House of Commons
Tuesday 16 November 2021
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
The Secretary of State was asked—
The “Life Sciences Vision” outlined our bold ambition to bring scientific excellence and the dynamism of industry together to solve the most pressing health challenges. I am delighted to say that since the strategy was published we have already launched a £200 million life sciences investment programme and established the life sciences scale-up taskforce.
I welcome the record research and development settlement for my right hon. Friend’s Department that was delivered during the spending review, a good chunk of which will, I hope, support investment in health and life sciences. Does he agree that our world-class life sciences base has been and will be our defence against future pandemics? Will he comment on his Department’s plans to locate more life sciences manufacturing facilities in the UK, so that we are less reliant on a global supply chain?
I fully agree with my hon. Friend that world-class life sciences are vital, and I am pleased to confirm that we have already allocated £354 million in the spending review to strengthen the UK’s life sciences manufacturing base, with particular emphasis on preparing for future pandemics.
The “Life Sciences Vision” has dementia as its first mission. The Conservative manifesto committed to doubling research funding in a dementia moonshot, but the Budget ignored it. The UK Dementia Research Institute called this
“a major blow to UK neuroscientists racing to find cures for these devastating diseases”.
Alzheimer’s Research UK said that this
“lets down the nearly one million people in the UK affected by this devastating condition.”
So will the Secretary of State now set out a clear timetable for doubling dementia research funding, as Labour has? Or is the “Life Sciences Vision”, like the R&D road map, the industrial strategy, the innovation strategy, the grand challenges and Northern Powerhouse Rail, all talk and no action?
I completely refute the hon. Lady’s allegation that those things are all words. The innovation strategy is the first of its kind. It has been broadly welcomed across the sector, and she will know that dementia is one of the seven technologies in engineering and biology that we are pursuing in the innovation strategy.
Offshore Wind Energy
The Government recently announced £380 million for our world-leading offshore wind sector, which is boosting jobs and investment across the UK. My hon. Friend will know that the allocation round 4 opens in December, and we are very much looking forward to the bids in that round.
The House has often heard me talk about Blyth Valley being at the heart of the green industrial revolution. Catapult, in the Port of Blyth, has tested the largest windmill blades in the world for years. We need to continue to be at the forefront of blade testing, to hold our No. 1 position on the global stage. Will my right hon. Friend agree to meet me and the management team from Catapult to make sure that we continue to lead in the race to a greener future?
I would be delighted to see my hon. Friend and the great people who are working on the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult in Blyth. It is a fantastic development and the people working there will surely allow us to hit the 40 GW target for offshore wind in 2030.
As the Secretary of State knows, Great Grimsby is the UK’s largest centre for offshore wind operations and maintenance. The £160 million announcement for floating offshore wind was very welcome. Does he believe that the time is right to increase our ambitions for that power supply to above 1 GW, which would increase investors’ confidence?
I am delighted to see my hon. Friend, who I accompanied in her constituency shortly after her stunning victory in 2019. She will know that I and the Department are fully committed to ensuring that we have increased ambitions. We are always looking to increase our ambitions.
I welcome what the Secretary of State says about wind power—we are proud in Cumbria to be at the heart of offshore wind—but does that not contrast negatively with the Government still sitting on the fence about commissioning a new coalmine in west Cumbria? Given the incredibly disappointing outcome on coal from COP26, is this not a moment for the UK Government to take a lead and say that the coalmine will not open?
First, the hon. Gentleman will understand that the coalmine is a matter of an independent planning decision. Secondly, I completely deny his assertion that somehow COP26 was a failure. It was not. It was a great success, thanks to the COP26 President, my right hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Alok Sharma). Huge commitments were made, which everyone is supporting.
Tapadh leibh. Scotland’s offshore islands could produce as much energy each day as some EU countries are sending to the United Kingdom. When will we see contract for difference levels match interconnector requirements? The Secretary of State knows about this subject. Will that come soon, especially for the Hebrides? I say gently to him that, as he knows, probably no other country in Europe would be squandering this opportunity.
The hon. Gentleman knows that I am fully committed to remote island wind. In fact, when I was Energy Minister, I spearheaded the move to have a separate pot for renewable island wind. He lobbied successfully, and I am happy to speak to him about that at any time of his choosing.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the recent comprehensive spending review and Budget announcement shows that the Government are delivering an historic increase in R&D investment to build back better with a high skill and wage economy for all of the UK? That is very much reflected in NETPark in Sedgefield, which he had the pleasure of visiting recently.
Onshoring Manufacturing and Production
The Government are committed to a strong, vibrant and diverse manufacturing sector in the United Kingdom. The west midlands—and the UK as a whole—is already a great place to do business. The Government will continue to focus on encouraging businesses, improving the long-term competitiveness and productivity of manufacturing via initiatives such as Help to Grow, the Made Smarter programme, the Catapult programme and others.
For this country’s manufacturing base to prosper and succeed, it requires a firm commitment from Government to support the making and buying of goods manufactured in Britain. The Minister will be familiar with the shameful decision by Melrose to shut a factory in Chester Road, Erdington with 70 years of history; those manufacturing jobs were instead exported to Poland. What steps will he take to recoup the £67 million of taxpayers’ money given to Melrose to export jobs to Poland? Will he send an unmistakeable message to Melrose that it will get not one penny more of taxpayers’ support unless it works with the workforce and all the key stakeholders to find an alternative manufacturing use for its site in one of the most deprived communities in Britain?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for the question. We were disappointed, as he was, by GKN Melrose’s decision. Ultimately, such decisions are for individual companies, but we realise the significant impact on his community and are working with the local community to try to find alternative ways to support employees in the area.
The Minister knows that one of the best ways to promote the onshoring of manufacturing jobs and production to the UK is to shape regulation to support enterprise. What steps has his Department made to take forward the recommendations of the Prime Minister’s taskforce on innovation, growth and regulatory reform?
We know regulation has a critical part to play in ensuring that we get the frameworks right for long-term investment and support. My hon. Friend will know that one of my colleagues who was appointed alongside me was an author of that report, and the Secretary of State and I, and all Ministers, will continue to review what we can do to improve regulation over the long term.
When it comes to manufacturing, the first thought on the mind of all Scotland fans this morning is quite how Steve Clarke and his team continue to manufacture so many brilliant wins.
Notwithstanding my necessary gloating, I have a serious question for the Minister. Does he agree and accept that to harness, safeguard and expand manufacturing jobs in Scotland’s tidal energy sector, his Government must deliver the £71 million that the industry has asked for?
We know there is a substantial amount of work to do to decarbonise the UK economy, including the energy sector. We are doing that in a range of ways, and I will continue to co-ordinate with the Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea and Fulham (Greg Hands), to support that activity.
I am afraid that answer simply does not cut it. This is a world-leading industry based in Scotland, and it has the capacity to provide 11% of the entire UK’s electricity. The Minister will be aware that the likes of Canada, France and Japan have put in place financial mechanisms to capitalise on tidal energy. Is he seriously saying that his Government would rather see jobs offshored to those countries than see them in Scotland?
I apologise if the hon. Gentleman did not hear my first answer. I said that the Department will continue to look at all opportunities to decarbonise the electricity grid and to ensure that, over the long term, energy can support that decarbonisation. We will continue to look at tidal, and we will bring forward the opportunities that we are able to bring forward.
Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Chancellor’s capital investment tax relief of 130% is leading to a sharp increase in manufacturing investment, demonstrated by Alpro at its superb manufacturing site in Burton Latimer in the Kettering constituency?
Clean Steel Fund
The Government continue to work with the UK steel sector, through the UK Steel Council, regular meetings and constant dialogue, to understand its decarbonisation plans, whether through electric arc, industrial carbon capture equipment or other emerging technologies such as hydrogen.
In contrast to Germany’s €3 billion hydrogen plan, there was no new funding announced in the recent Budget for clean steel projects. As 2023 is far too late, with primary steel plants accounting for 15% of UK CO2 emissions, will the Government now commit funding to clean steel projects similar to the ones we see in Germany and Sweden, or will steel communities be left standing by once again while European competitors get on with levelling up their industries?
I caution against the hon. Gentleman’s comparison. We have a similar ambition to countries such as Germany on things like hydrogen, and we have already published our hydrogen strategy. I have had extensive engagement with the steel sector in my two months as Minister for steel, including another visit yesterday, and we continue to want to support the industry on its decarbonisation journey. We know it is challenging, but there are already examples and we will continue to work with the industry to ensure it happens.
Years of Tory neglect and inaction mean the UK is falling further behind in the race to win the future of green steel production. Governments around the world are committing to their steel industries with long-term investment, but the Minister, the Budget and, indeed, the hydrogen strategy have failed to deliver any timetable for how the Clean Steel Fund will be implemented. There appears to be no urgency and no plan.
Will the Secretary of State tell us today whether he will back Labour’s plan for a £3 billion steel renewal fund to achieve near-zero-emissions steel production by 2035 to secure UK steel’s future? If not, why is he so content to see British industries lose out, more British businesses go under and more British jobs lost?
That is neither an accurate reflection of the situation nor an accurate reflection of the historical support that has been given to the steel industry. Since 2013, there has been £600 million-worth of support for electricity price relief. The industrial energy transformation fund was opened last year and steel companies had the opportunity to apply for it, and we have published the steel procurement pipeline and the steel safeguards. We will continue to work with this important sector to ensure that it can decarbonise and has long-term support for its future.
Global Gas Prices
The Government’s energy price cap will ensure that millions of households are protected from an instant wave of bill increases this winter. We also have well-established schemes in place for those businesses that are most exposed to energy prices.
Apologies, Mr Speaker—some of us are very slow learners.
With global energy markets in a state of flux, Tiverton and Honiton constituents, particularly elderly and vulnerable residents, are concerned about the sharp increases in household bills. With Christmas just around the corner, will my right hon. Friend assure me that the Government will do all they can to stabilise the UK energy sector and ensure that those who experience fuel insecurity have the support they need this winter? Many rural households are off grid, so oil and electricity prices are also of great concern.
I assure my hon. Friend that protecting consumers is our No. 1 priority. The Secretary of State and I engage with Ofgem very often and with energy suppliers constantly, to monitor the health of the energy market. The Government’s warm homes discount, winter fuel payment and cold weather payment schemes will support low-income and vulnerable households throughout the winter.
Nothing that the Minister has said today will provide immediate relief to enough of the people who are struggling throughout the country. I have had constituents tell me that they are sitting in the cold to try to save money, yet the Government rejected Labour’s call to cut VAT on energy bills. Such a cut would have provided immediate relief to people in my constituency. What on earth does the Minister expect my constituents to do as they face a long, difficult and cold winter, with rising prices and rising energy prices in particular?
Of course, I share the hon. Lady’s concern for vulnerable people who face potential rises in energy prices. She will know that VAT is a matter for the Treasury but, of course, a VAT cut would be very untargeted towards vulnerable people. That is why we have schemes in place, such as the warm home discount, winter fuel payments and cold weather payments, to help vulnerable and elderly people. The Government have got the policy right.
On energy security, UK natural gas production has come down from around two thirds of UK demand in 2015 to less than half in the first quarter of this year—with, by the way, around 25% coming ashore at St Fergus in my constituency. Does my right hon. Friend agree that although we see a welcome increase in UK renewable capacity, it is far preferable, while a reducing demand for gas still exists, to source that gas domestically rather than to depend on foreign imports?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that we will always prefer British gas production to foreign imports. Some 50% of the gas we currently consume comes from the UK continental shelf, with an additional 30% from Norway. My hon. Friend is right to mention the transition; I know how much he fights for his constituency’s huge extent and variety of energy producers. Earlier this year, we were delighted to agree the North sea sector transition deal, which will offer a fantastic future for my hon. Friend’s constituents and those right across north-east Scotland.
I think the technically correct answer to the question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Shabana Mahmood) is (a) none and (b) none.
The Secretary of State claimed that he was in talks with the Treasury about assistance for energy-intensive industries a month ago; it turns out that he was not, and nothing has happened since. Meanwhile, wholesale gas prices remain at around 200p per therm, compared with 39p per therm a year ago. Industry is suffering grievously and 40% of energy companies have now gone bust, leaving more than 2 million customers without a supplier and forced to take on new suppliers, often at great cost to their bills. Even with the price cap, bills are likely to rise by a further £200 in the spring. This is a train wreck, so what is the Minister doing now to rescue passengers from the carriages and put the rolling stock back on the lines? Or will he just continue to act the part of a disinterested bystander?
That allegation is rather unfair. We are engaging continuously with the Treasury on these matters. We have already put in place £2 billion of funds to help with the cost of electricity and to protect jobs. We have the £350 million Industrial Energy Transformation Fund, and the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, my hon. Friend the Member for North East Derbyshire (Lee Rowley), meets regularly—and has done so very recently—with the Energy Intensive Users Group.
Tidal and Nuclear Power
Our most recent contract for difference allocation round is the biggest ever. Tidal stream will be eligible to compete in pot 2 of the round. With regards to nuclear power, this Government see a vital role for new nuclear. We have just started considering the Nuclear Energy (Financing) Bill in Committee and, of course, we understand that net zero needs nuclear.
I congratulate the Secretary of State and his team on putting in place a long-term energy strategy, because we have seen from Germany’s example how disastrous it is not to have that long-term strategy. Very quickly, on tidal, is the financing generous enough, because I understand that some tidal producers are saying that it is not? Secondly, on nuclear, will the £210 million for small-scale reactors—a brilliant thing to do—get us to a position where we are actually producing those reactors, or is this just an initial round of research?
My hon. Friend has dextrously managed to get in two supplementary questions there. On tidal, of course we set the allocation round in September. That round will open on 13 December. Project developers can declare an intention to bid. May I commend his Perpetuus Tidal Energy Centre on the Isle of Wight for its brilliant work on tidal energy?
With regard to small modular reactors, the announcement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his visit last week made it absolutely clear that there is strong support for British technology and British SMR design, and we want to see that move forward and make the UK a world leader in small modular reactors.
In the Budget, £1.7 billion was allocated just to develop Sizewell C to a final investment decision. The Government are putting through the Nuclear Energy (Financing) Bill to enter into a 60-year contract for that project, and yet, in terms of tidal stream, there was no Government support whatsoever. Without a ringfenced pot of money, tidal stream will not be able to compete in pot 2, so will the Government urgently reconsider the request for a £71 million pot of ringfenced money?
Since 2003 successive Governments have provided innovation funding of £175 million to wave and tidal sectors, and there has been £80 million since 2010. We are strong supporters of tidal stream. The Prime Minister was explicit from the Dispatch Box yesterday, reiterating his support. What we now need to do is work with the sector to demonstrate cost reductions and the potential for this technology.
Like nuclear, tidal range has the capacity to deliver predictable large-scale generation with none of the problems of intermittence associated with other renewable technologies. The proposed Colwyn Bay tidal lagoon would have a generating capacity of more than 2 GW. There is considerable local support for the project, and the proposed developers are anxious to proceed. Is my right hon. Friend willing to meet with me and my hon. Friends the Members for Aberconwy (Robin Millar) and for Vale of Clwyd (Dr Davies), who also have an interest in the project, to discuss a way of taking it forward?
I would be delighted to have the opportunity to meet my right hon. Friend and his colleagues. I am always delighted to see so much energy in north Wales when it comes to questions of energy. I remind him that, when I say that we need to demonstrate cost reductions, the most recent reckoning on prices is that tidal stream is around £220 per MWh, wave is about £280 per MWh, and offshore wind is only about £40 per MWh. With scaling up and investment in the technology, we would expect those costs to come down, but I stress the current disparity between those sectors.
In order to get those costs to come down, though, we first have to have the ringfenced pot for tidal stream energy. At the Dispatch Box on 3 November—in column 926 of Hansard—the Prime Minister undertook in response to me that he would look again at this question. There is a hard deadline approaching at the end of the month with the contract for difference. When will we hear the outcome of the Prime Minister’s further look again at this question?
The right hon. Gentleman will have heard the Prime Minister’s words on this matter yesterday from the Dispatch Box, when he was asked about it in relation to his COP statement. I have nothing new to say on the allocation round. We announced the parameters for allocation round 4, which will open in just a few weeks’ time, on 13 December. Project developers will be able to declare their intention to bid, and the round very much includes technologies such as tidal and wave, and other pot 2 emerging technologies.
The Government have committed to changing the law to ensure that individuals signing non-disclosure agreements are able to make disclosures to the police and regulated health and legal professionals. We will also ensure that the limitations of each non-disclosure agreement are clear.
I thank the Minister for all the work that he is doing on this issue. Will he be bringing forward legislation to ensure that it is clear to all employers that non-disclosure agreements should never be used to buy the silence of victims, because that has no place in British society?
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the campaign that she is running alongside Zelda Perkins and others. She rightly highlights the Government’s commitment to the issue, as well as the previous Women and Equalities Committee’s excellent work in this area. The Government are committed to implementing legislation when parliamentary time allows, but I reassure her that we will crack down on the use of non-disclosure agreements.
Will the Minister assure us that he will have discussions with his colleagues at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to ensure that organisations and businesses that rely on public money, such as the BBC, do not use non-disclosure agreements to silence people who complain about bullying in the workplace?
The Jet Zero Council, which is jointly chaired by my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Business and for Transport, brings together industry leaders and the Government to discuss how best to reduce the impact of aviation on our environment. The recently published net zero strategy provides the framework, and the commitment made in the Budget to extend funding for the Aerospace Technology Institute to 2031 demonstrates the importance that the Government attach to making progress on this issue.
The issue with sustainable aviation fuel is not how to produce it—we can do that—but how to bring the price down so that there is a return on capital and an investment case for it, as there is for renewables. What more can the Government do to support sustainable aviation fuels, and does the Minister agree that we need a global approach to the solution?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the challenges of bringing the cost down, as is the case in so many areas of the net zero strategy, but progress is being made. We are keen to support the development of new technology solutions. He will know that we have set out an ambition for 10% of the UK’s aviation fuel to be SAF by 2030. We recognise the challenge of the cost, but I know that my hon. Friend, in his capacity as Chair of the Transport Committee, has announced an inquiry into the matter; I look forward to working with him and understanding the conclusions and proposals that he puts forward.
It has just been revealed that the Transport Secretary is spending departmental money to lobby against the development of private airfields. This includes lobbying against plans to build a battery gigafactory at Coventry airport. What hope do we have of decarbonising transport when the very Cabinet member responsible for that brief is more interested in having somewhere to land his private jet? What conversations is BEIS having with the Department for Transport to ensure that it takes this matter seriously?
I am not sure that this is Transport questions, but it is a question in that spirit. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State absolutely disputes the description that has just been given by the hon. Lady. On her question, there is a huge amount of work under way to try to decarbonise aviation, as demonstrated in the announcements last week at COP and the work that the Government have been doing for a number of years. We will continue to do that to ensure that we hit the net zero target by 2050.
We are holding the largest ever contracts for difference round next month, as my hon. Friend is aware, and only last month we confirmed up to £160 million to support investment in the floating offshore wind industry.
The Government have quite rightly taken action to accelerate uptake of electric vehicles by both subsidising those purchasing a new electric car and banning the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030. However, in my capacity as co-chair of the all-party midlands engine group, I recognise that vast areas of the midlands are insufficiently served with charging infrastructure. The Midlands Engine’s 10-point plan for green growth looks to tackle this issue. Will the Minister meet me to discuss how we can support the Midlands Engine Partnership, deliver greener transport, create jobs, and cut emissions?
I would be very happy to meet my hon. Friend and the Midlands Engine Partnership to discuss how we can decarbonise our economy. I know he does a fabulous jobs as co-chair of the APPG. I have always enjoyed my engagement not only with him but with the Midlands Engine Partnership.
Does the Secretary of State at least accept that immediate environmental damage is being caused by the pursuit of renewable energy, with 13 million trees cut down in Scotland for wind farms, forests devastated across the world to produce ethanol for petrol, and Drax power station importing millions of tonnes of wood from America each year? Does he not accept that in an attempt to control the world’s climate, we are actually damaging the environment right now?
The Secretary of State is well aware that Teesside is the centre of the green industrial revolution. In building new renewable energy capacity, can he confirm that he is happy to visit Teesside to see our plans for linking that renewable energy with green hydrogen production to power our homes in Teesside?
In a speech last month to the Energy UK conference, the Secretary of State made the case for a decisive shift towards clean energy and away from what he termed “volatile fossil fuels”, on which he said
“we are still very dependent, perhaps too dependent”.
Will he therefore explain how a decision by the Government to permit Cambo, an oilfield whose anticipated lifespan would see it still producing oil four years before we are legally bound to reach net zero, would be anything other than fundamentally at odds with that vision?
The hon. Gentleman will understand that the licences under which Cambo was permitted were actually granted when his own party was in government. He will also appreciate that I have always said that there will be a transition. He and his Labour associates want to shut down the industry and cause mass unemployment among the 250,000 people in this country who work in the sector.
New Nuclear Power
This Government are doubling down on our plan to deploy more home-grown, affordable clean energy in this country, and we are putting new nuclear at the heart of that plan. In the past four weeks alone, we have announced £1.7 billion allocated for a new large-scale nuclear power station, a new nuclear Bill to boost private capital and cut build costs, £210 million to back Rolls-Royce’s small modular reactor plan, and £120 million for future nuclear projects—new nuclear made and manufactured here in Britain.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s commitment to increasing the generation of renewable energy in the UK and attracting investment in our renewable energy sector, especially the nuclear energy industry. The green industrial revolution is well under way in Peterborough. Will he join me in congratulating Peter Brotherhood, a manufacturer of 150 years standing, whose modular steam turbine offering, manufactured in the heart of my city of Peterborough, can promote further innovation in the nuclear energy sector?
A previous question referred to Teesside as the centre of the green industrial revolution, but Peterborough is also one of the great centres in this country of the green industrial revolution, and there is no better champion of that than my hon. Friend, who is right at the centre of it. He is right that the £120 million nuclear innovation fund will create options for future nuclear capability, including the recent Rolls-Royce small modular reactors, which have £210 million of funding. There are plenty of opportunities there for his constituents to get into, and I thank him for his championing of the green industrial revolution.
I welcome the Government’s commitment to a new generation of nuclear power plants, representing a big step in our move towards net zero. Fylde, as the home of Springfields, the UK’s only civil nuclear manufacturing plant, will be playing its part in this transition, but following the recent announcements of the £210 million in new Government funding for Roll-Royce SMRs, what steps is the Minister taking to ensure that the fuel for the next generation of nuclear power will be manufactured in the UK, and in Lancashire?
There is plenty of interest in Lancashire, Mr Speaker. My hon. Friend knows that I am well aware of how important Springfields is. In fact, we had meetings in the Department about it, as it is the only civil nuclear fuel manufacturing plant, as he rightly points out. It will play an important role as we further develop our new nuclear capability. I am looking forward to working very closely with my hon. Friend, who is a consistent champion of nuclear in this country.
Northern Ireland does not have any nuclear power generation possibilities, but can the Minister outline how Northern Ireland can benefit from nuclear power, because we want to have the opportunity, the same as the rest of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?
We are a Government for the whole United Kingdom. The hon. Member will know that Northern Ireland is importantly different from Great Britain in its electricity generation, grid and network. Overall, the UK’s nuclear capability will offer fantastic job opportunities—high-skill, high-tech jobs—for people from right the way across the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland.
We are decarbonising heat through the renewable heat incentive, with an estimated £1 billion this year, and we have announced the boiler upgrade scheme, the green heat network fund and the launch of the green gas support scheme later this month.
Zero carbon homes was a Liberal Democrat policy that the Tories scrapped after the coalition. That means we now need to retrofit a million new homes. Will the Secretary of State commit to a zero carbon homes standard once again for all new homes built in this country?
We have continued to engage extensively with energy-intensive companies, including by visits from me as recently as yesterday. We want to understand their concerns and help secure a competitive and viable future for industries, which support so many high-skilled, high-wage jobs across the UK.
High Peak is home to the UK’s largest quarries and much of our lime production industry. Those lime producers are essential for construction, engineering and infrastructure, but they are being hit by a double whammy of soaring global energy prices and an outdated UK emissions trading system, which is still benchmarked at the old EU level, geared towards European plants operating to a significantly lower standard and also in receipt of generous state subsidy. The UK’s lime producers are committed to doing their bit to tackle climate change, but the current benchmark is unachievable given their production chemistry. I urge the Minister to urgently review the UK’s emissions trading system benchmark for lime producers.
As a fellow Derbyshire MP, I know how much of a loud, independent and big voice my hon. Friend gives to High Peak since his election in 2019. I am proud to work with him. On this specific subject, we know there are long-term challenges for industries and individual sectors, and we are grateful for his comments. I am happy to meet him to talk more about this, if that would be helpful.
Net Zero Emissions by 2050
My hon. Friend is right to highlight the importance of driving down the cost of transition to tread more lightly on the Earth over the long term. Significant progress has already been made in the cost of technologies such as solar panels, and the recently published net zero strategy commits to working with business to realise further economic opportunities.
While I welcome that answer, does the Minister agree that achieving net zero emissions will depend on individual householders? Many people in my constituency are finding it difficult to afford their fuel bills, even without the cost involved in installing new heating systems such as heat pumps. What can the Government do to help those people?
My hon. Friend is right that we must work with householders and businesses on a longer-term basis so that we can deliver the net zero ambitions we set ourselves by 2050. As the Minister for Business, Energy and Corporate Responsibility has highlighted a number of times, we are trying to drive down the cost of technology over the long term. A number of firms have come forward on some of the technologies we hope to use, such as heat pumps, and have indicated it should be possible to do that.
First, I congratulate the COP26 President, my right hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Alok Sharma), on his adept handling of the COP26 negotiations in Glasgow. My Department’s priority now is to turn all that ambition into concrete action. We will continue to attract private investment into green projects, and I am happy to announce that in recent weeks we have seen nearly £10 billion of new commitments at the Global Investment Summit, with £1 billion from SABIC on Teesside, and £230 million announced by Ford on Merseyside. We are getting on with the job of delivering a stronger economy for the UK.
I have recently been contacted by Prisma Colour, another fantastic local business in High Peak that does really important work. Unfortunately, it has been hit by a more than doubling of its energy bills in recent months, which is simply not sustainable. I welcome what the Government are trying to do in the long run to ease supply pressures and help energy-intensive industries to bring down bills, but what can be done in the short term to help fantastic employers such as Prisma Colour?
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the excellent work he has done in a short time, representing his constituency. He knows that across Government we have regular conversations about how to help energy-intensive industries, and I would be happy to meet him and his constituents to discuss what we are doing.
I join the Secretary of State in commending the COP26 President on the progress made at COP26, but we know much greater action is required, and it is the Secretary of State’s job to ensure that every part of our Government acts. There is an immediate test with the UK-Australia trade deal: yesterday, the Australian Government reaffirmed their 2030 target, which is consistent only with 4° of warming, and there are reports that our Government have allowed the watering down of temperature targets in that deal. Surely, if we are serious after Glasgow about not letting big emitters off the hook, the deal must be rewritten to enshrine in it a proper plan for Australia as well as the UK, including for 2030, to keep 1.5° alive.
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: we have a duty to ensure that we put net zero at the centre in treaties and in our international obligations. Where I dispute with him is that the Australian deal does mention Paris climate ambitions and does commit to decarbonisation. Lastly, for the first time ever, the Australian Government have committed to net zero. That is a huge achievement, which I wish he would support and endorse.
The Secretary of State should not be defending the Australian Government’s 2030 target. It is he who said about the negotiations:
“There may have been an issue about specifically putting the 1.5° on the face of the negotiating mandate.”
It is time for the Government not only to talk tough, but to act tough, because we must put pressure on countries such as Australia. There is a clear pattern of behaviour here on climate. Too often, this Government face both ways: the Cumbria coal mine, the Cambo oil field, cutting overseas aid for the most vulnerable countries, cutting air passenger duty for domestic flights and failing to invest in green recovery at home. He is the man supposed to be in charge of ensuring the Government speak with one voice. Why does he think he is failing to do so? Is that the reason why people are calling for the COP26 President to take back control of energy and climate change?
The COP26 President did a marvellous job, and the person speaking with two voices is the right hon. Gentleman. On the one hand, he says COP was a great success, and then on the other hand, he is saying the Government have failed. It is inconsistent and it is implausible.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that we have made huge progress so far or we have made a good start in trying to achieve decarbonised flight, and we will continue to do that. It is examples such as the fantastic work demonstrated over the summer, which I know he was present for, at Exeter airport, supported by the Department for Business, that will allow us to meet our long-term ambitions in this sector.
The hon. Gentleman will know, from his long experience in this House, that many of these issues relate to financial disclosure, which is obviously in the remit of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. I am particularly interested in this deal. I think he is absolutely right that people who are shareholders and people who are customers have every right to transparent data, and I would very much support that.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work he does in Ashfield and for his incredible voice in this regard. He is right to highlight how technology will take much of the weight of the transition over the next 30 years, and the importance therefore of companies supporting such technology development. We are engaging with businesses, and we will continue to do so, through programmes such as boosting access for SMEs on energy efficiency. I am happy to talk to my hon. Friend about that if it helps.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that. The Office for Product Safety and Standards, over the period since the campaign was launched in April, has taken 10,000 unsafe products off the market, and it continues to work to identify products available online that pose a serious risk. We are reviewing the UK’s product safety framework in this area, but I will happily meet the hon. Gentleman.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his long-standing interest in this question. He will certainly know that, although nuclear is 16% of our current electricity generation, 12 of the 13 current nuclear power plants will be decommissioned or will no longer be producing by 2030. It is absolutely vital that we renew our nuclear capability, and I look forward to my right hon. Friend helping and supporting us in that effort.
Mr Speaker—[Interruption.] I will answer that question, because the Secretary of State is due to make a decision on the application by 21 January 2022, and the Secretary of State of course has a quasi-judicial role in determining this live planning application so it would not be appropriate to comment on specific matters regarding the proposals as that might be seen as prejudicing the decision-making process.
As Minister for London, every time I go and see a business or business representative organisation my hon. Friend has been there before to champion the Cities of London and Westminster and the central activity zone in London which is so important for the culture and ecosystem of our great city. We want to build a high-wage, high-skill economy, and the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors are at the heart of that. The strategy will include the reopening and we will build resilience through increased staff supply.
I remind the hon. Lady that this Government are the first UK Government to commit to a North sea transition deal. That deal is a world first; it is leading the world and showing how we can decarbonise a historically very productive sector to drive new technology and new economic opportunity.
I welcome Infinite’s work supporting renewable projects and my hon. Friend’s engagement in this. PPAs can improve the financial viability of renewables built without Government support. We anticipate that PPAs will complement Government mechanisms such as the contracts for difference scheme. Officials are investigating whether Government can play a role in encouraging further growth in the PPA market, and of course I am happy to meet my hon. Friend on this at any time.
As my hon. Friend the Member for East Renfrewshire (Kirsten Oswald) said, Scotland’s world-leading carbon capture and storage project at St Fergus was snubbed by the Government in favour of their pork-barrel interests in the red wall. Will the Secretary of State guarantee the Acorn team funding in the next round, or should we conclude that Scotland can only decarbonise with independence?
Again, I have to completely refute what the hon. and learned Lady says. The position is absolutely clear: Acorn was an excellent project and is on the reserve list, and I am looking forward to working with her constructively to make sure we land this very exciting project.
The sooner the offshore transmission network is constructed in the southern North sea, the better. It will save money for consumers and limit the damage to local communities and the environment. So will the Minister commit to restarting the previously planned consultation on a regulated asset base finance model for renewables and low-carbon energy-generating assets as soon as possible?
I thank my hon. Friend for his continual engagement on this issue. He will know that I met his colleagues in the OffSET group of MPs—the Off Shore Electricity Grid Task Force—very recently. On the offshore transmission network review, Ofgem has consulted on options for delivery models for offshore connections, including a regulated asset base approach. There continues to be ongoing work, and I am looking forward to meeting my hon. Friend at the next meeting of OffSET, or individually.
Under this Government, the gig economy workforce has trebled in the last five years, fire and rehire is accepted, zero-hours contracts are supported, inadequate sick pay is ignored, and sanctions for non-payment of the minimum wage are absolutely pitiful. Why, then, did the Government ditch their own employment Bill and block the private Member’s Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner)?
The UK has one of the best employment rights records in the world. We have made good progress in bringing forward measures that add flexibility for workers while ensuring the protection of employment rights, such as banning the use of exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts and legislating to extend the right to a written statement of core terms of employment to all workers. We will continue to make sure that we consider options to improve clarity on employment status, and we will bring forward an employment Bill as soon as parliamentary time allows.
In Suffolk and Norfolk, investment in research and development is vital to making the most of the opportunities emerging in such sectors as low carbon and life sciences, as well as to tackling pockets of deprivation, particularly in coastal areas. It is thus concerning that, in the Budget Red Book, the east of England is coupled with London and the south-east as an area from which spending on R&D will be diverted and in which it will be discouraged. Will my right hon. Friend work with his colleagues across Government to ensure that this discrimination against Suffolk and Norfolk is removed and is not included in the levelling-up White Paper?
I pay tribute to the fantastic work that my hon. Friend has done representing his constituents over 11 and a half years. He will know that I personally, as a Minister, have always been committed to the east of England. I have visited him in Lowestoft, I have visited offshore wind projects, and I would be very happy to speak to him about how we can drive the R&D programme and how East Anglia and his constituents can benefit from the UK’s science superpower status.
Is it not the case that the most exciting industrial development in the UK at present is hydrogen production? Does the Secretary of State welcome the pioneering work by JCB, under Lord Bamford’s direction, along with the partnership with Queen’s University Belfast, to produce the first working hydrogen combustion engine, which has made the past the future? What support will the Secretary of State give to capitalise on that engineering excellence to ensure that British jobs and British tech flow from it?
The hon. Gentleman will be well aware that I am fully conscious and fully supportive of the great work that Mr Bamford and his colleagues are doing driving Wrightbus and driving the hydrogen economy. The hon. Gentleman may know that I am very shortly to visit to Northern Ireland to see that great work on the ground.
Terrorist Incident at Liverpool Women’s Hospital
The explosion outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital just before 11 o’clock on Sunday was a shocking incident, and my thoughts are with all those affected and the people of Liverpool, the city of my birth. I would like to thank the emergency services for their typically quick response and professionalism, and the police for their work on the investigation, which continues at pace.
The House will understand that I cannot comment on the details of this case as there is an ongoing live investigation. We are, of course, monitoring it closely. The police have stated that the motivation for this incident is yet to be understood. However, this is a further stark reminder about the threat we all face from terrorism. Our world-class security and intelligence agencies and counter-terror police work night and day to keep us safe.
Yesterday, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre took the decision independently of Ministers to raise the UK national threat level from substantial, meaning an attack is likely, to severe, meaning an attack is highly likely. JTAC, which operates independently of Ministers, considers all relevant intelligence and information to produce an agreed assessment of the threat from terrorism.
The public should remain alert but not alarmed. I know that hon. Members will want to avoid speculation about the case. I would urge the public and the media similarly to avoid speculation at this stage. Public safety is one of our chief priorities. We will continue to work with the police, alongside our world-class intelligence and security agencies, to confront and combat the threat from terrorism.
Mr Speaker, I am grateful to you for granting this urgent question, but I am very surprised that the Secretary of State is not here, given the seriousness of the matter.
I would like to start by taking this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude to the police, our emergency services and staff at Liverpool City Council for responding in such a quick and professional manner; and to the heroic staff, patients and families at Liverpool Women’s Hospital for remaining calm and continuing to provide vital services. The work and resilience they have all shown at this difficult time showcase the very best of my great city.
The explosion in my constituency on Sunday rocked our great city. Like everyone, I was horrified to learn what had happened and grateful it was not worse, thanks to the actions of taxi driver David Perry. Liverpool has always been a diverse and welcoming city, and we pride ourselves on being a city of sanctuary. Now more than ever, we need to work together to support our communities and show that we remain united against the attempts to divide us.
Incidents such as these, while extremely rare, always provoke a spike in race hate, particularly against the Muslim community. My team have been hearing of incidents where women wearing the hijab are facing abuse. I am aware that funding is available through the places of worship scheme to help to provide security against hate crimes, and that the Government provide Community Security Trust Jewish communities with £14 million of funding every year. I also note that the Muslim Council of Britain has repeatedly raised the funding they receive as not proportionate to the risks they face, especially since the Government’s latest figures show that they are the target of 45% of all religious hate crimes—this is the greatest percentage of any faith group and double that of the second highest group. Will the Minister take the opportunity to review the amount of funding all faith communities receive every year to ensure that adequate and proportional resources are allocated to protect communities, including at times of heightened risk such as these?
We must take this opportunity to learn lessons from this tragic affair and take steps towards a more effective asylum system and immigration system. I hope the Minister will consider that ahead of the upcoming Nationality and Borders Bill and reconsider its inhumane approach.
As we continue to search for the truth behind this appalling incident, we must remain alert but not alarmed. We must stay calm, look after each other, pull together as the great diverse city we are, and not allow anyone to exploit this situation to divide us. At times like these, we must stand in solidarity, renew our resolve and remember we have far more that unites us than divides us.
I applaud the hon. Lady’s final sentiment that we are more united than divided, particularly in the face of terrorism.
The Home Secretary could not be here, but I can reassure the hon. Lady that this has been given the highest importance in the Home Office and that the Home Secretary has been in touch with the investigators, as has the Prime Minister, right since the incident itself. In fact, the reason the Minister for Security and Borders, my right hon. Friend the Member for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds), is not here to give a statement is that he is arriving in Liverpool as we speak to understand what the frontline responders have done and the stage of the investigation, and to stand with the community, as she says, as they bind themselves together.
This is a part of Liverpool I know extremely well. I was born and brought up there. I walked those streets and played in nearby Sefton Park as a child. As the hon. Lady says, it is a part of the city which is inclusive and welcoming and which I know will stand together to recover from this dreadful event.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Kim Johnson) on securing this urgent question, but does my right hon. Friend agree that it should not really have been necessary for her to seek it? Inevitably, there are going to be speculations in the media about an incident as serious as this. No one appreciates the pressures on Home Office Ministers in particular more than the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, but can he please take the message back that, when something like this happens, even if there is not much to be said, it ought to be said to this House in the first instance, at the first available opportunity?
I understand my right hon. Friend’s sentiments. As he will know, particularly with regard to the threat level, a written ministerial statement was issued yesterday. We understand the need to keep the House informed and to provide reassurance, but the issue with statements to the House is that they have to be timed at such a stage where we believe that the balance is right between the information that we can give and the likelihood of further speculation about a case emanating from a statement, and that is sometimes difficult. But I take his point about the implications and will certainly think more carefully about the timing in future.
Just from my point of view, a written ministerial statement to the House is not good enough. It should be a statement to Members. They expect it, so please let us not hide behind that in terms of what we think is right or wrong. We all know what is right and wrong.
One always feels a sense of responsibility and sadness on occasions such as this, but I feel it particularly today as a Merseyside MP. I echo what my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Kim Johnson) said about the emergency services and the victim of the attack, and I thank her for the leadership that she has shown locally over the past number of days.
The criminal investigation of the events in Liverpool is moving quickly. An individual who counter-terrorism police believe is the strong suspect and perpetrator has been named, although many questions remain. It is understandable, after the second incident in a matter of weeks, that the current terror threat level has been raised to severe. As the Minister said, it is critical that people should be not alarmed, but alert. Will he ensure that agencies have the resources to reinforce that message?
There are reports that a home-made explosive device was used in this appalling attack. After the 2017 series of attacks, the Intelligence and Security Committee, which is chaired so well by the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), published a report that included recommendations on the use of and construction of such devices—namely, regulation around the ingredients or chemicals used to make them. Why have none of those recommendations been implemented after four years? Will the Minister look at that again?
We need to look at how another perpetrator was radicalised. The Government’s counter-extremism body came forward with several recommendations that, again, have not been implemented. We know that Ministers are taking funding away from key counter-extremism projects. Why is that, and will the Minister look at that again?
We must also look at information sharing between intelligence agencies, our police and public bodies. They need the fullest possible picture of individuals of concern to take the necessary action. Does the Minister agree, and will he look at that again?
We know that the Government have had a report on dealing with self-initiated and self-radicalised so-called “lone actors”. What is happening with that report? What is being done? The Minister will know that the Opposition have called for a judge-led review.
Finally, Liverpool people, in my experience, are resilient, but never, never harsh. Liverpool will continue, I am sure, to be the welcoming and warm place famed the world over for its hospitality.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his questions. As he knows, significant resources are available to our counter-terrorism policing colleagues and there have been significant extra resources over the past couple of years for Merseyside police, which I know and believe they will put into action in this case.
The hon. Gentleman asked a number of questions that invited me to speculate on some of the lessons that we may learn from this incident with regard to, for example, materials or, indeed, the motivation of the alleged attacker. At the moment, the police have said that none of that is yet clear. Once the investigations are complete, and we have the full picture of the individual’s activities online and offline and of his lifestyle and possible associates—we do not know yet—we will be able to learn some of the lessons for the future. And I join the hon. Gentleman in knowing that Liverpool will bind itself together, as the city has done so many times and will again.
As hon. Members will know, the phenomenon of terrorism in the modern world is fast-moving and dynamic, so we must be, too. I reassure my right hon. Friend and the House that constant attention is paid to our ability to prevent these kinds of attacks, where we possibly can. He will know that, since 2017, counter-terrorism policing in its wider sense has prevented, I think, 31 attacks. We constantly learn lessons from incidents not just here in the UK, but around the world, so that we try to stay one step ahead in our preventive efforts. I can reassure him that constant attention is paid to refining what we do and getting better and better at it.
The SNP unequivocally condemns this dreadful crime, particularly as it came when the people of this country were preparing to remember those who died to defend our freedoms. We send our thoughts and best wishes to the people of the great city of Liverpool, and our sincere thanks to Dave Perry, whose courage and presence of mind almost certainly prevented a greater loss of life. We wish him a full and speedy recovery. We echo the calls for people with any information whatever about the attack to come forward, to ensure that everyone involved is caught and held to account for their actions.
I understand that the suspect was not known either to the security services or to the police. Could the Minister say something about what is being done to address the radicalisation of such lone attackers? What strategy is being pursued to reduce the risk of such attacks in the future?
Finally, I share the concern of the hon. Member for St Helens North (Conor McGinn) that there is a belief that the device used was similar to that used in Manchester four years ago. Whether or not that proves to be the case, how confident is the Minister that the current controls on access to such chemicals are robust and strong enough to prevent something like this from happening in future?
While I understand the hon. Gentleman’s sentiments—I, too, offer my good wishes to the driver of the car for a full recovery—he is inviting me to speculate on the possible motivation of the individual by indicating that there may have been some radicalism. As I said earlier, we are not yet clear about the motivation of that individual.
Obviously the hon. Gentleman will understand that investigations, not least digital forensic investigations, are under way. As for the materials used in the incident, there is ongoing, extensive forensic examination of premises that have been occupied and of the vehicle on site. Until we know exactly what the circumstances are, it is hard to draw any conclusions, as the hon. Gentleman asks me to, but when we do, I am sure that we will be able to find a way to let the House know.
I extend my thanks to the emergency services in Liverpool and Merseyside and the security services for the incredible work that they do, and to Mr Perry for what appears to be considerable bravery on his part.
As my right hon. Friend says, it would not be right to speculate on the motivations of the individual involved, but it is true that we have a significant problem in this country with extremism and extremist ideologies—a problem that we need to confront with renewed seriousness. He and the Home Secretary are equipped with a number of major reports, including Baroness Casey’s on integration and Sara Khan’s on potential changes to the law, and they either already have or will shortly have William Shawcross’s report on the effectiveness and potential reform of the Prevent programme. When will my right hon. Friend respond to those reports and set out the Government’s strategy?
I understand that my right hon. Friend is not necessarily associating this particular case with the strand of work that he is looking at, but he is quite right that there have been a number of reports over the past few years that have looked into the very difficult job of combating radicalism, not least in an internet age. I know that he is impatient for change. My right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the Minister for Security and Borders are applying themselves with some enthusiasm to that area of business, because although we can do a lot on prevention from an organisational and a policing point of view, in the end it is critical that we get to the root cause: the radicalisation, often self-radicalisation, of individuals, which often happens online.
This was a truly awful attack, which it appears could have been much worse. I join other hon. Members in thanking the emergency services and in sending our support to David Perry and his family and to the staff and patients at Liverpool Women’s Hospital, who will have faced such great shock as a result of this awful incident.
There has also been an increase in the terror threat level. Previously, when the terror threat level has been increased, Ministers have come to this House to make a statement; rightly, there were also statements after Streatham, Reading and other terror attacks, and of course after the awful murder of our colleague. I urge the Minister to take that point back, because I think this was a bad misjudgment.
How far does raising the terror threat reflect concerns among security services about the increase in online radicalisation during the pandemic?
I am sure that the House will have heard loud and clear both your implication, Mr Speaker, and that of the Chair of the Committee about our coming to the House in a timely fashion. I understand that, notwithstanding yesterday’s written statement, an oral statement was preferable in your view.
As for the raising of the threat level, the right hon. Lady will know that a number of data points are pulled in for that independent assessment, but this decision was made in the light of the two recent incidents—the death, sadly, the awful killing, of Sir David Amess, and this incident—combined in the round with other information gathered by JTAC. The online world of radicalisation is of course one of the areas that JTAC examines, but I think that it takes into account a more rounded picture of the overall threat.
Notwithstanding the reason that the Minister has just given for the raising of the threat level, both the incidents to which he has referred involved, effectively, lone wolves. Is he in a position to share with us some of the rationale for raising the threat level nationally?
I understand my right hon. Friend’s desire for more information, but he will know that we do not, as a rule, discuss the reasoning behind our security levels, just as we do not discuss specific security arrangements or, indeed, specific security tactics or capabilities. While there are mechanisms in the House to oversee what we do, not least the Intelligence and Security Committee, I hope my right hon. Friend understands that it might not be helpful to our general security for me to discuss these matters in public.
Let me first pay tribute to Chief Constable Serena Kennedy, her officers at Merseyside Police, Counter Terrorism Policing North West, Phil Garrigan, the chief fire officer of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, and all the other emergency responders for their rapid response in reassuring our people and communities including those in Kensington, in my constituency, which still has a heavy police presence. My thanks also go to the incredible staff at Liverpool Women’s Hospital, and I wish David Perry a very speedy recovery.
Given that the picture is still unclear in respect of the wider investigation, may I ask what additional resources will be allocated to Liverpool via Merseyside Police and Counter Terrorism Policing North West, to help them to conclude their investigation at the earliest opportunity?
As I said earlier, we believe that Merseyside Police and the regional counter-terrorism police have adequate resources. Obviously, national resources have also been devoted to this investigation. At present I am not aware that we have received any request for further assistance, but I am sure that if there is such a request, we will be able to look at it.
While I appreciate that this is a live investigation and we clearly cannot speculate on all the details, reports in the media that the suspect was an asylum seeker have understandably raised considerable concern among my constituents. Does my right hon. Friend agree that effective border controls are vital to maintaining public confidence in public security?
As my hon. Friend says, there has been a great deal of speculation in the media and elsewhere, and he will forgive me if I refrain from speculating on the background and therefore the possible motivations of the individual concerned. However, on a separate issue, he is right to suggest that all nations need compassionate, fair and swift border controls that deliver on their duty to those fleeing persecution around the world, while at the same time ensuring that there is an orderly way in which to enter the country.
I want to express, across the River Mersey, the solidarity of the people of the Wirral with the communities in Liverpool who have had to deal with this issue. Will the Minister tell us a bit more about his views on how we can counter self-radicalisation and on the fact that the security services are particularly worried that it may have been turbocharged during lockdowns, and his views on how a strategy to counter that might be being developed?
Given that, in strict terms, this is obviously not my portfolio—I am here today because the Security Minister is in Liverpool himself—I am not sure that my views would necessarily be the most helpful thing to give today. It is the case, however, that in respect of both crime generally and possible radicalisation online, we are working through the implications of the lockdowns and the impact of covid on particular individuals who may be susceptible as a result of having spent time in confinement and been exposed to material to which they would not otherwise have been exposed. Those lessons are being learnt as we speak, and I am sure that in time my right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the Minister for Security and Borders will come forward with their proposals.
I have been contacted by many constituents wanting to stand in solidarity with Liverpool and pay tribute to the emergency services. I do not wish to speculate on the motivations of this lone actor, but I wonder whether the Minister has had time to read a report on the “tipping point” into extremism that I produced with the Home Affairs Committee. It contains a large number of recommendations on working with social media platforms to ensure that they do not promote, or engage young minds in, delivering lone acts of violence such as this may have been. Will the Minister update us on what we are doing about social media companies that do not remove those platforms?
I know that the hon. Lady has done a vast amount of work in this area, and we congratulate her and thank her for it. She is right: while we entrust a huge amount of our safety to our police forces—and, in particular, to our counter-terrorism police and those who promote the Prevent programme and other radicalisation prevention strategies—we all have a role to play in our collective safety, including the executives and others of social media companies, who need to think about the role that they play in shaping young minds for the future. That is not, as I have said, to speculate on the motivation in this case. I speak in general terms, as a father with children, and I know that there are young minds out there to be shaped. Those companies are part of the shaping, and they need to step up to that responsibility.
I commend Mr Perry for his bravery, and I commend all the emergency services that came to the rescue. I wholly and unreservedly condemn the terrorist act that took place. It was a premature act in that the fuse probably went off earlier than it was intended to, and it could have been far more devastating to the city of Liverpool and indeed to all of us.
For too long—for the last 20 years—we have spoken of addressing radicalisation and extremism. We do not appear to be making headway. I agree with what was said earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for St Helens North (Conor McGinn), the shadow security Minister: we should be looking far more closely at this issue, and providing support and resources not only for the security services but for the local police to enable them to be more active.
I understand the hon. Gentleman’s frustration, and I apologise to the House for not being able to say more about this case at the moment, but I must reiterate that we are not yet clear—and the police have stated in terms that they are not yet clear—about the motivation for the attack. The time will come for us to draw lessons from it, and indeed from other attacks, and apply them to the further work we can do to protect ourselves, both in dealing with those who may be radicalised and, more practically, in dealing with the groups who may be organising the attacks. However, this is a difficult and complex area of work. I hope the House will give the police the space that they need to complete the investigation and learn those lessons, from this incident and, as I have said, from the previous incident.
We are fortunate in this country to have superb counter-terrorism forces. They face myriad different threats, but in the light of recent attacks, will there be a pivot among the security services and the police towards concentrating on lone actors, who are in many ways the most difficult to identify and prevent?
As my hon. Friend rightly points out, this is one of the most difficult areas of investigation. While I cannot speculate on whether or not there will be such a pivot, I hope my hon. Friend knows that—as I said earlier—we are constantly paying attention to where we believe the threat is coming from, and refining our ability both to identify it and to prevent it from emerging in the first place.There have been a number of different styles and natures of attack over the years. For example, he will remember what became known as the “Mumbai-style” attack, which took place some time ago and had implications for our resilience. We did extensive work to protect ourselves from that style of attack. Similarly, work will be ongoing as we see this phenomenon increase, and I can reassure him that significant attention and resources will be being paid to it.
May I put on record my thanks to everyone at Liverpool Women’s Hospital and everyone involved in the emergency service response? Liverpool is a welcoming city and a city of sanctuary, and the Minister grew up there. However, we are not immune from minority communities feeling vulnerable at times like this, so I invite him to reassure those communities that the Government are working with local leaders to ensure their security and safety in the weeks and months ahead.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman; I know the city well and it has always been welcoming, certainly in the latter decades, when community harmony has been very good and high. I hope that this will not have an impact on that. The Security Minister is there today to talk to the authorities and the police about what more we can do to help and to understand more about the circumstances, but I know that the two mayors, the police and crime commissioner and all those engaged in the welfare of Liverpool will be doing their best to reassure the community and bind it together after such a devastating event.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Kim Johnson) on securing this urgent question and join her in thanking the security services and the members of the emergency services who were involved. It has been widely reported that TATP was used in this attack. As my hon. Friend the Member for St Helens North (Conor McGinn) said from the Front Bench, in 2018 the Intelligence and Security Committee, on which I serve, produced a report on the 2017 terrorist attacks. It made four recommendations on this, with recommendation N calling for the outdated system of regulation of these chemicals to be updated. In response to the Committee’s report, the Government simply noted the conclusion and said that they were committed to developing a system of regulation. The Minister says that things are unclear and he cannot comment on them, but what is clear is the fact that none of those recommendations have been taken on board since 2018. Why?
As the right hon. Gentleman points out, I cannot comment on this. I know that there has been a lot of speculation about the nature of the explosion, but, as I understand it from a briefing just this morning, the forensic examination is yet to be completed. Once it is, we will be able to draw some lessons about the particular combustion and the explosive chemicals that may or may not have been used, and then we can take action accordingly.
As somebody who was nearby, at Liverpool’s Remembrance Day service at the Anglican cathedral, at the time of the explosion, along with 2,000 to 3,000 other people, I want to join in commending Merseyside police and the fire and rescue services in particular for their swift and effective action to keep the city and its citizens safe.
Liverpool is a city that believes in solidarity and helping others, as we have seen in my constituency, where hundreds of recently arrived Afghan people, themselves fleeing terror, are staying as they adjust to new lives in the UK. What more will the Government do to ensure that any threats to community cohesion and safety that arise out of these circumstances—there are people out there, not necessarily from the city, who want to cause trouble—are minimised and that no one is allowed to use the events to stoke community tensions?
I join the hon. Lady in congratulating Merseyside police, which is one of our highest-performing police forces across the country, having had a series of great leaders as chief constables, not least the current one. Andy Cooke, who led it before, was also an outstanding leader of that force, which has achieved amazing results. The fact it was able to deal with this incident so swiftly, at the same time as dealing with a major public event not very far away, is a great testament to its skill.
On the community work, the hon. Lady will be reassured to know that colleagues in the community arm of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities are engaging with the local authorities in Liverpool to make sure that we do what we can to reassure the local community and keep it as united as it has hitherto been.
Mr Speaker, I echo your concerns and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Kim Johnson) that an urgent question should not have been necessary. I also want to echo the tributes to the emergency services’ response. As a former chair of Merseyside fire and rescue service, I particularly wish to focus on its response and on the measured response from the people of Liverpool and Merseyside more broadly. It is chilling to think that this incident occurred as we stood in silence to remember the fallen—how ironic. I send my thanks and best wishes to David Perry, the driver of the taxi involved in the explosion, for his bravery.
Understandably, this dreadful incident will have unsettled staff in local hospitals, particularly in the Women’s Hospital, where my two granddaughters were born. So will the Minister speak to the Health Secretary to initiate a full review of security at hospitals in the light of this incident, to reassure patients, staff and visitors?
As I say, Mr Speaker, the lack of a statement came from a desire to come to the House at the moment when we could give the maximum information and reassurance, but we hear the message loud and clear. Obviously, following this incident there will be review of security arrangements at a variety of premises. The hon. Gentleman will understand that I do not want to discuss exactly what those may be, but the raising of the threat level brings with it an implication and an obligation on a number of organisations to review their security arrangements. The British public will see a greater police presence, particularly in areas of public use, to make sure that there is both reassurance and prevention in place.
I serve on the ISC, and I have incredibly impressed by the thoroughness of the information that the Committee has available to it, the reports that are produced and the recommendations that are made. What has concerned me today has been listening to both our Front Bencher and my right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) explain that recommendations that have been public for quite a while have not been responded to by the Government. Might the Minister be willing to undertake a review of all the recent recommendations that the Committee has put forward, to see what more can be done to make sure that we keep ourselves as safe as possible?
I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for that and I thank her for her work on that important Committee. I understand the House’s frustration that the discussion of specific security arrangements on the Floor of the House is not necessarily helpful to our overall security. We do have a tried and tested route to look at these things, through the Committee of which she is a member. I am more than happy to go away and discuss with my colleagues what the status is of the various recommendations coming out of that Committee, and, if required, we can put some boosters on to implementing them.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Kim Johnson) and you, Mr Speaker, for this urgent question, which is very important to the people of Merseyside. I associate myself with all the remarks, including those of the Minister, the shadow Minister and others, about those who served the people of Merseyside on Sunday to make them safe.
The Women’s is a fantastic hospital. Although we have no idea whether the location had anything to do with the incident, I am prompted to ask the Minister about the toxic ideology of misogyny and global evidence that it seems to be behind more and more devastating incidents around the world. May I ask the Minister to say, on behalf of the Home Office, what research it has commissioned on misogyny and how we can make sure we undermine this ideology at source, to keep people safe?
I join the hon. Lady in celebrating the Women’s Hospital in Liverpool, which has been used by members of my family on a number of occasions. I was born at Broadgreen, not at the Women’s Hospital, but there are some fantastic facilities in that city.
Obviously, I understand that the hon. Lady is not intending to speculate on the motivation of the individuals, but she is right to say that there have been a number of incidents internationally and closer to home where ideologies such as incel or people driven by misogyny and therefore targeting women have been a cause of concern, both publicly and privately. I know that there is an examination of this phenomenon ongoing within the Home Office.
May I pay tribute to the extraordinary resilience and determination of the staff at Liverpool Women’s Hospital, who provide such exceptional support to women and newborns from across Merseyside? I also commend Mr Perry for his bravery.
Sunday’s appalling attack has caused understandable concerns about the health service. Last night, health service trusts in England were urged to review their security measures. Will the Minister assure the House that trusts will not be expected to pay for any security upgrades from their already overstretched budgets and that such costs will be met with additional funding from central Government?
I understand the hon. Gentleman’s sentiments. It is obviously not for me to discuss what the security arrangements should or should not be—as I have said before, it is not helpful to speculate—but I am sure that whatever resource will help those organisations to become safe will be available either from within their own budgets or from elsewhere.
I want to express my solidarity with the people of Liverpool, where I studied and worked for many years. I fear that my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Kim Johnson) is right that some will use the event to peddle their message of hate and division. Without prejudicing this case, how many asylum seekers will be waiting for more than two years for a decision on their applications? Of those, how many will receive mental health support?
I am afraid that the hon. Lady is once again inviting me to speculate on the background, nature and motivation of the individual. I hope she will forgive me if I refrain from doing so. I am happy to take that question in other circumstances and, if she wants to table it as a written question, I will make sure that there is a swift reply on the numbers.
On the hon. Lady’s sentiment, I am reassured about the possible community implications because I know that Liverpool is not a city filled with hate. It is a city where people put their arms around each other and stand together in adversity, as sadly they have had to do too often. I know that they will this time, too.
Will the Minister outline what can be done to ensure that the taxi driver, David Perry, who looked into the face of evil and acted courageously—eerily reminiscent of those heroes who gave their lives and were honoured on the day when this terrorist sought to murder, take life and disrespect our great nation and democracy—will be able to put food on the table, return to work after his recovery and have a vehicle to earn his living?
I thank the emergency services on the scene on Sunday for their extraordinary response to a terrifying situation and send solidarity to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Kim Johnson) and the people of Liverpool.
Remembrance Sunday is a time to commemorate the lives lost in two world wars and subsequent conflicts. It is an emotional time for many, not least veterans in our armed forces. What support are the Government offering to veterans who may have had post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health conditions triggered by Sunday’s news?
We will have to examine the wider community impacts of the incident once the lessons are learned. As the hon. Lady knows, significant work is being done through our work on the military covenant around welfare and wellbeing for veterans. I hope and believe that the resources available as part of that may be employed in this effort.
I must advise Members that the deferred Division scheduled for tomorrow in respect of the draft Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2021, which was deferred from Monday 8 November, will not take place because the Department for Transport has withdrawn the regulations in question. The Department expects the regulations to be re-laid shortly, after which they will have to be considered and approved in the usual way.
Points of Order
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I rise as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on trailer and towing safety in reference to what you just said about the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2021. The regulations, which abolish a safety test with no safety assessment—this has already happened—were debated in the Chamber last week and are opposed by many, including the Association of British Insurers and the Road Haulage Association. We talk a lot about the Government bypassing this place, and it seems extraordinary that an action of such magnitude for road safety has happened without legislation and we do not know when it will happen. Can you advise me on when the Secretary of State might come to the House with said legislation, and on the legality of the Government’s position on such tests and how I might pursue the matter further?
I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving me notice of the point of order. As I said in my statement, the regulations in question have been withdrawn. I understand that the Department intends to bring forward revised regulations, which will be considered by the House in the usual way. If she requires more procedural guidance, I recommend that she raises the matter with the Clerks and the Journal Office, who will advise her on the best way forward.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Last week Lord Frost made a statement in the other place regarding our relationship with the European Union, negotiations following Brexit and, in particular, the Northern Ireland protocol. He promised my noble Friend Baroness Chapman of Darlington that there would be a subsequent statement in the House of Commons. Today, a written ministerial statement has been placed before the House, which I am sure you agree is not acceptable or appropriate and follows a pattern of behaviour by the Government of excluding elected representatives—not least those from Northern Ireland—from negotiations and updates on the protocol. I would be grateful for your advice on how we can ensure that Ministers are brought to the House to update us on the protocol so that elected representatives can have their say.
First, I will certainly look into the matter. It is normally the case that major Government statements are made in both Houses. What I find appalling is that this is the elected House that represents constituents across the country, and yet somehow it seems fit for their lordships to hear a statement that has been denied to this House. My best suggestion would be to try an urgent question in the morning. I am not promising, but I would certainly look at it.
Flooding (Prevention and Insurance)
Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to set national minimum requirements for flood mitigation and protection measures in new build public and private properties enforced by local planning authorities; to place reporting requirements on local and national government in relation to flood prevention measures; to establish a certification scheme for improvements to domestic and commercial properties for flood prevention and mitigation purposes and an accreditation scheme for installers of such improvements; to require insurers to take account of such improvements and any existing flood prevention and mitigation measures that were planning permission requirements when determining premiums; to extend eligibility to the Flood Reinsurance scheme under section 64 of the Water Act 2014 to small and medium-sized enterprises and homes built after 2009; and for connected purposes.
Last Sunday in Glasgow, we saw potentially the most consequential gathering in world history—I refer, of course, to COP26. The Prime Minister opened that conference by acknowledging that, unless we act soon, we would see savage changes in our climate that could have destructive effects on life as we know it. An inevitable consequence of climate change is a change in weather patterns. In 2020, the UN’s environment programme highlighted that increased flooding is likely to be one of the early visible signs of climate change. In Hull and the East Riding of Yorkshire—indeed in Yorkshire, the midlands, the south-west and the south-east—we understand that because it is already happening. We remember Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis. In Hull and the East Riding of Yorkshire, we remember the devastation of the 2007 floods to homes, schools and businesses. We also remember the tidal surge of 2013 and the city being cut off from the M62 by a flooded A63 in 2019.
There have been some positive advancements in our response to the increasing problems of flooding over the last 15 years, with the Flood Re scheme one good example, but there is still more to do. My recent survey of residents in Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle highlighted their continuing concerns about flood protection and readiness. My Bill seeks to address some of those concerns and to put all future building developments on a sustainable footing.
The long title of the Bill, which I have just read out, sets out five requirements that can be summarised under three areas. First, to set out binding planning requirements for properties, enforced by local authorities. Secondly, to create a scheme, binding on the insurance industry, to recognise flood resilience measures in their premiums. And thirdly, to extend the Flood Re scheme further.
Provided that they are within the scope of current planning law, the property flood resilience measures required in new build properties are currently set by local planning authorities in pre-commencement conditions. That results in adjacent local authorities having different requirements in flood zones with the same rating, which is not only inconsistent but hampers collaboration by allowing local authorities to export their flood-related problems to other areas.
My Bill would create a level playing field by setting minimum standards nationwide. I hope these minimum standards would be along the lines of the highly successful measures put in place by Hull City Council and those supported by the Association of British Insurers, which is calling for the Government to enact schedule 3 to the Flood and Water Management Act 2010 and align planning policy related to sustainable drainage systems, as recommended by the Climate Change Committee. This common-sense move is supported by both the insurance industry and Flood Re in its most recent review, and it can be supported by Members on both sides of the House. It is about prevention not cure, and it is about building homes that are fit for a changing future.
At present there is no mandatory requirement for insurers to lower premiums for homes where flood risk is mitigated by flood resilience or protection measures. That is largely due to lack of evidence, both at a landscape scale and at the level of individual properties. The only information that insurers currently use in setting premiums with regard to flood risk is commercially available mapping data. As data from national and local government bodies on flood mitigation infrastructure such as lagoons, barriers and sustainable drainage systems is not readily available, it is not used. There is no requirement on the industry to request information at the level of individual properties. That situation must change.
On landscape and infrastructure, the relevant Government agencies must make readily available the information on all flood prevention and mitigation measures in place regionally and locally. The information already exists; it is a matter of collation and access. Once the information is available, insurers must make use of it and incorporate it into their premium calculations. At the individual property level, discounted insurance premiums should be offered for properties with flood resistance measures installed. Indeed, that was a recommendation of Flood Re in its recent five-yearly review.
The ABI’s position is that insurers lack reliable data on the relative effectiveness of measures and lack confidence in their correct installation. Some measures, such as the raising of electrical cabling and plug points above ground level, seem self-evidently beneficial and I have heard conflicting accounts of whether sufficient data on the effectiveness of such measures already exists. However, it would be helpful to everyone concerned to have agreement and clarity on the range of effective measures on which insurers will offer discounts. As well as confidence in the competency of installers, consumers need assurance that putting these protection measures in their home will not only increase resilience to flooding but lower premiums, which is why my Bill proposes a statutory certification scheme. There would need to be funding available to set the standards, and I believe it would be a good idea to make funding available to our universities and industry for the creation and production of new technologies that would lower the risk further.
Let me be clear: Flood Re is a good scheme and is one that I support—I also support many of the recommendations in the latest five-yearly review—but it has two major flaws. First, it does not cover homes built after 2009. I can see the logic, as this discourages building in flood zones, and it was imagined that such homes would be built to be flood resilient, but the truth is that in too many cases this has simply not happened. As a result people find themselves, through no fault of their own, living in flood-prone areas with no flood resilience measures and without cover by the scheme.
I hope my Bill would make it impossible to build a house without adequate flood protections, but in the meantime we need to move Flood Re eligibility forward to a suitable date so that people who are not covered as a result of the current planning system are not left without cover or facing very high premiums.
Secondly, Flood Re needs to cover small and medium-sized enterprises. I appreciate that commercial insurance is different from residential insurance, and I appreciate that commercial insurance effectively has two aspects: the aspect covering a business’s building and the aspect covering its stock and other business needs. I also appreciate that Flood Re may not be suitable to cover stock and business needs, but why can it not be extended to cover the building aspect? Is covering the structural aspect of a residential building not the same as covering the structural aspect of a commercial building? My Bill would extend Flood Re to offer that very protection. It would allow businesses affected by flooding to be in a position to be back on their feet and trading more quickly.
This is not a party political issue, nor should it be a subject of party political point scoring. It is an issue that affects people and businesses in constituencies right across the nation, represented by Members from all parties. It is an issue that will continue to affect those people and businesses and, as the effects of climate change become more acute, it will become deeper and wider.
Many of the proposals in this Bill have the support of the insurance industry and of Flood Re. A survey carried out in my constituency over the summer shows the proposals are supported by many members of the public, too. In many ways, it is common sense to pass this Bill. When it comes to supporting these measures today, we should remember that the tide is rising, both literally and metaphorically, and the time to act is now.
I thank Members on both sides of the House. Unfortunately I was able to choose only 11 Members of Parliament to present the Bill, but I have had a huge wealth of support from Members right across the House, which shows the amount of concern about flooding and flood prevention.
Question put and agreed to.
That Emma Hardy, Debbie Abrahams, Hilary Benn, Tracey Crouch, Philip Davies, Dan Jarvis, Dame Diana Johnson, Rachael Maskell, Jim Shannon, Karl Turner and Valerie Vaz present the Bill.
Emma Hardy accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 14 January 2022, and to be printed (Bill 191).
BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE (Today)
That, at this day’s sitting, the Speaker shall put the Questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on the Motion in the name of Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg relating to the Committee on Standards not later than one hour after the commencement of proceedings on the motion for this Order; such Questions shall include the Questions on any Amendments selected by the Speaker which may then be moved; proceedings may continue, though opposed, until any hour, and may be entered upon after the moment of interruption; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.—(Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg.)
Committee on Standards
I beg to move,
That, notwithstanding the practice of this House relating to questions already decided in the same Session, this House:
(1) rescinds the resolution and order of 3 November 2021 relating to the Third Report of the Committee on Standards (HC 797) and the appointment of a new select committee;
(2) approves the Third Report of the Committee on Standards (HC 797); and
(3) notes that Mr Owen Paterson is no longer a Member of this House.
I have listened carefully to the views expressed since the debate and decision on 3 November, and I make it clear that Members of Parliament must uphold the highest standards in public life. We expect all Members to abide by the prevailing rules of conduct. Paid lobbying is wrong and Members found guilty of it should pay the necessary penalties. Our standards system must function robustly and fairly to support this so that it commands the confidence of Members and the general public.
The Government support the principle of an additional right to appeal in the standards system in the House of Commons and for that potential reform to be explored on a cross-party basis.
What happened a couple of weeks ago was an extraordinary failure of moral leadership and, for the first time, it has given rise in the minds of many to serious questions about the character of this Government. With hindsight, why did the Leader of the House and his right hon. Friends not recognise the brazen wrongdoing of their colleague?
I think the simple answer—[Interruption.] No, I think the heckle from the right hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami) is unfair and unkind. It was simply that the tragedy that afflicted Mr Paterson coloured and clouded our judgment, and my judgment, incorrectly. It is as simple and as sad as that.
The Back-Bench amendment that we supported was intended to facilitate the exploration, on a cross-party basis, of the standards system, with a time-limited, ad hoc Committee. However, I regret that the amendment conflated an individual case with more general concerns. That was a mistake. Crucially, the amendment did not carry cross-party support, which is why we have changed our approach.
The Government fully recognise the role of the Committee on Standards in ensuring that the code of conduct reflects and fosters the highest standards of public life. I would like to thank all the Committee members and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards for their service. We await the Committee’s report on the code of conduct with interest. The Committee performs an important role in identifying opportunities to improve the standards system, and I note that the Chairman, the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), has made a recent, and helpful, commitment to commission a senior judicial figure to advise on possible changes to the process.
I assure all right hon. and hon. Members that I am always willing to discuss this matter further, and I hope to work with Opposition Members constructively on this issue. We all have the best interests of the House at heart and I hope that, setting aside the previous debate, we will work well together in the weeks ahead.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for facilitating this debate. [Laughter.] On 3 November, he said that the concerns expressed about the individual case in question included:
“the lack of examination of witnesses”—
of whom there were 17—
“the interpretation of the rules relating to whistleblowing…the application of aggravating factors; and the absence of the right of appeal.”—[Official Report, 3 November 2021; Vol. 702, c. 939.]
With regard to the first three of those, what is my right hon. Friend’s current view in relation to that particular case?
First, the House will always have a debate when it wants to have a debate; that is how our procedures work. They are extremely straightforward and ensure that right hon. and hon. Members can come to this House and make objections, if they so wish, to have subjects debated on the Floor of the House—