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Commons Chamber

Volume 735: debated on Tuesday 4 July 2023

House of Commons

Tuesday 4 July 2023

The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock


[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

Energy Security and Net Zero

The Secretary of State was asked—

Energy Transition Projects: Scotland

We are supporting Scotland through the North sea transition deal, contracts for difference for renewable energy, and more than £80 million of net zero innovation portfolio funding.

I thank the Secretary of State for that response, particularly in relation to CfDs. Will he commit today to a clear pathway for the true commercial-scale development of tidal stream energy? A ringfence in the CfD auction is welcome, but it is only scratching the surface of what the industry can deliver. Investors in projects are stalling, as they need long-term visibility. The industry—and, indeed, all of us—needs this technology to succeed. Let us unlock this predictable, renewable power and create an industry and sector that we can be proud of and that can be made on these islands. We need a commitment today that the ringfenced budget will increase, to allow costs to fall and true-scale projects to be delivered. If we want energy security, here is the pathway.

Fortunately, the answer is pretty straightforward. As the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, we are doing tidal power in this CfD round. That is to be welcomed and we look forward to this industry expanding in the future, as some of the technicalities and technical difficulties are resolved. I know that the Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Andrew Bowie) has visited recently to see this in action.

Energy storage is vital to managing demand as we switch to renewable electricity. Pumped storage hydro is the most efficient large-scale storage method. UK capacity could be more than doubled by six projects across Scotland that have been shovel ready for more than five years. They take a long time to build, so why are the UK Government not supporting investment in infrastructure that is critical for our future energy security?

I have discussed this matter with SSE in relation to that particular hydro storage project, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State met MSPs yesterday to discuss the subject as well. We are keen to have this kind of hydro storage, which is why our plans allow for it to be taken forward. However, I have to say to Opposition Members—all of them—that it is no good just having one kind of storage or one kind of tidal power; we also need to protect the Scottish economy with oil and gas to make sure we are not subjected to Putin or any other dictator holding us to ransom over our energy security.

It is good to hear that the Secretary of State is supporting the economy in Scotland, but my question is: how are the UK Government investing in grid capacity in Wales? In Wales, such investment is crucial if we are to support energy transition projects such as the Holyhead hydrogen hub, Minesto, Morlais, BP Mona, Lightsource BP and, of course, new nuclear at Wylfa.

Grid capacity in Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland is at the top of our list. The Winser review has done a lot of work to look at how we can speed up the delivery of that capacity, given the big transition that is going on and this country’s big lead in renewables, which makes that necessary.

On pumped storage hydro, it is as though the Secretary of State just does not get it. It increases energy resilience and would reduce the £4.2 billion balancing costs that are getting paid out at the moment. The 1.5 GW Coire Glas scheme can be delivered in seven years, and it would power 3 million homes for a 24-hour period. The Government have found £700 million for Sizewell C and they have implemented cap and floor mechanisms for interconnectors, so why is he not having proper discussions with SSE about a cap and floor mechanism?

The Secretary of State does in fact get it, because we support the idea of having things such as hydro power. Again, I have to say that there is a choice where taxpayers’ money is spent. It has to be done competitively in the round. To be talking merely about storage and not the generation, including nuclear power, which is a key part of this country’s energy security future, simply means that the overall view that the SNP has is unbalanced when it comes to how we power our nations.

The Secretary of State has proved he still does not get it—he is not having proper discussions with SSE. If we move to carbon capture and storage, the Climate Change Committee’s progress report identified “risks” and “significant risks” associated with industrial clusters and carbon dioxide storage, which proves it is nonsensical to have Acorn as a reserve. When will the Government announce the track 2 clusters and provide parity for Acorn? When does he envisage Acorn starting construction? That is vital to meet the 2030 targets.

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have already pumped £40 million into Acorn. It is on the reserve list. He asks when; the answer is this year for track 2 and track 1 expansion. So I say it again: the Secretary of State does get it.

Energy Intensive Industries: Decarbonisation

The Government are investing billions to support the development and deployment of carbon capture, utilisation and storage, hydrogen and other decarbonisation technologies, and have a range of policies supporting industrial decarbonisation, such as the industrial energy transformation fund and local industrial decarbonisation plans.

There are 23 clean steel projects across Europe, but none in the UK. Meanwhile, the UK is the only country in the G20 where steel production is falling. Other countries recognise the importance of their domestic steel industries, and they recognise the importance of investing in low-carbon steel. Why do this Government not support our steel?

As the hon. Gentleman knows well, this Government do support the UK steel industry. On his broader point, which he mentioned in his original question, UK industrial emissions have fallen 65% since 1990, and we are making significant investments in industrial decarbonisation, not least the £20 billion announced at the end of March, which will contribute to decarbonisation through CCUS and help the steel industry.

Do Ministers agree that the Government’s competition for small modular nuclear reactors will help provide the volume of energy we need for energy-intensive domestic industries and, over the long term, at a lower cost than previous nuclear power stations?

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. There is enormous enthusiasm on the Government side of the House for the potential of nuclear, including small modular reactors. We are determined to see that go forward as quickly as possible, which is why the new organisation, Great British Nuclear, is doing a rapid down selection of technologies this year, precisely in order to unlock the benefits that my right hon. Friend so correctly highlights.

On decarbonisation, many organisations, such as the Institution of Civil Engineers, are asking about the Government’s net zero growth plan, which said:

“The public will play a key role in the transition and therefore we will set out further detail on how Government will increase public engagement on net zero.”

Can the Minister clarify when that detail will be published?

I thank the Chair of the Energy Security and Net Zero Committee. He is right that as well as top-down Government policy, we must unlock the huge public desire of people to play their part and make sure we have the right information in place. That will be provided and produced as soon as possible.

The Minister will welcome measures that many businesses are already undertaking simply because they are the right thing to do, including traditionally carbon-intensive industries, such as cement manufacturing. Cemex in my constituency is investing to use decarbonised raw material and trialling the use of hydrogen in the combustion process, which will significantly reduce the amount of CO2 generated by every tonne of cement manufactured in Rugby?

My hon. Friend is right, and he is right to champion those industries that are working so hard to decarbonise already. As my hon. Friend says, we have the net zero hydrogen fund, which will provide up to £240 million by 2025 to support the development and construction of new low-carbon hydrogen production plants, which will be able to assist in cement as well as other industries.

Lithium-ion Battery Storage Facilities: Regulation

3. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of regulations for industrial lithium-ion battery storage facilities. (905768)

It is a priority for this Government that all net zero energy infrastructure is built, operated and maintained in an appropriate and safe way. My officials work closely with the industry-led electricity storage health and safety governance group to ensure an appropriate, robust and future-proofed health and safety framework is sustained as storage deployment increases.

We need to increase power storage, but the potential fire risks associated with lithium-ion battery storage facilities are now becoming widely acknowledged. What is my hon. Friend doing to ensure those facilities are not built in inappropriate locations, such as Basing Fenn in my constituency, which is a site sandwiched between a rare north-flowing, salmonid chalk stream and a hospital?

I thank my right hon. Friend for her question and her tireless campaigning on this important issue. As I discussed in that very positive meeting that I had with her yesterday, I have been working with colleagues across Government to establish the appropriate treatment of these facilities in planning and environmental regulation. Every site should be considered on its own merits and is a decision for our local authorities.

Will this Government stop chuntering on about batteries and battery storage all the time? Will they get down to JCB and see its innovative new hydrogen fuel car and heavy goods vehicle? Is it not about time that we realised that hydrogen is the future and that this Government should be building a pipeline of hydrogen throughout the country?

I will not be drawn on chuntering on by the hon. Gentleman, but let me just say that it was this Government who allowed JCB to proceed with that technology and to develop it at commercial scale. I am pleased to tell him that the Secretary of State will be visiting imminently.

Floating Offshore Wind: Supply Chain

4. What steps he is taking to help increase the potential benefits of floating offshore wind for the supply chain. (905769)

The Government are committed to placing the UK at the forefront of the floating wind sector. I am delighted to announce that the Crown estate will be providing an update to industry this morning on a 4 GW leasing round in the Celtic sea and has already commissioned the survey work required to support it.

The development of floating offshore wind in the Celtic sea is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for my Aberavon constituency, for Wales and for the entire United Kingdom. Last week, the Climate Change Committee rightly blasted the Government for failing to deliver on their net zero commitment. I am profoundly concerned that floating offshore wind will be squandered due to the lack of grip and direction that the committee described. When will the Minister be bringing forward an industrial strategy for floating offshore wind, which will ensure that Welsh manufacturing and Welsh jobs are placed at the heart of turbine and substructure fabrication, starting with the vital seabed licensing process.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. We are the world leader in floating offshore wind and we are determined to stay there in order to realise the industrial benefits, which he rightly champions, and the opportunities in Wales. The floating wind demonstration programme—[Interruption.] The Labour Front-Bench team really do not like to hear this, do they? The fact that we have cut our emissions more than any other major economy on earth under this Government is what leads those on the Labour Front Bench to sense their own inadequacy, because they know what they left behind. That floating wind demonstration programme is supporting innovation with £31 million of Government funding matched by £30 million from industry.

Floating offshore wind and all these exciting generation technologies are wonderful, but all of them will come to nought unless we can increase the speed and capacity of the grid connections to get the electricity onshore and to the users who need it. What is the Minister doing to sort out the national grid and to speed up the way in which grid connections are made, because, without this, we will go nowhere?

My hon. Friend puts it so well. It is so true: whatever the generation, if we cannot get the electrons where they need to go, we are frustrated. That is why we are determined to speed up the connections. That is why, from the Pick report on offshore wind to the Nick Winser review, this Government, led by the Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Andrew Bowie)—this is the first time that this country has had a networks Minister—are absolutely focused, in a laser-like way, on making sure that we speed up and get the delivery of the infrastructure that we need to deliver the green transition.

Onshore Wind Proposals: Community Engagement

The Government want communities to participate in and benefit from onshore wind proposed in their local area. On 11 May, the Government issued a consultation for onshore wind partnerships in England, proposing improvements to the current system of community engagement and benefits.

Some energy firms give discounts to those who live near onshore wind farms when the wind blows. Unfortunately, though, that is not the case everywhere. Will the Minister look again at this policy nationally so that my constituents, such as those who live in Ulley near Penny Hill wind farm, and even myself—I live in Harthill near Loscar wind farm—will see the benefits of clean, green wind power reflected in their energy bills?

The consultation on onshore wind partnerships proposed that the Government work with RenewableUK to update the industry-wide community benefits protocol for onshore wind in England. An updated protocol would seek to encourage more innovative approaches, for example through developers supporting local energy bill discounts. The consultation closes on 7 July.

I am not sure there is much point in community engagement when there is no onshore wind. We do not have any onshore wind. Last week, we heard the Climate Change Committee’s devastating report on this country’s commitment to net zero. When will this Government unlock the barriers to onshore wind?

I completely refute the suggestion that we have no onshore wind. Onshore wind contributes 14 GW of power to the UK’s national grid as we speak, and of course we support the deployment of onshore wind with communities.

The Minister is sort of right that there have been some onshore wind turbines built just recently—two since February 2022, so there is not much chance of community engagement there, to be honest. In December, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities promised that the onshore wind ban would be completely lifted by the end of April this year. Why have the Government broken that promise?

I will take no lectures from the Labour party on developing renewable electricity. When Labour left office in 2010—[Interruption.] They do not like to hear this, but when Labour left office in 2010, less than 7% of the grid was accounted for by renewables. Now it is 43%.

I think maybe the Government should take lessons from Labour. It is now generally understood that the Government consultation is likely to lead to only minimal relaxation of planning rules and that onshore wind will effectively remain banned. Tory peer Lord Deben, chairman of the Climate Change Committee, said of the consultation on Saturday that it is simply unacceptable that the Government are still discussing whether they are in favour of onshore wind or not when it is widely recognised as one of the cheapest forms of energy generation. He is right, is he not?

I really wish the Labour party would stop talking down what we are doing on renewable electricity. I remind the House that the consultation on onshore wind finishes on 7 July.

Energy and Trade Intensive Industries

6. What assessment his Department has made of the adequacy of additional support for energy and trade intensive industries. (905771)

Wholesale energy prices have fallen significantly since the peak of the energy crisis, so the energy bill discount scheme strikes a balance between providing support and certainty to business and limiting the impact on public finances.

I thank my hon. Friend for a proper Derbyshire answer. Can she give more information on how the Government are working to help wedding venues and hospitality in general with extreme costs for electricity and gas, particularly where businesses have signed long-term contracts in the face of falling world prices?

I thank my hon. Friend from South Derbyshire—it is a great county to live in, with great hospitality—for her question. Businesses, including the hospitality sector, have already benefited from the energy bill relief scheme, which ended on 31 March and provided £7.4 billion of support. We are mindful of the fixed-term contracts, which are a supplier issue, and we are constantly engaging with stakeholders and suppliers on that.

Last week I attended the opening of the first phase of a new solar farm at Newcastle airport. It was 50% funded by the regional development fund, which post Brexit we no longer have access to. The further three phases are vital to ensure that the airport meets its net zero target and the Government meet their solar target, so what are the Government doing to ensure that those further three phases will be supported in some way by the Government?

I thank the hon. Lady for that information. With your permission, Mr Speaker, I will take that question away and find out more details.

The director general of UK Steel said this week:

“There are huge question marks over if government really wants to sustain steel, the backbone of British manufacturing, or just leave it to shrink and rely on other nations’ supply.”

He is right to say that. It is four years since the Government promised the green steel fund, but not a penny has been paid. Why are the Government failing our steel communities so comprehensively?

That is absolutely not true; we are legislating for that at the moment. It is incredibly important to the Government that we combat that and support the energy and trade-intensive industries.

The Committee on Climate Change said last week that

“the Government has high ambitions for decarbonisation but no policy to deliver it”.

We have been slow to react to the US Inflation Reduction Act and to the EU’s proposed green deal industrial plan. The right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), who, for the benefit of the Minister, is not from the Labour Benches, said:

“Where the UK once led, we are now falling behind.”

When will Ministers snap out of their appalling complacency and come up with the strategy and timeline that we need to support the UK in the global race for green jobs and investment?

We have met all our carbon targets and will continue to do so. The Government have made the commitment to continue hitting and progressing on those targets.

Clean Energy Projects: Planning System

7. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on the adequacy of the planning system for clean energy projects. (905772)

My Department has been working closely with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on delivering the proposals in the published action plan for reforming and speeding up the nationally significant infrastructure project planning process. An important part of those reforms involves updating and strengthening the national policy statements for energy.

Last weekend, James Robottom, the head of onshore wind at RenewableUK, said that he does not expect much from the Government’s consultation on planning. He said that obstacles to new onshore wind development would

“severely hinder investment in the onshore wind industry and its supply chain due to the high level of risk and uncertainty they create. We are being denied the opportunity for thousands of new jobs and billions in private investment”.

In the meantime, that is costing English families £180 per year. It means damage to the economy, damage to the environment, and higher bills for families. Is it not time that we got this useless Government out of the way so that we can sort it out?

This useless Government who have delivered 43% renewables on to the grid! I would much rather take our record on renewables than the Labour party’s any day of the week. The consultation on national policy statements closed, as the hon. Gentleman knows, on 23 June, and the Government remain on track to present them to Parliament and bring them into effect by the end of 2023.

Local authorities have a presumption in favour of solar, and quite right, too, but should they not also consider the cumulative effect of solar farms? Wiltshire is the second largest county in England for solar farms. If the new Red Barn project at Kington St Michael is added, it will be one of the largest solar farms in Britain. We are covering our good agricultural land with solar farms in counties such as Wiltshire. When the forthcoming planning policy guidance is reconsidered, will the Minister undertake to include a presumption against solar farms on grade 3a and 3b agricultural land?

Food security is incredibly important, and we will, of course, prioritise less productive land for the deployment of solar farms. Our reforms aim to ensure that infrastructure developers consider, at the outset of their programmes, how projects can address the legitimate concerns of affected communities, engaging regularly with them throughout the pre-application phase and beyond. Engaging with statutory consultees early during the pre-application stage will also benefit local communities and farmers through high-quality applications.

Energy Security: Gas Imports from Russia

Ending Russian imports in April 2022 has shown that Russian gas belongs in the past. Our system was well supplied last winter by North sea gas and reliable imports—a far cry from Labour’s energy surrender plan, sponsored by Just Stop Oil, which would put us back at square one and in the hands of despots such as Putin and his tyrannical regime.

I welcome the Secretary of State’s answer. Could he explain what steps his Department is taking to ensure that no country will ever be able to hold the UK to ransom through our energy supply?

It is about having a balanced energy supply, which means renewables, nuclear power, and yes, where necessary, oil and gas licences—to do without them puts the security of every single person in this country at risk and means that household bills will go up. Sadly, that is exactly the policy of His Majesty’s official Opposition.

A recent report by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit shows that, regardless of Ministers’ plans to expand domestic oil and gas production, imports of gas will continue to rise significantly unless we tackle demand. New oil and gas licences simply will not deliver energy security as the oil and gas is sold at global prices on international markets. They will cost the taxpayer dearly while being a disaster for the climate. Will the Government finally do what is needed by ruling out new licences and committing instead to measures that will genuinely make the UK energy secure, including a nationwide street-by-street home insulation programme, unblocking onshore wind, and installing new solar on every roof?

We have gone from 14% of our homes being insulated under the previous Government to nearly 50%—it will be 50% this year—and we have set up an energy taskforce to reduce the usage of energy and make it more efficient. However, the policy of the hon. Lady’s party, and that of the official Opposition, of importing all the oil and gas that we require and not providing new licences is simply insane. It means that every single family in Britain will be subject to the next tyrant like Putin, and that the carbon used will be double what is taken from the North sea. It is bonkers policy.

Net Zero Target: Population Increases

9. What assessment he has made of the potential impact of increases in the population on the ability to meet net zero targets. (905774)

Population growth is taken into account when setting our decarbonisation goals. Specifically, it is accounted for in our baseline emissions projections, which help determine the effort required to meet our carbon targets.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that in 2050, on present Government policies, we will have 25 million more people in this country than there were in 1990, the base date for carbon dioxide emissions? He obviously accepts that a higher population leads to higher global emissions, but can he also say that when it comes to climate change, it would be a good idea for this Government to concentrate on a net migration policy, rather than net zero?

As my hon. Friend knows, the Prime Minister is absolutely determined to bring net migration down to sustainable levels. I would also point out to him that the UK does not set decarbonisation targets per capita, because all countries need to reduce emissions in absolute terms. We are determined to play our part in doing that—to move to net zero, but in a pro-growth, pro-business manner.

It is not simply about empowering future generations, but those that exist. That is why the roll-out of smart metering is important. The latest quarterly statistics claim that 57% of UK households have smart meters, but that masks the fact that only four out of 32 Scottish local authorities are above 50% in the roll-out of smart metering, five are below 30%, and three island councils are below 10%. All those are also the areas with the highest fuel poverty. As we approach March 2024, when radio teleswitching will go off, how will we ensure that people have access to smart metering, enabling them to get off-peak tariffs?

The hon. Gentleman is right, both to enthuse about the importance of smart metering and the benefits it can bring—even more so as we move forward in the coming years—and to highlight the importance of ensuring, as ever, that something so important is equitably distributed. I, or colleagues, would be happy to meet him to discuss how we make sure that the issues he has rightly raised are addressed.

Rooftop Solar Panels

10. What steps he is taking to increase the use of solar panels on building roofs; and if he will make a statement. (905775)

The Government are supporting the installation of rooftop solar in numerous different ways: financial incentives, performance standards and the solar taskforce.

For years now, I have been trying to persuade Governments of all colours to change building regulations to require all new buildings to be fitted with solar panels. That would have the benefit of securing supply, reducing household bills considerably and helping us towards net zero, so why do we not do it?

I assure my hon. Friend that I am a great enthusiast for solar panels—I have had them on my home for the past 12 years, and they perform very well. I want to see more people do that. In fact, over that period, we have gone from virtually no renewables in our system—6.9%—to 43% in the last quarter. I am very keen for that expansion to go further and faster. We need to ensure that it is part of the building code, but we also want to make sure that other forms of renewables can be installed, so it is a balance between not being too prescriptive and making sure that we make speedy progress, particularly on all the commercial rooftops in this country.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting an innovative housing project in Rumney in my constituency, which had solar panels in nearly all the new buildings but also ground source heat pumps, electric vehicle charging points and battery technology in the houses, bringing down bills for the residents while contributing to net zero. Will the Secretary of State join me in praising Cardiff’s Labour council and the Welsh Labour Government for the work they have done on this issue, and will he explain what we are doing to ensure greater manufacture of those technologies in this country?

Of course, I am delighted that the Barnett formula stretches so far in providing some of the excellent additions to those buildings. I just want to repeat that no Government have gone further and faster in the G7 than this one in introducing renewables and ensuring that they now power a very significant part of our grid. We want to go further and faster still, and we will make sure that things such as building codes help with that plan.

Net Zero Projects: Skills

11. What assessment he has made with Cabinet colleagues of the adequacy of workforce skills for delivering net zero projects. (905776)

The Climate Change Committee has expressed concern that the UK is falling behind on a range of net zero commitments, including on skills. A skilled workforce, alongside new green jobs, is a key component of the green new deal, but the workforce plan is not due until 2024. In the light of the urgency of addressing climate change, will the Government commit to bring that forward to some time later this year?

We are working as quickly as we can on ensuring this. The new skills that will be required are really beneficial for the UK economy, so we are keen to work with the green jobs delivery group and the Department for Education in looking at apprenticeships and how we can push this forward as quickly as possible.

Clean Energy Technology: Private Sector Investment

Our “Powering up Britain” plan seizes opportunities from the transition to a decarbonised energy system. Our policies, backed by billions of pounds of Government funding—but more importantly, leveraging in about £100 billion of private investment—will support up to 480,000 jobs in 2030.

Enfinium is building a new energy-from-waste facility in my constituency, which will process nearly 400,000 tonnes of waste to generate electricity for more than 95,000 homes and businesses each year. Will the Minister join me in welcoming this investment in renewable energy, and outline how the Government are supporting energy-from-waste facilities across the country?

I thank my hon. Friend, and I am delighted to join her in welcoming this new investment, which will be a huge asset to her community as well as having positive national implications. Energy from waste with combined heat and power is supported through pot 1 of the contracts for difference scheme—our auction system. We expect to announce the results of the latest round in early September, and I hope the House will watch that announcement with great interest.

What assessment has the Minister made of the role of a tariff support mechanism to encourage short-term private sector investment in deep geothermal to support levelling up?

There is no greater champion than—or anyone in this House with half the knowledge of this, as far as I can tell—my hon. Friend in supporting the potential of deep geothermal. When the Prime Minister responded to his report, I know he thanked my hon. Friend for all the work that went into it. I can confirm that geothermal technologies that generate electricity are eligible for the contracts for difference scheme. We are also supporting and encouraging the development of geothermal heating projects through the green heat network fund, which supports the development of low-carbon heat networks. Under the leadership of my hon. Friend, I am confident that geothermal has a positive future.

Private sector businesses in the Humber are ready and willing to invest £15 billion in carbon capture, storage and decarbonisation projects. However, this is being put at risk because, of the eight track 1 carbon capture and storage projects selected, not a single project was approved for the Humber, despite the Humber being the largest carbon emitter in the country and the fact that 80% of the UK’s licensed CO2 storage capacity is accessible from the Humber. When will these businesses get the clarity they need? When the track 1 expansion process is launched, will both Humber pipelines be approved?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question, and she is right to be frustrated because of the enormous potential both to decarbonise and to unlock industrial benefits for the area. We are moving as quickly as possible. I have already said that the Viking project and the Scottish cluster are in the favoured position, and the team is moving as quickly as possible this year to provide more certainty and unlock further investment.

Private sector investment in clean energy is vital, but does the Minister agree that one reason that the United Kingdom, despite having the highest tidal range on planet Earth after Canada, still uses so little of it, is a lack of public sector leadership? Areas such as Morecambe Bay, which could contribute to tidal energy, bringing down people’s bills and protecting us against Putin, are something that we could move forward. Will the Minister agree to meet me and other MPs around the bay, so that we can bring forward plans to get the most out of our tidal energy?

I am not an expert in the hon. Gentleman’s history on this topic, but I hope it has been consistently in favour of tidal energy, and therefore different from so many other areas of policy. I share his enthusiasm for the potential of tidal energy. That is why we are the world’s leading nation in the deployment of tidal range, and why tidal power is eligible for the contracts for difference scheme. Notwithstanding so many issues, I would be happy to meet the hon. Gentleman.

Community Energy Projects

The Government are supporting local authorities and community energy groups to work together to develop projects within UK growth funding schemes, such as the UK shared prosperity fund. Ofgem also welcomes funding applications from the sector to the industry voluntary redress scheme.

Why did the Government remove amendments from the Energy Bill last week that would have supported community energy and local energy trading?

As we have outlined previously, the Government do not support the amendments that were tabled in the Lords, and believe that the issues raised should be considered as part of wider market reform. However, we are proactively working with parliamentarians and the community energy sector to discuss whether further support from the Government for the sector is needed, and if so, what might be feasible.

Prepayment Meters

15. What energy cost support his Department has provided to customers on traditional prepayment meters. (905781)

The Government have provided support to customers on traditional prepayment meters through the energy bills support scheme and energy price guarantee.

I very much welcome the measures that the Government have announced to support those on traditional prepayment meters, but many residents in Southend West, such as those living in Trafford House in Leigh-on-Sea, are on communal heat networks. They are still facing higher prices and have no control whatsoever over their heating. What are the Government doing to encourage heat suppliers to apply for the energy bill discount scheme ahead of the deadline at the end of this month, which will benefit my constituents who have no control over their energy bills?

My hon. Friend is a great advocate for all her constituents, and she will be interested to hear that the Government are committed to supporting domestic heat network customers with their bills. That is why we introduced the energy bills discount scheme heat network support, which aims to ensure that heat network customers do not face disappointingly higher bills compared with customers in equivalent households.

Can the Minister tell us the value of prepayment meter vouchers not cashed by the 30 June deadline? What can the Government do to ensure that support reaches those people who are eligible to get it?

All hon. Members will know how abhorrent we found the use of forced entry to people’s houses over prepayment meters. However, we have worked hard and consistently to ensure that all those on prepayment meters are treated fairly and given support.

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

19. When his Department plans to complete its competitive process for small modular nuclear reactor technologies. (905786)

I am pleased, and indeed proud, to say that Great British Nuclear will be holding a competition for small modular reactors, because we want to attract the best designs from both domestic and international vendors. The Government’s ambition is to select the leading technologies by autumn, providing co-funding to any viable new technology. Our commitment to a nuclear programme and to Great British Nuclear will enable the UK to be on a path to achieve its ambition to become a global leader in nuclear energy and small modular reactors.

As members of the Welsh Affairs Committee heard during a visit to the United States in January, small modular reactors should play a significant role in transition, alongside large-scale nuclear projects. Does the Minister agree that while north-west Wales has excellent scope for large-scale projects, parts of north-east Wales would be outstanding prospects for an SMR site, as well as capitalising on the region’s amazing manufacturing and engineering capabilities to drive that part of the energy mix forward?

The Government recognise the support for nuclear power across north Wales. Great British Nuclear will work with the Government on access to potential sites for new nuclear projects to achieve our long-term ambition. As a first step towards the development of the new national policy statement for nuclear, we will consult later this year on a proposed way forward for determining how new nuclear developments, including SMRs, might be located.

The Minister will know that this country has been producing small nuclear reactors for our submarines for more than 50 years. Does the Minister understand that while he is dithering around with his time-wasting international competition, those international competitors are out there in the market getting the orders and selling, backed to the hilt by their own Governments? Is this going to be yet another great British development created by our scientists, engineers and skilled trades, but allowed to slip away by blinkered civil servants and weak Ministers who cannot make a decision?

Rolls-Royce is a great British company, which is why we previously made up to £210 million available from the advanced nuclear fund to Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd to support the development of its small modular reactor design. Great British Nuclear will launch the first-stage selection process for small modular reactors, which is expected to attract the best designs from domestic and international vendors, which will be great for this country. By the way, we are going three times faster than any comparable country on this project.

Energy Costs: Support for Households

The Government are committed to cheap energy for all. Last winter, we covered half a typical energy bill through the combined support of the energy price guarantee and the energy bill support scheme since October, with a typical household saving around £1,500 by the end of June.

There is a huge gulf between the reality and the practice of the Government. The Public Accounts Committee has warned this Tory Government about their lack of planning on support for consumers with the cost of energy this winter. Lack of preparedness seems a serious ailment within this Government. Given that Sense research has found that more than 30% of disabled people are cutting back on their use of medical equipment, when will we get a proper plan from this Government, instead of the profiteering off the backs of the most vulnerable, as we see from so many energy companies?

We are of course making plans, and I do not accept that we are not planning. We are also talking to stakeholders and ensuring that we are giving the best support we can to all those who will be vulnerable in winter 2023-24.

Topical Questions

Next week will mark the 500-day anniversary since Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine and began trying to blackmail the world on energy. As ever, Britain stood strong in the face of tyranny, and I am pleased to report that from Saturday just past, energy bills are falling by an average of 17% for households. We are committed to powering Britain from Britain, despite some alarming energy surrender plans coming from the Opposition.

The Climate Change Committee’s report published last week found that of the policies and consultations that are the responsibility of the Secretary of State’s Department, no less than 33 are overdue. He cannot blame anyone else. Will he now own up to the Government’s appalling failure?

The actual data argues the opposite way. We have met all our carbon budgets to date. The Climate Change Committee last week said that the chances of reaching carbon budget 4 are “slightly increased”. We are confident of meeting it, and we have set out our plans for carbon budgets 5 and 6. I have to say that given that this country has the best record in the world among developed nations for getting carbon under control, it is surprising to hear the Opposition’s view.

T2.   Our domestic nuclear sector and our military are struggling to recruit and retain enough nuclear engineers. What discussions is the Minister having with the sector and the Department for Education to create a long-term workforce plan to solve the issue? (905792)

Since day one, the skills challenges that we face have been a top priority for me, which is why my Department is working closely with the Ministry of Defence, the DFE and the sector to tackle them. With the employer-led Nuclear Skills Strategy Group, we have deployed a joint plan of skills actions to support the civil and defence programmes, but I would be happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss that further.

Six days ago, the Climate Change Committee delivered its most scathing assessment in its history on the Government’s record, saying that they were off track on 41 out of 50 key targets. It said that we have gone “markedly” backwards in the past year, on the Secretary of State’s watch. Who does he blame for this failure?

As has been discussed more than once in these questions and answers, we have taken this country from having only 7% renewable energy to over 40%. We have decarbonised faster than any other G7 nation and we are on track for carbon budget 4, having already overdelivered on carbon budgets 1, 2 and 3. Based on our record to date, we are doing a pretty good job.

That answer is total complacency from a Secretary of State who has just been proven to be failing on every major aspect of his agenda. That is why Lord Goldsmith resigned. Lord Deben has said he is failing, and the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) has said that we are losing the global race. Is not the truth now that even the Tories do not trust the Tories on the climate crisis?

This is one of the problems with not being prepared to follow the data, which shows us overdelivering on the commitments of carbon budgets 1, 2 and 3, and that we are more likely to meet carbon budget 4 than we were a year ago. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to ignore all that and still roll out his pre-written question, that is how we get to his conclusions. The truth is that the Government are delivering on the issues of climate change while protecting every single household in the country from Putin’s tyranny. I am afraid that has already been surrendered by the right hon. Gentleman, who subscribes to the Just Stop Oil approach.

Order. Can I just ask the Secretary of State to please not take advantage? This is topicals. Please tell me if you want to pick a Member who you do not want to be able to ask their question.

T4.   Will the Minister tell the House what his latest assessment is of the full financial cost to the United Kingdom of reaching net zero, and, if the UK reaches net zero, what difference that would make to global temperatures? (905794)

We estimate that the net cost excluding air quality and emissions-saving benefits will be equivalent to about 1% to 2% of GDP in 2050. As my hon. Friend knows, emissions are global, and we all need to play our part. The UK has a part to play in tandem with others, and that is why I will be working with other Ministers at the conference of the parties in Dubai.

T3.   The Climate Change Committee has slammed the Government for their failure on energy efficiency, with the number of homes helped under the energy company obligation having fallen by half between 2021 to 2022 and now standing at a tenth of the level under the last Labour Government. Instead of the usual complacent nonsense, will the Minister explain why the Government are failing to insulate Britain’s homes and what he will do about it? (905793)

The hon. Gentleman is right to be frustrated about progress. But as the Secretary of State said, when the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), who is chuntering on the Front Bench, was in power, just 14% of homes were decently insulated; by the end of the year, it will be more than 50%. We have set up the energy efficiency taskforce because we want to go further and faster. We are determined to do more. We are spending £12.6 billion over this Parliament and the next, and—

T5.   Many businesses across my constituency, including Lishman’s butchers and Clip ’n Climb in Ilkley, have kindly contacted me about needing additional support to help with their energy prices. The Government have done a huge amount to support domestic users, but will the Minister outline what more support can be provided to small independent businesses? (905795)

My hon. Friend will be interested to hear that the Government provided more than £7.4 billion of support to businesses—more than £35 million a day—through the energy bill relief scheme last winter.

T6. Mine water heating is an emerging technology that employs the heat stored in former mines to heat buildings. It is low-carbon and efficient, and it could be a boon for our country, especially in deindustrialised areas such as County Durham that experience high levels of fuel poverty. What forms of support is the Minister offering? Will he meet me to discuss how we can take this forward in the north-east? (905796)

I share the hon. Lady’s enthusiasm. We are taking steps to support this technology, and I would be delighted to meet her to discuss it further.

T7.   Lots of green renewable energy is generated in Northamptonshire. For the last year for which figures are available, what was the total output, and the breakdown by type? (905797)

Unfortunately, we do not have public data by constituency and do not yet have the full data for 2022. However, I can tell my hon. Friend that in 2021, north Northamptonshire generated a total of 362 GWh of renewable electricity. The people of Kettering, like their representative, want Kettering to be one of the greenest constituencies in the country.

T9. The Secretary of State has signalled that his party will finally drop the nonsensical proposed hydrogen levy—another welcome Government U-turn. Will he confirm that it is, in fact, a U-turn? Will he outline exactly how the much-needed investment in green hydrogen technology will be paid for without already struggling households being made to foot the bill? [R] (905799)

The whole House will welcome the hydrogen economy as an important way to store power. It is becoming increasingly apparent that that power is most likely to be used in heavy industry as well as heavy transport. This Government are committed to hydrogen power, but we are also keen to ensure that it does not impact on people’s energy bills, just as those bills are starting to fall thanks to the support that we provided families with this past winter.

T8. The contracts for difference auctions have been very successful in kickstarting the British success story that is offshore wind. [Interruption.] However, the mechanism now needs adaptation to maximise job creation in places such as Lowestoft and to ensure that we adopt a strategic approach to the provision of enabling infrastructure such as ports and the grid. I would welcome an update from my right hon. Friend on the Government’s work on this important issue. (905798)

I could only just hear my hon. Friend’s question, as the shadow Secretary of State made it quite hard to hear. The Government recently completed a call for evidence on this very subject, looking at the introduction of non-price factors in the contracts for difference scheme so that it values things other than just cost deployment. My hon. Friend, like all Members on the Government Front Bench, wants the maximum number of jobs created and retained in this country.

T10.   Lord Deben has urged the Government to “find the courage to place climate change once again at the heart of its leadership.” Does the Minister share concerns that the Prime Minister and, therefore, this Government are just too weak to stand up to their Back Benchers and really grasp the opportunity and necessity? (905800)

It was this Prime Minister who created the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, and it is this Government who have delivered more than 43% renewable electricity on to the grid. We will take no lectures from the Labour party on combating climate change.

Will my hon. Friend please outline what his Department is doing to look at the import of green hydrogen feedstock into the UK, to increase the scale and speed of the UK industry and help us achieve our 10 GW capacity by 2020?

I am aware of proposals on the shipping and possible piping of hydrogen and the important part that must play. If we are to decarbonise all of British industry, we will need shipping as well as piping. I will be happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss what further we can do.

I very much welcome the recent progress on developing carbon capture, usage and storage on Teesside. I hope we will see the final confirmation that it will happen and the work will start. That said, local industrialists and investors are concerned that the Department is not now asking BP to build the CO2 collection pipework as originally planned, meaning that it will not go to CF Fertilisers or Kellas or pass by the Alfanar site. Could the Minister provide an update, please?

We are moving at top speed to drive forward CCUS. We are in a world-leading position. The opportunity is enormous in the Tees, the Humber and areas in the north-west as we seek to get that right and embed those industries in this country.

The unique geology of Cornwall means that there is huge potential for geothermal energy. There are a number of projects bidding for the current allocation round. Geothermal energy has a competitive strike price, has lithium as a by-product and makes use of mature technology. Will the Secretary of State ensure that those benefits are properly factored into any assessments?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right about the opportunities of geothermal. He will be pleased to know that it just received a potential allocation through the contracts for difference round. As he and other hon. Friends have pointed out, geothermal has great potential in this country, and we look forward to supporting it.

Communities in Padanaram, Forfar, Aberlemno and Stracathro in my constituency have been on the receiving end of an extraordinarily flawed consultation by SSEN—Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks—on taking a 400 kV line from Tealing to Kintore. I welcome the investment, but can the Minister advise on the minimum standards for consultations on capital infrastructure of this nature, and why will Ofgem not mandate that there is a community benefit?

I will, with the hon. Gentleman’s permission, arrange to write back to him in a more detailed structure, given that the development is actually in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Andrew Bowie).

Unlocking access to the grid will unlock significant private sector capital ready to come in for microgeneration of battery storage projects. Can my hon. Friend give me an update on the timing for the Winser review and the Government’s response to it?

Following a debate in Westminster Hall on making heritage buildings more sustainable, will the Secretary of State undertake to meet his colleague the Minister with responsibility for culture to push for the urgent revision of guidelines to allow greater flexibility in the siting of solar panels and other renewable installations on heritage buildings, in order to make them more environmentally sustainable and economically viable?

At a time when the cost of generating electricity is falling thanks to the increasing use of renewables, my constituents do not understand why the price of electricity remains linked to the price of gas. I know that the Government are undertaking a review of electricity market arrangements. When might they expect to see a change?

My hon. Friend is quite right to ask that question. We would all like to see gas setting the price of electricity less frequently. That is why we are accelerating the take-up of renewables, which were so pitifully low in quantity when Labour was in power. We need a Conservative Government to keep up progress and lower bills right across the country.

The Secretary of State outlined the progress being made on small modular nuclear reactors. Can he provide an estimate of how many there might be within 10 years?

Great British Nuclear will be launched later in July. We will also be launching the draw-down selection process for which technologies we will invest in and support. I would be delighted to speak to the hon. Gentleman in more detail about that progress moving forward.

I think my constituents, not least those who are part of the Glasgow Community Energy co-operative, will be disappointed with the Minister’s answer to the right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw). The Minister is extremely familiar with the clauses that form part of the proposed community energy Bill. They are not acceptable as amendments to the Energy Bill before this House. Will the Government bring forward their own amendments, so that community energy groups can have the confidence they need to take forward their projects?

As I said, we are working with the sector and parliamentarians to find a way forward to further support community energy projects. As part of that, I would be delighted to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss it further.

Violence in the West Bank

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs if he will make a statement on the violence in the west bank.

The accelerating cycle of violence in the west bank risks another round of bloodshed and the Government are doing everything possible to urge the de-escalation of the situation. The latest operation by the Israel Defence Forces in the Jenin refugee camp in the northern west bank on Monday is the latest episode in a conflict that has become more worrying as the year has progressed. While the UK firmly supports Israel’s right to defend itself and its citizens against terrorism, we urge the Israel Defence Forces to demonstrate restraint, adhere to the principles of international humanitarian law and prioritise the protection of civilians.

While the security situation today remains fragile, the UK welcomed Israeli and Palestinian engagement at meetings in Aqaba on 26 February and Sharm El Sheik on 19 March. We are clear-eyed that those meetings have not been a silver bullet, but they are an open, meaningful channel of communication between senior Israelis and Palestinians. At times of strife, this is important in assisting de-escalation and reducing violence. We have consistently engaged with both the Israelis and the Palestinians to urge them to de-escalate tensions and to support efforts towards renewed negotiations.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to the Israeli Foreign Minister, Eli Cohen, on 26 June—when they discussed the security situation in the west bank—having spoken to the Palestinian Prime Minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, on 16 June. I can confirm that the Minister for the Middle East, Lord Ahmad, will be discussing the evolving situation with the Israeli ambassador later today, further to discussions in recent days. He also spoke to the Palestinian Foreign Minister, Riyad al-Maliki, on 5 May. Our ambassadors in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem regularly speak to both the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority to urge de-escalation and to make clear our expectation that all sides avoid unilateral steps that move the parties further away from dialogue.

Let me finally draw the House’s attention to the statement that the Foreign Secretary made jointly with his Canadian and Australian counterparts last Friday. The UK opposes Israel’s announced proposal to expand settlements across the west bank, and we ask Israel to halt and reverse its policy of supporting settlement expansion. Settlements are not the only obstacle to peace, but they are an important one, and our concerns about these recent steps are clear. The lives lost in this wider conflict are tragic. There is an urgent need for all parties to avoid further escalation in the west bank and Gaza, now and in the days ahead.

The past 24 hours have seen a horrifying military assault by the Israel Defence Forces on the overcrowded refugee camp in Jenin. The UN Refugee Agency says that about 15,000 people live in less than half a square kilometre in the camp, yet we have all witnessed on our screens the Israel Defence Forces launching air attacks, including attacks from drones, and they have sent in hundreds, if not thousands, of ground troops in the largest military action in the west bank for 20 years. News agencies are reporting 10 deaths of Palestinians, including three children, and 100 Palestinians injured, while the Palestinian Red Crescent says that it has evacuated 3,000 people. The UN’s Vanessa Huguenin has said:

“We are alarmed at the scale of air and ground operations that are taking place in Jenin”.

The World Health Organisation has said:

“First responders have been prevented from entering the refugee camp”.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority leadership has resolved to

“immediately petition the UN Security Council to implement Resolution 2334 and the relevant resolutions on providing international protection to the Palestinian people, stopping unilateral measures, and imposing sanctions on the occupying power.”

The UK currently holds the presidency of the UN Security Council and is therefore responsible for guiding its response to requests made by the Palestinian Authority. May I therefore ask the following questions? What are the UK Government doing in their capacity as President of the UN Security Council? How have they responded at the UN to the Palestinian Authority’s call for international protection? What has the Foreign Office said to its Israeli counterpart about the Israel Defence Forces preventing medical staff from accessing the Jenin refugee camp, or firing tear gas into hospitals sheltering children and elderly residents?

Finally, what steps will the Foreign Secretary take to review whether the IDF have made any use of UK arms sold to Israel in this attack? Will he immediately suspend all arms sales, including surveillance technology, and will he ban collaboration between the UK and Israel’s armed forces and military industries as a result of this horrific attack on civilians?

I thank the hon. Lady for bringing the urgent question to the House. This is a matter of deep concern to us all. We will continue to urge the Israel Defence Forces to demonstrate restraint in this operation so that all parties can try to avoid further escalation in the west bank and Gaza. As I have said, while the UK will always support Israel’s right to self-defence, the protection of civilians, particularly children, must always be prioritised, and we expect the armed forces’ conduct always to be in line with international humanitarian law. We therefore call on Israel to adhere to those principles of necessity and proportionality while defending its legitimate security interest.

We stand on the precipice of the Gaza crisis of 2023 and the third intifada. Yesterday, an Israeli military incursion into the Jenin refugee camp resulted in the deaths of more than 10 refugees. Hundreds were injured and, as the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Beth Winter) says, the ensuing gun battle has prevented civilians from getting the aid and medical care they need. Today, five Israeli civilians were killed in a terrorist car ramming and a stabbing, and we are in an endless cycle of violence. We need a return to the diplomatic table. Jordan and Egypt have been trying to facilitate that and stand ready to continue to do so, but they must see meaningful efforts to stand up for the agreements reached at previous meetings, such as the one in Aqaba.

I therefore call on the Government to try to secure the following. The Israelis must stop the expansion of illegal settlements; we are seeing that continue and it must stop—they agreed to do that at Aqaba. We must see Hamas end its terror attacks on Israel. They are wrong—they are terror attacks—and although we have no influence over Hamas, we must use our voice to make it clear that it must immediately stop. As the UK, can we urge our Israeli friends to show restraint? Can we appoint a middle east peace process envoy who can be tasked with spending their entire time working with our allies around the region to de-escalate the situation? Our voice is unique and will be heard, and we have a role to play in the peace process. Finally, will we use our UN Security Council presidency? Through that role, we can shed light on what is taking place.

I thank the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee for her salient and wise comments, as always. May I reiterate that on Friday the Foreign Secretary made a joint statement with the Canadians and Australians to set out very clearly our opposition to Israel’s announcement of the expansion of settlements across the west bank? We are asking Israel to halt and reverse that policy of settlement expansion with immediate effect.

More widely, of course, we recognise the very real security challenges facing Israel and the Palestinian Authority and condemn all terrorist groups planning and carrying out attacks, but we mourn the loss of innocent lives. Indeed, the injuries to civilians and particularly children are deeply concerning. We will continue to speak and our colleagues are speaking to our Israeli teams today about the urgent need for all parties to de-escalate and prevent the further loss of civilian life.

We must all be extremely concerned about the situation in the refugee camp in the city of Jenin, as well as the ongoing deteriorating situation in the conflict as a whole. Israel has the right to defend itself against militant groups, but that right must be exercised proportionately and in line with international law. I am therefore very concerned that reports suggest there are significant civilian casualties in Jenin. I am also aware that statements from the spokesman for the United Nations Secretary-General suggest that this military operation has not been conducted within the parameters of humanitarian law. The Secretary-General is said to be “deeply concerned” about the situation on the ground.

Likewise, I am extremely concerned about the breaking news of a suspected car ramming in Tel Aviv, where latest reports suggest that at least five people are injured. Can the Minister provide an urgent update on the situation? We will always condemn acts of terrorism, which only make peace harder to achieve.

On Jenin, I am concerned about reports that emergency health teams have been prevented from entering Jenin to treat the injured and to help people in general, and that two hospitals have been damaged. The World Health Organisation has reported that three children have recently been killed. I am sure that everyone in the House will agree that it is truly appalling that children—Palestinian and Israeli—continue to be the innocent victims in this conflict. Does the Minister agree that all civilian deaths must be thoroughly and impartially investigated and that there must be meaningful accountability?

Let me be clear that the Opposition will continue to be strong and consistent advocates of justice, human rights and international law in this conflict. We also condemn the unacceptable use of violence against civilians in all circumstances. In our view, there will be a lasting peace only when there is a negotiated diplomatic settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The only real solution will be a settlement based on two states: a safe and secure Israel alongside a viable and independent Palestinian state. We strongly oppose actions that make this two-state solution harder to achieve. So my fundamental question is: what of substance are the Minister and the Government doing to bring this immediate conflict to an end and to lay the foundations for a two-state solution?

I do not have the latest information on the Tel Aviv attack, but I understand that Hamas are claiming it as one of theirs. We absolutely condemn Hamas’s use of indiscriminate violence and attacks of this nature. There can never be any justification for such acts of violence, and we will continue to call on Hamas and other terrorist groups to permanently end their incitements against Israel. Importantly, Ministers and our ambassadors will continue to work very closely, today and in the days ahead, to urge the de-escalation of the present situation in Jenin.

Understanding that this comes in the context of, for years, Israel building settlements that block the route to a settlement of this dispute, and understanding that Israel is failing to show restraint, failing to follow international humanitarian law and failing to protect civilians, what are the Government actually going to do?

As I say, the statement that the Foreign Secretary put out with his Canadian and Australian counterparts last week set out a clear message to the Israelis about stopping the settlement expansion. We will continue to work with our friends and allies to make that message clearly heard.

Violence on all sides must be condemned. However, contrary to what the Minister said, illegal settlements are a barrier to peace, yet the UK Government continue to fail to take any meaningful action towards preventing that. This violence represents a serious escalation of tensions on the west bank. As we have heard, Palestinians and Israelis have lost their lives. What assessment has been made of the potential chain reaction of violence that this could unleash?

It has been confirmed that thousands of people have been displaced from the camp. What discussions has the Minister had with international colleagues on how to minimise the suffering of those refugees— civilians—who have now been displaced twice? This morning, UN aid agencies voiced alarm at the scale of Israel’s military operation in Jenin, reporting that water and energy supplies have been damaged, so will the UK Government commit to working with partners to provide additional humanitarian funding to restore these vital supplies for people there?

The UK’s position is clear: settlements are illegal under international law and they call into question Israel’s commitment to the two-state solution. So we have urged Israel to halt that settlement expansion, which is threatening the physical viability of a Palestinian state. To the hon. Gentleman’s point, we are working with our partners the United States, France, Germany and Italy to strongly oppose these unilateral steps.

I am afraid that I do not have the latest information on humanitarian funding, but our teams work very closely through the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration and other humanitarian organisations. I would be happy to ask the relevant Minister to update the House later on what the latest commitments are.

Clearly, this morning’s car ramming is only the most recent of the terrorist attacks that have emanated from the city of Jenin. So far, Operation House and Garden has resulted in the destruction of three labs, hundreds of improvised explosive devices and thousands of grenades. Underneath the mosque, there were two tunnels with hundreds of weapons, and 120 people have been arrested. Clearly, the terrorist activity is going to be severely limited. Behind all this is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hamas and the Jenin battalions. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that this is a proportionate attempt to reduce terrorism against the state of Israel?

As I say, while the UK remains absolutely resolute in its commitment to Israel’s security, and we condemn absolutely the use of indiscriminate force by Hamas and other terrorist groups, we call on all parties to maintain a proportionate balance, so that we can de-escalate the existing situation and ensure that civilians are not caught up in this any more.

With water and electricity services in the Jenin refugee camp damaged as a result of the violence, camp residents are unable to move from their homes. Many are in urgent need of food, drinking water and medical support, but the ambulances have been prevented from reaching the wounded. Will the Secretary of State raise with the Israeli authorities the issue of access for ambulances and medical teams to the Jenin camp?

The FCDO Minister for the middle east, Lord Ahmad, will be listening to the debate and will be able to give an update in the other place later today about his ongoing discussions with Israeli counterparts.

Let us be clear: any loss of innocent civilian life is one too many. But let us also be clear that the Palestinian Authority has lost control over Jenin and it has become a safe haven for terrorists. Terror groups have fortified the area with IEDs and last week they fired rockets towards Israel from inside the camp. Iran has also boasted about arming, training and funding the Palestinian terror groups that operate there. Does the Minister agree that it is in the interests of both the Palestinians and the Israelis that terror groups cease these operations, which only further destabilise the Palestinian Authority and the region, with innocent people dying as a consequence?

We recognise the real security concerns facing Israel and the Palestinian Authority while they try to deal with those terrorist groups, and we condemn absolutely terrorist groups planning and carrying out attacks. To my hon. Friend’s point on the loss of innocent lives, every loss is one too many and there will also be a serious number of injuries to civilians. We continue to be deeply concerned by the cycle of violence in the west bank. The urgent need for all parties to de-escalate to prevent that loss of life remains critical.

Unless and until we acknowledge our own role in this developing tragedy, anything the Minister says at the Dispatch Box is essentially going to be meaningless. The increase in violence by the IDF and the expansion of settlement in the west bank happen because we and other countries in the west do nothing to hold Israel to account. So could the Minister tell us now: will she commit to supporting an International Criminal Court investigation into what is happening there? Will the Government here now set a timetable for the recognition of the Palestinian state?

This Government and Members on both sides of the House do not waver from the two-state solution that we all wish to see. As I have said, settlements are illegal under international law and we will continue, alongside allies and partners, to make that point clear. As for the ongoing activity today, I hope that Lord Ahmad will be able to pick up on that later today as progress is made with our counterparts in Israel.

But hasn’t our strategic partnership with Israel, announced in this House, afforded us any leverage over Israeli policy in the west bank?

Our strategic relationship with Israel is a strong and long-standing one. We work with Israel in many areas, from security to trade. It is an important partner. That does not negate the fact that we want to see a de-escalation of the current situation and to ensure that the loss of civilian lives is minimised.

I share the distress of others at the loss of civilian life. Islamic Jihad has already claimed several of the dead as Islamic Jihad fighters and, as we have heard, the Israelis say that the camp was used as a hub for terrorist operations. Does the Minister think any more can be done to prevent terrorists from embedding themselves among civilians, particularly in places such as refugee camps?

We recognise the security challenges that are faced and will continue to be faced, not only by Israel and the Palestinian Authority in this case, but elsewhere in the world, where innocents living in refugee camps are used as a cover for terrorists wishing to cause harm. We all have to continue to tackle that not only in the west bank, but around the world. Importantly, in this situation, we will all continue to urge de-escalation to reduce the risk of any further civilian casualties or loss of life.

This year has seen more Palestinians killed than in any other year, more settlement starts announced than in any other year, more demolitions in East Jerusalem than in any other year and more violence in general. We are on the precipice of another intifada. At the minute, it looks to me as though Israel is acting with impunity and this is an all-out assault on Palestinian life. So what actions will the Government undertake—not just conversations—to bring this dreadful escalation in violence to an end?

We are absolutely committed to working with all parties on the challenges associated with demolitions so that people remain calm and avoid provocation. But we are clear that in all but the most exceptional of circumstances demolitions and forced evictions are contrary to international humanitarian law. The practice causes unnecessary suffering to Palestinians and is harmful to efforts to promote peace. In particular, we are monitoring developments at Masafer Yatta closely and we have made our views clear to the Israeli Government on that matter.

Constituents have written to me about their grave concerns for the welfare of civilians and health workers in the Jenin camp. They, like me, know that the Israeli army enjoys a climate of impunity because the international community never holds Israel to account for its actions. Israel continues to breach international law, including the fourth Geneva convention. As we have heard already today, settlements are war crimes under the Rome statute. So my question for the Minister is: what specific actions will the Government take to ensure that Israel adheres to international law and that its leaders are held accountable for its war crimes?

As I say, we have been clear on this. My colleague in the other place will speak with the Israeli ambassador later today to ensure that we put forward the UK view that de-escalation is urgently required in this difficult situation and that we continue to tackle the questions associated with illegal settlements, which are contrary to humanitarian law.

When the Russians have bombed predominantly civilian areas, resulting in the death of civilians, we have rightly condemned it as a war crime. Why have the Government not condemned these actions, which are resulting in the loss of civilian life, as a war crime? Have the Government called in the Israeli ambassador to remind her in the strongest terms possible of the legal responsibility that Israel has to protect civilians?

The UK supports Israel’s right to defend itself and its citizens against terrorist activities, but we are clearly urging the IDF to demonstrate restraint in order to prioritise the protection of civilians. As I say, Lord Ahmad will be speaking with the Israeli ambassador later today.

We all condemn attacks on civilians, regardless of which community they are from. The actions of the IDF in Jenin are indefensible and have resulted in 2023 being one of the most lethal years for Palestinians. The UK has long claimed to support a two-state solution, endorsed UN Security Council resolution 2334 and recognised that settlements are illegal under international law. So after yesterday’s appalling move to block action by citizens and public bodies to stop illegal occupation and settlements, have UK Government policy changed?

As I say, this Government will continue to stress the importance of the adherence to the principles of necessity and proportionality when Israel defends its legitimate security interests, as well as the importance of continuing to provide appropriate protection to the Palestinian civilian population, particularly children.

At around 11.30 am yesterday, 17-year-old Majdi Younis Saud Ararawi sustained a gunshot wound to the chest and Nouruddin Husam Yousef Marshoud, who was just 15, was shot in the head by Israeli occupation forces. Their names join a list of more than 30 Palestinian children killed by the Israeli regime since the beginning of 2023. The ultimate cause of those senseless killings is Israel’s brutal and illegal occupation of Palestine, which has gone on for over half a century.

Given that last night the Government voted for legislation banning peaceful means of protesting against this abomination, and given Britain’s humanitarian and historic responsibilities to the Palestinian people, what actions have the Government taken? The Minister has ducked the question so far, but I will give her another chance to answer. What action will the Government take to ensure that Israel adheres to international law and its leaders are held to account?

As I have said, we are engaging both with the Israelis and the Palestinians to urge them to de-escalate those tensions. Lord Ahmad will be speaking to the Israeli ambassador later, highlighting and demanding that under international law access to medical care and staff is allowed, so that those who are injured in the Jenin refugee camp are able to receive the medical care that they require.

The use of aerial bombardment and armoured assault by thousands of troops in a refugee camp, familiar to the people of Gaza, is now extended to the west bank. Alongside settlement expansion, it is part of the annexation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories by Israel’s far-right Government. Occupation is the cause and context of these latest war crimes. Will the Government acknowledge that and respond by recognising the state of Palestine?

As I say, across this House we continue our long-standing position of a two-state solution. We will continue to work with partners across the world to find a solution that allows that to happen. In the meantime, we are deeply troubled by the level of violence and we continue to call on Israel, while defending itself and its citizens, to demonstrate the restraint required to ease the situation in Jenin today.

My thoughts go out to the people affected by the horrific attacks on the Jenin refugee camp. We must be clear that this is a violation of international law and that the occupying forces, in particular, have a responsibility to end the violence. I will give a clear suggestion of a possible action: will the UK Government send a clear message of condemnation by bringing to an end the importation into the UK of goods that are produced in those Israeli settlements that are deemed illegal under international law?

As I say, we will continue to make calls on Israel—[Interruption.] Goods made in the settlements are not allowed to be imported, and that continues to be the case. We continue to grow the work that we do on trade with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the OPTs, and I know the Department for Business and Trade is focused on that development work.[Official Report, 5 July 2023, Vol. 735, c. 4MC.]

I do not think the Minister understands the power of office. Today we have heard comments and some warm words, but we have seen no action. The UK currently has the power of holding the presidency of the United Nations Security Council, so will she call the Security Council together to act now on the atrocities that we have seen in Jenin? What other measures will she take to stop further atrocities occurring?

As I say, we continue to work on the peaceful two-state solution. Later today, Lord Ahmad will provide an update in the other place on our continuing activities.

This year has already been the deadliest for violence in the west bank since 2005. What assessment has the Minister made of the impact of rising Israeli violence against Palestinian civilians? I will give her another chance: does she not agree that civilian deaths should lead to investigations and accountability?

As I say, we continue to be deeply troubled by the high number of Palestinian civilians who have been killed and injured, as the hon. Lady highlights. While Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself, it is important that Israeli forces exercise maximum restraint, especially in the use of live fire, when protecting that legitimate security interest.

I draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

Peace is a word we often hear in relation to Israel and Palestine, but how can peace be achieved when Palestinians are subjected to systematic and deliberate oppression and discrimination by Israeli authorities? The people in the Jenin refugee camp have already fled their homes, and they have been displaced yet again. Can the Minister set out what is being done by the international community to help those who have now been displaced twice? Will she condemn the denial to access medical care for Palestinians in Jenin? And will she join me in calling out Israel’s behaviour for what it is? As stated in a report by Amnesty International, Israel is committing the crime of “apartheid against Palestinians.”

As I say, Lord Ahmad will be speaking to the Israeli ambassador later and will be making clear that we want to ensure that medical supplies are able to get into refugee camps to provide the care that is needed to those who are injured as a result of the violence of the past few days.

Reports from Jenin are shocking, particularly reports that medical teams are unable to get access to civilians in need. I support what the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Alicia Kearns), said about having steps towards a solution and an ending of Israeli settlements. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports there have been at least 570 attacks by settlers against Palestinians in the west bank this year, which is an average of three attacks a day. What is the Minister doing, in discussions with her counterparts, on tackling Israeli settler violence, as well as on the issues faced because of new Palestinian militant groups? Action is needed now to de-escalate the situation, as well as looking again at the international funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which is vital to support Palestinian refugees.

As I say, we condemn settler violence in the strongest possible terms and we urge the Israeli authorities to do what they can. The Foreign Secretary’s statement, published with Australia and Canada at the end of last week, highlighted the very clear demand that the Government of Israel reverse their decision to approve over 5,700 new settlement units in the west bank and change the settlement approval process. We will continue to work with allies to achieve that.

The escalation of violence in the west bank over the past year and the killing of innocent civilians, including children in recent days, is devastating. The two-state solution, which many of us hope will bring peace and stability to the region, seems further away than ever. What are the Government actively doing to stop the killing of innocent people and to ensure that a two-state settlement is still a diplomatic reality?