There are things that we still need to draw attention to, in connection with the problem, and I want to raise a couple of them. First, anyone who doubts the importance

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of focusing on HIV and TB together, and ensuring diagnosis of both diseases, need look no further than sub-Saharan Africa. There were more than 1 million HIV-positive new TB cases globally in 2011, but around 79% of those patients live in sub-Saharan Africa. That is the only World Health Organisation region that is not on track to meet the millennium development goal for TB, which is to halve the 1990 prevalence and mortality rates by 2015. We need attention on that region and on that incidence of co-infection. It is highly unlikely that the target will be met, because of the negative impact of the HIV epidemic. For the world as a whole, reaching the 2015 prevalence and mortality rate targets will be possible only if TB control efforts, and funding for those efforts, are sustained.

The Government have a clear understanding of the importance of an approach based on the possibility of co-infection, and the need for integrated programmes of diagnosis and treatment. Their position paper on HIV, published in May last year, recognised that, which is welcome. The Government’s major contribution, in particular through multinational channels such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, is also welcome. A considerable portion of it is invested in TB interventions.

There are two things that I want to draw to the attention of my hon. Friend the Minister. The first relates to diagnosis. It is striking that the diagnostic ability and treatment for HIV are much further ahead than they are for TB, yet TB is a more easily and cheaply treatable disease. Why is that? It is straightforwardly because HIV is a disease that affected the west, and TB was a disease that the west believed had gone. Its attention was therefore not on it. The resources and money that were invested in necessarily trying to deal with the terrible and growing problem of HIV were not directed in the same way at TB. Therefore, the diagnosis of TB is not as quick as it should be, and the treatments go on for an extended period, with old-fashioned drugs that must be taken on a continuous basis; if they are not taken in that way, the problem of drug-resistant TB arises—and that is a killer and particularly difficult to deal with.

When people living in poverty are far from the facilities that they need to travel to repeatedly for diagnosis and to get drugs, there are no incentives to get the diagnosis and continue to take the drugs for an extended time. Something that should be cheaply and easily dealt with is not, and that accounts for the numbers of deaths. That is why programmes that improve diagnosis are welcome.

I want to draw the Minister’s attention to the TB REACH programme, which is a WHO initiative that gives small grants of up to $1 million to find and treat those who have no access to TB diagnosis or treatment. It is an incubator for innovation. It pushes the frontiers of mobile phone technology in health, and the deployment worldwide of rapid diagnostics. Even if my hon. Friend cannot answer today—I know she has a lot to get into her response—perhaps she would just consider the power of the TB REACH programme, and the support that the Government might be willing to give it in future.

The second issue that I wanted to raise was diagnosis and vaccination. The first thing that people in the west tend to say about TB is “Surely there is a vaccination

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available for it.” People know about vaccinating children in this country. However, the vaccination is not available for adults; if a vaccination were available, in developing countries, there would not be such a problem, and there would not be deaths on such a scale. Research and development of a vaccination is therefore as important as R and D of improved diagnostics. It is particularly important for the growing threat of drug-resistant TB, which is not so easily and cheaply dealt with, and can indeed be a killer, evading all medical treatment, including what might be available in the west. My second question to the Minister is therefore this: what support are the Government giving to TB vaccine development, which would be so important in heading off the incidence of the disease and save a large number of lives every year?

On the wider debate about why it is necessary to maintain public spending on international development and aid, there are few better examples than the successful spending of money, through the global fund and directly, on programmes doing very simple things—providing the diagnostics for TB and securing treatment. The intelligent organisation of those programmes to address TB and HIV co-infection is particularly important. We should hold TB up as an example of a disease that we in the west believed we had conquered, but that we are now concerned about, because it is coming back. We can treat it relatively easily, but we have ignored the fact that every year it killed 1.5 million in the rest of the world. We should be concerned about that, too.

3.29 pm

Pamela Nash (Airdrie and Shotts) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bayley. I congratulate the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire (Pauline Latham) on securing this debate and on making a thoughtful opening speech that covered a number of topics that I, too, want to explore. I should also like to congratulate UK organisations, and the agencies that they support overseas, on their fight to combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic. They include the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, Save the Children, Oxfam, Christian Aid, and Voluntary Service Overseas; I could go on with the list for the rest of the afternoon. I shall concentrate first on VSO, as I was lucky enough to do volunteer work with it in Kenya during the last recess. It became clear to me that civil society plays a key role in Kenya when it comes to the response to HIV/AIDS.

I want to focus on three main points. The first is the issue of the rights of men who have sex with men. I very much appreciate the fact that the Minister, in her short time in office, has made it clear that she is committed to tackling this issue, and that appreciation goes right across the board. I am sure that she shares the grave concern felt by the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire and me about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that has appeared on the Order Paper in Uganda. The Bill had been promised as a Christmas present to the people of Uganda. Although its Parliament is now closed for the holidays, I am pretty sure that the Bill will be firmly back on the agenda in 2013.

One of the most shocking sections of the Bill states that any member of the Ugandan public can be obliged to tell the authorities about homosexual people that they know. Failure to do so could lead to prosecution. The Parliament, therefore, is not only outlawing practising homosexuality, but criminalising those who do not inform

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on homosexual friends, family members and colleagues. Criminalising a section of the population that is most at risk from HIV and denying them access to basic services not only undermines their human rights but poses a devastating threat to public health in a country where over 7% of the population lives with HIV.

Even those who are inherently against the practice of homosexuality must see that the legislation would pose a health risk, not just to the community, but to the entire population. This is a matter of human rights, and must be of interest to people across the world and to leaders in Africa. Will the Minister confirm whether she or other Government Ministers have raised this matter with African leaders, in the hope that they might raise it with both the Speaker of Uganda and President Museveni?

Following the recent announcement by the UK Government that they are withdrawing direct budget support from the Ugandan Government, I was concerned that the Department for International Development did not appear to offer a route back for the funding to be reinstated. None the less, I do support the reasons for the funding being withdrawn at this time. I worry, though, that there is little incentive for the Ugandan Government to address the corruption issues that led to that withdrawal of funds, and to engage with us and other countries on human rights abuses, such as those we are about to see if the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is passed.

Part of the reason why the Bill is back in the headlines is to distract people from the problems caused by corruption, and to keep out of the headlines the fact that the UK Government have withdrawn direct budget support from the Ugandan Government. Will the Minister confirm whether there is a possibility of Uganda again receiving direct budget support, and what obligations it will have to fulfil to achieve that?

Moreover, what support is our Government providing to organisations that are fighting for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in Uganda, such as Sexual Minorities Uganda, for which many of my colleagues on the all-party parliamentary group on HIV and AIDS have shown support? Finally, what provisions have been put in place to support the health needs of all people in Uganda following the suspension of direct budget support to the country?

My second point relates to access to HIV medicines. In my role as chair of the all-party parliamentary group, I have been honoured to meet many inspirational people who are living with and affected by the virus. One of them is Angelina Namiba, who I believe the Minister met in her constituency last week. Angelina has been brave enough to share her story in the national press this week, and I congratulate her on her courage in doing so. She has also participated in many events here in Parliament and has shared her story, allowing us further to understand what it is like to be a young woman living with HIV in the UK today.

Women such as Angelina live healthy, happy and productive lives because they are lucky enough to receive the treatment that they need. Sadly, 7 million people around the world are not receiving that treatment. The Minister may be aware that the majority of antiretroviral drugs are produced in India, which has been able to take advantage of the flexibilities in laws on the trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights set by the World Trade Organisation. Some 80% of the drugs used in

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Africa and purchased by multilateral organisations, such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, come from India.

The United Nations Development Programme’s Global Commission on HIV and the Law recently highlighted the fact that many of those flexibilities are currently under threat from a series of trade agreements. Clauses relating to data exclusivity, which would require generic companies to redo clinical trials and would therefore significantly delay generic versions of medicines, have hopefully been dropped from the EU-India free trade agreement, but there are other treaties, including the EU-Thailand free trade agreement, that may contain equally harmful provisions. Has the Minister had any conversations with colleagues in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills about the impact of such trade agreements on the availability and affordability of HIV medicines? Although price is not the only barrier to accessing HIV medicines, it is an important one.

When I was in Kenya with VSO in September, I witnessed the difficulty that people have in rural areas—they were very rural areas, as I know from my 10-hour trip there in the back of a car. People have to travel for many hours every week on poor roads to access clinics and the medication that they so desperately need. Poor health systems and infrastructure hinder people’s ability to access HIV treatment. Next year, the all-party parliamentary group will be looking in more detail at the barriers to accessing medication, and I look forward to working with colleagues and, hopefully, the Minister on that matter.

My final point is about the importance of the UK as a global leader in fighting HIV and AIDS. I am delighted that other Members have already raised that point today. The Department for International Development is the second largest bilateral donor on HIV, and has given tremendous political and financial support to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. I was delighted to hear, from the Secretary of State at the all-party parliamentary group’s world AIDS day event, that DFID is “absolutely committed” to getting to zero: zero infections, zero discrimination and zero deaths. A new strategy for HIV that maps out how to achieve that goal would illustrate DFID’s clear commitment to tackling HIV.

Last year, the Government focused on family planning, and I was pleased that a side event at this summit highlighted the links between HIV and sexual and reproductive health rights. We cannot tackle any major development issue, be it food security, hunger or violence against women, without also addressing HIV. Moreover, as we go into discussions about the post-2015 development agenda, we must not lose sight of the incredible challenges that lie ahead. As campaigners from the Stop AIDS Campaign asked parliamentarians just three weeks ago, why stop now? We cannot afford to ignore this disease, which still takes almost 2 million lives each year. An AIDS-free generation is within our grasp, but AIDS is certainly not over. We have the tools, the science and the knowledge to turn the tide on this epidemic. We just need to sustain the political will.

3.39 pm

Sir Tony Cunningham (Workington) (Lab): Thank you, Mr Bayley, for calling me to speak. It is a pleasure to take part in a debate under your chairmanship. I

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begin by thanking the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire (Pauline Latham) for securing this vital debate, and I pay tribute to the work that she does on the issue.

As I was reminded when I met campaigners from Why Stop Now? on world AIDS day recently, impressive progress has been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but as other speakers have already said, there is still much more work to be done. Millennium development goal 6, which is to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, galvanised international attention to the fight against HIV, and created political momentum that has played a substantial role in the success of the HIV response.

Since 2005, 25 countries have seen a 50% drop in new HIV infections. In 2011, a record 8 million people living with HIV had access to antiretroviral therapy, which is more than half of those in need of such treatment. Globally, there were more than 500,000 fewer AIDS-related deaths in 2011 than there were in 2005. As a result of the mobilisation effects of the MDGs, people living with HIV are living longer, healthier and more productive lives. A tipping point—where more people living with HIV are initiated into treatment than there are people newly acquiring HIV—is now within reach.

However, global action and shared responsibility is necessary to sustain investment in AIDS programmes. Consequently, although we have all welcomed the progress made to date, we must also acknowledge the challenges that lie ahead and make a concerted effort to maintain political momentum. I was particularly disappointed—I put it no more strongly than that—that the UK failed to send a Government Minister to the international AIDS conference in Washington in July.

Pamela Nash: I just want to highlight that an ex-Government Minister attended that conference on behalf of Parliament: Lord Fowler. There was also representation at the conference from the all-party group on HIV and AIDS, and from the all-party group on global tuberculosis. We were able to meet parliamentarians from across the world and discuss a lot of the important issues that we have discussed today.

Sir Tony Cunningham: And vital work it is. That gives me the opportunity to pay tribute to my hon. Friend for her personal commitment in this area, and to the all-party group on HIV and AIDS, which does incredibly valuable work. We must ensure that the UK and the EU maintain their commitment to financing efforts to combat this epidemic, and make strategic plans to capitalise on the opportunity that we have all said is within reach.

Let me move on to some of the challenges that we face. First, progress on HIV has been uneven across countries and certain populations. Although many countries have seen impressive declines in the rates of new HIV infections, since 2001 the number of people newly infected in the middle east and north Africa has increased by more than 35%. HIV prevalence is also consistently higher among sex workers, intravenous drug users and men who have sex with men. In sub-Saharan Africa, as has already been said, women have a 60% higher risk of HIV infection than men. These groups often face legal and social barriers, including discrimination and criminalisation, which impede their access to services.

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Secondly, as the majority of HIV infections are sexually transmitted or associated with pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding, there is a need for greater integration of sexual and reproductive health responses, and HIV responses. I think that the Liberal Democrat Member, the hon. Member for St Ives (Andrew George), mentioned how important that is.

In 2011, one in five maternal deaths was directly related to HIV, but when women living with HIV receive antiretroviral treatment during pregnancy, the risk of transmission is reduced to less than 5%. This progress on mother-to-child transmission has been hailed as a hugely significant factor, and it provides a real opportunity to take control of the problem.

Finally, we need to acknowledge the importance of middle-income countries, which are often forgotten. Three of the top five countries with the highest HIV burden but the lowest coverage of antiretroviral treatment are middle-income countries. We need to focus on tackling this inequality within and between countries, and ensure that human rights are integral to the global response to the HIV epidemic. Will the Minister tell us what steps her Department is taking to tackle discrimination and to ensure that there is access to HIV treatment for the poorest, most vulnerable communities? There is also a need for urgent action to ensure that we can continue to reduce transmission and expand access to treatment to those who need it.

As a number of speakers, particularly the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire, mentioned, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which was created in 2001 to increase funding to tackle three of the world’s most devastating diseases, has approved $22.9 billion for more than 1,000 programmes in 151 countries and provided AIDS treatment for 4.2 million people. That is incredible. The fund channels half of all antiretroviral drugs to those living with HIV/AIDS. The UK has been the fund’s third biggest donor since its creation, and the second largest bilateral HIV donor, which reflects our impressive leadership on this issue. I was pleased that the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire talked about a period of 30 years; this work is not party political, but will go on across decades and across political parties.

However, in May 2012, the International Development Committee’s inquiry into DFID’s contribution to the global health fund urged the Government to honour their promise to increase their contribution to the fund significantly, over and above the current pledge of £384 million for 2012 to 2015. The Government have cited a desire to see reforms to the fund as the reason for the delay, so will the Minister tell us more about the fund’s new funding model and strategy? The IDC specifically stated that

“DFID is a key partner whose increased contribution to the Global Fund could unlock funds from other donors. It should do all possible to commit additional funds earlier than 2013 by prioritising its assessment of the Global Fund ahead of, and separately from, the broader update of the Multilateral Aid Review.”

Given that next year will be a replenishment year for the fund, will the Minister use her G8 discussions to leverage additional funding from other countries and announce further UK funding for the fund? Does she agree that announcing funding for the fund would help to increase certainty and encourage other donors to make a commitment of additional resources?

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The UK Government should be doing everything they can to ensure that the global health fund is able to operate at the height of its ability, tackling these horrific diseases and saving lives, so I ask the Minister: can she say when we can expect to see the “increased contribution” to the fund from the UK that was announced by the previous Secretary of State for International Development, the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), earlier this year? Also, what steps are the UK Government taking to galvanise support from other donors for the global health fund? Although the fund is not the only institution involved in the fight against AIDS, TB and malaria, it is by far the single biggest actor in the fight against these diseases. It was a British Government who spearheaded the drive to establish the global health fund, and it is the current British Government who should pick up the mantle at this important moment, showing the leadership to get the fund back into full operation.

In conclusion, it is clear that progress is being made on HIV. The number of new infections is declining, and the number of treatments is increasing, but we must not lose sight of those who are still in desperate need. Rather than focusing on single programmes or issues such as family planning or drug availability, the overall approach must be one of cohesion. Health systems and the integration of HIV/AIDS responses with wider programmes of reproductive health must be considered. Commitments to address the global AIDS pandemic must not take a back seat as other issues take the political stage in the UK. As significant advances are made and global leaders in the United States and elsewhere begin to state openly that an AIDS-free generation is within reach, the UK must continue its leadership on this issue.

The significance of what we face must not be forgotten, and as 50% of people eligible for HIV treatment do not receive it, it is essential to support those most at risk, to help them to access the help that they desperately need without fear of discriminatory laws or prejudices. The UK’s impressive record on this issue must be maintained and, as such, we need continued and renewed leadership. Will the Minister tell us what steps the Government are taking to increase access to medicines for the 7 million people who are still waiting for HIV treatment? Will the Government commit to a blueprint that will lay out the UK’s contribution to the attempt to gain control of the HIV pandemic internationally? Much has been done; much is still to be done. However, as the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire said so eloquently, success is within our reach.

3.48 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Lynne Featherstone): Thank you, Mr Bayley, for calling me to speak. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon.

First, I thank the hon. Member for Mid Derbyshire (Pauline Latham) for calling a debate on such an important topic so soon after world AIDS day. I also thank hon. Members from all parties for their thoughtful and important contributions to this debate on what I still regard as one of the priorities for all of us in this day and age. I sometimes feel that, with the advent of drugs that mean people can live with AIDS rather than it being a death sentence, a complacency has begun that somehow the

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situation is not as bad as it was. With the tantalising prospect of zero infections and zero transmissions just out of reach, we know that success can be achieved, but if any of us let up on our commitment to tackling the disease it will not happen. We must translate our commitment in Westminster Hall today to those around the world who have the power to take the fight forward, and we must keep going in that regard.

As many Members have said, there is much to celebrate. The latest UNAIDS report shows an unprecedented pace of progress in the global AIDS response, with 700,000 fewer new HIV infections each year across the world than a decade ago, especially among newborn children. The work to eliminate HIV transmission from mother to child is clearly delivering results. More than 8 million people now have access to treatment and, for the first time, countries are investing more money in HIV than is received from global giving, which shows that we are moving forward to a sustainable response. That is really good news.

Many people, including me just now, have raised the possibility of seeing an end to transmission—zero infections—but so much is still to be done, and there are risks that could seriously jeopardise the incredible progress we have made. Too many people are still getting infected, with 2.5 million new infections last year. Women remain disproportionately affected, accounting for 58% of people living with HIV in Africa, and I will come on to specific points raised about that in a moment. Some 7 million people still do not receive the treatment they need, and in low and middle-income countries work to address HIV in key populations—sex workers, men who have sex with men, injecting drug users and prisoners—is still almost entirely funded by international sources, which is an inadequate human rights response and is not sustainable. I will come on to some of the issues relating to human rights and homosexuality.

The context in which we work is changing; the dynamics of the HIV epidemic are changing and the patterns of resources are shifting. We must continue to adapt our ways of working to overcome those challenges, and we need a global HIV response that is fit for purpose. DFID supports, therefore, the strategic investment approach, which allows countries to make decisions about how to allocate resources most effectively and efficiently on the basis of national evidence. I am pleased that through the approach DFID and other members of the HIV community are embedding the principles of effectiveness, efficiency and equity. The focus will help to drive more and better results and improve value for money.

The decisions taken at the recent board meeting of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria demonstrate that efforts are being made to find new and more efficient approaches. The new funding model should better align with country processes, reduce transaction costs, and make a greater impact with investments. DFID is closely following its implementation to ensure that it achieves those aims.

Many Members have mentioned the issue of the global fund. We have committed £1 billion between 2008 and 2015, and that time scale has not been delayed but rather brought forward by one year. Regarding increasing our funding, we have stated that future funding increases are contingent on the global fund’s progress with reforms. I hear the exasperated, “But hasn’t it done

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enough?” We have committed to reviewing our position paper, and we will have the multilateral aid review update, which is due in the first half of next year. That will provide us with the evidence, but the intention is to make the increase. The global fund has moved a long way from the days when there were issues in round 11 and we had to suspend payments to the fund. With the fund’s replenishment planned for September 2013, the UK is committed to working with others to ensure that reforms succeed and, as has been mentioned, to using our influence with other donors to draw in more overall financing to raise the final total.

One of the deepest ironies of the HIV epidemic is that the people most in need of prevention and services are from communities that are most neglected and discriminated against. A human rights approach is, therefore, essential, and through our bilateral aid review process DFID’s country offices have been updating their HIV programmes, based on the latest evidence and on national responses. In Zimbabwe and other parts of southern Africa, where there is evidence of growing epidemics in key populations, we are exploring how we can pilot innovative approaches to prevention with sex workers, adolescents and prisoners. We have also given new funding for the Robert Carr Civil Society Networks Fund to support global and regional networks to improve HIV responses for key populations.

We also recognise that addressing gender inequality and ensuring women’s rights is also essential to achieve universal access. The Prime Minister appointed me as international champion for tackling violence against women and girls across the world, and that issue is a key part of my agenda. Violence against women and girls is one of the most systematic and widespread human rights violations in the world, and it materially and significantly increases the risks of maternal death and vulnerability to HIV and AIDS.

The issue of sex education has been raised. I recently returned from Zambia, and I was shocked to find that no one talks about sex there. Not only is sex education not taught in school, sex is simply not spoken about. One of DFID’s programmes there is about girls’ empowerment, and I went to visit the girls and asked them which of their life lessons—that is almost what they are—they liked the most. They had had only three lessons so they did not have many to choose from, but it was heartbreaking that they said that what they most liked was finding out about their own bodies. They had absolutely no idea about the changes that were happening to them.

Pamela Nash: I want to reassure the Minister that I witnessed a similar DFID-funded programme in Rwanda that was much further forward than the three lessons. I witnessed young girls being fantastically confident in talking about their own health issues. They had much stronger and brighter futures as a result of the programme.

Lynne Featherstone: That is the key point: education is vital. The girls were saying that the boys were already very jealous because they were not allowed to go to the girls’ meetings. The initiative was empowering them to feel confidence in their bodies and about their rights over their bodies, and the boys were beginning to be a

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bit more wary of them. It is a long process, and negotiating such relationships, even in this country, is not always easy.

Having said that about boys, there is also a lot of work to do with boys and men. I went to a gender-based violence clinic—a one-stop shop—where remarkable work was being done with bringing the men along. Where there had been violence, the men had to come in for counselling. They were invited in, and if they did not come they were invited again, by the police. If they still did not come the police went and got them—quite extraordinary. Of the 10 survivor women I talked to, five said that they were still with their husbands, who had changed. One of the men had joined a men’s network. Men who have multiple partners are a real threat, where the spread of HIV is concerned.

Many Members raised issues about Uganda and the homosexuality Bill. I went to Uganda before I moved to DFID, in my violence against women role. Where women are oppressed, there are often hideous homosexuality laws. I raised the issue with the Speaker of the House in Uganda. I would not say that what I said was taken in the best way, but I raised the issue politely, but firmly. It is important to be able to discuss matters, even when people disagree. The discussion was private and appropriate. The issue is a really serious one, and it is not uncommon in many countries across Africa and Asia. I am looking closely at what is possible and at how we move forward on the agenda. One thing we do is to support civil society and Ugandan groups. I met with groups when I was in the country, and there is a lot of fear of a backlash, so how we move forward is a delicate matter.

Mr Russell Brown (Dumfries and Galloway) (Lab): The Minister mentioned Uganda. Has she had any discussions with any of her Foreign and Commonwealth Office colleagues about making the case in other Commonwealth countries about more legal reform, so that people are not persecuted? I firmly believe we should be doing that.

Lynne Featherstone: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. He may be aware that the Prime Minister raised the issue at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. I have spoken to Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers about the issue, and in my international champion role I have developed key messages. Three of those messages are on women, and they address: leadership; rights and laws; and impunity, access, justice and enforcement. There are two messages on homosexuality, and it has been agreed that all travelling Ministers will raise the issue when appropriate. That must be done appropriately as it is easy to raise feelings that the issue is a western construct. The issue, therefore, has to be worked out with the countries not in a preaching way, but in a way in which we can discuss our differences and move the agenda forwards. Human rights are a priority, and we have all made that clear on many occasions. Nevertheless, we work across many countries that come from a different place from us.

In parallel, the UK Government complement grass-roots demand for change through our diplomacy on human rights overseas. We are committed to ending religious intolerance and persecution and discrimination against individuals on the basis of their sexuality. We regularly review the commitment to and respect for all human

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rights in other countries, including the likely direction of travel over the coming years. Where we have specific concerns about a Government’s failure to protect their citizens’ rights, we raise those concerns directly at the highest levels of the Government concerned.

I will now answer some of the other points that were raised by Members and try to finish ahead of time—we are running over because of the Division.

The hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Pamela Nash) asked about direct budget support payments to Uganda and the condition of renewed payments. Aid to the Government of Uganda is predicated on fundamental commitments and agreed principles, so any renewal of general budget support depends on those conditions being met. The route is always open, and there is nothing we would wish more than for countries to want to come back to the same table as us. I am hopeful that that will be the case one day, but it is very early days as we try to address the diplomacy and geopolitics on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.

We support Ugandan civil society groups, including the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, which trains in advocacy and covers the costs of legal cases to protect LGBT communities. That is just one example. Where we cannot give directly to Governments, we find other ways to help people in countries where possible.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire specifically raised a number of points. Under the global fund’s new funding model, there will be a targeted band for countries, such as Ukraine, with higher incomes and a lower disease burden that remain at risk from rising epidemics. That allocation band includes countries that should focus resources on most-at-risk populations, which are the groups that we have discussed. The UK has consistently argued that such groups should be prioritised in that context. That was the argument I used in Ethiopia when then Prime Minister Meles and I discussed public health, transmission and other such issues.

My hon. Friend is right that Gilead has shown leadership in joining the medicines patent pool, which we strongly support. We are encouraging other companies with patents for new first-line treatments for HIV/AIDS to consider beginning formal negotiations to enter that pool.

On the G8 and the post-millennium development goals, we will use our influence with the international system to deliver our global commitments. As part of our G8 presidency, we will be reporting on progress against existing commitments and holding members to account. There is definitely a view that we need to finish the job. As exciting as it is to think about post-2015 MDGs, there is still much work to be done on the goals we are in the middle of right now.

Several Members raised the issue of the Why Stop Now? UK blueprint, which is where we slightly part company. Our review of progress on the UK’s position paper will happen in the early part of next year, and it is there that we will make our next decisions based on

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evidence. We think that just spending a lot of our resources to create another blueprint will be just that—using a lot of our resources—when we basically know what we need to do. We want to get on with working with international partners on implementation, rather than having to stop and bring all our resources back to create another plan. We want to work with stakeholders to ensure a robust and accountable analysis of DFID’s HIV results. We are still discussing the time frame because our review of our position paper needs to align with a number of other international processes. I am aware of the call for a blueprint, but I do not think it is necessarily the way we want to go. I apologise if that disappoints anyone. Indeed, I see the AIDS Consortium sitting in the Public Gallery, and I think I have shown my commitment. My first speech as a Minister was an address to the annual general meeting of the AIDS Consortium, which I have since met to discuss all the issues.

I must be quick, but a number of Members raised the issue of the relationship between HIV and tuberculosis. My right hon. Friend the Member for Arundel and South Downs (Nick Herbert), whom I used to work with at the Home Office, specifically raised that issue. TB is the leading cause of death for people living with HIV. DFID supports leadership among countries on integrated responses rooted in knowledge of local epidemics, with donor support harmonised in line with national plans to deliver quality integrated HIV, TB and reproductive health services, which was a call across the Chamber.

I acknowledge the two issues raised by my right hon. Friend on the TB REACH programme and on vaccination, both of which I will consider further. At the moment, DFID’s support for TB research includes £205 million to the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development and £14 million to the tropical disease research programme.

The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) mentioned how condom use and circumcision have helped HIV prevention work in Swaziland and the rest of the world. I thank him for highlighting the challenges in Swaziland, and DFID agrees that a combination prevention approach, including condoms, male circumcision and education, is essential to an effective response.

Jim Shannon: I also mentioned how pharmaceutical companies in India are able to produce the same anti-HIV drugs more cheaply than companies in America. Without promoting any company over any other, does the Minister agree that, if cheap medication is available in India that is every bit as effective as other medication, we should be sourcing medication from India, given our DFID contribution to countries across the world?

Lynne Featherstone: I thank the hon. Gentleman. We have heard the point that he has made so well.

I thank all hon. Members who have spoken, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Derbyshire, who secured this important debate. It is heartening to see so many Members who genuinely hold HIV as a priority and will pursue the wonderful goal of zero infections.

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Shale Gas Profits

4.9 pm

Eric Ollerenshaw (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship again, Mr Bayley. Before I go into the argument for community compensation, I will set the background for the impact of fracking in terms of the present energy demands on the county of Lancashire. At the moment, we face energy projects across the country. My own constituency has a third planning application for onshore wind farms in the Lune valley. We have offshore wind farms, the Walney field off Barrow and proposals for new offshore wind farms run by Centrica off the Isle of Man. Now, the need to transport power from those wind farms will mean extra pylons on land through the middle of my constituency and the middle of Lancashire.

At the south end of my constituency, there is a fourth planning application by a company called Halite for the excavation of salt mines and the storage of liquefied gas, a proposal that I oppose, as do my constituency neighbours and hon. Friends the Members for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard) and for Wyre and Preston North (Mr Wallace). There are also a number of proposals for smaller hydroelectric schemes in the hills. It is already a massive issue for Lancashire, and there is even the possibility of an extra nuclear power station at Heysham, in the north of the county. All those proposals are the background. Into that mix comes the issue of fracking.

I want to put on the record my position on the wider shale gas issue. I have never been against using shale gas in our energy mix in principle. However, I want my constituents’ genuinely held concerns to be addressed before I support an expansion of fracking. I have raised those concerns with Ministers before, including three times in previous debates in Westminster Hall, but they are worth recapping.

First, my rural constituents have understandable concerns because many of them draw their water directly from boreholes rather than the mains. They are worried about contamination of their water supply, and equally worried about the impact on their water supply of the vast amounts of water that will be drawn from the water table to carry on full industrial fracking. Secondly, the small earth tremors that happened last year were proved subsequently to have been caused by the fracking process. Thirdly, my constituents have serious concerns that the regulatory regime, even if more stringent than in the US, will not be extensive enough to keep track of all the activity that could take place if the fracking moved to an industrial scale. I underline the point that, in a sense, we are in a hypothetical position. All that the Minister has reallowed is one testing at Preesall in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mark Menzies), and we may be some way along in the process.

I welcomed the pause in fracking operations to allow an investigation into the earth tremors. I was pleased that the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society produced reports into the processes and equipment involved, and that they were studied further by an independent panel. Such investigation and review was much needed.

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As a result of those investigations, the Energy Secretary announced last week that fracking and the tests at Preesall by Quadrilla could resume, but, as his recent statement made clear, with new safeguards in place. I welcome some of the measures in the Energy Secretary’s statement, including monitoring of seismic activity and enhanced wellhead integrity, which are fundamental to ensuring safety of the water table and water supply. I also welcome his commitment to continuing to record and analyse data on the effect on the environment of exploratory fracking. It is an important step, along with the appointment of an independent inspector who will be on site at all times. However, I still want greater efforts to boost the safety of the water supply and put in place a proper and effective regulatory system.

Although exploratory fracking has been resumed, we are still some way from industrial-scale operations, although anyone who reads the national press would think that the bonanza was going to happen next week. We in Lancashire are realistic in seeing that it will be a long-term process, but this debate is meant to get in at the beginning and ask what the impact might be if it happens.

Mark Menzies (Fylde) (Con): I thank my hon. Friend for securing this debate on a subject that is hugely important and of great concern to my constituents. I urge the Minister to take on board the point that my constituents, like those of my hon. Friend, are incredibly worried that fracking could be done on an industrial scale. It is important that the company be clear from the outset that until safety measures and regulations are in place, it will be done on an incredibly limited scale, with detailed on-the-ground monitoring at every stage.

Eric Ollerenshaw: I thank my hon. Friend and neighbouring MP. To underline the point to the Minister, there has been speculation in the papers that if industrial fracking happens, there could be some 800 wellheads across Lancashire, against the background of onshore and offshore wind farms and the possibility of new nuclear. One can see why it is generating concern.

I stress that we are talking about a hypothetical situation involving industrial fracking some time in the future. The point that I am here to make is that if shale gas operations commence on that scale and scores of wells are drilled, Lancashire should share in the rewards. At the moment, that is not likely to happen, at least not beyond any small-scale voluntary schemes that energy companies might decide to pursue themselves. To be fair to Quadrilla, I understand that it has given a number of grants to various local parishes. The only other way is through section 106 agreements, which do not derive a vast amount of money for the local infrastructure.

The clear point is that the United Kingdom, and Lancashire in particular, is not Texas, where local landowners can strike it rich if oil or minerals are discovered on their land. The mineral rights in our area belong to the Crown, but mainly to the Duchy of Lancaster. Any farmer for whom fracking is proposed on their land will gain precious little, except perhaps a small amount of rent, and the local authorities will get a small amount of business rate. The company will get its profits, the Duchy will get its share from the mineral rights, and of course and as ever—unless Starbucks starts drilling operations—the Treasury will get its share

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of the proceeds from taxation. Local residents, who will have to deal with increased industrial activity, traffic movements, the movement of chemicals and so on, will not see a direct reward.

Karen Lumley (Redditch) (Con): I declare my interest, as on the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Does my hon. Friend agree that on fracking, Lancashire is once again leading the way? Should operations expand, it should be laid down in regulations that local residents, not absentee landlords, receive the compensation.

Eric Ollerenshaw: As ever, my hon. Friend spots where I am going, and I am glad she is here to support that.

There is lots of talk about job creation, but as far as I can see, the thousands of jobs promised will not be created. As I understand the engineering process, once fracking wells are set up and the gas is being used, the jobs involved are support jobs. It is likely that the specialist engineers will be brought in from elsewhere, unless deals can be done with local universities such as the university of central Lancashire or Lancaster university.

I want a fair and substantial share of the profits from shale gas for the people of Lancashire if this is to be a runner. In a way, the Government set a precedent with the introduction of the new homes bonus, whose principle is that communities that allow development in their area should share in the rewards. We could see a similar approach with shale gas or minerals more generally. Although I have a problem with the new homes bonus—it does not reward parish councils directly—any scheme for shale gas should send at least some of the rewards directly to the local areas or residents most affected, as well as to principal or top-tier authorities.

It is perhaps worth mentioning how such things are dealt with abroad. Alaska operates a scheme called the Alaska permanent fund, which is created largely from income from oil operations in the state and designed to ensure that future generations can share in the profits even when the oil is exhausted. Interestingly enough, the fund also pays out an annual cash dividend to all state residents. Apparently, people must reside there for only one year to be classified as a state resident. The payout varies; I think that last year it was $1,000, but in previous years it has reached $2,000. That is an interesting precedent.

In south America, the Brazilian constitution ensures that a share of oil revenue is provided to the states where oil is extracted. They can then use the money to fund infrastructure projects, community schemes or tax cuts as they see fit. That other foreign country, Yorkshire, has the newly established potash community fund, brought to my attention by my constituency neighbour and hon. Friend the Member for Wyre and Preston North. The extraction company York Potash has set up a fund of 0.5% of profits to be used for the local community. It is expected to provide between £3 million and £9 million a year to fund local projects.

Three different models are in use in different places—from the voluntary to the compulsory—varying according to how the payments are made and to whom. I should like a system to be put in place that provides direct compensation to the local residents and parishes most affected, and an income to the principal or top-tier authorities in the area for infrastructure projects, service provision or

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even council tax cuts. I should like the Government to give an “in principle” commitment to providing something along those lines before any decision is made on whether to expand shale gas operations. This should apply elsewhere in the country, too.

What I am proposing will be seen by some as trying to bribe residents into supporting shale gas, but that is not so. I know for a fact that many of my local residents would never be convinced of the merits of shale gas, whether it is extracted locally or not, even if they were offered a cheque for £1 million. Their objections are based on genuinely held fears about safety and concerns about the environment, particularly their own water supply. I am suggesting merely that there should be a fair reward for the communities that might have to host all that infrastructure, worry about safety and deal with increased traffic, and, as I have stressed before, that will not secure thousands or even hundreds of extra jobs.

I stress again that I am not proposing that we agree to a move to immediate shale gas operations. I still share my residents’ concerns about water safety and the adequacy of regulatory regimes, and want to see those dealt with in more detail. I support the Energy Secretary’s introducing increased regulation for the test site. It will be interesting to see over the next few months and years what those measurements say and what the safety record is, particularly regarding seismic activity and so on.

We are generous folk in Lancashire. We are loyal to our Duke and are patriotic members of the United Kingdom. But if others are to make millions, then it is only fair that Lancashire should have a share of those millions.

4.22 pm

Mark Hendrick (Preston) (Lab/Co-op): I congratulate the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Eric Ollerenshaw) on securing this debate.

I am concerned that there are no plans for new extraction regulations. We met with the Secretary of State before the statement last week and he made it plain that he believes that existing European directives and environmental agency regulations are sufficient at this stage for the experimental and exploratory phase to take place. For me, that is a shock and a surprise. The industry is new to this country—except for the small amounts of fracking in Lancashire—but given the extensive fracking that has taken place in the United States, there should be plenty of lessons for the industry regarding new regulations. Adequate new regulations should be put in place.

Some US states have no regulation, but that is because the locations in question are often remote and unpopulated. The UK, and Lancashire in particular, is not like that. There are many villages and towns in the areas that are going to be releasing shale gas.

The Secretary of State has made it clear that the exploratory and experimental phase that has been given the go-ahead for the next two years may yield results that highlight the need for new regulation. However, that amounts to using Lancashire as a guinea pig for the rest of the country. That is a cavalier approach to serious industrial activity, and above all to the people of my constituency and Lancashire as a whole, who could be subjected to the earth tremors that Blackpool experienced. We do not want earth tremors or serious

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earth movements; we want a safe industry. Lancashire should not be an experiment for the rest of the country. It should have all the necessary safeguards to ensure public safety before further work is undertaken. Yes, we should have the rewards—if it is safe for residents, safe for the water supply and safe for the environment.

4.25 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Gregory Barker): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Eric Ollerenshaw), who yet again demonstrated why he is known as such a formidable, and probably unequalled, champion of the interests of his constituents. He also demonstrated his strong commitment not just to his own constituency, but to the wider area of Lancashire. Indeed, he successfully secured a wider debate a few months ago on energy and infrastructure in Lancashire, in which shale gas was also covered. That builds on his tireless work on this issue, which he continues to go at, terrier like, on behalf of his constituents.

I apologise for my croaky voice, Mr Bayley, I hope that it lasts. The focus of this debate—the community share of shale gas profit—comes from a slightly different perspective than the previous debate secured by my hon. Friend. I note that he is joined by those equally formidable constituency Members of Parliament, my hon. Friends the Members for Fylde (Mark Menzies) and for Redditch (Karen Lumley), who have been here throughout the debate.

The question in this debate is how development of new energy sources, such as shale gas, can provide benefits not just to the country as a whole, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood rightly says, to the communities where they are developed. As the Secretary of State said only last week, shale gas may have an important part to play in our national energy mix and our economy, but we must ensure that communities benefit and that there is proper environmental regulation.

I understand the issues that were rightly raised by Government colleagues and by the hon. Member for Preston (Mark Hendrick), not just about sharing the benefits, but about the need to ensure that the highest levels of environmental integrity are achieved, and about what that means.

I make it clear at the outset that we recognise that there is an important issue of fairness here. We do not yet know whether shale gas in this country is a commercial proposition at all. We hope that it is, but we are even more unsure what scale of development may be proposed and if it can be established that there is a geological potential for an economic development. It is still early days. But it is clear, from looking at what has happened in the US, that if shale gas production proves economic, the scale of development that might be proposed could be substantial, or “industrial”, as my hon. Friends have said.

I stress that the important word is “might”. It is already clear that the Bowland shale in Lancashire is not an exact analogue for any US shale, and it is not to be assumed that the pattern, or patterns, of development which have been followed in the US will necessarily work

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here. But there is at least the possibility that proposals for one or more large-scale gas production projects in the UK would involve large numbers of wells drilled over a substantial period of time. I have no doubt that if such proposals are made, the planning authority will do what they can to make the impacts of such a development, in terms of noise and general disturbance, traffic movements and night-time working—all the many ways in which an industrial development can impact on the lives of those who live nearby, particularly in a quiet, tranquil rural area—as small and acceptable as possible. I have no doubt that the planning authority will do what it can to minimise and mitigate such impacts. Even so, there is no question but that a large project of such a kind would have impacts on the lives of the people living in the areas around.

In such circumstances, it is only right and reasonable that the communities that suffer the inconvenience of the development should have a share in the economic benefits. However, while I and my colleagues at the Department of Energy and Climate Change wholeheartedly agree with the principle articulated at length by my hon. Friend—perhaps we can call it the Lancaster and Fleetwood principle—at such an early stage I am afraid that we simply cannot propose exactly how that would be done or what mechanisms might be appropriate.

Mark Hendrick: Will the Minister give way?

Gregory Barker: I shall make some progress, if I may, because I want to reply to the many important questions raised.

I hope that my hon. Friends the Members for Lancaster and Fleetwood and for Fylde, who have engaged in the debate sensibly and robustly, take comfort from my reassurances but appreciate our position given our state of knowledge and understanding of the sector. As such understanding grows, there can be genuine dialogue and discussion between the company proposing the project and the communities that might be affected. The Government will take a clear interest in such developments.

Shale gas has been of increasing importance in the US for some years, but exploration has only just begun in the UK. The potential to produce shale gas from a suitable formation can only be established by fracturing the rock. The fracturing of the first shale gas well in the UK, however, at Preese Hall near Blackpool last year, resulted in noticeable seismic tremors. Seismic activity at such a level could not cause any damage, but was not an expected consequence of the fracking activity, so DECC rightly suspended all fracking operations for shale gas pending a thorough investigation of the causes of the tremors and of the scope for mitigation of seismic risks in any future operations of that type.

The coalition Government carefully reviewed the evidence, with the aid of independent experts and of an authoritative review of the scientific and engineering evidence on shale gas extraction conducted by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society, and concluded that appropriate controls are available to mitigate the risks of undesirable seismic activity. The new controls will be required by DECC for all future shale gas wells. In principle, on that basis, we are prepared to consent to new fracking proposals for shale gas if all other necessary permissions and consents are

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in place. In practice, it will be well into next year before any new exploration work has all the necessary consents to proceed. Whether any production operations are proposed will depend on the success of exploration work but, in any event, that is likely to be some years away yet. The new controls on seismic risks do not remove any of the existing regulatory controls and requirements. Consistent with previous practice, my Department will not give consent to specific fracking operations until all other consents are in place, including planning permission, the obtaining of environmental permits from the relevant environment agency and scrutiny by the Health and Safety Executive.

We are conscious that many people, including residents of Lancashire and other areas where shale gas exploration might be contemplated, have other concerns besides the seismic risks. Indeed, for most people, they are not of most concern, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood eloquently pointed out. In the US, the development of shale gas has been accompanied by increasing debate on its environmental impacts. Many of the incidents reported have, on investigation, not been shown to be connected with oil and gas activity, although they have given rise to concerns that in themselves are entirely reasonable. Residents in such areas want, therefore, to be assured that their water will not be contaminated with gas or toxic chemicals, that the air will not be contaminated with noxious gases, that there will be no damage from earthquakes and that other kinds of disturbance such as traffic, lights and noise will be kept under control. We understand that. In considering the concerns, we have had the benefit of the earlier report on shale gas by the Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change and of many authoritative reports from the US, including two from the Secretary of Energy’s advisory board.

In the UK, the industry has a good record, and robust regulatory controls on all oil and gas activities are already in place. On water contamination, which my hon. Friend discussed, all such operations are subject to scrutiny by the appropriate environment agency, the Environment Agency in England and for the time being Wales and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency north of the border. It is an offence to cause or knowingly permit poisonous, noxious or polluting matter to enter controlled waters, which include groundwater. The environment agencies are statutory consultees in the planning process and must be consulted on all proposed borehole operations. A permit from the agency is required if fluids containing pollutants are to be injected into rock formations that contain groundwater. A permit may also be needed if the activity poses an unacceptable risk of mobilising natural substances that in themselves could cause pollution. The permit will specify any necessary limits on the activity, any requirements for monitoring the chemicals that may be used and any appropriate limits on permissible concentrations. Regulators will take a risk-based approach; if the activity poses an unacceptable risk to the environment, it will not be allowed.

The reports I mentioned also emphasise the importance in such a context of the integrity of the well. That issue is central to the regulation of the safety of well operations by the HSE, which must be notified of all drilling operations for oil or gas and will scrutinise the well design and the operational plan. Additionally, the regulations

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require a full review of the proposed and actual well operations by an independent competent person, the well examiner.

The use of chemicals in frack fluids is another matter that occasions much concern. Again, the environment agencies take a risk-based approach to the regulation of the use of chemicals in shale gas fracking activities. The hazard potential of all substances proposed—

Mark Hendrick: Will the Minister give way?

Gregory Barker: I will not, I am afraid. I am close to coming to the end of my—

Mark Hendrick: I thought the Minister wanted to make some progress.

Gregory Barker: I do, to get to the end of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood.

The hazard potential of all substances proposed to be injected into the ground will be assessed, and the use of substances hazardous to groundwater will not be permitted.

Mark Hendrick: On a point of order, Mr Bayley, the subject of the debate involves the benefit to the people of Lancashire. The Minister is going into a great deal of technical detail about the safety issues, when he should be discussing the benefit to the people of Lancashire.

Hugh Bayley (in the Chair): It is for the Minister to present his arguments as he sees fit. He has made it clear that he does not want to take an intervention at this stage.

Gregory Barker: I am also mindful that the debate was secured by my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood and that it is unusual for other Members to speak as well. The hon. Member for Preston has done well already, so in the remaining time I should answer my hon. Friend.

The national planning policy framework requires planning authorities to assess applications for all minerals developments so as to ensure that permitted operations do not have unacceptable adverse effects on the natural or historical environment or on human health, including from noise, dust, visual intrusion or migration of contamination from the site. In doing so, they should take into account the cumulative effects of multiple impacts from individual sites or a number of sites in a locality. Conditions can be placed on working hours at a site or on numbers of traffic movements to ensure that any effect on local residents remains within acceptable bounds.

I hope that I have assured my hon. Friend that we will continue to maintain our responsible, thorough and rigorous approach. Within that framework, Government consider shale gas to be an interesting new prospective source of UK energy supplies. I again welcome the debate and the further opportunity to explain the Government’s positive approach to a potentially valuable addition to our energy resources, but my hon. Friend is right that we must ensure that local communities suffering the inconvenience that comes with development should have a share in the economic benefits. I assure him and my

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other hon. Friends from Lancashire that that will be one of the many considerations examined should shale gas in the UK prove to be a successful proposition and we move to the development phase.

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West Midlands Economy

4.40 pm

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): This is probably only the second time, Mr Bayley, that you have chaired a debate of mine, and I welcome you. This is a short debate, and all the issues relating to Coventry and the west midlands cannot be covered, so I will be brief. The present economic situation developed in America, but the Government’s policies have not helped the general situation nationally or locally. [Interruption.]

Hugh Bayley(in the Chair): Order. Will the hon. Gentleman wait a moment while colleagues leave the Chamber? Their conversation should take place outside the Chamber so as not to disturb this debate.

Mr Cunningham: The present economic situation started with Lehman Brothers in America, and the bankers. Some bankers in America faced Senate inquiries, and some were charged, but I do not want to go into that today. I want to talk about Coventry in particular, the west midlands in general, and some of the issues that affect Coventry and the west midlands.

We have issues concerning the police, and the problem of police numbers and cuts are well known. There are also issues with fire brigade cuts, and a running issue during the next few months will be changes to employment law. I will not develop the arguments too much today. Some have been well rehearsed, and some will be. There is a west midlands campaign for a fair deal for Birmingham, but there must also be a fair deal for the other districts that make up the west midlands, including Coventry. I am looking for a fair deal for Coventry.

Coventry was mentioned once in the autumn statement. It is one of the 12 smaller cities that will be included in the super-connected cities programme, and will receive funding for ultra-fast broadband. I am obviously pleased at the news, and I recognise the impact that superfast broadband can have on growth. I particularly understand the importance of encouraging small and medium-sized enterprises to realise the opportunities that superfast broadband can bring. A Lloyds Banking Group survey found that 45% of digitally mature small businesses had registered growth, compared with 35% of digitally immature SMEs.

Some research suggests an £18.8 billion opportunity for SME revenue growth through more high-tech approaches to marketing, data optimisation and more, so I am pleased with the Government’s commitment to broadband expansion. We can say something positive about the Government for a change, but we will be looking to ensure that they proceed intelligently to ensure that small businesses make the most of the available opportunities.

I am also optimistic about the city deal in Coventry and Warwickshire. Over the past month, Coventry MPs and councillors in particular have lobbied hard, as have Warwickshire MPs and councillors. The city deal could bring great benefits to the region, including giving cities the powers and tools they need to drive local economic growth, unlocking projects or initiatives to boost their economies, and strengthening the governance arrangements of each city. Each city deal includes at least one major commitment specific to the city, which generally involves

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leveraging private sector funding. Many have included tax increment financing and community infrastructure levies, and there is a focus on investment and trade.

I very much hope that Coventry and Warwickshire local authorities will make the case for Coventry’s candidacy for the deal. Coventry is a strong contender, and has been working for months to develop infrastructure plans that are ready to go ahead given sufficient funding and support. The plans reflect local understanding of the asset base, transport issues, the financial situation, and what can be achieved. An example of the work that Coventry is already undertaking to stimulate growth is the gateway project. It is controversial because environmental issues are involved, but I understand that it is on the way to obtaining planning permission, or has already received it. I am not clear about that. The project will be interesting, but controversial.

Another excellent example in Coventry is the Friargate project next to Coventry railway station. It is a 300,000 square metre development, which will extensively renovate the area to include 14 grade A office buildings, two hotels, new pedestrian routes, high quality public spaces, new residential buildings, and space for retail outlets and bars. Outline planning consent was granted in July 2011, and the first phase of the development has started. I hope that the development will transform the city centre, making it welcoming and lively. More importantly, I hope very much that the renovated city centre will raise optimism and encourage investment in the city.

Mr Brian H. Donohoe (Central Ayrshire) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. Coventry’s economy has been greatly assisted over the years by the car industry, particularly Jaguar. What does he think about Tata’s proposal to open a factory in China?

Mr Cunningham: There are a couple of schools of thought about that, but my understanding is that the trade unions are worried and will be having discussions with Tata. Some years ago, there was concern about Jaguar’s trade with China. Some people thought that cars would be built in China, but they were only assembled there, and there had been a misunderstanding. We need to find out more about the current deal, and discussions are ongoing.

Coventry city council is suffering from Government funding cuts. From 2010-11 to 2012-13, the council has suffered cuts of £101.89 per capita. That is among the hardest hit 20% of local authorities. More unjust and distressing is the fact that of those local authorities with cuts of more than £100 per head, including Coventry, 85.71 % are Labour-run, and only 5.36 % are Tory-run. Meanwhile, of those local authorities with cuts of less than £100 per head, 60.82% are Tory-run and 19.4% are Labour-run. It is hard not to be concerned about the Government’s fairness when the cuts seem to be distributed across local authorities on party lines. Coventry council had expected to lose 1,000 jobs over four years to 2014-15, but it is now predicting 1,600 job losses over the four-year period, with a cut of more than 10% in the work force.

Those cuts are impacting on the council’s services for the vulnerable. For example, its funding for early intervention will be cut yet again. Two years ago it was

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£22 million per annum, but from next year it will be £11 million. That is particularly damaging given the current increased pressure on social care. Every penny spent on early intervention in families with young children to help them help themselves is of paramount importance in taking people out of poverty and improving children’s life chances. Those pressures are increased by a social care budget for children of £64 million which has not significantly changed for two years. Similarly, the pressures are increasing daily on the adult social care budget because elderly people and disabled people are living longer, but that is not reflected in the budget, and the extra cost of care is not recognised in financial terms.

Those are only a few of the extreme budgetary pressures on the council; to put the huge cuts in funding into context, there are others. In my constituency alone, 920 households have already received letters from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs informing them that their child benefit is likely to be reduced or withdrawn. Across Coventry, that figure is 1,740 households. The jobseeker’s allowance claimant rate in Coventry and across the west midlands is 6.2%, well above the UK’s rate of 5.2%. Even worse, the rate of jobseeker’s allowance claims by 18 to 24-year-olds across the west midlands is 8.7%, far higher than the UK’s 7.1%.

Karen Lumley (Redditch) (Con): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Cunningham: I want to get on. If I have time, I will let the hon. Lady in.

Looking at the proportion of people referred to the Work programme who have had a job outcome, there has been poor progress. In Coventry South, 1,670 referrals were made to the Work programme last year. In the same period, only 50 job outcomes resulted from the programme—a success rate of only 3%. Although employment levels have increased, we do not have enough information about the type of work being gained. There are clearly many people in part-time work who are not earning the income they need to survive. We need to look closer at the numbers, as it is not a question of simply being in or out of work; we need to know more about the type of work.

Karen Lumley: I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this debate. Does he not agree that under this Government, unemployment is falling month on month, and that new business start-ups in Redditch have increased by 14%? Does he not think that that is good news for the west midlands economy?

Mr Cunningham: We do not have a breakdown of those figures. We do not know how many people are part-time workers or are in temporary jobs. I want to know more about those figures.

Budgetary pressures on the council are made all the more damaging in light of the financial pressures individual households face. For example, I am extremely concerned about the coming introduction of the under-occupancy penalty, or bedroom tax—in other words a new poll tax, but no one has grasped that. It will cut the housing benefit of working-age tenants in the social rented sector who have spare rooms.

The Government say that if people do not want to face the benefit cut, they can simply move into a smaller

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property. However, there are simply not enough smaller homes available in the current housing market. There is a national shortage of one-bedroom houses, particularly in the social housing sector. Furthermore, there are concerns that tenants are not being sufficiently prepared for the changes and do not know anything about the penalty.

The Department for Work and Pensions estimates that the introduction of the social sector size criteria measure is likely to affect 60,000 working-age housing benefit claimants living in the social rented sector in the west midlands at the time of its introduction in 2013-14. The change will mean that anyone in social housing with a spare bedroom will lose 14% of their housing benefit, or 25% if they have two spare rooms. Most people with a spare bedroom are pensioners who live in two or three-bedroom houses. There is a national shortage of one-bedroom houses, particularly in the social housing sector. In many areas, moving is not an option, because there are not enough smaller places to move into. I have long been concerned about that issue and want to prepare those who will be affected in Coventry as much as possible.

Another factor that is putting pressure on households is fuel prices. Petrol prices have fallen by less than 4p a litre, despite a 10p drop in wholesale prices—almost mirroring what happened six months ago.

Mr Marcus Jones (Nuneaton) (Con): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Cunningham: No. I want to finish my speech, and my colleagues want to come in.

The average pump price of diesel has fallen, but only by 40% of the fall in the wholesale value. The Government should be doing all they can to try to mitigate the impact of high prices, and doing all in their power to make the prices at the pump fairly reflect any drops in the wholesale price.

I have a number of serious reservations about High Speed 2. I wish to be given all possible assurances that Coventry will not lose out from the development of HS2. We have had a meeting with the Secretary of State for Transport, who will look at the situation and at how to ensure that Coventry does not lose out. I am concerned that HS2 might drive up prices in existing services to Coventry and reduce services on the west coast main line, which could blight inward investment in Coventry.

European attempts at high-speed networks are concerning. There have been criticisms that the high-speed route in France has meant that towns near but not on the route have suffered, as investment was sucked into the cities on the route. Coventry’s proximity to Birmingham is making me anxious that a similar loss of investment to Birmingham may occur.

Furthermore, I am extremely concerned about the compensation package being offered by the Government. I understand that the existing package does not cover all who will be negatively affected by HS2, particularly those at the fringes. Households may experience negative equity on their properties but will receive no compensation, therefore making it difficult to sell the properties on the periphery. I have been having meetings, but will seek

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more to gain every reassurance that Coventry households, as well as the local economy, will not be negatively affected by HS2.

In conclusion, I want to know what the Government intend to do to support Coventry. The city is working extremely hard to encourage investment and regeneration and to free up land to provide space for manufacturing facilities and many other projects. The council is doing all it can to continue providing essential services, particularly for Coventry’s vulnerable people, despite difficult budgetary pressures. The people of Coventry want reassurance that such hardships are not going to continue without the Government also taking action to stimulate growth in the region.

4.55 pm

Mr Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry North West) (Lab): May I say what a pleasure it is to serve—for the first time, I think—under your chairmanship, Mr Bayley? I thank Mr Speaker for granting this debate, and my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham) for inviting me to take part in it. The debate is timely, given the dreadful news that came in the autumn statement, the downgrading of the Government’s forecast, and the implications that has for continuing poor economic performance throughout the country and in the west midlands in particular. Sadly, we have yet to see a pick-up there.

Mr Marcus Jones: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Robinson: No, I will not. If I had the remotest hope of the intervention being intelligent or relevant to what we are talking about, which is the west midlands and Coventry, in the way that the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr Donohoe) was, I would. However, we know that it would be a recital of what the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr Jones) believes are the great Government accomplishments. That is not what we are here to do. Nor are we here to criticise the Government point blank—there are one or two things that I am pleased to say that they have done well on. If he will forgive me—I will not expect to be invited to intervene in any of his speeches; I can give him that reassurance—I will not, on this occasion, give way.

My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry South gave us a tour d’horizon. In 15 minutes, he drew us through every aspect of Coventry’s activities, particularly the interface with the Government and the impact of Government cuts on the city. I want to pick up on one point, initially: the cuts to early intervention, to which he referred. Over two years, Coventry’s receipt from Government for early intervention has been halved from £22 million to £11 million. That is a massive cut by any standard. Those figures are from the council; I am sure that they must be pretty accurate.

I am not trying to say that that is the direct consequence of my next point, which is a sad fact: in Ofsted’s latest rankings, Coventry’s primary education has been ranked the worst in the country for giving opportunity to its youngsters. It is always argued by people who are much more knowledgeable about education than I am that early intervention in the primary stage is key to the child’s whole chances in life. In my opinion, education is the vital provider of life chances to all children. If, at

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that early stage, we are offering the worst possible opportunities in the country for youngsters, that is clearly a matter of great concern to Coventry and its Members of Parliament.

I have made some criticisms in that regard. Using the rather grand BBC euphemism, I suggested that the director of education should follow the director-general’s example and step aside. It was not well accepted, but I still say it. If someone asks me what that means, I will say, “Resign.” If someone has been in a position of public trust for so many years, as the director has been, but local children are judged to have the worst life chances at a key stage in their education, they have to ask themselves, “What am I here for?” I make no excuses for saying that, but nor do I say that we are in this situation just because the Government have cut the funding in half. I am not sure how far the correlation can be pushed; I do not think it can be pushed all that far. I think that what we are up against—I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry South agrees—is an acceptance of poor standards, a belief that we cannot do better.

For that reason, the first thing that I want to say today, pursuing the initiative that I have already taken through the local press and media in the city, is that much stronger, much more powerful pressure is needed on the education establishment in Coventry. Fortunately, we now have as a councillor—this was well timed, in that respect—a former head of a secondary school in my constituency who, after 21 years, can proudly say that his school was top in Coventry every single year, and was within the top 10% for performance in the whole country. He is now a Labour councillor; I am pleased to say that he is the council member for education. Again, I make no excuses for saying this: I pushed for him to be encouraged to take on the responsibility of replacing the director, and for much-improved status, quality and priority to be given to the education department in the council. I think that I am within my time limit, if there is one. Perhaps it will be indicated to me if I am not.

Hugh Bayley (in the Chair): I should remind the hon. Gentleman that the debate ends at 5.10 pm. It is for him to decide how much time the Minister has to reply. There are eight and a half minutes to go.

Mr Robinson: I am grateful to you, Mr Bayley, but I know the Minister personally very well. He is extraordinarily succinct in everything that he has to say, and I am not sure that he is going to tell us very much when it comes to it, but I do have a question or two to ask him, if I may.

We are so pleased to be in the broadband scheme. Unfortunately, I do not think that broadband will play a big part in getting the primary education sector right, but I am sure that it will play a huge part in improving the secondary and tertiary sectors of our education system, and also in business. Can the Minister tell us how much money will come to us, given that we have been named, thankfully, as one of the cities involved? Can he tell us what the timing is, what speed is envisaged and, above all, when we in Coventry can expect to feel the benefit? Those are my few questions for the Minister. I am mindful of your advice, Mr Bayley, and would hate to build a reputation with you, Sir, for being other than adherent to your orders. On that note, I will sit down, but I do hope that the Minister can reply.

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5.2 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Michael Fallon): I, too, commend the hon. Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham) on securing the debate and on his contribution. I also note the contribution from the hon. Member for Coventry North West (Mr Robinson) and the refreshingly frank things that he said about the need for educational improvement. That probably applies not just in Coventry, but in many of our cities.

No one is under any illusions about the scale of the wider challenges that we face as a country, but we are not just dealing with the deficit; we are rebalancing the economy and helping to protect the most vulnerable. In the west midlands, we have taken 22,000 people out of income tax altogether, and 2 million people in the region will pay less income tax as a result of the personal allowance reforms that we have announced.

The economy of Coventry and the west midlands is a vital part of our national economy. It accounts for more than 7% of the UK’s gross value added, and it is important for us all that it is successful and prosperous. Of course, Coventry has long been at the heart of Britain’s manufacturing sector. In recent years, there has been much welcome news of private sector investment, including investment by BMW at Hams Hall, by Jaguar Land Rover near Wolverhampton and at its other plants and, most recently, by JCB, which is investing £31 million to develop new engine technology. All that is welcome news and a tribute to the efforts of businesses and employees in Coventry and the west midlands.

The Coventry and Warwickshire local enterprise partnership has brought together public and private sector partners to work to deliver economic success. We have provided Coventry and Warwickshire with some £13 million from the Growing Places fund. We have also invested directly in encouraging business growth through the regional growth fund. The west midlands was awarded the largest regional allocation of all in round 3 of the regional growth fund: £184 million was provisionally allocated in October to programmes and projects with a strong focus on high-value manufacturing growth. In addition to that, the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP has been allocated more than £24 million to unlock key sites and drive local business expansion. Companies from Coventry and Warwickshire that were successful include Jaguar Cars, Pailton Engineering, Aston Martin and Bladon Jets. The Government have also announced a range of other investments.

The hon. Member for Coventry North West specifically mentioned superfast broadband. I hope to get him some figures on that. I may not be able to do that today; if I do not, I will certainly write to him.

Mr Marcus Jones: I thank my right hon. Friend the Minister for giving way; that is very generous of him. The positive news that he mentions is extremely important. Does he agree that it includes a fall in unemployment since May 2010 in my constituency of Nuneaton, and the fact that in Nuneaton we have had the largest business growth, at 22% nearly, in the country over the past three months? Does he agree that that is a good success story and we should build on it?

Michael Fallon: It is a good success story, and I note that unemployment continues to fall. Coventry and Warwickshire was one of the areas invited to submit an

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expression of interest in developing a wave 2 city deal. I cannot guarantee its success. Twenty cities have been invited, and they will not all make it; it is a competitive process. However, it sounds from what my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr Jones) has said as though good work is in hand there.

The hon. Member for Coventry South mentioned some specific issues. I look forward to the Friargate development beginning to roll out in 2013; that is important. He asked me about the Coventry gateway. That has not yet, as I understand it, fully secured planning permission; I think it is before Warwick district council today, as a matter of fact, so I had probably better not comment on it. He made some criticisms of the cuts in grant to Coventry council. There was some suggestion that those were somehow politically motivated. The cuts seem to have fallen more heavily, he said, on Labour councils than Conservative councils. The fact is that they have fallen on all councils. We must get our public spending under control. However, I will certainly refer what he said about the impact on social services to my ministerial colleagues.

The hon. Gentleman then raised two or three very specific issues, including the bedroom tax. If people continue to live in a property that is larger than they need, it is not unreasonable to expect them to make a contribution to its cost through a reduction in housing benefit. However, the Government have listened to concerns about that, and an additional £30 million has been allocated to the discretionary housing payment budget from April 2013.

The hon. Gentleman asked me about fuel prices. Cancelling the fuel duty rise in January, which I think the last Government programmed in for us, will reduce the running costs for the 3.5 million vehicles in the west midlands, saving the typical motorist in the west midlands £40 a year.

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The hon. Gentleman asked me about HS2. HS2 is a fundamental part of the Government’s plans to promote national economic growth, benefitting the whole country, but of course HS2 also puts the west midlands at the heart of a new high-speed rail network. That is a great opportunity for the region as a whole, with the benefits spreading beyond the station sites and into the wider city region. There is a challenge for councils in the west midlands and their partners to work together on how to achieve that.

I was asked about broadband funding and I can reassure the hon. Member for Coventry North West that it will be a share of some £50 million of funding. There will be an invitation to tender to Coventry, issued in January. He asked me about the timetable. If we stick to that timetable, the contract for the broadband should be agreed in May. I hope that that is helpful to him.

The Government share the desire expressed by the hon. Member for Coventry South to see Coventry and the west midlands flourish, and people in Coventry and the west midlands are responding to the real challenges of that economy. Whether that response is in the established industries, such as the automotive industry, or in developing sectors, such as low-carbon technologies and digital games, the resurgence is being led by the private sector. It is leading the growth of the west midlands economy. There are no guarantees of success. It will obviously require hard work, the ability to harness innovation and the winning of new businesses opportunities, but the Government are there to support the regeneration of the west midlands. That is why we are going all out to create the best possible business environment that will give companies the confidence to invest and grow in the west midlands.

5.10 pm

Sitting adjourned without Question put (Standing Order No. 10(13)).