Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 16th October 2023

(6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lee Rowley Portrait Lee Rowley
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I think that question is somewhat beneath the hon. Gentleman, but let me state clearly what the Government are doing. They have recognised that there is an issue and have legislated to resolve that. They are working extremely hard to ensure that developers are held to account for that, and over the past few months, they have had success in ensuring that that process takes place. Where developers are no longer around, they are also stepping up and making sure that the cladding defects are covered. Hundreds of buildings have concluded their remediation over recent months, which demonstrates the progress that is being made.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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12. What steps he is taking with Cabinet colleagues to support levelling-up policies across the UK.

Antony Higginbotham Portrait Antony Higginbotham (Burnley) (Con)
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21. What steps he is taking to level up across the whole of the United Kingdom.

Michael Gove Portrait The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Michael Gove)
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Levelling up is a UK-wide project. That is why we have delivered city and growth deals across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; why we have launched our investment zones programme, including zones in the north-east of Scotland and Glasgow; and why we are investing £4.8 billion through the levelling-up fund in projects ranging from the transformation of Burnley’s historic mills to the development of a cultural quarter in Peterhead.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. However, as he develops these policies further, will he remember that even in apparently affluent areas, there are pockets that would benefit significantly from levelling-up investment, especially across Basildon and Thurrock? Will he therefore tell the House what plans he has to include those areas in the next round of investment?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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My hon. Friend makes a very important point, and in particular, it is vital to make sure that we level up that community in Thurrock. Our plans to extend the economic development of Docklands east to make the Thames estuary a powerhouse for economic growth have been inspired by my hon. Friend’s work and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price).

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 27th March 2023

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lee Rowley Portrait Lee Rowley
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I am sorry to disagree with the hon. Lady, but it absolutely is the case that buildings under 11 metres typically have a lower set of issues associated with them when reviewed on the basis of the PAS 9980 principles, which are utilised to assess whether issues are there or not. Where colleagues are aware of problems in buildings, we have asked—and continue to ask—them to get in touch with us, so that we can look at those problems. We are doing so—I looked at a case in Romford only last week. If the hon. Lady wants to provide me with further information, I would be happy to look at those individual cases.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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As my hon. Friend will know, the cost to leaseholders does not just end with funding safety measures; many are paying extortionate insurance premiums. Can he tell the House what discussions he has had with the Treasury about reducing those costs and making them more affordable?

Lee Rowley Portrait Lee Rowley
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Along with my colleagues in the Department, we are trying to find an industry solution for insurance, and we have been working closely with the Association of British Insurers and with insurers directly on what they can do and how the costs for insurance come down as remediation is concluded. I spoke with the ABI only last week, and I will continue to meet it regularly to try to resolve this incredibly important issue.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 9th January 2023

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Felicity Buchan Portrait Felicity Buchan
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We have committed to taking a renters reform Bill through this Parliament. I am very happy to meet the hon. Member to discuss her particular issue.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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T10.   Will the Minister update the House on his discussions with developers about replacing unsafe cladding? What process is in place to resolve disagreements between residents and developers when a dispute arises about the level of remediation needed, as has happened at Morello Quarter in Basildon?

Lee Rowley Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Lee Rowley)
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My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is working to bring forward the developer contract; it has been discussed and debated for several months and we hope to have progress on it shortly. We are very clear that building owners ultimately have the responsibility to remediate these properties and make sure that leaseholders can continue to live their lives as they should be able to.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 17th October 2022

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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3. How much and what proportion of the £4.8 billion levelling-up fund has his Department allocated to local authorities since that fund was announced in October 2021.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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4. How many areas have been allocated funding under the levelling-up fund.

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Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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Fond as I am of the hon. Gentleman, I will not give him the money directly, but we will deliver it by the end of the year.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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I welcome my right hon. Friend’s answer, but can he confirm that levelling up is about need and not about geography, because while Essex as a whole may be seen as prosperous, there are pockets of deprivation that would greatly benefit from levelling-up funding?

Simon Clarke Portrait Mr Clarke
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My hon. Friend is exactly right: levelling up is all about pockets of need, wherever they occur in this country. I know that there are many pockets in the south of England that are deprived, and it is vital to get the message out across the House that levelling up is a Union-wide concept with benefits for every corner of the country from London to Leeds right up to the north of Scotland and to the west of Wales. It is a concept with applicability wherever there is need.

Levelling Up

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Wednesday 2nd February 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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Three important points. First, the hon. Lady is absolutely right that there are things we need to do to tackle the housing market, in particular the second homes issue. It is complex, as she understands, but there is more that needs to be done. Secondly, I hope she will support the proposed mayoral deal for York and North Yorkshire, which I think will give some of the powers necessary to deal with the problems she mentioned. Thirdly, the House of Lords in York, or for that matter Glasgow, would be a great thing.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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Can my right hon. Friend confirm that, as we look forward, levelling up applies to need not geography, and that the most deprived areas in Basildon and Thurrock will see the benefits to allow south Essex to reach its full potential?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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Yes, absolutely. We need to target need. We need to recognise that, in the south-east, London, Oxford and Cambridge are the three crown jewels generating wealth, but that there are communities that do not share in that prosperity. I should point out that one of the poorest areas, if not the poorest, in the country is Jaywick in the borough of Tendring, represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Clacton (Giles Watling). It is critically important that we work with local government leaders to address poverty wherever we find it.

Levelling Up: East of England

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Tuesday 18th January 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Westminster Hall is an alternative Chamber for MPs to hold debates, named after the adjoining Westminster Hall.

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Peter Aldous Portrait Peter Aldous
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I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. He is right: if more housing is to be provided, the infrastructure to go with it needs to be provided. I will comment on that. I will also address the fact that the east of England is at the moment a net contributor to the Treasury, and if we do not invest in the east, there is a risk that we will destroy the goose that lays that golden egg.

At first glance, the east of England appears relatively prosperous, even though wages in many areas lag behind the national average. In 2019, the east of England accounted for 9% of the UK’s GDP, although it had a GDP per head below that of the UK as a whole. There are significant pockets of hidden deprivation, particularly in coastal communities, such as the Waveney constituency that I represent, and in rural areas. Those are often concealed, as they lie close to more affluent places.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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My hon. Friend is making a powerful point, and I fully accept that coastal communities and some rural areas suffer from deprivation. However, new towns also have some of the most deprived wards in the east of England, particularly in and around Basildon. Levelling up is about levelling up opportunity, but it is also about levelling up those people’s own environments and communities, so that they stay there rather than feel that they have to escape their local communities.

Peter Aldous Portrait Peter Aldous
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I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. Of course, he is right: one of the challenges we face is that, if we do not invest in those communities, there will be a brain drain from the region. It is for that reason that we need to invest in those regions. In that way, we will level up, and get rid of that migration from the region.

As I have said, the east of England is one of three net contributing regions to UK plc, and it should be emphasised that investment and support in our region will not only deliver levelling up but add to national prosperity. Much of the hidden deprivation is focused in coastal areas such as Lowestoft, where traditional industries such as fishing and manufacturing have declined over the past 40 years, although there is hope that fishing can play an important role in economic recovery through the Renaissance of the East Anglian Fisheries initiative. Kirkley, in Lowestoft, is the 26th most deprived ward in the country, and 10 of Lowestoft’s neighbourhoods fall within the 10% most deprived wards nationally. A 2019 study found that more than 12,000 people in Lowestoft and the rural area immediately to its north are affected by income deprivation. Some 20% of households in Lowestoft live on absolutely or relatively low incomes, and 21% of adults in the town have health issues that affect their activity, diminishing their participation in society, limiting their job opportunities and contributing to wellbeing issues. Finally, although 68% of adults in the town are economically active, 15.7% are in receipt of universal credit. That reflects the low-skilled and temporary nature of employment opportunities currently available.

It is also important to highlight one particular opportunity and one particular challenge in the east of England. The opportunity is presented by the UK’s net zero target, with East Anglia right at the forefront of the Government’s plans. Half of the UK’s offshore wind fleet will be anchored off our coast. There is the proposed Sizewell C nuclear power station, and there is the potential to retrofit the gas infrastructure, both in the southern North sea and on land via the Bacton gas terminal. Some 30% of the UK’s low-carbon electricity will in due course come through Suffolk alone. There is potential to completely transform the economy of the whole of coastal East Anglia, where many deep pockets of deprivation are found. To make the most of the opportunity from which the whole of the UK will benefit, the Government need to provide the necessary seedcorn funding. If that is done, we are not just talking about levelling up; we can provide a global exemplar as to how decarbonisation can be delivered to benefit local people and local communities.

A particular challenge that the region’s councils face is adult social care, because the east of England has a relatively elderly population. Following the comprehensive spending review and the provisional local government funding settlement, there is a real worry that one year of funding certainty is not enough. Councils need at least three years of certainty so that they can plan effectively and deliver services efficiently. There is a need for increased long-term funding for councils to close the funding gap that, by the end of 2022-23 for the east of England councils, will be in the order of £240 million. There is concern that the adult social care funding that has been provided is not enough and might not even cover the planned capital on care costs and changes to means testing. Councils face significant financial pressures owing to the rising costs of care, workforce pressures and national insurance uplifts.

I have highlighted the challenges that Lowestoft faces, but I should point out that the Government have responded positively and are currently making a significant investment in the town. Construction of the Gull Wing bridge and the Lowestoft flood defence scheme are well under way, and Lowestoft has secured a towns deal. Work on the projects is due to start later this year.

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Peter Aldous Portrait Peter Aldous
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I thank the hon. Member for his intervention—he is right. As far as road investment is concerned, we have to make up for work that should have been done a long time ago. Rail network improvements are vital to the future, as he has mentioned. I have mentioned two junctions at Haughley and Ely; I could be greedy, we need Trowse in his constituency and Bow to improve the access to London as well. Those need to be addressed.

I will now briefly address the digital connectivity which is so vital to the future.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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Before my hon. Friend moves on to the very important issue of digital connectivity, may I highlight the fact that in the south of Essex there are some proposals to consider a tram network? There is one very important road that he missed out of his list—the A127. It is not part of the national infrastructure, but it provides a vital route out of London down to Southend, through some of the busiest areas and areas that have the greatest opportunity to deliver the levelling-up agenda. I will just put those points on his radar.

Peter Aldous Portrait Peter Aldous
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for doing so, and I apologise if my speech is somewhat focused on the east of East Anglia. He is quite right to highlight the challenges and opportunities in the south of the region.

Finally, I will say that full-fibre connectivity for all households and businesses is vital if East Anglia is to reach its full economic potential. There are projects to deliver that connectivity in many towns across the region, including Cityfibre’s £15 million investment in the network across Lowestoft. However, there is a concern that digital deserts may emerge in some rural areas, so it is vital that the Government’s Project Gigabit programme is ramped up and is fully comprehensive.

For East Anglia to realise its full economic potential and provide local people with the opportunity to work in the exciting new emerging industries, a skills revolution is needed. The Skills and Post-16 Education Bill provides the framework to deliver that revolution, but there is a concern that the region may again be bypassed.

Sizewell C is an enormous project, which can bring great benefits to Suffolk, Waveney and further afield. It is estimated that during the 12-year construction period, £2 billion will be put into the Suffolk economy. During that period there will be three apprenticeship cycles and 1,500 apprenticeships. There is an opportunity to leave an enduring legacy of knowledge and skills, which in the long term—once Sizewell C is completely constructed and becomes operational—can make Suffolk and Waveney a compelling location in which to set up and grow a business.

Sizewell C is exactly the sort of project that requires a gear change in training, which an institute of technology would help to deliver. However, the proposal from the University of Suffolk, East Coast College, the College of West Anglia and Norwich University of the Arts has not been successful in the institute of technology competition, in which the second wave of successful bids has just been announced. In the first two waves, 21 institutes of technology have been created, which provide comprehensive coverage across the country; and yes, there is one at South Essex College at Chelmsford, but there is a vacuum in the east. I will follow this matter up with the Minister for Higher and Further Education, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Michelle Donelan), to find out why the bid for our area was rejected, but there is alarm that the necessary investment is not being made locally to ensure that the region fully benefits from the exciting opportunities that are emerging.

I have spoken for far too long; I must allow others their say. Generally, I am excited about the future economic prospects for East Anglia, as they provide the opportunity to reverse 40 years of economic decline in coastal communities such as Waveney. However, I have concerns that these issues are not fully taken into account in the emerging levelling-up strategy. In the east of England, it is crucial that the Government recognise the challenges faced in many coastal, rural and urban communities, and that they upgrade connectivity and invest in skills. If we do not do these things, we will not eliminate those deep pockets of deprivation, there will be a negative spin-off across the UK and the region’s ability to continue to be a net contributor to UK plc will be in peril. I hope that the Minister can allay these concerns in his summing-up.

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Tom Hunt Portrait Tom Hunt (Ipswich) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Ms McVey. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous) for bringing forward this vital debate. We are very lucky in the east of England to have the oldest town in the country, which of course is Ipswich, but we also have the second oldest town, which is Colchester, so I think we are quite lucky.

We have significant pockets of deprivation in the region, which has been referred to and that includes in Ipswich, but it is that mix of deprivation and potential that means East Anglia should be right at the forefront of a levelling-up agenda. I must say it is in among the most deprived parts of the town that I have the honour of representing that I have met the best people, and some of the most honest people with the best values and the strongest communities, but they do need investment in education, tackling crime and everything else.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe
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My hon. Friend talks about pockets of deprivation. While individual projects can help levelling up, it is actually about lifting the whole area—the whole pocket—up by improving housing and education, which will keep people there and enable the whole area to improve.

Tom Hunt Portrait Tom Hunt
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I completely agree with my hon. Friend, which is why I think we need to balance the educational provision of technical skills and apprenticeships as well as academic education.

As for some good things that are happening on levelling-up in the east of England, particularly in relation to Ipswich, we have benefited from a £25 million town deal and 11 exciting projects, many of which relate to skills, which we know is at the heart of levelling up. Also, the freeport in Felixstowe, if done in the right way, could bring forward about 10,000 new jobs, so my constituents stand to benefit almost more than anybody else.

My hon. Friend the Member for Waveney has already mentioned the fact that we were unsuccessful in the institute of technology bid, which is very disappointing. It is also worth mentioning that we were not successful in becoming a pilot for the local skills improvement plan. That was slightly disappointing because we know there is probably nothing more important than skills for levelling up.

What do we need to tackle the levelling-up issue? First, we need to look at how we fund our core public services. Of course, things like the levelling-up fund and the town deal are important, but it is simply not right that when it comes to education, particularly special educational needs provision, and police funding, Suffolk gets an incredibly raw deal, and that has been the case for decades. The east of England does badly from a lot of those funding formulas, but I argue that Suffolk does particularly badly. I was pleased to support a recent letter to the Secretary of State for Education on special educational needs provision.

The Government need to go further and extend the good things they have already done in terms of the towns deal and freeports. I think they need to get fully behind the Felixstowe and Harwich freeport, which the Government are doing and should continue to do, but they need to look at how we fund our core public services. That means bringing forward things, such as the review of the police funding formula as soon as possible, and in terms of the levelling-up fund, being imaginative about the way in which it can be spent. I would be excited about the prospect of a grassroots sports club fund, because we know that clubs and grassroots sports are incredibly important for levelling up.

In terms of infrastructure, I echo the comments made by other hon. Members about Ely North junction. It has been promised for a very long time, but it keeps being delayed, and it is amazing how many things are linked to it. There is also Haughley junction, and the “Ipswich in 60” service is vital. Small things, such as the hourly Peterborough to Ipswich train, would also make a big difference to many of my constituents in getting about the region.

I simply say this: I have never thought the Government see levelling up as purely about the north and the midlands. That has never been my view, and there is a lot of evidence that that is not the case, but that is not to say that I do not think the Government could go further. If I was going to say one thing, it would be about the way in which we fund our core public services, because for too long Suffolk has got a raw deal.

Building Safety

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 10th January 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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The proposals that the hon. Member enjoins on me are the ones that we are seeking to bring forward. However, in fairness to the hon. Member, for whom I have a great deal of respect—he is a courageous and doughty campaigner—I can understand a degree of cynicism and/or scepticism, given some of the missteps we have had in the past. If we manage to make progress along the lines that he has outlined, I hope that he will be in a position then to say that his worst fears were not realised. I think it is perfectly legitimate for him, at this stage, to want to see the colour of other people’s money.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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Morello Quarter in my constituency has issues not only with cladding but with other building defects such as the apparent lack of firebreaks. Will my right hon. Friend include those in the scope of the measures, or should I go back to my residents and tell them to pursue legal action against the developers, who do not want to engage with me or with them, to try to get a resolution and certainty?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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It is our intention to ensure that those who are ultimately responsible—the ultimate owners of the freehold or the real owners of the building—pay in order to make it safe, but I will look specifically at the example that my hon. Friend raises to ensure that we can do everything we can to provide his constituents with the reassurance they deserve.

Oral Answers to Questions

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Monday 19th July 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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I would be happy to look at those proposals. I have already seen them, but perhaps the hon. Lady and I can meet to discuss them in further detail.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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As my right hon. Friend knows, there are building safety issues other than cladding, including missing firebreaks. Will he therefore tell me what advice I can give to my constituents who are currently unable to sell or let properties that they bought in good faith a matter of only a few years ago?

Robert Jenrick Portrait Robert Jenrick
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Shoddy workmanship of that kind is disgraceful, and developers should step up and pay for any works that are required. We are changing the law through the Building Safety Bill to give homeowners a longer period of redress to take action against developers and builders who build poorly. As I said in answer to an earlier question, it is also important that our response is proportionate, because some of the works relating to that kind of non-cladding issue—not all, but some—that leaseholders are being asked to pay for are unnecessary. We will be saying more about that soon.

Uber: Supreme Court Ruling

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Wednesday 24th February 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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We will respond to the fire and rehire Bill when it actually comes through the parliamentary process, but ACAS has completed its work and shared its insights with officials at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. It conducted an independent, impartial fact-finding exercise with stakeholders, making sure there was confidentiality so that we could have frank and honest discussions. We will communicate our response to those findings in due course.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con) [V]
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Following on from the previous question, I know that my hon. Friend shares the concerns felt across the House about the fire and rehire tactics some companies have pursued. While our flexible labour market is something to be cherished, does he agree that employers have a responsibility to do right by their workers, especially now?

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is sensible business to do right by employees, as well as the moral thing to do.

Leaseholders and Cladding

Stephen Metcalfe Excerpts
Tuesday 24th November 2020

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher
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I understand the concerns of the hon. Gentleman and the passion with which he expresses the concerns of his constituents. We have named and shamed the owners and developers who did not step up the plate and properly and quickly remediate ACM-clad buildings. We made it clear that where we anticipate that the remediation of other buildings will not have begun by the end of this year, we will name and shame those owners and developers too. That is the work that Mr Wade is undertaking to develop the solutions that will mitigate the effect of any costs on leaseholders so as to make sure that we draw this terrible situation to a reasonably quick and satisfactory conclusion. I think that will answer some of the concerns that the hon. Gentleman has raised. We want to get on with this, and get on with it quickly, and that is the work that Mr Wade is undertaking.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con) [V]
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Although I welcome the funding that the Government have made available to remove unsafe cladding and praise the owners who have stepped up to get the process under way, there are, sadly, many owners who have not done that, leaving residents in Basildon trapped in homes they cannot sell. Further to the point made previously, what more can the Government do, other than naming and shaming, to force building owners to start the process of cladding removal and to fund it where they can?

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher
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Local authorities have a suite of measures with respect to enforcement—fines and the like that can be brought to bear to address the concerns, or some of the concerns, that my hon. Friend raises. As I have said previously and shall say again, the work of Michael Wade, a very experienced player in the insurance sector with 40 years’ experience behind him, is to bring the sector together to find sensible and innovative solutions that will result in the costs that may fall to leaseholders being mitigated. That is the solution to this problem, not simply writing a blank cheque on behalf of taxpayers, which would send entirely the wrong message to the developers and the owners of these buildings, who are, in the first place, responsible for remediating the issues that they have caused.