King’s Speech Debate

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Department: HM Treasury
Monday 13th November 2023

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Moved on Tuesday 7 November by
Lord McInnes of Kilwinning Portrait Lord McInnes of Kilwinning
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That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty as follows:

“Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament”.

Lord Callanan Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (Lord Callanan) (Con)
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My Lords, on behalf of your Lordships’ House, I thank the King for delivering the gracious Speech. I am grateful for the privilege of opening today’s debate on the Motion for an humble Address.

Today, I shall outline the Government’s plans to grow the economy, to secure our energy supply for the long term, to deliver a world-class transport network for the whole of the UK, and to protect our environment. My noble friend Lady Penn will close what I am sure will be yet another spirited debate, with many important contributions from all parts of the House. My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will present the Autumn Statement to Parliament on 22 November. Your Lordships will be unsurprised to know that I will not pre-empt any of his announcements or the OBR’s forecast but will focus on the Government’s recent record on the economy.

Despite enormous global challenges, the UK is proving the doubters wrong. The Government have made difficult long-term decisions to restore stability and grow the economy. The best tax cut for the UK public is indeed a cut in inflation. Inflation has already fallen to 6.7% since peaking at 11.1%, and most major forecasters agree that we are on track to meet our goal of halving inflation by the end of the year, before returning it to 2% by 2025. This will enable us to create better-paid jobs and opportunities across the whole of our United Kingdom, guaranteeing a better future for the next generation.

To deliver that growth, we are creating the right environment for businesses to invest and expand. We have announced a £27 billion tax cut for business, and the UK now has the lowest corporation tax rate in the G7, as well as one of the most generous capital allowance regimes in the whole of the OECD. Our labour market reforms will also add 110,000 people to the workforce, and our extended 30 hours free childcare reforms will help to support even more people into the workplace.

At the same time, we remain on track to reduce the national debt. The independent OBR confirmed in March that debt will be falling by the end of the forecast. Reducing debt provides the essential foundations for sustainable growth, as it reduces spending on debt interest that could otherwise support essential public services. It also allows the Government space to respond to future shocks and reduces the financial pressure passed on to our children and grandchildren.

We recognise the immense challenges that British people have been facing with the cost of living. Putin’s war in Ukraine caused global economic disruption and unleashed huge energy price increases, leading to pressures on living standards. We have taken significant action over the past year to give struggling families the support they desperately need. We stepped in last winter to protect communities and businesses, spending £40 billion to help pay half the average household energy bill. Although energy prices have been steadily coming down since, we are continuing to offer support, with a £900 cost of living payment going to those on means-tested benefits. Taken together, our support to households to help with higher bills is worth £94 billion, or £3,300 per household on average, across 2022-23 and 2023-24—one of the largest household support packages in the whole of Europe.

We cannot thrive as a country without affordable, reliable and abundant energy. As we steadily transition to a net-zero economy, this Government recognise the huge role that home-produced renewables and nuclear power will play, alongside North Sea oil and gas. Our commitment to investing in the UK’s energy infrastructure will help to unlock private investment, scaling up green jobs and growth across the country.

The Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill will make the UK more energy independent by increasing investor and industry confidence with regular oil and gas licensing. The Bill’s emissions tests will ensure that future licensing supports our transition to net zero. It will enhance the UK’s energy security and reduce dependence on imports with higher emissions intensity. It will protect our domestic oil and gas industry, which supports more than 200,000 jobs, as we grow the UK economy and realise our net-zero target in a proportionate and realistic way.

This country has led the world on tackling carbon emissions, and we will continue to do so. Of all the major economies, we have set the deepest cuts in emissions for 2030, and we have so far exceeded all our targets, including cutting our emissions by almost half over the past 30 years and boosting our share of renewables from 7% in 2010 to over 40% today. To realise our ambitions, we have to take a pragmatic approach, taking consumers and industry with us; we cannot impose unaffordable, extra costs on households, particularly when millions of families are struggling with the cost of living.

By that same token, we are working with Ofgem and suppliers to reform markets so that they work for consumers more effectively and are fit for the future. I outlined a few moments ago the immediate support being offered directly to households by the Government, but we also want to ensure that customers get the service they deserve and that vulnerable customers are prioritised and protected.

We also want a fair approach to decarbonising how we heat our homes. We are already investing £12 billion in energy efficiency and clean heat this Parliament, and we have seen the share of homes in the highest energy efficiency bands rise from 14% in 2010 to around 50% today. We recognise that we need to support people to make these changes, so, in addition to financial support, we are giving people more time and support to make the necessary changes in their own homes.

Our energy transition plans have enormous potential to deliver economic prosperity across the country, as well as the security that comes from being able to power Britain from Britain. Green investment is a top priority, and we are doubling down on sectors with the greatest opportunities, such as carbon capture and storage, offshore wind, and solar and fusion energy.

Britain’s nuclear revival is well under way too, with Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C set to power 12 million homes. We have launched Great British Nuclear to deliver our pipeline of resilient projects, while accelerating the development of small modular reactors.

However, despite the billions being invested in new energy projects, we do not yet have the grid infrastructure to bring that energy to households and businesses. So we are building new transmission infrastructure and speeding up connections to the grid. We will set out the UK’s first ever spatial plan for infrastructure to give industry more certainty, and we will fast-track plans for the most nationally significant projects.

I move on to transport. Responsible government is about making the tough, long-term decisions to secure a brighter future. It is why we have scaled back our plans for HS2—a project that saw its costs double, its business case weaken and its completion date repeatedly delayed. Rather than focus on a rail line between Birmingham and Manchester, we are prioritising the millions of everyday journeys that matter most to the British public.

By stopping HS2 in the West Midlands, we will reinvest every penny of the £36 billion saved into better bus services, faster regional train links, new road schemes and pothole-free streets. Network North will see more places and more people benefit more quickly, thanks to the choices that we have made.

Now, with work already under way, we will complete HS2 between Euston and Birmingham. It remains a ground-breaking infrastructure project—indeed, one of the biggest in the country. Talks are already under way on the huge regeneration opportunity at Euston, which could potentially see 10,000 homes built.

While the packed parliamentary timetable has prevented us from introducing legislation in this Session, we will bring forward the rail reform Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny, alongside the benefits that we are already delivering in areas such as ticketing, private sector innovation and better contracts for operators.

Moving away from rail, the Government have been clear that the war on motorists must end. For many, cars are a lifeline, not a luxury. Yet, across the country, drivers face overzealous enforcement measures and a variety of restrictions which clearly do not have public support. In our capital, thanks to the newly expanded ULEZ scheme, hard-working families must now decide to either pay up or sell up. The Government are on the side of motorists, and the 30 measures in our Plan for Drivers will ensure that people can travel where, when and how they wish.

Looking to the future, we remain committed to seeing more zero-emission vehicles on Britain’s roads. However, that transition should be proportionate and, wherever possible, we should ease the burden on working families. That is why we have extended the period in which you can buy new petrol and diesel cars by five years, ensuring more time for zero-emission vehicle prices to fall and the used market to grow. However, our overall ambition remains the same. We will ban the sale of new polluting vehicles by 2035 and, to give manufacturers certainty, our zero-emission vehicle mandate, which kicks in from next year, will set minimum targets for clean car production.

Automated vehicles will also be part of our future. We want to position Britain as the global leader of a sector that could be worth up to £42 billion by 2035, with 38,000 jobs at stake. So, in this parliamentary Session, we will bring forward the Automated Vehicles Bill, enabling the safe deployment of self-driving vehicles.

We will also—I know this will have particular support in this House—bring London’s pedicabs under the letter of the law.The Pedicabs (London) Bill will give Transport for London powers to regulate the city’s pedicab industry, reassuring passengers and road users that those vehicles and operators are properly licensed and accountable.

I move on to discuss the environment. The Government are committed to leaving the environment in a better state than we found it. On 31 January 2023, Defra published a revised Environmental Improvement Plan. This sets out how we will deliver our long-term Environment Act targets, matched with interim targets to measure progress over the shorter term.

With respect to air quality, in addition to our existing emissions and concentrations targets we have set two new targets for fine particulate matter, the pollutant most damaging to human health, under the Environment Act 2021. We are also enhancing protected landscape management plans through the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act and are placing a stronger requirement on partners to contribute to their delivery.

On green finance, we published a cross-government green finance strategy and a nature markets framework in March 2023, setting out the action we are taking to support a transition to a net-zero, climate-resilient, nature-positive economy. On climate change, Defra published the Third National Adaptation Programme in July this year. This sets out a programme of action for the next five years to respond to a range of climate risks facing the United Kingdom.

I am also delighted that we are introducing the animal welfare (livestock exports) Bill to Parliament. Animal welfare is a priority for the Government, and we have some of the highest standards in the world. Thanks to our actions, the UK is building on our reputation as a world leader on animal welfare: we are joint top of World Animal Protection’s animal protection index.

Since the publication of Our Action Plan for Animal Welfare in 2021, we have delivered on a range of key manifesto commitments. We have increased the penalties for those convicted of animal cruelty, passed the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Act 2022 and launched the Animal Sentience Committee. We have made cat microchipping compulsory and have announced the extension of the Ivory Act 2018 to cover five endangered species: hippopotamus, narwhal, killer whale, sperm whale and walrus.

Now that we have left the European Union, we can fulfil our manifesto commitment to end excessively long journeys for slaughter and fattening. The animal welfare (livestock exports) Bill will ban the export from Great Britain of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and horses for slaughter and fattening, stopping the unnecessary stress, exhaustion and injury caused by the export of live animals.

This Government have extensive and comprehensive plans to deliver a strong economy, a secure energy supply, a state-of-the-art transport sector and a safeguarded environment, laying the foundations for a more secure, resilient and prosperous country.