Chris Heaton-Harris debates with HM Treasury

There have been 4 exchanges between Chris Heaton-Harris and HM Treasury

Mon 18th May 2020 Oral Answers to Questions 12 interactions (339 words)
Tue 2nd July 2019 New Covent Garden Market (Westminster Hall) 8 interactions (2,194 words)
Tue 9th April 2019 Oral Answers to Questions 7 interactions (74 words)
Wed 21st February 2018 Finance (No. 2) Bill 3 interactions (20 words)

Oral Answers to Questions

Chris Heaton-Harris Excerpts
Monday 18th May 2020

(4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Andrea Jenkyns Portrait Andrea Jenkyns (Morley and Outwood) (Con) - Hansard

What steps he has taken to protect rail passengers from financial loss during the covid-19 outbreak. [902648]

Chris Heaton-Harris Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Chris Heaton-Harris) - Hansard

We have extended refunds to all ticket types and made claiming refunds easier to ensure that passengers do not lose out financially.

Gareth Johnson Portrait Gareth Johnson - Hansard
18 May 2020, midnight

What discussions has the Minister had with rail operators such as Southeastern over season ticket holders who have just a couple of months left on their season ticket, and who, because of the virus, have been unable to travel but are ineligible for a refund? These commuters have suffered quite considerably and it would be welcome news if some assistance were available for them.

Chris Heaton-Harris Portrait Chris Heaton-Harris - Hansard
18 May 2020, midnight

The Government have been talking to train operators throughout this whole process, as my hon. Friend would expect, but we do not have plans to extend season tickets. Season ticket holders are already entitled to request a refund in accordance with the National Rail conditions of travel. Over 100,000 season ticket holders have already claimed refunds totalling £150 million in the current covid travel restriction period.

Andrea Jenkyns Portrait Andrea Jenkyns [V] - Hansard
18 May 2020, midnight

Mr Speaker, you may hear my toddler chuntering away in the background.

It is crucial that people who are doing the right thing and avoiding public transport are not left out of pocket. Will my hon. Friend therefore confirm that passengers in Morley and Outwood who have purchased their advance tickets—as well as those with season tickets, which he has already mentioned—will be able to receive a refund without any charge for any unused travel during the outbreak?

Chris Heaton-Harris Portrait Chris Heaton-Harris - Hansard

We have worked with the rail industry to temporarily extend refunds to all ticket types. These changes reflect the exceptional circumstances and the Government’s advice to avoid unnecessary travel. Anytime off-peak and super off-peak tickets can be refunded as usual, and since 17 March all admin fees have been waived. Advance tickets purchased before 23 March for travel from that date onwards are eligible for a fee-free refund, whether the train is cancelled or not. Unused carnet tickets can be refunded or extended depending on the train operator, and season tickets, including station car park season tickets, are already refundable, so we have not changed that policy. A £10 admin fee remains for season ticket refunds.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker - Hansard

Well, you have made your husband very happy.

Andrew Griffith Portrait Andrew Griffith (Arundel and South Downs) (Con) - Hansard

What steps his Department is taking to help improve rail services in West Sussex. [902642]

Chris Heaton-Harris Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Chris Heaton-Harris) - Hansard
18 May 2020, midnight

I am sorry, Mr Speaker—I was worried about my husband for a moment there. Problem or opportunity, whichever way you take it.

The Government are investing around £48 billion in maintaining and upgrading the rail network between 2019 to 2024, focused on increasing reliability and punctuality for passengers, including in West Sussex.

Andrew Griffith Portrait Andrew Griffith - Hansard
18 May 2020, midnight

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply and for the significant extra investment that the Government are making in rail transport. As we seek to regrow the economy, may I ask him to consider the investment project known as the Arundel chord, which would enable trains to turn east near Arundel and travel directly to Horsham, significantly improving the resilience of rail services for my constituents in Arundel and South Downs?

Chris Heaton-Harris Portrait Chris Heaton-Harris - Hansard

Network Rail has recently concluded a study of services in the West Sussex area, produced in consultation with local authorities and stakeholders. While the Arundel chord might have value as a diversionary route, its capacity would be limited and it would cause a negative impact on existing Arun Valley and West Coastway services. However, the study has suggested numerous beneficial changes involving train services and infrastructure, which my Department will take forward with Network Rail and which will benefit all my hon. Friend’s constituents.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab) - Hansard

How many applications have been made to the (a) rural mobility fund and (b) supported bus services fund since February 2020. [902635]

New Covent Garden Market

Chris Heaton-Harris Excerpts
Tuesday 2nd July 2019

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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HM Treasury
Chris Heaton-Harris Portrait Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con) - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 3:56 p.m.

I beg to move,

That this House has considered the redevelopment of New Covent Garden market.

As a fellow Northamptonshire MP, Mr Hollobone, you might be slightly surprised that I am interested in this subject, but I hope to enlighten you in my contribution. The first records of Covent Garden supplying food to the population of London are from around 1200. By the 1800s, the market had expanded to cover more than 30 acres, with a covered market being built in 1834. In 1887, a foreign fruit exchange opened, which handled imported produce that was distributed widely beyond the capital city. By 1890, the market had become the most important fresh produce market in the United Kingdom, but space was tight and the market became a chaotic place. According to the Covent Garden Market Authority, people were complaining about congestion.

In 1904, the Jubilee Hall was built and in 1918, the Duke of Bedford sold the market and its trading rights to a property company. By 1929, the amount of produce flowing into the market had doubled since 1910 and congestion in the market area was getting worse. That congestion problem seems to be a recurring theme.

In 1961, with no space to grow, constant traffic jams and overcrowding, the market needed to move. Accordingly, the Covent Garden Market Authority was set up to modernise the market, and it passed into public ownership. Nine Elms, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Battersea (Marsha De Cordova), was identified as its new home. Construction of the new market began in 1971, and in 1974 the largest wholesale fruit, vegetable and flower market in the country moved to the new site at Nine Elms, which was officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen the following year.

At about that time, a young David Heaton-Harris went about setting up his own business with the help of some Lincolnshire farmers. What4 Ltd was the family business that I eventually went on to run before entering politics. I worked nights in the wonderful New Covent Garden Market for the best part of 11 years. Back in the day—this is relevant to the debate—we tried, as tenants, to buy the market from the Government, with other tenants, but they were not keen to sell such a prized asset.

For the past 45 years, the market has supplied fresh food and flowers to London and the south of England. According to Daniel Tomkinson, the chief executive of the market authority,

“New Covent Market plays a vital role in London’s hospitality and foodservice sectors. No award ceremony or major sporting event takes place in London without the input of one of the tenants. From quality fruit to flowers and amazing veg, this iconic Market is a key part of London’s life.”

Currently, 167 businesses trade on the market, employing 2,500 people. The aggregate turnover of businesses operating in the market in 2017 was about £626 million. That is a lot of fruit and vegetables. The market is expanding, and it is no surprise that that figure is a 6% increase on the 2016 numbers, as it is feeding a growing city.

The Mayor of London updated his final London food strategy in December 2018, and specifically commented on the need for “highly efficient supply chains” for the city of London. He committed to:

“Champion business support to food entrepreneurs and start-ups, and support London’s markets to increase their supply of fresh, local and seasonal produce to meet all Londoners’ cultural needs through the London Markets Board.”

New Covent Garden Market plays a huge part in filling those requirements.

From my conversations with the Minister, I know he understands how important the continuing existence and success of New Covent Garden Market is to the food supply chain for London and the south-east, and indeed the whole of England. He knows that there is a dispute between the market authority and the tenants of the market over its redevelopment. The Covent Garden Tenants Association was incorporated in April 1922. Its members are the traders on the market, and it has represented their interests for nearly 100 years. It represented my interests when I was a tenant on the market with What4. There is now the possibility of action, based on the infringement of traders’ rights under the terms of their agreements to occupy space in the market. That could easily be substantially expanded to incorporate claims that the market authority is acting in breach of its statutory duties.

John Howell Portrait John Howell (Henley) (Con) - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 4:03 p.m.

Given what my hon. Friend said about the current state of things for the tenants, I wonder whether this is an opportunity to go back and look at the idea of the tenants taking ownership of the market.

Chris Heaton-Harris Portrait Chris Heaton-Harris - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 4:05 p.m.

I am sure the tenants would be delighted to have such an opportunity, but there would obviously have to be some sort of procurement process. That is not a possibility or a probability at this time because there are already contacts signed for the redevelopment of the market. It is a very good piece of real estate in London, where fantastic businesses are sited.

The market’s moves over the years have been driven by congestion more than almost anything else. On each occasion, the market’s success has meant that it needs more space. Ultimately, it moved to its current site because of the lack of space and because of the congestion in the area in the 1960s. Its redevelopment will mean that, for the first time in its 800-year history, in a growing market environment, its size will be reduced substantially.

Marsha De Cordova Portrait Marsha De Cordova (Battersea) (Lab) - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 4:05 p.m.

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this important debate. I was not aware that he was a former tenant of the New Covent Garden Market. It is great that there is somebody here who has extensive knowledge and experience of this issue. He makes a really interesting point. New Covent Garden Market plays a huge role in my constituency of Battersea: it brings economic advantages to the local area and employs 2,000 people. Given that it has been growing and the income it generates has been increasing, does he agree that a new development that reduces its size is going backwards? It will not allow the market to thrive and go forward.

Chris Heaton-Harris Portrait Chris Heaton-Harris - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 4:11 p.m.

I agree. I thank the hon. Lady for her contribution and the way she represents the market in this place. I regularly speak to various of my old friends—I think they are friends; lots of them were customers or people I bought things from, so perhaps they are business associates—and I know that she is a very good representative of the market who talks to the tenants a great deal and represents their concerns wisely.

We are squeezing a big, successful business into a smaller space. The market had a massive footprint, and when I was trading there a lot of it was not used effectively, so it is possible to understand some sort of consolidation, but the scale we are talking about now makes that an interesting prospect. At a time when the turnover of the businesses in the market is growing, it seems odd to reduce the market’s footprint. Although the tenants are not over-happy with the overall reduction in size, they have tried their best to make it work. Various pieces of land have already been sold off, and in some instances they are sold on again. The market area is to be reduced even more. Among other changes, the temporary flower market site will be incorporated into the main site. In essence, we are squeezing a quart into a pint pot and hoping that the businesses inside the pot do not get squeezed.

Over the years, the tenants have repeatedly raised concerns through their association that the proposed end-state configuration of the market that the authority is now engaged in building will not be able to operate successfully because the proposed layout and footprint simply will not accommodate the vehicle movements needed for the market to operate effectively and efficiently. The tenants of the market are very knowledgeable—and, indeed, vocal—about how the business of the market works, and their opinions about whether what is proposed will work should carry significant weight. They have retained the services of a specialist transport consultant, who advises that there are significant failings in the transport analysis and planning undertaken by the market authority. The Minister is well aware that the market authority is a public body that has a statutory duty to provide functioning market facilities and prevent traffic congestion on the market land.

The market authority is currently redeveloping the market under a contract entered into with the developer, Vinci and St Modwen Properties, in 2015. The developer commenced the main works in October 2018. Since then, an independent logistics consultant, instructed by the tenants association, has confirmed that, as designed, the market will not be operationally viable in parking and loading/unloading terms, and will therefore constrain the businesses it contains. The market authority has allowed the developer to start the construction works, but there are problems, because the tenants say that that has happened without the authority having taken the tenants’ logistics consultant’s advice about the design, and without its waiting to see the final report prepared by Arup, a logistics consultant instructed by the developer, which confirmed that the new market, as presently designed, would not be operationally viable. Arup’s final report said that to make it viable certain measures identified in a list contained in that report would need to be adopted. I am told that Arup had been asked by the market authority to use transport data that was known to be out of date and inaccurate when assessing the viability of the options, but it still came to that quite drastic conclusion.

The market authority has power under its contract with the developer to require changes to be made to the design of the market, but it has yet to decide to follow up Arup’s advice. Instead, the developer presses on with the works as they stand. I wonder whether my hon. Friend the Minister is comfortable with that decision. I also wonder whether the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been provided with a report from a logistics consultant—or any report—confirming that, contrary to the view of either the tenants association’s logistics consultant or Arup itself, the current design will be operationally viable. If so, would it be possible for the tenants to see it, to give them some comfort that these changes will work?

This is where my old life as a tenant of the market comes into its own, because battles over rent were legendary back in the day when I worked in the market: in April this year, the market authority sent notices to terminate the tenancies of market tenants and threatened, in a letter from its solicitors, that if tenants did not immediately agree to give up their statutory right to apply for a new tenancy and agree to vacate their units at the expiry of the notice, they would not be offered tenancy of a unit in the newly developed market and would have to depart the market instead.

Teresa Pearce (Erith and Thamesmead) (Lab) Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 4:11 p.m.

It is my understanding that one of the key roles of the Covent Garden Market Authority is to nurture good relations with tenants. How do such actions nurture good relations?

Chris Heaton-Harris Portrait Chris Heaton-Harris - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 4:13 p.m.

I know that changes at the top of the market authority have been welcomed by the tenants, and that much better conversations are being had now than have been had for many a year, but I do not believe that this is an appropriate way for a public authority to behave.

Additionally, the new draft leases issued by the Covent Garden Market Authority are removing the rights of the wholesale tenants to operate in the critical and traditional way on the bit of the market that everybody loves so much, the buyers walk or trading floor, turning that essential space into a corridor rather than a market. I can honestly tell the Minister that removing that space will almost completely remove the heart, soul and character of the market.

In the new leases, the market authority has also changed the rent negotiation process and general service charge calculations, as it has now declared that it is in fact a commercial landlord. Those actions will inevitably result in many of the smaller companies based at the market closing as the site becomes unaffordable.

Since the whole process started, there have been vast changes in how the market operates. Goods are now mostly chilled instead of being stored at ambient temperatures, and businesses’ being able to unload big lorries, repick orders and deliver in quick time continues to reduce the number of large vehicle movements required on London’s roads. However, that makes the traffic studies more important than most people believe. There is yet to be a traffic study conducted that says the future design of this important food distribution hub for London will work; indeed, all those that have been done, or at least those that are in the public domain, say that it will not. If it does not work, the market will eventually die. All the catering outlets, restaurants and food businesses currently served by the market will not go away; they will simply be catered for by businesses that travel many more miles to get into London, further adding traffic and pollution in this great city of ours.

I do not think we can ignore the facts, stand back and allow the developer and the market authority to build a market that is functionally inoperable. Action must be taken. I hope that the Government have given due consideration to the effect on tenants, businesses and the wider economy if the market were to go into decline or fail altogether. There is no need for that to happen.

I would like to think that the Minister, whose knowledge of and commitment to solving these issues is both impressive and welcome, will continue to ask those on all sides of this debate to come together to find a mutually agreeable and workable solution—all sides meaning the market authority, the tenants, the developer and the Department itself. This needs to be sorted before millions of pounds are wasted in court and one of the most vibrant parts of London’s market culture possibly ceases to be.

David Rutley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Rutley) - Hansard
2 Jul 2019, 4:15 p.m.

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) on securing the debate. I know him well; we have discussed the matter on several occasions, and I could not think of a better person to bring the debate to the Chamber today. I note that the local MP, the hon. Member for Battersea (Marsha De Cordova), is also here and understandably shares many of the same concerns, but I think it is fair to say that, given my hon. Friend’s time spent working at the market, his knowledge and experience are second to none here, so we are delighted that he is with us. It must have been a real privilege for him to follow in his family’s footsteps and run that business so successfully for that period of time.

My hon. Friend can be reassured that the Government are committed to ensuring that this iconic market continues to thrive at Nine Elms, both during the development and into the future. We are in absolute agreement that that means it must be a profitable market that works logistically and operates fairly and transparently for both landlord and tenants, and that we need to get on and build it at pace. I am as concerned as he is about the current situation. It is simply untenable for the market authority and the tenants to be in disagreement on such important details. I am clear that both sides should be spending whatever time it takes to resolve these issues, and quickly.

Oral Answers to Questions

Chris Heaton-Harris Excerpts
Tuesday 9th April 2019

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard

At the Budget in 2018, we put an extra £630 into the pockets of working families on universal credit. The way we will make sure that our country succeeds is by increasing economic growth, building more houses and cutting the cost of living, not by saying that business is the enemy and trying to crash our economy.

Chris Heaton-Harris Portrait Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:04 p.m.

What assessment has the Minister made of the rather bizarre policy suggestion of removing personal allowances from the low paid?

Elizabeth Truss Portrait Elizabeth Truss - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:04 p.m.

I think it is an extremely strange idea. What we need to do is cut taxes for those on low incomes, and that is what we are doing: from this April we will cut taxes by £130 for those on basic rate taxes, meaning that they will be able to keep more of their own money.

Break in Debate

Mr Hammond Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:28 p.m.

We take very seriously the failure of London Capital & Finance. Last week, my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary directed the FCA to launch an investigation into the company. We will carry that investigation out and look carefully at the findings.

Chris Heaton-Harris Portrait Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:26 p.m.

In Question 2 the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah) told us how warehousing across the country was full to bursting point as businesses prepared for a no-deal Brexit. In a leaked letter last week, the Cabinet Secretary implied that business was not ready for a no-deal Brexit. Which is correct?

Mr Hammond Parliament Live - Hansard
9 Apr 2019, 12:28 p.m.

We know that manufacturing companies have been building precautionary buffer stocks of imported components to give them resilience against any disruption at our ports in the event of a no-deal Brexit—this tends to be larger companies. However, it is also the case, as my hon. Friend knows very well from his work as a Minister, that despite the Government’s attempts to engage with business, there are still far too many businesses who have adopted the famous approach of the ostrich in the sand in relation to this eventuality and are not taking precautionary actions to prepare for the possibility of a no-deal exit.

Finance (No. 2) Bill

(3rd reading: House of Commons)
(Report stage: House of Commons)
Chris Heaton-Harris Excerpts
Wednesday 21st February 2018

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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HM Treasury
Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Lindsay Hoyle) - Hansard
21 Feb 2018, 7:46 p.m.

I can now inform the House that I have completed certification of the Bill, as required by the Standing Order. I have confirmed the view expressed in the Speaker’s provisional certificate issued on 20 February. Copies of my final certificate will be made available in the Vote Office and on the parliamentary website.

Under Standing Order No. 83M, a consent motion is therefore required for the Bill to proceed. Copies of the motion are now available.

Does a Minister intend to move the consent motion?

Chris Heaton-Harris Portrait The Vice-Chamberlain of Her Majesty's Household (Chris Heaton-Harris) - Hansard

indicated assent.

The House forthwith resolved itself into the Legislative Grand Committee (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) (Standing Order No. 83M).

Sir Lindsay Hoyle Portrait The Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Lindsay Hoyle) - Hansard
21 Feb 2018, 7:48 p.m.

I remind Members that if there is a Division, only Members representing constituencies in England, Wales and Northern Ireland may vote. As the knife has fallen, there can be no debate.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83M(5)),

That the Committee consents to the following certified clauses of, and schedules to, the Finance (No. 2) Bill:

Clauses and Schedules certified under Standing Order No. 83L(2) (as modified in its application by Standing Order No. 83S(4)) as relating exclusively to England, Wales and Northern Ireland and being within devolved legislative competence

Clauses 3, 40 and 41 of, and Schedule 11 to, the Bill as amended in Public Bill Committee (Bill 151).—(Mel Stride.)

Question agreed to.

The occupant of the Chair left the Chair to report the decision of the Committee (Standing Order No. 83M(6)).

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair; decision reported.

Third Reading