The other myth that has been perpetuated is that pensioners have this Government to thank for the largest cash rise in pensions ever because they introduced the triple lock. It did not happen because of the triple lock; it happened because inflation was so high in that year, which was largely due to the increase in VAT. If Members

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care to remember, it was said that that was never going to happen. The rate of inflation is the reason why the cash rise in pensions had to be so high. For pensioners, it was merely an inflationary cash rise. It had nothing whatever to do with the triple lock. If nothing had changed in the policy, the rise would have been exactly the same.

I want to touch on what all this means for a lot of people. We hear a lot about all the private sector jobs that have been created. However, nearly 500,000 of those private sector jobs are in the health and social care field, and most of those are funded by the public sector. They are private sector jobs only because they have been outsourced. For far too many of those employees, the working conditions have worsened. Earlier, a Government Member sought to intervene to say that Labour councils have outsourced contracts. I know of Labour councils that have outsourced contracts. My council has such contracts because it inherited them from the previous Liberal Democrat council.

Private firms are operating social care services on the basis of zero-hours contracts. People who work in the social care sector, much like the McDonald’s workers who have been discussed, wait at home to see how many hours they will get each week. Not only is that bad for the employee who never knows how much she will earn from one week to the next, but it is absolutely atrocious for the person for whom the care is being provided. It is no wonder that people do not know who their carer will be on any given day when the work is organised in that fashion.

The Government cannot escape responsibility for that situation. Why are councils finding themselves in that position? In Scotland it is largely because we have now had the council tax freeze, which has been mentioned, for six or seven years. It is not properly funded; local councils are strapped for cash, and as a result they are looking for experience in how to provide services. If a care service is outsourced, for example, it provides very poor employment circumstances for people.

Another problem that people encounter when on such contracts is how they organise child care. How can they do that if they never know when they will be able to work? One couple I spoke to at the weekend told me that they had to give up the possibility of both working, because they could not organise child care around their work contracts. That has knock-on consequences not just on their working conditions, but also on other aspects of their working life. These real issues are happening in all our constituencies, and we need to change that.

6.25 pm

Alok Sharma (Reading West) (Con): This Opposition day debate is no more than a fig leaf covering the fact that the Labour party has absolutely no policies to offer. It is still a blank piece of paper when it comes to policies. I find it amazing that every time we hear from Labour Members, they always give the impression that they have some sort of monopoly on compassion. Is that the same compassion that meant that unemployment and youth unemployment were higher in 2010 than in 1997? Is it the same compassion that meant that Labour missed all its child poverty targets, that the gap between rich and poor grew wider, and that left us with a record budget deficit for which we have still had no apology whatsoever?

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The way to improve job security and tackle the cost of living is to grow the economy and get business confidence going, which leads to more jobs and rising prosperity. That is exactly what the Government are doing by cutting taxes, getting rid of unnecessary red tape, investing in our young people and infrastructure, and welcoming foreign inward investment.

Let me say a little about Reading, the town that I represent and where I grew up, because I am incredibly proud that it is an economic powerhouse not just in the Thames valley but in the country as a whole. What have the Government been doing for young people in Reading? They have been investing some £4 million in the last year in the pupil premium, providing 3,000 new apprenticeships, investing millions more in new school places, and bringing youth unemployment down to 225 in December 2013, compared with 635 when we came into government. The key is getting students ready for the workplace and, like many of my colleagues, I have run careers fares. At the last one, 1,200 students came along to talk to 60 companies. I run employability workshops with local employers, which are the sort of thing we ought to be doing to ensure that our young people feel there is a way forward.

Let me read a few comments that I received from people who attended that employability workshop. Navjit Gill said:

“The interview and networking skills session was really useful. I learned a lot about what to do in interviews.”

Elijah Seville-Williams said:

“The workshop taught me about interview techniques which will prepare me for getting a job later.”

That is what we should be doing, as Members of Parliament.

Many employers in my constituency are creating many jobs—small companies as well as larger ones. Tesco has just set up a new distribution centre and I was pleased to be part of supporting that. There are almost 1,200 new jobs, but also 85 jobs for the long-term unemployed. I went to a graduation ceremony last year for people who had not had a job for a long time but had finally found employment through that scheme. It was an incredibly emotional graduation. People were there, with their grandchildren and parents, from across the social spectrum—real people whose lives were being turned around. The reason why companies such as Tesco are confident about creating those jobs is that they have been given that confidence as a result of this Government’s policies.

Business confidence is up in the Thames valley. The Thames Valley Business Barometer published a few weeks ago showed that eight out of 10 businesses are more confident in the economy, 50% reported an increase in the number of employees, while about two thirds forecast a rise in profitability in 2014 that will mean they can employ more people.

Finally, one thing the Leader of the Opposition has managed to do brilliantly, even though he is not running the country, is destroy value in the private sector. Look at what he said about splitting up banks. As soon as he made that statement, £1 billion was wiped off the share price of RBS and Lloyds. That affects not City fat cats or bankers—or whoever the Opposition are currently bashing—but the pension money that is invested on behalf of my hard-working constituents who pay their

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taxes and invest in their pensions, only to find that the Leader of the Opposition destroys the value of that pension. That is not good enough.

If the Opposition want to know what happens if taxes are increased and entrepreneurs are hit, they should look at what is happening in socialist France, where growth is projected to be a third of what it will be in the UK in 2014. If the Opposition understood anything about jobs, the economy and what is necessary to create security and prosperity, they would vote against their own motion this evening. I urge everyone to reject the motion.

6.30 pm

Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (Lab): As I said earlier, it is 10 years since 23 Chinese cockle pickers lost their lives on the shores of Morecambe bay, working under the instructions of an illegal gangmaster. There is now clear evidence that these illegal gangmasters have moved into other sectors, such as construction, care and leisure. They are also causing significant problems in other areas. I am delighted that my party will commit in its manifesto to extending the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 to those sectors, but I wish the coalition Government would do likewise. I shall not hold my breath.

There is a myth going around that people want to work zero-hours contracts. Let us walk in the shoes of a young constituent of mine to see how zero-hours contracts work. The name of the company he works for is SGL, also known as SecuriGroup, and the majority of its work is for the UK Government. The company is not operating to the working time directive. My constituent says, “For example, over the Christmas and New Year period, I worked from Monday to Thursday, 8 am to 8 pm with no breaks. Then on Friday and Saturday nights I worked from 8 pm to 12 am the next day in Glasgow night clubs. During the New Year week I was asked to go straight from working at a school building site to work at a Glasgow night club. If I refuse, I don’t get any work over the following weeks.”

On pay, my constituent says, “I was also told I would only receive the minimum wage of £6.31 per hour over the two-week festive period, and I won’t get a Christmas payslip until next week or a New Year payslip until the following week. I was paid weekly and charged £13 from my salary for my jacket and tie. I was also charged another £3 for my hat. I have not received any uniform shirts, trousers or shoes, which I have to provide myself. For the first few months I was working at a school building site in Glasgow, where I worked two 16-hour shifts, 4 pm to 8 am, one 12-hour shift, 8 am to 8 pm, and two four-hour shifts, 8 pm to 12 am or 9 pm to 1 am. No breaks were given during the 16-hour shifts.”

That is what happens under zero-hours contracts, and that is probably not the worst example. After receiving the letter from my young constituent, I wrote to the company concerned, SecuriGroup, and the managing director, a Mr Russell Kerr, replied, rather aggressively. He ends his letter by saying:

“Any legislation that improves the terms and conditions for our people would be welcomed by SecuriGroup.”

That knocks on the head the idea that employers will be upset if we bring in legislation to stop zero-hours contracts. Mr Kerr suggests that it would be no problem.

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The Government could do a lot to end zero-hours contracts. Action is needed on the Government’s contracting culture. As the main contractor in the nation, we cannot wash our hands of employment practices further down the supply chain. We must award contracts only to those employers who police their entire supply chain and eliminate insecure employment. There must also be systems of liability to make the ultimate contractor responsible for employment practices across their supply chains.

There is a serious problem out there: illegal gangmasters are exploiting people and undermining the terms and conditions of indigenous workers. We know that is happening and we should take action to ensure that it does not. There are other connotations, too. It causes problems in our community when people are perceived, wrongly, to be coming in and doing jobs that indigenous workers should be doing. We need to deal with that. The biggest myth of all is that people want to work zero-hours contracts. I have yet to meet anyone who has said to me, “Mr Sheridan, I would like to work a zero-hours contract.” I do not think I will in my lifetime.

6.35 pm

Priti Patel (Witham) (Con): I would like to begin my contribution by paying tribute to businesses up and down the country, particularly in Essex and in my constituency, for the jobs they have created. Under this Government, unemployment in my constituency has fallen by almost 80% since it peaked in 2009 under Labour. In the last year alone, unemployment has fallen by 28% in Witham, resulting in almost 400 more people in work and off benefits. That should be welcomed and I would like to think everybody in the House does welcome it.

In October, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions came to Witham, and when he visited a jobs and apprenticeship fair that I hosted, he saw the confidence and the large number of local businesses looking to recruit and take on new staff. I thank everybody who was involved in the jobs fair. As I have said repeatedly in this House, Essex is the county of entrepreneurs. With the right Government policies in place, we will continue to create jobs, wealth and prosperity.

The one thing that would do the most damage to job creation and employment prospects in my constituency would be for the Government to follow the appalling policies and gimmicks supported by the Labour party. In the previous general election, Labour planned to increase the small profits rate and corporation tax on business. It plotted to increase the burden on employers through national insurance contributions, and planned to increase fuel duty. It left office with a regulatory and compliance regime in place that cost small and medium-sized enterprises in the region of £17 billion. Those measures would cost jobs, take money out of the economy and harm economic growth.

The Labour party has no answer to the economic challenges facing this country, and it has zero credibility when it comes to the debate on jobs. I have listened to the contributions from the Opposition this afternoon. What we have learned—not just this afternoon but in the past four years—is that the Labour party has no faith in the entrepreneurial spirit of British business, which has created 1.6 million private sector jobs since the general election. Labour would tax and borrow

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more, expand the public sector and take Britain back to the dinosaur days of the failed socialist policies of the past; notwithstanding the fact, of course, that the Labour leader supports exactly what President Hollande is doing in France.

My constituents and businesses in Witham want, and have, a Government who get behind them and are committed to supporting job creation. When we think of the £17 billion regulatory burden left by the Labour Government—the equivalent of 11 times the amount of money this Government are currently investing in funding apprenticeships—even the modest savings on red tape that this Government are making can make a real difference in freeing up funds for businesses to invest in jobs and economic growth.

Naturally, we have to reject the Opposition motion on that basis alone. It is completely unviable and demonstrates once again the economic illiteracy of the Labour party. Creating jobs and getting more people into employment are central to this Government’s long-term economic plan to build a stronger and more competitive economy, in sharp contrast to the Labour party and the motion it has tabled. That is why we will reject the motion.

6.39 pm

Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab): We have had an excellent debate. When the current Government were elected, we were promised that new policies would lead to

“steady growth and falling unemployment”.

Unfortunately, however, they did not. For three years, there was hardly any growth and unemployment stayed high. Despite all the benefit cuts, over this Parliament the Government will spend £15 billion more on social security and tax credits than they said they would just after the election. As a result, more young people have been out of work for over a year than at any time for 20 years. We urgently need to bring those young people, at the start of what should be their working lives, back into the labour market. In addition, more over-25s have been out of work for over two years than at any time since 1997.

After a long delay, jobs are finally being created, but the priority now is to bring back into the labour market those who have been locked out of it for much too long. That is the damaging legacy of three years without growth, and it needs tackling urgently, otherwise we will face a whole generation of lost economic potential.

Andrew Percy: On the subject of legacy and long-term youth unemployment, does the right hon. Gentleman regret the previous Government’s legacy? Under them, the gap between the best-performing and worst-performing schools widened, so we now have a group of young people relatively far less well educated than many of their peers.

Stephen Timms: What I am worried about is the apparent collapse of careers advice in schools, with more and more employers saying to us that young people are not getting the advice they need to plan for future employment. I am extremely worried about that.

Despite this legacy, our proposed job guarantee will deliver, unlike the Work programme, which was rightly described by the Chancellor in last summer’s spending

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review statement as “underperforming”, and the Youth Contract, whose wage incentives have proved a hopeless damp squib. The Secretary of State was right at the outset of the debate to commend the record on employment support in Wales, where the Jobs Growth Wales programme, reflecting our job guarantee, has done a great deal better.

This debate has focused on those in work. For the first time, the majority of people living in poverty are in households where somebody is in work, as was highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies). A staggering number of people in work are resorting to food banks, in Wales and elsewhere, so I welcome the Prime Minister’s agreement to meet representatives from the Trussell Trust, which co-ordinates food banks, next week, overruling the childish refusal to do so by DWP Ministers over the last several months.

Month after month, it is the same. Last month, inflation was more than 2% and pay rises were below 1%. That is what people are experiencing. For the first time—we had an exchange about this earlier—over 1.4 million people are working part-time because they cannot find a full-time job. My hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) reminded us that the House of Commons Library calculated that the average household was more than £1,600 worse off than at the time of the last election.

The hon. Member for Ipswich (Ben Gummer), whom I am glad is back in the Chamber, made a thoughtful speech essentially arguing that there was nothing new about these problems. He should look at the quarterly Asda “Mumdex”briefing, which I think has been sent to all of us:

“Last year, we saw Mums cutting back on luxuries like holidays, gadgets and meals out. Now families are struggling to afford basics like heating and petrol.”

The intensity of the problem is new. YouGov found last year that the number of people feeling insecure at work had almost doubled since the election—6.5 million then, 12 million now—and the hon. Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams) was right to highlight the case of job insecurity at a power plant in his constituency. That kind of problem is widespread.

Our motion refers to health and safety changes. I had an exchange with the Secretary of State about this earlier, but I want to make a bit more of the point. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Labour’s Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974. The disability benefits Minister, the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning), rightly told me in a written answer last month:

“Workplace health and safety has made an important contribution to vastly reducing the numbers of people killed, injured or made unwell by their work in the last 40 years.”—[Official Report, 30 January 2014; Vol. 574, c. 669W.]

That is as a consequence of our legislation.

The Secretary of State reminded us that Ministers commissioned Professor Ragnar Löfstedt of King’s College London to review health and safety legislation. Some people think it should be dramatically cut back, but not the Secretary of State, and not Professor Löfstedt either. He wrote:

“I have concluded that, in general, there is no case for radically altering current health and safety legislation…There is a view across the board that the existing regulatory requirements are broadly right”.

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Ministers said in response that they supported the recommendations of the review, but what they are doing is different. They are trying to shift the balance, even though they have been unable to find evidence to support them. I take the Secretary of State’s point—he is not responsible for this—but in an interview last month Professor Löfstedt described what is happening as ideology in place of evidence-based policy, and safety at work is at risk as a result. I want to highlight in particular the Government’s removal of civil liability for employers breaching health and safety law in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, which Professor Löfstedt picked out in his report one year afterwards. Given all this, there is now growing concern that health and safety is being put at risk.

My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk (Michael Connarty) highlighted employment rights and the case of INEOS in his constituency. The qualification period for protection against unfair dismissal has been doubled, from one year to two, and fees introduced for employment tribunals. The Government went so far as to consult on the proposal for no-fault dismissal made by Mr Adrian Beecroft in his infamous report. If that had been implemented, it would have allowed employers to fire people at will.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr Umunna) pointed out at the start of the debate, the minimum wage has fallen by 5% in real terms since the election. The Chancellor has hinted that he plans to do something about that for next year—better late than never; let us hope he delivers—but he should look at enforcement as well. An estimated 300,000 people are paid less than the minimum wage, but there have been just two prosecutions in four years. The Secretary of State said that enforcement had been sorted out, but where is the evidence? Since 2010, Ministers have announced three times that they will name and shame firms that flout the national minimum wage, but so far nobody has been named or shamed. We need much more effective enforcement, including by giving powers to local authorities.

My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh East (Sheila Gilmore) highlighted the explosion in zero-hours contracts. The Resolution Foundation has found that average pay on them is 40% less than on regular contracts. My hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Jim Sheridan) gave us a graphic example from his constituency of the reality of being on such a contract. We need a serious effort from Government to promote the living wage. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries and Galloway (Mr Brown) argued for “make work pay” contracts, whereby firms signing up to the living wage under our proposal in the first year of the next Parliament would get a tax rebate in that year of up to £1,000 for every low-paid worker who gets a pay rise, the Exchequer cost being entirely covered by increased tax and national insurance revenue.

Step by step, we are setting out how we will deal with the problems this Government’s policies will leave behind— growing insecurity and a big squeeze on family incomes in the middle and elsewhere. What we are proposing is practical, effective action to tackle job insecurity, make workplaces safer, improve pay, particularly for the low paid, and make the cost of living more manageable. We want to build a one nation economy, and the sooner the better.

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6.48 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Esther McVey): Only this Labour party could call a debate on job insecurity a week after it was announced that a record number of people have got a job. Such impeccable timing makes me think that the motion must have been written by the shadow Chancellor, for it reminds me of the time he predicted that unemployment would soar by 1 million just before it fell by 1 million to a record low or the time he called a triple-dip recession just before official figures showed we had not even had a double-dip recession. In fact, the only recession that took place was when the Labour Government were in power.

And here we have a motion on job insecurity just after we have had the biggest rise in jobs in 40 years—more than 30 million employed—while unemployment has fallen in every part of the country. It is clear that even Labour Members were disappointed by the motion and had no faith in it, because the Opposition Benches were empty throughout the afternoon. The hon. Member for Streatham (Mr Umunna) has not returned to the Chamber, although it was he who moved the motion, but I can tell the House that in his constituency the claimant count is down by 20% and the youth claimant count is down by 36%. No wonder he is not present to hear those facts. As for the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms), the claimant count in his constituency is down by 27% and the youth claimant count is down by 30%.

Labour Members may talk about job insecurity, but the biggest guarantee of job insecurity is a Labour Government. If Members want the facts, I can tell them that unemployment rose by nearly half a million under Labour, female unemployment rose by 24%, youth unemployment rose by 45%, and long-term unemployment almost doubled between 2008 and 2010.

The truth is that Britain is poorer because of the recession over which the Labour Government presided. As Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies put it,

“That household incomes are lower than before the recession and are lower than they were in 2010 is hardly surprising. We have just lived through the deepest recession in generations”.

We are living beyond our means, but given that they were borrowing £160 billion every year, what do the Opposition expect? What we needed to do—and what we have done, in remarkably good time—was turn the economy around in three years. We did what we said we would do: we stabilised the economy, rebalanced the economy, and grew the economy. Even the International Monetary Fund has said that it is now the fastest-growing economy in the western world, and Mark Carney has said:

“The economy is growing at its fastest pace in 6 years… The recovery has finally taken hold.”

That has happened under this coalition Government.

Huw Irranca-Davies rose—

Esther McVey: I should love to hear what the hon. Gentleman has to say.

Huw Irranca-Davies: The Minister is giving a glowing report of the coalition Government’s success, but will she tell us whether she has had sight of what now seems to be the suppressed report on food aid that landed on

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Ministers’ desks a year ago and has not surfaced? Will she give an undertaking to produce that report, which deals with the causes of poverty among working people?

Esther McVey: I have not had sight of the report from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, because I am a Minister in the Department for Work and Pensions, but once it has been authorised and released, the hon. Gentleman can read it.

Let us return to today’s debate. We heard a great deal of what I would describe as misinformation about the number of people in part-time work. Since the election, the number of people in full-time work has risen by 1 million; three out of four people are in full-time work, and we have stabilised the position. In the last quarter, the number of people wanting to move from part-time to full-time work fell for the first time ever, and—Opposition Members may be startled to hear this—between 2005 and 2010, the number doubled. That is the truth of Labour’s legacy.

Opposition Members talk of zero-hours contracts, but the number of zero-hours contracts is the same as it was in 2000. The 75% increase happened between 2004 and 2009. Moreover, if we want to think about getting our houses in order, we should note that the council with the worst record for zero-hours contracts is Labour-run Doncaster council, which is in the constituency of the Leader of the Opposition and also in the constituency of one of the ladies on the Opposition Front Bench.

Turning to the contributions of those on the Government Benches, my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) talked some good common sense about people getting their foot on the ladder, job progression, the fact that the number of apprenticeships has doubled in her constituency, and how this Government are helping families and young people into work. She also questioned what the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr Umunna) meant when he said, “Don’t take any old job; some jobs are different from other jobs.” There was some real job snobbery from the Opposition Front Bench.

My hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams) talked about youth unemployment being down by 25% in his constituency, and how he does not talk down the economy, but instead talks it up because that is positive and it helps people into work.

Mr Umunna: I ask the Minister to withdraw the comments she has just made. I was quite clear that of course we welcome people getting back into work. My point was—and I am sure she will agree with me—that we aspire for more than that for the people we represent. We do not just want them to get a job; we want them to get good-quality jobs which are secure and well paid. That is the point I was making. She was here. Perhaps she will clarify her comments.

Esther McVey: Well, I am glad the hon. Gentleman has decided to return to the Chamber. I explained earlier how unemployment has significantly fallen in his constituency, but he was not here to hear that. His words are on the record, and we all heard them. Should he wish to read them back tomorrow, he can do so in Hansard.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Ben Gummer) talked with great clarity about the great recession that we were left with, how we have sorted it out and taken

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significant strides in building up the economy, and what we have done in terms of exports and developing manufacturing, so that now for the first time since the ’70s we export more cars than we import, and we are now exporting more outside Europe than inside Europe. All these things have happened under our stewardship.

My hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson) talked about how people can set up their own business, and how that is a real engine for social mobility, and how this Government are helping people through the new enterprise allowance. Under us, businesses are setting up at the rate of 2,000 a month. That is what we want—young people setting up in business, older people and women setting up in business. Those are the sorts of policies we are coming forward with.

My hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Alok Sharma) rightly said that this motion is vague, confused, and just lacking really, rather like Labour’s policies in this entire area. He also said business confidence is up, and not just in his area but right across the country. There are reports that say so: the CBI and PricewaterhouseCoopers have said optimism is up. Do people want to take on people? Yes they do. Do people want to give people jobs? Yes they do. They feel that for the first time.

The whole motion did not really make much sense. It never really looked at what had happened under Labour’s stewardship. It never really looked at how when we talk about the tax credits bill and the benefits bill, we say it might have gone up a little bit; it will have gone up by 5% in five years, yet under Labour it had gone up by 20%. What we are doing is rebalancing the economy, bringing the spend down, and living within our means.

The hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon) talked about unemployment in her constituency. I am pleased to be able to tell her that unemployment is down 26% on this year and 23% on—

Ms Rosie Winterton (Doncaster Central) (Lab) claimed to move the closure (Standing Order No. 36).

Question put forthwith, That the Question be now put.

Question agreed to.

Main Question put accordingly.

The House divided:

Ayes 223, Noes 286.

Division No. 206]


6.59 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Kevin

Bayley, Hugh

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, Mr Alan

Caton, Martin

Chapman, Jenny

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Curran, Margaret

Darling, rh Mr Alistair

David, Wayne

Davidson, Mr Ian

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas

Dodds, rh Mr Nigel

Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Heyes, David

Hilling, Julie

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hood, Mr Jim

Hosie, Stewart

Howarth, rh Mr George

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jackson, Glenda

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Jowell, rh Dame Tessa

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McDonagh, Siobhain

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Miliband, rh Edward

Mitchell, Austin

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert

Paisley, Ian

Pearce, Teresa

Phillipson, Bridget

Pound, Stephen

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Robertson, Angus

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Dame Joan

Sarwar, Anas

Sawford, Andy

Seabeck, Alison

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Straw, rh Mr Jack

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Weir, Mr Mike

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wishart, Pete

Woodcock, John

Woodward, rh Mr Shaun

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Ayes:

Stephen Doughty


Nic Dakin


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Amess, Mr David

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, rh Sir Tony

Barclay, Stephen

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, rh Tom

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brooke, Annette

Browne, Mr Jeremy

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Sir Malcolm

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, rh Paul

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Cable, rh Vince

Cairns, Alun

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clappison, Mr James

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, Stephen

Crouch, Tracey

Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Dorries, Nadine

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Duddridge, James

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Farron, Tim

Featherstone, Lynne

Field, Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hague, rh Mr William

Hames, Duncan

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Sir Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kennedy, rh Mr Charles

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lamb, Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Laws, rh Mr David

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leech, Mr John

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Sir Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lord, Jonathan

Luff, Sir Peter

Main, Mrs Anne

Maude, rh Mr Francis

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, Esther

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Neill, Robert

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Dr Matthew

Opperman, Guy

Ottaway, rh Sir Richard

Paice, rh Sir James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Sir Bob

Rutley, David

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Shepherd, Sir Richard

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, rh Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stunell, rh Sir Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Tapsell, rh Sir Peter

Teather, Sarah

Thurso, John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Walter, Mr Robert

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Roger

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Claire Perry


Mark Hunter

Question accordingly negatived.

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5 Feb 2014 : Column 389

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Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Financial Services and Markets

That the draft Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 14 January, be approved.

That the draft Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (Consumer Credit) (Designated Activities) Order 2014, which was laid before this House on 14 January, be approved.

Town and Country Planning

That the draft Neighbourhood Planning (Referendums) (Amendment) Regulations 2014, which were laid before this House on 18 December 2013, be approved.

Local Government

That the draft Local Authorities (Mayoral Elections) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2014, which were laid before this House on 18 December 2013, be approved.

Representation of the People

That the draft Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 (Commencement No. 4 and Consequential Provision) Order 2013, which was laid before this House on 6 November 2013, be approved.

That the draft Political Parties, Elections and Referendums (Civil Sanctions) (Amendment) Order 2013, which was laid before this House on 16 July 2013, be approved.—(Anne Milton.)

Question agreed to.

5 Feb 2014 : Column 391

European Union Documents

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 119(11)),

Financial Management

That this House takes note of European Union Document No. 12772/13 and Addenda 1 to 5, a Commission Report to the European Parliament and the Council on the protection of the European Union’s financial interests: Fight against fraud 2012 Annual Report, and unnumbered European Union Documents, the European Court of Auditors’ Annual Report concerning the financial year 2012 and the European Court of Auditors’ Annual Report on the activities funded by the Eighth, Ninth and Tenth European Development Funds; agrees that budgetary discipline and robust financial management at all levels remains crucial, including to support domestic efforts to tackle the deficit and debt, especially given the continuing fiscal constraints and fragile economic recovery across the EU; believes that it is unacceptable that the EU budget has failed to be given an unqualified audit by the European Court of Auditors for the nineteenth year; supports the Government’s decision to vote against granting discharge to the EU budget and to press the Commission for a clear action plan to address the European Court of Auditors’ recommendations relating to the European Development Fund; and encourages the Government to continue to work with other like-minded Member States to put pressure on the Commission and all those involved in the management of EU funds for clear, positive and urgent improvement to the quality of EU spending.—(Anne Milton.)

Question agreed to.

5 Feb 2014 : Column 392

China Clay Industry (Job Losses)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Anne Milton.)

7.13 pm

Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay) (LD): I rise tonight to speak about the recent news of significant job losses in my constituency in the china clay mining industry. First, let me put it on the record that I, on behalf of the communities that I represent, thank the emergency services, local councils, Cornwall council, the Environment Agency and scores of volunteers who have spent many hours over the past two days tackling the damage caused by the recent storms that have hit Cornwall.

In recent hours, people in Cornwall will have come together in the finest tradition of the Cornish motto, “One and all”. Although it remains my privilege to represent a part of the country that demonstrably shows such community spirit, there are issues that the Government must tackle to improve resilience to flooding events and to ensure that they do their part in the same way that local communities are doing theirs.

Mr Deputy Speaker, you and other hon. Members will be aware that the china clay industry in Cornwall is more than 260 years old and has played a formative part in Cornwall’s cultural history. On his discovery of china clay in 1746, William Cookworthy began to experiment to produce hard-paste porcelain and finally patented his formula in 1768. With control over the use of china clay and china stone for porcelain manufacture, Cookworthy opened his own pottery in Plymouth, moving to Bristol in 1770. Four years later, Cookworthy retired and transferred his business to his partner, Richard Champion, who almost immediately applied for an extension of the original patent. However, that was met with fierce opposition from the potters of Staffordshire, led by Josiah Wedgwood, who were keen to use china clay for their own wares. After Champion’s monopoly was broken by the Staffordshire companies they leased their own pits in Cornwall, but by 1830 they had given up control of production to others and bought their clay from agents or groups of adventurers who would later found the first china clay companies.

Production increased with the discovery of other uses of china clay and by 1858 42 companies were producing about 65,000 tonnes of clay a year. Today, Imerys Minerals Ltd is the single producer of china clay in the area and almost 1.5 million tonnes of clay is produced annually in Cornwall and Devon.

There is no settlement in my constituency untouched by the clay industry. Sky tips still tower above St Austell bay and intricate networks of viaducts and old settling pits still stretch out from wooded valleys. Many of the coastal towns, including Newquay, have at some point been centres of the export of china clay around the world. Like many parts of our country with a traditional industry that has dominated local employment for decades, many generations of families have worked in the industry with, until recently, a presumption that there were well-paid jobs for life.

The decline of the industry has been mirrored by the decline of some communities in Cornwall. Communities that used to be aspirational have had their sights set lower and communities that used to be outward-looking

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have turned in on themselves. The sad reality is that in many of the former china clay mining villages in my constituency—such as Bugle, Nanpean, St Dennis and Penwithick—we have seen a transition from generations of families working in the same industry to a generation of families not working at all. Educational attainment is low, health outcomes are poor and families struggle to make ends meet. Despite intervention from successive Governments, regenerating the communities will take time. That time means that some of the people affected will not be able to make the most of their lives.

Let us also be clear that the modern clay industry contributes significantly to the economy of Cornwall and that should not be underestimated. Worth £155 million per year, it is a huge financial asset to the duchy and is one of the UK’s most valuable mineral exports, second only to North sea oil and gas.

Globally, Britain is the world’s fourth largest producer and exporter of china clay and Cornwall is at the very heart of the industry. Indeed, china clay from Cornwall accounts for 88% of total UK sales and none more so than that from the pits around St Austell. Huge white pits make a good third of my constituency look like a lunar landscape, as anyone who has flown into Newquay airport will be able to attest.

The industry, however, has struggled in recent years. In 2010, 1 million dry tonnes of clay were sold, but in 1988 that figure was almost three times higher at 2.8 million tonnes. As with other industries, emerging markets in Brazil and China have undercut exports and alternative processes, in paper processing for example, have reduced demand. As a result the number of people employed locally has plummeted from a high point of some 13,000 across Cornwall and Devon to just about 900 today. In an industry that is located among a few small towns, the recent news of extra job losses is acutely felt.

Imerys, a French-owned company and the largest producer of china clay in the world, acquired English China Clays in St Austell back in 1999 for £756 million, along with its then 2,000 employees. Sadly, recent job losses have been all too common in the industry. In 2006, Imerys made 800 people redundant, which was a devastating blow to the communities affected in both Devon and Cornwall. At the time, the local community was told that these losses would shore up the operation and provide additional resilience and that the jobs left would be secure in the long term. However, it has been announced in recent weeks that the company will be shedding a further 70 jobs. Some hon. Members might think that 70 is a relatively small number of job losses, but it is not just 70 jobs; it is 70 families, 70 homes and 70 stories of personal hardship. The news is of course devastating for the families involved, as it will likely mean hardship and stress for months, if not years, to come.

Furthermore, some skilled, technical jobs at the Imerys laboratories in Par Moor are being relocated outside Cornwall, leaving people with a stark choice: to tear up their family roots and move up country to keep an insecure job, or to lose it altogether. Put simply, job losses, industrial decline and outsourcing of skilled work from Cornwall are exactly the opposite of what this Government are trying to achieve nationally and locally.

As if that was not bad enough for a part of the world that is already struggling, there is potentially worse to come if the Government do not act. Of particular

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concern is the European Commission’s current investigation into the aggregates levy. The levy was introduced over 10 years ago to discourage the use of primary sources of aggregates from deposits beside rivers and quarries and to encourage the use of recycled or secondary materials instead.

There were, and are, good environmental reasons for the levy, but the large producers do not like it, of course, and have been lobbying for its removal for some years. Last year, having failed to convince the UK Treasury, some persuaded the European Commission that the levy was unfair and should be investigated as a possible unfair state aid to those companies selling secondary aggregates and avoiding the levy. The Commission launched an investigation and the Treasury then decided to suspend the levy.

The china clay industry in Cornwall is directly affected by the suspension of the levy. The industry sells secondary aggregates as a by-product of china clay production. For every tonne of china clay produced, some 9 tonnes of waste have to be disposed of, mostly in the large tips that are a feature of the mid-Cornwall skyline. However, some of the waste can be processed further into secondary aggregates, for example for use in the construction of the London Olympic stadium at Stratford, and there is growing demand for secondary aggregates for the many building and construction projects currently under way, particularly in the south-east, where the customer wants to demonstrate a green policy by using secondary aggregates, rather than primary ones.

Secondary aggregates can be transported either by rail or by sea through the port of Fowey. It is estimated that that market could grow to over 1 million tonnes within a few years. Of course, we all know that a green alternative must not cost the customer much more, so the business relies on being exempt from the £2 per tonne aggregate levy to balance the additional cost of transport. All that is at risk if the European Commission is persuaded by the major primary aggregate producers that china clay waste is not actually a waste but is mined to sell as aggregate. It is an odd argument: who would bother to mine it when there is perhaps 500 million tonnes—the result of decades of china clay production—sitting in tips in and around St Austell?

The Commission’s consultation on the matter has just closed, and I am grateful that my right hon. Friends in the Treasury have already submitted a helpful and robust response, no doubt recognising that it is in the Treasury’s interests not only to retain the levy, but to increase it to encourage further the use of secondary aggregates. I, too, have submitted a robust response, as has Graham Watson, the Member of the European Parliament for the South West of England.

Let us be clear that between 300 and 500 jobs in the St Austell area are at risk if china clay waste loses the exemption from the aggregate levy. Tonight, I would like to reiterate my plea that the Government ensure that the European Commission is given the full facts and that Ministers lobby as hard as possible to allow the exemption to continue, for good environmental reasons, for Cornish jobs and for more revenue for the Treasury. Those are three wins for which I think it is worth us, as a Government, fighting.

The china clay industry is as much a part of Cornwall’s history as tin mining, fishing or farming. It remains one of Cornwall’s largest employers and is responsible for

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millions of pounds going into the wider economy each year, and it still employs just under 1,000 people. It is an industry that I am proud to have spent some time working in, as did my mother, my grandfather and many other members of my family in Cornwall. The industry deserves recognition from Government for the vital role that it plays in helping to support the Cornish economy, and recognition from all of us for the wider role that china clay plays in our lives. From paints to plastics, and pharmaceuticals to paper, china clay is one of the unsung heroes of the modern world.

I ask the Minister to recognise the industry’s role in Cornwall, to join me in meeting senior industry representatives to discuss what more the Government can do to ensure its continued success, and to work to ensure that every resource of Government is put in place to help and support those who recently found out that they have lost their jobs. The china clay industry remains as vital to Cornwall’s future as it has been to our past. I hope the Government will join me today to work towards ensuring that this is not another great British industry that we let slip out of our hands.

7.25 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Michael Fallon): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Stephen Gilbert) on securing a debate on this important issue. We recognise the importance of the china clay industry to his constituency and to the region as a whole. It is inextricably woven into the industrial fabric of the west country. Any visitor to St Austell is, as he said, likely to be struck by the impressive sharp peaks known as the “Cornish Alps”, which dominate the surrounding landscape and represent the most visible part of a story that, as he told us, goes back some 250 years.

Imerys is a major employer in the south-west, and its plans to make redundancies as part of a restructuring exercise following the recent merger will clearly have come as a major blow to the employees concerned, to their families, and to the communities in which they live. I fully appreciate the potential implications of this for St Austell and the surrounding area. This was of course a commercial decision for the company. I understand that it has been forced to make some difficult decisions in order to remain competitive and to safeguard the future of its operations in the United Kingdom.

Naturally, we want to keep as many jobs as possible here in the United Kingdom, but it is not for the Government to tell companies how to run their businesses. We certainly recognise that they face fierce competition from low-cost economies, particularly in basic raw materials such as china clay. We operate in an increasingly globalised, competitive environment and, as I am sure my hon. Friend would agree, the Government have to be careful not to respond with protectionist measures.

I believe that the redundancies to which my hon. Friend has drawn the House’s attention will take place towards the end of February and will be voluntary. As recently as 22 January, Jobcentre Plus approached the company to offer support through its rapid response service. Imerys has engaged Penna, a third-party provider of support, to advise the people affected. I want to tell my hon. Friend that Jobcentre Plus stands ready to

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work alongside Penna and Imerys should it be asked. Although these redundancies are a commercial matter for Imerys, we are working with the company on the important issue of energy costs, and UK Trade & Investment is actively engaged with the company as regards assistance with exports. More widely, other Government measures are in place to promote growth and job creation in the Cornwall region.

Britain is one of the world’s largest producers of china clay after Brazil, the United States and China. China clay is our second most valuable minerals export after hydrocarbons. However, china clay sales have been on a declining trend since 1988. Increased competition in the global markets for paper clays has reduced profitability for many producers. Brazil has enormous deposits of high-quality clay in the Amazon basin and low production costs, making it highly competitive globally, despite the additional shipping costs. The industry, including Imerys, has responded by effecting structural change and investing in more efficient production methods. It has restructured its production in Cornwall significantly since 2006, and that has sadly resulted in the loss of over 800 jobs over this period. However, as my hon. Friend will know, there have also been closures in this industry in other parts of the world, including the United States.

I understand the pressures being faced by the energy intensive industries, such as the china clay sector, in terms of their international competitiveness, and I am extremely concerned about the impact of relatively high energy prices. The Government are very clear that decarbonisation does not and should not mean deindustrialisation. There would be no advantage—for our economy or in terms of global emissions reductions—in simply forcing UK businesses to relocate abroad.

On electricity prices, we have implemented measures to reduce the impact of policy on the costs of electricity for the most electricity-intensive industries. We are arguing in Europe to avoid another renewables target, which would simply serve to increase European electricity prices further.

We have already begun to implement the £380 million compensation scheme, which runs until March 2016, for electricity-intensive businesses, to help offset the indirect costs of the carbon price floor and the European Union emissions trading system, subject to state aid guidelines.

Imerys responded to our consultation on the compensation scheme and made a case that the mining of clays and kaolin are electricity intensive and, as such, should be included in the compensation scheme for the indirect costs of the carbon price floor. Based on the information Imerys provided, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will seek to compensate the mining of kaolin and clays, along with a range of other electricity-intensive sectors, as part of our state aid case to the European Commission.

I recognise that the job losses have been announced against a difficult economic backdrop for the region. The Cornwall economy faces a number of challenges, which are reflected in low wages, low productivity and relatively low skills attainment. The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly local enterprise partnership now leads local partners in analysing the local economy, building partnerships across key delivery agencies and prioritising investment in growth. The partnership is in the process

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of developing its strategic economic plan and investment framework, which will deliver sustainable growth through innovation, increasing competitiveness, consolidating existing assets and capitalising on opportunities presented by the region’s distinctive natural resources. The plans balance support for bedrock industries, such as food, farming and marine, with support for new industries, such as wave energy, geothermal and digital media.

The partnership will have the opportunity to negotiate a growth deal with Government during the period from April to June and to secure its share of the £2 billion local growth fund, which will come into operation from April 2015. In addition, the regional growth fund is providing grants to small and medium-sized enterprises and enabling infrastructure in the region, and just over £6 million has been made available through the Growing Places fund. As a category A assisted area, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly is also eligible for convergence funding from the EU, with some £520 million allocated for the seven-year period beginning this July.

The Newquay Aerohub enterprise zone, centred on Newquay airport on the north coast of Cornwall, will include areas with airside access. The provision of substantial hangar, manufacturing and office space is expected to deliver more than 5,000 jobs. The focus will be on aviation and aerospace activity, including aircraft maintenance, aerospace manufacturing, flight testing and trials of unmanned air vehicles and related training activity.

Plymouth was one of the 20 locations announced in wave 2 as being able to bid to central Government for a city deal. It will be a twin-LEP city deal with Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, and we hope that that will contribute to a deal based on strengths in advanced engineering

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and design, marine renewable energy, maritime and sub-sea operations and supporting technologies. The deal seeks to do that by increasing the commercialisation of research in these areas and increasing exports from its high growth.

On the specific issue quite rightly raised by my hon. Friend, he will understand that the aggregates levy is a matter for Her Majesty’s Treasury. He has already informed the House about our vigorous response to the state aid investigation. The European Commission is of course perfectly entitled to ask questions about any of these levies and schemes, and we have a number of cases before it at the moment, but as a member state, we are equally entitled to respond robustly and to defend the various arrangements we have put in place. I am not at the moment able to give him any more information about the exact state of the investigation or the timetable involved, but I am happy to write to him as soon as I get more information.

My hon. Friend made a powerful case about the uses of secondary aggregates both in construction and as one of the greener sources of material, and I do not see any need to add to what he has said.

Finally, let me accept my hon. Friend’s invitation to meet him and the industry. As the Commission investigation draws to a close, I would be happy to see him and the industry to discuss all the issues in more detail. I again thank him for drawing the attention of the House to this important industry and the future that I believe it still has.

Question put and agreed to.

7.36 pm

House adjourned.