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Commons Chamber

Volume 718: debated on Thursday 21 July 2022

House of Commons

Thursday 21 July 2022

The House met at half-past Nine o’clock


[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Business before Questions

Queen's Speech (Answer to Address)

The Vice-Chamberlain of the Household reported to the House, That Her Majesty, having been attended with its Address of 10th May, was pleased to receive the same very graciously and give the following Answer:

I have received with great satisfaction the dutiful and loyal expression of your thanks for the speech with which His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales opened the present Session of Parliament on my behalf.

Speaker's Statement

Before we come to today’s business, I want to mark the departure of two senior members of the House Service. Penny Young, Librarian and Managing Director of the Research and Information Team, is retiring at the end of the month. Isabel Coman, Managing Director of the Strategic Estates Team, is leaving the House Service in September.

Penny came to the House of Commons in 2015 following a distinguished career in the BBC, and latterly as chief executive of the research organisation NatCen. In her time here, she has consistently championed the provision of high-quality information and research for Members and the public. She has been valued by her team for her supportive and calm direction, and her ability to get to the heart of any issue.

Isabel joined Parliament in March 2020 and has had a huge job, leading not only on major construction projects, but the Maintenance, Customer and Catering and Heritage Collections teams. She has overseen the completion of a number of major estates projects and has set us on a journey to improve the way we approach major works in Parliament. The insight and experience Isabel has brought to her role since joining has been greatly valued, and I am sure will stand her in good stead in her next role at Transport for London.

I am sure the House will join me in thanking Penny and Isabel for their contribution and wishing them well in the future.

Oral Answers to Questions

International Trade

The Secretary of State was asked—

Free Trade Agreement: India

India is a dynamic, fast-growing trade partner, and a free trade agreement offers the opportunity to deepen our already strong relationship, which was worth £24.3 billion in 2021. Round 5 of trade agreement negotiations began on Monday 18 July and will continue until the end of next week. We have already closed 12 chapters and continue to work hard to reach a balanced and comprehensive agreement. We are in detailed negotiations and discussions on texts now and are confident in our progress with India, as we work towards a comprehensive FTA.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Clearly, doing a trade deal with India is complex and difficult. The European Union, for example, has been trying to do one for 25 years without success, so I wish her and her team well on negotiations. Clearly, it will be challenging to achieve it by Diwali, but I know that she is committed to doing so. Will she set out, for the benefit of the House, the benefits to the UK and to India of the free trade deal she is undertaking?

Our priority in talks has always been to address the significant barriers that businesses face in exporting to India. In the past decade, UK services exports to India have increased by 60% in current prices, totalling £3.6 billion in 2021. However, the reality is that India’s barriers to services trade are still relatively high compared with those of other trading partners, so this FTA will provide a great opportunity to address those barriers and support the UK’s service sector, in particular, to do business in India’s growing markets.

The Secretary of State must know that Huddersfield and West Yorkshire are the beating heart of the manufacturing sector; so many firms are good at exporting, and have expertise and a history of trade with India, but they are still finding huge barriers to any exporting effort they make. Can her Department not really step up the action to help, especially for the small and medium-sized enterprises?

As always, the hon. Member is a champion of businesses in his constituency. He is exactly right: those barriers to trade are still difficult, and the free trade agreement brings us the opportunity to work with India to strip away those market access barriers. We are listening, obviously, through the consultation process. On the FTA process, at the beginning of the year we asked businesses to talk to us and share their own experiences and the particular areas where they wanted us to negotiate reductions in barriers. I hope that we are doing that. I would be very happy to hear directly from the hon. Member’s businesses whether they have particular areas in mind. We are looking to reach a broad and comprehensive agreement that will strip away many of those market access barriers, be they tariff areas around goods or, indeed, those very many areas of service sector activity, which will benefit both sides. We have some highly mutually compatible business opportunities to work on together.

Trade with the EU

This Government continue to seek an excellent trading relationship with our former EU partners, just as we do with other international markets. Hon. Members will be pleased to note that goods exported to the EU for May 2022 were over 17% higher than the 2018 monthly average, so trade here is already increasing. To increase exports, we need to get more British businesses exporting, and to do that the Department has initiatives such as the Export Academy and the export champions scheme that help to give them the knowledge and practical help that they need.

Research by the London School of Economics has found a huge drop in the number of trade relationships between UK businesses and the EU, with a 30% decrease in the variety of goods sold. That is a clear indication of the damage that the Government’s Brexit deal is doing to smaller businesses, which cannot afford the increased costs of administration. Will the Minister detail how many small and medium-sized enterprises applied to the Brexit support fund and how many were successful? May I also ask the Minister, on behalf of the small and medium-sized businesses in my constituency, where is the urgency to find solutions to enable SMEs to trade with our EU neighbours once again?

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for your welcome. I also thank the hon. Member for her question. Of course, she did not support the EU trade agreement that this Government put in place, so it is quite rich for her now to turn around and say that we are not increasing exports. In my previous answer, I talked about the many interventions that this Government are making, including internationalisation and the Brexit support fund of £38 million that is going to small and medium-sized enterprises to help them overcome the barriers that the protectionist EU puts in place.

I, too, welcome the Minister to what I hope is a long and fruitful career. My question is about services, not goods. Our biggest export is the English language—it is the lingua franca of the world, isn’t it?—but the language schools that teach teenagers over the summer months are collapsing at quite a scary rate. Only seven out of 20 remain in Hastings, and there are three in Ealing, but before 2019 there were five. Will the Minister—whoever it is at any particular time—and their officials sit down with me and the trade bodies? They say that there has been an 80% drop in business, which is now going to Malta and Ireland. We can do better than this in global Britain. Can we sit down to talk about removing those things for this once lucrative—

Education is indeed one of the great opportunities, and the lingua franca of English is one of the benefits as we seek to do trade deals not just with our friends in Europe but across the whole world. I am very happy to talk to my colleagues in the Department for Education and between us respond to the hon. Lady.

As we look to the future, does my hon. Friend agree that it goes beyond the EU, as do the opportunities for trade around the world? From my constituency of Watford to the rest of the world, we have the opportunity to build industry and opportunity for everyone.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He is a champion of small business in his constituency. That is why it is so important that, as we seek to do trade deals such as the comprehensive and progressive trans-Pacific partnership and those with the Gulf, India, Canada and many more, we have SME chapters and SME preference within them.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I join you in wishing Penny and Isabel well for the future. I also welcome the Minister to the Dispatch Box.

I ask this question in place of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow West (Gareth Thomas), who has covid. I am sure that the whole House will wish him a swift recovery. The tonnage of UK trade in food, feed and drink with both the EU and non-EU countries has fallen and has been steadily falling since 2019. Looking back at the record of this Government over the past three years, does the Minister accept that they have failed to make Brexit work?

I am sure Government Members wish the hon. Member for Harrow West (Gareth Thomas) a speedy recovery as well.

Tonnage is, of course, only one measure. I note that, for the year to March, the value of British exports actually increased. [Interruption.] It will be a combination of growing markets, a growing number of exporters and a greater ability of exporters to obtain the price for their exports. That is what we on the Conservative Benches are focused on.

I, too, welcome the Minister to his place.

Thanks to Westminster’s disastrous hostile post-Brexit immigration policy, our lack of workers means that Scottish exports of fruit and vegetables to the European Union are down by 53% and of dairy and eggs by 33%. Given that both candidates for Prime Minister as well as, indeed, the Labour Leader have stated that they will not do anything about that, is it not time that the UK Government stood aside and gave the powers over immigration to the Scottish Government so that we can protect these businesses and their Scottish trade?

I am very happy to talk to my colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions about the access to skilled workers, but I hope the hon. Gentleman will join me in thanking the Department’s Edinburgh-based team for its dedication to promoting the work of exporters from Scotland.

That answer will not give any comfort to those growers who are struggling at the moment. Of course, trade goes both ways, and our importing businesses are being hammered by long delays and increased costs. A single invoice shared with me by a small importer in Inverness, Oil and Vinegar, showed many new charges from the UK Government, running to many hundreds of pounds of additional costs. It contained separate lines for duty, admin fees and import custom fees, and the largest of all the costs was a curiously titled “Customs Add”. Does the Minister know how much the Treasury is raking in from these schemes? It must be vast sums. Will it call for any of it to be returned to those struggling businesses?

I share the hon. Gentleman’s pain in hearing of the friction presented to British firms in seeking to do trade internationally. That is why Scotland remaining in this great Union is a great advantage to British businesses that want a single one-stop shop. If he has not already availed himself of the Export Support Service’s helpline, I would be very happy to connect his businesses to that.

Free Trade Agreements: Workers Rights

9. What steps she is taking to ensure that workers’ rights are maintained in all UK free trade agreements. (901230)

Her Majesty’s Government have been clear that there will be no reduction in British labour protections in signing up to new free trade deals. Our new agreements with Australia and New Zealand demonstrate that. We engage extensively with trade unions to make sure that the interests of workers are fully considered in our policy. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has hosted trade unions, including the TUC, at the recent UK-US trade dialogues.

With the greatest of respect to the Minister, given the contrasts and contradictions in the Government’s approach around things such as the P&O ferry scandal and the recent events with the rail industry, can he tell us what guarantee he can provide to the House that the Government will not sail down the river the rights of working people in this country?

I would point to precedent. The United Kingdom has ratified all eight of the fundamental International Labour Organisation conventions. We continue to encourage our partners to do the same around the world. The agreements with Australia and New Zealand, as I said earlier, reaffirm our commitment to comply with the core international labour obligations that we are party to.

When I visited Washington DC with the British-American Parliamentary Group, I was told in no uncertain terms—I know that the Secretary of State had the same message at the Baltimore talks—that there could be no trade agreement with the United States that did not, first, protect workers’ rights and also reflect the workers’ voice. Will the Minister set out the detailed process by which he will ensure that British workers’ voices will shape the prospective deal with the United States and how those voices will be reflected throughout international discussions? I know that the Secretary of State’s predecessor met the American trade union movement. I think it is really important that British workers’ voices are reflected consistently in deals as well.

I thank the hon. Lady for the question and I can confirm that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has met the same bodies. We engage extensively with trade unions to make sure that the interests of workers are fully consulted in our trade policy. We have a trade union advisory group, the TUC is a part of our strategic trade advisory group and, of course, this Conservative side of the House represents the views of hard-working people across the country.

The Government are currently negotiating a free trade agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council. The majority of the Gulf countries do not meet basic international standards for workers’ rights, such as the right to unionise. Why on earth, therefore, did the Government drop human rights and the rule of law from their stated negotiation objectives?

We decide on future deals based on the potential benefit to our economy, economic trends and whether we can negotiate a quality agreement supporting the British people and the British national interest. Closer engagement is how we increase our influence around the world and support higher standards, including with countries that might have rights that differ from ours. The United Kingdom will not compromise on our high labour standards, and we will continue to work hard to maintain those standards through our free trade agreement programme.

UK Arms Exports: Transparency

We publish more licensing data than any other country. Yesterday, we published our annual report covering 2021. The data reveal that of 4,234 licensing decisions on standard individual export licences, 96.1% were issued, 1.5% were refused and, because of our sanctions on Russia and Belarus, 2.4% were revoked. The Government remain committed to openness on strategic export licensing to provide Parliament with the means to hold us to account.

In February, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs issued its biggest ever fine of £2.7 million for breach of the arms exports controls. HMRC has refused to publish any details so we do not know who was fined, the name of the company, the military goods exported or where they ended up. How does the Minister expect us to have any faith or confidence in our arms export controls when they are so shrouded in secrecy?

The hon. Gentleman refers to HMRC which does not fall under my Department, but I will ensure that the relevant Minister provides him with an answer.

I heard the Minister’s response to my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Jeff Smith), but the reality is that the changes to licensing criteria have reduced transparency and accountability. Can the Minister explain the rationale for changing Government guidance on granting licences from refusing a licence if there is a clear risk that items may be used in violation of international humanitarian law to if the Government determine there is a clear risk?

As we have left the European Union, we have decided that it is right to review many aspects of our system. This is one part, and we have made the wording of the criteria clearer than before to provide certainty to exporters and others.

Export of UK Services

The Government are committed to promoting the UK’s world leading strengths in services. Latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics show that service exports were £316 billion in the 12 months to the end of May, an increase of 7% on the previous 12 months. The Government’s export strategy, published in November 2021 by the Secretary of State, recognises the importance of services and commits the Government to working with the sector in its implementation. That includes working with the CBI-led Trade in Services Council to understand and promote trade in services.

The Centre for Economic Policy Research has calculated that since Brexit there has been a 6% drop in service exports to the EU. Services are Scotland’s biggest export, so what, if anything, is the Department doing to stabilise service exports, never mind grow them? There is a real fear that the Government have no real plan for progress or change.

As we recover, we expect to see a continued increase in services exports. The hon. Member is right that Scotland is a significant exporter of services—worth more than £21 billion in 2020-21—making it the third largest exporting region in the UK. I wish all of our Scottish service exporters well, and it is the work of this Department to try to continue to grow that.

Barriers to Global Trade

6. What steps her Department has taken to help reduce barriers to global trade for British businesses. (901226)

Removing trade barriers boosts our exports to new and familiar markets around the world. We have resolved 396 barriers around the world in the past two years, and just 45 of the 192 barriers we resolved in the last financial year could be worth around £5 billion to businesses across our country. If we can remove the next 100 trade barriers on our most wanted list, it has the potential to deliver export opportunities for British businesses worth around £20 billion. As one example, last month we removed barriers in Mongolia that prevented the export of British poultry and fish, opening up a market worth £10 million.

Many of my North Devon farmers and the National Farmers Union are concerned about food imports, but given the quality of our British food and drink, and the vast global market for our superior produce, what support has my hon. Friend’s Department put in place to promote and help farmers export around the world?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We see real potential for British food and drink exports to grow, particularly in high-growth markets where the middle classes are expanding—notably the Asia- Pacific region. We work closely with farming and food organisations, such as the NFU, to deliver a practical range of export support for farmers and food businesses. We are removing trade barriers globally, as I have referenced, including the ban on British beef in the Philippines, opening up a market worth £375 million a year to British farmers. We are expanding our overseas network of more than 100 agriculture, food and drink trade advisers to include eight new dedicated attachés, who will focus on unlocking trade barriers for our great British farmers.

What a load of bollards the Government are putting in the way of British trade with other parts of the world, and in particular with the European Union. Historically, loads of British orchestras, theatre groups, ballet groups and bands have toured easily across the whole of the European Union, and endless Committees have been told by Ministers that it is all being sorted out. The truth is that they are now prevented from taking that British export across the European Union. When is any one of these Ministers actually going to do something and get it sorted?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, which he puts in his usual way. The truth is that we continue to bang the drum for British exports of all kinds around the world, and we will continue to do that with the EU and beyond.

Exports to the EU: Devolved Nations

The Department is delivering prosperity through trade and investment to all parts of the United Kingdom. In addition to UK-wide initiatives such as the UK Export Academy for smaller enterprises, we have established teams in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, and I hope in my role to be visiting them over the coming months. Those teams will bring business support closer to businesses in the nations and work in partnership with devolved Administrations.

I thank the Minister for his answer, but it is clear to farmers across Scotland, nowhere more so than in Angus, that Brexit has made a great many things harder and more expensive, made nothing any easier and created no more opportunity whatever. [Interruption.] That will be the same in Banff and Buchan, by the way. With regard to Australia, and without reference to whisky or salmon, what dedicated analysis has his Department undertaken that evidences net increases for Scotch beef and lamb exports to Australia in quantitative, not rhetorical terms? If he cannot say, will he write to me with that data, please?

I note that Invest in Angus, based in the hon. Member’s constituency, estimates that food and drink is worth more than £200 million to the Angus domestic economy. We are supporting farmers and food producers across Scotland, including in Angus, and that is one of the reasons why we are seeking opportunities for greater agricultural exports through the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership and the Indian trade deal, and with the Gulf.

I am sure that James Withers from Scotland Food & Drink will be interested to hear what the Minister has said, because James has said:

“Brexit has made absolutely nothing better and it’s made a lot of things worse.”

Does the Minister share my concern—I hope he does—that the candidates in the current Tory leadership race are simply not being up front about the mess we are in because of Brexit? They need to listen carefully to businesses and make exporting easier, instead of pretending that Brexit is working for business in Scotland and across the UK, because clearly it is not.

I look forward to meeting Scotland Food & Drink and hearing about the positive opportunities. I hope that it is not overly infected by the hon. Lady’s pessimism about the prospects for this great Union outside the European Union.

Welsh food and drink exports have no better showcase than the Royal Welsh show—the largest agricultural show in Europe—which concludes in my constituency today. It has been fantastic to see visitors from right around the world back on the showground. I want to pay particular tribute to Steve Hughson, who is stepping down as the show’s chief executive after 10 very successful years. Does my hon. Friend agree that agricultural shows are fantastically helpful for boosting our exports around the world?

I thank my hon. Friend for promoting the great opportunities for British food and drink. The Royal Welsh show is a great institution and I am sure that everyone on the Government side of the House thanks Steve Hughson for his endeavours.

SMEs: Trade with the EU

11. What steps she is taking with Cabinet colleagues to support small and medium-sized enterprises trading with the EU. (901232)

Small and medium-sized businesses make up a huge part of Britain’s economy, accounting for over 60% of employment and more than half of all turnover from the UK private sector. The Department for International Trade is doing all it can to help businesses overcome the barriers that the protectionist bloc of the European Union now imposes when consumers seek to buy goods from elsewhere in the world.

The only thing that Brexit has brought for many small businesses in Bath is increased costs, paperwork and border delays, as has been confirmed by the Public Accounts Committee—more barriers, not less. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. Will the Government please reintroduce the SME Brexit support fund, with a simplified application process and a significantly expanded remit?

I am proud of the endeavours of my colleagues and those in local enterprise partnerships up and down the UK in disbursing the £38 million internationalisation fund to support businesses as we go through some of the changes that result from leaving the European Union and seek opportunities elsewhere in the world. I will of course undertake to look at any way we can make it simpler for small businesses, in particular, to engage with the Department.

Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership

12. What progress her Department has made on securing UK membership of the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership. (901233)

The UK is well on the way to joining CPTPP, one of the largest trading blocs in the world. We are now in market access negotiations, which are the final phase of the accession process.

May I first say what a great pleasure it is to ask my right hon. Friend—and she will always be my friend—this question? Will she say—[Interruption.] Sorry, that was an emotional moment, Mr Speaker; I hope you will forgive me. Will she outline the real advantages that CPT—whatever the bloody thing is called—[Interruption.] Whatever the ruddy thing is called. Will should outline the benefits of membership, and will she perhaps also say what sort of difference it will make to our trading relationship with the United States, which is also a member?

I thank my very dear hon. Friend for that question. He is right to point to the benefits of joining this trading bloc: 99.9% of all UK goods are eligible for tariff-free access, it will increase wages in this country, and obviously it will help our relationships with other nations outside the bloc. The UK moving to the accession process will encourage and strengthen other like-minded free-trade nations around the world to co-operate and do more together, and to reform the World Trade Organisation.

I welcome the Minister’s answer. If the United Kingdom becomes part of this bloc, will the Minister outline what trading advantages will come directly to Northern Ireland and its businesses? We obviously want to gain from it as well.

Those very same benefits will also apply to Northern Ireland, and the hon. Gentleman will know that we are providing extra support to help with the particular export opportunities, including for services, that are so strong in Northern Ireland. We are determined not only with this accession, but with the other FTAs we are doing, that all businesses can benefit, because that is obviously our end goal.

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for a fantastic, brave, clean campaign for the leadership of the Conservative party and to be Prime Minister.

As a passionate Brexiteer, does my right hon. Friend agree that being a force for good in the world for free trade is an absolutely honourable goal and one that the UK should promote at every opportunity?

I thank my right hon. Friend. I am amazed to find myself here this morning given my reported work ethic, but here I am.

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that the UK, a G7 nation, leaving the regulatory orbit of the EU is an international event. It gives us a huge opportunity, alongside nations like the United States, to set out our view of the world and of capitalism and to fight for the things we believe in.

Environmental campaigners have raised concerns that joining the CPTPP would put our deforestation commitments at risk because it drops generic trade tariffs. What assurances can the Minister provide that our trade deals will not put our environmental commitments at risk?

I would point to the forestry programmes that this nation has funded—some more than 30 years old—in parts of the world that are covered by this trading bloc. This country has an important history under successive Governments of protecting not only our own environment but that of other nations. I ask the hon. Lady to point those programmes out to any of her constituents who are concerned.

From swerving eight invitations to attend the International Trade Committee to avoiding bringing a debate with a vote to this Chamber before ratification, we have seen a truly shameless attempt from the Department for International Trade to dodge to any form of scrutiny of the trade deal with Australia. With the UK now negotiating membership of the CPTPP, I have a simple question: will the Minister promise that this House will be granted a full and timely debate before any deal is ratified—yes or no?

I will ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to set out any parliamentary business and timetable for any future trade agreements. We have clearly committed to a particular process. For my part, every time the International Trade Committee or other body of this House has asked me to go before it, I have. That is the attitude of the ministerial team, and we will continue to do that.

Australia and New Zealand FTAs: UK Food Sector

14. What assessment she has made with Cabinet colleagues of the impact of the Australia and New Zealand free trade agreements on employment in the UK food sector. (901236)

The trade deals with Australia and New Zealand are expected to increase bilateral trade by 53% and 59% respectively in the long run.

It has been revealed that when the Foreign Secretary was Secretary of State for International Trade she ignored advice from her officials that the Australia and New Zealand trade agreements would shrink our food and farming sectors. I think we can all agree that that is a disgrace—[Interruption.] I am glad someone got the joke. The food and farming sectors are already hurting due to severe labour shortages and rising costs, and these rushed trade agreements could be the final nail in the coffin. If the Foreign Secretary cannot be trusted to do the right thing for farmers, can she be trusted to run the country?

If the hon. Lady would like to write with the specific details, I am sure the Department will be able to provide a full answer to her assertions. The economic modelling was based on full employment, which does not reflect the change in employment between sectors and, critically, does not estimate jobs lost or gained in any sector. However, if she writes with the specific details, I am sure we can address that for her.

UK Exports

Increasing the volume and reach of British exports is at the heart of the Department’s export strategy. It includes a comprehensive set of support for exporters, combined with seeking trade deals in the areas of greatest opportunity internationally.

Tourism to the UK is our third-largest service export. I am sure the Minister, or at least the Secretary of State, will agree that the north-east is a fantastic place to visit and that we want to encourage visitors. In September 2020, the Government ended the VAT retail export scheme and the VAT shopping airside sales concession for airports, such as Newcastle airport. With the majority of visits including shopping as part of the trip, including shopping in Newcastle Metrocentre and, no doubt, Berwick, what discussions is the Minister having with the Treasury on that anomaly?

I assure the hon. Lady that it is not just the Secretary of State but the Exports Minister who agrees about the potential of the tourism economy. We on the Government Benches will do everything we can to make the most of that opportunity, just as we are with freeports, which we are able to establish by being outside the EU. I note that one of those freeports is in the north-east.

I welcome the Exports Minister to his place. I hope he will join his Front-Bench colleagues, both past and present, who have on many occasions come to Sedgefield to visit our outstanding export businesses. At last week’s Great Yorkshire show, I met Billy Maughan, one of my local farmers, and other members of the National Farmers Union, who talked to me about the opportunities from deals such as the India deal. It would be great if he could meet them to explore those opportunities further.

My hon. Friend is a doughty champion for all sorts of businesses in Sedgefield, including his local farmer. I would be very happy to arrange to meet him and Billy and continue what is clearly a tradition.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am asking this question on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Dame Nia Griffith), who is away on parliamentary business.

There is a concern among businesses that unlike its predecessor, the trade access programme, the current trade show programme will support a company only if it is exhibiting for the first time or venturing into new markets. We all know that marketing for export requires repeated efforts. There is evidence that there is now a drop in the number of UK exhibitors in some sectors, just when the Government are struggling to stimulate growth in the UK economy. Will the Minister now listen to businesses hoping to export, make the scheme more generous and widen the access criteria to allow businesses to benefit from the support by attending more than once?

As we seek to get more businesses exporting, the first step is clearly often the hardest, so it seems thoroughly reasonable to put the highest amount of support into helping businesses make that first step outside the UK. The trade show programme supports over 128 different overseas trade shows across 28 different markets. I will listen to the hon. Lady, and I have been meeting business organisations in my first few days in this role. We will make sure that the trade show programme, which is a great example of the Department supporting British businesses, remains fully supported.

Free Trade Agreements: Scrutiny

17. What assessment her Department has made of the adequacy of scrutiny mechanisms for future UK free trade agreements. (901239)

The Government are committed to effective scrutiny of trade agreements. We have put in place enhanced transparency and scrutiny arrangements for every stage of FTA negotiations. That includes publishing our objectives prior to talks, providing additional time for scrutiny at the end of the process and putting in place the independent Trade and Agriculture Commission to report on new agreements. We are delivering on those agreements. The Australia FTA has been available for scrutiny for seven months, enabling three Select Committees to take evidence and to report on the agreement prior to ratification.

We all know what Government undertakings in relation to trade agreements are worth, and it is not an awful lot. If the Secretary of State does not believe me, she can ask the farmers and crofters in my constituency. Is the breach of the undertaking on the trade agreement with Australia to be a one-off, or is it the start of a course of conduct?

As I set out, we have followed a broad and open process. There is no breach of any situation such as the right hon. Member suggests. The arrangements in place are robust. We want to make sure that as we go through the process—there will be enabling legislation for the Australia and New Zealand trade deals in the autumn—there will be an opportunity for colleagues who wish to raise issues. We know that this process is effective. I talk to fellow Trade Ministers around the world who work with us and it is interesting that they consider our process to be very robust and very inclusive, both at a parliamentary level and with the business community.

Topical Questions

Our exports strategy, coupled with our trade, investment and foreign policy, are a potent combination. For our brilliant UK exporters to reach the people and places where they can be most effective, we need to be able to build closer relationships around the globe, so my Department has launched our Government-to-Government capability. We can now bring industry experience and UK support to provide tailor-made solutions around the world. G2G is a powerful new tool for the UK. It better connects our prosperity, trade and diplomacy agendas and opens exciting new possibilities for our businesses. We are working closely with our Ukrainian counterparts to get UK businesses delivering crucial repairs to bridges, modular homes and railways before the winter sets in. New tools such as our G2G capability will allow us to achieve more in Ukraine and globally, ensuring that UK trade acts as a force for good in the world.

We have heard today about the value of agricultural shows across our United Kingdom, not least in my constituency where we had the New Deer show last weekend and we have the Turriff show, the largest two-day agricultural show in Scotland, at the end of the month. They provide a huge opportunity to showcase the wonderful Scottish food and drink that we have to offer. Will my right hon. Friend confirm what DIT support is available directly to the fabulous Scottish food and drink producers, and what conversations she has had with the Scottish Government to make sure that that support is made directly available to those producers?

We are indeed hearing of the wonderful shows that go on across the UK through our summer months and I commend all Members to visit some if they can. Speaking as a north-east MP who occasionally pops across the border to enjoy some Scottish hospitality, the Scottish shows are as good as any others.

The DIT Scotland team are now based in Edinburgh; we established the new office last year. We have trade and investment expertise there dedicated to supporting Scotland’s businesses to grow through their exporting efforts. We also work closely with the Scottish Government to ensure that all businesses in Scotland have access to DIT support and the full reach of the UK’s global network, including what has been set out by the new Minister responsible for exports—the Under-Secretary of State for International Trade, my hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Andrew Griffith).

We Opposition Members have long argued that the Government are not doing enough to support exporters. It is now clear that the former Minister, the hon. Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer), absolutely agrees. He argued that the trade access programme is underfunded and said of it, “We support too few shows, we don’t send enough business, our pavilions are often decent but overshadowed by bigger and better ones from our competitors.” He is absolutely right, is he not?

It was a pleasure to have the former Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer), in the team; he has been a champion for growing our new tools. Brexit gave us opportunities to own our trade policy and to start to really champion and talk to our businesses about where they can find opportunities across the globe, whether for goods or services. We have a fantastic suite of tools in the export strategy, which we launched in November last year, and we can now really push on with that. As with everything, perhaps Labour Members can tell me where I can rapidly find a great deal more cash to make these measures much more effective. In the meantime, we have put together a fantastic fund that we will continue to use to encourage our businesses to trade.

The truth is that the Government have fallen behind woefully on their manifesto commitment to have 80% of UK trade covered by free trade agreements by the end of this year, and there is no comprehensive US trade deal in sight. Something has been going severely wrong. I welcome back the Minister for Trade Policy, the right hon. Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt), after her efforts in the Tory leadership contest, but the Secretary of State is far less complimentary about the right hon. Member’s efforts in the Department. She said:

“There have been a number of times when she hasn’t been available, which would have been useful, and other ministers have picked up the pieces.”

Mr Speaker—[Interruption.] Conservative Members shout “Shameful” at me, but these are the Conservatives’ words about each other, not my words. The reality is that it is the British economy that has been suffering. Our projected growth is the lowest in the G7 apart from sanctioned Russia. Is not the truth that trade policy is yet another Tory failure?

Order. These are topicals. Topicals are meant to let those people who did not get in earlier ask a question. They are about Back Benchers, not about Front Benchers indulging themselves at the expense of others. Secretary of State—briefly.

I have a fantastic team of Ministers, which is exactly why we are able to do all that we can to make sure that our UK businesses have access to UK Government support to get their fantastic goods and services out across the world. We are rolling out the FTA programme at incredible pace by the rest of the world’s standards, which we are fêted for, and we will continue to do that with the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership, India, the Gulf states, Switzerland and Israel—all ongoing at the moment.

T5. My constituency of Aylesbury has many brilliant businesses exporting their goods and services around the world. One example is Sterling Thermal Technology, which I visited recently and which manufactures bespoke heat exchangers. Many more would like to follow suit, so how can the Department help them to reap the benefits of Brexit and our new trade deals? (901213)

I congratulate my hon. Friend, who has a strong reputation on the Conservative Benches as a champion of the many excellent businesses in his constituency, including Sterling Thermal Technology, whose products are not just sold around the world, contributing to the path to net zero, but used, I note, in our own Hinkley Point C. One of the benefits of leaving the European Union is that we can now tailor trade deals to suit the needs of British businesses as well as prioritising the markets that are of most interest to exporters.

T2. The Trade Remedies Authority has bizarrely recommended the dropping of anti-dumping duties on Chinese reinforcing steel bar, a move that will undermine UK manufacturers of the product and the whole industry. Will the Secretary of State call that in for investigation? (901208)

The opportunity for the TRA, as our independent adviser, to look at these issues is one that we have great respect for. As Members across the House will understand, we await its decision and we will look at that in due course.

The seafood processing sector based in my constituency and neighbouring Grimsby is anxious to increase its exports. Will the appropriate Minister meet me and representatives of the industry so we can push forward with a new initiative?

T3. Only one in 10 British firms trades overseas, and exports are falling. Many of my Bath businesses have suffered significantly as a result. What steps is the Department taking to increase exports with the EU, our closest neighbour and, in the past, our biggest trading partner? (901209)

I am sorry to hear that the exports of the hon. Lady’s local businesses are falling. That is not the general experience in the UK; the value of exports was up 9% in the 12 months to the end of March. If she would like, I will write to her with the comprehensive set of measures that I hope she and other hon. Members will take the summer months to promote to small businesses in their constituencies.

I have always been struck by the quiet diligence with which the Minister for Trade Policy, my right hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt), does her job. Can she please update me on progress on signing individual deals with US states, which my farmers in Rutland and Melton are particularly interested in?

This week we have continued our negotiations with Utah; yesterday, we also signed the second state-level memorandum of understanding with North Carolina, which will be based on green growth. We are currently negotiating with half of all US states. The first eight deals that we will sign will cover 20% of the US economy and that will open up procurement, enable mutual recognition of qualifications, and enable British businesses to take a larger share of exports of both goods and services.

T4. There was cross-party agreement during the urgent question earlier this week that Parliament has not been given the opportunity to properly scrutinise, debate or vote on the Australia trade deal, despite assurances from the Government that time would be made for debate. I heard the Secretary of State’s response to my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael). What assurances can she give that future trade agreements will make it to the Floor of the House for debate and a vote before they are ratified? (901212)

As I set out earlier, we have a robust process of transparency and we will continue to follow it as we bring more ratified free trade agreements to the House in due course.

Topically, the Government have announced yet another deal with the American states, in no small part due to the allegedly “work-shy” efforts of the Minister for Trade Policy, my right hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt). Think what she could achieve if her focus was actually on the job!

The economies of many of these American states are larger than those of European countries. Texas is the 12th largest economy in the world. Can my right hon. Friend give us a cumulative total of the sort of economies that we are dealing with in these trade deals and that are likely to be signing up over the next few months? I think that total is considerable, thanks to her efforts.

States such as California and Texas are super-economies: if they were nations, they would be the seventh and eighth largest economies in the world. We hope that Texas will be in the first eight deals that we sign. In addition to the potential for their economies and ours, this is also about bringing together smart people, money and ideas to solve problems that we are all grappling with. Texas in particular is doing a huge amount on fintech blockchain; the synergy between what it is doing and the innovation in the City of London could be really special.

Small businesses in my constituency wanting to export to the European Union tell me that they have to fill in customs declarations of up to 70 pages. Why are the Government putting such barriers in the way of small business exports?

It is not at all the intention of the Government to put barriers in place; this Government are about knocking down barriers to export and unleashing the potential of small businesses across the United Kingdom to make the most of the opportunities not just in the European Union but in the rest of the world, as we have heard from Government Members.

Recently, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced enhanced free trade deal negotiations with our close allies and friends in the state of Israel. Will she set out for the benefit of the House the aims of those negotiations and what the benefits to the UK will be?

I thank my hon. Friend for his diligence in championing the opportunities from free trade with Israel and many other countries around the world, including India. As two like-minded partners with expertise in areas such as tech and innovation, we are very confident that we can agree an ambitious deal that will complement both economies and showcase our leading businesses, growing our trade even further than we already have today.

I was interested to learn from the Minister about the close relationship that Department for International Trade officials apparently enjoy with the Scottish Government—something that I suspect will be news to Scottish Ministers.

The Lords report on the Australia-UK trade deal criticised the fact that, despite the heavy impact of the deal on the food and drink sectors in the devolved nations, those nations have been shut out of negotiating the terms of that deal and no doubt future ones. Will the devolved nations be consulted from the outset and throughout negotiations during future trade deals, and will Ministers make Parliament aware of their views?

We have regular and ongoing discussions and a good relationship with all the devolved Administrations, but of course the trade policy programme is reserved to the UK.

The volume of the trade deals that we are hearing about is incredibly encouraging and shows the role that the UK has around the world. Will the Minister please update me on the trade deals with the Gulf?

My hon. Friend is a great champion for businesses throughout his constituency of Watford, and they will want to seize the benefits of new trade deals, including with the Gulf Co-operation Council, a group of six countries that want to trade more with the United Kingdom. The GCC is already equivalent to the fourth largest trading partner with Britain, with total trade worth more than £33 billion last year. We are going to boost the economy even further to create jobs, increase wages and support levelling up throughout our country.

According to HMRC data, UK food exports to the EU fell by 19% in the 15 months following Brexit, at a cost of £2.4 billion. What steps are Ministers taking specifically to protect and promote our fantastic UK food businesses in future trade deals?

Of course, the aftermath of covid reduced trade of all kinds with every part of the world. This Government’s job was to protect businesses in the aftermath and is now to use our dedicated food and drink advisers across the Department’s offices to make sure the world understands the enormous opportunity for the high-quality produce produced not only in the hon. Member’s constituency but throughout the rest of the United Kingdom.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. You almost caught me off guard there, but I do have a question and it refers to Northern Ireland. I know that the Secretary of State is particularly keen to ensure that all the advantages that come out of any trade deals always follow down the line so that my local businesses, especially those in the farming sector, can take advantage of them. Will the Secretary of State confirm that we will always get that advantage?

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for making sure that the important voice of Northern Ireland was heard in DIT questions today. Northern Ireland remains at the heart of the UK and we will make sure that, in respect of all our trade deals and, indeed, in the work we do to reduce market-access barriers, our teams speak to businesses in Northern Ireland and throughout the rest of the UK. We are working to support them to make great British exports around the world.

Net Zero Strategy: High Court Ruling

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to provide a response to the High Court ruling that the net zero strategy is unlawful.

Over the past three decades, the UK has driven down emissions by more than 45%— the fastest reduction of any G7 country. We have one of the most ambitious carbon-reduction plans in the world, pledging to reduce emissions by at least 68% by 2030 and by 77% by 2035, compared with 1990 levels, before of course reaching net zero by 2050. Our track record speaks for itself: the UK overachieved against the first carbon budget and exceeded the second by nearly 14%. The latest projections show that we are on track to meet the third carbon budget as well.

In its judgment on the judicial review of the net zero strategy, the High Court found that Government had not complied with Climate Change Act 2008 in relation to some specific procedural issues and the level of analysis published as part of the 164-page net zero strategy. I stress that the judge has made no criticism about the substance of our plans to meet net zero, which are well on track. Indeed, even the claimants in the case described the net zero strategy as “laudable”. The independent Climate Change Committee described the net zero strategy as

“an ambitious and comprehensive strategy that marks a significant step forward for UK climate policy”

and as

“the world’s most comprehensive plan to reach Net Zero”.

We are now considering the implications of the Court judgment and deciding whether to appeal. As we do this, our focus will remain resolutely on supporting people in the face of globally high energy prices and on boosting our energy security. Our recent British energy security strategy—launched by the Prime Minister—which puts Great Britain at the leading edge of the global energy revolution, will deliver a more independent, more secure energy system and support consumers to manage their energy bills.

Let us be clear: we are here because the High Court has ruled that the Government’s net zero strategy is unlawful and is in breach of the Climate Change Act. The Climate Change Committee, which the Minister cites, said only a few weeks ago that the Government

“will not deliver Net Zero”

on current projections. Not only have the Government failed to set out the detail of how they will reach net zero, but Ministers cannot even do basic maths, because, as the High Court made clear, adding up the emissions cuts in the strategy will leave a 5% shortfall. How embarrassing that his Department must be dragged to court to hear what we have known for months—that the numbers simply do not stack up.

This week has made it clear why we have to act now. The country has suffered through a sweltering heatwave causing fires across the country and infrastructure failure. But at a crucial time, this Government are directionless and collapsing in on themselves. The High Court has ordered that a revised strategy must be presented by next March. That will be under a new Prime Minister. Yet the current candidates have made their views on net zero clear. One has spent two years in the Treasury blocking climate action that might have saved the Government this embarrassment; the other wants to scrap green levies.

So forgive me if I have little faith that the situation is set to improve—but it has to. We need to insulate millions of homes to slash emissions and bring down bills. We need a green sprint for renewable energy to wean ourselves off expensive fossil fuels. Labour will deliver that, and more, with our £28 billion climate investment pledge. That is what the public want and what the planet needs, so will the Government get their act together, meet their legal obligations, and finally deliver the green future that we need?

I thank the hon. Lady for that set of questions. Let me first stress that the net zero strategy—I have it here—is a very comprehensive document with pages and pages of annexes as well. It would be well worth all Members re-reading it today. It is a comprehensive plan for meeting our climate targets, outlining measures to move to a green and sustainable future. The Court found that we had not complied with the Climate Change Act only in relation to specific procedural issues and the level of analysis published as part of the strategy. The judge agreed that it did not need to contain measures with quantifiable effects to enable the full 100% emissions reductions required. [Interruption.] We are talking here about a strategy for the next 28 years. Inevitably, there will be some evolution in the strategy, and inevitably there will need to be some flexibility in a strategy with a 28-year timeframe.

The hon. Lady asked about the Conservative leadership candidates. In all the hustings that I have been to—and I think I have been to almost all of them—all the candidates made strong commitments to meet net zero, including at the hustings chaired by her near neighbour, my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Chris Skidmore).

When it comes to net zero and climate change, I am not going to take any lessons from Labour, which is the party that said in 1997:

“We see no economic case for…new nuclear power stations.”

That has set us back decades. There is a reason why 11 of our 12 power stations are coming off-stream before the end of this decade: the decisions, or non-decisions, by the last Labour Government, who increased our dependence on gas from 32% to 46% of our electricity generation—which could only have cheered Vladimir Putin. On energy efficiency, we inherited a position where 14% of properties in this country were rated A to C. We have increased that to 46%. When we took office, renewables made up only 7% of our electricity generation mix. That is now at 43%. So I am going to take no lessons from Labour. It is this Government who are taking the tough decisions, including on Sizewell yesterday, and moving forward on renewable energy and nuclear—not any of the Opposition parties.

We now come to SNP spokesperson Deidre Brock. [Interruption.] I am sorry. I did not think anybody was standing. I call David Duguid.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I did wonder if I had managed to catch your eye.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that this Government, whoever leads them after the summer, will remain committed to the net zero by 2050 target, given that, as he rightly said, in successive hustings, all candidates confirmed their commitment to maintaining that target? Will he also confirm that the UK oil and gas companies are at the forefront of driving forward the energy transition through so many different initiatives, such as carbon capture and storage, which will be so important to the St Fergus gas terminal in my constituency?

My hon. Friend is correct. He is always a strong voice for all the industries in his constituency, whether they be traditional oil and gas or those making the transition to carbon capture, utilisation and storage, hydrogen and so on. All these technologies will be crucial. The Climate Change Committee itself has said that carbon capture, utilisation and storage is “essential” to the achievement of our net zero goals. We remain on course to reach net zero by 2050 as a world leader, particularly under the COP presidency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Alok Sharma).

The judge ruled that the Minister could not have “rationally” reached the conclusions he did or made the decisions he did as a consequence of his lack of information in making the policy. If, as the judge ruled, the Minister could not have “rationally” made his decisions, on what irrational basis did he make them?

What confidence has the Minister that his Government’s climate policy can be fixed when both candidates for his party's leadership are at best lukewarm on climate issues, and at worst willing to sacrifice net zero? The Foreign Secretary said this morning that she would scrap the green levies, for example.

It is estimated that Scotland is missing out on 2,500 green jobs owing to the languid pace at which the UK Government are developing the renewables sector. Does the Minister agree that the UK Government should devolve financial powers to Scotland so that the Scottish Government can push forward renewables and clean technologies where the UK Government have failed to do so?

In 2020, the Met Office conducted a hypothetical thought experiment to determine what the weather would be like in 2050 if climate change accelerated as expected. Several of those projections are coming true now, 28 years early. Does the Minister not agree that it is vital for our plans to fight climate change to be up to the job, and that the next Prime Minister must remain completely committed to that fight?

It is entirely wrong to say that any of the candidates to be the next Prime Minister are lukewarm on climate issues. On the contrary, the commitment to net zero from all the candidates—well, both the candidates in the last round—is absolute. I am a little surprised by the Scottish National party at times: this is the UK Government who brought COP26 to Glasgow and brought it to the attention of the world, and all that the SNP has done in the last year is snipe from the sidelines.

The hon. Lady mentioned jobs. There are already 430,000 people across the United Kingdom working in low-carbon businesses. The British energy security strategy will increase the number of clean jobs in the UK, supporting 90,000 jobs in offshore wind, 10,000 in solar power and 12,000 in the UK hydrogen industry by 2028. I think it is about time the SNP got behind our energy transition—supporting, for example, the move to nuclear power, which is a key part of decarbonised electricity generation—and got behind what the UK Government are doing on behalf of the people of Scotland, as well as the rest of the UK.

I attended nearly all the hustings as well, and I was pleased to hear all the candidates support the net zero target and express their commitment to climate change. One of the challenges that we face, however, is the fact that the homes of people in rural areas are less likely to be well insulated and less likely to be easy to insulate. Furthermore, we have no mass transit systems—which, indeed, would be impractical in most rural areas—so we rely much more on fuels for our cars. What can the Minister do to ensure that, as we move towards climate change as a country, we do so in a way that does not penalise those in the countryside most financially, but spreads the risk and the penalty evenly?

My hon. Friend is a continuous and doughty champion on behalf of her rural constituents, and she has raised with me previously issues relating to properties that are off the gas grid and the costs of heating oil and liquefied petroleum gas. I am looking at these matters very closely, and have held roundtables both with Members of Parliament and with the industry. I urge her to engage—in fact, I am sure she has already done so—with the trade body, the UK & Ireland Fuel Distributors Association, which will make a strong case that there is a competitive market there. Obviously prices are high—driven by the high global prices of energy, particularly oil—but a price cap, for example, would be an inappropriate means for those companies to use.

I strongly agree with my hon. Friend that the commitment of this party and this Government to net zero is absolute, and one of the strongest in the world.

Oil and gas giants have driven the climate crisis, yet one Cabinet Minister banked £1.3 million from an oil company while a Back-Bench MP, and another has accepted £100,000 from a firm run by an oil trader. I will be tabling a Bill to kick oil and gas money out of politics. Is it not time we did just that?

That is a familiar refrain from the hon. Gentleman, and he ignores a lot of evidence that those same companies are big contributors to our world-leading renewable energy programme. We have Europe’s largest installed offshore wind capacity, we are moving into tidal, we are increasingly moving into onshore wind and we are ramping up our solar ambitions. A large part of our hydrogen production and our carbon capture, utilisation and storage is being done by energy companies. I look forward to seeing whether the Labour Front Bench supports his Bill.

The Climate Change Committee has warned that the Government are on track to cut only 40% of the emissions required to reach the 2050 net zero target. The reality is that the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is not sufficiently senior to co-ordinate the Government’s net zero response. Does the Minister agree that, perhaps as part of the evolving strategy he has described, we should have a Department and a Secretary of State for climate change, as there used to be, so they can be held accountable for delivering on that net zero target?

That is a slightly curious question. The hon. Lady said the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was insufficiently senior to take the decisions, but she then appeared to propose halving the size of his Department, which would probably make him less senior.

On the hon. Lady’s central point about the net zero strategy, this country remains on course to deliver net zero by 2050. Nobody ever said it would be straightforward or easy. The strategy set a 29-year path at the time of publication, and we are on good course. I have every confidence that the strategy will be the blueprint as we move forward.

I do not recall so much complacency oozing from the Government Front Bench in a very long time. I do not know about the Minister’s background, but when I studied economics, I was impressed by what John Maynard Keynes said:

“In the long run we are all dead.”

I believe the heat over the last few days means that 2050 will be too late for much of our population. We have to revise the target and move faster. There are some good things coming, but there are still so many closet climate change deniers in the Government and in the country. It is about time they opened their mind to the fact we now have to move faster and firmer.

I am afraid to say that is an extraordinary attack, even by the hon. Gentleman’s standards. Actually, this Government were the first to introduce a net zero target. At COP26, we saw our Prime Minister and our COP President leading the world on action against climate change—action that others now seek to copy.

The UK has the lowest tax take in the world from offshore oil and gas. Even with the temporary energy profits levy, the tax take will still be six percentage points lower than the global average, and the new investment allowance announced by the Government will compensate companies 91p for every £1 they spend on new oil and gas projects. Will the Government look carefully at the fiscal regime and abolish the obscene subsidy that is distorting investment into outdated fossil fuels instead of new renewables, which do not qualify for that investment allowance?

I return to what I said earlier. The situation we inherited from the last Labour Government is that renewables provided only 7% of our electricity mix; it is now 43%. When it comes to oil and gas taxation, the Government’s energy profits levy—the hon. Gentleman will know this, as I very clearly remember him debating it in the Chamber—is set to raise £5 billion this year, which is considerably more than the tax proposed by the Labour Front Bench, which he backed.

I just remind the Minister that it was Labour’s Climate Change Act that called for those targets to be set—in section 4. However, it seems that this Government were asleep at the wheel, knowing that there is a 5% deficit in terms of being able to attain—this is what the judgment said—their net zero target. Therefore, the Government’s inaction has led to the decision of the courts. The Government’s inaction is also leading to the absence of a new green deal for York. We have been promised that by his Department, which supports 4,000 jobs and the upskilling of 25,000 people with a new green deal, yet the Minister has not come forward with the money. When are we going to get that?

I was referring to the adoption of net zero, of course, which was by this Government in 2019. I answered a question earlier about the jobs being provided through our action on climate change and our move into renewable energy, which I would hope the hon. Lady supports. The hon. Lady suggests that this Government and this party are not taking the tough action that we need and not putting the money there, but we have pledged £30 billion to combat climate change over this spending review. That is a considerable sum and a considerable political commitment by this Government.

The High Court ruling that the Government’s flagship policy on climate change is unlawful is a clear warning that this UK Government are not doing enough on climate change. They should embrace that criticism and do something about it urgently, but instead they try to dodge it. The Minister mentioned the Climate Change Committee. It has said that nuclear will take too long; there needs to be a rush for electricity through renewables, and carbon capture and storage needs to be developed more quickly too. Why are the Government lagging behind and not taking this advice to deal with this important issue?

As I said, we are considering our options in the aftermath of the Court ruling, but let me deal with some of the substance of what the hon. Gentleman is saying. He is saying that nuclear will take too long. The SNP has been opposed in principle to nuclear power since its very existence. So on the one hand he is saying he does not want it, but on the other hand he is saying it is taking too long. That makes no sense at all. The hon. Gentleman will remember that on the very day we published the net zero strategy we also announced the programme to move forward with carbon capture, utilisation and storage—we are on good track there.

On renewables, the whole of the UK is taking part in our huge move into and boost for renewable energy. Scotland is a vital part of that, which is why we have announced the first ever tidal contracts in the contracts for difference regime, as well as the first floating offshore wind deals. We are making sure that the whole of the UK benefits from our offshore wind assets, including, for example, in the Celtic sea between Wales and Cornwall, as well as off the north-east coast of Scotland, the North sea and the Irish sea.

I am surprised by the right hon. Gentleman’s response to this debate, because the summary of the findings highlights that the net zero strategy

“did not reveal that the quantitative analysis put before the Minister left a shortfall against the reductions required by CB6”.

Does the Minister agree that this House should have known that and also known how the Government planned to mitigate that? Are they not embarrassed that they felt that they could hide such an omission from this House, where we hold them to account?

We have to understand the context, which is setting out where 95% of emissions will come from in carbon budget 6. CB6 covers the years 2033—not 2023—to 2037. If we were to have gone back 30 years and asked, “How will we do our emissions over the next 30 years?”, I venture to suggest that that would not have been an entirely accurate exercise. I think that 95% is very credible for CB6, which covers 2033 to 2037. It is worth pointing out again that the court judgment was on this very narrow aspect—it is not about the net zero strategy as a whole. It sounds as though the hon. Lady has read part of the net zero strategy, and I strongly commend that she goes through the whole thing in more detail.

The Minister refers back to the Labour Government in 1997. Can I just point out to him that that was 25 years ago, and that for the last 12 years his Government have been in power. So in those 12 years, what has been done to rectify this particular problem, apart from possibly one of the major things: a moratorium on land-based wind generation, which has been a complete and utter disaster from that perspective? Has the Minister been asleep at the wheel, or is he only just remembering 1997 now, not in 2010?

The Opposition cannot have it both ways. The hon. Gentleman is saying that he is going back to decisions made by the last Labour Government 25 years ago, but somebody else in the Opposition has said that new nuclear will take too long. It is worth thinking for a moment about the connection between those two. One of the reasons why 11 of the 12 nuclear power plants in this country are going off generation over the course of this decade is the failure to make the decisions in the 1990s and the first part of this century to replace them. He will be delighted to hear—he will have been in the Chamber to listen to this—that we have rectified that by approving Hinkley Point C and yesterday announcing the planning approval for Sizewell C, and also through the strong numbers in the British energy security strategy to move forward to 24 GW of nuclear by 2050. It is this Government who are making the tough decisions that were ducked by the previous Labour Government.

There are two zero-emission policies that the Government could adopt to comply with the High Court’s request for a deliverable plan. One is a zero-emission home strategy. Since this Government have been in power, 1 million homes have been built without those standards in place, which makes a huge contribution to carbon outputs. The second is onshore wind, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) has already mentioned. Why have the Government not taken on board the carbon savings that we could have if a significant amount of new growth in onshore wind could be invested in?

When it comes to wind, I just do not know what would satisfy the Opposition. We are No. 1 in Europe when it comes to our offshore wind capacity—[Hon. Members: “Onshore wind!”] I hear Members shouting about onshore wind. We have even more onshore wind than we have offshore wind. When it comes to energy efficiency, it is worth pointing out that when we took office only 14% of homes in this country were rated in bands A to C—the most energy efficient. We have increased that to 46%—a trebling of energy-efficient homes—and we have allocated £6.6 billion in this Parliament for energy efficiency. So I would say that we have answered the hon. Lady’s questions and we have raised them, in terms of the capacity of offshore wind, onshore wind and energy efficiency.

The Climate Change Committee recently said that the Government had credible plans to reduce only 39% of UK emissions and that the UK was not on track to meet net zero. Now the High Court has said that the net zero strategy is unlawful. Is it not simply the case that the Government need to grasp the nettle, accept responsibility and just get on with making those detailed plans? When will the Minister do that?

The court did not say that the net zero strategy was unlawful; I refer the hon. Lady to my earlier remarks. The Climate Change Committee praised this Government for the moves we have made on electricity decarbonisation. As I say, we are a world leader in this space, and I think she should show a little bit more pride in the efforts that the country is making, including off the coast in the North sea near her constituency, and also in our efforts on electric vehicles. There is a great deal for us all to take pride in across the whole country in terms of our net zero strategy and decarbonisation.

This week, Conservative Members have given both a full vote of confidence and an enthusiastic standing ovation to a Prime Minister who deliberately missed an emergency Cobra meeting to plan for the heatwave emergency because he was away playing at “Top Gun” with the RAF—playing the part of Maverick, I understand. How can anyone take seriously the climate change credentials of a party that so wholeheartedly supports a Prime Minister who, like some latter-day Nero, chooses to fiddle with his joystick while London burns?

Well, I do not know quite where to start. I am not sure whether there was really a question embedded there. [Interruption.] Now that I have the hon. Gentleman’s attention, let me say that it is about time that SNP Members started to talk to the Scottish Government, with whom, I have reason to believe, they may have some influence, about why they have an ideological opposition to new nuclear. Nuclear is absolutely the way to provide the baseload zero-carbon energy for the future. Why is his party, and the Scottish Government, fundamentally opposed to it? His time would be spent more usefully on engagement with them than on watching what the Prime Minister was up to at the weekend.

The Minister will agree that we need to strike a balance. Will he outline how he intends to address concerns in the agri-industry sector in Northern Ireland about the fact that livestock numbers in Northern Ireland would have to halve if we are to meet the net zero target by 2050? That would put 113,000 jobs at risk. Can he outline the steps that will be taken to ensure that the demands being made will not have that result?

I always welcome questions from Northern Ireland. In my previous job at the Department for International Trade, I enjoyed greatly my interactions with the Ulster Farmers Union, with the hon. Gentleman, and with colleagues on behalf of agriculture in Northern Ireland. It is an important sector for the whole country. We are making sure that Northern Irish agriculture can access markets around the world. I would be delighted to pass on his comments to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, though obviously agriculture is devolved to Northern Ireland. On trade in particular, we will make sure that Ulster farmers can access markets.

Calculations have been made to quantify the emissions cuts that will result from the policies in the Government’s strategy. The cuts do not add up to the reductions required to meet the sixth carbon budget; there is a 5% shortfall. That is equal to 75 million tonnes of CO2, which is nearly the total amount of emissions in a year from car travel in the UK. What measures will be implemented to ensure that in future, calculations as crucial as these are informed by those with expertise, and are checked thoroughly before they are relied on in national policy?

To put this in context, what the hon. Lady describes as a 5% shortfall is not, if I read the judgment correctly, a doubt that the Government can reach the target; it is simply a criticism of why we had laid out only 95%, rather than 100%, of the measures that are needed. I remind her that we are talking about carbon budget 6, which is for the years 2033 to 2037. There is a reasonable case—it was made by the Government in court—for saying that it is commendable that they could outline 95% of the journey that we are intending to make in 11 years’ time.

Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities if he will make a statement on the future of the proposed holocaust memorial and learning centre in Victoria Tower Gardens.

The Government remain committed to the creation of a new national memorial commemorating the victims of the holocaust. The new holocaust memorial will be the national focal point for honouring the 6 million Jewish men, women and children who were murdered in the holocaust, and other victims of Nazi persecution, including the Roma, and gay and disabled people. We must build this new national holocaust memorial and the learning centre, so that future generations can never doubt what happened. That is the only way that we can be certain that it will never happen again.

The commitment to creating a holocaust memorial was first made by the then Prime Minister, with cross-party support, in January 2015. I am pleased that the project has continued to enjoy support across a very broad range of people from all political parties, different faith communities, and all parts of society. The current Prime Minister is also very keen on and supportive of the project.

Following an extensive search for suitable sites, in which around 50 possible locations were considered, Victoria Tower Gardens was chosen as the best possible location for the memorial. Constructing the memorial next to Parliament, at the heart of our democracy, provides a powerful signal of the importance we attach to remembering the holocaust and seeking to learn its lessons. Following a lengthy public inquiry, planning consent for the memorial and learning centre was granted in July 2021. Sadly, though, a challenge was brought by the London Historic Parks and Garden Trust, which led to the High Court quashing the consent in April this year.

The loss of that consent was a disappointment, especially to those holocaust survivors who place such high value on sharing their testimony and who want to be confident that their message will continue to be heard. It was a further disappointment that the Court of Appeal decided yesterday that an appeal against the High Court decision would not be heard.

We will of course study those decisions carefully as we consider our next steps, but in addition to the Prime Minister’s personal support, our commitment to holocaust survivors remains strong. The lessons of the holocaust must be remembered and told with honesty and clarity. As the number of survivors sadly dwindles, we face an urgent task to ensure that their work in sharing those lessons continues.

I am grateful to the Minister for coming to answer the urgent question at short notice. Joshua Rozenberg observed today:

“If the government had chosen in 2015 to build the memorial and learning centre at the Imperial War Museum, it would have been open by now”

alongside the powerful Holocaust Galleries. I mention that because the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation’s research and education has led my family to learn that over 100 of my grandfather’s cousins died in the death camps and concentration camps.

The Minister knows that Jewish opinion is divided. Will he take this opportunity to read the National Audit Office report of two weeks ago? Will he also read the Holocaust Memorial Foundation’s September 2015 specification, which said that most of the money should be spent on education, rather than on construction? All the money spent over the past seven years has gone on proposals for construction, with nothing for education, which matters most.

Will he also look at the page suggesting possible central London locations, which include the whole of Regent’s Park, most of Hyde Park, and the Imperial War Museum?

Will he say to fellow Ministers that, as well coming to answer questions here, it is time to look again at how to fulfil the aims of the Holocaust Commission and the specifications of the Holocaust Memorial Foundation and actually to talk to those of us who have been trying to say to the Government for quite some time that Victoria Tower Gardens—I played there and have studied, lived and worked nearby for two thirds of my life—is not the place to put a mound and a hole in the ground? The area is insecure and of doubtful value in meeting the purposes, as well as being only one third of the size specified by the foundation only seven years ago.

I thank the Father of the House for asking the question in the first place and for his thoughts. Victoria Tower Gardens was identified as a site uniquely capable of meeting the Government’s aspirations for the national memorial. There cannot be a more powerful symbol of our commitment than to place the memorial in the gardens next to the centre of our democracy in Parliament. The learning centre exhibition serves a different, although complementary, purpose from the Imperial War Museum’s new Holocaust Galleries, which are now largely completed, making it far more difficult to place the memorial there.

On terrorism, it would clearly be absolutely unacceptable to build a memorial in a less prominent location simply because of the risk of terrorism, because that would be to allow terrorists to dictate how we commemorate the holocaust. However, we will clearly work with security experts, Government agencies and the Metropolitan police to ensure that the site has the necessary level of security.

My hon. Friend also mentioned the NAO report and, as I am new in post, I will get into it in some more detail, but I am reassured that the investigation confirms our assessment of the risks and challenges associated with such an important, complex project. It recognised the challenges we face in managing the cost pressures in the context of inflation across the construction sector and the delays arising from opposition to the planning application. He said that money should be spent on education rather than on building, but many of the costs have related to the consultations and legal challenges that we have faced. We want to get on and build the memorial while holocaust survivors are still here to look at it.

This is an issue that has generated a range of very strong views, but there should be a common sadness that such an important memorial is set back yet again. Remembering the holocaust and what it says about humanity’s past, present and future is an intergenerational necessity— 6 million Jewish people, Roma and Gypsy people, Slavic people, LGBT people, disabled people all savagely murdered. Antisemitism remains a scourge today that we all must fight together.

I am proud that Nottinghamshire is home to the National Holocaust Centre and Museum, and I urge right hon. and hon. Members and anyone watching proceedings today to visit it. They would not accept credit readily, but the work of the Smith family is a model of how memorials can be very thoughtfully done by bringing people together. We lost Marina Smith last month and I know that all colleagues will want to pass on their best wishes to the Smiths.

We are now faced with the question of what to do next. The Leader of the Opposition made very clear last week our commitment to a national memorial and his very strong belief that it should be sited next to Parliament. Does the Minister intend to bring forward legislation to make sure that this memorial happens? Will he commit to a cross-party, all-community effort to revitalise the project? I know that he is by instinct a consensus builder, and I suggest that he leans on that now, because this is a project of huge national importance and it is a source of sadness that we cannot make something of such universal significance happen. We now must come together to ensure that it does.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his words. Yes, indeed, we will continue to work. I think that the fact that the commission is chaired by Ed Balls and Lord Pickles shows the cross-party nature of the approach. We all want to have the best sign—the best memorial—to remember, and to teach and bring in a whole other generation of witnesses, as described by one holocaust survivor. In terms of legislation, it will clearly be for the next Prime Minister to direct that, but we will look at the court case and consider all options available to us.

I am grateful to the Minister for coming here to respond to the urgent question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley). I am encouraged by the continuing strong measure of cross-party consensus on the importance of delivering the holocaust memorial and learning centre in Victoria Tower Gardens.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the story of the holocaust is, in part, a British story, too, with the taking in of Kindertransport refugees, the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen camp and the taking in of child camp survivors? It is important that we tell that story from the heart of Government here in Westminster, and delivering the memorial and learning centre would be a powerful way of doing that. Will he consider strongly the suggestion of the need to legislate in order to get through and break the deadlock?

I agree with my right hon. Friend on all those points. It is, indeed, a British, international and global story, and we need to reflect Britain’s place in the global response and make sure that it can never happen again. We will look at what happened in the court case, but also at what measures we now need to take. As I have said, it will be for the next Prime Minister to take those final decisions, but we will certainly be considering it in the weeks to come.

As the Minister indicated earlier, the holocaust is now slipping from memory into history. I am convinced that that at least partly explains the rise in antisemitism and holocaust denial that we have seen across Britain and Europe. Is it not even more important now that the holocaust memorial centre should, as a number of hon. Members and the Minister have indicated, be right by the epicentre of democracy? I find it absolutely extraordinary that the argument is being advanced that we should not have it in Victoria Tower Gardens because it would become a target. On that basis, why do we not close this place down, because this place is a target? Will the Minister give a commitment, as the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) asked, to bring forward legislation in September to enable the construction of the centre?

I agree that we need a response and a sign and memorial right at the heart of our democracy. I cannot personally commit to legislation, but certainly we will look at that. It will be a decision for the next Prime Minister, but we will have a robust response as best we can.

The building of the national holocaust memorial was a manifesto commitment by this Government. It has cross-party support and it also has the support of every living Prime Minister and all the faith leaders of this country. It is a cause of great sadness to me that a small number of individuals, many of whom are local residents, are causing this great national project to be delayed. They will not succeed. All they will succeed in doing is ensuring that fewer survivors of the holocaust live to see the memorial open, and that is a national disgrace. Will the Minister bring forward the simple three-clause Bill that is now required? If he will not, I put him on notice that I will amend the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill to do just that, and I am sure that colleagues across this House will support me in ensuring that this project proceeds.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. As I have said, any legislation will be the decision for the next Prime Minister. It remains a manifesto commitment to build the holocaust memorial so that we remember. On the location, 90% of the gardens will remain unchanged and open. Less than 10% will be used by the memorial, which will be open to the public. That is why Government believe that it fitted within the existing legislation. That is also why we will be reviewing the court case to see what it says, and our response will be in place accordingly.

May I say to the Minister that this is not a party political matter—it goes across the parties? We want this centre to be built and we want it to be built sooner rather than later. My father fought in the last war and was one of the Royal Engineers who went to Germany for the clear-up. He never recovered from what he saw there at the end of the war. I have this plea to the Minister. People will be disturbed by this. I was sorry to see that, under the contract that had been let, all the materials will be brought in and the waste taken away by road, but it would be much better for the residents and for the people in London if it were all carried on the river. Will the Minister consider that?

As Minister for London, I will happily look at that last request, because we are significantly underusing our river. I agree with the hon. Gentleman when he talks about the cross-party nature of this project. We do need to get on and build this memorial, for this generation of holocaust survivors and for future generations.

I declare my interest as co-chairman of the all-party group for the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre. It is absolutely crucial that we get the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre alongside Parliament as quickly as possible. I know that, in answering this urgent question, my hon. Friend cannot bind the hands of his successor, but can he not do the sensible thing and, having got the support of the current Prime Minister, consult both candidates, one of whom will be Prime Minister in September? If they both agree that we should bring forward the legislation, will the Minister bring it forward to us on 5 September?

I will be speaking to both candidates about a number of things, including this matter. I was supposed to be getting a briefing on this from my team today, as I am new in post. Clearly, there is a lot to bring to this issue, and we need to make sure that our candidates understand the feeling of the House.

A report from the Community Security Trust was released last week on antisemitism in the pandemic. It outlined a very disturbing case in Manchester, my home town, of Jewish people being targeted for spreading covid. Fortunately, the perpetrator was arrested and jailed for six months, but does that not just demonstrate that this does not go away and that there is always an excuse? That is why it is absolutely crucial that we have the national centre to educate future generations on this issue.

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The reason that we are talking about Victoria Tower Gardens is that it is next to Parliament. This is not a London memorial. We are talking about a national memorial, sitting next to the centre of our democracy. He is absolutely right: antisemitism does not start and stop within the M25.

Of course we should have a holocaust memorial and of course we should have a proper holocaust museum. It is not surprising that Westminster City Council turned this application down, or, indeed, that the Government have lost the case in the High Court and then in the Court of Appeal. Based on questions that I and others asked, the Act of Parliament dating from the beginning of the 20th century is very clear that the park was laid down as a park. May I suggest a compromise? Given that the debate is carrying on and on, the obvious solution is to have a holocaust memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens, next to Parliament as everybody wants, and similar to the other memorials such as the Buxton and Pankhurst memorials. It could be a potent symbol, it could blend in with the park and the surroundings and there would be no controversy about it.

The controversy has been about the underground learning centre and all the disruption it would cause. The difficulty with the underground learning centre in that very constrained site is that it would be nothing like the proper memorials and museums in Washington and Berlin. Have the memorial in the gardens and a proper museum at the Imperial War museum.

As I have said, the education centre would be complementary to the Imperial War Museum. We believe that the plans are consistent with the provisions of the London County Council (Improvements) Act 1900, and that is why we are disappointed by the result of the court case. The design is sensitive to the existing gardens and would allow residents and visitors alike to continue to benefit from the green space, but we will clearly reflect on the court decision.

The memorial has to be near Parliament. At a time when antisemitism was commonplace, in the 1930s in British society, Victor Cazalet MP was the first person in the House to warn of the coming holocaust. Jack Macnamara MP visited Dachau and when he came back he said that we had to fight Hitler. Rob Bernays MP was called “a filthy Jew” by Hitler’s friends in Germany. All three of them lost their lives and have shields on the walls of the Chamber. This is intimately about Parliament, democracy and antisemitism, and we have to put those things together.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his usual erudite approach. There is not a lot I can add, but he is right about the need to site the memorial next to the centre of our democracy.

One hundred and seventeen holocaust survivors were interviewed about the memorial, and it is upsetting that, because of the delays, many will not have the opportunity to see the opening. The holocaust is a part of British history, from the Kindertransport and the liberation of Bergen-Belsen to welcoming survivors. It is not always a good story, so the memorial has to be built beside Parliament to remind every future Government of the history. Can the Minister confirm that the Government will do all they can to build the memorial as soon as possible?

The memorial for the holocaust remains a manifesto commitment of the Government and we will clearly look at the court decision and work out where to go next. It will be a decision for the next Prime Minister, but my hon. Friend has fought for this and spoken out about the holocaust on several occasions, and I know that she will continue to do so.

I get the impression that the Minister greatly understands the concerns of everybody in the Chamber, but can he outline what discussions have taken place with members of the Jewish community to underline the fact that this discouraging news will not deter the Government from taking appropriate steps to facilitate a central permanent holocaust memorial centre to show that this great nation—the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland—is united in ensuring that future generations understand the importance of remembering the holocaust as a horrifically sad and bloody lesson for everyone?

I always commend the hon. Gentleman for his work on religious freedom and tackling religious hatred, including antisemitism. With the court’s decision being so fresh, it is early to have had those conversations with the Jewish community, but this is the first signal of our intention to stick to our manifesto commitment of building a holocaust memorial. As the newly installed Minister for faith, I will have talks with the Jewish community across the summer.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In case anyone thinks that I did not declare that I have studied here in Westminster, worked here and lived here for two thirds of my life, I repeat that. I also say that it is not a minority who have blocked the proposal: it is two judges. We should not refer to a High Court judge and an Appeal Court judge as “a small minority” when they are actually getting the Government to obey the law.

Business of the House

It would be a pleasure. The business for the week commencing 5 September will include:

Monday 5 September—Second Reading of the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill.

Tuesday 6 September—Second Reading of the Trade (Australia and New Zealand) Bill.

Wednesday 7 September—Second Reading of the Financial Services and Markets Bill.

Thursday 8 September—Consideration of an allocation of time motion, followed by all stages of the Social Security (Special Rules for End Of Life) Bill [Lords], followed by a general debate on parliamentary services for Members. The subject for this debate was determined by the Backbench Business Committee.

Friday 9 September—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 12 September includes:

Monday 12 September—Second Reading of the Bill of Rights Bill.

I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business. Colleagues on the Opposition Benches will be particularly pleased to see that we will have all stages of the Social Security (Special Rules for End Of Life) Bill. Thanks to those colleagues who have worked so hard on that.

I wish all Members and staff an enjoyable summer recess. As it is culture’s come-back summer, I invite everyone to visit Bristol West and our fantastic cultural life, as well as to visit festivals, the Proms and Edinburgh. Speaking as someone who was at a prom last night, it is fantastic that we are back in real life. I congratulate the Lionesses, who I understand are a football team, on their thrilling victory against Spain last night—that is what it says here. Sorry, anyone who knows me knows that I do not understand football; I do however understand a team at their peak, strong leadership and an electrifying atmosphere, and I have to say it sounds like a far cry from the Tory leadership debate.

I have a bit of an end of school report here. First, on behaviour, there is no sign of the updated Members code of conduct in the forthcoming business. The Standards Committee’s welcome work and recommendations have been with us for a while now. Will the Leader of the House tell us when he will allow them to be debated and voted on?

“Bills going up”, “taxes rising to the highest level in 70 years”, and, “the economy is heading for a recession”—those are not just my words, but those of the leadership contenders, talking about the Prime Minister’s legacy and the cumulation of 12 Tory years. These were senior Ministers in his Administration, yet yesterday at Prime Minister’s questions, there was applause, cheers and a standing ovation. I hear rumours that there were even tears of despair that it was all over. Can Government Members not remember why the Prime Minister was forced out of office, including by some I can see in this Chamber, I think? This was the man who partied through the pandemic, ground our economy to a halt, stood by as Britain burned, and they all tolerated his bad behaviour.

Moving on with the end of term report, on paying attention, we have a Prime Minister who has already checked out by checking in at Chequers, failing to attend crucial Cobra meetings. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, not the Prime Minister, came to this House to answer questions on extreme heat, but only when forced to do so, and he might as well not have bothered. He said to “wear a hat”, “stay in the shade” and to drink water. This is not an online local residents’ group; they are the Government. When will they start acting like one?

As the chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance told MPs just last week, this consequence of the climate emergency was predictable and predicted, yet whether healthcare, transport or safety at work, this Government left us all underprepared for the national emergency. Their consultation on a national resilience strategy closed nearly 10 months ago, and still there is no plan for resilience. Where is it?

This morning, the High Court ruled that the Government’s net zero strategy breaches obligations under the Climate Change Act 2008—passed, by the way, by a Labour Government—so will the Leader of the House ask the Tory leadership contenders to say how they plan to meet targets?

Moving on to attendance, it is yet another week where the Home Secretary did not bother to turn up to the Home Affairs Committee. There was a note—a bit like having a note from your mum saying, “Please let her be excused”—but yesterday, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy sent another note saying why he was not going to the Environmental Audit Committee. That scrutiny is part of their jobs, and they know it. Mired by infighting, this party cannot even manage the basics, so could the Leader of the House remind Cabinet colleagues about simply turning up?

Moving on with the school report to the subject of science, the Government have not bothered to fill the vacancy of Science Minister. It has been two weeks, and we are supposed to have the UK as a science superpower. Can the Leader of the House tell us when the remaining vacancies will be filled?

Moving on to the organising of work, backlog Britain is still piling misery on to millions of people, crippling our economy and costing billions. For example, with the Home Office, Members and staff tell me that despite civil servants’ tireless work, everything is still bad: offices spending hours on hold to departmental hotlines, costing the taxpayer; MPs waiting months for responses on asylum claims and passport applications for constituents; people left stranded; and families forced to pay more for worse. I have asked week after week for the Home Secretary to make sure that there are enough people just to pick up the phones. Has the Leader of the House been passing on my messages? What is he going to do to reduce the long, hot, slow queues at the Home Office hub in Portcullis House? Will he tell the Home Secretary to sort this out?

I will finish my end of term report. Whether it is writing off billions to fraudsters or turning Britain into a laughing stock on the world stage, there seems to be no hope that either of the two remaining Tory leadership contenders will offer the change we need. Like every single Tory MP, they propped up this Prime Minister; they were complicit. There is no plan. Labour is ready to take over, and that is the only way we will get a fresh start. Thank you for your indulgence, Mr Speaker.

Let me start by joining the hon. Lady in congratulating the Lionesses on their performance last night. To come back from one-nil down and win in extra time is a huge achievement, but I will say no more because I do not want to jinx them in the semi-final.

We have had a very hot week. All week I have been hoping for a little cloud to shade me, and then along comes the hon. Lady, our own little cloud of doom. She is becoming the Eeyore of the Chamber, casting shadow wherever she goes. She needs to be a bit more upbeat and enthusiastic. I think she has fundamentally misunderstood the British people, with her rampant pessimism. There are undoubtedly challenges, I acknowledge, with the global energy and food price increases and with post-pandemic backlogs, but what our constituents want is this Government and our plan.

Labour Members want to sit there and snipe, but they offer absolutely no solutions. We are putting £39 billion of support into our NHS, which they voted against. We are putting in £35 billion of rail investment, as well as £96 billion through the integrated rail plan, and all they want to do is stand on the picket lines with their union paymasters. I want to thank the hon. Lady and her colleagues for binding the Conservative party together by offering us the chance to have a vote of confidence in the Government and getting us all in the same Lobby. Only the leader of the Labour party could inspire the Conservatives as much as he does.

We are getting on with the job. We are supporting families with the cost of living, with £37 billion of investment this year alone. Over 2 million public sector workers will be given the highest uplift in their wages for nearly 20 years. Unemployment rates are close to a 50-year low. We are delivering historic funding to our NHS. We are recruiting 20,000 police officers, with 13,500 already in place.

Finally, as we get to the Sir David Amess debate this afternoon, which the brilliant Deputy Leader of the House will respond to, I know that all Members will want to add their thanks and best wishes, along with the shadow Leader of the House, to all the staff who have helped us: the civil servants, Clerks, cleaners, catering staff, Hansard, the broadcasting team, and everyone else I have missed. If I may, I will flag up the team in the Tea Room, who brighten my day every day.

Most importantly, I thank my brilliant civil servants in the Office of the Leader of the House, who have been very helpful and supportive.

I wish everyone a restful summer recess, as we go back to our constituencies. It is important to put on the record that MPs do not go home and rest; MPs from across the House will be working hard in their constituencies, despite what the Daily Mail might imply. I hope that all MPs get a bit of rest this summer and come back refreshed in September.

Can I also wish everyone all the best—all Members of the House and all the staff who work here?

Somebody said that the Leader of the House should have declared an interest in the Tea Room, and on that basis I think I ought to call him: Alec Shelbrooke.

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Before I ask my question, I make the House aware that I am a member and vice-chairman of the all-party parliamentary groups on Argentina, on Latin America, on Formula One, on Gibraltar and on surgical mesh, and I am a member of the APPGs on cricket and on the BBC.

The Committee on Standards recently published its report on APPGs, suggesting a range of measures to regulate them. Do the Government support those measures, and if so, do they have a preferred recommendation?

The Government welcome the thoughtful report and recommendations on APPGs by the Committee on Standards. While the regulation of APPGs is a matter for Parliament, the Government welcome measures that provide proportionate regulation of their functioning and appropriate transparency about their financial support. I acknowledge that this does need some work. If I may be so bold, Mr Speaker, I will write to you and to the Lord Speaker—I think responsibility lies at both ends of the building—on my right hon. Friend’s behalf to ask what you could do to help us move this forward. I put you on notice, Mr Speaker, that that letter is on its way.