There have been 7 exchanges involving Lord Polak and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
|Mon 19th October 2020||United Kingdom Internal Market Bill (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (523 words)|
|Mon 7th September 2020||Post Office: Horizon Accounting System (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (110 words)|
|Thu 18th June 2020||Post Office: Horizon Accounting System (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (157 words)|
|Thu 5th March 2020||Sub-postmasters: Compensation (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (70 words)|
|Tue 4th February 2020||Post Office: Prosecution Powers (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (17 words)|
|Tue 17th April 2018||Energy Security: Gas Production (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (48 words)|
|Tue 7th March 2017||Shale Gas (Lords Chamber)||3 interactions (749 words)|
(6 months ago)Lords Chamber
My Lords, it is with great pleasure that I stand to give my first contribution in your Lordships’ House. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, on her very thoughtful maiden speech.
I have not been a Member long, but I have learned that this House is full of very kind and generous people who have been incredibly welcoming to me. I would like to thank the wonderful doorkeepers, Black Rod, the Clerk of the Parliaments and all the staff for their warm welcome. I am very grateful to them, as well as to my supporters, my noble friends Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park and Lord Choudrey. I am particularly grateful to the Prime Minister for giving me an opportunity to be part of your Lordships’ House. I have learned about the procedures of this House from my Whip, my noble friend Lord Borwick, and my mentor, my noble friend, Lord Leigh of Hurley. There is a tremendous amount I hope to learn from Members of this House across all parties, who have had such distinguished and diverse careers.
I grew up in Pakistan in a family with a tradition of military service. Both my grandfathers were officers in the British Indian Army and my father was commissioned as a naval officer at the Britannia Royal Naval College. I could not serve in the military because I have asthma, but I now have the opportunity to serve in a different way from the floor of this House. I understand that maiden speeches are meant to be uncontroversial, so I will keep my contribution short and sweet.
In global Britain, entrepreneurs in the technology industry will play a huge role. I am a proud member of the ethnic-minority community of the United Kingdom and I would like to work with my own community so that we can continue to make important contributions in the global economy. For example, the CEOs of Google, Microsoft, IBM, Mastercard and Adobe—among many others—are all from ethnic minorities. I refer to my interest in technology venture capital as set out in the register. We in the United Kingdom have been at the forefront of innovation for centuries. Many people believe that venture capital was invented in Silicon Valley but it was actually invented in Birmingham. In the 18th century, members of the Lunar Society would meet monthly to discuss, demo and fund the greatest technology innovations of their time.
In my career, I had the privilege of observing that one of the determining factors of success and failure is entrepreneurs having access to a strong domestic market. As global as technology markets are, entrepreneurs who can quickly and easily build a foundation in domestic markets are often the ones who have the necessary platform to then scale internationally. The history of virtually every successful technology company started with early commercial wins in a sizeable domestic market. We are fortunate that the United Kingdom is a strong domestic market, especially for entrepreneurs. We must make sure that our start-ups—whether in space technology in Glasgow, cybersecurity in Belfast, digital health in Cardiff, artificial intelligence in Oxford, life sciences in Cambridge, the internet of things in Manchester or virtual reality in Liverpool—all have access to a strong, stable UK internal market with certainty of rules and regulations. I am therefore pleased to support this Bill in your Lordships’ House.
Finally, I would like to thank my family, my parents, my wife and my beautiful daughters for their long-standing love and support, and I thank noble Lords for giving me an opportunity to participate in this important Second Reading.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Hayman of Ullock and the noble Lord, Lord Sarfraz, on their maiden speeches of excellent quality. It is really good to have two younger Members join us. I must also congratulate the Government on doing so much to bring about harmony. They have managed to unite so many speakers in this Chamber and all but one of the parties in the Scottish Parliament, to name just two groups.
One of the purposes of this Bill is to enact the political ideology of the ruling faction of the Conservative Party, which demands that unfettered access of business across the UK should be able to overrule any democratically decided public policy goals. BEIS’s own impact assessment makes it clear that market access principles will reduce the ability to pursue targeted social and environmental policy objectives. We were told that Brexit would result in the return of powers to the devolved Administrations, but instead significant powers have been retained by Westminster. This Bill goes even further, as it will take away existing powers.
The noble Lord, Lord Callanan, as I understood him, said that industry subsidies had never been devolved, but Part 7 of the Bill amends Schedule 5 of the Scotland Act 1998 to eliminate state aid from the devolved powers that have rested with the Scottish Parliament for over 20 years. This happened without negotiation and with only the most cursory consultation.
The so-called level playing field is far from fair. How can it be when the players on the field are of massively different size and strength? It would be the equivalent of a football match between Chelsea and Partick Thistle. The big firms in the large countries flourish; small firms in small countries struggle. The Bill does not establish independent arbitration or dispute resolution. Once again, the UK Government will act as both participant and final arbiter and will, as usual, find in their own favour.
This legislation confirms what many of us already know: the current system of joint working between the UK Government and devolved Administrations is not fit for purpose. It does nothing to guarantee high regulatory standards. Instead, it creates incentives to lower standards. It prioritises the removal of potential barriers to trade at the expense of other public policy goals, such as health or the environment, regardless of the democratic decisions of the electorate in the devolved Administrations.
Andrew Bowie, Conservative MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, gave a stark warning in a recent newspaper article. He said,
“this Internal Market Bill, is just the start. The UK Government is back in Scotland. Get used to it.”
If ever a wedge would serve to divide the United Kingdom, this is it. We cannot in all conscience allow this dreadful legislation to be rushed through Parliament. We must ask the Government to think again.
(7 months, 1 week ago)Lords Chamber
The lady that my noble friend mentions is one of many tragic cases arising from this. It is indeed an appalling scandal. Of course, there has already been a judicial finding of faults in this, and the comments of Mr Justice Fraser are well worth reviewing. We want to go further than that: we want a proper review, and to be fully assured that through the review there is a public summary of the failings that occurred at the Post Office through this scandal—drawing on the judgments from the Horizon case and by listening to those most affected—without repeating the findings of Mr Justice Fraser.
(10 months ago)Lords Chamber
I do agree with the noble Baroness that they deserve justice. Nothing that we can do will be able to put back together some of the lives that have been shattered and broken by this terrible scandal but I honestly believe that the best way of securing justice is through the judicial process, which is ongoing and which I cannot pre-empt. That process will run its course but then there is additional work to do; we think the best, swiftest and fastest way of doing that is through an independent review.
I thank my noble friend for drawing attention to one of the many tragic cases that have resulted from this; there are many others like it and I too have heard some terrible tales. We believe that an independent review is the best way of getting to the bottom of it. This will have essentially similar terms of reference to a judge-led public inquiry. With regard to the former chief executive, it would be very helpful if she would account much more fully in public for what she knew and for the actions that she took at the time. I have written to the Department of Health to make clear our position on her future. The Care Quality Commission is, I believe, looking at whether she is a fit and proper person for the role that she holds. I hope that it will conduct that review swiftly. Obviously, I cannot predict that, and it is not a matter directly for me, but I have written to the Department of Health to make my views clear.
(1 year, 1 month ago)Lords Chamber
I hope that we can get the matter resolved as quickly as possible. The work of the CCRC is important and the Government cannot interfere in it. I understand that decisions on this issue are expected fairly soon and will then have to go back to the Court of Appeal. I think we all wish that the judicial process could be speedier at times but we have to let these matters take their course. However, I take on board my noble friend’s concerns.
My noble friend makes an important point. As I said in response to an earlier question, we are looking at the framework of the decisions. This is not just about the role of the non-executive director; it is about the whole oversight of the organisation by BEIS—how we improve the governance and monitoring of what is, in effect, an independent company. Operational decisions are a matter for the board of the Post Office, but clearly the fact that I am standing here in front of your Lordships answering questions now shows that it is a company owned 100% by the Government. Lessons need to be learned and we need to get to the bottom of this. I have spoken personally to the new chief executive of the Post Office, as have other ministerial colleagues, and we are satisfied that he now has a grip on the situation. The accounting system has been improved and the board is co-operating fully with the work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission, as indeed it should.
(1 year, 2 months ago)Lords Chamber
There is a new chief executive and a new regime is in place. I cannot comment on the individuals who were in positions of power during that time because I simply do not have the answer. I recognise the anger the noble Lord brings to his question, and that it is shared by the House today.
We have a non-executive director who is responsible for representing the department and the Government. His role has evolved from a perhaps more passive approach to a much more active one going forward. We have to have a much stronger view about how we manage this area, through the chief executive, the chairman and the non-executive director with responsibility for governance and clear adherence to the responsibilities of the board itself.
(3 years ago)Lords Chamber
My Lords, I hope that we are giving every possible encouragement to the shale gas industry. We think that the economic impact of shale, both locally and nationally, could be very large indeed. There will be opportunities for jobs and energy security, and in a great many other areas, through supporting that industry.
(4 years, 1 month ago)Lords Chamber
My Lords, in 2014 and 2015 I chaired the Task Force on Shale Gas; we concluded our work at the end of 2015. I should also mention that I was chairman of the Environment Agency until September 2014.
The task force looked very carefully at the economic and environmental implications of the development of a shale gas industry in the UK, and five especially important points arose from its work. First, we will need gas as part of our energy mix in this country for several decades to come. Yes, of course we must develop renewables and yes, we must build a new generation of nuclear power stations—though not necessarily on the model that the Government appear determined to take forward. But these cannot be deployed in a hurry. They will take time and we will need gas as an interim fuel to take us towards a lower-carbon future. Let us also not forget that this is not just about electricity generation: 80% of our households depend on gas for cooking and heating. That is not going to change overnight.
Secondly, gas is better than coal. The industrial emissions and greenhouse gas effects of burning it are something like half of those of burning unabated coal. In this country we are rightly running down our coal-burning capacity to generate electricity at the moment—and I trust that this will be one of the developments that does not fall foul of Brexit. Gas has to be part of the solution—along, I add, with carbon capture and storage, which will become increasingly important, especially for gas. I am dismayed at the Government’s decision to abandon the fund that had been specifically earmarked for the development of large-scale pilot projects of CCS. It was very short-sighted of them to do so and it denies us both an early environmental benefit and a first-mover economic advantage with carbon capture.
Thirdly, local environmental protection at a shale gas site is imperative. There are four things that are crucial for this. Rigorous regulation, monitoring and inspection are largely in place at the moment—but the noble Lord, Lord Mair, is absolutely right to point to the issue of ensuring that necessary resources are available if a shale gas industry develops at scale. There should be local community participation in this monitoring and inspecting process, as that will ultimately be the way to secure their agreement and acceptance. As the noble Lord said, the absolute integrity of wells, independently overseen, is crucial—it was failures of well integrity that caused problems in the early buccaneering days in the United States, which are long since over. Mandatory green completion to ensure that all gases, especially methane, are captured when they rise to the surface must be put in place. With these clear conditions in place, shale gas extraction can be done safely. Regulatory corners, however, cannot and must not be cut in the process.
Fourthly, it makes economic and environmental sense to produce gas domestically rather than ship it half way across the world. Taking gas out of the ground in Qatar, liquefying it, shipping it to the UK, de-liquefying it and then delivering it to power stations and households has a far higher carbon and climate change footprint than sourcing it here in the UK. The climate change impact of not having a domestic gas resource will be worse than that of having one.
Fifthly, the development of a shale gas industry in the UK, however, must not be allowed to have a chilling effect on the development of renewables and our preparation for a low-carbon future. Shale gas can and should be only an interim energy response. It is not a long-term answer. To ensure this, I propose that all government revenues coming specifically from a developed shale gas industry should be earmarked for investment in research and development and innovation in renewables, carbon capture and storage, and low-carbon energy generation, storage and distribution. In that way we will have an energy policy fit for the longer-term future.