment is shared by the whole of Scotland, particularly island communities, who are suffering every day as a result of the SNP’s self-inflicted ferry fiasco.
The Orbital O2 tidal generator was the first marine vessel launched from Dundee in 40 years. Wave and tidal offer massive opportunities for the wider maritime industry in Scotland. All that is required for these technologies to scale up is a ring-fenced pot of money in the forthcoming contracts for difference auction. Will the Secretary of State, given his power, raise this with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to make sure that that happens? I would be happy to meet him.
In 2019, the Scottish Government took shipbuilding company Ferguson Marine into public ownership. The yard was supposed to deliver two ferries by the end of 2019 at a cost of £97 million. The ferries still have not been delivered and the total cost has ballooned to more than double the original budget, leaving islanders without new ferries and taxpayers footing the bill. As we have just heard, rather than now using the shipbuilder to build more ferries, they are sending the contracts abroad to create jobs in other countries. Does the Secretary of State think that that represents value for money for Scottish and UK taxpayers? If he does not, will he raise the issue with Scottish Ministers, because taxpayers really do deserve better?
The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. The Scottish Government’s incompetence in this area has cost the taxpayer very, very heavily. Eleven organisations responded to the original procurement process. The three chosen to tender were shipyards in Romania, Poland and Turkey. I would have preferred the Scottish Government to show some loyalty to UK shipyards, even if their own one could not fulfil the contract.
Scottish Seed Potato Industry
This Government are continuing to work collaboratively with counterparts in the devolved Administrations on issues affecting seed potato growers. We remain in close contact with the main industry bodies and we continue to press the European Commission to allow imports of our high-class seed potatoes.
The EU continues to block seed potato exports into Europe. It offers no reciprocal trading arrangements and that is harming not only the vital industry in Scotland, but my growers, Solana Seeds, in North Norfolk. Will my hon. Friend agree to meet me to explain the situation further and what we are doing to rectify this problem?
I would be happy to meet my hon. Friend. I can tell him that an application has been submitted to the EU to lift the restrictions, based on recognising GB seed potato requirements as equivalent, and is being pursued at both a political and a technical level. We remain committed to finding a solution to allow exports to resume and will continue to press our case with the Commission. In the meantime, the temporary authorisation that allowed imports of seed potatoes from the EU expired on 30 June.
This is just another example of the botched Brexit deal failing to take into account the needs of a small but very important industry. The industry has now completely collapsed; 30,000 tonnes of seed have not been exported and £13.5 million of trade is no longer in place. What is the Minister doing to ensure that an equivalence deal is reached with the EU as soon as possible so that trade can resume?
In addition to the points that I made in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Duncan Baker), I point out to the hon. Lady that there is enormous export potential around the world, particularly in China and elsewhere in Asia, for Scottish seed potatoes. I discussed the matter with the industry in Glasgow on Monday evening. There is huge potential, and we will do everything we can to help the industry to realise it.
Government’s Plan for Jobs
Our UK-wide total Department for Work and Pensions spend on labour market support will increase to more than £6 billion, which will give everyone a chance to progress, work and develop the skills that they need for the modern workforce. In Scotland, we have made available more than 15,000 jobs, and approximately 8,000 jobs have already started.
Supporting young people to fulfil their potential is key to levelling up opportunity. Does my hon. Friend agree that the UK-wide kickstart scheme, which has made well over 10,000 Scottish placements available, is yet another example of the UK Government delivering for the people of Scotland?
A proper plan for jobs would have Scottish renewables at its heart. There are four simple steps that the Minister could take today to unleash that proper plan’s potential: first, persuade the Treasury to create a pot dedicated to tidal energy in the fourth contracts for difference auction; secondly, instruct Ofgem to reform transmission charges to stop disadvantaging Scotland; thirdly, fund energy interconnectors from the island generators to the mainland; and fourthly, back the Acorn carbon capture and storage project. Those Government decisions would not only transform the UK energy sector, but create a Scottish jobs legacy from COP26. Will the Minister demand that his Cabinet colleagues act now to create a proper jobs plan for Scotland?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue. Scotland has enormous potential in the renewables sector. I can reassure him that the Acorn project is not dead; it did not get through to the first two, but it is the reserve project and we will be working closely to ensure that it is in a future round. Through my Department, we are funding a number of renewable energy schemes such as CoRE—the Community Renewable Energy project—in East Ayrshire. Tidal energy, which the hon. Gentleman referred to, can form part of the Orkney islands growth deal. More generally, I would be happy to facilitate a meeting with my colleagues in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy so that the hon. Gentleman can discuss the wider issues.
I would certainly accept a meeting with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to go over the issues, but I would have thought that the Minister and the Scotland Office would also want to champion them. If one outcome from the conference of the parties is quite clear, it is that we need action, not just words.
The Chancellor’s Budget last week did not have a plan for jobs either; in fact, he barely mentioned it. Despite paying more, Scottish taxpayers are getting much less after a decade of devastating Tory and SNP austerity. It is no plan for jobs to increase taxes on businesses and hard-working people at a time when households and businesses are struggling with rapidly rising costs. Are the Minister—as a Conservative Minister—and his Department comfortable that under his Government, hard-working Scots now face the highest tax burden since the 1950s?
On income tax, the Scottish Government are responsible and it is indeed true that they have higher taxes than the rest of the UK. I will leave the hon. Gentleman to take that up with the Scottish Government.
On his wider point about unemployment and employment, if the hon. Gentleman casts his mind back to the Budget last week, the forecast for unemployment after the pandemic was originally about 12%, but it is going to be less than half that. The changes that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor is making to universal credit tapers, for example, will leave more money in the hands of hard-working people.
Turing Scheme: Young People in Scotland
The Turing scheme has provided funding for more than 40,000 participants from schools, colleges and universities across the UK to study and work around the globe during this academic year. Education providers in Scotland have received more than £8.2 million in funding under the scheme.
As one of two Members of Parliament representing Milton Keynes in this place, I am especially proud that the scheme is named after one of our local heroes, Alan Turing. Can my hon. Friend and neighbour confirm that the scheme’s organisers will continue to seek global opportunities for our students, in the hope that we can inspire the next generation of codebreakers? Will he also join me in welcoming the fact that there are 28 successful applicants for Scottish projects, and £7.9 million is available for those projects this year?
I absolutely agree with my hon. and close Friend in Milton Keynes. It is a matter of pride that the scheme is named after Alan Turing, and given the work that he did to help the globe, I think it entirely fitting that our global scheme, which goes way beyond the horizons of Erasmus, is proving such a success. I am happy to confirm that, as my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced in his Budget last week, funds will be provided to deliver the scheme for another three years.
Scottish Parliament: Legislative Competence
I have frequent conversations with Cabinet colleagues about maintaining and strengthening the devolution settlement and ensuring that the Government’s focus is on delivering for Scotland. It is important that all legislation clearly reflects the competence and roles of Scotland’s two Parliaments and two Governments.
As my hon. Friend will know, we routinely engage with the Scottish Government on the use of devolved powers. It is in the interests of citizens across the UK for both Governments to operate within their respective powers, as set out in the Scotland Act. That is why I informed the Deputy First Minister back in March that I felt that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill and the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill contained clauses that were outside the competence of the Scottish Government. Sadly, our warnings and suggestions for changes to the Bills were ignored, so our Law Officers referred the relevant clauses to the Supreme Court. The Court agreed with our views on every count. I hope that the Scottish Government will in future work with us to ensure that their Bills respect the devolution settlement, so that we do not waste any more time and money when enacting important legislation.
Renewables and Green Energy: Onshore Employment
This Government are committed to the transition of the economy to net zero by 2050. We recently published our net zero strategy, which will support hundreds of thousands of well-paid jobs and leverage up to £90 billion of private investment by 2030 across the entire United Kingdom.
Communities must have local as well as large-scale projects such as turbine manufacturing, which Scotland is sadly missing out on, but communities such as my own in East Lothian are denied a share of the wealth going ashore. There is a legislative gap to allow community benefit from offshore as opposed to onshore wind. Will the Minister meet me to discuss this to see whether East Lothian and other such communities can benefit from offshore wind, as Shetland has benefited from oil and gas?
Scotland clearly has a lot to offer towards our net zero objectives—not least its high-quality wind! Can my hon. Friend confirm that the Acorn carbon capture and storage and hydrogen project is still very much part of the UK Government’s plans for our overall carbon capture, utilisation and storage strategy and our net zero objectives?
I regularly meet Cabinet colleagues to discuss these matters and I will continue to do so. I would point out the investment that my Department is making in renewable energy right across Scotland. This includes the community renewable energy—or CoRE—project in East Ayrshire and tidal energy and offshore wind in Shetland. We are making real investment that will make a real difference to people’s lives and the planet.
The Prime Minister was asked—
As the House will be in recess next week, I am sure that colleagues will join me in looking ahead to Armistice Day and remembering those men and women who have served and lost their lives in the service of this country. We also thank the members of our armed forces who continue to do so today.
This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
The Prime Minister has been busy preaching urgency this week at COP26, and I hope that he has caught up with his sleep. When he sits down with his grandchildren one day and they ask, “What did you do in that week of COP26?”, will he be able to outline one action that was in his gift that had an immediate impact? Will he be consistent with what he has always said and done and take on the biggest emitter of CO2 in the whole of Europe, which greedily and voraciously wants more? Will he ditch his predecessor’s damaging, daft, pre-levelling up, pre-Zoom and pre-90%-drop-in-demand proposal and have a fresh vote in this House to kill off the third runway at Heathrow?
What this Government are going to do, rather than taking steps to damage the economy of this country, which is what Labour would do, is get to net zero aviation. That is the future for this country: clean, green aviation. And by the way, that has every chance of arriving a lot earlier than a third runway at Heathrow.
I know that my hon. Friend does a huge amount of work for his constituents. I have seen the pictures that he describes. I can tell him that the application is in from the hospital in his constituency and that it is under consideration. We aim to make our final decision in the spring of next year.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Can I share the Prime Minister’s opening words regarding our armed forces and the tremendous work that they do? I also send my best wishes to all those recovering in Salisbury and give our sincere thanks to the emergency services that responded on that day. I would also like to wish all those who are celebrating tomorrow a very happy and peaceful Diwali.
Let me start with something on which there should be agreement on both sides of the House. The independent standards process found that a Member broke the rules on paid lobbying. Surely the Prime Minister accepts that this is, and should be, a serious offence, yet we have seen reports that he will respond by scrapping the independent process and overturning its verdict. In no other profession in our country could someone be found guilty by an independent process and just have their mates vote them back into the job. Surely the Prime Minister and this Government are not going to do that today.
No, of course we are not going to do that, because paid lobbying, paid advocacy, in this House is wrong. I make absolutely no bones about that. Members who are found guilty of it should apologise and pay the necessary penalties, but that is not the issue in this case or in the vote befor us today.
The issue in this case, which involves a serious family tragedy, is whether a Member of this House had a fair opportunity to make representations and whether, as a matter of natural justice, our procedures in this House allow for a proper appeal, which is something that should be of interest to Members across this House and should be approached properly in a spirit of moderation and compassion.
Let me put it simply. If it was a police officer, a teacher or a doctor, we would expect the independent process to be followed and not changed after the verdict. It is one rule for Conservative Members and another rule for the rest of us.
When a Conservative Member was found guilty of sexual harassment but let off on a loophole, they said the rules could not be changed after the event. So they cannot change the rules to stop sexual harassment, but they can change the rules to allow cash for access. Why is the Prime Minister making it up as he goes along?
All the professions that she mentions have a right of appeal, which is what the House needs to consider. I respectfully say to her that, instead of playing of politics on this issue, which is what Opposition Members are doing, she needs to consider the procedures of this House in a spirit of fairness. Instead of playing politics, we are getting on with delivering on the people’s priorities: 40 more hospitals, 20,000 more police officers and wages up, growth up and jobs up across this country. Those are our priorities. [Interruption.]
It is not about playing politics in this place; it is about playing by the rules. As we can see, it is one rule for everybody else and another rule for the Conservatives. When they break the rules, they just remake the rules. I know Donald Trump is the Prime Minister’s hero, but I say to him in all seriousness that he should learn the lesson that, if he keeps cheating the public, it will catch up with him in the end. While the Conservatives are wallowing in sleaze, the rest of the country faces higher bills, rising costs and damaging tax rises. Can he tell us the projected tax increase per household over the next five years?
What I can tell her is that the recent Budget took cash from those who can afford to pay the most and made very substantial tax cuts for the hardest working and poorest families in this country. We cut £1,000 with the universal credit taper relief for hard-working families in this country—2 million families had a £1,000 tax cut—and we are lifting the living wage across the whole country. We are also ensuring that this country gets on with a high-wage, high-skill, jobs-led recovery, and never let it be forgotten that had we listened to the Opposition we would have none of those things because we would still be in lockdown.
I think the Prime Minister missed out the number, so let me help him out. The Resolution Foundation found that by 2026 taxes will be £3,000 more per household since he took office. My constituents and his are feeling the pinch, and they are worried about Christmas as well. Their bills are going up every week and the Budget did nothing to help them. So can the Prime Minister tell them: how much was the tax cut that he gave to the banks instead?
As the right hon. Lady knows very well, it is the banks and the bankers who are paying far more proportionately as a result of our tax measures to cover the cost of the NHS. It is a very moot point because, of the £36 billion, 50% comes from the 14% who are the richest in this country—overwhelmingly, from the banks and financial services industry—who can pay the most. The astonishing thing is that, when it came to voting for that £36 billion increase—for 48 new hospitals, 50,000 more nurses and looking after our public services—the Opposition voted against it.
According to the Prime Minister’s own Budget documents, it was £4 billion in tax cuts to the bankers and £3,000 of tax rises per household. That is good news for the donor who gave his party half a million pounds—his bank got a bonus of nearly £8 million—but not so good news for the rest of us.
This month, as the Prime Minister said, we remember and celebrate all those who serve our great country, all those who have lost their lives, leaving behind loved ones, and those who have sustained life-changing injuries and live every day with the consequences of their sacrifice. Yet hidden in the small print of the Budget was a £1 billion cut to day-to-day defence spending. So will our servicemen and women face pay cuts, or will there be fewer of them, with less support?
I think it is quite incredible that we are now hearing this from the Labour party, when they would have pulled us out of NATO. I think the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) actually wanted to abolish the Army. The woman sitting next to the right hon. Lady wanted to abolish the Army. What you have got with this Government is spending on defence that is the highest since the cold war; it is the biggest uplift since the cold war and an increase that has restored confidence in this country around the world, in our ability to defend not just our own shores, but our friends and partners. That is what this Government are doing.
The Prime Minister knows that I asked him about the annual defence budget, which his own Budget documents show will drop by £1.3 billion. I hear his fine words, and I am from a military family myself, but I will not take party political lectures from him, because too often the Government’s actions do not match their words. I think of my constituent who fought in Afghanistan, yet was threatened with sanctions because he was unable to physically travel miles to the nearest Department for Work and Pensions office. The Prime Minister’s tax cut for short-haul flights last week cost £30 million—that is 50% more than the Government spend on supporting veterans’ mental health each year. The charity Combat Stress has lost £6 million in funding this year, even as calls to its helpline have doubled. So will the Prime Minister match our proposal to reinvest the £35 million saved from cancelled Ministry of Defence contracts to support our veterans, who surely deserve it?
It is because we have been able to run a strong economy and take our economy out of lockdown that we have been able to invest massively in the NHS, to lift spending on defence to record levels and to keep supporting our fantastic public services. That is what this Government are able to do.
I enjoy my conversations with the right hon. Lady, in spite of the insults and party political points that she directs towards the Government. I do not want to cause any further dissension on the Opposition Benches, but I think you will agree, Mr Speaker, that she has about a gigawatt more energy than the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer). I am just putting that out there. But it is the same old Labour: no plan and no ideas. We are getting on with delivering on the people’s priorities and taking this country forward. Growth is up, jobs are up, wages are up and productivity is up. All Labour does is play politics while we deliver.
As my hon. Friend knows, I am a fanatic about buses. We are putting £1.2 billion more into bus funding, and I know that Stoke-on-Trent has applied for that. I urge my hon. Friend to take up his suggestion immediately with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.
As we look forward to Remembrance Sunday, may I, too, commend those who have served and the military and security services that protect us all for the job that they continue to do?
Sir David Attenborough’s powerful opening statement to COP26 told us that the journey to net zero means:
“We must recapture billions of tons of carbon from the air.”
The Climate Change Committee has been clear that carbon capture and storage
“is a necessity not an option”
to achieve the planet’s net zero targets.
This week, Scotland’s world-leading climate targets have received widespread praise from, among others, the UN Secretary-General. Scotland is finding partners around the world to tackle the climate emergency, but in Westminster there is not even a willing partner to deliver the long-promised carbon-capture project. Scotland’s north-east has now been waiting weeks for a clear reason for exactly why the Scottish cluster bid was rejected. There have been no clear answers, and not even clear excuses, so perhaps the Prime Minister will answer this simple question: does he know exactly how much of the UK’s CO2 storage the Scottish cluster could deliver?
I am a massive enthusiast for carbon capture and storage around the whole UK. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the Acorn project in Aberdeen remains on the reserve list. He should not give up: we will come back to this issue and, of course, we want to make sure that we have a fantastic industry generating clean hydrogen around the country. The right hon. Gentleman should not despair. In the meantime, we are supporting amazing Scottish plans to get clean energy from wind, hydrogen and all sorts of means. I thank the people of Scotland and the people of Glasgow for the way they have helped to produce what has been, so far, a fantastically well-organised summit.
It is bad enough that the Prime Minister rejected the Scottish cluster a week before COP, but what is worse is that he clearly does not even know or understand what his Government were rejecting. Let me tell him: the Scottish cluster bid would have stored 30% of the UK’s CO2 emissions and supported the creation of around 20,000 jobs in green industries. It was far and away the best bid, Prime Minister. If the decision was based on science alone, it would have been approved on the spot. It is obvious that there was a political decision in Westminster to reject it. With days left at the COP summit, will the Prime Minister now reverse his Government’s massive own goal in rejecting the Scottish cluster?
I am trying to encourage the right hon. Gentleman to be a little bit less gloomy about the prospects of this initiative. I understand exactly what he says, and we are working with the Scottish Government, whom I thank for their co-operation and all their support for COP in the past few days and weeks and for what they are doing. We will come back to this issue. What I think is working well is the spirit of co-operation among all levels of government in this country, and what does not work is confrontation.
I know how strongly my hon. Friend and other colleagues across the south-west feel about this issue. That is why we have legislated to introduce higher rates of stamp duty on second homes. We will ensure that only genuine holiday businesses can access small business rates relief, but I am certainly happy to meet colleagues to discuss what further we may do to ensure that local people get the homes that they need.
In the words of the Minister of State for Business, Energy and Clean Growth:
“Scotland is vital for the UK’s energy needs, both currently and in the future…It is also vital for our future offshore wind capabilities, and other low-carbon and renewable energies.”—[Official Report, 19 October 2021; Vol. 701, c. 615.]
As he confirms, it is the rest of the UK that is dependent on Scotland, not the other way round. Does the Prime Minister not realise that his failure to invest in carbon capture and storage at St Fergus in Grangemouth and to feed the potential at Mossmorran in my constituency, is regarded as an act of deliberate economic vandalism, casting himself less as Bond and more as Blofeld the villain, for all the COP26 world to see?
What the COP26 world can see is the astonishing achievements of Scotland and the rest of the UK in developing clean energy sources. I have said to the right hon. Gentleman, the leader of the hon. Gentleman’s party in Westminster, that we will come back to the Aberdeen—[Interruption.] Sorry, forgive me, the hon. Gentleman is a member of a different party, but it has substantially the same agenda. We will come back to this. What I have found encouraging about the past few days is the spirit of co-operation and joint enterprise that I now detect that will enable us to deliver massive carbon cuts across this whole country.
I thank my hon. Friend for everything that he has done for Darlington. He should wait for the interim rail plan to come out, but, in the meantime, we are upgrading Darlington station. There are plans in place and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced £310 million of funding over the next five years to transform local transport networks in the Tees Valley.
The hon. Lady must wait for the integrated rail plan, but the north-east will be the beneficiary of the biggest investment in our rail infrastructure beyond HS2 that we have seen for a century. We will be putting in about £96 billion more, and we want the local and regional authorities to work with us to ensure that we promote the projects that the people really want.
Yes, I have listened to my right hon. Friend over many years on this issue and she is 100% right in what she says about the importance of early years. That is why we are investing £500 million to support families and children, including £82 million to create a network of family hubs to bring together services for children of all ages. We are going to continue to invest in children’s early years—for example, the offer of 15 hours of early education for disadvantaged two-year-olds that has already benefited 1.1 million disadvantaged kids since 2013.
The hon. Member describes a truly tragic and appalling case. I am sure that the whole House will share the revulsion that she has expressed at the outcome of the law’s processes. We will certainly need to have a meeting to see what we can do to address that loophole.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that we have to ensure that our NHS has the staff that it needs. That is why there are 50,000 more healthcare professionals in the NHS this year than there were last year—12,000 more nurses. In addition, there are 60,000 nurses in training—[Interruption.] Somebody on the Opposition Benches asks, “Why are there waiting lists?”. It is because we have been through a pandemic. We are fixing those waiting lists with £36 billion of investment, which the Labour party voted against.
This is a very difficult issue, as the whole House knows. The case of the WASPI women is not easily addressed. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the expenditure involved is very considerable and the tax that would have to be raised would be very considerable. We continue to reflect on all the options to ensure that people across this country get fair pensions.
As a mother, I cannot begin to imagine the pain and torment of losing a child. Richard Lee, a constituent of mine and veteran who served with distinction in the British Army, has been living with this pain every day of his life since 28 November 1981. On that day, his daughter, Katrice Lee, went missing from a military shopping complex near Paderborn in Germany. It was Katrice’s second birthday, and her family are still searching. The 40th anniversary of Katrice’s disappearance is coming up at the end of this month. It will undoubtedly be an exceptionally painful event for the entire Lee family. Will the Prime Minister please agree to meet Mr Lee, father to father, and reassure him that Katrice has not been forgotten?
The hon. Lady raises a very interesting aspect of research into epilepsy. We are funding epilepsy research with another £54 million over the last few years. The issue that she raises of any particular link between hot weather or climate change and epilepsy is certainly one that we will be going into.
Last week, an independent inquiry into Lib Dem-run Sutton Council’s own heat network found that it was set up on false assumptions, including funding that was never obtained and homes that do not exist—and now my constituents are going to be left footing the bill. Does the Prime Minister agree that this latest failure shows that the Lib Dems are just not fit to govern and that those responsible should go?
I have every sympathy with the hon. Gentleman’s constituent—[Interruption.] I certainly do. I have every sympathy, but what I think is unfair is that people such as her are placed in a position of unnecessary anxiety about their homes when they should be reassured.
I sympathise deeply with people who have to pay for waking watches and other such things. I think it is absurd. But what people should be doing is making sure that we do not unnecessarily undermine the confidence of the market and of people in these homes, because they are not unsafe. Many millions of homes are not unsafe—and the hon. Gentleman should have the courage to say so.
The new police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands has chosen to cut back on stop and search across the region. Can the Prime Minister confirm that while stops and searches must be proportionate and not discriminatory, they remain an important part of keeping our streets and communities safe?
Yes, I certainly agree with that. It was a point that I raised recently with the Labour Mayor of London. We agreed on many things—he was very much out of line with the current Labour policy on lockdown, for instance—but I certainly thought that he was wrong about stop and search. We need to make sure that stop and search is part of the armoury of police options when it comes to stopping knife crime. If it is done sensitively and in accordance with the law, I believe it can be extremely valuable.
I commend the Prime Minister on his diplomatic efforts in recent weeks and ask him about another serious and grave issue that was raised at the G20 in Rome: the strong likelihood of a nuclear-ready Iran within a matter of weeks or months. What will the UK do with our international partners to tackle that? If it is via an agreement, will it be stronger and more enduring than the last one? If it is not, as many people suspect, what is our plan B?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his question on an issue that he knows a great deal about. This is a case of making it clear to the Iranians that there is an opportunity for them to do something that would be massively in the interests of their people and of Iran: to come back to the table and do a further agreement—a son of the joint comprehensive plan of action—and restore the JCPOA at the Vienna talks. That is what needs to happen. That is the posture of the G20 and of our friends and allies around the world.
What we have done with universal credit is abolish the old system, which unfairly taxed people on universal credit, and help people with a £1 billion tax cut. What we on this side of the House believe in is rewarding work. That is what the people of this country want to see. That is why we have put the tax cut on those who are on universal credit and that is why we are lifting the living wage. What is the Opposition’s policy on universal credit? It is not nothing; they want to abolish universal credit.
The Mayor of London is refusing to rule out the so-called outer London charge, which would apply to all vehicles registered outside Greater London that cross the Greater London boundary. That would have terrible consequences for my Orpington constituents and those who live in the neighbouring constituency of Old Bexley and Sidcup. Louie French, the excellent local candidate for the by-election, has pledged to fight that appalling proposal. Will my right hon. Friend join me in wishing Louie French luck with that and ensure that this silly move from the Mayor of London is stopped in its tracks?
I certainly do agree with my hon. Friend, who is an old friend of mine; I have worked closely with him on London issues for many years. I know where Labour’s instincts are. It always wants to put taxes up, particularly on motorists, and I think a checkpoint Chigwell would hit working families. What the Labour Mayor of London needs to do is get a grip on TfL’s finances and stop whacking up the taxes on ordinary people in the capital city.
The Prime Minister is very much aware of my constituent, Jagtar Singh Johal, who was abducted by plainclothes officers while shopping with his new wife in the city of Jalandhar, Punjab, on 4 November 2017. The intervening years have seen allegations of torture overlooked, and ostensibly strong words from the Prime Minister’s Government about the case overshadowed by excitement over a trade deal with the Republic of India.
As we approach the fourth anniversary of Jagtar’s arrest tomorrow with no charges having been brought in the case by the Government of India, can the Prime Minister’s Government grant the smallest of favours to Jagtar’s wife and his family in Dumbarton and declare his detention an arbitrary one?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for the campaign that he has been running for Jagtar Singh for a long time. I say to him that the closeness of our relationship with India in no way diminishes our willingness to raise that case with the Government of India. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary raised it the last time she was in India.
Unlike the Opposition, I welcome the record investment in the NHS announced in the Budget. Will my right hon. Friend support my campaign for a new health centre in the village of East Leake in my constituency, where the current building is no longer big enough to serve the population? It will soon need to accommodate 3,000 new patients from new building.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Health Secretary will do his utmost, in the course of the coming decisions, to oblige my hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Ruth Edwards) in her justified campaign for Rushcliffe and its hospital. How incredible that Labour Members continue to catcall and attack the Government when they voted against the tax rising measures that are necessary to fund our NHS! They are completely inconsistent. They have absolutely no plans and no idea.
G20 and COP26 World Leaders Summit
With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement about the G20 summit in Rome and update the House on COP26 in Glasgow.
Almost 30 years ago, the world acknowledged the gathering danger of climate change and agreed to do what would once have been inconceivable: to regulate the atmosphere of the planet itself by curbing greenhouse gas emissions. One declaration succeeded another until, in Paris in 2015, we all agreed to seek to restrain the rise in world temperatures to 1.5° C.
Now, after all the targets and promises, and after yet more warnings from our scientists about the peril staring us in the face, we come to the reckoning. This is the moment when we must turn words into action. If we fail, Paris will have failed, and every summit going back to Rio de Janeiro in 1992 will have failed, because we will have allowed our shared aim of 1.5° to escape our grasp.
Even half a degree of extra warming would have tragic consequences. If global temperatures were to rise by 2°, our scientists forecast that we will lose virtually all the world’s coral reefs. The Great Barrier Reef and countless other living marvels would dissolve into an ever warmer and ever more acidic ocean, returning the terrible verdict that human beings lacked the will to preserve the wonders of the natural world.
In the end, it is a question of will. We have the technology to do what is necessary; all that remains in question is our resolve. The G20 summit convened by our Italian friends and COP26 partner last weekend provided encouraging evidence that the political will exists, which is vital for the simple reason that the G20 accounts for 80% of the world economy and 75% of greenhouse gas emissions. Britain was the first G20 nation to promise in law to wipe out our contribution to climate change by achieving net zero; as recently as 2019, only one other member had made a comparable pledge.
Today, 18 countries in the G20 have made specific commitments to achieve net zero and in the Rome declaration last Sunday every member acknowledged
“the key relevance of achieving global net zero greenhouse gas emissions or carbon neutrality by or around mid-century”.
To that end, the G20, including China, agreed to stop financing new international unabated coal projects by the end of this year—a vital step towards consigning coal to history—and every member repeated their commitment to the Paris target of 1.5°.
In a spirit of co-operation, the summit reached other important agreements. The G20 will levy a minimum corporation tax rate of 15%, ensuring that multinational companies make a fair contribution wherever they operate. Over 130 countries and jurisdictions have now joined the arrangement, showing what we can achieve together when the will exists.
The G20 adopted a target of vaccinating 70% of the world’s population against covid by the middle of next year, and the UK is on track to provide 100 million doses to that effort. By the end of the year, we will have donated over 30 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, and at least another 20 million will follow next year along with all 20 million doses of the Janssen vaccine ordered by the Government. The G20 also resolved to work together to ease the supply chain disruptions that have affected every member as demand recovers and the world economy gets back on its feet. I pay tribute to Prime Minister Mario Draghi for his expert handling of the summit.
But everyone will accept that far more needs to be done to spare humanity from catastrophic climate change. In the meantime, global warming is already contributing to droughts, brushfires and hurricanes, summoning an awful vision of what lies ahead if we fail to act in the time that remains. So the biggest summit that the United Kingdom has ever hosted is now under way in Glasgow, bringing together 120 world leaders with the aim of translating aspirations into action to keep the ambition of 1.5° alive. I am grateful to Glasgow City Council, Police Scotland, police across the whole of the UK and our public health bodies for making the occasion possible and for all their hard work. For millions across the world, the outcome is literally a matter of life or death. For some island states in the Pacific and the Caribbean, it is a question of national survival.
The negotiations in Glasgow have almost two weeks to run, but we can take heart from what has been achieved so far. Nations that together comprise 90% of the world economy are now committed to net zero, up from 30% when the UK took over the reins of COP. Yesterday alone, the United States and over 100 other countries agreed to cut their emissions of methane—one of the most destructive greenhouse gases—by 30% by 2030, and 122 countries with over 85% of the world’s forests agreed to end and reverse deforestation by the same deadline, backed by the greatest ever commitment of public funds to the cause. I hope that will trigger even more from the private sector.
India has agreed to transform her energy system to derive half her power from renewable sources, keeping a billion tonnes of carbon out of the atmosphere. The UK has doubled our commitment to international climate finance to £11.6 billion, and we will contribute another £1 billion if the economy grows as is forecast. We have launched our clean green initiative, which will help the developing world to build new infrastructure in an environmentally friendly way, and we will invest £3 billion of public money to unlock billions more from the private sector.
The UK has asked the world for action on coal, cars, cash and trees, and we have begun to make substantial, palpable progress on three out of the four, but the negotiations in Glasgow have a long way to go and far more must be done. Whether we can summon the collective wisdom and will to save ourselves from an avoidable disaster still hangs in the balance. We will press on with the hard work until the last hour.
I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of this statement, and for updating the House on the G20 summit in Rome. It cannot be overstated how crucial the next week and a half is. I am pleased that there has been some progress as the Prime Minister outlined, but the next 10 days need to move beyond prepacked announcements. This is an opportunity for Britain, alongside our friends and allies around the world, to deliver historic change. By taking action to reduce emissions right now in this decade, we can avoid the worst effects of climate change. That cannot just be a political ambition; it is a necessity for humanity.
As the G20 ends and COP26 continues, I assure the Prime Minister that all Labour Members are desperate for it to be a success. We hope that our negotiations can bring people together and deliver urgent solutions to the biggest challenge our world has ever faced. However, there is some cause for concern. The G20 needed to be a springboard to COP26, and a real opportunity to show Britain’s diplomatic strength in bringing people together and applying pressure where it is needed. We need to convince the big polluters to meet the commitment to 1.5°, to find solutions to phase out fossil fuels, to ensure a just transition for workers, and to create a fairer and greener economy. However, the G20 did not achieve that, and the Prime Minister is failing in his efforts to convince world leaders that more must be done. He has welcomed commitments for the distant future, and I accept that, but he knows all too well that we need to halve carbon emissions now, and at least by the end of this decade, if we are to keep global temperatures down. It is time for urgent climate action now, not more climate delay.
We all know how difficult it is to convince the world to curtail carbon emissions, but it is our responsibility to do so. It is the Prime Minister’s responsibility to influence world leaders and lead by example. As we try to convince other countries to phase out coal, the Government are refusing to make their mind up about coalmines within their borders. They could have followed the lead of the Welsh Labour Government and changed planning policy to ensure that no new coalmines were developed, but they did not. As we try to convince big emitters to do more on reducing emissions, unfortunately this Government are agreeing a trade deal with Australia that removes key climate pledges. They are undermining our messages by giving a free pass to our friends. When Britain must convince the wealthiest nations in the world to pledge more money to help developing countries cut their emissions and adapt to climate change, what have this Government done? They cut development aid that would have funded vital climate projects. How does the Prime Minister expect to convince others to do more, when he is setting such a poor example?
I also want to raise global vaccinations. Last week the G20 agreed a vague promise to explore ways to accelerate global vaccination against covid-19, yet in some of the world’s poorest countries, less than 3% of people have received even one dose of the vaccine. We all know that we live in a globalised world, where the more the virus spreads, the greater the threat of new variants. We are not safe from covid here until people are safe from covid everywhere. There is no more time for rhetoric; it is time for action. The Prime Minister mentioned our efforts on vaccines, but last week it was revealed that the UK is lagging behind all other G7 countries bar one in sharing surplus vaccines with poor countries. That is shameful. Our fantastic scientists who developed the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine are being let down by our Prime Minister’s actions. We need booster jabs in Manchester, and vaccines shared with Madagascar. It is now time for actions, not words. As the world gathers over the next two weeks, we all hope for the breakthrough that we need. Britain has a proud history of building alliances and standing up for what is right, and I have no doubt we will be able to do that again. I wish the Prime Minister well in his efforts, and I ask him to pay attention and go for the detail on this. If he fails to deliver the change we need through this conference, we will all pay the price.
The right hon. Lady asks me to go for the detail, but having said some kind things about her approach just now, after listening to that I think I prefer the forensic—or the pseudo-forensic—approach of the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer). She is completely in ignorance of the basic facts. We have cut our CO2 emissions by 44% on 1990 levels, largely by moving from 80% dependence on coal 50 years ago to about 1% or 2% today. It is a massive cut.
We have not cut our investment in overseas development aid for climate change funding—[Interruption.] No, we have not. We have kept it at £11.6 billion. I do not know whether the right hon. Lady was paying attention to the news, but only the other day we announced another £1 billion, which we were able to do because of the growth in the economy. She is completely wrong about the facts. As for what she said about vaccines, I am afraid it is an insult to the incredible work done by the UK vaccine roll-out programme across the world. One and a half billion people have had access to cost-price vaccines, thanks to the deal that this Government did with Oxford AstraZeneca—a record no other country in the world has—to say nothing of the £548 million extra that we put into Gavi, or the extra 100 million vaccines that we are donating by June next year. This country has an absolutely outstanding record in supporting vaccination around the world. If the right hon. Lady wants to look at the detail, I urge her to go off and study it.
I welcome the broad thrust of what the right hon. Lady said about COP26. I think she was saying that she sees signs of progress but there is a lot more to do, and frankly, there she is right. Perhaps I can point to the things that have happened since G20, and draw her attention to India’s massive commitment to cut CO2 by 2030 by cleaning up its power system. I can point to the $10 billion from Japan over the next five years to support developing countries around the world, and I point also not just to Brazil, but to Russia, China and 110 countries around the world that have signed up to the forestry declaration to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030. That considerable achievement will make a huge difference, and we will use consumer power, and the power of corporations and the private sector around the world, to effect that change.
For me, the single most important thing that came out of COP was an agreement around the world about the basic intellectual approach now being taken by the UK through the clean green initiative and what Joe Biden calls the build back better world initiative. That is the thing that offers greatest hope for humanity. We are not just putting in Government money to help countries around the world clean up, and putting in development aid money—although we are massively supporting that—but we are now leveraging in tens, perhaps hundreds, of trillions of private sector investment. That is the way to make the difference, and if we can get that right at this COP it will be a truly remarkable thing. As I say, however, there is still a long way to go.
Given that we are now taxing people at a higher rate than at any time since we were impoverished under the Attlee Government, and given that despite the fact that we produce only 1% of global emissions and China produces 27% we are now loading further controls on our industry that are not being matched in China or India, further eroding our competitive advantage, will the Prime Minister grip all his spending Departments and ensure that we root out waste and incompetence and create a genuine enterprise, low-tax economy?
Yes, and that is why we still have among the lowest corporation taxes in the OECD, in spite of the measures that we have been obliged to take because of the pandemic. That is why we put in, for instance, the 125% super deduction for companies to invest in capital, invest in infrastructure and expand their businesses. The results—the benefits—are already being seen, just in gigabit broadband alone.
I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of his statement.
The G20 was an opportunity to build momentum ahead of the COP summit, but I think even the Prime Minister would admit that it largely failed to meet people’s demand and desire for increased global co-operation. If we are to meet the global challenges that all of humanity now faces, that needs to change, and change very quickly, with a meaningful agreement in Glasgow over the course of the coming week. All of us hope that that will be the case.
On climate change, we know that the G20 is responsible for 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions, so it is right that the G20 members bear the biggest responsibility. Countries that have contributed the least to this climate crisis must not be left to pay the biggest price. That is why there has to be a commitment to climate justice and why that is so important.
In Scotland, we recently doubled our climate justice fund to £6 million per year, providing £24 million over the Scottish Parliament Session. But the commitments from the largest nations in the G20 always seem to be heavily caveated. On Monday, the Prime Minister promised £1 billion in UK aid for climate finance, but—here is the catch—only if the UK economy grows as forecast. Exactly the same excuse is presented when it comes to the Government’s disgraceful policy of cuts to overseas aid. When will the UK Government stop caveating their commitment to climate justice, follow Scotland’s leadership and establish a climate justice fund?
On Afghanistan, what concrete actions and timelines were agreed to help end the terrible famine that is ripping through that country? Finally, on covid, what specific targets and timelines were agreed to rapidly increase vaccine roll-out to those nations that are being left behind in the suppression of the virus?
First, on climate finance for the world, the right hon. Gentleman makes a valid point, because it is essential that the developed world supports the developing world on the path to decarbonisation. That is why the $100 billion per year is so important. Contributions such as the one we saw from the Japanese yesterday, what the French have done, what the Germans have done and what Joe Biden did the other day are important steps, but there is much more to be done. But be in no doubt: the right hon. Gentleman should be very proud of what the UK is committing—the £11.6 billion that we committed two years ago, plus another billion the day before yesterday. These are big sums now that the UK is giving, and we are way out in front.
The right hon. Gentleman is right to raise Afghanistan. We had sad but good discussions about Afghanistan, and we are determined to work together to concert our humanitarian relief to do what we can, notwithstanding the difficulties that there are obviously going to be with our relations with the Taliban.
On the global vaccine roll-out, the right hon. Gentleman will have heard the commitments made by countries around the world. I think the UK can be very proud of what we are doing on top of the 1.5 billion AstraZeneca doses, with another 100 million doses by June next year.
I thank the Prime Minister for all his efforts to try to make COP26 a success. For many of us, halting climate change has been the passion of our lives. May I ask the Prime Minister to confirm reports I have heard that the British negotiating team in Glasgow is seriously concerned that China’s proposed contribution to cutting emissions, particularly on coal, goes nowhere near fast enough or far enough? If that is the case, will he commit to working with all our partners in the west and across the world, particularly those vulnerable countries that are already watching the waves of climate change hit their shores, to take any necessary action to pressure China to make the right decision?
I want to thank the right hon. Gentleman, because his political record shows that he has done a huge amount of good in this area. That is the truth of the matter, and I thank him for what he has done.
What is happening with China is very important, but it is a mixed picture and it is important not to be too negative at present. The right hon. Gentleman is right about domestic Chinese coal-fired production, and we are hoping for progress there. We are hoping that when China says that it can peak in carbon dioxide output before 2030, that date of “before” is correct and it is considerably nearer now than 2030. That is where the work is being done.
But what is interesting is that when China made the commitment to stop overseas financing for coal, that had an instant impact on many of China’s friends and partners around the Asia-Pacific region, which took the signal and have also stopped overseas financing for coal. It is that climate of the power of the room in the COP that is starting to make a difference, but whether it is going to be possible at this COP to get China to make the commitments that are really necessary, I am afraid it is just too early to say.
I welcome all the progress made so far at COP26 and congratulate all those involved, including my right hon. Friend, but what will we do if we do not get agreement on article 6 and persuade countries such as China to properly price carbon into their economies? Our businesses in the UK are carrying their share of costs to deal with climate change. Why should we allow them to be undercut by competitors that keep their prices down by using highly polluting industrial production techniques? Surely that is not something that the free world economies can tolerate.
One of the terrible effects of climate change is felt in south Wales valleys seats, where extreme weather conditions and heavy rain have destabilised some of the disused coal tips. People live in terror of another Aberfan, and I know the Prime Minister shares that fear. The majority of the dangerous tips are in my local authority area. I just wonder whether he would be prepared to meet me, the leader of the local council and the other Members from Rhondda Cynon Taf, specifically to discuss how we can make sure that all those tips are safe. I really do ask him for that meeting.
I thank the hon. Gentleman. He has raised this issue with me several times. I will see what I can do to oblige him. This is something that I do want to try to fix, but it is primarily something that the Welsh Government should be addressing themselves. I will talk to the Welsh Government and come back to him.
I strongly congratulate the Prime Minister on throwing his heart and soul at COP26; no one can have worked harder.
The UK is responsible for 1% of global carbon emissions; China is responsible for 28%. Since 2000, two thirds of the increase in global carbon emissions has come from China. Is China’s commitment to reach peak coal in 2030 an aspiration or a binding target?
I think what President Xi Jinping would say is that China keeps its promises. We will have to hope that that is true. I think the people of the world will want to hold all of us, all Governments, to account, but my hon. Friend is completely right to focus on the particular pressure that China faces from us and from the whole world.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s recent conversion to the climate cause. I agree with him that the clock is indeed at one minute to midnight, which begs the question as to why his snooze button was on for so long. He will know that the first rule of diplomacy is to walk the talk. Will he now take this opportunity to put real credibility behind his stirring words to lead by example and to commit now, finally, to reversing the decision on the Cambo oilfield—yes or no? Very simple.
What I can tell the hon. Lady is that we continue to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels of all kinds, and we will be going for complete net zero in our power production by 2035, moving beyond coal by 2024. I think it was a Scottish National party Minister who said that oil was still a part of Scotland’s future. I will say nothing about the Cambo oilfield. What I will say is that there is a future for hydrocarbons in so far as we can liberate hydrogen and make clean energy.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his leadership of COP, particularly the achievement of getting 100 countries to sign up to the methane pledge. He will know, however, that some of the biggest emitters have not signed up. When will the power of the room, which he described a moment ago, be on those countries to sign up to the pledge as well?
The Prime Minister has not yet mentioned water resilience, yet it is at the top of the agenda for many of the countries most affected by the climate emergency. What is his assessment of funding for water resilience projects? Will he commit not to cut but increase funding for water resilience?
We support water resilience projects around the world, as part of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and had a good discussion on the issue of water resilience and other aspects of climate change resilience with vulnerable countries over the last few days.
The Prime Minister knows very well that the north of Scotland is closer to the Arctic circle than it is to London. For any delegate at COP26 who doubts the climate emergency, all they have to do is glance at the retreating ice or the melting cover frost, and the methane being released as a result, to be convinced that this emergency really is happening. The Chinese in particular will benefit from the withdrawal of ice as the northern sea route opens up, particularly for bulk carriers carrying coal. Does the Prime Minister therefore not agree with me that the Chinese have a doubly important moral obligation to stick by their commitment to reduce the production of coal in China, otherwise we in the west will be burning their coal?
My hon. Friend is completely right to point out the consequences for the world of the retreat of the ice towards the north pole. I am afraid that will offer opportunities not just for China but ourselves. Scapa Flow and other parts of Scotland will potentially become very important for sea traffic of a clean, green variety.
In pursuit of dramatic reductions in the miniscule carbon dioxide emissions produced by this country, ordinary people are facing higher petrol prices, higher energy prices, restrictions on what they can drive, the replacement of gas boilers and higher green taxes with declining incomes. Can the Prime Minister understand their frustration and disdain that those who tell them that they must bear those burdens fly into Glasgow in private jets and ferry around town in gas-guzzling cavalcades? More fundamentally, does he really believe, given the huge natural forces that continually change the world’s climate, that by reducing carbon dioxide we can somehow or other turn the world’s thermostat up and down at will?
First of all, this country is moving to zero-emission vehicles. The right hon. Gentleman talks about gas-guzzlers; we are supporting jet zero aviation. His big objection is to the science. He is obviously a complete climate sceptic. He should look at the graph that David Attenborough produced on the first day of the summit, showing the clear correlation between the huge anthropogenic spike in CO2 and the current rise in temperatures, and the way that temperatures have tracked CO2 volumes in the air over the last thousands of years. The science is absolutely clear. I think the people of this country know that it would be an economic disaster not to address it. What the people of this country know is that clean, green technology can deliver higher wages and fantastic jobs for generations to come. They see a great future in this.
I want to reinforce the point the Prime Minister has just made. Will he reassure my constituents that the goal of achieving net zero is not a burden to be borne, but an opportunity to be grasped to create new innovative jobs and new sectors in which we can lead the world?
Our green industrial revolution alone, the £26 billion we are putting in, generates 440,000 more jobs in battery technology, electric vehicle manufacture, wind farms and maintenance. The opportunities are vast for this country and we are at the cutting edge.
I welcome the statement today, but does the Prime Minister believe, like I do, that it is important to encourage more people to use rail, instead of other carbon-intensive transport methods? If so, why is he cutting duty on domestic flights, or will he now rethink that decision?
There is a very clear climate reason for putting up duty on long-haul flights, because they account for 96% of emissions. In the case of our own United Kingdom, with its far flung islands represented by some distinguished Members on the Opposition Benches, it is a useful thing to remove barriers to movement.
Given the phenomenal success to end and reverse deforestation, I was tempted to tease my right hon. Friend about build back beavers. However, will he meet me to discuss what can be done, using institutions such as Kew Gardens, to reverse the spread of deserts through the better planting of trees?
I thank my hon. Friend. That is a brilliant idea. Kew has played an amazing midwife role over the centuries in taking plants from one part of the world, nurturing them and then planting them with huge advantage in other parts of the world. That is certainly something I would be happy to take up with him.
The Prime Minister is absolutely right that this is a moment for turning words into action. One very important but quite small action that he and his Government could take now is the creation of a ringfenced pot for the development of tidal stream energy in the next round of contract for difference options. This is a decision that has to be taken by the end of this month. Will the Prime Minister talk to his colleagues in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Treasury to make sure that that happens?
This is a point I have now heard several times from those on the Opposition Benches. Without having perhaps all the technical expertise, I am very impressed by the tidal proposals I have seen. What I will undertake to the right hon. Gentleman is not an absolute commitment on contract for difference or the strike price for tidal power, but I will certainly go away and look at it again.
Well done, Prime Minister, on motivating people and delivering that which others were saying could not be delivered at COP26 so far, just a couple of days into a two-week programme. May I invite him to visit Rolls-Royce, which is working on developing a 100% sustainable fuel jet engine for aviation, and to put his considerable weight—I do not mean that in a personal manner; I mean as Prime Minister—behind the gigafactory proposal for Coventry in the West Midlands Combined Authority?
I thank my hon. Friend. It was, in fact, only a couple of weeks ago that the entire Cabinet was in Bristol with Rolls-Royce, looking at what it is doing with GKN and other companies on sustainable aviation. We are also looking actively at what we can do to support a gigafactory in the Coventry area, but obviously, there are commercial discussions under way.
As Chair of the G7 and of COP, the Prime Minister will know that the world community is $20 billion short of what is needed for the vaccination programme, and we have missed the target of $100 billion promised for climate finance. The International Monetary Fund has given the world a shot in the arm with $650 billion of special drawing rights, which the Prime Minister helped to push for. The UK has been given £20 billion, more than the entire community of low-income countries put together, but why are we being so slow and sluggish in recycling that money back to the IMF so that it can be put to good use? We are behind France and America; we are a laggard when we should be leading.
My right hon. Friend knows that I am a fervent supporter of his efforts for the UK to lead the world in decarbonisation, and I know that he would not wish to impoverish anyone here or abroad on the way. No country has yet leapfrogged our path to prosperity from wood, coal and gas to nuclear. In asking developing countries to consign coal power to history, my concern is that we risk sustaining their poverty if we do not provide an alternative. Does he agree that, with his historic climate finance agreements and our existing development aid, we have a huge opportunity to export UK small modular reactor technology around the world to hasten their path to prosperity instead?
I thank my hon. Friend for an exceedingly thoughtful question. He is absolutely right in the logic of what he says. We must help the developing world to leapfrog. All sorts of technologies are very attractive, including the one that he suggests. The opportunity there is to generate fantastic British jobs as well.
Open Democracy recently reported the Prime Minister’s former colleague in the EU Vote Leave campaign, Nigel Farage, as saying that a referendum on green taxes
“could well be my latest campaign”.
We are hearing increasingly loud objections from the so-called net zero scrutiny group from among his ranks of MPs. The Institute of Economic Affairs said recently that it would
“continue to challenge the ropey economics”
of net zero. What will the Prime Minister do to challenge those siren voices from among his supporters?
I study the people’s feelings about this. What so changed in this COP from Paris, which I attended, or from Copenhagen, which I was also at, is that this time, it is from the public. I have great respect for colleagues around the House who say that this is all going too far, too fast and that people cannot afford it. Actually, I do not think that we can afford not to do it. I also think that it is economically a massive opportunity for this country and that that is where people increasingly are. Calls for a referendum on this will fall on stony ground.
I spent the past couple of days at COP26 with south-east Asian nations’ representatives. The situation is exactly as the Prime Minister described, with real progress on cash, coal and trees and particularly momentum in signing up to the forestry declaration. My right hon. Friend will know that the UK pavilion is symbolically opposite next year’s G20 Chair, Indonesia. Does he agree that using the clean, green finance initiative is a real opportunity for us to do more to help them to transition from coal-fired energy to renewable energy, often in collaboration with UK partners on wind, solar and marine energy?
I thank my hon. Friend for everything that he has done with ASEAN—Association of Southeast Asian Nations—partners. He has absolutely been leading the charge for us in that region, particularly with Indonesia, and they are great partners of ours. What is coming out of COP is the idea that countries who are finding it tough, as he said, to move beyond coal need a coalition of countries to help them, with a portfolio of programmes that they need to get done, whether it is hydropower or carbon capture and storage—whatever it is—that we can help to finance and de-risk, in order to leverage in the trillions from the private sector, as we did with wind power in our country. People are seeing this model as the way we can do it—not with endless grants and handouts from Governments in the richer countries around the world, but through stimulating the private sector to come in and deliver a quantum leap in the infrastructure concerned.
GKN-Melrose has announced its intention to proceed with the closure of the Erdington plant, which employs 519 loyal, long-serving workers in an area with the fifth-highest level of deprivation in Britain, and to export production to Poland, which is still burning coal on a grand scale for years to come. Does the Prime Minister therefore understand the dismay of the workers concerned? With the automotive industry in transition to an electric future, does he agree that we need a supply chain here in Britain, employing workers here in Britain, manufacturing here in Britain, as part of a green industrial revolution here in Britain?
Yes, I passionately agree with that. GKN does an amazing job across the country, particularly in delivering some of the most difficult solutions, such as sustainable aviation. We need to ensure that we have the ecosystem of gigafactories and electric vehicle manufacturing capabilities, and all the supply chains here in Britain, but with an energy cost that allows those businesses to be competitive. That applies to steel, automotive and everybody else, and I am afraid that, at the moment, the differential between our domestic users’ electricity costs and industrial energy costs is too high, and we have to fix it.
As chair of the all-party group for woods and trees, I thank the Prime Minister and the negotiating teams for their fantastic work in tackling deforestation. I also welcome the Government’s continued commitment to the northern forest, planting 50 million trees across the north, hopefully with many of them in South Yorkshire. Will he join me in appealing to community groups and schools to get involved with the Queen’s Green Canopy project, as we all plant a tree for the jubilee?
My hon. Friend is completely right. Planting a tree for the jubilee is a wonderful thing to do; we should all be doing it. We want to plant 36,000 hectares of trees every year as part of our contribution—one of the many ways we are contributing—to the fight against climate change, and to beautify our landscape.
As chair of the all-party group on small island developing states, I welcome the fact that the Prime Minister acknowledged the imminent threat to them in his statement. Two things would really help them: one is to have access to the finance that hopefully is now on the table—because, as countries with very limited resources, it is very difficult, they tell me, to get their hands on the money and to do the bids—and the other is to develop blue finance. We know that the City of London leads on green finance. Blue finance for the blue economy and marine conservation would really help them, and we could take a lead on that.
The hon. Lady is completely right about the imperative to help the small island states. I must say that, at COP and in the last few months, they have been incredibly valuable in getting the world to focus—the Maldives, the Seychelles, Bangladesh, where people face catastrophic flooding, Mauritius and Barbados, which was brilliant the other day. They are helping to focus minds on the issue and attract massive sums of investment.
The UK can be very proud of the commitments that we have already made, but some of our actions are in danger of making our manufacturing and particularly our heavy industry uncompetitive. May I ask the Prime Minister once again whether there is any significance in the absence from COP26 of leaders of our industrial competitors such as China and Russia? Is he confident that they can be persuaded to do more after the conference to provide a more level playing field?
I thank my hon. Friend for the point that he makes, and I understand why he should be anxious, but I talked to both President Xi and President Putin and it was clear: they said that the pandemic precluded them from coming. I understand the situation that they are in. They have very senior negotiators in Glasgow as we speak—Xie is a very senior operative in the Chinese system—and we have to hope for results. In the end, the change is going to be driven not just by the feelings of people in the western democracies, but by the political pressure and the pressure from business that is already being felt in China, and in Russia as well.
I was pleased to see reference in the Prime Minister’s statement to action on trees. He will be aware that in Scotland we produce 80% of woodland planting across these islands, not least because of small groups such as the one at Mount Vernon community hall, which has made a real effort on biodiversity. What more can the Prime Minister do elsewhere in the UK to try to get action on tree planting and follow the lead of Scotland, and indeed of Mount Vernon?
I congratulate Scottish tree-planting groups on the initiatives that they have taken. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that huge numbers of trees are planted in Scotland. We want to see the rest of the UK catch up and do better; I am afraid that the rates did decline a bit during the pandemic. We have to accelerate. What my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Jason McCartney) said just now about “Plant a tree for the jubilee” is absolutely right.
Later today in this Chamber, we will talk about nuclear. That shows that the Government are now looking forward to the future—we have two nuclear power stations in Heysham—but I would also like to draw to the Prime Minister’s attention the wondrous work that we are doing to prepare for the Eden project in Morecambe. I know that I invited him last week at Prime Minister’s questions, but I am still pushing it: Boris, come and see us in Morecambe.
Transport makes up the largest share of UK carbon emissions, but rail travel is clean and green, so I ask again: why on earth is the Prime Minister choosing to make it cheaper to take domestic flights, while failing to set out a proper plan for rail electrification, failing to confirm a high-speed rail line to the east midlands and the north, and putting up rail fares?
We are investing massively in rail in the way that I described at PMQs earlier, not just with HS2, but with Northern Powerhouse Rail and the integrated rail plan. The hon. Lady objects to domestic air travel, but the vision that she should support is the idea of moving away from using tonnes of kerosene to hurl planes into the air. We can do it with other approaches, and that is what we should be following.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s leadership around the world, particularly in getting the world’s biggest polluters to reduce their carbon footprint. My constituents are keen to move forward and transition to a decarbonised lifestyle. Does he agree that getting information to them is key? There are many times when all of us, as consumers, purchase things from China that may well be available here in the UK, but we do not understand their in-built carbon footprint. Does he agree that information about carbon on items that we purchase is important for consumers?
Schools in Cornwall that I have been talking to have a fantastic understanding of what Cornwall is doing to cut carbon. There are amazing projects in Cornwall, and we are also making sure that in education—in classes—kids understand the in-built carbon cost of the goods that they buy.
At present, the UK does not yet have measures in place to reach carbon neutrality by the year 2050. Indeed, last week, the Chancellor could not even mention climate change once in an hour-long speech on the Budget. Surely the UK should be offering leadership in this area by putting in place a comprehensive green new deal that combines economic and social policy, alongside measures to combat climate change.
I do not know what planet the hon. Gentleman has been on. He is totally wrong. This Government have helped to cut the UK’s emissions of carbon dioxide by almost half from 1990 levels, which is an astonishing thing to have done. We have the most ambitious nationally determined contribution of any country in the EU—78% by 2035 on 1990 levels—and we are doing it through all the measures that he knows. Has he not heard about what we are going to do on zero-emission vehicles or what we are doing on our power emissions? I think he needs to look at what is happening. Yes, of course there is more to do. As for green bonds, we issued one the other day and got £10 billion out of it—so just keep up.
As well as cars, the world will need clean, smart urban transport if we are to meet the climate challenge. Companies such as the one behind the Westfield PODs in Dudley South are developing products that can succeed, thrive and help us to decarbonise, but too often the regulatory framework lags behind the innovation. Will the Prime Minister work with Ministers and our international partners to develop international type approval standards so that these products can succeed and we can decarbonise transport on an urban level as well as lead on personal cars?
I agree 100%. I am looking forward to seeing the Westfield PODs and their means of conveying human beings around, although I cannot quite imagine what they are. What we want in this country is regulators for growth, and for green growth. We need a much more proactive approach that engages with brilliant ideas like that.
Moving to rail travel and away from more carbon-intensive forms of transport will be essential if we are to meet our ambitions to tackle the climate emergency. Two years ago, the Prime Minister visited Poulton and announced his commitment to reopen the railway line to Fleetwood. Can he tell my Fleetwood constituents what progress he is making with that, and when they can expect to catch the train from Fleetwood to the entire national rail network?
An estimated 15% of global carbon emissions come from livestock production around the world—more than all transportation put together. On the former, what discussions have been had at COP26 with our international partners on reductions? On the latter, what discussions have there been about the rest of the world taking the lead from the United Kingdom in sustainable aviation technology?
On livestock emissions, my hon. Friend is right that methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas. It degrades quite fast, so it is not as bad as CO2 in some ways, but we do need to cut methane emissions and we have committed to doing it by 30%. Agriculture is a particularly difficult problem, but there are ways of doing that, without moving away from livestock farming. There are things we can do with breeding and other techniques to reduce methane emissions and we are certainly looking at that.
The Prime Minister is right to tell the House, and indeed the world, how exciting these promises on reforestation and methane reduction are. However, he will recall that, 12 years ago, when the rich countries committed themselves to transferring $100 billion to the poor countries every year, there was no mechanism for measuring the progress of that transfer, and the world failed. Can the Prime Minister tell us what the legacy will be, particularly in respect of deforestation? Will there be a proper mechanism to hold to account President Bolsonaro, or the Indonesians, or any other country, wherever it may be?
The hon. Gentleman has made an incredibly important point. There are two ways of holding Governments to account, whether they are the Governments of China, Brazil or Russia, or indeed ourselves. First, it is not only the Governments who have signed up, but corporations—the big commodities corporations, such as Cargill. They have agreed no longer to use products that are sourced as a result of deforestation, and consumers will hold them to account, as well as Governments, for what they do.
Secondly, the financial institutions, worth trillions—Barclays, Aviva, and many others around the world—have agreed that they will not finance projects that depend on deforestation. Again, their investors and shareholders, and everyone involved with them, will hold them to account for what they do. If they cheat and invest in deforestation, they will suffer, because, as I said to the House earlier, what is changing now is the power of the consumer, the power of the voters, the power of the world —the power of those who want their Governments to do the right thing now.
Will the Prime Minister join me in congratulating the staff and pupils at Ysgol Dinas Brân school in Llangollen, whom I visited recently, on the excellent work that they are doing in studying climate change and working closely with Denbighshire County Council to ensure that their school operates on a carbon-neutral basis?
It gives me great pleasure to congratulate Ysgol Dinas Brân, which I know from my own abortive attempt to win the seat that my hon. Friend now represents so well. I thank those at the school for what they are doing, and I think they are quite right to set the example they are setting. All new schools in our country are carbon-neutral.
I thank the Prime Minister for his updates on the G20 summit and COP26, and also for listening so carefully to the suggestions from these Benches. I am sure that he, too, is disappointed that the G20 could not agree on an end date for domestic fossil fuel use. Will he be brave, show leadership, and set an end date for the extraction and domestic use of all fossil fuels in the UK?
Six per cent. of global GDP is spent on fossil fuel subsidies, which is destroying our planet, and China spends more on them than the United States, Russia and the European Union combined. Will the Prime Minister take leadership in reducing fossil fuel subsidies? In particular, will he support the carbon border taxes that are being promoted by the EU, so that, for instance, UK steel made in Wales is not displaced by Chinese steel made from coal, which has twice the carbon footprint, and we can protect local jobs and save the planet through greener trade?
I think that our steel companies have done a great job in trying to reduce their carbon footprint. That is extremely hard for steel corporations, because they are one of the biggest emitters that we have. We must move towards zero-carbon steelmaking, while keeping a steelmaking industry in this country. The measures that the hon. Gentleman has described—such as the carbon border adjustment levy—are certainly worth considering.
The United Nations Secretary-General has said that it will be very difficult to secure the commitment needed for the 1.5° goal, and, in relation to new fossil fuel excavations, that
“we don’t need more oil and gas”.
Will the Prime Minister tell us what engagement his Government are having with the oil and gas industries to support them in their efforts to decarbonise sustainably?
We talk all the time to the oil and gas industry, which has a great and proud history in this country. I believe that the future for the industry—for hydrocarbons—is moving beyond the old combustion approach and towards the extraction of clean power. That is the direction in which we should be going.
It seems that we are in the last chance saloon if we are to make an impact on limiting the effect of climate change. Does the Prime Minister share my disappointment that China and India have failed to match many other countries’ commitments to reach net zero by 2050, placing their targets 10 and 20 years later? Does he agree that if the remainder of COP26 is to be a success, we need to get some movement from them on that as well?
We will continue to push on the net zero dates. Although I agree with the hon. Gentleman’s characterisation of those countries’ targets, I think we also need to look at what both of them are saying about what they will do pre-2030. As the right hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner) pointed out, that is the key issue on which we need to focus. The Indians have now made a big commitment to decarbonising their power system by 2030, and the hon. Gentleman has heard what we have already said in the House about the Chinese commitment to “peak” CO2 output in 2030 or before. The question is, how long before? Both those countries have made substantial progress, but obviously it is not yet enough.
In his statement, the Prime Minister said:
“We have the technology to do what is necessary: all that remains in question is our resolve.”
With that in mind, why do the British Government not extend the favourable financing model being proposed for nuclear energy generation to other technologies, such as the proposed Swansea tidal lagoon?