18 Dec 2012 : Column 165WH

18 Dec 2012 : Column 165WH

Westminster Hall

Tuesday 18 December 2012

[Mr James Gray in the Chair]

Yorkshire (Tour de France)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Mr Syms.)

9.30 am

Julian Smith (Skipton and Ripon) (Con): It is a pleasure to have secured this debate under your chairmanship, Mr Gray, particularly with your strong links to north Yorkshire and my constituency.

Without doubt, 2012 has been one of the greatest years in British sport. We have hosted the Olympic games in London. Our Olympians achieved the best medal haul since 1908—65 medals, including 29 golds. Super Saturday, 4 August, was undoubtedly Britain’s best athletics night. My noble Friend Lord Coe described it as “the greatest day” of sport that he had ever witnessed. It was a great Olympics for Britain and a great Olympics for Yorkshire, as we romped home with the largest number of medals for the UK.

Andy Murray has become the first British man since 1936 to win a grand slam. In golf, there was Europe’s nail-biting Ryder cup win, and Rory McIlroy has had another incredible year. There are many examples of success from across our country and our sports. Most importantly, the 2012 Paralympics were declared the greatest ever. They have had a massive impact on the perception of disabilities in athletics and in our society more generally. This has been a golden year of sport: it has produced not only brilliant results, but Olympic heroes who are inspiring people, young and old, to take part in sport and engage in exercise, which is the best way to stay fit and live longer.

The games have also shown that Britain is second to none in hosting and running great sporting events. Sport opens doors—it did so for me as a junior squash international, and it has done so for Britain this year. It has been the most incredible advert for our nation, character, values, companies and spirit. The Minister was one of the few people who were behind the most incredible games in history. I pay tribute to the work that he has done to ensure that the year 2012 will never be forgotten in world sporting history.

Of all the sporting achievements during this amazing year, cycling success stands out. I am told that the atmosphere in the velodrome was electric, although I could get tickets only for Greco-Roman wrestling. The roll-call of success could go on and on—Sir Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and Laura Trott, to name but three, and of course the man who won the BBC sports personality of the year on Sunday, Bradley Wiggins. He received almost half a million votes, which again shows the popularity of cycling. It was a fitting end to 2012, during which he became the first Briton to win the Tour de France and his fourth Olympic gold. His success has inspired many to get on their bikes. Cycling is well and truly riding high: on the eve of the new year, Britain is at the top of its sporting game and is riding high on a sea of lactic acid and adrenaline.

18 Dec 2012 : Column 166WH

Against that backdrop, we have had the most incredible news from Yorkshire. Last week, it was announced that the grand départ of the Tour de France, the world’s largest annual sporting event, will come to the north of England for the first time. The tour will wend and weave its way across Yorkshire on 5 and 6 July 2014, before coming to London and going on to France. It has been the most monumental achievement to win this event. Welcome to Yorkshire, the region’s tourism body, began working on a bid to host the tour, in partnership with Leeds city council, in 2011. The bid had fierce competition from Scotland, Barcelona, Germany, Utrecht and Florence. Yorkshire has had high-profile support from Mark Cavendish, Team Sky’s Ben Swift and Olympic gold medallist Ed Clancy, as well as three key historic Yorkshire riders—Malcolm Elliott, Brian Robinson and Barry Hoban.

Julian Sturdy (York Outer) (Con): On Mark Cavendish’s support for Yorkshire’s bid, does my hon. Friend agree with his comment that Yorkshire

“is one of the most beautiful parts of not just England but the world”?

Julian Smith: I of course agree with my hon. Friend, and I hope to describe that beauty in my speech.

Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his timing and foresight. No sooner had he secured this debate than we are able to meet here to celebrate the success of Yorkshire’s bid. The people of Leeds and everyone in Yorkshire are really looking forward to witnessing the grand départ from the centre of Leeds during the summer after next. Will he join me in congratulating all those—he has mentioned some of them—who had the audacity and vision to make the bid in the first place? Does he share the hope of us all here that UK Sport, with the Government’s encouragement, will now back the bid, including with a bit of cash?

Julian Smith: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I shall come on to the Government shortly, but I want to pay tribute to his work and efforts in ensuring that that effort has always been a cross-party one.

As the right hon. Gentleman says, the bid had the full backing of local authorities in Yorkshire, the police, transport companies and the whole business community. A public campaign was launched to encourage people to show their support for the Yorkshire bid, and it has received more than 170,000 pledges. We have had great support from our regional media—the Yorkshire Post, ITV, the BBC, Thomson Press and Ackrill Media. Even French President Francois Hollande backed Yorkshire’s bid to host le Tour following a meeting with the Leader of the Opposition in Paris.

The Government have challenged the country to embrace localism. Yorkshire has taken that challenge and won the most incredible event for the UK and the north. Many people have been involved, and I again pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), the hon. Member for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland) and many other right hon. and hon. Members and noble Members of the House of Lords who have shown their support. My hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams) hosted

18 Dec 2012 : Column 167WH

the Paris organisers of the Tour de France, and anyone who knows him will know that that was a very good evening.

The person who did the deal—it is important to put this on the record—is Gary Verity, the chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, with his team, and also Tom Riordan, chief executive officer of Leeds city council. When I met Gary Verity and Christian Prudhomme, race director of le Tour, at St Pancras earlier this year, following their whirlwind tour of many of the jewels of Yorkshire, I saw how positive the chemistry and trust between them was. I therefore knew several months ago that we had a good chance of getting the deal. Gary and his team have delivered a great opportunity for Yorkshire, and have again proved that we must ensure that their future and funding is secure.

We do not yet know exactly where the grand départ will be—we will find out in the coming months—but one thing is certain. As my hon. Friend the Member for York Outer (Julian Sturdy) has said, the Tour will travel through some of the most beautiful towns and villages in the land.

Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley) (Con): I thank my hon. Friend for securing this debate on the world’s biggest bike race. In 2014, its grand départ will be in west Yorkshire, an honour and a privilege of which we are all very proud. Full details of the route will not be announced until next month, but does he agree that challenging cycle routes—such as the UK’s longest gradient in the Calder valley, at Cragg vale—and the many hilltop villages around the Calder valley would be excellent venues for cyclists and would bring huge value to the local economy?

Julian Smith: I am sure that the Calder valley will be at the top of the short list for the route.

I regularly see cyclists from all parts of the world touring through the Yorkshire dales and Nidderdale, along such world-renowned routes as Greenhow hill outside Pateley Bridge. We could add the starting point in Leeds—Britain’s second financial centre—the industrial heartlands of south Yorkshire, the north Yorkshire moors, the historic cathedral cities of York and Ripon, the gateway to the dales of Skipton and the coastal roads of the east coast. From Harrogate to Selby, Keighley to Halifax, Huddersfield to Masham, the list of places the Tour could go is endless. We could host the whole thing in Yorkshire, not just the grand départ—perhaps, though, we are getting a little ahead of ourselves.

England’s largest county—God’s own—will wow the world and provide exceptional terrain and challenge for the grand départ and the first two stages. With world heritage sites in Fountains abbey and Saltaire and hundreds of homes and attractions, we will entertain the millions of visitors we expect to receive. In addition to the big attractions, we have thousands of smaller tourism businesses across our region already e-mailing to say that they are getting bookings for early July. Heslaker farm, Yorkshire Dales Ice Cream, Theakstons and Black Sheep will all give a warm welcome to visitors. The Tour stages in 2014, in Yorkshire, will be the best ever.

We also have some of the most passionate sports fans in the country. When the Olympic torch passed through Yorkshire, we had double the national daily average of

18 Dec 2012 : Column 168WH

people watching elsewhere in the country. With millions being invested by the Government in better broadband across north Yorkshire, we are creating the infrastructure to make the event a success. The Government have invested in the Northern Hub, bus services and other transport links. We are even asking our world famous Yorkshire bishops to assist with the weather.

This morning at Westminster, right hon. and hon. Members from across the House are forming a Yorkshire and UK Tour de France all-party parliamentary group to ensure that this place gives all the support that it can. There are 54 MPs from Yorkshire alone, which is nearly 10% of the House of Commons.

Before the Olympic games, people often said to me, “It is great, but it won’t mean much for Yorkshire.” Even the most hardened critic will now admit that they were wrong. I am talking about not just the feel-good factor of the games themselves or the economic boost from people coming to the UK, but the lasting legacy. With the Tour de France win, we will see Yorkshire as the centre of focus for 2014, with other parts of the UK benefiting as well. Less than two years after London 2012, we can look forward to another of the world’s biggest sporting events coming to this country, but this time it is coming to the north.

In 2007, the Tour stages in the south-east of England were worth £88 million. Bringing the grand départ to Yorkshire will be worth more than £300 million. For an area of Britain that has weathered the global economic storm but is finding things tough, the event will make a real difference. Businesses big and small across Yorkshire now need to be on red alert to take advantage of all the procurement and support services that will be needed. As Members of Parliament, we will provide all the help that we can, and I hope that the Government will play their part.

From ice cream to beer, hotel rooms to office support, there will be huge opportunities, but there will be broader potential to benefit, too. This is the most watched sporting event, with more than 3.5 billion viewers worldwide. More than 185 countries around the world show the Tour de France every year on 92 different television channels, with the last hour of every stage broadcast live across western Europe.

Yorkshire businesses that currently work abroad or that would like to do so in the future should think of this event as the biggest shop window there is. It will be a great advertisement to companies and people elsewhere in the world who have not heard of Yorkshire and who are looking for a UK base and who want to relocate in the north. It will also be good for the health of our region. We need to get out and exercise more; the Yorkshire Tour will vastly expand the number of bike routes and promote exercise and activity to all.

Yorkshire’s legacy plans are already being discussed and formalised. They include a bike bank, so all children in Yorkshire have access to a bike. There will be more investment in cycle lanes and cycle infrastructure across the county. There will be a cultural festival, too, celebrating both cycling and Yorkshire art and culture. Yorkshire has so much to offer the world, and we now have the chance to showcase that on an unbelievable scale. From literary buffs to entrepreneurs and from couch potatoes to exercise fanatics, le Tour has the potential to change lives.

18 Dec 2012 : Column 169WH

We are incredibly proud and pleased to be hosting the Tour. There will be a celebratory dinner in Leeds on 17 January to which the Minister has been invited. There is much work to be done over the year ahead to plan the route. As I said at the start, this has been a team effort. Although UK Sport may not have been part of the Yorkshire bid, I was delighted that the Minister for Sport promised to back it 100% if we made it. Yes, Yorkshire has got this far on its own, but to make the very best of the event, we need Government support as well. Will the Minister outline the areas in which the Government will help? How do we get every Department behind this event? How do we ensure that we learn everything from the Olympics and London 2012 and transfer that to the Tour in 2014? How do we ensure that the regional growth fund, skills funding, roads funding and broadband are all right behind the Yorkshire Tour; that UK Trade and Investment makes the most of inward investment opportunities and exports; and, most importantly, that UK Sport, British Cycling and other bodies get behind this win financially?

We want to use this event to help rebalance the British economy, and we need the Government’s help to do so. As one of Britain’s great Sports Ministers, I am confident that my right hon. Friend will rise to the challenge, and I look forward to his response. I urge him to meet me, the bid team and other right hon. and hon. Members this week, and I look forward to his being part of this great event, as he was with the Olympics, showing that this Government are the Government for Sport.

I can already state with confidence that Yorkshire’s Tour de France stages will be a world-beating event. When everyone talked about a lasting Olympic legacy, this must surely be it. I thank London 2012 for setting the bar so high, but if it thought that the world got a great reception from the capital, just wait until it gets the Yorkshire treatment in 2014.

9.47 am

Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): I pay tribute to my colleague and neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith), whose constituency I see every time I turn right out of my front door. For me, one of the great pleasures of living in Leeds North West is that it borders both the constituency of the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), where this historic event will start, and the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon. As he knows, when I stand on Otley Chevin, which is a famous hill for cycling, and look down Wharfedale, I can see the north Yorkshire moors, the white horse of Kilburn, the Yorkshire dales, the Yorkshire wolds and the Pennines—all the incredible and wonderful countryside that Yorkshire has to offer.

Friday 4 December is a special day that many of us will remember for a very long time. To win for Yorkshire the grand départ of the Tour de France has been an absolutely sensational coup and an incredible achievement. I want to add my thanks to the team that secured it for our region and pay tribute to their remarkable energy, grit and passion. In particular, I thank Gary Verity of Welcome to Yorkshire and his team, and Tom Riordan, the chief executive of Leeds city council, and his team. I also want to mention the support from all the councils,

18 Dec 2012 : Column 170WH

the chambers of commerce, the business community, the trade unions and the local people, 170,000 of whom “Backed le Bid” online.

As a Leeds MP, I am bursting with pride at the thought that this world-famous event—the biggest sporting event in the world—will start in our home city of Leeds. It is almost hard to take in. Leeds beat Florence, Barcelona and Edinburgh, and it was chosen because it would deliver a better grand départ 2014. That is quite remarkable.

I was delighted to be asked by Welcome to Yorkshire and Leeds city council to be one of the three MP ambassadors, working with my colleagues, my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon and the right hon. Member for Leeds Central. As has been described, the three of us were asked to play a role in promoting the project here, on a political level, and to show that there was support from all the Yorkshire MPs. The turnout in Westminster Hall today reflects that support.

That is why I am delighted that we are to set up a new all-party group, so that we MPs do everything we can—and not only in Yorkshire; it is important to remember that le grand départ will, of course, go from Yorkshire to London. I noted that the Mayor of London rightly welcomed the fact that the Tour de France’s grand départ will have a stage in London. That is great for the capital, but he should have the grace to remember that it was Yorkshire that won that stage for London. It would be appropriate for him to thank the organisers for delivering a stage of the Tour de France in London, because it was Yorkshire that won this bid, and it won it alone.

Back in July, I went to dinner at the delightful Yorebridge house in Bainbridge to meet a legend, Brian Robinson, the first British man ever to complete the Tour de France—a Yorkshire man. He was also the first British man ever to win a stage of the Tour de France. His passion is still for cycling, and his drive—along with that of the other people who have already been mentioned—was inspiring. The scenery that people travel through in Yorkshire really speaks for itself. For a comparison, we might look at what the Commonwealth games did for Manchester. That is precisely what we believe we can achieve in Leeds and Yorkshire as a result of this event.

I am delighted to have a real cycling heritage in Leeds, which is a city with many cycling clubs. In my constituency, there is the Otley Cycle Club; Otley has developed a reputation as a national centre for cycling and as a famous British cycling town. Of course, that was cemented when the first British medal of London 2012 was won by Lizzie Armitstead from Otley in a road race. She became the first Olympic medallist ever from Otley. There is the Otley annual road race, Otley Sportive and a real sense that cycling is one of the main sports of the town.

Of course, MPs today will all be getting excited about what the route of le grand départ might be, and whether it will go through their constituency. The organisers will have to make the decision based on what works best for the race; that is right and proper. However, I am sure that they agree that it is really exciting to have this speculation, and we are all hugely excited. I have already had e-mails from people saying where the race should

18 Dec 2012 : Column 171WH

be; that is the excitement that winning the bid has already generated in Yorkshire. That excitement will only build as we approach 2014.

I need to ask a couple of questions of the Minister, because it is important to know that this bid was won entirely by Yorkshire on its own. As I said, that was a sensational coup, and as has already been said—I am sure it will be reiterated by us all—what we want to hear from the Minister, now that the Tour has been won for Yorkshire and the UK, including London, is that the Government, UK Sport and British Cycling will give a full and proper commitment, equalling that of the commitment that would have been made if Scotland had won the bid.

I am sure that the Minister has already passed his congratulations to the team from Yorkshire, and he might suggest to the Prime Minister that he write to the Back le Bid team about their incredible achievement. The Prime Minister may have done so already. I was pleased to see his tweet welcoming the successful Yorkshire bid. As a Yorkshire MP, the Deputy Prime Minister also welcomed it in a statement. Could the Minister share his letter of congratulations and that of the Prime Minister with the new all-party group, because we are keen to see congratulations being rightly given to Yorkshire for delivering something on its own to the UK?

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Hugh Robertson): Let me clear that one up straight away. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right; as soon as the result of the bid was announced at the end of last week, the Prime Minister was quick to add his congratulations, and we put out a press release that afternoon, congratulating the bid team.

Let me address another issue that I think one or two people have quite skilfully ducked around: financial assistance. We will come on to what the Government can do to assist the process in due course, but just be aware that the money—the £1.7 million—that was committed to the Scotland bid is national lottery cash. It is not within the gift of Government to allocate that money directly, because that would break the additionality principles under which the lottery was set up, and under which it has operated under successive Governments. It falls to the Government to set the general parameters. We were able to ask UK Sport to increase the amount of money in the major events pot, which it has done very successfully; now £27 million resides there. It is not up to the Government to allocate that funding directly.

Greg Mulholland: I thank the Minister; that is very helpful. I thank him again for his role in securing the funding for the rugby league world cup, which is the next major international sporting event on these shores. I am sure that, in his role and with his passion for sport, he can assist in securing such events. However, a lot of that is about having the formal backing of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, of the Government and of UK Sport.

I have one question to put gently to the Minister. When it was clear that the Yorkshire bid was an absolutely superb one, and as it emerged that it had a real chance of success for 2014, why did DCMS and UK Sport not

18 Dec 2012 : Column 172WH

decide to say, “We think this is looking very positive, and perhaps we should now look at supporting it publicly”? There are perhaps lessons there for the future.

However, what is important now is to go forward. I urge the Minister to use his role to speak with UK Sport. Some of its officials’ recollections of the meetings with Welcome to Yorkshire do not exactly tally with those of Welcome to Yorkshire officials, and it is important that we clarify that matter, so that we can find a way of using both organisations, because in the end this is a huge opportunity, as the Minister knows, for UK sport, for British cycling, for the sport of cycling, and—as my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon has already said—for the economy of Yorkshire and the UK. Of course, a lot of that is to do with legacy. Legacy has already been mentioned; it is incredibly important. I believe that there will be a festival of cycling for Leeds at the time of the grand départ, which is a thrilling prospect; there will also be the bike bank. There is a huge opportunity, and we need to put that legacy plan in place now.

I will conclude, as I know that other colleagues wish to express their delight and add their congratulations on this historic win. I just want to put this in perspective: this is the first year that a British man has ever won the internationally famous blue-riband event that is le Tour de France. It was a remarkable achievement. For a team from Yorkshire to then secure the first ever staging of the Tour in the north of England, and only the second ever staging in the UK, in the same year is a remarkable and historic achievement. We want to make this event as big a success as possible, in terms of sport, health and the economy. We look forward to working very closely with the Minister, with UK Sport and with British Cycling, to ensure that this incredible event achieves everything that it can, and that we know it will.

9.58 am

Nigel Adams (Selby and Ainsty) (Con): Thank you, Mr Gray, for calling me to speak.

It is a pleasure to take part in this debate. May I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith) on having his crystal ball to hand when he applied for this debate? It is great news that one of the world’s greatest sporting events will be starting in our county in 2014.

When I first heard that Yorkshire was going to bid for the grand départ, I thought to myself, “Mais non! C’est pas possible!” However, I did not reckon on the guile, the craft and the salesmanship of Welcome to Yorkshire. Everyone at our tourism body deserves credit for winning the bid. We have singled out Gary Verity, who did a fantastic job leading the bid, but I would also like to mention Peter Dodd, who did a fantastic job supporting Gary along the way. They should be rightly proud of what they have done; they have turned a rank outsider into a winning bid, and they should be congratulated. Welcome to Yorkshire has a history of delivering success, winning the award for the world’s leading travel marketing campaign three years running and winning the award for Europe’s leading travel marketing campaign twice. It beat worldwide brands such as Expedia and Thomas Cook, tourism organisations such as Visit London, and countries such as Spain and Denmark.

18 Dec 2012 : Column 173WH

It was only when I met Gary, Peter and their contacts from France to discuss the bid that I reckoned that Yorkshire had a serious chance of securing it. However, I was disappointed to receive a straight bat from the Government when I raised the prospect of supporting Yorkshire’s bid in the House before the summer. I was a little more disappointed that UK Sport did not appear to want to engage with the bid, not even with a supportive letter. Well, it looks like UK Sport backed the wrong horse.

The 5 and 6 July will be fantastic for the north of England, and particularly for Yorkshire, as Leeds will host the grand départ. Two stages of the Tour will need to go somewhere, and I hope the Amaury Sport Organisation, the race organiser, is listening to the debate; indeed, I am sure it is. I want briefly to make the case for part of the Tour to come to my area.

Julian Smith: In French.

Nigel Adams: I thought about giving the whole speech in French, but I decided, for reasons of expedience, to deliver it in English.

Selby has a fantastic cycling history. It also has links with France going back more than 950 years, and I will list a few. Members will be intrigued to hear that the town of Selby was founded by a French Benedictine monk—in fact, it was Benedict himself—in about 1067. The fourth son of William the Conqueror, who was French, of course, would go on to become King Henry I, and he was born in Selby, becoming the only English-born Norman monarch. Selby abbey’s patron saint is St Germain, who was based in Auxerre, and evidence suggests he visited Selby.

Julian Smith: Was St Germain a cyclist?

Nigel Adams: I do not believe he cycled, but the name of Garmancarr lane, which is in the village of Wistow, is a corruption of Germain’s carr. As I am sure my hon. Friend is aware, carr means low-lying washland. The lane’s name therefore suggests that St Germain held land in the Selby area.

The scientist Smithson Tennant was assisted in discovering two chemical elements in 1804 by two French chemists. Cochrane’s shipyard built many of the ships and supplied some of the barge men for the D-day landings, which made the liberation of France possible—mind you, we also built the ships that helped us defeat the French at Agincourt.

Mr James Gray (in the Chair): Order. While I am hesitant to interrupt the hon. Gentleman’s speech, which I am very much enjoying, it might help hon. Members to know that six or seven Members still hope to speak. Therefore, it might be courteous if Members could keep their remarks as short as they reasonably can.

Nigel Adams: Mais oui, Mr Gray.

Mr James Gray (in the Chair): No, not maybe—definitely. [Hon. Members: “No, ‘Mais oui.’”] Ah, mais oui.

Nigel Adams: The Tour de France last visited the UK in 2007, when London hosted the grand départ. It is estimated that the Tour brought £90 million to the

18 Dec 2012 : Column 174WH

capital and the south-east. It has been suggested that Yorkshire could benefit to the tune of over £100 million, and perhaps much more with the Government’s backing. As we have heard, the bid had the backing of local authorities, MPs from across the parties, the business community and the area’s people, 170,000 of whom signed the bid. The legacy plans are already being discussed. As we have heard, we are looking at delivering a bike bank and at improved investment in cycle lanes and infrastructure. I hope the Minister will take away the message that, having won the bid, Yorkshire could benefit from financial support in the run-up to the Tour. Although no funding was forthcoming during the bid, I can assure him that any help received now will produce an outstanding return on investment.

This is Yorkshire’s opportunity to welcome the world, and we will do it properly. With the recent success of British riders such as Bradley Wiggins, who became the first Briton to win the Tour, the popularity of cycling has never been higher. I myself have recently dusted down my old boneshaker, although I do not aspire to wear the yellow jersey. I am confident that this fantastic event will inspire more people to take up cycling and that millions of people will cheer on the champions of world cycling in our great county.

10.5 am

Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): It is a pleasure to take part in the debate under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith) on securing it. I feel something of an intruder, as a Lincolnshire yellow belly, although my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy), who has one foot in Lincolnshire, has also come along to the debate.

On being elected to the House, I never anticipated that I would make a speech in favour of the Tour de France passing through Lincolnshire, so this is somewhat bizarre. The ideal route to get out of Yorkshire, should any of my colleagues wish to do so, is over the Humber bridge. That iconic construction would make a fantastic advert for the civil engineering skills of British industry.

My hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon mentioned that good things come out of Yorkshire, and I have to admit that that is occasionally true, as my wife is from Sheffield. In fact, she comes from a cycling family, and our recent research into our family history indicates that a great or a great-great-uncle—we are still working on it—cycled in the Olympics in the early 1920s, so there is a family connection to cycling.

As I mentioned, the ideal route for those heading south after the delights of the Yorkshire countryside would pass over the Humber bridge. It would then head to the winner of Britain in Bloom, and the east coast’s premier resort, Cleethorpes. From there, the beauty of the Lincolnshire wolds opens up—an area of outstanding natural beauty with magnificent landscapes. The route would then head towards the county town of Lincoln, with its magnificent cathedral high on the hill—it is perhaps even greater, dare I suggest, than York minster.

Julian Sturdy: I, like my hon. Friend, will make the case for my area. York is a great, historic city, and York minster will make an amazing backdrop for one of the stages of the Tour de France. However, the important

18 Dec 2012 : Column 175WH

thing across the region is not where the stages will be held, but the economic benefit to the north of England and, dare I say it, the country. Even Lancashire might benefit slightly—[Hon. Members: “Oh.”] I say that with a bit of trepidation. However, the important point is the economic benefit the Tour will bring across the region and the country, and I urge everyone, including the Government, to back it.

Martin Vickers: I welcome my hon. Friend’s intervention. He knows the glories of Cleethorpes, having travelled there only a few months ago in support of my local party, so he can testify to the town’s magnificence. He is quite right to draw attention to the fact that the Tour is a great opportunity to boost our local economies, and I urge all the agencies—tourism boards, local authorities and local enterprise partnerships—to get together and to work closely with the Government and sporting organisations. This is a tremendous opportunity to give a much needed boost to some areas of northern England.

If we can pull this off and get the tour to pass not only through the great county of Yorkshire, but down into Lincolnshire, that will again emphasise the closeness of their links. I urge the Government to co-ordinate every possible agency to work on that so that we can benefit the whole economy.

10.10 am

Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith) on securing the debate, so that we can celebrate the success. It is excellent news that in 2014 we will welcome the grand départ into Yorkshire. It is a wonderful end to a wonderful sporting year. I also add my congratulations to Gary Verity and the Welcome to Yorkshire team, on the work they did to secure the bid.

The tour is one of the great sporting spectacles of the world, and it is a real coup for it to be coming to Yorkshire. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams) that we started the bidding process as outsiders. I know that the tour has visited other countries for its grand départ before, but it has not been in the UK since 2007, and it will be the culmination of a wonderful year for cycling in the UK. The success will bring our county significant benefits in three areas: business, tourism and sporting opportunity.

As to business, huge numbers—predicted to be in the millions—will come to watch and stage the event, which will provide huge inward investment. For tourism the opportunity is slightly longer term. I am a proud Yorkshireman and I know that we have the most beautiful county in the country. We are not called God’s county for nothing. The landscape of Yorkshire will provide a spectacular backdrop for the varied racing: great climbs and sprints, and the great TV that the tour always makes, which the organisers are adept at providing. I am sure, also, that that showcase will add to tourism demand well after the peloton has moved on. We also have a great sporting opportunity—to encourage people to start cycling, to highlight our area for cyclists, to create more cycle routes and to show that cycling is both good for you and fun. There are not many things that that can be said about.

18 Dec 2012 : Column 176WH

Mr Gerry Sutcliffe (Bradford South) (Lab): I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman speaks of cycling as he does, because it has led the way, in the context of how sports are viewed. Cycling was going nowhere, but it has now become a fantastic competitive sport that we do wonderfully well at, across the gamut, and people enjoy all forms of cycling. The point is well made.

Andrew Jones: I agree that cycling presents fantastic opportunities to participate at an elite or social level. It is a spectacular sport for people to get involved in. The question now is the route that the tour will take. The correct answer is of course through Harrogate before heading off to Knaresborough, and then Boroughbridge and various other villages. We have a great claim to be part of the route because Harrogate and Knaresborough is one of the spiritual homes of cycling in the UK. You may not realise, Mr Gray, that the Cyclists Touring Club was founded in Harrogate, and a plaque in the town centre commemorates that event. It was founded as the Bicycle Touring Club on 5 August 1878, before being renamed the Cyclists Touring Club a few years later, to accommodate tricycles. Beryl Burton, who I am sure hon. Members will know was five times world champion for individual pursuit, used to race for Knaresborough.

Cycling in Harrogate and Knaresborough has grown almost exponentially in the past few years, with groups such as Wheel Easy leading some of that demand. I hope that the winning of the bid will mean that we take the opportunity to increase investment in cycling, by giving it more weight in transport planning and giving more encouragement to younger cyclists. We need improved cycling facilities to be built into plans for major development—especially commercial ones and expanding transport hubs. We have the opportunity to make a lasting difference to cycling across the county and the country.

The competition for the grand départ was extremely intense. Le bid was a great piece of work. We owe thanks and congratulations to all the team who delivered it. Let us hope that it will inspire future generations. Part of that will be the encouragement of future success through participation in cycling. That will be the legacy of this win.

10.14 am

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship today, Mr Gray. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith) for securing the debate and for the work that he and others have done on the bid. I pay tribute, too, to Welcome to Yorkshire, which I believe is the only tourism body in the UK that receives no Government funding. It does a fantastic job for our county and region, promoting them both within the UK and internationally. We have heard in the past few minutes how successfully it has done that.

I want to echo my colleagues’ call for the Government to get behind this race now, because potentially it will have a dramatic impact on the local economy. We certainly need that now. I look forward to welcoming the race, wherever it goes in Yorkshire. However, it would be wrong of me not to extol the virtues of the beautiful East Riding of Yorkshire—and, indeed, north Lincolnshire, as I have, as my hon. Friend the Member

18 Dec 2012 : Column 177WH

for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) said, a foot in both camps. I live, however, in the East Riding of Yorkshire—not that I favour either, of course. We would love a stage of the race to come to the East Riding of Yorkshire, and, indeed, within a few minutes of the announcement, I was e-mailed by people asking whether we could get the race to our area. Councillors John Barrett and Caroline Fox, who represent the Snaith, Airmyn, Rawcliffe and Marshland ward, in my constituency, put to me a detailed plan of how the route could come from Selby via the A19, the A645 or the A1041 down into Snaith.

Stuart Andrew (Pudsey) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that if the riders went in that direction they would miss the opportunity to come to the Pudsey constituency? Despite the danger of turning the event into the Tour de Yorkshire, I must point out that they would miss the opportunity of seeing the home of real Yorkshire fish and chips, which was of course Harry Ramsden’s based in Guiseley—now run excellently by Wetherby Whaler.

Andrew Percy: I think, as we say in Parliament, my hon. Friend has made his point.

As I was saying, I received a detailed proposal about how, coming from Selby, the race could come through Snaith into Goole. We had a fantastic day when the Olympic torch came to Goole. As my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon mentioned, the crowds in Yorkshire were twice the size of those in the rest of the country. On the morning that we welcomed the torch to Goole, I could not believe how many people had come to support the event. The race could come down and across into the beauties of the rest of the East Riding and over the wolds. My hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart), who cannot be here today because he is chairing the Select Committee on Education, supports that idea. The route could then go across the Humber bridge, which is free to cycles—and £1.50 for cars. It used to be £3, but the Government provided the cash to halve that, following a strong campaign by me and my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes. Then it could go across and round Scunthorpe, and back into south Yorkshire—although my hon. Friend did a wonderful job of trying to steal the entire race for Lincolnshire.

Those are a couple of proposals, but as other hon. Members have said, wherever the route goes in our region, the race will be well supported and a huge success. If it does not come to my constituency or our area, we will get behind it just the same. When we put the press releases out for the petition, several residents contacted me to say they would sign up and get behind the cause. We are all on the same page in our region on the matter. It is a fantastic region and everyone has said how beautiful it is; I do not need to repeat that. I thought that we were going to have a gradient argument earlier, about which area had the biggest. Sadly, I cannot win on gradients, representing as I do the former marshland of Brigg and Goole, but we have a mix of wide open spaces, the coastline, rolling hills and the steep hills of the Pennines. We have got all we need to make the event successful.

I congratulate everyone behind the bid on their work. It is staggering in many ways that it was done by volunteers, and I hope we get Government support. Having made a bid and a pitch for my own patch to be

18 Dec 2012 : Column 178WH

part of the event, I hope that, if not the Tour de France—perhaps it should be the Tour to t’France if it is coming to Yorkshire—future events that we would hope to attract to our region could come to the Brigg and Goole constituency.

I look forward to hearing how the Minister will get behind the event and get full Government support, with perhaps even a bit of cash as well. Being Yorkshire folk, we are a bit tight with our own money, so we would like some from the Government. The event will be fantastic for our region—I think we all agree that its impact on our economy will be pretty big—and I again pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon for securing the debate.

10.20 am

Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): It is an absolute honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith) on securing this important debate and on being instrumental in forming the all-party group, which will massively support this exciting venture. I add my thanks to Gary Verity, Peter Dodd and all the team at Welcome to Yorkshire, and also to Tom Riordan. They have had amazing vision, and determination to win the bid, against all the odds, for Yorkshire. This really is an exciting time for our part of the world.

I am not surprised by the interest shown here this morning. There are, I think, a dozen coalition Back Benchers here, and it is amazing to see so much support. The support and interest are not surprising, however, because we all know that cycling is the new rock and roll, and on Sunday evening I had a quick chat with its current lead singer, Bradley Wiggins, at the BBC sports personality of the year awards. I raised the prospect of his cycling in Yorkshire on the Tour in 2014. I will not repeat exactly what he said—we have to remember, of course, that he comes from Lancashire way—but he indicated that he is really looking forward to cycling in Yorkshire.

We have a great history and heritage of cycling in Yorkshire. For example, did Members know that the first British stage winner of the Tour was the now 82-year-old Brian Robinson from Mirfield near Huddersfield? When I announced to some people last week that the Tour de France was coming to Yorkshire, a number of them said, “Tour de France, coming to Yorkshire? How can that work?”, but this will not be the first time that it has come to the UK. The Tour has already visited England three times, and each time the event has got bigger and better. It all started in 1974 with one stage on the Plymouth bypass. In 1994 there were two stages on the south coast and, as many Members have already mentioned, the grand départ came to London in 2007, with a time trial plus one road stage. We now have the grand départ coming to Yorkshire in 2014. It is estimated that Ken Livingstone invested £3.5 million in the 2007 bid, and London got a financial return in excess of £85 million.

Greg Mulholland: I want to reiterate a point I made earlier that ties in perfectly with that. London will once again host the event, but it has not put a penny in. That is fine, because Yorkshire won the bid, but if that is not an argument for Yorkshire getting some investment from central Government in London, I do not know what is.

18 Dec 2012 : Column 179WH

Jason McCartney: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. When we talk about investing money, the issue is the kind of return we will get, and that is why I made that point. The event will be excellent value for money. For each pound put in, the multiples that we can get back for the local economy and tourism will be amazing.

Yorkshire could gain—we have heard this figure already —in excess of £300 million in direct revenue, plus masses of media exposure and subsequent tourism benefits. Some 3.6 million people in Britain watched the live coverage of Bradley Wiggins’ historic win on the Tour this year. With more than 1,500 hours broadcast in more than 160 countries and an estimated TV audience of 2 billion viewers worldwide, the Tour de France has reached truly global proportions; that is what Yorkshire can look forward to in 2014. As well as benefits to tourism resulting from spectators, teams and the whole tour entourage coming here, there will of course be the focus of the world’s media from now until 2014, and the opportunity to highlight our area as a place for cyclists to come to and ride in, either on their own or on organised rides.

We have yet to have the route confirmed, but I will continue to bang the drum—as many colleagues have this morning—for the route to sweep through my constituency, the beautiful Colne Valley. We have a gruelling gradient—the picturesque hill climb up to Holme Moss on the Pennines—and TV cameras would relish the opportunity to show off that picturesque Pennines panorama to the world. Holme Moss has already featured in the Tour of Britain and the Leeds classic road races. I remember standing outside the Red Lion pub in Jackson Bridge, where I lived with my family, watching the peloton swish past on the Tour of Britain in the 1990s. After the demise of the BBC’s “Last of the Summer Wine” TV series, which brought tourism to the Holme valley, this exciting and now prominent sport can help to re-energise the local tourism economy in my constituency.

My area has booming cycling participation, helped in no small way by the series of “pedal for pounds” charity bike rides organised by Huddersfield Town football club. Last year, I joined 168 charity cyclists in raising £200,000 for the Yorkshire air ambulance and the Huddersfield Town youth academy, as we cycled the 300 miles from Huddersfield to Brighton over three days. This year, even more cyclists took on the challenge and cycled from Yeovil back to Huddersfield.

My constituency is ready and all fired up to help to make the 2014 Tour de France grand départ just as successful as this year’s Olympic games, if not more so, and to leave a lasting legacy of participation and investment in the local Yorkshire community and the Yorkshire economy. Vive le Tour, and vive le Yorkshire!

10.26 am

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): It is a pleasure to join in this debate under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. I congratulate the hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith) on securing the debate. As has been said, congratulations are due all round, including, obviously, to Yorkshire for pulling off a coup in winning the bid from under the noses of British Cycling and UK Sport.

I agree with the hon. Member for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland) that it should not be forgotten that although the event will end in London—and the Mayor

18 Dec 2012 : Column 180WH

of London has welcomed that—this is very much Yorkshire’s bid and Yorkshire’s success. It is an example of what sport can achieve in generating economic activity away from the south-east. It is an enormous opportunity for Yorkshire—and the surrounding areas, as we have heard—to benefit from sport and bring in business, tourism and economic investment. Members who have spoken so far have shown no shortage of determination to achieve that, on the back of the bid.

Congratulations are due to Gary Verity, and to the chief executive of Leeds city council, who must be extraordinarily pleased that his city will host the grand départ of the Tour in 2014. I welcome the fact that there will be an all-party group, because the sporting event will gain enormously from Members of this House working together to maximise the benefits that the Tour can bring to Yorkshire and the surrounding areas. I hope that the group will be based on the Tour, rather than on Yorkshire, so that Members who want to participate and put their case can do so.

Greg Mulholland: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. My colleague, the hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith), and I had a meeting before this debate. As soon as the Tour details are announced on 7 January, we absolutely want people from all around the route to get behind the Tour being in the UK.

Clive Efford: I am grateful for those comments, which are reassuring. I assumed that that would be the case, and that we would all want to make the most of this tremendous sporting event, which comes on the back of not only an incredible year for British sport—I could spend the next half hour listing the successes in British sport in this golden year of 2012—with the Olympics and Paralympics, but outstanding success for cycling. Over the past decade, cycling has shown the way for other sports, as regards not only how to succeed at the elite end, thereby inspiring participation at all levels, but how to create a base of participation at grass-roots level.

In the Active People survey published two weeks ago, the figures for cycling stood out because of the success in steadily increasing weekly participation over a sustained period. Nearly 2 million people a week participate in regular cycling activity, which is a phenomenal achievement for cycling. Quite rightly, cycling has been recognised for that achievement in Sport England’s allocation of money, which was announced this week: there is to be a substantial increase to £32 million. That allocation recognises that cycling can deliver. Cycling has not only been successful in the past; the process of allocating money through Sport England is about what cycling intends to do in the future. The allocation is very much about all sports’ plans, and cycling clearly has something to contribute in the future, as regards increasing participation.

We have heard from hon. Members about the bid for the Tour to go to Yorkshire, and part of that bid was the proposal that cycling banks be set up across the community. I have been involved with a group that has got together entirely on its own initiative. In my constituency, people are enthusiastic about cycling, and the group will set up a cycling bank so that young people—indeed, people of any age—who do not have access to a bike can go cycling. More importantly, they are providing bikes

18 Dec 2012 : Column 181WH

adapted for people with disabilities, so that they, too, can enjoy the sport—sometimes with the assistance of other members of the club, cycling for them—on bikes that are specially adapted to take wheelchairs. Cycling is a growing area of sport, physical activity and community participation, and I am sure that the cycling banks played a significant part in the success of the Yorkshire bid.

Andrew Percy: The hon. Gentleman reminds me of something I forgot to say in my speech. He is right that the number of young people getting involved in cycling is growing massively. A couple of days ago, I hosted a meeting with 11-year-olds Rory Kershaw and Ben Lapish, who have come up with a proposal for expanding the trans-Pennine cycleway to our area. That demonstrates that many young people are passionate about cycling as a result of our recent victories.

Clive Efford: I am glad that I gave the hon. Gentleman that opportunity to finish his speech, and I am sure that the young men are grateful for his comment. I say that in the spirit of today’s debate.

I will not go through the list of colleagues who have spoken, because I am sure the Minister will want to mention every contribution. There were many questions for him to answer. The bid was entirely independent of UK Sport and British Cycling, and with that in mind, I sincerely hope that all parties involved can come together to discuss how we can get the best for the UK out of the significant, fantastic sporting event that is coming our way. UK Sport has an enormous amount of experience in organising and running major international sporting events, and its contribution will be significant. I am sure that UK Sport is willing to put behind it any differences there may have been over which preferred bid should have been supported, and to discuss the event with the organisers to ensure that it goes forwards. I know that is the same for British Cycling. As many of our top British cyclists supported the Yorkshire bid, I am sure there will be a swift coming together. Regardless of whether there was any significant difference of opinion, everyone will now be moving in the same direction and seeking to ensure that the event is an enormous success.

I cannot resist referring to the intervention of the hon. Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew), who extolled the virtues of fish and chips from his constituency; I assume that they will now be known as fish and French fries. I am sorry, but the temptation was just too great.

I sincerely wish every success for the event. Every one of us will work together to make it an enormous success, and not just for Yorkshire. The event is a well deserved success for Yorkshire, and it is an enormous shop window, as were the Olympics and Paralympics, to show off the UK. With London 2012, we successfully encouraged more visitors to come to the UK and more people to consider the UK as a place to do business. A survey published today by the British Council suggests that that is one of the major successes of 2012. A major international sporting event on the scale of the Tour de France, starting in Yorkshire and travelling south towards London, will be another enormous sporting event for this country, and hopefully it will be the start of an event that brings even more sporting success for this country. I am sure that all of us, working together, will achieve that success and bring benefits to the UK that will be sustainable in the long term.

18 Dec 2012 : Column 182WH

10.36 am

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Hugh Robertson): I start by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith) on securing this debate and on the way that he and other hon. Members have conducted it. The debate has been quite a lot of fun, which is a very good start.

I also welcome the formation of the all-party group, which, particularly given how things have developed, will be incredibly important, as the hon. Member for Eltham (Clive Efford) said, in bringing together disparate groups in order to make the event the success that it undoubtedly should be.

I will go through the various contributions and try to answer the questions that have been raised, but I will start with a few general remarks. I genuinely say this, and I have no worries at all: I congratulate Yorkshire wholeheartedly on pulling off the bid. To me it does not matter whether people wish to engage with the Government and Government agencies when making bids; what matters is who wins at the end. I absolutely, 100% congratulate Yorkshire on a stunning triumph. I may not have helped Yorkshire very much—I think my sole contribution was nearly standing on a Yorkshire terrier on the Champs-Elysées in July—but it was clear then, and in the way the bid was conducted, that Yorkshire was on to something that others possibly had not picked up. I wholeheartedly congratulate Yorkshire on that achievement.

There are a number of good years for cycling in front of us, and I will come on to that, but 2014 is an important year for this country any way with the Commonwealth games coming to Glasgow a month or so after the Tour de France, which will fit into the calendar very well.

Given the comments on the Olympics, I ought to congratulate Yorkshire on its contribution to London 2012, not only, as a number of hon. Members said, with the huge numbers of people who turned out to watch the torch, but with the number of Yorkshire athletes who secured medals during the competition. At the end of the first week, the joke doing the rounds was that Australia was being beaten in the medal table by both Yorkshire and Millfield school. At that stage, looking at the birthplaces of the athletes, Yorkshire was about fifth or sixth in the medal table, so it made a considerable contribution to the sporting summer, as would be expected from a county with such sporting tradition.

The hon. Member for Eltham touched on this, but while we are on the subject it is worth paying tribute to the work of British Cycling. No other sport in this country combines excellence at the top end with participation. The medal tally from London 2012 is extraordinarily impressive, given the dual achievement of winning the Tour and delivering medals across Olympic and Paralympic sports. Sarah Storey is now the most decorated Paralympian in Britain’s history. Our cyclists are an extraordinary success story. If we look at what they achieved in the Olympics and the Tour, they were the predominant sport at the BBC awards on Sunday night: not only did Bradley Wiggins win, of course, but David Brailsford, the performance director, picked up the coach of the year award.

18 Dec 2012 : Column 183WH

More than 2 million people cycle regularly. Dave Brailsford told me that he thinks more than 500,000 people have taken up the sport since our success in Beijing. As the hon. Member for Eltham correctly said, that has been recognised by Sport England, which has given a record award in the recent whole sport plans.

On major events, it is fantastic that the Tour is coming to Yorkshire in 2014, but Yorkshire has all sorts of opportunities to star next year as well. The rugby league world cup will be important to the county, and the Ashes are here as well. I am looking at my hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams); I cannot remember whether Headingley stadium is still being redeveloped—

Nigel Adams indicated assent.

Hugh Robertson: It is, so it has not got one of the tests. Yorkshire athletes will be involved in the world rowing championships and the world triathlon series, which will be held here next year, and possibly even in the champions league final, which is due to be held at Wembley next year. There is a lot for Yorkshire to look forward to.

I will run through the points raised, dealing first with the general ones. Can I nail a point that is taking off about it being a Government decision to back the Scottish bid? It is not a Government decision to back any of the bids. It is rare to have two competing bids for a sports event from the same country. Normally, the country sorts things out itself and uses whatever bid is most likely to succeed.

John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Julian Smith) on securing this debate. It is helpful to have the Minister confirm clearly that the Government did not back the Scottish bid, but if that was the case, will he now back the Yorkshire bid, and if so, how?

Hugh Robertson: I will come to that in a moment, but I want to ensure that people understand that the money that sits behind the backing of the bids is awarded by UK Sport, the lottery distributor on the Government’s behalf. As it is lottery money, it does not lie within the Government’s remit to allocate it directly. To do so would contravene the regulations in the National Lottery Act 2006. We can tell and have told UK Sport to increase the amount of money available—£27 million, financed by the changes to lottery shares introduced shortly after May 2010—but it does not lie in this or any other Government’s remit to then allocate that money to specific projects. To do so would break the additionality principle.

Greg Mulholland: I must bring the Minister’s attention to the worrying statement published yesterday by UK Sport that says, unless I have misunderstood it:

“UK Sport will consider providing Lottery funding towards the bidding costs”


18 Dec 2012 : Column 184WH

“staging costs of strategically important major events with a clear and demonstrable financial need. Investment will only be considered prior to bids being submitted and investment is made at UK Sport’s discretion.”

That sounds as if UK Sport is saying, “Well, you’ve won it now; we’re not going to back it.” That cannot be right. It would be absurd.

Hugh Robertson: Let me explain it to the hon. Gentleman. It is not absurd. It is a different sort of event, because it is not run by the International Cycling Union, the governing body that regulates world cycling, but by a private company. That puts it on a slightly different footing. I will come in a minute to what we can do to help.

The reason why UK Sport does not allow a free-for-all is that if it did, people would just bid on their own and then turn around and ask Government to fund it. That policy has remained unchanged through successive Governments since the formation of the lottery, and there are good reasons for it. The major events panel at UK Sport is full of people who understand the issues, including David Collier, chief executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board, who knows his way around major sports, as the results this week show. The board considers events, prioritises them and then sees how much support it can give.

We just launched the gold event series, which contains all the rules. The rules are there for good reasons, and they have produced a record number of major events. For the year 2015 alone, apart from the rugby world cup, we have secured the world artistic gymnastics championships, the world canoeing championships, the European hockey championships, the European eventing championships, the world rowing championships and the International Paralympic Committee world swimming championships. It is a successful and well-tuned machine. Clearly, something did not go right this time around, but that does not mean that the whole system is broken.

Moving to what the Government can do, I will absolutely ensure that UK Sport engages proactively with the bid team. It would help if the all-party group and MPs here in the Chamber took that message back. There was some indication that for commercial reasons, the bid team did not want to open up its books and show people what it was doing. Now that the bid is won, it is time for everybody to come together and work to deliver a successful bid. For my part, as the Minister, I will ensure that UK Sport offers the necessary technical support to help the work and bring British Cycling on board. I am sure that there will be no problems worth noting with that. It also backed the other bid, but we will ensure that the British sporting landscape is lined up behind the Yorkshire bid, and we will consider what can be done further. It will not happen, though, unless the bid team is now prepared to share all its financial details and various undertakings with UK Sport.

Julian Smith: I welcome the Minister’s offer to engage with the Yorkshire team. Can a meeting take place with him, me and the Yorkshire team to ensure that we frame things correctly for the months ahead?

Hugh Robertson: I am happy to give that undertaking, subject—as Ministers always say—to sorting out the diary. The beginning of next year is a pretty busy time, and I would not want it to drift back into February or

18 Dec 2012 : Column 185WH

March due to the difficulties of finding a spot. It would be a great help if he and others played a part in bringing that together.

It is a fantastic triumph; the challenge is how to take it forward from here. One thing I have learned from the 2012 process is that the successful delivery of major events rests largely on the strength of the partnerships created.

John Healey: What the Minister is saying is encouraging. I say to him and to the hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon that he has indicated that the all-party nature of the issue is important. On the Labour side, my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds East (Mr Mudie) and I are more than prepared to play a part in making the event a success in Yorkshire and for the country.

Hugh Robertson: I am grateful for that. We spent a lot of time during the autumn going around the world giving lectures on why London 2012 succeeded, and the first point in the lectures was the value of cross-party support. Amazingly, for a project so complex and difficult, it held from the period before the bid, in 2003-04, right through to 2012. As I often do, I pay enormous tribute to the work done by the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Dame Tessa Jowell), who played a key part. Whatever may or may not have happened in the bid, it is important that we move forward as one from here.

To run through the various points raised by hon. Members, I hope that I have covered most of the points mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon. It is worth having a look at the publication called the “Gold Event Series”, which lays out clearly what UK Sport can and cannot do. It is a fantastic document. As I said, he should bear in mind that whatever may or may not have happened on this occasion, the team responsible for delivery in UK Sport has produced a list of events coming to this country the like of which we have never seen. It is a high-grade operation and has done well.

I pay tribute to the work done by the hon. Member for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland) on the rugby league world cup, and I thank him for it. It will be a great success not only for the country but for Yorkshire. He spoke about the Leeds angle and made some points about London. Now that the bid is secured, this would be an extraordinarily good time to approach the Mayor’s office and his major events department to see precisely what financial muscle can be brought to bear.

My hunch is that the Yorkshire team must have presented a balanced budget for the whole event to secure it. In my experience, it is inconceivable that such events are ever awarded if there are holes in the budget. So the contribution from London, which must have been covered somehow in that bid, will be important. If there is not a London contribution thus far, I suggest that that ought to be investigated.

My hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty talked about UK Sport support. I hope that I have covered that.

The evaluation of this sort of thing is done independently, because lottery money is involved, through an organisation called the major events panel, on which people such as David Collier sit. That panel generally makes good decisions. It was frustrated that it was not given enough access early on to make a balanced decision. I suspect

18 Dec 2012 : Column 186WH

that there is little point raking this matter over now. Congratulations to Yorkshire on winning. The real issue is how we move forward together from here.

Julian Smith: I agree that we should move forward now. Will the Minister ask officials to clarify how many people on that board, making decisions for the big event, come from the north, so that for the future we are getting a broad representation of our whole country?

Hugh Robertson: I could do that. Certainly, as with all UK Sport decisions, the home nations are represented because it is a UK body. Under the terms in which it was set up, there will necessarily be representation from Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, and there will be a group of members, some of whom will be independent and others who will not be, from this part of the world. I am not sure that there is a lot to be gained by raking over the coals in respect of where this went wrong, given the special nature of this bid involving a private organisation, and so on. British Cycling, which is not renowned for making mistakes, appears to have backed another bid because, as it told me, it could not get sight of the Yorkshire proposals early enough to make a decision.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones) talked about transport planning, which is a fascinating issue. I suspect that, looking forward a couple of years from now at the extraordinary success of cycling and at the regrettably large number of people still being killed in collisions, we are getting close to a crossover point where there is such demand for cycling, in terms of closing roads and running amateur races at the weekend, that something pretty dramatic will have to happen. We will have to have a fairly major change of policy. If events such as this help to bring that about, that can only be a good thing.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy) spoke up for his constituency, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Jason McCartney). I think that the hon. Member for Eltham spoke for all hon. Members in his remarks about cycling.

Just to wrap it up, unless hon. Members want me to say anything in particular, I should like genuinely to congratulate Yorkshire. I am delighted, as UK Sports Minister, that we have secured another important, worthwhile major event. The team that pulled this off deserve all our congratulations. That said—I have learned this through London 2012—the successful delivery of a sports event of any size depends on the strength of the relationships and partnerships that are created. That is difficult. There were times in the run-up to 2012 when we had to bite our lips and wanted to lash out at somebody who was being frustrating, or we were getting a bit fed up with the bureaucracy or the time it took to do something. I am afraid that that is in the DNA of successful delivery of such events. It is important that the all-party group in particular advocates for the strength of the relationships and partnerships that will be needed to deliver this.

The key thing is that everybody, from this point forward, does everything possible. I assure all hon. Members in this Chamber that Government, UK Sport and British Cycling will do everything possible to ensure that this is a great success for Yorkshire and, I hope, one of the great grand départs of the Tour de France.

18 Dec 2012 : Column 187WH

Cornwall (Government Funding)

10.54 am

Dan Rogerson (North Cornwall) (LD): It is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. I am delighted to see the Minister in the Chamber and am grateful for his presence.

My topic is funding, generally, across Departments for public services in Cornwall and investment in it. The Duchy of Cornwall is peripheral to the rest of the United Kingdom, although it could be argued that the rest of the United Kingdom is peripheral to Cornwall, as I would tend to, in reference to the headline about the continent being cut off by fog. Cornwall has a proud history of independent spirit, resourcefulness and, surprisingly to some, given its rural nature, was one of the early areas in which the industrial revolution took place. Mining in particular and engineering in mining, and ideas from that, were exported—as were the miners—around the world. People of Cornish descent are found in South Africa, south Australia and Mexico, where the links between Cornwall and parts of Mexico where silver mining was undertaken by Cornish miners have recently been rekindled. Hon. Members will be delighted to know that they can buy a pasty in those parts of Mexico, although the fillings are slightly different from those we are used to in the traditional Cornish variety.

The population of Cornwall is just over 500,000. The recent census data show that people were keen to mark their Cornish identity. I am delighted that the Office for National Statistics allowed people to do that last time, although there was no tick box, despite my best efforts. Even though they had to know to tick “Other” and write it, more than 80,000 people, not all of whom were in Cornwall, decided to do that.

There is a significant population in a peripheral location that is, although the history of Cornwall is not just about the rural idyll, in many cases dispersed across the peninsula. There are challenges to providing services that are also experienced by other rural areas. Traditionally, there has been a lot of investment and involvement in primary resource-based industries, such as mining, fishing and farming, and also in engineering and manufacturing. There are still innovative manufacturers. There is now a lot more food processing in the area, which seeks to add value to the food that is grown. The manufacturer Zoeftig, a business in my constituency, makes airport seating that is also used in bus stations, and so on, all over the world, including in Australia. It was recently looking at contracts in the middle east and far east. All hon. Members should welcome the fact that a company in my constituency is exporting to China.

Tourism is important, too. The quality of the tourist offer has improved greatly. The food has changed beyond all recognition from the image of British food generally in the 1970s. The food manufactured in and exported from Cornwall is a strong brand and the restaurants are one of the many reasons that people holiday there.

We seek to benefit from the creative industries. Investment in broadband in Cornwall allows people to undertake such aspects of work far more. People relocate to Cornwall for the quality of life, bringing their businesses and creativity with them, which is all to the good.

18 Dec 2012 : Column 188WH

Cornwall has received European structural fund money, first, through the objective 1 programme and, more recently, through convergence. That has had an effect and post-2013 we will, potentially, be in line for more of that European funding, although the details will have to be negotiated between the Government and the European Union. That is not something that we are proud of, but it is a stated fact that the European Union recognises the position of Cornwall and the need for extra investment to allow it to catch up with other parts of the United Kingdom. The Government have also recognised that, most recently in the Chancellor’s autumn statement announcement on investment in infrastructure.

We are delighted that the A30 at Temple will be upgraded in the next few years and that the local authority are matching the money invested by Government through the Department for Transport, meaning that that infamous bottleneck, known by those who have visited Cornwall, will be dealt with. This is all to the good. However, a trend across many decades—it is not a new phenomenon; it has been there for a long time—is that various public services in Cornwall have received less public funding than those in other parts of the country. Historically, school per pupil funding, towards the tail end of the previous Parliament, was about £300 to £350 less than the national average.

We have similar problems with the grant from the Department for Communities and Local Government. In theory, we have a fair allocation but, historically, it does not take into account rurality, which is a key element for us across a range of services. The cost of providing services is increased because—as you may be familiar with in Wiltshire, Mr Gray—the dispersed populations mean that we have to replicate some services in a number of small market towns.

In policing, we ought to look at the issue of visitor numbers, which are not taken into account in the policing formula. There have been problems in Newquay—part of my constituency in the previous Parliament, but now in the neighbouring constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Stephen Gilbert)—which receives a big influx of young people in the summer. Huge steps have been taken to overcome some of the problems, but the costs of such initiatives are not reflected in the policing grant.

In policing as in other areas, the formula predicts that Cornwall ought to receive a certain amount of money, but it does not get it, so the infamous damping process comes into play. Although a distance from target is recognised, we never quite reach it because it is too difficult to take away money from overfunded areas to give it to underfunded ones. Last week, my hon. Friend the Member for St Ives (Andrew George) secured a debate on the specific aspect of health funding in Cornwall. He pointed out that from 2006 to 2012, according to Government figures, Cornwall was in receipt of £201 million less than the target. The money has gone up and there has been investment, but we are still a distance away from where we should be.

The funding formula is the first port of call for any MP looking at how his or her area is affected and at whether it is disadvantaged in some way. The key elements, which I have referred to in part, are worth exploring.

First, on deprivation, the funding formulas throughout the various Departments tend to look at the high cost of providing services to reach deeper into such communities

18 Dec 2012 : Column 189WH

and to support their people to achieve what they should be achieving and to overcome barriers. Deprivation is readily identified in the larger urban areas so, historically, Governments have tended to put money into those areas—quite rightly—to deal with their problems. In an area such as Cornwall, however, deprivation is sometimes harder to see. People who come on holiday will see the beautiful coast and what they imagine to be an idyllic lifestyle, but they are not as familiar with the low incomes or the high housing costs, in part driven by the large number of second homes. As the census figures revealed, Cornwall is by far the local authority area with the highest number of second homes, and that has a real impact on the housing market.

Historically, peripherality has been an issue with regard to transport costs. Although the level of aspiration might have been low in the past, I am delighted to say that that is changing: most Cornish families aspire hugely to see their young people do well. In many cases that means leaving Cornwall and going to do things elsewhere, which is fine—it is all part of the experience of growing up—but it would be good if there were opportunities for those young people to come back, relocate and bring their skills with them.

The second issue is sparsity. To provide a decent level of service, it must be provided not only in a central, readily accessible location but replicated in several market towns throughout the area, adding to the cost. In difficult times, when the public sector must do things as efficiently as possible, it might retract a little to core areas and expect users to travel greater distances to access services. Some people are in a position to travel those greater distances, but some are not.

The geography of Cornwall is such that on three sides, at three points of the compass, there is water. We cannot call many neighbours across the border to help. If there is an incident or problem, we have the border with Devon and that is it. Cornwall also gives support and help to the neighbouring authority of the Isles of Scilly, whose choices of where to go, what to do and who to call on are even more limited than ours. Peripherality, therefore, has a direct effect, such as for fire and rescue services. The delightful county of Bedfordshire, where I lived for a number of years, is centrally located and so, if there is an incident, it can call on neighbouring forces for help, but we cannot do that in Cornwall, other than for help for those on the rural border with Devon.

The first port of call for a lobbying MP is to consider the funding formula, which is what we are doing. I have been working alongside the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart), the Chair of the Select Committee on Education, in his examination of the issue of rural funding and rurality. We have asked Government, across Departments, about what they might do to reflect better our circumstances on the ground. We have had some success, and I am delighted that the coalition Government have made steps in that direction, looking at school funding to deal with unfairness and at how rurality can be reflected in localisation of business rates. So, success, wonderful, problem solved! However, we then come back to the dreadful damping business.

I accept that when money and investment in the public sector are restricted, it is harder to deal with the issue than at times of more cash being about, when one can ensure that areas that are behind catch up a little more quickly with areas that are ahead of where they

18 Dec 2012 : Column 190WH

should be. Unfortunately, such levelling-off did not happen under the previous Government when money was going in and they seemed to feel that a lot of it was around, so the gap remained. Now the coalition is having to deal with the deficit and to take some difficult funding decisions, so I accept that things are harder. My constituents, and those in other areas of the country with similar problems, expect a direction of travel according to which funding begins to approach where the target says we should be.

I called for the debate and asked for a Treasury Minister to respond because a number of Departments have a similar problem. Rather than have the same debate several times, I was hoping to suggest to the Minister that, when he talks to his hon. Friends in other Departments and has difficult discussions about the amount of money available and using it efficiently to get the most impact from investment in public services, he should say on the issue of damping, “We are giving you this money to deliver services throughout the country. You have quite rightly reviewed the formula by which you allocate that money to ensure that areas are getting what they need, what is fair and what constituents presumably feel entitled to. Also, where there is a gap between that target and the reality, there needs to be a direction of travel.” Over the next few years, therefore, we will be able to see some genuine gains for areas such as Cornwall—a bit late for the current spending review, but perhaps setting out progress towards the next one.

The Government are making capital investment and there is the prospect of a little more investment through European Union structural funds but, in addition, I hope that Cornwall can aspire to get the money to which it is entitled for policing, local government, health and education. Flooding is another, related example, which was mentioned to me by the local authority. Sadly, as elsewhere in the country, we have had some problems with flooding in Cornwall, although not in my constituency. The Bellwin formula used by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to give extra support to local areas operates on the basis of local authorities. In an area such as ours, where we now have a unitary authority, we have only one allocation for the council, whereas with two-tier authorities district councils are involved as well, which gives those areas more flexibility and more money per head of population. It is another example of how areas that have sought to be more efficient—unitary authorities, in times of public spending difficulty, have undoubtedly created efficiencies—are penalised when they seek to offer maximum support to communities that have suffered tragic flooding episodes.

I am grateful, Mr Gray, for the opportunity to raise this matter, and I hope that the Minister can address my concerns, particularly on damping, so that we can move towards obtaining the funding to which Cornwall and similar areas are entitled.

11.10 am

The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Mr David Gauke): I am grateful for the opportunity to speak again under your chairmanship, Mr Gray, and to discuss the issues raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Dan Rogerson). I congratulate him on securing this debate. He has been a vociferous campaigner for all things Cornish—the Cornish economy, the Cornish

18 Dec 2012 : Column 191WH

language and, more recently, the Cornish pasty. I am pleased to discuss Government funding for Cornwall today.

I will turn specifically to funding in my hon. Friend’s region shortly, but first I should like to talk more generally about the way in which Government funding is allocated throughout the UK, and to describe the changes we are making to encourage growth at national and regional levels. The 2010 spending review set out how the Government would carry out the UK’s deficit reduction plan over four years, and included fixed departmental budgets. We protected spending on the NHS, schools, and overseas aid, and we chose to prioritise fairness and social mobility, to focus on spending that promotes long-term economic growth, to reform public services, to shift power away from central Government to local level, and to improve value for money.

Some of those decisions at national level will have a significant impact in Cornwall. Having enjoyed a splendid holiday in my hon. Friend’s constituency a couple of years ago, I know that tourism is of considerable importance to Cornwall, although he is right to point out that its economy is much more than merely tourism; it is more diverse than that. We invested in the “Great” campaign, which was launched to deliver long-term trade and tourism benefits throughout Great Britain, and I am sure that Cornwall will benefit significantly from that.

The most important decisions for Cornwall have been those on local authority expenditure in the region—a point that my hon. Friend raised. Local authority expenditure is split between grants from central Departments, which are set in the spending review, and localised expenditure, which is largely funded by council tax. I am sure my hon. Friend will be pleased to note that during the current settlement period, Cornwall’s reductions in spending power have been smaller than the average in England. Spending power in the county fell by minus 3.3% in 2011-12 and minus 2.9% in 2012-13, compared with an average of minus 4.5% and then minus 3.3% for councils in England. I want to turn to the point my hon. Friend raised about the damping mechanism.

Dan Rogerson: I did not use all the time I might have done, so I hope that we can continue our discussion a little further. The problem for some areas such as Cornwall is that historically the council was run by independents who took a firm view on keeping the old rates down, so historically the area has low council tax, compared with counties such as Surrey. The Government are seeking to limit the impact of council tax rises—they have extended proposals for that through the Department for Communities and Local Government—but our base is already low, so there is an impact from that as well as the central grant.

Mr Gauke: My hon. Friend raises a fair point, and has put it on the record. I recognise that councils that have, over many years, shown greater determination to control their costs have less fat that can be cut than other authorities where that has not been the case.

On the damping mechanism, it is right that the Government must balance the interests of places with growing and declining needs, and Cornwall is an area with growing needs. Damping has been used to avoid

18 Dec 2012 : Column 192WH

steep jumps in council tax and demands on areas with declining needs. DCLG has consulted on a new funding system from 2013, and the Government have indicated that we want to move away from damping. My hon. Friend referred to rurality, and asked whether that is taken sufficiently into account. Again, DCLG has consulted on changes to the formula, and he will be aware that it will publish the draft local government finance settlement for 2013-14 for consultation shortly. It will set out funding amounts for each authority, and I am sure that my hon. Friend will be interested to read it. It will shed some new light on damping. I hope that he finds that helpful.

The formula exists for a reason—to strike a balance between the needs of areas with growing and declining populations—and it seeks to make an assessment that strikes that balance. We will say more about that shortly.

Dan Rogerson: Another area that the National Audit Office highlighted in its report on academy schools, particularly the early academies that were set up under the previous Government, is the generous settlement they were given, perhaps to encourage people to take a new step. However, as the number of academies has risen, there is an issue with that funding, which is perhaps over-generous compared with that for maintained schools. The report acknowledges that gap and the need for convergence, and the Minister’s ministerial colleague, Lord Hill, talked to us about that. The issue is the direction of travel, because the damping effect will be difficult to achieve.

Mr Gauke: All I would say about that is that the Department for Education is also looking at the school funding formula in the light of some of those issues, and I am sure that Education Ministers will respond in due course.

Until now, the main local authority grant from central Departments has been a formula grant distributed by DCLG through local government finance settlements. In line with our priority of encouraging growth, from April 2013, we will replace the current fairly complex formula grant regime with a business rates retention scheme to help provide a stronger local growth incentive. Councils that succeed in growing their local economy will have a direct boost to their coffers. Quite simply, the rationale behind the change is that we want to give individual councils, including those in Cornwall, every opportunity to promote growth. We want them to use their influence in planning, their investment in skills and infrastructure, and their relationship with local businesses to create the right conditions for local economic growth. This year’s local government finance settlement from April 2013 will be the first under the new arrangements.

The new scheme incorporates strong protections as well as incentives. There will be a safety net for places that, in any year, see their income from business rates fall by more than 7.5% below their baseline funding level. Following consultation, we have strengthened the incentive by ensuring that the maximum levy will be capped at 50p in the pound. That will mean that at least 25p in every pound of growth will be retained locally, and shared between billing authorities and any major precepting authorities. Recent economic analysis, carried out by DCLG, suggests that the proposals could deliver

18 Dec 2012 : Column 193WH

a £10 billion boost to gross domestic product by 2020. Obviously, that figure covers the whole UK, but the change will, I am sure, mean real benefit in Cornwall.

Having set out how the system works and the improvements that we are making, I shall quickly discuss the measures announced in this year’s autumn statement. Then I shall deal specifically with Cornwall. The autumn statement from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer contained measures to do three things: first, to protect the economy; secondly, to promote growth; and thirdly, to ensure fairness. As part of that statement, we have had to ask all areas of Government, including local authorities, to go further. For most areas of Government, that means an additional top-slice of 1% in 2013-14 and 2% in 2014-15. However, recognising that local authorities are already receiving a funding reduction from holding down council tax in 2013-14, and to support them in transforming services to meet future reductions, we took the decision to exempt local government from the top-slice in 2013-14.

However, looking towards long-term economic stability, we needed to be wary. Local government spending accounts for about one quarter of all public expenditure, so we have asked local government to join other Departments in absorbing the 2% cut to departmental expenditure limit grants in 2014-15—that is £447 million—and prepare for further reductions. The savings made thus far on administration, property costs and IT services across Whitehall have proven that significant savings can be found, and those savings will have a significant impact for the whole UK, because it was through them that we were able to announce a number of measures that will have positive impacts across the UK, including in Cornwall.

Dan Rogerson: I am grateful to the Minister for setting out the approach that the Treasury is taking in negotiation with other Departments. He is right to point out that local government is doing all that it can to achieve the targets, which are quite challenging. He refers to the potential reduction in future years of 2%. In line with the concept of fairness, which is at the heart of what the coalition is trying to do across income levels, is the geographical issue also being considered, so that those local authorities that have been more disadvantaged, as he acknowledged earlier, might feel slightly less of that pain than those that have been over-funded historically?

Mr Gauke: Again, I am inclined to refer my hon. Friend to the DCLG announcement to be made very shortly on the local government formula, and the consultation that will follow. I have no doubt that he will look closely at that. I do not think that he will have too long to wait before he has the opportunity to do so.

It is worth pointing out that the difficult decisions that we have made enable us to take a number of steps that will benefit the country as a whole, including Cornwall and the rest of the south-west. For example, the further increase in the personal allowance will benefit 2.1 million people in the south-west, lifting an additional 20,000 people out of income tax entirely; and 1.2 million pensioners will benefit from an additional £2.70 a week increase in the state pension. The significant temporary increase in the annual investment allowance from £25,000 to £250,000 will help businesses across the south-west.

18 Dec 2012 : Column 194WH

We announced £300 million of additional investment in empty homes and affordable homes across England. I know that housing is an important issue in Cornwall, and my hon. Friend has raised it. That announcement is in addition to more than £150 million of planned investment to build more than 9,000 new affordable homes in the south-west and return about 500 empty homes to use across the south and south-west.

We will invest further in flood defences—another point raised by my hon. Friend—and, significantly for households and businesses in Cornwall, we are cancelling the fuel duty rise planned for January 2013. That will help the owners of the 3.5 million motor vehicles in the south-west, saving a typical driver £40 a year and a haulier £1,200 a year. However, as my hon. Friend mentioned, that is not the only good news for motorists in and around his constituency. The autumn statement announced a number of key infrastructure projects, one of which involves the £30 million that we will contribute towards a 2.6 mile dualling of the single carriageway section of the A30 between Temple and Higher Carblake, which will include changes to junctions.

Dan Rogerson: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way again. He is being extremely generous, as was the Treasury with the project that he describes, although I have to acknowledge that half the costs will be funded locally, through local authorities. That is an excellent example of what he was talking about earlier: £30 million is coming from central Government and £30 million from local government. He also raised the issue of fuel duty. Again, I welcome the Government’s decision on that. I understand that they are also having discussions with the European Union in relation to what it has done for islands, such as the Isles of Scilly in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for St Ives (Andrew George), and whether rural parts of mainland Britain could also benefit from a further reduction—

Andrew George (St Ives) (LD): Of 5p.

Dan Rogerson: A 5p reduction. That would have a huge impact, particularly on small businesses in my constituency. I urge the Minister to redouble his efforts to secure that.

Mr Gauke: My hon. Friend is right to say that we are having further discussions with the European Commission about that. Obviously, we will update the House as soon as we are able to do so. However, I do not want to leave the A30 just yet—not a comment that people often make. The scheme to which I referred, and for which I know my hon. Friend has campaigned long and hard, will relieve congestion and improve journey times. It will also attract business growth and inward investment to Cornwall by improving links to the rest of England. The Government welcome the commitment from Cornwall council, to which my hon. Friend alluded, to deliver and part-fund the scheme on behalf of the Secretary of State. Its drive in taking the scheme forward demonstrates how much of a priority it is to the council and to Cornwall generally. Work on the scheme is set to start in 2014-15, subject to the completion of planning processes and funding agreements, and the road is due to be open to traffic in 2016. I am sure that it will bring real benefits to the area.

18 Dec 2012 : Column 195WH

My hon. Friend may feel that my contribution took a long time to reach Cornwall, and I am sure that is a feeling that many motorists will at times sympathise with. However, it is important for us to look at the national context of spending and the impacts that decisions made at that level will have in each region. I hope that my comments have been useful in laying out the Government’s position.

Andrew George: I know that my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Dan Rogerson) raised, while I was still in Committee, the issue of health funding and the principle of parity. Cornwall has received more than £200 million less over a six-year period than the Government themselves have said it should receive—than its target funding. I know that the Minister has deferred to each Department when he has answered questions on these issues, but as for his opinion, does he think that such a distance between what is allocated and what the Government say that a local area should get is acceptable?

Mr Gauke: Of course, as a Government, we are committed to ensuring that there is a fair funding system. As a constituency MP, representing a Hertfordshire seat, I know that often one can look at particular areas, including health funding, where there are disparities between what one might expect—what one might see as the right amount for one’s area—and the national average, and that can be deeply frustrating for Members for Parliament and for our constituents. My hon. Friend the Member for St Ives (Andrew George) makes the case well for Cornwall. Of course, as a Government, through all Departments, including the Treasury, we will look at what we can do to ensure that we have a funding system that is fair.

I am conscious of the time, so I will conclude. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall on securing the debate, on his work in relation to the A30, and on raising the points that he has raised today. Of course, as a Government, we want to ensure that we have a fair funding formula, whether that be for health, education or local government. That is something that we recognise across Government, including in the Treasury. On the specific issue of damping that my hon. Friend raised, I think that more information will be available to him very shortly.

11.29 am

Sitting suspended.

18 Dec 2012 : Column 196WH

Welfare Reform (Disabled People and Carers)

[Mr Christopher Chope in the Chair]

2.30 pm

Mr Christopher Chope (in the Chair): Owing to the interest in this debate, it will be necessary to impose a time limit on speeches. I shall decide what that will be after the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) has finished his speech.

Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab): I am happy to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Chope.

Today’s debate, I hope, will categorically highlight the unfairness of the Government’s welfare reform agenda on disabled people, their carers and families. I urge the Department for Work and Pensions, in collaboration with the Minister for disabled people, the hon. Member for Wirral West (Esther McVey), to conduct a cumulative impact assessment on the real-term effects of welfare reform on some of the most vulnerable people in our society. I was urged by a number of groups to try to secure today’s debate. The importance of the debate and the issues within it is reflected by the number of hon. Members present this afternoon. I am gratified, and I thank my hon. Friends for coming along to support this debate.

The Chancellor and the Prime Minister have repeatedly lectured us about the need for fairness and said that we are all in this together. However, as I hope to demonstrate conclusively in this debate, it is not the richest, most powerful or most able in our society who will pay the price of the Government’s calculation and uncaring disregard, but the least able, most vulnerable and least powerful—the disabled.

I am sure that hon. Members will have read, or at least heard of, the report, “The Tipping Point”, by the Hardest Hit campaign, which concluded:

“Many disabled people feel that they are living on the edge, and that the loss of even a small amount of income could tip their already complex lives into greater dependence and insecurity.”

This summer, the Hardest Hit coalition surveyed more than 4,500 disabled people on their views and experiences of the welfare and social care systems. It also conducted a series of 50 in-depth interviews with disabled people and a poll of more than 350 independent welfare advisers. From the study, it discovered that disabled people and their families are struggling to make ends meet and feel increasingly nervous about the future. The Government need to act urgently to arrest the slide of disabled people into entrenched isolation and poverty.

Disabled people have experienced a massive drop in income—about £500 million—since the emergency Budget of 2010. Recent reports have shown that just in the past year, cuts for typical disabled households ranged from £200 to just over £2,000. The latest estimates suggest that disabled people will experience £9 billion of cuts over the lifetime of this Parliament—half the total cuts to the welfare budget.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend touch on the fact that many people who are permanently disabled now have to go through

18 Dec 2012 : Column 197WH

assessment schemes, which cause a lot of anxiety in their families? At the end of the day, there is a long wait to see what those results are and, more importantly, what the effects will be on those people and their families.

Ian Mearns: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention, and I will reflect on that entirely. Added to the ordinary stresses of life for disabled people and their families, the mental anguish of not knowing the future is piling pressure on to many family circles.

I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber will have heard of Pat’s petition, which closed last month. The petition was signed by 62,693 people, calling on the Government to

“stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families”.

To appreciate fully the widespread concerns and understand why a cumulative impact assessment is essential, it is vital to look at the specific elements of welfare reform that are affecting disabled people, their carers and families. First, the introduction of universal credit, which will replace six income-based benefits and tax credits for people of working age with a new single benefit, will result in 2 million households seeing a drop in their income, with disabled people being among those worst affected. The Department’s own equality impact assessment from November 2011 predicted that disabled households would lose £37 a week, compared with non-disabled households, which would lose £26 a week. Quite honestly, it almost feels that the malice knows no bounds, as the Government are targeting even disabled children—they are halving support for those children from £52 to £26.

Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab): My hon. Friend mentions children. I was recently contacted by a father in my constituency, whose daughter has severe cystic fibrosis. Her claim for disability living allowance has just been refused, and the appeal has also been refused. Given that the Government’s stated aim is to cut spending on disability payments by 20%, and that, in the north-east, where my hon. Friend is also from, Atos has been appointed to deliver the tests for people, does he share my concern that such situations will become more common in the future rather than less?

Ian Mearns: Alas, I fear that that is the likely outcome.

Mr Brian H. Donohoe (Central Ayrshire) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate about an issue that is burning hot in my constituency. Does he agree that Atos is not the problem? Although it has to administer the problem, it has been set certain parameters in which to work. The consequence is that everyone blames Atos, when the Government should be blamed for all that is happening to disabled people.

Ian Mearns: That is the case. We can hardly blame Atos for managing a system to its own benefit, because it is on a sort of performance-related pay that relates to the number of assessments it makes.

18 Dec 2012 : Column 198WH

The cumulative effect on children could be as much as around £1,300 a year. Disabled children are losing that sum.

Another major change occurring through welfare reform is the introduction of the personal independence payment, which will replace disability living allowance. The disability Minister made a statement last week, which I thought was a little odd to say the least. She said:

“By October 2015, we will have reassessed 560,000 claimants. Of those, 160,000 will get a reduced award and 170,000 will get no award, but 230,000 will get the same…support.”—[Official Report, 13 December 2012; Vol. 555, c. 464.]

How could the Minister or the Department have drawn those conclusions before having done a single assessment of any individual? We already know that the outcome will be that 160,000 will get a reduced award, 170,000 will get no award, and 230,000 will get the same sort of support. I hope that I am not the only Member slightly concerned that the Minister, before any assessments have taken place, already has figures of those who will get a reduced award and those who will receive no support. Surely, it is down to the assessment to determine what the outcomes will be, but it seems that the Department has already pre-determined the outcome of the assessments for each individual.

Pat Glass (North West Durham) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. The interest here today shows how concerned we all are, as are the people we see in our constituencies. I share my hon. Friend’s concern. I wonder whether people will simply be reassessed and reassessed until they no longer qualify for the benefit. I want to raise the case of a constituent of mine, a terminally ill constituent—

Mr Christopher Chope (in the Chair): Order. This is an intervention. If you wish to make a speech in due course, you can catch my eye, make a speech, and refer to individual cases.

Pat Glass: I just want to say quickly—

Mr Christopher Chope (in the Chair): Order. You cannot, because this is an intervention. I ask you to resume your seat. If we allow interventions to be too long, it will inevitably take time away from other people. The hon. Gentleman introducing the debate is not in a position to comment on individual constituency cases.

Ian Mearns: Returning to “The Tipping Point” report, it found that 84% of disabled people believe that losing their DLA would drive them into isolation and into struggling to manage their condition. Nine in 10 disabled people fear that losing their DLA would be detrimental to their health.

Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab): I, too, congratulate, my hon. Friend on securing this important debate. Many disabled people will be pleased to see it happening this afternoon. Does he agree that a further concern and uncertainty about DLA is whether it will be used by local authorities in the calculation of income for determining housing benefit? While the Burnip case remains unresolved—the Government are planning to appeal—we really do not know how much DLA people will have to spend on their needs.

18 Dec 2012 : Column 199WH

Ian Mearns: My hon. Friend makes a very important point. That is why we are asking for a cumulative impact assessment of all the welfare reforms, including the housing benefit reforms.

Some 65% of respondents in work stated that without DLA they would not be able to work; 30% of disabled people stated that without DLA their carer would not be able to work; and 75% of disabled people said that losing DLA would mean that they needed more social care support from their local authority. Cumulatively, we can see a great deal of worry and concern emanating from the households of disabled people.

The Government say that they have to cut spending, but cutting DLA will simply mean that they have to spend more money on other things. It is clearly a false economy. We need to take into account the knock-on and implementation costs of replacing DLA with PIP. The Hardest Hit coalition concludes that the Government have over-estimated the total amount of savings that that will generate by, potentially, £1.6 billion.

Let us consider what is happening with contribution-based employment and support allowance. This is affecting many of my constituents at the moment. The Government’s decision to place a time limit of 365 days on those in the work-related activity group for ESA and to implement that retrospectively is forcing many disabled people on to jobseeker’s allowance. We should bear it in mind that there is no magic tree sprouting jobs at the moment, particularly not in places such as the north-east of England and particularly not with the Government’s economic plan. We talk an awful lot in the House about welfare to work, but it is a two-part equation—welfare and work—and I am sorry to say that, in my constituency, work is hard to come by, and in the north-east of England as a whole it is particularly hard to come by at the moment.

One of my constituents suffers from bronchial pulmonary dysplasia, is too ill for a heart and lung transplant, has been on steroids for 37 years, has osteoporosis, has kidney failure, cannot walk a single step unaided, has a fracture in her right arm, has left arm damage, has osteoarthritis and is diabetic. She was initially placed in the work-related activity group and told that she would need to find work. It should be borne in mind, as I am sure hon. Members have already fathomed, that she is housebound. Only after my intervention did the Department for Work and Pensions realise that a mistake had been made.

I do not want to talk extensively on the topic of Atos or its assessments, because frankly I would need all day. I have been sent a huge amount of information from concerned constituents and lobby groups for this debate, and I could quite easily speak for 10 hours. Unfortunately, I will not have that privilege, but it is a common occurrence in my constituency that people are concerned and genuinely feel harassed by the assessment process.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): This is a very important debate. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the perverse outcomes of the reforms is that the constant reassessment is making sick people even more ill? The financial implications, as well as the health implications, are completely negative. This system simply is not working.

18 Dec 2012 : Column 200WH

Ian Mearns: I absolutely concur with that. For people who have a physical disability, the added stress that that brings can often mean that their mental health deteriorates and they end up suffering genuine mental illness. That is no laughing matter for anyone affected by such an affliction. Not a week goes by when I do not get a piece of casework because Atos has assessed one of my constituents as fit for work and the decision is somewhat questionable. From my perspective and that of many charities and professionals, the work capability assessment is not fit for purpose and is particularly inept at assessing people suffering from mental health problems.

According to Mind, 40% of people applying for ESA are doing so because of mental health problems, yet it found that a lot of people with mental health problems are waiting for a work capability assessment. Some 87% of respondents said that the prospect of a reassessment was making them unduly anxious. More than one third had increased their medications as a result of anxiety, and 51% reported that it had made them have suicidal thoughts. Those data are shocking. We should not be vilifying the most vulnerable people in our society; they are contemplating taking their own lives.

I am not sure whether many hon. Members have heard of the website Calum’s List. It shows how many suicide deaths have been directly attributed to welfare reform by coroners. So far, there have been 24. How many more cases are there that have not been so attributed by a coroner? Surely the Minister should be looking into the tragedies that the Government’s agenda is causing.

In my constituency, I was provided with an interesting statistic by the local citizens advice bureau. In the last year, it has conducted 1,416 welfare benefit appeals. Of those, 1,201 were successful. That shows that of all benefit appeals that the CAB assisted Gateshead residents with in the last year, more than 80% were won. That prompts the question: why did the system fail in the first place? Surely it is a complete waste of time and money.

Jessica Morden (Newport East) (Lab): The Government will argue that the system and the process are getting better, but I saw a constituent the other day with a serious brain injury whose benefits had been stopped because he did not go for his reassessment, but he did not go because he has short and long-term memory problems. These cases just keep on coming. Does my hon. Friend agree that that does not fill us with confidence for the introduction of personal independence payments?

Ian Mearns: Unfortunately, my forecast is that, in areas such as the one that I represent, with its particular age and disability profile, we MPs can look forward only to a tsunami of casework coming in our direction. We need to reflect on how we will deal with that.

Some figures even suggest that the work capability assessment appeals cost £50 million annually. Does the Minister really think that those assessments are effective and cost-efficient? A lady in my constituency with significant mental health issues tried to claim disability living allowance but was unsuccessful, and subsequently attended a tribunal without representation and lost. She visited the local CAB for help, and it assisted her in appealing again at the tribunal. The decision was overturned, and she was awarded £4,000 in backdated benefit. She also gained an extra £41 a week to live on. She reports that that has made such a difference to her physical and

18 Dec 2012 : Column 201WH

mental well-being, she no longer has to choose whether to “heat or eat”—a dilemma that many families with disabled people now face.

We need to ensure that the assessment criteria take proper account of the full range of barriers faced by people with disabilities and health conditions, make the assessment and reassessment process as simple, transparent and proportionate as possible, and ensure that robust evaluation and monitoring processes are in place.

Let me come on to social funds, which were designed to help people with expenses that are difficult to meet on a low income. The centrally provided social fund has been abolished and replaced with the devolution of discretionary social fund emergency payments, including crisis loans and community care grants, to local authorities. The making of those payments has been delegated to local authorities, and of course we know about the disproportionate cuts that authorities in the north-east have had to make in their mainline budgets.

About one third of the users of crisis loans and community care grants are disabled people. Localising that provision could have a significant impact on them, as there is no statutory duty obliging councils to provide that service or ring-fence funds for that purpose. In other words, local authorities can choose to use that money for other purposes. Given the tight budgets that they are currently overseeing, there is a high likelihood that the money will be injected into other services. The Department for Work and Pensions acknowledged that itself in its research.

Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend on obtaining the debate. Does he agree that Jobcentre Plus in localities such as Scunthorpe is concerned about that transfer of responsibility to local authorities, which are ill prepared to take on that very important task?

Ian Mearns: I could not agree more. My local authority has shed about one third of its administrative staff. That prompts the question: how will a local authority with such a huge cut in its capacity to deliver for its people ever be able to come to terms with the demands that will be placed on it?

Another distressing topic at the moment for disabled people and their carers and families is, of course, the bedroom tax. The reduction in housing benefit for social housing tenants whose accommodation is deemed to be too large for their needs will disproportionately hit households with disabled people. Of the 670,000 people estimated by the DWP to be under-occupying accommodation in the social rented sector, two thirds of those affected may be disabled. Many organisations such as Carers UK believe, as do I, that the policy will have a detrimental impact on certain groups of carers and many disabled people. Some families may be unable to cover the shortfall and be forced to move.

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): Inclusion Scotland made the point to me that it is not only about financial costs. If the family of a disabled person moves away to get smaller accommodation—if it is available—they will lose support networks and contact with carers and families. If they have to move, due to the tax, they will lose those things, which they need to survive. I am sure that point has been made to many other hon. Members.

18 Dec 2012 : Column 202WH

Ian Mearns: I could not agree more. I thank my hon. Friend for making that point; it is absolutely true.

Steve Cowen, the chief officer of the Gateshead Carers Association—I cannot ignore it, because its office is next door to mine—has told me about the devastating impact that the proposals will have on carers and their families in Gateshead. Steve says that carers are the glue that holds the health and social care system together. The reforms hit them hard, and hit them again and again.

Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. Does he agree that the bedroom tax needs to be promoted? The Government need to raise awareness of it sooner rather than later, so that families can budget and prepare for it. It will be a terrible shock for many.

Ian Mearns: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He is right, but I need to make some progress, so I will move on swiftly.

A member of a couple could have a disability that means that the couple cannot sleep in the same room, for entirely appropriate reasons. A couple may need an extra room for equipment. A local authority—or a family—may have spent a considerable amount of money adapting a property for a family who are then forced to move, which not only would be distressing and disruptive to care arrangements, but could risk a greater long-term cost, because the adaptations need to be replaced in the new, smaller home. It is clearly daft.

Cuts in disability benefits imposed by the Government will, of course, affect disabled people living across the whole country, but, as with almost every other aspect of the Government’s approach to public policy, the impact is felt most keenly in areas with the greatest number of people living in relative poverty—the areas with the greatest need. Wales has the highest proportion of disabled people in the UK, with one fifth—21%—of working-age people living with a disability. It also has the highest proportion of benefit recipients for all types of benefits—20% of people of working age. Recent statistics show that just over 10% of Northern Ireland’s population are in receipt of disability living allowance.

A report prepared for the DWP by Christina Beatty, Steve Fothergill and Deborah Platts-Fowler listed the regional differences. The 20 areas with the greatest proportion of working-age people receiving DLA include Merthyr Tydfil, Neath, Blaenau Gwent, Easington, Caerphilly, Knowsley, Glasgow, and Liverpool—the list goes on. In my constituency, about 4% of people are affected. Surprise, surprise, the 10 areas with the lowest proportion of working-age people receiving DLA include Runnymede, South Northamptonshire, Kingston upon Thames, south Buckinghamshire, Windsor and Maidenhead, Surrey Heath, and Wokingham. So much for “We’re all in this together.”

The report from the Hardest Hit coalition highlighted the dismay felt by many disabled people on finding that they have become the easy target for cuts. Perhaps more shocking is the fact that the Government’s rhetoric justifying disability benefit cuts is hardening public attitudes. Many disabled people feel that the media portrayal of benefit scroungers is behind the increasing amount of disability hate crime, which is at an all-time high. That is despite the fact that estimated overpayments

18 Dec 2012 : Column 203WH

of DLA due to fraud make up less than 0.5% of total spending. As anyone who reads the

Daily Mail

will know, there are a lot of myths in the debate about welfare reform, and some are very damaging to disabled people. We need to confront those myths head-on. They are lies.

Official levels of fraud in disability and out-of-work benefits are far lower than public perceptions and polling suggest. The Office for National Statistics highlights that just 0.3% of overpayments for incapacity benefit were due to fraud. Figures on fraud for both DLA and incapacity benefit are outstripped by the figures for official error; in other words, mistakes by officials at the DWP cost the taxpayer more than fraud. Though it is true that the welfare bill grew in 10 years, disability benefits were not the main cause of that expenditure or a ballooning welfare budget.

Disabled people feel that they have been deliberately targeted, even though there is a clear alternative. Although estimates vary, tax evasion and avoidance cost the Government between £50 billion and £100 billion a year. It is estimated that a mansion tax on expensive properties, above a threshold of £2 million, would affect an estimated 74,000 people and, at face value, raise £1.7 billion. A financial transaction tax of about 0.05% on transactions such as those involving stocks, bonds, foreign currency and derivatives is possible. The bank levy introduced in January 2011 raises £2.5 billion annually, but a Robin Hood tax could raise up to 10 times that amount—£20 billion a year.

Whatever one’s view of the trade-offs, the priority should be the need to protect the poorest. In October 2010, the Prime Minister promised always to look after the sick, the vulnerable and elderly. The Chancellor said in his June 2010 emergency Budget:

“Too often, when countries undertake major consolidations…it is the poorest—those who had least to do with the cause of the economic misfortunes—who are hit hardest. Perhaps that”

has been

“a mistake that our country has made in the past. This coalition Government will be different.”—[Official Report, 22 June 2010; Vol. 512, c. 180.]


There are practical things that the Government can do over the next year. The first is to learn from the mistakes of the work capability assessments and ensure that the assessment for personal independence payments is as fair as possible. Secondly, they could review the work capability assessment, starting with the WCA descriptors, to ensure that it works consistently and fairly for all individuals with limited capability for work or work-related activity. Thirdly, they could get the fundamentals of universal credit right, ensuring that disabled people do not lose in cash terms due to the transition to universal credit from 2013. Fourthly, and most importantly, as loth as I am to implore the Government to do anything, I implore them to conduct a thorough cumulative impact assessment on the impact of all welfare reforms on disabled people, their carers and families. When the Government collect the results, they must act on them, so that no one is left floundering in unnecessarily deprived circumstances because of a welfare reform Act, the results of which were all too easy to predict.

18 Dec 2012 : Column 204WH

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Christopher Chope (in the Chair): Order. Owing to the number of people who wish to participate, I shall limit the time for speeches to four minutes. If there are a lot of interventions, it may be necessary to reduce that time. The wind-ups will start at 3.40 pm.

2.58 pm

Sir Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): I shall focus on the 6 million carers. I want to ensure that I have understood the legislation correctly. My approach to the detail of Department for Work and Pensions legislation is a bit like my approach at school to algebra—I am not always confident that I fully understand it.

Am I right to think that carer’s allowance will continue to exist as a separate benefit outside universal credit? Will universal credit awards include a carer element, which will continue for as long as the carer provides care for at least 35 hours a week to a severely disabled person? Am I right to think that, within universal credit, claimants will qualify for a “limited capability for work” element or a carer element—not both—but households will still be able to get a “limited capability for work” element for one member and the carer element for another?

It will be helpful if the Minister explained to us all—perhaps in writing or in answer to a parliamentary question—what, for the purposes of legislation, constitutes a “household”. Some of the misunderstandings or confusions arise from how a household is defined. As I understand it, some households will have an increased earnings disregard to reflect their different needs. Carers will not be a specified group that is entitled to an increased disregard, but it is expected that a majority of them will benefit from income disregard because of other family circumstances, including the maximum disregard of £7,000 if they live in a household with a disabled partner. Does that apply only to households in which there is a disabled partner, or to those in which any other relation is disabled? As the Minister will be aware, there are concerns about households with, for example, adult disabled children.

Exemption from the benefit cap will be extended to households that include a member who is in receipt of the personal independence payment. Some households in receipt of DLA will be exempt from the benefit cap; for example, if a carer’s partner is in receipt of it, the household will be exempt from the cap. Are such households only those in which there is a disabled partner or all households in which there is a carer? Will the Minister clarify that, or write to me if I have misunderstood?

Mrs Hodgson: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Tony Baldry: I will not.

As I understand it, carer’s allowance will be linked to receipt of either rate of the daily living component of PIP. Is that correct? Obviously, it is important to ensure that people caring for those with greatest needs get the appropriate level of support, and disabled people clearly face extra costs. Am I right in thinking that households receiving DLA, PIP or the support component of the employment and support allowance will and should be exempt from the benefit cap? Have I got that right?

18 Dec 2012 : Column 205WH

Will housing benefit regulations recognise that some people need an additional room for an overnight carer who lives elsewhere? To go back to the exchanges in the main Chamber earlier this week, am I right that significantly adapted accommodation will receive additional discretionary housing payments funding of some £30 million from 2013-14 to cover that group and foster carers, and that local authorities will have a fair amount of discretion about how that is applied?

Universal credit should provide support for carers and improve their opportunities to maintain links with, and get back into, the world of work.

Mr Christopher Chope (in the Chair): Order.

3.2 pm

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): I rise to speak on behalf of the many constituents coming into my office every week who are affected by this Government’s welfare reforms. At every opportunity, we need to challenge the ideology underpinning those reforms and the disastrous economic policies that are wreaking devastation and havoc on ordinary people’s lives. That ideology is about dividing and ruling—pitting the public sector versus the private sector, so-called shirkers versus workers and the able-bodied versus the disabled.

I am not alone in being deeply offended by not only the content of the Chancellor’s autumn statement and its further hit on welfare recipients, but the characterisation of people receiving benefits. Terms such as “scrounger”, “shirker” and “workshy” are used deliberately to vilify people on benefits as the new undeserving poor. The issue for this Government, as in relation to so much of what they are doing, is that that is just not true. Most people on benefits are in work and are net contributors to the Exchequer.

The recent study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the New Policy Institute on research monitoring poverty has shown that 6.1 million people are in poverty in working households, which is 1 million fewer than the number of workless households in poverty. There is no evidence of a culture of worklessness. Evidence from the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that the autumn statement will affect the 10% poorest in our country, who will have the biggest percentage drop in their income. I am relatively new to politics, but I think that that is an absolutely disgraceful misrepresentation of the facts—not only on welfare, as we have seen in the past, but on the economy and the NHS too. This country deserves better.

I am proud of our model of social welfare and its historical roots. It was borne out of world war two, during which we were all in it together. I want to retain that model, which is underpinned by inclusion, support and security for all, so protecting us in case the worlds of any of us fall through and assuring the dignity and basics of life. Those basic securities are going, and the dignity and respect that all people should be afforded is often sadly lacking.