Simon Clarke debates involving HM Treasury during the 2019 Parliament

Wed 12th May 2021
5 interactions (857 words)
Mon 1st March 2021
3 interactions (89 words)
Tue 23rd February 2021
3 interactions (549 words)
Tue 20th October 2020
5 interactions (91 words)
Tue 11th February 2020
19 interactions (446 words)
Wed 5th February 2020
17 interactions (1,462 words)
Wed 22nd January 2020
11 interactions (2,587 words)
Tue 21st January 2020
22 interactions (1,424 words)
Tue 7th January 2020
40 interactions (1,172 words)

Better Jobs and a Fair Deal at Work

Simon Clarke Excerpts
Wednesday 12th May 2021

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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HM Treasury
Jessica Morden Portrait Jessica Morden (Newport East) (Lab)
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Ahead of the Queen’s Speech, Opposition Members called on the Government to prioritise jobs in the recovery from the pandemic. As the Leader of the Opposition said yesterday, after a year of sacrifice we needed a Queen’s Speech that rose to the scale of the challenge and was transformative for our economy, public services and society, but what we got lacked ambition and a plan to meet that challenge.

For example, we did not get an uptake on the long-awaited and much needed employment Bill. It is imperative that the Government take swift action to deal with the scourge of insecure work, including by putting an end to exploitative working practices such as fire and rehire. I know constituents who have been caught in such traps—most recently at British Gas—and met some of them during the recent election campaign. Their accounts of the way they have been treated, often after years of loyal service, are deeply unfair. It is a reminder of the urgent need to reform employment practices so that everyone is treated with dignity and respect at work.

The Queen’s Speech was notable for what it excluded as much as for what it included. For all the talk about levelling up, there was no meaningful indication of support for an industry that should be at the very heart of that agenda: steel. Steel communities are a key part of our industrial future. There cannot be an advanced economy or an economic recovery from the pandemic without a resilient steel sector. Our steel producers need action on industrial energy costs—we have been going on about that for ages—and we need to ensure that British steel manufacturers, such as those in Newport East, are at last at the front of the queue for Government contracts.

Platitudes about levelling up across the regions and nations of the UK are popular with Government Ministers, but these Ministers are less keen on talking up Wales, and there was scant mention of Wales in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech. We are still waiting on assurances from Tory Government Ministers on their “not a penny less” promise on the replacement of European structural funds and on long-overdue investments in our transport network. It is wrong that Wales accounts for 11% of the UK rail network but receives only 2% of rail investment enhancement from the Department for Transport.

I express my deep disappointment, and that of campaigners and charities throughout the country, that the Queen’s Speech failed to incorporate long-awaited reform of the benefits system for terminally ill people. We are now approaching the two-year anniversary of the Government’s review of access to welfare benefits for the terminally ill and we are still no closer to the scrapping of the cruel six-month and three-year rules that force people to spend their final months grappling with a complex and uncaring system.

We have continuously raised the issue with Ministers over the past year, alongside the Motor Neurone Disease Association, Marie Curie and other campaigners, to whom I pay tribute for keeping it high on the agenda, especially on social media. The responses have been vague and non-committal, with promises of updates “soon” followed by inaction. Ministers say that they are receptive to the campaign and acknowledge the need for reform, but I question why we are stuck in this limbo. Two years since the review was announced, thousands have died while waiting for a decision on their benefits claim, so will Ministers on the Front Bench today convey to the Department for Work and Pensions people’s anger and frustration and ask the Department to sort the situation out?

Finally, on policing, despite warm words from the Government, the truth is that they have still not addressed the impact of their swingeing cuts to policing over the past decade. Today, the police workforce nationally has 23,824 fewer personnel than in 2010. Operation Uplift is welcome, but it still does not take things back to 2010 levels or beyond. The Government must do better for our police services and for communities such as Newport East.

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Simon Clarke (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) (Con)
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There is so much to welcome in the Queen’s Speech, which will make our great country safer, stronger and fairer. I am particularly pleased to welcome the legislation to support the introduction of the UK’s first freeports. We have already seen the impact of this Budget announcement in the Tees Valley, where GE Renewable Energy has committed to creating 2,250 jobs, mostly within the confines of the freeport zone.

Speaking of the Tees Valley, it would be remiss of me not to congratulate my friend Ben Houchen on his astounding victory in the mayoral election last week. To win re-election with 73% of the vote represents a huge personal mandate but also a resounding endorsement by the people of the Tees Valley of this Government’s plan to deliver on their priorities. That stands in stark contrast to the remarks of the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr Perkins), which were so typical, I am afraid, of the doom and gloom that characterises the Opposition’s approach not just to the crisis and our handling of it but to the wider prospects and outlook of this country. That goes to the heart, I fear, of their electoral dilemmas.

Creating a more prosperous country where someone’s life chances are linked not to where they come from but to who they are capable of being lies at the heart of the mission of levelling up. A good job, a good school for their children and a good home of their own are what millions of people rightly yearn for. On the last point, the planning legislation in the Queen’s Speech is vital if we are to deliver the number of homes required where they are most needed.

In constituencies such as mine, an ordinary family can, with hard work, aspire to own a really nice home of their own. Sadly, however, we need to acknowledge that in too much of the south of our country, our housing system is more less, as a market, completely broken. People working hard, even two-earner couples, are priced out of any realistic prospect of owning the home that they want and are instead trapped in an overpriced and heavily subsidised rental market, which further diminishes their ability to save.

Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller (North East Bedfordshire) (Con)
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The issue of planning is particularly important for my constituency, which is growing at three times the national average already. Does my hon. Friend accept that one welcome aspect of reform would be that for the 1 million housing approvals already in place, the economic incentives are there and the pressure is there for those to be implemented?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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I absolutely take my hon. Friend’s point. He is quite right that this is a complex problem and we need to address aggravating factors, including land banking by developers, which undoubtedly makes the situation harder to address.

We must confront the difficult reality that this is fundamentally a problem of supply. We should not privilege the interests of those who have homes over those who do not. In 1979, the green belt was 721,000 hectares. It has since more than doubled to over 1.6 million hectares, much of which is not genuinely green. Up to 11% of UK brownfield land, over 4,000 hectares, lies within the constraint of the green belt. The Government are proposing sensible steps to release some more land, a fraction of the total, to build the homes that are so badly needed while protecting areas that local residents cherish and choose to exclude.

Striking that balance deftly is vital. I am not advocating a planning free-for-all, and nor is anyone on the Government Benches, but I make a serious appeal to the House to recognise the urgency of the problem that we are storing up in the south-east corner of England, in particular, and to take action to address this. Fundamentally, land scarcity is the problem. Today the land that houses are built on accounts for 72% of its sale value. In 1995, it was 55%, while in the 1950s it was roughly 25%. The pattern is clear. From a centre-right perspective, we cannot be surprised if it becomes harder to make the case for popular capitalism in communities where too many people, particularly younger people, cannot see a realistic route to build that capital in their own lives.

We have to fix this, and I make a plea for us to do so. The most important thing we can do is to focus on sensible solutions to this planning impasse, because if we do not get it right, we will cut a generation of people out of home ownership, and there will be very serious consequences that we are already starting to see in the capital. We ought to look at how we distribute the burden of planning more sensibly. Rather than there being some additional homes in almost every community, perhaps we should be looking more at garden towns and even cities, because that might concentrate some of the pressures and some of the agglomeration advantages of creating those new communities.

However we choose to address this problem, we cannot ignore it, and the Government are right to be addressing it as part of a strong Queen’s Speech that will ultimately deliver on the promise of levelling up not just in communities such as mine, which are the typical centre of attention, but in the wider sense, recognising that if we do not get this right there will be exclusion and deprivation in parts of the country that are typically associated with being much more successful and affluent.

Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP)
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Northern Ireland benefits from being part of the United Kingdom. Its people benefit and its economy benefits—they are part of the fifth-largest economy in the world. By contrast, after 100 years of independence and almost 50 years of membership of the European Union, the Republic of Ireland remains the poorest region of the British Isles. It has no national health service, 11% of its employees are in the public sector, and the rest of its economy is essentially a tax haven model, which washes through huge amounts of money for US corporations.

By contrast, Northern Ireland has significantly higher employment levels and a 20% higher standard of living than the Republic of Ireland, and of course we have the benefits of being part of the welfare state. Yes, we have a large public sector, which has cushioned us considerably during the pandemic, and which could not be supported by the Republic of Ireland if there was any move whatsoever towards a united Ireland. Therefore, Northern Ireland’s economic and social future rests surely and squarely with the Union. So, for all the talk of Irish unity, the stubborn fact remains that the Republic of Ireland could not afford Irish unity because the Union offers the people of Northern Ireland so much more.

It is important to say that during this year of our centenary because of the amount of attacks on the very existence of our country. Earlier today we had a question in this House about the state of Israel and Hamas wishing to wipe it off the map. As a member of a small state, I get that—I understand that—because there is clearly an agenda to abuse Northern Ireland by saying it should not really exist. Well, I am proud it exists, and I am proud that this Queen’s Speech will help us continue to grow our economy as part of this Union. It is important to say that.

However, the first and second quarters of this year have created significant challenges for Northern Ireland. One of the issues was dealing with the pandemic, which was well beyond the Government’s control, but the second issue is, of course, the Northern Ireland protocol, which unfortunately has blighted business opportunity for the first two quarters of this year.

I welcome Lord Frost’s comments earlier this week that the protocol is not sustainable, but once again we need more than just words. We have had lots of words. The Prime Minister told businesses they could “bin” the protocol; well, they can’t. The Secretary of State told us it would be light touch; it isn’t. We are now being told it is not sustainable. Well, if that is the case, I and my country would like to see actions over the unsustainable protocol. It needs to be put away, to put businesses out of their misery in Northern Ireland. I urge the Government to invoke article 16 and make sure we can move on from the societal and economic hardship that has been caused single-handedly by that protocol. I hope we can do that and do it fast. The people and parties who want to keep the protocol for a political points-scoring exercise while businesses suffer only seek to prove that Northern Ireland is somehow different, without realising that it is that difference that prevents the normalisation of both politics and our economy.

I hope we can build on the promises in this Queen’s Speech, and I hope we can build on the bus building promises. The Government have an awful lot to do to meet the predicted 4,000 buses to be built during this Parliament, so they really need to get a move on.

Covid-19: Ethnic Minority Disparities

Simon Clarke Excerpts
Monday 1st March 2021

(5 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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HM Treasury
Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I thank the right hon. Lady for her question. I wish that she had actually read my reports, because she would have seen that I addressed that not just in the October report, but in the one that came out last week. Recording ethnicity data on death certificates was one of the recommendations in my previous report. It is not something that can be done overnight—it will probably require legislation—but we are on our way to getting it, so that is some good news.

The right hon. Lady also mentioned the orthodox Jewish community—finally someone from the Labour Benches has talked about this community, and I am very pleased that she has. Research from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimated that 64% of the orthodox Jewish community may have had covid-19 in 2020. The researchers said that the reasons behind this high rate of infection are not yet known.

Strictly orthodox families have significantly larger households than the UK average. They also live in areas of increased population density and, in pre-pandemic times, had regular attendance at communal events and gatherings. I use them as an example because this is why it is wrong for us to mix together lots of different groups. The orthodox Jewish community has been more impacted than many of the ethnic minority groups that get a lot of attention in the press, but we do not say that that is due to structural antisemitism. We look at the underlying factors. Where there are multi-generational households, for instance, that is not due to racism, but is often due to cultural factors. We are not going to take grandparents away from their families because of covid. We are going to provide them with guidance to ensure that they can look after themselves safely; that is this Government’s priority.

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Simon Clarke (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) (Con) [V]
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I commend my hon. Friend on the outstanding job that she is doing in encouraging the whole population take the vaccine when they are offered it, because that is so important. In an article on LabourList on 19 February reflecting on covid-19, Labour’s shadow Equalities Minister, the hon. Member for Battersea (Marsha De Cordova), claimed that Government Ministers continue to dismiss and deny “the realities of racism”, and went on to state that “structural racism” was the cause of those disparities. What is the Government’s view on this question?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I thank my hon. Friend for the question, and for the opportunity to reiterate what I said to the hon. Member for Battersea (Marsha De Cordova). Of course racism exists; no one in this Government has ever denied the existence of racism. In fact, I have spoken about my personal experience, as did the Home Secretary at this very Dispatch Box—and 30 Labour MPs, including the hon. Lady, dismissed the Home Secretary’s experiences as gaslighting. However, we will not assume that every issue experienced by ethnic minorities is caused by racism without looking at the evidence. We develop solutions based on where the evidence leads, unlike Labour, whose report in October recommended that we decolonise the curriculum to address covid-19.

There is a legitimate debate to be had on how we tackle racism and address ethnic disparities, but although our means of achieving these goals may differ, that should in no way undermine our shared commitment to building a fairer and more cohesive society. Let me be clear to those who have either misunderstood or deliberately choose to misrepresent what the Government have said: this Government condemn racism, an evil which has no place in a civilised society.

Government's Management of the Economy

Simon Clarke Excerpts
Tuesday 23rd February 2021

(5 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

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HM Treasury
Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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We now go to Nadia Whittome. Nadia, can you hear me? We will go to the next speaker and come back.

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Simon Clarke (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) (Con) [V]
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The motion before the House today is not one to trouble serious observers. Over the 10 years that followed the crash of 2007 to 2009, this Conservative Government rebuilt our broken economy. Before the appalling shock of covid, we enjoyed effectively full employment. Public spending was back within our means and the UK ranked eighth in the World Economic Forum’s ease of doing business ranking for 2020. The widespread understanding that the Conservatives are the party who will look after people’s family, home and job is among the most important reasons why we have won four successive general elections, and it will underpin, I am sure, our success in a fifth.

This Government have a clear, bold plan to build back better. Our £280 billion to the crisis was deliverable only because of the tough choices that Conservative Chancellors made in the last decade to fix the roof while the sun was shining. We have made decisive interventions that have preserved much of the muscle power of the British economy during this period of suspended animation, and as my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury said in his opening remarks, we have been praised by the IMF for the nature of the interventions that we have made.

Even before next week’s Budget, we have the Chancellor’s £30 billion plan for jobs, the £12 billion green industrial revolution and £8.6 billion of accelerated infrastructure spending. This stimulus is hugely exciting areas such as the Tees valley, which had the chance to leverage great amounts of private sector investment off the back of Government commitments of this nature.

Not all the decisions that lie ahead will be easy; there is no point in sugaring the pill. Our public finances are gravely damaged. Some of the damage will of course be repaired when the free market is allowed to operate normally again. However, we need to be realistic. Nothing we said during the course of the 2010s about the danger of running unsustainable levels of public debt has changed. The fact that borrowing costs are historically low is to be welcomed, but we should regard it as a stroke of great good fortune that it coincides with our hour of need, rather than an ongoing inevitability. I challenge anyone in the Chamber to tell me with certainty what the world will look like in the 2030s or 2040s, or what borrowing costs will be.

I believe it would be nothing short of immoral to mortgage our children’s and grandchildren’s futures to chance. For debt to exceed 100% of GDP for the first time since 1963 is simply not sustainable, so I would support and indeed urge some measures of fiscal consolidation in next week’s Budget. These should be targeted at hard-pressed families, and key drivers of employer behaviour such as national insurance should be protected, but I can well see the sense of looking at other options to raise revenue in the medium term, including increasing corporation tax.

Companies are realistic about the economic landscape. They care more about policy certainty and the general prosperity of the economy than about a moderate rise in corporation tax. So I hope the Chancellor will be prudent as well as bold and emphasise the need for discipline and sound money next week as part of our recovery.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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We hope to get back to Nadia Whittome before the end of the debate, and sooner rather than later. So we now go by video-link to Paula Barker.

Oral Answers to Questions

Simon Clarke Excerpts
Tuesday 20th October 2020

(9 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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HM Treasury
Jesse Norman Portrait Jesse Norman
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the point about the OECD’s forecasts, and also the astonishing flexibility and effectiveness of our labour markets. She will know that the Government continue to adapt their response and, as the Chancellor mentioned a few minutes ago, we will shortly be launching the £2 billion kickstarter scheme alongside the job support scheme. That will be a tremendous boost for the prospects of young people across the country.

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Simon Clarke (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to ensure long-term equity of (a) economic growth and (b) productivity throughout the nations and regions of the UK. [907782]

Kemi Badenoch Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kemi Badenoch)
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The Government are committed to levelling up opportunity so that all people and places across the UK benefit from economic growth, and covid-19’s impact has made that more important. From the £2 billion new kickstart scheme to create new jobs for 16 to 24-year-olds to the £1 billion for local projects to boost local recovery, we see that the Department will protect jobs, support economic growth and boost productivity across all nations and regions of the UK.

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. One of the best tools to level up economic opportunity across the UK after we leave the European Union will be free ports. Does she recognise the strong case for designating Teesport, and will she praise the work of PD Ports and my friend the Tees Valley Mayor, Ben Houchen, in preparing a very strong bid?

Kemi Badenoch Portrait Kemi Badenoch
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I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend that free ports will benefit communities across the UK by unleashing the economic potential of our ports, as he will very well know, having been one of my predecessors in this role. I thank him, the Mayor of Tees Valley and my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Jacob Young) for their support on this agenda. Our consultation response, published on 7 October, confirms our intent to deliver free ports by 2021, and the free port locations will be selected according to an open, transparent bidding process.

Oral Answers to Questions

Simon Clarke Excerpts
Tuesday 11th February 2020

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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HM Treasury
John Howell Portrait John Howell (Henley) (Con)
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3. What fiscal steps he is taking to ensure that the Government meets its target of net zero emissions by 2050. [900725]

Simon Clarke Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr Simon Clarke)
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The clean growth strategy sets out our proposals for decarbonising all sectors of the UK economy through the course of the 2020s. This year, the Government will be setting out further detail on plans to reduce emissions in key sectors such as transport, energy and buildings, as well as publishing our net zero review.

John Howell Portrait John Howell
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11 Feb 2020, midnight

The next UN climate conference is the perfect opportunity to set out exactly what we are doing to get our emissions down to net zero by 2050. Can the Minister assure me that the Government are committed to doing all they can to achieve that and to delivering the green jobs that come with it?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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I am a passionate believer in the net zero agenda, and I believe that it is perfectly congruent with economic growth. COP26 presents a huge opportunity for the UK and globally. We are already a leader in tackling climate change, having reduced the emissions intensity of our economy faster than any other G20 country. We will be doing more at Budget.

George Howarth Portrait Sir George Howarth (Knowsley) (Lab)
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The Minister will be aware that, as part of the drive towards zero emissions, there was a recent announcement about bringing forward the phasing out of diesel, petrol and hybrid vehicles to 2035. What assessment has he made of the economic and fiscal impact of doing so, and in particular the loss of jobs that will happen, because the industry is in imminent danger of collapse?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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11 Feb 2020, 11:45 a.m.

We are consulting on the option of accelerating the phasing out of petrol and diesel cars, because the average lifespan of a vehicle is around 14 years, and if we are to hit our net zero targets by 2050, we need to be sensitive to that. I can reassure the right hon. Gentleman that we are listening carefully to the industry on this issue. Just last week, I met the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders for a productive conversation on how we can do this in a way that supports the sector.

Anthony Mangnall Portrait Anthony Mangnall (Totnes) (Con)
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5. What fiscal steps he is taking to help small businesses. [900727]

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Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab)
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T3. Funding for coal mining ended in 2012, but it carries on for oil and gas, as we saw at the recent Africa summit and in the lobbying for the Petrofac oil refinery in Bahrain. When is the Chancellor going to end funding for fossil fuel projects and take the action that is needed to tackle the climate crisis? [900750]

Simon Clarke Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr Simon Clarke)
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The UK takes our climate commitments exceptionally seriously, and we have pledged to end the use of unabated coal here in the UK by 2025. Clearly we want to ensure that that applies to our work overseas as well, and that is something that the Government as a whole take very seriously. It is the subject of ongoing ministerial discussions and we are determined to ensure that we support the right initiatives across the world.

Flick Drummond Portrait Mrs Flick Drummond (Meon Valley) (Con)
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T4. Over the past few weeks, I have met a number of businesses in the Meon Valley whose growth is being held back by poor internet connectivity. What funding exists to help businesses in rural areas to boost their productivity and growth by improving their broadband? [900752]

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Matt Western Portrait Matt Western (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)
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T8. Will the Chancellor ensure, in the Budget in March, that the automotive manufacturing sector gets the support it requires? He will know that there was a decline of 14% in our manufacturing production last year, which represents a big hit to the Treasury. Will he put in place the support to ensure a transition from fossil fuels, so that we can still produce vehicles such as diesel-powered units in good numbers while supporting the switch to electric vehicles? [900756]

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Simon Clarke
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. Tomorrow I am attending a roundtable at 11 Downing Street with representatives of the advanced manufacturing industry, and we are determined to take their views into account as we make this transition. We are supporting the industry through initiatives such as the Advanced Propulsion Centre and the Faraday battery challenge, and we are determined to ensure that the sector evolves in a way that boosts our growth prospects as we decarbonise.

Damien Moore Portrait Damien Moore (Southport) (Con)
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T5. Last year my town of Southport benefited from a £25 million town deal. What more is my right hon. Friend doing to help other towns up and down the country to level up? [900753]

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Jo Gideon Portrait Jo Gideon (Stoke-on-Trent Central) (Con)
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11 Feb 2020, 12:30 p.m.

The Goodwin International training school in my constituency is an exemplar of skills training by a successful modern manufacturer with a world-class reputation. For less established firms such as challenger small and medium-sized enterprises, what support is on offer to level them up to Goodwin International standards?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Simon Clarke
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11 Feb 2020, 12:30 p.m.

I had a good meeting yesterday with my hon. Friend and fellow Stoke and north Staffordshire MPs. The Government are supporting small firms across England through the network of 38 growth hubs, one of which is based on Stoke-on-Trent. In our manifesto, we announced our intention to create a national skills fund, which will help to transform the lives of people who have not got on the work ladder and lack qualifications, as well as people looking to return to work or to upskill.

Peter Grant Portrait Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP)
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11 Feb 2020, 12:31 p.m.

Every year Scotland exports a quarter of a billion pounds worth of salmon to the European Union. This week, the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation expressed serious concern about the continuing uncertainty of Brexit. What assessment has the Chancellor of the Exchequer made of the impact on this vital industry of the Chancellor of the Duchy Lancaster’s announcement that “as friction-free as possible” trade with the EU means “not friction-free at all”?

Beer and Pub Taxation

Simon Clarke Excerpts
Wednesday 5th February 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Westminster Hall

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Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock (Barnsley East) (Lab)
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5 Feb 2020, 3:45 p.m.

It is an unexpected pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. I congratulate the hon. Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood) on securing this important debate and on his work with the all-party parliamentary group, of which I am proud to be a member. The fact that the debate is so well attended by hon. Members from both sides of the House shows how important pubs are to our constituents. Indeed, this month, I have had more emails about this debate than about Brexit, so that is some progress.

Several important issues were raised by hon. Members on both sides, including how important local pubs are. They are a world-renowned institution that dates back to the 11th century. In Barnsley, we sadly lost the Black Bull pub a couple of years ago, which was 250 years old. That is just one example, but pubs often have an historical and cultural significance. Through the generations, people have gone to sit in the pub and talk about their everyday lives.

Supporting our pubs makes economic and social sense. The statistics have been rehearsed today. Pubs provide more than 600 jobs in my local economy in Barnsley. The Acorn Brewery is one example. Across the country, they provide 900,000 jobs, £23 billion of economic value and £13 billion of taxation.

A number of issues have been raised, and the Minister has a number of questions to respond to. Labour has called for a radical overhaul of business rates to help local pubs, and a review of the pubs code and pub closures. As CAMRA has pointed out, 18 pubs close a week, which is a tragedy. Once we let them go, we will find it much harder to get them back.

I have a couple of questions for the Minister. What assessment have the Government made of the impact of closures on high streets? I represent a town. I am not saying that pubs are not important to cities, but in small villages and towns, they are the hub of the community, so it is important to look at the impact. That also feeds into the Government’s loneliness strategy, in which pubs were cited. What assessment has been made in relation to that?

The crucial issue for this debate is the impact of high taxation. For every £3 made in a pub, £1 is sent to the Treasury, so surely we need to reconsider beer tax. On average, pubs in the UK pay £140,000 in tax, which is disproportionately high. We need to look at that. There are also important issues about public health. While there is a public health impact, they do provide a safe, secure and perhaps moderate area in which to drink and socialise.

I thank and congratulate all hon. Members who contributed to the debate. I look forward to listening to the Minister.

Simon Clarke Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr Simon Clarke)
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5 Feb 2020, 3:48 p.m.

I join hon. Members in paying tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood). He has done the unusual thing of bringing half of Parliament along to a Westminster Hall debate, which is not only a great tribute to his popularity as chairman of the all-party parliamentary group, but a reflection of the importance that we all ascribe to this issue, which affects our communities.

I thank all hon. Members who have contributed to the debate. As has been said, there has been a tone of great unity on the issues. There is a clear consensus about the centrality of pubs and the beer industry, and about the solutions that exist in terms of making sure we help the sector to thrive long into the future. It must be said that asking elected representatives to talk about lowering the burden of tax on beer and pubs may be the nearest thing we ever get to motherhood and apple pie in this place, but it is a serious issue that goes to the heart of community life, as the hon. Member for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock) said. Pubs are places to meet and socialise, and breweries are important regional employers.

In his delightful speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Clacton (Giles Watling) reminisced about his trips to Stratford. As we know, Shakespeare has a line for everything, including the following from “A Winter’s Tale”:

“a quart of ale is a dish for a king.”

He was, of course, right—we can surely all agree on that. With that in mind, it is a great tribute to the United Kingdom that we have over 2,000 small breweries, and beer exports accounted for almost £500 million-worth of sales last year.

Alex Chalk Portrait Alex Chalk (Cheltenham) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the Minister agree that, with a benign tax regime, independent British brewers can be an even greater exporting strength? The DEYA brewery in my constituency has achieved extraordinary international strength over the past five years. Has the time not come to back independent British brewers to go global?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
- Hansard - -

5 Feb 2020, 3:50 p.m.

I could not agree more, and that is the spirit of Brexit. We need to take advantage of opportunities to drive exports. It is something that we want to do across the piece to ensure that we deliver a successful economy, have a competitive business tax regime and support businesses large and small. That is what the Government have been intent on doing. Our employment allowance changes reduced national insurance contributions by up to £3,000 for over 1 million employers. We have cut corporation tax and frozen or cut beer duty in six of the last seven Budgets, which means that beer duty is now at its lowest level in real terms for over 30 years, and we have repeatedly given support to pubs through the business rates system.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

UKHospitality has said that these businesses represent 10% of UK employment and generate £39 billion of tax for the Exchequer. Does the Minister agree that engaging with the sector would help businesses to survive and to grow?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
- Hansard - -

5 Feb 2020, 3:51 p.m.

The hon. Member is an assiduous attender of Westminster Hall debates, and I am absolutely delighted to say that his persistence will be rewarded. My officials and I will always be glad to engage with the sector.

One of the most important issues that came up in the debate was raised by the hon. Member for St Albans (Daisy Cooper) and my hon. Friends the Members for Devizes (Danny Kruger) and for North West Durham (Mr Holden): the impact of business rates and the associated challenges. Since 1 April 2019, eligible pubs with a rateable value below £51,000 have received a one-third discount on their business rates bills. As my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Anthony Mangnall) rightly pointed out in his excellent speech, they will receive even greater support from 1 April as we increase the discount from one third to 50% and introduce a new £1,000-worth of relief for pubs with a rateable value below £100,000. Eligible pubs will be able to claim both reliefs.

Robert Largan Portrait Robert Largan (High Peak) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

5 Feb 2020, 3:52 p.m.

I am pleased about the support the Government are putting into pubs. As hon. Members have mentioned, they are the centre of our communities. I want to highlight a pub in my constituency, The Pride of the Peaks in New Mills, which this Christmas gave 50 hampers and Christmas meals to elderly people to help combat loneliness. Does the Minister agree that pubs are the absolute heart of our communities?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
- Hansard - -

5 Feb 2020, 3:53 p.m.

My hon. Friend’s intervention draws attention to precisely the social value that pubs add. His constituency is a rural one in Derbyshire, and many small pubs currently benefit from 100% rural rate relief, as well as small business rate relief. Those are the kinds of reliefs that we want to encourage in order to ensure that we support businesses in all areas of the country, not just in our big towns and cities.

All pubs will continue to benefit from wider reforms to business rates, most notably the switch from RPI indexation to CPI indexation, which took place in April 2018. That change alone is saving business rate payers over £6 billion over the next five years. More widely, the Government are committed to carrying out a fundamental review of the business rates system, and further details will be announced in due course.

The hon. Member for Barnsley East mentioned the impact of pub closures on the high street, which is something the Government take into account. We have initiated the future high streets fund, which is designed to mitigate the pressures on the high street due to changing retail patterns.

James Daly Portrait James Daly (Bury North) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

5 Feb 2020, 3:54 p.m.

One of the main burdens on pubs in my area is the disgraceful expulsion of Bury football club from the Football League. Anything that can be done to assist pubs in my area and the rebirth of Bury football club would be an eminently good thing.

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
- Hansard - -

5 Feb 2020, 3:55 p.m.

I was genuinely saddened by the expulsion of Bury. I am a football fan myself, and Middlesbrough came very close to expulsion from the Football League in 1986. I know the damage that it does to a community and the fear that it strikes. We will do everything we can to support pubs in Bury and elsewhere in the March Budget.

As hon. Members will know, recent data from the Official for National Statistics are more encouraging, showing that the number of pubs in the country has increased for the first time in a decade. The number of pubs employing fewer than 10 people also grew, showing that the revival extends beyond the big chains. I appreciate that it is early days, and we are certainly not claiming that we have reversed all the challenges facing the pub trade, but it is good to see data showing that the cumulative impact of the changes we are making is positive. In fact, pub revenue is at its highest level since 2010, and employment is at a high not reached since 2001. Those are fantastic results for the sector and show that the pub remains a vital part of modern Britain.

I now turn to future possibilities. The Conservative manifesto committed the Government to review the structures of our alcohol duties now that we are free to determine our own priorities outside the European Union, and the Chancellor will make announcements about this in due course. The hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) referred to our review of small brewers relief, which is obviously really important—indeed, the hangover has persisted for too long.

Sarah Atherton Portrait Sarah Atherton (Wrexham) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

A few years ago, I owned and ran a microbrewery, so I know some of the difficulties facing breweries, including the fledgling Magic Dragon brewery in Wrexham. I urge the Minister to support the cut in beer duty and increase small brewers relief.

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
- Hansard - -

5 Feb 2020, 3:56 p.m.

We absolutely want the Welsh dragon to be roaring, so I take my hon. Friend’s point. As a serial entrepreneur, she has a lot of experience in this area. We want to ensure that the operation of small brewers relief helps to drive innovation and growth, and we will shortly make further announcements about that through the Budget process. I want to reassure the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Alex Davies-Jones) that the review is not about whether to abolish small brewers relief; it is about its operation and ensuring that it is working effectively.

My hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) referred to the 85 pubs in his constituency, which I look forward to going round when I come down to Cornwall in due course. He referred to the burden of taxation. Obviously, when we are doing these things as part of the Budget process, a cut to alcohol duties represents a significant loss in revenue for the Exchequer. The effect of inflation means that, in real terms, beer duty has been cut every time that we have frozen it over the past several years. Even in nominal terms, beer duty is now lower than it was in 2012, but we will continue to review all taxes.

Grahame Morris Portrait Grahame Morris
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

5 Feb 2020, 3:57 p.m.

Can the Minister clarify his thoughts about the cliff edge after the production of 5,000 hectolitres, to which several hon. Members have referred? Will there be a taper?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
- Hansard - -

5 Feb 2020, 3:57 p.m.

I am a big fan of the Castle Eden brewery. As a fellow north-easterner, I used to pass it regularly. Treasury policy is to avoid precipitate cliff edges that distort behaviour. Clearly, I cannot pre-announce any of the findings of the review. There are a range of factors and representations that need to be borne in mind, but we will issue clarity to the sector in the next few weeks.

Dave Doogan Portrait Dave Doogan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

5 Feb 2020, 3:58 p.m.

I appreciate what the Minister says about prior notice, but will he take a look at the disproportionate effect of tax on on-sales compared with off-sales? It is unsustainable, notwithstanding the issues of public health, public nuisance and community support.

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
- Hansard - -

I take the hon. Member’s point. Clearly, we want to support drinking in social settings such as the pub. It has clear societal benefits as well as business benefits, and the Treasury takes that into account.

The Treasury keeps all taxes under review and is deeply sensitive to the range of challenges facing the pub sector and brewery sector, which we are keen to support. The support of all hon. Members present is powerful, and it speaks to the fact that this is a decision we need to get right. I know that all hon. Members will keep us under close scrutiny about the decisions we make.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South for securing the debate. What has happened today is a great tribute to his leadership on these issues, and he deserves our thanks.

Mike Wood Portrait Mike Wood
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank all hon. Members who have contributed to the debate. We have had many contributions from six different political parties representing all four nations of the United Kingdom. They have displayed a rather rare unity of opinion, purpose and passion: beer and pubs are a force for good, and they should be supported through our taxation system.

I thank CAMRA, the Society of Independent Brewers, the British Beer and Pub Association, Long Live the Local and the quarter of a million people who have signed up to the Long Live the Local campaign for highlighting the importance of this issue. We have the opportunity of two Budgets this year, and I hope we will have support on beer duty in March. At the end of the year, we can have the announcements on a new system of beer duty for a post-Brexit Britain.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered taxation on beer and pubs.

National Productivity

Simon Clarke Excerpts
Wednesday 22nd January 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Westminster Hall

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HM Treasury
Jonathan Reynolds Portrait Jonathan Reynolds
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

22 Jan 2020, 10:27 a.m.

I could not agree more. I am delighted to hear about new jobs being created in Manchester, but not that people are struggling to get to them.

My point about the state of infrastructure, and not just the short or medium-term performance of the franchise operators, is that, not that long ago, people said that modern communications technology would make place less relevant to economic development, that we would all be able to work from home, that it would improve productivity, and that we would see the benefits of that. My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central made the point, however, that place is as crucial as ever, because cities have generated the jobs of the future, particularly in the knowledge industries and in services. Our transport system is only now trying to catch up.

If we cannot give people an adequate journey over 10 miles, we have no chance of linking up the north, the midlands or South Yorkshire more comprehensively. From Stalybridge and Hyde, people should be able to go to work by public transport in not just Manchester, but Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield and, of course, Barnsley. That is why I have always championed transport projects in my constituency, such as electrifying the Huddersfield rail line, which the Government are still prevaricating about and telling us might be partly possible; the Mottram-Tintwistle bypass, which would make it easier to get to Barnsley; and the extension of successful transport networks, such as the Metrolink tram network. That is also why we need schemes such as HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail. I say to the Minister that those two projects are complementary, not in competition. They will require major transport investment, but it will be worth it.

Secondly, I want to talk about automation. Many people fear the rise of automation and worry that it will destroy jobs and create huge and painful upheaval. I understand those concerns; I grew up in the north-east in the 1980s, which was a time of tremendous upheaval. We did not deal with those changes well, but, in the right hands and with the right leadership, automation makes the country more productive and more prosperous, not less. The problem in the UK is that we have not enough automation, rather than too much. The International Federation of Robotics notes that, in 2018, there were 71 robot units in the UK for every 10,000 manufacturing employees. The comparative figure in Japan was 303, in Germany, 309, and in South Korea, 631. We need more ambition with technology, not less. It is amazing that, until very recently, one 10th of all the fax machines in the world were in use in the NHS. I would like to see the Government lead on a managed automation plan as part of their industrial strategy, to drive up the use of new technology, and alongside that, have a technology displacement fund to support workers with the skills and training they would need if they faced displacement through new technology.

I also want to talk about business support, because as well as the things the Government need to do to improve productivity, decisions that individual firms make clearly have a big impact, based on the leadership and training they possess. The previous Chancellor, Philip Hammond, used to mention that a lot. There is some excellent work already happening. Many Members will be familiar with Be the Business, the business-led organisation that works with peers to improve and benchmark productivity performance. I am impressed with its work, but I wonder whether it could be taken further. Could Be the Business be the basis for a new social partnership or standing organisation to further expand on that work?

I hope this is one of many debates we will have on this subject in this Parliament, but I want to sound a word of warning. We are told the Government want to ban the word “Brexit” in an attempt to present it as being done, but, in reality, so many of the debates in this Parliament will be related to our exit from the European Union. The impact of future trade deals, in particular, will require serious debate about which sectors will be prioritised and which will be severely disrupted. The announcements we have had so far suggest there will be no substantive deal covering services of any kind, especially financial services, and that, on goods, the just-in-time supply chains that the automotive and aerospace manufacturers depend on will be significantly disrupted. Those sectors are where productivity is currently strongest. For instance, the Nissan car factory in Sunderland has a claim to being the most efficient in the world. If all of us here today are in agreement that national productivity must be improved, we must also make sure we do not lose the good sectors that we have.

We should work to improve the UK’s productivity where we can, but we should not take poor decisions that would make our productivity and therefore our prosperity and the living standards of our constituents much worse. I look forward to what the Minister has to tell us about the Government’s plans in this area.

Simon Clarke Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr Simon Clarke)
- Hansard - -

22 Jan 2020, 10:33 a.m.

I begin by echoing the thanks of all Members to the hon. and gallant Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) for calling today’s debate on an issue that goes to the heart of so many of the issues facing our economy and our society. I congratulate him on his key role in progressing the devolution deal for South Yorkshire, which we all hope will help to unlock significant productivity benefits for the people of his region. I know he shares this Government’s view that devolution across the nations and regions of the United Kingdom can boost productivity across the country, and we look forward to working together to achieve that.

Giving power to local people on the ground is undoubtedly the best way to make the most of every area’s unique strengths and to confront their unique challenges. That is why since 2014 the Treasury has led negotiations with several city regions across the country to strike landmark deals with eight places as part of a devolution revolution. The slogan might have changed, but the metro mayors are now delivering on local priorities. Tees Valley, where I live, is home to the South Tees Development Corporation, which is regenerating the former SSI site at Redcar. Manchester, the home of the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds), has a focus on trams. We are talking about Northern Powerhouse Rail connecting up the regions better. Liverpool has its rail networks, as the hon. Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern) alluded to, which are key to driving the benefits that we all want. Our commitment to enabling local people, who know their areas best, to be the masters of their own economic destiny could not be stronger.

We saw further progress just last week, as South Yorkshire moved forward with its own deal that agreed £900 million of new Government funding over 30 years for investment in local priorities identified by the Mayor and his combined authority, not by Westminster. I will be travelling to Leeds next week to hold talks with West Yorkshire’s leaders on a mayoral devolution deal for Leeds city region. We are determined to build on Leeds city region’s strengths in digital, financial services and the creative sectors, as we level up and share the success of the opportunities ahead. We will put our money where our mouth is for the right agreement. I will go to Leeds next week in search of that deal.

We know that Britain is currently too centralised and that solving the productivity puzzle will need us to think differently. We cannot just sit in Whitehall, pull a lever and cross our fingers—I completely understand that. People want control over their lives to come up with their own plans and, crucially, to be able to put them into action more quickly than the machinery of central Government sometimes allows. We need to give them that. We are hugely committed to making devolution to Sheffield city region a success. We look forward to continuing to work closely with regional leaders to build an economy that works for everyone by improving connectivity, strengthening skills, supporting enterprise and innovation and promoting trade to ensure that the people of South Yorkshire benefit from the powers and investment envisaged in the deal.

Clearly, such issues transcend the borders of England. The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) referred to Northern Ireland, and I am delighted that we have managed to get devolution back up and running at Stormont. It is crucial to ensuring that all parts of the community in Northern Ireland feel the benefits of renewed growth and renewed control over their own destiny. I very much look forward to picking up talks with the new Ministers there as part of our efforts to make sure that our policies and theirs work as closely as they can for our shared benefit.

In her powerful speech for the SNP, the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) mentioned the UK shared prosperity fund. Obviously, we are determined to make sure that that is delivered correctly; we need to take the time to get that right. I confirm that we will be setting out our full plans at the comprehensive spending review later this year. That will be the moment when we start unveiling how that will work and give people the clarity that they need to make the investment decisions over the course of the years ahead, as we transition out of the European Union.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

22 Jan 2020, 10:36 a.m.

The Minister says “correctly”. His definition and interpretation of that might be slightly different from mine. Will the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government have full control over the purse strings and decision making for the shared prosperity fund?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
- Hansard - -

22 Jan 2020, 10:36 a.m.

I am afraid the hon. Lady will have to wait for the publication of the consultation at the comprehensive spending review. The key point is that we want to make sure that this gives the Scottish Government meaningful control over key aspects of resources. She mentioned European funding in her remarks. The point I would submit is that that money was fundamentally UK money that was recycled back to this country, with conditions attached. We should be clear that we want to devolve control of that funding to the lowest possible level, and we will inevitably want to do so in a spirit of genuine concord with Holyrood.

The Government will set out further information about our plans here in an English devolution White Paper this year, which will outline our strategy to unleash the potential of our regions, level up powers and investment and give power to people and places across the country. Alongside that, we will publish a refreshed northern powerhouse strategy, building on the successes of the existing strategy in bringing together local leaders to address key barriers to productivity in the regions.

As the hon. Member for Islwyn (Chris Evans) said, productivity is not a concept that always commands headlines, but it goes to the heart of national prosperity. It is the best way to boost wages, improve living standards and enhance economic growth across the country, regionally as well as nationally. We are working hard to build a stronger and fairer economy—dealing with the deficit, helping people into work and cutting taxes for businesses and families. There are 3.7 million more people in work, and the hon. Member for Wirral South alluded to the record rate of women in employment, which is worth highlighting. More than 60% of the increase is in regions outside London and the south-east, but we need to go further and we need to be candid about the extent of the productivity challenge we face. Productivity growth slowed globally in the aftermath of 2008, but the slowdown has been particularly acute here. The Government are committed to tackling that challenge as we enter a new decade in which we are less under the shadow of the financial crisis and the impact on our public finances.

The key will be an ambitious programme of investment. Infrastructure is a key driver of productivity—it is not sufficient in itself, but it is an absolute good. It links people to jobs and products to markets and supports supply chains, encouraging domestic and international trade. It affects daily life: speeding up internet connectivity means less time staring at blank screens; improving roads and trains, which the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde rightly mentioned, means less time stuck waiting to get to work and more time to play; decarbonisation means cleaner air for us all to breathe and more efficient energy. When the national infrastructure strategy is published alongside the Budget on 11 March, that will be a core moment in this piece. We will set out further details of our plan to invest £100 billion to transform our infrastructure and achieve a real step change. The strategy will set out our long-term ambitions across all areas of economic infrastructure, including transport, local growth, decarbonisation, digital infra-structure, and infrastructure finance and delivery.

Alongside that investment in our physical capital, it is essential to focus on and improve our human capital, as the hon. Member for Wirral South, whom I had the pleasure of serving alongside on the Treasury Committee, rightly said. I know that from my constituency. The hon. Member for Barnsley East (Stephanie Peacock) is right to say that talent is evenly spread across this country, but opportunity is not. We know that, which is why our recent manifesto pledged a national skills fund—I was briefed on it yesterday, and it is exciting, bold and visionary. We all know that it needs to happen, because there has been profound personal, human dislocation as part of our transition from one era of industrialisation to a new one. That has had uneven consequences across England, let alone across the UK. We will seek to give a leg up to people looking to get onto the career ladder, support those wanting to switch careers, and support growth by ensuring firms can get access to the skills they need.

The hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde referred to Be the Business. I had the pleasure of meeting it last week, and it is hugely impressive. I heard first-hand from several of the entrepreneurs it has helped about how targeted interventions and upskilling have helped them to be better business leaders. We need more of that to create a culture of entrepreneurship, which, as the hon. Member for Islwyn said, is not always common in all parts of the United Kingdom.

Increasing our productivity also means innovating. The hon. Member for Barnsley Central referred to the AMRC in Sheffield. That is precisely the kind of thing that we want to see more of. That is why we are committed to meeting our target of raising investment in research and development to 2.4% of GDP by 2027, ensuring that the UK remains at the cutting edge of science and technology. One of the great frustrations of recent decades is that the UK has so often come up with brilliant ideas but has not had the opportunity to build them out at scale. That needs to change. If we do that correctly, there is so much good that we can unlock and economic potential that we can unleash. We are increasing public spending on science and innovation by an additional £7 billion by 2021-22, which marks the biggest increase in 40 years.

The point that the hon. Member for Wirral South made about human capital, and in particular women, was well made, and I take it to heart. It is something I have been talking to my officials about. The Government are seized of the cost of childcare and the need to resolve fundamentally the problem we face with social care, which has so many spillover consequences for our health service and our economy, and we will be coming forward with proposals. Particularly on the social care piece, we genuinely welcome constructive engagement with the Opposition as we try to build a settlement that has lasting legitimacy. We want to do it right for successive generations, which will doubtless encompass Governments of both colours.

On female entrepreneurship, my predecessor—the current Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government—and I are working with Alison Rose to develop the Investing in Women code, which will help to pioneer work. We are looking to increase lending to female entrepreneurs to increase the possibilities. Clearly, if someone cannot even make the time to work because of competing priorities, that constrains them. I genuinely take the hon. Lady’s point to heart, and I will continue to work on it with officials.

Alison McGovern Portrait Alison McGovern
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

22 Jan 2020, 10:43 a.m.

Will the Minister make a commitment that the Treasury’s next productivity strategy, connected to the Budget or otherwise, will have a gender analysis of who does what work and for what remuneration?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
- Hansard - -

22 Jan 2020, 10:45 a.m.

That is certainly an interesting idea, which I promise to look at. I would very much welcome the hon. Lady’s sending through her thoughts on this. We have, for example, committed to compulsory gender pay gap reporting. Those kinds of tools that can help to shine a light on hidden inequities, and we are keen to look at that. I am certainly happy to consider that idea.

We are excited about putting our plans into action, but we have to make sure that, when we begin to tackle the productivity puzzle, everyone in our country benefits. That is why we are taking advantage of low interest rates to invest in our priorities across the regions and nations of the UK. In our manifesto, we committed to spend £4.2 billion on upgrading local transport connections in England’s largest cities, and £500 million a year on tackling potholes—a recurrent source of frustration for all of us across the country. We are spending over £28 billion on roads through the national roads fund from 2020 to 2025—the largest ever investment in England’s roads. We are making sure every corner of the country benefits: we are spending almost £3 billion in the north, £2 billion in the midlands, and £2 billion in the south-west on improvements to our major road infrastructure. We are investing £2.5 billion in up to 18 city regions across England to improve roads, public transport, and cycling and walking networks through the transforming cities fund.

The hon. Member for Barnsley Central will no doubt welcome the fact that the Sheffield City Region and West Yorkshire Combined Authorities have both been shortlisted for the £1.2 billion transforming cities fund. We will be announcing allocations from the fund shortly. I am sure that he has seen that the Government are also investing in a £3.6 billion towns fund to unlock regional potential and create places across the UK where people can live and thrive. I am sure he will be pleased that we have allocated more than £12 billion from the local growth fund to local enterprise partnerships, to be spent on local priorities.

I pay tribute to everyone who has taken the time to contribute. This has been a genuinely good debate, conducted in a tone of consensus. So many of the issues raised are accepted on both sides of the Chamber as priorities that we need to tackle as we move into the 2020s. From Strangford to Sheffield, we remain highly ambitious. On 11 March, the Chancellor will set out a Budget that lays the foundations for what we should all hope is a decade of renewal that will unleash our country’s potential and level up opportunities.

Jonathan Reynolds Portrait Jonathan Reynolds
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

22 Jan 2020, 10:47 a.m.

In an interview with the Financial Times at the weekend, the Chancellor very ambitiously said he intends to double the trend rate of economic growth that we have seen since the Conservative party returned to power. What kind of improvement in productivity would the Minister like to see, and what can we use to hold him to account for the successes of the strategy?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
- Hansard - -

22 Jan 2020, 10:47 a.m.

It is best that we wait for a fiscal event to set out our targets in this area. The Government are clear that we need to increase trend growth. There is no doubt that we accept that challenge, which is thrown down quite legitimately. As we have now cleared the rubble from the 2008 crisis, we need to aspire to do more. I accept that in the spirit in which it is offered. It is right to challenge the Government and hold us to account on whether we can now put that vision into practice. There is always a lag when it comes to investment on the scale and of the nature that we are talking about, but we are doing things that I hope by the end of the Parliament will have made a demonstrable impact, in terms of changing our economic structure.

Alison McGovern Portrait Alison McGovern
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

22 Jan 2020, 10:47 a.m.

I apologise for testing your patience, Mr Paisley. Doubling the trend rate of growth would really return it only to pre-crash levels of growth. To repeat the questions that my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds) just asked, what measure for the Government to be held to, specifically on productivity, will the Minister commit to?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
- Hansard - -

22 Jan 2020, 10:48 a.m.

That is simply not something that I am in a position to commit to on behalf of the Government today. As I said to the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde, we are resolved to do more to increase growth in a way that will mean that, the next time we come to review these statistics at the start of a new Parliament, there is a new tone and a new level of ambition realised in the results. That is genuinely the Government’s commitment. We are particularly interested in ensuring that areas such as Merseyside, Teesside, Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire lead the charge and are not left behind.

Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

22 Jan 2020, 10:51 a.m.

I want very briefly to reflect on two points that the Minister referred to. First, the transforming cities fund is absolutely vital for us, in terms of productivity and economic growth. We have worked incredibly hard with the Department for Transport to put forward an outstanding bid into the transforming cities fund. I am the only metro mayor who has been required to bid for that money. My parliamentary colleagues in South Yorkshire, who now include three Conservative Members for the first time, and I will be looking very closely at what the Chancellor announces in his Budget in March.

I want to reiterate the points that the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) rightly made about the shared prosperity fund. It is a critical amount of money for our regional economies. I am pleased that the Minister said that the consultation will be launched later this year. It is vital that both regional and national leaders can contribute to the important process of determining how the shared prosperity fund will be allocated in our regional economies—that is incredibly important. We urgently require clarity so that we can make long-term investment decisions.

The debate has been really useful; we have had a series of very constructive contributions from Members representing every corner of the country—Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, the north-west and north-east of England, and Yorkshire. We have established a consensus that productivity is a key driver of economic growth in the UK, and that regional imbalances are huge challenges that will require investment in skills, R&D and infrastructure, of which public transport is key. Devolution is a significant way to address some of those challenges, but democratically elected leaders need investment and resources to make regional and local decisions.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern) rightly placed the focus on women and challenged the Minister and the Government on what they will do about gender disparities. To be fair, that important challenge also needs to be levelled at our metro mayors, all of whom are men, as she will know.

Motorhomes and Vehicle Excise Duty

Simon Clarke Excerpts
Tuesday 21st January 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Westminster Hall

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HM Treasury
David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess (in the Chair)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. I call the Minister.

Simon Clarke Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr Simon Clarke)
- Hansard - -

21 Jan 2020, 4:14 p.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Newport West (Ruth Jones) for bringing this topic to the House today. I am grateful to all Members who have taken the time to attend and intervene and who have taken the chance to stand up for their constituents. This debate makes it clear that while motorhomes may make up only a small proportion of the vehicle fleet on our roads, they play an important role.

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess (in the Chair)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

21 Jan 2020, 4:15 p.m.

Order. I sense that there is some confusion about this debate. It is a half-hour debate. The sponsor of the motion speaks and then the Minister replies. It is for other Members to intervene. Unless permission is obtained, the debate is not for other Members to make separate speeches. There are still many Members here who have attended because they are interested in the matter, but it is simply that they can make interventions.

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
- Hansard - -

I will of course be happy to take such interventions if colleagues wish to make them. I may regret saying that in a moment, but I will take the chance for now.

As I was saying a moment ago, we recognise the importance of this sector for our tourism economy and that it supports thousands of skilled jobs right across the United Kingdom and, indeed, in certain clusters. Yorkshire is obviously one of those.

To recap the situation, the Government use the vehicle excise duty system to encourage the take-up of vehicles with low CO2 emissions to help meet our legally binding climate change targets. The new VED regulations were introduced in September to aid that, as motorhomes with higher emissions are liable to higher rates of VED than those with lower emissions. After all, transport is the largest sector for UK greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for some 27% of the total. Road transport makes up more than 90% of that.

Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Does the Minister not accept that the Government are taxing new motorhomes, which have a greener engine, at a higher rate, while allowing older motorhomes, which have a dirtier engine, to continue on the lower rate? It is completely illogical.

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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We clearly have to start the new system somewhere. I take the hon. Lady’s point, but I would argue that if we retrospectively hiked tax on existing vehicles, we would face a backlash. The policy is about trying to influence choices at the point of purchase.

The hon. Lady for Newport West said that the options are not available. Clearly we want to incentivise manufacturers to come up with new options, and it is worth pointing out that the stats that I have show a difference of more than £1,000 in first-year VED liabilities between the most polluting 5% of new motorhomes and the bottom quarter. We are trying to encourage people to make rational choices and buy less polluting and therefore less expensive vehicles.

Jason McCartney Portrait Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for giving way. A local converter company has told me that the range of low-emission options just is not there at the moment. It has already not replaced five workers who have moved on because sales have dropped. The policy is bad for converters and bad for British business, and it is bad for the environment, because it is staycations that we are damaging. Holme Valley Camping in my patch has also lobbied me, because bookings are starting to be affected by the policy as well. Please will the Minister look at it again.

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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21 Jan 2020, 4:17 p.m.

That is a typically passionate intervention from my hon. Friend. I take his points to heart, and the Government are listening. Clearly in this context, we can only make announcements at fiscal events. It is important to note that we are hearing the strong messages that people are sending out.

David Davis Portrait Mr David Davis
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21 Jan 2020, 4:19 p.m.

The Minister has my sympathy. I have a sense of déjà vu from the omnishambles Budget, when the last attempt was made to attack pasties and caravans. At the time, I spoke to a predecessor in his post. I said, “You will lose taxes as a result of the impact on jobs, trade and so on.” He said, “Well, we don’t do calculations that way in the Treasury”, to which my response was, “You ought to.” This policy is masquerading as a green policy. It is destroying jobs in my constituency in Haltemprice already. It is hurting the poorest in our society in terms of their natural holidays travelling around the country. As we have heard, it is replacing staycations with trips to Cyprus and so on, which will use more in one trip than these vehicles use in one year. I look forward not to the Minister solving the issue today—I know that that is not within his reach—but to it being solved in the Budget.

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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21 Jan 2020, 4:19 p.m.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his remarks. Everyone who bears the scars of taking on him and his colleagues in the context of the 2012 Budget changes will well remember that. The Government are certainly resolute that it is sensible to have a system in place that discriminates on the basis of emissions. How we calibrate that, and the way in which we operate the system, is kept under constant review. It is worth, in that context, pointing out that the current VED system applies to all light passenger vehicles, not just motorhomes, with a recorded CO2 figure registered from 1 April 2017. That includes all vehicles that fall within the category M1.

I imagine that all Members spend their time reading up on category M1, which covers those vehicles defined as designed and constructed for the carriage of passengers and comprising eight seats or less, in addition to the driver’s seat. In addition, regulations relating to the worldwide harmonised light vehicle test procedure include a requirement for any multi-stage build vehicle, including motorhomes, to record their CO2 emissions and fuel consumption on their type approval certificate.

Martin Vickers Portrait Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con)
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21 Jan 2020, 4:19 p.m.

The Minister has just quoted, word for word, what he said about those regulations when he wrote to me on 12 August. He may recall that I made representations to him on behalf of Auto-Trail, a business that operates on the border of Cleethorpes and the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Lia Nici). Auto-Trail forecasts that job losses will occur. The Minister concluded that letter by saying that he recognised the concerns. Will he recognise them even more after today? Otherwise, as other Members have said, there will be another omnishambles.

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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21 Jan 2020, 4:19 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks. He, like many others, has been assiduous in drawing attention to companies in his constituency that stand to be affected. Clearly, we planned to have a fiscal event in the autumn. Events supervened, and I am very glad that they did, but the March Budget gives us the opportunity to assess the tax, as we do all taxes, in the round.

To defend the Government’s record on this matter, we were explicit that motorhomes with a CO2 figure would be part of the graduated VED system introduced in 2017, and my officials are in constant dialogue with the automotive sector. I have held productive talks with the National Caravan Council, accompanied by you, Sir David. Talk about having a partial Chair.

David Davis Portrait Mr Davis
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21 Jan 2020, 4:21 p.m.

He is a total Chair, not a partial one.

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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21 Jan 2020, 4:21 p.m.

Indeed. The NCC is a passionate champion for its sector, and I look forward to further conversations.

Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy
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21 Jan 2020, 4:21 p.m.

I thank the Minister for giving way again; he is being very generous. Is it not right to say that when the tax was devised, he did not meet with the motorhome or campervan industries to talk about how it would affect them specifically?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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21 Jan 2020, 4:22 p.m.

To the hon. Lady’s point, I was not the responsible Minister at that point. In fact, I think I was not even a Member of Parliament at that point. I genuinely cannot speak to whether those conversations were held, but we are now engaged in dialogue. I have met with representatives of the industry since being appointed. Anyone who is present for today’s debate can see the strength of feeling that exists across the House.

The structure of reformed VED is designed to encourage drivers to make the lower emissions choices that we all want to see. However, the high rate reduces significantly in subsequent years, which means that the VED liabilities in year one are not reflective of the total VED liabilities for a vehicle over its lifetime. The VED charge also remains a relatively small proportion of the purchase cost—these are, after all, expensive vehicles—typically between 1% and 5%. It is therefore a comparatively small charge, albeit that marginal costs obviously add up.

Sammy Wilson Portrait Sammy Wilson
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21 Jan 2020, 4:23 p.m.

Does the Minister accept that it is not the percentage of the purchase cost that is important but the running costs per year? If a vehicle is being used on the road an average of 3,000 miles a year, a duty of more than £2,000—nearly 60p or 70p a mile—is a substantial increase in its running costs.

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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21 Jan 2020, 4:23 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman raised the issue with me in the House at Treasury questions. He is obviously very committed to ensuring that we look at it again. Of course, VED is a one-off expense that is paid at the point of purchase; it does not accrue to the running costs per se. The way in which we tax that is through fuel duty. If someone drives more miles, they will pay more fuel duty. That is the real correlation and link. However, I recognise that, if people do not use the vehicles a great deal during the course of any given year, VED represents a substantial one-off cost in the first year of operation.

David Davis Portrait Mr Davis
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21 Jan 2020, 4:19 p.m.

I thank the Minister for being so generous in giving way. On that exact point, perhaps the best thing to compare, if he wants to look at more than one-off costs, is the first six years, which can be reasonably compared. A light commercial vehicle doing 8,000 miles a year will have to meet £3,325; for a motorhome doing 3,000 miles a year, it is £4,460. It is a ridiculous comparison.

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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21 Jan 2020, 4:19 p.m.

We are trying to standardise the way in which we deal with VED. There is a particular grievance at the moment that it applies to motorhomes but not to vans, for example, as the hon. Member for Newport West mentioned. In the 2018 Budget, the Government confirmed that vans would move to a CO2-based emissions system, which will apply from April 2021. At that point we will have at least ended the imbalance between the treatment of one sector and another. Clearly, we need to look very closely at how we move forward, in order to ensure that the operation of VED does not penalise people who use such vehicles relatively infrequently. I understand the distinction between vehicles that are on the road every day or every week and those that may be on the road for only a month or two in any given year.

Craig Mackinlay Portrait Craig Mackinlay
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21 Jan 2020, 4:19 p.m.

I thank the Minister for being generous. The heart of the nonsense is that the Euro 6 engines, which many of these vehicles will now have, are low on particulates. Let us put CO2 aside; particulates are what are important with diesel engines. We are actually encouraging the continued use on the road of older vehicles to the detriment of new ones that are, in the round, better for the environment. We are creating the opposite of what we are trying to achieve.

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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21 Jan 2020, 4:19 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for that remark. Reducing particulates is a major aspect of Government policy in terms of air quality as well. It is not solely a question of CO2. As I remarked in relation to a question from the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy), we are trying to address the matter in a way that does not lead to retrospective taxation of people who have already invested in a vehicle. However, I recognise the point that, were we to create a situation in which it was unviable to buy new vehicles, we would effectively lock them in in perpetuity.

I close by emphasising that we really are listening to the remarks of hon. Friends and Members across the House. We understand the centrality of the sector to jobs and the tourism industry, and the pleasure that people derive from going away in caravans and motorhomes. The Government reformed VED because we believe that tax rates should reflect environmental impact. Although ultra-low or zero-emissions motorhomes may not yet be available, the Government are seeking to incentivise new motorhome purchasers to make the most rational low-emission choices that they can. However, like all taxes, VED remains under review. Any tax changes are considered and announced by the Chancellor as part of the Budget process. As all Members know, the Budget will be on 11 March. Thank you very much, Sir David, and thank you to everyone who contributed.

Question put and agreed to.

Oral Answers to Questions

Simon Clarke Excerpts
Tuesday 7th January 2020

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
HM Treasury
Helen Hayes Portrait Helen Hayes (Dulwich and West Norwood) (Lab)
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19. What discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the adequacy of funding allocated to programmes to reduce carbon emissions. [900056]

Simon Clarke Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr Simon Clarke)
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7 Jan 2020, 2:41 p.m.

The Government take our environmental responsibilities very seriously, and the Prime Minister established the new Cabinet Committee on Climate Change for that very reason. The UK is, of course, the G20 leader in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions while growing our economy. Later this year, the Government will set out further plans to reduce emissions in key sectors such as transport, energy and building while seizing the economic benefits of clean growth. We have launched a review into the transition to a net zero economy and how that will be funded, and the review will publish its findings this autumn.

Rupa Huq Portrait Dr Huq
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7 Jan 2020, 2:41 p.m.

I am pleased to see two ideas in the Queen’s Speech that were recycled from previous Labour manifestos: the waiving of NHS car parking charges, and renters’ rights. Will the Government go that bit further and adopt a third idea, our completely costed green new deal? Greenpeace rated the Labour party as best for the environment, whereas the Conservative party languished in fourth. This idea would help the Government to reach their carbon emission targets, which are woefully off track at the moment.

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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7 Jan 2020, 2:42 p.m.

The electorate obviously gave their verdict on the relative credibility of our manifesto. This Chamber, on a cross-party basis, should welcome the real consensus that the UK has done the right thing by becoming the first major western economy to commit to a net zero policy. We have allocated £1 billion for the take-up of ultra low emission vehicles, £350 million for the industrial energy transition fund, and £800 million in our manifesto for carbon capture and storage.

The hon. Lady says our ambitions in this area are inadequate, but the Committee on Climate Change report of May 2019 did not consider it credible to reach net zero emissions earlier than 2050. The report called it the “highest possible ambition” supported by the science for us to target 2050 rather than an earlier date.

Helen Hayes Portrait Helen Hayes
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7 Jan 2020, 2:43 p.m.

The UK Government currently offer more financial support than any other European state for fossil fuel industries. The oil giant Shell paid no corporate income tax last year due to tax rebates, despite making a £557 million profit in the UK. This situation is unsustainable and unacceptable in the context of a climate emergency. Can the Minister explain how a Government who continue to subsidise fossil fuel extraction to such a degree can ever be trusted to deliver net zero?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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7 Jan 2020, 2:43 p.m.

The most important thing to recognise is that last year was the first year on record in which renewable energy constituted more of our energy mix than fossil fuels. We also need to recognise that oil and gas support many thousands of jobs in the United Kingdom, and we must be careful not to jeopardise economic growth during the transition.

Richard Bacon Portrait Mr Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) (Con)
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7 Jan 2020, 2:43 p.m.

The best way to reduce carbon emissions is not to produce carbon when building houses. Given that the Conservative manifesto proposes to extend Help to Buy to people who wish to build their own homes, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer knows all about, will he meet me and the Right to Build taskforce to see how it can implement this excellent policy as quickly as possible?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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7 Jan 2020, 2:44 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend, who is very persistent in this area. I would be delighted to meet him to discuss following up on this issue.

Stephen Crabb Portrait Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire) (Con)
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The Minister is right about the growing role that renewables are playing in our energy mix, as 2018 was the greenest year on record for our energy system. Does he agree that the UK’s track record on cutting emissions, while maintaining jobs growth and economic growth, is remarkable at a global level and should be applauded?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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7 Jan 2020, 2:44 p.m.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that question. It is worth noting that between 1990 and 2016 the UK reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 42% while growing its economy by more than two thirds. We should be proud of that record; it shows that we are on track to meet our targets.

Clive Lewis Portrait Clive Lewis (Norwich South) (Lab)
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7 Jan 2020, 2:45 p.m.

First, let me associate myself with the comments welcoming you to your place and your Chair, Mr Speaker—long may you sit there.

For what have been described as a “post-truth” Government, here are two clear and simple facts: first, COP 26 is coming to the UK and, secondly, the eyes of the world will be on this Government’s climate crisis policies—or, rather, the appalling lack of them. As Australia burns, millions in African states face climate-driven famine and floods have swept the north of England, will this Government give a damn about this existential threat and act, not posture?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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7 Jan 2020, 2:45 p.m.

It must be said that that was a rather ungracious recognition of the Government’s work in this area. We are clear that COP 26 is the centrepiece of the Government’s work on climate this year; the Prime Minister gave a presentation to Cabinet on it today. There is no question but that, led by our former Friend on these Benches Claire Perry, we have an excellent head of the COP, and we will have maximum ambition. The UK is clear that we are committed to the Paris agreement and delivering on it in full, and by committing to net zero we have led the world in this area.

Andrew Bridgen Portrait Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con)
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7 Jan 2020, 2:46 p.m.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is important that this Government do everything they can to help energy-intensive industries to reduce their carbon footprint and do not merely regulate and tax, as some would do, because that risks exporting not only the carbon, but the jobs?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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7 Jan 2020, 2:46 p.m.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that we must avoid shedding jobs as we change our energy mix. As I mentioned in an earlier answer, we got £350 million allocated to the industrial energy transformation fund. I am also a big supporter of new technologies such as carbon capture and storage, which can address the challenges of decarbonising energy-intensive industries.

Ed Davey Portrait Sir Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD)
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7 Jan 2020, 2:47 p.m.

Happy new year, Mr Speaker. May I associate myself and my colleagues with your remarks of support for the people of Australia? In that regard, may I ask the Treasury Front-Bench team whether this March’s Budget will be a Budget for the climate emergency? If it is, will Ministers look at the ideas of the outgoing Governor of the Bank of England to decarbonise finance and green the City, and come forward with the rules and regulations that will catalyse private investment to beat climate change?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question. We are clear that this is a central priority for the Budget in March. Obviously, I am not going to disclose details of that today, but the Government have a clean growth strategy. We are clear that green finance lies at the heart of the UK’s offer to the world, and obviously that goes for both the private and public sectors; we need to bring together the whole strength of the country to make a truly radical offer.

Kevin Hollinrake Portrait Kevin Hollinrake (Thirsk and Malton) (Con)
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3. What fiscal steps he is taking to increase productivity throughout the UK economy. [900037]

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Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con)
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8. If he will make it his policy to reduce the level of vehicle excise duty for motorhomes. [900044]

Simon Clarke Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr Simon Clarke)
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7 Jan 2020, 3:04 p.m.

The Government introduced a graduated system of vehicle excise duty to encourage the uptake of vehicles with lower carbon dioxide emissions and to help meet our legally binding climate change targets. I have held productive talks with representatives of the industry and my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) to discuss this matter, and I am sensitive to their concerns. As with all taxes, we keep VED under review, and any announcements are for future fiscal events.

Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne
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7 Jan 2020, 3:05 p.m.

When we escape the clutches of EU regulation 2018/1832, will the Minister restore the status quo ante as at September last year?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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7 Jan 2020, 3:05 p.m.

My right hon. Friend stands up with a positively lengthy question. As he knows, I share his enthusiasm for escaping certain EU regulations when we leave the EU on 31 January. We are, however, convinced of the need to incentivise the reductions in our transport emissions that I have referred to, which represent a third of the UK’s total CO2 output.

Sammy Wilson Portrait Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP)
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7 Jan 2020, 3:05 p.m.

Does the Minister think that this green tax, which has increased vehicle duty by 1,000% for many motorhomes—which are used, on average, for 31 days per year and do about 2,000 miles per year—is fair, and will he review it?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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The figure of 1,000% is somewhat misleading. Only motorhomes with the very highest emissions would fall into that category, and the extra VED applies only in the first year. But of course we keep all taxes under review. I am sensitive to the concerns of the industry; clearly, a significant number of jobs are supported by it. As always, we keep these things under a watching brief.

Nick Fletcher Portrait Nick Fletcher (Don Valley) (Con)
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9. What fiscal steps he is taking to help reduce street crime. [900045]

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Nickie Aiken Portrait Nickie Aiken (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con)
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13. What fiscal steps he is taking to ensure that the Government meet their target of net zero emissions by 2050. [900050]

Simon Clarke Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr Simon Clarke)
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7 Jan 2020, 3:14 p.m.

It is a great pleasure to welcome my hon. Friend to her place. The clean growth strategy sets out our proposals to decarbonise our economy during the 2020s. This will build on existing Government spending, including £2.5 billion for low-carbon innovation between 2015 and 2021, £1 billion for ultra low emission vehicles and £4.5 billion for the renewable heat incentive.

Nickie Aiken Portrait Nickie Aiken
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7 Jan 2020, 3:15 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. I am sure he is aware of the immense appetite within London’s financial and professional services community to invest in green infrastructure, and the rapid development of the green and sustainable bonds market. Is he therefore willing to meet me and representatives of the Corporation of London to discuss how Her Majesty’s Treasury can further advise and support further investment in green infrastructure and private finance, and its backing of that?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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7 Jan 2020, 3:15 p.m.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The UK is already a global centre for green finance, but we need to do more. That is why the Government published a green finance strategy last July and why we have launched the Green Finance Institute, in close collaboration with the City of London—precisely to drive these outcomes. My hon. Friend the Economic Secretary will be happy to meet her at the earliest opportunity to progress this.

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
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7 Jan 2020, 3:16 p.m.

As always, the Scottish Government are ahead of the UK Government when it comes to climate change and taking steps to tackle this. The Minister rightly acknowledged that the UK Government have to do a lot more. Does he agree that they need to take away the subsidies to nuclear and actually reinvest in onshore wind in Scotland, and allow greater offshore deployment as well?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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The whole United Kingdom needs to work together to make sure that we deliver on our climate goals. We clearly need a diverse energy mix to help to deliver on that, and nuclear has a clear role to play within that settlement. We are very clear that we obviously monitor all projects to make sure they deliver maximum value for money, but we do need some baseload power.

Anthony Mangnall Portrait Anthony Mangnall (Totnes) (Con)
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T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. [900060]

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Philip Davies Portrait Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con)
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T4. Now that Lord Berkeley has laid bare the overspend and lack of return on investment of HS2, will the Chancellor pull the plug on this white elephant project and ensure that the money is spent on infrastructure projects across the north to benefit the regional economy, starting with northern powerhouse rail, with a station stop in Bradford, and the much needed and long-awaited Shipley eastern bypass? [900063]

Simon Clarke Portrait The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr Simon Clarke)
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7 Jan 2020, 3:24 p.m.

I thank my hon. Friend for his characteristically robust Yorkshire question. As a fellow northern MP, I am obviously very keen to get cracking with higher transport infrastructure investment in the north, which the Government are absolutely committed to do. On HS2 specifically, as he knows, the Government have commissioned the Oakervee review to evaluate the scheme. It will report in due course and we will lay its findings before the House.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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7 Jan 2020, 3:24 p.m.

Can I first congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on your first and second election as Speaker? You are looking very well on it.

May I ask the Chancellor about the problem facing many people who are worried about whether they have cancer? The best way to save the lives of people with cancer is early detection and ensuring that tests come back very quickly. Unfortunately, nine out of 10 pathology labs in England, Wales and Scotland are short of pathologists, which means that people are waiting six and seven weeks. Is it not now time we had a major financial incentive to persuade more people to become histopathologists and pathologists in the NHS?

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Karl Turner Portrait Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab)
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7 Jan 2020, 3:24 p.m.

The “back of a cigarette packet” policy to increase road duty by more than 700% for motor homes and camper vans is reminiscent of the caravan tax of 2013, which I think was invented by the Chancellor’s predecessor George Osborne. That would have decimated manufacturing industry in Hull. Will the Chancellor meet me, colleagues and those in the industry, who are very concerned about this policy, so that they can explain directly to him how disastrous this policy will be for manufacturing industry in Hull?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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I thank the hon. Member for his question. I met the National Caravan Council in October to discuss precisely these issues. We are clear that we need to incentivise the production of lower emission vehicles, but none the less we are sensitive to the concerns of the industry. I will happily meet him for further talks on this issue.