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On the regeneration agenda, I am proud that the Prime Minister has seized this important opportunity. He has set out plans to provide £140 million to transform 100 of our very worst estates. The theory behind estate regeneration is clear: it is that we can rebuild the very worst estates in the country and yet deliver a higher density of homes, thereby providing more housing for those who need it. That is an incredibly powerful agenda. Some will say, “Well, that all sounds very good in theory, but in practice those are people’s homes.” Developing those estates is not easy.

As the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on housing, I have had the privilege of visiting two major estate regeneration schemes in recent weeks: Woodberry Down in Hackney, and Elephant Road at the Elephant and Castle. In both cases, I saw the practical reality on the ground: we have rebuilt terrible sink estates with higher density housing of better quality and with a better eco-rating. We should be seizing this agenda. There is a link between the changes that we are bringing in on buy to let and the estate regeneration agenda.

Bob Stewart: Given my hon. Friend’s great expertise on this matter and my lack of knowledge, could he enlighten me as to what happens to the people who live on a sink estate when it is brought down and rebuilt? What happens to those people while they are having their homes rebuilt?

James Cartlidge: This is very simple. My hon. Friend is an expert on decanting, I think, and the answer to his question is that we decant them. That is the technical term. I am sure that this will be interesting to him, and I am sure that I know what he keeps in his decanter. It is probably the same nationality as his wife. The process is difficult however, because we do have to decant those people. One solution, which we saw at Woodberry Down, is to build the new housing and decant the people in stages. We saw another solution at the Elephant and Castle, which was difficult but there was no alternative. It was to allow the estate to run down and become empty over time. That is the toughest part of the process.

The details of regeneration are incredibly difficult, as my hon. Friend the Housing Minister will know. However, the aim—which is the same as that of our policy on buy to let—is a one-nation Conservative housing policy that is about revitalising our worst estates and extending opportunities to first-time buyers, and if that hits some of those buy-to-let landlords, all I can say is that I wish them good luck in court but I believe we need a housing policy that is on the side of those who aspire to own their own home.

6.34 pm

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): First, I thank everyone who has contributed to this good-natured debate, leaving aside the unfortunate references to the size of the Liberal Democrat party. We can live with that for the next four and a half years, and we look forward to 2020 and seeing the Conservative Benches severely depleted.

We have heard contributions from a number of Members, and I hope to make a brief reference to each. My hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale

9 Feb 2016 : Column 1540

(Tim Farron) set out why lives are blighted, insecure and unfulfilled without housing. He rightly dwelt on the coalition Government’s record, which was in some aspects very positive, particularly on empty homes—all Members have campaigned on that, because it is such a waste of resource—and on scrapping the planning guidance. In a meeting with planning officers a few days ago, they described how the guidance had shrunk, and that is clearly welcome. My hon. Friend also focused on the negative impact a lack of housing has on rural communities.

I thank the Minister for his thanks for what the Liberal Democrats contributed in the coalition Government. I intervened on him to ask whether he would confirm how many social homes had been built during the time the debates he mentioned had taken place, but he did not give me that answer—I suspect it was probably not many more than the number of those debates. He focused on Eastleigh and it is worth pointing out, just in case any Members were of the opinion that nothing was happening on the local plan in Eastleigh, that it is being consulted on it at this very moment.

The hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Teresa Pearce) spoke for the official Opposition and referred to the fact that starter homes should be additional, and I agree with her. There is nothing wrong with a starter homes initiative if it is part of a package and provides additionality. She referred to the skills shortages and helpfully referred to what the Liberal Democrat London mayoral candidate, Caroline Pidgeon, is planning.

The hon. Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew) is no longer in his place, but he said that everyone has the right to a decent home, and I completely concur with him on that. That of course applies whether they can afford to buy their own home or whether they cannot and need to rent an affordable home. He touched on the issue of the sustainability of housing, and I am sure that is key in his area. There is no point in building housing that is not sustainable, particularly in areas where flooding is prevalent.

The hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) is no longer in her place, but she presented a glowing picture of the housing situation in Scotland under the Scottish National party. She did not, however, refer to figures from June 2015—it may be that things have moved on since then—when there were 150,000 families on the waiting list for a decent place to live in Scotland, and there were 1 million people suffering fuel poverty and 60,000 overcrowded homes. The picture is not quite as glowing as the one presented earlier.

The hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr Bacon) complained that, although our motion contained a reference to self-build, my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale did not refer to the issue. Of course, the hon. Gentleman will know that that was because my hon. Friend knew that the hon. Gentleman was going to concentrate exclusively on the subject of self-build in his speech and in a series of interventions, so he should be grateful to my hon. Friend for allowing him to focus on that in the way he did.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion (Mr Williams) focused on rural communities and rural services, and the impact that seasonal tourism can have on a range of services and the social fabric in areas where it means many homes are unoccupied at other times of the year. The hon. Member for North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen) rightly focused initially

9 Feb 2016 : Column 1541

on Labour’s poor track record over a 13-year period in its level of contribution to housing stock. He also focused on the importance of good design. That is particularly true, as I suspect that many of the developments we are going to see in future years will be at a higher density and therefore the design will need to be of even better quality.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland) talked about prioritising brownfield sites. Well, I have been a Member of Parliament for 18 years, and for each of those 18 years there has been a call for brownfield sites to be prioritised. It seems as though we have never quite got to the point where it has happened. He also pointed out that councils can take advantage of their borrowing powers—certainly my local council has done this—to invest in council housing. Like him, I regret the fact that his local authority has not done so. He also referred to his excellent National Planning Policy Framework (Community Involvement) Bill, which he would like all Members to support for the good ideas that are contained therein.

The hon. Member for Solihull (Julian Knight), who is in his place, praised Help to Buy, which was an excellent coalition policy that continued into this Government. The scheme clearly has made a contribution at a difficult economic time, where the market was dead, the skills associated with house building were being lost and something needed to be done, and the Government acted on that.

The hon. Member for York Central (Rachael Maskell) mentioned the impact on businesses when employees cannot afford to live in the city in which they work. That is not just an issue for York. At the first meeting organised around the mayoral hustings for London, we heard about a large firm of accountants—a household name—that was having to find accommodation for their young employees, as those employees could not find anywhere in which they could afford to live, so affordable housing is a big issue for employers in London. As she pointed out, it is regrettable that, when there are sites that could provide a substantial level of affordable housing, very little, if any of it, ends up being used for social housing. In London, for example, New Scotland Yard has been bought up by a developer from Abu Dhabi for £370 million. The starting price for a flat is just below £1 million. I do not know whether there will be any affordable homes in that development. Clearly, that is a huge missed opportunity.

The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mims Davies) had a number of pops at her Liberal Democrat councillors. I simply point out to her that the local plan in Eastleigh is under consultation, and I hope that she is encouraging her constituents to take part, either by email or in writing.

The hon. Member for South Suffolk (James Cartlidge) talked about the importance of regenerating estates, which is essential, and can work effectively. In the London borough of Sutton, we have a good example in the Roundshaw estate, which was completely regenerated under Labour’s single regeneration budget, and it works very well. The residents of the old estate—it is the concrete monstrosity with 1960s tower blocks and aerial walkways that features in “The Bill”—wanted to stay on the estate, and were able to do so. The scheme was a total success. We need to regenerate, but, at the same time, maintain our communities.

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In my last couple of minutes, I should like to comment on a couple of things that have not been mentioned in as much detail as I would like. The first is supported housing, to which I and the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead referred. I hope that the Minister will listen carefully to this, because it is an issue to which the Government need to respond. In my constituency, I had a meeting with Transform Housing and Support and Langley House Trust that provide supported housing. They are very concerned about what will happen from April 2018 onwards when they will only receive the housing revenue account figure for that particular area. They say that they will not be able to provide supported housing. One housing association predicts that it will lose 300 units. I hope Ministers will listen to that concern and look carefully at the position. We do not want to see ex-offenders turfed out on to the streets because their housing providers cannot continue to meet their housing needs. That will not help the Prime Minister’s drive to cut reoffending rates.

On environmental standards, to which we heard reference, the Liberal Democrats pushed hard on that in coalition and made it a priority. It did not last very long once the Tories came to power. It is clear that the Prime Minister’s beloved huskies have been taken out and quietly shot. As the Wildfowl and Westland Trust requests, we should not neglect the quality of new housing from the perspective of resilience and environmental sustainability. When building new homes, we should have regard to natural resilience, such as sustainable drainage, which is vital for flood mitigation. We also need to have regard to carbon emissions and energy costs. What is the point of cutting the cost of new build by a fraction, thereby guaranteeing extra energy costs associated with heating that home for the next 50 or 60 years? That is what the Government have done by scrapping the zero carbon homes initiative.

I do not want to say that everything is bleak and there are no good opportunities out there. There are, and my local authority has taken advantage of them. It took up the ability to borrow and is building an extra 140 council homes as a result. It has set up a company, Sutton Living Ltd, which will build homes across all tenures—homes for sale, which will subsidise homes for affordable rent. That will provide hundreds of new homes.

In conclusion, I do not always agree with the Institute of Economic Affairs, but I share its view that unless we address the supply problem, we will not bring down prices or ensure wider home ownership. The Government’s plans do nothing to address the scale of the supply problem for would-be homeowners on lower or middle incomes, and their ideological opposition to social housing will ensure that the supply of affordable homes is cut. We often hear from the Government Benches the refrain “the long-term economic plan”. What families in overcrowded homes and young people still living at the hotel of mum and dad want to hear echoing round this Chamber is a long-term plan for housing. That is what we offer in our motion and what the Government have failed to provide. I commend the motion to the House.

6.47 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (James Wharton): What a fascinating debate this has been. It was opened

9 Feb 2016 : Column 1543

by the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) with a detailed speech containing the concerns that he wanted to raise.

I welcome the contribution from the shadow Front Bench—not for its content, but for its tone. At least it was positive in its approach to a very serious issue. Of course, I welcome the excellent comments from my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning, who covered nearly every topic that was then discussed by hon. Members.

When my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mims Davies) rose to speak, half of those on the Liberal Democrat Benches exited in fear of her incredible reputation for bringing down those of that party political colour. My hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew) spoke passionately about right to buy, what it meant to him and why it matters. How any hon. Member, almost all of whom will own at least one property of their own, can oppose assisting others to do the same is anathema to me, and I am sure it comes as a shock to my hon. Friend.

Having listened to the comments of my hon. Friend the Housing Minister, I do not think there is much that needs to be added to a comprehensive tour de force which explained why this is a one-nation Government who will build more homes, meet more aspiration, fight to deliver on our objectives and deliver our long-term economic plan. This is a Government who know what they are doing on housing, know where we are going on housing, and will make a real difference to all our constituents when they deliver on that plan.

Question put.

The House divided:

Ayes 15, Noes 274.

Division No. 189]


6.49 pm


Campbell, Mr Gregory

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Clegg, rh Mr Nick

Durkan, Mark

Farron, Tim

Hermon, Lady

McDonnell, Dr Alasdair

Mulholland, Greg

Pugh, John

Ritchie, Ms Margaret

Robinson, Gavin

Shannon, Jim

Simpson, David

Williams, Mr Mark

Wilson, Sammy

Tellers for the Ayes:

Tom Brake


Mr Alistair Carmichael


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Allan, Lucy

Allen, Heidi

Andrew, Stuart

Ansell, Caroline

Argar, Edward

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Mr Steve

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Bellingham, Sir Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Berry, James

Bingham, Andrew

Blackman, Bob

Blunt, Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Borwick, Victoria

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, rh James

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Robert

Burrowes, Mr David

Burt, rh Alistair

Cairns, Alun

Cartlidge, James

Cash, Sir William

Chalk, Alex

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Churchill, Jo

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Cleverly, James

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, rh Stephen

Davies, Byron

Davies, Chris

Davies, David T. C.

Davies, Glyn

Davies, Dr James

Davies, Mims

Davies, Philip

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorries, Nadine

Double, Steve

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Drummond, Mrs Flick

Duncan, rh Sir Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Elliott, Tom

Ellis, Michael

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evennett, rh Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Fernandes, Suella

Foster, Kevin

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Frazer, Lucy

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Fysh, Marcus

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, rh Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Ghani, Nusrat

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Chris

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, rh Robert

Hall, Luke

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, rh Matthew

Harper, rh Mr Mark

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heald, Sir Oliver

Heappey, James

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Heaton-Jones, Peter

Henderson, Gordon

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoare, Simon

Hollingbery, George

Hollinrake, Kevin

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Howlett, Ben

Huddleston, Nigel

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

James, Margot

Javid, rh Sajid

Jayawardena, Mr Ranil

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Jenkyns, Andrea

Jenrick, Robert

Johnson, Boris

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kennedy, Seema

Kinahan, Danny

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Knight, Julian

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Dr Phillip

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, rh Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Mackinlay, Craig

Mackintosh, David

Main, Mrs Anne

Mak, Mr Alan

Malthouse, Kit

Mathias, Dr Tania

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

Menzies, Mark

Merriman, Huw

Miller, rh Mrs Maria

Milling, Amanda

Mills, Nigel

Milton, rh Anne

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, rh Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morton, Wendy

Mundell, rh David

Murray, Mrs Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Nokes, Caroline

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Dr Matthew

Opperman, Guy

Parish, Neil

Patel, rh Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Philp, Chris

Pickles, rh Sir Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prentis, Victoria

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pursglove, Tom

Quin, Jeremy

Raab, Mr Dominic

Redwood, rh John

Rees-Mogg, Mr Jacob

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Robinson, Mary

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, rh Amber

Rutley, David

Sandbach, Antoinette

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simpson, rh Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Royston

Soames, rh Sir Nicholas

Solloway, Amanda

Soubry, rh Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mark

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Graham

Sturdy, Julian

Sunak, Rishi

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Thomas, Derek

Throup, Maggie

Tolhurst, Kelly

Tomlinson, Justin

Tomlinson, Michael

Tredinnick, David

Trevelyan, Mrs Anne-Marie

Truss, rh Elizabeth

Tugendhat, Tom

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, rh Mr Andrew

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Wallace, Mr Ben

Warburton, David

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Wharton, James

Whately, Helen

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, rh Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Williamson, rh Gavin

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wood, Mike

Wright, rh Jeremy

Tellers for the Noes:

Simon Kirby


Sarah Newton

Question accordingly negatived.

9 Feb 2016 : Column 1544

9 Feb 2016 : Column 1545

House of Commons (Administration) Bill (Money)

Queen’s recommendation signified.


That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the House of Commons (Administration) Bill it is expedient to authorise:

9 Feb 2016 : Column 1546

(1) the payment out of money provided by Parliament of any expenditure incurred under or by virtue of the Act by the Treasury; and

(2) the payment of sums into the Consolidated Fund.— (Dr Thérèse Coffey.)

Business without Debate

European Union Documents

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): With the leave of the House, we shall take motions 4 to 6 together.

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

Better Regulation

That this House takes note of European Union Documents No. 9079/15 and Addenda 1 and 2, a Commission Communication: Better regulation for better results - An EU agenda, No. 9121/15 and Addendum, a Commission Communication: Proposal for an Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Regulation, and unnumbered European Union Document, an Interinstitutional Agreement on Better Law-Making; welcomes the Commission’s intention to use these documents to refresh and take forward its work on better regulation; and supports the negotiations on the Interinstitutional Agreement that started in June last year, aimed at setting out the commitments of the European Parliament, the Council and Commission concerning better regulation, interinstitutional relations and the legislative process.

Financial Management: Countering Fraud

That this House takes note of European Union Document No. 11470/15 and Addenda 1 to 6, a Commission Report: Protection of the European Union’s financial interests—Fight against fraud 2014 Annual Report, and unnumbered European Union Documents, the European Court of Auditors’ 2014 Annual Reports on the implementation of the budget and on the activities funded by the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th European Development Funds; agrees that budgetary discipline and robust financial management at all levels remains crucial, and that EU taxpayers must have confidence that their funds are being effectively managed and implemented at an EU level; expresses disappointment that the error rate for EU budget payments shows only a slight improvement on last year; supports the Government’s efforts to continue to engage with the Commission and Member States to drive improvements to reduce the error rate, in particular, advancing the simplification agenda; stresses the importance of the EU budget achieving results as well as being compliant; and presses the Commission for a clear action plan to address the European Court of Auditors’ recommendations relating to the European Development Fund in order to improve its error rate.

Assessment of Exhaust Emissions From Passenger Cars and Light Vans

That this House takes note of European Union Document No. 14506/15 and Addendum, a Commission Regulation (EU) …of…amending Regulation (EC) No 692/2008 as regards emissions from light passenger and commercial vehicles (Euro 6); and urges the Government to continue to press for action so that EU emissions testing accurately reflects real-world performance of vehicles on the road.—(Stephen Barclay.)

Question agreed to.

9 Feb 2016 : Column 1547

Humber Energy Estuary

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

7.4 pm

Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): This is a timely debate on jobs and growth in the Humber energy estuary, as the estuary has been christened by many people, including many Ministers. The Minister herself has said that it is a key part of the northern powerhouse or, to be more precise, the northern energy powerhouse.

If I may, I will spend a minute or two on the background of the Humber and its importance to the offshore renewables sector. The Humber is ideally positioned geographically to serve the wind turbines that are located in the North sea. In recent years, the port of Grimsby has benefited from multimillion-pound investment connected with the renewables sector. That has included resources from the regional growth fund and has created hundreds of jobs.

Since the late 1990s, Able UK has acquired around 2,000 acres of land on and around the south bank of the Humber. The process was complex and involved multiple landowners. In 2008, the site was identified as a potential location for the emerging offshore wind sector. There followed a protracted and, it has to be said, frustrating process to achieve the required planning consents. North Lincolnshire Council, under the leadership of Baroness Redfern, whom it is good to see in the Public Gallery, has been fully supportive at every stage.

The protracted and exhaustive planning process culminated in the Transport Secretary giving consent in October 2014. Associated British Ports appealed, and there followed a hearing before a Joint Lords and Commons parliamentary Committee—chaired by you, Mr Deputy Speaker, among others—which wisely threw out the appeal.

This Government and the previous coalition Government have done a great deal to attract the renewables sector to the Humber and to establish the Humber as the energy estuary. They have created the largest enterprise zone in the country, supported to the tune of £11 million the establishment of the university technical college in Scunthorpe, and established the Humber local enterprise partnership with the specific remit of developing skills for the renewables sector.

Melanie Onn (Great Grimsby) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing the debate. It is wonderful to see so much investment in our area. DONG Energy alone is spending some £1 billion a year on offshore wind in the Humber region. Does he agree that we have to ensure that young people in the local area have the opportunity to learn the skills of the trade and get the jobs that the renewables industry has to offer, and does he support the renewable energy skills fair that I am hosting in Grimsby on 25 February to help local young people get into the industry?

Martin Vickers: I congratulate the hon. Lady on organising her skills fair. Her intervention was timely, because I was just about to say that only last week, in a letter following my question to him on 27 January, the Prime Minister reminded me that

9 Feb 2016 : Column 1548

“another welcome development is the 19+ skills strategy that North East Lincolnshire Council is developing with support from the Humber LEP…through the Humber LEP Growth Deal we are investing nearly £4 million in a skills capital project”.

That will be based at the CATCH training facility at Stallingborough in my constituency. The Government have contributed £15 million towards infrastructure work at the Able UK site. Most notably, DONG Energy has benefited to the tune of billions of pounds from the contracts for difference that were agreed before the recent changes.

It is fair to say that many people have been sceptical about the benefits of wind power—that comes, in part, from opponents of onshore wind turbines—and my constituents are no different: the majority of them oppose onshore wind turbines. They have a positive view of the offshore sector, however, partly because of the positive media coverage in the area. The local media has repeatedly published very positive reports about the industry and the anticipated benefits. The Grimsby Telegraph produced an energy estuary supplement, in which you are pictured, Mr Deputy Speaker. It described the term “energy estuary” as a “worthy title”. It rightly pointed out that the Humber has, in reality, been the energy estuary for a century or more, with Immingham, by tonnage the largest port in the country, having a massive throughput of traffic connected with the energy industries. One reason for the port’s construction was to enable coal exports. More recently, coal imports have been vital to the economic success of the port, but for a host of reasons, coal traffic has fallen dramatically in recent months, leading to recently announced redundancies. It is to be hoped that Associated British Ports can find replacement contracts in the near future. Its recent investment in facilities to handle biomass pellets is an indication of its continued investment in the port.

Another article in the estuary energy supplement was penned by Marcus Walker, the senior officer at North Lincolnshire Council who is responsible for handling the Able project. He said:

“The Humber Estuary is fast becoming the energy capital of Europe. The Government’s £100 billion offshore wind programme is the largest engineering project in the history of the UK and plans for Able Marine Energy Park…play a key part in helping create the energy clusters that we need to be able to compete with major manufacturers in mainland Europe.”

Melanie Onn: On that point about the energy capital, Grimsby has recently been named the renewable energy capital of England. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Humber is the obvious location for a national college for wind energy, and will he join me in calling on the Government to grant the Humber local enterprise partnership’s bid for the college?

Martin Vickers: It is perfectly true that, unfortunately, there was a misunderstanding and the LEP submission was too late. I certainly urge the Minister, if it is within her power, to grant an extension to the Humber LEP so that the college can be established in the obvious place for it.

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): Goole.

Martin Vickers: I cannot think why my hon. Friend is shouting “Goole”, but to give him his due, he has played a supportive role in all that we have done. Certainly, the MPs from the south bank—

9 Feb 2016 : Column 1549

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): And the north bank.

Martin Vickers: Hang on a moment. Those MPs have always been united to establish the Able site, to complement the Siemens investment in Hull.

Stephen Savage, a leading local solicitor who serves on the Humber LEP board, states in the estuary energy supplement:

“The £450-million Energy Estuary scheme will create around 4,000 jobs and provide a new deep water port on the Humber”.

Were these people, all of whom were and are very close to events and are closely watching developments, all deceived or misled, because as yet the Able site remains fallow? They have all reached the conclusion that the wider Humber, and the Able site in particular, was going to be not just a secondary centre, but a real hub of activity, construction, assembly and all the support activities that would generate a growing and extensive supply chain.

Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman, who is my constituency neighbour, on securing this very timely and important Adjournment debate. He has come to the nub of the issue. There is a great deal of expectation that the Government investment in the project will deliver manufacturing jobs on the Humber estuary. That is a matter of concern and we need it to be delivered.

Martin Vickers: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right.

When the memorandum of understanding between Able and DONG was signed last summer, there was an indication that final agreements would follow, with last October as the target date. My understanding is that this memorandum was for DONG to establish an operational hub or installation port at the Able marine energy park. North Lincolnshire Council was under the impression that DONG had suggested that the Government should be involved in this exercise, and that an immediate priority was to secure a UK tower manufacturing facility. I hope that the Minister will be able to clarify that.

DONG had indicated that it requires the new quays, which are being constructed as part of the marine energy park, to be available by the first quarter of 2018. To meet that timescale, all the preparation, design and development work must begin almost immediately if the conditions of the planning consent are to be met, including restrictions and conditions linked to ecological compensation and mitigation.

Many of the negotiations were conducted by Peter Stephenson, the executive chairman of Able, and Joachim Steenstrup, the head of strategic supply chain at DONG. I understand that Able learned on 31 October that Mr Steenstrup had been dismissed.

In November and December, Ministers were good enough to meet me and other Members to discuss the situation. This all happened at a time when Tata Steel in Scunthorpe was reviewing its activities and announcing redundancies. The location of the steelworks just a few miles from the Able site had been an important part of the attraction of the south bank as a centre for turbine manufacturing.

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It is worth putting it on record at this point that the Government handled the situation at Scunthorpe extremely well and, along with North Lincolnshire Council, are putting together an excellent package of support, as well as plans for a sustainable steel industry in the town. The early statement from the Prime Minister, in which he made it clear that steel manufacturing at Scunthorpe would continue, was welcome, timely and crucial in giving confidence to the many people affected by the anticipated change of ownership.

The clear understanding of North Lincolnshire Council, the local enterprise partnership and just about everyone else is that the Able development will proceed. On 9 July last year, talking about the project and the £15 million from the regional growth fund, the northern powerhouse Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton South (James Wharton), said:

“As part of our long-term economic plan we’re determined to back business in the Humber and the Government’s £15 million infrastructure funding is helping kick-start development at the site that will help create 4,000 new jobs for local people.”

He continued by restating that:

“The Government is committed to backing offshore wind…This agreement will help the UK supply chain develop in key areas like towers manufacturing and ensure the UK remain market leaders in this sector.”

The leader of North Lincolnshire Council, Baroness Redfern, last week attended DONG Energy’s inauguration of Westermost Rough, which brought the Race Bank announcement. She said:

“This is fantastic news for North Lincolnshire and the Humber.”

She said that the Able marine energy park

“will deliver a state of the art purpose built facility—the largest in Europe. It is the UK’s best opportunity to attract a brand new offshore wind sector in the country and I am delighted that such a world leader like DONG have made this commitment.”

I hope that the Minister will confirm that DONG has made a long-term commitment to the south bank of the Humber. Baroness Redfern stated that the new university technical college in Scunthorpe

“will provide the right skills for the offshore sector and our major infrastructure improvements to support this development are almost complete. AMEP has the real potential to transform the economy across…North Lincolnshire”.

The chairman of the local enterprise partnership, Lord Haskins, added:

“The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding which holds out the prospect of Dong Energy becoming the first user at AMEP is a significant step forward… Attracting the interest of companies such as Dong endorses that we are the UK’s Energy Estuary with the Humber ports developing as a strong and growing national hub for the new offshore renewables industry.”

I hope that the Minister is in a position to make clear exactly where we are. Companies such as DONG have benefited greatly from the generosity of British taxpayers, particularly but not solely through the contracts for difference. DONG Energy has given the impression that it is committed to investing in the marine energy park to North Lincolnshire Council, local MPs, the local media and the Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise, whom I can see nodding on the Front Bench. Such companies have benefited from the regional growth fund, the Government’s investment in the university technical college and the establishment of the enterprise zone. All that is very welcome, as is DONG Energy’s investment in northern Lincolnshire and the wider Humber

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region. Jobs exist that did not exist just a few years ago. However, with billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money already committed and the assurance that there is more to come, it is payback time for those companies. I hope that the Minister, who has been extremely helpful, supportive and robust in this matter, can provide some positive news in her response.

7.19 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Andrea Leadsom): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) on securing this debate, as it gives me a fantastic opportunity to set out my vision for the growth and jobs that can flow from the UK offshore industry to the northern powerhouse and across the UK. I am delighted to see the hon. Members for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson), for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn), and for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin) in their places, as well as my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy).

This is an important area, and the Humber estuary has a long history as a driver of jobs and growth in the region, with roots dating back to the 13th century. It has played a key role in our energy infrastructure over many decades—indeed, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise and I like to call it the northern energy powerhouse. It has played host to vital energy activities, including coal, and more recently offshore wind, not to mention all the other commodities that pass through the numerous ports on the estuary every day. Its location has enabled it to build industries around agriculture, construction, production and energy. My hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes is right to point out that it has the potential to deliver much-needed jobs and investment.

There has been a £75 million investment in the Humber international terminal at the port of Immingham, which is receiving some of the world’s largest shipments of biomass destined for Drax. That has the potential to increase to some 6 million tonnes per annum of pellets imported into the UK, becoming a hub for future business, including in the heat sector.

Andrew Percy: The Minister is right to mention the huge investment at Immingham in biomass that feeds Drax, which is a massive employer. With the use of coal stopping by 2025, will she commit that biomass will remain an option for energy generation into the future, and that Drax, which has several more units yet to be converted, will be able to bid for that? I have a new role as trade envoy to Canada, so does she recognise the potential growth in jobs in the Humber as a result sustainable biomass coming in from Canada via Immingham? [Interruption.]

Andrea Leadsom: My right hon. Friend the Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise is asking whether we can carry my hon. Friend’s bags—I think that is a very good idea. I congratulate him on his new role as trade envoy, and assure him that we are doing what we can to try to secure the future for sustainable biomass, which is important.

We are all aware of the Siemens investment at the port of Hull. That £310 million investment will help to support the industries of the future, and is due to be

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completed by the end of this year. Of course, we could not talk about the Humber without mentioning Hull, which has been named as the UK City of Culture 2017. We all hope that that will leave a lasting legacy in Hull and the region, as has happened in previous cities.

All those achievements have seen the Humber become a key element of the northern powerhouse, but a key driver for growth in the region will be the offshore wind industry. There has been an incredible expansion in offshore wind which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes rightly pointed out, has been at the expense of bill payers in the UK. Much of that growth is off the east coast of England, generating clean power for hundreds of thousands of homes.

In November 2015, the Secretary of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change set out our commitment to the future of the UK offshore industry, backed up by the pledge of three contract for difference auctions in this Parliament, provided that we get costs down. Those actions are part of what makes us the greenest Government ever. Alongside our support and commitment to offshore wind, this Government are determined to see higher levels of supply chain content in our energy infrastructure. Our objective is to have a strong, industrialised UK supply chain that delivers higher UK content in offshore projects, and proves its capability, increasing its capacity to win export orders.

Nic Dakin: On the supply chain and local content, this is a great opportunity for the Minister, and the Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise who is sitting alongside her, to ensure that the procurement guidelines that the Government have put in place have leverage, and that the development is built with UK steel.

Andrea Leadsom: My right hon. Friend and I have spoken about that on a regular basis, and we will continue to work together to ensure that we maximise the procurement of UK content wherever we can. The Humber region has huge potential to contribute to growth in the UK supply chain. Just last week we saw DONG Energy secure financial approval to build what will be by far and away the biggest offshore wind farm in the world, with around 1.2 GW—enough to power 800,000 homes. By its own estimate that will create 2,000 jobs during construction, and 300 long-term permanent jobs in operations and maintenance.

The region has had success in realising many of these jobs already. Grimsby is fast becoming the centre excellence for operations and maintenance activities for offshore wind farms in the North sea, with DONG, Centrica and E.ON having located their bases there. I enjoyed visiting the E.ON operations and maintenance facility with the hon. Member for Great Grimsby and my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes when I was in the area to open the Humber Gateway wind farm last September. During that visit, I also went to see the site where Siemens is constructing its blade manufacturing facility and service centre at Green Port Hull, which will provide over 1,200 much-needed apprenticeships and skilled jobs in the local area when it opens later this year. I was particularly struck by the export capability of this new factory.

Melanie Onn: On that point about skills, and as I mentioned to the hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) earlier, does the Minister agree there has never

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been a more opportune time to make sure the national college for wind energy is situated in the Humber estuary? Does she agree that we should all be working together to try to encourage the Government to support the local enterprise partnership in bringing the college to the Humber area?

Andrea Leadsom: As I think was pointed out to the hon. Lady, the application was slightly late but the Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise is here. I will make sure that the hon. Lady’s lobbying is passed on to her team.

Diana Johnson: Will the Minister very kindly agree to have a meeting to discuss the national college for wind energy? The sticking point seems to be the Minister for Skills not being able to attend the meeting. As it is in the gift of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to agree to the name being given, even if it is privately financed, I wondered whether the Minister might have a word with her colleague to see if she can get him to the meeting too.

Andrea Leadsom: Absolutely. I am very happy to do that. As I said when we last spoke about this, I will be delighted to meet the hon. Lady.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes, I want to see the Humber estuary achieve much more. I want developers to do more to share the economic benefits to be gained from building and operating offshore wind farms, and to share the gains of our new offshore wind policy. As he rightly said, it is payback time. I have instructed my officials to set up bilateral discussions with key offshore wind developers, such as DONG, SSE and Scottish Power. As I will make clear to them, the current round of projects provide a clear opportunity to stimulate further UK supply chain activities that will enable us to reap the rewards of our offshore wind leadership, both in terms of securing more jobs in the current projects and industrialising the supply chain. I want the UK to be exporting our technology and skills to projects in Europe and elsewhere. This is my ambition, and I want the Humber estuary to be at the forefront of that ambition.

Martin Vickers: What the Minister has just outlined is clearly good news. She has made rapid progress since our last discussions and I compliment her on that. Can she give a timeframe for that? It is critical that we move forward now. We have already lost quite a few months.

Andrea Leadsom: Yes, absolutely. I can tell my hon. Friend that it is a very top priority for me to have those meetings. We will be reconvening the offshore wind industry council in the near future and I want to have met each of the key developers before that meeting takes place.

On the Able marine energy park, I agree with my hon. Friend that the proposed facility is a significant opportunity to build on the successes in offshore wind and renewable energy more generally. It would be a fantastic addition to the UK offer. When it is completed, for example, it is well located to be a construction and staging facility, and could open up further port infrastructure facilities for the industry, as well as additional land for quayside supply chain investments. I encourage Able to continue to make the case for the facility, which has the potential to attract a range of developers.

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As my hon. Friend pointed out, Able issued a press release on 9 July 2015 announcing the signing of a memorandum of understanding with DONG Energy, which committed to early stage talks on the project. Expectations are high that the facility would provide much-needed jobs. The recent announcement by DONG about Hornsea reaching a financial close last week is timely. I understand the importance of this project to my hon. Friend and to the UK. I therefore wrote and spoke to DONG seeking an update.

I am pleased to tell my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes that DONG has replied saying that it continues to see AMEP as an as an important facility in the development of the offshore wind sector in the UK. DONG proposes to establish and lead a strategic joint industry and Government review to identify opportunities to develop the east coast as a UK construction and staging facility for the UK and European offshore wind industry. DONG would expect the AMEP facility to be a key consideration in this exercise, and I am pleased that DONG has appointed Benj Sykes, who co-chairs the Offshore Wind Industry Council with me, to lead that work. I shall shortly write to other developers regarding their participation in this review.

I am also pleased to say that DONG has told me that discussions on a UK tower manufacturer continue to progress well. To secure the first UK tower facility would be a major achievement, on which developers and the supply chain can continue to build. Let us be clear: the ability of the UK offshore industry to contribute to jobs and growth is a key part of what makes it an attractive industry. It is not the only one: climate change is one of the biggest challenges that we face, and it needs big technologies if we are to achieve our decarbonisation goals. Offshore wind offers one of those solutions.

Martin Vickers: Will the Minister confirm that she or her officials will have an input in those discussions, and not leave it entirely to the industry?

Andrea Leadsom: I can assure my hon. Friend that this interests me a great deal, and I shall certainly be involved.

When the Secretary of State set out the Government’s new direction for UK energy policy last November, she highlighted the challenge we face in making sure that energy remains the backbone of our economy while we transform to a low carbon system that is secure, affordable and clean. We want a consumer-led, competition-focused energy system that has energy security at its heart and delivers for families and businesses.

Britain is already the world leader in offshore wind, with over 5GW operational, which could double by the end of the decade, with the UK on track to reach around 10GW by 2020. That supports a growing installation, development and blade-manufacturing industry that employs about 14,000 people, but there is clearly potential for many excellent new careers. The Secretary of State has provided what the offshore wind industry has been asking for: clarity. She announced last November that the Government would hold three further contract for difference auctions in this Parliament, with the first due to take place by the end of 2016. If costs come down sufficiently, the UK could support up to another 10GW of new offshore wind in the 2020s, which is a doubling of capacity.

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The offshore wind industry must do its part in return, for being provided with such long-term clarity. The technology needs to move quickly to cost-competitiveness. There will be no blank cheques. A priority is the UK supply chain playing a full part in enabling the offshore wind industry to drive towards cost-competitiveness. The industry exemplifies what the Government are trying to achieve: creating jobs and apprenticeships, and working towards full employment while delivering our decarbonisation targets—but not at any price.

The Government have set their new energy policy direction. Offshore wind developers fully understand the importance of UK companies securing economic

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benefit from our programme of development, and they agree that it is not unreasonable to want to see UK companies competing for this work, as they can then use the home market as the perfect launch pad to export their capability and expertise.

In conclusion, the Government are fully committed to the continued growth of UK offshore wind and its supply chain, and to building on the success that the region is already seeing. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes once again on raising this important issue.

Question put and agreed to.

7.33 pm

House adjourned.