Amber Rudd: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that the distinguishing factor of this agreement, rather than of previous ones, is that it includes developing countries. We are committed to ensuring that we work across other Governments to develop new energy sources through our programme of mission innovation. I also agree that nuclear power, including that from Hinkley

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Point, which is the first new nuclear deal to be commissioned for 25 years, will be an important part of the low carbon future.

Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton) (Lab): The Secretary of State is correct in wanting a level playing field between Britain and other countries, but the failure of Paris to reach the aspirations of the Durban conference to have legally binding limits on carbon dioxide emissions from all countries must put this country at a disadvantage because we do have legally binding commitments. We have already lost great chunks of the steel industry and the aluminium industry. How will the right hon. Lady produce that level playing field to the advantage of our industries?

Amber Rudd: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point about competitiveness. Although there are some elements of this that are not legally binding, there are plenty that are. The fact is that every country has to come back every five years and to demonstrate what they are doing. There will, I hope, be a political moment at that point. Non-governmental organisations, civil society and businesses will be watching and campaigning to ensure that we always make progress. Countries cannot go back on their commitments; they can only go forward. The hon. Gentleman should not underestimate the impact that this deal will have internationally.

Nigel Huddleston (Mid Worcestershire) (Con): I add my congratulations to the Secretary of State and all those who have worked for many years on achieving an impressive outcome. Will the Secretary of State confirm whether the success criteria set before the conference were achieved at it?

Amber Rudd: My hon. Friend asks a good question. Most of our criteria were met, but nobody will have left the conference saying that all their criteria were met. That is how we got a deal—everybody had to compromise a little. That was the achievement of the agreement.

Mr Mark Williams (Ceredigion) (LD): I thank the Secretary of State for a landmark statement. I congratulate her on her personal stamina at 4 am and in particular on the tribute that she paid to her predecessors of all political parties. I think she will agree that the fact that Europe has spoken with one voice was a significant part of the process. None the less, there is still the inconsistency. Does she not agree that, although it was essential that we signed up to ambitious targets in Paris, there is an inconsistency in our scrapping schemes, signed in the last Parliament, that had a meaningful role in dealing with climate change at home?

Amber Rudd: The success of the Paris agreement was the intended nationally determined contributions that each country had to make and come forward with to participate. Almost every country had done that by the day of the agreement. But those are voluntary and very few countries criticised each other. Each country delivers in its own way. That is what the UK will continue to do.

Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): On current trends of uncontrolled immigration, this country will have a population of 30 million more by the end of the century. What impact does my right hon. Friend think that will have on our CO2 emissions?

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Amber Rudd: I reassure my hon. Friend that the big influence on our CO2 emissions is generally from the power sector and industry. We will monitor them constantly to enable there to be continued reductions.

Matthew Pennycook (Greenwich and Woolwich) (Lab): I also commend the Secretary of State and her officials for the part that they played in securing the Paris agreement. With that agreement in place, Britain will need to be more ambitious, if anything, when it comes to emissions reductions yet the Government are struggling to meet their renewables target, particularly when it comes to heat and transport. As in so many areas, the Chancellor ultimately calls the shots, but will the right hon. Lady let the House know what progress she has made in persuading the Secretary of State for Transport to do more to decarbonise that sector?

Amber Rudd: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: the challenge for the renewables target is heat and transport. I reassure him that I am working closely with the Secretaries of State for Transport and for Communities and Local Government to put together a plan to ensure that we can make that target.

Mark Spencer (Sherwood) (Con): The Secretary of State will be aware that the largest percentage of electricity generated today still comes from coal-fired power. Will she give further reassurance that, as we move to a lower carbon future, consumer prices will remain at the forefront of her thoughts, as well as continuity of supply and carbon leakage?

Amber Rudd: I reassure my hon. Friend that we would in no way sacrifice our security of supply as we move towards a low carbon economy. I can also tell him that putting an end date on coal is an important part of making sure that we meet our low carbon future. We should be proud of the fact that we are the first developed country to put an end date on that.

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): Does the Secretary of State have full confidence that the funding commitments and action plans that Governments have signed up to will be adhered to? I commend her on her statement and the work that went into the agreement, which uses human rights language much more strongly than any environmental agreement had used before. But how confident is she about adherence and follow-through?

Amber Rudd: The hon. Gentleman is right that the financial contributions—the $100 billion by 2020—were a key element in bringing on developing countries, which had never participated before in this sort of commitment. That is one side of the agreement. It is absolutely essential that we deliver on it, but Governments and businesses—not only Governments—are going to do that. The success of the agreement over the next five, 10 or 15 years will be tested if that does not happen.

Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) (Con): I congratulate the Secretary of State and her whole team on the part they played in reaching this historic deal. She will know that it is not only about acting globally, but about acting locally. Will she join me in paying tribute to community groups, such as Transition Town Totnes and Sustainable South Brent, and to groups all around the country? They are keen to meet her to talk further about the role they can play to further the goals.

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Amber Rudd: I will always be delighted to meet my hon. Friend’s constituents. She is right that it is much more effective if these actions are taken locally and nationally, but above all not top-down internationally.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): Will the right hon. Lady bridge her rhetoric to reality by announcing investment in the Swansea, Cardiff and Newport tidal barrages scheme, which will exploit for the first time ever the neglected immense power of the tides, which are entirely predictable and, when linked to power schemes in the valleys, are entirely demand-responsive? Tidal power is green, non-carbon and eternal.

Amber Rudd: The hon. Gentleman is right. We are looking closely at the opportunity for tidal power. My Department is now engaging in due diligence and if tidal power can meet the targets of being secure, clean and affordable, we will certainly take it very seriously.

Mike Wood (Dudley South) (Con): What assessment has my right hon. Friend made of the UK energy market’s capacity to replace unabated coal by the cut-off date of 2025?

Amber Rudd: We will carry out a consultation at the beginning of next year in order to address that, but I have been very clear in the policy choices that I set out that we expect to bring on more gas to cover some of the coal that will be coming off.

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): Investors in renewable energy tell me that they want certainty from the Government’s energy policy. Can the Secretary of State set out the key targets and milestones for the implementation of the Paris agreement to provide the certainty that is necessary for investment to be made in renewables?

Amber Rudd: Many of our targets have not changed as a result of the Paris agreement, although of course I will be discussing them closely within my Department. We have already set out our plans for offshore wind and we will shortly set out our plans for solar.

Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP): The Scottish First Minister announced £12 million of climate justice funding in addition to the Scottish Government’s international development fund so, building on some of the other questions, what new money for climate adaptation will be announced as a result of the agreement, and will be it additional to existing official development assistance commitments?

Amber Rudd: My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been very clear. As I said in my earlier comments, he has already announced a 50% increase in our climate finance, which has been very much welcomed by developing countries.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Does the Secretary of State agree that this is good news from Paris, but that the hard work now begins, turning aspiration into action? Does she agree that we must maintain the vision that this country has had for some time of sharing intellectual property and innovation with many other countries? For example, the Engineering and Physical

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Sciences Research Council committee on sustainable production, which I chair, shares with other countries innovation that can reduce their carbon emissions?

Amber Rudd: The hon. Gentleman is right. That shared vision across different countries is essential. Confidence in the technology section of the agreement was very important for some of the developing countries. I should add that we have doubled our innovation spending on energy to join the Americans and other developed countries in Mission Innovation, which is all about sharing investment and technological discoveries.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): I congratulate the Secretary of State on her role in achieving this historic agreement. Does she accept that if the Government are to meet their commitment and show leadership in the world, they must change their approach to renewable energies, in particular to onshore wind?

Amber Rudd: That was a cautious compliment from the hon. Gentleman. That is not what I found internationally. In discussions with other Ministers, I found a lot of interest in what we were doing to drive down the costs of renewables. Renewables should not have a subsidy forever; the point is to try and engage with the industry to lower the cost. The success of a truly low carbon international economy will be achieved when the cost of green energy is reduced.

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): As a Co-operative party MP, I have long been a supporter of co-operative community renewal energy schemes, of which there are a number in this country. When I met representatives of one such company last week, they told me that the uncertainty that the Government have created around the feed-in tariff was causing them problems with planning into the future. How will the Secretary of State provide policy certainty for such groups who want to do their bit in meeting this agreement?

Amber Rudd: I remind the hon. Gentleman that over the past 15 to 20 years the costs of solar panels have come down by 80%, so it is right that the subsidy comes down accordingly. I will shortly make an announcement about what it will come down to, and I am sure he will be interested in the result.

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Airports Capacity

4.50 pm

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Patrick McLoughlin): With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about airports policy.

Aviation is a British success story. Today we have the third largest aviation network in the world, second only to the US and China. But with that success comes challenges. Heathrow is full; Gatwick is filling up. If no action is taken, the entire London system will be full by 2040. Yet we need new connections to new cities in new economies. There are other challenges too. Airports create jobs and opportunities. Technology is changing. Planes are becoming quieter and more efficient, but there is still inevitably an environmental impact. For some, the argument seems simple: oppose all expansion anywhere, or back it, but always somewhere else. Yes, there are opportunities in the network of national airports, with global connections from cities such as Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and Newcastle, but growth there will come alongside growth in the south-east, not instead of it.

That is why in September 2012 Sir Howard Davies was asked to lead a commission on the issue. The Airports Commission’s final report was published less than six months ago. It made a strong case for expansion in the south-east, and we have considered that evidence. The Government accept the case for expansion, and the Government accept the commission’s shortlist of options for expansion. We will begin work straight away on preparing the building blocks for an airport national policy statement in line with the Planning Act 2008. Putting this new framework in place will be essential groundwork for implementing the decisions we take on new capacity, wherever it is to be built.

Sir Howard Davies and his team produced a powerful report. The Heathrow Airport Ltd scheme was recommended by the commission, but all three schemes were deemed viable. We are continuing to consider all three schemes, and we want to see action, but we must get the next steps right, for those keen to push ahead with expansion and for those who will be affected by it.

We will therefore undertake a package of further work. First, we must deal with air quality. I want to build confidence that expansion can take place within the legal limits, so we will accept the Environmental Audit Committee’s recommendation to test the commission’s work against the Government’s new air quality plan. Secondly, we must deal with the concerns about noise. I want to get the best possible outcome on this for local residents, so we will engage further with the promoters to make sure that the best package of noise mitigation measures is in place. Thirdly, we must deal with carbon emissions, so we will look at all measures to mitigate carbon impacts and address the sustainability concerns, particularly during construction. Fourthly, we must manage the other impacts on local communities. I want people who stand to lose their homes to be properly compensated for the impacts of expansion, and I want local people to have the best access to the opportunities that expansion will bring, including new jobs and apprenticeships. We will therefore develop detailed community mitigation measures for each of the shortlisted options.

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We expect to conclude that package of work by the summer. Critically, that means ensuring that delivery of the timetable for the additional capacity set out by Sir Howard does not alter. The commission reported that an additional runway would be required by 2030, and we intend to meet that requirement. In saying this, I am fully aware that some will wish that we would go further, and others will wish we were making no such progress at all. We are prepared for that, because I want to get this decision right. That means getting the environmental response right and, in the meantime, getting on with the hard work to build the new capacity to the timetable set out by Sir Howard in the commission’s report. I commend this statement to the House.

4.54 pm

Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab): I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement, but it should not have fallen to him to announce that the Prime Minister has broken the clear promise he gave to the House in July, when he said:

“The guarantee that I can give…is that a decision will be made by the end of the year.”—[Official Report, 1 July 2015; Vol. 597, c. 1473.]

So, my first question is simple: why is not the Prime Minister explaining his own U-turn?

My time to respond is very limited due to the brevity of the Secretary of State’s statement, but I want to register our protest against the Government’s decision to announce their new position in the press. The Secretary of State said that,

“when an announcement is to be made, I will make it in the House.”—[Official Report, 10 December 2015; Vol. 603, c. 1135.]

Instead, we got a last-minute note from our essay-crisis Prime Minister explaining why he could not meet his own deadline. That shambolic announcement on Thursday has rightly been condemned by businesses and by hon. Members on both sides of the House.

We need a new runway in the south-east, but the environmental concerns have been known since July, so what has the Secretary of State been doing in the past six months? The Government’s announcement was such a shambles that he could not tell us basic information about the new environmental and mitigation work. What are the areas he believes still need to be addressed and were not adequately covered by the Airports Commission? Who will be leading that work? What are the terms of reference and when will it report?

If the Secretary of State cannot answer those basic questions, is it not confirmation that the Government have abandoned everything but the pretence of following due process and that the Prime Minister broke his promise because he has put avoiding a by-election in Richmond Park ahead of the national interest?

Turning to another issue raised by the statement, the Government have always said that the Sub-Committee’s recommendations would be subject to a full Cabinet discussion. Has that discussion taken place or have the Secretary of State’s colleagues been left as much in the dark as the rest of the House?

Finally, what steps will the Secretary of State now take to address the blight and uncertainty that this latest politically motivated delay will cause?

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Mr McLoughlin: I find it rather hard to accept from the hon. Lady that we are somehow taking too long over this matter. I will go over a little bit of the history. In 2001, Labour Ministers were reported to be seriously considering building a third runway at Heathrow, to relieve the increasing congestion in London. In December 2003, the then Transport Secretary, Alistair Darling, published a White Paper on plans for a third runway and a sixth terminal at Heathrow, to be completed within 12 years. In 2007, the then Government published a public consultation document weighted firmly in favour of Heathrow to accommodate a new runway and 220,000 extra flights a year. In 2009, the then Government approved a third runway, taking the number of flights handled by the airport from 480,000 to more than 700,000 a year. It is not worthy of the Labour party to complain about the time we are taking to come to a decision on a very thorough report.

Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition seems to think so as well. He gave an interview on Sky Television last Thursday, during which the correspondent asked him:

“I think people are a little confused at the moment about exactly though what Labour’s policy on Heathrow specifically is. Can you clarify it for us, what is Labour’s position?”

The Leader of the Opposition answered:

“The position is that we’ve put these questions on how we go ahead with airport expansion on the basis of capacity across the south-east, on the basis of the need for a hub and of course the effects on neighbouring communities and the environment and noise. Those answers have to be given before any decision can be taken about where the expansion should take place.”

It gets better. The correspondent said:

“So, at the moment you do not have a position on Heathrow specifically?”

The Leader of the Opposition replied:

“At the moment that is our position”.

I do not think I will take too many lectures about getting the timescale right.

I stand by what I said in my statement, which is that Sir Howard said there needs to be a conclusion and a runway available for operation by 2030. Even on the timetable I have announced today, that is well within the range of possibilities of the programme about which we are talking, particularly in the light of the Planning Act 2008, which was of course passed by the previous Labour Government.

Sir Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend recall that the recommendation of a previous commission, led by Lord Justice Roskill, was not accepted by the Government of the day? Is it not right to take time to consider two aspects of Davies? One is the very weak section on the environmental aspects of developing Heathrow, and the other is the need to address the fundamental contradiction that if it is right to have a hub airport in London, three runways simply do not suffice.

Mr McLoughlin: My right hon. Friend has covered and followed this issue for a lot longer than anybody else in the House. He makes valid points that we need to address. There is no doubt about what is happening to overall capacity as far as aviation and aircraft movements are concerned. I am incredibly grateful not only to Sir Howard Davies but to the rest of the members of the commission for the work that they have done to produce a very valuable report, on which we will be able to reach conclusions in due course.

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Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP): I, too, thank the Secretary of State for early sight of his statement. In Scotland, 90% of international visitors travel by air, of whom more than a third come through Heathrow as a hub, and traditional exports of salmon, shellfish and whisky are vital to the economy. Air access determines our ability to attract investment, grow jobs and grow the economy, so a decision on capacity is vital.

The UK Government have known all the environmental issues all along. They could have chosen Heathrow, Gatwick or somewhere new, all with environmental conditions. They could have chosen nothing at all: they could have ruled that out and allowed others to get on: indecision stops everyone from taking action, and keeps people and communities in stasis.

That is being said not just in Scotland and not just by me. Let me quote the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill), at an Association of British Travel Agents conference in June 2015. He said that

“we cannot afford to stall on making a decision any longer. A thriving travel industry indicates a thriving economy; government policy must support the growth of the travel industry.”

On 7 September, the Minister in the Lords said, “There is no dithering”, and added that the decision would be made

“as the Prime Minister—the head of the Government—has made clear, by the end of this year, that is 2015.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 7 September 2015; Vol. 764, c. 1218.]

Indeed, in October 2012, the Secretary of State said that the Davies commission would make recommendations

“in 2013. Although some people say that it will take rather a long time, it will not take that long once it gets under way.”—[Official Report, 18 October 2012; Vol. 551, c. 476.]

In his speech to the Conservative party in October 2012, he said:

“There’s another area where we have got to help businesses too. And that’s to compete internationally…But in the south east the runways are filling up. And the jets are circling in our skies. That’s hitting our prosperity. It’s bad for the environment. It’s putting off investors. It’s costing jobs. And it’s holding Britain back.”

In his speech to the last Conservative conference, he said:

“On Airports in the south east. I don’t hide the challenge.”

I could go on. As the Secretary of State said, “It gets better.” The Prime Minister has twice told this House in Prime Minister’s questions that we would have a decision. Let me ask this—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order.

Mr McLoughlin: I thought the hon. Gentleman, in quoting various announcements, was—

The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Dr Thérèse Coffey): It was a holding position.

Mr McLoughlin: As my hon. Friend says, he was in a holding position, because one thing he did not tell us was which scheme, or indeed which airport, he supports. He failed to do that. As I have said, it is right that this is a very big issue, and it has dogged Governments for many years. We will take a decision, but we want to do some further work on some of the environmental impacts,

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bearing in mind some of the recent developments. Bearing in mind the report published on 26 November by the Environmental Audit Committee, which has just looked into this issue, saying that we should take a fresh look at certain issues, I would have thought that the House accepted that that is what we will do before we come to a decision in the summer.

Sir Simon Burns (Chelmsford) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is a need to reach a decision on airport expansion, but that it should not come at the expense of environmental considerations? We have to get it right. As he said in his last answer, even Sir Howard Davies has accepted that since he published his report, the issue of air quality has moved on and that those changes must be examined to ensure that our decision is based on a like-for-like comparison and that we are not just hoofing it on the wing.

Mr McLoughlin: I thank my right hon. Friend, who took a great interest in this issue when he was in the Department. He is right that we have moved significantly further by accepting the case for more airport capacity in the south-east and the three recommendations in the report. That enables us to look at the specific issues that have come about as a result of events since the publication of the report, as well as at how the decision will affect communities and what kind of mitigation we can put in place for those who will be affected to make the decision more acceptable in the longer term.

Mrs Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): More than two years ago, the Transport Committee supported the expansion of hub capacity in the national economic interest and backed Heathrow, with environmental safeguards. The Davies commission, which reported six months ago, came to very similar conclusions. It appears that the Government have done no work or very little work since that time. We are six months on and, according to the CBI, the UK economy is losing out to the tune of about £1 billion a year because of the lack of long-haul hub capacity. Will the decision ever be taken?

Mr McLoughlin: In fairness, the hon. Lady, who chairs the Transport Committee with distinction, was part of a Government that failed for many years to take a decision on where the extra capacity should be. Sir Howard says that it is very important that the new capacity is available by 2030. What I have talked about today will be within that timetable. We are just taking a little longer. If we had not done the work on air quality that we are embarking on, we might have slowed the process down, rather than sped it up.

Sir Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex) (Con): I remind my right hon. Friend, in all possible friendliness, that what the Labour party may or may not have done is completely irrelevant. It is of no interest to any of us and is unlikely to be so. Does he agree that this decision not to make a decision is truly lamentable? This is absolutely no way to run what he is pleased to call

“a world-class transport system to support a world-class economy.”

As the Davies commission reported absolutely clearly what its preferred decision was, without any prevarication, what exactly was the point of it?

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Mr McLoughlin: I will make a number of points. I am very sorry that my right hon. Friend thinks that the fact that there was no action from a previous Government is completely irrelevant to the situation we find ourselves in. I do not accept that. The simple fact is that the Davies commission has identified, in a thorough report, that extra capacity is needed. It has said that three options can be considered, and we are right to consider those three options. I hope very much that, by the summer, we will be able to tell the House which one carries the most favour with the Government.

Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab): The Secretary of State knows that I hold him in high regard, even when I heckle him, but it took the Conservatives 18 months to get past the Liberal Democrats’ red line on increases in aviation capacity, they used the Davies commission to buy three more years to get them beyond the general election and they have bought another six months by avoiding making a statement until today. Why does the Secretary of State not just admit that this is a political fix to get us past the mayoral election in London? Given his integrity and honesty, why does he not own up to the fact that this has nothing to do with the national interest?

Mr McLoughlin: I do not mind the occasional heckle from the hon. Gentleman—indeed, I am quite used to that by now. He says that this is just a fix to move past the mayoral elections, but we have always known when those elections were, and if it had been a fix we would have simply said when the Davies report was published that we were not going to respond for 12 months. My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) has been perfectly clear about where he stands on this matter, unlike the right hon. Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan) who, when he was Minister of State and attending Cabinet in 2009, said that he was firmly in favour of Heathrow expansion.

Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): My right hon. Friend has held office since the Airports Commission received its instructions in September 2012, so he will know that the forward to its report states:

“The Commission urges the Government to make an early decision on its recommendations. Further delay will be increasingly costly and will be seen, nationally and internationally, as a sign that the UK is unwilling or unable to take the steps needed to maintain its position as a well-connected open trading economy in the twenty first century.”

My right hon. Friend is a decent and loyal team player, and he is loyally presenting the team position today. Does he understand that when the Conservative team imitates the Labour candidate for Mayor of London by putting personal and party interests ahead of the national interest, we all lose?

Mr McLoughlin: As a distinguished Chair of a Select Committee, my hon. Friend expects his Committee to be listened to with the respect that should be given to a Select Committee. The Environmental Audit Committee recommended that the Government take more time to address air quality, and stated:

“On air quality, the Government will need to re-examine the Commission’s findings in the light of its finalised air quality strategy.”

That report was published on 26 November. Today is 14 December, and even with the best will in the world, it would have been impossible to have read and responded

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to all the points in that report in those few weeks. I am giving another Select Committee the kind of respect that my hon. Friend would expect for his own Committee.

Mr Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab): The Government have made one hell of a mess of this, which does not bode well for a swift resolution for this or any other future infrastructure decision. In many respects, the Davies commission was a template for the National Infrastructure Commission, and the Government have completely ridden roughshod over it. What reassurances can the Secretary of State provide that in matters of airport capacity and other infrastructure, the NIC will be able to take essential long-term decisions for the competitiveness of our nation, and not be thwarted by short-term, partisan considerations?

Mr McLoughlin: Even the National Infrastructure Commission will be subject to decisions taken in this House and by the Government of the day—that was even the case in the way the NIC would have been set up by the Labour Opposition, had they been successful at the general election. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that these are big issues, and setting up the NIC is a fundamental way forward that will help to address some of them. It will still be for the House and the Government to ensure that other legal requirements—such as those on air quality—are abided by, and we must consider other issues when making such decisions.

Dr Tania Mathias (Twickenham) (Con): I commend the Secretary of State for his statement and I applaud the Government for making the environmental impact an important issue. As part of that work, will the Government also investigate current noise and air pollution problems with two runways at Heathrow?

Mr McLoughlin: I understand the conditions faced by my hon. Friend’s constituents. I mentioned in my statement that noise is one of the considerations we have to get right. The advance of technology means that planes are becoming quieter, but she is absolutely right. She represents a constituency very closely affected by this decision. It has to be taken after looking at all mitigation measures expected to be put in place by any of the three promoters of the scheme.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): The Secretary of State is a very honourable gentleman, particularly as he is my constituent. I am sure that deep down he is not particularly happy today. In his statement, he talked about the best possible outcome for local residents. Does he accept that my Vauxhall constituents may not be considered as local residents to Heathrow, but that it is crucial that their views are taken into consideration? They live under early morning noise pollution that is absolutely shocking. An extra runway at Heathrow will make it much worse.

Mr McLoughlin: One suggestion for alleviation in the commissioner’s report is an end to night flights and the flights to which the hon. Lady refers. These things always have to be taken into account. Although I live in her constituency, I do not exercise my vote there.

Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): Either the Government have decided to go ahead with Heathrow expansion but are delaying the announcement to avoid embarrassing their candidate for London Mayor, or they

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need more time to massage Heathrow’s terrible record on noise and pollution. If it were to be Gatwick, we would have been told today. Is this not a cowardly and pathetic way to decide an issue that will blight the health and lives of millions of Londoners?

Mr McLoughlin: The hon. Gentleman has taken a view on the Government’s decision before the Government have made the decision. That is fairly typical of what he does. I have been very open with the House on the reason for the extra work that needs to be done. There are people on the Government Benches who have been incredibly consistent on this matter and there are people on the Opposition Benches who have been less consistent. I went through the whole programme of where we got to on the timetable, and if there has been a deliberate wasting of time, it was by the previous Labour Government.

Dr Liam Fox (North Somerset) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend understand the dismay and frustration in the south-west as a result of this latest delay? Our infrastructure comes to the west of London. He himself has been responsible for massive rail investment, including electrification and the spur line to Heathrow. As this latest delay will have an impact on potential inward investment in our region, what confidence can we have that a decision will finally be arrived at next summer? This is not a London issue; this is a national issue.

Mr McLoughlin: I agree with my right hon. Friend that this is a national issue. I am grateful to him for pointing out the amount of infrastructure investment the Government can proudly point to. We are increasing investment in infrastructure by 50% in this Parliament, something I am immensely proud of. He says that the delay will not allow us to meet what the commission report says, but I disagree with him. Even on what I am saying at the moment, which is that there will be a decision by summer next year, we will be in a position to meet the timetable for extra capacity by 2030, which is when Sir Howard says it is desperately needed by.

Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton) (Lab): This dithering is disgraceful. It puts the political career of the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) above the national interest, and he could not even be bothered to be in his place for the Secretary of State’s statement. [Interruption.] He was not in his place at the beginning; he came in late. I do not believe—perhaps the Secretary of State can tell us—that there are any new environmental considerations that were not known to Davies and have not been known to the Government over the past 10 years or so.

Mr McLoughlin: I very much regret the position the hon. Gentleman takes. He served on the Transport Committee for a considerable time. The position of my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) on the expansion of Heathrow has always been perfectly clear. I do not think anybody can be in any doubt about it.

The hon. Gentleman said that my hon. Friend was not in the Chamber, but of course he is, which is more than can be said of the right hon. Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan), who said in 2009 in the Evening Standard that he was firmly in favour of Heathrow expansion. At that time, he was a Transport Minister attending Cabinet.

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At least my hon. Friend has always been very specific about where he stands. I think the hon. Gentleman’s question was unworthy of him.

Sir Roger Gale (North Thanet) (Con): My right hon. Friend is right to seek to nail down the environmental issues first, because, as the House knows, if he does not, we will be in judicial review for the next generation and nothing at all will happen. That said, last week on BBC radio, the chief executive of Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd clearly indicated that he thought Heathrow was full for freight purposes. Even today, we are losing business to Schiphol, Frankfurt, Charles de Gaulle and Dubai. We have to take action now. It will be 15 years before there are wheels on new tarmac anywhere in the south-east. Will my right hon. Friend do his utmost to get Manston airport open again so that we can turn it into a freight hub, relieve the pressure on Heathrow and take Britain forward?

Mr McLoughlin: My hon. Friend has led this campaign and never misses an opportunity to mention Manston airport, not only in the Chamber but every other time I meet him. He mentioned John Holland-Kaye’s comments on the “Today” programme last Friday which I think were about current capacity for flights from Heathrow for the movement of freight, but my hon. Friend is talking about setting up a completely new operation at Manston, and I wish him well in his campaign.

Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab): I believe that the delay is not merely political expediency; I believe that the Secretary of State has come to realise something I have known for 15 years: expansion at Heathrow is just too difficult. As well as air quality and noise, will he address the business case, over which the Airports Commission’s economic advisers seem to differ? Will he properly assess the ground-based security and crash risks of the different options—they were not so assessed in the commission’s report? Will he force Heathrow airport to declare where the flight paths will be, particularly the approach paths, and the differences between what the commission recommends for Heathrow and what Heathrow is prepared to accept?

Mr McLoughlin: I think I might need an Adjournment debate to answer those questions. The Airports Commission has considered all those points in detail, and I have said that extra work is being done, which is the right thing to do.

Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): As one who publicly supported increased air transport movements in Farnborough in my constituency, may I ask my right hon. Friend to confirm that the Government have not ruled out additional runways at both London Gatwick and London Heathrow, given the importance of this matter to the entire economy? Does he think that the Heathrow hub proposal by Jock Lowe, which would be far less destructive, stands a much better chance than it previously did?

Mr McLoughlin: As I have said throughout my answers, all three options—a third runway at Heathrow, a Heathrow hub and a second runway at Gatwick—are under consideration. That remains the position, but my hon. Friend, who is a keen aviator himself, will know of the difficulties that have to be addressed. That is the right thing to do.

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Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab): I admire the Secretary of State’s chutzpah in explaining that the Prime Minister has decided to be indecisive, but if he is keen to give further consideration to the serious environmental considerations of air pollution, why have the Government been lobbying heavily in the European Commission against the air quality package?

Mr McLoughlin: The hon. Gentleman tells us that we have been indecisive, but he was a member of a Government who could make no decision whatever on this matter. As for where we stand on various things in the European Commission and the European Parliament, this is about a whole range of issues, not necessarily one individual, small item.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): My right hon. Friend justifies the additional delay by saying, quite rightly, that he wants to get the decision right. It just occurs to me that if we had done the same with HS2, it could have been cheaper and less environmentally damaging. May I say that that is an observation and not a question? No reply is needed.

Mr McLoughlin: I should give one, just to put the record straight. The HS2 route has undergone considerable improvement, much of which my hon. Friend has campaigned for, and he has got his own way on what he wanted in his constituency.

Stewart Malcolm McDonald (Glasgow South) (SNP): It is like something straight from “Yes Minister”. “What do we want?” “Airport expansion!” “When do we want it?” “At the appropriate juncture, in the fullness of time” —after umpteen inquiries, reports and working groups, and a cost of millions of pounds to the taxpayer, all for a by-election in Richmond Park. “He used to be indecisive, but now he’s not so sure.” Will the Government get on with it, as the country expects us to?

Mr McLoughlin: I am still waiting to hear—it should be such a simple, easy answer—what the SNP’s position is on this matter. Which scheme do SNP Members support? They are silent on it. They want everybody else to give their answers, so that once the decision is made they will attack it and say they would go down a different route. That seems to be the only point of the SNP in this Chamber: to wait for a decision to be made, then attack it. No wonder SNP Members are in such a difficult position today.

Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell) (Con): The effect of a hub airport in the United Kingdom stretches to all parts of the United Kingdom, including up in the Leeds area. Those travelling transatlantic who want to get airside at Leeds cannot do so because the first flight out of Leeds is around midday, so capacity is vital to the economy. However, I believe that all the options before us are wrong and I would like my right hon. Friend take to this opportunity to look further at what I think is a better option, a fourth: two more runways at Stansted.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): Order. Before I call the Secretary of State, I remind Members that we are asking questions, not making statements, and those questions should be a lot shorter.

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Mr McLoughlin: I hear what my hon. Friend says, but the call from most Members in the Chamber is to make a decision. If we reopen the whole question and go back to his suggestion, it might take rather longer.

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): Given the high risk that the work that the Secretary of State has announced today will not bring the Heathrow plan any closer but will just reinforce the idea that it is far too hot a political potato, why does he not revert to the Gatwick option, safe in the knowledge that, under his stewardship, HS2 will be ready well before 2030, thus allowing Birmingham to complement Gatwick?

Mr McLoughlin: I mentioned in my statement the importance of seeing other airports in the United Kingdom grow and offer more services. I think I mentioned Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow—I will be told off for the ones I failed to mention—but the point is well made by the hon. Gentleman: services from other airports are also very important indeed.

Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs) (Con): The Secretary of State said that the Government accepted the case for expansion. Presumably that is why they set up the commission in the first place, so it did not need three years to tell them that. He also said that the Government accepted the Airports Commission’s shortlist of options. Increasingly, he presents the case as though there are three equal options from the Airports Commission, but has the commission not made an unequivocal recommendation? Should not the Government at least be open about that? Is he aware that last week the chief executive of International Airlines Group, Willie Walsh, while expressing concerns about the cost of Heathrow, said that there was

“no business case for expanding Gatwick,”


“Very few airlines support the proposal and no one would move there while Heathrow remains open”?

Mr McLoughlin: I could also cite quotes from Willie Walsh which would put a question mark over the Heathrow proposals. If we are getting into the game of quoting Willie Walsh, we will find many that could be cited on this subject. The correct thing for the Government to do is to look at all three options in light of the environmental work and the mitigation circumstances that we would like to see, and then return to the House once we have decided with which option we will go forward.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): The Secretary of State has let himself down in the way he has responded to questions, making it an issue of party ping-pong and who is responsible for what delay. Let us be absolutely clear. I welcome his remarks about air quality, which is very important for Heathrow. However, he has heard me speak about the fact that there are more European headquarters of multinational companies in Slough than in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland put together. What research has he done on how few such companies will remain in the UK—anywhere in the UK—as a result of the ongoing delays in making this decision?

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Mr McLoughlin: I am sorry that the right hon. Lady was so disappointed with the way I have responded. I responded partly in view of the way in which the Labour Front-Bench team attacked the Government for their indecision. I realise that the right hon. Lady has presented a petition to No. 10 Downing street in support of the expansion of Heathrow airport. This is an issue that divides colleagues in political parties, and I think it right for the Government to make sure that the proper environmental work is done before any move forward is taken.

Mark Menzies (Fylde) (Con): As a member of the Transport Select Committee, I have to observe that the Government have got themselves into a rather big hole on this issue. At least, however, they have my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, a former miner, to dig them out of it. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that this decision will be taken in the early summer and that it will look favourably at the Davies commission, which made a clear recommendation to build a third runway at Heathrow?

John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): Stop digging!

Mr McLoughlin: The shadow Chancellor says stop digging. He should learn lessons from his own shouting from a sedentary position.

John McDonnell: That was a compliment!

Mr McLoughlin: Oh, that was a good one; I will put that in my book.

As for the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mark Menzies), the important part of the Davies commission recommendations was having the extra capacity in place by 2030. I believe, given what I have said today, that we are on schedule to be able to deliver that extra capacity by 2030.

Gavin Robinson (Belfast East) (DUP): As somebody who supports the expansion of Heathrow, let me indicate my frustration that progress has been caught up in an internal Conservative holding pattern. The Secretary of State has on three occasions this evening reiterated the commitment to the 2030 timescale. Will he assure us that in six months’ time a decision will not be taken to kick the can further down the road?

Mr McLoughlin: I have said that I hope to come back to the House in the summer. I am not going to say exactly when that will be from today’s date, but I fully accept the point that services to Northern Ireland are incredibly important. Northern Ireland is already well connected to London. There were around 17,000 flights between Belfast and London in 2014, of which about 6,000 were to Heathrow. I do not underestimate the importance of connectivity to London for Northern Ireland or indeed for Scotland.

Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South) (Con): If the decision on the new runway were made on the basis of environmental data that are seen not to be robust, it would lead to delays and legal challenges that would last far longer than if we waited for more reliable data. London Gatwick has already briefed me on its concerns

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about the quality of the Davies commission data. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that he will look at all the data over the next few months and get them as robust as possible, so that when a decision is made, it can be enacted straight away?

Mr McLoughlin: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. If any lesson has been learnt from the preparations for HS2, it is the need to ensure that all the processes are gone through diligently and properly. There were a number of attempts to secure judicial reviews in relation to HS2, and nearly all of them failed.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): The Secretary of State has come to the House today to try to hoodwink us all into thinking that he is the most incompetent and indecisive Secretary of State that there has ever been, but no one is fooled by his attempt to take a hit on behalf of the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith). This is a fix for next year’s mayoral election, and nothing else. It certainly has nothing to do with anything that is in the national interest. [Interruption.]

Mr McLoughlin: I am going to do it again. The shadow Chancellor has just said “That was a compliment.”

Let me say to the hon. Member for Eltham (Clive Efford)—who has been present for all the exchanges—that it is not my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park who has changed his position on the question of Heathrow, but the right hon. Member for Tooting (Sadiq Khan), who, when he was a transport Minister, said that he was firmly in favour of its expansion. As for the date of the mayoral election, if we had initially wanted to put off the decision until after the election, we would have simply said that there would be no decision for 12 months, and would then have considered it for 12 months. The fact is that we are making progress. It is important that we make more progress by 2030, and that is what we shall do.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): No matter how skilfully the Secretary of State tries to pretend otherwise, we all know that this rather grubby little announcement—if I may say so—is all about trying to get the Conservative party and my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) over next May, and to cross that particular line. This is no way for the Government to make decisions and announcements. They talk about the northern powerhouse as if they really believed in it—which, indeed, I am sure that they do—and the Secretary of State must know that expanding Heathrow is essential for the northern powerhouse, so will he please act in the national interest rather than just making a grubby little announcement to benefit London and our excellent mayoral candidate?

Mr McLoughlin: I am glad that my hon. Friend is showing support for the northern powerhouse. It is very important to me and very important to the Government, and we are backing it with huge amounts of investment in electrification and new train services. The two new franchises that were announced last week will have a very beneficial effect on transport connectivity between our major cities in the north. That is vital, as is getting the whole question of future aviation capacity right.

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Chris Leslie (Nottingham East) (Lab/Co-op): What a pathetic way to make decisions about infrastructure in our country! Is the Secretary of State not a little bit shamefaced over what is an excruciatingly painful example of political procrastination, although it is obviously in the national interest for him to get on with it at Heathrow? On a scale of one to 10, just how embarrassed is he?

Mr McLoughlin: Political procrastination? In 2001,

“Labour ministers are reported to be seriously considering building a third runway”.

In 2003,

“The transport secretary, Alistair Darling, publishes white paper”.

In 2007,

“The government publishes a public consultation document”

in favour of expanding Heathrow. 1n 2009,

“The government approves a third runway, taking the number of flights handled by the airport from 480,000 to more than 700,000”.

I will take no lectures on ducking big issues, because the ducking of big issues was done when the hon. Gentleman was a member of the last Labour Government.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): I am pleased that the Secretary of State recognises the importance of regional airports while more airport capacity is delivered in the south-east. What is he doing to encourage more airlines to fly on more routes from Manchester airport?

Mr McLoughlin: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. While he talks about Manchester, I also talk about Birmingham, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow. I think it is absolutely essential to try to get more connectivity from airports so that people do not necessarily have to travel to Heathrow or to Gatwick to get the flights they want. That is very important.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): I like the Secretary of State, so I feel for him, as he is like a sheep snagged on barbed wire: the harder he tries to extricate himself, the more firmly entangled he becomes. To help the Secretary of State, may I suggest he takes this opportunity—no ifs, no buts—to abandon environmentally unsustainable plans for a third runway at Heathrow and pledges instead, first, to improve surface access to Luton and Stansted airports to make better use of spare capacity there, and, secondly, to deliver HS2 on time so that we can see far more people travelling by rail, instead of taking short-haul flights?

Mr McLoughlin: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question, and remind him that the Davies commission was set up by the coalition Government to make and examine the case fully for what we should do for the future. I was proud of serving in that coalition Government, and I was proud of a lot of the things they achieved. The Davies commission and setting it up was just one of them, and now the right hon. Gentleman is wanting us to back away from the difficult questions it poses to us.

Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con): Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the independent and impartial Airports Commission clearly stated that Heathrow was the best option? If Governments in the future decide

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1320

against that and wish to expand Gatwick, may I have a guarantee that the significant investment that will be required in housing, highways, the rail network and healthcare and all other public services will be forthcoming?

Mr McLoughlin: There are already significant commitments with regard to Gatwick; improving the infrastructure for Gatwick is already taking place and further such schemes will be coming on board over the next few years. It is vital that we get the surface access to our airports correct. That is something we are dealing with over a period of time. My hon. Friend asks whether there would be other consequences if the decision should go towards Gatwick. That will be the case for any option we choose, and of course we want to look at those options and see which ones we would want to take forward.

Mr Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham, Perry Barr) (Lab): The Government are developing some capacity for hot air balloons in the process of trying to get to this decision. Rather than just talking about the issue and waiting, may I remind the right hon. Gentleman that Birmingham has current hub capacity and a brand new runway now?

Mr McLoughlin: I wholly concur with the way in which Birmingham has gone about its expansion both of the runway and the airport overall, and I think HS2 will have a very important impact for Birmingham airport as well, so I agree with the hon. Gentleman.

Kwasi Kwarteng (Spelthorne) (Con): Will the Secretary of State give us an assurance that there will be a decision in the summer, because the only question my constituents ask is whether this thing will actually be decided upon or not?

Mr McLoughlin: As I have said to the House, I think it is very important that we stick to the timetable of Sir Howard Davies’s report, and that is having extra capacity available by 2030. I will want to follow that timetable.

Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP): In order to demonstrate that this is not a political fudge, can the Secretary of State clearly state what additional work is going to be undertaken to refine and reassess air quality and noise considerations, who is going to do that work, who is going to assess it, and how the final decision is going to be made? Lastly, as a Scotsman, can I just ask the Secretary of State please to explain exactly at what time of year is summer? I would also point out that not once today has the Secretary of State said in which year—which summer—he is going to report, so can he pin down the year, or is that another fudge?

Mr McLoughlin: To try to reassure the hon. Gentleman, who is yet another Scottish nationalist to get up but not to say which option he supports, let me point out that what I have said and been clear about is that we will stick to the timetable that gives the extra capacity that is needed by 2030.

Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): I normally try to support my right hon. Friend, but I must admit that I am struggling somewhat on this occasion. Can he give

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an absolute assurance that if results of the further work on air quality and noise were to go against Heathrow, the default position would be to accept Gatwick and not waste more years by setting up yet another commission?

Mr McLoughlin: If my hon. Friend looks at my statement, he will see that I made it quite clear that the Government accept that the three options put forward by the commission are the right ones for providing extra capacity, so the answer to his question is that I do accept that.

I did not fully answer all the questions that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown) asked. I meant to say that the work will be done by the Department for Transport.

Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab): We all accept that we find ourselves in a difficult political spot, but the Secretary of State is right that we are talking about a national infrastructure project that will affect runway and aviation capacity throughout the country. Will he commit to meeting me and representatives of regional airports—he did not mention East Midlands, Speke and Durham Tees Valley, so perhaps he can squeeze them in as well—to ensure that we plug the 15 to 20-year gap before we get extra capacity in the south-east?

Mr McLoughlin: I did not mention every airport in the country, but I tried to mention the bigger airports outside London—I will get in trouble for saying that—such as Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Birmingham and Glasgow. I did not mention East Midlands, which is just down the road from my area, but would I like to see more services from East Midlands airport? The answer is clearly yes.

John Howell (Henley) (Con): I welcome the decision to delay the final decision until the environmental concerns have been resolved. Colleagues and I are in negotiations with the Civil Aviation Authority and NATS to control noise from aircraft coming in to Heathrow over the Thames valley. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the resolution of that issue is crucial to our future support for Heathrow?

Mr McLoughlin: My hon. Friend makes a good point. Aviation capacity does not only affect the areas directly involved but has a wider impact across the rest of the economy and the rest of the country.

Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP): In light of the Paris conference, which we have just heard a statement about, what recent discussions has the right hon. Gentleman had with the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change and the Committee on Climate Change about how increased airport capacity will affect the UK’s ability to meet its emissions reduction targets?

Mr McLoughlin: One of the people who served on the Airports Commission was a member of the Committee on Climate Change, Dame Julia King, who has since been ennobled, so we and the Davies commission took that matter into account. There have obviously been further developments since then, such as the Volkswagen scandal. As the Environmental Audit Committee said, it is right that we should judge our response based on

14 Dec 2015 : Column 1322

the new information that has become available. Sir Howard Davies also said that in his evidence to that Committee, and I want that to be done. As I have said, I still believe that we can deliver on the 2030 timetable set out in the commission’s report.

Karen Lumley (Redditch) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the decision is important for our regional airports, such as Birmingham International airport, which I recently visited to see its increased capacity and success? Will he acknowledge that we may see a second runway in Birmingham in the future, along with High Speed 2?

Mr McLoughlin: My hon. Friend never misses an opportunity to promote Birmingham airport. The only thing I slightly disagree with her about is that I do not regard airports such as Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, East Midlands, Glasgow and Edinburgh as regional airports.

James Berry (Kingston and Surbiton) (Con): I thank my right hon. Friend for confirming that the Government will not outsource key policy decisions to unelected commissions and will not be rushed into making a decision about a runway that will not be operational until 2030. Will he confirm that if the third runway is still to be considered, it will only be with the three caveats that Davies placed on it, about a fourth runway, night flights and meeting EU air quality limits?

Mr McLoughlin: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, in that whatever decision is finally taken—three options are still being discussed—we must get the best mitigation deals possible for the people affected. The three points he mentioned would certainly be important considerations in any decision, including if the decision should be taken for Heathrow. As I say, we are looking at three options.

David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): The Government seem to have one of two positions, and I would be interested to understand which one it is. Either we have accepted the Davies commission, subject to sorting out these environmental issues, and therefore we will go down that route if we are able, or we have now decided that there are three equal options and we are looking at all three from scratch. Which of the two routes are we going to go down?

Mr McLoughlin: We have accepted the Davies report as far as the need for capacity by 2030 and the three options are concerned, and it is those three options that we are looking at. I know the Davies commission supported one in particular, but the Government have to look at all three of the options available.

Robert Jenrick (Newark) (Con): In the Secretary of State’s defence, we have not built a full runway in the south-east of England since 1946 and so I am not sure whether another six months will make so much difference—so long as he does make the decision in the summer of 2016. When he decides, will he make his decision in the interests of the whole country, including the 9.5 million residents of the midlands, whom he and I represent, and not just in the interests of the denizens of west London?

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Mr McLoughlin: If one looks as the record of this Government, one sees that we have always acted in the national interest. We have done that on extra railway capacity and we are going to do it on the other big infrastructure investment proposals. They are always controversial and it is right, in this day and age, that we take every measure we can to mitigate the environmental impacts of any decisions we take.

Marcus Fysh (Yeovil) (Con): Job prospects in the south-west and in the rest of the country outside the south-east would clearly be best enhanced by an expansion at Heathrow, but it needs to be legally secure. Does my right hon. Friend agree that sometimes it is best to have a thorough look at these things and that a stitch in time might in this case save nine?

Mr McLoughlin: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that. One thing I have learned from taking through some of the big infrastructure projects that I have been responsible for is that it is right to make sure we can prove on all the possible challenges we will face that we have done the right amount of work in preparation for whatever decisions we put before the House.

Jeremy Quin (Horsham) (Con): What drives air quality is car emissions. Heathrow has far superior and far more rapid public transport links, including four rail links. Gatwick has the one rail link, which, as the Secretary of State is well aware, is not the best one in the country. Will he assure us that in any analysis of air quality, a full understanding will be taken of the impact of the extra car journeys that would inevitably result from the vast increase in passengers and from the employees required, none of whom would be local, were Gatwick to be chosen as the option?

Mr McLoughlin: Those are all points that have to be put forward and addressed in the work that we are going to do in the coming months on air quality. As I say, a lot of this work has been covered by Davies, but a lot more is still to be done. My hon. Friend is right to show his concern and also to point out that there is no easy or straightforward answer on aviation capacity. We must also accept that aviation is a very important industry for this country, employing many thousands of people, including right across the supply chain and the delivery chain. On that basis, I hope that he will accept my assurances.

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Points of Order

5.54 pm

Sir Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I think you were in the Chair when the hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer) accused my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith), who has sat quietly and respectfully throughout this exchange, of not being in his place. Although my hon. Friend is completely wrong on absolutely everything to do with runways, it is extremely unfair to his constituents and to his future supporters in the mayoral election that they should think he was not here for the whole of the time that this statement took place.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Natascha Engel): I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that point of order. I thought it was very clear from the response given from the Government Benches that the hon. Member for Richmond Park was indeed here and had been here throughout. That was the case even at the time the point was made, but the right hon. Gentleman has made it once again and it is now firmly on the record.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I would, however, like to point out that at the point the Secretary of State started his statement the hon. Member for Richmond Park was not in his place.

Madam Deputy Speaker: I was not in the Chair when that happened, but that is now also on the record.

Ms Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (Ochil and South Perthshire) (SNP): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. It was with complete horror that I read in the papers yesterday allegations that a British official was present in January 2002 when Shaker Aamer was tortured and that further officials arrived at Bagram airbase on the same plane as the then Prime Minister. Such serious accusations of a UK Government being complicit in torture not only bring disrepute on this institution, but cause grave concern about the UK Government’s record on upholding the universal declaration of human rights and on honouring the historic values of the right to a fair trial. I am looking for the Government to make an urgent statement on this matter and am calling on the Prime Minister to honour his words from 2010, when he said:

“For public confidence, and for independence from Parliament, party and Government, it is right to have a judge-led inquiry”.

He also said:

“That is what we need to get to the bottom of the case. The fact that it is led by a judge will help ensure that we get it done properly.”—[Official Report, 6 July 2010; Vol. 513, c. 180.]

Madam Deputy Speaker: I thank the hon. Lady for her point of order and for the notice she gave the Chair about it. This is obviously not a matter for the Chair, but, as she can see, a Foreign Office Minister is on the Treasury Bench, he will have heard what she has said and I am sure he will respond in due course.

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European Union (Approvals) Bill [Lords]

Considered in Committee

[Natascha Engel in the Chair]

Clause 1

Approval of draft decisions under Article 352 of TFEU

5.59 pm

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

The Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Natascha Engel): With this it will be convenient to discuss clause 2.

The Minister for Employment (Priti Patel): Clause 1 provides for approval by Parliament of two draft EU legislative measures, as required under section 8 of the European Union Act 2011. Such approval is needed because both measures are made under article 352 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union. Section 8 of the Act does provide for exemptions, in order to avoid the requirement for an Act of Parliament, but the measures here do not fall within any of the exempt purposes.

Clause 2 concerns the territorial extent of the Bill, its commencement date and short title. Subsection (1) 2 provides that the Bill extends to the whole of the United Kingdom. Subsection (2) provides that the Bill will come into force on the day that it receives Royal Assent. Subsection (3) provides for the Bill’s short title. I ask hon. Members to agree to clauses 1 and 2 standing part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair.

Bill reported, without amendment.

Third Reading

6 pm

Priti Patel: I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The brief explanation that accompanied the clause stand parts in the Committee stage covered all the points that need to be made about the content of this very short Bill and the reason it is required. Obviously, we covered some of the points on Second Reading. It is fair to say that our debates on this Bill have covered the two clauses sufficiently. Perhaps it is worth reflecting on the fact that the Bill before us forms part of the ability of Parliament to examine and give clearance through the much broader protection and oversight that the European Union Act 2011 affords us. Bills such as this give another layer of protection in dealing with European Union legislation.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): As my right hon. Friend rightly says, the only concern is why such trivial matters are being dealt with by way of an Act of Parliament. Does she agree that, while these might be

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trivial matters and while the public might be concerned that they are being dealt with by way of an Act of Parliament, the public will be equally concerned that major matters such as perhaps the accession of Turkey to the European Union will go through exactly the same procedure?

Priti Patel: I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks. It is fair to say that, when it comes to debating such matters, I would not use the term “trivial”. The European Union covers not just that particular area, but other aspects, such as the accession of Turkey to the European Union. There will be debates on that matter and engagement with the European Scrutiny Committee. I am delighted to see the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee in his place this afternoon.

I was very clear on Second Reading that there were concerns over what this legislation meant—whether it was burdensome and whether there were costs to the taxpayer. I use Third Reading to emphasise again that there are no burdens of administration or extra costs to the taxpayer. The Bill covers two clauses, one of which relates to the tripartite social summit, the other to the participation as an observer of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the work of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. They are two very straightforward clauses in a very straightforward Bill. On that basis, I commend the Bill to the House.

6.3 pm

Emily Thornberry (Islington South and Finsbury) (Lab): I must admit that I find myself called to the Dispatch Box today in a state of some bewilderment. We are here to debate two matters. The first is whether a new position should be established within an organisation with the somewhat abstruse name of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Stabilisation and Association Council. Establishing that new position in some way facilitates the admission of Macedonia as an observer to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. The second provision relates to the continuation of the tripartite social summit for growth and employment. I think that is why I am here.

There appears to be a need to update the formal basis of this summit, mostly in recognition of the fact that its function now relates to the “agenda for jobs and growth” and not the “agenda for employment and growth” as was previously the case. Will the Minister confirm that that is the case? If it is, the substance of this Bill is almost the definition of bureaucratic minutiae. Although I understand that both provisions relate to draft decisions of the European Council, which need to be approved by each individual member state as well as by the European Parliament, I find the use of primary legislation in these circumstances quite extraordinary. It comes at a time when the Government are hacking away at the social safety net via secondary legislation, on which it is frankly an uphill struggle to get Minsters to agree even to a short debate up in the Committee corridor. It suggests that the Government do not have their priorities in order.

Anyway, here we are, and I will use my time briefly to recap some of the context of these proposals, which I do not expect to be the subject of raging controversy in today’s debate. As we have heard, the first part of the Bill relates to the admission of Macedonia as an observer

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at the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. That move follows a report from the European Commission, which was published earlier this year and which set out a number of recommendations to revive Macedonia’s long-stalled candidacy for accession to the EU.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): My hon. Friend will be aware that the Greeks get very upset when the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is called Macedonia. Perhaps she could use the full title to ensure that we do not upset our Greek colleagues.

Emily Thornberry: My hon. Friend is quite right. I do apologise. I hope that Hansard will get it right even if I do not.

This process was initiated in 2005, but has been put on hold as a result of widespread concerns more recently over the country’s deteriorating record on human rights. The admission as an observer of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights was one of a number of recommendations made in the European Commission’s recent report. As the Minister helpfully explained during the debate on Second Reading, it is hoped that

“Observer status at the agency could allow the country to have access to advice and assistance on fundamental rights issues to help to tackle its reform challenges, and provide assistance and help to the country on human rights issues.”—[Official Report, 3 November 2015; Vol. 601, c. 897.]

At the rate this Government are going—I am talking about removing the requirement to respect international law from the Ministerial Code and pressing ahead with their plan to repeal the Human Rights Act—perhaps the Minister and a few of her colleagues should join the Macedonian delegation and learn a few lessons.

The second provision relates to changes to the basis of the EU’s tripartite social summit for growth and employment. The Bill’s explanatory notes describe this summit as:

“a regular forum for meetings of representatives of the European social partner organisations, the European Commission, and the Council to enable high level discussion between the three parties of employment and social aspects of the European agenda for growth and jobs.”

Beyond those exceptionally vague generalities, further details of the summit’s role are surprisingly hard to come by. Nevertheless, any discussion of jobs and growth is hardly objectionable, and certainly not objected to by me. In fact, should representatives of the UK take part in any upcoming meetings, it might provide an ideal opportunity for Ministers to take on board some of the valuable lessons that our European friends may have to offer. At a time when our jobs market is not exactly the envy of the entire continent, the Government should welcome such an opportunity. We have, for example, a higher proportion of graduates doing jobs for which they are over qualified—at 59%—than any other country in the European Union, apart from Greece and Estonia. We have a higher rate of underemployment—with a 10th of our entire workforce working less than they want to—than any other EU country except for Ireland, Spain and again Greece. That particular problem appears to be getting worse. The most recent employment figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that, even though the number of people in work in the UK

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has risen, the total number of hours worked by the UK has actually fallen. Perhaps the Minister’s European counterparts could teach her a thing or two.

We do not intend to oppose this Bill. In fact, I welcome it, at least as far as it goes, as it offers a reminder of some of the things for which we have to be grateful in our membership of the EU, not least the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms, including some of the most basic rights in the workplace, which many people take for granted. At a time when the Government are undermining those rights on a number of fronts, particularly in the Trade Union Bill, we should welcome the opportunity that this debate provides to remember the positive role that the EU can play in our lives, particularly when it comes to protecting dignity and security in the workplace. It is disappointing that the Government do not seem to share those values.

6.9 pm

Stephen Gethins (North East Fife) (SNP): I am sure that Members from across the House will be delighted to hear that the SNP will be supporting the Bill; they will be even more delighted to hear that I will try to keep my comments as brief as possible. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] I think that is the most popular thing I have said since I became a Member.

EU expansion has been a great success, and it is good to see our friends and colleagues from across the European Union working more closely together. I am particularly pleased to see Macedonia join the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights as an observer; that will be particularly helpful as it deals with the refugee crisis. I hope the country will benefit. It is also a reminder of the countries that have the biggest burden in dealing with the refugee crisis, and the UK could certainly do more.

On the second point, we wholeheartedly support any work to improve dialogue between the EU institutions, employers and workers’ representatives through the tripartite social summit for growth and employment.

We need to remain part of the European Union. There are great benefits to that, as I am sure Members across the House agree. We support the Bill.

6.11 pm

Kelvin Hopkins: It looks as if the Bill will go through without too much controversy, but it is worth commenting on the state of employment across the whole European Union, including the UK. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) has drawn attention to our own problems. Before some hon. Members were born, here in Britain we had the biggest TUC demonstration in history when unemployment went over 1 million; it is now closer to 2 million. We will leave that to one side.

The Bill seeks approval for amendments to be made to the tripartite social summit for growth and employment following institutional changes brought in by the Lisbon treaty. The organisation is meant to discuss increasing the employment rate and investing 3% of gross domestic product in research and development—all sorts of worthy things. However, the EU is living in a dream world if it really thinks it is doing well economically. Austerity has been imposed in many EU countries and there are incredible rates of unemployment—typically 25% in the worst-off states; in Britain, that would mean 4.5 million

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people unemployed rather than 1.8 million or whatever it is. The situation is in a very bad way and some of the larger countries are quietly suffering—particularly France. People in France are nervous about their futures while they remain stuck inside the euro, if not the European Union.

Anyone who thinks that everything is fine and dandy is being Panglossian—“all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds”. If people in the European Union really believe that, they are living in a dream world.

The reality is that the EU is economically failing. I have mentioned Greece, Italy and France, but Finland also has serious problems; it is thinking of printing billions of euros to try to stop the country from sinking. There are all sorts of serious economic problems inside the eurozone and indeed the European Union. The only way those countries are ever going to get the jobs and growth that are so often talked about is for them to be able to reflate their economies on a national basis. That means they have to be able to control the value of their currencies in relation to others as well as their interest rates. They also need their own fiscal policies. When they can reflate behind their own barriers, Europe as a continent will start to grow again and millions of people who have been out of work for a long time can get back into work.

This is an innocuous Bill, but we should focus occasionally on some of the points about jobs and growth that it covers to show how bad the situation is. When I was a young person, everyone had a job. There was full employment—in fact, there was a labour shortage. Between 1945 and the 1970s there was a growth in living standards such as we had never seen before. Since then, things have gone badly wrong and there have been crises. As I have said from these Benches before, there are more serious crises to come. I do not think that the European Union is being economically successful and when it talks constantly about growth, stability and jobs, it is living in a dream world.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, without amendment.

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Relocation of Migrants in need of International Protection (Opt-in Decision)

[Relevant documents:2nd Report from the European Scrutiny Committee, Session 2015-16, HC 342-ii, Chapter 3; 3rd Report from the European Scrutiny Committee, Session 2015-16, HC 342-iii, Chapter 8; 5th Report from the European Scrutiny Committee, Session 2015-16, HC 342-v, Chapters 1, 2, and 3; and 9th Report from the European Scrutiny Committee, Session 2015-16, HC 342-ix, Chapter 3.]

6.15 pm

The Minister for Immigration (James Brokenshire): I beg to move,

That this House takes note of European Union Documents No. 9355/15 and Addendum and No. 11132/15, international protection for the benefit of Italy and Greece, No. 11843/15 and Addendum, establishing a crisis relocation mechanism, and No. 11844/15 and Addendum, international protection for the benefit of Italy, Greece and Hungary; and agrees with the Government’s decision not to opt in to proposals establishing provisional measures for the relocation of individuals in need of international protection or to the proposal establishing a crisis relocation mechanism.

The motion covers a series of EU proposals on the relocation of migrants within the EU. They formed a central part of the EU’s summer response to the ongoing migration crisis and have been the subject of long negotiations within the EU and of previous debates in the House.

The current migration crisis has been described as the worst refugee crisis since world war two. It has severely tested the ability and resolve of the EU and member states to provide a comprehensive and sustainable response that is able to support member states under the most pressure and ensure protection for those in real need of it. The situation has been and remains complex and fast moving. Proposals have been brought forward and adopted extremely quickly; at times, Interior Ministers have met almost weekly, and as soon as proposals were adopted, they were often superseded by others.

Since the crisis began, the Government have been clear about our views on relocation: it is the wrong response. It does absolutely nothing to address the underlying causes of the crisis and does nothing more than move the problem around Europe. Relocation also reduces incentives for member states to tackle abuse, process applications and strengthen their borders. It may also encourage more migrants to travel illegally to the EU. We must ensure that the permanent relocation proposal does not reduce the obligation on all member states to have fully functioning border and asylum systems.

The Government have consistently stated that the UK would not opt in to measures, whether temporary or permanent. I apologise to the House for the fact that we have had to override scrutiny on these relocation measures. The European Commission brought forward proposals on relocation as a response to an emergency situation. The Prime Minister and Home Secretary were required to make the Government’s views on such measures clear in hastily arranged EU Council meetings.

The debates on relocation continue within the EU. Only a tiny number of people have been relocated under the agreed temporary measures and many member states

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are now stepping back from their previous commitments. Concern is growing about the merits of the permanent mechanism.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree with the position of Slovakia? It believes that the decision should have been taken by unanimity.

James Brokenshire: Obviously, we are not party to the arrangements as we are using our opt-out. My hon. Friend highlights some of the issues that have arisen since the measures were put into place. I am aware that Slovakia and Hungary have recently filed legal challenges in the European Court of Justice against the relocation scheme. There are relevant concerns. In our view, the proposals are ill conceived and many more now question the viability of relocation as a tool to manage the migration crisis.

John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): I strongly support the Government’s decision to opt out. Will the Minister explain something? Under the scheme that was agreed, if migrants were allocated a given country to settle in but then decided they would rather live in another EU country, what would stop them from moving?

James Brokenshire: My right hon. Friend has highlighted what might be described as secondary movement, and we remain conscious of that. Obviously, there is secondary movement within the Schengen area, but we maintain our own border controls and visa requirements. Practical issues with the scheme have been highlighted; to date, only about 160 people have been relocated under the measures thus far.

Rather than relocating those arriving in Europe, the Government have made clear that our policy is to focus our efforts on resettling vulnerable people in need of international protection. We continue to make the case that this is not just an EU problem but an international issue requiring concerted action from a whole range of international parties.

Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con): Is not the problem on secondary movement the fact that once migrants have become citizens of an EU member state, the free movement of people means that they are entitled to go anywhere? Even under our own laws, asylum seekers go to the head of the queue in getting nationality.

James Brokenshire: My hon. Friend makes an important point in respect of rights and entitlement to citizenship, but he will know that there are certain tests that we adopt—good character requirements, for example—and other steps that we take to assure ourselves in respect of those who may be granted citizenship, and that that process is conducted over a number of years before someone would be so entitled. Citizenship is certainly not automatic. I underline the point that I made—we maintain our own visa and border requirements in respect of those who come here, and adhere to them clearly for those who are not EU citizens.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab): There is another problem that arises before secondary movement. What if the refugees do not want to go to the countries to

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which they have been allocated? If they are put on trains and forcibly sent to countries that they do not want to go to, that has echoes of uncomfortable times in the past.

James Brokenshire: The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point about the operation of the scheme. That has been a practical issue for EU member states that are party to the scheme when migrants have displayed an unwillingness to participate in the relocation arrangements envisaged by the measures to be debated this evening. Such practical issues have to be confronted.

The migration crisis is constantly changing and requires a flexible but robust response. Our approach has been designed to protect the UK interest while making a contribution to helping those in need and addressing the unprecedented challenge faced by our partners. Relocation is not proving to be successful. In our view, time would be better spent on measures that would make a real difference. We must secure the external border, quickly provide protection to those who need it and return those who do not. That is where the focus of this Government will remain, and I trust that the House will be minded to support the motion.

6.21 pm

Keir Starmer (Holborn and St Pancras) (Lab): I am glad we have the opportunity to debate this vitally important issue today. Political unrest and widespread violations of human rights have led to millions of people being displaced. The UNHCR says that there are 4.3 million Syrian refugees alone. This is, as the Minister said, the worst humanitarian crisis in Europe since the second world war, and it is clearly the most important issue now facing the EU.

Over the past nine months, the EU has seen unprecedented levels of migration, with more than 812,000 asylum seekers registered in the EU up till the end of September. The UNHCR says that more than 3,000 people are tragically dead or missing as a result of attempted crossings of the Mediterranean. The vast majority of the pressures of those incoming migrants has fallen on Italy and Greece, with 99.5% of migrants who cross the Mediterranean arriving in these two countries. That is the background to the EU-proposed programme of relocation in the UK. Britain rightly has an opt-out in relation to migration matters and has decided not to opt back into these measures.

Although we support that decision, it is disappointing that it has taken over six months and repeated prompting by the European Scrutiny Committee to secure this debate on the Floor of the House. We recognise, of course, that situations are often fast-moving and that the Government should not be constrained, but we think the Government should reflect on the approach they have taken so far in relation to the procedure.

On the substance of the matter, although we do not want to see Britain opt into mandatory quotas, we believe that we should take an active role in tackling the migration crisis across the EU, as well as on our doorstep. In this respect we take issue with the Government’s response. Just as we have joined military operations to play our part in tackling ISIS, so we have a moral responsibility to work with other EU states to help to deal with the large numbers of refugees who are fleeing the barbaric conditions in Syria and elsewhere.

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The Government have pledged to accept 20,000 refugees over this Parliament—4,000 a year. After more than two years of Labour calling on the Government to take action, this is undoubtedly a welcome step and was welcomed by the House, but the Government still refuse to accept people in desperate need who need relocation from other EU states.

Four thousand refugees represents less than 0.5% of the refugees entering the EU this year. That is not good enough. The UK has a proud history of offering sanctuary to those in need of refuge and should not shrink from its responsibilities because it has the fortune not to be on the frontline of the crisis.

John Redwood: Can the hon. Gentleman explain how many refugees he thinks we ought to take and what the criteria would be?

Keir Starmer: Our position is that mandatory quotas are not the way forward. Any numbers taken in this country should be only on a voluntary basis. In view of what we see as the current failure of relocation policy, the Government should rethink whether we should take some numbers from Europe on a voluntary basis. It would be for the Government to decide what number, on a voluntary basis, would be the right number. It has been suggested that if every city or county in Britain took just 10 refugee families, we would be able to help perhaps 10,000 individuals. As I say, in the first instance we call on the Government to reconsider their approach in the light of the prevailing situation.

It goes without saying that under any scheme, and under a voluntary scheme in particular, there should be robust and effective vetting and safeguarding procedures, wherever those procedures take place. We therefore call on the Government to reconsider the refusal to take people relocated from other member states on a voluntary basis, without opting into a mandatory system. Even if we are not part of the mandatory relocation scheme, we should do everything in our power to ensure that it works effectively. The EU relocation scheme has so far relocated just 130 individuals from Italy and 30 from Greece of its intended 160,000 people, which seems to indicate that it may be incapable of successfully dealing with the pressures being faced in Italy and Greece. In addition, only six of the 22 member states have notified the EU that they have the capacity to host relocated individuals.

What steps, if any, are the Government taking to support the relocation programme and to help to cope with this volume? On a point that has been raised on more than one occasion by the European Scrutiny Committee, in the absence of voluntary relocation how do the Government interpret the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility in the EU?

Let me turn to the questions that we have on the motion, which we support. Can the Minister update the House on the number of Syrian refugees who have arrived in Britain since the Prime Minister announced that we would take 20,000 over the course of this Parliament? In addition, the Home Office has stated that 55 local authorities will welcome Syrian refugees into their communities before Christmas. How many of those authorities have so far welcomed refugees? The Government say they are reluctant to take migrants relocated from within the EU for fear of creating new

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pull factors, but they have consistently produced little evidence that this would be the result of allowing internal relocation. As the European Scrutiny Committee has observed, the Government have been thin on substance on this issue. Can the Minister now give some substance on the pull factor argument? Surely we must recognise the level of desperation that forces people to leave their homes and attempt the journey to the EU in the knowledge that they or their loved ones might not make it. That will be a significant factor whatever relocation programme is put in place.

Mr Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): Can the shadow Minister assist us by explaining how many people leave Syria, how many come into Greece and why there is a large difference between the two numbers?

Keir Starmer: I am not sure that I am in a position to deal with that intervention; it is probably better put to the Minister.

The Government have rightly said that they will take refugees from outside Europe, and we support that, but what about those who have made it into Europe? Of course the Government do not want to get drawn into a mandatory relocation programme within Europe, but why cannot there be a voluntary arrangement that we could enter into in order to play our full part in solidarity and fair responsibility for refugees across Europe? Just as we have joined with our European and other international allies in trying to defeat ISIS and other causes of refugees and migration, so we should play our full part in dealing with the crisis here in Europe, with huge numbers already desperately needing relocation. On the basis of the figures, at least at first blush, it looks as though the relocation programme is not working as was anticipated. As I say, only 160 or so individuals have been relocated. In those circumstances, we ask whether the Government could and should do more.

I finish where I started and return to the way in which this matter now comes before the House. Recognising that the situation is moving fast, will the Minister give an assurance that the House will be properly updated and that time will be allowed for proper scrutiny and debate as the relocation policy rolls out over the coming weeks and months?

6.31 pm

Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con): As Chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee, I have been invited to attend four meetings—two in Luxembourg, one in Brussels, and one in Italy this last weekend—bringing together most of the national parliamentary chairmen with responsibilities in the area we are discussing. I pay tribute to the chairman of the Schengen committee in the Italian Parliament, Laura Ravetto, for taking this extremely important initiative.

I would like first to refer to a meeting that took place under the auspices of COSAC—Conference of Parliamentary Committees for Union Affairs of Parliaments of the European Union. That body, which consists of the chairmen of the national parliamentary EU committees, is given a very wide remit in matters of the kind that we are discussing. Although its meetings are webcast and published, it does not get anything like the attention that it really deserves. Having served on the European Scrutiny Committee for 30 years, having been its Chairman

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for the past five years, and now having been re-elected as Chairman for this Parliament, it is important for me to say that I have never seen such an explosion of anger at a meeting of COSAC in all the time that I have been taking part in those meetings.

The reason for that is the lack of democracy that lies at the heart of this proposal. The hon. Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins) was with me in Luxembourg, and he will bear witness to the sheer anger about its imposition against the wishes of the individual countries concerned—about five in all, from central and eastern Europe. They were absolutely furious about having these mandatory controls imposed on them. This raises a fundamental question of intense sensitivity to the people who live in these countries. The way in which the issues are debated and discussed in the upper echelons—the rarefied atmosphere—of the European Union in its institutional framework bears almost no relationship to what is going on on the ground as regards the voters themselves. When the national chairmen came together at the meeting, they expressed themselves in very clear language indeed.

Apart from all the other things that are going on with the referendum and our complaints about the single currency—and the exchange rate mechanism before that—this raises the whole question of the straitjacket, ever further political integration, and the compression chamber, which I have been referring to since I led the rebellion on the Maastricht treaty back in 1990. I mentioned then, in black and white, in pamphlets and in debates, the compression chamber that was building up. This is an example of that compression chamber, which is now exploding, as was made clear in the COSAC meeting and replicated yet again in our discussions last weekend on the Schengen agreement. I know that we are not members of Schengen, and we will perhaps have an opportunity to discuss that in a moment.

Kelvin Hopkins: I was with the hon. Gentleman at the meeting in Luxembourg, as he rightly said. Does he agree that there seemed to be some intimidation of smaller, less economically powerful nations by larger, more economically powerful nations?

Sir William Cash: There is the case of Germany, to come straight to the point.

At the meeting it was discussed whether the 28 member states represented there, excluding us and Ireland because we are not part of Schengen, would welcome the proposals that were set out in the motion. In a nutshell, the countries concerned—the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania—were being told that they should go along with these mandatory arrangements irrespective of their resentment about that, their parliamentary votes against it, and their application to the European Court of Justice. As the Minister said, Hungary and Slovakia had brought proceedings in the Court of Justice to challenge the validity of this. These countries were, in effect, being told that they were wrong, and that in saying that the motion should merely “take note” of the relocation proposals, which was almost over-generous of them in the circumstances, they were refusing to accept the notion that they should welcome it. That is what led to the explosion. The debate went on for nearly

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four hours. This must not be underestimated. It is not just something to be floated over as, with respect, the Minister did; I understand why he probably did so. It is fissile material. It is a perfect example of the total want of democracy in the European Union in imposing, by mandatory arrangements, a settlement on countries that simply do not want it. It is a perfect example of what I have described as the compression chamber blowing up in such circumstances.

That is the background against which we should consider this. It is not just a question of whether we like it or not, but of how the European Union operates in practice. One need only look at how the Greeks were treated by the Germans with regard to the whole austerity programme or how the Portuguese president, a few weeks ago, disregarded, ignored and refused to accept the decision of the voters by not acknowledging the new party of government. The list is considerable, and, as far as I am concerned, that is the basis against which this issue ought to be judged.

I am, of course, delighted, but not surprised, that the Government have decided not to opt into the arrangements. I say with enthusiasm that our policy of trying to deal with the problem of refugees at source, which I have applauded from the very beginning, is the best way to go about it, not to allow these people in. At Friday’s meeting, the issue was raised of why Germany took the line it did. The answer, as I have said on the Floor of the House on a number of occasions over the past couple of months, is that it was very much to do with its desire to have more people working in the country, not just for altruistic reasons but for economic reasons. It wants to compensate for the fact that it will soon have a much lower working-age population. It made the decision because that is what Germany wants, irrespective of the impact it will have on the European Union. Angela Merkel’s popularity happens to have plummeted over the past few weeks because, in my opinion and that of many other commentators, she has misjudged the situation.

The real point is that, to bring in 1 million people to Germany—that is basically what is happening—is not the end but the beginning of the story. Those 1 million people will themselves have their own children and probably bring their families over as well, because the charter of fundamental rights will be made available to them. This is, in fact, an opening of what I described the other day as a tsunami.

On top of that—I have referred to this on a number of occasions on the Floor of the House—nobody can doubt for a moment that there are a number, albeit perhaps small, of jihadists among those people who have come over. The reality is that only a few are needed in order to wreak the kind of carnage and havoc that we witnessed in Paris. To those who would criticise people like me for mentioning that, I say that it is a fact that that is what is happening, and on a scale unprecedented since the second world war.

Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP): I am very concerned to hear what the hon. Gentleman has just said. Does he actually have hard evidence that jihadists are arriving in the United Kingdom under the disguise of migrants? Given that some people pose as police officers and social workers in order to commit heinous crimes, does he think we should abolish the police and social workers as well?

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Sir William Cash: The reality is that there are declared jihadists who have been in Syria and other parts of the middle east. Jihadi John, as he was described, is a very good example of a declared jihadist who came from the United Kingdom, but I was not making a point about the United Kingdom, although I do perceive the danger. I was referring to the fact that there is no doubt that citizens—admittedly, they were French—who had been to Syria and come back via routes that enabled them to get to Paris contributed to the carnage. People can dispute that if they wish, but the facts are clear. The reality is that real problems have to be addressed, and that is an extremely important part of this debate. People can have differing views, but the reality is that there are real dangers.

I am also bound to say another thing with respect to the manner in which the Government have dealt with the issue. I want to make this point briefly, but it is important. The Minister passed very briefly over this and made a slight apology for what happened, but, with regard to override, I am going to put it in stronger terms. Scheduling a debate after the Government have reached an opt-in decision makes a mockery of their own commitment to enhanced scrutiny of their opt-in decisions and to provide full transparency and accountability to Parliament. The Government have provided no explanation, even this evening, for their failure to schedule an opt-in debate during a September sitting of Parliament, when the House could have expressed a view on the merits of opting into the first two relocation proposals, or an opt-in debate before the expiry of the opt-in deadline of 8 December on the proposed amending regulation.

Mr Rees-Mogg: Would my hon. Friend be more sympathetic to Her Majesty’s Government, as I might be, if it were not true that it was nearly three years ago, in January 2013, that the European Scrutiny Committee requested a debate on the Floor of the House on the free movement of people? Their failure to schedule debates is long standing.

Sir William Cash: It is indeed. I always want to encourage the Government to do better, but on this occasion they have done a lot worse. The delay in scheduling opt-in debates is inconsistent with the letter and spirt of the commitments made to Parliament by the Minister for Europe. I would be grateful if the Minister for Immigration would deal with that, because he owes not only the European Scrutiny Committee, but, much more importantly, the House and this country’s voters an apology for the way in which it has been dealt with. I am sure he will give that apology; perhaps he would like to do so now. Is there a chance that he might? Is he listening to what I am saying?

James Brokenshire: I am grateful to the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee for allowing me to intervene on him. As I said when I gave evidence to the Committee, the Government have had to deal with a fast-moving situation, and, as I have already indicated today, we are sorry that it has not been possible to have the debates in the way we would have chosen to have them, but that is a reflection of the exceptional circumstances with which we have been dealing. There have been opportunities for debates and to respond to questions by way of statements, but that is the situation to which we have been seeking to respond.

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Sir William Cash: Is that an apology? I would like the Minister to reply. I want to know whether, in these circumstances, which are unusual and unprecedented—[Interruption.] The Home Secretary’s Parliamentary Private Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton North (Michael Ellis), should keep his calm. It is very important that he should understand that these matters relate to the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, not to purely personal opinions. We are very concerned about that and I have made my point.

Kelvin Hopkins: I support the hon. Gentleman’s comments on delayed debates on the Floor of the House and even in Committee. The Minister said that matters were fast moving, but I hardly think that having to wait two years for a debate is fast moving. The issue is fast moving when the Government want it to be, but when they do not want it to be fast moving, it moves very slowly indeed.

Sir William Cash: I thoroughly agree with my fellow member of the European Scrutiny Committee and with the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg). The point has been made.

In the joint address to the European Parliament on 7 October, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, described the Dublin rules as “obsolete”. The French President highlighted the link between the Dublin rules and the proper functioning of the Schengen free movement area and said:

“Calling into question the free movement of people, by returning to internal borders, would be a tragic error”.

He went on to say:

“ But pretending that Schengen, with its current way of functioning, allows us to face border pressures would be another mistake.”

The question, therefore, is whether the Dublin system is at risk of breaking down and whether further fragmentation of the Schengen free movement area can be avoided. An extraordinary contradiction emerged from the meeting I attended over the weekend. The people there were very anxious to be sure that we had a proper border control system, but they also insisted on an external border system. I am sure the Minister is aware of that from his discussions in Brussels and elsewhere. The irony of the situation is that at the same time as they are insisting on greater border controls—as I have said on other occasions, there is almost more barbed wire in Europe today than there was during the cold war—they also want a complete external border system surrounding the whole of the European Union, presumably with the exception of the non-Schengen countries, namely ourselves and the Irish. I hope the Minister appreciates that, under the pressures exerted by the migrants crisis, there is a real desire to go further towards having a complete external border and to go deeper towards having political union. At the same time, they want effective border controls, but those two things are inconsistent.

I understand that the Government now propose to use taxpayers’ money to increase the effectiveness of Frontex, but when we consider the scale of the borders—a massive area of the European continent is supposed to be completely sealed off along the EU’s external borders—we can see that the costs will be absolutely monumental. Frontex has already proven to be ineffective.

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It does not work and I doubt whether it is possible to make it work, but through an insistence on its external borders, more and more pressure is being exerted towards the deeper integration of the European Union.

I want the Minister to tell us how we can have an effective system of the kind now proposed, with a full external border for an enhanced Schengen system, and the United Kingdom staying in the European Union at the same time. I see this as a very important moment in terms of our having to leave the European Union. The Schengen arrangements, reinforced by Frontex, to which the British taxpayer is expected to contribute, and the increasing pressures towards political union seems to me to be a subject on which we should speak more and more clearly and loudly.

There are real dangers in all of this. I simply think that bringing the Turkish action plan into operation will make the situation even more intractable. More could be said about that. At this moment in time, with their internal border controls, Germany and several other countries are in breach of the Schengen free movement area. Border controls have been introduced by Austria and Germany, justified on the grounds of public and internal security, and imposed unilaterally without prior notice, whereas the Schengen border code specifies a maximum period of two months. Those countries are in breach of the code, and I understand—the Minister may confirm this—that Germany is facing infraction proceedings. Angela Merkel is facing very substantial pressures from within her own country as a result of the mistakes that have been made.

The reality is that the Commission opinion has shown the interdependence of member states participating in the Schengen free movement area and the risk of a domino effect whereby unilateral action by one member state has an immediate effect on the security of its neighbours. That is causing the most enormous pressure and enormous volcanic eruptions in the countries concerned. People simply will not wear it.

6.54 pm

Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP): I welcome the chance to debate this vital humanitarian issue, but like the hon. Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), I am deeply disappointed that it has taken so long to bring it to the Chamber. As was pointed out by the Labour Front-Bench spokesman, the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), it is six months since the European Scrutiny Committee first asked for this debate. It may be longer since it first asked for another debate, but I was not in Parliament to know that.

The Chair of the Select Committee has gone in detail through the steps the Committee had to take to get this debate, so I will repeat them. On 11 December, three days ago, he finally got answers to some of the questions he had been asking for months, and in some cases, for years. Today, six days after it was too late for us to have the remotest chance of changing the Government’s mind, because the deadline for opting in has passed, we are finally having this debate.

I find it impossible not to contrast the Government’s willingness to cancel an entire day’s business in the Chamber to hold a debate that they wanted on bombing Syria with, frankly, their complete stonewalling of the

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due parliamentary process that allows us to debate how we can and should do more to help some of the millions of innocent victims of the bombs already falling on that country.

Heather Wheeler (South Derbyshire) (Con): The hon. Gentleman is a fellow traveller on the European Scrutiny Committee, but will he be slightly more precise with his wording? We are not bombing Syria; we are bombing Daesh in Syria. It would be very helpful if all Members used those words so that there is no misunderstanding about what we voted on.

Peter Grant: This is not the place to rehearse the weakness of the Government’s case for saying that the bombs will not injure or kill innocent people. If the hon. Lady had listened carefully, she would have heard me make the point that the people we are talking about are those who have already fled or are in the process of fleeing from the conflict. I suggest that, having taken the deliberate decision to become part of that armed conflict, the moral responsibility on the United Kingdom is even greater than it was before. We are now part of that war and we bear a moral responsibility to help to deal with some of the desperate human consequences of it and do what we can to help.

As things now stand, the Scottish National party cannot and will not give an entire endorsement to the Government’s decision not to opt in to the proposals. That is not because we believe the proposals are perfect—far from it; it is because they offer a real attempt by all the nations of Europe, or certainly all the nations of the European Union, to recognise that this crisis is far too big for any one, two or three countries to cope with on their own. It is far too important—it is literally a matter of life and death—for us to risk the chaos that will ensue if 27, 37 or any number of different countries all go their own way.

We have had a foretaste of what happens when countries unilaterally and at a moment’s notice close their borders, open their border, close them again and then open them to some people, but not to others. That is how we have ended up with tens of thousands of desperate, broken people behind barbed wire fences, which is when the tensions and violence are in danger of escalating beyond all control.

We cannot allow the Government to let their own party disagreements on Europe and immigration stand in the way of a moral and compassionate response to what has rightly been described as the worst humanitarian crisis that, please God, most of us will ever witness in our lifetimes. We must see this, first and foremost, as a crisis of protecting the victims of war, not as a crisis of immigration caused by the victims. Our highest priority at all times should be the welfare of millions of people—yes, millions of our brothers and sisters, and millions of citizens of this planet with whom we share a common humanity—because we owe them a moral and, I would argue, a legal duty to protect them as far as we possibly can.

As I have said, having taken a deliberate decision to play even a small part in the war, the United Kingdom has accepted a significant moral responsibility to help to secure the futures of the victims of that war. The numbers are truly breathtaking. We know that at least 4 million people have already fled Syria, and that over

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7 million more have been displaced within their homeland, most of whom would leave today if they thought they had any chance of getting out. We could be talking about more than the entire population of London losing everything—their homes destroyed, and their families in many cases murdered, or at best torn apart, perhaps losing contact for the rest of their lives. Surely, these people deserve the best future and the best support that we, in our hearts, can possibly find the human decency and kindness to offer them.

Given that the Government’s own advice is that the United Kingdom’s military action in Syria is likely to last for three years, this is not a short-term problem that will be fixed with a short-term solution. It is not enough simply to throw money at emergency aid, important though that is. We have to consider massive infrastructure spending to provide 4 million people—and probably many more millions of people—with the housing, health services and education that they are legally and morally entitled to receive. It is not credible to expect three or four countries around the Mediterranean shoreline to provide all that by themselves, even if there is a significant influx of cash from the UK and elsewhere.

In a written answer that I received on 27 October, the Minister of State, Department for International Development was able to identify only three countries in the whole of the middle east and north Africa as being able to provide safety and access to essential services to refugees: Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. He declined to say how many refugees the Government thought those countries could realistically be expected to support, despite my direct question to that effect. I suggest that the total will be nowhere near 4 million, never mind the potential 10 million or more.

Expecting Greece to provide the infrastructure to support all the refugees who land on its shores for three years, five years or longer is simply unrealistic. Again, this is not about the money. It is not possible for Greece to produce the infrastructure to look after, house and educate the number of desperate refugees it is already trying to support.

The Government, for their own reasons, continually seek to blur the lines and to encourage us to think of these men, women and children as willing economic migrants. There is even the suggestion that some of them might be terrorists in disguise—a suggestion for which there is not a scrap of evidence. They are not willing voluntary migrants. They did not volunteer to have their homes blown to pieces. They did not volunteer to have their towns destroyed. They did not volunteer to have their families killed. They are refugees who are fleeing for their lives and the lives of their children because, if they stayed at home, their children would die. They have a legal and moral right to receive whatever help we can give them.

The humanitarian crisis in and around the Mediterranean shows that the previous rules on who should look after refugees are not fit for purpose in a situation of this scale. They were not designed in the expectation that one country would have to cope with 50,000 or 60,000 migrants coming in at a time. They were not designed in the expectation that one of the poorest countries in Europe would look after the welfare of hundreds of thousands of refugees who arrive in the space of a few months.