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Commons Chamber

Volume 735: debated on Wednesday 5 July 2023

House of Commons

Wednesday 5 July 2023

The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock

Prayers

[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

Wales

The Secretary of State was asked—

Strength of the Union

Recent years have highlighted the strength of our United Kingdom. The successful covid vaccine roll-out was just one example of the strength of our Union; the ability to spend £94 billion during the cost of living challenges caused by the covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine was another. That support will continue, with two freeports and an investment zone being delivered in Wales.

Polling on Welsh independence has found that young people, aged 16 to 34, are far more likely than any other group to vote by a majority for independence for Wales to secure the change they feel their nation needs. That mirrors the views of young people in Scotland, who believe Scotland can and will prosper outside this broken Union. Why does the Secretary of State think that so many young people have so little faith in the Union?

Contrary to what the hon. Lady posits, young people want and welcome the right to be able to live, study and work in all parts of the United Kingdom, which is why the Conservative and Unionist party has consistently polled far higher in every kind of election than parties that seek independence for Wales.

One benefit of the Union should be that all its citizens are entitled to broadly equivalent public services, no matter where they live. Yet in north Wales, on the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the NHS, patients are unable to access specialist medical services in England with the same ease as English patients, despite the fact that those services may not be available in Wales. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is an unreasonable and unfair state of affairs? Will he urge the Welsh First Minister to rectify that as quickly as possible?

It is deeply disappointing that on the 75th anniversary of the National Health Service, the Welsh Labour Government, which are responsible for healthcare in Wales, are unable to provide the same level of service as that received by patients who live under a Conservative-run Government running the NHS in England. It is deeply unfair that patients in Wales are waiting longer for treatment and wait longer in accident and emergency, and that those who draw attention to allegations of misspending of more than £100 million in the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board have been sacked from their jobs.

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Lefarydd. One in five people in Wales is facing hunger. On the NHS’s 75th birthday, we must break the vicious cycle where poverty fuels hunger and, consequently, poor health. As the Secretary of State is a staunch believer in the power of the Union, I would like to pose him a challenge: would he be willing to stake his support for the Union on its ability to eradicate food poverty in Wales by the end of the Tories’ time in office?

I assure the right hon. Lady that my support for the Union is absolute. It is because we are in a powerful Union that we have been able to spend £94 billion on cost of living support, which has meant that pensions, benefits and the minimum wage have all gone up in line with inflation. If the right hon. Lady is concerned about food poverty, I hope she will talk to her friends in the Welsh Labour Government, which her colleagues are propping up, about the ridiculous proposal to ban meal deals.

I will take that as a no. Perhaps I can give him another go to prove that Wales gets added value from the Union. English water companies can extract the equivalent of almost 480 Olympic swimming pools of water from Wales every day. Among those companies is Thames Water, which paid over £200 million in dividends over the past five years. Can he explain to households in Wales why the profits gained from extracting our country’s natural resources are benefiting profiteers and not our communities?

The right hon. Lady will be well aware that the way in which water companies are run is rather more complicated than that. She will also be aware that there is a nationalised water company in Scotland and we have a not-for-profit water company in Wales, and yet in both Wales and Scotland average bills are higher, and so are spills into the rivers—[Interruption.] Mr Speaker, SNP Members can say what they want. They are presiding over a situation where there are more sewage spills going into the water in Scotland than there are in England.

International Tourism

2. What discussions he has had with the Welsh Government on promoting the UK as an international tourist destination. (905717)

Wales is a great tourist destination and only recently I spent a long weekend in Llandudno. I believe my hon. Friend was there. He has seen for himself what a wonderful place it is. We have some of the best beaches in the United Kingdom and some of the best mountain biking in the United Kingdom. It is a shame that as a result of the Welsh Labour Government’s decision to impose a tourism tax on overnight visitors, fewer people see it.

My right hon. Friend is indeed right. I went to Conwy Castle with my two whippets and saw the delight that Wales has to offer. I encourage everyone to go and see it. Tourism accounts for about £127 billion of UK industry and almost 4 million jobs. What conversations is he having with the Welsh Labour Government to ensure that there is a UK-wide approach to both domestic and international tourism?

It is deeply disappointing not only that visitors will face a tourism tax, but that those offering accommodation will face extra regulations and that those coming to Wales will be forced to drive at around 20 mph on roads that currently have a 30 mph limit. Therefore, people will have to pay more to come to Wales and spend longer getting here as a result of the Welsh Labour Government’s policies. I encourage all tourism operators to speak to their Welsh Labour Government Minister about this.

On the subject of tourism, is the Secretary of State aware that Avanti has decided to cancel further services into Chester and north Wales to coincide with the peak tourism season? Improvements have been dangled in front of us one day and then pulled away at the next opportunity. When will this hokey-cokey of train services stop?

I am aware of widespread concerns about Avanti’s performance. I know that my colleagues in the Department for Transport have spoken to the company about them, but it has also suggested that some of the old-fashioned working rules that have been worked out with the unions are hampering its ability to supply trains as often as it wants. All I can say to the hon. Lady is that my colleagues in the Department for Transport are well aware of the concerns about Avanti and have spoken to the company about them.

Economic Growth

This Government have put in place steps to deliver growth and to level up across the whole of the United Kingdom. The IMF now predicts that cumulative UK growth over the 2022-24 period will be higher than that in Germany and Japan, and the Bank of England made one of the biggest upward revisions to its growth forecast for the UK. In Wales, the Government have invested in two freeports and will guarantee at least one investment zone to support economic growth.

But the most recent data is not pretty reading as far as the Welsh economy is concerned. The Welsh economy still has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, unlike in England, and unemployment in Wales is going up, unlike elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Does my right hon. Friend share my concern about what is going on inside the Welsh economy under the Labour Administration in Cardiff? Does he agree that what we need is a laser-like focus on supporting growth, supporting business and unleashing all the opportunity and potential in Wales?

My right hon. Friend is correct. It is deeply disappointing that growth in Wales is now below pre-pandemic levels, whereas in England it is above pre-pandemic levels. The Welsh Labour Government need to ask themselves some difficult questions and perhaps stop concentrating on nanny state policies, such as the ban on meal deals, the 20 mph limit and the ban on new roads and start thinking about what they can do to deliver jobs—I do not mean the £100 million scheme to create a whole load of extra Senedd Members.

The Secretary of State will be aware of the announcement last week that has shocked the Bridgend communities about Zimmer Biomet and the suggestion of losing more than 550 jobs. I, along with my Senedd colleagues, have met the Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething. May I ask the Secretary of State to do all he can to make representations to the Business and Trade Secretary to encourage Zimmer Biomet to change its mind and keep the jobs in Bridgend and to grow from Bridgend to ensure that we keep these well-paid, highly skilled jobs into the future?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very useful and important point. Bridgend is a wonderful place in which to invest and do business, and the new freeport will make it even better in the vicinity. I have been in touch with the Department for Work and Pensions about that, but I am very happy to talk to those in the Department for Business and Trade about what further measures can be taken to encourage that company and others to take advantage of the wonderful working environment that is Bridgend.

On the 75th anniversary of our NHS, created by Welsh founder and Labour Minister Nye Bevan, may I thank, on behalf of Labour Members, all our NHS staff in Wales, past and present, for their dedication and public service?

Last week, the Department for Business and Trade published its report on foreign direct investment in Wales. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating the Welsh Labour Government’s Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, on his success in delivering economic growth through attracting an additional 3,000 jobs to Wales in the past year?

I think the hon. Lady will be aware that both the Minister for Economy in Wales and the Department for Business and Trade work closely with embassies across the world to ensure that investors know about the enormous opportunities that exist in Wales. I hope she will agree with me that that is testament to the fact that, while we may have political differences, on the issue of foreign direct investment, the UK Conservative Government and the Welsh Labour Government both enjoy working constructively together.

I am pleased to hear the Secretary of State’s response. I am sure we can both agree that we want strong economic growth across Wales and the rest of the UK. The last Labour Government gave the go-ahead for new nuclear sites in 2009. Nearly a decade on, none is up and running, and it is now two years since Hitachi pulled out of the Wylfa project. Labour is ready to deliver new nuclear to ensure energy resilience, security and lower bills—[Interruption.] What have the Government been doing? When are they going to stop talking and start acting?

I am delighted that the hon. Lady has set out that the Labour party now supports nuclear power. It was not something that was evident to us when Labour was in opposition a few years ago. Labour had an opportunity over the 13 years it was in government to build nuclear power stations, but it is good that it has belatedly decided that it will support new nuclear power in Wales. I can assure her that I am happy to work with the Welsh Labour Government and anyone else who is interested in making sure that Great British Nuclear can take forward sites such as Wylfa, which is an excellent site for new nuclear.

New Nuclear Power Sites

4. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on new nuclear power sites in Wales. (905719)

To continue the topic from the previous question, there are regular discussions with Cabinet colleagues on the potential for new nuclear in Wales. This Government are launching Great British Nuclear to support our ambition to ramp up nuclear capacity in the UK to up to 24 GW by 2050. GBN is actively working with the Government on access to potential sites for new nuclear projects.

Nuclear power has an important part to play in a balanced energy policy to provide energy security. Does my hon. Friend agree that Wylfa is an ideal site not only to continue generating nuclear power, but to expand beyond it, because the reality is that without improving and continuing that site, nuclear power has to come to Wales?

I agree with my hon. Friend. Wylfa is one of the best sites in this country, if not in Europe, for nuclear power generation due to its optimal location and geology. I am confident that the site’s potential to support our 24 GW target can be utilised. I know it is a site that GBN is very interested in.

Nuclear power is an excellent and much-needed source of power, but when demand for energy decreases, that power is often wasted. Has the Minister looked at any new Welsh nuclear power plants producing so-called pink hydrogen at times when electricity demands are low, so that we are not wasting that energy?

We recognise the important role of both nuclear energy and hydrogen in reaching our net zero goals. We are committed to a nuclear future for Wales and so far this year I have visited the Wylfa site and Bangor University’s Nuclear Futures Institute. My hon. Friend is right to mention the importance of storing energy effectively. Our 2021 hydrogen strategy laid out our intention to explore the use of electricity and heat from nuclear power stations to produce pink hydrogen.

Will the Minister confirm that there is not an approved small modular reactor design in the UK yet, so talking of installing SMRs at Wylfa and elsewhere is just fantasy?

The hon. Gentleman mentioned SMRs; I know Great British Nuclear is looking into the importance of those to our future net zero contributions and there will be sites, I hope, across the United Kingdom.

Freeports

The Secretary of State was delighted recently to announce two successful freeports in Wales—the Celtic freeport and Anglesey freeport—which will each be supported by £26 million of Government funding. We have regular discussions with Cabinet colleagues on the delivery of the two Welsh freeports, which we aim to bring into operation as soon as possible.

I have been a keen supporter of the new Solent freeport joining my Meon Valley constituency. I know the economic benefits that freeports can bring to businesses and workers. Can my hon. Friend assure me that he is doing everything he can to ensure that the two freeport bids in Wales move ahead swiftly to benefit the communities they serve?

I certainly can. The two new freeports will help to level up north-west and south-west Wales and bring new high-skilled jobs to successful areas. They will become drivers of growth and employment in their areas, acting as hubs for regeneration, innovation and global trade. I understand my hon. Friend’s desire to see rapid progress. Both the UK Government and the Welsh Government will work closely with the successful bidders to develop their outline business case so that we can understand the benefits, costs and the most beneficial intervention options.

The Celtic freeport bid is based on floating offshore wind. The floating offshore wind manufacturing investment scheme is a vital programme to get the infrastructure in the port ready for the fabrication of substructures and turbines for floating offshore wind. As the voice of Wales in the Cabinet, what steps is the Secretary of State taking with Cabinet colleagues to secure FLOWMIS to maximise the benefits of the Celtic sea freeport?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about that. He may also be aware of yesterday’s announcement of the leasing area in the Celtic sea for floating offshore wind. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has regular meetings with stakeholders, as do I, about FLOWMIS and the necessary infrastructure to bring that into being.

Transport Connectivity

7. What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on improving transport connectivity between south Wales and south-west England. (905722)

I have regular discussions with Cabinet colleagues to discuss transport links between Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom. I am pleased to say that the UK Government have recently provided £2.7 million to develop solutions to M4 congestion and deliver improvements to rail infrastructure.

My right hon. Friend will know that routes such as the A303 from the south-west to London have been upgraded to ease congestion and boost the economy, but for those travelling to Cardiff along the M4, delays and congestion persist. What are the barriers to getting the vital upgrades that that route needs?

I am afraid to say that the barrier is the Welsh Labour Government, who have decided that they will, as a matter of policy, end all new road-building projects in Wales, and, on top of that, bring in speed limits and road user charging. That is bad for jobs, bad for commuters and bad for the economy of Wales.

The Government have woefully underinvested in Welsh rail. The Burns commission and the union connectivity review all point to what the Government should do: upgrade the south Wales main line and build new stations, such as in Magor. When will the Government invest?

The hon. Lady makes an important point. There is a project, which is going through the business case process at the moment, to improve the freight lines on the south Wales line to enable passenger services to run on it. I believe that there will be announcements about that shortly, when the new rail network enhancements pipeline programme comes out.

Considering that not a single mile of High Speed 2 track will reach Wales, and that current services between Wales and England are woefully unreliable and expensive, what steps will the Secretary of State and the Government take to improve that and ensure that those living in Wales actually benefit from HS2?

The HS2 project, which was, of course, proposed by the last Labour Government and is supported, as far as I am aware, by the Labour Opposition, will benefit passengers in north Wales. The Government are committed to passengers across the whole of Wales, which is why £390 million has been spent on a range of improvements. In addition to that, we will shortly have the south Wales metro system, which is part of the Cardiff capital region growth deal.

Network Rail Funding

8. Whether he has had discussions with the Secretary of State for Transport on the adequacy of Network Rail funding in Wales. (905723)

I have regular discussions with Department for Transport colleagues on a wide range of transport matters. Wales receives proportionally greater funding than the rest of Great Britain. In fact, figures from the 2021-22 financial year demonstrate that Government funding of the operational railway was 32.1p per kilometre travelled in England, 57.3p in Scotland and 59.3p in Wales.

When I asked the Department for Transport about the maintenance funding spent on the Wales route, it told me that it gets 4% or 5% of the spending and it equates to 4% of the network, so it must be fair. The problem is that the figures were based on train miles rather than track length, and the train miles are always lower in Wales because of a lack of investment in infrastructure. The track length is actually 11%, not 4%. Will the Minister make representations to the DFT to increase rail spending proportionately to make it a fairer settlement?

The hon. Member is right to reference investment in rail in north Wales. Growth Track 360 has pressed for that hard—I have been involved with that, as he has—and the North Wales Transport Commission has recently outlined similar projects. He will be aware of the Union connectivity review development funding pot that has been available, and the entry in RNEP for the north Wales coast main line in relation to line speeds.

Investment

Foreign investment created 3,062 jobs over the last year. With the number of FDI projects also on the rise, that shows that more and more investors are looking to Wales. This is testament to the £52 million that we are providing to support two new freeports, our commitment to delivering at least one investment zone in Wales, and the £1 billion we are investing in the next decade to boost the UK’s global strengths in semiconductors.

Does the Minister agree that supply chain businesses need

“a modern, functioning road network to keep goods moving efficiently”—

whether they are on the M4, the A55 or elsewhere—and that the failure of the Welsh Government to commit to this is a “body blow”, according to the Road Haulage Association director, Geraint Davies?

I absolutely do; my hon. Friend makes an excellent point. The Welsh Government’s response to the roads review is more of a roadblock, sadly. Their opposition to the M4 relief road and other schemes continues to hold the Welsh economy back. The Welsh Government’s impact assessment suggests that the impact of the 20-mile-an-hour default speed limit could be as much as £4.5 billion. The Welsh Government, I am afraid, are advertising that Wales is closed for business.

The automotive sector contributes significantly to the economy in Wales, including Gestamp in my constituency, where investment in the latest technology to make lighter, tougher bodywork parts contributes to the safety and energy efficiency of vehicles, including new electric vehicles. However, with the US and the EU offering big incentives to companies to invest in new green technologies, what talks has the Minister had with ministerial colleagues about offering similar incentives to get the investment from automotive companies to ensure that we keep a vibrant automotive sector?

I know that that question is very important to the hon. Member and her constituency. I point her in the direction of the growth deals, which have an important role to play, and regular ongoing discussions are held between the Secretary of State, the Wales Office and other Government Departments.

Investment in Wales is also conditional on there being adequate healthcare. Is my hon. Friend aware that, in Tywyn on the west coast of Wales, a hospital that was built only six or seven years ago has now closed? People in that area have to travel many, many miles to get healthcare when it is needed.

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that issue. Clearly, the provision of healthcare services in rural areas is often very difficult, but he will be aware of the particular challenges in Wales, especially north Wales, over the availability of safe and accessible healthcare services. He is right to raise that point.

As a GP, the Minister knows the value of community engagement. Will he ask the Home Secretary to increase investment in policing in Wales to ensure that there is an effective response to tackling crime when bad things happen?

The hon. Member will be aware that there are more police officers in all the forces in Wales than ever before. The Government and the Home Office have been investing in the uplift programme and ensuring that there is a strong police presence across Wales.

Cost of Living Support

10. What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of cost of living support for households in Wales. (905725)

14. What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of cost of living support for households in Wales. (905729)

This Government are supporting households across Wales with the cost of living. Between October 2022 and the end of June 2023, a typical household would have seen half their energy bills paid for by the Government.

According to a study on hunger in Wales, around 753,000 Welsh people faced hunger in mid-2022—that is more than double the population of Cardiff—with Welsh Trussell Trust foodbanks experiencing an 85% increase in the number of emergency food parcels that they distributed compared with five years previously. What specific conversations has the Secretary of State had with Cabinet colleagues and the retail sector on the high costs of food in supermarkets?

Obviously, all Cabinet colleagues are absolutely committed to making sure that we put our resources towards the least well off. That is why pensions, benefits and the minimum wage have all gone up in line with inflation, and it is why there have been extra payments of £900 to people on benefits, £300 to pensioners, and £150 to households with disabilities. But at least the people of Wales are not in the same position as those of Scotland, where 1.4 million people are being hit with extra taxes.

Actually, families who need it most in Scotland are seeing the game-changing £25 a week Scottish child payment. When will the Secretary of State devolve powers over social security to Senedd Cymru, so that it can also make decisions like that to protect the people of Wales from the Tories’ cost of living crisis?

I can assure the hon. Member that all members of the Cabinet are committed to resolving the cost of living problems that have come about as a result of the covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine. That is why our first priority is to halve inflation, as well as growing the economy, reducing debt, stopping illegal immigration into this country and—we are responsible for this in England—reducing hospital waiting lists.

Speaker’s Statement

Before we come to Prime Minister’s questions, I wish to welcome a special guest who is observing our proceedings today: the President of the Cyprus House of Representatives. Madam President, you are most welcome.

I also wish to make a short statement. I am sure the whole House will wish to join me in celebrating the fact that today is the 75th anniversary of the founding of the NHS. A couple of days before it started, the Health Minister, Aneurin Bevan, said in a message to the medical profession:

“On 5th July we start together, the new National Health Service. It has not had an altogether trouble-free gestation! There have been understandable anxieties, inevitable in so great and novel an undertaking... But the sooner we start, the sooner we can try together to see to these things and to secure the improvements we all want.”

It is fair to say that 75 years later, the NHS still faces challenges, but it is right that, today, we celebrate an institution that treats over 1 million people a day. In particular, I am sure Members across the House will want to join me in celebrating the staff of the NHS, past and present, across all our constituencies. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] To them, I say on behalf of the House: thank you for your outstanding contribution to the health and wellbeing of us all. Of course, the National Health Service Act 1946 is a reminder of the vital role of this House in creating and debating legislation as part of a democratic process, so I say to previous MPs: thank you for what you did. We will not forget.

Oral Answers to Questions

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—

Engagements

I have been asked to reply on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who is attending a service right now in Westminster Abbey to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the NHS. Mr Speaker, may I associate myself with your comments? The NHS continues to be a treasured national institution, and I am sure that, during this sitting, colleagues across the House will join you in celebrating its values and achievements and thanking staff for their huge commitment to patients.

This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.

Mr Speaker, can I also associate myself with the remarks you made celebrating the 75th anniversary of the NHS? On behalf of my constituents and all our constituents, I thank its staff for the work they do, day in, day out.

Last Friday, I met a group of residents who have raised a petition to keep the last bank in Corringham town open. The viability of our town centres often depends on the presence of a small number of anchor businesses, such as a post office or a bank. Can my right hon. Friend therefore tell the House what action the Government can take to ensure that at least one of those organisations maintains a high street presence to support businesses and residents alike, particularly when they have received significant Government support?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this issue. Banks are a cornerstone of our high streets. Of course, it is ultimately a commercial decision for banks, but I think it is right that they take into account the views of local communities. I am sure the bank in question will have heard his remarks to the House and I trust that it will take appropriate action.

Thank you, Mr Speaker, and can I associate myself with and thank you for your opening comments regarding our NHS? I thank all those staff who have worked and continue to work in our NHS today.

I am sure Members across the whole House will join me in paying tribute to Lord Bob Kerslake, a decent and kind man who accomplished so much in both local and national Government during a lifetime of public service. Our heartfelt condolences go to his family.

I am glad to see the right hon. Gentleman here today. I think I am right in saying that I have the pleasure again next week—two weeks on the trot. The Government really have given up. Every day, 4,000 families’ mortgage deals expire, with 100,000 more since we last met and millions more next year. Families are sick with worry about the cost of the Tory mortgage bombshell. Do the Tories still claim to be the party of home ownership?

May I begin by associating myself with the right hon. Lady’s remarks about Lord Bob Kerslake? I knew him from my time in Downing Street. He was a stalwart public servant and he will be missed by many on both sides of this House.

It may come as a surprise to the right hon. Lady, but some leaders trust their deputies to stand in for them. When it comes to mortgage rates, I support the independence of the Bank of England in taking the necessary measures to control inflation. Just ask the International Monetary Fund what we have done to support them. It has said that we have taken “decisive and responsible action” to bring down inflation and we will continue to do so. But what is Labour’s plan? It is to borrow £28 billion a year, pushing up inflation; to cut our domestic energy supply, pushing up inflation; and to penalise workers saving into their pensions, pushing up inflation. There we have it from Labour—endless borrowing and higher prices.

We have had 13 years of Conservative failures. Homeowners watching that pathetic answer will be cringing: they are not celebrating the Government’s success; they are counting the cost of their failures. The only thing that is not soaring in price at the moment is the right hon. Gentleman’s gags, which are getting cheaper by the minute. It is not just homeowners who are suffering. Security of renters has been ripped away too, with higher mortgage costs handed directly to them. Given most renters live in homes with a buy-to-let mortgage, can he tell us: are buy-to-let properties included in the mortgage support package—yes or no?

Actually, under this Government, thanks to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, we have introduced legislation for the first time to support renters and to give them greater security of tenure. Of course, the Chancellor will take all necessary measures to stand behind mortgage holders and take necessary measures for renters.

We have a choice in this country, and the choice that we have made is to invest in our economy, giving us the fastest growing economy in the G7 for the past two years, creating jobs, with record low unemployment, and increasing people’s wages by providing the national living wage—£1,600—into everyone’s pockets. That is how this Government are supporting people.

I know that the Deputy Prime Minister is not very good on facts, but the Tory party did crash the economy. He will know that, according to his own Government’s data, over 2 million buy-to-let properties are missing out on support. No-fault evictions are up by 116% this year. So will he tell us if the Prime Minister has the spine now to stand up to the vested interests in his own party and finally deliver its promise to ban no-fault evictions?

I do not think the Prime Minister is going to take any lectures on weakness from the Labour party. There is a lot of talk about reshuffle in the air from the Labour party. The last time the leader of the Labour party tried to sack the right hon. Lady, she walked out with a promotion. We will continue to stand behind renters and to support them, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will take all necessary steps.

That answer is pathetic for all those people who are facing homelessness on the right hon. Gentleman’s watch. We will ban no-fault evictions—unlike the Conservative party. Jessica and her four children from Plymouth were evicted from their home in April. They are temporarily living with Jessica’s mother in a cramped house where the two eldest children are sleeping on blow-up beds in the front room, surrounded by their belongings—hardly the decent, secure life that the right hon. Gentleman’s Government promised. Do families like Jessica’s not deserve better?

I will tell the right hon. Lady what we are doing for families like Jessica’s: we are increasing the national living wage. It was the Conservative party that introduced the national living wage, not the Labour party. It is this party that has doubled—doubled—the personal allowance, cutting taxes for those people, and it is this party that has lifted a million people out of unemployment. I am immensely proud of the record of this Government. That is why people will not trust the Labour party not to crash the economy again.

I asked a question about no-fault evictions; I was very clear on what the Labour party would do, but I cannot see us getting through a single one of these encounters without the Deputy Prime Minister blaming the Opposition for his Government’s own record.

When asked yesterday about the record low number of council houses being built, the Housing Minister said she did not recognise that statistic. When asked about support for people in temporary accommodation, she said it was not her brief—the brief of the Housing Minister. If council housing is not her responsibility, whose is it?

The Labour party may have failed to notice that it is actually under this Government that more council houses have been built than when they were in office; it is under this party that we have record levels of housing being built. We stand very proudly on the record of this Government.

But let us look at what we have done more broadly: inflation and waiting lists coming down, growth forecasts up, Albanian crossings down. While we are delivering on our priorities, what have we seen from the Labour party? It has U-turned five times in the last month already. The record is clear: the only thing we can rely on the party opposite to deliver is broken promises.

Talking about broken promises, house building is set to collapse to its lowest level since the war, rents and mortgages are soaring, home ownership is plummeting and over a million people are trapped waiting for a council house. There is one simple solution to this problem, and everyone knows it, so when will the right hon. Gentleman finally stand up for the national interest instead of the Tory party’s interests and build more houses?

The right hon. Lady may not have listened to the answer I gave and just moved straight on to the next pre-scripted question, but we have built more houses under this Government than the Labour party. I am afraid it is the same old thing from her: she stacks up the endless job titles, she takes the union cash and she constantly talks Britain down. That is why we will do everything we can to keep Labour out of people’s pockets, out of their lives and out of Government.

Q3. I might respectfully say to the deputy leader of the Labour party, the right hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner), that if she wants to know what we are doing on rental reform, she can look at the Renters (Reform) Bill that this Government are introducing. (905815)

My question is about the Slapton line in my constituency. Can it be right that Natural England is holding back major infrastructure development in south Devon and not allowing us to keep key infrastructure being developed?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to speak up for the Slapton line. It is one of the most beautiful roads in the country. I understand that the Slapton Line Partnership, which includes Natural England and the Environment Agency, is working closely with the local community on the plans.

I begin by thanking all the staff in our health services across these isles. As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the health services in the UK, I want to reflect on two quotes from two people. The first is:

“it’s about using the private sector more…something that we, actually, should be very comfortable with.”

The second is:

“A number of people do go as NHS patients to the private sector…and we could do more of it”.

Can I ask the Deputy Prime Minister: which quote is from the PM, and which is from the Leader of the Opposition?

May I begin by saying genuinely how sorry I was to hear that the hon. Lady will be standing down at the next election? She and I joined the House at the same time, and I know she has contributed much to her party and to this place. May I also say that I am sure she will wish to join me in celebrating His Majesty King Charles receiving the Scottish regalia, pretty much as we speak?

There is always time for a Damascene conversion.

When it comes to the NHS, I will take no lectures from either the SNP or Labour. It has been there for me. I was born in an NHS hospital, and my children were born in an NHS hospital. It has been there for me and my family, and this Government have put record funding into it.

I thank the Deputy Prime Minister for his kind words. We did join this place at the same time; I am pretty sure we will be leaving at the same time, too. [Laughter.]

The No. 1 problem that faces the health service across these isles is workforce, and research shows that Brexit has worsened the UK’s shortage of doctors. European nurses registering to work in the UK fell by 90% after the Brexit referendum. What more will it take for both him and the Labour party to admit the damage that Brexit is causing our health services?

It all started off so nicely. I do not know whether the hon. Lady has been listening to what the Government have announced this week, but we announced an additional £2.4 billion for our groundbreaking NHS workforce plan. It is the first time in the NHS’s history that that has happened. If we look at the record since this party came to power, we have almost 40,000 more doctors and more than 50,000 more nurses. Once again, the Conservative party is delivering for the NHS.

Q8. Tonight, at West Lindsey District Council’s planning meeting, the RAF will apply for listed building consent to move the grave of Wing Commander Guy Gibson’s dog. Apparently, the Home Office is content for 2,000 migrants to be cooped up next to 1,000 of my constituents living near or on the base, but the RAF thinks it intolerable that it should leave the grave of a dog that has lain in peace for 80 years. More importantly, will the Home Office start listening to us? If it insists on this proposal on illegal migrants, will it put them on a discrete part of the base and let us get on with £300 million of levelling up with a hundred buildings—many of them listed—a 2 mile-long runway and a spaceport, and let the dog lie in peace? (905820)

My right hon. Friend knows that we have to take action to address the unacceptable cost of housing migrants in hotels. I thank him for the constructive approach he has taken to RAF Scampton playing a role in respect of that. Of course, Home Office Ministers will have heard his broader representations, and I am sure they will respond to him.

May I, on behalf of my colleagues, extend our deep appreciation to all those past and present who continue to be dedicated to our NHS, including our staff in the health and social care system in Northern Ireland?

In Northern Ireland, GPs, nurses, doctors and carers are adversely constrained by a lack of sufficient funding for our health service. The Northern Ireland Fiscal Council has highlighted that our allocation falls beneath need, which compounds the difficulty year on year. Will the Deputy Prime Minister assure me of the Government’s willingness to engage on this issue and ensure that public services get what they need to continue delivering for the people of Northern Ireland?

I am happy to give the right hon. Gentleman that assurance. As he knows, the Department of Health in Northern Ireland has been allocated £7.3 billion—an increase of £20 million above 2022-23—but of course the absence of a Northern Ireland Executive is exacerbating the severe challenges that the healthcare service in Northern Ireland is already facing. A fully functioning devolved Government is the right way to deliver the reforms needed for the Northern Ireland health service.

Q13. Of the 16,700 cases of melanoma diagnosed in the UK every year, sadly over 2,000 will prove fatal. Regularly applying sunscreen is our most effective weapon against this deadly disease, yet the Treasury remains stubbornly opposed to exempting these lifesaving products from VAT. With a further heatwave expected later this month, will my right hon. Friend assure me, as a melanoma survivor, that he will do everything in his power to remove VAT from high-factor sunscreen to save lives and support the NHS as it celebrates its 75th anniversary? (905825)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the dangers of melanoma. As a fair-headed person with a fair-headed family, I am acutely conscious of the need to wear sun cream. I will not trespass on Treasury decisions in this setting, but I know that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will have heard her representations.

Q2.   After 13 years of Tory Government, the Government’s record is pretty dismal. Let us consider it: inflation spiralling out of control; interest rates set to hit 6.5% by the end of the year; energy prices double those in the rest of Europe; food shortages; strikes across the public sector and NHS; and graduates leaving university with mountains of debt and little to no prospect of home ownership. Will the Deputy Prime Minister admit his Tory Government’s failure and urge the Prime Minister to call a general election now? (905814)

Rather than focusing on playing politics, we are actually delivering for the British people. I listened to the hon. Lady’s litany. I was interested to note that her leader has been in power for 100 days, and what has the SNP’s record been? Three failing First Ministers, two unfinished ferries and a failed deposit return scheme. I think we can all agree that the people of Scotland deserve better.

Q14. Conservative Governments have a proud record of supporting the UK’s steel industry. I have—[Interruption.] I do not know why Labour Members are laughing, because steel production halved under Labour. I have stood up many times in the House to talk about the importance of steel not just to my home town of Scunthorpe but to our whole nation. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we will always need steel in this country and that, if we cannot make it ourselves, we will have to ship it over from the other side of the world, with all the emissions and environmental and ethical concerns that that will inevitably bring? Will he reaffirm the Government’s commitment to taking further measures to ensure that we have sustainable, long-term steelmaking in this country? (905826)

I am very happy to reaffirm this Government’s commitment to steel manufacturing. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, as I know what a champion she is for steel production in Scunthorpe. Long may she continue to be. We have made meaningful offers of support to Tata and British Steel. The Secretary of State recently visited them to see at first hand the work under way.

Q4.   I am sure that the Deputy Prime Minister will be as pleased as I am that work is well under way to construct the Sutherland spaceport; in fact, it is ahead of schedule. Recently, the north coast space cluster has been developed, which involved enterprise agencies and companies. Does the Deputy Prime Minister agree that that can build massively on the skills built up over many years at Doonreay, and that the establishment of international links with companies in the United States can only be good news for the far north of Scotland? (905816)

I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman’s remarks. The development of that new spaceport is a key part of our ambition to grow the UK’s space launch capabilities. In the first three years we are expected to reach £20 million of investment, creating 40 jobs. We are working with the United States, particularly through the technology safeguards agreement, to allow UK companies to exchange technology with it.

Q15. Could I associate myself with your comments about the NHS, Mr Speaker? I pay tribute to all NHS workers both in Newcastle-under-Lyme and across the country. I welcome the new long-term workforce plan, particularly 40% more places in dental schools. Access to dentistry has been an issue for a number of my constituents. Would my right hon. Friend consider the merits of opening new dental schools, not just new dental places? Keele University is one of the best medical schools in the country, and would make an excellent site for a new dental school. (905827)

As ever, my hon. Friend makes a very strong case for his constituency. As a result of the NHS long-term workforce plan, we are currently assessing capacity at existing dental schools to see whether they can accommodate the expansion in training places. Of course, we retain an open mind about whether we need further such education facilities.

Q5. It was a pleasure to join colleagues from across the House this morning for the NHS 75th anniversary parkrun on this special day. However, my joy was short-lived when I returned to my office to find the usual array of emails from desperate constituents who cannot get a doctor or dentist appointment, access to children’s mental health services or proper care for their loved ones. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, as today’s report from three highly respected think-tanks suggests, after a decade of under-investment, our beloved health service faces either managed decline under the Tories, or a Labour Government with a radical new health and wellbeing strategy to put it back on its feet? (905817)

Mr Speaker, it may not surprise you to hear that I do not agree with that characterisation. Let me tell you about this Government’s record on the NHS: record funding; record doctors; record nurses; records scans; and record operations. The only record from the Opposition party is in Wales, where they now have the worst A&E waiting times in the country.

I associate myself with your comments about the NHS, Mr Speaker.

My constituents in Weymouth and Portland and I are getting a little tired of being told that placing a migrant barge in our port is in the national interest. It is neither in the national interest nor in ours. The barge, designed for 222, will accommodate 506 illegal migrants, already testing our overstretched resources. It was imposed on us without any consultation. There are many concerns both about the barge and about what the 506 young men will do, going around a seaside resort at the height of the summer, unmonitored and with little money. Will my right hon. Friend stop it, and ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to do likewise?

I am sure my hon. Friend appreciates that we need to reduce the bill of housing asylum seekers in hotels and that we need to look at different measures to accommodate them. Of course, I am very happy to engage with him, and I am sure the Home Secretary is too, to ensure we can find a satisfactory solution in his constituency that protects his constituents’ interests.

Q6. Last week, the coroner found that the cause of Luke Ashton’s suicide in April 2021 was gambling disorder. Immediately before his death, Luke, bombarded with inducements, placed over 1,200 bets. At no point did the operator intervene. From his previous brief, the Deputy Prime Minister will have extensive knowledge of the harm those inducements cause, so does he agree that the commitments to curb advertising and promotions in the gambling White Paper do not go far enough to reduce harm and prevent more tragedies like Luke Ashton’s suicide? (905818)

The hon. Lady will know from our conversations when I was Digital Secretary that I share her concerns about gambling inducements. Indeed, I pay tribute to her for her campaigning on this issue. I think we have a very good set of proposals in the gambling White Paper. That sits alongside the 2019 “NHS Long Term Plan” which committed to 15 specialist units across England by 2024 to support those with gambling addiction. I think we have good proposals in place.

May I draw the House’s attention to the fact that we have the Chief Minister of His Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar in the Gallery, Fabian Picardo? May I seek an assurance from the Deputy Prime Minister that, as the UK-EU negotiations on the border between Gibraltar and Spain continue, the sovereign, freely expressed opinions of the Gibraltarian people to remain British will be protected, as well as their security and economic interests?

I am very happy to give my hon. Friend, and indeed the First Minister of Gibraltar, exactly that assurance. This Government will always stand up for the people of Gibraltar and their right to determine their own future.

Q7. Sarcomas are cancers that can affect any part of the body, inside or outside, including muscles, bones, tendons, blood vessels and fatty tissues. Sarcoma is rare. In the UK, around 15 people are diagnosed every day and 5,300 a year, including in families in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney. Awareness is low and as this is Sarcoma Awareness Month, may I ask the Deputy Prime Minister to meet me and families affected so that we can discuss what more the Government can do to raise awareness and vital funds for research going forward? (905819)

I am very happy to give that commitment, I think probably best on behalf of Health Ministers. One of my colleagues in Downing Street who was a Prime Minister’s principal private secretary sadly died of that disease, so I have a great awareness of it and it is important that we continue to raise its profile.

Last week, as an alumni of Durham University, I had the pleasure of going to the installation of Dr Fiona Hill as its new chancellor. Dr Hill started in Bishop Auckland and could not afford a school uniform to go to the high school where she had a scholarship. She finished up working in the White House and is an example of social mobility. That is what she will be championing as the new chancellor. Will the Deputy Prime Minister encourage the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, my right hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) to work with me and the all-party parliamentary group for left behind neighbourhoods to do everything we can to support her?

I join my hon. Friend in relaying the Government’s congratulations to her. I will ensure the Secretary of State hears the representations he makes.

Q9. Universities in Cardiff and across the UK are home to world-leading research and innovation, but thousands of jobs and huge amounts of expertise are now at risk because of the Government’s dithering in the negotiations over Horizon. The Financial Times reported last week that Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel laureate and head of the Francis Crick Institute, described the delays as “absurd” and “damaging science and damaging the country”. Are the Government still committed to negotiating a deal? If they are, why do they not get on with it? (905821)

Since we agreed the Windsor framework we have had very constructive discussions on Horizon, but the difference between my party and the hon. Gentleman’s party is that we will not accept a deal at any price. We will wait until we get the best deal for the British people and British universities.

I am running a campaign called “A Year of Reasons to Visit the Moorlands”. Each week, for a year, I am focusing on one of the many reasons to visit the moorlands. So far I have included Hetty’s Tea Shop in Froghall, the Heaton House Farm wedding venue, some brilliant artists and Alton Towers, and this week is league club day. May I invite my right hon. Friend and you, Mr Speaker, to visit my constituency to see one of the reasons for yourselves?

I should be delighted to do so. I think that Hetty’s Tea Shop may be more my cup of tea than Alton Towers, but I am sure I can arrange a visit.

Q10. I think everyone in this House can recognise that my city of Dundee is a city to be proud of. It has world-leading universities, pioneering businesses and a determined SNP city council leading the way, and there is a real ambition to deliver for the future. We want to continue our journey, and the potential delivery of a world-class site for the Eden Project in our city will help to cement its reputation, bring further investment and jobs, and boost our local economy. Can the Deputy Prime Minister confirm that the UK Government will deliver on previous promises and finally commit to supporting capital funding for that project in my city? (905822)

I am a big supporter of the Eden Project, and I hope very much that we can have one in Dundee. Of course the United Kingdom Government always stand ready to support people in Scotland, and to support people in Dundee.

As the child of two NHS doctors, the sister of an NHS doctor and the wife of an NHS doctor, may I, too, say thank you to everyone who works in our NHS? Will my right hon. Friend send particular congratulations to the students at the new medical school at Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford, who will graduate as doctors in a couple of weeks? This is the first time we have ever trained doctors in Essex, and it has been hugely successful. Will my right hon. Friend meet me to discuss doubling the size of our medical school?

I am very happy to offer my sincere congratulations to those students, who thoroughly deserve their graduation ceremony. I know what a difficult course is required for someone to qualify as a doctor. Health Ministers would be happy to meet my right hon. Friend to discuss exactly that proposal.

Q11. One of my constituents, who was a first-year university student, tragically took his own life in May. He had signed a private sector tenancy for his next year’s accommodation, with his parents as guarantor. The tenancy includes a clause which states that the responsibilities of the guarantor are unaffected by the death of a tenant, and the lettings agency is disgracefully insisting on enforcing that abhorrent requirement. My constituents not only have to live with the devastating loss of their son, but face terrible financial hardship because of this cruelty. Will the Deputy Prime Minister support my call for the inclusion of a clause in the long overdue Renters (Reform) Bill to outlaw that practice and protect bereaved families? (905823)

What the hon. Lady has described sounds totally abhorrent, and I shall be very happy to look into the details and discuss what measures might be brought forward to address it.

At a time of record employment, an unemployment rate nearly half that of the EU average and strong inward investment, can my right hon. Friend explain why every single period of Labour government since the second world war has ended in economic failure, with sterling weaker and unemployment usually higher?

My hon. Friend is entirely right. I might add that Labour Governments also spend every last penny in the Treasury. I well remember the note saying that there was no money left when we entered government. We should never allow that to happen to the British people again.

Q12. Our absentee Prime Minister did not turn up for the Owen Paterson vote, he did not turn up for the Boris Johnson vote, he will not stand up to the MPs who called the Privileges Committee a kangaroo court, and yesterday he embarrassed himself by acting like a stroppy schoolboy in front of the Liaison Committee. With NHS waiting lists at a record high and the Tory mortgage penalty hitting my constituents hard, he has bitten off more than he can chew, has he not? (905824)

I am not sure that there was a question in that; I might respectfully say that it was a rant. I will proudly defend this Government’s record. We have grown the economy in the past two years faster than any other country in the G7, with record low levels of unemployment and fewer people in workless households, all of which would be put at risk if the Labour party ever entered power.

Point of Order

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is a shame that the Deputy Prime Minister has left, because this point of order refers to his appearance in the Chamber on 7 June, when he claimed that my party’s plan to invest £28 billion a year in green energy would add £1,000 a year “to everyone’s mortgage”. He made that claim a day after the Daily Mail reported that figure and said that it came from Treasury analysis.

However, the Treasury has admitted that the statistic does not come from official analysis. It was forced to make that admission to the UK Statistics Authority after that organisation demanded to know where the figure had come from. The UKSA told LBC that despite investigation, it had been unable to find any official source for the figure. Its spokesperson stated:

“We spoke to HMT and they have informed us the figure quoted is not based on any analysis produced by Treasury officials.”

The ministerial code, by which all Government Ministers must abide, states:

“It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.”

Mr Speaker, I would be grateful if you advised me how we can get the Deputy Prime Minister—who will be back next week—to correct the record.

May I say that you have absolutely put that point on the record, and I think you have made sure that it has been corrected for the record? I have no responsibility for this; the responsibility lies with a Minister to correct an error and to ensure that they do so, as you quite rightly say, at the earliest opportunity. I am sure that Ministers on the Treasury Bench have heard that, and I am sure that the Minister responsible will want to correct it ASAP.

Safety Cameras

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require the Secretary of State to publish revised guidance on the deployment, visibility and signing of speed and red-light cameras for traffic enforcement; to require that guidance to include amended site selection criteria for safety cameras, including a lower threshold for the number of collisions in which a person is killed or seriously injured; to require that guidance to provide for a process by which local communities can express support for the installation of safety cameras in areas of concern; and for connected purposes.

A 2007 circular from the Department for Transport recognised speeding as one of the

“most significant dimensions of unlawful, disorderly and dangerous road vehicle use”.

It provided key guidance on the use of speed and red light cameras for traffic enforcement to improve the safety of road users and pedestrians. It encouraged changes in driver behaviour, paved the way for local authority partnerships to support their communities and outlined criteria for site selection to help decision making regarding any new cameras.

I want to get ahead of the keen journalists in the Gallery and confess that I currently have three points on my licence for speeding, but I emphasise that I was caught by a camera and modified my behaviour—proving that cameras do, in fact, work.

Fifteen years on from the introduction of the guidance, speeding motorists are arguably the No. 1 local issue highlighted across Dewsbury, Mirfield, Kirkburton, Denby Dale and, I am told, many of my colleagues’ constituencies. Alongside the concerns that my constituents regularly raise, that is something I have seen myself, with the Dewsbury ring road in particular occasionally resembling an Indy 500 track.

Speeding became significantly more noticeable during the pandemic, when fewer people were driving, with some drivers taking advantage of the emptier roads to drive at reckless speeds. I pay tribute to West Yorkshire police for all the work it continues to do to keep our roads safe, but it cannot be everywhere at once, especially given the vast expanse of rural roads.

According to the current guidance, the primary objective of camera deployment is to reduce deaths and injuries on roads, with a study conducted by the London School of Economics finding that, from 1992 to 2016, traffic enforcement cameras reduced accidents by between 17% and 39%, while reducing fatalities by between 58% and 68%.

Since April 2009, the criteria for fixed and mobile camera deployment have been based on the number of accidents in which someone is killed or seriously injured, with a scoring system in which each KSI accident scores five points and each slight injury accident scores one point.

Sixty-five people died and more than 5,000 people were injured in collisions on the roads of West Yorkshire last year. The majority of these collisions were entirely preventable, with excessive or inappropriate speed being one of the most common factors in fatal and serious injury collisions. However, the guidance in West Yorkshire still requires at least three people to be killed or seriously injured within a three-year period—at least three people need either to die or suffer a serious collision, with potentially life-changing injuries—to satisfy just one of the criteria to install a speed camera. This means that at least three families need to have their lives changed forever before a preventive measure can be implemented.

Between 2017 and 2021, nearly 700 collisions were reported on roads in my constituency. Fifteen of those were on Liley Lane running through the middle of Lepton. According to the current list of speed cameras provided by West Yorkshire safety camera partnership, there are no fixed cameras covering that road. There were also 13 reported collisions on Huddersfield Road, running through Shelley and Skelmanthorpe. There are cameras on nearby roads, but apparently none covering the road itself.

The local community continues to highlight concerns to me regarding those roads. According to the local safety camera partnership,

“community concerns are one factor which may result in the use of a camera provided there is evidence of a collision history and/or traffic survey revealing speed limit violations meeting the required threshold. Local authorities will apply the criteria to determine whether the use of either fixed or mobile cameras is justified.”

Prevention is better than cure, so what is being done to support that?

As it stands, the 2007 circular appears keen to involve local communities concerned by the effect of high-speed driving in their area. However, in the guidance and on the partnership and local authority websites, there is no structured, signposted point of contact for communities to reach out to, so complaints are consequently being made to local councillors, the police and local MPs.

The creation of standardised points of contact, for local residents across the UK to highlight where speed cameras would be useful, would be a crucial step in ensuring our constituents are heard and kept safe. Rural communities notice and are most affected by speeding motorists, so it is vital that we create and implement an effective and straightforward channel they can use to encourage change.

I have therefore worked closely with community groups and village associations to understand and highlight the impact of dangerous driving in their area. Alongside highlighting the concerns of Shepley village association at Prime Minister’s questions last year, I have supported the campaigns of residents in Briestfield in Dewsbury and Upper Hopton in Mirfield to tackle speeding in their area by reducing the speed limit. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my team and the local councillors, who work hard to respond to these concerns and can then support the development of a coherent approach for local residents to highlight the issues publicly.

I have raised this issue in the House on multiple occasions. In September 2021, I highlighted the need to change the guidance, with the Department for Transport promising a redrafted form of the 2007 circular by the end of the year. I appreciate that much has changed over the past two years, but it would be fantastic if we could complete the redraft and implement a 2023 circular.

Finally, I want to assure colleagues that this Bill seeks not to give local authorities the green light—for want of a better phrase—to install as many cameras as they can as part of a revenue-generating scheme, but to reassure our constituents that they will be listened to and supported in making their communities a safe place to live, walk, cycle and enjoy. Speeding traffic puts everyone at risk, whether they live in a built-up town or a more rural village. We want our roads to be safe for everyone, but too often we hear about accidents or near misses where speed was a key factor.

I am introducing this Bill to bring down the points threshold, with a requirement for fewer serious accidents within the timeframe, and to establish a pathway for communities to petition for cameras, so that we can make sure that action is taken sooner and lives are saved. I hope Members from across the House can agree that the continuous improvement of road safety is crucial to all our constituents, and I commend this Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Ordered,

That Mark Eastwood, Jonathan Gullis, James Daly, Nick Fletcher, Kim Leadbeater, Shaun Bailey, Jane Hunt, Scott Benton, Ben Everitt, Jason McCartney and Katherine Fletcher present the Bill.

Mark Eastwood accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 November, and to be printed (Bill 342).

Estimates Day

[5th Allotted Day]

Department for Energy Security and Net Zero

Energy Infrastructure

[Relevant documents: Third Report of the Welsh Affairs Committee, Nuclear energy in Wales, HC 240; Second Report of the Welsh Affairs Committee, Floating Offshore Wind in Wales, HC 1182, and the Government response, HC 1405; First Report of the Welsh Affairs Committee, Grid Capacity in Wales, HC 218 incorporating HC 1092, and the Government response, HC 1063; Second Report of the Welsh Affairs Committee of Session 2021-22, Renewable energy in Wales, HC 439, and the Government response, HC 756.]

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That, for the year ending with 31 March 2024, for expenditure by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero:

(1) further resources, not exceeding £11,749,854,000, be authorised for use for current purposes as set out in HC 1383 of Session 2022–23,

(2) further resources, not exceeding £3,525,935,000, be authorised for use for capital purposes as so set out, and

(3) the sum authorised for issue out of the Consolidated Fund be reduced by £3,200,982,000.—(Andrew Bowie.)

It is a privilege to open this afternoon’s debate on energy infrastructure at the start of this estimates day. It is an important and timely topic for us to consider, and I am grateful to the Backbench Business Committee for selecting it. I am also grateful to the colleagues from both sides of the House, and from different parts of the United Kingdom, who are here this afternoon to participate.

Energy is the lifeblood of the global economy. The need for heat, light, and power is as old as humankind. In the intensely complicated, fast-moving and interconnected world we now live in, efficient infrastructure supplying reliable and secure sources of affordable energy is the critical means by which we sustain our living standards and basic security. For previous generations of policymakers, thinking about the affordability and reliability of our energy system was perhaps challenging enough, but in an age now when we better understand the far-reaching impacts of hydrocarbons on the atmosphere and our planet, and when threats to global energy supplies can cause sudden and devastating spikes in prices, the task of not just renewing but transforming our national energy infrastructure is monumentally important and difficult. It should be at the very forefront of debate in this place.

The twin challenges of energy security and net zero have come together in a potent way in recent years, and I welcome the way in which this Government have moved quickly to respond to the changing landscape. The energy security strategy paper, published in April 2022, highlighted the commitment to produce far more domestic energy. More recently, the Government’s blueprint for the future of our energy mix, “Powering up Britain”, published in April, clearly sets out how we plan to diversify, decarbonise and domesticate energy production by investing in renewables and nuclear.

Over the last two years, the Welsh Affairs Committee has undertaken several inquiries into different aspects of energy policy and infrastructure, as they relate to Wales. One might ask why the Welsh Affairs Committee is taking such an interest in energy, but it is simply because of the immense importance of energy to Wales and the Welsh economy. Wales is not only a consumer of energy, but a primary producer and a gateway for energy imports and exports. Furthermore, we recognise the potential economic opportunities that could accrue to Wales from future developments in renewable energy and nuclear energy.

Having completed an initial wide-ranging inquiry into renewable energy in July 2021, our Committee pursued three subjects in greater detail: grid capacity in Wales; nuclear energy in Wales; and floating offshore wind. In doing so, we were acutely conscious of the fact that none of that was particularly niche or specific to Wales. Indeed, much of the evidence we heard on all of those subjects has direct read-across to other regions and nations of the United Kingdom. In the time I have available, I would like to touch briefly on the key outputs of the three inquiries and highlight some ongoing challenges.

I commend the right hon. Gentleman for bringing this debate forward. As Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee, he is talking about Wales, but he also mentioned that all of the United Kingdom should benefit in this area. Will that be from the three options that he put forward or will it be from tidal energy, which we could do more on in Northern Ireland? Does he feel that when it comes to bringing forward a strategy for this House today, it is about what happens not only in Wales or England, but in Scotland and Northern Ireland? It is about what happens collectively, because we should all benefit. Therefore, a strategy has to come from this place, but it must be driven out to all the regions of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland collectively.

As ever, the hon. Gentleman is correct: we are one United Kingdom. Of course, on energy on the island of Ireland there are interconnections with the Republic, but with the changing nature of our energy system, the economic opportunities for investment, job creation and industrial renewal are enormous for all parts of the UK—for Northern Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland.

I wish to touch briefly on the key outputs of the three inquiries I mentioned. First, on grid capacity, we are talking about the network of power lines, pylons and interconnectors that transport electricity generated to areas of demand. That is a critical piece in the energy infrastructure puzzle, not just in Wales, but for all parts of the UK. The issue should keep Ministers awake at night, because it was clear from our inquiry that the entire way in which grid enhancements and new connections are delivered is not fit for purpose, given the imperatives of UK energy policy.

I recognise the steps that have been taken by the Government and the National Grid Electricity System Operator. With the appointment of Nick Winser as the UK’s first electricity networks commissioner, the Government are taking steps to address the challenges. However, if we think about the increase in the speed of delivery and consenting that is required if we are to see the renewal of our national grid in the way we need in the years ahead, we see that we need a much more significant step change in the pace of activity.

The right hon. Gentleman makes a good point there. One other issue to address is the plethora of zombie projects that are clogging up the system, which do not make it easy for anybody. Identifying them is not easy either—I do not pretend it is, but I wanted to bring that to his attention.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for bringing that to the House’s attention. There are currently about 200 GW of projects on the books. Many of those are zombie projects, as he describes them, that will not come to fruition and so are clogging up the system. The Government need somehow to get rid of those projects in order to focus on areas where we know there will be investment, and to encourage an anticipatory investment approach that will deliver the new infrastructure we need in a timely way. Otherwise, we will end up developing a renewable technology and a system able to generate clean energy, but we will not have the grid to get it where it is needed.

Secondly, on nuclear energy, our inquiry confirmed that there is a broad consensus between the UK Government and the Welsh Government on the role that nuclear should play in achieving the UK’s net zero targets and ensuring domestic energy security. The majority of our witnesses were in favour of new nuclear energy generation in Wales, and I am pleased to say that the Committee agreed that nuclear energy has a strong role to play in a mix of low-carbon sources.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Virginia Crosbie) for the role she played on the Committee, as well as in her capacity as a constituency MP, in championing nuclear energy for Ynys Môn. There has been no more energetic and active Member of Parliament for Ynys Môn that I can remember—she has done a great job in championing her constituency. Our report carries and reflects much of the positivity that my hon. Friend brought to the subject.

We heard strong evidence about the suitability of the Wylfa site on Ynys Môn for a new gigawatt-scale reactor. In fact, we do not believe that the Government will meet their targets for increasing nuclear power without building that large-scale nuclear plant at Wylfa. We recognise the progress that the Government have made in establishing Great British Nuclear and bringing forward the regulated asset base model for securing investment in new nuclear. However, despite that positive progress, a new nuclear power station at Wylfa in north Wales is not in the bag.

When I was in Government 10 years ago, we championed a new nuclear power station at Wylfa. Ministers were sent for photo opportunities there and to meet potential investors, but it did not happen. I know that the community in Ynys Môn, represented by my hon. Friend, feels disappointment because it has had its hopes raised and dashed in the past. We do not want that to happen again, so I implore the Minister to hear the arguments about Wylfa. I know he feels passionate about the subject and will discuss these issues with Government colleagues.

Did any of the witnesses point out the eye-wateringly high cost of new nuclear, as well as how painfully slow the process will be, given the amount of time it will take for it to be up and running? With the best will in the world, it is unlikely that there will be a new big nuclear power station until the early 2030s. Given the Government’s own target to decarbonise the electricity supply by 2035, nuclear will be unable to play much of a part in helping us to achieve that.

The hon. Lady makes a good point. Investment in large-scale nuclear, or even small modular reactors, is a longer-term feature of our energy system, as the Government’s “Powering up Britain” report recognised. In fact, the Government’s targets for increasing nuclear are for 2050, not 2030.

On the cost of nuclear, yes, those points were made to the Committee. We made sure that we had an evidence session to hear from Friends of the Earth and others who are opposed to nuclear per se. We heard their strong arguments about their belief in an energy system entirely comprising of renewable and power storage technology in the future, but we also heard strong evidence that the technology for that does not yet exist. We have to stay in the real world, so nuclear, which has been tried and tested over the long term as a provider of cheap and reliable power, is an important part of our future energy mix, in conjunction with other energy sources.

I was going to make a similar point to that made by the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas). The right hon. Gentleman is talking about not relying on future technologies, but SMRs are future technologies—he has admitted that they use technology that does not exist at the moment. How much does he estimate one large-scale new nuclear plant will cost, and how much would a fleet of SMRs cost, if they come to fruition?

I am going to disappoint the hon. Gentleman, because I do not have those specific figures in the pile of notes I have brought with me. However, those figures are out there and the evidence is there. He is right that small modular reactors are a technology for the future and testing is still required, but that work is going on, and not just in the UK but in other countries. It will be a technology for the future, so there is no point in us putting our heads in the sand and wilfully pretending otherwise. I believe it will be a technology for the future, but a lot will depend on future costs.

Particularly on estimates day, are we really “putting our heads in the sand” when that technology is simply the most expensive? In considering Government expenditure, should we not be looking for a technology that produces clean energy and is the least expensive, not the most expensive?

The evidence we considered took in the entire life cycle of a nuclear power station. Looking at the energy produced over 30, 40, 50 or more years shows that they give us a secure, reliable base load of affordable energy production. People who oppose nuclear per se will not be persuaded on cost or on the efficiency of the technology; they will not be persuaded at all.

However, the bulk of the evidence that the Committee received supported the analysis made not only by the UK Government, but by the Welsh Labour Government in Cardiff, which shared the view that nuclear power will be an important part of the mix. In debates about energy, people sometimes sound like football supporters, cheering for just one team. In truth, we need a blended basket of different energy sources to help provide energy security through a systematic approach. I believe nuclear has a significant role to play in future energy production.

The right hon. Gentleman talks about the long-term future for nuclear, and I agree, but surely the small modular reactors that we are currently looking at are not revolutionary technology; they are submarine engines. Rolls-Royce at Derby assured us that, with an order, it could have one up and running in five years.

We took evidence from Rolls-Royce, and we heard about the £200 million it has already received from the UK Government to help with development and that there is still work to be done. I know Ministers will be acutely aware of the cost and that there are other potential British providers of SMR technology. I confess that I am not expert enough on the precise details of SMRs to debate them this afternoon, but our report, alongside work undertaken by other parliamentary Committees, supports a potential role for SMRs in the future.

Having said that we should not sound like football supporters, just chanting for one energy source, let me come to the third report we produced, about floating offshore wind. I feel passionate about this subject as it represents an exciting opportunity for the United Kingdom, particularly for those of us on the western side of the British Isles. Floating offshore wind technology enables the deeper waters of the Celtic sea to be opened up for the first time. When turbines are further offshore, they can be larger and can harness greater wind power loads, representing an exciting clean energy opportunity, and not just for Wales but for south-west England and other parts of the UK.

I am pleased that the UK Government have an ambitious target to deliver up to 5 GW of floating offshore wind by 2030, with an acceleration anticipated thereafter. The Crown Estate, which owns the seabed, has a separate target for deploying floating offshore wind in the Celtic sea, which we welcome. However, we need stronger, more ambitious and longer-range targets, in order to send a strong and confident signal to developers and investors that we are in this for the long term; that there is a long-term plan to open up those waters to what will be a large-scale industrial opportunity.

One reason I am passionate about the new energy technology of floating offshore wind is because it has particular importance to my constituency in west Wales. The port of Milford Haven, in the heart of my constituency, has a rich energy heritage. It was built initially on whale oil, which was imported to power new street lamps in the urbanisation of London and Birmingham in the 19th century. In the mid and late 20th century, we had oil refining and imports of crude oil and petroleum products. Twenty years ago, we had the investment in imported liquefied natural gas, which has proved to be incredibly important in keeping the lights on in recent years.

The next wave of energy investment that we can see will be in floating offshore wind. That does not mean that we say goodbye to the many hydrocarbon companies based in Milford Haven; they are making great strides to decarbonise and change the way that they operate. It just means that an additional wave of investment is coming, which is very exciting.

There is a rare opportunity, not just for west Wales but across the whole south Wales industrial corridor, based around floating offshore wind and, potentially, hydrogen, for creating many new jobs and for renewing port communities and other areas of deprivation. That is why I was so pleased to work closely with the hon. Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock)—he is not in his place today—on the bid for the Celtic freeport, which we saw as an important first step in unlocking investment into these clean energies.

The next step on which we are hoping for a positive Government reply is the floating offshore wind manufacturing investment scheme. Bids have already come in from south Wales. We need that additional bit of Government funding, again, to strengthen the signal to developers and port owners that they can start spending the money to get us ready for this new, exciting industry of floating offshore wind.

Before I close, let me flag up a few concerns that I have over the potential risks for this new industry, which I would like the Government to hear. First, there is a concern about the leasing process. The Crown Estate provided an important market update to the industry yesterday. I am pleased that it recognised that, if we are to create a genuine new home-grown industry with floating offshore wind here in the UK, with that local content and the local jobs, and not do what happened with fixed-bottom offshore wind, where so much technology was imported from overseas, then at the leasing round the Crown Estate needs to build in some strong commitments on the part of the developers for investing in local communities and local supply chains. I hope that the Government will be committed to ensuring that the Crown Estate is given all powers possible to hold the developers’ feet to the fire to make sure that, when they do bid for these leases, they follow through on those investment commitments to the local communities.

My second concern relates to contracts for difference, which have been incredibly important in stimulating investment in renewables. We have had four rounds of CfDs already. It was very disappointing for me that, as far as I am aware, there was no floating offshore wind technology bid in the fifth round. There was a general consensus that the strike price and those CfDs were not enough to stimulate the investment, with the enormous increase in cost that developers have faced in the past 12 months. I hope that the Minister will take that point away and discuss it with colleagues in his Department and in the Treasury.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that contracts for difference have been vital for offshore wind, putting constituents such as mine at the forefront of global offshore wind technology operations and maintenance?

I do agree, yes. I made the point earlier that, with fixed-bottom offshore wind, we perhaps missed some opportunities for getting investment in local supply chains, but that is changing too. I recognise that, on the east coast of England, there are some exciting investment plans and jobs being created by large-scale developers. We want that and more for this new industry of floating offshore wind that we hope to see in the Celtic sea. I know that floating offshore wind will also be important in Scotland.

I have two more concerns to flag up, Madam Deputy Speaker, and then I promise to wrap up. One is about skills. It is difficult to find a skilled welder in south Wales at the moment, because so many of them are working on the enormous project at Hinkley Point. I read the other day that around one third of all the currently qualified welders in the country are due to retire by, I think, 2028. There is an enormous need for greater investment in apprenticeships and those technical skills that we will rely on if we are to see anything like the transformation in our energy infrastructure that we are talking about this afternoon. It will require steel fixers, welders, pipe fitters, brickies and carpenters and all those trades, which have been devalued by the political class—all of us here—in the past 20 or 30 years, and we need to see that turned around and jobs being properly rewarded.

The final point is about planning consent. If we are to see the scale of investment that is required—whether in grid capacity, the deployment of turbines, offshore or onshore, or any other aspect of this renewal of energy infrastructure—we will need to see quick, timely approvals and for those approvals to be done properly by planning authorities. I do not see many planning authorities with the skills and resources required to be able to handle the volume and the technical detail of the kind of applications that will be forthcoming. There is a real need for the Government, and for us in Wales—it is the primary responsibility of the Welsh Government—to think about how we resource planning authorities for the future.

In conclusion, I thank the Backbench Business Committee for the opportunity to bring forward this debate. It is an exciting and challenging time for energy infrastructure across the UK. We see many reasons to be optimistic, while also recognising the scale of the challenges ahead. However, if we are to succeed in this, it will not be by marching on to the streets and stopping traffic, or by retreating off grid and living in some rewilded seclusion; we will do it through good science and good engineering, and with good policy and ambitious leadership from Government, which I hope is where the Minister comes in.

That was an unnerving cheer from the Minister on the Front Bench. Luckily, I know him personally.

I am honoured to follow the Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee. He has raised a whole lot of issues with which many Members will agree. Of course, there will be disagreements, but that is the nature of energy, which is so vast, and where the task ahead of us is so huge. There are challenges ahead. The right hon. Gentleman touched on skills and the volume of people that we will need. The point he made about the number of welders reaching the age of retirement is critical. We have ambitions to do things not just in Wales, Scotland or the UK, but globally, and they are happening simultaneously as the world reacts to the commitments that were made at COP in Paris. There is a volume of people that is needed and skills that are required. Over and above the training of people, which has been mentioned, the Home Office has an important part to play as well, because we will inevitably need skills coming from other countries. We do not want the Home Office, which has blocked such things in the past and been very damaging to the UK economy on several fronts, doing its worst. It must realise that it, too, has a huge part to play in what will be the challenges over the next number of years.

Recently, I met representatives from the National Grid, who told me that by 2030 they hope to do five times the amount of work that has been done in the past 30 years. That is quite a volume of work and quite a demand through the energy system, putting a lot of pressure on many people—at local level, planning level, Government level and Home Office level. It involves training people, encouraging people in schools to come forward, and, in a number of places, retraining people as well.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is also an important role for further education and university technical colleges? Members from across the House met young people and staff from UTCs earlier today and it was inspiring to hear what these young people were saying about their ambitions for the future. Does he agree that the technical education sector has a lot to offer?

The hon. Gentleman is correct: the technical education sector has a lot to offer and Government must ensure that the funding is available for that training. We know that people are needed. If they show willing to come forward to be trained, they should have every support from Government to achieve that.

Touching on the supply chain, I think since the bronze age about 700 million tonnes of copper have been mined, and in the next 30 years, some people say, the same amount will have to be mined as has been mined in the last 5,000 years. That poses quite a challenge for the Earth’s resources and the ability to do that. It is not just mining; I am told that across the world, cable manufacturing is signed up until 2030 and the cable manufacturers are working full tilt to get those orders under way and to meet demand.

We have a huge problem in planning, and sometimes for justified reasons, but planning can take a lot longer than the construction of projects—sometimes twice the length of the construction. That is causing huge difficulties. Building the network is not really the biggest part of the story; planning the network becomes a bigger part.

Where energy infrastructure is built or where energy is generated, there will be a cost to some people. Can that be compensated with community benefits, job creation and other innovative ideas in communities? I know in my own constituency, Tolsta Community Development provides free driving lessons for young people. It is quite an innovative idea, but all the young people in North Tolsta on Lewis get the opportunity for free driving lessons, and there is money at Christmas and what-have-you. There are a number of innovative things that can make infrastructure more palatable to certain communities who have to carry the burden—because that burden will be disproportionate in some places.

Ofgem is a huge area of difficulty. I recall many years of trying to get Ofgem to consent to a 600 MW link to the outer Hebrides while Ofgem was digging its heels in for 450 MW. That went on and on, and then one morning we woke up and Ofgem was talking about 1.8 GW, and we had to go back to the drawing board again and make the case to Ofgem for the whole thing at 1.8 GW rather than 600 MW. It has been said to me, in my new role chairing the Energy Security and Net Zero Committee, that perhaps Ofgem needs a statutory duty for net zero. That might free up Ofgem’s hands to do a number of things, because it often feels quite constrained in its remit from Government. People go to Government and try to get something changed and they say, “Well, it’s an Ofgem issue.” People can end up bouncing between the two—I am seeing nods from certain people in certain corners, although I will not point the finger too directly.

Ofgem really needs to be looked at because, while the Government often talk about market forces, the biggest force in the market is most often the Government. They have a huge role to play, especially in energy and in guiding Ofgem and changing Ofgem’s remit to bring all those things into play. I spoke to the Energy Networks Association yesterday, which told me that time is not on our side for much of this work. We can see the evidence in recent months that the climate is oscillating unusually —we know it is. If we are going to get things done, we need to get rid of the grit that is often in the ointment.

Another area that I came across recently when speaking to the chief executive of Centrica and other people involved in the energy space is hydrogen. I am sure this will be debated, but people say that the UK has been second or third on other technologies, letting Denmark and others take the lead on wind, for example. There is an opportunity here to really move for hydrogen, and some estimates suggest there could be 1.5 million jobs in hydrogen. It is a big sector; it needs to be given time and space and a Government commitment. People within energy are telling me they are concerned that those commitments might be weakening. That is not something we want to see happening at all, especially given that the Government missed the boat on many technologies.

I will end on the role of smart meters and demand. Since the Ukraine war and the energy pinch, we have seen a change of behaviour in a number of countries. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) for pointing out yesterday that Germany has decreased its gas demand by about 22% through changes in behaviour. The Government have another part to play in demand management, which can be as simple as public information campaigns letting people know what they can do to change, or what industry can do to change, and helping ensure that we use energy less wastefully and more efficiently.

We must also remember vulnerable consumers and people who need energy more. Someone who is at home and disabled will be using energy more than other people. Smart meters can have a huge role in helping with demand management, but there is an issue for Government—I am sure the Minister will look at this further—on whether GDPR is an impediment to improving demand management and helping people more widely.

On this energy estimates day, we have to look forward and hope the Government are listening, working with people and taking the best advice—

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way; I was trying to work out where his semicolon was going to come. I am very glad he raised the issue of demand reduction. Does he agree that the Climate Change Committee’s latest progress report is pretty damning when it says that installations of energy efficiency measures are still well below what is needed and, shockingly, fell even further last year? Does he also agree that when it comes to reducing demand, the Government should be setting out a local authority-led, street-by-street home insulation programme that would get people’s bills down? That is what would guarantee energy security, rather than the kind of measures we are seeing from this Government, such as more oil licences.

Yes, one of the Climate Change Committee’s main bullet points has been lack of urgency from the Government. As Lord Deben’s Committee said:

“Pace should be prioritised over perfection.”

I am sure there is not—

The hon. Lady says from a sedentary position that there is not perfection either. This is the space of politics and debate, but there has been an awful lot of learning, with many august committees and people who have been experts in this area for a number of years saying some fairly robust things. I hope the Government will take that on board and react to it so that the next report is less robust and more positive.

Order. A little reminder to Members that if they intervene on another Member, it is courteous to stay until the end of their speech. Sometimes people have to be reminded of that.

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate. I take this opportunity to thank the Department for its work throughout the year. During that time it has introduced our flagship energy bills support scheme, which gave every household £400 off their energy bills at a time when the price of energy had increased massively. That was not the only cost of living measure that the Department spearheaded; further to that scheme, the Government also put in place the energy price guarantee to cap household energy bills at £3,000.

At a time of significant inflationary pressures within the economy, that flagship programme continues to help customers with their day-to-day expenditure. On the other hand, Labour and SNP proposals would leave the UK reliant on Russian gas and hand British jobs over to Russian workers, with 90,000 highly skilled workers losing their jobs almost overnight if the Opposition got their way. This Government, however, have invested in energy efficiency upgrades and low-carbon heating, including £152.7 million for the west midlands alone.

I also take this opportunity to mention standing charges. While it is hugely welcome that the energy price cap has been reduced, I am concerned to see that standing charges remain unchanged for now. Consumer expert Martin Lewis has rightly pointed out that high standing charges will lead to an unfair distribution of savings now that the price cap has reduced. The effect will be that households who limit their energy usage will see a smaller percentage saving than those who use more energy.

Households will be limiting their energy usage for a variety of reasons. While lower-usage households usually have a lower income, many households are also cutting their usage to reduce their household emissions. It cannot it be right that those who are doing the responsible thing and limiting their usage do not get to see a fair saving under a reduced price cap. Mr Lewis published an article just yesterday calling for a fairer split between standing charges and unit rates, which would allow those households who are taking steps to cut their usage to keep more of their hard-earned money and enable us to offer a greater financial incentive to those looking to reduce their energy usage.

However, it is not just households being stung by high standing charges. Businesses in my constituency have been struggling with the level of those charges for a while, even in cases when they have been using little or no energy for buildings not in use. During a visit to Robert Hopkins Environmental in West Bromwich last year, I was shocked to hear about the eye-watering standing charges the company was paying on units that were using very little energy, if any. It cannot be right that households and businesses continue to be liable for those extravagantly high standing charges, given our need to reduce energy consumption in response to the threat of climate change. I hope that Ministers will investigate that to ensure that my constituents, and businesses, are given a fair deal.

In 2022, my right hon. Friend, now the Prime Minister, announced that he was cutting VAT from 5% to 0% for the installation of energy efficient systems such as solar panels, heat pumps and insulation. That is great for businesses in my constituency, but we can do more to remove red tape. Businesses tell me that applying for planning permission is complicated, long-winded and possibly completely pointless. There may be more we can do to streamline that to incentivise those methods further.

Andy Street has pointed out that we have to do more and that we in the west midlands are leading the way on these issues. He has rightly pointed out that one in 10 west midlands companies are now spending more than 20% of their turnover on energy costs—many such businesses are on high fixed-rate deals signed last autumn. Households have seen a reduction in their bills and we must now look to regulator Ofgem to ensure that suppliers are being fair with business customers. I welcome any action that the Government can take to ensure that that happens.

The UK has continued our strong record of tackling climate change as a world leader in net zero policies. Through our support of new renewable technologies and nuclear power, we are well on the way to delivering on our commitment to decarbonise our power generation by 2035. On top of that, we have led the international community in accelerating the global effort to tackle climate change. The COP26 Glasgow summit showed how, with strong British leadership and co-operation with our partners across the globe, we have a plan not only to limit the rise in global temperatures but to help developing countries, which are the least well equipped to deal with the consequences and are often the worst affected. Furthermore, the Government co-ordinated an international agreement to phase out subsidies for oil, coal and gas, and produced a UK-wide plan to increase the supply of renewable sources of energy production.

In my constituency, Enfinium is building a new energy-from-waste facility. It will, when it opens in 2025, process nearly 400,000 tonnes of waste to generate electricity and power more than 95,000 homes and businesses every year. On top of that, my constituents will benefit from the 400 jobs created as a result of the £500 million investment in the site. Enfinium is also planning to turn the site into a net zero hub to use new groundbreaking technologies to make the west midlands a leading region for net zero. I agree with Mayor Andy Street, who visited the site earlier this year and said it will

“be at the heart of the region’s goal to reach net zero by 2041.”

That is exactly the type of innovation that can, and will, revolutionise the way in which we generate power. It has the double benefit of feeding electricity back into the grid and getting rid of residual waste, and ensuring that the by-products are used in industries such as construction, resulting in very little waste and the power generation that all our lives depend on. Projects such as that and others in the wider west midlands, including the Coventry and Solihull Waste Disposal Company plant, are extremely encouraging and present us with material opportunities for a reliable energy generation solution.

Another west midlands example is Sherbourne Recycling’s new state-of-the-art recycling plant for processing low-grade plastics in the recycling stream. That highly automated plant makes use of robots and artificial intelligence to deal with 47.5 tonnes of recyclables per hour, with the ability to process 175 kilotons of recycling from domestic and commercial sources every year. That is another wonderful illustration of the way in which collaboration with the private sector can lead to optimal business and environmental outcomes.

Andy Street has led efforts to meet the combined authority’s ambition to be net zero by 2041. As well as support for energy-from-waste facilities, including the sites that I have mentioned, there are plans to invest in hydrogen power and carbon capture across the region, which will transform the way we deal with climate change and produce our power. I am encouraged by the Government’s commitment to invest in the technologies of the future. I look forward to seeing the positive results in lower energy bills for my constituents and a cleaner, greener environment for us all to enjoy.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for West Bromwich East (Nicola Richards). I particularly enjoyed her remarks about standing charges, with which I wholeheartedly agree.

I will focus on carbon capture and storage. If we accept that we cannot all cheer for one individual football team, and that there is a need for many different energy producers on the pitch, we have to deal with carbon capture and storage to meet our net zero targets and decarbonise in the way we need to. I realise that many of us would like to move more swiftly towards green energy production but, if we are honest and realistic, we must accept the need for a mix that includes carbon capture and storage. I have severe concerns about the pace and scale of investment into that industry, particularly in the Humber industrial cluster.

For Members who are not aware, the Humber industrial cluster is the biggest carbon emitter in the country because of all the energy-intensive industries that we have there. Back in March, when the Government made their announcement about carbon capture and storage, not a single project in the Humber gained assent, despite that cluster being the biggest carbon emitter. The Government are saying that there will be a new process—the enhanced track 1 process—but, when 80% of the carbon storage facilities are off the east coast and accessible from the Humber, it seems rather illogical not to approve a project in the Humber. That does not make sense for the international businesses that are there, and that is the point.

These international businesses have investments in the US, Norway and Germany. Their boards are not looking particularly at the UK as the place they want to be. They are making an international investment decision. The feedback that I am getting from those different companies is that they are now looking to invest elsewhere. Collectively, those companies are willing to put about £15 billion of private investment into that technology in the Humber. They are saying that the indecisiveness—and the shock and horror that not one of their projects was approved—means that their boards are saying, “Hang on. Why are we looking to invest in the UK when we can go ahead in Germany or Norway, and the US is giving us incentives to carry out work there?” That is extremely worrying for the Humber because, to return to my earlier point, it is the biggest carbon-emitting region in the UK. If we cannot have a solution for the Humber, we cannot have a solution anywhere else.

The east coast cluster track 1 application, of which the Humber was a part, was perhaps not the best way to go. We have the track 1 extension, as well as track 2, where we have very good bids. That will bring that investment. Does the hon. Member agree that we must ensure that the right projects get the go-ahead?

It might be worth talking to the companies involved. They are telling me that the indecisiveness means that they might not be looking at the UK as a market to invest in any more.

For Members who are not intimately involved in what is going on in the Humber, there are two possible pipelines out to the North sea: one from Easington on the north bank, and one further along on the south bank. We are looking at both for carbon storage. In my opinion, we need to approve both projects because of the amount of carbon that the Humber emits, but as it stands, neither has been approved by the Government. The companies have not yet been given a fixed timetable on when the Government will see that through.

At oral questions earlier this week, the Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero told me that the Viking project was the “favoured” option, but when I speak to those companies, they say that they have not been told, “This is going ahead, and we are going to fulfil it—go for it.”

The hon. Member is being generous in giving way. I talk with those businesses weekly and that is not the information that I am getting at all. The deadlines are being discussed. Perhaps she and I need to speak so that we can get the full picture, because I think I have a fuller picture than she might have at the moment.

As it stands, the Government have not approved any of the carbon capture and storage projects for the Humber. They approved one for Teesside back in March, but they have not approved any for the Humber. The information that they are giving out is that they will do so “in due course” and that we will “hear shortly”, which is not the same as actually approving a project.

France, Germany, Hungary and Norway are all moving ahead. Those international companies are making decisions now. Those in the Humber face the real possibility of carbon capture and storage infrastructure not being in place in time, in which case they will have to cease operations. These companies will then begin to move to countries where carbon capture and storage is available. Those looking for a place to invest and meet their targets will not choose the UK. Once we miss this opportunity, they are gone forever. For example, the companies are already signing 20-year contracts with Norway.

Without that infrastructure in the Humber, we will not meet our net zero target. According to the independent Climate Change Committee, the 2030 CCUS and hydrogen targets are essential to meeting that target. The UK has one third of Europe’s geological storage and the infrastructure and expertise from gas and oil companies. We have that huge advantage, but it is not enough.

The main message that I want to put across to Government is that investors and companies need certainty. They need to see unwavering commitments and action from Government. Instead, the outside world sees a slow and piecemeal bidding process that results in the UK’s largest industrial cluster being excluded from the first round.

The decision that was made in March was already delayed by nine months because of the political chaos in Government. These companies are already putting in millions of pounds-worth of investment—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Hyndburn (Sara Britcliffe) can shake her head all she likes, but I recommend that she goes to speak to these companies. They are telling me that jobs are at risk in the Humber and that the decision was delayed because of the political chaos in Government. Those are the facts. The Government’s indecision is resulting in £15 billion of private investment being put at risk along with the Government’s ability to meet their net zero target. Those are the facts, whether she likes them or not.

Our international reputation is being permanently damaged. When I talk to these companies, they tell me that they no longer trust the UK Government and the UK Government’s ability to keep a promise and fulfil their commitments. That international reputation is essential if we want international investment from those companies.

My hon. Friend is making a very powerful and informed speech. She will be aware of the INEOS project, with Denmark, to have a carbon capture and storage facility off the Danish coast to take Belgian emissions. Does she agree that we are getting behind in the race to be able to provide and support that sort of project in the future?

Absolutely. The UK is unique in wishing to have a bidding process. In the USA, if a company says that it can reach the target needed for carbon capture and storage, that project is approved. In the UK, we have a bidding process instead, which means that companies have to invest money in entering the process to begin with, without the knowledge or certainty that they will be approved, even if they can evidence the gains in carbon reduction.

The least that the Humber needs is clarity. When does the Minister expect to move forward with track 2? The track 2 decisions on transport and storage need to be announced alongside decisions on key capture sites in the Humber, with confirmation—this is crucial—that the pipeline will run from the Endurance aquifer to the Humber, as was originally set out for the east coast cluster. Any further delay would risk the viability of the projects.

The good news is that, if the Government give certainty to these industries—if they meet them and provide them with the security and certainty that they need to invest—77,000 new jobs could be created in the Humber, and an industry worth £30 billion in taxable revenue could be there by 2050. That will happen only if the Government provide certainty to investors and move quickly and decisively to get all the UK’s carbon capture and storage capability on-stream ahead of our competitors. This is a one-off opportunity and the Government are dangerously close to blowing it.

Before I begin, I would like to say llongyfarchiadau—congratulations—to my right hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) for putting forward the application for a debate on energy and net zero and energy infrastructure. He is a proud champion for Wales in this place.

I express my thanks to the Department for pledging an extra £790 million to the budget for net zero. Time is of the essence when it comes to cutting emissions, and for me and my constituents on Ynys Môn, this is a very welcome step in the right direction. That spending on energy infrastructure could not have come at a more crucial time. As we are all well aware, investing in the energy transition is the best shot we have at creating a low-carbon, high-growth economy. It will enable every corner of the UK to remain at the forefront of global innovation and re-industrialisation.

I think we can all agree that the energy transition will require significant investment from the private sector and, with the right policies, this will pay back our local communities in spades. Last year, net zero attracted more than £50 billion of new investment in our low-carbon sectors and it will be worth a whopping £1 trillion to British businesses by 2030.

People would be hard-pressed to think of anywhere that symbolises the opportunities and benefits that the energy transition can bring more than Wales. She embodies it both in her landscape and her people. Her coalfields formed the backbone of British industry, mined for over 100 years by hard-working Welshmen like my grandad.

Limiting Wales’s contribution to British energy in the time since to coal alone would be to do her a disservice. Ynys Môn houses a wealth of projects that bring investment and highly skilled, well-paid jobs to her residents. The Morlais wave project will harness the tremendous tidal potential off Anglesey’s coast to produce enough clean, low-carbon electricity for five times its population. Holyhead hydrogen hub and Minesto are also making great strides. The BP Morgan and Mona offshore wind farms even further out to sea symbolise Britain’s budding reputation as a global wind power player. Inland, Lightsource BP is scoping out proposals for a solar farm and battery storage facility adapted from an old oil terminal. Last but not least, the Wylfa nuclear power station generated clean, low-carbon, firm electricity for Britain’s grid for more than 40 years.

The UK has a long and proud record on nuclear power. The first commercial station in the world was opened by the late Queen Elizabeth II in Sellafield in 1956. We have one of the most respected safety regimes in the world. It is the gold standard against which other countries’ nuclear projects are measured. We must not forfeit our record on nuclear power. The Government’s stellar commitment to launching Great British Nuclear, as well as the construction of new plants at Sizewell and Hinkley, is warmly welcomed. Great British Nuclear will unlock exciting opportunities for the UK to become a world leader in small modular reactors and opens the door to new nuclear plants in incredible sites such as Wylfa.

We quite literally cannot afford to let opportunities to deploy more of this power slip through our fingers. This is our opportunity to produce clean electricity on British soil for British businesses and British people. New nuclear at Wylfa would enable Ynys Môn to cement herself as Britain’s energy island. Once called the breadbasket of Wales for its fertile farmland, Anglesey again has the opportunity to supply homes and businesses with vital fuel through her clean, home-grown electricity production. With all but one of our nuclear power stations going offline at the end of this decade, new nuclear at Wylfa would represent an opportunity for us to preserve our nuclear prowess and ensure secure supplies of electricity for decades to come.

As if all that was not enough, the most recent jewel in the crown of Anglesey’s low-carbon credentials is her newly announced freeport, which is expected to bring over 13,000 jobs and over £1 billion of investment to the island. I have campaigned hard for that in my time as the island’s MP, raising it more than 37 times here in the Chamber, and I am grateful to the UK Government for their vote of confidence in Ynys Môn.

But all of this—the wind, wave, solar, tidal, nuclear, hydrogen, free trade, jobs and investment—will amount to little if the grid infrastructure to support it is not there. New low-carbon energy will be choked if there is nowhere for it to go. We need to build more infrastructure in the next seven years than we have in the past 32.

If Anglesey is to embrace its energy island reputation, its wealth of potential projects cannot be bogged down in an endless planning process. The planning process for offshore wind farms often requires developers to submit more than 1,000 documents, including an environmental impact assessment made up of 10,000-plus pages. Sizewell C took more than 44,000 pages of planning documents to get approval. Laid out on the ground, that would be eight miles of paperwork.

Communities should be properly engaged and consulted on projects, but pushing endless amounts of paper is unlikely to deliver the energy transition that the public want and desperately need. Connections to the national grid also need to become much faster if we are to be in with a chance of competing in the global race for net zero investment. Projects are being given 10-year wait times for a grid connection, holding back private sector investment in the energy transition. Connection dates well into the 2030s are now common due to the length of the waiting list. If that goes on, the UK will not hit its targets and we will not decarbonise fast enough to bring down bills and secure our energy supplies.

However, the Government have made some really welcome progress on this issue. Giving Ofgem a net zero duty will encourage the system to upgrade and modernise, so that it can handle all the fantastic new low-carbon electricity we are going to generate. Capital expensing for renewable projects will cut the cost for developers to build the vital projects we will need to make electricity cheaper and more secure. We should make that tax cut permanent.

On top of that, I am very pleased about the launch of Great British Nuclear next Thursday—fittingly, at the Science Museum. It is a very welcome step towards showing the world that we are serious about recognising and rewarding the contribution that nuclear power can make to decarbonising our energy system and levelling up our communities. The best way to kick that programme off would, of course, be by granting Ynys Môn the opportunity to really knock our socks off by commissioning new nuclear at Wylfa, the best site in the UK.

I welcome the opportunity to scrutinise the Department’s spending. This Government have made bold commitments to the green industrial revolution, from which my constituents are directly reaping benefits, but barriers to delivery remain. I implore the Government to recognise the sense of urgency and consider those barriers in the coming year. Diolch yn fawr.

It has been an interesting debate so far, but there is no doubt that the pace at which we are getting to net zero is too slow. The recent report from the Climate Change Committee is very clear: it describes the Government’s efforts to scale up climate action as “worryingly slow”. The committee has lost confidence that the UK will reach its targets for cutting carbon emissions. That is an unacceptable dereliction of duty, and I worry that it is becoming increasingly normal to accept that we will not meet our climate change target of limiting the rise in temperatures to 1.5°C by 2050. Let us remind ourselves why that target is very important: if we do not stay within the 1.5°C limit, the permafrost will melt, releasing huge amounts of methane into the atmosphere. That would be irreversible—no amount of human effort would be able to stop it.

Let us not make the 2050 target something that we cannot reach. We must reach it—it is an absolute necessity that we do. I will not give way to people who will not follow the science, and who deny that evidence.

To reduce territorial emissions by 68% from 1990 levels, the UK must now quadruple its rate of emissions reductions outside the power sector. The CCC uses a variety of indicators to measure the UK’s progress in reducing emissions, and we are only on track on nine out of 50. Today’s debate focuses on energy infrastructure; even power, which has been the only success story so far when it comes to net zero, is now falling behind. We will miss the target of decarbonising the power system by 2035, which the Government should be very worried about. The CCC says that renewable electricity capacity is not increasing at the required rate. One of the biggest barriers is grid capacity: our unprepared infrastructure has left ready-to-make renewable projects waiting up to 15 years to connect to the grid. It is high time that the Government put their mind to those huge delays and create a regulatory system fit for the net zero challenge.

At times like this, we need more Government, not less. The prevailing laissez-faire attitude of hoping for the market to settle all our net zero challenges is no longer fit for purpose. The CCC has said that we could have mitigated the energy crisis if the Government had rapidly deployed onshore wind and solar power—here lies the hypocrisy. On the one hand, the Government say that they do not want to interfere with the market; on the other, they actively limit the onshore wind and solar industries. The de facto ban on onshore wind and a framework that does not create enough incentives for the solar industry have meant that people in the UK have paid far higher prices for the energy crisis than would otherwise have been necessary.

Offshore and onshore wind deployment has been slow, and solar is particularly off track. We need to deploy 4.3 GW of solar per year to meet our target of 70 GW by 2035, but last year only 0.7 GW of solar was deployed. On estimates days, we discuss Government spending, and the UK is clearly not spending enough on net zero. As Lord Goldsmith detailed in his resignation letter, the problem is that the Prime Minister is “simply uninterested”. [Interruption.] The Minister says “rubbish”. He will have the opportunity to respond in his speech, but I am very much talking about the facts.

The hon. Member is making a powerful case, and I thank her for it. The Secretary of State told me yesterday that ending new North sea oil and gas licences is, in his words, “bonkers policy”. Does the hon. Member agree that what is really bonkers is a Government subsidising oil and gas companies to drill more of the very thing that is destroying our planet, and handing billions in subsidies to the fossil fuel companies in the middle of a cost of living crisis?

I could not agree more. This is about creating level playing fields—at least for the renewable sector versus the oil and gas industry—but we do not even have that.

The US Inflation Reduction Act and the EU’s Net-Zero Industry Act will be transformative, and will incentivise huge investment in new renewable technologies and crucial net zero infrastructure.

I have already said that I will not give way, and I stick to what I have said.

The US plan will see nearly $400 billion provided in subsidies and tax credits to boost green infrastructure and manufacturing. The EU has announced a green industrial plan worth $270 billion. Even Canada, an economy smaller than ours, announced a package in March offering nearly £50 billion-worth of tax credits for clean technologies. What is the UK Government’s response? No meaningful new funding was announced on Energy Security Day, and the Chancellor has refused to match the ambition set out in the Inflation Reduction Act. In March, the Government cut £80 million for vital renewable projects from the contracts for difference budget. The UK’s budget for net zero does not come close to matching the ambition of our partners: we need to spend now to save money in the future. The country’s finances are already straining under the weight of Conservative Government incompetence, and the London School of Economics predicts that UK banks and insurers will end up shouldering nearly £340 billion-worth of climate-related losses by 2050 unless action is taken to curb rising temperatures and sea levels.

I have already said why it is so very important to get to net zero by 2050, not just for us in this Parliament but for future generations. If the Government continue to deny reality, we will miss out on the huge economic opportunities that net zero presents. The Government-commissioned review of net zero recognised that their tepid approach means that the UK risks losing out on green investment, and as we heard from the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy), there are many projects that could benefit from that investment. Employment could benefit, as could our tax revenues, yet the Government’s dither and delay and their tepid response to the climate emergency means that we are not only losing out on stopping carbon emissions, but losing out economically. If the public and private sectors do not invest now, we will turn our backs on investment that is potentially worth £1 trillion by 2030, as well as up to 480,000 new jobs by 2035.

We Liberal Democrats call on the Government to announce a £150-billion public investment programme to fire up progress towards net zero. Much of that money should be invested to support renewable projects such as solar and wind, as well as marine energy, about which we have not heard anything today. Our target is for at least 80% of the UK’s electricity to be generated from renewables by 2030, which is possible with the right investment and the right frameworks. We Liberal Democrats believe in incentivising not only businesses, but households, to invest in the green transition. That could and should include increasing the pitiful amount people are paid from the smart export guarantee, ensuring that those who invest in solar panels on their roofs get a fair return.

The climate crisis cannot wait. Penny-pinching now will lose us fortunes in the future: Government investment and the right Government policies and frameworks are needed to meet the climate change challenge. We need a Government led by a Prime Minister who is very much interested, rather than “simply uninterested”.

In September last year, I was lucky enough to go back to visit New Zealand, tone up my accent, learn about the All Blacks and all that sort of stuff. I went to the South Island only, and at the beginning of the trip I went through a tiny village in the north of the South Island called Appleby. In the early to mid-1870s, Appleby had a tiny school with four pupils. Looking at it as I went through, it probably still has a tiny school with four pupils. However, one of those four pupils in the early to mid-1870s grew up to be a man called Ernest Rutherford, the father of nuclear physics. So it always quietly amuses me that, despite that, New Zealand has a mind-numbing allergy to nuclear power. Fortunately for New Zealand, it can get away with it, because it has wind—plenty of it in the north of the North Island at the moment—as well as solar, geothermal and hydroelectric, and all in abundance, as well as a relatively small population.

We do not have that in the UK. For us, nuclear power will have to be a substantial contribution to our power source—perhaps as much as 40%, perhaps more. At the moment, nuclear provides only 19% of our current demand, so, sadly, we are starting from a low base. Of our 13 current reactors, all but one are to close, as I understand it, from 2030. This coincides with the anticipated launch of Hinkley Point C, while Sizewell C has planning permission, but is years away from providing power. Fortunately, the Government have started a little lateral thinking, and they are opening the doors to small modular reactors. A number of British or British-based firms lead the world in this area.

I find the area of nuclear power fascinating, but I have to admit, before I get any awkward technical questions, that this is putting a strain on my physics knowledge, because it is years out of date and I studied it only briefly at university. In the UK, traditionally we are looking at light water reactors, but I understand that we are also looking, and should be looking, at speeding up the process for advanced modular reactors. These, I understand, would be complementary to the other small modular reactors. I am led to believe that advanced modular reactor development should and could be funded by industry, actively supported by the Government, to move faster. These reactors, I am told, could come on stream early, thus filling the potential impending gap in our energy supply.

Of course, our golden gem, which is almost within the UK’s grasp, is the prospect of harnessing fusion, rather than fission. The research unit at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy near Oxford is probably leading the world in this field. Fusion energy sustainable technologies have to be the answer to supply a growing population in the UK and potentially globally—perhaps even New Zealand in time. Fusion energy produces no greenhouse gases, is inherently safe and provides virtually limitless fuels, while waste is minimal, so it fits all the criteria. Fusion will have a key role to play in the energy market of the future. I can recommend a visit and a guided tour of Culham: it is exciting. As I have mentioned, I must admit that it strained my ancient university lessons on physics and I struggled to keep up, but even with my limited knowledge, I could see that this has to be our energy saviour.

Culham is in the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority collection. While this is sensible in some ways, it does mean that it is within the chicken coop of civil service pay scales.

Sorry, but the hon. Gentleman came late to the debate, and I am just about to finish.

This, I believe, makes it difficult for Culham to attract and retain its highly important specialised staff. External attraction of staff must be expected: they are being drawn to and enticed away by other countries, which are chasing exactly the same target. In this situation—I hope the Government will take this point, and I know a number of Ministers have promised to look at it—the Culham pay deficit anomaly really should be sorted out urgently.

For those who are interested, the development and use of fission and ultimately of fusion nuclear power in the United Kingdom is really exciting at the moment. For a change, the United Kingdom is leading research and leading new development, and we are using this development ourselves, rather than, as we so often did in the past, passing it on to somebody else. This area is a development of which we can be patriotically proud.

I draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, as I chair the all-party parliamentary group on carbon capture, utilisation and storage. I would like to make a relatively short contribution directly related to the proposed carbon capture, utilisation and storage proposal for Teesside, which could drive huge investment in the area by offering direct access to carbon capture facilities and help sustain many of the businesses that face challenges to cut emissions further. My concern, on this estimates day, is that the Government may be short-changing not just the potential project on Teesside, but potential projects across the country. My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy) talked about the Humber, and I agree with her that, without a solution for the Humber, we do not have a solution for the UK.

However, I always say credit where credit is due, and the rapid expansion of offshore wind in recent years is something we can be pleased about, but that success was down to the right decisions at the right time to provide the necessary financial protections and business environment to unlock vast amounts of private investment. What we need now is the right action by Government to create a similar environment to unlock the billions of pounds of private sector investment that would follow with the creation of a carbon capture and storage facility, and that is investment in everything from clean power to new chemical plants, which would be able to plug directly into the system to have their emissions stored. Not just that, but the right project with the right supporting infrastructure will also help sustain many existing jobs and halt the exodus of firms that, due to increased energy costs and current carbon costs, find their business is no longer viable.

At Billingham in my constituency, we currently have the Mitsubishi Cassel works working towards final closure, with the loss of several hundred jobs. CF Fertilisers has ceased the production of ammonia just down the road, although I remain hopeful that at least that will restart if energy costs come down. For the record, that is the only remaining ammonia plant in the country, and CCUS would help ensure long-term production.

Yesterday at departmental questions, I raised the issue of the pipeline associated with the proposed Teesside CCUS project. I was concerned that the Government have changed their proposals considerably for the pipeline that BP is charged with developing. My comments are in no way critical of BP, but I am concerned that many businesses are being shut out of the project. Apparently, according to industrialists on Teesside, the proposed pipeline system will not connect CF Fertilisers and Kellas to the system, and it will not pass by the proposed £1.5 billion Alfanar sustainable aviation fuel plant. Is that because insufficient resources are being provided to what I thought was one of the Government’s flagship projects? When I asked the Minister for Energy Security and Net Zero, the right hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart), for an update on this very specific matter yesterday, he and the Secretary of State looked at each other with blank expressions on their faces, before there were a few sentences of general waffle about how committed the Government are to CCUS. Well, that simply will not do.

Are the Government really satisfied that there are sufficient resources in these estimates to achieve what needs to be done? If they are already cutting out parts of the Teesside project, how can investors be confident that the correct financial and business environment will be created to allow them to invest? Are the Government really prepared to lose not just existing proposed developments but many more by commissioning a project that falls short of what is needed?

On Teesside, we desperately need the assurance that will unlock the real potential of CCUS, not some sort of second-class project that will not meet the need. We have had too many false dawns for CCUS. I really believed that the Government were finally doing the right thing, but I can tell the Minister that confidence is starting to wane. I was delighted when some of the projects in my area were given the green light to move to the next development phase, but I am disappointed that the announcements missed out so many other projects. Those projects would have been financed by the private sector if only the Government had got their act together and created that necessary business environment.

The Government shortlisted 20 projects for CO2 capture but, as we know, none on the Humber was selected, and there were just three on Teesside. Now we have learned that the onshore CO2 collection pipework will not be built to the extent originally planned and will therefore not go to CO2 emitters CF Fertilisers and Kellas Midstream or pass the all-important aviation fuel plant I mentioned. There are also no plans for a spur to be built to the Wilton International site, which is also of concern because the chemical park has 200 hectares of freeport tax zone and is a prime site for direct foreign investment. My message to the Minister is that we need the onshore CO2 collection pipework to be built in full and as planned to enable those and other companies to capture their CO2, and so that companies wanting to invest in new plants that require CCUS facilities will come to Teesside, because we will be able to say that the CO2 pipework is in place, or is at least planned to be built soon.

However, none of that investment can be guaranteed any longer, and I am sure that the Minister will share my concern at the contents of the Climate Change Committee report, which states:

“we have been slow to react to the US Inflation Reduction Act and the EU’s proposed Green Deal Industrial Plan, which are now a strong pull for green investment away from the UK.”

One example in the report says that the Government have “no policy to deliver” on decarbonising the steel industry. I have also heard that a Chinese petrochemical complex is being equipped with CCUS, which means that we could easily lose our first-mover advantage in this area if we do not get on with this.

Will the Minister comment on claims that the North sea saline aquifer—the Endurance field—will initially not be able to take any more than the three projects-worth of CO2? I understand that that is disputed, but we need clarity. We need to build the onshore CO2 collection infrastructure in parallel with drilling more access points into the Endurance field. As the Minister knows, uncertainty is the killer of investment, and we have had no clear steer about what is happening, beyond learning that the onshore CO2 pipework roll-out is more limited than expected.

The recent Skidmore report describes the

“prize on offer to UK industry”

and says:

“It is essential that the UK acts quickly and decisively. There is a new global race to maximise the growth potential from net zero at a time of wider geopolitical uncertainty. We are now at a crunch point where the UK could get left behind.”

The private capital is there, but it needs to be released. Ministers need to act. They need to ensure that they have sufficient committed expenditure in these estimates to do the whole job—not just on Teesside but across the country. Failure to do so will leave the UK lagging behind on CCUS. We will see current investment proposals withdrawn and end up with a project so limited that it will fail to deliver the huge potential benefits to Teesside and the rest of the country.

On Friday I found myself, rather unusually as the Member of Parliament for Peterborough, on a site visit to Cambridge. However, I want to reassure my constituents that I was talking at the Welding Institute in Cambridge about a project that could benefit the city of Peterborough. At that meeting, I promised that I would try to raise that project at the earliest opportunity, so I am thrilled that I have the opportunity to raise it in this estimates day debate, as well as to scrutinise the Department’s spending.

I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) for securing this important debate, because there is an opportunity and an immediate need for the UK to accelerate its transition towards a greener, low-carbon economy, which will drive productive growth in new industries and technologies. Partners in Peterborough, including Peterborough City Council, the mayoral combined authority, Anglia Ruskin University and key businesses, are developing their case for a high-growth energy cluster at the new university campus on Peterborough’s river embankment. The cluster, which is the culmination of a 10-year plan to transform the local economy, will platform technology-focused foreign direct investment in the UK to drive growth in the green economy and address some of the most challenging obstacles in the international community’s transition to new energies.

The ambition is to create a new research institute—the global innovation centre for energy transition—to attract large global energy production companies, including Shell, BP and ADNOC, as well as a consortium of domestic industrial high-energy users and foundation industries such as steel, glass and concrete producers, to develop the new technologies needed for the safe transmission, distribution and use of hydrogen in industrial and domestic applications. The ecosystem created will also focus on related technologies for the storage of hydrogen and CO2, as well as the production of sustainable aviation fuels.

Global energy and technology companies are ready to partner with the UK Government to invest in establishing the centre and fund a 10-year programme of research and development worth £150 million. The firms will pool resources, knowledge and investment of sufficient scale and scientific excellence to generate the enabling technologies to produce the new products and systems that will allow this new market to form and grow. The R&D programme will create opportunities for local businesses and supply chains to link into the research institute’s global network, attracting R&D investment into the east of England from large knowledge-intensive businesses in Europe, the US and the Gulf states. That, in turn, will increase demand for higher-level skills and improve access to better-quality jobs, as well as helping to reverse decades of relative economic stagnation by increasing the aspirations and wages of local residents in a city that, over the past 20 or 30 years, has not received the infrastructure investment it merits. Although Peterborough—my city—is fantastic, it does have pockets of relative disadvantage, and initiatives such as this can help to transform it into a high-wage, high-skill economy.

So why is this project needed? The UK’s natural gas network is currently unsuitable for the transportation of hydrogen, which can permeate and cause failure in steel pipes—a phenomenon known as hydrogen embrittlement. New transmission networks will need to be developed from new materials, including protective inner coatings or non-metallic network materials, to store, transport and distribute hydrogen safely. The Government plan to assemble sufficient evidence by September 2024 to enable a decision to be made in 2025 on the upgrade of the national grid distribution network. The global innovation centre for energy transition can be operational in 2026 and ready to develop the solutions to enable that transformation to take place.

Additionally, in many of the foundation industries, the process equipment for the production of glass, steel and concrete, although having shown the ability to use hydrogen cost-effectively in pilot trials, is at risk of component failure, possibly presenting serious safety risk. Significant research is needed to develop safe materials, equipment and operating procedures to allow the transition of these industrial processes from natural gas to hydrogen.

There are no other plans in the UK to attract R&D activity in this emerging sector. Global firms are all looking at addressing specific aspects of the broader challenge. Those efforts will create a patchwork of solutions—they are disparate—but attracting a critical mass of the key players to integrate their R&D programmes in the UK offers the opportunity to lock those firms into a joint endeavour for decades to come. That, in turn, would provide the UK with the opportunity to find ways of convening its science base as a partnership—with, for instance, the Henry Royce Institute and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult—to create a solutions network bespoke to the challenges around the transmission, storage and use of hydrogen and CO2.

In a stepwise manner, we can use the opportunity to integrate this research and development in the UK, expanding the network of UK institutes. That would create an anchoring effect that would make it difficult for energy companies to disengage and disintegrate their R&D efforts in this specific field. The ultimate benefit of attracting and integrating these global R&D efforts is the opportunity to link intellectual property into the UK supply chains for myriad technical applications, including design, manufacturing and services. The immediate benefits of a new research facility and R&D programme would stem from rapidly establishing an innovation ecosystem that generates increasing demand for high-skilled workers in Peterborough and the fens, including the creation of 100 direct jobs in R&D and 200 indirect jobs in related science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The R&D programme would also create 500 indirect jobs and induced jobs through the participation of 150 local firms in global supply chains, as well as new business start-ups and spin-outs. There would be a substantial positive economic impact on Peterborough city and the surrounding region, such that an investment in the R&D programme would generate positive effects on new opportunities for graduate-level employment, encouraging local participation in higher education and the local retention of graduates.

When people become 18 in Peterborough, the thing they often do is leave. We need to keep those people anchored in the industries of the future in my city. However, wider benefits will accrue to the rest of the UK as a whole from this proposal. The global market for these new technologies is huge. The forecast value for global hydrogen transmission and distribution pipe networks has been estimated to be $530 billion, or £427 billion, by 2050. By anchoring the underpinning knowledge for these solutions here in the UK via the global innovation centre, we would significantly increase the chances for British firms, including those regionally around Peterborough and those connected through hubs in Middlesbrough and Port Talbot, to be integrated into future supply chains.

Having the technology delivered here also gives the UK first mover advantage for the global roll-out of new technologies. What do we need to do to make that happen? The proposal to build a new research institute on the university campus in Peterborough presents a huge opportunity for the regional and national economy. To achieve it, we will need to build on existing expertise and import key elements of the Greater Cambridge innovation ecosystem into Peterborough. Creating connectivity between the two cities would help to rebalance growth across the region. We will also need to encourage more residents into higher education, enabling access to higher-value jobs.

In my area, the proportion of the working-age population with high-level qualifications at level 4 and above stands at 36.3%. That is below the regional average of 39.6% and the national average of 43.6%. However, that position is also improving, as the gap has narrowed by more than half since 2018. If Peterborough matched the national average for skills, an extra 9,130 people would have NVQ level 4 qualifications or above. The establishment of this new university in Peterborough has provided an essential component for an innovation ecosystem investing in human capital to improve higher level skills to meet local economic needs, as well as providing vital interactions between businesses and higher education.

A new research institute on top of that university is now needed to build on those developments and to raise demand for higher skilled jobs in the local economy. It would attract global firms and connect research and industry via a bespoke facility and R&D programme that could translate research into practice in the local economy. That would provide a strong future energy sector focus to what is a fragmented innovation ecosystem, and it would harness regional, national and global opportunities in this emerging sector.

The proposal for a global innovation centre for energy transition at Peterborough has the potential to leverage significant economic benefits for Peterborough and the UK as a whole. The investment proposals are expected to generate £160 million of private investment over 10 years from 2025. There is a need for public investment in this. Against an investment of £30 million, the proposal provides a benefit-cost ratio of 3.3, which represents very good value for money. This global innovation centre would be a game-changer for a city such as Peterborough. It is a drop in the ocean when it comes to overall investment, but it would benefit not only Peterborough, but our green energy future and the UK as a whole, and we could be at the forefront of these emerging technologies.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Peterborough (Paul Bristow). I very much enjoyed his speech and in particular the points he made about the potential of green energy technologies and the green economy for economic development and growth. One of the things that west Wales and Peterborough might have in common is the fact that too many of our young people have to leave to find work when they come to the age of 18. I agree with him that advances and developments in green renewable energy technology offer real economic potential for us and could address that demographic trend that has harmed our communities for many decades.

I commend my neighbour and Chair of the Select Committee, the right hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) on securing this debate and setting things out so eloquently and impressively. I could just regurgitate the points he made in his speech, such was their quality, but it is important to repeat the fact that Wales has significant renewable energy potential. As he rightly pointed out, if we realised that potential, it would make an important contribution to decarbonisation efforts, as well as creating well-paid jobs and careers in a part of the country that so desperately needs them and enhancing our energy security, the importance of which has been brought into sharp relief in the past year and a half or so.

We have already heard about the potential of different types of energy, and I would like to concentrate on the potential of the Welsh coastline not only for tidal and wave energy, but, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, for offshore floating wind. It is an exciting proposal. It is not often we can stand in this place and make a speech based on some optimism and excitement, but it is true: Wales has great potential when it comes to offshore floating wind, and we have a golden opportunity to get first mover advantage in the technology. It is incredibly exciting, not least because of the opportunities it will bring in jobs and careers in south-west Wales. It could also transform the south Wales economy.

As was touched upon earlier, our heritage in Wales, and particularly in south Wales, is of producing energy, albeit in the form of fossil fuels in the past. Industries have been built because of the proximity of some of these energy sources, and I need only mention the steelworks in Port Talbot. Offshore floating wind and the potential associated benefits with hydrogen production offer a real future for green methods of producing essential materials, such as steel in Port Talbot. That would not only bring jobs and new careers to south-west Wales, but could offer a way to safeguard some of the important industries of the future in south Wales and further afield.

It is therefore not surprising that the Welsh Affairs Committee has concentrated in the past two Sessions on this field. As the Chair of the Committee outlined in his opening remarks, we have undertaken a few reports and inquiries and made some recommendations to the Government. I will not list them all, otherwise I would be here all afternoon, but I will bring some important ones to the House’s attention. The Committee called on the UK Government to set targets for floating offshore wind up to 2045. He mentioned that while we need shorter term targets, we also need a clear outline for investors so that they can have certainty in bringing about investment decisions in this new and emerging technology.

We also recommended that the Government uses contracts for difference to guarantee that local areas benefit from the development of these new technologies, and that they provide greater clarity on the timelines for delivery of work on strengthening the grid and commit to significant anticipatory investment, as my hon. Friend the Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Angus Brendan MacNeil) mentioned in his remarks. I appreciate that the UK Government have already responded to the reports, but I would be grateful if the Minister touched on some of that work when summing up the debate.

I will take the opportunity to discuss and perhaps counter what appears to be a growing tendency in certain quarters to cast a bit of cold water on the importance and viability of the transition to more green technology. The narrative runs that it is far too expensive and will be an unsustainable burden on household budgets, so we need to de-prioritise it. The Welsh Affairs Committee’s work puts paid to some of those misapprehensions by identifying how green technology can serve as an important economic development tool in areas of the UK that are quite simply in need of levelling up.

Such scepticism about the transition nevertheless offers a useful reminder that it is not enough just to set ambitious targets or a general objective on the transition to renewable energy sources; we also need to ensure that the proceeds of doing so benefit communities in the UK and that they are distributed fairly. Many Members have mentioned that, so I will not go into it in detail, but we do need to ensure that we learn the lessons of the past. We need to be mindful that in previous iterations of offshore wind development, a number of the benefits from skills, jobs and technology were really felt in other countries.

For offshore floating wind, we need to ensure that we benefit from those skilled jobs, expertise and technological advancements in the UK—and ideally in south-west Wales. To achieve that, work is still required to develop more robust supply chains for the manufacture and assembly of the components needed to build these renewable projects. It is not an easy task, and we will not be able to realise it overnight, but the sooner we set some of these plans in motion, the better.

In the south Wales example, that is complicated by how we will need close co-ordination between the Welsh Government, local authorities and the UK Government, but the sooner we sit down and get the plan clear in our minds, the better. We will need those skills by the time that—hopefully—the projects come to be built.

The Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee also made the point that when the Crown Estate comes to mandating supply-chain requirements for offshore wind developers along the coast of south-west Wales, we must ensure that there is a strong mechanism to hold them to account on some of those commitments. As a number of hon. Members know, Plaid Cymru has long held aspirations to see management of the Crown Estate devolved to Wales. That is a debate in itself, and I will not retread some of that old ground. However, there are some ideas and potential benefits that the UK Government might want to explore further.

It has been argued that management of the Crown Estate in Wales could give the Welsh Government the opportunity to allocate a proportion of the proceeds from leasing and licensing to benefit future generations by way of, in effect, a wealth fund. That is not a novel idea—other countries such as Norway and Qatar have done it in the past for oil and other fossil fuel sources, rather than for renewable energy—but perhaps we could be doing that in the renewables context. I would be keen to hear whether the Minister