Consett Energy from Waste Plant

Nigel Evans Excerpts
Tuesday 8th March 2022

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Stuart Andrew Portrait The Minister for Housing (Stuart Andrew)
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May I begin by echoing the opening comments of my hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham (Mr Holden) about the extraordinary address we received from President Zelensky earlier? That is one of the extraordinary moments I will take away from my time in this House, and we wish him and all the people of Ukraine the very best in their battle for freedom.

May I also congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate and thank him for his contribution? My hon. Friend is a tireless campaigner for his constituents on this issue and so many others, from upgrading the A66 to Durham’s county of culture bid. I know he has been trying valiantly for a number of months to secure a debate on this issue, and I believe this could be 10th time lucky. That speaks to the importance of the matter to my hon. Friend and the local councillors he is championing, Michelle Watson and Angela Sterling for Delves Lane ward. It is abundantly clear that that there are strong views among some of his constituents about the merits of this proposed energy plant.

I should also say that Adjournment debates on such matters reflect how important it is that Members continue to hold the Government’s feet to the fire. Pressure from parliamentarians may not always be glamorous, but it is the cogs that make the wheels of Government and local government turn.

Without wishing to pour cold water over the entire debate, I must say from the outset that for propriety reasons I am unable to comment on the specifics of the proposal that is the subject of this debate. I know that an appeal against Durham County Council’s refusal of planning permission for the scheme has been lodged with the Planning Inspectorate, and there will now be a public inquiry into the proposal overseen by an independent planning inspector. It is also possible that if the appeal were recovered it would fall to myself or one of my ministerial colleagues in the Department to decide on the case. So for all those reasons I am afraid I must say that it is not appropriate for me to express any view as to the merits or otherwise of the specific scheme in my hon. Friend’s constituency.

However, given the subject matter of this debate it is worth my saying a bit about the principles that underpin and drive waste planning. The Government are clear that wherever possible waste should be reduced, if not fully prevented; but where prevention is not possible we must prioritise reuse and recycling over energy recovery or disposal to landfill. This sequential approach is at the heart of the Government waste policy, and that is reflected in planning policy requirements for plan making and decision making. In short, every paper bag, every glass bottle and every piece of scrap metal that is recycled is a small victory in our war against waste. That is one reason why the Government are committed to preserving material resources, promoting efficiency, and moving towards a greener, more circular economy.

Our resources and waste strategy sets out the Government’s bold ambition to properly manage residual waste in a way that maximises its value. It sets a clear target for 75% of packaging to be recycled by 2030, plus a 65% recycling rate for municipal solid waste. Crucially, this strategy also commits us to minimising any harm done to the environment as a result of managing waste.

This strategy is by no means the total sum of our actions. We are continuing to innovate and find new solutions to old problems in waste management, moving us towards a circular economy. They include a deposit return scheme for drinks containers, extended producer responsibility for packaging, and consistent recycling collections for all homes and businesses, as well as the plastic packaging tax.

On the specifics of planning decisions, councils are guided by the national planning policy for waste, which tasks them with meeting the needs of their areas in managing waste. This includes the need to undertake early and meaningful engagement with residents so that plans reflect as far as possible a collective vision and a set of agreed priorities when planning for sustainable waste management.

The ultimate responsibility for waste planning does sit with councils, and while decisions that they take must be informed by consultation, those are nevertheless their decisions to make. That underscores the importance of community campaigning and the vital role that local MPs such as my hon. Friend and the councillors whom I mentioned have in mobilising constituents for or against all forms of new development, including incinerators and waste plants. It would be nothing short of political suicide for any council to run roughshod over a community that is overwhelmingly against a new facility. Equally, if a council is deliberately hampering a development, the construction of new homes or vital infrastructure, the electorate can communicate its displeasure about that at the next set of local elections.

As my hon. Friend will know, my Department is committed to increasing community engagement with planning applications, digitising much of the old analogue systems and allowing people to see what development is proposed in their area at the touch of a smartphone. That will not just drive up resident engagement but make it easier for communities to voice their opposition or approval for something being built on or near the place that they call home.

Without making any prejudicial comments on the specifics of this live application, I can say that energy from waste is a proven technology and is established as the most common thermal treatment for residual waste—the kind that cannot otherwise be prevented, reused or recycled. While energy from waste plays a vital role in stopping unnecessary waste from reaching landfill, the Government’s view is that it should not be competing with greater efforts by the public to prevent waste, to reuse or to recycle.

In 2019, the incineration of municipal solid waste in energy from waste facilities accounted for more than 6 megatonnes of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions, but, according to our best estimates, energy from waste—even in electricity-only mode—is still a better option for processing municipal waste than landfill in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. The Government also want to drive greater efficiency of energy from waste plants by encouraging better use of the heat that they produce in local developments. That brings the additional benefit of helping to reduce the carbon emissions that arise from heating our homes. As hon. Members will know, heat networks form a strategically important part of the Government’s plans to reduce carbon and cut heating bills for customers, both domestic and commercial.

When we discuss energy in waste, it is imperative to factor in the regulatory landscape. In October 2020, as part of the circular economy package, the Government legislated to include a permit condition for landfill and incineration operators. The permit meant that those operators cannot accept separately collected paper, metal, glass or plastic for landfill or incineration unless such items have gone through some form of treatment process first and unless there is no better environmental outcome. The condition came on top of existing permit measures that already prevent acceptance of material that is, to all intents and purposes, recyclable.

All energy from waste plants in England are regulated by the Environment Agency and must comply with robust emissions limits set in environmental legislation. As hon. Members might expect, the Environment Agency assesses the emissions from new energy generated by waste plants as part of its permitting process and consults the UK Health Security Agency on every application that it receives. Needless to say, the Environment Agency will never issue an environment permit if a proposed plant has a significant impact on the environment or if it may cause harm to human health.

I hope that, at this stage, my hon. Friend will understand why I need to refrain from touching on the specific circumstances of the matter that he raised, but I hope that my statement has given useful context and background to this important wider debate. I conclude by thanking him again for his thoughtful contribution, which has enriched this debate and provided plenty of food for thought for us in Government. It helps us to understand people’s strength of feeling on these individual applications. We are completely committed to reducing waste and supporting the development of the kind of circular economy that regenerates, recycles and reuses whenever possible. I thank him for bringing this issue to the attention of the House.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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We come to the end of a truly historic and emotional day here at Westminster, with President Zelensky’s words still ringing in our ears and firmly in our hearts. We were privileged to hear President Zelensky’s address today and we stand with him and the very brave people of Ukraine.

Question put and agreed to.

Non-commissioned Exempt Accommodation

Nigel Evans Excerpts
Wednesday 23rd February 2022

(2 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Shabana Mahmood Portrait Shabana Mahmood
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I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend that we need a system-wide approach. Local authorities need the power to reject applications for exempt accommodation on the grounds of saturation or oversupply. We must break the habit of putting huge amounts of need into already stretched areas and then wondering why those areas can never recover. We wonder why people who have raised their families and committed themselves to stable communities in modest properties that they are proud of, whether they are socially renting or have managed to become owner-occupiers, are so desperate to leave the areas that they were committed to, when we have loaded all sorts of high need into those areas and provided none of the services to support them.

People dumping has to stop, over-saturation has to stop and local authorities need the power to prevent an over-saturation of supply. We need community impact assessments before we get large numbers of exempt supported accommodation across our different communities, to ensure we are not loading more need into already difficult areas.

As I said earlier, the vast majority of tenants in exempt accommodation should be able to demonstrate some sort of local link to the area. Unless it is a requirement because of a prison or domestic violence-related issue, most people need some such link in order to have the stability to turn their lives around.

Finally, we need an inspections regime. We need to keep providers on their toes so that it is not the case that once someone has accessed the system, nobody will ever ask them questions again. There should be at least an annual check to ensure that people who have access to vulnerable tenants and taxpayer cash are doing the thing they said they would do and fulfilling the promises they made.

Only with Government action can we turn the dial on a huge problem that affects not only my constituency, but people all across this country. Our communities deserve nothing less. When the Minister stands to close this debate, I hope he will not simply say, “We’re watching, and we’re waiting and seeing, and we’re going to think about what we’re going to do,” but give us a legislative timetable for making the changes that are needed.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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If everybody takes 13 or 14 minutes, we will not get everybody in. If people could be mindful of their colleagues, we will try to squeeze everybody in.

Rural Communities in Cumbria: Levelling Up

Nigel Evans Excerpts
Wednesday 23rd February 2022

(2 months, 4 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Neil Parish Portrait Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con)
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As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, Devon has much in common with Cumbria when we look at the topography and the need to get rural broadband. It is great that my hon. Friend is standing up for Cumbria, but if there is one thing we need to fix across the country, it is rural broadband and broadband generally, because of everything else follows that. The pandemic has shown how much we need it and how much more we can do. Sometimes, broadband stops the need for physical movement, too. I very much support my hon. Friend’s great drive for rural Cumbria, but may I make a plea for rural Devon, too?

Neil Hudson Portrait Dr Hudson
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I thank my hon. Friend, the Chair of the Select Committee on which I am privileged to sit. He makes a fantastic point. It is about connectivity across our great country, and rural Devon is the same as rural Cornwall and the same as rural Cumbria, and we need to get it right. We have to ensure that everyone gets good broadband and a good mobile phone signal. It is a point well made.

The Government aim to have gigabit-capable broadband to 85% of the United Kingdom by 2025. I hope that we can still move that way, but in my constituency, gigabit availability unfortunately languishes at a low 7.2% and the download speed is just over half the national average, so we are well behind. My plea is that we can have some help with that. In our part of the world, the mobile signal is poor. Sadly, there are many notspots in my part of the world.

The Government have taken some positive steps. I welcome Project Gigabit. The shared rural network will have a key impact, too, as will the voucher schemes. Communities are partnering with fantastic companies, such as Broadband for the Rural North. I have seen that first hand in communities such as Kirkoswald, Mallerstang and Ravenstonedale. I pay tribute to companies such as B4RN, its chief executive Michael Lee, the teams and the volunteers who do fantastic work to connect people in isolated communities. I make a plea to the Minister for more help from his Department, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and indeed the Home Office in terms of shared mobile phone masts for emergencies.

Neil Hudson Portrait Dr Hudson
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, which I note. If he can temper his patience, I will get on to that topic shortly. I am surprised to see him here; I expected to see him in my constituency perhaps where he has been a frequent and regular visitor in recent weeks. Anyone might wonder whether boundary changes were imminent. I gently and respectfully remind him that we share similar issues in our two constituencies, but we do not share the same constituency.

I put it to the Government that we need to be cautious about future changes to things such as the BBC. In rural parts of the world, terrestrial TV is ever important and the BBC and public service broadcasters are a treasured national asset that deliver news, education and drama. Again, that came into sharp relief in the pandemic when kids at home were delivered a fantastic education through it. For rural areas, where we depend on terrestrial TV and where many homes do not have the internet at all, we cannot be thinking at a Government level about moving to a subscription-based model. I caution the Government that we need to be careful when we are making decisions about the treasured asset that is the BBC.

I turn now to interactions and local democracy. In the pandemic, our vital parish councils, which do such wonderful things for our communities, could meet in virtual or hybrid formats. Sadly, that modality is not now available. That is important and I have raised it with the Secretary of State on a number of occasions. I urge the Government to allow parish councils to continue to meet in virtual or hybrid formats. There are issues with rural isolation and the weather, with people’s jobs or caring responsibilities and with farmers. If we can empower local people to contribute to local democracy through that, we can learn the positive lessons of the pandemic.

In Cumbria, we are facing significant reform at a local government level with the changes to unitary councils. I am on public record as being against that, as I do not think now is the time for us to be doing it, and the groupings go against the natural geography and the community bonds. That said, we are where we are and we have to make the best of it and make it work. I make a plea to the Department, however, that ongoing projects should not be paralysed by that reshuffling and that we should certainly ensure that local democratic changes do not compromise local communities.

I turn now to the farming and agricultural sector, which is an important aspect of my constituency economically, as came into sharp relief during the pandemic because of food security. I pay tribute to our fantastic UK farmers and Cumbria farmers who deliver food to us and put food on our tables. Anyone in the food processing and marketing sectors needs to be thanked for what they have done. They are key workers.

The farming community faces many challenges, such as the changes to the funding system with the new environmental land management schemes. We also face challenges from trade deals. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, on which I sit, is now looking at the Israel trade deal. There are significant challenges to our farming communities and we have to ensure that the Government get it right and do not undermine or undercut our farmers so that we can stand up for our values on high environmental and animal welfare standards and can be a beacon for the rest of the world. I ask the Levelling Up Department to work with DEFRA to support that sector.

That sector has also been significantly challenged by seasonal labour issues—we have been looking at that on the EFRA Committee as well—and there are serious issues in the food processing sector. Again, the farming community now has a crisis that has been ongoing in the pig sector. Currently, in excess of 40,000 pigs have been slaughtered on farm that have not subsequently gone into the food supply chain, and I really urge the Government to work cross-Government to mitigate and avert this crisis.

Another huge part of the rural economy in Cumbria is tourism and hospitality. Again, they are facing similar labour issues. That has been exacerbated by covid, but Brexit has certainly been a factor, and we need to make sure that we can supply the labour that our vital businesses need locally. This sector needs ongoing support, and I urge the Minister to work with the Treasury to make sure that we can keep some of the measures in place, such as the VAT cut for tourism and hospitality businesses, that will make things better for them. We need to think about tax relief for small rural businesses as well.

The hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) talked about the pressure on housing in local communities. We are a fantastic tourism part of the world up in Cumbria, and we have seen huge numbers of people come during the pandemic and when we started to open up. The pressure on local people to find local affordable housing has again come into sharp relief. With the increasing number of second homes in the area, locals are basically being priced out of their own local community. I really urge the Government to look at and address that with affordable housing, sensible planning and sensible measures, so that people can get on the housing ladder and it is not to their detriment when people come in and take second homes. I really urge the Government to look at that. Housing in our part of the world is very different from that in London. Again, when the Government are making changes and talking about changing boilers and such things, we have to bear in mind that many people in rural parts of the world have oil boilers, and we have to make sure we adapt. It is horses for courses.

Schools, pubs, shops and churches are the lifeblood of our local communities, and they need support. Many local communities are stepping up and acting together, such as the Kirkoswald community shop, and Bampton Valley community pub has now put together a shared programme to set up the pub again. However, we should not have to rely on the community stepping forward. We must get central Government working with local government and local communities, so I really urge the local government Department to offer more small grants so that we can put the life back into local communities.

Education is so important, and it plays a huge role in levelling up, with opportunities for young and old. We have had a very difficult time in Cumbria, and we have lost Newton Rigg College, the only land-based college in Cumbria. We worked very hard to try to save the college, but unfortunately that was unsuccessful. We now have pieces of the jigsaw coming together to try to rebuild land-based education in our community. I pay tribute to Newton Rigg Ltd, Newton Rigg Equestrian, Ullswater Community College and Myerscough College, which are working together with the Ernest Cook Trust and local stakeholders to see if we can get pieces of the jigsaw together. It is important that we rebuild land-based education in Cumbria.

To give an example, Ullswater Community College is a local high school with over 1,500 pupils, led brilliantly by headteacher Stephen Gilby, with a 600 square mile catchment area. I have raised this with the Prime Minister and the Education Secretary, but it urgently needs a rebuild, and I really press that message home to the Government. Outdoor education in Cumbria is a blessing for us, and that sector also needs to be supported. We have fantastic outdoor education centres, such as Blencathra outward bound centre. This is part of the recovery, it is about the life chances of young folk and it is very important for mental health.

Health underpins levelling up, so I really urge the Government to support rural healthcare. We welcome the fact that we have a new cancer centre that has opened up in Carlisle and a new diagnostic centre in Penrith, but on mental health we need to make sure that the message of parity with physical health comes through loud and clear. In the EFRA Committee, we have triggered an inquiry on rural mental health looking at the key issues and the key stressors. We have significant risk factors in our rural communities. We get shock events; we get floods, we get storms. Professions such as my own—the veterinary profession, but farmers as well—are over-represented with a risk of mental health and suicide, and there are the pressures of running businesses in our isolated communities. I urge the Government to try to address many of those issues at cross-Government level, and to support the communities that we live in and we love. We want to ensure that the people’s voice is heard down here in Westminster and in Whitehall.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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Glorious Ribble Valley is not London either, so I wait with eager anticipation, Minister, for your response.

Local Government Finance (England)

Nigel Evans Excerpts
Wednesday 9th February 2022

(3 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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We now come to the two motions on local government finance, which will be debated together. The Order Paper notes that these instruments have not yet been considered by the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments, but I can happily inform the House that they have now been considered. Gloriana. I call the Secretary of State to move the first of the two motions.

Michael Gove Portrait The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations (Michael Gove)
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I beg to move,

That the Local Government Finance Report (England) 2022–23 (HC 1080), which was laid before this House on 7 February, be approved.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
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With this we shall consider the following motion:

That the Referendums relating to Council Tax Increases (Principles) (England) Report 2022–23 (HC 1081), which was laid before this House on 7 February, be approved.

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The House should also note that the Local Government Finance Report has since been updated with a small correction on page 14. Like you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I am grateful to the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments for its careful consideration of these reports.

Before I turn to the details of the reports, may I say a brief word of thanks to my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher), who until very recently served as Minister for Housing and Planning? We will be starved of his eloquence at the Dispatch Box, because he has been translated to the Whips Office, but I know that that eloquence will not be wasted on my right hon. and hon. Friends, who will benefit from his wisdom and gentle guidance as they consider which Lobby to enter in the light of all the delicate matters that we discuss.

I should add that it was on the watch of my right hon. Friend that the number of first-time buyers in the country reached a record level, and that the stewardship he displayed, and also the imagination and attention to detail, were those of a model Minister. He will be missed. I should also add that although his shoes are both difficult to fill and always highly polished, we are nevertheless very fortunate to have in the Minister for Housing, my right hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew), an excellent new addition to our departmental team. We welcome him to his place, and we know that he is a doughty defender of the interests of the north of England, of local government overall, and of those who aspire to live in and to own a decent home. I am therefore grateful for the fact that he has joined the team.



The local government finance settlement makes available, to local government in England, core spending power of £54.1 billion for 2022-23. This is an increase of £3.7 billion on 2021-22, a real-terms increase of 4.5%.

It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that the considerable eloquence of the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) will be deployed inter alia in drawing attention to the years from 2010 to 2017-18 when there were necessary economies in local government spending. I suspect, although I cannot be certain, that she will for partisan reasons, entirely fairly, seek to contrast the restraint in public spending during those years with the increases that we are now making to suggest that the increases do not make up for the previous restrictions on public spending, but it is impossible to consider those restrictions without appreciating the context of the economic circumstances that the coalition Government inherited in 2010—I do not wish to make any partisan points—and that required us to deal with the inevitable consequences of the financial crash.

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nigel Evans Excerpts
Thursday 27th January 2022

(3 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I thank all right hon. and hon. Members who have participated in the debate. I have attended these debates on almost every occasion since I was elected eight years ago, and to me this was the most personal and powerful set of contributions I can remember. The contributions also continue to be prescient, with antisemitism on the rise at home and genocide and violence abroad.

When I attend these debates, I often think of the debate that took place in this House before the second world war, on 21 November 1938, which ultimately led to the Kindertransport. That debate was opened by the then Member for Derby South, Philip Noel-Baker, who said:

“Dr. Goebbels said the other day that he hoped the outside world would soon forget the German Jews. He hopes in vain. His campaign against them will go down in history”,

as one of the greatest stains on humanity.

He added:

“Let there go with it another memory, the memory of what the other nations did to wipe the shame away.”—[Official Report, 21 November 1938; Vol. 341, c. 1440.]

I often wonder whether I would have attended that debate and been one of the 40 Members of Parliament who spoke. I hope I would have done so, and that I would have acted. We are, after all, the legislators of this country, the leaders of our communities, and the responsibility to act today is ours.

I close with a prayer in honour of the 6 million souls who perished in the holocaust:

Oseh shalom bimromav

Hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu

V’al kol Yisrael.

V’imru Amen.

May he who creates peace in the heavens create peace for us, and for all the world.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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We will never forget the inhumanity or the cruelty of the atrocities, or the unconscionable pain that millions suffered. Not in our name. Nor should we ever forget the bravery of so many people who fought against this evil.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered Holocaust Memorial Day 2022.

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher
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I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 1—Review of payment practices and building safety

“(1) The Secretary of State must, within 60 days of the day on which this Act is passed, establish a review of the effects of construction industry payment practices on building safety in general and on safety in high-risk buildings in particular.

(2) The review must, in particular, consider—

(a) the extent to the structure of the construction market incentivises procurement with building safety in mind,

(b) the extent to which contract terms and payment practices (for example, retentions) can drive poor behaviours, including the prioritisation of speed and low cost solutions and affect building safety by placing financial strain on supply chain,

(c) the effects on building safety of other matters raised in Chapter 9 (procurement and supply) of Building a Safer Future, the final report of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, published in May 2018 (Cm 9607),

(d) the adequacy for the purposes of promoting building safety of the existing legislative, regulatory and policy regime governing payment practices in construction, including the provisions of Part II of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996, and

(e) recommendations for legislative, regulatory or policy change.

(3) The Secretary of State must lay a report of the findings of the review before Parliament no later than one year after this Act comes into force.”

This new clause would put an obligation on the Secretary of State to review the effects of construction industry payment on practices on building safety and to report the findings to Parliament.

New clause 2—Building regulations: property protection

“(1) The Building Act 1984 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 1 (Power to make building regulations), after subsection (1)(f), insert—

‘(g) furthering the protection of property’.

(3) In Schedule 1 (Building Regulations), in paragraph 8(5A)—

(a) after ‘1(1)(a)’ insert ‘(d), (e) and (g)’;

(b) after ‘flooding’ insert ‘and fire’.”

This new clause would add “furthering the protection of property” to the list of purposes for which building regulations may be made under the Buildings Act 1984, and extends the purposes for which persons carrying out works on a building may be required to do things to improve building resilience.

New clause 15—Duty of social landlords to undertake electrical safety inspections

“(1) A social landlord of a residential dwelling in a high-rise building must—

(a) hold a valid Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) for that dwelling;

(b) provide to the tenant of the dwelling, including any new such tenant—

(i) a copy of that EICR, and

(ii) a document explaining the provisions of this Act;

(c) handle any valid complaint about the safety of the electrical installations of the dwelling in accordance with subsection (5).

(2) A person who fails to comply with a duty under subsection (1) commits an offence.

(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine.

(4) A complaint is valid if—

(a) it relates to the safety of the electrical installations of the dwelling;

(b) it is made in writing by, or on behalf of, the tenant of the dwelling; and

(c) it is not frivolous or vexatious.

(5) The landlord must investigate any valid complaint within 28 days of receiving that complaint.

(6) If such an investigation shows that the electrical installations are unsafe, the landlord must rectify the situation using a qualified and competent person within 28 days of the completion of the investigation.

(7) If the landlord believes that a complaint is not valid they must write to the tenant within 28 days of receiving that complaint explaining why they do not think it is valid.

(8) In this section—

a ‘valid Electrical Installation Condition Report’—

(a) is dated within the last five years;

(b) covers the whole fixed electrical installation of the dwelling;

(c) has a satisfactory outcome;

(d) was completed by a qualified and competent person; and

(e) is based on the model forms in BS 7671 or equivalent;

‘social landlord’ has the same meaning as in section 219 of the Housing Act 1996.”

This new clause requires social landlords to ensure the safety of electrical installations in high rise buildings and is intended to reduce risk of spread of fires between flats.

New clause 16—Duty of leaseholders to undertake electrical safety inspections

“(1) A leaseholder of a residential dwelling in a high-rise building must—

(a) hold a valid Electrical Installation Condition Report (EICR) for that dwelling; and

(b) provide a copy of that EICR to a person specified by the Secretary of State.

(2) A person who fails to comply with subsection (1) shall—

(a) initially receive a written request from the specified person to provide the EICR; and

(b) if he or she fails to comply with such a written request, be liable to a civil penalty.

(3) The Secretary of State shall, by regulations, nominate who the specified person shall be.

(4) In this section a ‘valid Electrical Installation Condition Report’—

(a) is dated within the last five years;

(b) covers the whole fixed electrical installation of the dwelling;

(c) has a satisfactory outcome;

(d) was completed by a qualified and competent person; and

(e) is based on the model forms in BS 7671 or equivalent.”

This new clause requires leaseholders to ensure the safety of electrical installations in high rise buildings and is intended to reduce risk of spread of fires between flats.

New clause 17—Staircase standards

“The Secretary of State must, within 6 months of the day on which this Act is passed, consult on regulations requiring staircases in all new build properties to comply with British Standard 5395-1.”

New clause 18—Property flood resilience

“(1) The Secretary of State must, before the end of the period of six months beginning on the day this Act is passed, use the power under section 1 of the Building Act 1984 to make building regulations for the purpose in subsection (2).

(2) That purpose is to set minimum standards for the safety of new build public and private properties in England for—

(a) property flood resilience,

(b) flood mitigation, and

(c) waste management in connection with flooding.

(3) The Secretary of State must by regulations establish—

(a) a certification scheme for safety improvements to domestic and commercial properties in England made in full or in part for flood prevention or flood mitigation purposes, and

(b) an accreditation scheme for installers of such improvements.

(4) The scheme under subsection (3)(a) must—

(a) set minimum standards for the improvements, including that they are made by a person accredited under subsection (1)(b), and

(b) provide for the issuance of certificates for insurance and assurance purposes stating that improvements to properties have met those standards.

(5) The scheme under subsection (3)(a) may make provision for the certification of improvements that were made before the establishment of the scheme provided those improvements meet the minimum standards in subsection (4)(a).

(6) In setting minimum standards under subsection (4)(a) the Secretary of State must have regard to the minimum standards for new build properties under subsection (1).

(7) The Secretary of State and local authorities in England must take all reasonable steps to make data about flood prevention and risk relevant to building safety publicly available.

(8) The duty under subsection (1) extends to seeking to facilitate use of the data by—

(a) insurers for the purpose of accurately assessing risks to buildings, and

(b) individual property owners for the purpose of assessing the need for property flood resilience measures.”

This new clause would establish minimum standards for property flood resilience measures in new build properties and in improvements to existing building designed to increase safety protections for flood prevention and mitigation purposes, and require local and national government to make data available to support this.

New clause 23—Building control: independent appointment

“In section 47 of the Building Act 1984 (giving and acceptance of initial notice), in subsection (1)(a) after ‘approved inspector’, insert ‘who has been chosen by a system of independent appointment, prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State.’”

This new clause, along with Amendment 73, is intended to remove choice of building control body from those carrying out all building work.

New clause 24—Building Safety and Local Authorities

“(1) The duties performed by the regulator under section 31 of this Act in respect of relevant buildings must be performed by the local authority that exercises building control functions in the area in which the building is located.

(2) In this section ‘relevant building’ means a building—

(a) under 18 metres in height, and

(b) comprising more than one dwelling.”

New clause 25—Building Safety Regulations for multi-occupancy dwellings

“The Secretary of State must by regulations amend paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 to the Building Act 1984 to apply to all buildings that comprise more than one dwelling.”

Amendment 1, in clause 3, page 2, line 13, at end insert—

“(aa) furthering the protection of property, and”.

This amendment would require the building safety regulator to exercise its functions with a view to furthering the protection of property, which is intended promote longer term protections for occupant safety and reducing fire damage and cost.

Amendment 74, in clause 30, page 18, line 17, at end insert—

“(3A) In making regulations under this section, the Secretary of State must have regard to the ability of residents to evacuate a building, taking into account the vulnerability of residents and the number of means of egress.”

This amendment is intended to ensure the Secretary of State has regard to the ability of residents to evacuate a building when revising the definition of higher-risk building.

Amendment 73, page 60, line 7 leave out clause 45.

This amendment, along with NC23, is intended to remove choice of building control body for those carrying out all building work.

Amendment 75, in clause 57, page 79, line 23, at end insert—

“(5) The regulations must exempt any relevant application made by or on behalf of a registered social landlord for the provision of social housing as defined under section 68 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008.

(6) A ‘relevant application’ under subsection (5) means an application of a description specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State.”

Government amendments 11 to 40.

Government amendments 60 and 61.

Government amendments 63 and 64.

Government new schedule 1—Special measures.

Government amendment 70.

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Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My right hon. and gallant Friend, as ever, is on or near the money. The point of the changes is to make sure that the accountable person is indeed accountable, so they do what it says on the tin.

Amendment 13 makes it clear in the Bill that an accountable person who allows occupation of a single residential unit or more in part of a higher risk building, as defined in clause 62, without a relevant completion certificate has committed a summary offence, and the guilty person is liable for conviction up to a maximum summary term. Amendment 60 allows regulations made under clause 71 to be subject to the affirmative procedure. Clause 71 sets out the parameters of the part of the building for which an accountable person is responsible. Amendment 64 provides that the consequential amendments in schedule 5 relating to the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967—an Act we all know well—and the Freedom of Information Act 2000 extend to all of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Amendment 68 provides that clause 127 is automatically commenced two months after Royal Assent.

The amendments, while hardly scintillating, will help to improve the Bill and make it ready for scrutiny by our colleagues in the other place. I trust that my hon. Friends and Opposition Members have listened closely, with care and attention, have absorbed all the points I have made, and that they will support the amendments.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

Before I call Matthew Pennycook, I ask colleagues who are trying to catch my eye that they please make sure that they address the new clauses and amendments in the group before us, not those in the previous group.

Matthew Pennycook Portrait Matthew Pennycook
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Scintillating they may not be, but it is still a pleasure to respond for the Opposition to the remaining proceedings on consideration. I will first deal briefly with several of the non-Government amendments selected, before taking the opportunity to ask the Minister several specific questions relating to Government new clause 19, new schedule 1 and various other amendments relating to special measures and protections against forfeiture. I hope he is able to answer at least some of them.

New clause 1, which stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams), who sadly cannot be in her place today because she has contracted covid, is a straightforward amendment that would place on the Secretary of State an obligation to review the effects of behaviour in the construction industry that have a negative impact on building safety, such as contract terms and payment practices that prioritise speed and low-cost solutions, and to report findings to this House. We support the new clause fully and urge the Government to give it due consideration.

New clause 18, which stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy), would establish minimum standards for property flood resilience measures in new-build homes. In response to my hon. Friend last week, the Secretary of State made it clear that “more could be done” on this issue. I hope my hon. Friend gets a chance to make her case in more detail in due course, and that the Minister will give serious consideration to her new clause and to what might be done through future planning legislation to drive up standards when it comes to flood mitigation and resilience.

New clause 15, which stands in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter), would extent the electrical safety inspection duties that currently apply in the private sector to social landlords. It is straightforward and we believe it warrants support.

New clause 16 would extend the same duties to leaseholders. Although we do not want extra burdens to be placed on leaseholder-occupiers—those who sub-let are of course required to have the relevant certification anyway—and we do want further assurances that the provision would not duplicate powers and duties that the Bill confers on the building safety manager, we support in principle steps to ensure the safety of electrical installations in high-rise buildings and to reduce the risk of fire spreading between flats.

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Paul Maynard Portrait Paul Maynard (Blackpool North and Cleveleys) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I rise to speak to new clause 17, which stands in my name.

The Minister, probably more than anybody else in this Parliament, already knows that I have a tendency to fall over. Because I am teetotal, this is not down to drink either. Indeed, I suspect that every single Member here will know someone—a friend, a loved one or a relative—who has had a fall on the stairs. They are a silent killer and claim the lives of over 700 people every year, as well as thousands more who suffer injuries and lose their independence.

Finding a solution to the issue of flammable cladding has proven fiendishly complex, as we know from our time here, but for staircase safety it should be, and indeed is, simple. A British standard already exists that reduces falls by a staggering 60%: British Standard 5395-1. It means that stairs must have a minimum size of “going”—the horizontal surface on which one treads—and a maximum rise in height limiting steepness and providing enough surface area on which to step. Provision of easy-reach handrails is also required for staircases to be compliant. While such staircases hardly look different at all to the naked eye, their impact on preventing falls is remarkable.

British Standard 5395-1 has been in place since 2010 but never enshrined in law as a requirement, so today I am proposing this new clause, alongside the hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts), for whose support I am most grateful. This is the result of ardent campaigning by the UK’s leading accident prevention charity, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, but also, crucially, major players in the housing industry such as the Berkeley Group. Industry wants this regulation. It wants a level playing field where there is one simple rule for all to adhere to. Because I am only calling for the standard to be applied to new-builds, there will be negligible cost and no need for retrofitting.

I can almost hear what the Minister is about to tell me—that it is uncommon to use primary legislation to enshrine such a standard into law. The Government will argue that our focus should be outcome-based rather than legislating on method, but I might point to regulation 7 of the building regulations, on combustible materials, which is in itself descriptive and sets out how the industry must achieve that particular regulation. If the outcome that we are all aiming for is safety of stairs, then the status quo is simply not working, and hundreds of people are dying every year from something that could so easily be prevented: I refer back to the 60% figure. If the Government have some other way to achieve such a reduction in preventable death in the home, then I am all ears, as many people have often pointed out to me. Independent safety campaigners such as RoSPA are confident from the statistics that this simple measure will save more lives than perhaps anything else in the entire Bill.

Genuine low-hanging fruit does not come along very often in politics, and I would like the Minister to grasp it when he sees it. He may not wish to satisfy me by granting me the agreement of the Government to the new clause. He has spent many years working on this with me trying to keep me satisfied and happy, but failed. Now he has his chance to redeem himself after 12 months of horror. Will he at least agree to meet me to discuss how we can take this matter forward? He can make my day by saying, yes, the Government agree. He can give me a minute of happiness and take forward Conservative party harmony, so rare these days, just by agreeing to meet me. I look forward to hearing what he might just have to say.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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Just a minute of happiness—very good.

Andy Slaughter Portrait Andy Slaughter
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will speak briefly to new clauses 15 and 16, which are in my name and which relate to electrical safety. They seek to extend the requirement for five-yearly checks on electrical equipment to resident leaseholders and to social landlords, where these already apply and in fact apply more widely than just to high-rise residential buildings and private landlords.



We have quite rightly spent a lot of time this afternoon talking about the effects on leaseholders, and we have strayed into other territory and exposed other deficiencies in the Bill in relation to the requirements for social landlords and tenants, what types of building are covered and, indeed, as we heard from the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman), how certain types of buildings now being constructed are still being constructed with many of those faults.

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Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I rise to speak in favour of new clause 18. This amendment seeks to tackle the Government’s currently laissez-faire approach to flood protection, which are known as property flood resilience measures, by introducing minimum national flood protection standards in new builds.

The reasoning behind this amendment is the inevitable change to our climate and the fact that we are going to see more flooding in this country, and it feels as though our legislation is not keeping up with the reality we all face. As the shadow spokesman, my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook), said, the Secretary of State did acknowledge in his response to me on the statement that “more could be done”. Therefore, I really do hope that the Government go away, have a look at the amendment I am putting forward, and consider how we can increase flood protections as part of building safety.

Currently, local authority planning departments can choose what property flood resilience measures they introduce as part of their pre-commencement conditions. In reality, that means that adjacent local authorities have different requirements for property flood resilience, flood mitigation and water management measures, even if they are rated in the same flood zone. In Hull, we have very strict flood resilience measures, as the House can imagine—we are an area that floods—but if the surrounding local authorities are not as strict on flood mitigation, we end up with the flood water from those areas, which creates more of a problem for an area such as Hull. That is why we are talking about having the same level right across the country. Even if a part of the country does not flood at all, the new clause seeks to ensure that they still need to take flooding seriously because if they do not, it will lead to problems upstream for somebody else—excuse the pun.

The new clause would also address the lack of clarity about effective PFR measures by looking at a proper accreditation scheme, which would include installers. In the same way that we have gas safety certificates and other safety measures, as well as energy efficiency ratings that are set and established and which everybody understands, the new clause would do the same thing on flooding so that people know they get a certain standard of flood protection in their property and in new builds.

In 2021, Flood Re proposed that lower premiums should be offered on policies where property flood resilience measures have been installed, but the insurance industry says that the lack of standards and proven efficacy makes it very difficult to assess premiums. If the new clause introduced standardisation and a certain standard was set, people could say to insurance companies, “This property has reached a certain standard, so there should be some reflection of that in the premium you’re offering.” This proposal is about looking at a certification scheme.

To further help insurers and the public, the new clause would create a requirement that all the relevant available data held by bodies such as the Environment Agency and local authorities on flood mitigation measures should be made publicly available. This is about trying to make premiums cheaper for people. Insurers purchase flood mapping data to aid them in setting premiums, and the better information they have, the more accurate their insurance premiums will be. At the moment, as I am sure the Minister knows, householders in some parts of the country cannot get any flood insurance if their property has been built after 2009. This proposal attempts to address that issue as well.

Climate change is causing heavier and more frequent flooding, and we currently have 6.3 million homes in the UK at risk of flooding, without any property flood resilience measures. That should be a cause for extreme concern, yet the Government are failing to address it and, in fact, flooding is not mentioned anywhere in the Bill. It is irresponsible and reckless to allow new builds to continue to be built in this country without really strong property flood resilience measures, because we need our homes to be fit for the future. Without positive action from the Government, tens of thousands more homes will be built without the protection they need. This is another housing scandal in the making, so I urge the Minister to go away and look at improving provisions on flooding as part of this Bill.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
- Hansard - -

I call Clive Betts, who has tabled amendment 73 and 74.

Clive Betts Portrait Mr Betts
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

And new clause 23, but let me comment briefly on two other new clauses. New clause 17, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard), is about safety on stairs and ensuring that stairs built in new properties conform to British standards. He is absolutely right and I have put my name to the new clause. Each year, 300,000 people are admitted to A&E because of falls on stairs. That is a staggering figure and anything that we can do to reduce that has to be considered. This proposal is not a difficult one; as he said, it should be easy to implement and cost-free because it would be in new properties. Making sure that the stairs are wide enough and have proper handrails is not rocket science, and I hope that the Minister might indicate agreement on that in future, even if he cannot agree to the new clause today.

I just want to make it clear that nothing I am saying here is meant to try to improve harmony in the Conservative party—that is not something I want to be associated with, as the hon. Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys indicated. However, I am more than happy to have harmony with him in promoting new clause 17.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter) is right that there should be similar standards for social tenants in social rented properties. The Select Committee on Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has an ongoing inquiry into the regulation of social housing, and if he could drop a note to the Committee as evidence so that we can take account of his proposals, that would be useful.

I turn to new clause 23 and amendment 73 in my name, which reflect what the Select Committee has looked at. Building control has come up as an issue as a result of the Hackitt review. Dame Judith Hackitt made it clear that two of her concerns about the construction industry were: the whole culture of the industry with its race to the bottom; and—this goes alongside that—conflicts of interest.

In the previous debate, I mentioned conflicts of interest on approvals for products in the industry, with suppliers hawking products around until they found someone—a friendly approver—who would approve them. Building control is the same—it is about the developer finding someone less likely to give them difficult scrutiny. The Government have addressed that for the highest-risk buildings, for which in future building control will be appointed by the regulator. However, for all other properties the developer can say, “Yes, I’ll have you to do my building control” or, “I won’t have you, because you gave me a difficult time with the last property I built.” That is not acceptable.

We need someone to approve a building who is independent of the developer. The Committee has gone on record on that several times, and we recommended it when we scrutinised the draft Bill. So far, the Minister has come back with, “The Government don’t agree.” I hope that at some point the Government will reconsider, because that seems to be a fundamental principle and something that will make all buildings safer in future. It would provide security for the owners, occupiers and tenants that their buildings have been approved by someone independent of the developer.

Building Safety

Nigel Evans Excerpts
Monday 10th January 2022

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend makes a very important point, and he tempts me into a broader debate to which I will return. In a nutshell, many people involved in housing provision, construction and development produce safe, beautiful homes with concern for the environment that enhance our communities, and we need more homes that are safe, decent and sustainable. There are also problems in the system, and the behaviour of certain actors needs to be addressed.

Everyone in this House wants to work with the industry, because having a home of our own is such an important part of our aspirations and ambitions, but we must recognise that more work needs to be done so we can be proud of the sector. I know that was at the heart of the points my hon. Friend made in his Westminster Hall debate.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
- Hansard - -

I thank the Secretary of State for escaping the BBC lift this morning so that he could come here to make his statement and respond to questions for more than 90 minutes.

Nuclear Energy (Financing) Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),

That the Order of 3 November 2021 (Nuclear Energy (Financing) Bill (Programme)) be varied as follows:

(1) Paragraphs (4) and (5) of the Order shall be omitted.

(2) Proceedings on Consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion two hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.

(3) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion three hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.—(Mrs Wheeler.)

Question agreed to.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. No Minister came to this House today to address the appalling situation for the 155,000 people across the United Kingdom who remain without electricity, following damage caused by Storm Arwen. Thousands of people in Cumbria—in Coniston, Haverthwaite, Torver, Hawkshead, Grayrigg, Shap, Alston, Troutbeck, Garsdale, parts of Windermere, parts of Kirkby Stephen and parts of the Cartmel peninsula—are now facing their fourth night without electricity.

We need support tonight to help the hard work and increase the numbers of the engineers who are working around the clock to fix the connections. That may well involve bringing in the Army. We also need support for the amazing community volunteers who are helping vulnerable people and families who are cold, hungry and suffering in other ways. After four nights without power, most people become vulnerable. Could you advise me, Mr Deputy Speaker, how we can make representations to Ministers so that we can see immediate action tonight?

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
- Hansard - -

I thank the hon. Member for giving notice of his point of order. He mentions a number of areas in and around his constituency; areas in my constituency and those of others have also been affected.

I have been given no indication that there is to be a statement today on the matter, but you are a seasoned Member of Parliament, Mr Farron, and you will know that there are other devices that you may be able to use to raise the issue, either directly with Ministers or in the House. Also, the Table Office is always there to assist Members in pursuing the interests that they have.

I thank the hon. Member for raising that vital issue.

Animals (Penalty Notices) Bill (Ways and Means)

Resolved,

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Animals (Penalty Notices) Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment of sums into the Consolidated Fund.—(Victoria Prentis.)

Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Bill (Money)

Queen’s recommendation signified.

Resolved,

That, for the purposes of any Act arising from the Approved Premises (Substance Testing) Bill, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any expenditure incurred under or by virtue of the Act by the Secretary of State.—(Kit Malthouse.)

Planning (Enforcement) Bill

Nigel Evans Excerpts
Friday 19th November 2021

(6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ben Spencer Portrait Dr Spencer
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The reason for the Bill’s drafting is that this whole area of planning enforcement and law is complicated—I recognise that—and in the discussions that I have had with Ministers—

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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Order. Dr Spencer, would you face the Chamber? I know that it is awkward and that you want to respond to Sir Christopher, but you have to talk to the Chamber.

Ben Spencer Portrait Dr Spencer
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My apologies, Mr Deputy Speaker.

I recognise that this is a very complicated area. Rogue developers will use any chink in the armour of enforcement and the appeals process to their advantage—I will come to that a bit later—so it is important that there is as much scope as possible for regulations to be adapted, amended and updated to ensure that we get this absolutely right and prevent these rogue developments. That is why the Bill is drafted in the way that it is.

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Mark Garnier Portrait Mark Garnier (Wyre Forest) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. Does he agree that one of the problems with unwanted developments, particularly lorry parks or scrapyards, is that the land that he is talking about—the rivers and streams that Conservative Members very much cherish, as everybody knows, and the areas of outstanding natural beauty and nature reserves—get contaminated by fuel oil or by whatever comes out of the developments? There are so many reasons why this is such a good Bill, but preserving nature from such contaminants is one of them.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

Order. I remind Members: when you make interventions, please face the House, because the microphones can then pick it all up, and because it is respectful to both sides of the House.

Gagan Mohindra Portrait Mr Mohindra
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I thank my hon. Friend, who I know is newer in this place than he looks. I totally agree with his comments about the unintended consequences and the knock-on ecological damage associated with bad practice by some landowners.

Like many fellow Members, I am in regular contact with local authorities, so I am aware of proposed developments and any future plans to utilise brownfield land in my constituency. I also attend monthly meetings with residents associations across South West Hertfordshire, so I know that my constituents are passionate about protecting their green-belt land and preventing its destruction. They repeatedly raise the need for greater measures to protect the green belt and the desire to be more involved in local planning decisions. My constituents work hard, in collaboration with local councils, to ensure that brownfield land is prioritised for development instead of our valuable green-belt areas.

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Saqib Bhatti Portrait Saqib Bhatti (Meriden) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

If my hon. Friend, in looking at the Liberal Democrat Benches, had to rate the Liberal Democrat interest in this issue on a scale from one to 10—10 being the most interested and most serious about this issue—what rating would he give them?

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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Order. That is the last intervention on the fact that the Lib Dems are not here. Let us on focus on the Bill, please.

Gagan Mohindra Portrait Mr Mohindra
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I did not appreciate that we were doing a knock, drop and collect survey of zero to 10 on voting intentions. My hon. Friend makes a valid point: we need both sides of the House to be engaged in this debate. That is how we make better laws and legislation and our role as parliamentarians is to be critical friends, even on the Government Benches, to those in the Executive.

It is, and will continue to be, for local authorities, rightly, to grant planning permission. However, it is for us as legislators to decide what planning enforcement powers local authorities have and are able to use. This is where we, as legislators, play an important role and must support our local councils and developers in their efforts to build on brownfield sites instead.

A small minority of people and businesses do not care about preserving the green belt. They do not seek planning permission, but would rather take the law into their own hands and destroy our beautiful green belt. Unfortunately, there have been several instances of that in my own constituency, including people building dwellings on green belt land without permission and destroying woodland to create new paths to their land. The process of dealing with such cases can be long and drawn out, as my hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge has pointed out. In the two cases I have just outlined, fines of £12,000 and £8,000 were issued to the homeowners.

I do not want to see my constituency’s defence against flooding being lost to people who do not abide by planning laws. Illegally building on the green belt reduces our ability to fight the adverse impacts of flooding, which is why we must review what policies are in place to help protect the green belt. In order to truly protect the green belt, we must enforce the law and penalise those who breach it. It is clear that we need to take stronger action against those who cause illegal damage without consulting the authorities. Now is the time to increase the penalties on those who repeatedly and intentionally flout the law to stop further destruction of our green belt. We must ensure that local authorities have the power to effectively punish those who do break the law and prevent individuals or companies that continue to do so.

We should also look at the timescales involved, as my hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge said in his opening remarks. The time taken to enforce better behaviour can be years, and, therefore, bad behaviour is, unintentionally, rewarded by gaming the system. I know that my hon. Friend has proposed some measures, including creating a national register to enable local authorities to identify repeat offenders, enabling them to prevent and prosecute those who flout the laws more quickly and effectively. Although I am not convinced that that system is the most effective method of catching repeat offenders at the time, I would be interested to hear more about it and how it could be implemented.

We must balance tougher fines and stronger laws with legislation that encourages good behaviour, rather than just penalises people. By encouraging people to develop sustainably by utilising brownfield sites, we are taking a better approach to preventing green belt planning breaches. By reducing stamp duty or council tax at the beginning of construction as one solution for a fixed period, we can hopefully incentivise development on those brownfield sites rather than watch our green belt land be built on.

We are all in agreement that the best way to protect our green spaces is to maximise the use of sustainable brownfield sites. Members across the House will also know that there are plenty of under-utilised brownfield sites that are perfectly fit for new, affordable homes across the country.

Budget Resolutions

Nigel Evans Excerpts
Monday 1st November 2021

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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I remind everyone that if you have participated in today’s debate, you will be expected to be present at the wind-ups.

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Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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Order. I anticipate that the wind-ups will begin at about half-past 9.

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Beth Winter Portrait Beth Winter (Cynon Valley) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In the build-up to the COP26 summit, which began today, I held three climate assemblies in my constituency, and I have sent our manifesto to the COP26 President. Cynon Valley is an old mining community suffering higher than average levels of poverty and ill health. While the people of our community are ready for and want change, they are also anxious to ensure that in the future-proofing of our planet, communities such as ours are not left behind, but this Budget and spending review give me no confidence that that will be the case. Indeed, yet again, the people of Cynon Valley and of Wales are being short-changed by this Tory Government. The Welsh Government’s budget in 2024-25 will be nearly £3 billion lower than it would be if it had increased in line with the economy since 2010-11. The Chancellor’s Budget offers Wales no help to deal with dangerous coal tips, although the whole UK benefited from the coal dug out from the south Wales valleys. Must we wait for another disaster before action is taken, given that a disaster becomes more likely as the climate crisis accelerates?

There is talk of levelling up, but losing £375 million of EU structural funds and replacing it with a £120 million levelling-up fund, most of which has gone to Tory-held seats, does not sound much like levelling up to me. To add insult to injury, this Government are bypassing the democratically elected Welsh Government in making their decisions about how to spend money in Wales. For my constituents—thousands of them—the decision to withdraw the universal credit top-up has been devastating, and there is no benefit for the unemployed and the most disadvantaged. The Budget and spending review have been celebrated by Opposition Members. Some say that the Tories have “stolen Labour’s clothes”; I am relieved to say that they have not stolen this socialist’s clothes.

We urgently need to reconfigure our economy and society. We need to reverse the effects of austerity on our communities. We must act now to reduce inequalities in our society, and that is not just about levelling up; it is also about levelling back down the extreme wealth owned by such a small proportion of our population—millionaires whose wealth has grown over the time of the pandemic. We need to introduce a wealth tax, which could raise more than £300 billion over a five-year period.

That money should be invested in developing a democratically controlled green new deal, ensuring that decisions are made by local people, communities and their elected representatives who best understand their needs. It could develop the green industries that we want, creating numerous well-paid green jobs in my community. It could help to renew all the public services, and generate community wealth along with the museums, libraries and theatres that we lost because of austerity. We could at last develop the kind of green rail infrastructure that we need, and with prices at a level that people can afford. Wales has already lost out on nearly £5 billion of investment because HS2 is being classed as a Wales and England project. When is the Chancellor going to rectify that?

I am proud to be a co-sponsor of the green new deal Bill—the Decarbonisation and Economic Strategy Bill—which is relevant today. Addressing the climate crisis must be embedded in everything we do from now on. It means prioritising the future of the planet in every decision we take, including budgetary and spending reviews. We need urgent action now, and it is my sincere hope that the world will come together at COP26 to save our planet. No, this Tory Government have not stolen my green clothes at all; they have given to the rich and made life harder for the poor. That is the opposite of what I stand for, and levelling up it most certainly is not.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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As Christmas is coming, the last two speakers have five minutes each.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD)
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Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. There is another great advantage of speaking at this late stage of the debate, which is that I have been able to hear the contributions from Members from all parts of the House. Those contributions have been thoughtful, genuinely interesting and well delivered. I am sure that Members will forgive me if I also say that there has been a fair amount of buzzword bingo. Sadly, while there was certainly a degree of buzzword bingo in the Budget statement last week, the numbers for rural Britain did not come up. If we are talking about levelling up, which is the theme of this debate, the Government should look at those parts of the country that are suffering with peculiar problems and unique difficulties and seek to address them. However, that has definitely not been the case when it comes to rural Britain. I am a fellow Yorkshire dales MP with the Chancellor, and he has no excuse for being ignorant of some of the issues that I am going to raise, which must raise the question of how much he actually cares about rural Britain.

There are huge issues facing rural Britain at the moment, and I am going to pick just a few that the Government had the opportunity to deal with but chose not to. The first is the housing crisis. “Crisis” is an overused word, but in rural Britain, and particularly in Cumbria, the crisis of the past 18 months has become extreme and acute. What do I mean by that? Throughout Cumbria, we have communities that have a minimum of 50% second homes. In some cases, 80% to 90% of the houses in a particular village or town are not lived in. I do not need to tell you, Mr Deputy Speaker, what that can mean for a community, because you know very well that it can mean the loss of life for a community. Communities can lose their schools, their bus services and their very communities.

During the covid crisis, up to 80% of all house sales in Cumbria have been on the second home market, so a terrible problem has become disastrously worse in no time. Let us remember that the south lakes are Britain’s biggest tourist destination outside London, and we already have tons of holiday lets. In my community of South Lakeland, in one single year during the pandemic, there was a 32% rise in the number of holiday lets. Where from? I will tell you where from: hard-working local people in private lets who have been kicked out since the eviction ban. Their homes are now being handed over to Airbnb. The Chancellor had an opportunity to raise taxes in the Budget. We are criticised on the side of the House for not saying what we would do. I believe that we should double council tax for second homeowners to ensure that there is money to invest in those communities and to provide a disincentive to people wanting to buy too many second homes in those communities. We also need to change the planning laws so that holiday lets and second homes have different categories of planning use, so that local communities in the dales, the lakes and elsewhere in Cumbria can have control over their housing stock.

The consequence of this absolute catastrophe in our housing stock is local families being forced out of the area. The lakeland clearances are happening in our communities right now in this day and age, and that is having an impact on our employers in hospitality and tourism. Some 80% of the local working-age population in the Lake district work in hospitality and tourism, so the Government’s incredibly foolish, cloth-eared policies on visas mean that we are killing the tourism industry not just in the Lake district and the dales but elsewhere. Action could have been taken to prevent this.

I want to talk briefly about health and the hospital improvement programme. The Government are currently putting on the table a proposal that would close Lancaster Hospital and Preston Hospital and merge them somewhere in the middle. For people in the lakes and the dales, that will mean travelling twice as much as they currently do to reach an A&E department that is already too far away. There was an opportunity in the Budget to give money to radiotherapy satellite centres right around the country, and the Chancellor could have awarded one to Kendal, as has been proposed many times in the past. Some people have to make a four-hour return journey for their daily cancer treatment at our nearest centre in Preston. That could have been addressed, but it was not.

When it comes to dentistry, I have had constituents just in the past week being told that their nearest NHS dentist is in Doncaster, Manchester or Newcastle. These are issues that could have been focused on if the Government cared about levelling up rural Britain as well as the areas that have been mentioned.

Last but definitely not least, what about farming, the backbone of our rural communities? As the Government botch the transition from basic payments to the new environmental land management schemes system, we see farmers expected to live on half their income within three years, clearing those people from the landscape too and undermining rural Britain. I wish the Chancellor cared; he has no excuse whatsoever, given that he surely knows.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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Bell, we will not put the timer on you; just resume your seat no later than 9.30 pm.

--- Later in debate ---
Helen Whately Portrait Helen Whately
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I would like to sum up. In this Budget and spending review, we are seizing the moment to end historical disparities in education, health and employment opportunities, so that in the years ahead, more people throughout this United Kingdom will have the opportunity to live healthier, happier lives, and to fulfil their hopes, dreams and ambitions, wherever they live in the country.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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Before the Whip moves the motion to adjourn the debate, may I say that there were 65 contributions from Back Benchers today? That has to be some sort of record for a Budget resolutions debate. I congratulate each and every one of you on your contribution.

Ordered, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Mrs Wheeler.)

Debate to be resumed tomorrow.