Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill

Nadia Whittome Excerpts
Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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I will give way in a moment, but I want to make a little progress first.

The Bill and subsequent regulations are designed to enable employers to specify the workers required to meet minimum safety and service levels during strikes within relevant sectors. This will be done through work notices.

Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East) (Lab)
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Will the Secretary of State give way?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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As I have said, I will in a moment, but I want to make some progress.

Should a union notify an employer of a strike in accordance with the existing normal rules, the Bill will allow the employer to issue a work notice to the union specifying the workers needed to work during a strike to secure the minimum level of safety and service. Employers will be required to consult the union on the number of workers to be identified in the work notice and the work to be undertaken, and have regard to the union’s views before issuing that work notice.

--- Later in debate ---
Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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The problem, as people will recognise, is that as we do not have a nationally agreed level of coverage—particularly in the ambulance service—it is difficult to know or predict what would have happened if the Army had not stepped in. I know from talking to colleagues and officials that one of the problems was that, because of the late notice and the randomised trust-by-trust agreements, they have been unable to put in a national framework that would mean that it would not matter if you lived in Islington North or somewhere else; you would still get coverage on strike days. We said in our manifesto, and I repeat now, that it is not fair to let trade union leaders undermine the livelihoods of others, and nor is it fair for them to put lives and livelihoods at risk.

Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome
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Does the Secretary of State see the irony in expecting unions to ensure minimum safe service levels on strike days when his own Government are failing to do so on every other day? What does he make of nurses’ reports that staffing levels are in fact safer on strike days because the unions are negotiating appropriate cover compared with non-strike days?

Grant Shapps Portrait Grant Shapps
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I did not quite follow the hon. Lady’s point on the railways. The railways on strike days are finding it hard to offer any services at all, even for key workers and the people the Opposition sometimes claim to represent the most, such as the hard-working cleaner or the hospital porter. The people who cannot do their jobs remotely are unable to get to their jobs and they are losing money. They are becoming fed up with the forever strikes where the unions simply will not put the offer to their members in order for the members to have a say. Minimum service levels are important for that reason, and I have covered numerous times why we think minimum safety levels protect people’s lives.

In this Second Reading debate, we are simply asking the unions to tell us when they are going to withdraw their labour so that we can agree a minimum safety level. This is hardly revolutionary stuff. It is just a common-sense safety net to keep the public safe and ease some of the enormous anxiety that they have felt over the last few months. Failing to support the Bill today will mean that Members who oppose this legislation are essentially prepared to put the safety and welfare of their own constituents at risk. I commend the Bill to the House.

Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East) (Lab)
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This Government gambled with the markets and lost, and for what? To give their super-rich friends and donors massive tax cuts, and now working people are having to pay the price.

Just five days ago, the Prime Minister argued that pensioners would suffer if her plans for a two-year energy price guarantee did not go ahead. This morning, the Chancellor cancelled that guarantee, saying that it would be

“irresponsible to continue exposing public finances”

and that he would take

“whatever tough decisions are necessary”.

Why is it that those “tough decisions” are always paid for by working-class people and not by the wealthiest?

The United Kingdom is already one of the most unequal countries in the global north, second only to the United States in the G7, 3.9 million children live in poverty and many more are on the brink. Making the situation worse, not just in recent weeks but over the last 12 years—now that is irresponsible! The response to this crisis should be to tax the rich. If the Chancellor wants to balance the books, why does he not impose a windfall tax on the energy giants which are set to make up to £170 billion in excess profits over the next two years? Would it by any chance have something to do with the fact that the Conservative party has taken £1.3 million from fossil fuel interests since the last election? This is a Government who serve the energy corporations that are raking in massive profits and trashing our planet, and not the millions of people who cannot afford to pay their bills and rent or to buy food. We are in a rudderless boat that is sinking, the Prime Minister has no authority or credibility and, after yet another U-turn, only one thing is certain, and that is that this Government are finished.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time; to stand committed to a Committee of the whole House (Order, this day).

Further proceedings on the Bill stood postponed (Order, this day).

Energy Prices Bill (Money)

King’s recommendation signified.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a)),

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Energy Prices Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of:

(1) any expenditure incurred under or by virtue of the Act by the Secretary of State or any other public authority, and

(2) any increase attributable to the Act in the sums payable under any other Act out of money so provided—(Amanda Solloway).

Question agreed to.

Energy Prices Bill (Ways and Means)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 52(1)(a)),

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Energy Prices Bill, it is expedient to authorise—

(1) provisions by virtue of which persons concerned with the generation of electricity may be required to make payments or become liable to penalties;

(2) provisions by virtue of which electricity suppliers may be required to make additional payments or provide additional financial collateral under Chapter 2 of Part 2 of the Energy Act 2013;

(3) the payment of sums into the Consolidated Fund—(Amanda Solloway).

Question agreed to.

Oil and Gas Producers: Windfall Tax

Nadia Whittome Excerpts
Tuesday 1st February 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East) (Lab)
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It is clear to anyone living in this country that we are experiencing a cost of living crisis. As food and energy prices are spiking, my constituents tell me that they are anxious and outraged at ever larger bills. The Resolution Foundation estimates that in April, when changes to the energy price cap are introduced, those bills will soar by 50%. That will lead to more than one in four households spending at least 10% of their income on energy. With housing costs already taking up a significant proportion of household spending and food bills increasing, more and more people will be forced to choose between heating and eating while this Government dawdle.

I strongly support Labour’s proposal to introduce a windfall tax on oil and gas. While my constituents worry about their bills, North sea oil companies have been reaping criminal profits. The think-tank Common Wealth reports that Shell and BP alone have paid £147 billion to their shareholders since 2010, which is more than seven times the £20 billion that it would take to keep household energy bills at their current level. Those profits have only become more obscene as the current energy crisis has worsened. At the end of last year Bernard Looney, the chief executive of BP, described the crisis as a “cash machine” for his company. That cash is coming from my constituents’ pockets, and those of people who are struggling to pay their bills. There is simply no argument when it comes to whether these companies can afford a windfall tax. It is my constituents who cannot afford the Government’s inaction. This refusal to act, however, comes as no surprise when the Conservative party has taken almost £1.5 million from the energy industry under this Prime Minister.

In the short term, the proposed tax will lessen the burden on families; in the longer term, we desperately need to reduce our reliance on gas, seriously invest in renewables, and create a national programme to insulate homes. We must also acknowledge that the privatisation of our energy system has failed. Competition has not driven down bills; in fact, gas bills have risen by 50% since 1996, and private companies have failed to switch to the sustainable energy sources that we need in order to tackle the climate crisis. Public ownership of our energy system could have helped us to withstand the current turbulence in the energy market, and the public support it: in 2019, 52% of people polled were in favour of it.

I therefore urge the Government to implement a windfall tax now, to bring energy into public ownership, and to invest in the transformative changes that will protect struggling families and our planet now and for years to come.

Climate and Ecological Emergency: UK’s Response

Nadia Whittome Excerpts
Tuesday 9th February 2021

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East) (Lab) [V]
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It is a real privilege to follow the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), and I am very proud to co-sponsor her CEE Bill.

The emergence of coronavirus has thrown into focus the way in which environmental degradation can have profound impacts on society, and of course the escalating ecological crisis will make future pandemics more likely, so we must make sure that our recovery is a green one right from the start. We cannot wait until the pandemic is over to take these urgent steps. We cannot afford to lose sight of the climate crisis, because it threatens our very existence. The 2018 special report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that to stop runaway climate chaos we need “rapid and far-reaching transitions” that are “unprecedented” in scale, yet we have heard from the hon. Lady how little progress we have made on that.

The Bill really offers the most viable way for us to tackle the climate and nature emergency at a national level. It provides a clear framework to deliver the UK’s commitments to the Paris climate agreement. For example, the Bill would introduce measures to dramatically reduce our emissions, restore and regenerate our soils, biodiverse habitats and ecosystems, and lessen the negative impacts that we have on our environment. In short, it would mean that the Government would have to take immediate, radical action of the sort that the crisis demands. The Bill has been written by scientists, lawyers and climate activists. It is backed by a broad range of campaign groups, businesses, charities and individuals and, as will be evidenced today, it has huge cross-party support.

In May 2019 this House declared the climate and ecological emergency, but that means very little without comprehensive legislation. We cannot simply declare; we must also act, and the Bill is essential to ensuring the commitment that we made almost two years ago.

Oral Answers to Questions

Nadia Whittome Excerpts
Tuesday 29th September 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia  Whittome  (Nottingham East)  (Lab)
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The Government must make a just transition to a lower- carbon economy and, in doing so, create green jobs. Will the Minister outline the number of green jobs created since he has been in post, and specifically which green technologies and industries can expect investment from the Government over the next year?

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma
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We currently have a close to half a million green jobs in this country. We want to create another 2 million. The hon. Lady will also know that the Chancellor announced the green homes grant package, which will support more than 100,000 green jobs.

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: Departmental Spending

Nadia Whittome Excerpts
Tuesday 7th July 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East) (Lab)
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Just as the UK was not prepared for the covid-19 pandemic, so the Government are failing adequately to prepare and protect people from the effects of climate change. What are the latest Treasury estimates for the cost of the likely damage to communities, food, food production, and industry as a result of climate change and environmental degradation over the next five to 10 years? Although I welcome several of the measures touted to make the Chancellor’s Budget tomorrow, particularly the green homes grant scheme, a responsible approach to the climate and environmental emergency will require far more than just one or two eye-catching measures and a few slogans. To say that anything less than systemic, transformative fundamental change to society, the economy and lifestyles is needed would be a dangerous and reckless myth.

In the light of what we have seen, or not seen, from the Government on climate change and the environment, I am somewhat sceptical about their new-found love for interventionist approaches. Analysis shows that policies opposed by the Government to date on onshore wind, offshore wind power, home installation, tidal power and transport would have led to nearly 70 million tonnes of CO2 emissions savings per year by 2030. The UK is off track to hit our latest carbon budget emissions targets. We are missing most of our international biodiversity targets, and Natural England and the Environment Agency have been cut so severely that they are barely able even to fulfil their basic statutory functions. In the context of all this, the Cabinet Committee launched to co-ordinate climate policy has, remarkably, met just once.

Covid-19 has shown that we all have the ability to make drastic changes to our way of life, when necessary. We must learn from these changes, not merely return to the old habits and old ways of thinking, and that goes for Government too. As a minimum, any company support package from the Government must ensure there is a clear commitment to tackling climate change. Will the Minister commit to the principle of public money for public goods today, and will the Minister commit to a comprehensive training, jobs and investment programme built around net zero and the circular economy—a green industrial revolution?

Oral Answers to Questions

Nadia Whittome Excerpts
Tuesday 3rd March 2020

(4 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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I am sure the Chancellor will hear that question. As my hon. Friend well knows, that is a matter for the Budget, which is still under review.

Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East) (Lab)
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8. What steps he has taken to prepare for COP26.

Alok Sharma Portrait The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Alok Sharma)
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I am delighted to have been appointed COP President. I have already held discussions with former COP Presidents, including Paris COP President Laurent Fabius. I met, among others, the UN Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed and Patricia Espinosa at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Last week, together with the Prime Minister’s COP26 climate finance adviser, Mark Carney, I launched the COP26 finance strategy. My officials and I are working at pace to deliver a successful summit.

Nadia Whittome Portrait Nadia Whittome
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COP26 will be the most critical talks since Paris, yet preparations so far have been beset by chaos. What response can the Minister provide to the former COP President who says that this Government are presiding over “a huge lack of leadership” on the issue. The Prime Minister has admitted to her that he does not even understand climate change. Does the Minister acknowledge the embarrassing lack of credibility and competence that the Prime Minister has shown on COP26 preparations?

Alok Sharma Portrait Alok Sharma
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I thank the former COP President for her work. The hon. Lady talks about the Prime Minister’s leadership. I can assure Members that when we were at the UN General Assembly in September, there was a huge amount of positivity around his leadership in doubling our International Climate Finance commitment. She will also know that last month the Prime Minister launched the Year of Climate Action. He is absolutely leading on this issue from the front, and the rest of us are supporting him. Let me tell her that we are absolutely determined to make sure that COP26 is a success, not just for the UK but because it matters to the whole world.