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Commons Chamber

Volume 726: debated on Tuesday 17 January 2023

House of Commons

Tuesday 17 January 2023

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—

Energy Costs: Support for Businesses

The energy bill relief scheme provides discounts on the wholesale element of gas and electricity bills to ensure that all eligible businesses are protected from high energy costs over the winter period. The support is applied automatically to bills.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. The Government have already awarded Cummins, the engine maker in Darlington, £14.6 million to develop a hydrogen combustion engine, which will help the road haulage industry to decarbonise and reduce business energy costs. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that investment in alternatives such as that will benefit businesses into the future, will he look at the regulation to enable this technology to be exploited and will he visit Darlington to see Cummins?

I think the answer is three yeses. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the importance of that hydrogen technology; it is one of the reasons the UK has a global lead. I am looking very closely at how off-road hydrogen vehicles could also be a big part of our decarbonisation strategy.

Some 440 redundancies have just been announced across Liberty Steel, including 185 in Rotherham. It cites soaring energy costs as a major factor behind the decision. It is no surprise that its announcement comes just days after the Government said that they were going to start withdrawing support for business energy costs, and inflated energy markets have placed British steelmakers at a profound disadvantage. When will Ministers step up and address this, as our competitors’ Governments do?

As the hon. Lady will know, I am of course very concerned about the Liberty Steel position, and I am working very closely with it and everyone else involved. There has been £18 billion of support to business, and we have just announced a further £5.5 billion specifically on energy bills. On energy-intensive industries, there is further support through an 85% measure, which we are also reviewing to take up to 100%. We will work very closely with the company, and I will undertake to work, with my Ministers, with her as well.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in addition to the excellent solution proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Peter Gibson), now is the time for the Government to exploit this country’s technological lead, and build a fleet of small modular nuclear reactors as part of our Great British Nuclear programme? While I am at it, is it not time that the Labour party apologised for 13 years of bone-headed hostility to any new nuclear power in this country?

I think it is fitting if I start with the apology, because I inadvertently airbrushed my right hon. Friend out of a picture on Twitter last week. I think my team were confused: I simply told the team that he needed hair brushing, not airbrushing. No one did more to progress space than my right hon. Friend as Prime Minister, and although the space launch was not successful last week, I know it is the start of a very important new sector for this country.

On my right hon. Friend’s point about small modular reactors, he is absolutely right. We will be announcing the creation of Great British Nuclear very shortly, and small modular reactors—Rolls-Royce and the others—will play an amazingly important part in this nuclear mix, which will get us back up to 25% of our power being from nuclear.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion) said, high energy costs and competitiveness were cited by Liberty Steel when it also announced the idling of the Newport site, which is really hard news for the dedicated and skilled workforce there. No more warm words from the Government: what will the Government practically do to work in partnership with our industry, as other European countries are doing—and they are far more generous, which is the point here—to ensure that this key strategic industry is competitive?

The Government have worked very hard with the steel industry, to the sum of hundreds of millions of pounds, and will continue to do so. We do recognise the strategic importance of steel, and we also recognise that energy prices are very high. As I mentioned to the hon. Member’s colleague, the hon. Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion), a moment ago, we have already consulted on and will be in a position to say more soon about greater discounts in the energy-intensive industries, but we need to work together to make sure we can deliver that, and I look forward to extending the invitation to her as well.

Last Monday the Government presented the next stage of their energy support scheme, but it got a decidedly mixed response. The Federation of Small Businesses calculated that it is worth just 2p per kilowatt hour of electricity to the average small business, which it says is not enough to be material to a business’s decision to close or not, despite that element of the scheme costing £2 billion of taxpayers’ money. The worst of all worlds would be a scheme that costs a large amount of money, while failing to improve the situation facing businesses in any significant way. Will the Secretary of State respond to that criticism and explain the Government’s thinking behind the design of that stage of the scheme?

The hon. Gentleman will know that UK gas wholesale prices—the forward price—peaked at £600 in August. I looked this morning before coming to the Dispatch Box, and it is currently at 136p per therm, which is a massive reduction. We are very much of the view that we must continue to provide support to business, on top of the £18 billion, which is why the Chancellor has announced up to another £5.5 billion. We also recognise that prices are lower now than they were before the invasion of Ukraine, so we will track the issue carefully and continue to provide that support to business.

As we heard from colleagues, energy prices are inextricably linked to our country’s competitiveness. Last week, Make UK published a survey of manufacturing businesses. That report was damning, with businesses saying that under the Conservatives they pay a premium for doing business in the UK. They can see that the political instability caused by this Government has driven investment away from Britain, and after three Prime Ministers, four Chancellors and three Business Secretaries last year, it is hard to disagree. Does the Secretary of State accept that the low investment the Conservatives have presided over is at the heart of our economic problems? What is he planning to do this year finally to change that?

No, I do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s analysis. He must recognise that in countries such as Germany, for example, where he is right to say that energy costs for business are lower, that cost is reflected in typically higher costs for domestic bills, and he would need to say whether he supports that. In addition, £18 billion is a huge amount of support. Taxpayers are having to pay that money, and it is a question of getting the right balance between the taxpayer and industry. I have already explained the ongoing support we will put in, in addition to the energy-intensive industry consultation that has already gone out, and we will say more about that shortly.

Household Energy Bills

The Government are supporting households with their energy bills through the energy price guarantee, the energy bills support scheme, and alternative fuel payments for households that use alternative fuels such as heating oil to heat their homes.

Will the Government take action to decouple the cost of gas supplies from renewables, because that is a way to get the cost of renewable energy down, helping households and also helping the taxpayer fund the important package of support that the Government have introduced for energy bills?

My right hon. Friend makes an excellent point, and it is noticeable that gas prices are high, but the price of renewables is typically much lower. Indeed, for a whole load of days in a row more than half our electricity has been provided through renewables, in particular offshore wind. That decoupling is important, but it is also not straightforward, as my right hon. Friend will know. It is something that the Minister for Energy and Climate and I are actively working on.

Eastleigh has a diverse housing mix that includes pensioners, those living in park homes and lower-income families, who are all struggling to pay their energy bills. What steps is the Secretary of State taking to pass on any falls in wholesale energy prices to consumers, so that they pay less as prices come down?

My hon. Friend raises a good point. What concerns me is the idea that when wholesale prices go up we get a rocketing in domestic prices, but as wholesale prices fall again, as they have done, we get a sort of feathering down, very slowly. I am concerned about that and I have written to Ofgem asking it to look at the market. Energy companies are forward buying their energy by several months, but we need those changes to come through in reductions to households, and we will be pressing to make sure that happens.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the support the Government have provided to households to help with their energy bills will continue once current arrangements come to an end later this spring, and until international energy markets have fully stabilised?

I am pleased to confirm that the energy price guarantee has been extended to April 2024, so that support will continue. As I mentioned earlier, we are seeing some of the prices moderate, but the problem is that that combination of higher prices could still continue to lead through, which is why we will keep the energy price guarantee in place.

May I ask the Secretary of State about two groups who have not had much support so far? One group is households on a communal heating scheme who get their heating bills from their landlord. The Government have announced measures to rectify that situation, but could registered housing providers such as housing associations and local authorities be allowed to apply jointly for their tenants, to ease them into the scheme? Secondly, people on housing benefit do not get the additional help for being on a low income that those on universal credit receive, because housing benefit is not a Department for Work and Pensions benefit. Why is there discrimination against housing benefit recipients? It really is unfair, is it not?

I know that the hon. Gentleman and the whole House recognise how complex it has been to put in place the schemes to pay money to people in a system that is usually meant only for people to pay money to energy companies. That has been easy to resolve through the simple direct debit billing method but much more complicated in edge cases including combined energy and heat power and other off-grid measures. It is probably best if I ask my right hon. Friend the Energy and Climate Minister to speak to him specifically about the cases that he raised, because they are so complex that that probably requires a meeting and a further clarification letter.

Domestic energy companies are routinely raising people’s direct debits above the level of energy that they use and need to pay for. In the process, they are building up credit balances—sometimes of hundreds of pounds of people’s money—when those people cannot afford that. Will the Minister meet me to discuss how to hold the energy companies to account and ensure the automatic repayment of overcharging?

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. I have had the experience myself where the energy company arbitrarily decided to put an outrageous figure into the direct debit. Once someone challenges that figure, the company will fall back from that—but that is if they can get through on the helpline.

I absolutely share the hon. Gentleman’s concern and will offer him a meeting with the Energy and Climate Minister specifically on this matter.

I wonder what discussions the Secretary of State has had with the energy companies following the report last week from Citizens Advice showing that hundreds of thousands of customers are being forcibly moved on to prepayment meters. Has he had discussions with his colleagues in the Ministry of Justice? Forcible entry to make hundreds of these changes is being approved on an industrial scale in minutes flat in magistrates courts. It is a real scandal. What is he doing about it?

The hon. Gentleman is right on that point. My right hon. Friend the Energy and Climate Minister and I have instructed our officials to draw up measures that could be helpful. We also have a letter to go to Ofgem once we have that advice. I am very concerned about this happening through an enforced process. We are on the public’s side and trying to fix it.

The alternative fuel payment scheme is being applied to people’s electricity bills where they have their own direct supply, but, for people in park homes or on houseboats without their own electricity, such support is difficult to access, and they are often the types of people who struggle to get online. Will the Secretary of State consider a better public information campaign for those households and support with access to applying for the scheme for those who struggle to get online?

The hon. Lady points out another one of the edge cases in park homes. Many hon. Members have park homes in their constituencies, including me, and it has been more complex to get the money to them. She will be pleased to hear that the pilot scheme to get that money out to them launched yesterday. It will be a process through the local authority, and we are making sure that it is expedited as much as possible.

According to Citizens Advice, someone is being cut off from their energy supply every 10 seconds. With millions unable to afford to top up their prepayment meters, self-disconnections have rocketed. Is it not the Government’s and the energy regulator’s responsibility to ensure that people are not sitting at home in the cold and in the dark? As temperatures once again reach freezing point across the UK this week, will the Government introduce an immediate moratorium on the forced installation of prepayment meters while their use is reviewed?

It is a matter of considerable concern that anybody should be removed from their power or heating. We have specifically asked the energy authorities not to go down that line and asked Ofgem to do the same. As I mentioned just moments ago, officials are actively working on this issue, with a letter ready to go to Ofgem as well. She is right to highlight this issue. We do not want to see people cut off during this cold weather. We will return to the House with more detail.

Small and Medium-sized Businesses

It is absolutely right that we direct support where we can to our SME community. We have reversed the national insurance rise, saving SMEs approximately £4,200 a year on average; provided £13.6 billion of business rates support over five years; cut fuel duty for 12 months; and raised the employment allowance to £5,000. The energy bill relief scheme is also protecting SMEs from high energy costs, as will, from April, the energy bills discount scheme.

Before Christmas I held a session with hospitality businesses in my constituency. Although they were appreciative of the energy bill relief scheme, they expressed some concern that they were not necessarily seeing it reflected in their bills. What assurances can my hon. Friend provide to ensure that companies, such as Hop and Vine in Ruislip High Street, see Government support reflected in reduced energy costs?

The £18 billion energy bill relief scheme is set out clearly in legislation, so it should be applied in a uniform way by all licensed suppliers. The regulations include a robust monitoring compliance and enforcement regime. Suppliers are required to inform customers about the details of support, including the amount of the discount and the supply price, to ensure transparency. That will also be the case with the energy bills discount scheme, which starts in April.

Many SMEs are facing increasing pressure to agree lengthy payment terms of up to 90 days as a prerequisite to securing contracts with larger firms. That has significant cash-flow implications for businesses that already operate on a tight margin. To support further SMEs such as those operating across Erewash, will my hon. Friend commit to working with Treasury colleagues to review the UK’s payment terms regulations with a view to reducing the maximum credit period, as has happened in Germany?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point. This is a very significant problem for many businesses, particularly micro-businesses. Our prompt payment and cash flow review will examine business behaviours and small business experience of late payment and long payment terms, to help ensure that the UK has arrangements in place to best support small businesses. It will include looking at the payment reporting obligations and a review of the role of the Small Business Commissioner.

Wimbledon’s clubs and pubs are at the heart of our community and, like my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (David Simmonds), several have asked me how the Government will ensure that the scheme meets the needs of hospitality. Will my hon. Friend ensure that Ofgem takes action against suppliers whose actions damage small businesses in my constituency and across London?

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. My r hon. Friend the Minister for Energy and Climate and I recently had a roundtable with energy suppliers to discuss exactly that point: ensuring that the support the Government are providing is passed on to SMEs. The energy suppliers assure us that that is happening. We have asked Ofgem to take a closer look at that and it will report back to us shortly.

Britishvolt, the once valued £3.8 billion site of national importance for the production of electric vehicle batteries in our country, is today going into administration. Does the Minister agree with me that the future of UK car manufacturing relies on UK battery production? If so, what is he going to do about it?

The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. It is important to note that we have not withdrawn any money from Britishvolt, but clearly British taxpayers’ money is important and it is important that we dispense that money in a responsible way. There are clear milestones that we expect anybody in receipt of public money to hit. We are looking at the situation very carefully to make sure that they are doing so.

In Chester, we are fortunate to have a high street full of wonderful small and medium-sized businesses. The Chancellor’s announcement of cuts to the energy bill relief scheme from April will be devastating to many of those businesses. The cost of living crisis continues, yet the support is being pulled. Does the Minister agree that businesses need support to continue driving our economy?

I do agree that we need to continue to support businesses. The £18 billion energy bill relief scheme package was very generous. We are now seeing prices moderate, which will help lots of SMEs, and particularly the high street businesses to which the hon. Lady referred. The replacement scheme—the EBDS—is another £5.5 billion of taxpayers’ money. We have to be careful in terms of balancing the books and being responsible with the public finances, but I absolutely agree that businesses need continued support, which is what they are getting from the replacement scheme and from several other measures I mentioned in my first answer.

In the next few months small businesses will, like many others, face massively increased council tax bills here in Great Britain and rates bills in Northern Ireland. Does the Minister agree that the early payment discount scheme should be looked at and revised to 4% or 5% across both domestic and non-domestic council tax and rates payers?

Most of the businesses that we deal with pay business rates rather than council tax, but we nevertheless have to make sure that the schemes are as affordable as they can be, which is why we have stepped in with £13.6 billion of business rate discounts, targeted at SMEs. We have to look at the ongoing situation and make sure that support is available, as we are doing in many different respects, not least by helping those small businesses that have premises.

AMLo Biosciences is a Newcastle University spin-out whose groundbreaking research will save lives by making cancer diagnosis easier and more accurate. AMLo spends millions on research and reinvests all its research and development tax credits into R&D. The Government’s tax credit changes will halve what AMLo can claim, meaning less research and fewer new jobs. Its investors may ask for it to move abroad, where R&D is cheaper. Many Members have similar examples in their constituencies. Will the Minister explain why the Government issued no guidance, gave no support and had no consultation on the changes to SME R&D tax credits? Does he accept that whether in respect of hospitality heating bills or spin-out science spend, the Government are abandoning small businesses?

Clearly, we have to balance the interests of the taxpayer with the interests of small business. We have to make sure that the money that is being utilised for R&D is properly spent, and there were concerns about abuse of the small business R&D scheme. It is good that the Treasury is now looking into the matter and looking to move towards a simplified universal scheme, which I would welcome and on which there is a consultation. I absolutely agree that we need to make sure we have the right support for research and development in this country, not least for SMEs.

Onshore Wind Farms

7. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of the number of onshore wind farms developed in England since 2015. (903113)

Onshore wind in the UK has been a great success. It generates 25% of our total renewables, and since 2015 around 10 onshore wind projects, totalling 30 MW, have been given consent in England. We have made it clear that onshore wind is an important part of the energy mix and that we will now need more, which is why we are consulting on making changes to the national planning policy framework in England so that local authorities can better respond to the views of their local communities when they wish to host onshore wind infrastructure.

New onshore wind has been stymied since 2015, even though it is our cheapest renewable. Shire-counties conservatism has been put ahead of our national interest; weak policy has undermined the UK’s energy security, leaving us wide open to international shocks. Does the Minister not accept that all this has helped to cause family bills to skyrocket?

In a word, no. What has caused family bills to skyrocket is the international pressure on energy supply chains, the war in Ukraine and the economic sanctions in respect of Russia. I accept the point that the costs of onshore wind have fallen dramatically through our contracts for difference round 4. This is a UK success story, which is why we are keen to do more. The public-opinion data show that 78% of the public support onshore wind. We want to make sure that we do not impose it on local authorities and are giving them more freedom to make sure they can reflect local demand so that it is renewable energy led by communities with community benefit.

Looking out from the east of my constituency, one can see a number of offshore wind farms, which are more efficient and cheaper. The Government have done really well over the past 10 years by increasing the renewable generation of electricity fivefold; does the Minister agree that that not only helps to cut emissions but pump-primes new jobs markets in the generation of clean energy around the world?

As a BEIS Minister and as an East Anglian Member of Parliament, I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. The southern North sea is becoming the Saudi Arabia of wind energy, and the Norfolk and Suffolk coast and the new hydrogen freeport at Felixstowe and Harwich are part of the way in which we are growing the infrastructure for smart advanced wind and a linked hydrogen economy in the 21st century.

Advanced Manufacturing Sector

The Government support advanced manufacturing through programmes in strategically important manufacturing sectors such as aerospace, automotives and life sciences. We have committed nearly £650 million to high-value manufacturing Catapult centres, and £200 million to the Made Smarter programme.

Pramac Generac recently acquired Off Grid Energy Ltd, a highly innovative SME based in my constituency which makes high-tech power storage solutions to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions. Will the Minister join me in welcoming the high-quality advanced manufacturing jobs that it is providing, and may I invite her to visit Rugby to see the work that it is doing to provide more resilient, sustainable, efficient energy supplies?

I welcome the invitation, and it would be remiss of me not to wish my hon. Friend a happy birthday for yesterday.

We salute the great work that is being done in this firm and others throughout the country, and welcome the jobs that they provide. This is exactly why the Government’s £1.2 billion investment was set up for high-value manufacturing centres, to help manufacturers to bring advanced technologies such as these to the market. I look forward to visiting my hon. Friend’s constituency.

Not just the advanced manufacturing sector but many sectors throughout the country struggle to recruit staff with the skills that they need. I hope the Minister will support the initiative “Work Hull. Work Happy.” Its aim is to make Hull the co-working capital of the UK by encouraging businesses up and down the country to come and recruit the remote workers that we have in the city, because people should not have to leave the place they love for the job they want.

There is nothing I could disagree with there. It is absolutely right that we focus on the skilled workforce that so many of our manufacturing sectors are struggling to recruit, and any opportunity to show and share with the skilled workforces, or even help them to “skill up”, is welcome news.

Fuel Poverty

The latest statistics, published in February 2022, show that 3.2 million households in England were fuel poor in 2020. Updated estimates are due to be published next month. Fuel-poor households can benefit from schemes including the energy company obligation, the local authority delivery scheme and the home upgrade grant, which will help them to improve the energy efficiency of their homes.

According to the Fuel Poverty Monitor released by National Energy Action today, from next April onwards the number of households in fuel poverty in the UK could reach 8.4 million. What additional targeted support will the Government provide for those on the lowest incomes—particularly those who are not receiving benefits—when the energy price guarantee increases to £3,000 in April?

The Government are committed to tackling fuel poverty, and I welcome the work of National Energy Action, which published its Fuel Poverty Monitor today to highlight the difficult situation in which many households have found themselves. Just as we provided support during covid, we are providing it now. I believe that the report looked fundamentally at means-tested benefits, pensioners and those with disabilities. The Government have committed £26 billion for 2023-24, including £900 for households on means-tested benefits, £300 for pensioners and £150 for those with disabilities, as well as an extra £1 billion to allow the extension of the household support fund. However, I know that we will continue to do more.

Today a group of nearly 100 charities and other organisations, co-ordinated by Scope, wrote to the Chancellor calling for a social energy tariff to help low-income and vulnerable older and disabled households to heat their homes. A survey for Age UK suggests that 24% of over-60s are living in homes that are colder than they would like, rising to 27% for older people with a disability. Will the Minister commit herself to giving serious consideration to targeted support for those groups?

As I listed earlier—I do not wish to test the patience of the Speaker—we have focused on targeted support, but I also remind the House of the local authority delivery, which is focused on low income households and those homes that need energy efficiency upgrades. They have a grant ability of £787 million to provide the support that is needed. That is on top of the £26 billion that I mentioned earlier for 2023-24.

Energy Transition Projects: Scotland

The Government remain firmly committed to the low carbon industry across the UK, including Scotland. Our landmark North sea transition deal will support the offshore oil and gas sector, including its supply chain, for the delivery of low carbon hydrogen production and carbon capture, usage and storage.

Former mining communities such as my own in Midlothian contributed so much to the economy through our mining history, but for many years they have been left behind after the pits were closed. New opportunities are now widely available, especially in coalfield communities, so will the Minister commit to a clear road map to fast-track more geothermal energy projects and to use mine water energy to help in production, particularly to help regenerate coalfield communities across the nations of the UK?

We will continue to provide as much support as we can to ensure we are helping emerging technologies in the renewable sector, but the North sea transition deal will support 40,000 high quality direct and indirect supply chain jobs, and also generate up to £14 billion to £16 billion of investment up to 2030. This is good support and investment that is being provided to these communities.

Of course we all welcome the ongoing development and implementation of renewable and low carbon sources of energy, not only in Scotland but right across the United Kingdom, and especially in my constituency of Banff and Buchan, including carbon capture and storage, net zero thermal energy and a range of other sources, but could the Minister explain why the awarding of new oil and gas licences and producing our own domestic hydrocarbons is not at all inconsistent with our net zero objectives?

I think it is only being seen as inconsistent with some of the proposals provided by the Scottish Government. We will be investing £1 billion to support carbon capture and storage in four industrial clusters by 2030. My hon. Friend is absolutely right: for us to have an energy mix, we need oil and gas and we need it here in the UK, because obviously there is less of a carbon footprint if we are not shipping it in.

For a real energy mix we need dispatchable energy such as pumped storage hydro, and in Scotland we have such schemes ready to go, including Coire Glas, Cruachan and Red John, which between them could generate 2.5 GW of power—almost the same as a new power station but at a fraction of the cost. In the BEIS Committee, the Secretary of State told me that he had met representatives of SSE to discuss Coire Glas—a meeting so memorable that SSE does not seem to know anything about it. When are this Government going to get a grip and meet the industry to agree a route to market for pumped storage hydro?

I think the hon. Member is incorrect. I believe that the Secretary of State did indeed hold that meeting. What I find extraordinary is that the hon. Member will look at the energy mix but exclude nuclear, for example. We need to have everything in our energy mix, and the work that we are doing in the UK has shown that we are going on the right path. Our low carbon electricity sources such as solar, wind, and hydrogen, alongside nuclear, generated over 50% of the UK’s energy last year in February, May, October, November, and December, I believe, so we do have a path forward.

The reality about nuclear is that there is not one successful evolutionary power reactor—EPR—project in the world. Hinckley is a disaster and Sizewell C will not happen in time, if it happens at all. On the energy mix, the UK Government’s inaction has blocked pumped storage hydro, onshore wind was blocked for years in Scotland and we have had the rug pulled from under the feet of the Peterhead carbon capture project three times now. When will this Government finally support and give the go-ahead for the Acorn cluster, which is vital for reducing emissions in Scotland and the UK? Is not this cap-in-hand approach proof that Scotland has energy but not the power?

Order. The Minister must let the hon. Gentleman finish before she goes to the Dispatch Box. I cannot have both of you on your feet at the same time.

Forgive me, Mr Speaker. Just to clarify, the Secretary of State did meet that individual at COP. Within the hon. Member’s few sentences, I will address the issue of Acorn, which was a sensible point. The promise of Government is to progress carbon capture, usage and storage at pace, and Acorn submitted a bid into the track 1 sequencing process, forming the reserve cluster. Should either of the track 1 clusters not be able to deliver, we would call on the Scottish cluster instead.

Energy Bills Support Scheme: Alternative Funding

13. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of the energy bills support scheme alternative funding. (903119)

The energy bills support scheme alternative funding will provide £400 of credit to around 900,000 households without a direct relationship with an electricity supplier. This matches the energy bills support scheme in Great Britain, which is automatically delivering the discount to 29 million households.

My constituency is home to a number of residents who are waiting for the energy bills support scheme alternative funding. Despite the Government confirming alternative funding on 1 April 2022, not a penny has been paid to date. Why is this taking so long? When do the Government estimate the first payment will be received?

I share the hon. Gentleman’s frustration. It is complicated. We do not live in a database society, so finding and identifying these people without putting public money at risk has been challenging. I am delighted to say, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier, that a pilot programme using the Government portal, and a telephone support service for those who struggle to access the portal, went live yesterday. We aim to have the portal open at the end of the month. If all goes well with the pilot, payments will be processed by local authorities and will go out as soon as possible in February, and certainly this winter. That is our aspiration.

I am afraid the Government are testing the patience of park home owners in my constituency. I have previously asked the Minister whether he can confirm that payments will be made directly to park home owners, rather than park home operators. Can he confirm that point, and that payments will be made as a block sum? Or will they be paid monthly, as per the standard programme?

I have spoken on a number of occasions with my hon. Friend, and with colleagues on both sides of the House, about making sure these residents are not forgotten. We have worked hard to make sure we have a system that can stand up and deliver. We give the funding to local authorities and, as soon as they have gone through the process and made the necessary verifications for the payment to go out, a single payment will be paid directly into the bank accounts of the people concerned.

Floating Offshore Wind Manufacturing Investment Scheme

14. When he plans to make an announcement on the floating offshore wind manufacturing investment scheme. (903120)

BEIS is currently processing the information it was provided through the request for information process that ran over the summer, in which there was significant interest. We will set out the next steps on the floating offshore wind manufacturing investment scheme in due course.

I thank the BEIS team for attending last week’s reception held by the all-party parliamentary group on the Celtic sea. As they heard at the reception, sustained investment is needed in a number of ports across the region to ensure that we harness the full opportunity of floating offshore wind in the Celtic sea and meet the ambition of 50 GW of flow by 2050. Can my hon. Friend confirm that steps are being taken to invest in ports across the region?

My hon. Friend was welcome to host BEIS colleagues at her event. BEIS recognises the potential for floating offshore wind in the Celtic sea region. Following the request for information, BEIS is continuing to engage with ports on their development plans to understand their investment needs in more detail. I know she has liaised and corresponded with the Energy Minister, and a letter is winging its way to her.

Although the Government are rightly considering the advantages that can be gained from rural and offshore renewable energy, will the Minister also consider the possibility of using tidal power, and particularly tidal turbines? The United Kingdom has the biggest tidal range on Earth after Canada, and we are using nearly none of it. Is it not time to consider this innovative technology? Will she meet me and those seeking to get tidal energy out of Morecambe bay?

I believe that the largest number of contract for difference licences were awarded to tidal, and the Energy Minister will be more than happy to meet the hon. Gentleman.

Postal Services

Ofcom has a duty to ensure the provision of a financially sustainable and efficient universal postal service. Ofcom oversees Royal Mail’s contingency plans to mitigate disruption to universal postal services, and it continues to closely monitor Royal Mail’s performance.

Does the Minister share my deep concerns about the creeping increased shareholding in Royal Mail by Vesa Equity Investment, a company whose chief executive, Daniel Křetínský, has close ties to Russia? What guarantees can the Minister give about the future of our cherished, 500-year-old Royal Mail?

As I say, we have no plans to change the universal service requirements of the postal service. This Government are proud of their credentials on foreign direct investment, and we encourage foreign investment into this country. I notice from the global chief executive officer survey today that the UK is third in the world in terms of the places where people want to invest, and we want to make sure that that continues. We looked at this matter from a national security perspective and we did not feel there was an issue, so we welcome that investment.

Sadly, a long-established post office will be closing in my constituency in November, owing to an expansion of the pharmacy there, which is a success story. Many businesses locally, including the council, are desperate to take on a post office franchise. Will the Minister meet me to make sure we can secure Rochester’s having a post office after November?

Of course I will meet my hon. Friend; I have suffered closures of post offices in my constituency, so I know how difficult this is. We are committed to maintaining a network of 11,500 post office outlets and making sure that 99% of the population are within 3 miles of a post office. I am keen to meet her to see what we can do in this instance.

Maintaining the universal service obligation as affordable and accessible for all, ensuring a fair deal for workers and improving the service by Royal Mail are what it will take to ensure the quality of postal services that our constituents need and deserve. Astonishingly, last year the International Distributions Services board led the company to losses of £1 million a day, just six months after reporting huge profits and paying out £567 million in dividends and the share buy-back, putting at risk the stability needed to modernise and keep Britain’s Royal Mail competitive. Is this not so clearly the result of mismanagement at the highest level, and is it not now time for an inquiry into the actions of the board and the CEO and the risks facing the postal service?

The Royal Mail is facing a difficult year—there is no doubt about it. One reason quoted in the update from the Regulatory News Service—this is a regulator-issued news bulletin, so it has to be accurate—on why the company has gone from a profit to a loss was the industrial action by the Communication Workers Union, which is putting tremendous strain on the Royal Mail and its customers, many of whom are going elsewhere, and indeed on the post office network. Will the hon. Lady condemn the fact that this is causing extra difficulties for the Royal Mail and some of these financial problems?

Topical Questions

On Thursday, I will be flying our flag on the global stage for the CBI in Davos, making sure the world knows that Britain is the place to invest. At the World Economic Forum, I will be setting out a bold vision to scale up Britain, backing British business, empowering our entrepreneurs and driving disruption.

Will my right hon. Friend give further detail on whether the Government think that the non-domestic energy support package will help to provide a level playing field for British steelmakers?

My hon. Friend, who has done more than many others to fight for and support steel in her constituency, is right to highlight the energy bills discount scheme, but other schemes, including the one I was talking about, the energy-intensive industries scheme, where we have the consultation to take the level up to 100%, may in the end be much more meaningful. I want to assure her, Opposition Members and the whole House that the Government are very focused on this issue.

Tomorrow, the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill comes back before us. It will see vital employment rights such as holiday pay, TUPE and maternity protections scrapped at the end of this year if Ministers do not act. Labour Members believe in strong employment protections, so will the Government vote with us tomorrow to ensure that those vital rights are saved?

There is absolutely no truth whatsoever in this idea that employment rights, environmental rights or other rights will be scrapped, and the sooner the Opposition stop peddling this stuff the better.

The levelling-up White Paper outlined that the new UK shared prosperity fund will support interventions that reinforce the Government’s commitment to net zero by 2050. That includes £2.6 billion of funding for investment in places, including for community infrastructure projects.

The calls that we have already heard to take action to support people on prepayment meters are echoed by more than 40 Members of both Houses on the all-party parliamentary group on fuel poverty and energy efficiency. They, too, are calling for a ban on forced installation of prepayment meters by court warrant and an end to unfair standing charges and price differentials. It is not good enough just to hear nice words from the Government; they have to require action from the energy suppliers.

We agree that the most vulnerable consumers in this country should be protected. Those duties already lie with Ofgem. I shall repeat what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier: it is completely unacceptable that vulnerable patients leave hospital and find that they have been automatically disconnected. We are convening a roundtable meeting and my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State and the Minister for Energy and Climate are putting pressure on Ofgem to make sure that vulnerable consumers are looked after.

T4.   Wimbledon is one of the best places for young diverse entrepreneurs to start up. The recent London Chamber of Commerce and Industry report suggested that there were problems and additional problems for those entrepreneurs to access finance. What exactly are the Government doing to make sure that access to finance is open to as many people as possible? (903101)

The UK, including Wimbledon, is one of the best places in the world to start a business, as evidenced by the OECD report. My hon. Friend is right to raise the issue of access to finance, particularly for diverse groups. The Start-Up Loans Company has provided £1 billion of loans to around 100,000 businesses, including £2 million of loans to businesses in his constituency, and 40% of those loans go to people from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background.

There is an inconsistency in how the public sector is required to report greenhouse gas emissions. That makes it difficult to keep a track on progress as we approach net zero, and difficult for citizens to hold the public sector to account on delivery. What is the Minister doing to rectify that so that we can keep a proper track on what is happening?

May I take this opportunity, on behalf of the Department, to thank the hon. Member and the Public Accounts Committee for their report, to which we will very shortly reply? I am delighted to say that the public sector has reduced emissions by 44% since 1990 and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy by 70% since 2010. We appreciate her Committee’s point that the data—the metrics—have to be clear and coherent, and we are taking that on board.

T5. To help promote energy security and to protect the planet, what steps is the Minister taking to reduce UK energy demand by the 15% target by 2030? (903102)

My hon. Friend rightly highlights the target set by the Chancellor to reduce by 15% demand across our energy system. The energy efficiency taskforce is being established, with my colleague Lord Callanan as co-chairman. We will be taking a number of steps, alongside the additional £6 billion in 2025-28, on top of the £6.5 billion being spent on energy efficiency in this Parliament.

I am grateful to the Minister for Energy and Climate and his officials for their work on rolling out the energy payments in Northern Ireland, which started this week. Will he reassure us that he will continue to work very closely on the roll-out with the energy companies and the advice sector, ensuring that photographic ID issues and potential changes of address by property occupiers and park home owners are addressed so that everyone across Northern Ireland receives help, particularly the most vulnerable?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question and for so assiduously pressing the case, along with his colleagues, for Northern Ireland residents. I am delighted to see payments going out automatically to direct debit payers, and vouchers going out to others. He is quite right to focus on this. Suppliers have worked with the Post Office in trying to make sure that the right instructions are going out alongside the vouchers to help people get through this. To avoid scammers, I encourage people to go to the Post Office and, ideally, get this paid into a bank account. That will be £600 for every household and family in Northern Ireland, which will help at this time.

T6. What action is the Secretary of State taking to deal with the large number of house fires arising now because of malfunctioning solar panels? (903103)

Obviously, management of safety is not something for which I am directly responsible, but I am happy to follow up with my hon. Friend. I always thank him for giving me prior notice, which of course he did not do today.

The Secretary of State is well known for his airbrushing skills, but he cannot airbrush the fact that, of the top 10 economies in the world, the UK is the only one with a declining steel industry. When is he going to sit down with Tata Steel and the other businesses to do a deal on green steel for the future of our workforce?

We are working with the whole steel industry across the UK and regularly hold meetings. I do not think the question was posed in an appropriate way, because we are doing a huge amount of work to support the steel sector, including providing £800 million since 2013. We have provided a package of relief support for non-domestic users throughout this winter worth £18 billion. The report published by the BEIS Committee, which I previously sat on, also mentioned that any earlier bail-out for Liberty Steel, in particular, would not have been good value for taxpayers’ money.

T7. Last week I visited Duftons Plumbing & Heating Supplies, a leading local firm, and its tie-up with Daikin UK, a heat pump manufacturer. The importance of having trained engineers locally available to advise customers and install green heating technologies was clear. Will my right hon. Friend please advise what support there is for training those new skills? (903104)

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the need for skills and training if we are to meet our ambitious net zero targets. On 20 September, the Government launched the latest phase of the £9.2 million home decarbonisation skills training competition, which will fund training for people working in the energy efficiency, retrofit and low-carbon heating sectors in England. We are confident that there is enough training capacity to meet demand for heat pump upskilling as heat pump deployment increases.

The UK imports all medical radioisotopes used for treatment and diagnosis, mostly from European facilities that are due to close down by 2030. What assessment has the Secretary of State made of the need to ensure security of supply of nuclear medicines?

As the life sciences Minister I can say that we are working extensively with the industry to ensure that we have good equipment in our supply chains. I am not particularly aware of this situation, but I am happy to have a meeting or write to the right hon. Lady to see what exactly the problem is.

T8. The UK is a hub of privately driven research and development. I am proud that my Bracknell constituency is the silicon valley of the Thames valley and the home of fantastic companies such as 3M, Dell, Honda and Panasonic, which is also great for local employment. What steps are being taken to encourage more international R&D investment into the UK? (903105)

My hon. Friend makes a good point. We have the groundbreaking commitment to move from £15 billion to £20 billion a year of investment in public R&D over this comprehensive spending review, the creation of the National Science and Technology Council, the recent launch of our international science partnership fund, the ISPF, which I announced in Japan with a first tranche of £119 million, a series of strategic bilats and multilats, and, of course, our £7 billion ring-fenced for Horizon for three years—if we cannot deploy it through Horizon, we will deploy it in other ways to support UK R&D.

I recently wrote to all the major energy companies to ask about the shameful practice of obtaining warrants to forcibly install prepayment meters. The responses showed a lottery across all the companies, but British Gas told me that 7,500 warrants were obtained in 2020. That jumped to 24,500 last year, and one court in the north of England approved 496 warrants in three minutes. Ofgem has proven incapable of dealing with this scandal; when will the Government act?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for this question and for the numerous parliamentary questions he has also tabled, highlighting the need to ensure that vulnerable customers, including those on prepayment meters, are treated properly by suppliers. Where customers are not treated properly, those suppliers are in breach of their licensing conditions from Ofgem, which, as he knows, has investigated that matter, has found the suppliers wanting and is taking compliance action now. I share his frustration, as does the Secretary of State, to ensure that the system not only does what it says on the tin, but delivers in practice for people, including his constituents and mine.

T9.   After the price of energy, the second most common complaint from local businesses in Amber Valley is that they cannot work out how the tariff that they are quoted bears any relation to the wholesale price and the cap. They then cannot work out why all the additional charges are now, for no obvious reason, a multiple of many times what they were a year ago. Can the Minister ask Ofgem to cut down on those practices so that businesses can see a fair and transparent price that cannot be altered halfway through the year? (903106)

It is important to differentiate between the domestic market, which is much more heavily regulated and for which, of course, we have the energy price cap, and the non-domestic market, which is much more complicated and for which we have not felt that a one-size-fits-all approach would work. But my hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight issues where companies do not behave in the right way. That is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I are working with Ofgem to ensure that it fulfils its obligations. It may not be fully regulated in the same way, but it has licensed conditions and it needs to fulfil them.

Will the Minister confirm that post offices, which are at the heart of our community, will receive support for their energy bills so that they can continue to function for the rest of the community?

Post offices, like all non-domestic businesses and institutions, will benefit from the new energy price discount scheme, which follows the energy bill relief scheme, as announced by the Chancellor.

My right hon. Friend the Energy Minister is more than aware of the deep anger in my constituency and across the east of England about National Grid’s green proposals to put pylons across the whole of East Anglia. Will he give clear assurances that the Government will work proactively to explore offshore grid options—an alternative, basically—to deliver more resilience and capacity, and to protect our countryside?

I thank my right hon. Friend who, along with colleagues, has been assiduous in championing constituents’ interests and making sure that no infrastructure that imposes a burden on constituents goes in if it is not necessary. I am pleased to say that we have launched the £100 million offshore co-ordination support scheme, which provides funding to ensure a more co-ordinated approach. Although we recognise that we cannot forcibly change some contracts, we can—including with that funding—encourage developers to look at doing their infrastructure in the way that has the least negative impact on her constituents.

Last year, a pay transparency came into law in Colorado. It requires employers to publish the salary range when they advertise for jobs, saving considerable amounts of time, and sometimes costs, for would-be employees. Would such a common-sense rule not be good for British job applicants and employers, too?

That is an interesting point. We are looking at pay reporting, especially in larger companies. We want to minimise the burden of regulation on smaller companies, of course, but the hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point, and we will have a close look at it.

My right hon. Friend knows only too well our energy triple challenge of keeping the bills down, keeping the lights on and decarbonising. As chairman of the 1922 Backbench committee on Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, I draw his attention to the fact that we have just published a report on the future of energy. In my humble opinion, the report is packed full of incisive and actionable policy suggestions. May I invite him to meet me and my vice-chairs to discuss it and the implications for his Department?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right in her analysis: I have not yet read her report but I look forward to receiving a personalised copy of it, and I certainly look forward to meeting her, alongside the Minister for Energy and Climate, my right hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart).

The west midlands has the highest fuel poverty in the country. How many west midlands homes will benefit from the new energy company obligation plus scheme when it comes online this year? Will the figure be nearer 4,000 or 20,000 homes?

I will write to the hon. Gentleman as I do not have those numbers to hand. I am delighted that we have gone from just 14% of homes being rated EPC C or above in 2010 to more than 46% now. That is not enough, but we have transformed the situation of UK housing stock that we inherited from Labour.

Police Conduct and David Carrick

Before I call the Home Secretary to make her statement, I remind Members of the sub judice rule. [Interruption.] Please, this is very important for all of us. In deciding how to apply the sub judice rule, I have to balance the public interest of the House considering matters of policy and public concern as soon as possible and the public interest in respecting the respective roles of Parliament and the courts. One of the purposes of the rule is to prevent the House even appearing to exert pressure on judicial decisions. This is why the rule applies until sentencing. Even though there has been a guilty plea, the sub judice rule applies in the case of David Carrick, except to the extent I have permitted reference to the case to give context to the statement. In particular, Members should concentrate on policy issues and avoid speculation about sentencing. I now call the Home Secretary.

With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on misconduct and vetting in the Metropolitan Police Service following the horrific David Carrick case, and I thank you for your statement.

Yesterday was a dark day for British policing and the Metropolitan police, as an officer admitted being responsible for a monstrous campaign of abuse. I am sure the whole House will want to join me in expressing sympathy to the victims and in thanking them for their courage in coming forward. It is intolerable for them to have suffered as they have. They were manipulated and isolated, and subjected to horrific abuse. For anyone to have gone through such torment is harrowing, but for it to have happened at the hands of someone they entrusted to keep people safe is almost beyond comprehension. The victims have shown extraordinary strength and courage. Their testimonies were essential in ensuring that Carrick faces justice for his crimes. It is thanks to them that this vile predator has been taken off our streets, and the public are safer as a result.

The police perform a unique and critical function in our society. Every day, thousands of decent, hard-working police officers perform their duties with the utmost professionalism. They feel pride in putting on their uniform and want only the best for the communities they serve. I know that they will share our collective disgust that a fellow officer could be responsible for such a despicable betrayal of everything that they stand for. It is imperative that this cannot happen again, so I am grateful for Lady Elish Angiolini’s assurance that she will look at this heinous case as part of her inquiry.

From the moment I became Home Secretary, I have made it clear that things have to change. Public trust is precious. Our model of policing by consent cannot work effectively without it. I discussed this case yesterday with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, and I am encouraged by the action he has taken so far with his team to root out officers who are not fit to wear the badge. This effort is being spearheaded by a new anti-corruption and abuse command, but there is still some way to go to ensure that the force can command the trust of the people that it serves.

It is vital that the Metropolitan police and other forces double down on their efforts to root out corrupt officers. This may mean more shocking cases come to light in the short term. It is a matter of the utmost importance that there are robust processes in place to stop the wrong people joining the police in the first place, which is why the Government have invested in improving recruitment processes and supporting vetting as part of the more than £3 billion that we have provided for the police uplift programme. I expect this work to continue at pace, and for all chief constables to prioritise delivery of the recommendations made by the police inspectorate’s recent report on vetting, counter-corruption and misogyny.

It is now for the Metropolitan police to demonstrate that they have an effective plan in place to rapidly improve their vetting processes. Much of the impetus for change must come from within policing, but this Government will continue leading from the front. As I have made clear, we are bringing forward part 2 of the Angiolini inquiry to make recommendations on how forces can improve culture and tackle the root causes of police criminality and misconduct. The inquiry was established by the then Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel). I pay tribute to her commitment and leadership on these critical issues.

As well as ensuring that vetting processes are watertight, there must be fair and effective arrangements for dealing with those who behave or act in a wholly unacceptable way while serving. Baroness Casey recently identified concerns about the misconduct and dismissals process within the Metropolitan police: it takes too long, it does not command the confidence of police officers and it is procedurally burdened. Bureaucracy and process appear to have prevailed over ethics and common sense. That is why I have announced an internal review into police dismissals. The review’s terms of reference are being published today.

This case will rightly throw a spotlight once again on women’s safety. No one should suffer abuse or feel frightened or harassed, whether they are at home, out and about or online. We are taking concerted action to prevent violence against women, support victims and survivors, relentlessly pursue perpetrators and strengthen the system as a whole.

On rape specifically, we are focused on delivering improvements across the board, so that victims get the support they deserve and cases are pursued rigorously from report to court. There have been some important steps forward since the publication of the rape review in 2021. The number of referrals and charges has increased nationally, while new operating models for the investigation and prosecution of rape are being developed through Operation Soteria.

None of that can undo the suffering of Carrick’s victims, but I assure the House that this Government will not shy away from challenging the police to meet the standards we all expect of them. Change must happen and, as Home Secretary, I will do everything in my power to ensure that it does. I commend this statement to the House.

This is a truly shocking and appalling case, and I welcome the statement today. A serving police officer has admitted to some of the most serious and devastating crimes. I join the Home Secretary in paying tribute to the bravery of the victims who have come forward, but we must face up to the further evidence that this case has brought up of appalling failures in the police’s vetting and misconduct processes, which are still not being addressed by the Government and are not addressed in this statement. Given the scale of the problems not just in this case but in previous cases, the Home Secretary’s statement is very weak and shows a serious lack of leadership on something that is so grave and that affects confidence in policing as well as serious crimes.

We have seen repeated failures by serving police officers to respond to or take seriously allegations of violence against women by a serving police officer. Allegations of domestic abuse have not been taken seriously in the vetting processes. In this case, there was a failure to suspend David Carrick when rape allegations were made in July 2021, even though the Met police knew there had been domestic abuse allegations two years previously. A misconduct process concluded that there was no case to answer, despite the repeated alarms raised. A full vetting check was not triggered, and David Carrick’s permission to carry firearms was restored.

Most shocking of all is that this happened at the height of the alarm about Wayne Couzens and the deeply disturbing murder of Sarah Everard. This undermines confidence for women and for victims but also for police officers who are working so hard—especially women police officers, who may themselves have reported misogynistic abuse, and officers who are doing excellent work every day to tackle violence against women and girls and know that confidence in that work is being undermined.

We support the new Met Commissioner’s determination to take action, but this is not just about the Met. Concerns about misogyny and culture have been raised in Sussex, Hampshire, Derbyshire, Gwent, Police Scotland and other forces. There has been a lack of leadership from the Government on police standards for years. After the truly appalling murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer, Home Office Ministers promised change. The then Home Secretary promised to set up processes that would prevent this from happening again, and that has badly failed.

There are still no legal requirements on vetting. Forces can effectively do what they want. They do not even have to check employment history and character references, and some do not. They do not even have to interview people beforehand. When the inspectorate came up with the damning conclusion that hundreds, if not thousands, of police officers who should have failed vetting are still in the job, including corrupt and predatory officers and officers who have committed offences of indecent exposure and domestic abuse, the Policing Minister refused to even make it a requirement for police forces to follow the recommendations of the inspectorate. They just shrugged and said that it was a matter for police forces to follow. There has been no response to make it compulsory to follow vetting guidance or to follow the reforms.

All we have in this statement is a continuation of the existing Angiolini review and a new review on dismissals. I welcome that new review, because there are concerns that the dismissals process has become more difficult and worse since well-intended reforms were introduced that have not worked as intended, but it was announced in October, and it still has not started. All the Home Secretary has done is re-announce it today. The Home Secretary has dismissed as “woke” some of the things that police forces have been doing to tackle misogyny, increase diversity and improve their response to communities and to crime, even though they are about tackling some of the most serious crimes.

It is also about how seriously Ministers take tackling violence against women and girls more broadly. We know that the charge rate for rape has dropped to a shameful 1.5%—it has dropped by two thirds over the last seven years. Again, Home Office Ministers promised that tackling violence against women and girls would become part of the compulsory strategic policing requirement. It has been reported that that has not happened. Can the Home Secretary confirm that, nine months after Ministers announced it, she has not made it a strategic policing requirement to prioritise violence against women and girls?

After the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving officer, Labour called for change. After the horrific murders of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, Labour called for leadership. After the shameful case of Child Q, Labour called for reform. After the shocking Charing Cross station report, Labour demanded action. After the Stephen Port inquiry, Labour called for reform. After the cases right across the country of abuse and misogyny, Labour has demanded change. Conservative Ministers promised that action would be taken, but they have failed to do so.

Labour will change the law. Labour will overhaul the vetting, misconduct and standards system, because it is time for change. We are letting down police officers across the country who do excellent work and are being let down by these failures in the system. Most of all, women are being let down. It is too late for all the warm words in the Home Secretary’s statement. What is she actually going to do to make sure that standards are raised?

It is disappointing that the shadow Home Secretary has resorted to cheap political lines; I do not think that today is a day for political attacks. There is a human tragedy at the heart of this case, and ultimately, politics should be set aside. I am willing to work with anybody—the inspectorate; the politician with overriding responsibility for the Met police, who is a Labour politician, Sadiq Khan; all the chief constables; and everybody in the Chamber—to bring about change and safety, and to improve standards in our police forces around the country.

That is why I support the Met Commissioner’s statement yesterday, in which he accepted that there were failings. There is no question about that: there were failings in the system when it came to vetting and checking, and there were failures by the Met police. It is clear that culture and standards in the police need to change, which is why I will not shy away from challenging chief constables around the country on the standards that they uphold and instil in their individual forces.

Police constables and police leaders have all accepted the recommendations set out in the inspectorate’s comprehensive report, which was commissioned by the Government in response to Sarah Everard’s murder to look more closely at the procedures that have been put in place and how well they have been working when it comes to vetting, checking, monitoring and disciplinary processes related to policing. That report clearly identified several concerns and failings in policing, and made recommendations, the bulk of which were aimed at police constables, the College of Policing, and the National Policing Board.

All those recommendations have been accepted and we are closely monitoring the delivery of those improvements in rigour and standards when it comes to the entry processes, vetting and checking for new recruits to policing. We have also ensured that Lady Angiolini will look more closely into the culture of policing so that we can better implement and deliver systems that will root out misogyny, predatory behaviour, sexual assault or any other offensive behaviour that might lead to criminal activity within policing.

Let me be clear, however, that I am proud of the Government’s track record on supporting women and girls in the criminal justice system. We put in place the groundbreaking Operation Soteria around the country to improve practices when it comes to the police investigation of rape and serious sexual offences in the prosecution and court resolution phases. We are already seeing signs of improvement when it comes to supporting victims of those heinous crimes through our criminal justice system. We also introduced a raft of new offences, such as on upskirting, stalking, female genital mutilation and forced marriage, to better protect women and girls in society, and our landmark Domestic Abuse Act 2021, which expanded the definition and protections available to victims of domestic abuse. I am proud of the leadership and initiative that we have demonstrated when it comes to standing up for women and girls.

We will not be complacent, however, because of course we can go further and do more. I am keen to focus on the solutions and move forward, so that we do not see repeated incidents and tragedies, such as the one that we are talking about today.

There is no doubt that it is a sorry, and in fact tragic, state of affairs that the House has convened to discuss this issue again today. The Home Secretary will fully recognise that reviews have been commissioned since 2021, which led to the Angiolini inquiry, and obviously this will feature in part 2. It would be welcome if the Home Secretary would explain how that will work and when it will report. Since then, we have had not only the Angiolini work, but the Louise Casey review, which was damning, and the inspectorate’s report, which, I am afraid, was also damning on a raft of issues, such as security, vetting, misogyny, practices and the whole culture of policing, as mentioned by the shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper).

The recommendations are already there. In fact, if I may say so to the Home Secretary, previous Policing Ministers and I put forward proper recommendations for the strategic policing requirement. There are issues that could be resolved so that people could be held to account sooner rather than later through that requirement. I urge her to consider, particularly after the tragic cases that we have heard about in relation to the Carrick incident and his victims, putting much of that on to a statutory footing. If we do not, we will be here again and again to pay tribute to victims while, frankly, parts of the law enforcement system continue to fail the British public and fail victims.

I reiterate my thanks and tribute to my right hon. Friend for her leadership when she was in this role. She led from the front in the fight to protect women and girls and to uphold their safety. Lady Elish Angiolini has confirmed that she will consider the Carrick case in her inquiry and, as I mentioned, part 2 will be brought forward. We expect it to provide an examination of the wider issues in policing, such as culture, vetting and the safety of women, which are relevant to the appalling case that we have heard about this week. I confirm that violence against women and girls will be included in the strategic policing requirement.

I thank the Home Secretary for her statement and I put on record the SNP’s tribute to the victims in this case for their bravery in the face of ongoing trauma.

The charges that have been brought against David Carrick are incredibly disturbing—49 charges, including 24 counts of rape against 12 women over two decades, with accounts of domestic violence and coercive control. Through that, the Met has sought to protect its own, which is also incredibly disturbing and has led the former Victims’ Commissioner Dame Vera Baird to question the commitment to culture change at Scotland Yard.

It has been reported that the Met is checking back through 1,633 cases of alleged sexual offences involving 1,071 officers in the past decade. What retrospective action does the Home Secretary expect from that review? It should be a worry to all of us that those officers are still out there in their jobs, and that we may face what David Carrick reportedly told women when he flashed his warrant card: “I’m a police officer, you’re safe with me”—a chilling prospect. How does she intend to ensure that the review is thoroughly carried out? What updates can the House expect?

Lady Elish Angiolini has worked with Police Scotland to improve standards on this, and work is ongoing in Scotland too. How can women and people with vulnerabilities have the confidence that, if something happens to them while they are in London, the Met will respond in a proper way that respects their dignity?

The hon. Lady asks a series of good questions. To give more detail about the Met Commissioner’s commitments to strengthen the procedures, there is already a strengthening of the vetting of officers; an active review of historical cases is ongoing, where there may be a flag on the system for domestic incidents; and a data washing process is ongoing to ensure that the Met’s data is being very extensively checked against rigorously managed national databases. That is all being led by a new anti-corruption and abuse command unit, which is instilling an institutionally higher standard of managing and overseeing the important issue of vetting.

Apparently Carrick was known as “Bastard Dave” by his colleagues, in the same way as Wayne Couzens was known as “the rapist”, but alarm bells were not rung. The most worrying aspect of this is the culture of cover-up and complacency that has allowed such abuse to happen on an industrial scale by certain individuals—in this case, for 17 years.

When the new Met Commissioner appeared before the Home Affairs Committee, we were encouraged that he expressed his determination to root out that mindset and those offenders. I ask the Home Secretary to comment specifically on his queries and concerns, however, about the difficulty of sacking officers; about why professional standards are not investigating more of those cases; that it is not suitable to put officers who have been accused of serious offences on to light duties—they should be fully suspended—and that there should be a duty of care for whistleblowing. What urgent action will she now take on those issues to restore some confidence, particularly in the Met and especially among women?

My hon. Friend raises a very good point about the disciplinary process. Indeed, Sir Mark Rowley himself has spoken at length—not just at the Select Committee, but more broadly—about the challenges he has faced in trying to dismiss patently inappropriate officers. He has come up against a heavily bureaucratic process that is not working, and that is why I have today launched a review into the process of police officer dismissals. I want to ensure that we have a fair and effective system for removing those officers who are simply not fit to serve.

This case, which has rightly shocked the nation, is yet another appalling example of systematic failures within the police to confront male violence against women and girls, and the sexist culture that exists within the police. Again and again, the Home Affairs Committee has heard evidence of how weak or non-existent vetting and misconduct processes have allowed violent male officers to continue harassing and abusing women—not just in London, but in forces across the country.

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has, as I understand it, made specific demands of the Home Secretary in relation to changes to the dismissal of officers, so could she just update the House as to what she is going to do about those specific requests, and why do we need a review when it is quite clear—from the recommendations of His Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and the reports that the Home Affairs Committee has produced—what needs to be done? We do not need another review; we just need action.

It is important that we look closely at exactly what is happening in the police misconduct process. Concerns have been raised—not only by Baroness Casey, but by Sir Mark Rowley—and what I want to do is ensure that we have a system that is fit for purpose. For example, concerns have been raised about the presence of legally qualified chairs, who are somehow applying a quasi-judicial approach to a system that should be much more akin to an internal human resources disciplinary approach. That has so far been highlighted as not being fit for purpose; not fit for achieving the goal, which we all want, of empowering chief constables to make decisions on disciplinary matters and for those to be sustained.

Well, here we are again—it feels like groundhog day—questioning one of the Ministers in a Government I support about the culture within the Metropolitan Police Service. What is going to change? I listened carefully to the Home Secretary as she listed the new offences that this Government are putting on the statute book for protecting women and combatting male violence against women and girls, but the real challenge is the culture towards women that exists within our police service and throughout our criminal justice system. Can I just repeat the question asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel): when are we really going to fully use statutory power to protect women from male violence?

My hon. Friend raises a good point about police culture, which is why we need to ensure that we have a good analysis of exactly what that means. We have some important findings from the inspectorate, and also from Baroness Casey—her findings are interim, not final—which set out serious concerns about the police culture that is leading to pockets of this unacceptable behaviour. We have already commissioned the Angiolini inquiries, and we must let those run their course, and on the basis of those robust findings we will be able to take the right action to ensure that this kind of behaviour is rooted out, that these kinds of individuals are not allowed into the police force in the first place, and that we can better protect the public and restore their confidence in policing.

I thank the Home Secretary for her statement. I completely agree with the very strong questioning put by the shadow Home Secretary, and I also agree with what was said by the former Home Secretary and the current Chair of the Select Committee.

I have two questions. The first is about timing. As hon. Members have said, successive Metropolitan Police Commissioners have complained that the regulations this House has put in place in statutory instruments prevent them from sacking officers who they know are unfit to be in the Metropolitan police, so that puts a responsibility on us to change those regulations. Can I suggest that the Home Secretary, in consultation with the Metropolitan police, brings forward draft regulations, and let us consult not in the overall generality of a review, but on those specific draft regulations? We will be 100% behind her when she brings to the House changed regulations, so that the Metropolitan police are able to manage the force in the way we all want to see them manage it.

The second point about Sir Mark Rowley and the response to the Carrick situation is that this is not just about change in the future, but about dealing with the individuals who are currently in senior and management positions in the Met who seemed to think it was all right for Carrick to be given extra responsibilities and to be promoted. The management suitability of those officers really ought to be examined by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, and we need a bit of transparency about that. Will the Home Secretary urge the commissioner, whom we all support in his determination to change the culture, to publish transparently what tracking he has gone through of when Carrick was looked at and nothing was done, because all of those senior officers have colluded? Will she also look through all of the officers, at horizontal level, who were part of the banter and the immediate culture of this officer, and who did nothing to report him and therefore were colluding in the perpetration of these atrocious crimes?

I want to do what works, which is why I have taken very seriously what the Met commissioner has said about the process relating to police misconduct hearings and disciplinary processes. I have been clear that where there is a role for Government, we will act, but it is important that we look carefully at the issue. That is why the review I have just announced will cover issues such as the legally qualified chairs, to ensure that they are striking the right balance and making the right decisions. It is important that we ensure that the trends in the use of misconduct sanctions and the consistency of decision making in cases of sexual misconduct, other violence against women and girls and such offences are appropriate. Those are the kinds of things we need to look at very carefully.

When it comes to the Metropolitan police, as I have said, the Met commissioner has instituted a new anti-corruption and abuse command specifically to look at any other risk factors and any other issues relating to this kind of incident. An extra 100 officers were drafted in to use covert tactics to identify officers who act in a corrupt or predatory manner, including those who abuse their positions in the police. I am encouraged by those early commitments by the Met commissioner, and I think we need to get behind him so that we can radically improve the system.

I think Sir Mark Rowley’s statement yesterday was pathetic. It was a statement of the blindingly obvious, and anybody can say sorry for what has gone on. This is an absolute scandal, and I wish to support what the Mother of the House has just said. In no comment that has been made has there been any suggestion of the accountability of anybody else in the Metropolitan police over many years for this man’s conduct. His egregious behaviour was known—there were seven or eight allegations regarding his behaviour—yet nothing was done. We have had excuse after excuse after excuse. We can worry about the future, but there are people in the Metropolitan police who enabled this man to continue being a threat to women and girls, and they should be sacked.

It is important to note that David Carrick’s initial vetting to join the Metropolitan police took place in 2001, prior to the introduction of national standards on vetting, and prior to the regime that has been in place since 2017, which was introduced to ensure consistency in decision making. My hon. Friend rightly expresses frustration with the situation, and I agree. It is incredibly frustrating to be here yet again after another tragedy. But I would just gently push back. I have confidence in Sir Mark Rowley. He joined the leadership of the Met recently, and he has not hesitated in accepting the enormity of the problems that the Met police currently face. He has presented a plan and is already taking tangible action to deliver on it. He understands that there is a problem with confidence in the Met police, and challenges and problems with standards and performance. He is honest and frank about those challenges and does not shy away from fixing them.

Who will be conducting the internal review, when will it report, and will the Home Secretary ensure that previous Metropolitan Police Commissioners will also give evidence to it?

The review will be carried out in a comprehensive and extensive way to command confidence among police officers, members of the public and other stakeholders. I want it to report swiftly. I am wary of having more reviews, reports and inquiries; we need action. My impression is that there is a real problem with the process. I need to identify exactly what needs fixing and thereafter we can take swift action.

May I mirror the Home Secretary’s comments and pay tribute to the victims of David Carrick, and urge other victims to come forward if they have any concerns about serving police officers, or anybody else? Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is important to support Sir Mark Rowley in his quest to get rid of the rot in the culture of the Metropolitan police? I hear that he is now investigating nearly 1,000 police officers and staff, so we must prepare ourselves for further revelations, similar to those about Carrick. Does the Home Secretary agree that it is important that the police and crime commissioner for London, and his Deputy Mayor for policing and crime, also play their part? Perhaps they have been missing in action over the past seven years.

My hon. Friend makes a good point. Ultimately, the politician responsible for the performance of the Metropolitan police is the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and ultimately he should be held politically responsible for failings within the Met. Greater support, greater priority and greater focus from him would do no harm.

My respect goes out to the brave women who have come forward, but women should not need to be brave. The system should protect them and believe them when they speak out. On 20 September 2021, Byline Times reported that more than half of Met officers found guilty of sexual misconduct kept their jobs. A report today states that some women who report sexual abuse or misconduct may then see one of those officers, because the Met cannot guarantee that they are not using their power to do that. What has been exposed in the Met is structural and institutional, and I wonder whether the Secretary of State agrees with that or even understands it. Does she agree that Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, was right to sack Cressida Dick? The Secretary of State’s approach in the Chamber today, and the slow “kick the can down the road” or “do another review,” serves only to inflict more pain on women and girls. She needs to take that on board if she is to do her job properly.

We must also review all cases that the criminal police officers have presided over. If they are bad, they are bad—they are not just bad in one case; they are bad in all cases. In Brent, after the tragic murder of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, the police took pictures of their bodies. The pain that their mother goes through—I speak to her on a regular basis, and every time there is something like this it inflicts more triggering pain on people who have gone through it, and the police were slow to act. The Secretary of State can do something about this. The new commissioner, Mark Rowley, has said that he needs more support in being able to sack officers, not another review or report. He needs things to change. As chair of the London parliamentary Labour party, I wonder whether the Secretary of State is willing to listen to voices from the London PLP and work with us, as well as the Met Commissioner, to change the law on this issue.

There are some fair points there. What I find instructive on this issue, albeit on an interim basis, is the interim report by Baroness Casey, which looked into the Met and its standards on vetting and procedures. It made for concerning reading. She is currently carrying out an in-depth inquiry into this subject, and she found that the Met does not fully support the local professional standards units to deal effectively with misconduct. Effectively, the structure relating to individual commands is not working, and there is uncertainty about what constitutes gross misconduct and what will be done about it. There are important lessons to be learned from Baroness Casey’s inquiry into the Met, so that we ensure that things such as this do not happen again.

David Carrick is now one of the UK’s most prolific rapists, and he did that while serving as a police officer. It is utterly disgusting. Does the Home Secretary agree we should review sentencing laws? We have already done that for people who kill emergency workers, so how about reviewing the sentencing law so that if a police officer commits these horrible crimes, we increase their sentence? Does she also agree that the managers who knew about this should be sacked immediately—

Order. Please remember sub judice. We should not be talking about sentencing. Home Secretary, just answer the points you can.

My hon. Friend voices the frustration and disappointment we are all feeling today at a serving police officer having been found responsible for such heinous and appalling crimes. An abuse of trust has shattered public confidence in policing, and undermined the safety of women and girls. We will not shy away from doing what is necessary to ensure that cases such as this are not repeated, and so that women and girls in particular can have confidence in policing around the country.

Order. I remind Members that aspects of this issue are sub judice. Please stay well away from anything relating to things that are still before the courts.

I too commend the bravery of the women involved in this case, but some of them would not have needed to be brave if action had been taken. As a former police officer I am disgusted and ashamed by what I have heard. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has said that 800 of his officers are under investigation. Has the Home Secretary requested similar figures from other police forces? What is the impact on the operational capability of police officers? Finally, as the Mother of the House rightly pointed out, police officers are not employed. They are not subject to employment law; they are appointed. Staff associations within the police service, such as the Police Federation, play a very important role in disciplinary and conduct issues. What engagement is the Home Secretary having with them?

The inspectorate reported late last year on that issue, looking at the performance of forces all over the country on vetting and the monitoring of disciplinary matters in policing. The inspectorate made 43 recommendations, largely focused on chief constables around England and Wales, the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs Council. They have all been accepted. There are deadlines for spring this year, and later this year, and we are closely monitoring the implementation and delivery of those recommendations.

We hear reported on the BBC that this monster, David Carrick, perpetrated a campaign of terror against his “girlfriends”. He put drugs in the car, he restrained people with police handcuffs, and he said “Who would anyone believe? You or me? I’m an important person. I guard the Prime Minister. I am a police officer.” That highlights the lengths to which that monster would go, and the challenge for those victims to come forward. Does the Home Secretary agree that, as well as the welcome measures that she has set out, all of which I support, one positive thing we can do is bring forward the victims Bill, to strengthen the support of the criminal justice system for those women, provide better support, and beef up the role of independent sexual violence advisers? I know that is not in her Department’s remit, but will she work with me and her colleague the Justice Secretary, to see whether we can get parliamentary time for that Bill as quickly as possible?

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the groundbreaking work she did when she was in government to support women and girls and their safety. She is absolutely right, and that is why my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor and Deputy Prime Minister is committed to introducing the victims Bill. I am particularly supportive of increasing the number of independent sexual violence advisers and independent domestic violence advisers as they have made a huge difference to the experience of victims going through the criminal justice system. They can make the difference between a victim withdrawing and a victim persisting and reaching a conviction. I therefore think that, yes, putting through more resources and introducing important legislation is vital.

Yesterday, when the Education Secretary was asked on the radio if the Government could say that women could trust the police, she replied:

“It’s very important that we do trust the police.”

I think that is a no. We cannot have a situation where women who would ordinarily turn to the police to rescue them from dangerous situations—whether out on the street, domestic violence or as the victim of abuse—feel that they cannot trust the person from whom they might seek help and that they might be violated by them. I endorse what everyone has said about needing to address the culture in the police force, but will the Home Secretary set out a timetable and tell us what immediate action she will take to address that, so that women who are in danger feel that they can look to the police for support?

I am the first person to say that this is obviously a disappointing, frustrating, sobering and chilling day for policing. It is regrettable and shameful that this has happened. I would also say that poorly behaved and criminal police officers are a minority and that we have tens of thousands of very brave, dedicated men and women all over the country who will be feeling the equivalent level of shame and disgust that we are expressing. This is not in their name. This is about changing the system to root out poor behaviour and so that everybody can be proud to be serving in our police force.

This case has once again highlighted the terrible internal processes in our police forces and the inability of people to speak up in a culture that actively works against their doing so. So many police officers will not raise issues with fellow officers because they fear for their jobs and their employment. Will my right hon. and learned Friend take the opportunity to do a root and branch investigation into the culture in the police forces, particularly with regard to the ability to speak up and for whistleblowers to have their voices heard?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. Police culture and whether there is a culture of fear, with people scared to speak up and call out unacceptable behaviour, is exactly what part 2 of the Lady Angiolini inquiry will cover. We need to pinpoint that precisely so that we can take action to ensure that there is an open, welcoming and professional environment in which everybody can thrive.

There are many similarities between the experience of women in the Met police and women in the armed forces. Both are organisations in which we should have complete faith, but both organisations have failed to act on many occasions where there have been situations of misogyny.

There are two big issues: the crimes of the perpetrator himself and the failure of senior officers to act and take action when concerns were raised. The Home Secretary has talked about how action will be taken on offenders, but she has said much less about what will happen with senior officers who were aware of such behaviour and covered it up. Will she say some more about that?

That goes to the point about the structures in place to monitor new recruits closely and ensure that those who are newer to policing get the right training and support from their senior leaders. That is why, in our historic police uplift programme, which will result in record numbers of police officers when complete in a few months’ time, a large part of that resource has gone to increasing vetting capacity and recruitment, so that proper standards and quality assurance are injected and really part of the process of recruiting new police officers.

We operate on a model of policing by consent, and I am afraid that too many people—especially women and girls—will be saying, “I don’t consent. I don’t agree to this model of policing in the country any more.” This is just the latest example of what we have seen in the Met. Such cases set back trust in the police and make it more difficult for decent, law-abiding officers to do their jobs. It is shameful that Carrick’s case has been allowed to carry on for so long, with information apparently known to the force and other forces without being shared and without action being taken.

There are clear lessons that we can learn about data sharing, improving whistleblowing, suspending officers without allowing them to operate on light duties and removing officers whom we are deeply concerned about. It is great that we are having these reviews and that we are trying to learn lessons from them, but I think what people want is concrete action and quickly. Will the Home Secretary please advise when we will see that?

My hon. Friend raises the right point about action. That is why a review of vetting capacity was carried out by the uplift programme as recently as October last year, to which 36 forces responded. It showed that 25 had increased their capacity and vetting units between February and October last year. I see that as action. I see that as police forces responding to the call to improve their services and resources and ensure that there are better processes and better systems in place to vet properly and monitor rigorously the behaviour of their professionals.

As a former detective inspector in the Metropolitan police, I, like everyone, am shocked, revulsed and horrified to hear of the abhorrent crimes of PC Carrick and the failure of the Metropolitan police and other police services, which allowed those crimes to go undetected and unprosecuted for almost 20 years. On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of honest, hard-working and brave serving and retired police officers everywhere, I offer my sincere apologies to the victims of these cases, whose needs must be prioritised and given our complete and unquestioning support.

Will the Home Secretary confirm to the House that an investigation will be launched immediately, as identified in her review announced today, to identify and prosecute to the full extent of the law or see the most severe disciplinary action taken against any police officer or member of the police staff, past or present, who failed in their duty to protect the public in public office by not reporting or investigating complaints against PC Carrick or by preventing him from being arrested, prosecuted and brought to justice before now?

I cannot comment on the individual case, but late last year Baroness Casey’s review concluded on an interim basis that it is taking too long to resolve misconduct conduct cases within policing. Officers and staff do not believe that action will be taken when concerns around conduct are raised. Those are just a sample of some of the serious concerns that she identified when it comes to the process in place for monitoring and disciplining police officers for unacceptable behaviour. I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for his service in the police force. Whatever needs to be changed, we will do it.

Women in Stroud and around the country have woken up with their trust and belief in our police service badly shaken yet again. From speaking to local women, I know that issues in the Met undermine their confidence in Stroud police. They can see that Gloucestershire constabulary is working hard to protect them and that it is open to change. However, when we know that women are routinely not reporting violence, abuse and harassment in part because of a lack of faith in the police, and with each force doing something completely different, what is my right hon. and learned Friend doing to ensure that all forces get their act together and show the country that they are speaking to each other and that national change will be made on this issue?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the issue of women’s confidence in policing. Tangible steps and measures have already been taken, after legislating in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, to address concerns surrounding data extraction from victims’ devices during investigations. We are well on the way to ensuring that victims are not without a phone for more than 24 hours. That has been a real deterrent to women coming forward with complaints about rape and other serious sexual offences. We have led with the groundbreaking Operation Soteria programme, a radical transformation in the way the police investigate rape and serious sexual offences. We are also protecting the wellbeing of victims during trials by offering pre-recorded evidence for rape victims. Those are just a few of the measures we are taking to send the message to women and girls, “Come forward if you are a victim. If you do, the police will be there to support you.”

The Home Secretary just mentioned that she wants women and girls to come forward with allegations of rape. The charge rate for rape is 1.5%. That means the vast majority of cases never go to court, let alone secure a conviction. This is not working for women and girls. They have courage in coming forward, but to know that they will never secure a conviction is a slap in the face yet again. What real action is the Home Secretary going to take to change and reverse that?

I have worked with cross-Government colleagues for several years in my former capacity as Attorney General on matters such as Operation Soteria. Operation Soteria is groundbreaking. It is producing real change in the way that victims of rape and serious sexual offences experience the criminal justice system. We are seeing an increase in referrals by the police to the Crown Prosecution Service. That is a sign of progress. We are seeing an increase in the rate of charge by the CPS passing the case on to His Majesty’s Courts Service. We will see an improvement in the number of convictions we secure. I agree that there is a lot to do, but progress has been made.

The first allegation of serious sexual assault was made against David Carrick in 2003. Over the course of the next 18 years, there were eight or nine allegations of rape. Through all that, he was not suspended from work. In fact, during that period he was actually promoted within the force. What is common to all these cases is that there appears to be some kind of omerta or closing of ranks between senior personnel when a criminal allegation is made against one of their brethren. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the time has come to outsource disciplinary decision making to another force or, at the very least, an officer who does not know the policeman who is the subject of this kind of allegation?

My hon. Friend is right to point to the failings. In sum, the Metropolitan police should have carried out a re-vet of David Carrick in 2011. That was not done until 2017. The Metropolitan police acknowledges that this would not have necessarily changed the vetting outcome. Systemic problems are prevalent and that is why we need to take action to fix them.

We are back again, Home Secretary. I am just exhausted by the number of times in this House we have to talk about this issue. Women in Lancashire have seen what has happened. They have seen what has been in the newspapers about David Carrick. They saw what happened with Wayne Couzens and so many other cases. They want to know why there is no legal requirement for vetting when officers move between forces. Yes, we are talking about the Met today, but we could equally be talking about the Lancashire constabulary. I would like to know what plans are in place to legally require vetting when officers move between forces, to stop perpetrators moving around the country to avoid justice.

We need to ensure the right system is in place to properly identify inappropriate candidates. What we have seen thus far is that there are inappropriate processes and people who are not right for policing are falling through the gaps and falling through the net. That needs to change. That is why I am glad that the Metropolitan Police Commissioner has already committed to instilling an anti-corruption and abuse command unit to look properly at how inappropriate people are getting into the police force. We will take further action to look at the disciplinary process. The reports that are currently running their course need to conclude so we have an evidence base to take the appropriate action, in legislation if necessary.