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Mr Gauke: I give way to the hon. Lady, who may share that view.

Carolyn Harris: Does the Minister believe that enough is being done to ensure the transparency of budget decisions that are made at EU level?

Mr Gauke: The hon. Lady has asked a good question. In the context of the review that the Commission is undertaking and the focus on a budget for results, transparency is certainly important. The Government’s record is clear: we want more transparency in relation to all expenditure, whether at UK or EU level, and I think that more can be done in that regard.

The hon. Member for Worsley made an important point about administrative expenditure. As part of the MFF deal, EU staff salaries were frozen in 2013-14, and EU institutions committed themselves to a 5% headcount reduction by 2017 and an increase in statutory pension age to 66 for officials who started work in or after 2014. I would be the first to accept that those reforms do not go far enough, but, working with like-minded member states, the Government will continue to press the EU institutions to show maximum restraint when it comes to administrative expenditure.

Barbara Keeley: Are this Minister and other Ministers having more success than their right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells had back in 2012, when the European Commission dismissed his very reasonable request for some modelling on staffing costs? Are the Commissioners being any more helpful nowadays?

Mr Gauke: Some progress has been made since then. The Commission has improved its transparency record, partly thanks to the Government’s ongoing work. In particular, it released a payments plan containing much more detail on payment forecasts. I accept that we can go further, and that UK citizens expect more, but requiring the Government to write a letter inviting officials to attend Select Committee meetings will not really deliver that. What is required is constant vigilance and discipline. We have shown that, and it is delivering results.

Sir William Cash: Earlier, the hon. Member for Worsley raised the question of how the proposals for budget reduction came about. As I am sure the Minister remembers only too well, I was one of the so-called rebels, although actually we were not really rebels at all: all that we were doing was asking the Government to listen, which is exactly what happened, because our amendments were accepted. The then Financial Secretary to the Treasury—or perhaps the Economic Secretary—paid tribute to us for having presented the proposals, and everything was hunky-dory.

Mr Gauke: I am grateful for the constructive tone that my hon. Friend brings to the debate; he has a history of so doing. He has argued for greater efficiency and transparency in the expenditure of the European Union for many years, and I am grateful to him for that.

I should also point out that we are providing technical assistance to the Commission as it considers all the options for enhancing performance on the budget. We are sharing our expertise in areas such as value for

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money, spending area objectives and improving budgetary performance—for example by removing adverse incentives and improving accountability and transparency.

Luke Hall (Thornbury and Yate) (Con): My constituents were aghast when the previous Labour Government gave away our rebate. Will the Minister confirm that the Bill will ensure that there will be no further such concessions as long as this party is in power?

Mr Gauke: I am more than happy to give my hon. Friend that assurance. When we debate the scrutiny of expenditure, it is worth bearing it in mind that allowing us to make a bigger contribution than we otherwise would involves a cost to the UK taxpayer. The fact that budgets were allowed to increase significantly also means that the focus on getting value for money could be lost. If we are to eliminate wasteful expenditure, it is important that we bear down on the overall budget, because that has a big impact. That is a clear area of difference—if I may put it that way—between the two parties. We have placed a consistent focus on controlling expenditure, whether at UK or EU level.

The next opportunity to look wholesale at the priorities of the EU budget will be the mid-term review of the MFF. That review is required under the agreement reached on the MFF, and it must take place by 2016. The Opposition’s calls for a review appear to add little to the review that is already planned. The Government will engage constructively with the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament to look at further ways in which spending can be improved.

In the meantime, the Government are taking every opportunity to bear down on wasteful spending and to highlight it where it is identified. That is reflected in our having voted against the discharge or approval of the EU budget for the past four years. Until the European Court of Auditors is able to give a positive statement of assurance on the EU accounts, we will continue to work with allies in calling on the Commission to do better. I note that this position is not the one that the previous Labour Government took.

Together with our allies, Sweden and the Netherlands, we have issued a joint counter-statement calling on the Commission and member states to take proactive steps to reduce the level of error in the EU accounts by simplifying regulatory frameworks and increasing the training and guidance available to national officials. By supporting the European Court of Auditors’ calls for more focus on performance and added value in the EU budget, we have helped to change the Commission’s focus from compliance to results.

The Government are also playing their part in the work being undertaken to simplify the rules governing the implementation of structural funds. In the past, the Commission’s focus has too often been on compliance, fostering a tick-box culture with little care for performance. A structural fund simplification agenda was launched earlier this month by Commissioner Cretu, and those involved will meet for the first time next month. The budget for results initiative, to which I have already referred, will provide another valuable opportunity for this Government to continue to insist on maximum efficiency and results in relation to EU spending.

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Of course, we are also keeping up the pressure on the Commission in the annual budget negotiations and in response to in-year requests for more funding. We have a strong track record of pushing back against draft amending budgets, to ensure that value-for-money criteria are met, and we regularly challenge the Commission to identify opportunities for reallocation rather than coming to member states with requests for more money. The Government are constructively engaging with the work that I have outlined, in order to ensure the best possible deal for the United Kingdom.

1.45 pm

John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Has my hon. Friend seen the work of the so-called five presidents of the euro area, which sets out how they wish to press for full fiscal union, with a euro Treasury and a euro budget under central control. Will he assure the Committee that we will have nothing to do with any of that?

Mr Gauke: Yes; my right hon. Friend makes an important point about the euro area. No doubt he will have heard the speech delivered by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the Mansion House a couple of weeks ago, in which he made it clear that one of our priorities in the UK’s negotiations ahead of any referendum will be to ensure that the “euro-outs”—the European Union member states that are not in the eurozone—are properly protected and do not find themselves disadvantaged by the eurozone countries working together to the disadvantage of the “euro-outs”. That is a real priority for the United Kingdom.

Sir William Cash: I am sure that my hon. Friend appreciates the difficulties inherent in this matter. It is all very well to want to disaggregate the eurozone from the non-euro member states, but the reality is that we are all part of the same European Union. Any attempt to make a change of this kind would involve a fundamental change to our relationship with the EU and would therefore require a treaty change by any reasonable standards. Does he appreciate how serious the position would be if we neither sought nor achieved that objective?

Mr Gauke: It is important that we meet that objective.

On the subject of the report, I would make the point that we benefit from the single market and do not want to stand in the way of the eurozone resolving its difficulties, but we will not let the integration of the eurozone jeopardise the integrity of the single market or disadvantage the United Kingdom in any way. That is one the important objectives in our negotiation with the European Union, and it is exactly the point that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was making in his Mansion House speech. My hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) are right to raise the importance of this point, which we fully recognise.

John Redwood: The five presidents’ press release and work programme, which will result in a White Paper, are about taking over the European Union budget and using it for transfers throughout the eurozone. Clearly, Britain does not want to be part of that. I was asking the Minister about the budget, not about single market regulations.

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Mr Gauke: The point about our position applies across the piece. To be fair to my right hon. Friend, certain eventualities that he predicted many years ago have come to pass. Because of the current situation in the eurozone, substantial reform could well be needed so that the members of the single currency are able to co-ordinate fiscal policy to a greater extent, with greater fiscal transfers and so on. That raises issues for the eurozone members which do not apply to other members of the European Union that have access to the single market but would not wish to partake in any such arrangement. We would need to ensure that if that is the direction the eurozone goes in, the position of the euro-outs is protected. Ensuring that access to the single market remains in place for all 28 member states is an important part of that, which is why I mentioned it. We need to ensure that our position is protected. That is the point I wish to make, and I fully understand the points that my right hon. Friend is making.

Finally, amendment 1 has been proposed in order that the conditions set out in new clauses 1, 2 and 3 are consistent with the terms of commencement in the Bill. I have explained to the Committee why we will not be supporting the new clauses, and we thus reject the amendment. While I have the opportunity to do so, I wish to identify a typographical error in the explanatory notes. The second line of paragraph 6 refers to a VAT-based rate of call of 15% for Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden, whereas it should have read 0.15%. I draw the Committee’s attention to that in case it caused consternation among right hon. and hon. Members.

In conclusion, let me assure the hon. Member for Worsley that, having made important progress in 2013, this Government are focused on ensuring maximum restraint, budgetary control, value for money and transparency in EU spending. I therefore welcome the spirit of her proposals, but requiring the Government to request that the Commission or the Council of Ministers review these issues adds little to the real work that has been done and continues to be done to improve the working of the EU budget. That work began with the Prime Minister’s historic deal, which cut the budget in real terms and protected the current system of financing—we should not forget that that is what this Bill is about. That work continues through the budget for results, through the Government’s continued engagement on the annual budget and through the discharge of the budget, and it will continue during the mid-term review of the MFF.

With those few, brief introductory remarks, I urge the hon. Lady not to press her proposals to a Division and I urge hon. Members to support the clauses set out in the Bill.

Barbara Keeley: Before we go any further, may I point out that my constituency is now called Worsley and Eccles South? The people of Eccles would rightly be very upset if we left them out of the equation; Eccles is a very important town in my constituency.

I rise to speak to the new clauses standing in my name and those of my hon. Friends. We are dealing with a slight complexity, in that the Bill is simple but drafted in such a way as to make it complex to amend. Amendment 1 is therefore a technical paving amendment which can bring in the new clauses, so it is that amendment that we will push to a vote, if necessary.

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The Bill relates to agreement of the own resources decision that will be incorporated into UK law, based on the agreement reached at the February 2013 European Council. The Minister covered that at great length over the past hour and 20 or so minutes. Decisions on UK contributions reaching €14 billion are brought into sharper focus in a week when Ministers are discussing cuts to tax credits for the low-paid and have not been prepared to rule out cuts to financial support for disabled people. We find ourselves in a serious and austere financial context, so we must ensure that we look at every aspect of value for money, budgetary control and the reform of priorities within the EU budget.

When we debated the MFF in this House in October 2012, the Government’s motion talked about agreeing that we must see

“significant improvements in the financial management of EU resources by the Commission and by Member States and significant improvements in the value for money of spend”.—[Official Report, 31 October 2012; Vol. 552, c. 295.]

The last debate contained many examples, some of which I shall refer to, showing that we are not there yet. I am sure the Minister would agree, so what we are simply trying to do with the new clauses is find ways in which we can enhance value for money assessments, budgetary control and the reform of priorities. That is very important to many of the Members in the Committee today and to Members throughout the House.

The proposals standing in my name and those of my hon. Friends will assist greatly in ensuring that reports are made to this House on value for money and budgetary control, and on budget priorities and waste and inefficiency within the EU budget. Examples have been given in interventions that give us an understanding of the extent of concerns about this out in the country—which we explored on Second Reading—and those can only increase.

Tom Tugendhat: Would the hon. Lady let me know which of her hon. Friends are so supportive of her? There appears to be somewhat of a dearth of support.

Kelvin Hopkins: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Barbara Keeley: I will.

Kelvin Hopkins: I rise to assure my hon. Friend that I am supporting her very strongly today.

Barbara Keeley: I think the hon. Gentleman will see when we come to the vote that we do have support.

Our new clause 3 would also improve accountability and transparency by inviting EU budget representatives to appear before the European Scrutiny Committees in this House and the other place each year before the EU budgets are negotiated. I appreciate the points made by Conservative Members that of course there should be no interference with the work of the European Scrutiny Committee in this House, but what we have tried to do in these new clauses is send the strongest statement we can send and give the strongest possible support to all those in this House who want to see these important aspects of value for money and budgetary control put in place.

Sir William Cash: I am sure the hon. Lady would appreciate the fact that the European Scrutiny Committee functions by virtue of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. Leaving aside the merits of this

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proposal, if there were to be a stream of requirements imposed by Parliament on the manner in which the European Scrutiny Committee, an all-party Committee containing many Labour Members, were to conduct its business, the life of the Committee would be made pretty intolerable and its purpose would probably be undermined.

Barbara Keeley: I very much take that point on board.

New clause 1 requests a review by the European Commission of the basis of appropriations for the European Union budget and a study of whether alternative arrangements might offer improved value and enhanced budgetary control. On Second Reading, I highlighted a concern about the growing gap between the ceiling on spending commitments and the ceiling on payments. That gap, as agreed in the settlement of February 2013, is between €960 billion on commitments and €908 billion on payments. As I pointed out in the earlier debate, that gap has crept up from an average of 2.6% to the current 5.4%, and it is projected to rise to 5.7% in the period from 2014 to 2020. We must now seriously question whether that gap is manageable.

The Commission describes the system as follows:

“Commitments are tomorrow’s payments, and payments are yesterday’s commitments. Commitments are planned future payments whereas payments are legal obligations from the past…if every year the increase in commitments is much higher than that in payments you end up promising many partners to pay their future bills but find yourself unable to pay those bills when they arrive years later.

This is what has been happening over the last years: as many commitments were made years ago for projects that are being completed now”.

That is a key issue with the drive to smaller EU budgets, yet, as the Commission says,

“many bills related to projects remain unpaid and have to be rolled over to the following year. This leaves no choice to the Commission but to call for increases in payments.”

John Redwood: I entirely agree with the hon. Lady about the need to get better value for money in a smaller budget and to bring down the commitments. Does she have some individual proposals on things that could be taken out of the EU budget for which the Government should argue?

Barbara Keeley: I think that we could get to that if we had the information in the review that I am calling for, but what I want first is an examination of the system. This system is a recipe to drive up budgets rather than a way to control them.

Commitments are being made at a level of up to €14 billion a year more than payments. We have had years when the commitments have been €14 billion more, and that means bills being rolled forward, or staying unpaid, which is unacceptable. It is not a sensible system, and I think that the Minister actually acknowledged that. If it is not a sensible system, we should not be going along with it.

2 pm

Kelvin Hopkins: My hon. Friend is making a fair point. It has been suggested that, in real terms, we should be paying 7% less into the European Union

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budget by—I think—2020. Given what she has just said, is it not likely that that will not turn out to be true, and we will not see a reduction of that kind?

Barbara Keeley: Indeed, that is a very real fear. If we look down the list of commitments and compare it with the payments made, we will see the level of commitments that are still to roll forward, which is a very frightening prospect. I go back to the point that I have just made. This is a system designed to drive up budgets. We support what has taken place and recognise that the House voted for it back in 2012, but unless this system changes we will be in a situation in which commitments are being made in the period up to 2020 of €960 billion, which is €52 billion more. It is a serious matter. Clearly, it is serious if the Commission is taking on budgets and then not paying bills, but it is the upward pressure on the budget process that is the great concern.

In our last debate on this Bill, the hon. Members for Corby (Tom Pursglove), for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg), and for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) and my hon. Friend the Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins) referred to a range of concerns that their constituents had about EU finance, how the EU budget is spent and the need for control of the budget. That is a point to which we will keep returning.

In the debate of 15 January 2008 on the Committee stage of the European Communities (Finance) Bill—I have already mentioned this—the Financial Secretary, then shadow Treasury Minister, and his shadow Treasury colleagues called for a report on “all aspects of EU spending”. Clearly, both the Opposition then and the current Opposition have had concerns about this. The Minister and his colleagues called for that report in 2008. I hope that we still have time in the rest of this debate for him to repent his view that we do not need further reviews.

As I have mentioned, there were complications in the wording of the amendment in 2008. I have read through the debate. The difficulty that the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends on the shadow Treasury team at that time ran into was that the amendment called for Treasury certification that it

“considers the outcome of the review is satisfactory to the interests of the United Kingdom”.

That seemed to be the sticking point. We have avoided such complications in this Bill by tabling simpler amendments that ask for an analysis of the basis used for appropriations and the study of alternative arrangements.

The Minister has said that such a review is ongoing. Will he tell me at this point when we will see that review?

Mr Gauke: On the timing, we are expecting it in 2016.

Barbara Keeley: Will he clarify at which point in 2016? [Interruption.] No, it is just some time in 2016.

Alex Salmond: Will it be before or after the referendum?

Peter Grant: During.

Barbara Keeley: The Minister can hear the comments being made by Members from sedentary positions. Clearly, we are working through a crucial time in the run-up to

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the referendum, and the budgetary information, with all the decisions that have to be made, will be crucial for the people out there.

In our amendments, we have expressed the wish to have these reviews and the reports. We want to send out the message that this House is serious about scrutinising the EU budget.

At the end of our debate on Second Reading, the Economic Secretary talked about the need for scrutiny on the payment gap. She told us that the European Commission has committed to publish more frequently its analysis on payment forecasts. I join the hon. Lady in welcoming an enhanced level of information on the EU budget, but believe that much more needs to be done on that. Does the Minister agree now—after both of us have spoken on the matter—that it is time that the EU moved away from a system in which it can make commitments of billions of euros more than it can pay, creating pressure on member states to ever-increasing budgets?

New clause 2 calls for a reform of the priorities in the EU budget, and specifically requests a review by the Council of Ministers of budget priorities and waste and inefficiency in the EU budget. The Minister has mentioned reviews that are already taking place, but I do not think that he mentioned a review of priorities of the kind that our new clause invites.

On Second Reading, I raised the need for further reform of budget priorities. Labour believes that expenditure on growth and jobs should continue to be prioritised by cutting back even further on agriculture spending.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury told us that overall spending on the common agricultural policy will fall by 13%, compared with the last financial period, and that spending on research and development will increase by 4%. As welcome as that fall in agriculture spending is, we believe that the level of spending is still too high compared with spending to support growth and jobs. The Minister has responded to points made by his own side today, but he has not really got to the nub of the point.

As I said on Second Reading, agriculture accounts for only 1.6% of the European Union’s total output. If that is the case—I think that we will keep returning to this point—is it still appropriate that it accounts for 30% to 40% of the budget?

Alex Salmond: Is the hon. Lady saying that, in the opinion of the Labour party, agricultural support and spending are too low in Wales?

Barbara Keeley: I am not making that point in particular. What we are asking for in this clause is a review of budget priorities. We can see from the percentages that competitiveness for jobs and growth is the most important. I am not making specific points about specific countries. Under the new method of agricultural spending, I think that there is a great deal of flexibility for allocating the funding between countries.

Kelvin Hopkins: My hon. Friend made a very strong point about the CAP. If there were no CAP, would it not be sensible for us to subsidise sections of our own agriculture according to what we think is right rather than what the European Union thinks is right?

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Barbara Keeley: Indeed we could. Let me go on and make a few more points about the proportion that is allocated to that very important priority of competitiveness for jobs and growth. In 2014, only around €15 billion will be spent by the EU on that budget priority compared with over €41 billion for market-related spending and direct payments for agriculture. There is no sense in a system that takes that vital priority—vital for every part of the EU—of competitiveness for jobs and growth and spends so little on it. Out of the €6.3 billion of European Union funding allocated to the UK in 2013, only 23% was spending on jobs and growth compared with 63% on agriculture. It is the balance that we are calling into account.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Luton North said on Second Reading, although the proportion of the budget for agriculture has been falling, there has been a fairly significant increase in money terms over the past eight years. As long as this balance seems wrong to people, it will be very hard for many of us to explain on the doorstep why we are spending only 23% of European Union funding in the UK on jobs and growth but 63% on agriculture. Some hon. Members might find such an explanation easier in their constituencies than others, but it is a difficult argument.

Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con): I am very sympathetic to what the hon. Lady is saying. My one concern would be that if there are reforms, they do not disadvantage some farmers in North East Somerset and other rural constituencies to favour spending on the continent. Reform is quite right, but it needs to be fair for the United Kingdom’s farmers.

Barbara Keeley: The more reviews that we carry out of those priorities, the more that we develop our understanding of where the money is going. Earlier, the hon. Member for Boston and Skegness (Matt Warman) called for these matters to be discussed in a language that his constituents could understand, and I do not think that they are discussed in such a way. Having ploughed through very many debates and very many documents in relation to the Bill, I do not think that those matters are understood. The hon. Gentleman is quite right.

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury said she accepted that expenditure on the CAP is

“still too high both in absolute terms and as a proportion of the overall budget.”—[Official Report, 11 June 2015; Vol. 596, c. 1426.]

If that is what the Treasury team currently feel—that it is still too high, both in absolute terms and as a proportion of the overall budget—what are we doing to understand that better, to review it and to change it?

It is my assertion that previous reviews have not led to the level of reform that we want to achieve. It was our purpose in tabling new clause 2 to keep focus on that vital issue. When most member states are finding it necessary to make very difficult decisions—clearly, we are in that position ourselves—about their own budgets and spending, the European Union must ensure that expenditure is efficient and focused on addressing the major concerns that member states face. As my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham East (Chris Leslie) said in the October 2012 debate:

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“The next seven years of the EU budget should prioritise jobs, growth, infrastructure and practical programmes that rejuvenate fragile economies.”

As I mentioned on Second Reading, this is much needed when we still have 735,000 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK looking for work. That should be our focus—those young people.

We need a better balance of funding and we need the European Union to provide a better framework and strategy to achieve growth and jobs. Looking deeper into the detail, and the spending commitment to the EU’s smart and inclusive growth priority, only a quarter of that is spent on competitiveness for jobs and growth, and three quarters on the EU’s cohesion policies, including structural funds. It probably is not appropriate today to open up further debate about the use of structural funds. That is often discussed when we are discussing EU finance, but as my hon. Friend also said:

“Savings can be made on aspects of EU structural funds that…are too often committed in a haphazard manner and depend on outdated commitments rather than future priorities. Unless structural funds contribute to positive economic development, they cannot be justified.”—[Official Report, 31 October 2012; Vol. 552, c. 304.]

The Opposition say strongly that the proportion of the EU’s smart and inclusive growth expenditure that goes towards securing competitiveness for jobs and growth is too small. That important area of spending accounts for around a quarter of the EU budget in 2014, but that rises to only 27% across the whole six-year period.

Sir William Cash: Does the hon. Lady appreciate that much of what she says in terms of generalities is understandable, and is reflected very much in European Commission documents, which I have been looking at for the last 30 years, one way and another, on the European Scrutiny Committee, but that the inherent problem is the fact that every time there is a need to argue for jobs and growth, the answer from the European Commission is to give more subsidies, more bail-outs, and more cohesion and structural funds, when actually what is needed is deregulation and to provide people with a means of increasing productivity and jobs and to deal with youth unemployment?

Barbara Keeley: I hesitate to say that I think we agree on this point, but I think we do. [Interruption.] All right, then: we enthusiastically agree on this point. It is very clear indeed that, particularly with youth unemployment, we have a serious problem. It is a problem throughout the EU. We must spend more on that and we must find a way of doing so. Although the Minister spoke at great length, he did not tell us at any point what the difference would be between the ongoing review in the EU and the existing commitments. We want to send a very strong message. Until the Bill is passed, it is our last chance for a considerable period to make these points strongly to the EU, and we believe that we should do so.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): One issue that concerns me in the area that I represent is the fishing industry. There is to be a review of the common fisheries policy. One thing that could come off the back of that is our young people getting jobs in the boats, because up until now they have not been encouraged to do so.

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We need not just a better common fisheries policy, but encouragement and incentives for our young people to take the jobs in the local fishing boats, and thereby create employment and prosperity for them as well. Does the hon. Lady agree?

Barbara Keeley: Indeed. We have focused a great deal on agricultural spending and the CAP, but I do not think any of us would say that there has been a fair deal for people in the fishing industry. Fisheries policy, in many places, has been a disaster and has caused great problems for our fishing industry. It is a shame and a pity if, as I think is the case, young people no longer believe that they can have a career in fisheries.

Alex Salmond: Given that many people who represent fishing constituencies would agree with the hon. Lady on that point, does she not find it passing strange that in all of the possible treaty amendments that have been listed as possibilities for the Prime Minister’s soon-to-be-considered renegotiation stance, not once have I heard from the Government Front Bench that a treaty renegotiation on the common fisheries policy is any part of the Conservative party’s priorities?

2.15 pm

Barbara Keeley: That is strange, but I cannot answer for the Minister. He may want to intervene for himself now or at some later point.

I have emphasised jobs and growth, but this EU budget priority also includes policies and programmes to promote vital areas of research and innovation—infrastructure, education, training and enterprise development. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) has been a staunch advocate of the importance of EU funding for research and development in the UK. In 2012 he said:

“The more the EU invests in research and innovation, the more the UK benefits, because the quality, breadth and depth of UK research puts us in a position whereby we gain disproportionately from European research programmes.”—[Official Report, 31 October 2012; Vol. 552, c. 292.]

It is self-evident that competitiveness for jobs and growth should be more of a priority, but also that we would benefit more if the priorities were switched to increase funding for research and innovation.

Serious consideration of reform of the EU’s spending priorities is needed if we are to use the EU budget, as the Opposition believe we should, as a mechanism to promote future jobs and growth in the UK and other member states. We can only get that change of spending priorities if we keep a focus on the balance between competing priorities and continue to drive down wasteful and inefficient spending.

Much was said on Second Reading, as I am sure the Minister recalls, about what hon. Members consider to be wasteful and inefficient spending. Some Members might cover that again today, but we have already talked about staffing costs and administration costs, and the costs of the move between Brussels and Strasbourg. Other items of waste and inefficiency can also be drawn to the Minister’s attention.

We have already discussed new clause 3, and I do not need to keep on emphasising this, but in tabling it we did not in any way want to disturb the balance between

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the Government and the scrutiny Committees. I hope that hon. Members accept that. However, points have been raised in previous debates on why we need that relentless scrutiny. My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham East said in the debate on the multi-annual financial framework that we need

“a relentless focus on the justification behind detailed expenditure.”—[Official Report, 31 October 2012; Vol. 552, c. 304.]

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury said on Second Reading:

“Many in Europe agree with us that the EU is too uncompetitive, too democratically unaccountable and too inflexible to the concerns of citizens in its member states.”—[Official Report, 11 June 2015; Vol. 596, c. 1389.]

That is a very poor situation that we find ourselves in.

Sir William Cash: The hon. Lady referred to the need for relentless scrutiny. I have a thought in my mind that maybe some people think that the European Scrutiny Committee, at least over the last five years, has indeed been relentless in its scrutiny, and that goes for all members of the Committee, which has produced many unanimous reports. Is she effectively prepared not to press her amendment because of the problem I gave about the constant stream of legislative requirements that might interfere with our status as a European Committee?

Barbara Keeley: Indeed, we could do that. We would definitely want to press the other new clauses, but there was no intention to upset that balance. It has been suggested that the Minister could solve these matters by giving some kind of undertaking on the matters raised in our new clauses. We do not resile from the position that we want to send out the strongest possible message from this House that we are serious about scrutiny. The European Scrutiny Committee is of course relentless in its focus on those matters, and so too must the House be relentless. Doubtless we will have many more reports and reviews.

When in opposition, the Minister was part of the team that tabled an amendment to get a report, as I mentioned earlier. It was not agreed to at the time, but the Commission review went ahead anyway. The results of that report, which was published in 2010, were interesting. Its main finding—it was a very substantial finding—was that the current rules for the EU budget make it slow to react to unforeseen events, while too many complexities hinder its efficiency and transparency.

This is a week of tumultuous events for the European Union. The situation we find ourselves in with the EU budget, with its complexity, its slowness to react, the difficulty in balancing priorities and the fact that it does not represent the priorities that we think are important, means that it is clear to all—there is often broad agreement on this in the House, and I am sure that there will be today—that it is past the time when it needs to change.

Our remaining amendments would assist in ensuring that reports are made to the House on value for money, budgetary control and, importantly, budget priorities and waste and inefficiency. I commend them to the Committee.

Sir William Cash: I have already said much of what I need to say on new clause 3, which is my main concern today, so I will make only a few points. Basically, new clause 3 is inappropriate. The European Scrutiny Committee

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does its job relentlessly, as the shadow Minister has just indicated, so there is no need for the new clause. We can invite officials to it if we wish to, and we do on occasion, but we are perpetually scrutinising the budget and recommending matters for consideration on the Floor of the House.

Imposing on the European Scrutiny Committee legislative functions that would be monitored by other Government Departments could cause enormous difficulty by interfering with its Standing Orders functions. Under the Standing Orders, the Committee has to form a judgment on what is of political and legal importance. We can invite European Commission budget representatives to see us, and indeed we can also recommend to the Treasury Committee, for example, that it might wish to do the same, so we already have various means at our disposal.

It is not necessary for me to repeat the points that I have already made in interventions. I am grateful to the shadow Minister for agreeing not to press new clause 3 and putting that on the record, so that in future nobody else is tempted to impose on the European Scrutiny Committee, or indeed on any Select Committee, legislative requirements that might in one way or another interfere with their discretionary judgments under the Standing Orders.

Barbara Keeley: I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept my assurance that we have no intention of doing that, but I also hope that he will agree that it is important to send out the strongest possible message that we are focusing on these matters relentlessly throughout the House, and that the European Scrutiny Committee will continue its excellent work.

Sir William Cash: I am extremely grateful to the hon. Lady. I hope that she will not mind my mentioning the fact that she is sitting in glorious isolation on the Opposition Front Bench, and with nobody behind her, other than my friend the hon. Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins), who is not known to be enthusiastic about all matters European. Perhaps the relentless scrutiny to which she refers could be improved by having a few more Labour Members here to support her.

Alex Salmond: It is a great pleasure to follow what must be the briefest speech I have ever heard from the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) on this subject—it is wonderful to see him able once again to stand in his place today.

Let me turn to the question of EU finance and agriculture. I know that agriculture is not a subject that much concerns the Conservative party; the Tory party these days is much more likely to be concerned with asset stripping, rather than agricultural production, and with financial derivatives, rather than agricultural crops—that is what gets its pulse moving.

I was concerned when the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley) said that far too much of the European Union budget was consumed by the common agricultural policy. The fundamental reason for that—we did not hear this simple point from the Government Benches—is that the common agricultural policy is one of the few policies that financially is effectively under the competence of the European Union. If the European Union had competence over health, for example—I doubt that there is much support for that,

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from me or anyone else in the House—its agricultural budget would be totally dwarfed by what it spent on health. The dominance of the agricultural budget is a factor of its being one of the European Union’s relatively few common policies.

Of course, it is possible to argue that there should not be direct farm payments. Indeed, that was the argument that the right hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson) took into the CAP negotiations. He started from the position that the UK Government, without much opposition from Members from rural constituencies in the Conservative interest, thought that there should not be direct farm payments, and he found himself in a minority of one in the negotiations; his position was not supported by any other member state. It was therefore decided that we were to continue with farm payments. Therefore, if we have a common agricultural policy, and it is a substantial part of the European Union’s budget, it is reasonably important to ensure that our share of the agricultural budget as component nations in these islands is fair and competitive, because our agricultural production has to compete in that common market with that in other member states.

Does the Minister really think that the share allocated to UK agriculture, and to Scottish agriculture in particular, can be counted as a considerable achievement, as he claimed in his opening remarks? Let us remind ourselves of some of the facts. Under pillar one of the CAP budget, it was agreed that the lowest that any member state should receive in support was €196 per hectare. It was agreed in negotiations that each country in the original 15 would work to that minimum. Scotland receives substantially less than that—just over half of that payment per hectare. That is going to cost Scottish agriculture about £1 billion in the period to 2019.

Mark Garnier: The right hon. Gentleman said from a sedentary position during the Minister’s speech that that was because Scottish farms are the biggest in the UK. It would be helpful if he could give a little flavour of the size of Scottish farms compared with English, Welsh and Irish farms, and how the numbers break down.

Alex Salmond: I was going to move on to that very point, because the Minister’s reply to my intervention inspired me to go to the Library in search of some figures. I will answer that point in a moment.

Let me move on to pillar two, the second major aspect of agricultural support. I have been doing some comparisons and looked at what would have happened if in negotiations Scotland had achieved from pillar two the same amount of agricultural support as the Republic of Ireland, which in many ways is a comparable country with regard to land area and agriculture as a share of the overall economy. The answer is that Ireland has achieved a budget four times the size of Scotland’s budget under pillar two—€2.19 billion compared with €478 million—in the years to 2019.

Given that it has been decided that the common agricultural policy should continue and that farm payments should continue to be made, how will it be possible for Scottish agriculture to compete effectively when it gets such a dramatically lower share than the minimum

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allocated to any other EU country? Far from getting an excellent deal on pillar two to compensate for the poor deal on pillar one, Scotland gets a miserable share in comparison with comparable countries.

2.30 pm

That brings me to the point made by the hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Mark Garnier). The Minister said that the comparison of support per hectare does not really matter. I would say that it is exactly what matters, given that agreements per hectare, per country govern the size of the overall budget.

As the Minister said, for the share per farm or per estate, there is a different figure and a different comparison. We have some very large farms and very large estates in Scotland. Indeed—this is the point that I was checking in the Library—500 companies or individuals own half of the country. That is how imbalanced is the concentration of ownership in Scottish agriculture and Scottish land. If someone is receiving a lower payment per hectare, that tends to favour and militate for even further concentration of land ownership.

I took the Minister’s reply to me, when he alighted on a very significant point, as a coded call for the fairer distribution of land ownership in Scotland. I was inspired to look at an article in an edition of The Spectator only last month entitled “David Cameron’s father in law offers to adopt a ‘Rob Roy’ style Scottish accent to stop ‘Mugabe-style’ land grab by SNP”. In that article, Viscount Astor, presumably in The Spectator to get to the wide audience that the Conservative party was after in this European debate, was extremely suspicious of the SNP Scottish Government’s proposals on land reform, which are being enunciated in the Scottish Parliament this very day. I am delighted to reassure the Minister that no Mugabe-style land grab is intended; we are just seeking a fairer distribution in agriculture so that family farms and communities across Scotland get a more equitable distribution of the land holdings. That also helps to answer his point. It cannot be seriously argued that we should look at payments per individual farm or estate—whether of 200, 300 acres, or, in the case of Viscount Astor, 20,000 acres. That cannot be used as a serious argument in relation to the imbalance of agricultural support.

Substantial insult has been added to injury in these matters. The European Union, after representations from the Scottish Government and others, tried, in a minimalist fashion, to address these imbalances, which had occurred due to the total incompetence of the UK Government’s negotiations and their stance on the CAP. It decided to allocate €220 million as convergence money to take account of the fact that there was such an imbalance in support per hectare in the United Kingdom—in Scotland, in particular—compared with the rest of the Europe. All of that €220 million is to be distributed geographically across the UK instead of accepting that the UK is getting it because of the dramatic imbalance in terms of the huge land holdings in Scotland and the very, very low payments per hectare. I have heard that described in National Farmers Union meetings in Scotland as akin to embezzlement by the United Kingdom Government. That is how it is regarded. I hope that the Minister will at least revisit the issue of the convergence money, or if not, another issue that should be revisited—getting a fairer distribution of agricultural support.

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An industry in a competitive position in a common market with other industries must have a fair distribution of support in order to compete effectively.

Kevin Foster: I have been listening with interest to the right hon. Gentleman’s points about funding for Scotland. How does he think this support would be getting on without the benefit of the UK’s rebate?

Alex Salmond: One of the reasons we do so incredibly badly in many European programmes as regards funding is that the Treasury’s interest, when looking at additionality, as it calls it, is always to minimise EU expenditure. Although it is perfectly acceptable for the Government to defend the rebate, it is less acceptable to look at every European programme and try to minimise expenditure on it, because in doing so, we lose some of the alternative opportunities that the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South talked about. If the Treasury looks at every European programme and says, “How do we minimise spending?”, what follows as a natural consequence is that our share of that spending is also diminished. In the case of the common agricultural policy, it is possible to make a direct connection with the negotiating stance of the right hon. Member for North Shropshire, who was trying to abolish farm payments altogether and got the miserable, unfair and inequitable distribution of support that has been the end result of the CAP negotiations.

The Minister—I am not sure if it was a dead bat, a glorious drive through covers, or a catch at slips—rather evaded the direct question of what is the Prime Minister’s negotiating stance on the budget. The Minister said, after being passed a note, that the Prime Minister’s stance was to cut the whole budget and to protect the UK rebate. Let me point out that that has been the Government’s stance and policy since they took office in 2010; it is not a particular stance for these renegotiations. What the Minister is being asked—we really would like an answer—is whether the Prime Minister has a specific target in mind in renegotiations for changes in the EU budget or the UK contribution to it, and if so, what it is. Failure to answer that question throughout the debate adds to the no doubt unworthy, but considerable, suspicion shared across this Chamber that the Prime Minister is adopting this nebulous approach to what are his negotiating aims so that whatever he comes back with can be announced as a fundamental achievement. That does not stand scrutiny in this Committee, but even more importantly, it is a particularly poor campaigning argument in favour of the European cause.

I hope that the Minister—the last man in—will rise to the occasion by confirming that he is in favour of more equitable distribution of land ownership in Scotland and by giving us an insight into the Prime Minister’s true negotiating hand in the coming arguments and discussions in the European Union.

Mr Rees-Mogg: The speech by the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond) is tremendously important and gets to the heart of one of the issues we have with the common agricultural policy, although, not surprisingly, I look at it in a different way from the question of socialism and land holdings that the SNP is going for.

The issue, as has been discussed in the European Scrutiny Committee, is that over the years our farmers have increasingly become so efficient and large that

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there has been a good deal of consolidation. That applies very much in my constituency among dairy farmers. The number of dairy farms has reduced significantly and they are bigger farms proportionately, but European subsidies tend to go to smaller farms disproportionately. Therefore, we find that British farmers are disadvantaged. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman that if, under a system of farming subsidies and a competitive framework, that means that people are getting handouts from the European Union, British farmers—farmers in the United Kingdom—do not get the equivalent subsidies to farmers on the continent, they are disadvantaged because their cost base is automatically higher and their profitability is reduced. Therefore, when we are arguing for careful consideration, overview and oversight of expenditure in the European Union, and reductions in the common agricultural policy, we have to ensure that the cuts are made in a way that is fair to the UK farmer. Even if our end objective is the entire elimination of agricultural subsidies, it must be done in a way—

Jim Shannon: As I am sure the hon. Gentleman is well aware, the farms in Northern Ireland are smaller. They are greater today than they were, say, 20 years ago, but they are still not big in comparison with those on the UK mainland. Does he agree that there needs to be consideration for the farms in Northern Ireland, particularly in my constituency of Strangford? He seems to be referring to farms that are very large. In Northern Ireland, we have farms with an average of 150 acres.

Mr Rees-Mogg: I am very sympathetic to farmers and I ought to declare an interest as I have a little land in Somerset, although sadly not a great deal and I do not farm directly. If I did, I would certainly count as a very, very small farmer. In the past a slice has been taken from the biggest receivers of European subsidies, so the farms that have been the most consolidated and efficient lose subsidies at a faster rate than other farms. I think that protection is already in place—

Alex Salmond: That is why the protection built into the agricultural settlement of €196 per hectare is so important, and why it is so disadvantageous that it is almost half that figure in Scotland. That is why the minimum per hectare is so important.

Mr Rees-Mogg: Being more traditional, I prefer a minimum per acre, but otherwise I am broadly in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman. I agree that it is not right to look at the issue purely in terms of the landowner, because that discourages consolidation. As Conservatives, we are in favour of efficiency in all industries, but the subsidy system across Europe not only disadvantages our farmers, but discourages consolidation and efficiency. That cannot be the right approach.

Peter Grant: Is the hon. Gentleman telling us that consolidation and enlargement always equal efficiency? Does he not recognise that, especially in agriculture, there are significant community and social benefits to allowing small, family owned farms to continue in existence?

Mr Rees-Mogg: There are great advantages to having small, family owned farms, but we need an efficient agricultural system that provides the food and produce

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the country needs. I do not think one should be unduly sentimental for agriculture against other industries. As a lover of the countryside and of our rural traditions, I am tempted to fall in line with the hon. Member for Glenrothes (Peter Grant). The constituency was called Central Fife when I stood there—unsuccessfully, just for the record. However, although I am sympathetic to his point, I think it is important to have efficient agriculture first when spending other hard-pressed taxpayers’ money. It ought not to be entirely about sentimentality.

Kelvin Hopkins: It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg). Before I turn to the main part of the my speech, I would like to comment on what he has just said. Some 34 years ago, my then 11-year-old son had a discussion at his primary school about what was then called the Common Market. He was asked about the common agricultural policy, which he knew a lot about because he listened to me at home. His teacher asked him, “What is the CAP?” He said, “It’s the common agricultural policy.” His teacher asked, “What is that about, then, Daniel?” He said, “It’s a way of subsidising inefficient small farms,” and 34 years on, the hon. Gentleman has raised exactly the same point. Some things do not change very much. I think my son is the same age as the hon. Gentleman.

It is also a great pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley), who sits on the Front Bench, and support two of her new clauses and her amendment. On new clause 3, I am pleased that she has acceded to the sensible point made by the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee, of which I am also a member. I will, however, support my hon. Friend in the Lobby later on her other new clauses.

I have spoken probably 100 times in European debates in this Chamber over the past 18 years. I have said some of what I am going to say today a number of times before, but in order to make an effect in politics I think we must sometimes repeat messages over and over again, hoping that, in time, one’s colleagues, particularly those on the Front Bench, will listen, agree, take note and act accordingly.

I was also much taken by the hon. Gentleman’s comment that when he rebelled he was trying to help his Front-Bench colleagues. That is a splendid idea. If ever I am moved to rebel in future, I shall tell my Whip that I am trying to help our Front-Bench colleagues and I hope she will accept it in that spirit.

The most interesting new clause is new clause 2, which is about expenditure. I have said many times that I believe that the common agricultural policy ought to be repatriated to member states for them to decide how to subsidise their own agriculture, and that the CAP’s structures should be dismantled. We would certainly benefit from that financially in more than one way, including by not paying in so much. We could subsidise at exactly the same level and possibly in exactly the same way, but still be better off because we would not be paying into something where we are net losers.

2.45 pm

Beyond that, food prices have, over decades, been higher than they would have been if we were not in the CAP and could buy food on world markets. Indeed, one

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of the markets we could buy in would be within the European Union itself. There are some low-cost food producers, particularly in eastern Europe, from whom we might buy food. A year or two ago, the Chairman of the ESC and I visited Lithuania, where I discovered, much to my surprise, that Lithuania used to be self-sufficient in food production. Now it is being paid to not grow food, and large swathes of land in Lithuania are lying fallow. It is nonsense that a poorer country that was self-sufficient is now being paid to not grow food. If it were allowed to grow as much food as it liked and we could buy it at relatively lower prices, that would be a very sensible arrangement. The CAP should be repatriated to member states, something which I think would, in the end, be to everyone’s advantage.

Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has ever been to Iceland, Norway, the Faroe Islands or places further north of Scotland, but he would see greater use of land there than in the highlands and islands of Scotland, because the agricultural support is so much better. On repatriation, would there not be a danger to some countries that the Anglo-Saxon or Anglo-American model of economics would suck out the little money that is there and give it to London, which does not put it around its own state? At least with Europe we have some sort of guarantee that we will get the money, even though we are among the least favoured areas of the land.

Kelvin Hopkins: The hon. Gentleman’s point tempts me to talk at greater length about a broader, more socialist approach to running the world, with which I strongly agree. If I did so, however, I think I would set too many hares running and Mr Williams would call me to order very quickly.

The CAP is nonsense. We ought to abolish it and repatriate agricultural policy to member states. We can decide in our own country which parts of agriculture should be subsidised and to what extent, and we can decide where and when we buy food. We might choose to subsidise to keep agriculture sustained in this country for strategic reasons. During the second world war we needed to produce food for ourselves, and all countries have to bear those sorts of factors in mind when deciding what they produce.

Interestingly, the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond) obviously does not like the common agricultural policy or the common fisheries policy very much. I am surprised that the SNP is in favour of the European Union at all.

Alex Salmond: The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. I think that the CAP is a failure of UK Government negotiation, as I have tried to explain. On the CFP, however, he is on much stronger ground: I would support a treaty amendment to change it substantially and remove it from central control.

Kelvin Hopkins: We are in strong agreement on that point. I have said many times in this Chamber that we ought to give notice of withdrawal from the CFP if it is not abolished in total. Countries could then manage their own fisheries with a 200-mile or 50/50 limit. In that way, fish stocks could be recovered, because they

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would be managed at a national level and we would license fishing for our own fishermen. In addition, if any other fishing boats came from outside, they would have to be licensed and managed properly.

Alex Salmond: To pursue my point, is it not strange that the Government never mention treaty amendment to the common fisheries policy as an objective, even though it would certainly be within the competence of this financial Bill? Everything else is mentioned as an objective in the renegotiation, but to my knowledge the Prime Minister has never identified the common fisheries policy as something that he is even trying to get change on, far less a treaty amendment.

Kelvin Hopkins: The right hon. Gentleman makes a strong point. That is one of my red lines, and I shall put that case to the Prime Minister when I have an opportunity. I have said that many times before in the Chamber.

Jim Shannon: As I said earlier, I represent the constituency of Strangford, and the fishing industry is particularly important to me. We have had a cod recovery programme in the Irish sea for the past 10 to 12 years, and there are greater numbers of cod than there have ever been during that time and the fish are bigger. However, Europe restricts our fishermen’s ability to fish those cod. That is an example of why we need a new common fisheries policy that local people can control and have an input in.

The Temporary Chair (Hywel Williams): Order. I hope that the hon. Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins) will not go too far down that line of discussion.

Kelvin Hopkins: I shall move on to my other points in a second, Mr Williams, but I agree with the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) that if member states control their own fisheries, they will be able to stop irresponsible fishing and the plundering of fish stocks by other nations.

Sir Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con): Going back to what the hon. Gentleman said a few moments ago about agriculture, is he aware that many farmers do not want to leave the EU because they feel they would be treated less generously? However, if Britain came out of the Union, would we as a net contributor not have more money to spend on farming if we wished to do so?

Kelvin Hopkins: The right hon. Gentleman makes a strong point. I have said that if we were outside the EU, we would be better off financially and could choose what we subsidised, how and to what extent. We could choose what sort of farming we wanted to sustain. I have made the point before that small hill farmers in Wales, who are part of our rural culture, ought to be preserved. They might not be very efficient, but we could perhaps choose to subsidise them. For other forms of farming we might choose to maintain the subsidies at the current level, but we would make that choice democratically through our Government and this Parliament.

Mr MacNeil: The glib answer that has often been given to me in the House in years past as to why we should maintain the common fisheries policy is that

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fish do not have passports. Of course that neglects the reality that there are three types of stocks: migratory stocks, non-migratory stocks and straddling stocks. We can look at what happens in countries that control their own fisheries, such as Iceland. Jóhann Sigurjónsson, the chief fishing scientist of Iceland, tells me that its fishing has so improved, and trawlers are catching the cod stocks so much more quickly, that fishermen are actually getting frustrated. They are being so successful and doing their work in so little time that they want to go and catch more. That is a sign of their success, having managed their own stocks for a number of decades.

Kelvin Hopkins: Indeed. The hon. Gentleman is well ahead of me in his expertise in the matter, but the basic point is that we should control our own fish stocks and manage them properly.

I have one or two other points to make about expenditure in the EU budget. From time to time we have discussed international aid. My view, and I think the view of the Department for International Development, is that we would spend international aid better than it is spent through the European Union. We would target and manage it better and try to ensure that it was spent in a less corrupt way in certain countries. Countries would do better to manage their own aid donations abroad than have them dealt with through the European Union. Aid is therefore another component of the EU budget that could be taken away.

Then we come to structural funds. Again, I believe that member states, particularly our own country, are best able to judge what regional assistance they need to provide. We could target that assistance better than when it is decided by the European Union. As part of our regional policy, we might want to have state aid to assist the growth of manufacturing in some of the less successful regions of our country. Manufacturing is too small as a proportion of our economy, and if we want to expand and improve our manufacturing sector to help investment, we might want to use state aid, which is forbidden under the EU arrangements.

Mr MacNeil: Is not the great danger that the high priest of the austerity cult, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would drive austerity further and we would not see the spending that we currently see in areas of Wales and in the highlands and islands of Scotland?

Alex Salmond: He’d keep it all for himself.

Mr MacNeil: He would keep it all in London. If that were to happen, we would need full fiscal autonomy, or indeed independence, to ensure that areas of Scotland were well protected.

Kelvin Hopkins: I thank the hon. Gentleman, but it is a counsel of despair to say that because we cannot trust our own Government, we have to go to the European Union. I was on a march through London opposing austerity last Saturday, and there were tens of thousands of people there who felt strongly about it. Even though we may have Governments we do not like from time to time, we have the chance of pressurising them in the short term and getting rid of them and replacing them with more progressive Governments in the long term.

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Pressurising Governments is what I do in politics, as I think Members of all parties do. I want to see the Government elected in this country governing this country, not giving away our powers so that we are governed by a bureaucracy in Brussels or wherever.

I have mentioned spending on the CAP, aid, structural funds, regional policy and so on. If we had responsibility for those things, some of the fiscal transfers that effectively take place between the richer and poorer countries in the European Union might no longer happen. If we want fiscal transfers, the way to do it would be for us to make substantial contributions to a fund that could be allocated to the Governments of less well-off countries. Lithuania, Latvia, Poland or wherever could benefit from donations, but they would go to those countries’ Governments, who would decide how that money ought to be spent in their countries. It would not be about the European Union subsidising certain sectors in a way that may or may not be beneficial to those countries. As I said, in Lithuania, and no doubt in other countries, they are being paid not to grow agricultural products and their own food. That is nonsensical, and I wish to see an end to it. If we want fiscal transfers, let them be up front. Let us contribute to a fund that poorer countries in the EU, or in a new association of member states, could draw on. That would be a more sensible way forward.

Of course, that would loosen the bonds of the European Union. We would not have decisions about all sorts of sectors being made by the Commission in Brussels. They would be made by democratic Governments, and we would have a looser association of states within Europe, which would be a much more sensible way of operating. I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley and Eccles South said, and I support her probing new clauses and her amendment 1, which we hope to be voting on soon.

The Temporary Chair (Hywel Williams): I call Peter Grant.

Peter Grant: Tapadh leibh—thank you, Mr Williams. I apologise for not being able to say that in Welsh despite your attempts at tuition last night. I will keep practising.

It struck me after hearing the first two speakers in the debate that we had spent an hour and 45 minutes discussing the Bill and the only point of contention appeared to be whether the Government should write letters, and, if so, how many. If we are serious about sorting out great European institutions that are inefficient and have a lot of waste, I suspect that many of the audience of millions watching live on television will ask us to hold a mirror up to our own face. A debate such as this surely cannot be what this place was designed for.

3 pm

I have found it quite interesting that, although in theory the Bill is about agreeing how the European Union brings in its money, a lot of today’s discussion has been about what happens to the money afterwards. One big problem with the way the European Union manages—or does not manage—its finances is there is still a complete divorce between decisions on how much money it needs and who pays it, and on how much

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money is going to be spent and how. Until the European Union brings those two big decisions closer together, we are always likely to have anomalies.

We talk all the time about what the EU costs, but at some point in the future perhaps we will talk about the benefits we get—or could hope to get—from it. I am an accountant by profession, and, if it is true that an accountant is someone who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing, the Government Benches are today full of accountants. We have had a lot of questions about whose fault it is that costs have gone up, and who gets the credit for costs coming down. We have not heard an awful lot about the benefits, and that is worrying when we are approaching a referendum that could see us torn out of the European Union—even if we vote to stay in. Talking about the benefits should mean talking about not just getting more money out than we put in, however, because it does not take a genius or even an accountant to work out that not everybody in the European Union can carry on taking out more than they put in.

As a trading island state, surely there is a benefit to the removal of trade barriers. I can remember the trade wars, as a wee boy, when the United Kingdom did something to upset the French, so the French discovered that British lamb was no longer fit for French consumers, and in retaliation, and completely by coincidence, the United Kingdom discovered that French apples did not quite come up to our standards—and so it went on. It was great for lawyers; it was probably quite good for the politicians; but it did not help the producers of those foodstuffs, because they spent longer arguing about who was allowed to buy and sell what, and less time producing and making their businesses more efficient.

We should never allow ourselves to forget that this year we mark 70 years since the United Kingdom was at war with Germany. I do not think that condition has existed at any time before 1945. I have been back through the books and cannot find a period of 75 years without a major war between the countries of western Europe. Surely that has to be celebrated, and it is no coincidence that it started with the establishment of the common market and with European nations looking for ways to settle their disputes without going to war. That has to be a massive benefit of continued co-operation among European nations.

My position, and that of the Scottish National party, is that we want to be citizens of the European Union in such a way that we can have a state of co-operation with our European neighbours without losing the sovereign rights of the people of Scotland. We want our co-operative relationship with our neighbours across the North Sea to be exactly the same as that with our neighbours across the Irish Sea and, indeed, across the River Tweed.

There has been a lot of talk about the common fisheries policy and common agricultural policy. It should hardly be a surprise that Scotland does not get a good deal out of the common agricultural policy, because the longest-serving, most respected Agriculture Minister in the whole of Europe, possibly in the whole world, is not allowed to take part in those discussions, as he is not a Minister of a member state. We are represented by somebody who has not even been elected—who has never faced the test of public accountability at the ballot box. We in Scotland have an Agriculture Minister who is quite possibly unique in the world, in that he

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holds the full confidence of his Government and the absolute trust of farmers at the same time, but he is not let through the door to be part of those discussions.

It should not be any surprise that the common fisheries policy has never worked for Scotland, when Luxembourg gets a vote on it and we do not. Luxembourg’s population is the same size as Edinburgh’s. I do not consider myself to have a coastal constituency, but my constituency has a bigger coastline than Luxembourg—indeed, my constituency has a coastline. Is it any surprise that so many of the major pillars of EU policy do not work in the communities where they have an effect, when so many decisions are taken by people who represent nations that do not have a fishing industry, and where agriculture is peripheral to their economy, rather than central not only to their economic but social well being, as in nations such as Scotland and, indeed, Northern Ireland and Wales?

A Conservative Member asked about the SNP’s position on Europe. I would love to see what deal Scotland could get out of Europe if we had a voice in Europe. At the moment every representation that we make to Europe has to go through the Westminster filter, and I do not blame that filter for changing them to act in the interests of the majority of the citizens of the United Kingdom. We are outnumbered by 10, 11, or 12-1 in population terms, so the representations that the UK Government make to Europe will always be loaded towards what they see to be in the best interest of the major nation.

Alex Salmond: My hon. Friend makes an interesting point about the likely outcome of Scottish negotiations in Europe, but it is highly unlikely that any Scottish negotiator would come back with less agriculture support than the minimum awarded to every other European nation.

Peter Grant: I do not know whether that is a bid to be the first independent Scottish ambassador to the European Union, but if I am in a position to put anybody’s name forward I shall certainly bear in mind my right hon. Friend. He makes a valid point, which is related to the question he has asked repeatedly and on which he has still not had an answer: what the Prime Minister’s negotiating position and priorities are going to be. The fishing industry is not a massively important part of the United Kingdom’s economy; it is a massively important part of the economies of some nations that make up the United Kingdom. The negotiations are, however, always carried out through the Westminster lens, and it is seen as a major achievement when all we come back with is, “Not too many things have got worse.” We talk about aspiration. I think aspiration means we want things to get better, not to think we have achieved a lot when we come back from negotiations and have not had to lose too much.

The European Union does not mange its finances very well at all. We do not need to be accountants to work that out. Most companies would not be allowed to continue if they went 20 years without having their accounts signed off. Sometimes we need to look, however, at how we manage the part of it for which we are responsible. Some questions today, particularly those from the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley) on the Labour Front Bench, about scrutiny of the European budget and the performance

23 Jun 2015 : Column 800

and financial management of the European Union, were pointing to weaknesses in the way this House holds Europe to account. That points either to a lack of involvement of members of the European Scrutiny Committee, or to the fact that it has not been given sufficient powers. There are many weaknesses in the way European finances affect the responsibilities of this Chamber, and changes could be made to the way this House holds Europe to account, but their delivery does not necessarily mean having to threaten to walk away from Europe altogether.

As I said in an earlier intervention, I do not see why the amendment needs to be put to a vote. It does not contain anything that the Government should be reluctant to do. I defer to the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), who has left the Chamber, and his expertise on the procedures of the House and the position of the EU Scrutiny Committee, but it is time to put on a statutory basis a process whereby the Government ask things of Europe on our behalf—and which no Government in their right mind should be reluctant to do. How could any Government not want to ask Europe to be more accountable, or to think a wee bit more carefully about its spending priorities before it sets them? I hope that we see an outbreak of common sense among Government Members.

The United Kingdom’s position in whatever negotiations the Prime Minister has would be strengthened if we could find a way for this Bill to be amended and approved unopposed. If the proposed changes are put to a vote, I am minded to go with them. It would be sad if it were a matter of public record that this Committee had divided on such an important matter—on the crucial question of whether we wanted the Secretary of State to write a letter to Europe.

Mr Gauke: We have had a wide-ranging debate over the past two and a half hours. The hon. Member for Glenrothes (Peter Grant) was not far off the substance of the matter before us: the disagreement is over whether there should be placed in statute a requirement to write a letter.

I recognise the spirit of the proposed changes before us, and the need for us to improve the value of expenditure in the European Union, to cut down on waste and to increase transparency. We strongly support and have advocated those points.

I have to say that writing to the Commission, asking it to review the issues, will not particularly achieve the objectives we have heard set out, but the Government have taken action and continue to do so to improve EU spending. That began with the Prime Minister’s historic deal, cutting the budget in real terms. It has forced the Commission to prioritise, which we very much welcome, and it has led to the Commission’s budget for results initiative. The UK is playing an active role in that process, and we continue to push the Commission to bear down on waste in its responses to the EU budget discharge process. The Government are contributing to the simplification proposals from the Commission, and the UK will continue to fight for restraint in the annual budget.

Those steps have led to concrete results: the Commission has become more transparent and has shifted more funding into pro-growth spending. We certainly make no apologies for that—although there appears to be

23 Jun 2015 : Column 801

some resistance to it in some parts of the House—and the UK’s contributions will be lower for every year in this seven-year deal period than in the final year of the last MFF deal. That is a saving of almost £8 billion over the forecast period compared with 2013-14.

Barbara Keeley: If the Minister is resisting the amendments, and it sounds as though he is, will he tell the Committee whether he is happy with the balance of priorities in the spending on competitiveness for jobs and growth, which was a key point that I spent time discussing? He seems to be resisting any attempt to put forward a review or report that would make it easier for the House to push for changes, so is he happy with the current balance?

Mr Gauke: In the 2013 negotiations, we achieved a shift towards a greater proportion of expenditure being on pro-growth measures, such as research and development, and away from other areas of expenditure that contribute less to growth. That includes the common agricultural policy. The hon. Lady says that it is a small amount. Actually, it was not; there was significant progress in terms of a reduction in the common agricultural policy, with more spending on those areas where we think there could be greater added value. That is the right direction. I again have to draw the contrast with the surrender of £2 billion a year in respect of our rebate for common agricultural policy reform that we did not see—I am afraid that that is the record of the last Labour Government with the 2005 deal. I therefore believe that we are moving in the right direction.

If the hon. Lady is asking, “Would we like to go further?”, then, yes, I very much support that view. We want to go further and see a greater emphasis on expenditure that provides better value for money for UK and EU taxpayers. That is very much what we want, but I question the idea that the letter she is calling for will make any difference, particularly when we are seeing progress with the Commission’s budget for results initiative. The working group will meet for the first time in July and there will be a major conference in September 2015. We want to continue that approach during the mid-term review, which, as I said, will occur in 2016.

Barbara Keeley: The Minister was unable to give a date. Mid-term reviews are one thing, but we are moving towards a referendum, as we all know. We are all going to have to build this case for our constituents and for the campaign out there, and we need the information sooner. The slow trundling-on of the EU Commission will not suit our need for that information in this country, in this year and the next. I invite the Minister to come to my constituency and try to explain that this is a really good deal—the split between competitiveness and growth, and the amount that is spent on research and development—when we really should be pushing for that for our economy. We need to explain that and we need the review to be done sooner. He cannot even say when it is going to be done in 2016—it may be too late.

Mr Gauke: The MFF will be in 2016, as I said. The reality is that trying to transfer expenditure in the way we certainly want to—and from what the hon. Lady is saying, she also wants to, although it does not seem to

23 Jun 2015 : Column 802

have support in all parts of the House—is a major task. We have made progress. If she is saying that the situation is frustrating and she would like to go faster, I am not disagreeing with her, but I am afraid that that is the way the European Union works. We have clearly made progress and I do not think it does her cause any good to downplay our progress.

3.15 pm

Alex Salmond rose—

Mr Gauke: I was going to turn directly to the common agricultural policy, for which the right hon. Gentleman is such an enthusiast, subject to his complaint that he would like Scotland to have a greater share of the money that comes to the United Kingdom.

During the renegotiation, we faced the fact that the UK’s CAP receipts would fall over the next budgetary period in real terms. The conclusion was that the fairest way of allocating that cut was through an equal, proportionate reduction in both pillars across the United Kingdom. To have allocated more funding to Scotland or any other part of the United Kingdom would have meant deeper cuts across the rest of the United Kingdom. That was why the Government took the steps we did.

Alex Salmond: Rather than bemoaning the £2 billion the Labour party lost in respect of the budget rebate, will the Minister revisit the €220 million of convergence money that the Government chose not to distribute by hectare, which is the basis on which we got it in the first place? Does he realise how much bitterness that decision caused in the rural communities of Scotland? It no doubt contributed to the Conservative party’s worst election result in Scotland for a century last month.

Mr Gauke: I will briefly make two points to the right hon. Gentleman. There is no additional money for the United Kingdom. Over the next funding period, the UK’s direct payments will fall by about €500 million compared with 2013. The most appropriate way of allocating that cut, as I said earlier, is to share it equally between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. To have given more money to Scotland would have meant a greater reduction across the rest of the UK.

If the right hon. Gentleman objects to that approach, let me put it in context. Regions are allocated structural funds according to a Commission formula that was agreed as part of the MFF deal, which takes into account, among other factors, regional wealth relative to the EU average. As a result of the new EU formula for allocating structural funds, there would not have been a fair distribution across the UK, with each of the devolved Administrations set to lose out significantly. In 2013, the Government decided to correct that. As a result, Northern Ireland’s allocation was increased by €181 million, Scotland’s by €228 million and Wales’s by €375 million. That meant that all parts of the UK were subject to an equal cut. We believe that that delivered the fairest deal for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. However, the right hon. Gentleman chose not to draw the Committee’s attention to that example of equal treatment, which benefited Scotland.

Alex Salmond: The Minister would probably get more information from The Scottish Farmer than he is getting from his civil service briefs. There was €220 million of

23 Jun 2015 : Column 803

convergence money to take account of the fact that per hectare, particularly in Scotland, we were receiving so much less than the minimum that was allocated to other countries. The question is quite a simple one. The vast majority of people think that it would have been fair to distribute that convergence funding per hectare, because that was why we were getting it. Why was that not done, and will he revisit that bad decision?

Mr Gauke: I say again that the right hon. Gentleman really must look at the overall treatment. When we look at agriculture spending and the structural funds, we see that there has been fair treatment of each part of the United Kingdom to ensure that no one part suffers as a result of changes to the EU budget. I say to him that if we can find savings in the common agricultural policy, we should do so.

We have had a wide-ranging debate. When it comes down to it, I believe that there is support for the clauses in the Bill, but it appears that the Opposition wish to press their new clauses that call on us to write letters calling for action, ignoring the fact that action is already being taken and that there is already going to be a review of the MFF by the Council of Ministers. The Commission is already following the Prime Minister’s historic deal by focusing on prioritising expenditure. I am afraid that the letters that the Opposition propose will achieve nothing of substance and do not belong in a Bill that is focused on revenue, rather than expenditure. I therefore urge the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley) not to press her amendment and new clauses, and urge hon. Members to support the clauses of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2

Repeal, extent, commencement and short title

Amendment proposed: 1, page 1, line 18, leave out subsection (3).—(Barbara Keeley.)

This amendment removes the automatic coming into force of the Act two months after it is passed, which would be incompatible with any of the new Clauses.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 254, Noes 301.

Division No. 23]


3.20 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Arkless, Richard

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Barron, rh Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Benn, rh Hilary

Black, Ms Mhairi

Blackford, Ian

Blackman, Kirsty

Blackman-Woods, Dr Roberta

Blomfield, Paul

Boswell, Philip

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brock, Deidre

Brown, Alan

Brown, Lyn

Burden, Richard

Burgon, Richard

Butler, Dawn

Byrne, rh Liam

Cadbury, Ruth

Cameron, Dr Lisa

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Douglas

Chapman, Jenny

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, Julie

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Cowan, Ronnie

Cox, Jo

Coyle, Neil

Crausby, Mr David

Crawley, Angela

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cummins, Judith

Cunningham, Alex

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

David, Wayne

Day, Martyn

Debbonaire, Thangam

Docherty, Martin John

Donaldson, Stuart Blair

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Dowd, Peter

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Fellows, Marion

Ferrier, Margaret

Field, rh Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Fletcher, Colleen

Flint, rh Caroline

Fovargue, Yvonne

Foxcroft, Vicky

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gethins, Stephen

Gibson, Patricia

Glindon, Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goodman, Helen

Grady, Patrick

Grant, Peter

Gray, Neil

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Greenwood, Margaret

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Haigh, Louise

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harpham, Harry

Harris, Carolyn

Hayes, Helen

Hayman, Sue

Healey, rh John

Hendry, Drew

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Hermon, Lady

Hillier, Meg

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hopkins, Kelvin

Hosie, Stewart

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Huq, Dr Rupa

Hussain, Imran

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Kane, Mike

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Kerevan, George

Kerr, Calum

Khan, rh Sadiq

Kinnock, Stephen

Kyle, Peter

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Leslie, Chris

Lewis, Clive

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Long Bailey, Rebecca

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian C.

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Mactaggart, rh Fiona

Madders, Justin

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marris, Rob

Marsden, Mr Gordon

Maskell, Rachael

Matheson, Christian

Mc Nally, John

McCabe, Steve

McCaig, Callum

McCarthy, Kerry

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McDonald, Stewart

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGarry, Natalie

McGinn, Conor

McGovern, Alison

McInnes, Liz

McLaughlin, Anne

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Mearns, Ian

Monaghan, Carol

Monaghan, Dr Paul

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morris, Grahame M.

Mulholland, Greg

Mullin, Roger

Murray, Ian

Newlands, Gavin

Nicolson, John

O'Hara, Brendan

Onn, Melanie

Onwurah, Chi

Osamor, Kate

Oswald, Kirsten

Owen, Albert

Paterson, Steven

Pearce, Teresa

Pennycook, Matthew

Perkins, Toby

Phillips, Jess

Phillipson, Bridget

Pound, Stephen

Powell, Lucy

Pugh, John

Qureshi, Yasmin

Rayner, Angela

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reed, Mr Steve

Rees, Christina

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Rimmer, Marie

Ritchie, Ms Margaret

Robertson, Angus

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Ryan, rh Joan

Salmond, rh Alex

Shah, Naz

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheppard, Tommy

Sherriff, Paula

Shuker, Mr Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Andy

Smeeth, Ruth

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Cat

Smith, Jeff

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Smyth, Karin

Spellar, rh Mr John

Starmer, Keir

Stephens, Chris

Stevens, Jo

Streeting, Wes

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Tami, Mark

Thewliss, Alison

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thomas-Symonds, Nick

Thomson, Michelle

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turley, Anna

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Watson, Mr Tom

Weir, Mike

West, Catherine

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Williams, Mr Mark

Wilson, Corri

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wishart, Pete

Wright, Mr Iain

Zeichner, Daniel

Tellers for the Ayes:

Tom Blenkinsop


Graham Jones


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Allan, Lucy

Allen, Heidi

Amess, Sir David

Andrew, Stuart

Ansell, Caroline

Argar, Edward

Atkins, Victoria

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Mr Steve

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Berry, James

Bingham, Andrew

Blackman, Bob

Blunt, Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Borwick, Victoria

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, rh James

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Robert

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Sir Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burt, rh Alistair

Cairns, Alun

Carmichael, Neil

Cartlidge, James

Cash, Sir William

Caulfield, Maria

Chalk, Alex

Churchill, Jo

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Cleverly, James

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Costa, Alberto

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, rh Stephen

Crouch, Tracey

Davies, Byron

Davies, Chris

Davies, Glyn

Davies, James

Davies, Mims

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Donelan, Michelle

Dorries, Nadine

Double, Steve

Dowden, Oliver

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Drummond, Mrs Flick

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Sir Alan

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Mr Nigel

Evennett, rh Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Fernandes, Suella

Field, rh Mark

Foster, Kevin

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Frazer, Lucy

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Garnier, rh Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

Ghani, Nusrat

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Chris

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, rh Robert

Hall, Luke

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, rh Matthew

Hands, rh Greg

Harper, rh Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heappey, James

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Heaton-Jones, Peter

Henderson, Gordon

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoare, Simon

Hollingbery, George

Hollinrake, Kevin

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Howlett, Ben

Huddleston, Nigel

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Jayawardena, Mr Ranil

Jenkyns, Andrea

Jenrick, Robert

Johnson, Boris

Johnson, Gareth

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kennedy, Seema

Kinahan, Danny

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Knight, Julian

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, rh Dr Julian

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Lumley, Karen

Mackinlay, Craig

Mackintosh, David

Main, Mrs Anne

Mak, Alan

Malthouse, Kit

Mann, Scott

Mathias, Dr Tania

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Johnny

Merriman, Huw

Metcalfe, Stephen

Milling, Amanda

Mills, Nigel

Milton, rh Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, rh Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Morton, Wendy

Mowat, David

Mundell, rh David

Murray, Mrs Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Dr Matthew

Opperman, Guy

Paisley, Ian

Parish, Neil

Patel, rh Priti

Paterson, rh Mr Owen

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, rh Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Philp, Chris

Pincher, Christopher

Pow, Rebecca

Prentis, Victoria

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pursglove, Tom

Quin, Jeremy

Quince, Will

Raab, Mr Dominic

Redwood, rh John

Rees-Mogg, Mr Jacob

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Robinson, Gavin

Robinson, Mary

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, rh Amber

Rutley, David

Sandbach, Antoinette

Scully, Paul

Selous, Andrew

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simpson, rh Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Royston

Soames, rh Sir Nicholas

Solloway, Amanda

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mark

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Stuart, Graham

Sturdy, Julian

Sunak, Rishi

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Thomas, Derek

Throup, Maggie

Timpson, Edward

Tolhurst, Kelly

Tomlinson, Justin

Tomlinson, Michael

Tracey, Craig

Tredinnick, David

Trevelyan, Mrs Anne-Marie

Truss, rh Elizabeth

Tugendhat, Tom

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, rh Mr Andrew

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Warburton, David

Warman, Matt

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Wharton, James

Whately, Helen

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, rh Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Craig

Williamson, rh Gavin

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wood, Mike

Wragg, William

Wright, rh Jeremy

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Simon Kirby


Mel Stride

Question accordingly negatived.

23 Jun 2015 : Column 804

23 Jun 2015 : Column 805

23 Jun 2015 : Column 806

23 Jun 2015 : Column 807

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair.

Bill reported, without amendment.

Third Reading

3.36 pm

Mr Gauke: I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The Bill gives UK approval to the financing aspects of the 2013 EU budget deal. As hon. Members will recall, in 2013, the Prime Minister secured a deal that delivered the first ever real-terms cut to the EU budget and preserved our rebate. If we are tightening our belts at home, we should not be spending more through

23 Jun 2015 : Column 808

the EU—and thanks to the Prime Minister’s historic deal, we are not. It is a good deal for the taxpayer now and over the coming years.

In addition to forcing restraint on EU expenditure on the revenue side, it was a specific UK objective that there would be no new types of member state contribution; no new EU-wide taxes to finance EU spending; and no change to the UK rebate. That is precisely what we achieved. The political agreement at the February 2013 European Council was accurately reflected in the new own resources decision. This sets out the system of financing the EU budget until 2020, and was agreed unanimously by member states at a meeting of the Council of Ministers in May 2014.

Hon. Members will have noted that the ORD reintroduces reductions in the gross national income-based contributions of the Netherlands and Sweden, and introduces small reductions in those contributions for Denmark and Austria. The UK will contribute to these small corrections, but this will largely be offset by changes to other corrections. The UK has always supported the principle of budgetary corrections set out at the 1984 Fontainebleau European Council, which gave us our own rebate. In the absence of any meaningful reform on the expenditure side of the EU budget, we believe that those member states that, like the UK, make disproportionately large net contributions in relation to their prosperity, should receive corrections.

The Bill will give UK approval to the unanimous agreement on the new ORD—an agreement that maintains the existing system of financing the EU budget. That means no new types of member state contributions; no new EU-wide taxes to finance EU spending; and, crucially, no change to our rebate.

This agreement is in our national interest. It also serves as an important reminder of what can be done when we are tough, constructive, positive and determined in negotiations with European partners. The agreement that will be implemented by this Bill is a good deal for Britain and a good deal for Europe, and I commend it to the House.

3.39 pm

Barbara Keeley: I am glad that new clauses 1 and 2 were discussed earlier. Given the result of the vote, I urge the Minister to consider the importance of keeping EU budget spending under review. As I said earlier, the system of commitments and payments is worrying. We want a system of budgetary control, not a system that drives up the pressure for increases through unpaid bills and commitments made in years past.

I also urge the Minister to continue to focus on the need for reform of EU budget priorities, which we spent some time discussing, and, in particular, on the need to increase funding for competitiveness, jobs and growth. It is important for Ministers to be able to reshape EU budget priorities, but, following our discussions, I am not sure that they have that ability.

The Minister resisted our amendments, and resisted our requests for him to make a sensible undertaking that would have removed the necessity for a vote. His position on our amendment and new clauses suggests that he is content with the reports and reviews that are trundling along in the EU, and it does not send the strong message that could be sent about the need for

23 Jun 2015 : Column 809

enhanced scrutiny and reformed priorities. That is a pity, and I hope that the Minister will continue to reflect on it.

3.40 pm

Alex Salmond: Thinking back to all the Committee sittings, I recall that the Minister did not feel able to give an effective answer to questions about the Prime Minister’s negotiating stance in relation to the forthcoming European question and, particularly, European finances. He was asked a number of times—by me and by other Members, including Labour Front Benchers—what would be distinctive about that stance, and what the Prime Minister’s precise objectives were. The Minister responded by telling us that the Government’s objective was to minimise the EU budget, to ensure that it was efficient, and to protect the rebate, but that has been Government policy for a number of years. What really interested Members was whether the Prime Minister had a specific intent and negotiating stance, and what his objectives were. We were interested in those questions in the context of European finances, so that we could judge his success or failure after the negotiations.

If the Minister does not feel able to provide an answer to what strikes me as a very reasonable and fair question, he will add to and fuel suspicions among both pro- and anti-Europeans in the House that it is not just a question of the Prime Minister’s having a stance, but of the Prime Minister and the Government deliberately concealing the nature of that stance from the House and the country, so that it will not be possible for them to be judged effectively when the negotiations are over. That seems to me to be a fundamentally

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unsatisfactory way to proceed in regard to any financial issue, let alone an issue as important as European finance.

The Minister shakes his head. I hope that, if he disagrees, he will intervene and reveal what the Prime Minister’s stance actually is, because we are all mystified by what the targets are in the negotiations that are at this moment taking place in various European capitals. The Prime Minister, on our behalf and at our expense, is moving from capital to capital, and the only people who are not to be informed of his actual negotiating posture are the Members of this House and the people of this country. That is a remarkable position.

I am familiar with the Minister’s steady hand at the Dispatch Box, and with his wonderful cover drive. I know that he would not want, at the very last minute of the Bill’s progress in the House of Commons, to be caught at slip in not answering a simple question: what are the Prime Minister’s negotiating targets, and how will we be able to judge whether he has achieved them?

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.

Business of the House (Today)


That, at today’s sitting, the Speaker shall put the questions necessary to dispose of the motion in the name of Secretary Patrick McLoughlin relating to High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill: Instruction (No. 3) not later than 90 minutes after the start of proceedings on this motion; such questions shall include the questions on any amendments selected by the Speaker which may then be moved; proceedings may continue, though opposed, after the moment of interruption; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.—(Mr Goodwill.)

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High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill: Instruction (No. 3)

3.44 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill): I beg to move,

That it be a further Instruction to the Select Committee to which the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill is committed–

(1) that the Select Committee have power to consider–

(a) amendments relating to the vertical and horizontal alignment of the proposed railway in the vicinity of the A38 and Trent and Mersey Canal in the parishes of Fradley and Streethay, King's Bromley and Whittington in the County of Staffordshire;

(b) amendments conferring additional power to carry out works in the Borough of Slough and in the parish of Iver in the County of Buckinghamshire for the purpose of providing a new Heathrow Express depot in the Borough of Slough (to the north east of Langley railway station), in consequence of the displacement of the existing depot because of the exercise of powers conferred by the Bill;

(c) amendments conferring additional power to provide sidings for Crossrail services at Old Oak Common in the London Boroughs of Ealing and Hammersmith and Fulham that could be extended in the future to create a connection between the West Coast Main Line Railway and the Great Western Main Line;

(d) amendments to accommodate the requirements of landowners and occupiers in

i. the London Boroughs of Brent and Ealing;

ii. the parishes of Barton Hartshorn, Calvert Green, Chetwode, Great Missenden, Grendon Underwood, Little Missenden, Preston Bissett, The Lee and Twyford in the County of Buckinghamshire;

iii. the parishes of Godington and Mixbury in the County of Oxfordshire;

iv. the parishes of Aston-le-Walls, Boddington, Chipping Warden and Edgcote, Greatworth, Radstone, Thorpe Mandeville and Whitfield in the County of Northamptonshire;

v. the parishes of Burton Green, Coleshill, Curdworth, Kenilworth, Ladbroke, Lea Marston, Middleton, Offchurch, Southam, Stoneleigh, Stoneton, Wishaw and Moxhull and Wormleighton in the County of Warwickshire;

vi. the parishes of Armitage with Handsacre, Drayton Bassett, Hints with Canwell, King's Bromley, Swinfen and Packington and Whittington in the County of Staffordshire;

vii. the parishes of Balsall, Berkswell, Chelmsley Wood and Hampton-in-Arden in the Metropolitan Borough of Solihull; and

viii. the City of Birmingham;

(e) amendments to accommodate changes to the design of the works authorised by the Bill in:

i. the London Boroughs of Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham and Hillingdon and the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea;

ii. the District of Three Rivers in the County of Hertfordshire;

iii. the parishes of Chetwode, Denham, Ellesborough, Great Missenden, Grendon Underwood, Little Missenden, Preston Bissett, Quainton, Steeple Claydon, Stoke Mandeville, Turweston, Twyford and Wendover in the County of Buckinghamshire;

iv. the parishes of Godington and Mixbury in the County of Oxfordshire;

v. the parishes of Aston-le-Walls, Boddington, Greatworth, Marston St Lawrence, Radstone and Thorpe Mandeville in the County of Northamptonshire;

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vi. the parishes of Coleshill, Curdworth, Kingsbury, Lea Marston, Middleton, Offchurch, Radbourne and Stoneleigh in the County of Warwickshire;

vii. the parishes of Colwich, Drayton Bassett, Fradley and Streethay, Hints with Canwell, King's Bromley, Swinfen and Packington and Weeford in the County of Staffordshire;

viii. the parishes of Berkswell and Bickenhill in the Metropolitan Borough of Solihull;

ix. the City of Birmingham;

(f) amendments to the definition of "deposited statement" in clause 63(1) of the Bill to refer to supplementary environmental information provided in relation to matters which do not require an extension of the powers of the Bill to construct works or acquire land;

(g) amendments for purposes connected with any of the matters mentioned in sub paragraphs (a) to (f);

(2) that any petition against amendments to the Bill which the Select Committee is empowered to make shall be referred to the Select Committee if–

a) the petition is presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office not later than the end of the period of four weeks beginning with the day on which the first newspaper notice of the amendments was published, and

(b) the petition is one in which the petitioners pray to be heard by themselves or through counsel or agents.

That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.

The motion relates to the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill that is currently before a Select Committee of this House. The role of that Committee is to hear petitions against the Bill from those who are, to use the legal term, “directly and specially affected” by it. The Committee, under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr Syms), has already heard more petitions in 11 months than the Crossrail Bill Select Committee dealt with in its entire 21 months of sitting.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): But does this not demonstrate the rather crass way in which HS2 initially dealt with our constituents? I should like to praise the work of my hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr Syms). He has a unique ability to put constituents’ minds at ease when they feel tense as they appear before a Select Committee.

Mr Goodwill: I would extend that praise to the other members of the Committee, who have dealt very well with people who can be nervous in that situation. I should also like to take this opportunity to praise the work done by my officials at HS2, who have gone the extra mile to address some of the petition issues before they even needed to reach the Committee.

As intended, the process has led to many sensible changes to the scheme in order to address the needs and concerns of petitioners. Some of the changes have been agreed by HS2 Ltd dealing directly with petitioners, and some were recommended in the Select Committee’s recent interim report, to which the Government responded on 4 June. Many changes can be accommodated using existing powers, but some require the powers in the Bill to be extended—for example, when a change requires the use of land that is not included in the Bill. In such circumstances, an additional provision is required. This is effectively a mini-hybrid Bill, with its own environmental statement and petitioning period for those “directly and specially affected” by the changes.

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The motion relates to an additional provision that, subject to it being passed, the Government intend to deposit on 13 July. The additional provision contains 125 changes, along the line of route beyond Camden, that have resulted from the petitioning process and from HS2 Ltd’s continued development of the design of the railway. The changes are mostly of a minor nature. They include the realignment of access routes and the diversion of footpaths following discussions with affected landowners, or the relocation of areas of ecological mitigation to reduce the impacts on farming operations. I am tempted to say that this is a tidying-up process, but I recall that that was how some described the Lisbon treaty.

There are, however, proposals for three significant changes. As already announced, we propose to realign the route in the Lichfield area so that it runs in a cutting rather than on an embankment, as well as moving the route away from the Trent and Mersey canal. This will enable the line to go under the A38, the South Staffordshire railway and the west coast main line, which will significantly reduce the visual impact of the railway in the area. I hope the House will welcome this example of the promoter seeking to take on board petitioners’ concerns and integrate them into the HS2 project where we are able to do so. I am particularly pleased that, in this case, the solution will be less expensive to deliver.

Sir Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con): Will the Minister tell the House what effect those route changes will have on the proposed journey times?

Mr Goodwill: They will have no effect at all on the journey times. This is about delivering the project by and large as planned. HS2 is more about capacity than it is about journey times. This is about addressing the real capacity issues that we have on our rail network, particularly between Birmingham and London.

The most significant other change concerns the Heathrow Express depot. It is currently located at Old Oak Common, but it needs to be relocated in order to construct the new Old Oak Common station. It was originally intended to be moved to another site nearby, but more detailed operational work undertaken by Network Rail since the Bill’s deposit has revealed that that site would not work operationally. We therefore propose to relocate the depot to a site in Langley, near Slough.

Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): Will the Minister shed more light on his statement that this “would not work operationally”? What I have heard on the grapevine, which has been my only source of information, is that there is more potential to make money out of the Old Oak site than out of the Langley site, and so Network Rail wants a depot out and more commercial development in.

Mr Goodwill: We looked closely at the North Pole depot site, but the Langley site is operationally more effective, and it also means that we would not block any proposal that might come forward for the Great Western line to connect with Crossrail at terminal 5.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): Will the Minister explain what he means by “operationally more effective”, because to any normal person it would seem odd that

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it is “operationally more effective” to have a depot that is not even on the route between Heathrow and Paddington?

Mr Goodwill: In these matters we are advised by Network Rail, which informs us that the practicality of operating these depots is such that the Langley site is the best one on which to locate this depot.

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): In considering the Langley site, what work has been done on the knock-on consequences for transport within the Iver area? I ask that because there are specific schemes to relieve the heavy goods vehicle problem that is besetting Iver, and it is widely concluded that the project being proposed here will prevent those schemes from happening. In particular, I refer to the relief road into the back of the Ridgeway trading estate. This matters very much and will have to be sorted out if this proposal is to go ahead.

Mr Goodwill: Those are precisely the sort of issues that petitioners can come forward with as part of the hybrid Bill process that this additional provision triggers. May I make it clear that we are not, at this point, considering agreement on these changes? This is about setting the process in train so that these points can be made and the Committee can look at them.

Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Lab): Will the Minister clarify that last point? Will an environmental impact study be carried out on the difference between the two possible depot sites? Has that been considered or is it something that will come further down the line, if he will pardon the pun?

Mr Goodwill: There will indeed be an environmental statement to address the impact that will arise from the 18 changes that require additional powers in the Bill—for example, a new location for the replacement village hall for Burton Green. An environmental statement will accompany those additional provisions, and some changes that do not require additional provisions will also have their own environmental statement, which will allow those particularly important environmental considerations to be discussed.

The additional provision includes powers to build sidings for Crossrail at Old Oak Common which may in future enable a link to be built between Crossrail and the west coast main line. That is not in itself part of HS2, but doing the work after HS2 is built would incur significant expense and disruption.

Dr Rupa Huq (Ealing Central and Acton) (Lab): It is good that these points made by homeowners have been addressed. On Old Oak Common, what compensation is available to residents in Wells House Road and Midland Terrace in NW10, because they say that their suburban way of life will be demolished? Their gardens are being compulsorily purchased and then they will also have to deal with noise, disruption and all sorts of other things for 10 years. Whatever compensation scheme—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. You can sit down and relax for a second, as I want to try to be helpful. The hon. Lady has just come in and normally I would just let that go, but we must have short interventions.

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If she wants to catch my eye to speak, I am more than happy for that to happen. That might be a good way to address this, but we must have short interventions as this debate will last only an hour and a half. Wherever I can be helpful, I will be.

Mr Goodwill: The hon. Lady makes precisely the point that has already been raised by many residents about the existing provision before the hybrid Bill Committee. The additional provisions in AP2 will also allow them to have that say, so that, if necessary, mitigation can be put in place to lessen the impact of construction traffic and to look at alternative routes for traffic and other such things. I have been down the line of route, and I do understand many of the problems. Indeed, I was in Slough on Sunday, and saw the site from the train. I know exactly where it is located.

Robert Flello: On the future-proofing issue, the Minister may possibly be aware that I have a certain interest in Stoke-on-Trent being serviced ideally by HS2 directly. However, is the Handsacre junction also being future proofed to protect areas such as Stoke-on-Trent? Do these provisions address that?

Mr Goodwill: That matter does not specifically relate to measures in AP2. Where possible, we will ensure that, as we construct the railway line, we do not rule out other connections, which is precisely the point that I made about the west coast main line.

The changes in total will not increase the overall project budget or target price for phase 1. They result in modest additional costs, but they will be accommodated within the contingency, which is provided for that very purpose.

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): Will the Minister tell us what the total additional land take is for these provisions?

Mr Goodwill: I do not have those figures to hand, but it is minimal. In most of the additional provisions, which are in the document that has been provided for the convenience of the House, we can see that these are quite small additional areas of land. They are not major changes to the project, but tweaks. In many cases, they are changes made at the request of the landowner or farmer involved because it improves their situation.

As required by Standing Orders, we will be depositing an estimated expense, setting out the gross costs of these changes should the motion be approved. The motion instructs the Committee to consider these amendments and to hear petitions related to them. It is important to note that the motion does not ask the House to agree that these changes should be made; just that the Committee be allowed to consider them. If the House approves the motion, the additional provision and related documents, including an environmental statement describing the likely significant environmental effects of the changes, will be deposited in Parliament and in local authority offices in those locations affected by the changes.

Michael Fabricant: I am a little bit curious about the process. What is to prevent a ping-pong taking place, such as we have between the House of Commons and

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the other place, whereby petitioners say that they do not agree with the changes, and so subsequent changes are made? How does the process end?

Mr Goodwill: In most cases, there will be support for these changes. Indeed, as I have already said, many of the changes are at the request of the landowners who are, in many cases, the only people who are affected. In future, it may be necessary to come up with more additional provisions, and we certainly have that option.

Mrs Caroline Spelman (Meriden) (Con): Does my hon. Friend accept that, from the moment of the publication of a document showing the new changes in the site, blight afflicts the properties that are close to the areas affected by these amendments? As a Member of Parliament, I received this document only this morning. My parish council was already aware of the changes. It is an interested party in these changes, but not the landowner.

Mr Goodwill: That document has been provided for the convenience of the House to help with today’s process. The definitive document will be published on 13 July, and that will be the document on which any submissions on the petitioning process can be made. In addition, a supplementary environmental statement will also be deposited. That describes any new or different significant environmental effects that may arise, informed by new survey data that have become available since the deposit of the Bill, as HS2 Ltd has now been granted access to more land. As I have said, those deposits are all planned for 13 July. These documents will supersede the explanatory note made available in advance to MPs and published online last week.

I would like to make Members aware of two minor errors in the document. A change described on page 68 in Berkswell in the constituency of Meriden, while being correctly described and having the correct map, had the wrong plan. One other change relating to a footpath had the correct information provided, but did not clearly highlight the full extent of the footpath that will be amended on page 70. The documents to be deposited on 13 July will contain the full information.

As required by Standing Orders, notices in national and local newspapers will be published immediately after deposit, alerting the public to these changes and the opportunity to feed into the process by petitioning or responding to the consultation, as appropriate. In addition, HS2 Ltd will be writing to those near the proposed changes to highlight the consultation. Once the notices have appeared, a public consultation on the environmental statement lasting 42 days, in accordance with Standing Orders, will commence. This is planned to run from Friday 17 July to Friday 28 August. As with the main environmental statement consultation at the time of Bill deposit, the responses to the consultation will be analysed by Parliament’s independent assessor and the assessor’s report will be tabled in the House ahead of Third Reading.

Mrs Gillan: Is it not a great shame that once again there is going to be a truncated consultation period for this increase in land take? Also, has the Minister considered the fact that the consultation is taking place over the summer? Many of the people who want to feed back on this may be away.

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Mr Goodwill: I am sure that my right hon. Friend realises that people go on holidays at all times of the year. Indeed, if we moved into the September period, many would argue that that is the party conference season and therefore those involved in politics might not be available. I am aware that there is a major leadership campaign going on in at least one of our political parties, which could also be seen as a reason why one time or another might not be appropriate. I believe that the four-week period is absolutely appropriate. We have had no problems in the past with people being able to provide their petitions.

There will also be a petitioning period of four weeks for those directly or specially affected by the changes in this second additional provision, so that they can submit petitions. That petitioning period will begin on Friday 17 July and end on Friday 14 August for all petitioners.

I hope that the House will agree that these amendments demonstrate that while the Government recognise the vital role that HS2 has to play in transforming our transport network and our economy, we also recognise the need to listen to those directly affected by the railway and, wherever possible, seek to mitigate those impacts. I commend the motion to the House.

4.2 pm

Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab): I am glad that we are holding this HS2 debate on national women in engineering day. I am sure the whole House would agree that the Government’s investment in rail must be used to encourage more women to take up careers in engineering and in the rail industry.

I welcome the Minister back to his place. I had, of course, hoped to be speaking from his side of the House after the election. I was relishing the possibility of taking ministerial responsibility for the content of each and every one of the Bill’s 50,000 pages, but I reassure the House that the Opposition will continue to subject the Government’s delivery of this important project to close scrutiny.

I want to express our gratitude for the work undertaken by the Bill’s Select Committee, including the Clerks of the Committee, my hon. Friends the Members for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) and for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi), the hon. Members for Poole (Mr Syms), for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley) and for North West Norfolk (Mr Bellingham), and Mike Thornton, the former Member for Eastleigh. I am sure the whole House will want to place on record its appreciation of the time and effort spent by residents and other affected parties who appeared before the Committee, and to thank the outside bodies and Members of this House who provided support to petitioning.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): I would like to put on the record my appreciation for the Select Committee, which visited some of the problem areas that we have in Coventry and also visited those people the wrong side of the dividing line who would not qualify for compensation. I hope that the Committee, the Minister and the Secretary of State will remember that a lot of people’s livelihoods depend on this, and their property has been rendered valueless.