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4.23 pm

Mr Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): In the same year as the 1975 referendum, Peter Finch won an Oscar for his role in the film “Network”, with its cry, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!” It is that sense of alienation from the elites that I believe will drive the vote to exit the European Union on 23 June.

Look around us. Why do hon. Members, particularly those who advocate our remaining in the European Union, think that the Chamber is barely full? Can they not see a link between the growing power of the European Union and its influence on our democracy, and the fact that we are trapped here in this Ruritanian palace, with diminishing powers to influence our fellow citizens?

I have always been a consistent patriot in terms of my opposition to the sometimes defeatist, sycophantic and self-loathing attitude of too many people, which has been rampant in my party for too long. I opposed the crazy policy in 1997 of ruling out the single currency for one Parliament, and I opposed the policy of “wait and see”—as if people would “wait and see” whether they wanted to board the Titanic. I have supported the policy of opposing the single currency, which my party has held for 10 years.

Like many Conservative MPs, I wished the Prime Minister well in his negotiations with other EU states, and I kept my counsel, hoping that the pledges he made in the Bloomberg speech in January 2013 would be enacted. Sadly, they were not. The EU is not willing to reform itself in a way that I believe would be beneficial and desirable to secure its own long-term future, and its leaders remain wedded to a bureaucratic, sclerotic political behemoth, disdainful of popular democratic accountability and national sensitivities, hurtling towards greater and ever closer union, and unconcerned by the serious and profound reservations of the British people and their elected representatives. As I said, in my opinion the European Union has already inflicted huge damage on the economies of Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Ireland in the pursuit of monetary dogma and ideological obsessions, driven by the mania of a single currency that operates across a hugely disparate and discrete economic area, primarily at the behest of German monetary policy.

In truth, the EU is a concept whose time has come and gone—an anachronism. Within 20 years, only $1 in $6 of world trade will be within the European Union. In the past six years the UK has run a £59 billion deficit with the EU, but a massive surplus across the world, and we cannot truly exploit those opportunities because we are locked into EU trade agreements, rather than our own bilateral agreements with places such as China, Mexico, Brazil, India, South Africa and Canada—markets that would generate British jobs and prosperity.

The negotiations have been a failure. They are crumbs from the table. The process has been depressing, and an historic opportunity for proper reform has been lost, perhaps forever. The Prime Minister asked for very little and he got less than that. Any changes have been given grudgingly. We have failed to abide by our manifesto commitment on child benefit, and no powers have been repatriated to the House of Commons. The European Court of Justice still takes precedence over UK law,

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there is no guarantee that the UK’s demands or “exceptions” will be incorporated in any new treaties, and the whole deal is legally unenforceable.

One always views issues through the prism of one’s own constituency, and I am surprised and disappointed that my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames) did not mention immigration, given that he co-chairs the cross-party group on balanced migration. My constituency has seen the effects of globalisation and the free movement directive. Part of that has been good, but it has also meant slum housing, low wages, welfare and health tourism, and people trafficking. People have concluded—quite rightly—that the UK must control its own borders, who comes to the country, and for what reason. The EU denies that aspiration and makes such control impossible now and at any time in the future.

Richard Drax: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr Jackson: I will not I am afraid because I do not have the time.

We have been told by the plutocratic, self-interested elite, the City, the media, the establishment and the snobby intelligentsia that looks down on ordinary voters that we must stay at the heart of Europe, fight our corner and reform within. That has failed and it is a fool’s errand to believe that it will not be a calamitous failure in the future. We know what Brexit will be like, as my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) has said.

In conclusion, all power is a leasehold given to us on trust, and it is not ours to give away. For too long we have been selling the democratic family silver—as Macmillan would have said—traducing our own sovereign Parliament and its powers. I trust my constituents to make the right decision, and I will campaign enthusiastically to leave the European Union.

4.29 pm

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): Thank you for the opportunity to speak in today’s important debate, Mr Deputy Speaker.

My party, the Greens, welcomes the referendum. Our position is strongly in favour of staying in the EU. Since we have been talking a lot about passion this afternoon, I will admit that, yes, I do feel passionately about this cause. That is not because I support the Prime Minister’s renegotiation—by and large I do not. What is at stake is much bigger than the small beans of his discussions. It is not because I think the EU is perfect. It is not. But do you know what? This place is not perfect either, and I have not heard Brexit supporters suggest recently that we leave the House of Commons. It is not just because our EU membership has given us some of the strongest protection for the environment, wildlife and nature, although it most certainly has. And it is not only because there is a very strong economic case for staying in, although there most certainly is. No, above all, the Greens are in favour of the UK remaining in the EU because this is a choice about the kind of country we want to be, the kind of people we are and the kind of future we want for our children and grandchildren. The choice before us is about more than a transactional calculation. It is about whether we are outward looking

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and confident about our place in the world. It is about whether, in a world beset by economic, security and ecological problems that transcend borders, we believe we can do better by working together, co-operating and collaborating than by turning our backs on our closest neighbours.

Over recent weeks and months, we have seen a blossoming of alternative, radical pro-EU movements: Students4Europe, Scientists for EU, Environmentalists for Europe and Another Europe is Possible. Both in the UK and across Europe, progressive movements are growing and linking up, sharing a vision for a Europe of democracy, sustainability and social justice.

Having spent more than 10 years in the European Parliament as an MEP, I am under absolutely no illusions about the flaws of the EU and the need for reform. I was confronted on an almost daily basis with the fact that its original big idea—to bring peace to post-war Europe by binding its nations together in an ambitious free trade project—is no longer enough to sustain public support for the EU. Indeed, for some its narrow focus on economism alone is actually fuelling opposition to it.

I am very clear that the EU needs to become more democratic, transparent, accessible and accountable, and that it needs a new big idea based on sustainability and social justice. Nevertheless, the European story goes to the heart of what the referendum is about. It is a remarkable story: countries with different histories and cultures coming together and choosing to share some degree of sovereignty, while keeping their own identities and traditions to work together for the common good, and to achieve more together than they can alone. For all its cumbersome processes and procedures, it is quite extraordinary that, on this troubled continent that historically has been so prone to conflict, it is now inconceivable that there will be war between us. We resolve our differences now not on the battlefield but in the debating chamber.

I know I have used the dreaded “s” word sovereignty, so let me say a few more words about it. I know that for some hon. Members sovereignty is an absolute like pregnancy—either you are, or you are not—yet in today’s interdependent world of multilateral agreements and processes, real sovereignty is inevitably relative. A recent splendid article in The Economist puts it very clearly:

“A country that refuses outright to pool authority is one that has no control over the pollution drifting over its borders, the standards of financial regulation affecting its economy, the consumer and trade norms to which its exporters and importers are bound, the cleanliness of its seas and the security and economic crises propelling shock waves—migration, terrorism, market volatility—deep into domestic life. To live with globalisation is to acknowledge that many laws…are international beasts whether we like it or not. If sovereignty is the absence of mutual interference, the most sovereign country in the world is North Korea.”

Indeed! It strikes me as very odd that the very same people who are most concerned about what they perceive as a loss of sovereignty in the EU are entirely relaxed about the much greater loss of sovereignty involved in us signing up to damaging trade agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Such agreements are designed to grant sweeping rights to corporations to sue democratically elected Governments for potential loss of profit if they dare to legislate on behalf of the public interest to protect public health or vital natural resources. It is inconsistent and hypocritical

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to argue that the UK should leave the EU because of a loss of democracy and sovereignty, while at the same time being among the biggest supporters of the UK signing more secretive and dodgy anti-democratic deals. I recognise that however much I oppose TTIP—and I do—we are not going to extricate ourselves from it by leaving the EU, not least because the UK Government are among the biggest and loudest cheerleaders for it and they would be putting it into bilateral agreements as soon as we left.

In the short time I have left, I want to set out a few of the Green priorities for a reformed EU. These are the reforms that we will be fighting for not just during this referendum, but hopefully in the weeks and months following. Some of the greatest benefits from our EU membership come from workplace and environmental protections, but we need those social and environmental standards to be given primacy over single market rules and competitiveness. With the recent action against Google’s compulsive tax-dodging tendencies, we have seen the value of EU-wide action. There is again further to go—on banking and tax justice, banking regulation, including an EU-wide financial tax and tougher EU rules to close tax loopholes and tackle tax fraud and evasion.

There are a whole range of ways by which we could right now make the EU more transparent and accountable and more democratic, if the political will is there, but we need to be in it to change it. My plea to Members in the Chamber today and beyond is for us please to stay in the EU. Let us make it into the vehicle that could be and, in our dreams, it is.

4.35 pm

Dr Rupa Huq (Ealing Central and Acton) (Lab): Even before we get into the machinations of referendums and the pros and cons of Brexit, let us note that the European influence on our very language has been around a while, with Spanish omelettes, German measles, Dutch auctions and, more risqué, French letters and French kissing—well, we are talking European affairs, are we not?

What was once a continent across the channel with a faint novelty value is now being painted by many people as something sinister that is to be feared and demonised. It is regrettable that the word “Europe” seems to conjure up all sorts of phenomena. Its opponents put on the frighteners, mostly about migration as a proxy for all sorts of other things, but it has many dimensions that go much wider than that.

At the time of the last referendum, when I was three, the chief association with Europe was economic: it was the European Economic Community. There is a picture of Mrs Thatcher in a patchwork dress made of European flags. Then in the ’80s, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) described, the idea of social Europe took root and attitudes changed on the left. The idea of Europe as a capitalist club was dissolved. On all those and many other fronts—the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) mentioned climate change, which knows no borders—it is vital for us to stay in Europe, because the case to act with our European partners is compelling.

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Leaving behind our biggest trading partner would put jobs and growth at risk, as Members have said. The mere mention of the date of the referendum caused turmoil in the markets, which should be viewed as a precursor of things to come if the result goes the way of leaving. When I meet Europhobes on doorsteps and ask them which directive is interfering with their lives, they are always at a loss to say anything. It is not the European working time directive; it is not worker protection via maternity or paternity leave; it is not EU competition agreements, which have brought down airline ticket prices and roaming charges. It is by working together with our European partners that we can catch criminals, through mechanisms such as the European arrest warrant. Like climate change, criminals do not operate within national borders.

Our small island is much stronger with the combined might of 28 nation states than we ever could be alone. The implications are wide ranging. I came here from the university sector, in which there is great worry about European science funding, which is massively derived from the EU budget. Even student mobility programmes that allow us make broad-minded cultural exchanges, such as Erasmus, are threatened.

Europe is not an easy puzzle to solve; like a Rubik’s cube, it has several interlocking challenges across its nation states and between them. Members have described today the refugee crisis, the worrying rise in anti-Semitism, biting austerity and Greece going bust, not to mention the existential crisis that we face when we have to decide between in and out. Reforming our alliance with Europe is not about a wham bam thank you ma’am shotgun wedding; it is a long process.

In many senses, our existing relationship with Europe could be described as somewhat semi-detached. We never were in the euro—thanks to Gordon Brown—or in Schengen. That predates Friday’s so-called deal. I remember an old Conservative slogan about being “in Europe, but not led by Europe”, and I think there is something in that.

In an age of globalisation, we are part of numerous international alliances. John Kerry and President Obama have said that the special transatlantic relationship would be at risk if we left Europe. Even the heir to our throne, Prince William, has said this week that the UK is enormously strengthened by our broader partnerships in NATO, the UN and so forth. Even our historical ties to the Commonwealth—the ex-British empire on which the sun supposedly never set—provide no impediment to European membership, because the two are not mutually exclusive.

Let us not forget that, as was pointed out at the beginning of this epic debate many hours ago, since the formation of the original European Coal and Steel Community and throughout the days of both the European Economic Community and the European Union, Europe has kept the peace. Let us also remember that previous generations been ravaged by two world wars during a short space of time.

As I am a London Member of Parliament, I might as well mention our nation’s great capital. From its centre all the way out to its multi-ethnic suburbs, it is a globalised mega-city. The attention-seeking endorsement of the leave campaign by our London Mayor—who moonlights as the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip—after a calculated period of indecision

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is completely out of step with our outward-facing, polyglot capital. I should add that when the Mayor visited my constituency, our vote went up by 13% and I won. Let us hope that his dalliance on the wrong side of the argument works again.

I return to the continental words that have appeared in our lexicon. When I think of the way in which the Prime Minister was boxed into a corner by the lunatic fringe of his own party, two words spring to my mind. I will not mention Schadenfreude, because we would not wish that on anyone, would we? “Bête noire”, however, seems to be what Europe has become for the Conservative party.

Let all of us—Members in all parts of the House—who believe in the right side of this argument encourage everyone to repeat the 1975 referendum result, so that we can remain in the European Union, European affairs can proceed to their next chapter and we can continue to build the European project.

4.41 pm

Pat Glass (North West Durham) (Lab): This has been an excellent debate. I have recently sat through a number of EU debates in the Chamber that have been much less powerful and have centred on just one side of the argument, and I have listened ad infinitum to dry arguments about process. However, today’s debate has not been like that. The starting gun—the announcement of the date of the referendum—has opened the door to both sides of the argument and raised the level of the debate.

We have heard a number of outstanding contributions today. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) set out the arguments for remaining in the European Union very clearly, in a speech that balanced high eloquence with pragmatism. I could not fail to refer to the speech made by the right hon. Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames), which I think we would all agree was passionate and eloquent. If I may say so, it was worthy of his grandfather. It was one of the best speeches that I have heard during my time in the House.

Both my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden) and the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard) made thoughtful and measured contributions, while my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton North East (Emma Reynolds) made the patriotic, progressive case for remaining in the EU. Although I did not agree with his comments about an independent Scotland, the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (John Nicolson) spoke passionately about the formation of the EU and the dividend of peace. The hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Stuart Blair Donaldson) entertained us with a personal story about the practical everyday importance of the European health card to European citizens on holiday.

On this issue, Labour is united. The parliamentary Labour party, constituency Labour parties up and down the country, the Labour membership, and, according to the results of polling over time, the vast majority of Labour voters believe that Britain is safer, stronger and more prosperous as part of the European Union. That is our view, and that is what we will campaign on. The right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond) made it

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clear that Labour voters would be crucial in the referendum. I think that trade union members will be as well—and women.

A couple of weeks ago, I witnessed a conversation between a husband and wife. I observed the conversation, rather than taking part in it. The husband, who is a maths graduate, said, “I am interested in chaos theory, so I would be quite interested to see what would happen if we left the European Union, because I do not think it would look like what either side is saying it would look like.” His wife leaned across the table and said to him, “Don’t you dare! I have three kids, and this is about my children’s future.” I think that such conversations will happen increasingly as we move towards the referendum. Mothers and grandmothers will be making decisions that will have an impact on the future of this country, and I think that, in making those decisions, they will recognise that Britain has become a rich country as part of the European Union: the fifth biggest economy in the world, and the second biggest in the EU.

I am old enough to remember a time before our membership, when our national newspapers were fond of calling this great country the sick old man of Europe. If that was ever true, it is no longer true. The hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) asked, “If we are not in Schengen and we are not in the eurozone, what is the point of being in the EU?” Well, millions of jobs depend directly or indirectly upon our being a member of the EU. In my area of the north-east, 70% of the trade that we do is with the EU. In one city in the north-east we make more cars in one month than Italy does in a year. If we go to Teesport or the Port of Tyne, we see line after line of cars that are being exported from this country to the EU. As a country, nearly 50% of our trade is with the EU. We carried out £44 billion of trade last year, and we received £1.2 trillion of investment, a third of it directly from the EU.

Mr Jackson: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Pat Glass: No; the hon. Gentleman has had the floor quite a lot today.

A third of that trade is from the EU, but the remainder is from countries outside the EU solely because we are a gateway to the EU.

I have listened to the arguments from the outers who believe that the world is just lining up to enter into trade agreements with us once we leave the EU, but they should stop talking and listening to each other and start listening to what the rest of the world is telling us. I was in Sweden this week, where the Government told me that of course they want to continue trading with the UK if we leave, but only as part of a trade deal worked out with the EU. Such a deal would cost us heavily and require that we conform to the same rules and regulations as the rest of the Europe, including the free movement of people. The idea that we can magically walk away from the EU and yet retain advantageous trade deals that exist only because we are a member of the EU is, quite frankly, la-la land. At a time when we are facing increasing dangers from international terrorism, international crime, climate change and Russian expansionism, it is dangerous to think that it is a good idea to sit isolated on the edge of the biggest trading group in the world.

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Labour campaign in this referendum to remain in the EU not as it is, but as it could be. We want to see Europe deal with some of the issues that we cannot deal with alone—not just international terrorism and crime, war and migration across the world and climate change, but exploitative practices by employers who seek to undercut the wages of workers and international tax evasion by global companies. We cannot hope to deal with the Googles of this world alone; we can only do that together with our partners.

Finally, I want to talk to the young people out there who may be listening to this debate. The EU was formed not as a political experiment or project, nor just as an economic market; its first purpose was to stop the regular slaughter that went on in western Europe every 30 years. I appreciate that the EU is not the only reason why my son is not lying in some cold grave outside Ypres or Thiepval as my great-grandfather and his brother are, but we now settle our differences around a negotiating table and not on a battlefield. I absolutely appreciate how difficult it is to get agreement between 28 countries, but surely it is far, far better than what went before. The peace dividend of the EU is huge and is as important today as it was in 1945. I want us to vote to remain in the EU, to ensure that the killing fields of 1914 to 1918 and 1939 to 1945 do not happen again to the young people of our country, today or at any time in the future.

4.48 pm

The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington): May I first congratulate all right hon. and hon. Members who have taken part in the debate this afternoon?

Mr Rees-Mogg: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I thought the Minister might begin with an apology for the absence of the Foreign Secretary. It is custom for senior Ministers who have opened debates to return for the end of them. On such an important matter, it is a rather surprising discourtesy to the House that the normal convention has not been observed.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. What I would say is that it is the choice of the Foreign Secretary, and who knows, we may hear something yet, as the Minister for Europe has so far only managed to get three words out.

Mr Lidington: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is meticulous in his courtesies to this House, but sometimes Secretaries of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs have to deal with extremely urgent matters to do with this country’s national security.

I want to single out the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames), as anybody who heard it, whichever side of this argument they stand on, will remember it as one of the great parliamentary set pieces of their years in this place.

I do not want to dwell at length on the arguments about renegotiation, because my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister went into them in great detail and answered questions about the subject for three hours on Monday. I simply say that I have sat through a fair number of these debates in the last six years, and I will be the first to say to my hon. Friends the Members for Wycombe (Mr Baker) and for North East Somerset

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(Mr Rees-Mogg) that they are models of consistency in their opposition to British membership of the European Union. If the Prime Minister had come back from Brussels brandishing the severed heads of the members of the European Commission and proceeded to conduct an auto-da-fé in Downing Street of copies of the Lisbon treaty, they would still be saying, “This is feeble, insufficient, not enough.”

Mr Baker: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr Lidington: No, I want to deal with what the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond) said, as he raised some serious issues about the impact of a British withdrawal upon the devolved Administrations, particularly, but not exclusively, Scotland’s. It is for the Government of the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom being the member state party to the treaties, to decide whether to trigger an article 50 process after such a referendum result. But he is right to say that there would be some pretty complicated outworkings of British departure from the EU for all three devolved Administrations and for the United Kingdom and English statute book, because a fair number of Acts of Parliament reflect European law as it has developed over the past 40 years. Those things would have to be gone through, both in the two years’ negotiations following the triggering of article 50 and, I suspect, in the years subsequent.

Alex Salmond: Does the Minister understand the point here? If there is not to be a vote in this place because it is superseded by a popular sovereignty vote for out, what would be the circumstances, under the Sewel convention, of a vote in the Scottish Parliament if the popular vote in Scotland had been for in?

Mr Lidington: The United Kingdom is the signatory to the European treaties, and therefore it is the UK Government who take the decision on whether to invoke article 50.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr Evans) raised important points about what he saw as security risks from people who had migrated to Germany crossing to the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard) said, accurately, that we have some pretty effective security arrangements at our borders and that the record shows not only that the chief terrorist threat to the United Kingdom too often comes from British citizens, but that there have been terrorist incidents abroad that have been brought about by people who were British born and bred. In Germany, it takes eight to 10 years for someone to get citizenship, and they have to have a clean criminal record, pass an integration test and show that they have an independent source of income. It is probably because those tests are so rigorous that only 2.2% of refugees in Germany take German citizenship and get German passports. What we can and do do here is stop people, including EU citizens, at our borders and refuse entry to anyone about whom there is information of terrorist links. Some of my hon. Friends overlook the fact that our safeguards against terrorism are stronger precisely because we are party to the various European agreements on data sharing and information sharing, such as on passenger name records, which we would be outwith if we were to leave the European Union and were unable to negotiate some alternative arrangement.

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The key question in deciding our position on membership is one my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax) touched on: how will we be better able to control our destiny and influence for good the lives of the people whom we represent? The point that the leave campaigners must face is that the alternatives that we see—most notably Norway and Switzerland—are countries that, in order to get free trade and the single market, have had to accept not only all the EU regulations that govern those matters without any say or vote in determining them, but the free movement of people and a duty to contribute to the EU budget. That is not sovereignty, but kingship with a paper crown. It would not bring the power to shape European policy and co-operation for the benefit of the people whom we are sent here to represent from all parts of the United Kingdom.

What has dismayed me during this debate is that, apart from my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh), there has been little attempt to describe what the alternative is that will somehow enable us to have all the things that we value about European Union membership with none of the things that may matter to other Governments around Europe and which we perhaps find irksome or troubling.

Sir William Cash rose

Mr Lidington: No, I will not give way.

I am bemused that some of my hon. Friends have managed to convince themselves of two propositions: that other European countries are at present engaged in what has been termed a “vindictive and spiteful” attempt to harm our interests or a conspiracy to do us down; and that those same Governments will rush to give us everything that we want with none of the downsides if only we vote to leave. That is a fanciful analysis of European politics today. If we accept that we want a single market, we must have the EU rules that go with it and the other costs, such as those that Norway and Switzerland have to pay today.

We are putting so much at risk at a time of real peril not just for this country but for the whole of the west. We face a massive economic challenge from global competition and digital technology; a challenge from transnational crime and global terrorism; the collapse of states in parts of Africa and the middle east, which has allowed terrorism, people trafficking and drug trafficking to flourish; and the challenge from a newly aggressive Russia in both eastern Europe and the middle east. No one country in Europe, not even the biggest, will be able to tackle those challenges on its own. That is why our key allies—not just those in Europe, but the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand—see the United Kingdom as stronger and more influential in the world as a leader in our own continent. I am dismayed by the insouciant attitude of those who want to leave to the risk that their campaign poses of the possible fragmentation of the west. It is truly shocking.

We need to have confidence in this country’s ability to lead and shape events in Europe, as we have done in creating the single market, in pioneering free trade deals, in organising a firm response through sanctions to Russian aggression in Ukraine and to Iran’s nuclear programme, and in defeating piracy in the Indian ocean.

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The United Kingdom should be confident in our ability to work with allies in Europe and around the world. We should not see the two things as in any way contradictory. As we look to the future and face again the challenges of large-scale migration driven by terrorism, failed states, climate change and economic problems in much of the developing world, we need to work together with our partners and our allies, because none of us can tackle that on our own. We see the United Kingdom today as a European power with global interests and global influence. Those two aspects of this country are not contradictory; they complement one another. We need to go forward with the confidence and optimism that the United Kingdom can help make a better future not just for every family in this country but for all the nations of the wider European family. That is the case that I and my right hon. and hon. Friends will be putting to the country in the months to come.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered European affairs.

Mr Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Have the Government given any indication that they might be interested in making a statement about guidance that they have given to civil servants to restrict information to Ministers during the period of the referendum, which involves concealing information that is being used by other Ministers for campaigning purposes?

The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) rose—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): The Minister for Europe is desperate to answer.

Mr Lidington: I am happy to respond. The Prime Minister responded to this point in answer to questions on Monday. The Government have a very clear position, which is to recommend to the country that people vote to remain members of a reformed European Union. Quite exceptionally, Ministers are being allowed to depart from the normal rules on collective responsibility in order to dissent from the official Government position on that referendum question, but the civil service exists to serve and support the policy agreed by the Government of the day. The letter published by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, subsequently extended by formal guidance from the Cabinet secretary to civil servants, does no more than give effect to that policy.

Mr Jenkin: Further to that point of order, I am grateful for your indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker, but that does not answer a great many of the questions. How can I raise this very urgent matter?

Mr Deputy Speaker: The simple answer is that I have had no notification that anybody is going to make a statement. I can do no more than allow the Minister for Europe to reply.

Alex Salmond (Gordon) (SNP): Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Does the Minister accept that the position that he has just explained comes to an end when the purdah period starts?

Mr Deputy Speaker: Let me help everybody. We are not going into a debate. That is the end of it. We need to move on.

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Transport: Glossop and High Peak

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

5.2 pm

Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): This is the second time that I have called a debate on the roads in and around Glossop, and I make no apology for debating the subject again in the Chamber. I have called a second debate tonight because of the events of recent weeks, when the inadequacy of these roads has created more misery for my constituents. Such is the strength of feeling about the matter among people who live in the High Peak, particularly in Glossop, that there is now a petition on the parliamentary website created by my constituent, David Saggerson. As we know, such petitions will trigger a debate if they receive 100,000 signatures. I did not want to wait for that so I am using the Adjournment debate mechanism to hold the debate that almost 3,000 people have already signed up for.

It was recently reported that the viewing figures for the BBC Parliament channel had hit an all-time high. If those figures were measured again tonight around Glossop, and perhaps also in Stalybridge and Hyde, I am sure they would be even greater. That is not because of my constituents’ desire to follow every word and deed of their Member of Parliament—I wish that were so—but it is testament to the desperate need felt in and around Glossop for a solution to the deplorable situation facing residents as they attempt to go about their everyday business. I feel sure that following tonight’s debate, the Minister’s and my own Twitter feeds will see a significant increase in traffic, as will my Facebook page.

In the time allowed, I cannot begin to convey the frustration felt by my residents about this issue, but I intend to try. From our previous conversations I know that the Minister is aware of the situation, but I shall add some background and context. The Mottram-Tintwistle bypass has become almost as fabled as the Loch Ness monster. Governments of all colours have threatened and promised to deliver it and have conspicuously failed. When I was first elected in 2010, I was conscious of the need to promise my best efforts to deliver this badly needed and much delayed road. I and the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds) put aside our political differences and joined forces in an attempt to sort the issue out once and for all.

Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab/Co-op): I commend the hon. Gentleman for securing this debate, which will be genuinely appreciated in our part of the world. I appreciate the opportunity we have had to work together constructively to make progress on the issue. In 2010, in a difficult financial climate, we were told that this was not a viable option, yet we have been able to make progress, for which I am extremely grateful, as are my constituents. I also want briefly to thank the Minister. We have dealt with many roads Ministers over the years, but I have always found the current one attentive and genuinely serious about trying to help us. I know that he is planning to visit us very soon, which I appreciate.

The recent problems around Glossop are absolutely untenable, even for a part of the world that is used to congestion. The situation in Broadbottom, Mottram

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and Hollingworth was unbearable while the roadworks were taking place. The only answer is a bypass. There are two points that I hope the hon. Gentleman will address in his speech. First, the bypass must go around Hollingworth as well as Mottram; that is the comprehensive solution we need. Secondly, we need the consultation to begin as soon as possible.

Andrew Bingham: I completely agree. Politically, the hon. Gentleman and I are miles apart, but on this matter we are in total agreement, as we will continue to be.

In 2010 the hon. Gentleman and I gathered together the key organisations and commissioned our own study, which we managed to get funded, to produce evidence that would confirm what we both knew to be obvious, as did the people of Glossop, Stalybridge and Hyde, which is that the situation then, as now, was unacceptable. The roads are simply not up to the needs of our residents. In the ensuing time we have pursued the matter relentlessly, both together and independently. That culminated in a meeting I had with the Chancellor at No. 11 Downing Street, during which I impressed on him the seriousness of the problem and how we could not ignore it any longer as it was only going to get worse.

In late 2014 I was delighted that, following our work, the Government announced the building of the Mottram Moor link road and the A57 link road, which is known locally as the Glossop spur. It was not the full solution that I have campaigned for—I will refer to that later—but we were promised that a study would be done to examine extending it to deal with the problems faced at Tintwistle in my constituency and Hollingworth in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. On that point, I strongly argue that the scheme should indeed be extended, along the lines of the original Mottram and Tintwistle bypass plan put forward years ago, because we need that for those two small villages.

I realise that the Minister will not have the intimate knowledge of the area that I do. I could embark on a long description of the road networks, the junctions and the geography, but by happy coincidence he will be visiting High Peak tomorrow, and I am looking forward to showing him the situation at first hand. Seeing it for himself will demonstrate the problem far better than any description I could give tonight. I would like to thank him in advance for visiting High Peak. Tonight I want to try to impress upon him a sense of the difficulties being faced, the impact they are having on my constituents and the urgency of the issue. In order to do that, I need to relate some of the happenings of the past few weeks.

The town of Glossop and the surrounding area are home to over 30,000 people. Despite being in the east midlands, Glossop very much faces Manchester and the north-west, for employment, leisure and many other facets of life. Consequently, there is a huge volume of traffic that heads in and through Glossop as people travel to, from and between Greater Manchester and Sheffield. There are only two effective roads heading north from Glossop to Manchester, one of which relies on a single-track bridge that was never designed to carry significant amounts of traffic. The fact that it is even considered by motorists, let alone used, proves the point I am making about the existing roads.

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However, due to the congestion on the main route out of town, that route north has become a well-used alternative—until earlier this month, when a burst water main washed away the road surface in the village of Charlesworth, forcing its closure. The consequences were catastrophic. I received many emails from constituents, some of whom were leaving home well before dawn just to get out of Glossop and get to work for 9 am, and they were facing similar travel times when trying to get home. Indeed, when I was trying to get to Stalybridge one Friday evening I was forced to take a detour of several miles to complete the journey.

The closure of what is, in effect, only a back road pretty much gridlocked Glossop, and indeed the whole area, for over a week. I was informed that the chaos was such that a child who had suffered a seizure in Glossop and who needed an urgent ambulance faced an unacceptable delay, purely because of the blocked roads, so this catastrophic situation could easily have turned into a tragedy.

A further complication that week was the cancellation of trains, which meant that more cars went on to roads that were already overburdened. However, I must stress that the Minister should not think that last week’s traffic problems were the cause of the problem; they were only the result of the contributory factors I have outlined, and they only exaggerated an already truly unacceptable situation.

Earlier this week, the M62 was blocked. Yet again, trans-Pennine traffic looking for an alternative route was forced on to the Woodhead Pass, which converges with the A57 just outside Glossop. The ensuing traffic chaos caused traffic jams going back huge distances, snaking through Tintwistle and several miles beyond.

I want to focus briefly on Tintwistle, which the Minister will visit tomorrow. A constituent, Vicky Mullis, who is a resident of Tintwistle, invited me to meet the village’s residents to talk about the problems it faces. As the Minister will see tomorrow, they feel their houses physically shake as heavy goods vehicles thunder past, literally a few feet from their front doors. Furthermore, when the traffic backs up, as it did earlier this week, cars resort to taking short cuts through the village to try to get in front of the other traffic—they are using the roads as a rat run. I am trying to convince Derbyshire County Council, as the highways authority for those roads, to take action. Thus far, it seems somewhat impervious to my protestations, but I will continue.

That is why I still fully support looking at extending the proposed scheme. The scheme does much for Glossop and for parts of the constituency of the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde. However, it does nothing for Tintwistle, so the extension is as crucial as going ahead with the two link roads already in the programme.

There are more factors we can take into account when we consider the need for this solution. Significant planning consents have recently been granted in Glossop. That will increase the population and thereby increase traffic levels.

The imminent withdrawal of the 394 bus service from Glossop to Stepping Hill hospital in Stockport—I and my hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (William Wragg) are trying to find ways to preserve the route—could move more constituents who have cars on to the roads. I could use more of the debate to talk about the 394 bus

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alone, because a lot of constituents are contacting me about it, and they alarmed at the loss of that vital service. However, I want to return to the issue of traffic and to look at the economic consequences.

At the moment, a wide range of businesses operate in Glossop, covering various forms of industry, manufacturing and services, and we are always looking to attract more. However, the ongoing traffic difficulties are making it increasingly difficult to get businesses to open in Glossop. It is a thriving, fantastic town, and it is in a great position, but people are looking at it and thinking, “Hang on. How am I going to get my customers and clients in and out of the town?” They are now thinking twice about coming to Glossop and bringing in more jobs.

On top of that, I have spoken to companies based in Glossop that are really beginning to think that the traffic is suffocating the town. I fear that they we will not only not get new businesses in, but lose the businesses we already have, because they will move elsewhere as a result of the inaccessibility.

On a wider point about the economy, the A628 Woodhead Pass is a significant route connecting the east and the west of the country. I applaud the Chancellor for his work on the northern powerhouse, and it is a great initiative, but for it to work properly the two ends of the powerhouse—the east and the west, Sheffield and Manchester—need to link up. The route-based strategy on the M62, which was produced some time ago, already flags up the fact that the M62 is nearing capacity. That increases the significance of the A628 as a trans-Pennine route. If we look at other trans-Pennine routes, we see that there is the A69 in the north and then the M62; the next one down is the A628. All this congestion is therefore blocking a vital artery connecting the east and the west, and I have a welter of statistics and evidence to prove that. I know the Minister will have seen it, because some of it comes from studies carried out by his own Department. I have tried to encapsulate the situation as best I can in the time allowed. Much will become clearer tomorrow when the Minister visits, but I do want to impress on him the seriousness of the situation.

I am delighted that the Government agreed to build this road. It was announced in December 2014. The Prime Minister himself, in an answer to me at Prime Minister’s Question Time, confirmed that a future Conservative Government would build the road. I was delighted with that. I have that copy of Hansard pinned on my office wall to remind me what we have promised, and I intend to deliver on that promise if we can. However, the delight and expectations that were raised in late 2014 are turning into frustration because the wait goes on. In Glossop, it is now not just the Government’s reputation that is at stake; I have made a commitment to my constituents, and I am determined to stick to it. I keep repeating this, but I cannot stress it enough: I cannot begin to describe the groundswell of public opinion on this matter.

Many people across Glossop will be watching this debate tonight. They will watch it later on YouTube or whatever medium they want to use. Two constituents, Robert McColl and his son Kallen, have travelled down here specially to be in the Public Gallery to listen to this, such is the desire of the people of Glossop to sort the problem out and sort it quickly. We know that one part

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of the road is going to be built—the two relief roads. That is great, because we need that extended scheme for the people of Tintwistle and of Hollingworth in the constituency of the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde. I urge the Minister—I have known him for years, and he is a man of honour and integrity—to give my constituents, and indeed me, some hope that this process can be conducted quickly and with urgency so that we can see spades in the ground as soon as possible.

It is now quarter past 5 on a Thursday evening. If this was live on the radio, there would be people sat on the A57 and the A628, and sat around Glossop, listening to it, saying, “Minister, let’s hear what we want to hear. We need this road, we’re sat in this traffic, we’re starving the town, we’re starving High Peak.” I do not exaggerate: this is the biggest single issue facing the Glossopdale area. If it is not resolved, it will have catastrophic effects on everybody. The people of Glossop and I are desperate—we cannot carry on like this any longer.

5.17 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Andrew Jones): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Andrew Bingham) on securing this debate. He is a great champion for his constituency and has made his case with his customary eloquence and passion. I am thoroughly looking forward to visiting his area tomorrow morning.

Let me start by putting the transport agenda as a whole into some overall context. Transport really does boost our economy. It connects us, gives us more choice about where we work and live, and creates jobs. Well-maintained roads and motorways are an essential part of a modern vibrant economy. That is why in December 2014 the Government launched the road investment strategy, which outlines how £15.2 billion will be invested in our strategic roads between now and 2021. This is the biggest upgrade to our strategic roads in a generation.

The Department for Transport clearly recognises how important improved connectivity and better journeys are for Glossop and High Peak. That is why the road investment strategy contained several proposals in the area. Collectively, this package will address congestion and improve journey times between Manchester and Sheffield, as well issues to do with the safety and resilience of the route. The routes between Manchester and Sheffield provide a key connection between two of our most important northern cities, and Glossop is a key town on that route.

Currently the journey times and the performance of the connecting roads compare most unfavourably against similar routes. It is not just Glossop we must consider, but Mottram, Hollingworth and Tintwistle, which are also heavily dependent on the A57 and A628. I understand that elements of the route, particularly the A628, experience delays and have a poor safety record, impacting on the communities on the route and on the environment of the Peak District national park as a whole. The communities in High Peak endure high levels of traffic throughout the day and consequently suffer unduly from air pollution and noise. Economic activity in the area, as my hon. Friend has so eloquently said, is also inhibited by the lack of capacity on the roads.

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The proposals in the road investment strategy will improve conditions for Glossop and Mottram. Highways England is exploring how the benefits might also be extended to Hollingworth and Tintwistle. I will personally take up the issue with Highways England and make sure that it sees a transcript of this debate and hears the concerns expressed so eloquently by my hon. Friend.

The direct route by road from Glossop to Manchester is principally the A57 and, for a 5-mile-long section, the M67. The section of the A57 used to reach the M67 is an entirely single-lane highway that passes through the very busy town of Mottram. In the other direction to Sheffield, the A57 winds its way through the Peak District national park along the appropriately named Snake Road or Snake Pass. The A57 in both directions is busy throughout the day and, given that it features extensive lengths of single-lane road, is extremely vulnerable to delays caused by congestion or accidents that can block it. Given the location, the A57 is also very vulnerable to adverse weather conditions.

Anybody who lives in the midlands or the north of England will know that there have been long-standing calls for improvements to connectivity. We have heard those calls and have provided a package of proposals that will significantly improve the road journey between Manchester and South Yorkshire.

Andrew Bingham: The Minister has talked at length about the A57, but will he also mention the A628, particularly the Woodhead Pass, which people will have heard of because the traffic is always being mentioned on the radio? The A628 converges with the A57 just outside Glossop and is another significant trans-Pennine route that goes to Barnsley. For those travelling on the M1 from the south, the signpost to Manchester will guide them to the A628, which then converges with the A57.

Andrew Jones: I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. Indeed, I plan to use the A628 to reach him tomorrow morning. I have already planned my route, so I understand his point.

We recognise that the routes need substantial improvement to meet the needs of the local economy and the environment and to better fulfil their role in our national transport network. That relates to trans-Pennine connectivity and we should not forget that, as well as serving local communities and businesses, the routes also play a broader national role.

The trans-Pennine upgrade programme seeks to improve journeys through a number of schemes, including a new dual carriageway creating a Mottram Moor link road; a new single carriageway link from Mottram Moor to Brookfield; further dualling on the A61; and climbing lanes on the A628. A number of other smaller measures will also be put in place to address the accident blackspots. We are very aware of the specific environmental protections that are in place in and around those locations, including special areas of conservation and sites of special scientific interest. We will, therefore, work closely with the national park authority.

For any proposals to go ahead, they will need to be sensitively designed and their potential impacts will have to be properly assessed and understood so that the improvements are in keeping with the significance of the park’s protected landscape. As part of the process

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of developing and delivering the investment, consultation will take place with local communities and stakeholders. That will include the scope and viability of further improvements and extensions to the Mottram Moor link road that would alleviate the issues faced in Tintwistle and Hollingworth. Highways England has been developing options for each of those schemes, to determine how best to meet the transport needs of the local communities while addressing environmental and other concerns. That balance needs to be achieved. Early consultation with key stakeholders such as the local authorities, utilities companies and the Peak District national park authority is already informing the development and assessment of the options.

I anticipate that a full public consultation will commence in April 2017, and the next step would be to submit an application for a development consent order in summer or early autumn 2018.

Jonathan Reynolds: In addition to the Minister’s visit tomorrow, he will probably find in his red box a letter from me, saying that we would be extremely grateful if he would consider binging forward the public consultation to the end of 2016. I know he is not be able to give a commitment on that now, but it would generate so much good will and make the project proceed faster, which would be tremendous.

Andrew Jones: I give an undertaking to both Members who are present that I will do all I can to achieve that. They have made their case eloquently. I recognise the issues that are faced by the local communities that they represent, and we will do all we can to help.

In terms of timing, I expect that after the development consent order, we will commence construction in the financial year 2019-20, and the schemes will potentially be open for traffic three years later. I recognise the case for urgency that has been a clear theme this evening, so if it is possible to bring the dates forward, I will certainly try to do so.

The new schemes will follow recent investment that we have already made in the network. As a result of resurfacing schemes undertaken in recent years, the condition of the road surface on the A628 and the A57 has improved since 2010, resulting in a 68% reduction in the number of potholes. Works are taking place, but I recognise that we are looking at more significant, longer-term answers.

In addition to the commitments in the road investment strategy, the Department is undertaking a study on improving connections between Manchester and Sheffield by way of a trans-Pennine tunnel. Through that study, we seek to understand the viability, costs and deliverability of such a connection, and to determine its role and priority in the emerging transport strategy for the north. The construction of such a connection carries with it the potential to reduce traffic on existing routes in the area and to bring important environmental benefits to the Peak District national park.

The initial report of the trans-Pennine tunnel study was published on 30 November last year. It found that there is a clear strategic case for the scheme that is aligned with central and subnational government policy, and that the construction of a new strategic route between Manchester and Sheffield is technically feasible, although very challenging. The scale of the wider economic

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benefit has yet to be established, but initial analysis shows that the benefit could be significant and complementary to other schemes in the developing northern powerhouse strategy. The study’s final report will be published by the end of the year, and will be used to inform the content of our second road investment strategy.

Transport includes more than just roads, so I hope my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak will not mind if I talk a little about rail in the area. As part of the proposed northern hub capacity enhancement, Network Rail has proposed works at the eastern end of the Hope Valley line. A passing loop is to be provided east of Bamford, and the line is to be redoubled at Dore and Totley station.

Andrew Bingham: That work is very welcome to certain parts of the area, but, given the geography of High Peak, the work will not help anything on the Glossop side of the hill, because it is on the wrong side. The Minister will see that tomorrow.

Andrew Jones: I recognise that, and I look forward to seeing the detail of the geography and the challenges it presents. The challenge that we face with rail is that we have an enormous backlog of investment. The rail industry is a huge success, but that huge success brings with it the need for more capacity. There are as many people using our rail network now as there were in the late 1920s, but the network is only a fraction of the size. Governments of all colours have underinvested over many years, and we need to catch up. That is what the control period peak budget of £38 billion is about. I will take forward my hon. Friend’s point about where that work can be carried out on the Hope Valley line, and I will liaise with Network Rail on that. Rail is a key ingredient in improving connectivity in many areas. Although we are investing very heavily, we also require investment where the Hope Valley line enters the big conurbations in Manchester and Sheffield. We must also bear in mind the impact that High Speed 2 will have on such key connections.

Network Rail’s intention is to enable an increase in passenger services between Manchester and Sheffield and to improve accessibility by sustainable transport to the Peak District national park. A public inquiry into Network Rail’s application for statutory powers to undertake the scheme opens in Dore on 10 May. The independent inquiry inspector will then submit a report and recommendation to the Department for Transport. It is not therefore appropriate for me to comment any further on the scheme.

In summary, I hope I have demonstrated that this Government are committed to improving roads and transport infrastructure around Glossop and High Peak. We have made a commitment in the road investment strategy to make significant improvements to the trans-Pennine route through this area in the next few years. These enhancements to transport infrastructure will bring benefits to residents and improve the economy across the region. Such enhancements will help not only the economy, but the local community and the local environment. All those elements, which were highlighted very clearly and passionately in my hon. Friend’s speech, will be benefited by that work.

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I look forward to working with my hon. Friend and other hon. Members to make sure we get the schemes right. The point is that, as we are working in this area, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We are making a step change to travel in the area, and we need to make sure we get this right. The more local input we have, the

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better such decisions will be. I look forward to working with my hon. Friend to improve the situation for his constituents.

Question put and agreed to.

5.31 pm

House adjourned.