The situation of women in prison is relevant to domestic violence. We know that a huge contributory factor to the number of women in prison is abuse and violence earlier in their lives. Often the misery and disruption brought on by violence is a factor that drives women directly into the criminal justice process. Just as it is important that we prevent violence in the home, so it is important that we do not perpetuate the cycle in our prisons or condemn women and their families to a life scarred by their involvement with the criminal justice system. The plans to close Holloway prison, which were announced as part of the comprehensive spending review, are very welcome, and I am sure that the future shape of women’s prisons will be informed by the reformist and positive language we heard from the Prime Minister at the Conservative party conference and from the Secretary of State for Justice. If more can be done through the use

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of non-custodial sentences, it will have a big effect on the welfare of families and children.

We know that the strongest positive agent of change in social policy is the growing affluence that a strong economy supports. It drives greater cohesion in our communities, improves public health outcomes, reduces crime and does much to level out inequalities and challenge discriminatory attitudes in our society. There will always be more that the Government can do to encourage businesses and individuals towards positive attitudes and outcomes, but it is clear that the best thing they can do—for men and women—is enable the strong economic growth outlined in the comprehensive spending review.

6.33 pm

Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab): I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) for opening today’s debate. It is also a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Portsmouth South (Mrs Drummond),as I hope to work with her on the new all-party parliamentary group on women and work.

Women form over half the UK population, yet their contribution to the economy is sadly not equal, and I fear that, thanks to the decisions of this Government, they will form an even smaller contribution to the economy. The right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller),under whom I have the honour to serve on the Women and Equalities Select Committee, said that we cannot address many of the issues raised in this debate without a stronger economy. My question is, how will the Government ensure that women benefit equally from the economic growth that they predict? Far too many women feel that they are not benefiting from whatever growth may be taking place now.

According to the Women’s Budget Group, pursuing deficit reduction on the back of women—particularly lone mothers and single female pensioners, who are the most affected—is just plain wrong. If the Government had the slightest interest in fairness, they would conduct a detailed impact assessment and a review, and, if they were prepared to do so, they would revise some of their decisions as a consequence.

Why does there need to be a women’s perspective on the economy? Let us look at pay. My hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston once told us about a meeting that she had had with a group of women in Camden who had recently been granted the living wage—the true living wage. One of the women had said that those extra few pounds an hour enabled her to save a bit of money each month, and that she hoped eventually to save enough to go on holiday with her family. Those extra few pounds meant a great deal to her, because she had never had a holiday before.

Moreover, the little impact of the payment of a living wage by that woman’s employer was not only good for her and for her colleagues, but good for the company for which they worked, because the resulting increase in staff satisfaction led to higher retention rates. The company had generally found that 40 vacancies needed to be filled, but this year they needed to fill only two. Moreover, the change benefited not just that woman, her colleagues and their families, but the local economy where she lived, and the economy of whatever area she visited

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when she went on holiday, which may have been a part of the United Kingdom that depends on the pounds that are spent by holidaymakers.

The fact that a large section of our workforce are on low incomes that the Chancellor’s changes will not address is not only bad for women, but bad for children, bad for business and bad for the economy, both local and national. As the economy is the underpinning element of the debate, I shall now quote from an important document. It states:

“Ensuring that women achieve their full potential will have a significant impact on our economy:

Equalising women’s productivity and employment to the same levels as men’s could add almost £600 billion to our economy. This could clear a third of our national debt.”

Who said that? In fact, it was in the foreword to the Government’s consultation paper on the gender pay gap, which was written by the Minister for Women and Equalities, the right hon. Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan).

I am pleased to note that the Government have taken some lessons from the last Labour Government, including the lesson that, for most women—especially women on low pay—childcare is a barrier to labour market participation. However, if Members want to hark back to the awful days of previous Governments—as some did earlier—I am happy to oblige. My children were under-fives under the last Conservative Government, in the mid-1990s, and we had to pay our childminder out of our after-tax income. At that time, many women, especially lone parents, were effectively excluded from the job market. The Labour Government introduced tax credit, childcare vouchers and the Sure Start initiative.

We welcome the spirit of the current Government’s Childcare Bill, which offers five hours a week more childcare than the Labour manifesto, but, unlike the Labour offer, the Conservative offer was initially underfunded, and there are still a great many questions to which the Government must respond if they are to persuade us that that childcare will be flexible and affordable.

Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (SNP) rose—

Mr Speaker: Order. The shadow Chief Secretary must begin her speech at 6.40, but the hon. Gentleman can speak briefly now.

6.38 pm

Ian Blackford: I want to raise, very briefly, the issue of unfairness to women and pensioners. Today, at the Institute for Government, the former Pensions Minister said,

“we made a bad decision”,

referring to state pension age rises. I think that many of us would agree with that statement, especially in the light of previous pension age changes which allowed a transition period of 15 years. Women are being penalised by the fact that the period is only five years for the current changes. Will the Government urgently recognise that this is a wrong that must be righted? Women must be protected. The Government must act now.

Mr Speaker: Splendid succinctness by the hon. Gentleman, upon which he is to be congratulated.

9 Dec 2015 : Column 1099

6.39 pm

Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op): I thank all hon. Members who have made thoughtful contributions in this important debate. They include the hon. Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley), the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller), my hon. Friend Member for Sunderland Central (Julie Elliott), the hon. Members for South Ribble (Seema Kennedy), for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Mhairi Black), and for Eastleigh (Mims Davies), my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh), the hon. Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood), my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern)—we extend happy birthday wishes to her daughter—the hon. Member for Lewes (Maria Caulfield), my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley), the hon. Member for Portsmouth South (Mrs Drummond), my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury), and the hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford). I acknowledge the important issues that they have raised: equal pay, the impact of the tribunal fees, the cost to the economy of women’s unequal participation, degendering, stereotyping and the impact of the unequal changes to the state pension age. We are having this debate because the Chancellor’s economic choices are hurting, not helping, women. It is a small step in the historic fight for women’s progress. Yes, we have made great progress over the years and we are proud of what women in previous generations and today have achieved, but the Government now threaten that progress, particularly for the women in our society who have the least.

We still face huge inequalities. Women participate in the labour market on an unequal basis. Forty-two per cent. of women in employment work part time compared with 13% of men. Almost 800,000 women are unemployed and in all UK nations and regions the women’s employment rate is lower than that for men. Although we know that overall employment has risen, over half that growth has been in jobs where there is low pay.

In STEM subjects, the inequalities are stark. According to the latest labour force survey quoted by the WISE campaign, women make up only 14% of people working in STEM occupations. Things are getting worse, not better, under this Government, with women paying the price for the Chancellor’s failure. Eighty-one per cent. of the burden of his tax and benefit changes have been borne by women. Women have seen cuts to their personal and household income, impacting their ability to make ends meet and to save. The gender pay gap is over 19%, well above the EU average, and we now know that the gap is closing more slowly than in the last decade. Over 1.5 million women already in part-time work would like to work more hours but cannot get them.

Instead of women being supported in work, under the Government, maternity discrimination has doubled and one in nine pregnant women and new mothers are forced out of work. The Government’s helping hand in the form of employment tribunal fees means that those mums need to pay £1,200 to bring forward a claim.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission “Is Britain Fairer” report shows that women are far more likely to have no qualifications than men. We know that women are far less likely to be in senior positions in our

9 Dec 2015 : Column 1100

professions. That is bad for business. As new research shows this week, companies with more women on their board have shown a 36% better return on equity since 2010. What about the entrepreneurship gender gap? It is two and a half times bigger than that of France or Germany. That is a huge price that we all pay for this inequality.

The Government’s own research states that equalising women’s productivity and employment could add almost £600 billion to our economy, providing the growth and tax receipts that we need to get the deficit down. The “Closing the Gender Pay Gap” report states that our economy is losing out because women’s academic achievements, experience and talents are not being fully utilised, and all this when we have the lowest productivity in the G7. Last year saw the productivity gap with our G7 competitors widen to 20 points, the worst on record.

Hitting women three times as hard as men is yet another false economy. When we should be seeing a Government on the side of women in our national economic interest, we see the opposite. The Women’s Budget Group has shown that lone mothers and single female pensioners are set to lose most from the spending review decisions over this Parliament. Rather than wanting to know the impact of their policies on women, the Tories have scrapped Labour’s equality impact assessments, calling them pointless. The autumn statement did not come with the impact assessment we would expect, showing the impact of the Chancellor’s changes on women.

We should also mention how much impact the Government’s Trade Union Bill will have on working women. Unionised workplaces have better flexible working and support for women returning to work after maternity leave. I am pleased, but surprised, that the Minister mentioned Dagenham given what the Government have chosen to do to trade unions. The Trade Union Bill puts these hard-won rights at risk and we on this side stand shoulder to shoulder with the first female TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, and other trade unions in fighting this pernicious bill.

This is a Government who do not want to know the truth, or want people to know the truth, about their choices. Just as with tax credits, the Government tried to hide the impact of their changes. Over 3.2 million working families were set to lose an average of £1,300 from next April. We now see history repeating itself. These cuts to working tax credits are merely being delayed and disguised.

Here is the assessment from the House of Commons Library: a lone parent with two children on the enhanced minimum wage for over-25-year-olds will lose £2,800 as a result of the Chancellor’s changes to universal credit, and we know that 92% of lone parents are women. So let us be clear: this Government’s economic policies are hurting, not helping, women.

The uncertainties around funding for the social care sector and the social infrastructure are also set to hit women harder than men. This will result in women bearing an unfair burden for ever-increasing unpaid or underpaid care work. To quote the United Nations:

“When more women work, economies grow.”

And when women do well, children do well. Evidence from a range of countries quoted by UN Women shows that increasing the share of household income controlled

9 Dec 2015 : Column 1101

by women, either through their own earnings or cash transfers, changes spending in ways that benefit children. This is even more poignant at a time when we know that as a result of this Government’s choices over 500,000 more children are growing up in absolute poverty.

So what do we need? We need to see an economy with far more equal opportunities for women and support for them to progress in the job market. We need women to have access to the jobs of the future and the support they need to help them stay there. To balance the books, we need to balance the economy, and to balance the economy, we need to see a renewed focus on women’s economic equality.

We need a Government who are on the side of women. Instead, we have a Government who are turning the clock back. The Chancellor may not care, but he should care, as he is managing the country’s economy. If he wants to make a start in addressing his failures, he should take up Labour’s call that he carry out a full cumulative assessment of all Government policy since 2010 to analyse the impact on women, and he should commit to publishing a full, comprehensive, meaningful gender equality strategy that addresses the economic and social discrimination and disadvantage experienced by women. Women need it, and our country needs it. That is why I hope all Members of this House will join us in the Aye Lobby tonight.

6.48 pm

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Harriett Baldwin): This has been an historic debate, because it has been a debate with women at the Dispatch Box, by women in the Chamber, chaired for most of the time by a woman—and we also had some contributions from men.

The first duty of a Government is certainty to protect economic and national security, extending opportunity and aspiration to every girl and boy, allowing every woman and man to fulfil their potential, and giving older people dignity in retirement. The Government are managing the economy and the public finances properly, and as a result, we are enabling job creation, increasing wages, increasing job security, cutting income tax and helping parents with more free childcare in an economy that is 12% larger than when we took office in 2010.

Do women have economic equality yet? They do not. Women in our country still earn less, own less and retire with less than men. We can agree that all political parties seek to make progress on those issues.

Barbara Keeley: The Minister recognises that women retire with less. That really affects the women we have heard about in this debate who were born in the 1950s, who had to wait six more years to retire and are now living on very little. Has she heard what has been said in this debate? Will she take it away and talk to colleagues about it?

Harriett Baldwin: I will, of course, come on to address some of the points raised in the debate. Although there is political consensus that we must make progress on women’s economic issues, our parties will approach that progress differently. My party will stress more equal opportunity, more aspiration, higher skills and higher standards in education, while the Labour party will

9 Dec 2015 : Column 1102

seek to tax women more, borrow more debt on behalf of women, their children and their grandchildren, and create more welfare poverty traps for women.

Today’s Opposition motion shows why the Labour party can never again be trusted to run our economy. In their motion on the Order Paper, the Opposition assume that mixed-gender households do not share incomes. That is quite an assumption. They assume that spending less on public services invariably leads to poorer services—something that we have comprehensively disproved over the past five years. They even imply that the billions and billions of pounds of tax cuts that have led to lower petrol prices at the pump do not help women. I have heard it said before that Labour wants to take us back to the 1970s, but this is more like the Harry Enfield sketch about the 1930s. I will try to imitate him: “Women, know your limits and, for pity’s sake, don’t drive!”

At best, the motion shows unconscious bias. At worst, it shows the latent sexism of a sexist Labour leadership. The motion says, “Don’t invest in infrastructure, because it’s not women who build things.” Where do I start with that?

Kate Green: Of course women drive cars and of course income is shared in many households, but we know that when income is in the hands of women, they make different choices in the interests of their families and their children. The Minister must recognise that fact. It is asserted by the United Nations and has been understood by social policy research going back many decades. I wish she would acknowledge it.

Harriett Baldwin: I wish the hon. Lady would acknowledge a few of the facts that I am about to share about women in the economy. The calculations that she has been citing all afternoon do not include these basic facts. There are more women in work than ever before in this country. We have the highest female employment rate ever. We also have the lowest gender pay gap since records began.

Seema Malhotra rose

Ruth Cadbury rose

Harriett Baldwin: I will make some progress. We want to make sure that the pay gap narrows further and faster. From next year, we will require large companies to publish differences in pay.

Ian Blackford rose

Harriett Baldwin: I do not have much time, so I will make a bit of progress. Some 56% of the people who have been taken out of income tax altogether—in other words, who have had a 100% reduction in their income tax—through our increases to the personal allowance are women. Some 58% of those who receive the state pension are women—I will address the point made by the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley) in a moment—and we have protected that under the triple lock. Almost two thirds of the people who will benefit from our introduction of the national living wage are women. Since 2010, women’s employment has increased faster than in the three previous Parliaments combined.

9 Dec 2015 : Column 1103

Let us compare and contrast that with the record of the previous Labour Government, under which the number of unemployed women rose by more than 200,000, or 25%. The fastest way to damage the livelihoods of hard-working women and families is to lose control of the public finances. That is the damage that we have had to fix, and we are making sure that that catastrophic situation does not happen again.

I want to address some of the important points raised today in a range of speeches—speeches from the hon. Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley), my right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller), the hon. Member for Sunderland Central (Julie Elliott), my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Seema Kennedy), the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Mhairi Black), my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mims Davies), the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh), my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood), the hon. Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern), my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Maria Caulfield), the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley), my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth South (Mrs Drummond), the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury) and the hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford).

A number of people have mentioned part-time work. It is worth remembering that 80% of the people who work part time do so because they want to. However, I agree wholeheartedly with the Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, my right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke, who said that she wanted greater equality in the form of more men working part time. There is evidence that that is beginning to happen, enabling shared parental responsibilities to be shared more equally.

Seema Malhotra rose

Harriett Baldwin: I want to address the points raised in the debate. A number of people mentioned the importance of women choosing STEM subjects at school. I am sure that Members on both sides of the House will welcome the sharp increase in the number of young women taking physics and chemistry at A-level. Careers advice was also mentioned, and it is certainly important to explain to women that a range of opportunities exist for them, and that everything should be open to them.

The women’s state pension age was mentioned a number of times, but no one pointed out that all the women affected by the change in the state pension age will benefit from the new higher state pension, or that the simplified state pension will enable women to take into account many more years that they may have spent engaged in caring responsibilities.

I would not want the Members who talked about the incredibly important issue of domestic violence to create the perception that there has not been an increase in domestic violence refuge provision, because there has. There are 13 new domestic violence refuges in this country, and the number of beds that refuges have available has increased from 3,216 in 2013 to 3,472 in 2015. [Interruption.]

9 Dec 2015 : Column 1104

Seema Malhotra: Would the Minister like to comment on the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) has just made from a sedentary position on those refuge figures, which was that the Minister was making them up?

Harriett Baldwin: I can give the hon. Lady the source, which is the online system, and I will write to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) about this.

I am proud to serve in a Government who have done so much to help women of working age, and who have improved the state pension for women in retirement. The foundations of this improvement are, of course, our sound management of the economy, which is delivering growth, jobs, security and a higher standard of living. The previous Labour Government failed to provide women with greater financial security, and Labour Members have opposed our economic reforms at every stage. They failed to support giving girls the best possible education. They failed to support women in work. They failed to address the lack of women at the top in business, just as they have failed to address the lack of women in top jobs in their party today.

The Labour party is determined to fight the 1983 general election all over again. A woman won that election, and thanks to the result of that election we are once again winning economic security, economic opportunity and real economic aspiration for women. I urge my colleagues—

Mr Alan Campbell (Tynemouth) (Lab) claimed to move the closure (Standing Order No.36).

Question put forthwith, That the Question be now put.

Question agreed to.

Main Question accordingly put.

The House divided:

Ayes 243, Noes 290.

Division No. 147]


6.59 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ahmed-Sheikh, Ms Tasmina

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Arkless, Richard

Ashworth, Jonathan

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bardell, Hannah

Barron, rh Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Black, Mhairi

Blackford, Ian

Blackman, Kirsty

Blackman-Woods, Dr Roberta

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Boswell, Philip

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brock, Deidre

Brown, Alan

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burgon, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Butler, Dawn

Cadbury, Ruth

Cameron, Dr Lisa

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Douglas

Chapman, Jenny

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, Julie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, rh Jeremy

Cowan, Ronnie

Cox, Jo

Coyle, Neil

Crausby, Mr David

Crawley, Angela

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

David, Wayne

Davies, Geraint

Day, Martyn

De Piero, Gloria

Docherty, Martin John

Donaldson, Stuart Blair

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Dowd, Peter

Durkan, Mark

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

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Foxcroft, Vicky

Gethins, Stephen

Gibson, Patricia

Glass, Pat

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

Harris, Carolyn

Hayes, Helen

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mr Mark

Hendry, Drew

Hillier, Meg

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hollern, Kate

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Huq, Dr Rupa

Hussain, Imran

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jarvis, Dan

Jones, Gerald

Jones, Graham

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Kane, Mike

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Kerevan, George

Kerr, Calum

Kinnock, Stephen

Kyle, Peter

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Law, Chris

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Lewis, Clive

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Long Bailey, Rebecca

Lucas, Ian C.

Mactaggart, rh Fiona

Madders, Justin

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Marris, Rob

Marsden, Mr Gordon

Maskell, Rachael

Matheson, Christian

Mc Nally, John

McCabe, Steve

McCaig, Callum

McCarthy, Kerry

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McDonald, Stewart Malcolm

McDonald, Stuart C.

McDonnell, John

McGinn, Conor

McGovern, Alison

McInnes, Liz

McLaughlin, Anne

McMahon, Jim

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Miliband, rh Edward

Monaghan, Carol

Monaghan, Dr Paul

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morris, Grahame M.

Mullin, Roger

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Newlands, Gavin

Nicolson, John

Onn, Melanie

Onwurah, Chi

Osamor, Kate

Oswald, Kirsten

Owen, Albert

Paterson, Steven

Pearce, Teresa

Pennycook, Matthew

Perkins, Toby

Phillips, Jess

Pound, Stephen

Powell, Lucy

Qureshi, Yasmin

Rayner, Angela

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reed, Mr Steve

Rees, Christina

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Rimmer, Marie

Robertson, rh Angus

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Ryan, rh Joan

Salmond, rh Alex

Sheppard, Tommy

Sherriff, Paula

Shuker, Mr Gavin

Siddiq, Tulip

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Andy

Smeeth, Ruth

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Cat

Smith, Nick

Smyth, Karin

Spellar, rh Mr John

Stephens, Chris

Stevens, Jo

Streeting, Wes

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, rh Ms Gisela

Thewliss, Alison

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thomas-Symonds, Nick

Thompson, Owen

Thomson, Michelle

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turley, Anna

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Weir, Mike

West, Catherine

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Whitford, Dr Philippa

Wilson, Corri

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wishart, Pete

Wright, Mr Iain

Zeichner, Daniel

Tellers for the Ayes:

Holly Lynch


Jeff Smith


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

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Berry, James

Bingham, Andrew

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

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

Carmichael, Neil

Cartlidge, James

Cash, Sir William

Caulfield, Maria

Chalk, Alex

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Churchill, Jo

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, David T. C.

Davies, Glyn

Davies, Dr James

Davies, Mims

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dodds, rh Mr Nigel

Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.

Donelan, Michelle

Double, Steve

Dowden, Oliver

Drax, Richard

Drummond, Mrs Flick

Duddridge, James

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

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

Frazer, Lucy

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Fysh, Marcus

Garnier, rh Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

Ghani, Nusrat

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Chris

Green, rh Damian

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, rh Robert

Hall, Luke

Hammond, Stephen

Hands, rh Greg

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Heald, Sir Oliver

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

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Jenkyns, Andrea

Jenrick, Robert

Johnson, Boris

Johnson, Gareth

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kennedy, Seema

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Knight, Julian

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Latham, Pauline

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Dr Phillip

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Sir Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, rh Dr Julian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Lumley, Karen

Mackinlay, Craig

Mackintosh, David

Main, Mrs Anne

Mak, Mr Alan

Malthouse, Kit

Mann, Scott

Mathias, Dr Tania

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Johnny

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Mrs Maria

Milling, Amanda

Milton, rh Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Mordaunt, Penny

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Morton, Wendy

Mowat, David

Mundell, rh David

Murray, Mrs Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Parish, Neil

Patel, rh Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, rh Mike

Penrose, John

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Philp, Chris

Pickles, rh Sir Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

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

Robinson, Mary

Rosindell, Andrew

Rutley, David

Sandbach, Antoinette

Scully, Paul

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

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

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Graham

Sturdy, Julian

Sunak, Rishi

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

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

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Warburton, David

Warman, Matt

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Wharton, James

Whately, Helen

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittingdale, rh Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Craig

Williamson, rh Gavin

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wood, Mike

Wragg, William

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Jackie Doyle-Price


Guy Opperman

Question accordingly negatived.

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9 Dec 2015 : Column 1106

9 Dec 2015 : Column 1107

9 Dec 2015 : Column 1108

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 18(1)),

Regulatory Reform

That the draft Legislative Reform (Further Renewal of Radio Licences) Order 2015, which was laid before this House on 25 March, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.—(Sarah Newton.)

Question agreed to.


Treatment of Asylum Seekers

7.11 pm

Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Lab): The petition, which has in excess of 3,000 signatures, has been organised by the St Vincent de Paul Society.

The petition states:

The petition of residents of the UK,

Declares that the petitioners are gravely concerned about the manner in which asylum seekers are currently treated in the UK; further that the 2015/16 Immigration Bill threatens to make those seeking sanctuary even more vulnerable; further that the Bill will leave more families homeless and further isolate an already marginalised group; further that recommendations made by the All-Party Parliamentary inquiry into the use of immigration detention have been excluded from the Bill; further that the petitioners have a moral responsibility as Christians to be a voice

9 Dec 2015 : Column 1109

for those who have no voice; further that Pope Francis has said that refugees and asylum seekers are our brothers and sisters; and further that a local petition on this matter was signed by 3,000 people.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to reconsider the findings of the All-Party Parliamentary inquiry into the use of immigration detention to adopt the inquiry's recommendations in order to improve the treatment of asylum seekers in the UK.

And the petitioners remain, etc.


Impact of Hinckley Connection Project on the Wells Constituency

7.13 pm

James Heappey (Wells) (Con): I rise to present a petition on behalf of the residents of Badgworth, Compton Bishop and Mark parishes. It has been signed by 905 residents, which represents half the electoral roll. Hinkley C will not need its grid connection until it is switched on in 2015, so there is time to reconsider before we blight such a beautiful part of Somerset. However, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change must make a decision by 19 January 2016.

The petition states:

The petition of residents of Badgworth, Compton Bishop and Mark Parishes,

Declares that the electricity transmission line to be built between Hinkley C Power Station and Avonmouth will have a significant and adverse impact on the visual amenity of this area; further that it will cause significant disruption during construction; further that it will damage the local tourist industry; and further that it fails to employ the most recent technologies for transmitting electricity underground or under the sea.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to use the delay in construction of Hinkley C as an opportunity to re-evaluate the strategic options available for the Hinkley Connection project and to direct that an undersea solution in the Bristol Channel be used instead.

And the petitioners remain, etc.


9 Dec 2015 : Column 1110

Kellingley Colliery

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

7.15 pm

Yvette Cooper (Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford) (Lab): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this Adjournment debate.

In just a few days’ time, Kellingley colliery will close. It is Britain’s last working pit. A hundred years ago, over 1 million men worked in the coal industry, and now the last 450 men are set to work their final shift. The coal that they cut through generations powered the industrial revolution, stoked the trains, lit the furnaces, and kept the home fires burning. In our area alone, Fryston, Glashoughton, Wheldale, Allerton Bywater, Sharlston, Prince of Wales and Selby were all once proud pits, now gone. Kellingley stands just inside the constituency of the hon. Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams), who is here tonight too.

I represent Knottingley, the town that always supported Kellingley, and grew in the ’60s when Kellingley grew. Kellingley club is still in the heart of the town. In our area, most people have coal in their blood—family who worked in the local pits or further afield. I am the granddaughter of a miner, and my predecessors, Geoff Lofthouse, Bill O’Brien and Joe Harper, all worked in the pits. It is skilled work and tough work, and some gave their lives and others their health. The solidarity that they forged underground is the solidarity that has underpinned our communities too. That is why it is a sad day for us, because people who have worked together, lived together, marched together, been on strike together, and stood together through thick or thin are now watching the last pit close.

We have fought for two years to try to keep Kellingley open. We sought alternative investors. We campaigned for the EU state aid that could have opened new faces and accessed new and rich reserves, and yet the Government deliberately dragged their feet, pushed costs up, and let us down. Closing Kellingley will not cut Britain’s carbon emissions; all it will do is make us more dependent on imported coal. We campaigned too for clean coal technology—carbon capture and storage at Drax—that could have not just supported Kellingley but security of supply here in Britain. It had the potential to cut carbon emissions, to be a great export all over the world, and to cut energy bills here at home, and yet the Government have pulled the plug. Ferrybridge, just down the road, also in my constituency, is set to close in a few months’ time, again years before it needs to, so we will lose more skilled jobs. Experts are raising concern that that capacity has been cut so far that it is likely, in the short term, to be filled instead by smaller diesel energy plants, which are far dirtier than the big power stations that they replace.

However, my main purpose in securing this Adjournment debate was not to talk about the huge incoherence of the Government’s energy policy, but to focus particularly on support for the Kellingley miners. These are the men who have kept the coal industry going until the very end—younger men who started as apprentices just a few years ago, but also many older men who worked in the coal industry for decades. While every other pit closed, they kept going—kept working, kept digging deeper, kept cutting coal. When Kellingley nearly went

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under, they pulled out all the stops and increased production. When we were fighting to keep Kellingley open, they were ready and willing to do a deal whereby the workforce took over the pit, putting their own money at risk in order to keep it open. When UK Coal nearly went bust, they were ready to accept changes to their pensions and working arrangements just to keep the pit open.

Think what would have happened if the miners had not done that. If they had walked away, as many were tempted to do, UK Coal would have gone bust, the Government would have lost the millions in tax that UK Coal owed, and, more importantly, the Government would have been landed with the bill for closing Kellingley pit—tens of millions of pounds of extra money that they would have had to fork out. It is the miners at Kellingley who have saved the Government from having to pick up the cost of closure and who have kept UK Coal going long enough for it to be able to pay off its bills and the taxes it owed. What have they got in return? Statutory redundancy—is that it?

At the end of decades of keeping our lights on, powering our factories and fuelling the nation, they have got the worst deal of any of the hundreds of thousands of miners who have left the industry over many decades. Frankly, these miners have been betrayed and let down by UK Coal and the Government.

At least the Kellingley miners who left in July got severance pay in lieu of notice—they got 12 weeks of average pay—but, as of today, UK Coal has not even said that it will guarantee the remaining workforce that severance pay. Miners have told me that they have been told that they will probably get it, but it all depends on whether they complete the final phase of work or whether the board decides on Thursday that they can have it. They have no certainty, just threats hanging over them to work even harder as the end draws near.

Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) (Lab): I have been contacted by a member of the National Union of Mineworkers who works at Kellingley and has already lost plenty of their pension. When their father, who worked at Kellingley colliery, left the industry 27 years ago, he got three times more then than what is on offer for the people who are leaving the industry now. Surely that cannot be the case and surely we need some sort of intervention to make sure that these people get justice.

Yvette Cooper: My hon. Friend is exactly right. I have also been contacted by constituents. One man who has worked in the coal industry at Kellingley for 29 years told me that his dad, who left in 1988, got three times as much as he will get in redundancy pay. These miners will get only statutory redundancy pay, rather than the enhanced redundancy deal that even Margaret Thatcher and Michael Heseltine made sure that miners got when they left the coal industry. Such a deal is recognition not only of the difficult job they do, but of how skilled it is and how hard it is for them to find similar skilled work in our communities.

Mr Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): It is even worse than that, because less than two years ago the coalition Government took £700 million out of the miners’ pension

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scheme. All they wanted was about £30 million or £40 million. They could have kept the pit going until all the reserves had been worked out.

Yvette Cooper: My hon. Friend is right. There is long-standing and deep concern about the miners’ pension scheme. The guarantee may have looked sensible many decades ago, but if we consider how it has played out, we will see that it is deeply unfair to so many miners across our communities. Pensions and redundancy and severance pay are all issues, as is concessionary coal. Miners who are just short of their 50th birthday will lose out, and if others get a job that involves working more than 25 hours a week—even if it is temporary work—they will end up losing their concessionary coal for good. That is no use, because it is a disincentive for them to get another job. The concessionary coal deal, as well as redundancy and severance pay, should be revisited. The Government should work with UK Coal on getting a fairer deal for miners who have worked for Kellingley and the coal industry for so long.

Kellingley has not been given the same sorts of training opportunities that Selby got when it closed. Miners need more skills training, retraining courses and support to be able to get new jobs in an area where skilled work is still too scarce. Support also has to be made available for our communities, because the pit has been at the heart of the community for so long. Kellingley club is now at risk, and the communities that depend on the coal industry are also being undermined by the last pit closure. I ask the Minister to look seriously at what more support can be given to the Kellingley miners. They have worked so hard to save the Government money, to support UK Coal and Kellingley, and to keep the pit open, but they feel that all they are getting in return is a kick in the teeth.

When Margaret Thatcher closed the pits in the 1980s on a massive scale, even she made sure that the miners got full redundancy pay and pensions. When Michael Heseltine closed pits in the 1990s, he made sure that miners got full redundancy pay and pensions. When the Prince of Wales and Selby pits closed under the Labour Government, we made sure that the miners got not just redundancy pay and pension support, but retraining, the coalfield regeneration taskforce and support for communities as well.

What miners are getting now under this Tory Government is the worse deal of all, so I urge the Minister to look at it again—not to blame this on the market or on UK Coal, but for the Government and UK Coal together to provide the miners, who have worked so hard and helped both UK Coal and the Government, with the support and the recognition that they deserve. Another of my constituents contacted me to say that the miners give so much and take so many risks, as do their families, who would watch them go to work each day. Let us make sure that, as the miners walk out of their last shift, as they leave Kellingley for the last time, we show them the respect that they need.

I and many of my colleagues still feel that this is deeply sad. We deeply regret that we are watching the last pit close long before we need to, even though we could have clean coal technology and support both the coal industry and security of supply. We could cut our carbon emissions too. But if that pit is to close before

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Christmas, in the next few days, let us at least do everything we can to get those miners some justice and the respect that they deserve.

7.26 pm

Nigel Adams (Selby and Ainsty) (Con): I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) for bringing this Adjournment debate today. Kellingley colliery, as she says, is the last deep coalmine in the country and 18 December will be an incredibly sad day. Production began in 1965 and at its peak, I understand, 2,000 men and women were employed there at any one time. It was a significant employer in my constituency and the local area.

Many of those miners relocated from Scotland to work at the colliery, having lost their jobs at Scottish pits in the 1960s. Three members of my own family worked at Kellingley, which is affectionately known, as the right hon. Lady knows, as the Big K. My uncle Ray worked there for 39 years. He told me earlier today that he started as a dogsbody, worked himself up and ended up just before his retirement as an under-manager. He was incredibly proud of Kellingley, as were all the people who worked there. He told me earlier today on the phone that he thought it was the best pit in the country.

Mining communities are close communities. I remember my brother’s wedding reception at the Kellingley miners welfare club in 1981. I was not old enough to go in and have a drink, sadly, but it was a great time. I recall my family spending many a Saturday at the miners welfare club at Kellingley, enjoying the friendship and camaraderie of the mining community.

I well remember the 1984 strike. As a youngster I used to drive past the colliery gates on my motorcycle. I had uncles and cousins involved in the strike on both sides of the dispute. Miners from Kellingley took part in the 1984 strike, but it is worth pointing out that there were a higher number opposed to that action than there were at most other pits across Yorkshire. It was a highly divisive strike and one that, in my view, lacked legitimacy because of the lack of a ballot.

Kellingley’s current largest customer, Drax power station, is also in my constituency. It has been a longstanding customer of Kellingley, and the mine’s closure will mark the end of the latest seven-year contractual agreement between the two parties. I made a phone call to the management at Drax so I know that its management would have supported the management deal, had that come off, to continue supplying coal. I know how appreciative Drax is of the efforts of the workforce to continue to deliver coal to the power station, which must be commended for continuing to source coal from Kellingley even though it could have sourced coal at a lower price in world markets.

The European Union’s industrial emissions directive comes into effect on 1 January 2016. This imposes stricter emission limits on sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide and particulates emitted by power stations in the UK. To be fully IED-compliant, Drax has no choice but to avoid using higher-NOx coal, such as that sourced from Kellingley colliery, after the end of this month. Regrettably, in these circumstances, there is no scope for Drax to take any additional deliveries above and beyond the

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volumes already agreed. It is essential that the company’s stockpile of coal on 1 January is compliant with the stricter emissions limits imposed by the EU under the IED.

It is now crucial that the 450 staff find alternative employment. I want briefly to praise the work of Jobcentre Plus. Its team need to be recognised for the effort they have put in during the past year, since the closure was announced. Last week, they were on site hosting an employers forum, similar to a jobs fair that I hosted in October, which was well attended by local employers seeking staff. Several leads from my jobs fair have been fed into Jobcentre Plus for follow-up. I have helped workers at Kellingley to get alternative employment, and I am very keen that that should continue as we move towards the closure. The team have another on-site event in October, and they were there in June and July as well. They provide help with writing CVs and training advice regarding grants and courses. The one thing we do not yet know is how many miners have secured jobs; such information might put their redundancy pay-offs at risk, so I understand the sensitivities about that.

I want briefly to mention the environmental concerns about tipping, especially at the Womersley site, which has been an ongoing issue for residents and, in particular, for the local parish council.

Ian Lavery: The hon. Gentleman is basically trying to say that coal is dead and finished. At a time when this Government are allowing the closure of the last deep mine and putting 450 people on the dole in his constituency, we as a country and as a nation are still importing more than 40 million tonnes of coal. What is this all about?

Nigel Adams: The hon. Gentleman should probably read some of my speeches about coal. I do not think coal should be dead. It is an outrage that we are tossing coal aside in favour of intermittent wind and solar. We cannot rely on them, but we can rely on coal. I have a long-standing passion for coal. However, we must remember that world markets mean people can import coal from around the world much more cheaply than we can mine it ourselves, which is a tragedy in itself. I have always supported coal, as I am sure he appreciates.

The mine closes on 18 December, but the tipping at the Womersley site will continue until May, because of the stockpile currently at the pithead. It may just be because it is winter and the roads are wet, but there have been many complaints about the slipperiness of the roads due to slurry wash from the vehicles. That matter has been taken up with the local highways department. At the moment, tipping is more intense than previously, which is a sign of the drive to get as much coal out of the ground as possible. There is also a suspicion that the Womersley tip site is over the planning limit on height contours, but there is no clarity about that and, in any case, enforcement can be ineffective.

The planning application to extend the tip site was withdrawn, because UK Coal considered that the previously permitted use of the tip site was sufficient. However, it is crucial that UK Coal and its sister company Harworth Estates have strict environmental obligations after the closure. The present planning permission does not detail the restoration of the site—that was to have been a condition, through a bond, in the new permit—so it is easy to see why the planning application was not pushed through by UK Coal.

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The adjacent and nationally renowned diving centre, the Blue Lagoon, is now a stinking black pond due to polluted run-off from the UK Coal tip. A plan agreed between the Environment Agency and UK Coal has achieved nothing. The toe drain is still incomplete, and many of the sections already completed are full of silt or have a damaged liner and are therefore ineffective. The owner of the site of the Blue Lagoon, Martin Ainsworth, is suffering severe stress and struggling to run his business. After tipping is complete, the mineral content will continue to leach from the tip for many years to come. I urge the Minister to ensure that UK Coal and Harworth Estates take their environmental responsibilities seriously and ensure that restoration is completed fully.

Finally, let me refer to redundancy and compensation, which the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford rightly mentioned. I understand that in the past couple of years the Government have put in almost £20 million to UK Coal. I had a meeting with the Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise to discuss compensation and retraining packages, and she has promised to look carefully into that crucial issue. I see little distinction between coal miners from Kellingley colliery and steelworkers. I know that the steelworkers were thrown out of work rather quickly, but we must look after these people. Part of the £20 million was to ensure that staff received proper compensation, and I hope the Minister will ensure that that happens.

7.35 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Andrea Leadsom): I congratulate the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) on securing this debate. I also recognise the long efforts of my hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty (Nigel Adams) in representing the interests of the Kellingley mine, as well as those of my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy), whose constituents have formed part of the Kellingley workforce for many years. On behalf of myself and the Government, I acknowledge the enormous contribution to UK energy security made over many decades by the UK Coal miners. At both Kellingley and Thoresby, which completed its mining operations in July this year, they have shown professionalism and commitment over many decades, as well as a determination to ensure the safe delivery of UK Coal’s managed closure plan.

Let me outline the support that both this Government and the previous Government have provided to UK Coal. Due to geological and performance issues at Kellingley, and a deterioration in global coal prices, UK Coal approached the Government in January 2014, seeking financial support to help it to deliver a managed closure plan. That original plan envisaged Kellingley and Thoresby closing in autumn 2014 and autumn 2015 respectively.

The right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford has been critical of the Government, alleging that we prevented UK Coal from applying for state aid, but that simply is not true. On the contrary, we have been very supportive of the company throughout

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its difficulties. At the time of the original approach we were told that the company could last only “a matter of weeks” without an offer of support. The most pressing issue, therefore, was to provide financial support by the quickest means possible, and to deal with the immediate threat to the company and secure its short term future. The state aid route was judged to be longer and riskier, which left a commercial solution as the best option. Structuring the solution in a commercial manner also had the benefit of not tying the company to a fixed closure date—something that a state aid solution would have done. Instead it would give the company flexibility and time to seek additional investment to extend the life of the mines.

Yvette Cooper: The fixed date that the Minister mentions under the EU state aid rules would have been 2018, which is in three years’ time. That was not a reason not to go down the EU state aid route. The deal she mentions that was supposedly the quickest route to go down took more than six months to resolve. The briefing that she has received from her civil servants does not seem to stack up.

Andrea Leadsom: The view was that it was a matter of only a few short weeks, and at that time it was considered that a state aid route would take too long and not work within the time frame needed.

In April 2014, the Government agreed in principle to provide the company with financial support. In delivering on that commitment there were many twists along the way, including a failed sales process by the company and the withdrawal of an offer of support from a mining competitor. That process concluded with the Government providing a total of £6.5 million of loan funding in September 2014.

By supporting the company’s managed closure plan, we aimed to mitigate the worst impacts of closure on the workers, local communities and the supply chain. Without that support, UK Coal would have failed earlier in 2014 with the immediate loss of more than 1,900 jobs. UK Coal did subsequently present a state aid proposal in January 2015 to the Government. That sought state aid support of £338 million to prolong the working life of the mines by three years through to 2018. It is worth reminding the House that state aid approval represents the European Commission’s permission for the Government to spend UK taxpayers’ money, and consequently it has to be affordable and represent value for money. The state aid request did not pass the value-for-money hurdle, but we have continued to support the company.

Mr Skinner: There is another figure that the Minister is failing to mention. She is trying to argue that this Conservative Government have tried to save the pit. In truth, since 1984, 170 pits have closed, including Kellingley, and fewer than 10 of them were closed during the 13 years of the Labour Government. I think that tells a story: the Tories like closing pits.

Andrea Leadsom: As I said, the Government sought to support the managed closure of the pit. Following weak coal sales last winter and a deterioration in world coal prices, UK Coal approached the Government again in February 2015 requesting additional funding to keep

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its closure plan on track. As a result, the Government committed in March 2015 to providing up to a further £10 million of financial support and the provision of concessionary coal entitlements for eligible miners, estimated at £18 million, subject to state aid approval.

The Government, as a further commitment to the miners, also agreed to the deferral of all repayments on the previous loans until after the miners had received their redundancy and other contractual entitlements at both Thoresby and Kellingley.

Yvette Cooper rose

Andrea Leadsom: I am sorry, but the right hon. Lady will appreciate that I want to respond—

Yvette Cooper: What about enhanced redundancy terms?

Andrea Leadsom: There have not been enhanced redundancy terms since 2012, as she will be aware.

The funding requirement was £10 million, but we were aware of the riskiness of the mining industry, which could have seen this requirement increase. Ensuring the company had sufficient funding to pay the miners’ contractual rights was our key priority. We applied for and received permission to provide up to £20 million specifically for statutory redundancy and contractual notice pay, with £10 million to be available as a contingency in case of need.

Following state aid approval, £10 million was injected into UK Coal in August 2015. The right hon. Lady was concerned that the Kellingley miners were at risk of not receiving the same package as that received by the Thoresby miners. I would like to emphasise to her that, thanks to the excellent work of the miners and the £10 million cash injection, UK Coal has enough cash to pay the Kellingley miners being made redundant this month with the same severance package as the Thoresby miners received.

I would like to turn briefly to the non-financial support provided to the affected miners both at Thoresby and Kellingley. One of the many benefits of having a

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managed closure, rather than one which is sudden and unplanned, is that it gives the time to develop a joined-up approach between Government and UK Coal. Department for Work and Pensions representatives have been proactively working with Kellingley for several months to provide a fully joined-up service. Several drop-in support sessions have been hosted, most recently last week, enabling the DWP to bring together local employers with vacancies, local colleges offering training and qualifications, financial advisers and local district council business advice teams offering support on business start-ups. On the back of those sessions, more than 140 training applications have been received for vocational training, such as HGV training, occupancy health and safety, fibre optics, forklift truck operations and copper cabling maintenance and installation.

In conclusion, the successful delivery of the closure plan at Kellingley has been made possible because of the hard work of the men, Government support and the favourable fixed-price contract UK Coal has had with the power companies, as my hon. Friend the Member for Selby and Ainsty pointed out. That has enabled the company to be cash generative and have sufficient money to pay all employee entitlements. I acknowledge, however, that the closure of the Kellingley mine, being the last deep operational coalmine in the UK, represents the end of a long and proud era for the UK’s coalmining industry.

I would like to finish as I started by reiterating my gratitude and that of the Government to all those who have served at Kellingley and elsewhere in the mining industry over the years. It has been a difficult job in a hostile and trying environment, and they can be proud of the part they played in heating and lighting our homes and powering our businesses and economy. Their professionalism and good humour in carrying out their job should be acknowledged by this House.

Question put and agreed to.

7.44 pm

House adjourned.