We remain committed to a generous and open approach to immigration. This country already does regularise the position of those who have been here for a long time and have not fallen foul of the law. What we will not do is go back to a complete free-for-all and abandon control of our borders to Brussels, which the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) voted for 43 times in the last five years. I dare say that the hon. Member did, too.
My hon. Friend is completely right. This was a good waymark and we made some good steps forward on the road to COP26. There is still a long way to go, but there is a great deal of enthusiasm from other countries because they can see that it creates high-wage, high-skill jobs as well as solving climate change.
I have not had the opportunity to read all the evidence that was given yesterday, and indeed the Speaker has enjoined brevity on me, but I think that the public inquiry that we have been discussing is the right place to review all the evidence from every individual.
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this point; I understand exactly why he says it. The best thing I can tell him is that we want to proceed with the caution and certainty with which we have done so far. All the evidence I have seen at the moment suggests that we will be able to continue with our reopenings, and that the businesses that have done so much to get ready should be able to plan on that basis.
The right hon. Gentleman himself is obviously a very good dancer and therefore unlikely to take part in dad dancing; we should try it together at some point.
Of course every country, including the UK, needs to make more progress on cutting emissions. The right hon. Gentleman makes particular reference to coal. He will know that our energy mix with regard to coal has gone from 40% in 2012 to less than 2% last year, and we have been leading the Powering Past Coal Alliance, to which a large number of countries have now signed up. So we are making progress; of course, there is more that we can do.
We are working closely at many levels with international partners on preparations for COP26 and to accelerate climate ambitions. The COP26 President-designate has met large numbers of Governments. He is already out and about visiting many countries—15 in the past few weeks—and briefing UN member states on a regular basis. I am working with the most vulnerable countries to make sure that they are supported in their ambitions to meet their resilience challenges.
Of course, when we look at and read the report in detail, the Government are not going to agree with everything, but there are some interesting observations and some interesting ways of looking at things. We will be responding in due course, but what we say is that nobody should be in any doubt as to the reality of racism and the struggle that too many people face. We will do everything we can to stamp it out, particularly to help young black people get the jobs and the education they need.
Engineers and scientists of all kinds have been crucial in the fight against covid, and this is the moment to become an engineer or work towards being an engineer. We are putting a huge £640 billion investment into the infrastructure of this country over the next few years. We will need skilled young people to go into engineering, and that is why we put in the T-levels. I congratulate my hon. Friend on his initiative, and I will do my best to support him.
The hon. Lady raises two important questions. The first is with respect to schools. The Minister for School Standards, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Nick Gibb), will be writing to local authorities and schools today, alongside Ministers in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, to outline how schools can be used in a safe and appropriate way, but we are also making funding available to local authorities so that alternative venues other than schools can be used where appropriate.
The hon. Lady’s second point, relating to unfairness as a result of different restrictions perhaps occurring in different local government areas, is an important one, and one that we are taking into account as we plan for these local elections.
The UK spends £290 billion on public procurement each year. Now that we have left the EU transition period, we aim to make it simpler, quicker and cheaper for small and medium-sized enterprises and social enterprises to bid for Government contracts, as set out in our ambitious procurement Green Paper. We have already introduced a policy that will allow below-threshold contracts to be reserved for smaller UK suppliers, and we hope our new approach to social value will secure wider public benefit by allowing us to contract with firms that deliver more apprenticeships, local growth opportunities and environmental benefits.
I agree with my hon. Friend that the opportunities in this space are huge, and we think that our reforms will play a huge role in our post-covid recovery. For too long, complex and opaque procurement rules have benefited bigger and less innovative firms. Our reforms will simplify the current framework of over 350 regulations into one uniform set of rules, and move from seven procurement procedures to three. Our free-to-use digital platform, Contracts Finder, should make it easier for businesses in his constituency to find relevant opportunities. We want to make supply registration far simpler, so that data has to be submitted only once to qualify for any public sector procurement.
They have not been excluded, and we continue to support people across the country. Furlough will indeed be continued further, as the hon. Gentleman knows. He should just bear in mind what I said to his colleague the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford): it is thanks to the might of the UK Treasury and the fundamental strength of the UK economy that we are able to make this support available across the whole of the UK.
I sympathise very much with the sentiments the right hon. Gentleman expresses about the loss of freedom and people’s frustrations; I do understand that, but I must say that I think what the people of this country want to see is this virus brought down. They want to see a reduction in the infection rate and, alas, at the moment this is the best tool we have to do that when we look at the whole national picture. But I am optimistic when I look at the scientific interventions that we have coming down the track, and even the medical and scientific advisers, who are not normally full of cheer on this matter, are optimistic when they consider the therapies, the prospect of a vaccine and the prospect of mass testing of the kind I have outlined to the House.
I sympathise again with that point, and I am glad my hon. Friend makes it. All I can say is that hon. Members and members of the public should get on to the website and look at exactly what is permitted, but the reality is that we have to break the transmission of the disease, and that is why, I am afraid, I must, with great sadness, tell my hon. Friends that we have to make these restrictions for the next four weeks. I bitterly regret it, but that is what we have got to do.
My hon. Friend puts his finger on it. That is exactly what we need to do. The areas that go into high levels of concern are reviewed every 14 days, and the restrictions, as I told the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), are reviewed every 28 days. The way to get through this is exactly as my hon. Friend says: to follow the guidance, particularly the “hands, face, space” basics.
Yes of course. I have found that the Road Haulage Association, valuable organisation though it may be, has not always necessarily been the most constructive partner at every stage in the conversations that we needed to have. Nevertheless, I think it is the case that we are having conversations with it and others to ensure that these and the other IT systems that we need for the end of the transition period are in place.
The Government’s campaign to ensure that businesses are ready for the opportunities and to meet and master the challenges that come at the end of the transition period has seen an uptick in the preparedness of UK business, but there is much more that needs to be done. We published our reasonable worst case scenario last week to demonstrate the consequences if we do not all work together to ensure that we are ready for 1 January.
The hon. Lady asks about two very important matters. On the first, the inquiry is quite properly independent, and Ministers such as myself have no role or oversight. It is the case that the deputy Cabinet Secretary, the Director General for Propriety and Ethics, with the help of the Prime Minister’s external adviser on the Ministerial Code, will be conducting the conversations required. I am afraid I can say no more, because I know no more.
On the second question, the Intelligence and Security Committee’s membership was chosen by this House and an election has appropriately taken place, but whipping matters are quite properly matters for the respective Whips Offices of our parties and not for those who, like myself, exercise a different constitutional role.
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. It is important that we all work together. That is why throughout this week I have been talking to businesses large and small about the changes, challenges and opportunities as we leave the transition period at the end of this year. The Government’s information campaign should provide all businesses with the details they need in order to get going. If more needs to be done, this Government stand ready.