Artificial Intelligence: Intellectual Property Rights

Chi Onwurah Excerpts
Wednesday 1st February 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Robertson. I congratulate the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney) on securing this vital debate on the potential impact of artificial intelligence on intellectual property rights for creative workers. I thank all the Members who took part and observe that although each Member who spoke before the Front-Bench speeches was from a different political party, they were united in condemning the proposals, and for very good reasons.

From the Brontë sisters to the Beatles, from Jane Austen to Arlo Parks, from David Bowie to Sam Fender, we are and have always been a country of creators. More than 3.2 million people in the UK are employed in creative sectors, and Government figures estimate that our creative industries contributed £115 billion to our economy before the pandemic. It is a great pity, then, that the Government’s creativity seems to be limited to finding excuses for their misbehaviour and their lack of active engagement in our great industries. To the Conservatives, it appears that regulation is a dirty word, but as my right hon. Friend the Member for Warley (John Spellar) pointed out, the right regulation can support and enhance our great industries. The digital may present a new technological frontier, but our creative industries and the AI sector do not need to be in conflict with each another. Indeed, as the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) emphasised, AI can support and has huge potential for the creative industries, but creators need the ability to enforce their rights over their work.

The IPO’s proposals include the introduction of a new copyright exception in order to promote AI, as we heard. That would remove the need for a licence and cut the opportunity for performers or creators to be remunerated for their work and talent. The House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee’s report on the future of the creative industries called that proposal “misguided” and asked the Government to halt the proposals. Not only would they undermine the basic principles on which our creative industries are based, but they could enable international businesses to scrape content created by others and users for commercial gain without payment to the original creators here in the UK. As the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) said, it could very much undermine our competitiveness in this key area. Last week, the singer, Rick Astley, filed a lawsuit against another musician for the impersonation of the classic hit, “Never Gonna Give You Up”. We are talking about a charter for the automation and industrialisation of such impersonations. I fail to understand why the income of our artists, musicians and creators is being risked in that way.

As part of Labour’s industrial strategy, we will shape and regulate AI technologies for the public good, increasing productivity, delivering better public services and improving the quality of life for all. That is how we grow our AI sector, not by throwing creators and artists under a bus. The UK is already well positioned to benefit from the transformation that AI can bring, but we need to look ahead to future risk, such as the potential for opaque AI systems to diverge from our intended objectives.

What steps is the Minister taking to ensure that the next Adele or the next Stormzy does not have their work stolen and sold by an algorithm? For what reason has the IPO—for which he is responsible—not held discussions with the music industry, and will it now do so following this debate? What discussions has he had with the Minister responsible for the creative industries to assess the impact of the proposals? Finally, did the IPO make an estimate of how much the proposed exception will contribute to the economy, whether in AI sectoral growth or in creative industries’ loss? If the Minister is going to say that it will not go ahead, which I would welcome, he still has to explain why he allowed our important creative industries to languish in such doubt and uncertainty, and to promise that in future he will take a more active role to ensure that technological change supports our great industries.

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George Freeman Portrait George Freeman
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The right hon. Member is well aware, as a veteran of these things, that for something to be a formal announcement on policy, a Government write-round has to go through the various Committees. That process is under way. Until that is done, I cannot formally confirm that it is collective responsibility Government policy, but the two Ministers concerned say that the proposals have not met with the support that was expected. [Interruption.] He has just said that that is good enough for him. I hope that it will be good enough for all those listening.

As colleagues have highlighted, the real issue is how we get the balance right. That is why AI is considered by the National Science and Technology Council, our senior Cabinet Committee, which is chaired by the Prime Minister and looks at the big issues that science and technology raise. I sit on that, and it is there to grapple with the big geopolitical and ethical issues that some of these technologies are raising. That is why we are working this year on both a creative industry strategy, led by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and an AI regulatory strategy, which will set out our approach to regulating AI.

As the global AI revolution accelerates, we need to be aware that we are working in a global environment, and to set a regulatory framework that does not drive AI creators and investors out. We are a leading AI nation. We have an opportunity to set the regulatory framework in a way that reflects the values that this country is respected for all around the world. I think the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah) knows me well enough to know that I do not believe that there is a huge dividend from scrapping all the regulations that were put on the statute book during our membership of the European Union. There is, however, a very strong case for clearing up our regulatory statute book; there is an awful lot of dead wood and daft regulations. It can be very unclear.

I have led the charge in my party for saying that a lot of the Brexit regulatory opportunities are to set the frameworks in new and fast-emerging areas, whether it is AI, autonomous vehicles, nutraceuticals or satellites. The creation of regulatory frameworks that command the confidence of both consumers and investors helps to position this country as a global testbed for innovation, drives international markets, attracts investment and establishes the UK’s leadership in standards.

As Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, I am passionate about our leaning into that sort of leadership, as well as getting rid of some of the dafter regulations, such as the one that says that coffee machines have to turn off after 30 minutes. I do not know which Committee passed that, or nodded it through one day a few years ago. The truth is that our regulatory framework is incredibly complex for regulators, innovators and investors to navigate.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
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I think the Minister will find that rather than our leading the way on AI regulation, both the US and the European Union have already made strides in AI regulation that it would be good for us to respond to. I wonder whether he inadvertently made an announcement with regard to the National Science and Technology Council, which he said the Prime Minister has chaired. Previous Prime Ministers have chaired it, but it was my understand that the new version was not going to be chaired by the Prime Minister. Is it chaired by the Prime Minister?

George Freeman Portrait George Freeman
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Unless an announcement has been made in the last few weeks that I have missed, yes. He has the right to depute the chairmanship of a particular meeting, but the point is it that it is the senior Committee of Cabinet dealing with science, technology and innovation. I am delighted that the Prime Minister reinstated it very early on—as soon as he took office.

The argument of the Intellectual Property Office last summer, presented to Ministers in good faith, was that if we look at what is going on around the world, there are other jurisdictions that have moved quickly to put in place similar text and data mining exemptions—in the EU, the US, Japan and Singapore. They are structured differently, but all are wider than the current UK exemptions. I do not want anyone to think that we were going out on a massive limb; we were making a move that was in the spirit of that made by other countries. There is an irony here, in that we were an active player in helping to shape some of those EU regulations. The challenge and opportunity for us, now that we are out of the EU, is to take the ambitions that we were pushing when we were in the EU and reach them more quickly and agilely—possibly even more digitally—in a new regulatory framework outside.

Oral Answers to Questions

Chi Onwurah Excerpts
Tuesday 17th January 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake
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Most of the businesses that we deal with pay business rates rather than council tax, but we nevertheless have to make sure that the schemes are as affordable as they can be, which is why we have stepped in with £13.6 billion of business rate discounts, targeted at SMEs. We have to look at the ongoing situation and make sure that support is available, as we are doing in many different respects, not least by helping those small businesses that have premises.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
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AMLo Biosciences is a Newcastle University spin-out whose groundbreaking research will save lives by making cancer diagnosis easier and more accurate. AMLo spends millions on research and reinvests all its research and development tax credits into R&D. The Government’s tax credit changes will halve what AMLo can claim, meaning less research and fewer new jobs. Its investors may ask for it to move abroad, where R&D is cheaper. Many Members have similar examples in their constituencies. Will the Minister explain why the Government issued no guidance, gave no support and had no consultation on the changes to SME R&D tax credits? Does he accept that whether in respect of hospitality heating bills or spin-out science spend, the Government are abandoning small businesses?

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake
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Clearly, we have to balance the interests of the taxpayer with the interests of small business. We have to make sure that the money that is being utilised for R&D is properly spent, and there were concerns about abuse of the small business R&D scheme. It is good that the Treasury is now looking into the matter and looking to move towards a simplified universal scheme, which I would welcome and on which there is a consultation. I absolutely agree that we need to make sure we have the right support for research and development in this country, not least for SMEs.

Future of Postal Services

Chi Onwurah Excerpts
Tuesday 10th January 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Gary. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Tahir Ali) for securing this incredibly vital debate. He brings a wealth of expertise of the issue, having worked for both Royal Mail and the CWU.

After almost 500 years as a public institution, Royal Mail today connects more than 32 million addresses across the United Kingdom and is the UK’s sole designated universal service provider. Its 160,000 staff are essential workers. Whether they were delivering tens of millions of test and trace kits or being a point of contact for those isolating during the pandemic, we in the Opposition do not forget their incredibly vital work during that dark time, or since, and before. That is why the debate is so well attended by Opposition Members and why we have had such fantastic and passionate contributions from my hon. Friends the Members for Halifax (Holly Lynch), for Liverpool, Riverside (Kim Johnson), for York Central (Rachael Maskell), for Leeds East (Richard Burgon), for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy) and for Llanelli (Dame Nia Griffith), as well as contributions from Members from all parties.

Despite this incredibly important public service and its importance to communities and the economy, the Government are failing postal service users and communities, putting ideology above competence. In July to September last year, Royal Mail delivered 72% of first class mail the next working day and 93% of second class within three working days, both below its targets. As we have also heard, the Conservative Government have overseen sharp increases in the number of so-called temporarily closed post offices and part-time outreach services, leading to significant and growing cracks in coverage. That trend is particularly severe in rural areas. Older and disabled people, carers, and people who do not use the internet, of whom there are still many, are disproportionately impacted. The current industrial dispute has had a huge impact on both workers and service users across the country. We in the Labour party are glad that Royal Mail has returned to the negotiating table, which is what we called for, but the Government really need to do their job to support a resolution. They owe that to Royal Mail as key workers, and to the public and businesses, all of which rely on Royal Mail.

The Government’s decisions on Royal Mail risk a disaster for customers and workers, and a degradation of Royal Mail as a major contributor to the UK economy. An organisation that was once thriving has had job losses in the thousands and a reduction in service, all while giving out over £400 million in dividends and £167 million in share buy-backs. The CWU has been raising concerns about the financial mismanagement of Royal Mail for several months, so can the Minister outline what discussions he has had with Royal Mail regarding its profits and dividends during the last financial year? Can he explain why workers and service users are being asked to pay more for less of a service, at a time when the cost of living crisis is impacting so many families across our nation?

As has been highlighted, there has been a decline in letter delivery. We understand that Royal Mail is seeking to grow parcel delivery, but that strategy appears to be stagnating, so what is the strategy now? Can the Minister say what his vision is for the future of postal services, and when he will act to ensure that Royal Mail returns to pre-pandemic levels of performance? Finally, the recent increase in the holding share by Vesa Equity, a company with links to Russia, is a matter of grave concern. Can the Minister outline the Government’s reasoning for not using the powers in the National Security and Investment Act 2021 in relation to that investment?

Only a Labour Government, supporting the partnership between management, workers and trade unions, can achieve lasting success for our postal services. In two days’ time, my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Kate Osborne) will lead a debate on the universal service obligation, but can the Minister provide assurances today that this Government are committed to the USO, as we are, and has he made an assessment of the impact of a five-day service proposal on the economy? The Labour party will work with postal service providers to deliver vital goods and services, and to provide social value.

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Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake
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Thank you. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Gary, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green, on securing today’s debate about the future of postal services, particularly given his experience and expertise. When somebody with that kind of experience and expertise speaks, we should all listen very carefully.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that postal services are an integral part of the modern economy, allowing the smallest of businesses to connect with customers across the world and providing consumers with access to a vast range of products. The importance of the postal service to keeping people connected was never more apparent than during the coronavirus pandemic, and I am hugely grateful to the delivery workers who worked exceptionally hard to deliver letters and parcels in those very difficult circumstances. The post office network also plays a unique and vital role as part of the UK postal system, and I will address the points that were raised regarding that network shortly.

To deal first and foremost with the future of the universal postal service, which was raised by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green, the right hon. Members for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) and for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn), and others, the Government’s postal policy objective continues to be a financially sustainable and efficient universal service that meets the needs of users within an open and competitive postal market. That is why the six-day week, “one price goes anywhere” and the universal service remain at the heart of the regulatory regime, and why Ofcom has a primary duty to secure that provision.

To be completely clear, the Government currently have no plans to change the statutory minimum requirements of a universal postal service, which are set out in the Postal Services Act 2011. However, we accept that the universal postal service is facing challenges, particularly given the decline in letter volumes, which have halved since privatisation in 2013. That answers the question raised by the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah), about why people are paying more for less. Part of the difficulty is that the volumes have fallen so much, which affects revenue.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
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Will the Minister give way?

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake
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Very briefly, as I have very little time.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
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I thank him for giving way, but he has not answered my question at all. There is a decline in one part of the market, but another part is growing. My question was: what is the vision?

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake
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That is a separate point that I will come to, if I may. I have yet to hear a convincing case for the need for change to meet users’ needs and ensure the financial sustainability of a universal postal service. I have met with both Ofcom and Royal Mail management to discuss that issue. I have made it clear to Royal Mail that it needs to make any case for change to Ofcom, and that I will fully consider any advice the regulator gives me on the future scope of the universal postal service.

The hon. Members for Chesham and Amersham (Sarah Green) and for Motherwell and Wishaw (Marion Fellows), who I have worked with closely on other matters regarding the Post Office, raised concerns about quality of service. I am aware that over the last few years the business has faced increased pressures on its operations for a variety of reasons. First, there was the covid pandemic and its lingering effects; secondly, operational revisions were required to modernise and transform the business; and, most recently, there was the industrial dispute with the Communication Workers Union. I do not accept the point made by the hon. Member for Leeds East (Richard Burgon) that this is union busting. The management has been clear that there will be no compulsory redundancies, but these issues impact both the business and users of postal services, particularly when important mail items are delayed.

Post Office: GLO Compensation Scheme

Chi Onwurah Excerpts
Wednesday 7th December 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
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I welcome today’s statement and apology, which represent an important step forward in the delivery of justice following what may well be the largest miscarriage of justice in our country’s history. There have been 900 prosecutions. All the postmasters involved have their own stories of dreams crushed, careers ruined, families destroyed, reputations smashed, and lives lost. Innocent people have been bankrupted and imprisoned.

Let me start by paying tribute to the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance, the campaigning group, and to the hundreds of sub-postmasters whom no monetary amount can compensate for the injustice that they have suffered. This has been a long walk towards justice, and Members in all parts of the House have stood and spoken out in solidarity with the postmasters. I want to recognise, in particular, my right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) and Lord Arbuthnot, who are rightly to be members of the independent advisory board.

I also pay tribute to the Minister who was previously formerly responsible for the Post Office, the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Scully). I do not do so lightly, but after successive Conservative Governments had sat on the scandal, he was the first to take hold of it and eventually—following much campaigning by Members of Parliament and members of the Labour party—to establish a statutory inquiry. Finally, I want to thank the journalist Nick Wallis, whose BBC Radio 4 series “The Great Post Office Trial” did much to bring this scandal to general attention.

While I am pleased that some kind of acceptable outcome for the postmasters seems finally to be in sight, I have some questions to ask. The press release refers to a compensation scheme for postmasters who helped to expose the scandal, but I remind the Secretary of State that it was his Government who spent years aiding and abetting the Post Office in targeting those self-same postmasters who were looking for justice. Nearly £100 million was spent by the Post Office to defend the indefensible as part of a campaign of intimidation and deceit. The Government are the only shareholder in the Post Office, so it is right for the Secretary of State to take responsibility.

At the core of this unforgivable scandal is the belief that workers were dishonest and technology infallible. Perhaps that is not surprising, given the Government’s track record on defending the rights of working people. Decent, honest people have had their lives torn apart, have been put in prison, and have been made to wait years for justice. Will the Secretary of State tell us how long he expects it will take for this scheme, and the other schemes, to pay the appropriate compensation, and whether the aim of these schemes is to return people to what would have been their original position had it not been for their involvement in Horizon? Will he also tell us which legal firm will be involved in the administration of this scheme, and whether that firm has previously advised either the Government or the Post Office on this matter?

Value for taxpayers’ money is a key consideration on this side of the House, even if the Government like to waste it. Having wasted tens of millions of pounds on persecuting postmasters, can the Secretary of State tell us where the money for the scheme will come from as we face a cost of living crisis made in Downing Street? Will post office services suffer, or will other budgets be cut? The press release does not mention the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance or Alan Bates, who led its efforts. Does the scheme have their full support?

I hope the Secretary of State agrees that those who were involved in this injustice should not benefit from their involvement. Will he tell us how he intends to hold Fujitsu to account, and whether it is still being given Government contracts? Will he also tell us whether he supports the continued retention of the CBE that was awarded to Paula Vennells—who oversaw the Horizon scandal—for services to the Post Office?

The Post Office is a national institution. It is part of so many of our lives. Its reputation has been hugely tarnished by this scandal, and I hope the Secretary of State will tell us how he intends to ensure that this never happens again and that the sub-postmasters receive justice as soon as possible.

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s comments, although I rather hoped the House would come together today and debate this matter in a non-political, cross-party way, and she sought to make a number of, I think, somewhat inappropriate political points. I should gently point out that it was her party that was in power for the first 11 years of this scandal. I am pleased that we have worked across parties to fix it, and I think we should leave it there.

Earlier today I spoke to Alan Bates, the founder and leader of the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance, who is sitting in the Public Gallery. Obviously the members of the JFSA will speak for themselves, as they always have, about the extent to which they are satisfied with today’s statement, but we have been working closely together. The Minister for Enterprise, Markets and Small Business, my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake), has been meeting them as well, and will be keeping a close eye on the operation of the scheme.

I reiterate the hon. Lady’s comments in thanking not just the right hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) —as I did earlier—but my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Scully), Lord Arbuthnot, and others who have campaigned endlessly on this issue, including the BBC journalist Nick Wallis, who has played an important role in this long battle.

The hon. Lady asked about timescales. As I said in my statement, we aim to complete this part of the scheme by the end of 2023, or, I hope, sooner. The large number of documents that we are putting online this morning will enable people to get on with processing their applications before making formal applications early next year. Sir Wyn Williams, who is conducting the formal inquiry, will, I hope, be able to shed significant light on what went wrong and provide a set of recommendations to prevent it from happening again. I have no doubt that Members, certainly on this side of the House, will be anxiously awaiting those recommendations.

Draft Internal Market Information System Regulation (Amendment etc.) Regulations 2021

Chi Onwurah Excerpts
Thursday 1st December 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

General Committees
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Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Robert. I thank the Minister for setting out the intent of this delegated legislation. I also thank the two separate parliamentary Committees for their work in scrutinising it—the Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee and the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments—neither of which reported issues with this SI to the House.

Co-operation between nations, mutual understanding, shared trade regulations and, indeed, values are part of any effective trading relationship, as my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough has suggested, and they are at the heart of the internal market information system. The IMI is a secure, multi-lingual online tool that facilitates the exchange of information between public authorities. The IMI helps authorities to co-operate and fulfil their cross-border administrative obligations in multiple single market policy areas. The IMI regulation sets out the framework for the administration of the IMI system by Government officials and those bodies exercising regulatory authority. It requires that each member state has a co-ordinator to look after the effective functioning and correct use of the IMI system and that all communications are handled securely in line with the relevant data protection rules.

As we have discussed, this statutory instrument amends the IMI regulation for two main reasons. The first is to revoke redundant retained EU legislation, and the second is to remove inoperable provisions. Together, this allows limited access to the IMI in Northern Ireland. It is clear that part 1 and chapter 1 of part 3 extend to all of the UK. Chapter 1 of part 3 revokes redundant retained EU law relating to the IMI regulation. Part 2 extends to Northern Ireland and amends the IMI regulation. Chapter 2 of part 3 extends to England, Wales and Scotland, revoking those provisions of the IMI regulation and retained EU law that no longer apply. In short, and as the Minister has said, the amendments introduced by this statutory instrument are technical operability changes and do not include any policy changes. However, these operability issues are a consequence of the UK leaving the single market on 31 December 2020.

I am sure that the Minister and the Committee will be pleased to note that Labour does not intend to oppose the draft regulations. However, I would be grateful to the Minister if he would address some questions. I must also express concern about the legislative landscape into which this SI is entering. The revocation of any laws, chapters or paragraphs in legislation should be done with the utmost care. As I have said, this SI has had the scrutiny of two Committees—as well as this Committee and, indeed, the assurance of the Minister’s entire Department—to ensure that there will not be any adverse implications for any organisation, public body or group of people. It is for that reason, however, that I am confused as to where the Government’s priorities and approach lie.

We accept that the SI rectifies a small area of our legislative landscape. The problem is that Conservative Members and the Government could be blowing a gigantic hole in it through the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill. Why is the Minister introducing this very limited and narrow SI when, at the same time, the Bill will soon be at Report stage? Why is the Bill not being used to address this issue? And why are all the EU laws and legislation that the Bill is going to tear out of our statute books not worthy of the same amount of consideration as this change? Why has this SI received the focus and attention of the Government when they are willing to have a bonfire of 2,417 other pieces of retained EU law without, it appears, any consideration? That is not just inconsistent; it is downright dangerous.

The Government’s reckless Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill will rip up vital legislation on trade, employment, environmental protection, health and safety in the workplace, parental leave, private pensions protection and food safety. I am very grateful to the Minister for setting out the detailed implications, in very narrow areas, of this SI, yet at the same time the Government’s Bill will just tear them all apart.

Andy McDonald Portrait Andy McDonald
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Is my hon. Friend aware not only that employment rights and protections are in grave jeopardy with the inclusion of a sunset clause, but that all the case law will, in effect, be wiped out? There is real anxiety in the business community and among employment advisers that the whole landscape will disappear, leaving employment relationships in total turmoil. It is another added complication. Does my hon. Friend agree?

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Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
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I very much agree with my hon. Friend’s comments. I was aware that the Bill will rip up much important legislation—for example, workers’ rights to holidays and so on—and that there is immense concern in the business and the working world and among trade unions and others about that. I was not aware that it will mean that all the precedents go with it. This has to be a huge concern.

The consequences of the Bill, both intentional and unintentional, will be so broad that it is impossible for the Minister to fully know or understand them. If the Government could not see or anticipate the need for today’s SI following Brexit, I implore the Minister to consider the possible legislative nightmare that the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill could unleash. Does he intend or want to spend what will hopefully be his party’s last few months in government sitting through endless SI votes and debates, like this one, because that may well be the fallout from the reckless Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill? Have the Government made an assessment of the potential implications that the Bill could have for today’s SI?

The Minister may feel that today represents some legislative progress, but while this Government consistently cause more chaos and uncertainty for British people and businesses, Labour will seek to make Brexit work. I am proud to be a member of the Labour party, the party that completed the Good Friday agreement. That was one of the most progressive political acts of the last century, bringing peace and power sharing after years of conflict and stalemate. But the Good Friday agreement was a starting point, not the finishing line, and it is as relevant today as it was in 1998. Members on both sides of the Committee must always remember that.

The amendment presented here today is in keeping with the spirit of the Good Friday agreement. It recognises and respects Northern Ireland’s sovereignty and relationship with the Union and the Republic. That is why I am dismayed and concerned that the nuance and detail of this SI may yet be undone by the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which takes a wrecking ball to the Brexit deal that the Government negotiated, signed and campaigned on. Not only does the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill break international law; it damages our country’s reputation and risks the integrity of the Good Friday agreement. We have heard many international concerns set out. It risks new trade barriers in a cost of living crisis, and it divides the UK and Europe as we face Putin’s war on Ukraine.

The IMI system is built on trust and mutual co-operation, principles on which I am sure we have cross-party agreement, so I ask the Minister how our colleagues in Europe and Northern Ireland can trust this Government to act responsibly when it comes to this SI when the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill is going to rip up a previous agreement and is due to be debated on Report in the other place. What impact does the Minister believe the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill will have on the SI brought forward today? Labour Members believe that we need trust and good will in order to deliver more benefits to business across the UK and Northern Ireland. We achieve this by keeping support for the Good Friday agreement.

I have a couple of questions about how the SI will work in practice. The Minister referred to it being subject to the relevant data protections. I understand that the UK’s data protections are set to diverge from the European Union’s data protections, as announced by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Could the Minister set out the implications that that might have for this SI? Could he also say a little bit about what protocols are in place to ensure that data sharing in Northern Ireland is compliant with broader data sharing legislation?

I am struggling to understand one point. He talked about this being under the Secretary of State for International Trade. Does that mean that that Department has access to the IMI but that that access and the data cannot be shared with other branches of Government or other Departments—or, equally, with other members of the Union?

Why has it has taken such a long time for the Government to identify this particular section of inoperable or redundant EU law? How or through what process was that identified? What steps is the Department taking to identify further sections of legislation in which there may also be technical operability issues? I hope the Minister will provide reassurances and address the concerns I have raised.

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake
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I join the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central in thanking the two Committees whose work preceded this debate, and I thank hon. Members for their consideration of this statutory instrument and for their contributions.

As I previously set out, the SI makes technical amendments so as to reflect the current position regarding the UK’s access to the IMI. In terms of wider debate on the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill and the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central has every opportunity to raise concerns about that legislation at the appropriate time on the Floor of the House, as the Bills pass through both Houses. That is the right place to do that.

The hon. Member also said that sunsetting the legislation by the end of next year is irresponsible. Personally, I think it is irresponsible not to set a date, because timings will just drift if we do not do so. I urge her to engage with these issues within the relevant debates. She could set out her previous position on a second referendum, which I think she once called for, on leaving the European Union. Government Members are committed to making Brexit work. That is where we stand and where we will remain.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
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The Minister has a desire to refight the Brexit debate at every opportunity. We are trying to make the SI work and are asking the questions to make it work. I ask him to please set out to us how it is going to work.

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake
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We do not want to refight previous battles, and that is what a second referendum would open up for people. That is not where we want to be. We want to move forward, and that is what we are trying to do today.

In terms of further changes beyond those under discussion, if any are necessary they could be part of the ongoing negotiations between us and the European Commission. It is very important that we have those negotiations, but also that they take place in a framework where we have a strong position, not a weak one. That is the position we have taken.

In terms of the timing of the measures, the UK was given a right to access the IMI under the withdrawal agreement for a period of nine months in order to deal with outstanding applications for European professional cards from nurses, physiotherapists and pharmacists. The EU and the UK agreed to extend the UK’s right of access to the IMI beyond the nine-month period, to process the remaining outstanding applications. The need for that temporary access has now been resolved and we are now in a position to progress the SI. In terms of the specific timing, one of the powers used to make the instrument under section 8 of the European Union (Withdrawal Act) 2018 expires at the end of the year, so it is necessary to legislate as we are doing now right now.

With the statute book updated, the SI will provide clarity to businesses, citizens and public authorities about the sharing of data between the UK, EU member states and the European Commission

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
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The Minister talks about providing clarity. I hope he is going to address my point about the divergence of the data protection regimes in this country and the European Union, and the impact that that will have.

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake
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That has absolutely nothing to do with this debate, so I will not get into that at all.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
- Hansard - -

The Minister just said that he is looking to provide clarity on data sharing. He also said very specifically that data sharing would be in accordance with the regulatory frameworks in the country, yet those regulatory frameworks are going to differ.

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

This statutory instrument is about data sharing within the IMI, not within the wider context of the relationship between the UK and the European Union—that is what it deals with. The hon. Lady wants to extend the debate into areas that are not relevant to this SI, in my view, and I think it is inappropriate that we do so.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
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Will the Minister give way?

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake
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For a final time.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
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Is the Minister clear, therefore, that the regulatory framework under which the data sharing will take place in this SI is the regulatory framework of the single market, and not the regulatory framework of the Department for International Trade?

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The position is that the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, which was introduced to the House of Commons on Monday 18 July 2022, will amend the existing legislation and adapt the UK general data protection regulation to create a new, bespoke British data protection framework that is business and consumer friendly, and that keeps people’s personal data secure. We are working with businesses and other stakeholders to make sure that it is fit for purpose. But, as I say, that is not relevant to this SI.

This statutory instrument introduces no new costs, obligations or powers. As I have set out, it ensures that UK public authorities can continue to access the IMI, where necessary, in order to enable them to securely, effectively and efficiently deliver their obligations under the Northern Ireland protocol. The statutory instrument also ensures that the UK’s statute book accurately reflects the changes in access to IMI following the UK’s departure from the European Union. I commend the draft regulations to the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Oral Answers to Questions

Chi Onwurah Excerpts
Tuesday 29th November 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
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We do not know where the half a billion pounds announced last week to cover Horizon uncertainty is coming from, as the Science Minister refuses to answer my questions, but we do know that British scientists are still having to choose between the country they love and the funding they need. British science, British businesses and British jobs are at risk while the Government play a blame game, instead of keeping their manifesto promise to associate with the world’s biggest science fund. Will the Science Minister admit that no science fund can have the efficiency, effectiveness, influence, prestige or range of Horizon, and that he has let British science down?

George Freeman Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (George Freeman)
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In a word, no. I will tell the hon. Lady exactly where the £484 million that we announced last Monday—I think the Opposition supported it—is coming from. It is coming from Her Majesty’s Treasury to support universities, researchers and companies in this country that have been affected by—and this is the second point—the European Union’s block on our negotiated membership of Horizon, Copernicus and Euratom. I was in Paris last week negotiating. We are still actively pushing to be in Horizon, Copernicus and Euratom, but we have made provision, and early in the new year Members will start to see that we will be rolling out additional support for fellowships, innovation and global partnerships. If UK scientists cannot play in the European cup, we will play in the world cup of science.

Britain’s Industrial Future

Chi Onwurah Excerpts
Tuesday 15th November 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
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I thank Members across the House for their contributions. We may disagree on how to support our great industries, but we can all agree on the importance of UK industry and the importance of this place talking about it.

With our world-leading universities, our fantastic science base, our national heritage in manufacturing and engineering, our dedicated and flexible workforce and the growing global demand, our industrial future should be bright. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) set out, many of our key industries, including steel, car manufacturing and shipbuilding, are facing existential threats.

In three hours of debate, we heard no credible plan for this Government to deliver on industrial jobs, investment and growth. Conservative Members are unable to explain, for example, why UK car production has halved under their watch since 2016—from 1.7 million to just 860,000 cars this year—or why working people in this country have not seen a real-terms increase in their pay since the Conservatives took office. I have to ask: why did Conservative Members really come into politics? Was it to make working people poorer? It seems that way. The Conservatives have been in power for 12 years now: 12 years of low growth, low productivity—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) says it is relative. We want high-paid jobs, with increases for people.

Jonathan Gullis Portrait Jonathan Gullis
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will use my third opportunity in this debate to remind the hon. Lady that in Stoke-on-Trent we have created more than 9,000 jobs thanks to a Conservative-led city council, led by Councillor Abi Brown, with 2,000 jobs linked to the Ceramic Valley enterprise zone, up to 1,700 jobs thanks to the Kidsgrove town deal and 500 jobs at the Home Office. That is 10,000-plus jobs in our area. Sadly, 10,000 jobs in ceramics went overseas to China under Labour’s watch.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
- Hansard - -

Unfortunately, the hon. Gentleman has just illustrated yet again how Conservative Members cannot answer the challenge of well-paid jobs across our country and a pay rise for our working people.

We have had 12 years of low growth; low productivity; austerity a-go-go; broken promises and abandoned manifesto commitments; spiralling inflation; the NHS at breaking point; the Home Office broken, and that is according to the Home Secretary; higher taxes; and higher bills for working people. What a record. At the heart of their ideology, Tories do not believe Government can make a positive difference. They do not want to get stuck in; they just want to get out of the way. It is just one long season of “I’m a Tory MP, get me out of here” where British business is concerned.

However, as my hon. Friends the Members for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi) and for Birkenhead (Mick Whitley) so ably laid out, the state working in partnership with the private sector can shape and create markets. That is what industry needs: a partner to help plan for the future, provide investment and certainty, skills and infrastructure, research and development, trade and market access. The reality is that our great industries will never get the partner they deserve under Conservative Governments. It is much easier to destroy than to construct. They can crash the economy, but they cannot build the economy of the future.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypridd (Alex Davies-Jones) emphasised, net zero and growth are not in opposition. Partnership between the market and the state presents the opportunity to build world-leading industries that will last for decades and spread wealth across the country. Labour believes the UK has huge potential for new green industries, such as clean steel, as championed so passionately by my hon. Friends the Members for Middlesbrough (Andy McDonald), for Newport East (Jessica Morden) and for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock).

With our world-leading research base and universities, skilled workforce and deep capital markets, the UK is also well placed to create new clusters of manufacturing from Bolton to Birmingham. Labour has committed to an additional £28 billion of green capital investment a year until 2030 through our green prosperity plan as part of our British wealth fund.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Luton South (Rachel Hopkins) said, this country has enormous untapped potential when it comes to electric vehicles. In my constituency, Newcastle University is a leader in research to overcome the challenges of current battery technology. Under Labour, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) emphasised, we will have eight gigafactories to ensure that the next generation of electric cars is made here in Britain. Labour also recognises that hydrogen could modernise heavy goods vehicles and public transport. These are long-term projects, so we will ensure certainty for business with our industrial strategy council to end the farce of long-term plans that do not survive the political cycle.

Science is the foundation of future success, but not content with crashing our current economy, the Tories seem bent on destroying our future economy. They simply are not serious about science. As well as their catastrophic trickle-down experiment with the nation’s economy, they are now trialling Heisenberg’s “uncertainty principle” for science. For the past few months, it has been impossible to know both the role and the number of science Ministers at the same time. The hon. Member for Mid Norfolk (George Freeman), who is not in his place, resigned over the previous—times two—Prime Minister’s behaviour. Then he asked for his job back, but that Prime Minister preferred to keep the position vacant. Then the previous Prime Minister gave the brief to the hon. Member for Wealden (Ms Ghani), but barely had she got her feet under the table when the current Prime Minister gave it back to the hon. Member for Mid Norfolk. Two weeks later, though, we still have not seen any ministerial responsibilities published. The rumour is that the hon. Member for Mid Norfolk has the brief, but the hon. Member for Wealden has the furniture—you could not make it up.

British science is no joke. Labour sees a clear path from world-leading British science to the jobs on which people can raise a family. That is why Labour will aim for 3% GDP investment from public and private sources into research and development, almost double the 1.7% that we have been seeing under this Government, supporting the jobs of the future—in life sciences, artificial intelligence, clean energy, satellite applications, semi-conductors, quantum technologies and marine autonomous technologies, as championed by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard).

Labour would maintain our membership of the world’s largest science funding programme, Horizon, and we will ensure that the wealth and opportunity that science brings are spread across our country more fairly, as my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) called for so passionately.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah
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I cannot give way, as I must make some progress.

We will help to champion clusters of businesses and universities as engines of regional growth, providing them with the levers and resources to collaborate and innovate together, rather than slashing regional science funding as this Government are doing.

British cities lag behind our European counterparts across productivity metrics. Newcastle, famous for its industrial heritage, is less productive in GDP terms than Gdansk, Lille and Valencia. Unlike the previous Prime Minister, I know that that is not because British workers are the

“worst idlers in the world”.

It is because the Government are not supporting them to reach their potential. Labour will work in partnership with businesses, civil society and trade unions and finally put an end to 12 years of Tory low growth, low wages and low productivity.

Labour’s industrial strategy will deliver clean power by 2030. We will create an economy that cares for the future and that harnesses data for the public good. Labour will build a resilient economy so that we can not only protect jobs in our British automotive, steel and shipbuilding industries, but provide the investment and long-term strategy that we need to be competitive on the world stage. Labour will grab hold of the national prosperity of which Britain is capable and deliver a fairer and greener future.

Today’s debate has shown that the Tories are out of plans and out of ideas. So, here is an idea for them: call a general election and let us put our industrial strategy to the country.

Draft Trade Marks (Amendment) Regulations 2022

Chi Onwurah Excerpts
Wednesday 26th October 2022

(1 year, 7 months ago)

General Committees
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Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
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It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairship, Mr Mundell. I thank the Minister for setting out what the instrument will do. I will try not to repeat what he said, but there are aspects that I want to highlight. The Minister was right to point out the importance of robust and effective trademark legislation.

I start by celebrating our Great British businesses. I thank and congratulate scientists, artists and creatives for creating some of the world’s most iconic brands and trademarks, which are recognised across the globe. They are the very imagery of Britain. Whether we are talking about Newcastle’s famous Greggs logo, world-renowned brands such as British Airways, Royal Mail, Jaguar Land Rover and Rolls-Royce, or one of the UK’s 5.5 million small and medium-sized enterprises, we must protect the intellectual property and trademarks of our Great British brands.

Trademarks, and especially WKMs, are an important but often overlooked form of property. We often forget that many of our assets are in intangibles, IP branding and trademarks, rather than bricks and mortar. Investment in brands drives the allocation of resources in our economy, increases competition and pushes firms to innovate. Investment in brands and intangibles has increased in the last 15 years, especially in advanced economies such as ours. Much of our success at home and abroad is down to those intangible business assets.

The contribution of trademarks to our economy is significant. According to analysis from Kantar, British brands contributed £205 billion to the economy in 2021, a significant proportion of which is attributable to trademarked imagery, signs and branding. It is absolutely right that our UK legislation should be fit for the purpose of protecting our intellectual property.

As the Minister set out, the UK already possesses highly effective well-known mark legislation. The draft statutory instrument will remedy a compliance issue that has emerged in the last few years, following the ratification of the TCA. As a result of that issue, the owner of an unregistered WKM would not be able to prohibit the use of conflicting marks on dissimilar goods or services, and there is a disparity in the treatment of UK and third country national signatories to the Paris convention.

The SI proposes amending the Trade Marks Act 1994 to achieve two objectives. The first is to ensure our compliance with article 240 of the TCA, which applies the World Intellectual Property Organisation’s joint recommendation concerning provisions for the protection of well-known trademarks. Regulations 4 and 5 of the SI amend the 1994 Act to achieve that. The second objective is to ensure that UK owners of WKMs have access to the same protections as third-country nationals, so the SI will provide parity of treatment for UK and third-country nationals regarding WKM provisions in the TMA. Labour recognises that the current disparity of treatment for UK and third-country nationals is not in keeping with the intent of the WIPO’s joint recommendation, which promotes harmonised common principles of treatment of WKMs across all country signatories. Regulation 3 of the SI seeks to resolve that legislative gap.

In order to protect and support our great British businesses and organisations, and to ensure that domestic law adequately implements the trade and co-operation agreement, the Opposition will not vote against the statutory instrument. However, we have important questions that I hope the Minister can answer.

First, it is disappointing that the Government did not provide further detail in their assessment for this instrument, or cite examples of issues that the SI will resolve, though the Minister did as he was speaking. I am sure that he will have been busy with his party’s political discussions, debates and changes, shall we say, but legislative scrutiny must come first.

I have consulted industry on this draft legislation, and I am pleased to say that I have not been made aware of any negative reactions. I am also pleased that the de minimis assessment suggests that there will be

“no, or no significant, impact”

on businesses, charities, voluntary bodies or public sector organisations. However, if there was even one case of a body being impacted by this legislative hole, that would be one too many. Research into IPO tribunal cases dealing with similar WKM issues found that in the last 10 years there were 121 relevant opposition and invalidation cases, a third of which—about four cases a year—concerned unregistered WKMs. I understand that only a small number of additional cases are going to tribunal and, in turn, an even smaller number would be appealed in court. However, given that information, will the Minister consider producing a further assessment of the impact of this amendment on well-known marks?

I am concerned about the time that the Government have taken to identify and address the issues dealt with in the SI. The explanatory memorandum gives no indication of how long the IPO or Government have been aware of them. The Government have often boasted about how global Britain is, yet the international harmonised and common principles in the field of well-known trademarks have existed since 1999, so I am slightly confused. The explanatory notes indicate that the compliance issue that followed the signing of the TCA were unforeseen, but I think the Minister indicated that the matter was considered to be already covered by common law. I would like to understand which it is, and why it has taken 22 months for this SI to be brought forward. Can the Minister take us through whether the issue was foreseen? Was there separate legal advice that said, “Actually, common-law provisions are not enough”? What was the process?

The Government’s own short assessment of the need for and impact of the SI admits that there are IPO tribunal cases that illustrate a knowledge of the gap following, and even prior to, the TCA. I therefore ask the Minister whether he intends to make a retrospective assessment of the impact of the legislation. As for the IPO tribunal cases that the Government are aware of, does the Minister have an assessment of the income lost in legal fees and costs in those cases, and of the impact on the organisations? Would he perhaps like to take this opportunity to apologise to them for their being caught in this loophole?

Both sides of the House can agree on the importance of the long-term future and health of the UK’s great British brands and well-known trademarks. The SI remedies a small hole in our legislation, but the Government’s reckless Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill could blow a gigantic hole in it. Can the Minister provide assurances that the Bill, in scrapping a potential 2,400 laws, will not undermine the SI, directly or unintentionally?

On the issue of support for our trademarks and fantastic intellectual property, there is disharmony between foreign-based attorneys and firms, which can act before the IPO, and UK trademark attorneys, who cannot act in the same way in the European Union. What steps is the Minister taking to address that disparity, and to support trademark attorneys and companies in this country?

Labour’s industrial strategy commits to a closer relationship between the state, businesses, civil society and trade unions. That will enable the next Government—a Labour Government—more rapidly to identify and patch legislative holes such as the one we are discussing. It will ensure that we have a legislative policy framework, including for intellectual property, that businesses can trust, and under which they can prosper.

Shale Gas Extraction

Chi Onwurah Excerpts
Thursday 22nd September 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend makes an absolutely right and wise point: Opposition Members’ motto for the next election is, “Let’s be cold and poor.” That is really the prospectus that they are putting before the British people. As regards seismic activity, there are millions of seismic events of a magnitude of 2.5 or lower in the world every year. We should not assume that every seismic event is the San Francisco earthquake.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

Lifting the cap on bankers’ bonuses while making it harder for working people to access benefits, and now lifting safety limits on seismic events, or earthquakes to you and me, while protecting and subsidising oil companies’ excessive profits and accelerating climate change— does not this decision really show whose side this Tory Government are on?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

His Majesty’s Government are on the side of people who need energy, businesses that need energy and an economy that needs to grow. The Labour party is in favour of no growth, coldness and high prices.

Oral Answers to Questions

Chi Onwurah Excerpts
Tuesday 12th July 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can I suggest that the Minister reminds Ministers in the other place that they are responsible to MPs in this House as well, and that they should meet with them? I hope that will be a clear message to the Lords.

I call Chi Onwurah, the Labour spokesperson.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
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Despite being critical to our world-beating research and a Conservative manifesto commitment, Britain’s participation in the world’s biggest science funding programme, Horizon Europe, is in peril. Before resigning, the then science Minister, the hon. Member for Mid Norfolk (George Freeman), took to Twitter to lobby the new Chancellor for funding for his plan B, but the Chancellor was busy trying to get the Prime Minister he had just accepted a job from to leave his job. Now, although the former science Minister has asked for his job back, the still in place, though disgraced, Prime Minister is too busy nobbling those going for his job to fill the science job. It is total chaos. Science deserves better, doesn’t it?

Greg Hands Portrait Greg Hands
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thought that was a rather convoluted question, if you do not mind my saying so, Mr Speaker.

We in the UK Government are absolutely committed to getting a good deal for UK science, whether through association with Horizon Europe or through our plan B Horizon plan, which is also a fully funded approach to making sure that UK science does not lose out. Perhaps the hon. Lady might welcome the big boost in R&D spending in this country, with the most sustained uplift, from £15 billion today to £20 billion in two years’ time—a 33% increase in just two years.