House of Commons
Tuesday 12 July 2016
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Business Before Questions
Haberdashers’ Aske’s Charity Bill [Lords]
Bill read a Second time.
Oral Answers to Questions
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
The Secretary of State was asked—
1. What assessment he has made of trends in the number of demolitions by Israel of Palestinian homes and other structures in the west bank in 2016. 
Before answering this question, may I take this opportunity to say that, two weeks ago, I had the difficult task of responding to the written Foreign Office question submitted by our former colleague, Jo Cox? Given her active role in foreign affairs, I completed this task because I believe it is what she would have wanted. Given the frequency and the passion with which she spoke and indeed influenced policy in this very forum at Foreign Office questions, I thought it appropriate to begin by paying tribute to her.
I am extremely grateful to the Minister for what he said, which is warmly welcomed in the House. More than anyone in this House, the hon. Gentleman knows of what he speaks, and I thank him.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
We are deeply concerned by the continued demolition of Palestinian property by Israeli authorities, and the worrying spike in the rate of demolitions this year. In all but the most exceptional circumstances, demolitions are contrary to international humanitarian law. We regularly raise our concerns about demolitions with the Israeli Government. We make it clear that such actions do not encourage the confidence-building measures needed for talks to recommence.
I associate myself with the Minister’s words about our former colleague and friend, Jo Cox. She was an exceptional Member of Parliament and an exceptional person as well. Perhaps the greatest tribute any of us can give to Jo is to continue her work to support human rights throughout the world.
One of the things Jo was passionate about was justice for the Palestinians. According to the UN, Israel has demolished 649 Palestinian structures this year, and 1,000 people—over 400 of them children—have been displaced. The situation is getting worse, not better. I know that the Minister condemns these things, but if Israel feels it can continue with a culture of impunity, why should it stop? What can the international community do to show Israel that it does not have impunity, and what specific actions would the UK Government support?
Thank you very much for those initial comments. We agree and we are hugely concerned about the rate of demolitions. We need to place additional pressure on Israel and, indeed, the Palestinians to come to the table. I am pleased that we held a summit in Paris to discuss the overarching challenges that we face and the role that the international community can play. The extent of the demolitions was highlighted in the Quartet report, produced by Russia, the US, the EU and the UN, which underlines the very concerns that the hon. Gentleman has outlined.
I, too, would like to associate myself with the Minister’s moving words about our late colleague, Jo Cox. As for the general point, my hon. Friend is quite right when he says that this will not help in moving towards a position in which people come together to talk. There is, however, the other side of the coin, with 36 Israelis, along with four foreign nationals, murdered this year. Instead of condemning the murders, the Palestinian Authority glorified them. Surely, when just this weekend the Israeli Prime Minister said that he would meet without conditions, we should urge the Palestinian authorities to do precisely that and have direct talks.
My right hon. Friend raises a very important issue. We regularly raise and discuss these matters at Foreign Office questions. Now that we have had the Paris summit and seen a meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry, we can see this issue coming back on to the agenda. My concern—I raised it at the Paris summit—is that with all the other distractions and concerns in the middle east, we have lost sight of something that needs to be resolved. My right hon. Friend makes the important point that the actions of the Palestinians do not go unnoticed, and we require the leadership of President Abbas to make it clear that those actions must be condemned.
As well as demolishing Palestinian homes on the West Bank, Israel continues to arrest and detain Palestinian children in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. G4S, which has provided services for Israeli military checkpoints and prisons, has been found by the UK national contact point for the OECD guidelines to be in breach of its fundamental human rights obligations. Will the Minister join me in calling for G4S to withdraw fully from its relevant contracts with the Israeli state agencies?
I will certainly look into the case that the hon. Lady raises. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is concerned about the treatment of Palestinian children detained in Israeli prisons and has raised it with the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, and I raised it during my recent visit to Israel. We have done some work—and, indeed, have invested some funds—to ensure that the children are looked after in the best possible way.
The demolition of Arab houses, and of Jewish houses, was started by us, the British, between the wars, during the operation of the terms of the British mandate for Palestine. Today, the Israeli Government specifically cites British mandate law as a justification for the current demolitions. Has the Minister had conversations with his Israeli counterpart about the legitimacy of using that law today?
Given our legacy and the breadth of our influence over the last couple of hundred years, I think it wrong for any Government in the world to point to British policy and say that, historically, it is the cause. All laws can be updated, and both sides have a responsibility to come together and resolve this matter for the long term.
2. What guidance he issues to British embassies on whether they are obliged to respond to inquiries from British companies seeking assistance to understand the laws and regulations relating to their business dealings with the country in which the embassy is based. 
Our embassies and high commissions play a key role in promoting British interests and helping British companies to enter new markets. The Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and I have led delegations of businesses overseas, and we work closely with UKTI to ensure that our businesses receive continued support and advice.
One of my constituents has written to a certain embassy many times, and, although it acknowledges his correspondence, he has never received any further response, which is preventing him from fulfilling an important part of a significant business deal. Could the Minister provide any assistance by obtaining a full response from the embassy on behalf of my constituent, so that he can be given more information?
I was aware of that case, and I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising it. If any other Members are concerned about a lack of support from embassies for businesses in their constituencies, will they please let us know?
I understand that the head of UKTI in Morocco, with which the company concerned wishes to trade, has been speaking to the company directly. I can only apologise for the delay in providing the normal level of support that we would expect to give any company wishing to do business in Morocco or, indeed, anywhere else.
Does my hon. Friend agree that not enough small and medium-sized businesses export around the world, and that, because our balance of trade is widening, we must constantly review our trade policy? In particular, does he agree that British embassies around the world could help with digital linking between consumers around the world and potential exporting companies in this country?
My hon. Friend raises an extremely important point, which covers a specific interest that we can espouse. The Foreign Secretary had an opportunity to brief ambassadors and high commissioners when they returned to the UK last week. Given the new environment in which we find ourselves, the role that embassies and high commissions can play throughout the world in establishing new markets and exploring new opportunities—as well as revisiting old ones—is now critical.
Departmental Trade Specialists
3. Whether his Department plans to recruit more trade specialists as a result of the outcome of the EU referendum. 
Let me begin by welcoming the hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) to her new post, along with her compact team—a model, I hope, of improved productivity in the UK economy, although time will tell.
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced last month, the Government are creating a new EU unit which will bring together the brightest and best from Whitehall and the private sector, including lawyers, financial experts and trade experts. The Government are actively seeking to recruit trade specialists, and that includes approaching former civil servants who have retired or moved to the private sector.
I thank the Foreign Secretary for that answer, but can he tell the House how much this is going to cost?
No, not at this stage, but what I can tell the hon. Gentleman is that in the circumstances in which we find ourselves, facing the opportunities we now do, recruitment of trade specialists, whatever that costs us, is likely to be an investment very well worth making.
Is the Foreign Secretary heartened by the fact that since we voted to leave the EU a number of key countries and economies, including India, China and Australia, have approached the UK regarding furthering trade, and how well that compares with the stalled trade talks that have taken many years between the EU and such countries as the US and Canada?
Yes, it is a source of some optimism that a number of significant economies around the world have indicated that they would be open to the idea of trade agreements with the UK, and my hon. Friend makes a point that is very obvious but none the less important: that negotiating a trade deal between two countries is always going to be much easier than negotiating a trade deal between one country and 28 countries.
Last week at the Foreign Affairs Committee Oliver Letwin stated that
“we clearly need a new cadre of highly skilful and highly experienced trade negotiators.”
I hope the Secretary of State sees the irony in the fact that the very best of our trade negotiators are based in Brussels, but can he assure the House that from now on we will indeed bring in the best trade negotiators notwithstanding their nationality?
I think the hon. Lady had in mind the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr Letwin). I am not sure I recognised the name she mentioned.
I was puzzling about that myself and am grateful for your clarification, Mr Speaker, and, having had it, I am very happy to answer the hon. Lady’s question. As I said in response to the initial question, we will need to hire significant numbers of trade negotiators and—I said this in the House a couple of weeks ago—I see no reason why we would not hire people who were non-British if they were the best people to do the job. Clearly, one would not want to hire a citizen of another country to negotiate a trade deal with that country, but having entered that caveat, I would hope we put together the best and most capable teams from wherever.
I am sure the Foreign Secretary will agree that the Prime Minister’s trade envoys have played a very important role around the world. As our relationship with the EU changes, will he make representations to ensure that that programme is rolled out across Europe as well?
My hon. Friend raises a good point, and that will of course be an issue for the new Prime Minister as trade envoys are personal appointments of the Prime Minister.
Does the Foreign Secretary agree with the assessment of a former permanent secretary of the Foreign Office that to deal with the legal and political complexities of leaving the EU the Foreign Office will need to double in size?
I absolutely recognise there is a huge and complex task ahead of us in negotiating both our exit from the EU and, perhaps more importantly, the new arrangements Britain will have with the EU 27, but this is a project that will have a limited duration: once the negotiations are completed the task will be done, and I am not sure increasing the size of the Foreign Office will necessarily be the most appropriate way of doing that. Having a specialist unit to deal with this short to medium-term task may well be the most efficient way of delivering the outcome.
The incoming Prime Minister told us yesterday that she intends to make a success of Brexit and part of that is clearly going to be trade talks with countries throughout the world. Has the message already gone out to our embassies and high commissions that even before Brexit happens initial talks about trade should start with other countries?
The message that has gone out is that Britain will need to redouble its efforts in international trade and refocus where the trade is concentrated in the future. I should also make it clear that until we have served an article 50 notice, we remain a full participating member of the European Union. Our ability to negotiate new trade agreements is restricted by the continued application of EU law until we have negotiated our exit from the European Union, so we have to tread a careful path. Of course we can have preliminary discussions, but we must ensure that we remain on the right side of our international obligations at all times.
Human Rights: China
4. What recent discussions he has had with the Chinese Government on the promotion of human rights in that country. 
We regularly raise human rights with the Chinese authorities. I most recently discussed human rights with the Chinese ambassador a fortnight ago, and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed the human rights dialogue with State Councillor Yang last week. In addition, my right hon. Friend raised concerns last month with the president of the Supreme People’s Court about the detention of human rights defenders.
Following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, we will need to develop a new set of trading relationships with China. What reassurances can the Minister give me that that process will not diminish our ability or our resolve to publicly condemn the Chinese Government for human rights abuses?
The hon. Gentleman will know that we are very keen to get a date for the annual human rights dialogue. That is the right architecture within which to raise individual cases. However, we will continue to raise individual cases of human rights abuse, and if there is no human rights dialogue, we will have to increase that.
22. Can the Minister tell us exactly what action he is taking to question the Chinese Government about their brutal persecution of those who peacefully practise Falun Gong, particularly in relation to the live harvesting of organs? 
We have raised concerns about reports of organ harvesting, as well as about the torture and mistreatment of detainees, during the annual UK human rights dialogue. We will continue to do that at the next round. Equally, we pay close attention to the human rights situation in China and we remain extremely concerned about restrictions placed on freedom of religion or belief of any kind, including Falun Gong practitioners.
I should like to associate myself with the Minister’s remarks about Jo Cox, the MP who tragically lost her life. She was a fellow colleague from the 2015 intake. She was an advocate for refugees and a fierce and passionate champion of the dispossessed. We miss her very much at FCO questions, and her memory inspires us all as parliamentarians to work selflessly for those whose voice is rarely heard.
In relation to the human rights situation in China, Amnesty International has stated that at least 248 human rights lawyers and activists have been targeted by the authorities over the past year. They include the prominent lawyer, Wang Yu. She and 12 others are now under formal arrest on charges of subverting state power. What is the Minister’s assessment of this targeting of human rights activists? Does he agree that, on occasion, the Government’s approach lacks assertiveness in relation to human rights in China?
I should like to associate myself with the hon. Lady’s first remarks, but I dissociate myself from her concluding remark. I believe that, on balance, we have got the situation just about right. We are concerned about the human rights lawyers and we continue to raise the issue. Most recently, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did so with the president of the Supreme People’s Court of China, Zhou Qiang, on 9 June. He has also raised our concerns with the Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, and we will continue so to do.
EU Withdrawal Negotiations
5. If he will ensure that the Scottish Government are included in negotiations on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU. 
11. If he will ensure that the Scottish Government are included in negotiations on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU. 
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said, we must ensure that the interests of all parts of the United Kingdom are properly taken into account as we progress these negotiations. So, as we prepare for talks with the European Union, we will fully involve the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Governments as well as the Mayor of London, the overseas territories and other regional interests. Officials of the new EU unit, which I mentioned a few minutes ago, will be making contact with counterparts in the devolved Administrations.
While that answer is encouraging, it does not exactly give a lot of detail—much like the plans of the Brexiteers as they went into the referendum. What formal role will the Scottish Government and the other devolved Governments have in the process of formalising Brexit?
As we do with other matters, we will consult the Scottish Government both formally and through informal dialogue, including at senior official level on an ongoing basis.
The Scottish Government have been clear that EU nationals must be a priority. Given their net financial contribution, does the Foreign Secretary agree that EU nationals should be more of a priority than new nuclear weapons? Any new Chancellor should be especially mindful of that.
I am unsure whether the two issues need to be prioritised. They can both be pursued in parallel. The decision to renew our nuclear deterrent is quite separate from the negotiations that we will be having with the EU, including negotiations to ensure the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and the reciprocal rights of UK nationals living in EU countries.
Regardless of whether the Scottish Government are involved in the negotiations, will the Secretary of State confirm that the negotiations are purely about us leaving the EU and not some sort of renegotiation of our terms of membership that will result in a halfway house where we are half-in and half-out of the EU?
Yes, I can confirm that. The next Prime Minister has made it clear that Brexit means Brexit: we will be negotiating our exit from the EU. However, we will of course also seek to negotiate an agreement between the United Kingdom and the EU 27 to regulate our trade and other relationships with the EU.
Does the Foreign Secretary agree that it would be far better for Scotland to play a productive role in securing a new relationship between the UK and the EU, rather than looking to join as a new member, get the euro and put a border across this island?
I strongly agree with my hon. Friend. Scotland’s best future is in a strong United Kingdom, trading effectively with the EU. We saw the case for independence during the previous referendum—it did not stack up at $100 a barrel of oil and it certainly does not stack up at $50 a barrel.
19. The highlands and islands currently benefit from an additional €192 million of transition funding. Given the incoming Prime Minister’s haste to get on with Brexit, will the Secretary of State confirm that the UK Government will guarantee that funding? 
Britain is a significant net contributor to the EU, but that contribution includes a significant number of flows to particular regions, areas, projects and bodies within the United Kingdom. We will have to address how the recipients of those flows of funds from Brussels are to be protected in the future and that will be an important part of the negotiations.
20 . Scotland has benefited from access to EU research and a wealth of talented researchers and academics. The Guardian worryingly reported this morning:“Britain’s vote to leave the EU has unleashed a wave of discrimination against UK researchers”.Scottish universities and their staff are concerned. What is the Foreign Secretary’s message to the universities, research staff and workers that benefit from being part of the EU? How will he ensure that Scotland and its interests are protected? 
This issue is not just about Scotland; it is much wider than that. I will say two things. First, as long as we are a full member of the EU and are paying the full sub, we must ensure that there is no discrimination against the UK, UK institutions, UK applicants for funding or UK citizens. Secondly, the point of negotiating an arrangement for Britain’s relationship with the EU 27 after we have left the EU is precisely to protect collaborative research, educational projects and cultural exchanges in addition to our important trading relationships.
May I begin by thanking the Foreign Secretary for welcoming me to this new job? It is right to say that we are compact team, but we have the advantage of being made up of two blessed difficult women, and so we are formidable and up for the task. If rumours of promotion are true, this may be my final session with him before he takes another job. It would seem that everyone is in flux. He has a reputation of being a formidable but approachable Minister to shadow, so I will be sorry if our acquaintance is so brief.
The Foreign Secretary rightly said that he has given assurances that he will consult Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, London and Gibraltar on the Government’s negotiating strategy for Brexit prior to triggering article 50. Will those assurances also apply in respect of Her Majesty’s Opposition, to ensure that the needs and concerns of the communities we represent are reflected as the Government develop their negotiating strategy?
First, I am surprised to hear the hon. Lady saying that she expects promotion. I thought that those in the Labour party who were expecting promotion threw their hat in the ring yesterday—perhaps she is going to be a late entrant to that competition. On the substance of her question, of course there will be extensive discussion about all these issues in Parliament. The Opposition will have an opportunity to present their views, and we shall listen carefully to them.
I thank the Secretary of State for that answer, but I was hoping that I would get greater assurance than that and that there would be formal consultation with Her Majesty’s Opposition prior to the start of negotiations. We must avoid the mistakes made by the outgoing Prime Minister before his resignation. He had no proper consultation with Opposition parties, no proper discussion took place and there was a totally artificial timetable. Had the Prime Minister done those things, perhaps he would have got a better and more inclusive deal, the country might not have voted for Brexit and he might not be stepping down tomorrow. Does the Foreign Secretary not accept that the Prime Minister made a mistake and can he guarantee that those mistakes will not be made by the new Prime Minister?
Perhaps I dare say to the hon. Lady that I might have been a bit closer to those negotiations than she was and I can confidently say that engaging with the Opposition would not have affected the outcome.
I am sorry, but the questions and answers are taking too long. [Interruption.] Order. What we need now is a couple of pithy inquiries, not elongated ones.
The whole of Scotland is deeply concerned about the personal future of the Foreign Secretary, given his apocalyptic statements during the recent referendum. For example, he told Chatham House on 2 March that leaving would take longer to negotiate
“than the second world war.”
Will it take longer to negotiate Brexit than the second world war? How would any future Chancellor of the Exchequer deal with such uncertainty?
I think the right hon. Gentleman will recognise that the concern is this: if a future treaty between the United Kingdom and the European Union 27 is deemed to be a mixed competence, it will have to be ratified by 27 national Parliaments. I believe I am right in saying that the shortest time in which that has been done in respect of any EU treaty is just under four years—that is after taking into account the time it takes to negotiate.
That is a yes then. Did the Foreign Secretary see the poll at the weekend carried out by YouGov across European countries? It showed two things: first, that the UK Government were deeply unpopular in every other European country; and, secondly, that massive majorities of the public in every country surveyed were looking forward to an independent Scotland within Europe. Why are the UK Government so unpopular, and why is Scotland so popular in Europe?
I would have thought if there was one lesson to take from the events of the past three weeks, it was, “Do not read polls”.
6. What steps he is taking to support political liberty, freedom of expression and human rights in Bangladesh. 
Our condolences go to the victims and the families of those involved in the horrific and cowardly terrorist attack in Dhaka on 1 July. Where credible allegations of human rights abuses exist, we raise them with the Bangladesh Government. Bangladesh is named as one of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s 30 human rights priority countries. The British Government also fund a number of programmes that support civil society in Bangladesh.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Supporters of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist party have told me that hundreds of its party workers have now disappeared, and Amnesty International referred to at least 43 enforced disappearances in its latest international report. Whatever the true number, does he agree that the political situation in Bangladesh is now extremely serious and it is vital that political rights are protected?
Yes, I agree, and I condemn all forms of violence and excessive use of force. Equally, we made it clear in public and in private that justice must be done in a manner that fully respects the international human rights standards to which Bangladesh has signed up.
Human Rights Watch identified Bangladesh as having the highest rate of child marriage. This is a fundamental breach of human rights, particularly for those girls who are forced into marriages at such an early age. What are the Government doing to make their views known to the Bangladesh Government, and through the Commonwealth and other organisations, that such practice is not acceptable?
Clearly, it is not acceptable, and we continue to have a robust dialogue with the Bangladesh Government. We are also a significant aid donor working on some of these projects in that country.
Hindu priests have been brutally murdered and other religious minorities savaged. What actions has my right hon. Friend taken to inform the Bangladeshi Government that that is completely unacceptable and that they have to face up to their responsibilities?
Indeed. I can only repeat what I have just said. We have robust discussions with the Government of Bangladesh. We are extremely concerned about the situation in that country, not least because of its connections with Daesh and other organisations and its basic human rights as well.
What specific representations has the Minister made to the Government of Sheikh Hasina following the brutal murders in the diplomatic enclave of Gulshan in Dhaka? The area should have been very secure, and yet those murderers and terrorists were allowed in to murder 20 people on 1 July.
The Prime Minister wrote to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on 2 July to extend his condolences. I spoke to Foreign Minister Ali on 5 July to express my condemnation of this senseless act of horror.
7. What recent assessment he has made of the strength of diplomatic and economic relations between India and the UK. 
Our relations with India remain extremely good. Only this week, I spoke to a high-level group of Indian businessmen here in the United Kingdom, and of course they wanted to know what is happening now with our relationship with India following the recent referendum.
For individuals and businesses in Cheltenham, the UK’s relationship with India is increasingly important. How will it change post-Brexit?
We still have in this country 1.5 million Indians or people of Indian descent, so the connections are huge and robust. People come to the UK a lot and people go to India a lot. Clearly, early talks about the shape of our trade relationship with India will form part of our discussions over the next year or so.
On the diplomatic front, what discussions has the Minister had with the Indian Government about the recent events in Kashmir?
We are very saddened by the recent reports of unrest in Kashmir and we offer our condolences to the victims and their families. Our high commission in Delhi is monitoring the situation closely, and we have updated our travel advice accordingly.
I am delighted that my right hon. Friend referenced the fact that discussion about a future trade relationship will take place in parallel with our exit negotiations from the European Union. What kind of capability does he need to recruit to his Department to get into the detail of those discussions?
My hon. Friend will know that trade policy is with UK Trade & Investment, but I will repeat what my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said earlier. We are aware that we need to recruit and retain more trade negotiators. We are still a member of the EU until the last of the negotiations have taken place, but there is absolutely no reason not to start having exploratory talks, and we are beginning to do that.
Middle East Peace Talks
8. What steps the Government are taking to support the French initiative to start peace talks between Israel and Palestine. [R] 
12. What steps the Government are taking to support the French initiative to start peace talks between Israel and Palestine. 
As I mentioned earlier, I attended the French ministerial conference on the middle east peace process in Paris on 3 June. We are in close contact with the French Government and will consider how the UK might contribute as their plans develop.
It is a pity that the Foreign Secretary could not attend that conference. Will he be attending or advising his successor to attend the main conference later this year, and will he join France and other European countries in recognising Palestine if Israel refuses to co-operate with the French initiative and continues building settlements?
To make it clear, the summit was moved at short notice to accommodate the US Secretary of State. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was in Africa at the time, which was why I was able to attend. I hope the hon. Gentleman does not feel short-changed by the fact that I was there instead of the Foreign Secretary. It was an important meeting, as it registered the need for the international community to play its part and we look forward to moving ahead with the process. Discussions will take place in the next few months to bring the parties together.
In the light of recent moves by the Egyptian Foreign Minister, does the Minister believe that the chances for successful peace talks are improving? What efforts will the Government make to ensure that both Israel and Palestine are sufficiently incentivised to come to the table to talks?
The hon. Lady is right to say that both parties need to be sufficiently incentivised. The worry that I have had when visiting both the Palestinian areas and Israel is that the leaders on both sides are not necessarily speaking for the people, who generally want something different. My concern is that unless we see the affirmative steps taking place to reverse the trends that we have been seeing, we will drift towards an entrenched position of a one-state reality, with perpetual occupation and conflict.
23. Will the Minister assure us that the Foreign Secretary or his successor will attend the peace conference that the French are planning later this year? 
On the day before a reshuffle is to take place, let me say that I will heed the right hon. Gentleman’s comments and we will do our best. The implication seems to be that the Foreign Secretary is somehow not engaged in these matters. We have those set conferences and summits, but an awful lot of bilaterals also take place, not least at the NATO summit in Warsaw, where my right hon. Friend had bilateral meetings with his relevant counterparts. These very important issues are raised there as well.
9. What discussions he has had with his counterparts in the EU, Africa and the middle east on dealing with the refugee crisis in Europe and the middle east. 
We have these discussions regularly and our consistent focus is on securing a comprehensive and durable solution which tackles the causes as well as the consequences of migration.
Will the Minister reaffirm this Government’s commitment to Operation Sophia? Can he confirm that we will continue to co-operate with our European allies in relation to the refugee crisis?
I can confirm that. The Prime Minister said shortly after the referendum that we would continue our contribution to Sophia, which has already saved more than 16,400 lives and has destroyed more than 160 smuggling vessels.
Is the Minister in close contact with the leading aid agencies—the International Rescue Committee, Save the Children and Médecins sans Frontières? They seem to have a different take from Governments on what is happening in camps and with movements. Is he keeping in touch with them?
My colleagues in the Department for International Development are in constant touch with the main aid agencies, and our very large humanitarian effort in Turkey, Syria itself and the neighbouring countries, Lebanon and Jordan, is very much focused through the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other such agencies.
25. In view of the fact that the appalling hardships and loss of life arising from the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean are clearly long term and in danger of becoming institutionalised, will my right hon. Friend give consideration to the proposal from the International Chamber of Shipping, originally put forward last autumn, to establish a UN humanitarian zone covering the affected areas? 
Although the International Chamber of Shipping proposal was indeed constructive, I do not want to underestimate the difficulties of getting agreement in the Security Council on anything through the UN. We have Operation Sophia, which is working and to which many European countries are actively contributing, and we should aim to make that work still more effective, help the Libyans build up the capacity of their own coastguard, and use the instruments available.
Does the Minister accept that in respect of the Brexit negotiations, much work will require to be done to secure joint EU-UK efforts in northern Africa on tackling the escalating refugee crisis?
So long as we remain members of the European Union and afterwards, it will remain in the interests of this country that we work very closely with our European friends and allies. This is a problem that will be with us for a generation and it will need concerted international co-operation.
Trade and Diplomatic Connections: UK/Commonwealth
10. What steps the Government are taking to promote trade and diplomatic connections between the UK and other Commonwealth countries. 
We have eight Commonwealth trade envoys representing British business interests in 10 Commonwealth states. We have expanded the British Government’s representation in a number of countries, and we are looking forward to the inaugural Commonwealth Trade Ministers meeting in London in March next year, which will be co-hosted by ourselves and the Government of Malta.
With the decision to withdraw from the EU, many British companies will be looking to expand their business with Commonwealth countries. What specific plans do the Government have to support them in that respect?
That is something we are concentrating on. Intra-Commonwealth trade is estimated at over $680 billion, and it is projected to surpass $1 trillion by 2020. The Commonwealth includes 53 member states, a quarter of the world’s land mass and 2.2 billion people, and 60% of the Commonwealth’s population is under the age of 30, so there are some huge and exciting opportunities there.
17. Now that we have this wonderful opportunity to boost trade with the Commonwealth, will my right hon. Friend make sure that small countries in Africa and Asia are not left behind in what I believe will be a trade bonanza? 
I hope my hon. Friend is right. It is worth remembering that three quarters of UK-Commonwealth trade is with India, Australia, Canada, Singapore, South Africa and Malaysia, so we do need to expand that into some of the Commonwealth countries of Africa.
Diplomatic/Economic Relations: Caspian and South Caucasus Region
13. What steps his Department is taking to enhance diplomatic and economic relations with the Caspian and South Caucasus region. 
The United Kingdom has strong bilateral relations with countries in the Caspian and South Caucasus region. It also has significant commercial interests there, particularly in the oil and gas sector.
To defend Europe against excessive reliance on Russian energy supplies and to provide opportunities for small British energy firms—particularly those from Scotland—will my right hon. Friend continue to encourage and support BP in its work with the Government of Azerbaijan to deliver the trans-Turkish pipeline?
Indeed. That pipeline is in the economic and strategic interests of the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend also makes a strong point about Scotland: many Scottish companies are in Azerbaijan in the wake of BP’s investment, and that is another example of how the UK and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, through our embassies, are helping to deliver for the people of Scotland.
I was in Tbilisi, in Georgia, last week with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. A number of people we spoke to were extremely concerned about the impact of the UK leaving the European Union on a lot of the diplomatic work that is going on to encourage countries such as Georgia to move towards western Europe. What assessment has the Foreign Secretary made of that issue, and what steps is he taking to persuade people in countries such as Georgia that their future lies in links with western Europe?
We were very active in the preparation for, and at, the NATO summit in Warsaw to emphasise that our commitment to working closely with countries such as Georgia to bring them into the Euro-Atlantic family of nations continues, and I think their Governments well understand that commitment.
14. What recent assessment he has made of the progress of the international campaign to defeat ISIS/Daesh. 
Significant military progress has been made in Iraq, Syria and Libya since my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary updated the House on 24 May. Iraqi security forces have liberated Falluja. The Syrian Democratic Forces are closing in on Manbij in Syria. In Libya, Misratan forces have pushed Daesh back to the city centre in Sirte, and the Libyan national army is winning the battle against Daesh in Benghazi. We now need to see political progress in Syria, Libya and Iraq to match those military successes.
What initiatives has the Secretary of State undertaken recently to ensure that the international effort concentrates on securing the defeat of Daesh, rather than of the proxies, or the allies, involved in the process?
The hon. Gentleman is referring, I think, to the situation in Syria, where there are two separate battles going on: the civil war between the regime and its opponents, and the battle by the international community against Daesh. We are clear, and always have been clear, that there cannot be lasting success against Daesh unless we resolve the political crisis in Syria and create a regime that is acceptable to the Sunni Muslim population of Syria, giving them an alternative to the appalling offer from Daesh.
Countering Daesh in Libya requires a stable Government and an end to the country’s ongoing civil war. On 19 April, the Secretary of State said that the new Government of National Accord is
“the only legitimate Government of Libya.”—[Official Report, 19 April 2016; Vol. 608, c. 781.]
Will he therefore assure the House that, since the GNA was formed last December, no British support has been provided to any Libyan militia group that is not allied to the GNA, such as those working with former general Khalifa Haftar?
The hon. Lady knows that if we were minded to commit combat forces to activity in Libya, we would first come to the House of Commons. We are working very closely with the Government of National Accord, including talking to them about how we can use exemptions from the UN arms embargo to forge a closer working relationship between militias and that Government. She will be interested to know that later this afternoon I will meet Prime Minister Sarraj here in London.
T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. 
My priority is to ensure that we continue to address, head on, Islamist extremism and the threats to the rules-based international system, while at the same time pivoting resources to respond to the major foreign policy challenge of implementing the UK’s decision to leave the EU and negotiating the terms of Britain’s future relationship with the EU 27.
Britain is a global trading nation. What steps have been taken to ensure that our embassies and high commissions around the world are in the best possible position to forge excellent trading deals for the United Kingdom?
As one of my colleagues said earlier, last week we had all our senior people in London for the annual leadership conference, and I clearly set out to them the challenge to the Foreign Office and its network as we move into this new phase where we will seek to redouble our efforts to build trade relationships around the world beyond the European Union. I can tell my hon. Friend, and the House, that I got the resounding response that they are up for that challenge.
Earlier today, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled against Chinese claims to territorial rights in the South China sea, backing a case brought by the Philippines. Does the Secretary of State agree that the PCA’s ruling must be respected, and that any non-compliance by the Chinese Government would not only cause severe reputational damage to China but constitute a serious breach of international law?
The UK’s position has always been, and will remain, that we urge respect for international law and the rules-based international system, and decisions arising from international tribunals. As the hon. Lady will know, the ruling is 501 pages long. It flopped on to my desk just before coming over here to answer questions—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) is obviously super-efficient; I might test her later. We will study the decision carefully. If the hon. Lady can give me any insight into her understanding of page 432, I would be very grateful.
So would we all.
T2. What assessment has the Secretary of State made of the threat of nuclear proliferation, especially across Asia and the middle east? 
We take the threat of nuclear proliferation very seriously indeed. We have made huge progress over the past 18 months in shutting down the Iranian nuclear weapons programme. We remain deeply concerned about the programme in North Korea and about the risk of proliferation particularly from North Korea. We work very closely with allies and partners around the world to address that challenge.
T4. Given the upsurge in violence in South Sudan over the weekend, what action have Ministers taken on the situation there? 
The hon. Gentleman is right to raise concerns about the growing conflict in South Sudan. The outbreak of fighting around Juba is very serious indeed. I attended a signing bringing the two sides together in South Sudan over a year ago, and there was a huge amount of optimism at that point. Unfortunately, that has dissipated, and there are now 2.4 million displaced people there. We are watching events very closely, and we urge the sides to come together to begin peace talks again.
T3. After five decades of armed conflict in Colombia, where some 200,000 people have lost their lives and many millions have been displaced, a historic ceasefire has been agreed between the Colombian Government and FARC. Will my right hon. Friend update the House on the peace process and Britain’s role within it? 
Yes, of course. I welcome the bilateral ceasefire and disarmament agreement reached by the Colombian Government and FARC on 23 June. That is a significant step towards ending more than 50 years of conflict that have affected the lives of so many Colombians. We will continue to support Colombia during the implementation of the peace accord.
T5. The Foreign Secretary is probably aware that over the weekend the Indian security forces opened fire on a funeral procession in occupied Kashmir, killing more than 30 people, with the death toll expected to rise, 100 wounded and ambulances attacked. Will the Minister meet his counterpart in the Indian Government and inform them that opening fire on funeral processions or protestors is not correct and that the perpetrators should be brought to justice? 
I refer the hon. Lady to my earlier comments about the situation in Kashmir, which we are following very closely. Our high commissioner and the team are very much on the case. We regret all violence in that part of the world.
T8. The situation in the Maldives continues to deteriorate. What steps have been taken to persuade its Government to change its current trajectory? 
We are extremely concerned. We strongly encourage the Government of the Maldives to engage constructively with both the United Nations and the Commonwealth envoys and to implement all of the recent recommendations of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group. It is crucial that concrete progress is delivered by CMAG’s September meeting. We are also considering bilateral action, including exclusion orders against senior members of the Government and the judiciary.
T6. The Chagos islanders were the first victims of the UK’s nuclear policy, given that their eviction helped the UK get a discount on Polaris. Lords at the Supreme Court now advise that a refusal to permit resettlement may be “irrational, unreasonable or disproportionate”. Will the Secretary of State advise the new Prime Minister of those factors and ask her to make a quick decision on resettlement for the Chagos islanders? 
As the hon. Gentleman and the House will know, we have been studying options relating to the British Indian Ocean Territory and the situation of the Chagos islanders. The current Prime Minister has taken a great interest in the issue, but it is clear that it will now fall to the new Prime Minister to make a decision.
The people of Gibraltar feel particularly concerned about pressure from Spain now that we are leaving the European Union. Will the Minister for Europe confirm that their Government will be fully involved in the negotiations, and does he agree that their economy could be given an immediate boost, first, by a free trade agreement between Gibraltar and the UK, and, secondly, by ruling out any redundancies in the civilian, locally employed Ministry of Defence force?
My hon. Friend is a doughty champion of Gibraltar. I saw the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, yesterday; it was my third such conversation with him since the UK referendum. I have not only recommitted the British Government to the full involvement of Gibraltar in the negotiations for our exit from and subsequent relationship with the EU 27; I have also invited the Chief Minister to identify the key economic priorities for the people of Gibraltar as we approach those negotiations.
T7. Judicial executions in Iran have more than doubled since 2010 and there have been 2,400 executions since President Rouhani was elected three years ago. What representations have the Government made to the Government of Iran over the execution of children, particularly those such as Fatemeh Salbehi and Jannat Mir, an Afghan boy who was hanged when he was just 14 or 15 years old? 
We regularly make representations to the Government of Iran about the widespread abuse of human rights there, including the widespread use of the death sentence and the completely unacceptable practice of imposing death sentences on minors. We will continue to make such representations at every opportunity.
Commonwealth countries are already large investors into the UK. Will the Government continue to work with Commonwealth business groups, such as the Confederation of Indian Industry, to make sure that that track record continues?
Yes, we most certainly will, and we will certainly continue to work with the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council on promoting intra-Commonwealth trade.
T9. May I thank the Foreign Secretary for hosting an event at the Foreign Office yesterday evening to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the massacre at Srebrenica? We all listened in silence to the tales told by survivors of the massacre. Will he join me in saying that it is important not only that we remember Srebrenica, but that we redouble our efforts to show future generations where hate and intolerance can lead? 
Yes, of course I will. Anyone who was there last night will have heard the moving testimony of people who survived the terrible events in Srebrenica 21 years ago and their harrowing tales of their experiences and the utterly needless and unjustified slaughter that occurred. The whole purpose of remembering Srebrenica is not just to remember, but to ensure that we apply the lessons and that it can never happen again.
An important economic relationship that we have with India is the Tata Steel UK portfolio. Will the Secretary of State continue to make sure that its protection continues to be at the forefront of our diplomatic relationship with India so that we can continue to have a sustainable steel industry in this country?
I can tell my hon. Friend that this remains a high priority for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Claire Martin died in Italy four years ago due to stab wounds in the neck. Her death was recorded as suicide. Her parents are my constituents, and they need the full weight of the Foreign Office to help them. Support has been lukewarm and half-hearted so far. Will the Minister promise to step things up a gear and help this family?
I am happy to have a further conversation with the hon. Lady and her constituents about this tragic case. Of course, it remains the case that the United Kingdom cannot carry out investigations in the Italian judicial system, any more than the Italian Government can do so here. However, my understanding is that the magistrate has offered a meeting with the family, and I hope that that may provide a way forward.
The anniversary of the Iran nuclear deal falls in two days. Will the Minister update the House on what discussions he is having with his US counterparts on banking sanctions to encourage more British businesses to invest in Iran?
Those discussions continue. I promise that this is not a planted question—[Interruption.] Sorry. What is one of those? The hon. Lady will not know this but there is a meeting this afternoon at Lancaster House between the Iranian Central Bank, the United States Treasury and international banks based in London in an attempt to try to make some progress on this matter so that the people of Iran can start to benefit from the seminal deal that was done a year ago.
Several hon. Members rose—
It is a pleasure to welcome back to the House the hon. Member for Hampstead and Kilburn, Tulip Siddiq.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. My constituent Nazanin has been detained in Iran for 100 days now, with no access to lawyers and minimal contact with her three-year-old daughter. Will the Minister join me in formally denouncing the actions of the Iranian authorities and make sure that Nazanin and Gabriella are returned to their home in West Hampstead as soon as possible?
We continue to lobby the Iranians regularly about all our consular cases in Iran, including that of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe. I have raised the case a number of times, and, on 4 July, spoke to Foreign Minister Zarif. I subsequently followed that up with a letter. On 18 May, my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), the Minister with responsibility for the middle east, met Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family. We will continue to push the Iranians for consular access to her—the challenge is that Iran does not recognise dual nationality—and for more information about the charges that are alleged against her.
From my recent NATO Parliamentary Assembly visit to Kiev, I know that there is palpable fear from the Ukrainians that sanctions may start to be lifted against Russia and President Putin. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that cannot happen until meaningful discussions have taken place on Ukraine’s sovereign borders?
I would go a little further: that cannot happen until Russia has complied with its obligations under the Minsk agreement. At the weekend, in Warsaw, I met the Ukrainian Foreign Minister. My hon. Friend is right that there is concern among Ukrainians that Britain’s departure from the European Union may lead to a weakening of European Union resolve on this issue. I very much hope that that will not be the case, but it is certainly true that we have been one of the leading advocates of a tough line within the European Union.
In the light of the ongoing dreadful events in Sudan, many of us find questionable the context and the content of the UK-Sudan strategic dialogue. What red lines do the UK Government have in that dialogue?
If I may, I will ask the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge), the Minister with responsibility for Africa, to write to the hon. Member with more detail. However, I can say that the dialogue is an important juncture in our relationship, and we were invited by Sudan to commence it. Let me make it very clear that we need to continue to support Sudan. It is a source, host and transit country for migration. What is going on there affects the rest of Europe, and so we want to continue to help with the dire humanitarian situation there. The 2.5 million people long-term displaced people need our support.
May I join those who are welcoming the fact that a large number of big players in the global economy are queuing up to do bilateral trade deals with the UK? My many Korean constituents would very much like to know whether that includes South Korea, which is a brilliant trade partner with the UK.
Of course, the European Union has an existing free trade agreement with the Republic of Korea. Under that free trade agreement, the UK’s exports to Korea have more than doubled over a very short period of time. Once we are outside the European Union, depending on the details of the arrangements we make with the European Union, we will be ready to enter into new trade agreements with all countries around the world. The UK will remain an outward-facing trading nation, delivering our prosperity by our success around the globe.
What recent discussions, if any, have the Government had with Turkey about its opposition to the Syrian Democratic Forces’ offensive to relieve Manbij, which is a very important strategic battle?
I met my Turkish opposite number and sat next to President Erdogan in the plenary session at the NATO summit in Warsaw at the weekend, and we discussed this issue. Of course, the SDF assault on the Manbij pocket is vital, and it will close a strategic gap and cut off supplies and routes for fighters into Syria in an important way. The Turks’ concern is the role of Kurdish organisations within the SDF, including some that are associated with proscribed organisations. The US is brokering a solution that seeks to reassure the Turks while reinforcing the SDF and their ability to deliver their objectives in Manbij.
Several hon. Members rose—
We have run out of time, but my appetite for hearing my colleagues is almost insatiable. I call Kevin Foster.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. We recently marked the first anniversary of the dreadful terrorist massacre at Sousse in Tunisia. Can the Minister update me on the work that is being done by the Foreign Office to support the families of the victims and to mark that dreadful event?
I had the honour of representing Britain at the ceremony that took place in Sousse to mark the anniversary of the tragic events there. We have done everything we can, from a Government perspective, working across Government to provide support to those who are bereaved, those who were seriously injured and those who have been affected by the mental trauma of what they saw. That help continues, and I am pleased to confirm the announcement that the Prime Minister made at the weekend that a memorial will be built—it is expected to be in the north of England—to mark the horrific events and to give the families a solemn location at which they can pay their respects.
Can the Foreign Secretary tell the House what progress has been made in persuading our allies to provide support for Yazidi women who have escaped from sexual slavery under Daesh and who are now in great need of medical and psychological support, which they cannot access properly in either Syria or Iraq?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right to draw attention to those who are fleeing persecution by Daesh. We have had a number of debates on the matter, and it is not just the Yazidis; it is Christians and other minorities as well. We are using our Department for International Development funds to support the non-governmental organisations that directly target those people to provide that support in the immediate aftermath, but also in the long term.
Several hon. Members rose—
I thought I had detected emissions of steam from Slough. That is a fate better avoided, I think. I call Fiona Mactaggart.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. The reason I was steamy is that I spoke this morning to my constituent whose husband, Nawaz Khan, has been detained in South Sudan since 18 June without charge. It seems to me that in view of the situation and the turmoil there, it is urgent that the British authorities demand his release or charge instantly. This man is a diabetic, and he is not being properly looked after. It is time we defended our citizen.
The right hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise this matter. We have already touched on the concerns that we have about South Sudan and the instability that we are seeing there, despite the transitional Government of national unity. The right hon. Lady has raised an important consular case, and I will ask the Minister with responsibility for Africa to get in touch with her to find out what consular support is being provided.
Several hon. Members rose—
I am sorry that I cannot accommodate all colleagues, but I will take Joanna Cherry.
Can the Minister tell the House whether following Brexit the United Kingdom will continue to participate in the Paris climate change agreement, or whether that agreement will need to be rewritten?
This is a prime example of where we need to calm down and not scaremonger. We are absolutely committed to COP 22 on climate change, and to the target of reducing our emissions by 2050.
Several hon. Members rose—
I will call the hon. Member for Livingston (Hannah Bardell) who I think wishes to raise a constituency matter, but that really will be the last question.
I am grateful, Mr Speaker. The Minister will recall the case of my constituent, Deborah Pearson, and her niece Julie Pearson who was killed in Israel last year. Her family are constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Ms Ahmed-Sheikh). We now have the autopsy report, but it is in Hebrew and it has been suggested that the FCO might assume the cost of translating it. Will the FCO support that? I am grateful for the Minister’s support so far, but the family are desperate and need more support. Will he consider further help?
This has been a difficult case for the family and for everybody involved. I have met a number of hon. Members who have been involved, and I also raised the issue with the Israeli authorities. It is not normal for the Foreign Office to provide translation facilities. Perhaps we could discuss the matter outside the Chamber and work to provide assistance to the family.
Several hon. Members rose—
Order. I know we have overrun, but Foreign Office questions tend to break box office records and Ministers should take some pride in that fact—the other way of looking at it is that I am giving them additional speaking opportunities.
Points of Order
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Reports have come in that my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle), who is standing for the leadership of my party, has had her constituency windows broken, and the police have confirmed that such an incident has taken place. Can we take this opportunity to deplore such hooliganism and thuggery, whoever commits it and whichever party is involved? It is totally unacceptable, and one hopes that the police will apprehend the culprit as quickly as possible.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. It is not strictly in any procedural sense a matter for the Chair, but it is in one respect because, in common with all colleagues, the Chair believes in democracy and the peaceful exchange of opinion. We are a pluralist society, and if people think that they will get their way through violence, threats and intimidation, they will soon find themselves wrong. If I may say so, no one is more suited to making that point than someone who has served as a democratic parliamentarian for as long as the hon. Gentleman.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Unfortunately, for all sorts of reasons, I was not able to be here for business questions last Thursday, so later I had to read Hansard, which I scoured for announcements regarding next week’s business, particularly for next Monday. On Saturday, I gather that the Prime Minister announced—not to the House or even in this country, but in Poland—that next Monday we will be debating the renewal of Trident. I make no judgment about how people should vote on that, but why has the House still not been formally told that that will be our business next week? Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Defence had the perfect opportunity to make that clear to the House, had he wanted to. On today’s Order Paper, a motion tabled by the Leader of the House states:
“That, at the sitting on Monday 18 July, the Speaker shall put the Questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on the Motion in the name of the Prime Minister relating to the UK’s nuclear deterrent not later than 10.00pm”.
That is a kind of sub-announcement that we will debate the issue next Monday, but we have still had no sign of what the motion will be, whether it will be amendable, and under what terms that debate will be held. Surely it would be more courteous to the House to have a proper supplementary business statement that lays out next Monday’s business.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. He has the advantage of being right on both counts.
A junior Government Whip chunters from a sedentary position that the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) is not right always, but the same could be said of junior Government Whips. On this matter, however, the hon. Gentleman is right in both respects: motion 5 on today’s Order Paper is posited on the assumption that there will be a debate on Monday 18 July on the UK’s nuclear deterrent; and this debate has not been notified to the House, other than via a passing reference to it yesterday by the Secretary of State for Defence in the course of the statement on the recent NATO summit. I make no complaint about what the Prime Minister might have been thinking or what he intended, or if he was caused or tempted to comment elsewhere—I am not focusing on that point. What I am focusing on is that if there is to be a change of business, there should be a supplementary business statement. That is the way we do our work in this place.
If I may say so, the usual channels, whatever their opinions on the merit of the issue, really ought to be aware of that point, which is blindingly obvious and brooks no contradiction—it is very, very, very straightforward. We cannot get into a situation in this place in which we do business in a disorderly fashion. The procedures of this House are for the protection of this House and all Members ought to take that very seriously. They certainly ought to be aware of the significance of that and some sort of remedial training is required for those who are not.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. The Ministry of Defence released a press release—this is therefore not just a glancing reference by the Secretary of State—stating that there would be a motion, but the House has certainly not been informed. Indeed, the motion is about not renewal, but the principle of continuous at-sea nuclear deterrence, which in my view seems to be a different issue.
Well, I confess I do not know what press offices get up to in these matters, but suffice it to say that ultimately the Secretary of State in a Department is always everywhere and for everything responsible in that Department. We probably should not dwell on this further, but let us try to learn from it for the future.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker.
I am in a benign and generous mood, so I will allow a further point of order from the hon. Member for Rhondda.
I am grateful, Mr Speaker. The point, surely, is that, as things stand, unless the Leader of the House gives a clear statement to the House, Thursday morning will be the first time we will know for certain what next Monday’s business will be, by which time it will be impossible for us to table amendments to the motion that will be taken on Monday, unless you are going to be very generous about the tabling of manuscript amendments and so on. Surely, when we are considering the defence of our nation, it is ludicrous for the Government to indulge in such shenanigans?
The short answer to the hon. Gentleman is twofold. First, it would be better if there were a supplementary business statement. I would have thought that the terms in which I have answered him make that so clear that the point needs simply to waft from the scholarly cranium of the junior Whip on duty to the powers that be in the relevant Government Department. Secondly, in the absence of any such supplementary business statement, which I really would regard as a considerable discourtesy to the House, the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members can be assured that it will be possible to table amendments on Thursday. I have not thought about the precise chronology of events, but if it is necessary for me to allow manuscript amendments, because of circumstances not of the hon. Gentleman’s devising, they certainly will be allowed, subject only to those amendments, in terms of content, being orderly. I think the Whip has got the message.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker.
I hope it is a point of order and not the sort of thing that the hon. Gentleman used to chunter when he was heckling me 30 years ago at the University of Essex student union.
Whether or not it is a point of order is for you to judge, Mr Speaker. On a happier note, I would like to thank you and the Officers of the House for enabling us to display in the Jubilee Room today a range of products manufactured in the black country, which as you know, Mr Speaker, is the greatest place in the world. If you have five minutes in your busy schedule to visit the Jubilee Room, you will see parts manufactured for Bugatti, Lamborghini and Ferrari, and the Olympic torch, which was also made in the black country. If that is not enough of an attraction, there is also some beer that was brewed in Dudley North. All Members are very welcome.
It is nice to agree with my hon. Friend for once.
The hon. Gentleman must speak for himself.
I very much appreciate what the hon. Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin) has just said. If it is possible for me to pop in, I will try to do so, although I am not sure what the hours of this event are.
From now until 4 o’clock.
I will do what I can, and I encourage other Members to do likewise.
We come now to the ten-minute rule motion, for which the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) has been so patiently waiting.
EU Citizens Resident in the United Kingdom (Right to Stay)
Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a bill to grant EU citizens the right to stay resident in the UK following the UK’s withdrawal from membership of the European Union; and for connected purposes.
On 24 June, 3 million EU citizens in the UK and 1.3 million British citizens in the EU woke up to an uncertain future because while the Brexiteers had pithy slogans aplenty, our Government had no plan for the long-term future of EU citizens in the UK or the UK post-Brexit. EU citizens were unable to vote in the referendum and were therefore left without a voice during the campaign. They now find themselves without the protection of their EU citizenship rights in the UK. EU citizenship includes not just the right to live, work and study in the UK but, for example, the right to participate in local, regional and European elections.
The current Prime Minister gave an assurance that there would be no immediate change, but this now carries little weight, given that we will have a new Prime Minister tomorrow. His assurances are therefore time-limited and have an imminent sell-by date. He has offered no protection for the rights of EU citizens and Brits abroad in the future. By calling and then losing the referendum, the current Prime Minister pulled the rug out from under the feet of these citizens. He needs to get that rug out of the removals van that is parked outside No. 10 and put it back before he departs. EU citizens need certainty about their long-term future in the UK, and they need this assurance now, before their futures are used as bargaining chips in our negotiations with the EU.
The Prime Minister has just appointed a new EU commissioner to replace Jonathan Hill, rather than leaving that to his successor. He should also act now while he still has time to secure the rights of EU citizens by unconditionally granting the right to stay to all EU citizens who were resident in the UK on 23 June. He can never make full amends for triggering a chain of events that will lead to economic and diplomatic disaster for the UK, but this would help to restore a modicum of credibility in the dying day of his premiership. If he fails to do so, there are three ways in which EU citizens’ rights could be safeguarded in the future.
First, a legal challenge might rely on an appeal under article 70.1(b) of the Vienna convention on the law of treaties. However, as Professor Douglas-Scott pointed out in an article for the UK Constitutional Law Association entitled “What Happens to ‘Acquired Rights’ in the Event of a Brexit?”, there is no consensus among lawyers about the application of the convention to EU citizens living in the UK. Neither does there seem to be much scope for protecting the position of EU citizens in the UK or Brits abroad through customary international law. EU citizens might have to wait years before any rights that they might have under the convention could be tested in court.
Secondly, the Government could negotiate an agreement with EU member states to allow the right to remain on a reciprocal basis for EU citizens living in the UK and British citizens living in the EU. The problem with that approach is that it turns EU citizens into bargaining chips. Such a negotiation does not yet have a start date, and the House has already condemned it, by 245 votes to two, as wrong in principle. To barter over the future of EU citizens and Britons in the EU would be to treat EU citizens as if they were children in a divorce settlement. That would be humiliating to the individuals concerned and their families, and it would demonstrate a shameful lack of political judgment on the part of the British Government. It would also be a very weak negotiating strategy, because there is a good chance that EU member states are likely to act to guarantee the rights of British citizens unilaterally.
Unless a future UK Government intended to hold EU citizens hostage in order to achieve concessions in other areas of the negotiations, such as access to the single market, there would be nothing else to negotiate. In his evidence to the Home Affairs Committee this afternoon, I am sure that the Immigration Minister will be pressed further on this issue. There were signs over the weekend, given comments by the Foreign Secretary at the NATO summit and reports on Saturday, that the Government’s position might be softening.
The third approach, which is that proposed by my Bill, would be for the Government to legislate now to secure the rights of EU citizens unilaterally, thereby providing desperately needed certainty for all EU nationals living here. We must make EU citizens feel welcome and safe in Britain. This reassurance would also help the 1.3 million British people living in the EU, help to secure the future of the 9% of NHS doctors who work in the UK and are from the EU, and help to ensure that Britain remains open and welcoming.
Yesterday, I met the campaign organisation New Europeans, which is a voice for EU citizens in the UK, and other charities and non-governmental organisations representing migrant communities. New Europeans has gathered more than 2,000 signatures on a letter to the Prime Minister asking for the issue to be resolved now. I also draw the House’s attention to early-day motion 259 on the status of British citizens resident in the EU and EU citizens resident in the UK, which makes the same call.
As I have mentioned, following a debate on a Labour motion, the House showed by a clear majority of 245 votes to two that it favoured sorting out the situation of EU citizens living in the UK immediately. Thanks to New Europeans, in the next few days I will also be meeting the EU Commission in the UK and ambassadors to EU member states in London to discuss the issue.
It is quite clear that many EU citizens no longer feel welcome in Britain and that many are leaving. I met someone earlier this morning who said exactly that: he and his partner feel that the only thing to do is to leave the UK, and they will be doing so shortly, even though they have lived here for more than 20 years and paid significant tax during that time. They no longer feel welcome. Numbers of race hate crimes and xenophobic attacks have increased since the referendum. In London alone, where more than 800,000 EU nationals live, there have been three race hate crimes every hour. These threats and acts of discrimination will continue unless and until the Government make it clear that they will ring-fence the rights of EU citizens who were living in the UK before 24 June. Providing such clarity is the purpose of the Bill, and I commend it to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
That Tom Brake, Tim Farron, Caroline Lucas, Mark Durkan, Dr Philippa Whitford, Kevin Barron, Mr Mark Williams, Mr Alistair Carmichael, Mr Nick Clegg, Norman Lamb and Greg Mulholland present the Bill.
Tom Brake accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 21 October, and to be printed (Bill 50).
EU Referendum: Energy and Environment
I beg to move,
That this House recognises the uncertainty created by the result of the EU referendum for the protections currently in place for the UK’s energy security, climate change commitments and the natural environment; notes that the discussion leading up to the EU referendum made little mention of environmental protection or climate change and considers that regulations and ambitions in those areas should in no way be diminished as a result of the outcome of that referendum; has serious concerns about the signals being sent to investors in those sectors by continued uncertainty; and therefore urges the Government to identify and fill any legislative gaps in environmental protection that may arise from the removal of EU law.
The motion stands in my name and those of other right hon. and hon. Members in the shadow Cabinet.
Before the referendum vote, the Government were already facing major problems securing the energy needs, emissions targets and environmental protections that the UK requires for the 21st century. These problems were mainly self-inflicted: an energy policy that left companies and investors confused, with feed-in tariffs for solar changed retrospectively; an effective moratorium on onshore wind power, despite its being the cheapest form of renewable energy; the subsidy for offshore wind cut; and the Government failing to indicate what would happen to the levy control framework beyond the cliff edge of 2020.
Investors were told that the Government were simultaneously incentivising new unconventional gas and phasing out unabated coal by 2025, yet the £1 billion still remaining for the development of carbon capture and storage was cut just four weeks before the final bids were to be made, with the consequent announcement by Drax of the abandonment of the White Rose CCS project and the announcement by Shell that it no longer saw a future in the near term for the Peterhead project. The Secretary of State’s energy reset speech last November ended up leaving us the equivalent of 54 million tonnes of CO2 further from achieving the fourth carbon budget.
For many of the companies involved, the investment lead-in times are quite long, resulting in a very uncertain environment in which to work. That is leading to some of them pulling out of the UK altogether.
I must, reluctantly, agree with my hon. Friend. This is not good news; it is really bad news for all of us. The investment climate in the UK is in a really dire state. In fact, the UK has now fallen from eighth to 11th to 13th in the Ernst & Young index of the best countries for investment in low-carbon technology, when we have previously never been outside the top 10. These are really worrying matters.
I recently asked the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change what action she was going to take to promote zero-carbon homes, given that the Government had announced last July that they were going to scrap the target set by the previous Labour Government for all homes to be carbon-neutral by this year. She replied that she could reassure me that an EU directive was due to come into force in 2020 and that she believed near-zero carbon emissions would help to reduce bills. Given that we are leaving the EU, does my hon. Friend agree that the Government should take immediate action to reintroduce ambitious targets for zero-carbon homes?
What an excellent point my hon. Friend makes. She knows, as I do, that the Secretary of State was someone who saw the value in the UK’s staying in the European Union and in all the directives and regulations that came from Europe, which afforded the sort of environmental protections and energy policies that would secure our future. No doubt the Secretary of State will respond responsibly to today’s brief, but I think she will feel a great deal of sympathy both with the remarks that my hon. Friend has just made and indeed my own remarks from the Dispatch Box.
The hon. Gentleman is making a powerful case about the lack of investment and about economic instability. Does he agree with me that now is a good time for the Government to reverse their decision to privatise the Green Investment Bank, and that when they negotiate withdrawal the Government should make a strong case to remain in the European Investment Bank? If those two things do not happen, we will be in really difficult times.
The hon. Lady, whom I regard as an hon. Friend, particularly on these matters, speaks with great knowledge. She is absolutely right about the Green Investment Bank, which was set up for a particular purpose: the Government recognised that there was a market failure. It was quite right of the Government to put the Green Investment Bank in place, but unfortunately the borrowing powers did not come quickly enough, and I think it is a huge mistake now to privatise the bank. It is a matter of deep regret to all who work in this environment. As for the hon. Lady’s remarks about the European Investment Bank, I shall come on to that subject later in my speech.
On the subject of insecurity in investment, National Grid has said that fuel prices are about to rise as a result of the Brexit result. My “Prepay Rip Off” campaign showed that consumers were being overcharged to the tune of £1.7 billion a year. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is important that the Government outline what they are going to do to ensure that consumers are not ripped off further by having to pay more for their fuel?
My hon. Friend and constituency neighbour has run a superb campaign on fuel poverty. She makes reference to the £1.7 billion that the Competition and Markets Authority report showed UK bill payers were being overcharged—overcharged by quite obscene amounts. It is, of course, right for the Government to come up with clear proposals about how to tackle that abuse, without just saying, as they have to date, that people need to be enabled to switch more easily.
This is one of the first of our debates to mention the result of the EU referendum. I know that the hon. Gentleman was on the other side of the argument, so it would be useful if he told us whether, when it comes to a vote, he will vote to leave the EU despite his heavy heart or will he vote against the wishes of the British people?
I always try to look at the motion in front of me on the Order Paper and make a judgment on it when I see what it says. I have done so for the past 19 and a half years, and I suspect I shall probably do it for the next few years as well.
Even the Government-dominated Select Committee has warned that what it calls the “hiatus” in project developments could threaten the UK’s ability to meet its energy and climate security targets, so when the Department’s own figures show the need for £100 billion of investment by 2020 to make our electricity infrastructure fit for purpose, the Secretary of State really does have to explain where she believes that investment is going to come from, given that investor confidence in her Department is at an all-time low.
Before the Secretary of State does so, however, perhaps she will confirm whether she instructed her Department not to prepare in any way for a leave vote, as the Prime Minister apparently directed. If that is so, can she explain why, because that is what business leaders out there are asking? It seems incomprehensible to them that the Prime Minister took such a gigantic risk with their future—a risk that will increase their cost of capital and the cost of energy to bill payers, both corporate and domestic alike—yet made absolutely no preparations for what might happen when that risk went the wrong way.
The IIGCC—Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change—a group of institutional investors representing over €13 trillion in assets, said in the aftermath of the vote to leave that it had brought
“considerable uncertainty and market turmoil.”
That only goes to prove that the art of litotes is not yet dead!
In the light of that dramatic uncertainty, does my hon. Friend agree that one thing the Government should do is to give a cast-iron guarantee that they will honour, post-Brexit, the environmental standards and undertakings that we have made in the EU to date?
My hon. Friend, who takes a consistent and committed interest in these matters, is absolutely correct, and the precise intention of this motion is to flush out those issues and ensure that the Government do precisely as he says.
In the aftermath of the leave vote, the Government’s own external adviser has stated that a future for the Hinkley C nuclear power station is now “extremely unlikely”. Vattenfall has said it is now reassessing the risk of working in the UK, which could jeopardise its plans for a £5.5 billion wind farm off the east coast of England, while Siemens has announced that it is putting a freeze on its future—not its current—clean energy investments in Hull as a result of what it called the “increased uncertainty” from the leave vote.
I must say that for all the talk from the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, the hon. Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom), about the “sunlit uplands” of the post-Brexit world, there is really no use in the Secretary of State trying to pretend that she thinks the vote is anything but a disaster when she herself is on record quoting the analysis of Vivid Economics warning that the result of an exclusion from the EU’s internal energy market could cost the UK up to £500 million a year by the early 2020s. The stock response of the right hon. Lady that Labour Members should not “talk Britain down” will simply not serve, given that these quotations come from her own advisers, industry leaders and, indeed, her!
Bloomberg New Energy Finance was not scaremongering when it said of the upcoming Brexit negotiations that they were
“likely to cause project investors and banks to hesitate about committing new capital, and could cause a drop in renewable energy asset values”.
That was an authoritative, independent commentator telling the unvarnished truth.
I always follow the hon. Gentleman’s comments with a great deal of interest, but is it not about time that he and his party moved on? The British people have delivered their verdict. Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that it is not terribly helpful of people like him to continue to talk the British economy down in that way?
I understand that there is a need to move on, and the hon. Gentleman is right to say that we must now look to the future, but I think that if he bears with me, he will find that that is what I am trying to do. Yes, I am critical of where we are, but the criticisms that I have adumbrated so far are not my own. They are criticisms made by the Government’s own advisers, they are criticisms made by industry itself, and, indeed, they are criticisms made by the Secretary of State. I am not talking the UK economy down; I am trying to set out the present situation with clarity, and then see whether we can move on from it.
Perhaps the Secretary of State could do the same as Bloomberg in telling the unvarnished truth, and inform the House what assessment her Department has made of the increased price of imported energy as a result of the falling pound. I will happily give way to her if she wishes to do so.
Perhaps, then, the Secretary of State could tell us what assessment her Department has made of the price premiums on loans that will be demanded by investors in energy infrastructure to cover the cost of political uncertainty. Is it 1%? Is it 2%? Again, I will happily give way to the Secretary of State if she wishes to inform the House what assessment her Department has made of those matters. No? In that case, I will give way to the spokesman for the Scottish National party.
Will the hon. Gentleman take the Secretary of State to task on what she intends to do to achieve the climate change targets in respect of completely decarbonising the transport and heating sectors in order to achieve 2050 targets?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. It is clear from what the Committee on Climate Change has said that the area in which the United Kingdom is falling behind most badly is not the power sector, but the transport and heating sectors. Of course, dealing with that does not rest solely with the Secretary of State; it also rests with her colleagues in the Department for Transport and the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Perhaps the Secretary of State would find it easier to explain how the UK might continue to benefit from the EU internal energy market—or does Brexit mean Brexit in this regard as well? We really do need clear answers to all these questions. Perhaps the right hon. Lady can tell us what will happen to the four clean energy projects that are currently being assessed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments. She knows that the European Investment Bank has been the UK’s biggest clean-energy lender, having put €31 billion into clean energy over the last five years. Has she identified a replacement source of funds for such projects?
Perhaps the Secretary of State can explain why, last week, the Government pulled their funding for the only large new gas plant that had managed to secure finance under the capacity market scheme after Carlton Power was unable to secure the investment that was needed for the Trafford plant. The capacity market has resoundingly failed to secure the new gas build that it was introduced to incentivise.
Perhaps the right hon. Lady can explain—after the failure of the green deal, and after acknowledging that neither the warm home scheme nor the energy company obligation is sufficiently well targeted to reach those most in need—precisely how she proposes to address energy efficiency and tackle the fuel poverty experienced by 2.38 million of our fellow citizens. Let me correct that, Mr Speaker: 1 should have said 2.38 million households, in England alone. Perhaps the right hon. Lady might also explain why National Grid warned on Friday that the lights were kept on only by emergency measures last year. The fact is that the Government’s energy policy has pushed us further towards energy insecurity.
Our purpose in securing this Opposition Day debate is precisely to ensure that the Government cannot ignore such pressing concerns following the referendum. The vote to leave was not a vote for blackouts and soaring energy bills; it is the Government’s responsibility to ensure that those things do not happen.
The Committee on Climate Change, which has a statutory duty to advise the Government on the most cost-effective route to decarbonisation, has always made it clear that early action is cheaper action. As its chief executive warned us last week, leaving the EU calls the mechanism of how we reach our targets into question. The Government’s policy failure has created a 10% gap in emissions projections towards our legally binding climate target for the mid-2020s, and they are nearly 50% short of meeting their intended target for 2030—that is, if the Secretary of State ever gets round to actually complying with her statutory obligation to set the target. I believe that that is now due to happen on Monday, which would make it only 18 days beyond the legal statutory limit.
Last year, the Environmental Audit Committee gave the Government a red card for their record on managing future climate change risks. The chair of the Infrastructure Operators Adaptation Forum concluded:
“we simply do not know the capability of the vast majority of stuff out there for current weather, never mind the future”.
The National Security Risk Assessment cites flood risk to the UK as a tier 1 priority risk, alongside terrorism and cyber-attacks, and, of course, it is our most deprived communities that face the greatest increases in flood risk. However, new evidence released today by the Committee on Climate Change renders starker than ever the threat to British households and businesses from a failure to manage climate change. Its published estimates show that, without increased Government action on climate adaptation, the number of homes at high risk from flooding will rise to well over 1 million even if we meet our current climate targets.
I apologise for intervening so early, Mr Speaker. Will the hon. Gentleman please explain the precise relationship between the European Union issue and the questions that he is raising about flooding?
The Minister is not intervening that early, although some people might think that the hon. Gentleman was approaching the conclusion of his preliminary remarks.
I am sure you are correct, Mr Speaker, in referring to “his preliminary remarks”.
I am happy to explain that relationship. Unless we have clarity about the post-Brexit scenario, unless we know where we will be able to secure funds to replace all the funds that fell within the common agricultural policy to finance measures to mitigate flooding, and unless we are able to deal with land management in the way that was allowed by the European Union, we will not have clarity on these matters, and clarity is vital to adaptation.
We are living at a time of increased risk, and robust planning is required to limit harmful impacts on British communities and businesses. I say in all seriousness that, following the devastation of communities and cities around our country by recent floods, this new assessment requires a new response from the Government. Cuts in the budgets, and in the staffing capacity of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Environment Agency, have left the UK increasingly vulnerable, and the Government must take responsibility for that.
The UK’s ability to face up to energy and environmental challenges—more than almost any other area of policy—was strengthened by our EU membership. Given that the Treasury’s principal response to the leave vote so far is a U-turn on the Chancellor’s core election pledge to balance the books by 2020—
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
I think you would like me to press on, Mr Speaker, so I will not. I have, I think, been most generous in giving way.
Given the Treasury’s response, it would be helpful to hear from the Under-Secretary, when he winds up the debate, precisely where he proposes to find the additional resources that are required for adequate flood defences to meet the new assessment. Last week, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told the House:
“It is absolutely clear that it is business as usual while we remain members of the EU.”—[Official Report, 7 July 2016; Vol. 62, c. 1030.]
Perhaps she will understand that what concerns many of us is that, as soon as we are no longer members of the EU, many of the protections the UK natural environment currently enjoys will fall away. The clean air directive has been strenuously opposed in Europe by this Government, who tried to water it down for years; indeed our own Supreme Court has now found them to be in breach. I pay tribute to ClientEarth and its work in holding Government to account for the 52,500 excess deaths every year as a result of polluted air in the UK, and I pay particular tribute to Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London who used the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act 1956 to unveil a new clean air programme.
The Government must remember that they have a job to do, and that includes taking concrete action to meet the legal air quality standards as ordered by the UK’s Supreme Court. The Government need to explain to the House if they will incorporate the provisions of the clean air directive into UK law and then begin to comply with its provisions in a way that they have, tragically, failed to do for the past six years.
The birds and habitat directives may well already be fully transposed into UK law, but we need to know if our beaches will still be protected from sewage by the bathing water directive or whether swimming through sewage will once again become a feature of a day at the seaside. We need to know which elements of the waste and electronic equipment directive were not transposed into UK law under the 2013 regulations and what the impact of leaving the EU might be for our recycling industries and our commitment to the circular economy.
Will the hon. Gentleman give way?
No, I will not.
The fact is that fish and birds and insects do not carry passports; pollution is oblivious to the strictures of national airspace or inshore waters. If we wish to manage all of these, whether as pests, problems or resources, then it is better to do so in concert with our regional neighbours. The vote to leave the EU has made that harder. The Government must outline how they propose to overcome that problem.
The Environment Secretary told the House last week that the subject of continued subsidies to farmers up to 2020
“is not a decision I can make at this stage.”—[Official Report, 7 July 2016; Vol. 612, c. 1028.]
Surely it is a decision that should have been made long before anyone asked farmers to vote to leave the EU. Much of the subsidy that farmers receive is for environmental stewardship schemes and other land management practices that benefit biodiversity and wildlife. To turn round to farmers now and say that the £3.5 billion total of subsidy that used to flow each year from the EU into their pockets is no longer secure is not just an attack on farmers’ livelihoods; it is an attack on all the work that farmers do to enhance our environment and protect our landscapes.
These are not abstract challenges. Managing the risks born of the uncertainty from the referendum outcome is a responsibility for Government. Ministers must urgently identify any legislative gaps in environmental protection that may arise from the removal of EU law, and develop plans to replace any protections so that the UK does not become a riskier, unhealthier or more polluted place to live in or do business in.
I note the hon. Gentleman’s comments on the CAP, but he would be hard-pressed to find any conservation or environment group in the country that believes it provides a net benefit to the environment. There are bits that are good for the environment, but overall I do not think anyone would defend it as a net good for the environment. Surely Brexit gives us an opportunity to take those funds and tailor them in such a way that they genuinely are used to subsidise farmers in delivering a genuine public good? This is a massive opportunity.
I am happy to say to the hon. Gentleman that I have been a critic of the CAP, as he has, for many years, but the pillar 2 arrangements under the CAP and the environmental stewardship arrangements under the CAP were positive and there was a net benefit from those. I want the Government to set out the new arrangements they propose, so that we can be sure that the environmental protections remain in place, and that that money is not frittered away on something else.
The Government must provide answers to Parliament and the public, who want to be reassured that our environmental protections are not to be weakened in some Brexit bonfire of the regulations. The environmental protections we have enjoyed under the EU are not bureaucracy to be done away with; they are part of what it is to live in a civilised country that respects the natural world and believes that the only prosperous future is a sustainable one.
So, finally, I ask three key questions. Will the Government now move swiftly to ratify the Paris climate agreement? How will the Government press for access to the internal energy market? How will the Government ensure that energy bills do not go up as a result of the increased investor uncertainty following the vote?
Ultimately, the Government must commit to safeguarding environmental protections to at least the same level we have enjoyed within the EU, by passing into UK law all those regulations that would otherwise fall away upon leaving the EU.
I thank the Opposition and the hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) for giving the Government the opportunity to address some of these important questions which I know are high in people’s minds, particularly among stakeholders. I also want to respond to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison): it may have escaped some people’s notice, but I did campaign on the other side of the EU referendum. I do agree with him, however, that we must move on: Brexit means Brexit and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) said, we will make a success of it.
It is true that the decision the country made on 23 June is of historic importance and it is true that the key challenge facing us now is to work towards a settlement that is in the best interests of Britain. But it is not true that, as the hon. Member for Brent North has been suggesting, our commitment to protect the environment, tackle climate change and provide homes and businesses across the country with secure and clean energy has faltered in any way. Our commitment to these tasks has not changed and will not change.
I have made it my priority to reiterate these points over the past fortnight. I have said that security of supply would be our first priority, and it remains so. My Department announced last week how much electricity capacity we intend to buy in the forthcoming capacity market auctions. This commitment is the backbone of our energy policy. I announced that the Government would accept the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation for the level of the fifth carbon budget, a long-term commitment taking us way beyond this Parliament to 2032. I have also made it clear that we remain committed to holding a competitive contracts for difference allocation round later this year.
While much remains the same, there is no point pretending that the vote to leave the EU is not of huge significance. There are risks for us to overcome, but this Government will continue to do our part to deliver on the energy and environmental challenges our country faces.
Will the Secretary of State confirm that the Government intend to honour their commitments to the environment as set out in EU directives in the past, so that standards do not slip from the current standards, whether on air quality, flooding or climate change, and does she agree that there should be legislation to say that these should become minimum standards?
What I can say is that this Government’s commitment to a clean environment and our climate change commitments remains unchanged. I will address in my remarks climate change and energy issues, and I will allow the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart), to address the environmental ones in his remarks, no doubt dealing with the exact points that have been raised.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is a pity that Opposition Members seem to be suggesting that the EU has dragged the UK from darkness into enlightenment? Does she also agree that Britain has traditionally led the way in environmental legislation? I would cite particularly the Clean Air Act 1956, which the hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) cited without a hint of irony.
I thank my hon. Friend and, as he rightly said earlier, we must move on. There are benefits to what we have already proposed and there have been benefits from the EU directives as well. They have raised standards in some areas, and I believe we will now maintain them and not allow them to slip at all.
We were speaking earlier about investment and how, unfortunately, investors are getting increasingly cautious. Will the Secretary of State do all she can to persuade her colleagues that we must remain part of the European Investment Bank, at least as long as the negotiations are going on, because if we withdraw right now there will be another huge amount of potential investment not coming into this country when we need it most?
I thank the hon. Lady for her question; I was going to talk about investment anyway. She is absolutely right to mention the importance of investment in securing our clean energy. Like her, I appreciate the impact that the European Investment Bank has had on supporting clean energy in this country and I would hope that our membership of it will continue. I cannot give her any commitments, however. I shall wait to see how this emerges as part of the negotiations, but I share her view on how important it is.
I commend the Secretary of State’s decision, in the midst of the post-Brexit turmoil, to publish the fifth carbon budget. I congratulate her on that. The Environmental Audit Committee has heard this morning from the National Audit Office that a 10% achievement gap has already opened up in the fourth carbon budget between 2023 and 2027. Will she acknowledge that the Treasury’s decision in the last spending review to cancel the carbon capture and storage competition will do little to encourage investor confidence in that area?
The hon. Lady is right: we have always known that we had an issue with the fourth carbon budget, and there is more work to be done. That is why it was a reasonable achievement to get cross-Government approval for the fifth carbon budget, and I thank her for her comment on that. There is still a lot of work to be done. There are policies to be decided on, and we will bring forward the emissions proposals by the end of this year in order to address those policies that are going to be needed in the 2020s.
In a former life, I was the rapporteur in the European Parliament for the European Investment Bank. We are not only a stakeholder in the bank; we are a shareholder and one of its biggest funders. It funds projects across the planet, not just within the European Union. Surely there is no risk to investment in the United Kingdom while those factors remain the same.
I thank my hon. Friend for clarifying that position, which will no doubt give the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) as much comfort as it has given me.
I want to make some more comments on investor confidence, which is central to this afternoon’s debate. Since the referendum, I have met investors from across the energy spectrum: nuclear, renewables, energy efficiency—all areas in which we need investment. Yesterday, I spoke to members of the managing board of Siemens to reassure them of the commitments that I am setting out here today. Officials across my Department have regularly kept in contact with investors and energy companies to reiterate that message.
The message from business is clear. It still sees the UK is a great place to invest in. Britain remains one of the best places in the world in which to live and to do business. We have the rule of law, low taxes, a strong finance sector and a talented, creative and determined workforce. We have to build on those strengths, not turn away from them. Those factors combine with a clear energy policy framework and a strong investment-friendly economy to make the UK an ideal place to attract much-needed energy investment. The UK has been the fourth highest investor in clean energy globally for the past five years. This is investment in the energy infrastructure that we need to underpin a strong competitive economy, and this Government will do all we can to ensure that the UK remains an attractive place for investment. Whatever settlement we decide on in the coming months, those fundamentals will remain unchanged.
I want to underline our commitment to addressing climate change. Climate change has not been downgraded as a threat. It remains one of the most serious long-term risks to our economic and national security. I attended the world-class team of British diplomats at last year’s Paris climate talks. Our efforts were central to delivering that historic deal, and the UK will not step back from that international leadership. We must not turn our back on Europe or the world. Our relationships with the United States, China, India and Japan and with other European countries will stand us in strong stead as we deliver on the promises made in Paris. At the heart of that commitment is our own Climate Change Act 2008. The Act was not imposed on us by the EU; it was entirely home grown. It was also a world first and a prime example of the UK setting the agenda that others are now following. And let us not forget that it was delivered with unanimous support from right across the House.
The Secretary of the State will be aware that the fifth carbon budget means that the UK is reducing carbon at a faster rate than any country in the EU and significantly faster than the EU’s intended nationally determined contribution put forward in Paris. Is the risk of Brexit not that we might go back on our climate change objectives, but that we will not bring the rest of Europe with us, given the leadership position that we have taken and the fact that we are moving so much more quickly than they are?
My hon. Friend, who knows this area so well, has raised an important point. I hope to be able to reassure him that we will be able to continue to use our influence to encourage the European Union to raise its game and to reach the high standards that we do, but I agree with him that this will be an additional concern, on which we will have to work to try to deliver.
It is true that we had to make tough decisions on renewable energy when we came into office last year, reflecting the need to cut costs and the need for technologies to stand on their own two feet. I will not shy away from taking tough decisions. We need technologies that are low cost and clean, to protect bill payers.
The Secretary of State mentioned India as being among the countries standing by us in respect of investment. Given that about 2,400 coal-fired power stations are planned or under construction around the world, including in India and China, does she agree that cancelling the carbon capture and storage project represents a massive missed opportunity for this country?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we have been through the issue of CCS many times. We would like to have a CCS programme and we are working on an industrial strategy to address having such a programme. I know that he has played an important part, working with Lord Oxburgh in the other place, in ensuring that we put together a clear plan. At the time, we could not go ahead with the £1 billion that had been planned for the CCS proposal, but it is not off the table at all. We are still working towards having some sort of CCS proposals.
Our commitment to decarbonisation is clear, with £13 billion of investment in renewable electricity in 2015 alone and with investment in renewables increasing by 42% since 2010. We have already set out funding to be provided through auctions during this Parliament to support up to 4 GW of new offshore wind and other renewable technologies, and with the potential for deployment of up to 10 GW in total between 2020 and 2030 if the costs continue to come down. We are also making real progress to deliver new nuclear power in the UK, addressing a legacy of underinvestment. We have announced record investment in new heat networks to enable innovative ways of heating our homes and businesses. And we will lead the world by consulting on closing unabated coal-fired power stations. That commitment has been praised across the world, and we will be setting out further details of it soon.
All those commitments remain in place. They will help us to dramatically rebuild our energy infrastructure and they are underpinned by our commitment to carbon budgets, which is why the CBI, the EEF, businesses and investors from a wide range of sectors were all so supportive of our decision to set the fifth carbon budget.
We have a proud history of energy innovation. The world’s first coal-fired power station was built on the banks of the Thames in the late 1800s. The world’s first nuclear power station was opened by Her Majesty the Queen in Cumbria in 1956. And well before the EU referendum had begun in earnest, my Department was making sure that this country would remain at the forefront of energy and climate change innovation. That is why, as a Government, we have committed more than £500 million over this spending review to supporting new energy technologies. That means supporting entrepreneurs as they look to develop the innovations of the future—in storage, in energy efficiency and in renewables. As part of that programme, we will build on the UK’s expertise in nuclear innovation. At least half our innovation spending will go towards nuclear research and development. That will support our centres of excellence in Cumbria, Manchester, Sheffield and Preston. Our nuclear programme will include a competition to develop a small modular nuclear reactor—potentially one of the most exciting innovations in the energy sector.
Although I have focused primarily on energy and climate change, we must not forget the trade and businesses surrounding the environment and agricultural sectors, which are so profoundly affected by our decisions on tackling rising global temperatures. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs continues to engage with farmers, businesses and environmental groups to ensure that their voices are heard. It has been made clear to them that there will be no immediate changes and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will address the environmental issues later.
Trading energy within Europe and being an entry point into Europe for the rest of the world has provided significant advantages. Europe has led the world on acting to address climate change. The economic imperative that drove those relationships has not changed and openness to trade remains central to who we are as a country. As the Prime Minister has repeatedly said, we will work towards the best deal for Britain. As I have said, our challenges remain the same: securing our energy supply, keeping bills low, building a low-carbon energy infrastructure, and protecting the environment and farming. Our commitment to them is unbowed.
This is a good debate to be having and I thank the shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner), and the Labour Front Bench team for giving us the opportunity. It is a shame, however, that the hon. Gentleman did not get beyond his introductory remarks in what was an excellent overview of the issues.
SNP history is being made today in that it is the first time that the full force of “Team Callum” has been deployed at the same time. We will hear later from my hon. Friend the Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Calum Kerr)—or, as I like to call him, the junior member of the team.
Today’s debate feels a little bit like the last day of school. There is a little bit more work to do, but not a huge amount of Government work is going on as we discuss things, pick over the bones of Brexit and ask questions about how we go forward. I am sure that the Secretary of State is pleased—as we all are—that we have a new Prime Minister because that will help to ease some of the uncertainties that were building up and it is welcome that we will not have several weeks of uncertainty. I hope that the Government use the summer recess to come up with some plans, because plans are badly needed.
Last week, we discussed the excellent Energy and Climate Change Committee report on investor confidence and were able to discuss some of the issues affecting the sector that have been exacerbated by the Brexit vote. It is fair to say and it bears repeating time and again that Scotland did not vote for Brexit, and we will be doing everything in our power to ensure that we do not leave. We should change the lexicon slightly and refer either to “Exit” or perhaps “Wexit”. Scotland is not for leaving, and our Parliament and Government have united around keeping Scotland in the European Union. However, the uncertainty afflicting the United Kingdom following the vote will have some effects while we wait for clarity about our maintained position in the European Union
On energy bills, The Guardian reports today on uSwitch research suggesting that, since 23 June, 12 providers have pulled their cheapest fixed-rate tariffs and replaced them with more expensive deals. That is the impact of Brexit, which will be felt by consumers and those who can ill afford to pay more. The weak pound will have another cost impact as the UK is a net importer of electricity. Such things will drive up bills and are an unfortunate consequence of the Brexit vote. The future of interconnection is also uncertain. Interconnection is important and represents a valuable and sensible Government aim. I have often said that we should not see it as a way of importing cheap electricity from the continent, as the Secretary of State said in her “reset” speech; we should be using it to export electricity to the continent. We should be investing in domestic, low-carbon electricity generation, for which Scotland has immense and highly enviable potential.
The prospect of cheap electricity from the continent is also slightly questionable. Exchange rates will obviously change over time, but the assumptions about future interconnection decisions built into the sums might not look so good when the pound is not faring so well against the euro. Such things will come out in the wash, as we say in Scotland, but we need to look at energy policy and interconnection to see whether it is the right thing to do.
Hinkley is another big question about which we have had some discussion and it will come as no surprise to anyone on the Government Benches that the SNP is not in favour of it. We have discussed it ad nauseam, but it bears repeating that the economics of Hinkley were, in the views of my party, myself and a large number of people in the Chamber, highly dubious. The fundamental economics have only been undermined by the Brexit vote, and we need to reconsider them. We cannot afford to have all our eggs in this particular basket, because if it does not happen—I suspect it will not—there will be a rather large hole to be filled. We cannot, like we did with the Brexit vote, enter the unknown with no back-up plan.
To give some shape to the hole that the hon. Gentleman mentions, does he agree that it is shocking that the expected fall in wholesale electricity prices has driven up the Government’s estimate of the whole lifetime cost of Hinkley to £37 billion from the £14 billion of only a year ago?
I thank the hon. Lady for that intervention. The costs are eye-watering. Given the extent to which Hinkley is an international project, the costs could rise even further still. It is time to have a sincere look at the plans and to decide whether the project is possible, but I strongly assume that it is not, so we require a back-up plan. If we do not address the huge strains on our energy system, the bread and butter of keeping the lights on will be put in jeopardy—perhaps not today but in the decades to come. It is incumbent upon the Government and the Department of Energy and Climate Change to act now.
We also need clarity from the Government on the position of the internal energy market in the European Union. The Vivid Economics report that was cited last week and again today about the potential of being outwith the system adding £500 million per annum to the costs of our energy system is sobering. When DECC and the Government as a whole are engaged in their summer homework of working out how to get out of this particular pickle, I suggest that ensuring that we keep the co-operation of the IEM should be high up the agenda because it delivers for us here and for folks abroad. It will help us to meet the trilemma of energy costs and should not be sold down the river lightly.
To maintain security of supply, the time has come to scrap Hinkley and to invest in viable and cheaper forms of domestic energy, including onshore wind, on which we need to lift the embargo. We need the contract for difference auctions that the Secretary of State has mentioned. They should be as wide as possible, technology neutral—as they are supposed to be—and no one should be excluded from bidding. We need to get serious about building the suggested new gas plants, and I will make the case for Scotland again: if we can get the anomaly of transmission charging sorted, we are ready to go with gas plants in Scotland that will contribute significantly to reducing the forthcoming hole in energy production.
Above all, we need to invest in energy efficiency. The Scottish Government are doing strong work and that needs to be replicated right across these islands. If we are to deal with an ever more challenging set of energy circumstances, including where we get it from, the best way is to use less of it. The benefits for everyone are substantial in the long term.
On climate change, I agree with the hon. Member for Warrington South (David Mowat), who is no longer present, that it is regrettable that the UK will not be a member of the European Union. I pay tribute to the Secretary of State for her role in the Paris talks, where the UK played a strong hand—perhaps not as strong as I and others would have liked, but it was played well and resulted in a pretty good deal. The fact we are no longer going to be at the heart of the decision-making process is regrettable, because the UK can be proud of what it has done on tackling climate change and has more it could offer the EU. We need to work out how that will happen in a renewed relationship with the EU, but there will be an absence and that is regrettable.
I have some specific questions to ask about what the process will be and what the impact of Brexit is on our commitments from the Paris talks, which have been touched upon. Our nationally defined contribution was the European Union’s NDC, and I am not clear whether that still applies to us. I assume it does, as we are still a member, but we can and should do more. I am also unclear about some issues on the ratification of the deal. Do we have to ratify this before the Brexit deal is concluded? Is there an impact on the EU as a whole? I understand that the EU ratification process requires all member states to ratify before the EU can ratify it as a whole. Ultimately, the UN requires ratification by the 55 countries that account for 55% of the emissions. So are there implications for us? Are there implications for ratification by the EU? Are there implications for the whole deal if we are not able to do that?
I may not answer all the hon. Gentleman’s questions in this intervention, but let me say, as I did not pick this up from the questions put by the hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) either, that we are pushing for early ratification of the Paris treaty on behalf of the United Kingdom.
I thank the Secretary of State for that intervention and very much welcome it; that is progress and I hope it can be done. I do not think there will be any opposition on that—none will come from Scottish National party Members.
I do not want to go through the negativities, but on the eve of the Paris summit we had the sweet and the sour. We had the sour on CCS, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Philip Boswell) referred. The sweet was the commitment from the Secretary of State and the Government on coal. That was welcome and it was a significant step forward, but are there questions about its deliverability now? I think that there are, as the commitment had a subtle caveat, which was that it would be done only if and when it was possible. The combination of the effects on investor confidence and the lack of clarity on a number of these things will make it more difficult to meet the conditions required to have that coal taken off the system. There is a requirement to look at that again. Above all, although we all welcome the fact that we are getting the fifth carbon budget and that it agreed with the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change, we do need the action plan. That is the fundamental thing; the bread and butter of this is how we do it. The ambition, determination and commitment is there, but it will come to be only if we have a viable plan. I do think this is achievable, but it has become more uncertain because of the Brexit vote.
In conclusion, yesterday’s events probably put us in a better place than many of us expected to be in. We do not have the added unwelcome uncertainty of a nine-week leadership contest, but a power of work needs to be done by Government over the summer. I hope the Secretary of State continues in her post to do that. I look forward to continuing to work with her and to marking her homework after the summer recess.
It is a pleasure to speak in today’s debate. Oppositions, being Oppositions, often fire questions at Governments and this is a particularly difficult time for a Government to answer all the questions. We are about to change Prime Minister, there will probably be a substantial reshuffle in the Government and Ministers will then get down to dealing with the consequences of what the British people have decided.
Many of the points made by the hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner) were, “What’s going to happen with regulations?” and, “What’s going to happen with things we have signed up to?” I do not believe this Parliament is going to go through every piece of European legislation we have passed over the past 40 years and decide whether we want to keep it or not. The most likely outcome is enabling legislation that rolls everything we have agreed with the EU into UK legislation, with this Government and future Governments at their leisure then being able to pick through what they want to do. That is the most sensible approach. It may mean that we get rid of some legislation in some areas and in others we strengthen it. Whatever the outcome, this Parliament will make sure it picks what is best for our country. We must bear in mind that quite a lot of the legislation has been agreed with 27 other states. Some of it may not be that applicable or relevant to us, but there may be things where we want to improve standards. As my hon. Friend the Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison) said, our environmental record on clean air and everything else predates our joining the EU, and the UK has often been more vociferous in these areas than many EU states.
The hon. Gentleman said that most of our air quality legislation predates the EU, but of course the Clean Air Act 1956 was all about stopping people burning things in London and creating the big smogs—it made no mention about diesel particulate matter, because diesel cars had not been invented then.
Of course, things move on. My basic point is that just because we are out of the EU does not mean this Parliament cannot make sensible decisions about how to protect our citizens from things such as the hon. Lady mentions.
I shall make a little progress, if I may.
My guess is that we will have enabling legislation and we will deal at our leisure with the consequences of Britain leaving in terms of the detail and the European directives we have signed over the years, with this Government and future Governments determining their priorities.
I now wish to talk about energy. I am sure that when the Secretary of State was given her tasks the first thing the Prime Minister said to her was, “Don’t let the lights go out.” Given the capacity, the grid and demand, that is probably her principal concern in her job and it was probably the principal concern of her predecessors. I am pleased with many of the things that the Government have done, but we do have to increase capacity, and where I disagree with the comments from the SNP and others is on the fact that we do need nuclear capacity as part of that. Whether the deal is a good or bad one depends on crystal ball-gazing over the next 40 years as to what will happen with energy prices. They are terribly difficult to predict. All I predict is that they will go up and they will go down, but I do not know when. In the last Parliament, the Labour party had a policy of freezing energy prices, but the moment the party made that its policy, energy prices started to fall, which proved that freezing them was probably the worst thing to do. We all know that energy prices go up and down, and that that is to do with the market; it is not necessarily about our being in the EU.
I also caution colleagues against drawing any long-term conclusions from what has happened in the markets, given that it has been only about two weeks since we had a vote to leave the EU. Long-term interest rates have fallen, the pound has gone up and gone down, and markets have gone up and gone down. I suspect that over the next year or two there will be a bumpy ride in some markets as decisions have to be made on our future. The UK Government have to do our best to increase capacity, and that means nuclear power, more gas and fracking. I know a lot of people do not like fracking, but there is a natural resource that we have to make use of.
There is one area where I might have some disagreement with the Secretary of State. She mentioned running down some of the coal-fired power stations, but until we are certain that some of the investment is starting to kick in, I would be a little reluctant to close off some of that capacity, because it will be challenge for us to keep the lights on in the future. The problems we have in capacity are largely caused not by this Government or the coalition Government, but by the previous Labour Governments, who put off taking decisions. In particular, they had a White Paper that did not even include nuclear power. I welcome a lot of what the coalition Government did and what this Government have done, but we need to improve confidence and investment so that we have more capacity in the energy market.
I welcome a lot of what the Government have done. There is no reason why this country should not still be at the forefront of fighting environmental damage. I still think this country can provide lessons to the EU. I do not believe our leaving will be a disaster; it is a great opportunity for our country. We have to make it a success, and I am sure this Parliament is perfectly capable of making decisions that benefit our citizens rather more than some of those made in the EU.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Poole (Mr Syms).
We have heard today that environmental problems do not respect borders. I would like to posit an alternative argument to the one just advanced by the hon. Gentleman, who said that everything was pretty much okay. I say that things are not that okay and that Britain’s membership of the EU has been instrumental and crucial to the improvement of UK air quality, the cleaning up of water pollution, the management of waste, and the protection and enhancement of biodiversity. It has also given us a global platform on which we can show global leadership in tackling climate change.
Earlier this year, the Environmental Audit Committee, which I chair—I can see several colleagues from it dotted around the Chamber here today—carried out an inquiry into the effects of EU membership on UK environmental protection. We heard from a wide variety of witnesses, including business people, academics, politicians and non-governmental organisations. The overwhelming majority told us that the environment was better protected as a result of our EU membership.
We do not have to look too far to find examples of that protection. In the 1970s, the Thames was biologically dead. It may not look any cleaner from the Palace of Westminster than it did in the ‘70s, but it serves as a great reminder of how EU membership has cleaned up our environment. We can now see seals and dolphins—I have yet to see one from my window. Otters are now in the high end of the Thames. That success story has been repeated up and down the country, as once dead rivers have been brought back to life. Where once it was dangerous to swim, now it is safe for people and wildlife alike. The EU water framework directive has cleaned up our beaches and our rivers, and the marine strategy directive has encouraged us to set out that ecologically coherent network of marine protection zones. It has not been an easy task and I pay tribute to the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart), for his work in this area.
Does my hon. Friend and colleague agree that one of the things that we found in the Committee’s study was, in essence, that the European Union is a union, which therefore has minimum standards that are ratcheted up? It does not allow individual members to undercut other members on the environment, which means that there is a platform across Europe, and across the globe as well, of best practice.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, but of course the setting of those minimum standards does not prevent individual member states from going above and beyond them. Vitally for business, it also provides a common baseline and a harmonised market for products. That is absolutely crucial for UK businesses as we move forward into the uncertainties of a Brexit world.
EU membership is also key for air quality. Successive Governments have dragged their feet on this very difficult issue. Since 2010, the UK has been in breach of EU legal air quality limits in 31 of its 43 clean air zones, and one of those is in my constituency of Wakefield. Although London tends to get all the attention—as a cyclist in London I am certainly aware of the very high pollution levels—constituencies such as Wakefield with the M1 and M62 crossing by it have severe burdens of cardiovascular disease and lung disease as a result of the breaching of those limits.
EU legislation has allowed UK campaigners to hold the Government to account. The High Court has ordered Ministers from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to come up with new air quality plans. In April, those Ministers were back in court over allegations that their plans were still insufficient to bring the UK’s air quality in line with EU minimum standards. There is a series of question marks about what will happen to air pollution standards in the brave new Brexit world.
On biodiversity, the nature directives have preserved some of the most treasured places, plants and species in our country. Many of our best-loved sites, such as Flamborough Head, Dartmoor and Snowdonia, are protected by the EU.
The birds and habitats directives are the real jewels in the crown of our environmental protection. Does the hon. Lady agree that, even if we do keep them in British legislation—as I hope we do—what we must do is ensure that there is a proper enforcement mechanism? That is what the EU has provided us with, and we will need to create a new enforcement mechanism that is as rigorous as possible.
I do not think that anything can be guaranteed in this world. The first step is to hear from Ministers, but it is said that today is like the last day of term. I wish the Under-Secretary well in whatever future role he is called on to play in the Government. He has been an excellent Minister, and he has appeared before the Environmental Audit Committee many times. I do not think that anything should be taken for granted. As a passionate pro-remain campaigner, I took part in many debates during the EU referendum campaign, and I heard many different versions of Brexit depending on whom I was debating with.
In an interview with The Guardian, the Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the hon. Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice) described the birds and habitats directives as “spirit crushing”. He said that if we voted to leave, “they would go”. We will have to see whether his version of events is the same as that of the new Prime Minister. He also said that leaving the EU would free up both common agricultural payments and up to £2 billion in “insurance and incentives” for farmers. Nowhere in that do I hear anything about the need for protecting species, wildlife, and plant life. There is no mention of the vital services provided by soils and bogs or of the need for the restoration of bogs and peatlands, which we recommended just a month ago in our excellent report on soil, and which was echoed this morning by the Adaptation Sub-Committee report of the Committee on Climate Change. So, we have seen otters, hen harriers and bitterns making a comeback, and the referendum result could put all that progress at risk.
The EU has also played a key role in promoting investment in sustainable businesses and technologies. Investors need clear policy signals emanating from strong legislative frameworks, and, to be fair, those frameworks are provided by the Climate Change Act 2015. However, our Committee has received some mixed messages from the current inquiries into both the Department for Transport and the Treasury. In particular, I posed a question on the cancellation of the carbon capture and storage competition, which has had a massive debilitating effect on investor confidence. We do not want to get into a position where consumers are not spending and investors are not investing, because that is absolutely disastrous not just for the economy, but for the UK’s environmental progress.
Twenty years ago, in 1997, the UK sent almost all of our household waste to landfill. Now we recycle almost 45% of it, although I was disappointed to see those numbers slightly dip last year. The Treasury introduced the landfill tax escalator in response to the EU landfill directive. Over the past five years, according to the Environmental Services Association, the waste and resources management sector has invested £5 billion in new infrastructure thanks to this long-term policy signal. Those policy signals are vital as is the need to keep investing in infrastructure if we are to meet those 2020 waste targets—if they still apply in UK law. [Interruption.] A sip of gin to keep me going. A slice next time, please.
I shall end on the topic of microplastic pollution. The Committee is concluding its inquiry into microplastics—tiny particles of plastic, which can come from larger particles of plastic that are broken down, or from products such as shaving foams, deodorants, toothpastes and facial scrubs. Unfortunately, it seems to be the higher-end products that have not been cleaned up as quickly as the mass volume scrubs. We are finding that the particles have washed down the sink, passed through sewage filtration systems and ended up in the sea. Anyone who has had a dozen or half a dozen oysters recently will have consumed about 50 microplastic particles. For those of us who like seafood, that is something to reflect on. Bon appétit.
Over a third of fish in the English channel are now contaminated with microplastics. As an island nation we must take the problem of microplastic pollution seriously. The way to solve the problem is to work with our partners in the EU. Those are not my words. It is what the Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs told our Committee when he gave evidence just before the referendum on 23 June. If the EU takes action to address an environmental problem, it creates not only a level playing field for businesses, but an opportunity to market environmental solutions.
Brexit raises a series of questions. There is the issue of the circular economy package, which is the EU’s drive to get us to reduce waste, recycle more and have a secure and sustainable supply of raw materials, such as paper, glass and plastics. That would have driven new, green jobs in the UK economy. The decision to abandon all that has left investors reeling.
We heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner), the shadow Secretary of State, about Siemens’ decision to freeze its investment in the wind industry in Yorkshire, Hull and the Humber and we face a protracted period of uncertainty. When the Under-Secretary of State appeared before our Committee as part of that EU inquiry, he told us that the vote to leave would result in a “long and tortuous” negotiation. That has not even begun yet.
The period ahead is fraught with risks. The UK risks not being regarded as a safe bet, and investors may no longer wish to invest their cash in UK businesses. Significantly, contracts are no longer being signed in London because the risk of London no longer being part of the European single market means that people want contracts to be signed in a European country so that if something goes wrong, contract law will be enforceable across all the countries of the European Union. That will have a very big effect on our financial and legal services.
Does my hon. Friend agree that in the emerging recycling market across Europe, with us being at arm’s length and possibly facing tariffs, regulations and so on, people will invest in Europe rather than in Britain?
That is the point I was making. When looking at where to put new foreign direct investment, investors will look again and go to the area of least risk. Those risks are reflected in the economy.
We found out from our inquiry that the environment and the UK’s membership of the EU had been a two-way street. It forced us to take action much more quickly on waste and on water, but it also acted as a platform from which we could project our own British values, particularly in relation to climate change. DECC Minister Lord Bourne told the Committee that the UK’s voice was louder in Paris because we were part of a club of 28 countries. I worry about the global agreement reached at Paris and the possible damage to achieving those climate change targets as a result of our withdrawing from the European Union.
In the 1970s the UK was the “dirty man” of Europe. Economically, we were the “sick man” of Europe. Since then we have cleaner beaches, we drive more fuel-efficient cars, we have more fuel-efficient vacuum cleaners, and we can hold the Government to account on air pollution. Environmental problems do not respect borders, and require long-term solutions—much longer than the five-year term of a Government or, in some cases, the two-year term of a Treasury Minister.
EU membership has allowed the UK to be a world leader in tackling environmental problems with our brilliant science base and our pragmatic civil service to provide good nuts-and-bolts solutions to many of the challenges we face, and created British business as a world leader, whether through its retrofitting diesel buses in China or helping the Indian Government with water management for the Ganges delta. These are knowledge and services that our country can export proudly because we have been clean in the European Union. The result of the referendum has caused a great deal of political and economic uncertainty. I hope we will get some reassurances from the Government about the threats that it poses to our common home, and the actions that any new Government will take to ensure that we leave a better future for our children.
I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh), for whom I have a great deal of respect in her role as Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, although I would like to be a little more positive about life post-EU than she was.
I am pleased to speak about the important subject of post-EU referendum implications for energy and the environment. The environment is something that we cannot avoid. It affects us all: the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat and the soils that produce it, the trees that take in the carbon dioxide, the flora, the fauna, the landscape—everything we touch. It is essential that we deliver policies to determine that we can have a healthy life, and that all God’s creatures can have a healthy life, too.
As we have heard many times today, much of our environmental legislation stems from Europe. We have been instrumental in writing much of it: the birds directive, the habitats directive, the bathing water directive and the air quality directive. The motion states that in the run-up to the EU referendum, “little mention” was made of environmental protection. Actually, a lot of people, including myself and some of my hon. Friends who are in the Chamber, as well as many from the Environmentalists for Europe group, did refer to environmental aspects. Interestingly, it was the media who gave the environment little coverage, as statistics show that the environment featured in only 1.7% of the referendum coverage in all media, and 0% of television coverage. People were talking about it, but that was not picked up, and that is one of the issues we face.
Once one starts talking about the environment, people engage with it, so I have set up an environment forum in Taunton Deane. I held a debate in the forum about the EU and the environment. Opinion was not in favour of one side or the other, but the event was a big talking point, and more than 100 people turned up to it, which shows that there is interest in the subject. We are where we are, however. We are out of Europe, and we have to move forward positively.
I shall mention a few small concerns that have arisen to show that we have some immediate problems to sort out. For example, I have been contacted by a number of landowners who were about to sign their higher level stewardship contracts for the next 10 years to protect precious parts of our habitat, but they are now holding off. I would like some reassurance about what will happen and where the money that is required will come from. We do not want to lose those wonderful protected habitats while people wait to find out what happens. Similarly, on other greening issues for farmers, we do not want to risk farmers being forced to plough up field margins, edges or ponds because they do not know what is happening with their environmental protection money or where it is coming from. Some reassurance on that, even for the short term, would go down well.
Nobody today has mentioned farmers or landowners, but they are the people who own all the land that we keep talking about. We have to work with them. The same applies to fishermen. I have heard rumours—I do not know whether this is true—that fishermen are now ignoring many of the marine protections because they think that we are out of Europe and therefore the protections do not apply any more. It would be extremely helpful to hear some reassurance about that.
What now? As I said, we should be positive. We have a real opportunity to take ownership of the environment and to adopt the systems and frameworks that work best and deliver for us. Now more than ever—we have talked about this in the Environmental Audit Committee—is the time to start building in sustainability and a healthy future, and to think more about how every Department delivers on these things.
We should, for example, think about how infrastructure works when it goes through special landscapes or land with ancient trees. We should think about how our homes can be more sustainable. We have touched on all this, and I am pleased the Government are undertaking an inquiry to look again at sustainable urban drainage system, and the carbon efficiency and energy efficiency of homes, but we need to build those things in.
We should also think about how we reduce the impact of flooding. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee is carrying out an inquiry into flooding, which will bring forward really useful ideas about how to build flood resilience into our land use plans. This is the time to get all these things in, so we have a great opportunity. We can also do more on low-carbon energy generation and transport so that we have lower emissions and reduce our terrible air pollution statistics. All that is possible with clear planning for and thought about land use.
I have talked to lots of bodies about these issues, from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, to the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, the Ancient Tree Forum and the Soil Association. However, I have also spoken to farmers and landowners, and I reiterate that we have to work with and support them if we are to deliver what we need.
I would like to suggest some things that we should consider. As the hon. Member for Wakefield said, EU legislation sets our targets regarding air and water pollution, and it was the EU that took us to task if we did not hit them. We must therefore ensure that we set targets and have a system of checking and reporting back—I suggest annually—on how we are doing. I urge the Government to ensure that we do not lower our air or water-quality standards. We have heard the shocking statistic that 50,000 people a year die from air pollution-related diseases, so we would be crazy to lower those standards. I am sure that the Minister is listening to that point.
I have a few thoughts about how to proceed, although some have been mentioned by other Members. Let us transpose the relevant EU directives into UK law—we can then amend them as we think fit, but let us at least have them—and let us keep special areas of conservation. Let us also do more on the world stage, because we really need to. We need to increase our global influence with bodies such as the UN and the OECD. The Bern convention and the animal welfare legislation are really important, and we also need to stay part of Natura 2000.
I applaud the fact that DEFRA has been working away on its—I will not say elusive—25-year plans for farming and the environment. That is excellent, but let us see those plans as soon as possible, and let us make sure that the environment is inextricably interwoven with farming production targets. We have a great opportunity, so let us make greening slightly less complicated for farmers. Most farmers are keen to undertake aspects of greening, but some of the forms that they have to fill out and the demands that are placed on them are so tortuously complicated—I heard this only this morning from a barn owl expert who works with farmers across the south-west—that some farmers are thinking of not bothering in the future if we cannot simplify the system. To deliver what we need to deliver, we need to make things easy to do.
While we are rewriting our plans, let us get in some soil monitoring. Let us recognise that soil is an ecosystem, not just a growing medium to be abused. Let us also deal with the circular economy. DEFRA suggests that that could bring in £22 billion of savings, so let us look at that and build it all in.
I reiterate that subsidies will have to be part of the system, but let us work out how they are given to our farmers and landowners. I suggest that they should not just be based on land ownership, but that farmers and landowners should have to deliver something for them, whether that is green services or food production. Perhaps caps should be put in place. If someone has 3,000 acres of arable land in the east, is it right that they clock up so much per hectare? Why not have a cap so that everything is on a level playing field? Farmers and landowners are discussing these issues countrywide, as are environmental organisations, so let us put all their findings together and build them into our forward-thinking plan.
Finally, I am going to touch on energy, because it is referred to in the motion. I am pleased that the Energy Secretary has committed to delivering secure, affordable and clean energy. I welcome the system that is enabling consumers to switch to lower-cost energy to help with bills. I really welcome the commitment to continue leading on climate change, to which many colleagues have referred. I also welcome early ratification of the Paris agreement, and I reiterate praise for the proposed climate change system, which the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig) referred to, so I think we are all together on that.
The Government have committed to low-carbon energy. They are phasing out coal and are also committed to nuclear. The south-west is pressing ahead with the commitment on Hinkley Point, which will be a crucial part of our economy, delivering 7% of our energy. I welcome the Government’s involvement in establishing the National College for Nuclear, and there will be a big spin-off for Somerset, where Bridgwater College has just linked up with Somerset College in my constituency. That is spawning not only new engineers, but the new skills that we will need to move forward in the low-carbon energy sector that has to be part of our brave new world.
To conclude, let us not be negative. The Government must listen—I am absolutely sure that they are listening. We must link farming closely with the environment for the good of the nation. That will deliver for the environment and, indeed, for us all, in terms of health, wellbeing and life chances.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for graciously allowing me to make my maiden speech in this really important debate.
I am deeply honoured to be standing in this Chamber as the new Member of Parliament for Tooting. When I think about this Chamber’s long and proud history, and about the women and men who have sat here before me, and all they have achieved, I feel humbled. They include Clement Attlee, Nye Bevan and, very recently, Jo Cox, to name but a few. I am also reminded of the vast responsibilities that we in this Chamber are entrusted with over the coming years and the magnitude of what we must achieve for our country. I would like to talk a little about that task and about the mindset with which we should approach it.
First, however, I would like to talk about where I come from—Tooting. It is hard for me to adequately express my gratitude to the people of Tooting for putting their trust in me. During my campaign, I said I would be a passionate, energetic and tireless representative for absolutely everyone in my constituency, and it is with that promise that I intend to serve.
Just two months ago, I was working day and night on our NHS frontline in A&E as an emergency doctor. Now I find myself wandering the corridors of Westminster, grappling with vast piles of dry booklets and mistaking Members’ offices for lady Members’ rooms—it has happened.
It was a piece of good news that set me on the journey that brings me here today: the election of our new Mayor of London, my good friend Sadiq Khan, with the largest personal mandate in British political history. From the first time I met Sadiq, it was clear that he was destined for greatness. When I became a councillor, he took the time to offer me support and guidance, as he remembered well what it was like for someone to suddenly find themselves holding the responsibilities of elected office. Sadiq spent 11 years working tirelessly for the people of Tooting. His commitment to equality, justice and inclusivity is inspirational. Whether he is celebrating International Women’s Day year after year, breaking bread with every religious community, or talking to children about how they can achieve no matter what their background, Sadiq’s interactions are always warm and welcoming. He truly believes in the power of people and communities, as he has shown throughout his time representing Tooting—and now the great city of London. He has made improving the environment a top priority in City Hall, and has already started tackling the important issue of air quality in London. This debate gives us an opportunity again to see what a difference we can make in the House when we get legislation right—legislation like the Clean Air Act 1956, which was passed 60 years ago following the London smogs of the 1950s.
I will endeavour to build upon Sadiq’s fine legacy, standing tall for all of Tooting. Sadiq’s shoes are big to fill, but then I have the benefit of much higher heels to help! We share a lot in our histories and our characters: our surname; a love of football; and a keen interest in boxing. Perhaps most importantly, Sadiq and I are children of Tooting who are now choosing to raise our families in the very streets where we grew up. We have one important difference, though: my dad was not a bus driver—[Laughter.] However, my mum did work in the local petrol station, so—who knows?—perhaps Sadiq’s father filled up his bus there.
As a Tooting girl through and through, I never like it when people say, “Tooting is becoming a fantastic place to live.” Anyone who has lived there for as long as I have knows that it has always been great, with the wonderful green open spaces of Tooting and Wandsworth commons, the iconic Tooting market, and the lido, which has been open for residents of Tooting to swim outdoors for 110 years. There has always been a rich tapestry of communities living harmoniously alongside one another. That unity should be celebrated, and I will defend it with every fibre of my being. That unity is woven into me—it is an essential part of who I am. When people ask me where I am from, I say: “I’m half Polish, half Pakistani; raised in England; married a Welshman; and I am 100% Tooting.”
There is a serious point in this, though: what binds us together. In Tooting and across the country, it is a sense of common purpose. The selflessness that drives community groups and charities binds us together. Tooting’s many local businesses, traditional and modern, not only fuel our thriving economy, but bind us together. St George’s hospital and our NHS, where everyone is treated with equal concern, based not on their race or religion but on their need, bind us together. In these fragile times, we should never forget that these charities, businesses and proud national institutions are important not only because they provide us a service or grow our economy, but because they bind us together as local residents, as citizens, and as human beings, too.
So why am I here now? Well, life was not easy growing up, but I always had the bedrock that was the love and support of my mum, Maria, even in the face of adversity. She was on her own, a single mum, but like a small army, showering my brother and me with praise and providing a palpable sense of possibility. She gave me hope. She showed my brother and me that even people from our background can achieve anything with hard work and determination. She instilled in me a deep-rooted determination to help others who have seen hardship and who fight for social justice. But I am also here because of Labour. My dream of becoming a doctor became a reality not only through my own hard work and support from my family, but because a Labour Government made it financially possible for me to access a world-class medical school at Cambridge. That is one reason why my ambition will always be for Labour to win power, not just to sit on these Opposition Benches.
I have served in an ice cream shop, I have fried eggs at a hotel, and I have aided patients, but my proudest job is being a wife and a mother. My heart bursts with the love I have for my husband, Tudor, and my two young daughters, Anaiyah, aged three, and Layla, aged just one. They are an immense source of strength to me, and will continue to be so over the coming years.
We must now all look to those coming years. They will be turbulent and challenging, and in them history will be made. This House will be responsible for shaping Britain’s future in the 21st century by guiding, overseeing, and providing accountability for the most important negotiations our country will have seen for decades. In that period, important and defining questions will be asked about who we are as a nation and who we want to be, about the legacy we will leave the next generation and the generations after that, and about the relationships we want to have with our friends and allies across the whole world.
Britain has always been an outward-looking country—one that does not shy away from the challenges that face us all. My experience as a doctor, and internationally all over the world, has taught me a lot about those challenges. I have lived and worked in squalid refugee camps, pulled dead bodies out of floodwater and watched children suffer as victims of war. I have witnessed aching, aching suffering. My commitment is to be a voice for those who have none, to find hope for those who have lost it, and to build strength for those who are weak, regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. We all bleed, we all breathe, and we all feel pain. The sound of a parent losing a child is an international language. It is, tragically, a sound that is increasingly common in our unstable world.
We live in a time of insecurity and change without parallel in recent history. Europe is in flux. The middle east is in crisis. The axis of global power is shifting. The old certainties no longer seem so certain. It is all too easy to write off calls for international social justice as irrelevant when we ourselves live in such difficult and uncertain times— “We have so much to do to sort out our own country; why should we be thinking about responsibilities overseas?” That is to misunderstand what social justice is about. It is not simply a goal to be ranked and prioritised in relation to other goals; it is about how we think and who we are. It applies to everything we do, whether protecting our NHS in the UK, protecting workers’ rights in our negotiations with the EU, or working to seek peace in Syria and Yemen. Everywhere I look, there is work to do.
Here at home, I pledge to bring my years of experience in, and deep commitment to, our NHS in order to stand up for it. I could not be prouder of my NHS colleagues at St George’s hospital and elsewhere who work day and night, with little thanks for the work they do. Anyone who has worked in the NHS—indeed, anyone who has worked in any of our vital emergency services—knows well the feeling of leaving behind the comfort of home and family, day after day, night after night, selflessly to work gruelling hours in difficult circumstances, and serving the communities we love without complaint. I will work to protect them from the attacks they are under. Our NHS staff see work as a vocation, not as a job. This is why they have been so damaged by the recent mishandling of the junior doctors contract, and it is why nurses are so distraught when they see their bursaries axed. It is morally reprehensible that student nurses are forced to seek food banks, or that women in medicine are penalised for having children.
I have already asked two questions in my short time in this House, and I am afraid I shall not stop asking questions until I get satisfactory answers. In these times, who knows how long I may be sitting here? What I do know, and what I can tell Members, is that I am going to make every single minute, every single day, count for the people of Tooting, and of Great Britain and the United Kingdom.
What an absolutely fantastic, brilliant maiden speech we have just heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Dr Allin-Khan). I have served in this House for 14 years, and I have to say that that is the best maiden speech I have ever heard. It was eloquent, moving and witty. It talked about Tooting, about history, and about where we are and where we are going. My hon. Friend is a great credit to Tooting, and a great credit to her family. I know that her mother, Maria, is here, as are her brother, her best friend, Monique, her husband, Tudor, who I am very pleased to hear is from Neath in Wales—I hope to be sharing a Joe’s ice cream later in the summer if all goes well—and her supporters in the Gallery. [Hon. Members: “And the Mayor of London.”] I will be mentioning the Mayor of London. It is fantastic to hear about Tooting and it is great to have the Mayor of London back with us today.
This debate is about the environment. Our concern as we break free from Europe is that we will no longer have mandatory standards of air quality. I am very proud that Sadiq Khan, our Mayor of London, has made headway after two terms of, frankly, indolence from the previous Mayor in terms of making progress on air quality. There are about 9,500 premature deaths a year in London alone as a result of air pollution, largely from diesel cars and vehicles. The number across Britain, according to the Royal College of Physicians, is 40,000. We are talking about lung disease, heart disease and strokes, and problems for children, whether they are in the classroom or in the womb.
I am very pleased that Sadiq Khan is present. I was with him last week when he launched his new air quality standards on the 60th anniversary of the Clean Air Act 1956, and I look forward to ultra-low emissions zones using the latest technology. The Minister may know of the new technology from America that uses lasers to count the emissions of each pollutant from each car, thereby setting standards for emissions standards.
One of my main concerns about leaving Europe is that mandatory standards will no longer be enforceable in the courts. I am glad that ClientEarth is taking the Government to court to ensure that we deliver those standards. The fact that it has to take them to court shows that, left to our own devices, we are in danger of becoming the dirty man of Europe again, which was our embarrassing former status. The World Health Organisation has standards, but they are not enforceable. I hope that the Minister will say that we will sustain and honour our commitments not just to air quality standards, but to all EU standards. We have a responsibility to make future laws ourselves, but unless they are integrated and harmonious they will not work as a platform to make the world a more sustainable place.
My hon. Friend has touched on the important issue of the fines levied for breaches of air quality standards. Does he think that there is an important job to be done in terms of joined-up government? The British Government will pass the fines down to local government, even though issues such as local government housing targets are also controlled by central Government. That means that not only will local government have to approve new developments in areas of towns and cities that suffer from poor air quality, but the British Government will pass down fines to it for doing so.
That is a concern. I promoted the Air Quality (Diesel Emissions in Urban Centres) Bill to give more powers to local authorities, with Government support, to introduce more air quality zones and testing, and to encourage the use of trams and hydrogen and electric-driven transport systems. We need not just a series of zones that have to reach minimum standards, but improved air quality for all people across all our nations. We do not want the Government to pass the buck or to revert to becoming the dirty man of Europe again. We have had a lot of benefits from being in Europe. My constituency of Swansea West has some beautiful, blue flag beaches, and we do not want them to revert to becoming like the old low-tar and high-tar beaches of the past.
Responsibility for research and development in environmental innovation is shared across Europe, but we are in danger of risking that. We were leaders at Kyoto from Europe, and we were leaders in Britain and throughout Europe on the elimination of chlorofluoro- carbons and on closing the hole in the ozone layer. We do not want to miss such opportunities in future, but I am sad to say that we are likely to do so.
The Adaptation Sub-Committee of the Committee on Climate Change had a meeting today to discuss the latest problems with adaptation to climate change, including what we have to do in relation to flooding and changes in biodiversity, water supply, health, food and so on. We need to face those big challenges together, so I hope that the Minister will reassure us that we will be working together, not just floating off on our own and becoming worse and worse environmentally.
The environment faces challenges from the negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the EU and the US. Now that we are leaving, we will find that we cannot veto, influence or change those negotiations; we will be a bystander and we will have to live by those rules, which at the moment do not protect the environment from investors. We run the risk of being fined by big fracking companies. Loan Pine sued Canada for hundreds of millions of dollars when there was a moratorium on fracking in Quebec. I do not want that to happen in Wales, Scotland or elsewhere when companies are given the open door by the new Administration.
I am pleased and honoured to be a member of the Council of Europe. I am a rapporteur on both TTIP and fracking, and I hope that the advice from the thorough reports will be taken up by the Government. I am glad to say that I am also a member of the Environmental Audit Committee, and we have said that working together as one with Europe has to be good to retain standards. We do not want to see us undercutting other countries with regard to the environment for competitive reasons, which would bring everybody down.
On climate change, it was agreed in Paris that we should set a target, using the 1750 baseline, for our world temperatures to go up by no more than 2 °C. We have already moved up 1 °C, and, on the basis of carbon dioxide that is in the pipeline, it has been calculated that the figure is already 1.5 °C up, which was the Paris aspiration. That means that we need to move towards zero-carbon technology and carbon capture. Regrettably and shamefully, however, the Government, even before leaving Europe, have abandoned their aspirations and plans for carbon capture. As an environmentalist, I am really concerned not just that we will become the dirty man of Europe, but that we will start playing dirty to reduce standards in order to attract jobs as we face tariffs, which is one of the inevitable consequences of the Brexit vote.
I will present a Bill tomorrow on UK environmental protection and the maintenance of EU standards. It gives the Government the opportunity to sign up to at least keeping the current standards and to not sink back while the EU moves forwards. I hope that that will be agreed.
I view the vote for Brexit with great regret. I hope that we will have a second referendum on the exit package, so that people will know precisely what they are voting for, and if it does not deliver on their reasonable expectations they will have the option of defaulting back to recover membership of the EU again. We will see how it goes. Government Members are shaking their heads, but I do not think that we should continue to walk into what may be an environmental disaster.
Finally, I want to say once more that the hon. Member for Tooting made a fantastic speech.
It was a pleasure to hear the hon. Member for Tooting (Dr Allin- Khan), whose speech was excellent, in both content and delivery. My son is a junior hospital doctor and I know how hard doctors work. We need more scientists and doctors in the House of Commons, so for that reason, too, she is really welcome. I congratulate her.
The implication of the Opposition’s motion is that somehow, by leaving the EU, we will become the dirty man of Europe and that, without the glad hand of European legislation, we will go back to our dirty ways.
I want to talk about climate change police, particularly how far ahead we are of the rest of the EU, and how Europe’s slow pace is causing increasing difficulty for the rest of the world.
People are right that environmental protection and policy is cross-border. We produce 1.3% of global emissions. Since 1990, the UK has decreased its carbon emissions by 28% and the EU has decreased carbon emissions by 21%. That figure includes our contribution of 28%, so the rest of the members have done a bit worse; although that in itself is not a disaster. What is extraordinary is the variability between different countries in Europe on carbon emissions since 1990: Austria has increased emissions by 14%, Ireland by 7% and Poland by 14%; Germany has decreased emissions, but not by anything like as much as we have. It is really quite bizarre.
Quite often, people talk about countries such as China as being the issue when it comes to emissions. However, the reality is that the Chinese are taking the whole issue a great deal more seriously than a number of OECD countries are. China has 40 to 50 nuclear power stations under construction. It increased its proportion of energy from nuclear by 30% last year, and from renewables by 20%. That is a huge effort. The truth is—
I take the hon. Gentleman’s point that China is making commendable progress in respect of nuclear construction. However, is it not also the case that, along with India, it is constructing up to several thousand coal-fired power stations? The argument, as was well put by the Prime Minister of India, Mr Modi, is this: why should we come to the banquet, have only a dessert and be presented with the bill?
I have a lot of sympathy for that argument, and that is why we have to cut more slack for these developing countries. I am going to come on to talk about coal, but in November the Secretary of State in this country said that we were going to phase out coal by 2025. The following week, Germany commissioned a brand new lignite-burning power station. That sort of behaviour plays to the point just made by the hon. Member from the Scottish nationalists that it is very hard to lecture the Indians and the Chinese on coal when there are countries in Europe, this year, commissioning brand new coal power stations.
We have talked about how important Paris is. The hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) made the point that we may well be close to 1.5% anyway—it is a statistical model and it is quite hard to tell. However, the fact is that the INDC that the EU, including the UK, put into the Paris commitment is approximately half as onerous in terms of decarbonisation as that which the Climate Change Act 2008 requires us to do in the UK. We will reduce our emissions by the fifth carbon budget by 57% in 2030. The EU offering was a 40% reduction, which includes the UK’s 57%. We are seeing the result of this already. Last year, carbon emissions across the EU as a whole increased by 0.7%. I accept that that was only one year, and that this is not something to be looked at one year at a time, but 18 of the 28 countries in the EU either had no decrease in emissions or an increase. For completeness, in that same time the UK reduced its emissions by around 3%. Those statistics are from Eurostat.
I want to talk more widely about why it is that the EU has lost its way on climate policy. There is a fixation on coal in the EU. Germany is often regarded as being a leader on renewables, and it is; Germany has far more renewables than we have. However, it also has much higher carbon emissions than we do. The reason for that is the coal that it has: Germany has four times as much coal as the UK, and it is not four times more populous. There are parallels in other countries. Does it matter? Perhaps not, in one sense; someone has to lead, and it is us. However, the DECC website shows that electricity prices in the UK for domestic consumers are something like 50% above the EU mean—our gas prices are not—and our industrial prices are about 80% higher. Why does that matter? I come from a constituency in the north of England, where we still try to manufacture things. It is very hard to talk about rebalancing the economy and the northern powerhouse on the back of differentially high energy prices.
I do not think that the EU has taken the position that it has on purpose. So why is it that the policy objectives of reducing carbon have not been realised? The first error that was made—this is true of a lot of directives—is that there was confusion as to the target. A lot of the early EU directives were about renewables and not decarbonisation, which is a secondary target. The consequence is that CCS, which we have talked about, was not emphasised, gas as a transition fuel was not emphasised and nuclear was not emphasised—the biggest omission of all. Of all EU electricity, 30% comes from nuclear. The fact that, for many countries in the EU, that is not even regarded as part of the solution is quite bizarre.
Two or three hon. Members this afternoon talked about CCS, and I regret that the UK is not pushing ahead with that. However, it really beggars belief to say that that is a European issue when a number of countries in the EU, including Germany, have banned CCS. It is not a question of not developing it; they have banned it.
The other error that the EU has made is to create a general parity between different types of fossil fuels. Coal and gas are very different indeed in terms of their materiality on this. One reason why the UK does a lot better than the EU is the amount of gas that we use and the fact that we have displaced coal with gas. I like to quote this statistic: if the world were to replace all the coal that we currently burn with gas, that would be equivalent to five times, or a factor of 500%, more renewables. To pretend that that is not part of the solution is just plain wrong. One reason that people regard it as not being part of the solution is that the pathway has been mistaken for the objective.
Yes, at some point we need to get to an emissions level below that which is afforded by gas, but the truth is that emissions are cumulative. The hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) said that we may well be close to the 1.5% in terms of particulates and all that goes with them. That is true and it is a cumulative effect. Carbon does not go out of the atmosphere for a very long time. It is not just about pathway. For that reason, gas should have been far more of a factor in this than it has been.
On the related matter of where we are, is the hon. Member as concerned as I am about the leakages of methane from fracking, which are 5%, given that methane is 83 times worse than CO2 in global warming?
I recognise the issue that the hon. Gentleman raises. If methane were being released from fracking at that level, it would represent that percentage. However, I do not think that that is the case in the United States of America. I am prepared to be corrected on that, but I do not think anything like that amount of methane is being emitted by fracking in the United States of America.
I can provide the hon. Member with satellite evidence of this. The figure is somewhere between 3% and 8%, with the best judgment being that it is 5%. That makes it two and a half times worse than coal in terms of global warming.
I do not accept that that is true, but if it was, it would apply to fracked gas only and not gas generally. Most of our gas is liquefied natural gas from Norway and Russia. That said, various papers have been written on the amount of methane coming out of wells in the United States, and I do not think that the evidence is quite as the hon. Gentleman said. I think we should leave it at that for now, and maybe have a coffee afterwards.
The other thing that was not done was that the EU has no price for carbon. The emissions trading system was an attempt to put in place a price for carbon. However, because of the recession, carbon permits became very cheap indeed and it became no issue at all. We in the UK then established a carbon floor price. The EU Parliament debated that and it was blocked by MEPs, particularly those from Germany, so there is no price of carbon in the EU, which would have fixed some of this.
The result of all this is a policy that overly emphasises renewables as a solution, without taking into account some of the other things that we could have been doing, such as nuclear, CCS and the displacement of coal with gas. Result: we see in Germany a country with very high renewables, but also very high carbon emissions. Something like 15% of Germany’s total energy and 30% of its electricity come from renewables, but because of the amount of coal it produces, its carbon emissions are a third higher per unit of GDP and a third higher per capita than those of the UK.
So, there is an issue with our leaving the EU. It is not an issue of us learning from the EU how to reduce carbon emissions; it is a question of the EU not being held to account for the level of emissions that many of those countries are currently going on with. If Brexit has got a downside in terms of environmental policy around climate change, it is that the leadership that the UK has been able to demonstrate—so far, perhaps unsuccessfully—to the EU on climate targets will not necessarily be so evident in future.
It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker. It was immensely frustrating to me that the environment received so little attention during the referendum campaign, despite the best efforts of my fellow members of the steering group of the cross-party Environmentalists for Europe. It seems like a lifetime ago that I stood on a rather windswept beach in Hove with my hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Peter Kyle), the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), and Sir Stanley Johnson, the father of the hon. Members for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) and for Orpington (Joseph Johnson), brandishing a beach ball and exhorting people to remain for nature. Brighton and Hove voted to remain, and I am sure that that was entirely down to our efforts with the beach ball that day. I am proud, too, that my constituency voted to remain. The public voted narrowly for Brexit, however, although I do not believe that they voted to remove the environmental protections that have served us so well over the years.
Much that is good has flowed from our EU membership. As my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) and others have said, Britain was once dubbed the “dirty man of Europe”. We used to worry about acid rain, but our sulphur dioxide emissions fell by 89% between 1990 and 2010, and our nitrogen dioxide emissions were down 62% thanks to EU directives, the EU ban on leaded petrol and the requirement for catalytic converters in cars.
I represent a constituency that has an air quality management area. My hon. Friend will know that there is a public health issue here in respect of obtaining clean air. Does she think that it is incumbent on the Government to tackle the air quality issue so that we narrow the health inequalities that are endemic in constituencies such as mine?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. Sixty years on from the Clean Air Act 1956, it is clear that many urban areas, in particular—although not just urban areas—are still suffering greatly from air pollution. It is an issue of social justice, because people in poorer communities tend to be most affected. The Government have been taken to court on the matter by ClientEarth and, whether we are in the European Union or outside it, we need to see further action on the issue.
It is hard to believe that we used to allow untreated sewage to flow into our seas before the EU’s bathing water directive forced the UK Government to make our bathing waters fit for swimming and to test for bacteria such as E. coli. In 1990, only 27% of our bathing waters met minimum mandatory standards. By 2014, 99% complied. The EU’s waste framework directive has been the driving force behind our domestic waste policy, requiring us to recycle 50% of household waste by 2020. As we have heard, it looks as though the UK is moving slightly backwards when it comes to progress towards recycling targets, and that needs to be halted.
The nature directive protects our most threatened habitats and birds, with beauty spots such as the New Forest, the Brecon Beacons and Ben Nevis designated as special areas of conservation. Post-Brexit, many of those protections would still apply in certain scenarios, but not in others. There is a lot of uncertainty, and I am keen to hear some early indications from the Minister of what our negotiating stance will be, as well as some reassurance about the importance of such protections. My understanding is that if the UK were to negotiate membership of the EEA, most EU environmental legislation would continue to apply, including measures covering pollution control, chemicals and waste management but not the bathing water directive or the birds and habitats directive. If the UK were outside the EEA, most environmental legislation would cease to apply. The main exception would be when companies sought to export to the EU; they would be obliged to conform to product standards and other requirements in order to do so.
Many EU directives have been transposed into UK law through primary or secondary legislation under Acts other than the European Communities Act 1972, and that legislation would continue to apply until it was changed by Parliament. EU regulations would present a different problem for the Government, however. They are directly applicable in the member states, so they could immediately cease to apply. A thorough audit must be carried out and clear guidance given to the House and the general public—who felt, throughout the referendum campaign, as though they did not really have the information that they needed to make the momentous decision that lay before them—about what protections could be under threat in each possible scenario, so that they can make up their minds about which of the scenarios they ought to support. We also need to know what the Government intend to do in each case.
There are, however, serious doubts about DEFRA’s capacity to do that. We know that the Department was woefully unprepared for a Brexit result; the Secretary of State told us that there was no plan B. The coalition Government slashed DEFRA’s resource budget by 38%, and the Chancellor last year announced a further cut of 15% for this Parliament. DEFRA and its agencies have lost a quarter of their staff. I hope the Minister will be able to tell us how the Department will begin to review and untangle EU directives and regulations when we know it does not have sufficient staff or resources for even its day-to-day work.
I urge the Government to bring in experts from outside Parliament—for example, Professor Tim Lang and the Food Research Collaboration—who are already gathering ideas, meeting, discussing and trying to collate a strategy for how we should proceed. We need to know from the Minister which civil servants from DEFRA and DECC will take part in the EU unit led by the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr Letwin), and what their remit will be.
I am concerned that if some in the Government have their way, we will have a bonfire of protections. Some of the most prominent leave campaigners are also climate change deniers, and there has also been much anti-EU rhetoric over the years, casting environmental protections as an over-bureaucratic burden rather than a benefit. The Chancellor, before he became an EU enthusiast, tried to claim that those protections placed
“ridiculous costs on British businesses”—[Official Report, 29 November 2011; Vol. 536, c. 808.]
but the Government’s review proved him wrong.
During the referendum campaign, the Minister with responsibility for farming, the hon. Member for Camborne and Redruth (George Eustice), vowed that the nature directives would go after Brexit. He described them as “spirit-crushing green directives”—although, to be fair to him, he later said that that comment was slightly misrepresented. He also said that the marine strategy framework directive, which requires member states to achieve good environmental status in marine waters by 2020 and promote a more sustainable approach to marine-related economic and social activities, would go. We need reassurance from the Minister that those voices will not prevail in the post-Brexit scenario.
The European Commission’s “fitness check” of the directives and, tellingly, their regulatory burden, is due to report soon. In the largest response ever to an EU consultation, more than 500,000 people called for the nature laws to be kept and to be better enforced. More than 100,000 of those responses came from UK citizens. British organisations such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds have been instrumental in defending the directives, not just in the UK but across Europe.
Another example of the European Union discussing issues that affect the UK—it is not a question of legally binding obligations being imposed on us, but we certainly ought to be part of the negotiations—is the EU circular economy package, which was agreed at the end of last year. There have already been reports that during the negotiations, the UK tried to water down the package, arguing against mandatory targets and priding ourselves on inserting the word “voluntary” throughout the text. Scotland has brought forward national plans to implement the package, and Wales has its own blueprint for moving to a more circular economy. What will England do now? If the EU circular economy package is properly implemented—that is quite a big “if”—the potential for new jobs and innovative new lines of business is huge. I would like the Minister to reassure us that we will not allow Brexit to derail our progress.
A further example is the neonicotinoids ban. The European Food Safety Authority is reviewing the EU’s restrictions on the use of neonics and the latest scientific evidence of their harm to bees and other pollinators. Its assessment will inform whether changes should be made to current EU restrictions and, indeed, whether they should be extended to cover all crops. Will the UK base its view on future regulation on the EFSA assessment? Or, since those restrictions were only introduced in the first place thanks to the EU, do the Government see that as an opportunity—as the right hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson) does—for overturning the current ban?
I also want to mention the impact on farmers and the managed environment. The common agricultural policy is far from perfect, but it is a lifeline for British farmers—around 55% of their income comes from EU subsidies. Britain’s lack of food self-sufficiency, which now stands at 61%, makes us overexposed and vulnerable to Brexit. As most experts are agreed that prices for imported food are likely to rise, we will have real difficulties offsetting that with more, much needed British-grown food, given how reliant the sector is on free movement of labour from within the EU and on migrant labour—I think I am right to say that 38% of workers in the food and farming sector come from outside the UK, and their situation is much in doubt in a post-Brexit scenario.
The leave campaign promised that a post-Brexit UK Government would be more generous to farmers, but we know that the UK lobbied for cuts to CAP support. We also know that the UK had the option of transferring 15% spending to pillar two for rural development, but only opted for 12.5% modulation, showing worrying signs about the possible direction of travel.
There are already too many examples of the Government not meeting EU requirements. As I have said, they had to be taken to court by ClientEarth for breaching EU clean air laws, as well as by the World Wide Fund for Nature and the Angling Trust over their failure to protect our rivers, lakes and coastal areas from agricultural pollution. The water framework directive required “good” ecological status by 2015 in all water bodies, but only 19% of those bodies currently comply. Some beaches have been de-designated by the Government so that they do not have to warn swimmers about poor water quality or test the waters.
Finally, some people were worried that by staying in the EU we would end up as a signatory to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, and that our hard-won environmental, food safety and animal welfare standards could be compromised as a result. For example, the EU does not allow hormone-pumped meat, but the US does. What happens now? Just when the EU looks as if it will resist TTIP—signals from France and Germany suggest that it will do so in its current form—will Brexit mean that the UK Government end up negotiating a bilateral trade deal with the US? If so, will our much weaker bargaining position mean that we cede ground on those important standards? Rather than “taking back control”, bilateral negotiations with the US could leave us with even less control. With so many unanswered questions, and faced with losing EU protections, Ministers need to assure us that Brexit will not mean environmental degradation and pollution spiralling out of control.
It is a pleasure to take part in this debate. As well as having a fantastically named constituency—it is much easier to remember than Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk—the new hon. Member for Tooting (Dr Allin-Khan) did herself proud and stood tall for Tooting today. There were so many Labour MPs on the Benches around her that I wondered whether she was going to make a bid for her party’s leadership.
I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig)—the other half, as he claims, of Team Callum. He failed to mention that he calls himself Callum 2.0. He is taller and has more hair, but anyone who can see his shoes knows that there are clearly some flaws in the design.
We need a 3.0.
We do, absolutely.
This has been an excellent debate—it is a shame that we did not have more such debates prior to the referendum. SNP Members did everything in our power to promote the case for the UK remaining in the European Union, and a key part of that was about keeping the protections that EU legislation has brought in the workplace, and on human rights and the environment. Unfortunately, those issues were too often brushed aside in the fierce political contest that we experienced during the referendum. Indeed, as we have heard, the environment scarcely featured in the debate about Britain’s membership of the EU.
The environmental protections that we have enjoyed in this country for decades, which cover areas such as air and water quality, emissions, waste, chemical regulation, and habitat protection, are all underpinned by EU legislation. Britain’s membership of the European Union has had an extremely positive effect on the quality of Britain’s beaches, our water and rivers, and on the air that we breathe. It has underpinned protection for many of our rarest birds, plants and animals, and their habitats. Like so many other questions on the detail of Brexit, the question of how we will continue to protect those precious assets needs a coherent answer.
Whenever we look at an issue in more detail, the value of European collaboration becomes clear. As the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) told the country just days after encouraging us to vote to leave:
“There will still be intense and intensifying European cooperation and partnership in a huge number of fields: the arts, the sciences, the universities, and on improving the environment.”
It is not clear how that picture of intensifying European co-operation squares with the Home Secretary’s statement yesterday that “Brexit means Brexit”.
On matters that stretch across a range of different fields that are vital to our prosperity and wellbeing, there has been little more than evasion and confusion from the Government thus far. That is why Ministers must do everything in their power to clarify how they will take forward the protection of the UK’s environment in this new political situation. There is so much about the EU that we do not want to abandon. For example, as part of my other brief, I have noticed in meetings on the digital single market a strong view that it makes sense to continue to adhere to EU directives and projects, even though we have voluntarily given up the capacity to shape them.
It is worth considering how the country’s approach to the environment has been shaped since it joined the EU. As many hon. Members have said, in the 1980s Britain was known as “the dirty man of Europe” because of widespread pollution of air, land and water. There is a risk that Britain will end up regaining that reputation. Although the UK has sometimes willingly followed the drive for environmental standards, and even at times led the way, it has taken years to get this country to meet some standards that are considered the norm in Europe.
When we consider environmental protection, it is worth remembering that in addition to the inherent worth of our landscape and ecosystems, there are key economic benefits to protecting biodiversity. Our natural environment in Scotland contributes an estimated £21.5 billion to the Scottish economy. Scotland also provides the major part of the UK’s contribution to the EU-established Natura 2000 network of protected sites, with more than 15% of our land designated for a wealth of habitats and species.
During the campaign, we heard nothing from the Brexiteers about what a vote to leave would mean for the habitats directive, for the circular economy, with its need for long-term planning and investment, or for issues around water quality, on which the UK still has a lot of catching up to do. What we did hear was a deep and often ideologically driven opposition to “red tape”. That red tape includes measures that protect rare species and unique habitats, and that prevent companies from damaging the environment or using dangerous chemicals in their products. It is now time to put the rhetorical bluster about red tape behind us and move on to focusing on what the Government’s red lines will be as they undertake these negotiations. If their priorities are muddled, or if key protections are sacrificed for short-term gain, we could be living with the impact for generations. Wherever all the moving parts of this constitutional crisis end up, we must ensure that the UK continues on the right path. As a range of environmental groups asserted before and after Brexit, co-operation and collaboration within Europe and with the EU works, because we do not solve such problems in isolation. My nation, Scotland, understands that, but does this House and do this Government also understand?
When considering this question, and in respect of investor confidence, my concerns are as follows. Investment in oil and gas renewables, or any energy or environmental project or initiative, relies on, among other things, stable legislation. Investors must be able to rely on the conditions under which they are prepared to invest lasting for, preferably, the duration of that project or initiative. That has not been the case with this Government and previous Governments.
There have been about 18 legislative changes in the oil and gas sector in the past 15 years. Allied to that, there has been the withdrawal from green initiatives such as the zero-carbon home policy. The green deal home improvement fund was abolished. Solar subsidies have been cut and the onshore wind farm subsidy has been removed. The door has been opened to fracking and a cap for biomass fuel subsidy has been introduced. The UK Green Investment Bank has been privatised, the green tax target on renewable energy investment has been abandoned and green car incentives have been cut. Particularly significant for me, as I worked on one of the projects, was the cancelling of the competition for carbon capture and storage.
My hon. Friend is illustrating the sorry place the Government have now taken the country. It is no longer Britannia rules the waves: it is Britannia waives the rules.
That is an excellent point well made by my hon. Friend.
The legislative changes in that short list can do nothing but discourage investors from investing in new energy production. The cancellation of the £1 billion carbon capture and storage competition initiative set out in the 2015 autumn statement will make it almost impossible for the UK to meet its climate change targets.
My hon. Friend highlights one reason why there is concern among Opposition Members. I have a degree of faith in the ministerial team who are sitting on the Treasury Bench. The Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart), and the Secretary of State understand the challenges. In this place, however, all too often the Treasury decides. Will my hon. Friend join me in pushing for a member of the ministerial team in the Chamber to become Chancellor?
I thank my hon. Friend for his commendable comments. I agree with him wholeheartedly.
Matthew Bell, the chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change, said:
“if you don’t have CCS, then you really need to virtually completely decarbonise your transport sector and completely decarbonise your heating sectors, in order to deliver on the 2050 ambition”.
Since both these sectors seriously lag behind in the decarbonisation of energy production, this seems extremely unlikely, to say the least. The underlying message of the changes is that the cost of subsidising renewable energy has been underestimated by the Government. That has led to the Treasury’s withdrawal of the green deals for consumers, housebuilders and energy investors alike. The Government have instead put all their eggs in the dual basket of fracking and nuclear energy, neither of which looks to be progressing very smoothly, and that makes achieving the UK’s mandatory climate change targets highly unlikely. My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen South (Callum McCaig) and the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), who is no longer in the Chamber, touched on the problems of Hinkley C. As anyone can see, this history of successive short-termist UK Governments continuously moving the legislative goalposts can only undermine investor confidence. Brexit will only serve to exacerbate that problem further, which was a point well made by the hon. Member for Brent North (Barry Gardiner), who is no longer in the Chamber.
On energy security, last year I was a member of the European Energy Market Design Committee. The Committee was at a very early stage of engagement, but the potential for cross-European energy sharing among EU members via interconnectors and the like was striking. I wonder if that Committee will even sit again this year, given Brexit. It should be obvious to all that an efficient interconnector network and shared energy design across Europe would benefit all. When the wind is blowing in Scotland, as it invariably does, the energy that is generated can be used elsewhere. If there is no wind, but the sun is shining in Spain, we can share that mutual benefit. I sincerely hope the Committee does meet again, but we have just made things much harder for ourselves as we try to co-ordinate European efficient energy supply from without the EU.
I should say at this point that Scotland has no intention of suffering the fallout from Brexit, the ramifications of which are still to be understood. As my hon. Friends the Members for Aberdeen South and for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (Calum Kerr) both pointed out, we are staying in Europe.
I, like most sensible politicians, turn to independent experts for opinions and answers to questions about complex matters such as the natural environment. My points about the circular economy have been well made by other Members, so I will skip on to my next point.
The Institution of Environmenta