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Westminster Hall

Wednesday 20 March 2013

[Mr Peter Bone in the Chair]

Government Policy (Kenya)

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

9.30 am

Eric Joyce (Falkirk) (Ind): It is difficult to overstate the importance of Kenya to the United Kingdom and, indeed, the wider international community. Perhaps first and foremost, Kenya is at the centre of international efforts to ensure the security of our own citizens. Citizens of Kenya have played a high price for that role and for their pivotal location in the world in recent years, from the US embassy bombing in 1998 through to the al-Shabaab attacks of last year, yet that is rarely reflected in public discourse here in the UK.

It is not necessary to go into detail about the way in which Kenya has co-operated magnificently with her allies, because a good deal of that information is public. However, much of it, by necessity, is unknown by those who are not directly involved. What is a matter of considerable public knowledge is Kenya’s leadership role in stabilising its northern neighbour, Somalia. Authorities, from the UN Secretary-General to the leaders of all the major states involved, have officially recognised that Somalia is where it is today—fragile but, I hope, on the road to recovery—because of the efforts of Kenya’s servicemen and women in defeating al-Shabaab and securing Mogadishu. What is more, Kenya has done that while showing restraint and ensuring the appropriate UN and African Union mandates are complied with, such as by re-hatting Kenyan troops as African Union Mission in Somalia—AMISOM—troops.

Kenya’s role extends well beyond military action, too. Virtually all humanitarian efforts in Somalia are mounted from Kenya, and they have saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Somalis. Experts are in universal agreement that Kenya has deployed only appropriate force to assure its territorial integrity and that it has gone far above and beyond the call of national duty to help developed nations, such as the UK, to secure the safety of their citizens—here in the UK and abroad.

Anyone who has served in the British Army knows, like many others, how important Kenya has always been to our military capacity. The unrivalled training facilities that Kenya has always provided so freely have been a fundamental component of the UK’s capacity to launch military operations, including, for example, in our defence of the Falkland Islands just over 30 years ago. Many British servicemen regarded Kenya as the reason why we were able to mount that operation, given the personal and unit training capacity. Anyone who goes on the British Army’s website will read about the UK’s continuing reliance on, and gratitude for, Kenyan facilities, notably in respect of Operation Herrick in Afghanistan, but also in respect of British Army operations around the world.

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Beyond military and security considerations, I have recently spoken to private equity investors who are interested in projects in Mogadishu, which is testimony to how astonishingly quickly Governments and investors can act together to build much needed infrastructure and services, following even the direst of civil collapses. That has been made possible by Kenya, first and foremost. It will be some time before we can be sure that Somalia is unstoppably on the road to proper reconstruction, but when it is, we will have Kenya to thank for that.

Communications in Kenya are also fundamental to investment throughout the region. I have visited Africa many times over the past dozen years, and virtually every time, I have travelled through Nairobi. It is a simple fact that Kenya is Africa’s pre-eminent junction for flows of trade and investment, people and, inevitably, information. From a trade and investment perspective, Kenya has many buoyant businesses, and it is the world leader in mobile payment systems. The Minister will be well aware of the UK’s early role in facilitating M-PESA. Off the top of my head, I believe that the former Commonwealth Development Corporation—now the CDC—was involved in seedcorning that project in Kenya.

M-PESA is a payment system that utilises the Safaricom network and harnesses microfinancing principles to deliver a superfast and highly effective means of bill payment. It has been so successful that conventional banking institutions have made significant efforts to become involved, through the Government, in the regulation of such systems. That is because mobile platform providers such as Safaricom enjoy confidence among local consumers at a higher level than that for the banks. Although Kenya, unlike many African states, has a relatively mature local banking system, I understand that almost 20 million Kenyans—it has population of just over 41 million—have M-PESA accounts. That enables them to make payments and transfer cash. It involves trading in what we would view as relatively small amounts, but those amounts fit the size of the domestic markets that small traders are accessing.

M-PESA has also been successfully extended into Tanzania. One of the critical aspects of the system is that in Kenya, and across Africa, the mobile infrastructure is developed, but fixed-line infrastructure is undeveloped, so services are jumping ahead. In the UK, we are looking at 4G and considering how we might be able to access new services through mobile platforms, but people in Africa really have no choice. The sophistication of mobile platforms such as M-PESA is remarkable, and in that way Kenya leads the world.

About 15 or 16 months ago, I attended the Internet Governance Forum in Nairobi, at which many of us were privileged to meet a number of senior Kenyan Government Ministers. It is clear that Kenya takes its role in internet governance very seriously, because it makes an enormous investment in new media technologies.

I said that Kenya is a junction for people and information within Africa. I know people who arrange to meet African colleagues and potential clients from across the continent in Kenya. I know people who go on holiday there, and I also know people who, a few days ago, helped to secure the release of 25 mariners from the Somali pirates who were holding them hostage. Of course, the UK Government are wary of that detail, but I will say a word or two about it, because it is pertinent to Kenya. The whole business of security in relation to

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piracy off Somalia involves significant reliance on Kenya, and such security is another area of activity that has saved the lives of many people.

Kenya suffers the consequences of—if I can call it this—non-terrorism related piracy. I know that we might call all Somali piracy terrorism, but there is a clear distinction in my mind, because while it is all done for money, some people are highly motivated by simply the commercial gains, whereas others, such as al-Shabaab, are motivated by what they can spend the money on. Nevertheless, piracy continues, and Kenya helps to do everything that it can to help to fix the problem at the macro level and, more significantly, in very practical ways that, for good reason, are rarely discussed.

I should say, perhaps as a side note, that while it is in vogue for some non-governmental organisations to say that they do not negotiate with hostage takers, responsible employers ensure that their employees are properly insured in case they are taken captive, particularly in dangerous areas of the world. That insurance is almost invariably taken out on the London markets, and the unsung people who get on with negotiating and sorting immediate crises are almost invariably British. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of people and companies involved in ship security for anti-piracy work off Somalia are British. Britain has an enormously important role to play, and Kenya sits at the core of things, because during an arrest operation, pirates are often taken to Kenya and then the Kenyan justice system endeavours to deal with the situation, which is clearly a contentious issue in itself. The Kenyan Government have handled things responsibly, and there is clearly a close relationship between the various navies of the developed nations and the Kenyan Government, because invariably such people could end up—and in some cases do end up—on trial in Mombasa.

Having stressed some aspects of our crucial mutual relationship with Kenya, I would like to move on to recent events regarding the Kenyan presidential election and the International Criminal Court. Media reports are still reporting the result of the Kenyan presidential election as “razor-thin”. In fact, President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta won by almost seven points on an 86% turnout in an election that was regarded by observers as fair and free, and was, thank God, peaceful. Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the losing candidate, has observed the law and rules, and lodged a court appeal, which will be considered in due course.

Going into the election, there was a perception in Kenya that the UK and US Governments, as well as some others, were not wholly impartial. It was said that UK diplomats had sought to encourage an Odinga win and that they had made comments during the tallying process that had seemed to work towards enabling a second-round run-off, which might have disbenefited Kenyatta, the first-round winner. I have scoured all the sources I can—as you know, Mr Bone, our resources in this place are very good for scouring the international media—and I also have many contacts and friends in the media across the world and in theatre in Kenya, but I can find no source whatsoever that serves as reasonable evidence of such a public bias. I could find no example

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whatever of a public comment by a UK diplomat or Minister anywhere. We can draw, in this place at least, our own conclusions about that.

There is a well-known quote by a senior US official that is now said everywhere in Kenya. I do not know the exact context in which he said it—it might have been in a speech—but that comment is “choices have consequences”. It is certain that the comment was made, although I would not wish to put it in the wrong context, and whether it is accurate or not, it did, in itself, have consequences. As I think the Minister will know, the quote was taken by some in Kenya as an implied threat that if Kenya did not vote for the developed world’s preferred candidate, there might be a price to pay in one way or another.

As you will be well aware, Mr Bone, I am not an academic expert. I was not present on the ground during the election period on this occasion, and of course I do not claim the expert knowledge of our diplomats and Ministers. However, I think that it is fair to say that there was a strong perception in Kenya that powerful nations were threatening Kenyans against voting for Kenyatta, who is now the President-elect, but that made them more likely to do just that—why would it not?

Going into the election, analysts were suggesting that Prime Minister Odinga perhaps had a two or three-point lead. I was never particularly convinced of that, and such a lead would be more or less within the margin of error in any case, but the vote was clearly very tight. However, I believe that a significant element of Mr Kenyatta’s margin of victory came in the form of a statement by Kenyans that if they were required to choose between sovereign self-determination and the patronage of foreign powers, they would always choose the former. It seems to me that it would be best if Kenyans did not feel—whether there is any foundation to this or not—that they needed to make that choice ever again.

The situation is ongoing, however, owing to the still-live International Criminal Court indictments of Mr Kenyatta and Deputy President-elect Ruto. I know that the Minister will wish to be measured and careful with his words on that subject, as he is with all his words. Although it is essential that we respect the processes of the ICC—Kenya is doing precisely that at the moment, as are the President-elect and Deputy President-elect—it is important to understand the political nature of the ICC. I am aware that the UK and other international Governments are seized of the situation’s trickiness, to say the least, but it is important to put these matters on record.

Two years ago, I had the privilege of spending several hours discussing the nature and processes of the ICC with its then chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo. He was incredibly generous with his time, and I left his office with a far greater understanding of, and much more good will towards, the ICC than I had had when I entered it. My concern was that although the role of the ICC is of great importance and its writ runs across the world—a country does not need to have signed up to and ratified the ICC, in the admittedly unlikely event that it is referred to it by a full member of the UN Security Council—everyone who had been indicted was African. All 30 people who have been indicted to date are African. At the time, the number was a little less

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than that—perhaps 15 or 20. However, the fact remains that all 31—I shall come to the one shortly—who have been indicted by the ICC are African.

When I went to see Luis Moreno Ocampo, I was unsure of the sense of indicting a Head of State, in the form of President Bashir of Sudan, and I had doubt about the case of Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who was indicted over allegations regarding incidents in the Central African Republic. However, I was struck by the fact that to the untrained eye, to put it mildly, the ICC was keeping away from countries that might have implications for powerful nations such as China, Russia, the United States and ourselves, and focusing all its efforts on less powerful African states. As Mr Ocampo convinced me, two wrongs do not make a right. There is, of course, evidence that major abuses have taken place in Africa, and the ICC should of course be able to investigate those cases and, if necessary, indict people. Nevertheless, the fact that all 31 indictments to date have been against Africans conveys the clear impression that the likelihood of an ICC indictment depends on a country’s strategic importance.

To cut to the chase, I have no idea—I am not a lawyer, and I am certainly not an international lawyer—about the merits of these cases. I do not even endeavour to look at the legal processes in the ICC. I am not an expert, so I would not wish to argue the merits or otherwise of the indictments in respect of Deputy President-elect Ruto and President-elect Kenyatta. The violence after the 2007 Kenyan election was of course serious, yet none of us can have any doubt that far more serious events have taken place in other parts of the world.

More to the point, there is strong face-value evidence that the ICC acts when it thinks that it can have a benevolent effect—I mean that in the broadest sense. For example, although the cases of Liberia and Sierra Leone were not ICC ones, it is clear that the violence there came to an end, and people were brought to account, because of the combined effect of careful and decisive military intervention followed by a due process of international justice. Indeed, that is the purpose of the ICC, although I stress that the Sierra Leone case and the Liberia case, involving Charles Taylor, were not under the ICC. The principle is very clear. It does follow, however, that sometimes it is more sensible and effective for the ICC to allow other mechanisms to take priority.

In theory, or in practice, the ICC is quasi-independent or quasi-autonomous—call it what you will. Ultimately it can be answerable to the UN Security Council, but its judicial and investigative processes are entirely independent. I am sure, Mr Bone, that you love quasi-autonomous bodies in the UK, and non-departmental bodies in theory act independently—and often, one might say, unaccountably—of Government. The processes of the ICC are robust and must be independent, but in the end it is a political organisation. I believe that the oversight is political, and that political oversight needs some kind of expression.

This week, the ICC has been considering the cases of Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto. Although those cases are technically separate, Mr Kenyatta’s co-accused has now been discharged, and many experts say that much of the evidence that there apparently is against Mr Kenyatta comes from a compromised source. Although, of course,

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the Minister cannot comment on the legal processes of the ICC, I simply flag up to him that it would be unconscionable if, for a considerable period, a cloud or a pall hung over the President of Kenya and the Government of Kenya, and indeed our relationship with Kenya, which is of such fundamental importance. This is not something that we can simply leave to technicalist and—I mean this in the nicest possible way—bureaucratic processes in The Hague that, even if they are legal, are disconnected from a wider political process.

You will be pleased to hear, Mr Bone, that I am drawing my remarks to a conclusion. At the weekend, another alleged war criminal who has been indicted, Bosco Ntaganda, who has been on the run for some time from the eastern Congo, surrendered himself to the Rwandan Government. I do not know the merits of the case against Bosco Ntaganda, although I do know the case quite well. It seems to me that the ICC exists precisely to deal with the fear that is created in places such as the eastern Congo by rampaging bandits and the rape and murder that frequently accompany them, rather than to deal with what are essentially matters of state. However we have arrived at this situation, this really cannot be up to the ICC and its processes. Governments cannot stand by and say, “It’s a process that has nothing to do with us,” when it comes to something as fundamental as our relationship with Kenya.

Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is important to distinguish between the ICC process, which he has outlined at length, and what we hope will be the long-term strategic stability of the Kenyan nation in Africa, and its connection and relevance to the UK in terms of our investment and assistance in aiming to ensure that a peaceful, prosperous and corruption-free Kenya is the legacy for the future?

Eric Joyce: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. We all agree with the international rule of law and we see that the ICC has a role, but we also understand that there is an even larger public benefit at play across the world. It is for politicians to fix this. We benefit enormously as a nation from our relationship with Kenya, so this is not entirely altruistic, but those of us who care about African states, as all of us do, and particularly the importance and pivotal significance of Kenya, need to get the balance right. The hon. Gentleman will be aware of particular cases when we have to say, “This is an overall objective.” It is about peace and strong relationships, and ensuring economic growth and development, and the protection and security of our citizens. We somehow have to make international justice work where it can.

There is a degree of symbolism in the ICC. The US and China have not signed up to it and Russia has not ratified the treaty. In each case, I understand why that has happened. I remember vividly our debate in the House 10 or 11 years ago when we passed the Act that implemented the treaty. There was genuine concern on both sides of the House that the ICC could be misused. Those three major states and India stayed out of it because they were concerned that it would not dovetail well with how they saw the world, which I can appreciate—that, in itself, is an indication of the political aspect of

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the ICC. That is not to be cynical, but apportioning strategic importance to countries, and thereby excluding them from the ambit of the ICC—in effect, that is done by indicting only Africans—is a significant issue. If we choose to do that, we need to recognise that Kenya is far too important to be treated as if it were a minor and strategically unimportant state, although of course the UK Government would not treat anyone as if they were unimportant.

It might be strange if I were to make a speech about President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta without referring to what some might call our post-colonial legacy, although I will not bang on about it—I do not have a PhD in post-colonialism. His father was president of Kenya at an important time. People feel strongly attached to his father’s legacy for the nation of Kenya now. I am of course talking about President Jomo Kenyatta. Britain has played with an entirely straight bat. To be honest, I think that there has been a little bit of hubris because one American diplomat made one unfortunate comment, although it might have gone beyond that—I really do not know.

When it comes to African states, it is always possible that internal politics reflect the possibility of external post-colonial influence by a misguided British Government, and that be can be reflected in the conduct of internal politics, as to some degree has been the case. The current and previous Governments dealt with that well. Frankly, however, President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta saw an opportunity, as any proper politician would, to jump all over it, thinking, “This is an opportunity to establish my own credentials as a defender of the nation and our national integrity.” He is, of course, also his father’s son, which helped enormously. He was already a strong candidate, but that all helped his campaign. Any politician would have done the same in that situation.

The risk for the UK is that it is seen as trying to impose “white man’s justice” by going to Africa to tell those nice black folk how to get on and run their countries. Countries across Africa will rebel immediately against that, and that will become part of their internal politics. We can see it in Zimbabwe. There is a tiny risk in Zimbabwe that we sometimes look as though we are on one side, when we need to be very careful to be right down the middle. That is not to say that we should have the same international detachment to international justice as the Russians and Chinese—I understand why they do it; they have very different political systems. The risk for the UK is that we look as though we are reflecting past traditions, as I am certain that Ministers and officials know.

Britain needs to play the whole Kenyan situation with a straight bat—I am a Scotsman, so I have no idea of the rules of cricket; I just use the metaphor—and to be seen as doing so by the Kenyans. We should do whatever we can from now on to facilitate an absolute normalisation of our relationship with Kenya.

Mr Peter Bone (in the Chair): It might be helpful for Members to know that nobody has indicated to the Chair that they want to speak. If those who wish to contribute would stand, it would be helpful.

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9.55 am

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. I apologise to you and other Members, because I must leave before the end of the debate. I commend the hon. Member for Falkirk (Eric Joyce) on securing the debate and on the well-informed way in which he introduced it. He was right to warn in his closing remarks against a patronising neo-colonial attitude, and yet it is right to praise Kenya for being, in many respects, a model of stability over many decades, a sometimes patchy but none the less committed democracy in east Africa, and for the stability it has helped and attempted to bring to the rest of the region. He was right to refer in his opening remarks to Kenya’s important contribution in relation to Somalia, both in African Union forces on the ground and in anti-piracy operations, for which the whole international community has good cause to be grateful.

Kenya is an important and overwhelmingly democratic member of the Commonwealth of nations. It has strong cultural, political and other links to this country. I am probably not alone in having strong constituency links to Kenya; Cheltenham is twinned with Kisumu. The strong civic, educational and voluntary organisation links between Kisumu and Cheltenham extend to youth conferences, through the charity Global Footsteps, which operates in both Kenya and the UK, and are an example of the strong links between the two countries. Nevertheless, Kenya has faced challenges, many of which the Department for International Development has highlighted.

Although absolute poverty has declined somewhat, it remains high in Kenya. DFID figures show a decline from 52% in 1997 to 46% in 2006, which is progress, but not great progress. They also highlight the fact that inequality remains high, that about 25% of Kenyans do not have enough income to meet their basic food needs, and that progress on the millennium development goals has been patchy and especially weak on issues such as maternal and child health. New approaches to providing basic services, such as health and education, are needed if the millions of poor Kenyans are to prosper. I entirely endorse that view.

DFID also highlights the political risks. Kenya’s image as a stable democracy faced great challenge at the time of the previous elections. The violence and issues with the ICC that followed pose a risk to not only Kenya’s reputation, but its progress. It is striking that the one year in which an otherwise incredibly impressive economic growth rate was not achieved was that which followed the election violence.

Kenya’s level of corruption and transparency, and the impunity that still exists, are difficulties. It is sad to note that Kenya is ranked 154 out of 182 countries on the Transparency International corruption perception index. Important parts of British Government policy towards Kenya are directed towards what might be termed the more traditional forms of aid and development support, but strong emphasis is also rightly placed on governance. The DFID programme stretches to work on health—HIV/AIDS, in particular—education, humanitarian aid and social protection, but it also includes trade growth, private sector development and a deliberate programme on governance.

That programme has included making people aware of the importance of their right to vote and how to register, which resulted in 12.7 million voters, 49% of

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whom were women, registering for the referendum not long ago on Kenya’s constitution. UK aid has also been used to increase the transparency and accountability of Parliament by opening parliamentary committees to the public and showing live debates on TV—something to which I am sure we can all relate. It has also provided support for organisations independent of Government that investigate corruption and monitor how taxpayers’ money is spent. For example, the National Taxpayers Association monitors Government use of taxpayers’ money. That emphasis on governance is absolutely right and important.

We have just seen a presidential election, and I suppose that it is absolutely right to congratulate Mr Kenyatta on his victory, but at the same time it is right to point out that he has in the past bravely said that he will comply with the International Criminal Court process. His commitment is welcome, and I hope very much that he maintains it. Kenya is a party to the International Criminal Court, and that is a matter of pride for Kenya. I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Falkirk was implying criticism of the International Criminal Court process—a process I consider extremely important—but he mentioned that it sometimes seems to go light on countries such as China. Unfortunately, and regrettably, China is not a party to the International Criminal Court.

Eric Joyce: I do not intend to be critical of the ICC per se. I referred to the fact that the ICC’s remit effectively covers the whole world, because permanent members of the Security Council can refer cases to it whether or not the country involved is a member. Technically, therefore, the ICC covers China, Russia and anywhere else, but those countries might not consider it in their interest, and I can understand that.

Martin Horwood: I take that point. It is important that, as far as possible, all countries comply with, take part in and support the International Criminal Court process. It is a matter of pride for this country and for Kenya that we have been parties to the International Criminal Court system and that we support it, and I hope that Mr Kenyatta continues to support his country’s participation in the process.

Some interesting comments were made during the election campaign, particularly the references to the British high commissioner and the implication that there was undue influence on behalf of the British Government in the election. That was an unwise accusation, which I am sure is rejected absolutely by the British high commissioner, Christian Turner, who has a very high reputation. We ought, perhaps, to approach that with humility; we all sometimes say things in election campaigns that we regret. Once in a position of responsibility, however, we need to move on, and the same should apply to Mr Kenyatta. He should now swiftly bury the hatchet and move on to building much better relations with the British Government, because there is a potential benefit for both parties.

I have referred to Kenya’s growth rate. It has achieved a rate of 5% over most years in the past decade, which is something I suspect the Chancellor of the Exchequer would give his eye teeth to be able to report about the UK later today. Kenya’s economy is the largest and most diverse in east Africa, and the country is potentially

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a very valuable economic, trading and political partner for this country. I think that we would all want to see a process whereby Kenya moved from being an aid recipient, and came out of that post-colonial mentality and relationship entirely, into a relationship in which Britain and Kenya regarded each other as friends, and economic and political partners. That should be the future for Kenya, and I hope that British Government policy towards Kenya will do its utmost to make that a reality.

10.3 am

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): It is a pleasure to make a small contribution to the debate.

I want quickly to comment on the importance of Kenya and the United Kingdom and their role together, and also to comment on the opportunities that I have had in Kenya and in my interaction with some Kenyan citizens with British passports who live in my constituency. The hon. Member for Falkirk (Eric Joyce) and others have talked about the importance of Kenya, and it is good to come to this Chamber to speak on the issue and to underline the importance of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Kenya, and of where we can go from here.

Question marks over the election have been well illustrated by other Members, and I do not intend to dwell on them. I agree with the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood) that it is important to move on, realise where we are and take advantage of opportunities. The importance of the link between us and Kenya is well known because of the colonial relationships we have had over the years. We have become very interdependent, and the strong traditional and historical links between that nation and ours are important, as are the links today as Africa changes. The economic links are also important, and perhaps the Minister will comment on that in his response. I am always impressed with the Minister, and I do not say that in a condescending way, because when it comes to the issues that I and others feel in our hearts, he recognises them too, and that is the important thing when it comes to responding and encapsulating what we are all thinking. We look forward, therefore, to his response.

Economic links with Kenya are important, and we already have them in place. Traditionally, those links have been more important for the United Kingdom than for other parts of the world, but we must be aware that other countries are now equally interested in taking advantage of them. I had the opportunity of being in Kenya last year, and China’s presence there was very apparent. China was deeply involved in massive road building, and I would like to have the tarmac or the cement contract for that because it would last for ever.

We have people skills in this country, and yesterday my right hon. Friend the Member for Belfast North (Mr Dodds) spoke on the importance of the UK’s links with other countries. We have people skills and construction skills, and the ability to take people from here to Kenya to help. We should be doing that sort of construction work in Kenya. No disrespect to the Chinese, but why are we not there? That is the very point that many Members made in this Chamber at this very time yesterday morning. Whether or not it is the direct responsibility of the Minister, I would like to see some ideas about how we can build on that.

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Something that did not come up in yesterday’s debate was the importance of water. Water in all parts of Africa is important, and we have many capable companies in the United Kingdom that could be given the contracts to improve accessibility to clean water right across Africa, and in particular in Kenya. Perhaps the Minister will give us an idea of how we can do that. We have very strong health and medical contacts with Kenya as well, and that is important because we want to increase the life span of people there. Tourism is important, not because of the programmes on TV that we have all seen but because it is an opportunity to see Kenya’s potential and its preservation of wildlife so that, rather than taking advantage, we can enjoy what there is in Kenya.

As I mentioned, the presence of China in Kenya is obvious. They are active everywhere in the country, and they are in every country in Africa. They are a major influence in the continent, and we do not want to lose our influence in any part of Africa, especially not in Kenya, to other countries. When it comes to mining, industry and the economy, what are we doing as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to help?

I have been involved with helping some Kenyan citizens in my constituency with immigration and personal issues, as all Members will have done as society across the whole United Kingdom becomes more cosmopolitan than ever before.

In the past two years I have been a member of the armed forces parliamentary scheme, which has given me the opportunity to go to many parts of the world. One place I went to last year was the British Army Training Unit in Kenya—BATUK—of which the hon. Member for Falkirk spoke. Our training camps in Kenya are vital, because they train our soldiers before they go to Afghanistan. As the sphere of war and our influence decreases in Afghanistan and the possibility of other spheres of conflict in Africa increases, BATUK is more important than ever. The British Government have spent a lot of money on their training camps in Kenya. We were there last year, when they were spending more money on a new training camp. That again underlines the important role that, for many reasons, we in this country have with Kenya. We need stability, and it is very important to have that over the next period.

I want to comment on the importance of Kenya and its stabilising role in the area. As other Members have said, Kenya contributes 2,000 troops to Somalia. Kenya is a very stabilising country in east Africa, but other countries, including Somalia, are very destabilising. It is important for this country and for Africa as a whole that Kenya is stable, and that it can use its influence in other countries in the area to ensure that peace reigns and that the destabilising influences of Muslim jihadist and other terrorist groups are diminished. That comes off the back of Kenya, backed by us and the United States of America, playing a very clear role.

Piracy off the east coast of Africa has been touched on by other Members. I believe that we can play a bigger role, as can Kenya, in addressing that issue. Perhaps it is time for the Foreign Office to have an officer in the embassy whose role would be to work with other countries to ensure that the piracy issue is addressed at the highest levels. There is a diplomatic role, as I have

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said, but there is also a military role, and perhaps that officer in the embassy in Kenya might, if at all possible, co-ordinate and improve such matters.

To conclude, Kenya’s role is critical to the future of Africa, but the relationship of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland with Kenya is also critical to that, because Kenya alone cannot achieve the stabilisation that is needed. It is time to move on from the elections and to grasp the future for all the people in Kenya. Whether people are religious or not, I was very impressed to be informed on my travels in Kenya that no other place has as many churches per 100 yards. I have never seen as many churches in my life—Presbyterian, Elim Pentecostal, Jehovah’s Witness, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Church of Kenya—and they were incredible. That tells me that the people have a wish to do better and have an interest in each other. It is in our interests to play our part for Kenya, through this Government, as well as through this Westminster Hall debate.

Mr Peter Bone (in the Chair): Before I call the shadow Minister, it might be helpful to say to the Minister, because I appreciate that he does not have a Parliamentary Private Secretary here, that inspiration from his officials should come via the Doorkeeper.

10.13 am

Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): It is a pleasure to appear before you today, Mr Bone, and to take part in this debate. I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk (Eric Joyce) for initiating it, because this is an appropriate time for us to reflect on Kenya’s position. It is such an important country in east Africa, as has been conveyed by all the speakers. This is a time for us to reflect on the elections and think about our relationship with Kenya. It is a crucial country in Africa, with huge opportunities and strategic importance, and we need to work with it in the years ahead.

My hon. Friend raised the continuing issue about the International Criminal Court, which I will come on to, and spoke about such economic issues as communications in Africa, which are quite extraordinary. It is striking how we regularly hear from Back Benchers in this House about the frustrations of broadband delivery within walking distance of town centres in their constituencies because, from my experience of visits to Africa, the innovative approach to communications and the development of mobile technologies—from Morocco to even the Congo—is quite extraordinary. As in so many areas, we must not assume that we have nothing to learn from innovative progress in Africa. We need to engage much more closely with countries such as Kenya to learn about such matters.

The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood) made an important point about the neo-colonialist background. As we have heard, comments were made in the heat of the election campaign and, as he rightly said, that sometimes happens in Britain. A letter was delivered to me on election day by my Liberal Democrat opponent, who suggested that he might take me to court because of my election leaflet, but fortunately that never happened—[Interruption.] As the Minister says, that was clearly a misunderstanding.

Things said in election campaigns should be reflected on, but we then need to build relationships and move forward. I am sure that the approaches of the diplomatic representatives from the United Kingdom were entirely

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appropriate. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, I have combed the records, and I struggled to find—in fact, I did not find—anything inappropriate about any observations made by Her Majesty’s Government on the elections, so it is entirely right to move forward.

The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) referred to the armed forces parliamentary scheme, which is so important in enabling us in this House to appreciate the continuing work of our armed forces across the world. Kenya is important in that regard, as my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk said.

The debate has been interesting and important. I have listened to all the speakers, and I think that reflection and looking forward is now the order of the day. Given the elections, Kenya has been the focus of international attention, and many of us held our breath about the elections over the past month. Thankfully, there has not been a repeat of the scale of violence that the people of Kenya witnessed following the elections in December 2007, which, it is worth reflecting, left 1,000 people dead and 600,000 people displaced. There was a real concern about the breakdown of government at that time, which fortunately has not been repeated.

Not everything went smoothly in the recent elections. On polling day, a separatist organisation raided a police station in Mombasa, resulting in 15 deaths. The situation was tense, but we have moved through that. As we know, following the 2007 elections, the President-elect and the Vice-President-elect were brought before the ICC to answer charges of crimes against humanity relating to post-election violence. That still continues and, as the hon. Member for Cheltenham said, we must respect the role of the International Criminal Court. International principles of justice and democracy must apply and be carried forward.

It is clear from this debate that there is a great deal of sympathy and solidarity with, as well as passion for, the people of Kenya. What I have learned in my role as shadow Minister for Africa is that there are enormous Kenyan communities within the UK, who make a very valuable contribution to British life. I have met individuals and groups with a concern for Kenya, who felt great sadness and frustration around the time of 2007 and 2008, and who also felt that there was a lack of political and legal accountability in connection with the 2007 violence. So, the pending legal challenge at the ICC has been an important process, but it has of course been a slow process, as so many legal proceedings are, and a painful one. We in the UK always have to be aware of our connections with Kenya.

Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): The hon. Gentleman referred to the frustration that some people feel when looking at the situation in Kenya, particularly those of Kenyan origin who are here in the United Kingdom. I was in Kenya in 2002 and visited polling stations during the presidential election then, and the optimism at the election of President Kibaki at that time was palpable—it was a change. Unfortunately, things deteriorated in the 2007 election and in the violence afterwards. Does the hon. Gentleman share my sense of frustration, and that of Kenyans who I have talked to, that things have not moved forward, that the optimism has not been capitalised upon and that the great potential of Kenya has not been realised for its people?

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Ian Lucas: That is intensely frustrating. What has struck me on the visits I have made to different African countries is the passion for democracy and the passion to vote, which was reflected in the 86% turnout in the recent election in Kenya. There is a thirst for democracy and progress, so the fact that progress has not been made in the last decade is a great source of disappointment. I hope that, even though the ICC proceedings are taking place, we will now be able, given the acceptance of the parties in the election of the result of the election although there may be legal challenges involved, to make some progress—both political and economic—in a way that has not happened in the past decade.

We must tread very carefully. The Minister knows that in our dealings with many, many African countries, they are very well aware of our colonial past. We have a role that, of course, respects the principles of self-determination and of elections within African countries, but different African countries always have a particular relationship with the United Kingdom, which is similar to the relationship of some African countries with other countries, such as France, that have also played a role in the continent in the past. That relationship is different from African countries’ relationship with countries such as China, which have not played the same role in Africa in the past.

However, we should give credit for the peaceful and determined spirit with which the recent election in Kenya was conducted for the vast majority of people. It was conducted in the right spirit and with the right principles. We need to respect the authority of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, and of other Kenyan institutions, to deliver this election. The disputes that are under way at the present time should be dealt with by the courts, which is the appropriate place for any disputes to be dealt with. In terms of governance, we should emphasise that our commitment is to international principles of democracy and justice, and it is not—in any sense—to interfere in any particular state. We have a proud tradition of democracy in this country, which we want to be shared everywhere.

We have heard that Kenya has, of course, an extremely important strategic location and role within the region, and that it has been very helpful indeed in achieving the steps—the tentative steps—towards progress in Somalia. My hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk mentioned the piracy issue. The EU has done much good work on that issue, and it has worked with Kenya to improve the piracy situation during the past few years. I commend the Government for the important role that that work has played in the region.

In addition, Kenya is an important economic power, as we have also heard. The Department for International Development has recently teamed up with the CBI to campaign for growth in emerging economies, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. I would be very interested to hear what specific steps the Government are taking with UK Trade and Investment to work with British business in Kenya—in the new context of a new, stable Government—to build good governance and good business structures within the country that can deliver prosperity, not only to Kenya but to British businesses that work there.

It is very important that we continue with our co-operation programmes in this place through the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Commonwealth

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Parliamentary Association. Recently, we have had visits to the UK from Kenyan groups, including a delegation of Kenyan women parliamentarians, and it is extremely important that those visits continue. It is also important that the development of the structures of democracy continues, such as committee work and all the grind that we get used to in this place and that is such an intrinsic and fundamental part of an effective democratic process. Again, we benefit hugely from contact and liaising with our African colleagues. It is very important that in this new phase in Kenyan politics we work hard on deepening and strengthening those contacts.

I believe that the EU, in connection with the recent election in Kenya, carried out an observation mission and I would be interested in hearing the Minister’s reflections on that mission, and on what assessment the EU has made about the election itself. Clearly, there are some matters relating to process, which have been raised by the losing candidate for the presidency, but I would be interested to hear about the EU’s reflections on that matter.

I know that the British Government have provided support for Kenya through the EU, including support for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, voter education, independent election observation and security reform. Again, any reflections that the Minister can provide on our role—what we did well, what we did badly—would be very helpful. If he cannot provide them today, I would certainly be grateful if he could provide them in the weeks ahead.

In recent months, Members from across the House have been very concerned by violent clashes between the Orma and Pokomo groups in the Tana River district. I am pleased that the Kenyan Government have responded by adding 1,000 police officers to the officers in the area, and that the disarmament programme and mediation efforts are continuing. However, I would be grateful if the Minister could provide an update and a report on the position on the ground in that district at the present time.

I hope that the Minister can address these questions. It is important, now that the election in Kenya is behind us and the parties there have accepted its outcome, that we develop and build our relations with the new Kenyan Government; that governance is strengthened in Kenya; and that in our Parliament we work hard with our Kenyan friends to develop effective governance. Also, following on from yesterday’s debate in Westminster Hall about the importance of UKTI and economic exports from the UK to different parts of the world including Africa, which some Members who are here today also attended, it is very important that we support and make effective economic progress with partners such as Kenya. We should be looking ahead; we are in a new phase in Kenyan-British relations. We need to work hard to ensure that that new phase is a positive one, which will be of benefit to the people of Kenya and the people of Britain.

10.28 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Alistair Burt): It is a pleasure to be here and to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone.

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May I begin with an apology to colleagues? One is never quite sure with an aeroplane malfunction—in the case of my flight from New York last night, a back-up generator on the starboard engine of the aeroplane was not working—whether to be annoyed at the loss of three fairly vital hours, or grateful at the skill of the pilots and engineers in recognising something that might have caused the passengers harm. On balance, I think it is best that I say that I am very appreciative of being here, but I am also very grateful for your courtesy, Mr Bone, and that of all colleagues in the Chamber for appreciating my dilemma.

[Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

It was, however, not very long after the start of the debate that I got to the Chamber, so I was able to hear the majority of the speech made by the hon. Member for Falkirk (Eric Joyce). I thank him for securing the debate, for his continued interest in Africa, which he has demonstrated on a number of occasions, and for his courtesy in informing my office of the general topics that he wanted to raise today. That enabled the preparation of advance briefing that I could read while I was in the US and on my way back, which proved to be fairly beneficial.

I thank all hon. Members who participated in the debate for their contributions. The tone of the debate—the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) was kind enough to mention that I sometimes pick this up—has been very much one of support and encouragement. We have heard of personal knowledge from visits and a sense of moving on, with hon. Members recognising that few states are completely free of difficulties and political clashes. However, it is important to move on, and all the opportunities are there for Kenya, with which we have a deep and abiding relationship. If hon. Members will allow me, I will take a little extra time to say a bit about that relationship and to reflect on the comments that they made.

This is an historic moment for Kenya, as it prepares for only its fourth President since independence, so this is a timely moment for the House to take stock of how the UK’s relationship with Kenya has changed since independence. At the outset, let me be clear about the United Kingdom’s perspective on the relationship. Although we are often still thought of as the former colonial power, the modern-day relationship between the United Kingdom and Kenya is one of partnership. We are bound together by strong commercial, security and personal links that benefit both our countries, not least of which, as the hon. Member for Wrexham (Ian Lucas) said, is our growing parliamentary link through the IPU, the CPA and the parliamentary armed forces scheme. From my work around various countries, I have seen how valued those parliamentary links are by people who are building democracy, who are always searching for ideas. Equally, I have seen how we benefit, as the hon. Gentleman said, from swapping ideas with newer democracies, some of which are doing innovative work that it is more difficult to do in a more established Parliament such as ours. We all benefit from that.

Let me say a little about the general relationship before turning to the specifics that the hon. Member for Falkirk mentioned, particularly the elections and the ICC. The United Kingdom is the largest commercial

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investor in Kenya and home to half the top 10 tax-paying companies in the country. More than 200,000 British nationals visit Kenya every year—the largest number of visitors from any country. As colleagues have mentioned, the tourism industry is vital. A similar number of Kenyans live in the United Kingdom, and the benefits include the remittances sent back to the Kenyan economy. We are the second largest bilateral donor to Kenya, contributing more than £100 million a year, and I will say a little more later about the development matters that the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood) mentioned.

The British Army trains 10,000 British soldiers in Kenya every year, to the benefit of the Kenyan armed forces, as well as the wider local economy. Let me say a little more about that because it was mentioned, in particular by the hon. Member for Strangford. The British military has trained in Kenya for decades, and we have an excellent, long-standing relationship with the Kenyan armed forces and the local communities surrounding the training areas. Kenyan troops are also trained at the MOD base, and Kenyans are routinely welcomed to attend training courses at staff colleges in the United Kingdom. The relationship is a partnership, and it is governed by a memorandum of understanding that was signed by both sides in 2010. When issues arise, we always seek to resolve them through discussion. We will continue to have a strong shared interest in working together on important security issues, starting with Somalia, which a number of colleagues mentioned, where Kenyan troops still play an important role in pushing back al-Shabaab.

The hon. Member for Strangford mentioned piracy off the east coast. Kenya is, indeed, an important partner in dealing with piracy. I recently had the opportunity to visit Northwood, where all the east coast of Africa’s maritime operations, involving 27 countries, are co- ordinated. I also recently had the opportunity to visit the area to see some of the work being done. All states in the region play a vital part in that work, which is partly political and partly military. There have been no successful hijackings over the past year or so of vessels carrying an armed guard, and we now have 80% fewer hijacking cases, although four ships and 108 hostages are still being held. That dramatic success has been due to a lot of hard work by the various countries involved, skilled leadership, in which the United Kingdom has been heavily involved, and the application of resources. We must continue that work so that the piracy issue does not arise again, because it is far from solved. Of course, development efforts on the ground are also crucial in giving some of the young people sent by the ringleaders to do the hijacking at least the possibility of an alternative occupation.

I was recently in the Seychelles to open the new criminal prosecution centre, which the United Kingdom has paid for. It will deliberately target the ringleaders—there are expected to be about a dozen in the area—who cause so much damage to so many people. That is a measure of the commitment to dealing with this issue, and Kenya is, indeed, a key player. Dealing with piracy is a priority for our Nairobi mission and our Somalia embassy, and their work is well resourced. However, I will look at the issue again, as the hon. Gentleman asked me to, just in case there is anything further that can be done.

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It is clear that Britain and Kenya matter significantly to each other. The Government therefore look forward to building on our substantial shared agenda in our partnership with the next Kenyan Government.

The March elections were a key aspect of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Falkirk. As Members will have seen, the Minister for Africa, my hon. Friend the Member for Boston and Skegness (Mark Simmonds), made a statement following the announcement of the results by the Kenyan electoral commission. Two things stand out for us. The first, which colleagues have mentioned, is the determination of the Kenyan people to express their sovereign will, as was demonstrated by the impressive turnout and the way in which many Kenyans waited patiently for hours to vote. The second is the largely peaceful conduct of the elections, which was in stark contrast to the violence of 2007-08.

Kenyans everywhere, including civil society, religious groups and Kenya’s youth, have spoken out for peace. We welcome the important role played by Kenya’s leaders, from all parties, in urging their supporters to exercise their democratic right peacefully, to show restraint and, above all, to refrain from violence. We welcome, too, the way in which those who have been unsuccessful in the various elections have accepted defeat or, in some cases, taken their disputes to court for peaceful resolution. That is the clearest sign that Kenya has learned lessons from the appalling violence that followed the elections in December 2007, which led to more than 1,000 deaths and to hundreds of thousands people being displaced. The Kenyan people should be proud of the message they have sent to the world about their determination to exercise their democratic right peacefully.

I am proud, too, that the UK has played a role in supporting the democratic process in Kenya, including by providing £16 million in funding to support free and peaceful elections, much of which was delivered through the United Nations Development Programme’s election basket fund. Our support helped to put in place a more accurate voter register and an independent parallel vote-counting system, and thus to ensure that more than 14 million Kenyans were registered to vote and had greater confidence that their vote counted.

However, the election process is not yet complete. The Coalition for Reform and Democracy has challenged the presidential result, and its petition is being considered by the Kenyan Supreme Court. That is an important part of the checks and balances put in place by the new constitution to ensure that disputes are taken to the courts, not the streets. We continue to urge all sides to show restraint and to wait patiently for the court’s ruling. The United Kingdom’s position is consistent and clear: it is for the Kenyan people to elect their leaders and for the Kenyan courts to resolve any disputes. In that context, we need to be even more careful than usual in our public statements that we do not unintentionally influence or prejudge what the courts will say.

The hon. Member for Wrexham mentioned the EU, but it is too soon for us to have received its report. We are collating the information. We will observe the challenge in the Supreme Court, but it is a little too soon to say anything further. However, my remarks about the way in which we have been able to play a part in the election process, and the way in which that has been received

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in Kenya, suggest that the influence of supporters from outside has helped the Kenyan people in their determination to ensure that the election process is good and strong.

We utterly reject any allegations of interference by the British Government or the British high commissioner. I am grateful to hon. Members for their comments made in relation to Christian Turner. We have always said that this election is a choice for Kenyans; it is for them alone to decide. We did not endorse any one candidate over another. It is for the electoral commission and courts to resolve any disputes.

Looking ahead, some people have expressed concern that the UK will reduce its co-operation with Kenya because of the charges pending against President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta at the International Criminal Court. That assertion is not based on facts. We are motivated by a desire to respect Kenya’s sovereignty and to ensure that the Kenyan court is able to do its work free from interference. We are confident that it will adjudicate swiftly and fairly, and we call on all sides to respect its independence. Irrespective of who emerges as the confirmed winner, I am confident that the UK will want to continue working with the next Government in Kenya; to continue supporting a reduction in poverty; to continue helping UK companies looking to invest in Kenya in support of Kenya’s Vision 2030; and to continue working together on security and stability in Somalia. Fundamentally, both our nations have a strong interest in working in partnership in pursuit of these shared goals.

The International Criminal Court proceedings regarding Kenya are, of course, a controversial topic, on which I am happy to clarify the UK’s position. Kenya and the UK share the same values of justice and peace. As the Foreign Secretary said in July last year,

“We have learnt from history that you cannot have lasting peace without justice, accountability and reconciliation.”

That is why we continue strongly to support the International Criminal Court’s work around the world, including its efforts to provide justice for the victims of the 2007-08 violence and to help Kenya move on from the past.

The ICC is an impartial, independent court. Alongside Kenya, 121 other countries are states that are party to its founding Rome statute, and there are more states that are party from Africa than from any other region. To respond to the concern expressed by the hon. Member for Falkirk about whether there is unfair bias against Africa, and whether the ICC pitches its cases against the less powerful rather than the more powerful, I have to say that we reject that suggestion. The ICC, an international independent organisation, is a court of last resort providing for the primacy of national jurisdiction. It steps in only when a country cannot or will not investigate and, when necessary, prosecutes fairly the most serious crimes in the international community. It puts victims at the centre of its work. Accusations to the effect that the ICC has focused solely on Africa are understandable, as all 15 cases formally under investigation are from the African continent, but the ICC itself is conducting preliminary examinations outside Africa, including in Afghanistan and Colombia.

We understand that civil society in Africa strongly supports the work of the ICC and the justice that it can and will deliver for many Africans. In every African

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situation in which the court has been involved, either the country in question—or, when relevant, all African states on the United Nations Security Council—have supported its involvement. Fatou Bensouda’s appointment as prosecutor, by consensus of all states that are party to the agreement, is a clear indication of Africa’s important role in the court. We hope that that will go some way to addressing the concern expressed by some African states that their voices are not being heard.

Martin Horwood: Does the Minister agree that there are other international judicial processes, such as those relating to the former Yugoslavia, where the ICC has not been necessary, because an effective international judicial process has been available and has been rigorously pursued?

Alistair Burt: My hon. Friend makes a fair point.

The focus on Africa is due to the number of cases, as has been mentioned, but it is unfair to infer from that that there is an unfair bias. The support of African nations and states for this work, which adds an essential element of transparency and accountability for some of the issues of the past, should not be neglected. It is important, as hon. Members have said, that the net is spread fairly and widely to catch those who have been most active contrary to the law.

Polls have consistently shown a strong desire for justice among the Kenyan people. In Kenya, the ICC became involved only after the Kenyan Parliament’s decision not to establish a special tribunal. We judge that that has helped to challenge the culture of impunity and to show there is no place for hate speech or incitement to violence in the new Kenya. Consequently, we continue to urge the Kenyan Government and all those facing charges to co-operate with the ICC. We welcome the co-operation that has already been provided, which marks Kenya out as a country that wishes to respect its international obligations. We are equally clear that a defendant is innocent unless proven guilty by a court of law. It is not for the UK, nor anyone other than the court, to pass judgement.

Eric Joyce: It is not my intention to be overtly critical of the ICC. Indeed, the Minister will be aware that Rwanda has successfully taken custody of Bosco Ntaganda, and Rwanda, like Kenya, regards the ICC as important. The processes are not exactly as we would understand them in the UK, and it would be a mistake to think that they were in all respects. For example, it is possible to be held by the ICC for five years before trial and then acquitted. Jean-Pierre Bemba’s case is under way, and he has been at The Hague for five years, but his case is far from over.

Alistair Burt: I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point. Of course, the ICC’s processes are independent of the UK. I am sure that concerns have already been, and will continue to be, expressed. When taking on such an extraordinary responsibility on behalf of nations that are states party to the agreement, it is essential that the functions of the ICC are performed fairly, efficiently and quickly. Justice delayed is justice denied, as all hon. Members recognise, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman’s concerns will have been heard.

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I stress that, despite media reports to the contrary, the UK has never threatened sanctions against Kenya on this issue. The charges are being made against three individuals, not against Kenya as a whole. The people of Kenya should not be arbitrarily punished for the alleged crimes of their leaders.

A number of colleagues mentioned the important issues of trade and development. The UK remains the biggest cumulative investor in Kenya and the second largest training partner after Uganda, and trade is in Kenya’s favour. The hon. Member for Strangford made an important point about the sort of engagement that takes place with the UK and the way in which we hope that we conduct business. It is noticeable that, in winning contracts abroad, a key part of the offer of many big UK companies is capacity building and training, which is in stark contrast to others who seek contracts with the aim of maximising profit, sometimes to the exclusion of local workers. UK companies are urged by UK Trade & Investment, although many do it naturally, to ensure that their offer for winning a contract is supported by efforts on further education, vocational training and capacity building, so that something long-term and sustainable is offered to those places in which the contract is being run. That is one reason why total trade exceeds £1 billion. UK exports rose by 38% from 2010 to 2011, and a substantial number of the largest tax-paying companies in Kenya are from the UK.

The hon. Member for Falkirk is right that a more secure Kenya means a more secure United Kingdom. Increased trade benefits both countries, so we will continue to take an interest.

On the growing influence of China, naturally the UK welcomes competition and free trade. We are determined to meet the challenge. As the hon. Member for Wrexham said, UKTI is active in Kenya, and it covers the region as well from Nairobi. Further efforts are being made to secure our trade and commercial interests. As all hon. Members have suggested, the relationship is deep and it is supported by long-standing ties and the recognition that growing trade is in our mutual interest.

Finally, on the development issues that were raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham and touched on by other colleagues, UK aid is supporting the Kenyan

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Government’s Vision 2030. We are the second biggest bilateral donor after the US and our budget is growing. We will be spending up to £150 million in aid a year by 2014, which is a doubling since 2011, to tackle conflict, to increase stability and to improve education, health outcomes—particularly in relation to malaria—and the livelihoods of the poor. We are focused on helping the poorest Kenyans and we are definitely here for the long haul.

Water is, of course, vital, as the hon. Member for Strangford said. The Department for International Development provides significant funding for water projects, and Kenya is part of its humanitarian climate change work, so we continue to work with the private sector and other donors on efforts there. Those of us who support charities such as WaterAid know how extraordinary the commitment is.

I was delighted by what the hon. Gentleman said about the importance of faith in Kenya and the number of churches per 100 yards. That was a remarkable statistic to hear from someone from Northern Ireland who knows his faith well, and I thank him for providing that context.

In general, the debate has demonstrated hon. Members’ wide interest in Kenya and their understanding of its contemporary problems and issues, as well as their wish to look ahead and ensure that those will be overcome by fair and impartial courts that are able to deal with concerns that arise and by the Kenyan people’s belief that that is the way to resolve their disputes. We look forward to the resolution of disputes and to a long and growing relationship with Kenya. I am grateful for colleagues’ interest and how they expressed themselves, and particularly grateful to the hon. Member for Falkirk for raising the matter as he did.

Mr Philip Hollobone (in the Chair): Even though the issues are serious, it is always nice to talk about sunny places on a cold, damp day in Westminster.

10.51 am

Sitting suspended.

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Design and Technology Curriculum

10.58 am

Peter Luff (Mid Worcestershire) (Con): I am grateful for the opportunity to debate the draft design and technology curriculum and to hear the Minister’s response.

I shall sum up the issues that are worrying people in three themes, which an academic suggested to me. The first is that there is a narrowing of focus. The draft programme of study for design and technology returns to a 1950s DIY curriculum with an emphasis on basic craft and household maintenance skills. It places at risk the creative, challenging learning in design, engineering and technology that is part of the present design and technology curriculum.

Secondly, there is a lack of rigour and challenge. The published draft programme of study for design and technology lacks academic or technical rigour, challenge or ambition. It is completely out of step with the needs of our advanced industrial economy and sophisticated labour market. It will undermine routes into further and higher education for talented students by failing to provide the skills and knowledge that they need to progress, or to inspire students to pursue careers in the creative industries, design, engineering, manufacturing and technology. Thirdly, there is a reduction in value, status and popularity. The draft proposals will further reinforce the perception that applied subjects are less valuable, which in turn will lead to academically gifted young people being discouraged from choosing technical and creative subjects at GCSE.

So, what the Minister decides on the design and technology curriculum will be every bit as significant for our country’s competitiveness as what the Chancellor announces in his Budget speech in an hour or so, so I hope the Minister’s voice lasts during her response. I am sure she understands the importance of getting it right, and I am sure the Department’s current consultation is genuine and could lead to meaningful change. I hope she will regard my speech as a constructive submission to that consultation. I apologise for any unintentional plagiarism in my remarks. I have been deluged with advice, for which I am grateful, and I will endeavour to attribute all my quotations and points.

I am here today primarily because of a constituent, Sue Wood-Griffiths, a lecturer at the university of Worcester, who recently came to see me in my constituency surgery to express her concerns. A phrase in the e-mail that Sue sent me yesterday sums everything up nicely:

“We should acknowledge that we are educating children today for a world that they will live in in the future and not the one we used to live in.”

That is why I was so encouraged to read the Minister’s speech from Monday, when she said,

“we will fall hopelessly behind in the global race if we do not equip successive generations with contemporary skills.”

My constituent, the Minister and I are in profound agreement.

I am also here because of my deep concern about the serious shortage of engineering skills. I now advise Northern Defence Industries, a defence and aerospace supply chain organisation, and I am a non-executive director of a small advanced manufacturing business. I am learning directly about the challenges that employers

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are facing. I conclude that the two greatest avoidable threats to our prosperity and security are, first, the deficit, which I am sure will feature largely in the Chancellor’s Budget speech, and secondly, science, technology, engineering and maths—STEM—skill shortages. That is what makes our debate so important. I want to see people studying to become skilled engineers so that they can maintain and sustain the F-35, which will shortly be based at RAF Marham in the Minister’s constituency. STEM skills are important to our security.

Engineering UK estimates that we have to double the education system’s output of engineers. That means increasing engineering graduates from 20,000 to 40,000 each year, and the same is true of apprentices. If new technologies make new demands—and the history of the human race suggests that is exactly what will happen—we will need many more engineering graduates and apprentices.

As I am sure the Minister knows, the low participation rate of women in engineering is a particular scandal, and I believe the design and technology curriculum can help to address that. I suggested a package of solutions in a ten-minute rule Bill last month. My first objective in that Bill was to give schools, from at least key stage 2, a duty to provide pupils with a meaningful experience of modern science, engineering and technology. I believe that objective can be met through a well structured design and technology curriculum in which the business community participates enthusiastically.

As the Minister will be aware, academics and teachers are expressing great concern about the draft design and technology curriculum. That is no plea of simple self-interest from producer groups. Industry, which is the end user of the skills provided to our children at school, is also very worried. James Dyson’s brilliant Times article of 11 February, “Grilling tomatoes won’t train new engineers,” explains that clearly and praises the changes made in the computing and maths curriculums, but it expresses deep concern about the design and technology curriculum. Yesterday, he told me:

“We need more engineers but the E from STEM is missing in our schools. Design & Technology should rank alongside maths and the sciences in importance—helping future engineers understand their practical applications.”

I talked to Steve Holliday, chief executive of the National Grid Company, about all that on Monday. Steve has a profound understanding of, and involvement in, skills issues. He, too, is deeply worried about what the draft curriculum could do to the future flow of engineers and technicians. He has just sent me this remark:

“D+T is today beginning to bring to life science and provide inspiration to tomorrow’s engineers who are so critical to our future.”

I strongly agree with Steve.

“Design and technology” is perhaps an unhelpful phrase that can mislead those outside teaching. In design and technology pupils design, test, make and evaluate innovative, functional products and systems with clear users and purposes in mind. They use a wide range of tools, equipment, materials and processes, including leading-edge, industry-standard computer-aided design and manufacturing, such as laser cutters and 3D printers. They also integrate electronics and computer programming into their designing and making, and they produce intelligent products. In fact, there is real scope for getting local small and medium-sized enterprises

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to run their businesses from those well equipped school workshops. They could take advantage of modern equipment used to teach design and technology that is used only for a few hours each school day. That would bring into schools welcome direct business engagement and experience of what technology can do. I know of at least one school where that is already happening, but the Government are right to propose changes to the current curriculum.

Education for Engineering, E4E, says in its excellent recent report that

“the subject is in need of reform to bring it in line with current Design thinking and modern technologies”.

The report proposes

“a new model for the D&T that realigns the subject with the original progressive vision proposed when it was introduced in 1989 while making it relevant for the 21st century.”

The report has this to say about the subject:

“D&T is one of the very few opportunities for pupils to partake in a technical, practical education. It plays an important role in providing young people with a hands-on, creative experience and develops a practical identity and a capability for innovation. The subject provides opportunity for collaboration, team working and communication—skills that are essential for future employment.”

Women have those skills in abundance. The report emphasises that design and technology

“is the closest subject to engineering in the National Curriculum.

D&T is not a vocational subject. It is a general academic subject, and has its own fundamental body of knowledge, principles and concepts which are not provided elsewhere in the curriculum.”

Design and technology is now leading-edge stuff that has changed beyond recognition in the years since I was at school, but the draft curriculum does not reflect that.

In a letter to The Times, Sir John Parker, president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said:

“The original D&T curriculum brought in by Kenneth Baker 20 years ago was more progressive than what we have now.”

Although I worry about curriculum overload, it is right to include food technology in the design and technology curriculum because it suits many of the concepts that should be included, but it is surprising to see cooking given absolute primacy:

“The National Curriculum for design and technology aims to ensure that all pupils: understand food and nutrition and have opportunities to learn to cook.”

The draft curriculum lists the subsidiary objectives of the curriculum with these introductory words, and I note the word “also”:

“It also aims to ensure that, working in fields such as materials (including textiles), horticulture, electricals and electronics, construction, and mechanics”.

The list then begins with a series of rather mundane objectives compared with what we ought to expect from the curriculum.

Dr Paul Thompson, rector of the Royal College of Art, wrote to me:

“We need our young designers to be focused on problem solving, market analysis, proof of concept, user interface and user experience, materials technology, visual literacy and aesthetics, sustainability, commerciality, and so much more. I really cannot see how home economics fits with this discipline at this particular level.”

Dr Marion Rutland of the university of Roehampton made a strong case to me for including food technology,

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but not cooking, in the curriculum. She differentiates between the two key issues underpinning the teaching of food in schools:

“One is the perceived importance of pupils learning to cook as a ‘life skill’ and the second is the potential contribution of food technology in design and technology to include academic rigour and contribute to the pupils’ overall learning. Ofsted has noted a lack of clarity regarding the nature of food technology and a need for a more intellectually challenging curriculum with more in-depth nutritional knowledge and greater scientific understanding and technical rigour.”

She went on to suggest that cooking may be more suited to the personal, social, health and economic education curriculum or to cooking clubs.

My principal concern, though, is that the whole draft curriculum is written in a way that retreats from the combination of rigour and inspiration that the Department is rightly seeking in other areas of study. The curriculum should be encouraging creativity in its students, offering them choice on how to approach problems and giving them as much autonomy as possible in their approach.

Students need to experience the reality of STEM in the modern world to understand it, and they need real project work and real industry partners to bring all that to life and to make design and technology fun, relevant and stimulating. Instead, the draft curriculum prepares its students for a low-technology past, not for a high-technology present and future.

Mr Robin Walker (Worcester) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend and neighbour on his excellent speech. He mentioned earlier that he was approached by a constituent who happens to work in my constituency at the university of Worcester. I have been approached by a constituent who is a senior lecturer at Birmingham City university, and she strongly supports my hon. Friend’s point. She said that there is concern that the current draft of the curriculum appears to hark back to the past by trying to create a “make do and mend” culture. If we are looking for phrases from the past that ought to be relevant to our design and technology curriculum, perhaps we should be looking to “the white heat of the technological revolution,” rather than “make do and mend.” Does he agree?

Peter Luff: I am glad to hear Harold Wilson’s words spoken on this side of the House for a change. I strongly agree with my hon. Friend. The phrase “make do and mend” will feature later in my speech. His constituent makes a powerful point that goes to the heart of the issue that we need to address. I pay tribute to the university of Worcester for teaching design and technology so well to design and technology students and teachers.

Speaking to a conference at the Royal Academy of Engineering a couple of weeks ago, Dick Olver, chairman of both BAE Systems and E4E, contrasted the experience of the computing and design and technology curriculums. He said that with design and technology

“we seem to have a problem. Again, the Royal Academy of Engineering, along with the Design and Technology Association and the Design Council, provided advice to the Department for Education on new programmes of study for the subject.

This time however, it seems our recommendations have been completely ignored. Instead of introducing children to new design techniques such as biomimicry, we now have a focus on cookery. Instead of developing skills in Computer Aided Design we have

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the introduction of horticulture. Instead of electronics and control we have an emphasis on basic mechanical maintenance tasks. In short, something has gone very wrong.”

The introduction to the subject content of the draft curriculum begins depressingly:

“In Key Stages 1 to 3 pupils should be taught progressively more demanding practical knowledge, skills and crafts”.

Contrast that with the well-crafted phrases in the purpose of study for the computing curriculum which, ironically, comes immediately before D and T in the consultation document:

“A high-quality computing education equips pupils to understand and change the world through computational thinking. It develops and requires logical thinking and precision. It combines creativity with rigour: pupils apply underlying principles to understand real-world systems, and to create purposeful and usable artefacts. More broadly, it provides a lens through which to understand both natural and artificial systems, and has substantial links with the teaching of mathematics, science, and design and technology.”

My request to the Minister is a simple one. Will she please devise a D and T curriculum that follows the excellent example of the computer curriculum, and perhaps look at what her opposite numbers are doing in the widely praised Scottish curriculum for excellence?

I welcome the Minister’s emphasis on the need to avoid excess prescription in the curriculum, and to allow schools to be as free as possible in what and how they teach, but the words in the draft curriculum will direct what teachers do. The Design and Technology Association says:

“The core knowledge in the D and T proposals will not encourage teachers to develop exciting and stimulating lessons. It marks a radical and regressive departure from current practice. The language of the draft is utilitarian and uninspiring”.

It refers to “common” practical skills, “common” materials, “common” ingredients, “common” tools and techniques, “straightforward” recipes, “straightforward” skills, “simple” techniques and “everyday” products. DATA says:

“It will not inspire teachers to use their professionalism and expertise to motivate and engage pupils.”

Why does this matter so much? As I said, the UK has a desperate shortage of engineers and technicians. I loved abstract maths and physics, but there was no D and T at my grammar school and metalwork and woodwork were for the less academically able. I did well in maths and physics, but I never really understand what I could do with them, and that is probably why I am not an engineer today. A good D and T curriculum helps students to appreciate the uses of maths and physics and will inspire many young people—especially girls, I suspect—to pursue careers in science, technology and engineering. Some students might not have thought of that because they thought that sciences were not for them, but D and T made science relevant.

Worryingly, DATA also says:

“The draft proposals will further reinforce the perception that applied subjects are less valuable, which in turn will lead to academically gifted young people being discouraged from choosing technical and creative subjects such as D and T. We need our very brightest young people to be creative and able to focus their talent on real-world challenges. Design and innovation are widely identified as drivers of economic growth and the basis of Britain’s long-term competitive advantage. If subjects like D and T are marginalised, where will this innovation come from?”

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The irony is that the UK has been leading the world in its understanding of the issue, and our competitors are catching up. An academic wrote to me:

“Research into D and T education over the last 20 years has been world-leading. Other countries look to ours for the lead in how to teach Design and Technology. The works of Richard Kimbell, David Barlex, Kay Stables, Marion Rutland, Eddie Norman, David Spendlove, Frank Banks which build upon earlier higher education research by Ken Baynes, Bruce Archer and Phil Roberts leads the world in this area.”

He continued:

“Their research has led to what is modern D and T, and while there is of course a place for practical work and skills, this should not be the main focus of any argument for the defence of the subject.”

Can sustainable growth ever return if we are rejecting the knowledge economy in favour of simply training up young people for manual jobs? The draft curriculum suggests that the intended direction is to equip operatives for middle-sector manual jobs, or empowering people to be able to make do and mend. Where then will the next generation of designers and engineers come from? Another insidious influence that affects the brightest students, both boys and girls, is that both sexes are often turned away from STEM careers due to a totally mistaken belief that they offer only technician-level activity: oily rags and machine shops. We need more technology in schools, not less, to show the exciting reality of modern science, engineering and technology. In the days when technical drawing, woodwork, metalwork, electronics and engineering were taught and respected in schools, Britain produced some of the most successful inventors, designers and engineers on the planet.

A modern D and T curriculum would be concerned with learning about today’s world of design and technology, and its economic and social value. It would use real projects that are relevant to students to show how maths, science technology, design and engineering work together; it would use modern methods and project management tools to manage deadlines and resources; it would teach safety and precision; it would teach how to develop and refine products to meet real needs; and it would straddle materials, components, systems, electronics, data and services to create high-quality outcomes. It would do that using a range of technologies, including food and textiles, but not to the exclusion of all those other technologies of the future that it should encompass.

As the Minister reminded us in her speech on Monday, the Prime Minister rightly says that we are in a global race, and he did not mean a pancake race. To win that race, we need to foster our creativity and innovation. To extend the metaphor, our young people must learn not just how to cook pancakes, but to search constantly for better pancake ingredients, recipes and design, and to build better stoves to cook them on.

Keeping the “e” in STEM silent, to use James Dyson’s brilliant phrase, means that the draft curriculum will stifle innovation and deter talented young people from careers in technology and engineering. With the same vision that underpins the computing curriculum, our young people could ensure that our country wins that global race. At the Queen Elizabeth prize for engineering award ceremony on Monday, one speaker said that engineers are the poets of the practical world. My plea to the Minister is to help them to keep on writing that poetry.

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11.15 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Elizabeth Truss): I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire (Peter Luff) for raising this important subject. His speech was funny and well researched. I particularly liked the reference to the “white heat of technology”. I think that was the first time I have heard a Conservative quote Harold Wilson, and perhaps the first time I have heard Harold Wilson quoted in this House, which is interesting. I agree with much of what my hon. Friend said. Design and technology is an extremely important subject, which builds on this country’s long history of leading the world in design, innovation, engineering, manufacturing and architecture. The chain of British world-class achievements stretches from the giants of the industrial revolution, such as Watt and Brunel, to household names of modern high-tech design, such as Sir Jonathan Ive and Sir James Dyson.

Design and technology has a vital role to play in inspiring young people. Unlike my hon. Friend, I did design and technology at school and very much enjoyed it. It taught me a lot and has been helpful in my later life. It bridges theoretical and practical education, encourages the application of mathematics and science to engineer solutions to real practical problems, and delivers vital practical skills. My hon. Friend captured some of the tensions in the subject—its domestic, industrial and commercial application—but we need to address all those issues because it is important that our young people can do things in their own homes as well as apply them more widely. In counties such as Norfolk, the catering and horticultural industries are high-tech and require young people with specific skills in those areas.

We have retained design and technology’s place in the compulsory national curriculum. We have funded the Design and Technology Association to deliver high-quality continuing professional development to teachers with a focus on computer-aided design, manufacturing, electronics and communications technology. However, we have made changes in the new national curriculum, and there has been a broad welcome for the strengthened place of food and cooking in particular. One issue with the previous curriculum was that it tried to shoehorn food and cooking into a design process. It has its place in industry, but also has a place in teaching young people about where food comes from, nutrition and the ability to cook. We want more young people to be able to do that. The Department of Health is very interested in how we address Britain’s obesity problem. There has been a warm welcome for what we have done with food and cooking.

We have sought in our draft curriculum to broaden what schools may teach and to give them more freedom to inspire young people, which is why subjects such as horticulture are included but are optional. If schools have leading horticultural centres nearby, they may want to develop that subject. The approach in our national curriculum is to focus on what schools do rather than how they do it. We expect teachers and head teachers to develop their curriculum and professional development much more, so that they can inspire young people.

I was pleased that my hon. Friend mentioned developments in the maths, computing and physics curriculum. I agree that it is important to note the need

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for many more engineers and so on in this country. We need the subject to be inspiring for girls and boys. Such subjects depend on maths, physics and computing, and we have received strong support for our reform of those curricula. I welcome my hon. Friend’s help in pushing the agenda for getting more 16 to 18-year-olds doing maths, and the Secretary of State’s long-term goal is for all students to be doing that within 10 years.

Design and technology is important, but it is part of a broader range of subjects that will encourage young people to go into particular industries. There is a strong case for saying that subjects such as mathematics and physics also need to be able to point to their practical application. For example, we have included a greater financial element to mathematics so that young people understand its practical application and can apply it to their domestic circumstances as well as to any future work. It is tricky to ensure that the subject of design and technology is both aspirational and rigorous, and that students are able to apply it to their domestic, commercial and industrial lives, but that is the task we must fulfil.

It is not appropriate for a subject such as cookery to be in personal, social, health and economic education. Instead it should be part of design and technology. However, it was not a deliberate act on our part to give food and cooking a position of primacy in the curriculum. Indeed, improvements could certainly be made to the curriculum, and I take on board my hon. Friend’s suggestions. I recently had a meeting with representatives from the Design and Technology Association, who said that they will come back with further suggestions on how we might improve the language and make the subject as aspirational and as rigorous as possible while not losing the breadth and the flexibility that we are trying to give teachers.

Teachers could continue to teach the existing material under our proposed new curriculum. I agree that we need to make it clear that the subject is both rigorous and important. We want young people to study it and be inspired by it. I am very happy to take forward this discussion with my hon. Friend and other hon. Members over the coming months to ensure that the final curriculum is absolutely right and is supported by leading chefs, such as John Vincent and Henry Dimbleby from the LEON restaurant chain, who are involved in our school food programme. It must also be supported by our leading engineers, such as Sir James Dyson. I want to get to a point where we have something that is widely supported by industry and by people who want to see an improvement in the abilities of students in food and nutrition, and where it is understood by schools that the subject is very important.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the issue and bringing it to my attention. It is a matter that we have already been working on, particularly in relation to how we link it better to the other curricula that are being developed. He has kindly made some positive comments about the computing curriculum, and a few of the issues he mentioned in relation to design techniques, such as computer-aided design, cross over both subjects. It is important to understand how those subjects are linked, so that we can see, for example, which part of technology is in design and technology and which part is in the new computing curriculum. The whole point of

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the new computing curriculum is that it is much more related to programming and to understanding how computers work, so that more young people will be inspired to enter our important IT sector.

Peter Luff: Before the Minister finishes, and in order to help her save her voice for a second or two, may I say how encouraged I am by her response? Her remarks take us very much in the right direction of travel, and I look forward to engaging with her on this process, as she has so kindly suggested.

Elizabeth Truss: I thank my hon. Friend for his comments and for handing me a glass of water. I am afraid that I have a rather croaky throat today. We want to get the curriculum right, and we are very involved in a consultation; I have made that very clear to the Design and Technology Association.

I will not hide the fact that in this particular curriculum, we are trying to do a lot of different things; we are trying to prepare students for life so that they are capable citizens who can carry out practical work in their own homes. We also recognise the importance to industry of having people who are inspired from an early age. I hope that the flexibilities within the curriculum will enable local schools to work more closely with industry to make the subjects as relevant as possible and to give students as much practical experience as possible early in their school career, so that rather than becoming politicians, more of them will be inspired to become engineers.

11.25 am

Sitting suspended.

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Biomass Power Generation

[Mrs Anne Main in the Chair]

2.30 pm

Nigel Adams (Selby and Ainsty) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve again under your chairmanship, Mrs Main. I am delighted to have secured this topical and important debate. I fear that other distractions in the House might limit the number of participants, but I am pleased that hon. Members have taken the time to attend. It is particularly important as we debate the Energy Bill, which will shape our country’s energy profile for decades to come, as well as the emerging biomass industry and the entire UK renewable sector.

My constituency is home to two of the country’s largest coal-fired power stations, Drax and Eggborough; I refer hon. Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Between them, they supply 11% to 12% of the UK’s electricity supply or, to put it in terms that most people would understand, enough power for 9 million homes. They are essential national assets, with the flexibility to provide dispatchable electricity—electricity when it is needed—which is critical to the nation’s security of supply. Both stations have well-developed plans to convert some or all of their generating units to burn sustainable biomass over the next few years.

It is crucial to appreciate the difference between biomass and biofuels, which one or two journalists who have written articles recently do not seem to understand. Arguments laying concerns about the destruction of rain forests at the feet of the biomass energy industry are simply inappropriate and wrong and have no part in the biomass industry either now or in future. Those arguments relate to liquid biofuels, which should not be confused with solid state biomass, which has robust sustainability criteria. To imply that protected rain forest wood can be used for power generation is simply wrong. Woody biomass, which is made into the more energy-dense and transport-efficient pelleted form used as fuel by stations such as Drax and Eggborough, is sourced mainly from residues, thinnings and less marketable wood, which is not of sufficient quality to be used for other, higher-value applications.

Bioenergy is a relatively new market, and the demand is welcomed by those in the hard-pressed global forest products industry, particularly where more traditional markets are in decline, as it provides the additional income that they need to continue investing in sustainable forestry management. Growing and harvesting trees provides family-supporting jobs for millions of men and women. Aside from the economic and social aspects, work in forests brings environmental benefits.

I will focus on the role of biomass in UK energy security. I know that energy security is a subject close to everybody’s heart, including that of the Energy Minister. The regulator Ofgem’s recent warning of a capacity crunch—we could have a capacity margin of only 4% as early as 2015—should set alarm bells ringing. It could have disastrous impacts on the cost and reliability of electricity for consumers, particularly the fuel-poor and businesses that are already struggling to remain competitive. Due to other regulations, approximately 12 GW of existing coal and oil-fired plant will be retired. One third of our coal-fired generation will close by 2016, and potentially more in the second half of this decade as further legislation and taxes start to bite.

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In readiness for the impact of the closures, there is an urgent need to bridge the capacity gap. Even given the welcome announcement yesterday concerning Hinkley Point, new nuclear projects will not start generating until the 2020s, nor will offshore wind on any scale. Consequently, the low-cost solution of converting our existing coal-fired grid-connected plants to renewable, sustainable biomass can and should play an important role in keeping the lights on in the short to medium term.

In the next few weeks, Drax will convert its first unit to burn sustainable biomass rather than coal, and within the next few years, three of Drax’s six units will have been converted to burn sustainable biomass. I welcome the recent announcement in the Budget that £500 million will be invested in carbon capture and storage at Drax, in partnership with Alstom. The news is incredibly welcome in my constituency, and we look forward to seeing how the trial works. I thank the Minister and the Secretary of State for all their efforts to ensure that Drax had the project.

Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this important debate. He has twice used the word “sustainable” to describe biofuels. “Sustainable” is only accurate if one discounts how much carbon dioxide is released from the soil when the trees and vegetation are moved and how many significant journeys will be made to take the biomass from North America to this country. Does he accept that?

Nigel Adams: Yes. The biomass that we use must come from sustainably managed forests, by which I mean forests where growth is at least equal to harvest. Nobody is saying that biomass is carbon-neutral; it is low-carbon. We must ensure a neutral, or ideally a positive, growth-drain ratio. The hon. Gentleman makes a particularly good point, to which I shall come later in my remarks.

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): I am a bit alarmed by the comments that seem to be against biomass. There is another issue of sustainability, of course—sustainability of jobs. It would be worse for our constituents if the conversion to biomass did not proceed, and those constituents of ours who work at dirty coal-burning power stations were suddenly thrown out on to the unemployment register. Sustainability is not just about what we burn; it is also about jobs.

Nigel Adams: I could not agree more with my hon. Friend and neighbour. We are fortunate in our neck of the woods; unemployment has fallen considerably in the past couple of years. Funnily enough, as it happens, I had a meeting yesterday with Shepherd Building Group, one of the main construction partners helping Drax convert its biomass plant, and Shepherd told me that more than 1,000 jobs are being generated or safeguarded by the project, and more than £700 million in investment is being made to realise it. We must bear that in mind. The hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer) makes a valid point, but we must remember that people’s livelihoods and jobs are on the line.

Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this debate, which is important to my constituents because an application is in train for a new biomass plant in Davyhulme. One

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issue is that not all the biomass that will be used is necessarily virgin forest. In the case of the Davyhulme plant, it is proposed to recycle already-used woods. Does he accept that if those woods have been treated with varnishes and paints, it creates a rather different picture for the potential carbon impact?

Nigel Adams: Yes, that is a fair point. I will make a number of points later in my remarks about the sustainability of the raw material.

Andrew George (St Ives) (LD): While the hon. Gentleman is covering the issue, it would be interesting to hear his comments and advice, because I know far less about it than he does. To achieve the capacity that he is describing, what proportion of source would be imported? Has he seen any comparisons involving the wide range of organics that might be introduced into anaerobic digestion, as an alternative to the materials that he has described?

Nigel Adams: Drax and Eggborough power stations, if their plans are realised, will need 15 million tonnes of that material, the majority of which, it is fair to say, will come from abroad in a pelletised form. The UK simply does not have the forestry or the raw material. It is worth pointing out, however, that those are coal-fired power stations and that the vast majority of the coal—in fact, every bit of coal going into Eggborough—is imported.

Eggborough, as the Minister knows, is in the final stages of some detailed talks with the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The project is shovel-ready for full conversion of all four of its 500 MW units; the first unit could start generating exclusively from biomass in late 2014, if we get things right. Can the Minister reassure us that he will monitor and facilitate the progress of the second conversion project, which is important for my constituency and the UK, as it passes through the internal DECC processes? Over the next few years, as a result of the projects, the predominantly coal-fired stations will become predominantly sustainable biomass-fired stations, providing a significant contribution to the UK’s targets for renewable energy, protecting thousands of jobs, as mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy), and enabling hundreds of millions of pounds of investment in the stations, as well as the enormous investment and job potential in the upgrading of our ports and railways to facilitate them.

Sustainable biomass is an essential part of our renewable energy mix: it is low cost, low carbon—if sustainably forested—and, importantly, it fuels reliable, predictable and dispatchable generation. Its availability is not exposed to the day-to-day vagaries of the Great British weather, so it can provide electricity when needed rather than when the weather permits. Also, unlike almost all other renewables, biomass does not require us all to pay for stand-by fossil fuel capacity for the times when the sun does not shine and the wind fails to blow.

By now Members will have gathered that I am immensely proud of and pleased with the progress we have made on biomass in Selby and Ainsty, which will soon be the renewable energy capital of Europe, as I am sure all will agree. We will have the potential for more than 4 GW of renewable generation in a five-mile radius, which is equivalent to some 8,000 of the large 2 MW onshore

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wind turbines or, put another way, to more than double the total realistic output of all the onshore wind turbines built in the UK by the start of this year.

I am, however, confused by some of the inaccuracies that tend to creep into the debate, often from those who should know better. To be clear, and as I mentioned earlier, biomass is not a zero-carbon technology but a low-carbon one. Emissions are associated with the harvesting and transport of biomass, and they must be extremely closely monitored. I fully support the Government’s efforts to ensure that mandatory sustainability standards are applied, as do Eggborough and Drax, which already insist on robust sustainability standards and criteria.

Most large-scale biomass generation in the UK will use wood, often by-products of other industries, such as forestry and sawmill residues together with non-commercial timber from thinning and forestry management operations. None of those sources cause land use change, which cannot be said of those used for biofuels such as palm oil; none of them results in lost opportunities for food production; and all of them generate substantial overall carbon savings.

Andrew Percy: Biofuels are important to the Humber, which has two bioethanol plants. May I encourage my hon. Friend to split biofuels into biodiesel and bioethanol, because the bioethanol production on the Humber is entirely sustainable and also provides an animal feed by-product? If he separates the two, we on the Humber will see that as helpful.

Nigel Adams: I hope that I have done so by making the point about the completely different product to be used to generate electricity at the power stations in my constituency.

The very process of managing a sustainable forest increases its ability to act as a carbon sink. Most of the biomass used for energy production in the UK will come from abroad, but it should and will come only from sustainably managed forests. In north America alone, the forest products industry harvests more than 500 million tonnes of timber per year, but demand for its products is declining. Unless the forests of the south-eastern USA get new production outlets, the health of those forests will decline.

We should note the scale of what we are discussing. I repeat: in north America alone, more than 500 million tonnes of wood is harvested every year. In only three selected regions of north America—the south-east, eastern Canada and British Columbia—it is conservatively estimated that a further 120 million tonnes could be sustainably harvested and utilised annually. Those figures put into some perspective the 30 million tonnes of wood that Drax and Eggborough need to produce the 15 million tonnes of pellets required.

In Canada, by providing a commercial use for the vast area of beetle-killed boreal forest—an area the size of England and growing year on year—we can help to turn what is currently a huge emitter of harmful greenhouse gases into a new carbon sink through clearance and Government-controlled replanting. Furthermore, the

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pelletising process enables us to ship the wood safely to the UK without any risk of importing disease, a subject that has been mentioned previously.

Some Members are aware of the so called carbon debt argument: because a tree burns in seconds but grows in years, there is somehow a carbon debt until a new tree has grown. The Department’s bioenergy strategy considered carbon debt in detail, however, and was explicit in its conclusion that, in situations where new forests are created, or existing forests have been under long-term management for production of timber and/or biomass, the harvesting of wood does not incur a carbon debt.

The biomass that Drax and Eggborough will use is to come from sustainably managed forests, which, as I said in response to an intervention, means that the growth must be at least equal to harvest, ensuring a neutral or ideally positive growth-drain ratio. In short, the sustainable management of trees in a productive forest means that they absorb more carbon than they would have done had the forest not been managed. In effect, such trees are building up a carbon credit as they grow. Can the Minister therefore reassure the House that the sustainability criteria for biomass, when the Government confirm them, will be based on the concept that a sustainably managed forest has a stable or increasing carbon stock, meaning that biomass from sustainable forest is at least carbon neutral?

Let me provide a few more basic facts about biomass generation. It is the only renewable technology able to supply base load renewable power at any scale. It is flexible and stable, and it has a continued role in balancing the grid with low-carbon generation. It is an essential part of the low-carbon energy mix and one of the only deliverable and affordable alternatives to the second dash for gas in which we might have to engage. Excluding biomass from the energy mix would significantly increase the cost of decarbonising our energy system. The Department estimates that sustainably sourced bioenergy could contribute around 11% to the UK’s total primary energy demand by 2020 and significantly more by 2050. Even taking into account the energy used to grow, transport and process the fuel, biomass-generated electricity produces substantially fewer emissions than are produced when fossil fuels are used.

Closer to home, I am mindful of the need to respect the effect of using biomass as a renewable fuel on other UK industries. The wood panel industry in particular is concerned about the impact on the historically low wood prices it has benefited from recently, but it should not have to worry because the wood that my power stations will use will come overwhelmingly, if not entirely, from markets in which it does not operate. The biomass industry relies on wood that no one else has a use for, certainly on that scale. It cannot pay the prices that the wood panel, paper, construction and furniture industries can pay, so instead of representing a threat to those industries, it provides a market for much of their previously unusable by-products that would previously have been burnt or put in landfill where they would degrade and emit carbon dioxide or, even worse, methane.

What about the benefits of biomass not just for electricity generation, but for the economics of the country as a whole? I am of the opinion that the biomass industry could generate infrastructure spending over the next three to four years alone of significantly more than

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£1.5 billion, leaving a lasting legacy of improvements to our ports and rail infrastructure while supporting thousands of jobs in the supply chain throughout the UK. That investment is needed now and should form part of the Government’s growth strategy.

I will come to a conclusion so that the debate can be opened to other hon. Members who have dragged themselves away from the Budget debate. I have stressed, perhaps overly, the conversion of my constituency’s two large coal-fired power stations to burn biomass, but that is just the first chapter, not the whole story, of the future of biomass. The conversion of existing fossil fuel plants is a speedy, low-cost first step in the transition from the use of carbon-intensive fuels to a greener alternative. It is an important part of what I see as a continuum in the use of biomass as a fuel source, which will also see new build, higher-efficiency power stations fuelled by a robust and sustainable fuel supply chain. Converting our coal-fired stations will not only see the country through an important transitional period, but will create a bridge to keep the lights on at the lowest possible cost. I suggest to hon. Members here today that on the grounds of electricity supply security, benefits to the economy and, most of all, emissions, sustainable biomass has a growing and valuable role and is a vital energy source for all our futures.

2.52 pm

Ian Swales (Redcar) (LD): I congratulate the hon. Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams) on not only securing the debate, but his comprehensive review of the industry, and its opportunities and issues. My speech will be short because I was aware that, given his expertise, he would cover many of the points that I might make.

There is no doubt that biomass should be an important part of our energy mix. It is the fourth largest energy resource in the world after coal, oil and gas, and of course none of those is renewable, so it is the largest source of renewable energy in the world. However, this is yet another area in which the UK is playing catch-up. The Renewable Energy Association estimates that the industry employs about 2,000 people in the UK, compared with 60,000 in France and 68,000 in Germany. The technology is well established and many countries are exploiting it fully.

My constituency is in the Tees valley and, rather like the hon. Gentleman’s, it is becoming something of a Disneyland for green technology. Specifically on biomass, the advanced manufacturing technology centre, the Centre for Process Innovation and the Department of Energy and Climate Change are part-sponsoring anaerobic digestion research there, and Northumbrian Water has built a £60 million anaerobic digestion plant in the constituency. We have the largest bioethanol plant in Europe working on wheat. At the large Wilton chemicals site, Sembcorp has converted its power station to burn mostly timber. Across the river, Air Products is building a gasification of waste plant and is already planning its next one to make biofuels and even chemicals.

This morning, I was at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills meeting Korean investors, including Jang Do-soo, the president of Korea South-East Power, which wants to invest in a 300 MW biomass power plant at Teesport. That will involve spending £500 million

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and follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding in Seoul some months ago, which was attended by a Foreign Office Minister and the UK ambassador. So far, so good, but we keep hearing inconsistent messages from DECC.

I could not attend the meeting of the all-party group on biomass on 26 February, but I was very impressed by the comprehensive notes arising from it—that is another compliment to the hon. Member for Selby and Ainsty, who chairs the group. At the meeting, the Minister repeated his belief that a new-build dedicated biomass plant is more likely to use domestic rather than imported biomass, yet at the same meeting, he referred to 700 million acres of forest in the US alone. The meeting was attended by the Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, who is keen for exports. I have been lobbied by the US industry, which is desperately looking for greater use of its commercial timber plantations, as we heard earlier. Surely there is a place for efficient port-based biomass investment to support our base load of electricity in this country. I accept that that might be limited, but surely we should have one or two such facilities.

Some commentators do not seem to understand that wood is a crop just like any other. Sustainable forestry is no different from any other sort of farming; it simply has longer time scales. The industry needs sustainable supplies, because if it puts a substantial amount of capital on the ground, it cannot go round the world looking for spot purchases. A sustainable operation needs a source of sustainable feedstock because the investment is very long term.

I am disappointed about today’s announcement on carbon capture and storage. Teesside came third on a list of two in the CCS competition, but I still believe that it will eventually get a network.

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Mr John Hayes): I appreciate my hon. Friend’s disappointment, but I assure him that while we have taken two projects forward, we remain extremely committed to carbon capture and storage generally. I had a meeting this morning specifically to look at how we can work with the other projects involved. There must be a feeling among all those involved in CCS that everyone is a winner.

Ian Swales: I thank the Minister for his intervention, which is exactly the sort of response that the Teesside consortium is looking for, so I am sure that his comments will be noted. I thought that the weight of process industry on Teesside was unlikely to be given due regard in the competition, because that was not one of the criteria, but as we have 18 of the largest 30 carbon emitters in the country, excluding energy, a Teesside project should go ahead at some point. I am pleased by the Minister’s response and I believe that there will be another meeting on the matter with his Department on Friday.

CCS leads me to talk about something that I do not think the hon. Member for Selby and Ainsty mentioned. Biomass with carbon capture and storage is one of the very few technologies that can sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for carbon-negative power. If we think about the problems we have in the world, how big a prize is that? We should seriously consider that combination of biomass with CCS, and the resulting sequestration.

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I know that the Minister wants investment in infrastructure, which is a key aspect of current Government policy. The Teesport biomass plant is shovel-ready—I met the investors again this morning. I hope that it will receive his full support, but if his Department wants to cap such investments, will it please provide absolute clarity to investors so that time is not wasted, and we can all move on and think of something else to do? I repeat that the investors in such projects are receiving mixed messages.

2.59 pm

Jackie Doyle-Price (Thurrock) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Mrs Main. It is also a pleasure to follow excellent, well-informed speeches by two strong advocates for biomass and its potential for power generation.

I have long felt that biomass was the Cinderella of renewable energy. Although lots of subsidies have been thrown at wind and solar, the development of biomass capacity has been rather left to flourish by itself. As a good Conservative, with a clear understanding of the limits of Government, I feel it is probably better off for that. However, I am really grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams) for securing the debate, as it is high time that the potential of biomass generation is fully recognised by Government, so that sufficient effort can be made to secure a regulatory environment with the certainty that my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Ian Swales) referred to, which facilitates its expansion.

I know the Government believe that biomass can play an important role in the future UK energy mix, and that is set out in the bioenergy strategy. They recognise that it is a dispatchable technology that has the ability to produce low-carbon energy quickly and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty pointed out, in response to demand—that is, it is not dependent on weather conditions that can affect other renewable technologies, such as, most notably, wind.

I am proud to represent Tilbury, which is in my constituency and has what is currently the world’s largest dedicated biomass power station. The history of Tilbury is interesting, because the power station was until very recently coal-fired, and it has been generating sufficient power for the whole of Essex for the past 50 years. However, the large combustion plant directive finished off Tilbury as a coal-fired power station, and I know that my hon. Friend the Minister will be very aware of how much impact the directive is having on our power generation capability. That really brings into stark relief the need for more certainty around the regulation and future environment for biomass, so that we can unlock investment in what is a very good technology for generating low-carbon power.

At its peak, Tilbury employed 750 people—today it employs 250, all in very highly skilled jobs—and it generated more than 1,000 MW, which is enough to power 1 million homes. In its 50 years of operation, it never breached its environmental licence. That prompts the question, although we implement EU directives with very good intentions, in terms of reducing emissions, when we look at the detail of the impact, are we really hitting the right things when we are looking at tackling

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climate change and environmentalism? I just put that out there. It is not unusual for the European Union to get things very badly wrong. As I said, the directive had the effect of finishing off Tilbury, despite the fact that Tilbury only ever breached its emissions limits when the A13 was full of traffic, which tells us exactly where the air contamination was coming from.

Faced with the need to close the plant, RWE npower—the owners—decided to be imaginative, and instead of running on coal until they had to close, they decided to make the groundbreaking decision to explore the potential for conversion, so that they could learn by doing and transfer that learning to developing biomass in future. What they did was not only groundbreaking but risky, and they deserve congratulations for their pioneering work on developing the ability to convert coal-fired stations to biomass. As a result of that conversion, Tilbury is now the world’s largest dedicated biomass power station, having burned coal for the last time in March 2011. I lament the departure of coal, but it is still exciting to witness what has been happening at Tilbury.

The station burns wood pellets, and in response to the intervention by the hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer), those pellets come by ship from America. That is, as he will probably recognise, a sustainable way of transporting them. As my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar mentioned, where we have power station infrastructure located at portside and the ability to transport by ship, it makes that method of power generation very sustainable.

The remainder of the hours that Tilbury has under the large combustion plant directive means that it can only generate from biomass until next year. It seems crazy that, having converted from coal to biomass, we still have to close the plant. However, RWE has big ambitions and wants to invest in a new facility to replace the existing station, having learned many lessons from the conversion. We are hopeful that the necessary permissions will be achieved and that the project can go forward, so that Tilbury can continue to keep Essex’s lights on.

It is fair to say that the conversion is less efficient than coal, but it is still pretty efficient. As I said, under coal-fired generation, the plant generated more than 1,000 MW, and now it generates 750 MW. That is a significant contribution to the national grid, and much more than the wind turbines that my hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty referred to. The conversion has, however, had a significant environmental impact, with a 70% reduction in greenhouse gases. That illustrates just how powerful converting existing infrastructure could be in terms of meeting our objectives on climate change.

During the conversion, RWE was faced with many challenges—technical, operational, and health and safety—but much has been learnt and the company would be very happy to share its expertise with the Government and more widely. The operation of Tilbury to run on sustainable biomass has had a big impact on the UK’s ability to meet its targets. That illustrates the potential of biomass generation to give a new lease of life to existing power stations, which, without conversion, would have to be decommissioned, but are sitting on top of connections to the national grid. As we look at further investment in energy capacity, connections to the grid are an important expense to deal with.

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With over a third of our existing generating capacity due to close by the end of this decade, clearly, more investment in renewable and low-carbon technology is required—and quickly—so that, in future, we have a secure energy supply, a lower-carbon energy supply and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty said most eloquently, an affordable energy supply. That is why we need to unlock the supply challenges quickly, because without increasing supply, the impact will be on price, and our most vulnerable consumers will be hit. We need, therefore, to tackle the problem.

As I mentioned earlier, the beauty of Tilbury as the location for a dedicated biomass station was its suitability for transporting the wood pellets by ship, as that made it particularly sustainable. As my hon. Friend mentioned, there has been a lot of misinformation about the sustainability of biomass generation, with much scaremongering that burning wood pellets will mean the end of our forests. However, nothing could be further from the truth. I have had conversations with representatives of the forestry industry in the United States, and they are very excited and keen to satisfy the demand that this country might have for further biomass generation. It was suggested in some briefings only this week that Government plans would involve the burning of up to six times more wood than the entire UK forestry harvest, but that is totally misleading, because we are looking beyond our tiny island for supply. It can be achieved in a very sustainable way.

The ability to tap into that demand has given sustainable forestry a whole new lease of life. As we have increased the recycling of paper, the demand for forest products has altered, which means that there is a desire to look at new sources of demand. Over time, that will only accelerate, so I really do not believe that the wood panel industry has anything to worry about, in terms of the future of its supply.

Ian Swales: My hon. Friend is making an eloquent case regarding sustainability. Does she agree that it is interesting that even the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is now saying that properly managed sustainable forests are valuable ecosystems in themselves and should be encouraged?

Jackie Doyle-Price: Yes, the RSPB’s comments are welcome, but it really needs to join things up. As we know, a little knowledge is often a dangerous thing, and it does not take much investigation to realise that some of the fears put out by the so-called environmental lobby, once they are unpicked—

Mr Hayes: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the issue of wood panels, as other Members have. I am determined to do right by the wood panel industry. The Government are engaged with the industry and I shall say a little more about that, but it is right that we listen to the industry, take into account its circumstances and ensure that our policy has no unintended consequences. However, as far as the other people that my hon. Friend mentioned are concerned—I sometimes describe them as bourgeois liberals, do I not?—their malevolent, malign, mischievous opinions will be isolated by this Minister.

Jackie Doyle-Price: I thank the Minister for those comments. I agree that we need to take the wood panel industry with us. I suspect that, with more understanding

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and dialogue, it will come with us, because the case has been made that we can supply the demand for biomass without impacting the industry’s supply unduly.

Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con): I apologise for arriving late for the debate, Mrs Main. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams) on securing it, and thank my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price) for taking my intervention. I should declare an interest as a member of the all-party group for the wood panel industry, and I have an employer in the industry in my constituency. I absolutely endorse all the points that have been made thus far, but I would make two points to my hon. Friend. The first is that the timber price has gone up by well over half—

Mrs Anne Main (in the Chair): Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that interventions must be brief.

Guy Opperman: Will my hon. Friend comment on the fact that the timber price has gone up by at least half since we have had the domestic subsidy?

Jackie Doyle-Price: All I can say is that RWE is planning on making a significant investment, and it has invested in its supply chain. The issue that my hon. Friend raises really will not impact on its ability to run the dedicated biomass facility in Tilbury. I would also point out that timber is not the only commodity that has gone up in price in recent years. I really do not think, therefore, that the issue that my hon. Friend raises will be any impediment to further exploitation of this technology.

I look forward to Tilbury rising again and reopening with new permissions and with a brand-new facility. I hope the Minister will look at coming to visit in due course to see how plans are progressing. I am really pleased that RWE remains committed to Tilbury and that, despite having to close its existing facility, it still wants to invest in power generation on the site.

I know the Minister does not require too much encouragement in this regard, but I would like to highlight how much this issue illustrates what happens when Governments fail to fight our corner in Europe. I can see a situation coming down the track very quickly where we will be forced to buy more and more electricity from France, in particular, because the regulatory system has favoured nuclear over coal. We all want cleaner, greener energy, but we need to keep the lights on, and we need to make sure that people can afford to heat their homes. For our own energy security, therefore, we need to make the most of the potential of biomass as an energy source, given its generating potential, and given how much more of our domestic demand we will be able to supply.

I implore the Minister to make every effort to ensure that rapidly deployable capacity, in the form of biomass conversion, comes on stream as quickly as possible. In that respect, I cannot add much more to what my hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty said in his opening remarks.

I want to make a final point about investment. As a country we rely heavily on private capital to achieve the investment in power generation that we need to meet our energy needs after 2015. As my hon. Friend the Member

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for Redcar said, to achieve that, industry needs long-term certainty to encourage investment, particularly in a world where capital is finite and the market environment very competitive. In addition, we are dealing with energy companies that are global in their reach, and they can easily go and invest their capital elsewhere.

It is telling that coal-fired power stations are being built in Germany, when we have made coal completely uneconomic in this country. When we are dealing with private investors and expecting them to invest billions of pounds so that we can keep our lights on, we must recognise that they are not in it for charity, and we must enable them to facilitate that investment in the best way we can. To put it bluntly, the Department has, hitherto, been not enough about energy and rather too much about climate change. I believe that really has to change, and I know that if anybody will facilitate that change, it is my hon. Friend the Minister.