Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. This was the first Queen’s Speech of this decade, but also the last one ahead of the UK-hosted COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. So it was a vital moment to set out a bold, ambitious plan for a greener, fairer future, in which we can all thrive; to redesign the economy so that its express purpose is delivering the wellbeing of people and the planet; and to create millions of good-quality green jobs in every corner of the country. Instead of that, we got a reheated Environment Bill that currently is not fit for purpose, a planning Bill that robs people of the right to shape the places where they live, and a voter ID Bill that ignores the real problems with our democracy, in favour of trying to solve a problem that frankly does not exist.
The Government’s legislative programme is a recklessly wasted opportunity. It is not as if we did not know what needed to be done. More than 100 cross-party Members of this House have come together to support a new Bill—the climate and ecological emergency Bill—to address the climate and nature crises together, and more than 40 have so far backed my amendment calling on the Government to introduce it. The Bill would ensure that the UK does its fair share to limit global heating to 1.5° by taking responsibility for our entire greenhouse gas footprint, with imported emissions and those from international aviation and shipping included, and by focusing on cutting emissions at source. At the same time, it will protect nature and restore abundant biodiverse habitats, and establish a citizens’ assembly to advise Ministers and Parliament on a strategy to achieve those goals. Such legislation would create the foundations for a future in which humankind and the planet can survive and, crucially, thrive as well.
Let me briefly highlight four more Bills that need to form part of any green recovery worthy of the name. The Secretary of State’s refusal to rule out issuing new North sea oil and gas licences is the very opposite of climate leadership. We need a fossil fuel non-proliferation Bill to break our deadly addiction and give backing to a global treaty that would end all exploration and production of fossil fuels, phase out existing stockpiles and work with local communities to deliver a just transition. I pay tribute to the work of Platform, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth Scotland for their pioneering work on this.
Transitioning away from a fossil-fuel powered economy to one that is green and fair is also the primary purpose of a green new deal. It would create more than 1 million well-paid, good-quality green jobs, where everyone has a role in laying the foundation for a fairer, sustainable future. There have been countless research reports making the case that investing in the green economy is the fastest and most cost-effective way to recover post covid. Recent data from Green New Deal UK has revealed the potential for this jobs-rich green recovery in every constituency. To save Ministers’ time, there is already a green new deal prepared, which the hon. Member for Norwich South (Clive Lewis) and I presented in the last parliamentary Session, and we would be delighted if the Government were to take it over.
Crucially, a green new deal would give businesses the long-term certainty that they need to thrive. It is time to harness the pioneering role played by many companies and create an environment that promotes and rewards doing good business. A better business Bill would amend the Companies Act 2006 to require firms to operate in a way that benefits all stakeholders, including workers, communities and the environment, as well as shareholders. More than 500 businesses have already come together to demand these changes to UK law to enable companies to thrive in partnership with people and nature, not at their expense. But we need to do more than that, shifting not just the focus of business but the focus of our entire economy, because we will not build back better by doubling down on the same outdated economic system that is fuelling the fires of the climate crisis and making society more unequal and less resilient. The Treasury’s own Dasgupta review of the economics of biodiversity is a clarion call for urgent change in how we think, act and measure economic success. A wellbeing economy Bill would shore up the foundations on which we build a better future. It would require the Government to adopt new economic goals that put people and planet first, and that would include the Treasury, so that the economy serves society, not the other way around. To better reflect that new purpose, the Bill would make the health and wellbeing of people and nature the main measures of economics, not GDP growth.
There is a gaping environment and climate-shaped hole at the heart of the Government’s legislative programme. The five Bills that I have outlined are critical to filling those holes and setting us on the right course as we go forward.
It is very interesting to follow the hon. Member for Clacton (Giles Watling), who appears to have made it all the way from Clacton to Portcullis House but not quite managed to get over the final 200 yards, which is quite an interesting metaphor for the Government’s Queen’s Speech. It promises so much, as the Government have over the last 11 years, yet, as is so often the case, there is less to it than originally meets the eye.
This is an entirely incoherent Government, and, most importantly, it is a Government who do not do what they say and who do not mean what they say. We had the stunning statistic from the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake)—I thought this was very interesting—that the gap between London and the south and the north of England is bigger than the gap between West Germany and East Germany before unification. What a stunning demonstration of the failure of the northern powerhouse, which we were all told to celebrate seven or eight years ago.
With regard to public sector pay, I do believe it is right, at a time of extraordinary strain on our public finances—when those in the private sector have seen more than 1 million jobs lost, hours cut, wages cut and many millions furloughed, with the impact that that has on them—to take a fair and proportionate approach to public sector pay. That is why this Government have said that those on the lowest pay will see a pay rise this year, as will those in the NHS. Combined with all the other pay progression, this means that a majority of people in the public sector will see their pay increase this year, despite the difficult circumstances. Of course, the national living wage is also being increased ahead of inflation, making sure that those on the lowest incomes see an uplift in their take-home pay.
The Treasury is considering the merits of differentiating products based on their place of retail as part of its alcohol duty review. We are currently analysing responses provided by stakeholders to our recent call for evidence and will provide further updates in due course.
I know that my hon. Friend is a fierce advocate of pubs and brewers, and he has been proposing a duty differential for several years. I should stress that I am personally very interested in this proposal, but there are a number of complex issues associated with it, including how producers and wholesalers would account for and manage their stock of beer; how to ensure that any reduced rate is not exploited fraudulently; and how any differential would interact with the existing small brewers relief scheme. However, I would like to reassure him that we are looking closely at the proposals he has put forward.
But against the good news of that great community spirit, we have had the tragic news of over 19 people dying locally from covid-19. That number includes Eileen Landers of Swadlincote, a lady who worked tirelessly for decades at Burton Hospital on the housekeeping staff. Our thoughts and prayers are with all the South Derbyshire families who have lost loved ones to this dreadful virus.
That brings me to my ask of the Paymaster General, representing the Cabinet Office. I am asking for support from the Cabinet Office for my campaign to have a memorial placed at the National Arboretum, at the heart of the country, as a fitting way to commemorate the sad loss of essential key workers to covid-19. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health has agreed to support the campaign. I am now looking at the Cabinet Office as another sponsor to help to co-ordinate all the different sectors of essential workers involved, whether in healthcare or transport, wherever they are across our nation. They carried on working when this virus was at the highest level. They gave their lives to keep our hospitals open, keep food in the shops and get people to work.
I am also calling on the relevant trade unions to get involved to help to raise public subscriptions to pay for the memorial. I am grateful to my local newspapers, the Burton Mail and the Derby Telegraph, for supporting the campaign, as well as the Daily Express, my colleagues in Parliament who are supporting the campaign and, finally, the good people of the South Derbyshire and Burton area who have contacted me with support. I also thank Brell Ewart of Whitehouse Construction Ltd of Derby, who, as part of a donation, has offered to install the memorial free of charge, an incredibly generous offer to help to kick-start the campaign.
As I know there are many MPs who wish to speak, I will wrap up my contribution by thanking Ministers, civil servants, local government officers, volunteers, shop workers, farmers and, of course, key workers for everything they have done for us at home here in South Derbyshire and nationally. The fight is not yet over, but this human endeavour is an excellent example of how when life is bad, good can come out of it. I, for one, am proud of the response from the Government and the country to this dreadful virus.
We have some exceptionally good community-run pubs up and down the country; I visited one in Stafford a couple of years ago. It was on the point of closing down and could easily have become derelict. However, because of the assets of community value system, it was possible for the local community to take it on and see it succeed. We are also seeing such pubs in Twickenham, and I have a feeling that the hon. Member for St Albans (Daisy Cooper) may refer to similar schemes in her own constituency later in the debate.
As well creating and supporting jobs, the beer and pub sector is a massive contributor to the economy more widely and, of course, to the Exchequer, as the Minister will know. The sector’s total value to the economy is almost £23 billion; in my constituency, our breweries and pubs contribute £30 million to our local economy. Nationally, the sector pays almost £13 billion into Treasury coffers, which I am sure the Minister is grateful for ahead of the Budget.
Again, my hon. Friend pre-empts a later part of my speech. In terms of attracting tourists and investment into the United Kingdom, beer and pubs are one of the top three things tourists say they want to do while they are visiting. Of course they want to have fish and chips. Normally, they also want to visit some of the heritage, whether it is Buckingham Palace or Stratford-upon-Avon. The third thing that always comes up is that they want a pint of proper British beer in a proper British pub.
Thank you, Mr Gray. I am delighted to be called to speak so early. My only problem is trying to rule out a lot of my speech, and the important pub puns I had included in it—there was to be a gift of a pint for those who identified all of them.
My contribution will focus on small breweries and small breweries relief, particularly in relation to the Wimbledon Brewery in my constituency—I cannot imagine why they wanted to call it the Wimbledon Brewery, rather than the Mitcham and Morden Brewery, but I will leave that to Members’ imaginations. Although the relief is vital, the current system stifles growth and profitability for small brewers, discouraging exports and mergers. For the benefit of Members without small breweries in their constituencies, let me explain that if a brewery produces less than 5,000 hectolitres per year, it pays 50% of the full excise duty of the big breweries. That is to help balance the economies of scale from which the biggest breweries benefit, ensuring that the consumer has a greater choice and that smaller breweries can stay in business.
However, the 5,000 hectolitres point is a cliff edge. If production goes above that level, the brewer pays excise duty not just on the additional amount produced over the threshold, but on the whole production. A brewer would need to reach levels of around 20,000 hectolitres to offset the additional tax by the economies of scale. Wimbledon Brewery was in no man’s land, producing around 8,000 hectolitres per year—above the threshold but far below the 20,000 summit. It was therefore burdened with the extra tax, but without the economies of scale. For a business of that size, no man’s land is simply not an option, and it was forced to fall back below the threshold, limiting production and reducing the staff count from 15 to 10.
In its current form, the small breweries relief has punished Wimbledon Brewery’s good business practice and disincentivised its growth. The relief has acted as a barrier to mergers and acquisitions for everyone other than the biggest breweries in the industry. Surely a more progressive scale of relief is necessary, aligned with the industry’s economy of scale, to ensure that all brewers are incentivised to grow. Take the Irish relief for small brewers—the Irish are always good people to look to when talking about alcohol. A proportion of their export volume is excluded, yet such brewers can still obtain the maximum relief.
Urgency is paramount, with small brewers warning me in advance of the debate that a further period of consultation would simply lead to even more unintended consequences. For those brewers, this hangover really has gone on for too long. The upcoming Budget is the Government’s opportunity to support this much-loved sector, to make the system fairer and to support business growth. Long live the local.
It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. I congratulate the hon. Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood) on securing this most important and popular debate.
In the brief time available, I want to make a few points about the value of supporting and expanding the resurgence that we have witnessed in British brewing. The debate is of interest to me on several levels—my interests are very well known. I am fortunate to have the exceptional Castle Eden Brewery in my constituency, under the excellent leadership of Cliff Walker and David Travis. They have provided me with an insight into not just quality beer—I hope we will be able to sample it in the Strangers’ Bar at some point— but some of the problems that the industry faces.
As we have heard, British beer is being exported to markets right across the world in traditional markets such as the USA and the EU. In more recent years there has been significant growth in new regions, particularly China. Some years ago, before I was a Member of Parliament, I had the opportunity to visit the huge Tsingtao Brewery in Shandong. Beer is the UK’s third largest food and drink export. The brand of “British beer” is a global trademark of excellence and innovation, which we must exploit, support and promote post Brexit.
I fully support the points that have been made by Members across the Chamber today. I support the campaign to reform business rates and freeze beer duty to support our local pubs. I am also a proud supporter of the Long Live the Local campaign, and I want to highlight the importance of small breweries relief. I am grateful that my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) mentioned that it was Labour that introduced small breweries relief in 2002—some credit should be given. That has seen some success in that we have seen a resurgence of the British independent craft brewing industry, with a fivefold increase in small brewers.