2.53 pm

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): I am filled with optimism, because the hon. Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart), who called for this debate, recently had a debate about S4C and, lo and behold, the Government miraculously found some funding for it. Therefore, this debate might well presage good news about investment in the tides.

This is an ancient dream. There is a nineteenth-century painting of a Severn barrage—somebody foresaw it in Newport—and an inquiry in 1980 looked at it in great detail. I wrote an article for the Western Mail in which I foresaw a series of barrages that would make use of the tides all around the Welsh coast—different pulses of electricity come at different tides—which, to ensure that the project was demand-responsive, were locked into pumped storage schemes in the valleys of south Wales. When the high tide came in at about 3 o’clock in the morning, the water would be pumped up the hills in the valleys and then it would be let down. Dinorwig has proved to be a battery for all of Britain.

When I dug out that article, which I wrote 40 years ago, I was struck by the fact that in all that time we have ignored what is the great source of untapped power, certainly of Wales, but of all the British Isles: the great cliffs of water that surge around our coasts twice a day. Immense amounts of untapped power are wasted. As the hon. Gentleman said, such power is clean, green and, unlike most other renewables, it is entirely predictable. We know exactly when it will happen and it will last as long as the human race inhabits the planet. What are we doing with it? Very little. The great example is in Brittany, where a barrage was opened across the Rance river and now, 50 years later, the turbines are in pristine condition and, without carbon or pollution, it produces the cheapest electricity in Europe. Of course, we should go ahead.

There is now another reason why we need to invest in the project: what I believe is the collapse of the Hinkley Point C project. All that is left promoting it is the stubbornness of the French and UK Governments and the reluctance to accept the mountain of evidence that says that the project cannot work. It has not worked in the past, it is not working now and it will not work in the future. Even today, in The Times, following similar articles in the Financial Times and many other papers in the last seven days, I note the realisation—it was in the main headline—that £17 billion could be saved if we abandon Hinkley Point. There is no rational case left for European pressurised reactor projects. Have they worked anywhere? Three are being built in the world but none is working. The one in Finland, due to cost €6.4 billion, should have been generating electricity in 2009.

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Richard Graham: You will have to rule as to whether this is the right place for an anti-nuclear campaign, Mr Brady. May I gently suggest that many of us here believe that we need more energy full stop, from nuclear and from tidal lagoons?

Paul Flynn: Yes. At the moment the Government are approaching an impasse, because Hinkley Point is doomed, and that is crucial to where else they can go. They must go somewhere else to create energy for the future, so it is crucial to the debate that we understand what the entire scientific establishment and the two chiefs of EDF have recognised: it cannot go ahead. EDF is €37 billion in debt—if it were anything other than a nationalised company, it would be bankrupt and out of business. Its share price has collapsed by 10% in the past 24 hours.

EPR electricity has not worked anywhere. The other great EPR project is in Flamanville, where there is a serious problem with the roof of the reactor vessel, which means it may never be completed—it will certainly be delayed for years. Again, that project is billions over budget. How on earth can anyone rely on that?

Mr David Jones (Clwyd West) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that the difference between nuclear power projects such as Hinkley—which he is dilating on at the moment—and the proposed technology at Swansea bay and around the Welsh coast is that in lifespan, while nuclear projects are finite and have potential unforeseen consequences in terms of disposal of waste, tidal lagoons provide a clean source of power that, built on a Victorian scale, will last for many decades if not centuries?

Mr Graham Brady (in the Chair): Order. Mr Flynn, before you respond, I hope you will use your last two minutes to focus more on the tidal lagoon side than the nuclear side.

Paul Flynn: Of course. The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about every comparison we make on what tidal has to offer. It has cleanliness as a source of power, it is ours—it is British—and it is eternal. It does not have to come from anywhere else. There is a simplicity in taking moving water, getting it to turn a turbine and then generating electricity.

It is time now for this dream to come true. The Government are into investing in huge projects. They have spent £1.2 billion on their railway project, but they have not built an inch of track yet. Those projects they have taken on are long term, and some of them have failure written into them, but this project has success written into it. Tidal power has simplicity and works in several other ways, whether it is through a lagoon or some other project.

We should look at the serious objections there have been in the past 40 years to building a barrage, particularly from those in the natural world who say that building a brick wall across the Severn will have all kinds of repercussions for the natural world. That is not a problem that occurs with lagoons. In order to provide electricity for the future that is green, non-carbon, eternal and everlasting, it must be tidal power.

3.1 pm

Byron Davies (Gower) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart) on securing this important

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debate. It is a pleasure to represent my constituency of Gower, part of which this tidal lagoon falls into, in the Mumbles area.

The lagoon is the result of five years of hard work on the part of the developers, and we have now arrived at the point of the strike price. The pilot scheme at Swansea may, as has been said, move forward to bigger projects at Cardiff, Newport and elsewhere in Wales and, indeed, the UK. The lagoon has the potential to produce energy that is cheaper than even nuclear and gas. The potential future investment in Wales alone is more than £10 billion, and more than 3,500 jobs will be generated over a decade in Wales, with many more generated in the supply chain across the UK. That is a particularly important point.

Mr MacNeil: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point about the economic benefits of the project. The Chancellor has talked about a northern powerhouse; this would strike me as being a western powerhouse. At a time when borrowing costs are low, there is a need for demand in the economy—Martin Wolf is even talking in the Financial Times about helicopter drops—this lagoon would add to our energy security and strengthen the economy in Wales, which needs to happen. Wider interconnectivity would benefit not only Wales but Europe, and that is another reason the project should be supported.

Byron Davies: I totally agree with the hon. Gentleman; I could not have put it better myself.

More than 1,000 companies in the supply chain across the UK have registered their interest in such projects. The scope for further investment in other lagoons and in the export market will eventually give rise to a contribution to the UK balance of payments of tens of billions of pounds.

Chris Davies (Brecon and Radnorshire) (Con): I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart) for securing this debate. I want to add to the comments being made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Byron Davies) by saying that the whole community of Britain will benefit from this project. I represent one of the largest landlocked constituencies in England and Wales, so Members are probably wondering why I am praising a tidal lagoon that is many miles away from Brecon and Radnorshire, but it really will benefit our people. We will have a lot of people travelling down to work there. Businesses will benefit on a daily basis from the tidal lagoon, and the people of Brecon and Radnorshire are very keen that it goes ahead.

Byron Davies: Indeed; I totally agree with my hon. Friend, who makes a valid point.

A study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research has found that a national fleet of six tidal lagoons would contribute something in the region of £27 billion to UK GDP during construction, as well as creating or sustaining 35,000 jobs on average and roughly 70,000 jobs at its peak. When operating, the fleet would contribute just more than £3 billion per annum to UK GDP.

I am sure Members will be aware that Gower was the first area of outstanding natural beauty in the UK. It is a great tourist attraction, and I am sure that the development

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of the tidal lagoon will add to that. Swansea bay tidal lagoon would be the birth of a new industry based in Wales, and it now needs our support to get it into construction. Where that project leads, others will follow.

Carolyn Harris (Swansea East) (Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, since the mention of a tidal lagoon being in Swansea, his constituency, my constituency and the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) have seen a great increase in the feel-good factor and a driving of the agenda to take forward other projects that would be less exciting without a tidal lagoon?

Byron Davies: The hon. Lady makes a good point. The tidal lagoon has great benefits, including from a health point of view.

Tidal Lagoon Power started work on Swansea bay in 2011 and has spent more than £30 million on the project to date. The company has been wholly privately financed by a number of private individuals, and more recently by a small number of institutional investors. The enterprise is therefore a purely UK-led initiative in the area of tidal power.

In February, the Department of Energy and Climate Change announced an independent review of tidal lagoon energy, which I support and believe is the right decision. Swansea bay tidal lagoon has development consent, while the other projects do not. This has to be looked at in the round, and DECC is making the right decision in considering it properly. Tidal Lagoon Power has welcomed the review as a clear signal that tidal lagoons are being taken seriously and are no longer simply a footnote to UK energy policy. With negotiations on Swansea bay progressing in parallel, it should be possible to sustain investor confidence and ensure that this first-of-its-kind project at Swansea bay is ready to go, should the review conclude that the UK needs tidal lagoons.

In conclusion, I am concerned that the project has been used as a bit of a political football locally. We need to come together on a cross-party basis to provide the project with the support it needs. I know there is support in the Swansea area from other politicians. We all want to see the project develop for the benefit of our communities and the Welsh economy, so we need to lay aside political differences and have a serious and sensible dialogue, as we are today, on the way forward for the lagoon.

3.7 pm

Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Brady. I congratulate the hon. Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart) on securing this debate. The presence of so many hon. Members here today shows why the project is of such importance. I rise today to urge the Government to give this vital project the go-ahead soon.

I believe that the tidal lagoon should be approved for the following reasons. First, it offers Wales, and the Swansea bay region in particular, an unrivalled opportunity to place itself at the forefront of what this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos called the “fourth industrial revolution”—an industrial revolution that will be characterised by new forms of renewable energy and by the exponential outward expansion of technological

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innovation. We can be at the vanguard of that revolution, and the Swansea bay tidal lagoon could be a catalyst for it.

To have the first project of this type in Wales—not only in Wales, but in my constituency of Aberavon and, I hasten to add, that of my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris)—would be a source of tremendous national and local pride. The project would also provide a significant alternative to carbon-intensive industry.

This is a chance to harness the natural environment and the unique nature of Swansea bay to our advantage. It is an opportunity to use the environment to protect the environment, power the local community and local homes and to save money—because, secondly, the tidal lagoon will help not only to tackle climate change, but to save money in the long run. The lagoon requires a strike price of £96 per megawatt-hour. That is 16% below the cost of any offshore wind farm ever granted a contract.

Antoinette Sandbach (Eddisbury) (Con): I am interested in that strike price. Will the hon. Gentleman explain what period that is over? My understanding is that it is over a period of 90 years, rather than the 35 years that would apply, for example, in a wind farm contract.

Stephen Kinnock: The hon. Lady is correct. My argument is still that that strike price, as a unit price, is very attractive, particularly when we consider the economies of scale that would come from the construction of further tidal lagoons. We will see a downward trend in that strike price, which is a very convincing economic argument.

Huw Irranca-Davies rose

Mr MacNeil rose

Stephen Kinnock: The hon. Gentlemen rose at the same time. I will, in a very biased way, give way to my hon. Friend.

Huw Irranca-Davies: I understand that the Government want to get the financial details right and the best value for money for the taxpayer and bill payer, but on the basis of such unanimous cross-party support throughout Wales—at Assembly, ministerial and MP level, as well as right across society; there are no dissenting voices—should it not be the case that at the end of the consultation we have the deal on the table and we go ahead?

Stephen Kinnock: I agree entirely with my hon. Friend and also with the hon. Member for Gower. There is a cross-party consensus and what seems to be a rare outbreak of unanimity. Let us take that opportunity to move forward.

Mr MacNeil: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who is losing time because of interventions; he is very kind. To put the matter into some context, the strike price for nuclear will be for 35 years, but we must remember that nuclear has been on the go for 60 years in the UK. So 60 years after it first came along, it is still getting support for a further 35 years—95 years in total—and the strike price being talked about for the

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barrier is for only 90 years. I do not want to get into a debate about tidal versus nuclear, but that is interesting for context and background.

Stephen Kinnock: I agree with the hon. Gentleman, and I would add that we have seen a disastrous overrun in the cost and timing in Flamanville and in Finland, so let us give the tidal lagoon a chance, because in the long run it looks like a very good investment.

Over the project’s life span, it will deliver cheaper-than-wholesale electricity. The combination of the Swansea and Cardiff tidal lagoon projects, the first two of their kind in the world, would, over the course of their lifetimes, deliver the cheapest form of electrical generation on the UK grid. Thirdly, the project will create thousands of highly skilled, well paid jobs locally, supporting hundreds of local businesses. Indeed, it is already having a positive impact in the local area, as my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea East mentioned, giving rise to plans for many small businesses in the city bay region and feeding into the strategy for the Swansea bay city deal. This is exactly the kind of project that must go ahead if we are to see the rebalancing of the economy that this Government are so keen to talk about, but are apparently not always so keen to act upon. Well, here is the chance: approve the tidal lagoon and create jobs; support small business in the area; help to rebalance the economy and produce green energy.

Finally, as hon. and right hon. Members will be aware, the Welsh steel industry is going through testing times. Nowhere is that more acutely felt than in my constituency, where we are recovering from the devastating news two months ago of 750 job losses at the Tata steelworks in Port Talbot. With the Swansea bay tidal lagoon, there is a real opportunity to support not only the local community, but the local steel industry. The turbines and generator package are worth around £300 million, and Tidal Lagoon Power has committed to sourcing all the major components from the UK.

The company has detailed plans in place for a turbine manufacturing plant in Swansea docks and heavy fabrication in Pembroke, and the generators are to be manufactured in Newport and Rugby. This is all welcome, but I want to see the Government go further when approving the project, and show real leadership by committing to help to source all or as much of the steel for the turbines from the British steel industry. Not only would that help to create jobs across the Swansea bay area, helping some of those highly trained and skilled men and women who were made redundant at Port Talbot in January; it would also help to support local jobs at the Port Talbot steelworks, supporting local jobs and Welsh steel.

Jessica Morden (Newport East) (Lab): I thank my hon. Friend for giving way so near to his closing remarks. I want to reiterate that we in Newport also urge the Government to get on with the Swansea bay lagoon. We can also see the benefits further down the line in terms of procurement—my hon. Friend mentioned the steel industry—and in terms of investment, construction and long-term jobs.

Stephen Kinnock: My hon. Friend and I stand shoulder to shoulder on this issue.

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A positive decision on the lagoon would put a much needed tick in the Government’s green credentials and deliver a massive boost to the local economy and steel industry. This project needs and deserves rapid advance. The Government need to get off the fence and fast, because each day of delay is costing months or years of progress. The recently announced review cannot be another airport-style case of kicking things into the long grass. While welcoming the review, the chief executive of Tidal Lagoon Power, Mark Shorrock, stated:

“A welcome review should not be a substitute for action.”

He made it clear that unless work starts on the lagoon now, and unless structuring and commercial negotiations are concluded in the next six weeks,

“the opportunity will be lost and the review will be all for nothing.”

That was almost a month ago to the day. That gives the Government just two weeks if the project is to go ahead on schedule. The clock is ticking. If the Government want to know what the time is, it is time to act now.

3.14 pm

Antoinette Sandbach (Eddisbury) (Con): I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart) for securing this debate. I sat on the Environment and Sustainability Committee in the Assembly for a year and we did an inquiry into energy in Wales. I know very well the potential for tidal power in Wales, but I would like to sound a small note of caution. My hon. Friend made a very good speech that highlighted the sunny uplands, which will no doubt be reflected in the beauty of his constituency. However, on the plains of Cheshire, the concerns of my constituents are about the cost of electricity. I think this project is fantastic, but not at any price.

I currently sit on the Energy and Climate Change Committee, and I have real and substantive concerns about the reported strike price.

Simon Hart: My speech was not an entirely optimistic picture of energy production in the UK; I hope my hon. Friend accepts that. My point is that her constituents will not have any electricity at all, expensive or cheap, unless we fill the void that will be staring us in the face in about a decade’s time.

Antoinette Sandbach: I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s intervention. He will know about the excellent progress being made by the Horizon project and the Wylfa nuclear power station in north Wales, which will provide a large amount of generation. I am delighted because that is a very good project that will proceed at an even lower strike price than Hinkley Point’s, which is £92.50 per MWh. That is my real concern around this.

Carolyn Harris: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Antoinette Sandbach: I will just finish making this point. Citizens Advice has issued a report that highlights that, per unit of output, this would be the most expensive significant renewable energy project in Britain with an impact on those who can least afford to pay the bills because, as was pointed out earlier, the project would be funded by contract for difference, which gets added on to consumer bills. That means that the poorest and least able to pay would have the levy on their bills to

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pay for the project. I therefore welcome the review that the Government have announced, because there are other tidal projects and other forms of tidal energy and research coming forward.

Value for the taxpayer is absolutely key. As has been pointed out, the technology in itself is not new and would not attract a patent that could then be sold around the world. It may lead to some experts who could go and deliver that expertise elsewhere, but in terms of the unique deliverability of the technology, the project is using already established technology. There are no doubt potential benefits in relation to coastal protection.

Carolyn Harris: To go back to the hon. Lady’s comments on Wylfa and nuclear, does she not agree that the decommissioning costs of any nuclear project far outweigh any benefit that there would be in the on-costs to begin with?

Antoinette Sandbach: The hon. Lady will know that the strike price that has been agreed includes the decommissioning costs, and that Wylfa is a project that is very much welcomed in north Wales. Voters on the Isle of Anglesey are extremely supportive of the Horizon project going forward.

Citizens Advice said there was a danger that the project would repeat the mistakes that were made at Hinkley. It highlights an

“opaque negotiating process, lack of scrutiny of cost effectiveness and excessive politicisation of the decision”.

I am aware, as is every Member in the Chamber, that Assembly elections will take place in May. No doubt the project is being used to sell the dream. On behalf of my constituents, and particularly those who have difficulty in paying their bills, I welcome the review and urge an element of caution before we commit ourselves to a hugely expensive project. If it can deliver, and at the right price, it clearly needs to go ahead, because of the many advantages that have been and no doubt will be outlined in the debate. However, I want to say to the Minister that it should not be at any cost—only at a cost that is reasonable for the taxpayer. The clear, substantive advantages can be argued for, but I have concerns about the project.

Jonathan Edwards: The hon. Lady is making her point clear. Is she ideologically opposed to direct public investment, if she is opposed to the contracts for difference model?

Antoinette Sandbach: My understanding is that the rate of return to the investors in the project is 12% to 15%, which is very high. It is a very high cost to taxpayers and I query where else in the market anyone could get that kind of return. When we are talking about payments over 90 years, I urge caution. I do not say “Don’t go ahead”: I say that the review is appropriate. There could be clear advantages, and the boost that would be given to the steel industry and, no doubt, the domestic supply chain would be welcome. There are positives to be expressed, but there are also concerns, and it is right that if we are debating the project in the House we need to know some of the risks as well as potential rewards.

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3.21 pm

Carolyn Harris (Swansea East) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Brady. I congratulate the hon. Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart) on obtaining the debate. The issue is close to my heart, and the heart of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock).

We have heard that Tidal Lagoon Power is entirely privately owned, so when in February the Department of Energy and Climate Change announced an independent review of the tidal lagoon project I was shocked and disappointed, because the Government have been in talks with the company for more than a year. What stone has been left unturned? Surely we must all acknowledge that the tidal lagoon is a new approach, which will bring considerable environmental and social advantages to every region in the United Kingdom. There are plans for future lagoons. Tidal Lagoon Power is developing five full-scale tidal lagoons to employ the blueprint that needs to be established in Swansea bay. Between them, those projects would represent more than 15 GW of installed capacity, 8% of the UK’s total electricity requirement, and more than £40 billion of capital expenditure. Each project would secure a home-grown power supply for 120 years. Those are phenomenal figures.

The economic case is astounding. Six tidal lagoons would contribute £27 billion to UK GDP during construction, creating nearly 36,000 jobs on average, and 71,000 at the peak. Once in operation, the fleet would contribute £3.1 billion per year to UK GDP and sustain or create as many as 6,500 jobs. What region can afford not to welcome that? What Government can afford to risk that potential? As to the UK supply chain, Tidal Lagoon has set a target to achieve 65% of project spend in Swansea bay on UK content; with 50% of that staying in Wales. Wales cannot afford to miss this opportunity. There are phenomenal financial implications, with turbines, generators and turbine houses to be manufactured locally in Pembroke, Llanelli and Swansea. Detailed plans are in place for a turbine manufacturing plant in Swansea docks—a part of the city that has been left for a considerable time, since the decline of the dock—heavy fabrication in Pembroke and generator manufacture in Rugby and Newport. The turbines and generation package for Swansea bay are worth £300 million with almost all the parts to be UK-sourced.

As for employment, up to 1,900 full-time equivalent jobs will be created and supported during construction, and up to 180 will be created and supported through the operational life of the lagoon. There will be up to £316 million of gross value added during construction. So it goes on; the figures just keep coming. The project is a win-win all round, for Swansea East, Aberavon, the Gower, Wales and the UK—we all gain from every aspect of the project. The region needs the project, and so does my city—and the UK. It is an opportunity for us to become global leaders in a new and exciting technology; let us not let anything stop that.

Mr Graham Brady (in the Chair): I propose to take the winding-up speeches at 3.30.

3.25 pm

Mr Mark Williams (Ceredigion) (LD): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Brady. I will be very quick. I congratulate the hon. Member for Carmarthen

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West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart) on securing the debate. He alluded to the consensus, and I feel like a bit of an interloper in the debate, following the hon. Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris), who has done so much in her constituency to champion the cause. I speak as a Welsh Member, to reiterate the point made by the hon. Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire about the consensus on the issue between all the political parties. The hon. Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) got a few of us to sign an important letter to the

South Wales Argus

last year, to reiterate the case, and on 2 December our colleagues in the National Assembly unanimously voted to urge the UK Government to take action.

I suppose if I were to characterise the debate as encompassing the caution of the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach) and the enthusiasm of the hon. Member for Swansea East I would on this occasion side with Swansea East. Although the review has been acknowledged by Members all around the Chamber—with some more enthusiastic about it than others—the key point is that if it is happening, to quote the chief executive of the lagoon project, it is not “a substitute for action”. The debate is about timing.

Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire) (Con): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Williams: If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me I will not take an intervention, because we want to hear the winding-up speeches.

There is a question of timing. We have a consensus, and the hon. Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire talked about the need not to prevaricate. If concern is felt in some quarters that the project is being put into some kind of grass—long or otherwise—I hope that the Minister will dispel that.

We have heard all the evidence. The Swansea bay tidal lagoon project is critical for Swansea and the adjacent areas. It is critical for Wales and the UK, not just as a means of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, but also to increase the important renewables sector and for the Welsh economy. The technology is not new. Some of us have been on the Welsh Affairs Committee for quite a long time. The right hon. Member for Clwyd West (Mr Jones) is nodding. I remember a trip in a rubber dinghy in the Bristol channel with the predecessor of the hon. Member for Swansea East and the present shadow Secretary of State for Wales, the hon. Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith). It was an intriguing experience bobbing around in the Bristol channel with my colleagues; but we were there because, even 10 years ago, we were looking at the potential for such approaches. I cannot go back quite as far as the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) did in his speech, but we were talking about it 10 years ago.

Although it is not new technology, we need to look at other precedents around the world in France, Canada, Korea and elsewhere. We have the opportunity to be at the forefront of the technology. The lagoon could be the first of many such projects around the UK and elsewhere, if it is shown to be a success, bringing down the price of technology substantially and allowing us in Wales to export that technology around the world. I will repeat the figures: the Centre for Economics and Business Research has estimated that a UK tidal lagoon industry

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could increase our exports by £3.7 billion a year—for Swansea and the south-west of Wales. There would probably not be many jobs in Ceredigion; maybe a few. Setting the industry up would provide about 2,000 jobs, and much-needed high-skilled work in areas where that has sometimes been lacking. There would be several hundred ongoing jobs when the project was completed. We have heard about the tourist potential. In the years since I used to go there on holiday as a child, a huge amount of regeneration has happened in Swansea. We could build on that massively if this project moved ahead speedily.

If we are to meet our climate targets, it is vital that we invest up front for these kinds of projects and do not allow short-term thinking to scupper the long-term ambitions for our environment and economy. We need to ensure that we are at the forefront of encouraging the development of green technologies at a time when, if I am allowed briefly to be slightly party political in the last 30 seconds, there have been concerns about the direction of travel of the Department of Energy and Climate Change since the general election—but I say that only in passing.

The message of this debate is that politicians from all political parties—from direct engagement in Aberavon, the Gower and the city of Swansea, and from those of us from further afield—are urging the Government to get on with it. Have the review, but at the end of it, have some outcomes from which this project can grow and the communities we have heard about can prosper.

3.30 pm

Philip Boswell (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (SNP): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Brady. I thank the hon. Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart)—a quite beautiful part of the country—for bringing this key debate to the House and all the Members who have taken part. I feel that all the speakers today have contributed significantly and that many excellent points have been made.

A comprehensive and concise case was made by the hon. Gentleman, much assisted by contributions from Members across all parties. He reminded us of the Conservative manifesto and made key points about how with the STL we could, and should, be a global leader. That sounds very much like the positive argument for carbon capture and storage, and we all hope that, unlike with CCS, the Government will look to the longer term in this case and push forward. He spoke of a lights-off moment and the problems that would create in respect of black start, and the many benefits of added value, which I will come to later and which have been commented on by many Members. Critically, he corrected the common misconceptions about pricing, which were also covered by other Members.

The economic benefits that the project would bring to south Wales were particularly well covered by the hon. Members for Ceredigion (Mr Williams), for Newport West (Paul Flynn), for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) and for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris). The point was well made that the Swansea tidal lagoon will bring fantastic economic benefits to the local area, creating thousands of jobs and permanent roles in tourism-related industries for Wales and beyond. Over 2,800 construction jobs will be created, as well as up to 40 permanent roles

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in tourism industries. The Centre for Economics and Business Research, which was well quoted by Members, has estimated that the tidal lagoon could result in an annual boost to Welsh gross value added of 0.14% and would create direct and indirect jobs for the Welsh economy.

It is vital not only that Wales benefits as much as possible from this huge and exciting project, but that local communities benefit from energy developments. The community share offer made by STL will give the local community a direct stake in the project’s success, which will of course increase public support. It is also important that Tidal Lagoon Power works with the region’s universities and colleges to ensure that young people are encouraged into the green energy sector and that apprenticeship schemes are made available at the site. North Wales is also home to world-class marine science and energy research departments, which should work in tandem with the project. This should not just be Wales-wide; we should expect it to go beyond that and be UK-wide.

A positive point about UK fabrication, particularly in relation to steel tonnages, was made by the hon. Members for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith) and for Aberavon. We must not forget the cautionary note that the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach) sounded about the strike price or the points made about the politicisation of this project in the upcoming elections.

Contributions were made by many about the role of Wales and how it is well placed to take advantage of the increased demand for renewable energy, with its vast coastlines making it a fantastic place to harness tidal energy. Wales is home to the second highest tidal range in the world, in the Severn estuary, and has 1,200 kilometres of coastline—however, as yet none of it is being utilised.

Plaid Cymru is committed to making Wales self-sufficient in renewable electricity by 2035, and tidal power is a crucial part of that plan. Wales is already an energy-rich nation. It produces almost twice as much electricity as it uses, but at the moment only 10% of that is generated from renewables, compared with 32% in Scotland and 14% across the UK. This project will help Wales on its way to achieving the 2035 renewable electricity goal and will hopefully create a template for the proposed Cardiff tidal lagoon, which would generate enough electricity to power the whole of Wales. This is a long-term investment in the future of Wales. It is hoped that the success of the project would make the cost of any future projects based on it cheaper, through lessons learned, the evolution of design and technology, and so on.

A point was made about the potential flood defence benefits, which is another dimension of the project that will doubtless be investigated. STL is just the start. The hon. Member for Newport West spoke about the future of the project technology as a veritable eternal dream come true. The hon. Member for Aberavon spoke of the fourth technology revolution.

The UK Government have demonstrated that they are not fully committed to investing in renewable energy and meeting targets. Points on that were well made by the hon. Member for Newport West, who predicted potential miraculous funding, and we hope that comes to fruition. In February this year, the Government were

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criticised by the European Commission for failing to make sufficient progress towards Europe-wide renewable energy targets.

3.35 pm

Sitting suspended for Divisions in the House.

4.3 pm

On resuming—

[Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]

Mr Philip Hollobone (in the Chair): Sorry for the delay. The debate will finish at 4.28 pm. Mr Boswell is halfway through his remarks, so he has another five minutes. There will be 10 minutes for the Opposition and Government Front Benchers, and then we have the delight of Mr Hart having two minutes to sum up the entire debate.

Philip Boswell: In February 2016, the UK Government were criticised by the European Commission for failing to make sufficient progress towards Europe-wide renewable energy targets. The Government’s recent record of industry disappointment in constant policy changes is well discussed and recorded, particularly in respect of the early closure of the renewables obligation for onshore wind, solar energy subsidy cuts, privatisation of the green investment bank, carbon capture and storage and the legislative changes on oil and gas. Do not let the Swansea tidal lagoon project be the next renewable energy disappointment in that growing and far from comprehensive list of UK Government fails. Is it any wonder that the energy industry has somewhat lost faith in the Government? The continual moving of the legislative goalposts has seriously damaged market confidence.

There is an opportunity in Swansea for the UK Government to get back on track not only in respect of Britain’s commitment to green energy targets, but in reinstating investor confidence to some degree by delivering a best-value strike price for the people of south Wales and Britain as a whole. The anticipated and very real delay failures of Hinkley Point C have been well covered by hon. Members. Those extensive, real concerns should be a catalyst for moving forward with the Swansea tidal lagoon project.

In summary, tidal energy as a real contributor to our UK-wide climate change targets must be taken seriously. This project in south Wales is perfectly placed to take advantage of that need and must therefore be enabled to play its part in our collective success. Like, I am sure, the rest of the hon. Members present, I have been struck throughout this debate by the high level of cross-party support for STL. The fantastic ambition and progress made by the devolved nations on renewable energy cannot be held back by the regressive energy policies of this Government. I urge the Minister to get off the fence—as urged by the hon. Member for Aberavon, who is no longer in his place—and do everything in her power to ensure that the project goes ahead. It is about time this country had a good news story on renewables, or no one will take us seriously in our attempts to hit climate change targets and to keep the lights on.

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4.5 pm

Rebecca Long Bailey (Salford and Eccles) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. It is also a pleasure to debate opposite the Minister for the first time. It is fitting that two ladies are representing the Government and the Opposition on International Women’s Day. I congratulate the hon. Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart) on securing this debate. In his opening remarks he eloquently explained why the Swansea bay tidal lagoon is a particularly exciting subject.

The construction of a tidal low-carbon power plant represents a real opportunity for the UK to be at the forefront of renewable technology innovation. That fundamental point has been echoed by other hon. Members today. I do not intend to go over those remarks, as the hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Philip Boswell) has already done so rather articulately.

This debate has been a fantastic opportunity to highlight the potentially huge economic benefits of encouraging tidal lagoon power. Of course, we have also heard the hopes of hon. Members on both sides of the House that the Government will come to an agreement on the level of state support required to get this project off the ground. Indeed, the Conservative party’s manifesto contained a commitment to the Swansea tidal lagoon as a source of

“secure, affordable and low-carbon energy”.

However, there is a fear in many quarters that, since then, the Government appear to have kicked the project into the long grass. I hope that this debate will help to remind the Government of their commitment and that we will see some movement towards meeting it.

As we have heard, the proposed Swansea bay tidal lagoon has clear environmental benefits, as it harnesses a sustainable source of energy to generate a significant amount of carbon-free electricity over a long lifespan. Tidal Lagoon Power, the company that will construct, own and operate the plant, has suggested that it will generate enough electricity to power 90% of homes in Swansea bay over a 120-year lifespan. Indeed, as the generation of power relies only on the tide, it is an entirely predictable source of renewable energy.

Given the Government’s cuts to other renewables, we hope that tidal lagoon technology will not be the next to suffer, particularly because the economic case, as we have heard today, is as strong as the environmental case. For instance, a key benefit of developing the Swansea bay tidal lagoon is the number of jobs that it will create and support during its construction and lifetime. Tidal Lagoon Power estimates that the project will support 1,900 jobs during construction and 181 jobs during each year of operation. That is supported by research by the Welsh economy research unit at Cardiff University, which estimates that 1,850 full-time equivalent jobs will be supported across the region for the three-year construction period.

Such employment opportunities will be incredibly beneficial to the Swansea bay area of Wales, which has a somewhat high rate of economic inactivity and has recently been dealt a blow with the loss of jobs in the steel industry, another sector that, frankly, the Government should be doing much more to support. In fact, today we heard that an estimated 370,000 tonnes of steel are required for this project alone.

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The Swansea bay tidal lagoon presents a real opportunity to rejuvenate the area, offering employment in a new, growing industry. As the Cardiff University research unit explains,

“integrating construction demand with local manufacturing inputs and new industry will be an important means of strengthening prospects in these important parts of the regional economy.”

Similarly, trade unions have added their voice to business leaders and academic experts. Unite Wales, for example, hailed the project as

“both superb and significant in terms of the vision, energy and employment potential it could bring to Wales.”

Furthermore, the local community will benefit greatly from the plans for the lagoon area itself. We have heard today that Tidal Lagoon Power has outlined its ambition

“for the lagoon to become a major attraction and recreational amenity…showcasing tidal range technology and providing a unique venue for opportunities in the arts, culture”.

Jonathan Edwards: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way and for confirming from the Front Bench that the Labour party is fully behind the project. The key question for her as someone who aspires to be in the Minister’s seat is this: how would a future Labour Government pay for the project if they were in charge of it? Would they use a strike price model via a contract for difference, or does she agree that we should consider direct public investment, as a far cheaper way for the public to finance the scheme?

Rebecca Long Bailey: The hon. Gentleman raises some interesting and pertinent points. I hope that the Minister has considered them, and that the Government will address many of those issues in the review currently being undertaken. We as a party will comment on them when the facts and information become available in due course.

Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire) (Con): It is clear from the debate that everybody, across parties, thinks that this is a wonderful scheme and would like it to go ahead, but we know from experience that such schemes go ahead only if a satisfactory economic case is made. Does the hon. Lady welcome the review and the work going forward? The Government will be in a position to recognise the benefits, and it will confirm that the scheme is based on value for money as well as ticking every other box.

Rebecca Long Bailey: Yes. I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s comments and those made earlier by the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach). The scheme needs to represent value for money, but that must be assessed in the context of the whole economy, not just the specific project. As we heard earlier, it is not just a stand-alone project and should not be treated as such. If we consider it in a national context along with the other projects in the offing, I think that we will see throughout the review—I hope that the facts are presented as I have been told they will—that it will represent more value for money than a single project in Swansea alone.

The Cardiff University research unit also considered community benefits. Tidal Lagoon Power has suggested that the lagoon could become a foundation venue for local and national sports use, as the lagoon wall would

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provide a track for cycling, walking, angling and running and the lagoon itself could be perfect for swimming, rowing and sailing.

Not only will the project be a fantastic source of job creation and regeneration for the Swansea bay area, but it is expected to have a huge impact on the Welsh economy in general. A 2014 report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research estimated that the impact on Welsh gross value added could amount to approximately £76 million a year, in 2014 prices, over its 120-year lifespan. The development of such a new and exciting industry could also provide a much-needed boost to UK exports. Tidal Lagoon Power estimates that the potential to export UK content to a new global tidal lagoon market has been valued at £70 billion. The review should refer to the wider global impact.

Tidal power is an easily replicable new industry. The UK could be a world leader in exporting the technology and manufacturing across the globe. I am sure that the Minister will agree that at a time when the balance of payments leaves much to be desired, the development of a new exportable industry would be highly beneficial to the country. In short, investment in renewable energy technologies is a long-term win for everyone, saving jobs, money and the environment.

The Opposition understand that the Government are not set against this or other tidal lagoon energy projects in principle but have announced a six-month independent review, delaying any decision until autumn. However, Tidal Lagoon Power has said that it will need a decision on a much faster timetable. I welcome any reassurance that the Minister can give us that the project will not be allowed to fail simply due to the timescale of decision making. In conclusion, it is clear that the potential economic and environmental benefits of developing the Swansea bay tidal lagoon are huge. I hope that the Minister can assure me that the Government are doing all that they can to agree a level of state support to make the project viable.

4.14 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Andrea Leadsom): Mr Hollobone, it is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship. I congratulate all hon. Members on this interesting debate—I mean that sincerely—in which some good points have been made. I welcome the hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Rebecca Long Bailey) to her place on the Front Bench. It is a pleasure to speak with her for the first time in this debate. Interestingly, we both have landlocked constituencies, yet we share a keen interest in this project.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire (Simon Hart) on securing this debate. His chosen topic is of great interest to the Government, and I sincerely welcome this opportunity for an exchange of views. He, like others, from the south Wales region and beyond, is keen to understand better how the proposed Swansea bay tidal lagoon project, if it goes ahead, would benefit the local economy.

I want to clarify one important thing: my hon. Friend is absolutely right to mention that the Swansea bay project was in our manifesto. The Government absolutely recognise its potential to deliver low-carbon, secure energy for the future. However, as I am sure he will

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accept, it was not a commitment to deliver a contract for difference. This Government are absolutely determined to prioritise keeping costs down, to be on the consumer’s side and to decarbonise at the lowest price while keeping the lights on. Although the project is of huge interest to us, I am sure that he will appreciate that we must keep a close eye on the cost.

Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): The Bristol channel has the second highest tidal rise and fall in the world. We must harness it. We look to the Minister to find a way to fund that over a long period, because I think it has a timescale of more than 120 years. Once the lagoon is built, if the banks and turbines can be repaired, it will have an infinite life. If we can get the funding right, the power will be right, because the tide will be there, hopefully. As long as the moon is there and the earth revolves around the sun, we will have a tide.

Andrea Leadsom: My hon. Friend makes a good point. I agree completely. As I said, we are keen on the project, but not at any price.

Since the Government entered bilateral negotiation with Tidal Lagoon Power Ltd on a possible contract for difference for the project, my officials have been undertaking due diligence to establish a better understanding of the project, including detailed scrutiny of its costs, timescales and potential benefits. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach) that the bilateral negotiation process is set out in a stakeholder engagement document that my Department published in January 2015, so it is not an opaque process. I urge hon. Members to read it.

Let me be clear that this Government continue to recognise the potential for the deployment of tidal lagoons in the UK. The scalability of the technology is of genuine interest to us. We are attracted to the proposed Swansea bay tidal lagoon because of its potential to unlock larger, more cost-effective developments elsewhere in the UK.

Jonathan Edwards: Will the Minister give way?

Andrea Leadsom: I will answer the hon. Gentleman’s point, which I know he has made twice already. I will come to it in a moment.

There is speculation, following recent announcements, that this Government have kicked the project into the long grass. The simple truth is that the developer’s current proposal for a 35-year contract is too expensive for consumers to support, and the deliverability of the wider lagoon programme is too uncertain at this point. The developer is seeking a very significant amount of financial support for the project from consumers, and its most recent proposals for a longer contract would be a significant deviation from where Government policy is just now.

For that reason, it is only right that we take more time to consider the proposals. As I have said, the Government cannot support the technology at whatever cost to the consumer. It must represent good value for money and be affordable. We have told the developer that Department of Energy and Climate Change and Treasury officials stand ready to continue discussions.

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In parallel, there will be an independent review to assess the strategic case for tidal lagoons and whether they could represent good value for consumers.

The independent strategic review was mentioned by my hon. Friends the Members for Gower (Byron Davies), for Eddisbury and for Montgomeryshire (Glyn Davies), as well as the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr Williams). It will consider a number of issues, including the potential scale of the opportunity in the UK and internationally, including, importantly, supply chain opportunities.

Shortly, we will set out more details about the review, including the name of the person who will lead it. I hope that it will be possible to complete the review by the autumn. It will help us to consider further what role tidal lagoons could have as part of our plans to secure clean and affordable energy for families and businesses across the country.

Carolyn Harris: Can the Minister confirm that there will be somebody from Wales on that committee?

Andrea Leadsom: As I say, the make-up of the committee is being discussed right now, and I will certainly take that point away. I am quite sure that there will be someone from Wales on it, but I cannot say for certain because we have not got the names of individual members yet. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for making that point. As I was saying, we will not be able to make a decision about whether to award a CfD to Swansea bay until the review has been completed.

My hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire suggested an intergenerational CfD for up to 90 years, as did the hon. Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock). We will consider this and other means of financing this type of project as part of the review. However, hon. Members will appreciate that a 90-year CfD, or a CfD for even longer, is a very, very long-term intergenerational funding commitment that is not something that the Government have looked at so far. It requires further review; it is not something that we can simply pick up.

One of the very important reasons for the widespread interest in the proposed Swansea bay tidal lagoon and of course the wider lagoon programme is the potential for significant economic growth and job creation. We are taking this opportunity very seriously. If a decision is taken to award a CfD to this project, the Government will look to maximise the potential economic benefits as far as humanly possible. I can tell hon. Members that consideration of the supply chain is always a key part of a CfD negotiation, and the Government have already requested a supply chain plan and map from the developer. We are very pleased that the UK content of the project is likely to be up to 65% and that the Welsh content is likely to be about 50%.

That is good news, but hon. Members—in particular, my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, and the hon. Members for Aberavon, for Salford and Eccles and for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris), and my hon. Friend the Member for Gower—asked, “What do we get from this, especially for the steel industry and so on?” I can tell all hon. Members that in the context of offshore wind, where there is a very clear commitment to further growth, I am pushing extremely hard to maximise the opportunity for the UK supply

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chain, and if this tidal project goes ahead I will be like a Rottweiler and absolutely fighting for as much UK content as possible. That is a very important point to make to all hon. Members.

Mr David Jones: My hon. Friend has mentioned offshore wind. Is it not the case that the strike price proposed for the Swansea lagoon is comparable to that for offshore wind? Does not the lagoon have the substantive advantage of not being intermittent, unlike offshore wind?

Andrea Leadsom: My right hon. Friend is exactly right that the advantage of this project is that it is despatchable and not intermittent, which is the problem with offshore wind. However, I am afraid that he is not right that the cost of this project is comparable to the cost of offshore wind, because the timescale for this project is vastly different. If we compare like with like, we find that this project is much more expensive.

Once again, I congratulate hon. Members; this has been a very constructive debate and I have taken away a number of points from it. I also pay tribute to the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn), who has expressed his very long-term vision, which is far beyond the pedigree of most of us here, if not all of us here. He has been promoting the possibilities for tidal and he is absolutely right to do so. However, I can assure him that Hinkley Point is not comparable. We are very confident that the Hinkley Point project will get built and I will make the specific point that, as he will know, the decommissioning costs are taken into the CfD price, and so there is not a further cost of decommissioning, as some Members suggested.

Paul Flynn: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her remarks. If the Hinkley Point European pressurised reactor suffers the same fate as all other reactors—delays of six or seven years—what is the Government’s plan B to fill the energy gap?

Andrea Leadsom: As the hon. Gentleman will know, the Government are not dependent on any one technology. The important thing is a mixture of technologies and we are confident in our strategy for ensuring reliable and affordable supplies of energy.

It is entirely understandable that people are getting behind this proposed tidal project. It has the potential to be a very exciting development for Swansea, south Wales and the UK. If the project goes ahead, it should have a positive impact on the local economy, and if a positive decision is taken, we will look to maximise the opportunity and the effect as far as possible. However, we have a duty to ensure that the decisions we take are

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in the best interest of consumers across the UK, both today and in the future. So while we will continue to discuss the project with the developer and carefully scrutinise its most recent proposals, we will await the outcome of the independent review before taking any decisions on the Swansea bay proposal.

Mr Philip Hollobone (in the Chair): I call Simon Hart for his second innings.

4.25 pm

Simon Hart: Thank you very much, Mr Hollobone, for calling me again.

I thank the Minister, the shadow Minister, the Scottish National party representative the hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Philip Boswell), and many colleagues for their contributions today.

This has been an interesting debate, summed up by three words beginning with u: unity, which is good and somewhat unusual—to give a fourth word beginning with u; uncertainty, which is bad, and I hope that has been taken on board; and unique, because this proposal has a unique nature. There have been some erroneous comparisons with other projects. This project is not the same as other projects and therein lies its strength. I hope that the Minister will agree.

I hope that the Minister will not mind my saying this, but as far as manifesto commitments are concerned, nothing annoys me—and I suspect voters—more than something that gives a very clear impression in the written word in a manifesto that is followed up a few weeks or months later with, “Oh, we didn’t mean it quite like that.” The manifesto was really pretty clear about this project; there was no indication anywhere that this project might run into the long grass at a later stage.

Also, when the Minister talks about “not at any price”—I accept that, because nobody is going to do anything at unlimited price—I hope that she will stipulate at some stage in the future what the acceptable price is. It is all very easy going round and saying, “Not at any price”, but we need a slightly clearer indication of what we are talking about.

On behalf of many colleagues, I will say that this has been a healthy kick-around of this subject, and I hope that the decision makers in this process realise that there is some momentum behind this proposal and that, as far as we are concerned, it would have nothing but positive benefits for the Welsh economy and the wider UK economy.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered the potential economic benefits of the Swansea Tidal Lagoon.

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Bowel Cancer Screening Age

4.27 pm

Caroline Ansell (Eastbourne) (Con): I beg to move,

That this House has considered bowel cancer screening age.

Bowel cancer is second only to lung cancer for the number of lives it takes. Across the country, 165,457 people have signed a petition to bring down the bowel cancer screening age in the UK in a bid to hit this devastating disease.

Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (SNP): It is extremely unfortunate that bowel cancer screening is available only in England, Wales and Northern Ireland from the age of 60. Would the hon. Lady’s welcome the Scottish Government’s approach of screening people from the age of 50 being taken up across the rest of the UK? That would surely give many individuals an early diagnosis and a higher chance of survival.

Caroline Ansell: I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention. I recognise that earlier screening in Scotland and would certainly welcome it.

The petition that I mentioned has been well supported; in fact, it has had 500 new signatories this very day. The originator of the petition, Lauren Backler, has travelled from Eastbourne to be with us today in Westminster. May I at this point pay tribute to her courage and endeavour? For anyone hearing the news that they or a loved one have been diagnosed with bowel cancer, it will be simply earth-shattering, as Lauren knows. She writes:

“On 2nd December 2014, my Mum Fiona Backler was diagnosed with bowel cancer, at Eastbourne DGH’s”—

Eastbourne District General Hospital’s—

“Accident and Emergency and was told a few days later that the cancer was terminal. She started palliative chemotherapy within a week, but despite us being told that potentially she could have up to 2 years to live, she passed away on 28th March 2015, just under 4 months after diagnosis and a week after her 56th birthday. Before she was diagnosed, she had been back and forth to her GP with vague symptoms, and had even had an endoscopy about a year and a half beforehand, which she had been told was all clear. When she was diagnosed, her consultant told us that the cancer had possibly been missed at that stage.

Bowel cancer screening can often pick up abnormalities in people who have no symptoms at all, and so I believe that if the screening age was lowered to 50 it would give thousands of people a fighting chance of beating the disease.”

Rebecca Pow (Taunton Deane) (Con): My hon. Friend knows that I have come to the debate for personal reasons. My husband was diagnosed with bowel cancer in December 2014, when we were right in the middle of fighting the campaign, and it was I who spotted the unusual signs and dragged him to the GP, where, like many men, he would never have gone, or at least not for a very long time. Ironically, he received a letter some months later saying, “Come for the screening,” when he would have been 55. Had he had that letter at 50, the polyps would have been recognised and removed and they would, potentially, not have turned into cancer. As it was, he did have cancer, and we had to go through that earth-shattering experience that the poor lady whom my hon. Friend talks about has also been through. I sympathise with her, and I urge support for my hon. Friend’s motion. We need to continue to explain why the matter is so important.

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Caroline Ansell: I thank my hon. Friend for her moving contribution. Personal testimony highlights just why earlier intervention is vital—it can be life-saving.

Glyn Davies (Montgomeryshire) (Con): My hon. Friend makes reference to personal experience. I would not be here today without an early diagnosis of the bowel cancer I suffered. I had an operation that left me with a stoma, and I am living proof that someone can make a 100% recovery and even become a Member of Parliament, if they work hard.

I hope my hon. Friend agrees that one of the big benefits of screening is not only the identification of blood as a possible sign of bowel cancer, but the raising of awareness. The truth is that it came as a huge shock to me, and I imagine that it comes as a huge shock to people who think they are invulnerable and do not believe that they could possibly be suffering from bowel cancer.

Caroline Ansell: My hon. Friend makes an apposite point, and I hope that, in a small way, this debate, underpinned as it is by personal testimony, plays a part in raising awareness. As I said at the beginning of my speech, the disease takes the second highest number of lives of all cancers.

Julian Knight (Solihull) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate. As someone who lost both of his grandfathers to bowel cancer, I think that early diagnosis is absolutely key. However, it is not just a case of screening at a specific age; it is about spotting the signs. I have friends who have developed this dreadful disease in their 30s. It is all about spotting the key signs. One of those friends went on, after recovery, to carry the Olympic torch and is now a champion for young people with bowel cancer. Will my hon. Friend go on to talk about spotting the signs and not just about screening?

Caroline Ansell: My hon. Friend makes a very worthy point. He brings glad tidings, too, that bowel cancer can be beaten and that those who have suffered from this terrible condition can go on to lead rich and fulfilling lives—which, in some cases, bring them to Parliament.

Mr Andrew Smith (Oxford East) (Lab): The hon. Lady is being very generous in giving way. I commend her excellent speech, the petitioners and her remarks about her brave constituent. With the national rate of screening at 58%—it is only slightly higher in Oxfordshire—does she agree that, as well as raising awareness and pushing for an earlier age of screening, which I fully endorse, still more needs to be done to increase take-up, notwithstanding the adverts and the reminder letters that are already sent?

Caroline Ansell: The right hon. Gentleman is right in identifying that as a key way to move forward. In fact, screening uptake has not really moved in more than a decade, so we do need to be in the business of raising awareness of the condition, its symptoms and the opportunities for screening, at whatever age it is set.

Chris Davies (Brecon and Radnorshire) (Con): While we are on the personal stories, cancer—bowel cancer in particular—touches all families. I sadly lost my sister

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this time last year through it and my father is in a hospice at the moment for that exact reason. I am someone who is going through the investigative treatment, just as the husband of my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow) did, and everything is fine so far. As uncomfortable as it is, it is particularly difficult for men to be brave enough to go out and have the investigative actions take place. I am 48, so reducing the age would not necessarily have covered me. My sister, sadly, was 50 when she passed away. But bringing the age down will certainly give other people a chance, and that is the most important thing. I congratulate my hon. Friend on bringing the debate forward.

Caroline Ansell: I thank my hon. Friend for his contribution.

Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con): I welcome the fact that my hon. Friend has secured this debate. My mother was diagnosed with bowel cancer at 56 and, ironically, my father, who was 60 at the time, had received the screening kit five months previously. Does my hon. Friend agree that that shows the need to review the age at which people are screened?

Caroline Ansell: I agree, and I hope we can put that need forward today. I know that the Minister and her Department are working hard in this area and that they are all the time seeking to secure better outcomes. I hope that they might just revisit the screening age as part of that.

It has been really moving to hear from right hon. and hon. Members about their own experiences and about the losses they have suffered. Lauren is here today, having lost her mum. What a terrible tragedy that is. It feels especially poignant that we are here so soon after celebrating mother’s day.

With today’s advances in life expectancy, 56—the age at which Lauren’s mother died— is incredibly young, yet if Lauren’s mother had lived in Scotland, she would have been screened three times before the age at which she was diagnosed, increasing the chances of early detection and therefore survival. Learning that must have been a bitter blow. England has, however, led in this area. In 2006, we became the first home nation and one of the first countries in the world to offer routine screening for bowel cancer, with the faecal occult blood test, or FOBT, being sent every two years to those aged 60 to 69—later extended to 74. However, a year later Scotland implemented the same screening, with the crucial difference that it would begin from the age of 50.

The national screening committee, which ran FOBT pilots in the early 2000s, felt that 50 was the right age at which to begin to screen. It noted a lower take-up of the test in 50 to 60-year-olds compared with those over the age of 60, but recommended that the Government take measures to address that. However, when deciding on final implementation it was recognised that, due to a shortage of endoscopy equipment and with substantially higher incidence rates over the age of 60, screening would begin with that age group. It is conceded that more than 80% of those diagnosed with bowel cancer are over the age of 60.

A University of Sheffield study recommended that offering both bowel scope screening and the FOBT from the age of 60 would maximise survival rates and have the important trade-off of being cost-effective.

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Yet the same study also found that the FOBT would substantially lower the number of deaths by as many 23% if it was run for 50 to 69-year-olds, whereas running it from the age of 60 only would reduce the number of deaths by only 14%. It is hard to talk about percentages but, just to bring the debate back to the personal level, that significant 9% would have included Lauren’s mum, and perhaps other people we know.

We know that there is a clear upward incidence of bowel cancer over the age of 50. The rate of bowel cancer roughly triples between one’s 40s and one’s 50s, before doubling again in one’s 60s. We all should be aware of the signs and take precautions in our diet and lifestyle to prevent and detect bowel cancer—and, yes, perhaps we ought to shed the very British attitude that we must keep calm and carry on, and seek out our GP. More must be done to improve screening uptake rates. Bowel cancer screening rates remain disappointingly low nationwide, having barely moved above those achieved in the pilot 16 years ago.

Rebecca Pow: Spotting the signs is absolutely crucial, and we have had some great receptions in Parliament about just that point with the bowel cancer organisations, but I want to put a positive spin on things. Let us not be negative. If we spot bowel cancer early, which is exactly what my hon. Friend is talking about, it is fully possible to recover. It is one of the ones that has a positive outcome. We have got some great medical teams in this country, and I think we should praise them. In particular, I praise the team at Musgrove Park hospital. It has one of the best support teams in this area. I know Lauren has had a terrible time, but for other people there is an awful lot of positivity, which is why my hon. Friend secured the debate.

Caroline Ansell: Indeed, there is a lot of positivity. Lauren brings that positivity: she wants not only to reduce the screening ages, but to advance awareness of bowel cancer across the piece. I know that she is particularly concerned about those who are at risk and are already carrying the condition in their 20s and their 30s. So much more needs to be done, and that includes us talking about our symptoms and taking that forward. As we have heard, there is a good prognosis if we can strike out for that early intervention.

Sir David Amess (Southend West) (Con): On that positive note, my mother had a scare at 90. She ended up with a colostomy and she is shortly to be 104. There are good outcomes. Does my hon. Friend share my disappointment that the national average for take-up is 58%? In Southend, it is 52%. Our excellent Minister will be keen to ensure that there is a much higher take-up rate.

Caroline Ansell: Indeed. I am looking forward to hearing more from the Minister about the excellent work the Government are doing. I know that they have plans and prospects for hitting that low take-up. I fear that that low take-up might be a very British sort of thing, and we need to break through that if we are to strive to see the same survival rates as some of our European counterparts.

On early diagnosis, those diagnosed with stage 1 bowel cancer have a 97% chance of survival, which is hugely positive. That compares with a chance of survival of just 7% when the cancer is more advanced.

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Early diagnosis not only provides patients with a much better chance of survival, but would cost the NHS far less, saving an estimated £34 million according to the charity Beating Bowel Cancer. That is because treatment for the earlier stages of cancer is often less intensive and invasive than treatment for more advanced diseases.

Sadly we also know that we are lagging behind other countries on survival rates. A 2013 study for the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which was part-funded by the European Commission, found that in Britain we diagnose bowel cancer later than other countries, while our survival rate overall for bowel cancer was only 51.8%. That is lower than the European average of 57% and lower than Germany’s survival rate of 62%. That is not where we want to be. I am looking forward to hearing from the Minister about her Department’s sterling work, but my question today is: could the age of screening be revisited? Is there scope to further personalise and target testing in those younger years?

Mr Philip Hollobone (in the Chair): For the Minister’s benefit, the debate will conclude at 4.57 pm.

4.43 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Jane Ellison): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. The quite extraordinary level of participation in this half-hour debate speaks volumes about the level of interest in and engagement with this issue from parliamentarians. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Caroline Ansell) on securing the debate. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to speak to Lauren at the Beating Bowel Cancer reception here in the House in January and to have heard her story in person. My officials and I enjoyed that conversation. As my hon. Friend said, she is a remarkable young woman.

Bowel cancer is one of the most common types of cancer. The statistics around the number of people who die from it each year have been eloquently explained. We accept that we as a country want to do better. That is why, looking at cancer in the round, NHS England set up the independent cancer taskforce, which produced the new strategy “Achieving world-class cancer outcomes”. That was widely welcomed when it was published last July. The Government are committed to implementing the recommendations of the taskforce, and that will see improvements right across the cancer pathway, including in screening. The strategy sets a clear ambition for a further improvement in survival rates. They have improved, as my hon. Friend said, but we want to go further.

Today’s focus is very much on screening, which is a crucial part of diagnosing bowel cancer early. We know that outcomes are significantly better for people diagnosed at stages 1 and 2 as compared with stages 3 and 4. When deciding whether to undertake bowel cancer screening, we have to remember that it is a choice for each individual, so it is important that people are provided with the information they need to make an informed decision. I will go on to talk a little about how many people either decide not to do it or do not get round to doing it. Screening is a significant challenge, and I welcome attention being given to it.

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On the advice of the UK National Screening Committee, the expert body that advises Ministers and the NHS in the four UK countries about all aspects of screening policy, bowel cancer screening using the faecal occult blood self-sampling test is offered in England. The bowel cancer screening programme offers screening using the kits every two years to men and women aged 60 to 74 who are registered with a GP. Men and women aged over 74 can self-refer for screening every two years if they wish. People eligible for screening receive an invitation letter explaining the programme, along with an information leaflet explaining the benefits and risks of bowel cancer screening. By the end of January 2016, nearly 29 million men and women in England had been sent a home testing kit and more than 17.5 million had returned a kit and been screened. More than 24,000 cancers have been detected, and nearly 70,000 patients have been managed for high or intermediate-risk adenomas, or polyps, including polyp removal.

The age issue has been the focus of much of the comment today. The NHS bowel cancer screening programme began in 2006, with full roll-out completed in 2010. The programme initially offered screening to men and women aged 60 to 69 because the risk of bowel cancer increases with age. More than 80% of bowel cancers are diagnosed in people aged 60 or over. In the pilot, which was conducted in Coventry and Warwickshire and in Scotland in the late 1990s and early 2000s, more than three times as many cancers were detected in people aged over 60 than in those aged under 60, and people in their 60s were most likely to use a testing kit. Only 47% of men aged 50 to 54 completed a kit, compared with 57% of men aged 60 to 64.

There are also issues of capacity, particularly for endoscopy services, as has been mentioned. The roll-out of screening required that the NHS bowel cancer screening programme take into account and help balance the increasing workloads and pressures placed upon services providing diagnosis and treatment to all people with bowel cancer, not just those found through the screening programme. I emphasise that point to the House, because it is important. The latest routes to diagnosis figures from Public Health England show that in 2013, only 9% of bowel cancers were diagnosed through screening. That 9% is important, but it compares with the more than 50% of bowel cancers that were diagnosed following a GP referral. Sadly, 25% were diagnosed via emergency routes, and those have very poor survival rates because the cancers tend to be at a later stage. The programme has to be able to respond. The skills and the clinicians we need to respond to those GP referrals have to be available, so there is always a difficult balance in terms of the resource we need.

The programme was also required to consider possible changes to it. One such change—this is an important point that has not quite come out in the debate so far—is bowel scope screening, also known as flexible sigmoidoscopy, for people in their 50s. It is a one-off examination that is an alternative and complementary bowel screening methodology to the self-testing kit. It aims to find polyps before they turn into cancer, so it actually prevents cancer ever developing. Evidence has shown that men and women aged 55 to 64 attending a one-off bowel scope screening test could reduce their individual mortality from the disease by 43% and their individual incidence of bowel cancer by 33%.

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In 2011, the UK National Screening Committee recommended offering bowel scope screening for bowel cancer. The NHS bowel cancer screening programme is currently rolling it out to men and women around their 55th birthday. They will be invited to take part in the self-testing part of the programme from age 60. Although Scotland is piloting bowel scope screening for some people in its programme, England is the only UK country committed to a full roll-out. Some 77% of bowel scope screening centres in England are currently operational. The Secretary of State is committed to rolling out bowel scope screening to all screening centres in England by the end of 2016, and we are on track to deliver that commitment.

As of the end of January, more than 230,000 invitations had been issued and more than 85,000 bowel scope screening procedures performed. Although that is very good, Members who can do the maths quickly will realise that uptake is currently running at 44%, compared with nearly 60% for the self-sampling part of the programme. If, on the back of this debate, Members can do anything to raise awareness in their constituencies and to empower men and women to make informed decisions about taking up these free tests, I encourage them to do so.

Margaret Ferrier: Will the Minister give way?

Jane Ellison: I am afraid that I cannot take any interventions because there were so many in the opening speech. I do apologise, but I really want to get through my response.

So far, nearly 3,500 people have attended colonoscopy following bowel scope screening, with 125 cancers detected, and 1,688 people with high or intermediate-risk polyps and 1,270 people with low-risk polyps have had them detected and managed or removed.

Delivering the bowel scope screening programme will obviously place huge demands on endoscopy services, but it can be safely delivered by members of the hospital team other than trained doctors, such as nurses. That is why we announced in September last year that Health Education England is developing a new national training programme for an additional 200 non-medical staff to get the skills and expertise to carry out endoscopies by 2018. The first cohort began training at the end of January. In addition, NHS England’s sustainable improvement team is working intensively with trusts that have significant endoscopy waiting lists, in order to improve performance. That learning will then be shared widely. NHS England is also exploring ways to improve endoscopy performance through pricing changes.

I have already mentioned low uptake rates. We know uptake is lower in more disadvantaged groups, in men—as has been referred to—and in some black and minority ethnic groups. Public Health England is providing support and technical advice to its partners in the NHS on reducing the variation in coverage and uptake. Local screening providers are working with commissioners to address that, which is really important, because some of the variation in these important programmes is astonishing. Again, if any Member can do anything to reduce the variation, it would be greatly appreciated.

The Independent Cancer Taskforce has also recommended an ambition for 75% of people to participate in bowel screening by 2020. To facilitate that change,

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it recommended a change to a new test, the faecal immunochemical test—FIT—which is more accurate and easier to use than the current FOB test and also improves uptake. I encourage Members with an interest to compare the two tests and try to understand how different they are and why they are likely to have such different effects.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne will be aware that in November last year the UK National Screening Committee recommended that the FIT test should be used as the primary test for bowel cancer screening instead of FOB. We are currently considering that important recommendation. If it is accepted, it is worth remembering that it will be a major change to a programme that saves hundreds of lives, so we will have to ensure that it is rolled out in a safe and sustainable way, which will include the procurement of cost-effective kits and IT systems.

In any debate about cancer screening it is important to underline the difference between population screening programmes and people going to see their GP with the symptoms of cancer. Information for the public on the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer is available on the NHS Choices website. The Department advises people who are concerned about their risks to speak to their GP. Many of the cancers we have heard about in the debate were found at a very late stage. It is probable that there were some symptoms that could have led to a GP referral.

Since 2010-11, the Department and Public Health England have run 10 national “Be Clear on Cancer” public awareness campaigns, including two national campaigns to promote the early diagnosis of bowel cancer. The first campaign ran from January to March 2012, raising awareness of blood in poo as a sign of bowel cancer. It was the first ever national TV campaign to raise awareness of the symptoms of this cancer and to encourage people with relevant symptoms to go to their doctor without delay. A second campaign ran later that year.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has guidelines on the recognition and referral of suspected cancer, which were updated in June 2015. That is important because in updating them NICE urged GPs to lower the referral threshold when they are assessing whether a referral is appropriate and to think of cancer sooner when examining patients. Switching the way we think and lowering the referral threshold is a critical change that NICE estimates will save many thousands of lives. Of course, professional advice is also available through the various expert bodies.

I emphasise that all screening programmes are kept under review, and the UK National Screening Committee will always look at new evidence. I will of course make sure that our expert advisers are aware of the significant parliamentary interest that has been demonstrated today. In responding to this short debate, I have been trying to illustrate the interaction between the two different parts of the programme—bowel scope screening and the original screening. I have also been trying to underline the point about take-up. Of course it is about individuals making an informed decision, but beyond rolling screening out to different ages, we must ensure that people in the highest risk groups, particularly the over-60s, are aware that they can choose to be screened. Many lives could be saved, so it is really important that we get that message across. We can do more.

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In conclusion, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne again for securing this debate and drawing the important issue of bowel cancer screening to the attention of the House. I assure her and the families of all those affected—including, of course, Lauren, who started the petition—that preventing premature death from cancer is of the utmost priority for the Government. I hope I have set out how we are responding to that vital challenge.

Question put and agreed to.

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Ceramics Industry

4.57 pm

Tristram Hunt (Stoke-on-Trent Central) (Lab): I beg to move,

That this House has considered Government support for the ceramics industry.

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone.

I shall begin with a quotation from Arnold Bennett, the Tolstoy of the potteries. In his masterpiece, “Anna of the Five Towns” he described Henry Mynors working the potter’s wheel as follows:

“He knows all its tricks and aptitudes; when to coax and when to force it, when to rely on it and when to distrust it…Clay is always clay.”

Those of us who were lucky enough to catch the recent excellent BBC series, “The Great Pottery Throw Down”—filmed in Middleport in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Ruth Smeeth)—know just what wonders clay can conjure. From the success of the British ceramics biennial to the continuing allure of Emma Bridgewater’s earthenware, Britain has rediscovered its love for cups, saucers and tableware.

More than that, the defining image of the first world war centenary commemorations has been the ceramic poppies installation, filling the Tower of London moat with a sea of red. Designed in Derby and fired in Stoke, the tens of thousands of hand-crafted poppies symbolised a revival based on not just artistic innovation but industrial might. We therefore hold this debate in a moment of optimism about the future of the ceramics industry and that of the greatest ceramic city in the world, Stoke-on-Trent. Yet, if we are to secure the continued revival of earthenware, china, clay, tile, roofing and other ceramic industries, we need a Government committed to an industrial strategy that supports and grows pottery businesses throughout the UK.

The history of pottery in Stoke-on-Trent is long, stretching back a good 500 years. Out of the brown and yellow north Staffordshire clay came butter pots and flower pots. In the sun kilns of Bagnall and Penkhull, local artisans started to glaze their wares and develop a reputation for craftsmanship. But Europe’s ceramicists remained in the shadow of China, which had long mastered the magic of porcelain, the famous white ceramic formed by kaolin, named after the hill just outside Jingdezhen. Only in 1768 did the Plymouth apothecary William Cookworthy crack the recipe. With the help of Cornish clay, Britain joined Meissen and Sèvres in porcelain production. China—Britain’s new word for pottery and porcelain—became the eighteenth century rage. No one exploited the new era of industrial production, design and innovation more than Josiah Wedgwood. From his Etruria factory, he unleashed a volley of fashionable new designs that caught the attention of Queen Charlotte and Britain’s expanding middle class. His trademark jasper and basalt production followed.

In 1934, J.B. Priestley visited Stoke-on-Trent on his celebrated English journey. He, too, fell for the elemental, timeless attraction of ceramics. He celebrated the fettlers, the mould-makers, the dippers and the master potters for

“doing something that they can do better than anybody else…Here is the supreme triumph of man’s creative thumb.”

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Priestley caught the industry at its peak. The decline of the British ceramics industry arguably began with the Clean Air Act 1956 and the dismantling of some 2,000 coal-fired bottle kilns. For all the benefits of open skies and modernised plant, the law imposed sudden and significant costs on the manufacturing process. In an attempt to offset those costs, the industry embarked on a round of mergers and acquisitions, resulting in an over-concentrated ceramics sector. The high interest rates and exchange rates of the 1980s hammered exports. The rise of takeaways and the end of wedding lists undermined demand. Most damaging of all was the growing threat of the far east. Labour and energy costs in China put British production at a marked disadvantage.

Wedgwood went bust and Spode went into receivership, and between the early 1980s and 2010, some 40,000 jobs were lost in the ceramics industry. With them went Stoke’s cityscape and parts of its culture. The Minton factory, where Pugin’s tiles were fired for the Houses of Parliament, was turned into a Sainsbury’s. Then the final insult: in 2010, the entire collection of the Wedgwood Museum was threatened with disposal.

Six years on, the Wedgwood Museum has been saved and the industry is making profits, creating jobs, finding export markets and coming up with new designs. There is excitement and enthusiasm about British ceramic design. There is a new competitiveness in great companies such as Steelite, Churchill and Portmeirion. There is a new culture of partnership.

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for securing this debate. Does he agree that Dudson, Steelite and many other companies have a strong record of exporting around the world? The last time I looked, ceramics make a net contribution to our balance of trade. It is one of the few industries that does.

Tristram Hunt: The hon. Gentleman is exactly right: it is a great export industry. It is interesting that the companies that stayed in the UK, did not offshore all their production, invested in research and development and design, and supported innovation, are growing. As I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North will explain, her constituency is pretty much dominated by Steelite, which grows every week. That is only to be admired.

A new culture is emerging among trade unions such as GMB, the British Ceramic Confederation and local businesses, and a new culture of research and innovation is coming out of facilities such as Lucideon in Stoke-on-Trent—our ceramics research hub. Today, as the hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) suggested, the ceramics sector exports £500 million a year, employs about 20,000 people directly and enjoys annual sales of about £2 billion.

To sustain that success, I have some requests for the Minister. The ceramics industry is an energy-intensive sector. Energy comprises up to 30% to 35% of production costs. We are severely disadvantaged by the current plethora of UK and EU policies. For example, only seven ceramics manufacturers in the UK are likely to receive renewables compensation, in contrast to more than 100 German and 140 Italian companies. Policies relating to the EU emissions trading scheme are very

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important for competitiveness. The question for the sector is, which processes will be awarded carbon leakage status for phase 4, which will begin in 2021?

There are particular worries about the tiering on just a handful of sectors, and concerns, which my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Paul Farrelly) might pursue, about the roof tile and brick businesses. The Government’s much-vaunted house building programme should not be carried out on the back of Polish, Belgian or Dutch bricks. We should produce them in the UK.

Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that, although of course we are all concerned about the future of the steel industry, it is very important in our discussions with Brussels that the ceramics industry is not disregarded or harmed as a by-product of our attempts to help the steel industry?

Tristram Hunt: My hon. Friend, who has been a brilliant campaigner for the brick business over many years in our part of the world, is exactly right: we would be shooting ourselves in the foot, in terms of industrial policy, if the advances that we want to make in the steel industry undermine the ceramics industry. They are both energy-intensive sectors, so they share similar challenges relating to energy costs.

We would like to hear that the Minister is fighting to ensure that heavy clay producers are also awarded carbon leakage status. We welcome the ceramic valley enterprise zone, but without support on the EU emissions trading scheme, even state-of-the-art facilities will be punished for their carbon costs. We serve neither British industry nor the global environment if we rack up industrial energy prices, export jobs from Britain and import carbon emissions.

It is very important that consumers know where products are made. The outsourcing of production is nothing new in the ceramics business—indeed, during busy periods, Josiah Wedgwood himself sometimes asked other manufacturers to make up blanks for him—but in an age of brand value, the back stamp remains all-important. In Stoke-on-Trent, we are proud to house the turnover club, whose members flip the crockery in restaurants and even dinner parties to find out where it was made.

The Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise (Anna Soubry): Dinner parties? Good heavens!

Tristram Hunt: Not while the food is on it, Minister. [Interruption.] Well, sometimes.

For a long time, manufacturers have made products abroad and backstamped, “Made in England”. The rules are clear: the country of origin is where the blank is fired. In an age of global trade, it is perfectly right that products are made in China, Thailand or Indonesia, but consumers also have a right to know whether their purchase s are subsidising poor environmental standards and weak labour laws. For an embarrassingly long time, the free market fundamentalists at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have opposed the European Union’s compulsory country of origin proposals. Will the Minister tell us whether that is still the case today?

As I am talking about Europe—I subject I know you care passionately about, Mr Hollobone—this is a good moment to reflect on the merits of being inside the

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European single market for the ceramics industry. It is not only that Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire have been helped by £130 million of EU funds and that Europe is a crucial export market; it is thanks to being part of the European Union that our ceramics industry has benefited from the anti-dumping tariffs of between 13% and 36% that are placed on Chinese kitchenware and tableware. Those tariffs have played an important role in the pottery industry’s regeneration. Will the Minister confirm that we will support their extension in 2018, that being part of Europe has helped us—although, I hate to say it, the Government have always opposed those measures—and that if we were outside Europe, tariffs would be placed on British ceramics manufacturers exporting to the single market?

I might be guilty of over-concentrating on the history of the ceramics industry—[Interruption.] Never! Our heritage is part of our brand and our pride. We have to build the careers, apprenticeships and markets of the future. I support the Government’s apprenticeship levy, and I hope that Staffordshire University will forge new partnerships with other higher education institutions to increase the number of designers and manufacturers. I hope to see new factories in the enterprise zone, and I fully back the Materials Processing Institute’s plans for a materials catapult centre to benefit research and development in the ceramics industry. Will the Minister ensure that the materials catapult is given a supportive hearing by her Department?

This week we heard that the Government will centralise all school expenditure as part of the funding review. As a Stoke-on-Trent MP, it drives me mad to see schoolchildren eating off trays, rather than plates, as if they are being set up for life either in prison or as airline passengers. Education Ministers love to micro-manage, so will we see them urging schools to buy and use ceramic plates for their pupils?

New jobs, new orders, new businesses being started, and even another series of “The Great Pottery Throw Down” being commissioned—these are exciting times. Thanks to automation and globalisation, we will not return to the tens of thousands employed in the ceramics and pottery industries in previous decades, but we can build a new high-wage, high-skills ceramics industry of the future, trading on Stoke-on-Trent’s heroic past while taking products and processes into the future. I very much hope that we may take from the debate the Government’s support in that endeavour.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Philip Hollobone (in the Chair): Order. The debate finishes at 5.58 pm. I will call the first of the Front-Bench speakers no later than 5.36 pm. Two Members are standing, so you have about 12 minutes each.

5.11 pm

Steve Double (St Austell and Newquay) (Con): It is a pleasure serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt) on securing the debate on a subject that is close to my heart. The motion is about Government support for the ceramics industry, and the starting point of any industry is the raw material—I am

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speaking about china clay. If we are to support the ceramics industry in the UK, we need to support the china clay industry as well.

I am incredibly proud to speak not only as a Cornishman who grew up surrounded by the china clay industry in and around St Austell, but as the Member of Parliament for the area, which has been at the forefront of china clay production for hundreds of years. The sky tips dominate the landscape of mid-Cornwall, reminding us every day of our great heritage and our history of clay production. Generations of Cornish families, including my own, have worked in the industry. Barely any part of my constituency has not been touched directly by china clay production.

China clay has long been big business in Cornwall. St Austell’s relationship with it, as the hon. Gentleman rightly pointed out, goes back more than 200 years, to when William Cookworthy first made the discovery in Cornwall. At the height of the trade, literally millions of tons of china clay were being exported to all corners of the world. Cornwall soon got a reputation for the highest-quality clay in the world, so it is no surprise that that was quickly recognised by the ceramics industry, establishing the connection with places such as Stoke-on-Trent.

A large proportion of Cornwall’s china clay production has moved overseas in recent years, but the industry remains extremely important to Cornwall. In fact, it is difficult to overstate its importance to Cornwall and, in particular, my constituency. Although employment in the industry has declined over the past 20 or 30 years, it is still the largest private sector employer in the area. The majority of the clay produced in Cornwall is exported. In fact, china clay contributes about £150 million a year to the UK’s balance of payments, and that should be preserved. The industry has also shaped our heritage in mid-Cornwall, and that is of great importance to us. As I said, every day we see the marks left on our landscape—for example, the Eden Project is built in a former china clay pit.

With the clay and ceramic industries so important, we should look at ways in which the Government can support the industries and the thousands of workers throughout the country employed in them. As producers in Brazil and China emerge, undercutting exports, there are fears that problems could be exacerbated if action is not taken and if the existing proposals for carbon leakage protection are pursued.

In my constituency, Imerys is the only remaining company that produces kaolin and ball clay. Such operations, by their very nature, are highly energy-intensive processes, and energy represents about 27% of production costs. Consequently, energy consumption has always been a major focus for the industry and is minimised by it wherever possible. Imerys has been at the forefront of energy efficiency and the use of alternative and renewable energy sources for many years. However, the fact remains that, given the international market for its products, further increases in production costs could result in it losing business to European Union and non-EU competitors.

That brings me to my key point: what will the Government do to support the ceramics industry and, specifically, the china clay industry? Kaolin and ball clay operations are deemed to be at risk of carbon leakage. They therefore received a free allocation of

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allowances. However, there are concerns that, under the UK’s preferred approach to carbon leakage protection post-2020, Imerys is likely to receive what it feels is an inadequate level of free allowances to remain internationally competitive.

The reduction in the free allowances will have a significant impact on the industry and force the company to purchase a significantly greater proportion—possibly all—of its allowances to cover future carbon emissions. That will obviously severely damage its global competitiveness and disadvantage the kaolin and ball clay sector against competing suppliers that may receive higher levels of carbon leakage protection.

Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that when we talk about rebalancing the economy, we are talking not only about the midlands and the north of England, but about areas such as Cornwall, which desperately need to maintain this kind of economic activity? Surely it is incumbent on the Minister to remember that when thinking about the relevant policies.

Steve Double: I wholeheartedly agree. It is well known that the Cornish economy, and that of the south-west in general, fall way behind the UK national average. It is crucial to do all we can to bridge the gap, but I would say that the Government are doing a great deal, investing record amounts of money in the south-west and already supporting the Cornish economy in many ways.

I am, however, addressing the specific sector of the china clay industry in Cornwall. I do not want to see it put at greater disadvantage on the world market, so no decisions that make it less competitive on the world stage should be made. Based on existing emission levels and forecast prices of carbon, the proposed carbon leakage changes could add £1 million a year to Imerys’s production costs. We should, however, not only be proud that the UK produces the best-quality china clay in the world, but be doing all we can to protect and support the industry as a world leader.

Recently, we have seen the impact of uncompetitive production costs, driven in particular by energy costs, on a major industry: our steel industry. We cannot allow the same fate to fall on the china clay industry. We cannot sacrifice the china clay and ceramics industries in order to save other sectors. I simply urge the Government to look carefully at their approach to the carbon leakage allowance and not to make any decisions that will reduce the competitiveness of an industry that is vital to Cornwall.

5.18 pm

Ruth Smeeth (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Lab): It is a pleasure to be here under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. It is an honour to follow the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double).

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt) for securing such an important debate. I, too, am proud to represent the potteries, the beating heart of the British ceramics industry since its birth, and I am the chair of the newly formed all-party group for ceramics. I have the privilege of representing Burslem, the mother town of Stoke-on-Trent, where—I hate to challenge my hon. Friend—a thriving pottery industry has existed since as far back as the 12th century.

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Today, it is the home of such fantastic British companies as Steelite, Royal Stafford and Moorcroft. Those businesses are complemented by competition from Dudson and Churchill, based in Tunstall, and are supplied with raw materials from my hon. Friend’s constituency by our very own Furlong Mills.

Those companies live up to our heritage and represent the very best of modern British manufacturing. In Middleport, home of our historic Burleigh Ware, we see the firing up of a new generation of master potters on “The Great Pottery Throw Down”, which I am delighted to announce has been recommissioned for a second series by BBC Two—I urge all hon. Members to apply for next year.

Today, more than 2,500 people are directly employed by the ceramics industry in my constituency, fuelling world demand for high quality ceramics from tiles to tableware. The industry remains the single largest employer in Stoke-on-Trent North and Kidsgrove. It continues to innovate, invest in new technology and fulfil its commitments to green and sustainable manufacturing. While I am touching on the industry, it would be remiss of me to suggest that ceramics is only tableware and tiles. Many other products are reflected in the industry.

Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (SNP): Raeburn Brick in my constituency is Scotland’s only remaining clay brick company, making 15% of the bricks used in Scotland—the other 85% are imported—and it operates as a highly energy efficient company. Does the hon. Lady agree that we must do all we can to support this local employer and that, with tens of thousands of new houses to be built throughout Scotland in the coming years, it is in our economic interests to do so?

Ruth Smeeth: I wholeheartedly agree that investment in ceramics is as much in our national interest as it is part of our wider economic interests. Like our city, the industry has a proud past, but it could have an even brighter future if the Government are prepared to support it. My local businesses are keen to invest in research and development, to expand production and to create jobs, but a toxic cocktail of policies is creating great uncertainty. If future profits are seen to be at risk, investment will stall and our economy will suffer.

I am proud to support the British Ceramic Confederation’s EARTH campaign, which is doing vital work to bring policies to light. One such policy is the decision to confer market economy status on China, which would prevent meaningful anti-dumping measures against unfair Chinese export practices. The Government have tried to claim that granting China market economy status would not affect the ability to protect British industry and that anti-dumping measures could still be put in place, but that fails to take into account the fact that anti-dumping measures are calculated at a far lower rate for free market economies.

If China were to be granted market economy status, any anti-dumping measures placed on it would be calculated on the basis of the domestic cost of production in China, which is greatly subsidised by state support and kept lower by the cheap cost of labour employed in appalling conditions. The result would be so-called protections that in practice would be virtually worthless

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and nothing to stop European markets from being saturated with Chinese productions at extremely cheap prices.

Paul Farrelly: Does my hon. Friend agree that the industry’s concern for many years has been not just dumping from China, but counterfeiting? Many companies such as Doulton and Wedgwood have found themselves in a position where, weeks after producing new designs, professional salesmen from Chinese industrial complexes are going around Europe with portfolios of copies of their designs marketed at a third or a quarter of the price. That remains a concern.

Ruth Smeeth: I very much agree with my hon. Friend and would suggest that one reason we need to protect our industry is the quality of what comes out of our factories as well as the design and investment.

Angela Smith: My hon. Friend is illustrating perfectly why MES for China would be damaging to our ceramics industry. Our steel industry, which is already under severe stress, would also be threatened by such a move. Does she agree that the Government ought to think again about their support for MES for China, given the risk it poses of potentially permanent damage to two of our important foundation industries? As parliamentarians, we need to support both industries in their bid to create a level playing field in terms of both cost and competitiveness.

Ruth Smeeth: Of course I agree with my hon. Friend, who speaks with authority as one of the few Members who represents both the steel industry and the ceramics industry, both of which could be heavily damaged by China’s market economy status.

China currently meets just one of the five criteria required for market economy status, a fact that has been confirmed by the Minister. However, simply to say that China does not meet the criteria is to grossly underestimate the extent to which the Chinese economy is rigged in its own favour to the detriment of British and European industry. A recent report by the European Parliament—those may be words to avoid—concluded that state-led distortions in the financial sector are rife, that bankruptcy systems are malfunctioning and that political influence can be seen in close to 100% of China’s biggest firms. Far from being anything resembling a free market, 38% of China’s industrial assets are state owned.

Yet while the EU recognises the threat posed by granting MES to China, the Government appear to be supportive of the bid. The effect of that would be catastrophic for British ceramics and devastating to the British economy as a whole, affecting about 3.5 million jobs and up to 2% of GDP in the first two years. Import-sensitive sectors such as tiles and tableware would be especially hard hit, as they have no defence against Chinese dumping. Companies such as Johnson Tiles, based in my constituency, are at the forefront of modern production, but if we are not careful, their reward for innovation will be to be undercut in a market that they have pioneered.

It should come as no surprise that the Government have been equivocating on this issue. Their approach to China has resembled less of a negotiation than a fire sale.

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From steel to real estate and our nuclear reactors, the message coming out loud and clear is “Everything must go”. When it comes to supporting ceramics specifically, the Government talk a good game, but a significant proportion of the tableware used in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is made in China. Far from celebrating “Britain is GREAT,” the Minister eats from tableware at the Department—

Anna Soubry: I certainly do not.

Ruth Smeeth: Sixty percent of its tableware is made in China.

Anna Soubry: I do not normally intervene, but it is really important that we do not mislead. I certainly have never had any tableware of any origin in the Department. If I do eat there, it is a takeaway sandwich in plastic wrapping or a plastic box.

Tristram Hunt: That is the problem.

Anna Soubry: I accept that is wrong, but I will not have misleading information.

Ruth Smeeth: As a former trade union officer, I urge the Minister to try to get better terms and conditions and to eat a meal. I suggest that, for her colleagues who sit down to eat, 60% of the crockery used in the Department is made in China. That statistic was secured through a parliamentary question. When will “Buy British” be a policy and not just a slogan?

We have already seen from the devastating impact on the British steel industry of what happens when the Government sit back and do nothing to defend British jobs and trade, and we cannot afford for the ceramics industry to suffer the same fate. Our ceramics businesses are doing everything right. They just have the misfortune of living, as the Chinese might say, in interesting times. However, I am in no doubt that the industry can continue to thrive if the Government are prepared to stand up for British business.

All we ask for is a level playing field. Our ceramics industry is the best in the world, but we cannot compete fairly if state-funded Chinese companies are allowed to flood our domestic market with cheap products. For generations, the lives and livelihoods of my constituents have been shaped by the ceramics industry, as the clay beneath our towns was shaped by the potters’ hands. A world-beating industry was born in the kilns of Stoke-on-Trent and wherever we travel today we will find products proudly bearing our back stamp. We cannot let that great industry go up in smoke.

Mr Philip Hollobone (in the Chair): We now come to the Front-Bench speeches. The SNP gets five minutes, the Opposition get five minutes and the Minister gets 10 minutes—not my rules; they are the guidelines for the House.

5.28 pm

Dr Paul Monaghan (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (SNP): I congratulate the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt) on winning the debate and his entertaining account of the industry. As my hon. Friend the Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West (Margaret Ferrier) noted, ceramics are enormously important to Scotland’s economy and to my constituency.

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Anta pottery in Fearn, Highland Stoneware in Lochinver and Northshore Pottery in Caithness are examples of companies that produce ceramic products in Scotland.

Anta is one of the largest employers in Easter Ross outside of the manufacturing and oil industries. Highland Stoneware is based in Sutherland and has a smaller factory in Ullapool in Ross-shire. It is a major employer in the local economy, with a reputation for producing some of the finest hand-crafted ceramics in the world, completing more than 700,000 orders each year—a remarkable achievement. Northshore Pottery operates in a far north-western corner of Scotland, close to Wick. The company is owned by a lady called Jenny Mackenzie Ross, who reflects Norse culture in her work and specialises in architectural ceramics. These are very different companies. Each operates in remote and rural areas, supports a range of local tradesmen in completing their work and, of course, returns approximately 65% of turnover to staff wages.

As the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central noted, the ceramics industry is very energy-intensive. In 2014, some ceramics manufacturers reported that their energy bills made up 35% of their total overhead costs. In addition, its energy demands are inflexible and cannot be easily tapered depending on the time of day. Energy costs appear critical to the success of the industry. Ceramics producers, including brick makers, have been critical of the fact that the steel industry has received exemptions from UK renewables taxes, while ceramic producers have not, rendering the industry unviable. Closing down energy-intensive industries will not make a difference to global carbon output, but will export jobs from an industry that makes a net contribution to the economy, as the hon. Members for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) and for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) noted.

The British Ceramic Confederation criticised the UK Government’s autumn statement for failing to provide certainty on, among things, energy costs for this industry. The hon. Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith) mentioned the confederation’s submission made in January in respect of the Budget. As part of its EARTH campaign, the confederation listed five actions that the UK Government should take in order to create a level playing field internationally. It called for an EU emissions trading scheme to ensure that all ceramic subsectors receive full mitigation measures to guard against leakage of carbon, investment and jobs to competitors outside the EU, as well as action to reduce the cumulative costs of energy, climate and environmental policies that are harming the sector’s ability to remain internationally competitive.

David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): I am glad to hear the hon. Gentleman talking about energy in that way, because it seems fundamental. It is important we understand that, in Germany today, ceramics manufacturers are paying approximately half what manufacturers are paying in the UK. All of us have a role to play in getting the balance right between green taxes and lower energy costs, because it is vital for these industries.

Dr Monaghan: I absolutely agree; it is vital. These industries are struggling in the UK and need support from the Government to create the level playing field that the hon. Gentleman speaks of.

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The confederation calls for long-term partnership working with the UK Government and funded assistance for the sector to accelerate investment in existing technologies and the development of breakthrough decarbonisation technologies. The confederation has also called for the rejection of unilateral recognition of China as a market economy, which would leave manufacturers inadequately defended against a rising tide of cheap imports, about which we have heard today. Finally, it called for the UK Government to achieve higher levels of economic growth through a revised housing policy, to enable investment in the supply chain in the UK rather than overseas.

The Scottish Government recognise the importance of Scotland’s manufacturing sector and are committed, through their new manufacturing strategy, to continue doing whatever is necessary to support the sector. Through their enterprise agencies, that demonstrable commitment is focused on strengthening and supporting Scotland’s economic links with overseas markets. The Scottish Government will continue to invest in and promote exports to help to build sustainable economic growth for Scotland. Similar affirmative action by the UK Government would be of enormous benefit.

5.34 pm

Yvonne Fovargue (Makerfield) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt) on obtaining this debate and speaking so passionately about the importance of the ceramics industry to his constituency. The UK ceramics industry has a proud heritage in the area, as so eloquently described by my hon. Friend, but it is also in the vanguard of novel material development and advanced manufacturing. Some of Britain’s most iconic brands have been, and still are, found in the ceramics industry—I hope that my hon. Friends will not fight about which ones came first. However, as we have heard, the full growth potential of the industry is not being achieved, as a combination of policies is undermining investment, trade, growth and jobs.

The British Ceramic Confederation launched the EARTH campaign in January this year, with five asks of the Minister, to ensure the level playing field that we have heard so much about and secure thousands of jobs in the UK ceramics industry. I would like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Ruth Smeeth) for taking up the baton and forming an all-party group for this industry.

The confederation’s first ask is on the EU emissions trading scheme. A tiered approach to the next phase of the EU ETS will not help this industry, as only a few energy-intensive industries will benefit at the expense of others. Indeed, the Department of Energy and Climate Change paper co-authored with other member states understates the effect of the tiered approach on the ceramics industry by using the floor and wall tiles sector as a proxy for the whole industry, which underplays how unfavourable a position the heavy clay subsector would be in should that be adopted. What discussions has the Minister had with her colleagues in DECC regarding that issue?

Secondly, the industry asks for action on the cumulative cost of compliance. There is a package of renewable compensation measures for electro-intensive industries,

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but—due to the design of the scheme—only a handful of confederation members will receive any compensation. In fact, as we have heard, only seven members are likely to be compensated in the United Kingdom—none of which are in Stoke-on-Trent North—compared with more than 100 in Germany and 140 in Italy. Will the Minister look again at the design of the scheme?

The third ask is to reduce carbon emissions through a long-term industrial policy. The British Ceramic Confederation is working with partners, including academics and the Knowledge Transfer Network, to share good practice and inform Government policy. I also hope that the Catapult centre will take root in Stoke-on-Trent, as we need more of those centres outside the M25 corridor.

As we heard from the hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double), China’s dumping is already causing a problem with trade, but it is now applying for market economy status. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North spoke knowledgeably and passionately about the problems that that would cause. Although trade is an EU matter, the Government are influential. Surely the matter would be better decided through the World Trade Organisation. What is the Minister’s view on that? How will she ensure that any granting of MES with exemptions will not lead to problems similar to those already being faced by other industries—for example, the steel industry, for which my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith) is a doughty campaigner?

I turn finally to housing. Joined-up working is needed to ensure that quality British products are used in the housing sector and that the opportunity is spread to all sections of it. How will the Minister engage with the industry to ensure that that is the case? Indeed, I hope that the people inside the houses will be turning over their pots to make sure that they are British-made; I hope that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills will do so as well.

More than 20,000 people are employed in the ceramics industry, which pays £500 million a year in wages and national insurance. More than that, it is in the DNA of Stoke and the surrounding area. The Government must act now to protect this historic yet forward-thinking industry.

5.38 pm

The Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise (Anna Soubry): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. May I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt) on securing this debate? I congratulate everyone who has taken part in it. A number of issues have been raised, and I will try in the time available to address all of them.