Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for South Thanet (Laura Sandys) on securing the debate. When the coalition

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came to power, it talked about rebalancing the economy, including moving from services to manufacturing, moving from London and the south-east to the regions and moving towards a more low-carbon economy. In my area of the world, the Humber region, the green economy is one way in which we can see growth brought back into the local economy.

I understand that three of the world’s largest offshore wind farms are around the UK and Hull is particularly well placed for the third round, as we have the Hornsea and Dogger Bank areas of the North sea. I want to talk about the benefits to my area of the green economy and about why it is important that the Government are clear in their approach.

At the moment, the Hull and Humber area is working up a proposal for a green port at east Hull. The proposal is for Siemens to come to the port and set up a wind turbine manufacturing site for turbines that could then be used out in the North sea. We are well placed because of the deep channels in the Humber estuary and the sailing time to the proposed Hornsea and Dogger Bank wind farm areas. At the moment, we are talking about a £250 million investment in Hull, with the further investment of £100 million through the supply chain that we hope will come to the city when Siemens arrives. I must say to the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley), who is no longer in his seat, that my understanding was that a financial package was available to support such investment in the city in recognition of how important the development was not just to my city but to the wider economic situation in the Humber and around the United Kingdom.

Laura Sandys: I think the regional growth fund has given support to many of those companies as they open up their investment, to secure investment in Hull as well as in Sheerness. Perhaps the hon. Lady could provide clarification on that point.

Diana Johnson: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her intervention. I will talk about the regional growth fund, but under the previous Government funding was made available for ports so that they could develop projects such as the wind turbine manufacturing that I mentioned. We need to recognise that not only the previous Government but, to give them some credit, this Government have taken steps to support the green economy through wind turbine manufacturing. I think it is a combination of the two things. I do not think we can deny that the previous Government did a lot around the green economy, with the very important legislation in the Climate Change Act 2008, which was the first of its kind in the world. I will come to the regional growth fund in a moment.

The North sea has been called the “Saudi Arabia of renewables”. There is huge potential for growth in the economy. Work on Green Port Hull is going exceptionally well and we are moving steadily, I hope, towards Siemens actually signing on the dotted line later this year. I pay tribute to the Associated British Ports manager, Matt Jukes, as well as Lord Haskins, who has been the chair of our local enterprise partnership, Councillor Steve Brady at Hull city council and Ian Kelly at the chamber of commerce. This has been an example of the public sector and the private sector working successfully together on the green economy. There are potentially 300 construction jobs on the Siemens site building the

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manufacturing factory. There will be 700 permanent jobs at Siemens and up to 10,000 in the supply chain working alongside different companies around the Hull and Humber area.

Let me put that into context. My constituency has 43.6 people chasing every job vacancy, so jobs are the key issue for my city and people who live in north Hull. At the moment, more than one in 10 young people in the city are not in education, employment or training, so it is important to do something fairly dramatic to ensure the regeneration of what was once a great city. Hull has the potential, with the opportunities offered by renewables, to become a world centre of excellence. We need to recognise the investment that is going not only into the green economy and the manufacturing side of turbines but into the wider economic benefits for areas such as mine. That is so important during a double-dip recession, and the green economy is growing at a rate of about 4%. I am sure that all parties would recognise that we need to do everything we can to support job creation and this particular industry.

I want to give the Government their due regarding the regional growth fund, through which £25 million was made available to work on the supply chain infrastructure that needs to be put in place to support the work that Siemens will, we hope, bring to the city. We also have enterprise zones on both banks of the Humber. I am waiting to see exactly how they are going to work, but the Government have given us the largest area of enterprise zone in the country. So, we hope that we are set, with a fair wind, to move forward, with Siemens coming to the city and with that renewables hub being developed.

Let me make two points about the Government’s approach. First, I am very concerned that any decisions the Government make on energy policy should be evidence-based. The hon. Member for South Thanet made this point in her opening remarks. We need clarity and transparency in policy and I am for ever asking the Government, in relation to all sorts of areas, where the evidence is that what they propose will work. It would be very helpful if the Minister, in his response, set out a commitment to provide reassurances about energy policy being evidence-based. The industry is looking for that and is keen to know why certain decisions are made. We also need to consider that, with investment now, the costs will come down in future. We know that the costs of the offshore wind industry will come down over time—the supply chain will ensure that—and that subsidy will reduce over time.

My second point is about the Government’s announcements, which need to be very clear and quick. The drip-drip of different possible announcements is very unhelpful. I also think that procrastination is a problem. Things need to be got on with. These mixed messages are a problem and I have to say that the Treasury seems to be causing the biggest problem. The Chancellor seems to have indicated in the past that he will not allow economic growth to be held back by green considerations, but clearly most of us in the Chamber today would say that green issues could drive the economy.

Finally, I understand that the consultation on the banding for renewables obligation certificates has taken us up to only 2017. Even with a fair wind and a relatively quick start, the green port in Hull will not

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begin until 2015, which will only give the industry two years of certainty about its returns. We have to look much more to the long term when we are asking industry to make huge investments.

I hope there is cross-party support for the motion. Labour introduced the Climate Change Act. We are committed to a green economy, and I very much hope that the Conservatives will fulfil their promise to be the greenest Government ever.

2.55 pm

Peter Aldous (Waveney) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Laura Sandys) on securing the debate. Realising the full potential of the green economy is vital to securing economic recovery and creating new jobs.

The green economy is performing particularly well at present and it is important that the UK takes full advantage. Last year, the low carbon goods and services market grew by 4%, and investment in renewable energy around the world reached record levels. In 2011, there was an estimated £6.9 billion of investment in the UK renewables sector, with 21,000 jobs announced. Research and development work is ongoing, and renewable technology is becoming more competitive. The offshore wind cost reduction taskforce estimates that it should be possible to cut the cost of offshore wind by a third by the end of the decade.

It is important to take advantage of those opportunities so that as a country we are less vulnerable to rising global energy prices. We need to future-proof our economy against the vagaries of fluctuating fossil fuel prices. Such fluctuations restrict household expenditure and business investment decisions as well as pushing up inflation.

It is appropriate to commend the Government for the work they have done in the past two years. In many respects they have laid the foundations upon which a successful green economy can be built. They are tackling difficult challenges that do not have straightforward solutions. A good start has been made.

The fourth carbon budget, for the period 2023-27, has been set and the green deal starts this autumn. The Government have brought forward the green investment bank and have invested £3 billion as its initial capitalisation. It is good news that the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will enshrine in legislation the green investment bank’s objectives, embed its operational independence and provide Government with specific powers to finance it.

It is welcome that the Government are tackling electricity market reform as part of the draft Energy Bill, which is at present before the Environment and Climate Change Committee. I shall not comment on EMR in detail as we shall return to it in the autumn, but it is an extremely important subject where it is vital that the right decisions are made. In tackling EMR five guiding principles should be pursued: timeliness, simplicity, certainty, transparency and coherence.

I commend the Government for the work they have done locally in East Anglia. There is an enterprise zone aimed at the renewable energy sector in Lowestoft, in

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my constituency, and in Great Yarmouth, and a centre for offshore renewable engineering designation for those two ports.

To realise the full potential of green growth, the Government need to address four challenges. First, there is a need for coherence from Government. Green investment is highly mobile and globally foot-loose. Investment will flow to the most attractive destinations. It is therefore important that the Government continue to send the right message: the UK is the best place to invest, with a stable fiscal regime and a sound pricing mechanism. That is how we shall achieve the necessary investment in new energy technologies.

It is also important to provide international investors with the confidence to invest in the UK. Investors need to have faith that all departments of Government are serious about the green economy. There should be a coherent and consistent framework and the right rhetoric must emanate from the Treasury.

Secondly, there is a need to provide 21st-century infrastructure. That means smart metering, a smart grid and in due course a European supergrid. Important work has already begun on rolling out superfast broadband, and it is important that that does not stall. There is also a need to continue with the work to achieve a 21st-century renaissance on our railways, and the Economic Secretary to the Treasury is playing an important role in that in East Anglia.

My third point relates to the green investment bank and its right to borrow. I have already commended the work that the Government are doing in setting up the GIB, which will operate from 2013-14, a year earlier than anticipated. It is envisaged that the bank will have the right to borrow from 2015-16. However, I must emphasise the vital importance of the GIB having powers to borrow, so that it can reach its full potential and provide certainty to investors. It must have that power so that it is not just a Government-run fund. The £3 billion of start-up funding should unlock £15 billion-worth of private sector investment, but that is a drop in the ocean compared with the £200 billion of investment needed to invest in energy infrastructure up to 2020.

It is important not to pursue the option of borrowing through the national loans fund to fulfil the GIB’s borrowing requirements. If that is done, there will be no independence at all. The GIB needs to be able to borrow independently from the capital markets. It is important to learn from the examples in Germany, where KfW leverages its equity by a multiplier of 28, and the Netherlands, where Bank Nederlandse Gemeenten achieves a multiplier of 59. My fourth point is that we need to provide people with the skills and training needed to take up the many exciting and diverse job opportunities in the green economy.

In many respects, that meeting of minds and hearts in the rose garden of No. 10 in May 2010 seems a distant memory, and perhaps another country. However, it is important to remember that one of the objectives in the coalition’s programme for government was the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister’s shared vision of building a new economy from the rubble of the old, supporting sustainable growth and enterprise, balanced across all regions and industries, and promoting the green industries that are so important for our future.

I would like to promote “Leading the Way: Green Economy Pathfinder manifesto 2012-2015”, a document

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about which I suspect the Economic Secretary to the Treasury knows a great deal. It is a report produced by the New Anglia local enterprise partnership, covering Suffolk and Norfolk, setting out its route map for a transition to a green economy. It was launched earlier this month, and it will be presented to the Government in the next few weeks. I urge the Government to give full regard and consideration to its five objectives and 25 goals, which I will not go through because of the shortage of time.

In conclusion, the Government have made a good start, but a lot of work is still required to realise the full potential of the green economy, and there are many challenges that remain to be met. There is a need for more co-ordination across government, closer working with both business and local government, and a clear and simple regulatory framework to promote green investment. The UK remains an attractive place to invest, but we must do all we can to ensure that that reputation is not lost, but enhanced. I support the motion, and look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.

3.3 pm

Mr William Bain (Glasgow North East) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for South Thanet (Laura Sandys) on securing this timely and important debate, and the Backbench Business Committee on granting it.

The OECD has estimated that this year in the UK total economic demand will be only a tenth of that in Japan or the United States. The fiscal stance adopted by the Chancellor towards the economy as a whole, and particularly towards the green sector, is disappointing, given that our green economy accounts for 7% of gross domestic product and is the sixth largest in the world. It sustains 900,000 jobs and is growing at a rate of 4.7% a year, whereas, as the Office for National Statistics established this morning, the economy as a whole has shrunk by 0.2% since the comprehensive spending review in autumn 2010, although the Office for Budget Responsibility had predicted that in the six quarters following June 2010’s emergency Budget, the economy would grow at 3.7%. It seems that the green economy is one of few areas in which there is any growth at all.

China and South Korea are investing hugely in the low-carbon sector, which, it is estimated, will be worth $2.2 trillion by 2020. China’s share of the low-carbon economy is set to rise to 24% by that year. The Chancellor’s lack of foresight risks leaving the UK in the economic slow lane. It is extraordinary that it is not only the Governor of the Bank of England who now writes letters to the Chancellor about the state of the economy but, we have learned, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and, perhaps most surprisingly, the Foreign Secretary. Perhaps there is only 24 hours to save the green economy, based on their concern that Government policy is simply not going far enough to generate growth in an innovative sector that, after the financial crash of 2008, provides an opportunity to rebalance a growth model that many people believe has failed.

This morning, Paul Krugman and Richard Leyard set out in the Financial Times how we have become mired in the slowest climb out of a slump since the

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1870s, largely because of a lack of productive economic output. We face endemic long-term unemployment and mass underemployment, with 2 million people forced into part-time or temporary work because not enough full-time jobs are being generated in the economy. Investment in the green sector is the key to ending that trend. Krugman and Leyard conclude in their powerful piece:

“Companies will only invest when they can foresee enough customers with enough income to spend. Austerity discourages investment.”

Kelvin Hopkins: I support everything that my hon. Friend is saying, but is he aware that in a survey recently reported by the CBI, 94% of employers wanted, above all, markets so that they could sell their goods? They were not concerned about regulation and all the other things that the Tories talk about.

Mr Bain: For many months, my hon. Friend has identified the real problem—a jobs and demand crisis, which is what fiscal policy and investment in the green sector must address.

Lack of confidence means that private sector surpluses amounted to £99 billion last year, and £700 billion of private-sector assets are not in productive use in the economy. In the first three months of this year, global green investment fell to the lowest level for three years, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. It is clear that Governments have to act quickly if they are not to find themselves in a classic example of what Keynes called the paradox of thrift, in which the pressure to save overwhelms the need to invest and grow.

Although they are somewhat more reticent in their self-promotion, it is worth remembering that this is the Government who asserted that they were “the greenest Government ever”. Regrettably, this year’s Budget did little to redress the lack of green investment. The principal failure was the failure to improve the capital and borrowing powers of the green investment bank. As a concept, the bank is quite unique. It draws support from the CBI and the New Economics Foundation. Before the Budget, James Meadway, senior economist at the New Economics Foundation, called on the Chancellor to bolster proposals for the green investment bank with higher capitalisation and earlier borrowing powers.

Ernst and Young estimates that £4 billion to £6 billion of public capital is necessary over the course of this Parliament for the bank to be effective in tackling the investment barriers in offshore wind, carbon capture and storage, and associated infrastructure. Lord Stern, a leading climate change economist, notes that that is not state aid or subsidy, as the institution is needed because of market failures in finance, particularly those associated with risk and policy risk. However, the green investment bank will not have borrowing powers until April 2017, which casts huge doubt on its ability to raise the £200 billion estimated to be necessary to meet the UK’s CO2 reduction targets by 2020. While immediate borrowing powers are essential, so is timing. As the Environmental Audit Committee reported in March last year, investors may put off investment while there is uncertainty about how the bank will operate. A bank that is slow in building its balance sheet may not meet our emissions and renewable energy targets by 2020.

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The London School of Economics recently issued a report showing the link between the effects of the current crisis of demand and the flailing prospects of the green economy in the UK. In its recent report on green investment and innovation, the LSE argues:

“Investment has slumped mainly because households, businesses, and banks are nervous about future demand and have responded by forgoing more risky investment in physical capital.”

That is the crisis that must be addressed now. The LSE also points out that the Government

“can still steer spending and investment through a mix of policies including pricing, regulation and institutional reform”

that need not cost more money now.

Consensus on this issue comes from a surprising source—the Foreign Secretary, who said in his letter of 19 March to the Chancellor that

“we could get more mileage from this without additional commitment of expenditure or fiscal risk.”

Uncertain economic times need not mean an uncertain approach to the transition to a green economy.

Sir David King, as the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) discussed in her speech, has argued that the quantitative easing programme could also be aimed at the green economy. In an article published in The Guardian this Tuesday, he wrote:

“This laissez-faire attitude that is gospel at the Treasury is not the right one at the moment. We do not have time to play about with this—we need to move quickly to get out of the financial crisis and the resource crisis”,

and he suggests that preference could be given to projects that promote environmentally responsible and sustainable development, modernising infrastructure and marking a shift away from the present high-carbon, resource-intensive economy.

In opposition, the Chancellor highlighted the need to

“bring to an end the stale argument that we have to choose between economic growth and the environment.”

In government he has so far, sadly, forsaken both, but this is the season for Treasury U-turns. The motion and this debate give him the opportunity to get serious and to generate real green growth and green jobs, so let us have the largest U-turn yet—a fully capitalised and properly borrowing green investment bank and proper levels of investment in the green economy.

3.12 pm

Dr Thérèse Coffey (Suffolk Coastal) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Laura Sandys) who crafted such a genius motion, covering so many strands and industries and laying open the field for us to speak on a number of topics. I have been beaten by my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous), however, who has already given a full and comprehensive speech on the merits of Suffolk, supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter).

I said in my maiden speech that I hoped our coast, the Suffolk coastal area combined with the coast around Lowestoft in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney and round into Yarmouth, would be known as the green coast, and I am delighted to say that our county councils, working with the local enterprise

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partnership, as has already been mentioned, are doing their bit to try and make sure that that vision becomes a reality. That was further enhanced when an enterprise zone was granted in a neighbour’s constituency and has been designated one of the centres for offshore renewable engineering.

I am delighted to say that the Suffolk-Norfolk rivalries are not quite as strong as they once were: we now reach across the border and our county councils, our LEP and, I understand, Essex county council work together to make sure that we have an energy skills strategy that reaches right across our area. That was evidenced by the decision to allow Norfolk university technical college to be based in Norwich, the city represented by my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary. That is a great opportunity and I am delighted to say that Suffolk and Norfolk are getting a grip on it.

With regard to the fiscal and regulatory framework, I was not surprised by the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley), because I know that he holds strong views on these matters. I understand perfectly why he feels that energy costs are unnecessarily high: he blames the subsidy and thinks it is a problem for other industries. I take a very different view: that if we are to encourage self-reliance in energy, we have to invest in our energy infrastructure. It is not about subsidy; it is about an incentive to attract investors from around the world, and nowhere more so than at Sizewell C. I have seen the strong commitment of EDF and British Gas to continuing their planning application work not only at Hinkley Point, but at Sizewell C. Frankly, all the talk about subsidy is nonsense. It is an incentive to have green energy infrastructure on which we can all rely.

I hope that we in Suffolk Coastal will be vying with my hon. Friend and neighbour across the river with the coming online of the Greater Gabbard, Galloper, and East Anglia wind farms and so on, as many of those come onshore in my constituency. That does not mean pylons in my constituency, although sadly it does in one nearby. We are seeing for ourselves the future of green energy, and we are proud to be part of it.

I say to the Minister—she has heard me talk about this before—that it would be lovely if the contribution those communities are making to green growth was reflected in the allocations from the coastal communities fund. They deserve the lion’s share of that money. Frankly, I feel that we should get our share of the revenue that the Crown Estate secures from offshore wind farms and other such activities. [Interruption.] I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet seemed to say, “Hear, hear” to that.

On other routes to market, I think it is telling that one aspect of green growth is trying to reduce the amount of energy we need for anything. I am delighted that the Government have put in place the money for rural broadband roll-out. I hope that the director general for competition in the European Commission does not put a spanner in the works by trying to prevent that money—our money—being used to ensure that we get broadband throughout the country. The other investment that my right hon. Friends in the Government are making, of course, is the investment in rail. I am sure that the Minister will not mind if I plug the future launch, which we hope will be very soon, of our prospectus

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for increased investment in rail, because we believe that it will generate a huge economic return for our region and the country.

I will mention briefly the contribution from my hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams). I have a lot of sympathy with his dedication to biomass. We have an anaerobic digestion plant at Adnams near Southwold and more are planned, but there is concern in East Anglia that biomass plants will be powered by straw that is sourced locally, because that would increase the price of straw for farmers elsewhere. With increasing welfare standards, which we all welcome, agricultural production will require more straw, which will start to become a scarce commodity. I have raised the issue with hon. Friends elsewhere—indeed, I am meeting the Minister to discuss the point—because we need to bear in mind the risk of distorting practices elsewhere through incentives on one side.

Finally, I will turn to the planning debate. There is no question but that I prefer offshore turbines to onshore ones, even though they are more expensive—the cost is coming down, as has been mentioned—especially as half my constituency is in an area of outstanding natural beauty. A very unpopular planning application was granted only the other day in Levington, which is in an AONB, and I was rather shocked and surprised that the four councillors outvoted three and the one who abstained. It was a great shame, because one of the things we need to do is get our communities behind the energy revolution and to share in it. Elsewhere in the constituency, communities have come together in wanting a turbine, so that they can use the proceeds from it. We need to develop an element of consensus on wind farms, because once they are in place, as my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney will know with the Kessingland turbines, there are still issues for residents that need to be solved.

I shall use part of my contribution to this debate to call on my local district councils and indeed councils throughout the country to take advantage of the recent Department for Communities and Local Government guidance on including a supplementary planning document specifically on renewable energy. Instead of councillors being beset by every single application and the Planning Inspectorate overturning decisions, I would like to see local councils develop their activities in a planned and structured way and be part of the process of making sure that the future is as green as the luscious fields that we have enjoyed since all this rain fell.

The future is green. One of our party’s slogans was “Vote Blue, Go Green” and I would like to think that under this coalition Government, we are doing more than ever to promote the green economy.

3.20 pm

Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Laura Sandys) on securing this debate.

Energy policy and, in particular, the fiscal and regulatory framework that governs it is critical to my constituency. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) outlined the advantages of the Humber estuary in terms of location and the development of the renewable sector, and its geographical situation is absolutely ideal for servicing offshore developments.

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Developing renewable energy is more than an environmental solution to help slow climate change, however; it is about bringing jobs and investment and revitalising, rejuvenating and regenerating my constituency and other areas that have been hard hit by unemployment and by business closures.

Existing jobs in my constituency are heavily dependent on energy-intensive industry, including petrochemicals refining and steel production, but there is a limit to their ability to subsidise the development of the renewables sector, and the Government must be mindful of that. Part of the political process does, of course, involve balancing competing arguments.

To return to future jobs, however, the Government have recognised the area’s potential by establishing an enterprise zone, the very name of which—the Humber renewable energy super cluster enterprise zone—does not roll off the tongue but is an acknowledgment of the Government’s support for the growth of the sector in the area.

The zone includes the south Humber energy park, being developed by Able UK, which will not only, we hope, attract a major international company, but provide a massive opportunity for smaller and medium-sized businesses to become involved in the supply chain.

The establishment of the energy park project is going as well as can be expected, but the long drawn-out process has highlighted the need for greater clarity and speed on the part of the various Government agencies involved. I welcome the recent announcements indicating the Government’s determination to tackle those issues, and I urge them to ensure that the announcements are followed through and delivered speedily. If investors are to make sound judgments that favour the UK, we need to avoid delay and to speed up the development of infrastructure and jobs in areas such as my constituency, which so desperately needs them.

Potential investors have drawn my attention to several other factors, including the need for greater clarity on how the Treasury will value and ration contracts for difference—CFDs—for levy-control purposes, given that the amounts paid out under them will vary according to the wholesale price for power.

On CFDs, there are questions also about budgeting. From 2014 to 2017, there will be a choice between renewable obligations certificates and CFDs, but the available budget will have to cover both, so I stress again that clarity is needed on how this highly uncertain situation will be managed.

The industry is asking questions because it wants to see the expansion not purely of one sector, but of many, as indeed we all do. The knock-on effects of the green economy will be felt for generations, and I for one want to support the best opportunities that we can give them—but not necessarily at the expense of the current generation of jobseekers. That is what the green economy is really about, so saving the beauty of Britain and saving jobs for the British people must be our aim. This is an economic eco-system in which what happens in one area affects all the others. One aspect of that eco-system that the Government have got right is the interaction of stakeholders with local authorities, which has produced great successes in Humberside involving the recently established local enterprise partnership.

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Recently I got together with my hon. Friends the Members for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) and for East Hampshire (Damian Hinds), and Green Alliance, to produce a pamphlet highlighting the importance of local leadership in the dash for green growth. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North mentioned names that were familiar to me from the north bank Humberside area. I add my support and congratulations to political and business leaders in northern Lincolnshire, who have played a significant part in this. There has been cross-party, cross-river support for the various initiatives. As in the case of the Suffolk-Norfolk situation mentioned a few minutes ago, it is relatively unusual in Humberside to get support from both banks of the river, but thankfully, colleagues from both sides have come together. The local aspect of this could unlock business and industry from over-taxing, centralised policies. We urgently need to cut red tape and speed up the process.

Localism is powerful, and these opportunities are being ambitiously pursued with a focus on green business and investment. Investors are perceiving more risk than opportunity, and we need to ask why that is so. Perhaps there are too many complexities in the current set-up. Complexity equals risk, risk equals costs, and costs equal a lack of investment. We need to reduce the administrative quagmires and uncertainties and introduce a more locally based initiative that could speed up the process. The potential for job growth from the green economy is considerable, and I hope that we can move forward much more quickly to achieve that. I urge the Government to do more to end the uncertainty that the industry faces.

The other day, I attended an informative reception on biofuels—a huge growth area that has one plant coming online, but only one. We need to expand that sector as quickly as possible.

Ministers have worked hard to simplify the process by which the industry can develop. Despite the recent withdrawal of Vestas from its Sheerness project, there remains great potential to grow the industry, to the enormous benefit of my constituency and the country as a whole. I readily support the motion.

3.27 pm

Andrew George (St Ives) (LD): I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak in this important debate. I warmly congratulate the hon. Member for South Thanet (Laura Sandys) on driving the initiative for the debate and on making a telling and significant opening speech in which she set it on the right course.

So far, speakers have not much reflected on why it is necessary for us to pursue a low-carbon future—apart, that is, from the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley), who is no longer in his place—and have accepted that policy as a given. As a responsible and significant country that wishes to lead the way internationally—for example, at the recent Rio+20 summit —we should be setting the standards in responding to the challenges facing the globe. The recent Stern report set out the significant impact that rapid climate change will have on people and their lifestyles around the globe,

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and on the world’s economy, including this country’s economy, if we fail properly to get on top of the problem.

I am glad that that is now seen as the relatively unarguable fact of the matter. Although there are some who advance the case—I will not say that it is a respectable case, but I respect the fact that they argue it—of the climate change deniers, who are the modern equivalent of the flat earth society, on a relatively un-peer reviewed and un-scientific basis, it is good that this Government, the previous Government and Members of this House generally take a reasonable approach to the challenges that we face.

The global market in low-carbon goods and services is currently worth £3.2 trillion and may be worth as much as £4 trillion by 2015. It employs 28 million people worldwide and, unlike many sectors, is growing at a rate of 4%, which is faster than the world’s GDP. The nub of the debate is that we can either ignore that growing global market in low-carbon goods and services and say that Britain wants no part of it, or say that we want not only to be part of it, but to be at the cutting edge. Britain should provide the necessary economic certainty for the players in that market to develop low-carbon technology in this country. We must give the right signals and encouragement to those industries. The underbelly of such certainty in Britain can provide the basis on which companies can test and develop those industries, and then become world leaders and develop an export market for the UK.

Fundamentally, that is what I believe lies behind what the Government are doing, and theirs is the right approach. They are putting the investment in and trying to read the messages in the market itself. I know that the Government have had some difficulty with solar photovoltaics, but the fact is that the cost of solar PV reduced by more than 50% in one year. It is difficult for any Government to have a system that can respond effectively to that and not create distortions in the market. We need to have the right incentives to encourage these industries, but the incentives must work in a manner that creates certainty for the long term. Despite the difficulty that was experienced last year, I am pleased that there is now a great deal more certainty and a formula in the feed-in tariffs system that will take the solar PV industry forward to a point where ultimately, in only a few years time, it will not need any fiscal stimulus to continue succeeding and to be one of the most significant players in our economy.

Mr Robin Walker: Worcester Bosch, a manufacturer of solar thermal energy, is based in my constituency. One of its concerns is that the enormous subsidies for solar PV under the unreformed feed-in tariffs system discouraged people from investing in solar thermal. Does my hon. Friend agree that having a more sensible and sustainable system will encourage the development of all technologies?

Andrew George: My hon. Friend makes the point very well. We must get the balance of the fiscal incentives right. The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead) made the point to the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden that the European rules do not rule out establishing incentives to develop and then roll out new technologies to promote the low-carbon economy.

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West Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in my constituency have for many years been at the cutting edge of many renewable technologies. We had the first wind farms at Delabole and Cold Northcott in the late ’80s. The geothermal project at Rosemanowes, near Penryn, has spawned a number of developments involving ground source heat pumps and deep geothermal, which I believe will be a significant driver of low-carbon technologies into the future. I am also pleased that the Government are investing in geothermal energy. More of Cornwall’s landscape is taken over with large solar PV than other parts of the country—Cornwall is famed for its sun, and it rarely rains. We want to harness that technology.

The first place in the UK to roll out commercial-scale wave technology is also in my area. That required significant Government investment—from the previous Government and the current one. We are at the critical point of ensuring that we plug companies into the system and that it works.

With all those sectors, Cornwall wishes to be seen as the green peninsula—the cutting edge or blueprint from which others can learn. The Eden project is an exemplar of rolling out such projects. It is not just the technologies that hope for opportunities, but companies. For example, Fugro Seacore, an offshore drilling company—I must declare an interest: my son works there—is helping to put in the footings for offshore wind. Such companies hope to have improved opportunities as a result of the fiscal measures that the Government are putting in place to promote low-carbon technology. I hope all hon. Members support this important motion.

3.36 pm

Cathy Jamieson (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (Lab/Co-op): I thank the Backbench Business Committee for bringing this important matter to the House, and the hon. Member for South Thanet (Laura Sandys) for her opening speech. Other hon. Members have mentioned the drive she showed to ensure that we had the opportunity to discuss this matter.

We heard 14 subsequent speeches, covering a range of subjects—I shall mention some of them in my remarks. I welcome the Economic Secretary, who is here to listen. A succession of Ministers has been present during the debate, which is important in the context of joined-up government. I hope she finds the debate slightly less of a hot seat than she was subjected to previously. It is good that hon. Members have tried to shed more light than heat.

I am proud that one of the Labour Government’s legacies was the broad acceptance of the need to tackle climate change. They worked tirelessly to attract low-carbon investment and to strengthen the UK’s green economy. The Climate Change Act 2008 was a world first—it binds the UK Government by law to reduce carbon emissions by a third by 2020 and by 80% by 2015. My hon. Friends the Members for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead), my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) and others were part of that process. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their work at that time, because it helped us to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by more than 20%—to below 1990 levels—and to beat our Kyoto target.

The Labour Government doubled renewable energy generation. We tried to establish Britain as a world leader in offshore wind capacity, and moved towards

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the UK becoming a world leader in the prototype development of wave and tidal technology, as hon. Members have said. Clean coal and coal-fired power stations can sometimes be controversial, but the previous Government proposed that no new coal-fired power stations would be built without carbon capture and storage to cut emissions drastically.

When I spoke of the debate being generally consensual, I should have mentioned the slightly discordant note struck by the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley). I use the word “discordant” not to be critical. In characteristic style, he made his point and put the other side of the argument. It is important that such views are heard. When Labour left office, investment in alternative energy and clean technology had reached £7 billion, and we were generally thought to be moving things in the right direction compared to other economies in the world. Even amid the worst global economic slow-down since the 1930s, the low-carbon economy in the UK still grew by 4.5% in 2008-09 and by 4.3% in 2009-10.

Several contributions this afternoon have referred to the Chancellor and the Prime Minister’s position when in opposition. Indeed, prior to the 2010 election, both promised to continue the work under way and to prioritise the transition to a low-carbon economy. We have heard several quotes this afternoon, but let me recap the Chancellor’s position in 2009, when he said:

“We need to recognise the fierce urgency of now. We need to see the whole of the government pulling in the same direction to cut emissions and green our economy… Climate change cannot solely be the concern of the climate change Minister.”

That is an important message—and might be one of the few occasions I have agreed with the Chancellor. He also said:

“I want a Conservative Treasury to be in the lead of developing the low-carbon economy and financing a green recovery”.

He then gave the following commitment:

“If I become Chancellor, the Treasury will become a green ally, not a foe.”

Some of today’s questions have focused on how the Government plan to deliver on their promise to be the greenest Government ever and to build on the work already done.

Neil Carmichael (Stroud) (Con): I have just come from the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Public Bill Committee, where we discussed the green investment bank, which is an important part of the Government’s strategy. Does she agree that it will be a powerful driver for improving our environment as part of the green economy?

Cathy Jamieson: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that information, and I am glad that the Committee is discussing the green investment bank. It has generally been welcomed this afternoon, although there is concern about whether it can deliver on its objectives and whether the Government are taking the right action to secure investment. Hon. Members have mentioned borrowing powers and other things that I will develop later, if I have time. However, although the green investment bank is important, it must have the right powers to succeed.

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I have another concern that was reflected in contributions this afternoon. Are we really on the path to making this the greenest Government ever, or is the coalition, as has been suggested,

“on a path to becoming the most environmentally destructive government to hold power in this country since the modern environmental movement was born”?

Those are not my words—I mention them because it is important to consider different sides of the argument—but the words of leading environmentalists, including Greenpeace and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds writing at the end of last year.

It is almost as if the Government, despite their earlier promises, no longer consider the transition to a low-carbon economy as their top priority. In the autumn statement, the Chancellor said that if we burden British businesses

“with endless social and environmental goals, however worthy in their own right, not only will we not achieve those goals, but the businesses will fail, jobs will be lost, and our country will be poorer.”—[Official Report, 29 November 2011; Vol. 536, c. 807.]

As hon. Members have argued powerfully, that is a particularly short-sighted way of looking at the world and completely ignores the opportunities to create an active industrial strategy within which the green economy can grow.

As other Members have argued, we have choice: we can either embrace and lead a new energy industrial revolution, or we can be left behind. We know that we are in difficult economic times, but all the measures we want to take on growing the economy will also help green growth, which is why Labour’s five-point plan sets out the immediate actions that we believe the Government should take to boost growth and create jobs, which would also help to strengthen the green economy. Even businesses have rejected the argument that the transition to a low-carbon economy is a burden; they believe it provides the UK with a huge opportunity for growth. The deputy director general of the CBI was very clear:

“Environmental regulation doesn’t have to be a burden for business. Framed correctly, environmental goals can help our economic goals—help start new companies and generate new jobs and enrich us all.”

We have heard the Foreign Secretary’s views quoted a number of times this afternoon. I suspect that he would be surprised to feature so often in a debate on the green economy. I shall not repeat quotes already referred to, other than to say that there are some powerful messages in them, as there are in the report published last month by the Environmental Audit Committee, which warned that green investment should play a key role in the UK’s economic recovery. We have also heard figures suggesting that the global market for environmental goods and services stands at around £3.2 trillion today, but will potentially be worth as much as £4 trillion by 2015. The figures on investment in clean energy have also been mentioned.

The green economy is growing worldwide, but the real danger is that if this Government do not continue the work started under the previous Government and do not see that climate change is important or that the green economy is a part of growing the wider economy, we risk being left behind.

Let me return briefly to the green investment bank. The Chancellor was very quick in the autumn statement to take credit for it as the Chancellor who funded the

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first ever green investment bank. It could, of course, leverage private investment and help drive economic growth, but the danger is that it risks falling into limbo. The Government now seem set to borrow £150 billion more than they planned to do a year ago, which poses issues, and the date by which we will have a proper functioning green investment bank with full borrowing powers has slipped back to 2016 at the earliest. Perhaps the Minister will provide some reassurance on that. The Government’s claim that the green investment bank is part of a strategy for growth and is to be centre stage will look pretty thin if it is not able to deliver any real investment in a meaningful time scale.

I have a couple of further points before I allow the Minister to sum up. The green deal has been referred to by several hon. Members this afternoon. That is important, but concerns have been raised about the fact that, despite the original claim that up to 100,000 jobs would be created in the insulation sector by 2015 and that 14 million homes would be reached by 2020 and 26 million by 2030, the consultation on the green deal, which was published in November 2011, came with some downgraded job forecasts, less funding for fuel-poor households, as we have heard, and no detail about the interest rates on which the green deal will rely.

Some Government Members have raised concerns—quite gently, I think—about what I and others described at the time as “shambolic” attacks on the feed-in tariffs for solar power. That risked thousands of jobs and left the public with legal bills running into tens of thousands of pounds.

Let me add my concern to those already raised about the plan by Vestas for the manufacture of wind turbines. It was originally hoped that it would create some 2,000 jobs, but it has been abandoned. The hon. Member for South Thanet, a member of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, was quoted as saying at the time that Vestas’ decision would have been

“a commercial one but it also suggests a lack of confidence within the industry over the government’s commitment to the green economy and crucially to offshore wind.”

As I understand it, she went on to say, as other Members have said this afternoon, that the market needs certainty from the Government. That has been a running theme throughout our debate: in order to develop, create and ensure that new technology is made accessible and affordable as part of the delivery from tackling climate change and growing the economy, the market needs certainty and long-term planning. I strongly argue that it is necessary for the Government—across all Departments, including the Treasury—to stand up and take those responsibilities seriously.

Let me end my speech by telling the House what Labour believes we need to do. Some of it has already been set out by the shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, my right hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint). She identified five key elements in an active industrial strategy. First, we need to unlock private investment by delivering on electricity market reform and ensuring that the Government act decisively. Secondly, we need to improve public procurement to support the green economy. We have heard about housing-related issues, and I think that we could do more in that regard.

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Thirdly, we need a strategy for skills for a low-carbon economy. Over the past weeks, I have been meeting representatives of the automotive industry and the biofuels and combined heat and power sectors. All of them have said that there are possibilities for job creation, but that it will require investment, research and development and the right skills set, and that young people should be encouraged to take up those job opportunities.

Fourthly, we need to rebalance the economy, support growth in the regions and encourage manufacturing, and, as I have said, supporting green technologies will be a vital part of that. Further growth will require policy certainty and stability for investors, producers and users. Although talks are in progress in some of those sectors, I find it worrying—as, I am sure, do other Members—that the Government’s long-term commitment to combined heat and power and biodiesel, for instance, has not yet been made explicit. The industry must be persuaded that investment in those processes is worth its time, effort and money.

The final element in an active industrial strategy is something that we did not have the opportunity to discuss in great detail this afternoon, although a number of Members referred to it. We need to engage with the public and communities. Such engagement cannot be seen as a mere add-on, or something that we should do after everything else has been done. That goes for economic growth, but it also goes for our own behaviour. Household energy consumption is responsible for nearly a third of total carbon emissions. Of course we could do more in that respect, but we must also ensure that our communities are actively involved. Members have given some good examples today of how that can be done—for instance, through co-operative energy ventures or through communities’ buying, establishing and benefiting from their own turbines.

Today’s debate has given us an opportunity to explore ideas, to raise the concerns of industry—which have been mentioned throughout the debate—and to consider creatively how we can bring about the right economic conditions for sustainable growth and how the green economy itself can contribute to jobs and the wider economy. What we now want to hear from the Minister are practical ideas for fulfilling the commitments that the industry wants from the Government.

3.52 pm

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Miss Chloe Smith): This has been an extremely interesting debate on the important issue of how to achieve a green economy in the United Kingdom. I am delighted to be back at the Dispatch Box discussing a subject of great importance in a civilised and reasonable way. Indeed, I shall be happy to take interventions, having already had such extensive experience of that practice during the week.

Let me echo the tributes that have been paid to my hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Laura Sandys). She did a fantastic job in setting out the terms of the debate. She spoke of jobs and opportunities, she spoke of transparency and evidence, she spoke of the long term, and she spoke of a role for the UK in being proudly and successfully resilient, innovative and productive. I think we can all identify with the sentiment and the passion with which she dealt with those issues.

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Many Members mentioned the Environmental Audit Committee’s report on the green economy, which was published in May. I had the pleasure of giving evidence to the Committee during its inquiry. I commend its Chair, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Joan Walley), for her work and for the speech she made this afternoon. Like my ministerial colleagues, some of whom were able to join us today, I read the report with interest. The Government are preparing a response, and will release it shortly.

As I said a moment ago, some of my ministerial colleagues were able to join us for a debate that, ultimately, dealt with much wider issues than the fiscal aspects of the green economy. It should be noted that, in many areas, the UK is leading the way globally. The Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon)—who was present in the Chamber until recently—is off to Panama this weekend to represent the UK. The work that he and others have been doing demonstrates that the UK takes the protection of our natural environment and the development of the green economy very seriously indeed.

I pay tribute to Members for their contributions to this debate, including the hon. Members for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead), for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins) and for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson), and my hon. Friends the Members for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Gordon Henderson), for Romsey and Southampton North (Caroline Nokes), for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams), for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers), for St Ives (Andrew George) and for Waveney (Peter Aldous). I hope to be able to address their points, and those of other speakers, later in my remarks. Sadly, my right hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr Lilley) has had to leave the Chamber, but I suspect even he would agree that this Government are focused on reducing the deficit, keeping our country safe in the global storm, and doing everything possible to help people in Britain deal with the rising cost of living.

We must consider the effects our comments this afternoon will have on households and businesses. The hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion mentioned interest rates, and I assure her that our actions more broadly throughout the economy have helped keep them low for households and businesses. My hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Southampton North talked about simple household measures that can help, and she and I share the same principles in this regard.

The Government have made it absolutely clear that we want a growing economy. That cuts to the heart of the issues we have been debating this afternoon. I make no apology to those that have heard me—and other members of the Government—say this before, as it bears repeating: green growth and a green economy are not separate from the economy at large. On the contrary, they are closely intertwined, as my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister made clear in his statement on the outcomes of the Rio+20 summit earlier this week. Our entire economy needs to be environmentally sustainable, enabling us to maximise growth while, importantly, managing our natural assets sustainably. That is plain common sense; it is about the efficient use of assets in the interests of the nation. It is both economically and environmentally the right thing to do.

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We all know that that is the case from our experiences in our constituencies—I certainly do. I must pay tribute to my hon. Friends representing Suffolk constituencies who have spoken today about the thriving low-carbon sector in their seats—and mine—in East Anglia. As well as all the other sectors mentioned this afternoon, I might refer to the beer industry—which is a presence in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey)—as all of us might almost prefer to be enjoying its products on this warm afternoon than to be here in the Chamber.

The Government are using the broad range of tools at our disposal to help support the transition to a green economy. Those tools include regulation, financial incentives, voluntary commitments, public sector procurement and fiscal measures. As the motion highlights, we need to have the right regulatory and fiscal framework to achieve that, and we are putting such a framework in place.

From the outset, the coalition Government have committed to being the greenest ever and to increasing the proportion of revenue from environmental taxes. Some have said that Budget 2012 was not green enough. I disagree. We need to be realistic and acknowledge that not every Budget can be full of new green measures and proposals. After all, these are projects for the long term, as has been acknowledged in our debate. I might cite the examples of helping to protect households in the long term through taking action on energy bills, creating investment, supporting new infrastructure—I welcome the comments on that by my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney—and putting in place a stable fiscal and regulatory regime. Budget 2012 demonstrated the Government’s commitment to continuing with their plan to meet their environmental commitments while reducing unnecessary administrative burdens. Let us also be clear that, as well as incentivising behavioural change, the environment-related tax decisions in the Budget make an important contribution to reducing the record deficit left to us by the previous Government.

I shall now discuss how we can bring forward green growth and incentivise it. As I have said, our priority is to achieve strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is evenly shared across the country and between industries. May I set out a couple of areas of policy on which the Treasury and others are collectively leading that we think are in a position to help with green growth? The first of those is the carbon price floor. At Budget 2012, the Chancellor set the carbon price support rates for 2014-15 to meet the carbon price floor as it was set out at Budget 2011. This is a first-of-a-kind tax, and it will provide greater long-term certainty to the carbon price. It will give a secure future for billions of pounds of investment in low-carbon energy, which I am sure all hon. Members will welcome.

Support is also being provided to key industries—our energy-intensive industries—to ensure that they can adapt over time. Electricity market reform has recently been proposed in the draft legislation currently undergoing pre-legislative scrutiny, and that programme talks of needing more than £100 billion of investment to 2020 in electricity generation and networks.

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Dr Whitehead: I am taking up the Minister’s invitation to intervene. Will she consider, even at this late hour, telling us about electricity market reform and how it affects the Treasury at the next meeting of the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change, which I hope will be held next week? May I assure her that if she does take up our invitation, she will receive a warm welcome and some very straightforward and supportive questions during that discussion?

Miss Smith: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his good-natured reiteration of an offer to appear before the Committee. I have not appeared before it because it is scrutinising the draft legislation of another Department. I believe that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, who was also here this afternoon, explained to the Committee this week that he, of course, is representing the Government’s collective position. Although I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s faith in me, I regret that I do not feel that I could usefully add more than that which the Secretary of State has already provided to the Committee. May I also point out that electricity market reform, as my right hon. Friend will have set out, is an early and credible signal to investors that the Government are serious about encouraging investment in low-carbon electricity generation now?

I shall now deal with some of the points made in this debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey exhorted the Government to be clearer on wind energy. I say to him that the Government have been conducting a thorough review of the support provided by the renewables obligation and the Department of Energy and Climate Change will publish the results of it shortly. I know that he and others will take a deep interest in that.

Let me discuss other ways in which the Government have set out action, for example, in the area of accounting for our natural capital. The natural capital committee will help the Government to prioritise actions to support and improve the UK’s natural assets. I reassure the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North that sustainability is considered when developing policy. Her Majesty’s Treasury’s Green Book already does that in guidance, clearly setting out how Departments can take into account natural capital and long-term sustainability issues.

May I further reassure the hon. Members for Southampton, Test and for Glasgow North East (Mr Bain) on the green investment bank? The important point is that the GIB pathfinder—UK Green Investments—is now open for business, with more than 20 individual projects under active consideration, including in renewable energy, waste management and energy-efficiency. All those are large markets with enormous growth potential. Calls have been made this afternoon for it to move forward more quickly and be able to borrow. I wish to reassure the House that it has been given £3 billion in its initial capitalisation and has the potential to borrow from April 2015 when debt is falling as a percentage of GDP—that is a crucial point.

Across the economy, we are focusing on creating the conditions for private sector investment and growth, including through innovation. As Members would expect, that includes supporting private sector investment and focusing on sustainability. I could point out fiscal steps that are in line with the motion, including a new above

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the line credit to support research and development activity in the UK and increases to the rate of enhanced deductions of SME research and development tax credit. Together with the green investment bank, those measures will play a crucial role in encouraging innovation in the green technology sector, which will have benefits for the wider economy, jobs and growth. Together with the green deal, the measures will help householders both directly and indirectly. I can reassure the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion that her calls for a whole-house approach in retrofitting are in line with what the green deal and the ECO aim to achieve. Those schemes also target funding at low-income households, which is very important for the battle against fuel poverty.

Regulation can play an important role in setting common standards and expectations. The Government recently announced that we will introduce mandatory reporting of greenhouse gases for all companies quoted on the London stock exchange. Again, that goes back to the theme of transparency. In this current economic climate, it is crucial to make it simpler for businesses and industry to meet their environmental responsibilities. We will continue to review and amend existing fiscal instruments and regulatory instruments to ensure they remain focused on achieving both economic and environmental objectives. An example of that is the review of the carbon reduction commitment scheme. Budget 2012 announced a consultation on proposals to reduce administrative burdens in that scheme and the Government are considering the responses to the consultation, which has just closed.

Let me return to the importance of this afternoon’s debate. It has been interesting and has demonstrated the importance of appropriate Government action across a breadth of sectors and using various tools. That action must encourage and drive forward an environmentally sustainable and growing economy. It must pay attention to skills, and I was interested to hear the calls for attention to be paid to the high level of skills we can achieve in the British economy in a fully competitive sense. Once again, I welcome the passionate

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speeches from hon. Friends and hon. Members. I fully agree with those who have said growth and greenness are not mutually exclusive. We can have both. This Government want an economy that is growing, balanced and sustainable, which is good for businesses and for households. The actions that this Government are taking will help us get there and I thank the Backbench Business Committee and the House for raising the issue.

4.7 pm

Laura Sandys: I want to thank everybody who has participated in the debate. It has been very wide ranging, as the Minister said, and I thank her in particular for her attention as she sat through the debate and heard all the different constituency and thematic issues that were expressed. I want to question only one thing that she said, as I do not think that anybody would presume that it is a question of either green growth or industrial growth and GDP. In my view, they are one and the same. Unless we think about the domestic production of energy to hedge off the international volatility of energy production, we will find domestic growth extremely difficult. Household bills will increase and businesses will start to be challenged.

We have covered every part of the green economy in the debate, and it is a part of the economy that is growing. In my constituency, the potential investment of £1 billion is about to be decided in boardrooms not just in the UK but around Europe. They are looking for investor confidence and I hope that this debate has contributed to that. I know that the Minister’s contribution has underpinned what this country requires to build on that growth: investor confidence, clear policies and a commitment to a green economy for the future. We need to take measures to deliver for UK jobs and our wider economy.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House urges the Government to promote the right fiscal and regulatory framework to accelerate green growth as an intrinsic part of the UK’s economic recovery strategy.

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Minister for Older People

4.9 pm

Penny Mordaunt (Portsmouth North) (Con): I beg to move,

That this House notes the concerns of the Grey Pride campaign; and calls on the Government to consider appointing a member of the Cabinet to be the Minister for Older People, to give a political voice to the older generation, to oversee the co-ordination of services which affect older people, and to focus on tackling the social and economic challenges of demographic change.

I thank the Backbench Business Committee for selecting the motion for debate. I am pleased that the new Committee agreed with the previous Committee that the issue of co-ordinating policy for older people is worthy of time on the Floor of the House.

I should also thank at the start of my speech the 140,000 people who signed Anchor’s Grey Pride petition calling for a Minister for older people to be appointed. Unusually, it was not an online petition, and signatures were gathered from care home residents across the UK. I was approached by Anchor, a not-for-profit care home provider, as the Conservative chairman of the all-party group on ageing and older people, to help Anchor to present that petition at Downing street, and I was pleased to do so because I think the value of such an appointment is readily apparent.

The term “older people” is used often, but is likely to be used without much thought, even by those of us who purport to be their advocates. On a recent fact-finding mission to my local hospital’s physiotherapy department, I met an elderly gentleman exercising his leg. “Hello,” I said, “What’s your name?” “Donald” he replied. “Do you mind me asking how old you are Donald?” I asked. “I’m 83,” he said. “What happened to you?” I asked. “I broke my hip, my thigh and my shin bones,” he replied. As I thought of him trying to navigate a slippery pavement in his slippers, I ventured, “Gosh, that must have been a terrible fall.” “It was a parachuting accident,” was the matter-of-fact response. That shut me up.

Say, “older people” and the image that comes to mind is probably one of someone in gentle dotage plucking a Werther’s Original from his cardigan pocket and proffering it to a beaming grandchild, but what about the skilled manual worker who has been made redundant in his early 50s and is in need of a drastic career change to carry on working? What about the grey entrepreneur who has a cracking business idea but faces far more hurdles to get credit than a younger man would? What about the 80-year-old who is isolated in his own home, miles away from his family; or the couple who care for each other until one is ill but who cannot access the support they need because ad hoc domiciliary care is not an option?

Caroline Nokes (Romsey and Southampton North) (Con): I am pleased to hear my hon. Friend mention carers. In England and Wales, there are 1 million carers who are over 60 and 40,000 who are over 85. Does she believe that a Minister for older people would be able to act as a champion for those carers?

Penny Mordaunt: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise that issue. We recently had carers week and I know she is a great champion for all carers in her constituency.

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There is huge and diverse range of older people. We now have the first generation of older people living with HIV, who worry whether they will find a care home with staff and residents who understand their needs. Evidently, older people are a diverse bunch with needs and problems that fall within the remit of many Departments—just like everyone else then—but too often policy is focused on the needs of the stereotypical old person. Too often, policy is made with the fit, the able-bodied, the internet-savvy and the average user in mind. Older people can be at the margins of those groups and are peculiarly exposed to the dangers of unintended consequences. There have been too many missed opportunities and unforeseen outcomes that have robbed the Treasury of income, the taxpayer of value for money and older people of life-enhancing opportunities.

There are many Ministers across Government with responsibilities that touch on some aspect of older people’s lives, but with only a narrow focus on one policy area. That is why someone in government must be responsible for the interests of older people. It would be no good if it were a Minister of State from the Department for Work and Pensions—I apologise to the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, the hon. Member for Thornbury and Yate (Steve Webb)—or from the Department of Health, because they would be susceptible to the silo thinking we must avoid.

Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that this is an issue not just for central Government but for local government? Does she agree with the findings in the Select Committee on Health’s report on social care that we need a single joint commissioner for health, social care and housing as we move forward into health reform?

Penny Mordaunt: My hon. Friend is absolutely right and I hope to give some practical examples of where I think that will have an effect.

The ministerial position should not be a new one; it should be an additional responsibility, and given to a member of the Cabinet. Hon. Members can see that I am not trying to insert an extra card with my name on it into the pack ahead of a reshuffle.

Mr David Amess (Southend West) (Con): Shame.

Penny Mordaunt: Thank you.

At the Cabinet table, Secretaries of State are jealous of their remit, ready to explain when another policy trespasses on their departmental interest. If there was someone with responsibility for older people, the implications for them of each policy presented to Cabinet could be considered. We have had forums, tsars, taskforces and champions but we are still a long way from where we need to be. We need to try something new. An older person is likely to get a better standard of care on a hospital ward if there is one nurse on the shift with particular responsibility for that patient. Someone who has responsibility and is accountable will speak up to protect the interests of those in their care.

In the days leading up to the debate, it was suggested to me that older people are doing rather well at the moment. The Government have introduced the triple lock on pensions, guaranteeing that the state pension

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will increase by the greatest of earnings, prices or 2.5%. Pensioners enjoy free bus travel and winter fuel payments, and the over-75s get a free TV licence. The DWP has done well, so it is not a shock that the Department is responding to the debate, and I am delighted about that. Against those arguments, however, we have to consider the disproportionate impact of cost of living increases on older people. Saga has shown that between 2007 and 2012, retail prices index cost of living increases affected the whole population by 16.5%, but for 50 to 64-year-olds, the figure was 19.1%; for 65 to 75-year-olds, it was 22.4%; and for the over-75s, it was 22.2%.

We would do well to consider the many reports on health and social care that do not paint a rosy picture. The Equality and Human Rights Commission report on domiciliary care, the Care Quality Commission report on hospital care, the Centre for Social Justice report on quality of life in isolation and today’s CQC report on medication management beg to differ from the optimistic view. There is huge unmet need. In my city, Portsmouth, the local authority has budgeted for an extra 200 social care clients over the next five years, due to an ageing population, but today 1,000 people in the city have dementia and no access to any services. Major policy issues such as pension reform, which I am pleased the Government have tackled, and social care reform, which we still have to tackle—I am pleased that we are to do so—have been left for too long.

We need to do better. There is an argument for additional responsibility for a Cabinet member, but such an initiative will be judged on the practical differences it makes. What might they look like? A YouGov survey on the attitudes of people over retirement age found that 14% of people aged over 60 live more than 100 miles away from their most significant family members, excluding their partner. Six per cent have to travel between 50 and 100 miles to family, 8% between 25 and 50 miles, and 12% saw or heard from their family less than once a month. Isolation and inactivity were recognised by the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology as accelerating

“physical and psychological declines, creating a negative spiral towards premature, preventable ill health and dependency.”

How are those issues reflected in transport policy? In my area, Southern Trains has recently introduced on the Portsmouth to Brighton route—a journey of 80 minutes —rolling stock that has no toilets. In rail franchise agreements, there is no mention of comfort standards or the provision of toilets, so old age pensioners could have to travel in crippling discomfort. The impact of the subsidy on train fares for old age pensioners is blunted, because it does not matter if the ticket is free when the mode of transportation is unusable. Older people are left with a poorer quality of life because there is another obstacle for them to overcome to stay in a job that involves a commute, and inactivity leads to demands on the health and social care budget. Transport Ministers may be sympathetic, but the Department refuses to act. A Minister for older people could intervene.

Let us look at the Treasury. In July 2011, the Office of Tax Simplification was asked to review the system for pensioner taxation. The interim report, published earlier this year, identified pay-as-you-earn on the state pension as an area to explore. People would not be taxed more, but would pensioners have to fill out self-assessment forms? Would they cope? Would they simply end up

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paying more tax through inability to process the forms? Plans have been mooted to combine income tax and national insurance contributions. Old-age pensioners do not pay such contributions, so will there be a different tax rate for them, or will pensioners be taxed more?

Quantitative easing and low interest rates are right for the economy as a whole, but they are not good for older people who annuitise their pensions and live off their savings. Quantitative easing has reduced gilt yields, on which annuities are based. The level of that annuity is then locked in. Should not offset measures be considered? What about an extra individual savings account allowance? More thought is needed if fairness is to be upheld.

Looking at work, economic analysts SQW found that older people benefit the economy by £175.9 billion, including £34 billion in social care and £10 billion in volunteering. Projections show that by 2030, those figures will be £291.1 billion, £52 billion and £15 billion respectively. That affirms what Saga has found about the willingness of older people to participate, in and out of work. Retirement is not a retreat from the world. Turning Point has asserted that integrated work to enable older people to stay independent for longer could produce savings of between £1.20 and £2.65 for every £1 spent from the public purse. Saga’s research suggests that 71% of over-50s would like to work part-time after 65, and 7% already work past the age of 70. The Office for National Statistics confirms that 1.4 million pensioners already work.

The demographic shift requires us to work longer, and we are willing and able to do so, but have businesses and industry really caught up? The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development suggests that 14% of managers do not believe that their organisations are ready for an older work force. The Government have responded to that need and willingness by abolishing the compulsory retirement age and increasing the state pension age, but those excellent policies have not been accompanied by moves really to help employers manage their older workers and recruit new ones. At the close of 2011, 189,000 over-50s had been unemployed for more than one year. Of unemployed over-50s, 43% are long-term unemployed, compared with 26% of unemployed 18 to 24-year-olds and 35% of unemployed 25 to 49-year-olds. Training is often denied to workers nearing state pension age, as is promotion. Flexible working, phased retirement and mentoring schemes are few and far between. We need to do more to help older workers and to encourage employers to take them on.

In social care, we could certainly make better use of what we already have. As chairman of the all-party group on ageing and older people, I often hear care home providers boasting about their wonderful new home—its facilities, hairdressers, spas and shops. Those care homes’ doors are often closed to the local community, yet a few streets away there will be an elderly woman who is still independent, but whose quality of life suffers for want of a social life and bathing facilities. How many bathing facilities lie unused in our hospitals, homes and hospices?

Another example of missed opportunity is that most local authorities do not direct self-funders inquiring about care home options to financial advice. Instead, they wait until those people have spent their savings and are a burden on the state. Schemes that enable people to offset the cost of their care and keep their property

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assets intact by renting their home to the local authority, thus easing pressure on housing waiting lists, are not widespread, despite the headache that such initiatives would cure.

Andrea Leadsom (South Northamptonshire) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that there is another anomaly in that a person who works and cares for their partner receives carer’s allowance, but as soon as they retire, although they continue to care full time for that partner, they have to choose either their state pension or their carer’s allowance? That is a direct incentive for caring retired spouses to call on the state for help, although it would be far better for their loved one if they continued to care for them, with a bit of state support.

Penny Mordaunt: My hon. Friend is absolutely correct, and I know that she has made that and many other suggestions to the Chancellor and highlighted the administrative savings, as well as the improvements to the individual’s quality of life, that would result.

Finally, let us look at Government communications. On taking office, the Government froze their £540 million advertising budget, and over the following nine months, they cut £130 million from it. Every time we mail an older person about approaching retirement or a free television licence and we do not accompany that mail with a flu-jab leaflet, information on the winter warmth scheme, or anything else that we want to send them that week, we are wasting that remaining budget.

Those are just a few examples of the way in which better focus in the Cabinet on older people’s issues could lead to improvements in the quality of life for older people and save us money. Who might be the person for that important job? It should not be the Secretary of State for Health or the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, because the heavy duties that they already have in relation to older people could militate against the panoptical approach that is required. There is an obvious parallel with the Home Secretary’s additional remit for women and equalities; a similar duty for older people may sit well there. Such are the financial possibilities of the reform that perhaps the youngest and emphatically least grey member of the Cabinet, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, should take on the role.

The Deputy Prime Minister, it appears, was at a loss as to what to do with himself in quiet hours at the Cabinet Office, and took to doodling constitutional wrecking balls on the back of fag packets. He is now very busy indeed encouraging us to abolish the House of Lords, where many older people are to be found doing great work for this country. If he turned his attention away from that constitutionally destructive policy towards this economically and socially constructive proposal, we would be much better off. There would be many candidates for the job and, given the massive gains to be made in the quality of life for older people as a result of effective and efficient government, as well as a better return on investment, one would think that there would be a long queue to do the job.

Further evidence of the need for a co-ordinating role is shown by how difficult it was to agree the responsibility to respond to this debate. I congratulate the Minister of State on stepping forward, on the work that his Department

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has done to protect the interests of older people, and on his initiative better to understand their needs through the UK advisory forum on ageing. I hope that he will take away from this debate the ideas and aspirations that contributors will discuss, and consider how we might do a better job of spotting the opportunities and understanding the ambitions of this generation. There is no better mark of the values of a nation than the way in which it treats its older generation. This Government, I am proud to say, are going to address the issue of long-term care, which will have far-reaching implications, and there is no better time to ensure policy on older people is well co-ordinated across Whitehall.

It is perhaps appropriate that our debate takes place on the day on which, at long last, Bomber Command has received the recognition that it deserves for its immense achievement and sacrifice. I hope that the Arctic convoy veterans, too, will soon achieve the recognition that they deserve. Many of us are wondering why something so needed, right and obvious should take so long to do. Quite.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Six Members wish to take part in the debate, so it is necessary to have a time limit of 10 minutes, but if there are lots of interventions, we may need to revisit that.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I did not want to interrupt the hon. Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt), but as of four minutes ago, the fifth written ministerial statement on the Order Paper, from the Secretary of State for Education, on educational reform, had not appeared in the Vote Office, despite its contacting the Department to remind it that it said that it would issue that statement today. Is it not a discourtesy to the House, Madam Deputy Speaker, that nearly six hours after the House began to sit, the statement has still not arrived? After all, the Department is quick to leak stories to the Daily Mail, but it is slow to provide written ministerial statements that it has promised to the House.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Mr Brennan, you will be aware of Mr Speaker’s ruling in this matter. He has indicated in this Session—and, indeed, it was indicated in the previous Session—that written ministerial statements should arrive promptly on the day for which notice has been given. That does not stretch on a Thursday to 4.30 in the afternoon, so I will make inquiries as to when we expect to receive the statement to which you refer. I am sure that Ministers will ensure that it flies here as quickly as possible, because you are clearly keen to read it immediately.

If there are no further points of order, perhaps we can move on. I call Julie Hilling.

4.29 pm

Julie Hilling (Bolton West) (Lab): I am extremely pleased to speak in the debate and delighted to follow the hon. Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt). I thank her for leading our request to the Backbench Business Committee for the debate.

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Last August I was invited to visit Ryelands court in my constituency. Ryelands is an Anchor Homes development providing flats for older people in Westhoughton. They asked me to sign their petition for a Minister for older people and I was delighted to join the 137,000 other people who thought this was a good idea. As only 34% of 65 to 74-year-olds and 31% of people over 75 feel that they are able to influence decisions affecting their local area, and when 1.8 million pensioners are living in poverty—that is 16% of people over state pension age—I absolutely agree with the campaign for a Minister for older people.

Labour has already recognised the need for such a position with the appointment of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester West (Liz Kendall) as the shadow Minister for care and older people, with a seat in the shadow Cabinet. I very much hope this debate will encourage the Government to appoint a Cabinet member to champion the needs and aspirations of older people, with clear cross-departmental accountability for the services that they receive. One might ask why we need for a Minister for older people. Should it not be the responsibility of everyone? My experience of working with the issues of equality and discrimination over many years has taught me that as soon as we mainstream an issue and make it everybody’s responsibility, we lose focus and end up with nobody doing anything.

If we wonder why we should concentrate on older people, let me provide some statistics. Because of the baby-boomer generation of the 1950s and 1960s, the number of people over the age of 65 is likely to rise by 49% to more than 16 million in the next 20 years. Fortunately for the planet, but unfortunately for those of us who will be retiring, the growth in the younger population has not matched the longevity of older people and therefore many fewer people will be paying into the system. By 2020 more jobs are expected to be created than entrants to the work force, which is likely to mean that there will be considerable demand for older workers. However, there is significant age discrimination in our society. Policy Exchange did a blind study, applying for 1,200 jobs posing as both an older and a younger worker. The 51-year-old got fewer than half the number of positive responses that the 25-year-old received. Even though there are clear laws to prevent it, there is definitely a culture of bias against older workers.

We have also seen horrifying reports of the violation of older people’s right in the care system and in hospitals, including people being refused treatment on the basis of their chronological age, not on the basis of their fitness for treatment. We too often see older people as problems, not as equal members of society with the same hopes and fears as everyone else. Services to older people are not just about care, but about health, pensions, housing, transport, education and leisure, and we badly need someone around the Cabinet table championing their issues and making sure that there are no unintended consequences of policy.

Of course, the needs of older people can change very rapidly. Many hon. Members will have heard me talk on previous occasions about my mother’s journey. Twelve months and 10 days ago my mum was an incredibly active 86-year-old, still teaching three yoga classes a week, practising reflexology, driving her car, totally independent. Then, out of the blue, she suffered a very severe stroke. Overnight she went from an older person

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paying into the system to a recipient of care. During the past year Mum spent some time in acute care and a couple of months in a rehabilitation hospital, then she was back in acute care, and went into respite care for nearly eight months. She had fantastic physiotherapy and two months ago she made it back to her flat. Because the care home rarely sees anyone walking out on their own two feet, the staff laid out a red carpet for her. In fact, it was a pink blanket, but it was the same as a red carpet.

Mum now has carers four times a day, visits from the community matron, regular visits to the hospital, and is paying for physiotherapy. Whether it is because of her basic fitness when she had the stroke, or just because of her extreme determination—she is a very determined woman—she is continuing to make wonderful progress. The care that she received has varied from the excellent to the appalling, and if she did not have a family battling with her the whole way, I hate to think what may have occurred. She lost all dignity on this journey. The first day a young man wiped her bottom, she was so ashamed, but after 10 months she became used to depending on help—help that from the majority has been excellent, but a few of those who have cared for her should really think about a change in career. She is also £20,000 poorer and still worries about paying for her care. There are other costs. We have just booked to go on a cruise this summer, but it took me all day to find an insurance company prepared to insure her and, in the end, there was only one—thank you, Saga—at a cost of £750.

My mother’s story is not unusual. Families every day are facing the decision of whether or not to move their loved ones into a care home, wondering whether they can afford it and what will happen when the money runs out. We need someone at the Cabinet table battling for the Dilnot report or for another solution. Mum has been very lucky. Since the cuts to the Supporting People funds and local authority budgets, many people no longer receive any support in their homes. The £259 million Supporting People fund, which kept older people in sheltered housing, provided a net financial benefit of £1.1 billion by reducing the need for residential and nursing care, hospital admissions and home care. That money is gone. What a false economy.

As the hon. Member for Portsmouth North said, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has reported that isolation and inactivity accelerate physical and psychological decline, creating a negative spiral towards premature and preventable ill health and dependency. We now have a society in which often we live very far away from our loved ones: 14% of people over 60 live more than 100 miles from their most significant family member, and 12% of older people see family members less than once a month. The decline in adult education and the cuts to the voluntary sector leave more and more older people isolated in their homes.

Last month I visited Belong village in Atherton, a purpose-built and not-for-profit residential complex catering for people who need 24/7 care and also those who live independently in flats on the same complex. There are activities, a restaurant, exercise and much more, and it is open to the local community to come in and take part in those activities. We need to look at more examples like that and build homes that are fit for older people.

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Hopefully, we will all become older people—in some people’s eyes many of us already are. Older people have specific needs that need to be championed. We need the Equality Act 2010 provision outlawing age discrimination in relation to goods and services to be implemented now, at a time when we have an ageing population who most need it. I hope that the Government listen to us, and the other 137,000 people, and appoint a Minister for older people as soon as possible.

4.37 pm

Margot James (Stourbridge) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt) on leading the charge to secure this debate and all the other work she does on behalf of older people. It is also a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling), whose mother I have had the privilege of meeting—she is indeed very fortunate to have such a daughter.

Before entering Parliament I was a local councillor in Kensington and Chelsea and served as older people’s champion for the borough. What I learned in that role has reinforced my support for the campaign, led by Anchor housing and supported by so many charities and housing organisations, for a clear voice at ministerial level for older people.

We already have Ministers with specific responsibility for women, children and people with disabilities. The Minister for Women is also the Minister for Equalities but, although that includes older people with regard to discrimination in the workplace, the Equalities brief is focused primarily on ethnic minorities and gay and transgendered people. If those five demographic groups are represented at ministerial level, why are older people not? Surely such different treatment implies some discrimination.

The arguments for having a Minister for older people go further than the fact that other demographic groups are represented at ministerial level. There are a specific set of interests and challenges associated with our ageing population that require the voice and insights of older people to be heard and taken into account across Government.

What would the role of an older people’s Minister involve? I have learned, from my own experience of a similar role locally, that older people’s interests are commonly perceived to lie in health, benefits and pensions, but that is a misperception, because older people have interests across a far wider spectrum of policy, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North said, in areas such as transport their experiences are totally different, on account of their age, from those of younger people.

One policy area that is of prime importance today is the voluntary sector, and research by HSBC has found that the economic value of volunteering among people over 60 years old is £4 billion. My constituency has a remarkable voluntary and charitable sector, which relies hugely on the energy and dedication of large numbers of people who have already retired from paid employment, so an older person’s Minister should champion that aspect of their lives. They are not a cost to, and a burden on, society; they are contributors to society.

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The requirements of a Minister go well beyond the role of champion, however. A Minister should do battle for the cause, and that involves questioning and challenging the effects of policy on older constituents. I have a few examples from the past and present.

The social care budget for the five years to 2010 was almost static, meaning that the same budget had to stretch to cover more and more older people, and that local authorities were no longer able to fund care for people in moderate need. They started to restrict care to people in critical need, and that is going to have implications for the future which an older people’s Minister would have been able to spot and to anticipate.

There is still plenty to challenge on behalf of older people, and, as the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, the hon. Member for Thornbury and Yate (Steve Webb) is here to answer our debate, I congratulate him on securing the best ever deal, as announced this year, for pensioners, but he will know that existing pensioners are concerned about proposals for a flat-rate individual pension for new pensioners from 2015.

If the new pension were set at £140 a week, it would provide a couple who both drew their pension with an income of more than £14,000 a year. Currently, a couple in receipt of the basic state pension and the additional state pension receive an income of more than £11,000, however, so the difference between what I understand to be the new flat rate, £140, payable to both members of the couple and the amount paid to existing pensioners in a couple will be almost £3,000 a year. I welcome the desirability of a new system in terms of simplicity and the restoration of incentives to save, but I ask the Minister to address the sense of unfairness building up among the currently retired population.

There is also a need to challenge the “never had it so good” mentality that has built up among think tanks and interest groups, one example of which the Institute for Fiscal Studies published recently. There are affluent pensioners, and some are asset-rich and income-poor, but there is also considerable pensioner poverty. The scandalous deaths of older people each winter, owing to fuel poverty and numbering more than 20,000 in the most recent year for which figures are available, shame our society.

I have covered the importance of a Minister for older people as champion, advocate and challenger of policy, but the final critical aspect of the role would be to act as a critical friend to the older population; the job could not simply be to promote older people’s economic interests in a silo, as if the wider economy were not an issue. That is why I spoke up for the measure, announced in the Budget, to reduce the special tax threshold that is allowed for pensioners.

One of the toughest jobs of the Minister for older people would be to manage the expectations of our older population now and of the general population as they approach old age. The Government have taken difficult decisions to raise the retirement age and to put public sector pensions on a more sustainable footing, but we will in time have to go further. It is a year since the Dilnot commission reported on the funding of long-term care. I understand that there is no new money to fund Dilnot’s recommendations, and a new Minister will have to level with families and older people about what is affordable and what will have to be financed by

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individuals, families and private insurance schemes in future. I personally subscribe to much of what is in the commission’s proposals as regards standardising eligibility criteria, making care packages more portable around the country, and setting out standards that individuals and carers can expect.

I am pleased that the Government are going to bring forth a Bill in this Parliament to address these matters, and more, but I hope that if they accept the need for an older people’s Minister, that person would start to lay out what it is reasonable to expect and not to expect from the taxpayer towards implementing Dilnot’s fundamental recommendations on the funding of long- term care.

4.45 pm

Tony Lloyd (Manchester Central) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Stourbridge (Margot James). I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt), who made an intelligent and wide-ranging speech that helpfully set the parameters for this debate.

First, I want to talk about the treatment of the Arctic convoy veterans, which is a disgrace to our nation. My constituent, Mac McNeill, who was a boy when he volunteered to join what was unfortunately classified as the “non-Royal Navy”, experienced the most horrendous hardships during that period of his life and saw many of his friends and comrades die. He pointed out to me the irony of his having a chestful of medals from the Soviet Union—the Russian Federation—but very little by way of recognition from our own society. In that respect, I heartily agree with the hon. Member for Portsmouth North.

Penny Mordaunt: I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is aware that the Prime Minister has instigated a review that is due to report imminently; I gave evidence to it, as did many other hon. Members. I therefore hope that the situation will be rectified very shortly.

Tony Lloyd: I strongly join the hon. Lady in hoping that that is the case. It is a matter not only of justice but of recognising the contribution that our fellow citizens made at a time of national need and crisis.

Secondly, we need to think about how we classify the needs of the elderly. The hon. Member for Portsmouth North rightly drew our attention to her 83-year-old constituent who is fit and active enough to jump out of planes—something that many of us in this Chamber would not want to do, at less than 83 years of age. I can think of people who would not necessarily be classified as elderly but have the same needs. Somebody said to me today that, ironically, dementia is not a working-class condition. That may be an extension of the reality, but there is some truth in it, because those who die younger suffer less from the conditions that are associated with age. Areas such as the one that I represent unfortunately have that social categorisation.

Someone recently drew my attention to a home where victims of stroke were given care, including a man in his fifties who was mentally very fit and active but physically severely taken down by the stroke that he had had. He found that he was treated wrongly in the same way as more elderly residents, but in his case it was more challenging because he knew what was going on. It is

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wrong that what he described could happen to anybody, but particularly wrong that it happened to somebody in their fifties. He knew that he was not being given his medication properly, but when he complained the staff treated him as though he were foolish, doddery and incapable of remembering, yet of course he had his memory and knew that he was being badly treated.

There is a real and proper concept of responsibility in issues to do with the elderly. Perhaps the Justice Secretary is the right person to take this on; I suspect that he has a natural feel for these issues.

We need to be careful that we do not silo what we mean by care for the elderly, because it covers a huge range of issues. It is important that we recognise that among the elderly are people like the elderly woman in my constituency who is well into her hundreds, but still helps those who are frailer than her, although considerably her junior, by taking them cups of tea and such like. When I asked her one day whether she was going to play bingo with the other old people she said, “No, no, I am going to walk down to the local commercial bingo hall—the prizes are better.” She does not need many of the things that would be classified as being for the elderly. It is important that we accept the point made by the hon. Member for Portsmouth North that it is the concept that we need, rather than an overly rigid classification of the elderly.

In my few remaining moments, I want to talk about something that troubles me and that I think will trouble all Members of the House. Every one of us would say that the recent case of the abuse of young children in Rochdale was an outrage and that the full force of the law ought to be used against those who brutally use and abuse our young children. We ought to have exactly the same sense of outrage at the abuse of the vulnerable and elderly. The stroke victim to whom I referred a few moments ago would be in that category. We are a considerable way off that.

I say to the Minister gently that the Care Quality Commission may have its merits, but the jury is out on what it has been doing. I heard on the radio this morning about its report on the giving of medicines. The comment was made—I paraphrase, but I do not think unfairly—that 80% of the time it is going well. Eighty per cent. of the time is not good enough when dealing with individuals. One hundred per cent. of the time is good enough. Ninety-nine per cent. is not good enough because it means that some people are not getting the medication that they need.

When there is abuse of the elderly, such as in the Winterbourne View case, we have to look to the criminal justice system. We need a much more robust system of whistleblowing, whereby those who feel that they are not being listened to can have their voice heard and can have matters fast-tracked. I concede that in many cases inspection is the right way to deal with such problems, but in the worst cases, the full force of the criminal law must be brought in to prevent the abuse. If we are not prepared to say that those who abuse our elderly will end up with criminal sanctions, we will have failed.

Last night, a debate was started about whether the criminal law has a role to play in dealing with Barclays bank. If we are prepared to talk about the role of the criminal law in dealing with financial irregularities, we should certainly be able to talk about its role when the vulnerable and elderly are treated in the most appalling

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way. Everybody would agree with that statement, but we must fast-track the process for those who are subjected to threats or to care that is inappropriate. There must be a system of gradation by which we begin to improve where improvement is possible and to clamp down on the very worst features.

I will finish as I began: by congratulating the hon. Member for Portsmouth North. This is a genuinely important debate. There are many other concerns for the elderly that we could raise and she has raised many important issues.

I will make one final point, which is slightly partisan, but is nevertheless important. The Prime Minister opened up a debate this week about how we treat people within the welfare system. He said that he would honour the pledge on the winter fuel payment and free transport for the elderly for the life of this Parliament. We could do with some clarification of what that means for after the next election. I understand that the Minister can answer for only one half of the coalition, but we need to have that debate. If we are to see changes in this area, they ought to be debated by society in general. If we are talking about the quality of life of the elderly, and not simply about the economic functioning of the elderly, we have to recognise that things such as access to transport and people’s ability to maintain their role as full members of society depend on a form of social contract. That is why a champion for the elderly would be an important step forward.

4.54 pm

Mr David Amess (Southend West) (Con): When I saw the hon. Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling) and her mother in a wheelchair on the Terrace on the day of the flotilla, I had no idea what the circumstances were. I have now found out that it was the first outing for her mother. All I would say after the hon. Lady’s moving speech is that her mother can be extremely proud of her daughter.

My hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt) made a splendid speech—her remarks about the other place will live with me for some little while. I congratulate her on securing the debate, and the Backbench Business Committee, of which I am unashamedly a member, on having the good sense to grant it.

There is some disappointment with the motion. I had rather hoped we would be given the opportunity to make our pitch to become Minister for the elderly, but my hon. Friend cleverly says in the motion that the responsibility will go to a current member of the Government. I should also tell my hon. Friend that the longer she is here, the more she will struggle to find anything original to say. She will not be surprised that, over the years, a number of colleagues have made similar suggestions. However, I want her to be in a position to celebrate after the debate, and after, perhaps, we hear from No. 10 of the appointment of a Minister with responsibility for older people.

As my own dear mother starts her second century, I have some experience in these matters. There seems to be a fashion—I think it was started by my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon)—for colleagues to go around with broken arms, wrists and knees, and

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hip replacements. Everyone seems to be on crutches or in wheelchairs. Only when people associate with those who need wheelchair assistance do they stop saying, “What a wretched nuisance” when they see someone trying to get by on a Zimmer frame or in a wheelchair. They instead say, “How can we raise the money for a lift for elderly people?” Only when those things touch people do they realise how valuable they are, as the hon. Member for Bolton West rightly reminded the House. I congratulate Anchor, which is a wonderful organisation, on getting 140,000 people to sign an online petition. That is a great triumph.

Many people would say that as people move on and become older, they return to childhood. I do not mean that judgmentally. When we are very young, we are totally dependent on others, which is eventually what happens in later life. There is a further link between young and old: they are the times of life when people are best placed to impart wisdom. Older people’s roles as grandparents and great-grandparents should be recognised—that vital glue across generations holds our society together.

There is a crucial difference between the old and the young in this country: younger generations are heavily catered for in politics through the Department for Education, but far less support is available for those classified as older people. We used to hear about joined-up Government and Departments working together. No doubt the Minister will contradict me, but I need to be convinced that that is happening currently. For the sake of joined-up Government, however, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North—my younger hon. Friend—on introducing the motion to give a Minister responsibility for older people.

According to Age UK Essex, there are fewer under-18s in the UK than over-65s. The total number in this age group stands at 10.3 million. Each year, 650,000 more people turn 65, and one-fifth of the population is of pensionable age. What is more, with ever-better health care, life styles and support, more people are living longer. On average, people in Southend live to 80. We all welcome that change, of course, but we want people to grow old with dignity. According to projections from Age UK, the number of people aged 60-plus will increase by 50% over the next 25 years, while in 2083 one in three people will be over 60. So we are clearly faced with a serious problem.

My constituency has the most senior citizens in the country. Every year, we have a tea party—we have been in the Guinness book of records three times and are having another one this year to break the world record again. It is wonderful: as they leave the tea party, they always say, “See you next year.” According to recent statistics outlined by Age UK, 36.1% of Southend’s population is classified as “old”. More than 24,000 people are aged between 65 and 84, while more than 5,000 are over 85. The trend in Essex is clear: over the next 15 years, we can expect a 39% increase in the number of over-65s.

All I am saying is that this is happening, and we cannot bury our heads in the sand. In earlier years, we have had big arguments about people having to sell their homes—it was all wrong in terms of people’s inheritance and so on. It will be a brave political party—I know we have a coalition at the moment—that faces up to the terrible question of how we fund the future care of an ageing population. When I go around the excellent

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care homes in my constituency, it is heartbreaking to be told, “There are never any visitors for some of our residents, but when it comes to the funeral, they all turn up to see what they’ve been left.” These are real issues that we need to face up to.

There is a wide variety of issues affecting older people, and services need to be co-ordinated. From pensions, and health and social care, to fuel poverty and housing, each individual will have problems unique to them, and in most instances these problems will span several Departments. Essex Age UK has researched what sort of support older people would like, and its conclusions included: mobility, managing personal affairs, transport, better access to information and recreational opportunities. Older people need to be stimulated. It is no good everyone sitting in a lounge with no stimulation. If we stimulate older people, their quality of life improves.

Dr Wollaston: Would my hon. Friend add to his excellent list the role for technology in helping to improve the lives of older people? In my area, Devon and Cornwall, more than 250 older people go missing every year, many of them with dementia. Many technological advances can be used to give older people much greater confidence to go out, knowing they can be found quickly and easily, and to reduce distress. Also, many technological improvements can keep older people in touch, give them a link with younger people and improve their IT skills.

Mr Amess: I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend, who is right to mention dementia. Fortunately, in our area, through the generosity of a local resident, Ivan Heath, we will shortly be opening Peaceful Place to care for people with dementia. My goodness that is an issue we must increasingly face up to, given our ageing population. She is also right to talk about the assistance that improved technology can provide.

The Dilnot commission, agreed to in the coalition agreement, has now reported, with some controversy. I have been involved in this issue for some time, and in 2000 I was fortunate to come fourth in the ballot for private Members’ Bills, so I am associated with the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act 2000, which sought to eliminate fuel poverty, and the more that colleagues can do to advertise the help available to older people, the better. There is much they can claim.

In conclusion, there is a good precedent for creating a Minister for older people within the current Government. We have a Minister for nearly every walk of life—for children, for disabled people, for women and equalities—so why can we not have one for older people? Such a position might even warrant a promotion. My right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) who does a splendid job as Home Secretary is concurrently the Minister for Women and Equalities, managing both roles equally well. A dual role could easily be managed by one of my right hon. or hon. Friends. It is important to note this has been done internationally—in Ireland, Canada and New Zealand, for example. Ministers for older people have been appointed in those countries.

We should do everything we possibly can to ensure that people in old age are treated with as much respect and dignity as possible. They have worked all their lives, experienced a huge number of scenarios and situations and contributed to this country in countless ways. If it

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were not for the sacrifices of older people in the first and second world wars, we would not have our Parliament today. We have a duty to support them. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North again, as this debate represents a significant step in the right direction. I fully expect a Minister to announce from the Dispatch Box at the end of the debate that the Government will indeed appoint a Minister for older people.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans): Order. Will Members please resume their seats. An earlier point of order related to written ministerial statement No. 5, which Kevin Brennan said had not been lodged. The House will wish to be informed that it has now been lodged.

5.6 pm

Dr Daniel Poulter (Central Suffolk and North Ipswich) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Mr Amess), who made a fantastic speech, highlighting the human challenges that many older people face and rightly arguing that people who have worked hard for our country deserve to be properly looked after in their retirement.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt) for initiating this debate. She was absolutely right to say that we need a more integrated approach to elderly care nationally and locally. She was also right to highlight the importance of housing as part of that integrated approach. I am somewhat reassured that this Government have already taken great strides in the right direction properly to support and recognise the needs of older people. I am somewhat more reassured than my hon. Friend about the Government’s plans to reform the upper House. I look forward to speaking in support of those plans in the debate that will take place shortly.

Before the general election, Age UK set an important test on the key challenges facing elderly care in this Parliament. It is worth highlighting what those challenges were and measuring what the Government have done to meet them. We can be greatly reassured that the Government are already well on the way to dealing with many of the issues older people face today.

First, Age UK set out the problem of forced retirement, which it said must be ended by scrapping the default retirement age. The Government have clearly done that in their first few months. Older people should be allowed to work while they are able to work. The default retirement age discriminated against the valuable contribution older people can make and continue to make to the workplace. This Government should be proud—I am proud to be part of them—of scrapping that discrimination against older people. Government Members can all be proud of that.

The second test set by Age UK was that radical reform of the care and support system should be taken forward as an urgent priority. I am pleased to note the consensual approach across the House today, which, wherever possible, is an important part of that. I am greatly encouraged by the fact that the Minister with responsibility for adult care and social care will respond

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later this year to the Dilnot commission’s funding proposals and assess how we can better look after older people and better integrate care at the local level so that we can provide greater dignity in elderly care. We have heard a lot today about abuses and indignities and about variability in the care system, which was brought home to us very effectively by the hon. Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling). It is important that the Government continue to support older people and improve the social care system.

The third test that Age UK set for the incoming Government before the election was that they should prevent the current system from collapsing, and introduce proper safeguards that would guarantee joined-up, integrated care through health-related spending. The Government have already committed themselves to investing £3.8 billion in the NHS to provide the necessary integration between the NHS and social care. My hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North rightly said that more joined-up care was needed at a local level. Only if that additional £3.8 billion is filtered into local NHS providers—hospitals and primary care providers—will we be able to secure the joined-up, integrated care, involving adult social services and health care providers, that we need so badly in order to focus on preventive care for older people.

Age UK’s fourth challenge was that the commitment to link the basic state pension with earnings must be honoured by 2012, and pension payments must be increased over time as and when that became affordable. The Government have already achieved that as well. The triple lock on pensions will ensure that, for the first time, older people will receive a meaningful increase in the basic state pension every year. That will help them to meet the rising cost of living, especially in these difficult economic times. The commitment in this year’s Budget to increase the basic state pension to £140 a week is a commitment of which the Government can be proud, and we know that it will become a reality in the future.

The fifth and final test was that NHS resources must be redirected towards community health services that sustain a good quality of life by preventing and treating common health conditions. As I have said, the Government have made a clear commitment to invest £3.8 billion in the NHS to support interaction with local social care services, but, in addition, a major element of their health care reforms was the establishment of health and wellbeing boards. For the first time, primary care practitioners, secondary care clinicians, nurses, housing providers such as Anchor—all the key players who are so essential to providing that joined-up, integrated care for older people—will be brought together.

As has already been said today, it can no longer be considered acceptable for older people to fall and break their hips because of poor housing conditions and poor lighting in their homes, and for the NHS to have to deal with the consequences. The challenge must be to provide more integrated care and better preventive care, and we will do so by ensuring that all the key players work together properly. The establishment of local health and wellbeing boards was a step in the right direction towards the provision of the joined-up, integrated care that we want, which will save the NHS money, but, more important, will provide dignity in elderly care.

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Already, two years into the current Parliament, the Government have passed all five of the tests set for them by Age UK. We look forward to the proposals for meaningful reform of the social care system and proper funding that the Government will present later in the year, but I am reassured that they are already making great strides in relation to elderly care. What they are doing for older people has already surpassed what has been done by many Governments in the past.

Although I consider the appointment of an older people’s Minister to be a laudable notion, I think that the Government are doing very well already.

5.14 pm

Paul Maynard (Blackpool North and Cleveleys) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt) on securing this important debate, and I am glad to have an opportunity to raise the views of Blackpool here in the Chamber. Blackpool is in many respects a pensioners’ capital. We have just hosted the National Pensioners Convention, at which the Minister with responsibility for adult and social care, my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Burstow), was due to speak. Unfortunately, however, he had to return to the Chamber to reply to an Opposition day debate. The NPC replaced him at the Winter Gardens with a cabbage. I am not sure what fruit or vegetable the pensions Minister might like to be represented by; he might tell us when he delivers his winding-up speech. I should warn him, however, that the banana has already been taken by the right hon. Member for South Shields (David Miliband), so it is off the menu.

My hon. Friend the Member for Southend West (Mr Amess) told us that his constituency had the most pensioners. I am trying to compete with him in that regard. As with most coastal towns, both Blackpool and Southend have large populations of retirees.

Mr Amess: Has there been any reaction yet among older people in my hon. Friend’s constituency to his winning the very special charity champion award last night?

Paul Maynard: Modesty forbids me from commenting, so we will draw a veil over that.

My constituency has the most people who live in a household with someone with a long-term medical condition, so carers policy perhaps matters more there than in any other seat. I am therefore as aware as any Member about some of the issues raised today.

In order to access carer’s allowance, people have to apply for pension credit, to which they may not be entitled. People might know that that application will be rejected, but they still have to apply in order to access carer’s allowance—an obvious anomaly in accessing benefits. Although we all know that many pensioners do not claim everything that they are entitled to, they are still not getting what they should be getting.

I know from my postbag and my surgeries that there would be no shortage of work for a Minister for older people. Almost every Government Department has some policy issue that matters more to older people than to any other group.

The Service Personnel and Veterans Agency is located in my constituency. I will spend the next three days attending various Blackpool veterans week events, because

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I know that matters, not least to my older constituents. My hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North talked about the Arctic convoys medal, too.

Buses are another key issue, as in my constituency they are used predominantly by elderly residents. There are also complicated matters such as the past presence test, about which we are arguing with the European Union, as well as eligibility for benefits when abroad, and what happens when people return. There is a long list of such issues—and I have not yet mentioned long-term care for the elderly and the Dilnot report.

I am something of a nostalgia specialist. I like to look back at the first post-war Labour Government, and try to do so with a degree of fondness because they knew how to use royal commissions as a policy-making tool. They managed to secure all-party support, and produced some of our greatest welfare reforms. Sadly, the last Labour Government turned their back on royal commissions as a policy tool. I remember the royal commission on long-term care. It was a gargantuan exercise—voluminous, colourful, pretty—yet it was utterly ineffective because nothing ever happened after it. The journey to secure reform of long-term care has been long, arduous and, hitherto, fruitless, yet I retain some optimism that the current Government might find enough coins down the back of the sofa to get things right this time; I have my fingers crossed.

As well as the range of issues Members on both sides of the House have raised today, it should be stated that we face a demographic challenge, which we must overcome. It is time that we thought about setting up a royal commission on the consequences for this country of having an ageing population. It would cover a much wider remit than trying to solve a specific policy problem. It would assess what the challenges are and what they mean for every Government Department.

A key issue in this regard is the consequences of having a population that is—to put it crudely, perhaps—dying more slowly. We no longer die rapidly from heart attacks or other such conditions that might hit us in our prime. Now, the decline is much slower and gradual, and it is much more expensive for the taxpayer in providing appropriate care. That deserves some analysis.

The specific proposal to have a Cabinet Minister in this area is an interesting one. This question is not so much about policy towards the elderly, but about government architecture: how do we make things happen in government? As many have pointed out, we have Ministers for the disabled and for children. Both positions are at Minister of State level and both cross more than one Department. We also have a Minister for pensions—the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend the Member for Thornbury and Yate (Steve Webb), whom I am delighted to see on the Front Bench today—and a Minister for adult social care. Perhaps they could arm-wrestle each other for the title of being the Minister for older people. That Minister could sit across both the relevant Departments and perhaps could have the same effect that the Ministers for children and for the disabled are having. I do not think that someone needs to be in the Cabinet to achieve things. There is a grave danger of our being more concerned about the name and where this person sits than about what they can actually achieve. We have had a history of tsars—an entire palace of Romanovs was produced by the previous Government—all of varying

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effectiveness, which was often not related at all to where they sat or where their home was. What matters is what someone does.

It is worth looking at what is done abroad, because there are some instructive lessons. I do not normally take the French as a model of how to behave in any situation in life, but they have often had a ministry of solidarity between the generations, as they put it. That is an interesting concept. We often battle in this country, with some saying that the young are getting too many resources and others saying that the elderly are. That French Department tried to resolve the two, to bring them together and to work out how intergenerational solidarity is actually created. To be honest, I do not know whether it worked terribly well, but it is an interesting idea that is worth thinking about.

Australia has a Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, who is No. 2 in the health Department. So the Australians do have a Minister for older people, although some might quibble about the linking of those two things. In Ireland, Áine Brady, a Fianna Fáil Minister in the previous Government, was Minister for Older People and Health Promotion. Sadly that particular Government left office—it was not sad for the Irish people, as this is democracy—and the current Government decided not to retain that title.

I note that the Labour party has a Front-Bench spokesman on this specific issue. I can go as far as to welcome that, but I note that in opposition we had a shadow Minister for coastal towns and that role did not survive the transfer to office. It is far easier in opposition for people to create the architecture around what they want to campaign on, rather than around the architecture of the Government buildings that they then have to slot into. So that provides a good example, too.

The example I pray in aid in particular is that of New Zealand, which does have a Minister for older people, sited in its Ministry of Health. New Zealand also has an office for senior citizens, situated in its Ministry of Social Development. That is a particularly interesting combination. Before Conservative Front Benchers start to worry that I am proposing yet another quango, I can tell them that they need not fear as nothing could be further from my mind. None the less, what both Ireland and New Zealand had in common was that they had first developed what they called a “positive ageing strategy”. So before they appointed the Minister, they ensured that the Minister had something to do. One of my concerns is that if we have a general Minister whose objective is to proof all policies so that older people do not experience a disbenefit, we will end up getting a bit fluffy and soggy. I would far rather have a set of very specific areas that affect older people that the Government should be focusing on; these would be certain policy areas that should be driven through.