My interventions in the debate on the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): I congratulate the Foreign Secretary on her very patient and good diplomacy. Will she confirm that this very moderate measure is completely legal and essential to the peace and good will of Northern Ireland?

Liz Truss, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs: I can absolutely confirm that this Bill is both necessary and legal, and the Government have published a legal statement setting that out.

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): The protocol makes very clear the primacy of the Good Friday agreement for peace in Northern Ireland and says that the EU will respect our internal market. The EU is doing neither. What is the right hon. Gentleman’s policy to persuade it to do so?

David Lammy, Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (Lab): Negotiate—just as Labour did to get the Good Friday agreement. We negotiate. We do not break international law and alienate our partners and allies not just in Europe but across the world, and the right hon. Gentleman should know better.

As we debate the Bill, we should ask ourselves some simple questions. First, will it resolve the situation in Northern Ireland? Secondly, is it in the best interests of our great country? Thirdly, is it compatible with our commitment to the rule of law? Let me take each of those in turn.

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): Has my right hon. Friend noticed how Labour always takes the side of the EU, even when, as in this case, the EU is damaging the Good Friday agreement and diverting trade expressly against the legal provisions of the protocol?

Brandon Lewis, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland: My right hon. Friend makes a fair point. He will know from attending oral questions to the Northern Ireland Office that I have regularly had to listen to the hon. Member for Hove at the Dispatch Box taking the side of the EU—but then, the hon. Member wants to rejoin the EU, so I suppose we should not be surprised.

We should also be clear about the reality, when we hear about the flexibility of the European Union and the offer it has made, based on its October offer. That would be a backwards step from the current situation, which is already not working for businesses and people in Northern Ireland.

My interventions in the Opposition Day debate on the Delivery of Public Services

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): Does the right hon. Member agree with me that if you wish to improve service you do not go on strike and if you wish to pay for higher wages you do not go on strike? Will he give that advice to the rail unions?

Pat McFadden, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Lab): I had anticipated one or two interventions on strikes, so let me say to the right hon. Gentleman that whoever’s responsibility the strikes are, it is certainly not that of a party that has been in opposition for 12 years. He and the Ministers he supports will have to take responsibility for the industrial strife they are presiding over. I say that to him in the anticipation of other interventions in the same vein.

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): When I asked representatives of the Health Department how many chief executives there were in NHS England, they said that they did not know. Has my right hon. Friend had any more success than I have in finding out how much senior management there is, how it is aligned with the interests of patients and how wisely it is going to spend the extra money he is giving it?

Simon Clarke, Chief Secretary to the Treasury: My right hon. Friend is right to say that with this budget for the NHS comes a responsibility for that organisation to be absolutely open and candid—in a way that, frankly, it has too often not been—about where its resources are deployed, and certainly to avoid funding a culture of managerialism at the expense of the patients. We have had recent success in securing some of the data that we have been looking for, but this is a subject where ongoing pressure from across the House for greater transparency is welcome. Certainly if there is any data that we hold that my right hon. Friend would like to see, I will do my best to facilitate that.

My Question about strengthening UK Courts that should not be answerable to Foreign courts

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): This Parliament is the main guarantor of our rights and liberties; it created them in battles over many centuries for the benefit of us all. Would not this great role be strengthened if our Supreme Court were indeed supreme and not answerable to foreign courts that do not understand the mood of the British people and what they expect of their legislators?

Dominic Raab, Deputy Prime Minister, The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice: My right hon. Friend is absolutely correct. I know that when he gets a chance to peruse the proposals, he will find those principles and that spirit reflected in the Bill of Rights, and I look forward to discussing these matters with him further.

 

 

My Question on advancing UK prosperity post-Brexit

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): I thank my right hon. Friend for all that he is doing to advance UK prosperity and growth, including this Bill. The common fisheries policy sunk many of our fishing boats. Can we have a policy to replace that fleet? The EU policy ripped up many of our orchards with grants. Can we have some UK money and a policy to replant our trees? The EU imposed VAT on us and has left us with a burden on our energy. Now surely is the time to use our freedoms and cut VAT.

Jacob Rees Mogg, Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency: My right hon. Friend is right: it is one of our freedoms. In his spring statement, the Chancellor announced some amelioration of VAT. I will ensure that my right hon. Friend’s suggestion is passed on to the Chancellor.

 

My intervention to the Transport Secretary about taxpayer subsidies to the Railways and how Managers could try to keep services running on a strike day

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): What has been the monthly rate of taxpayer subsidy to the railways so far this year? What additional flexibilities could managers use to try to get a bigger proportion of services running even on a strike day?

Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport: My right hon. Friend is right to discuss the subsidy, which has been £16 billion as a whole through covid—or £16 billion committed, which means that we do not have the exact number yet for the amount of that which is still going towards the operations this year. One thing I can say to him is that without that support the railways simply would not have been able to operate. It is the equivalent of £160,000 per individual rail worker. To turn around and call these strikes is a heck of a way to thank taxpayers. We have lost around a fifth of the income from rail. I hear Mick Lynch, the leader of the RMT, claim that the Government are cutting the money that is going to the railways, but that is a fundamental misunderstanding on his part. The money that is missing is the £2 billion of passenger fares that are not being paid because people are not travelling.

 

My interventions about the future of Channel 4

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): Many fine British businesses have grown, flourished and invested far more once being privatised, and I hope that this one will too. But will the Secretary of State see, during the privatisation, whether there is a way of allowing the people who work for Channel 4 and do so much for it to gain participation, perhaps partly by buying and partly by gift, so that they become shareholders in whatever entity emerges?

Nadine Dorries, Secretary of State: I will go on to talk about the fact that we have many bidders who are looking at purchasing Channel 4, and we are looking at all options before we bring the matter to Parliament to see what is on the table. But for the sale of Channel 4, as it says in the “Up next” White Paper, what we are looking at is to sell Channel 4 as a PSB. Therefore, I do not think the model that my right hon. Friend outlines briefly would be conducive to that sort of purchase. We are going to sell to an organisation that will invest in Channel 4 and keep it able to make those distinctive programmes.

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): Has my right hon. Friend noticed that the Opposition think that they know better than the audience what Channel 4 should show every evening? Is it not a good idea that we move to a model where the owners engage with the audience and try to grow the audience, because that way they will attract more revenue?

Nadine Dorries, Secretary of State: We agree on many things, and we agree on that.

 

 

My intervention to the Home Office Minister about the total cost of setting up every economic migrant upon arrival to the UK

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): We all wish to end abusive people trafficking and the dreadful journeys across the channel. As the Opposition’s only idea to tackle it is to let in every economic migrant who wants to come, will the Minister tell us how much it costs taxpayers in Britain to set up every economic migrant in decent circumstances when they arrive?

Tom Pursglove, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State: It is fair to say that the costs associated with this illegal migration to our country are considerable and unsustainable. That is why we have the new plan for immigration in place to get it under control and ensure that those who follow the rules and seek to come here through safe and legal means are not disadvantaged by those attempting dangerous and unnecessary crossings as we have seen. For example, we are spending nearly ÂŁ5 million a day on hotel accommodation in the asylum system. That cannot carry on, and that is why we must act as we are proposing.

My intervention to the Treasury Minister about the Government’s big increase in tax burden

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): Why are the UK Government the only Government of an advanced country making a big increase in the tax burden this year and next, at exactly the same time as we are seeing very necessary monetary tightening to control inflation and a huge hit to net incomes from that inflation itself? Is that big tax rise not bound to make things worse and slow the economy too much?

John Glen, Minister of State (Treasury): We always listen carefully to my right hon. Friend. As he will know, we cut taxes earlier this year for hundreds of thousands of businesses though an increase in the employment allowance. We have also slashed fuel duty and halved business rates for eligible high street firms. We will continue to support growth through tax incentives, including the annual investment allowance and the super deduction—the biggest two-year business cuts in modern British history.

As I said in my response to Mr McFadden a few moments ago, we look forward to working closely with him and Back Benchers to construct the right agenda going into the future.

My contribution to the levelling up and planning debate

In Wokingham, there are thousands of permissions outstanding to build new homes, and thousands of new homes have been built in recent years. We do not need or want Government inspectors determining in favour of yet more homes on greenfield sites that are outside our local plan area.

I am pleased with the anger among Conservative Members about the disgrace that is the abuse of the planning system by some large development companies and rich landowners, who manage to game the system to get extra permissions and make money out of the granting of the permission while houses go unbuilt under the legitimate permissions that have been granted. I understand that the Government agree with us, so where is the new direction to the planning inspectors to say that the Government will no longer put up with that? If a statutory instrument is needed to make that clear in law, where is the statutory instrument? As the Government have now brought forward a Bill about planning law in general, can we have a clause in the Bill that nails the issue? I do not know anyone who defends the gaming of the system in that way by rich development companies—I do not think the Labour party defends it. The Government should nail it, so please let us see the draft clause.

The Secretary of State did not answer my polite inquiry—perhaps it was too polite—about what will be done to ensure that local communities have more say and influence over how we define and calculate housing need and over the housing numbers that we think are appropriate and feasible for our area. Surely they have a right to a say in that and may have something useful to contribute to the discussion.

Infrastructure is crucial in this argument. In places such as Wokingham and West Berkshire, where I have the privilege to represent many of the people, we have seen a huge increase in development—some granted on appeal against our wishes—but no proper extra provision for infrastructure. Planners must understand that we cannot suddenly conjure up new broadband, sufficient water supply, enough cable to take the extra electricity that is required, the extra road space needed for all the extra cars, or the extra primary schools and surgeries that will be needed to cater for people.

In an area that has been subject to very fast development, as mine has, there is no excess capacity in the private sector services or the public services that are crucial to a good quality of life. It is embarrassing if planning inspectors grant permissions to build more homes and there then has to be a scramble to put in a cable big enough to take the extra power and to find private companies to organise some broadband, and of course there are the usual family arguments in the NHS and the education system to get the quite lumpy investments that are needed. All those things need to happen before the houses are opened up for people; we should not invite people into new homes that they have bought in good faith only for them to discover those pitfalls and difficulties in the provision of services.

My final point about the Bill is that I am proud to belong to a party that opposed unelected and elected regional government, and we won the argument about elected regional government in England. I would like Ministers to talk more about England, because a number of Cabinet Ministers and senior Ministers are basically England-only Ministers in practically all they do. I trust them to make some of the big calls, as long as they listen to me and my local community. We do not need regional government interjected between us and the Ministers who actually have the power and the money. Let them talk England and forget regional.

My Intervention in the Chancellor’s Statement on the Economy

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): When the Chancellor approved £150 billion of extra cash to be printed in November 2020 and gave a full guarantee against losses on the bonds, did he think that there could be any inflationary and public spending risk from that? I fully support giving back the huge windfall taxes that he is already collecting on energy, the VAT on fuel, the rip-off at the pumps and the much-enhanced profits tax coming from North sea oil and gas. That should be given back because people need some relief. On inflation, though, what did he think when he printed the money?

Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his question. He and I have talked about inflation for quite a while. He will know that I have long been concerned about the potential of rising inflation and interest rates. It is something that he and I discussed very early in my time in this job. That is why, from the beginning, I have been careful to protect our public finances against the costs of rising inflation and interest rates. I am glad that we took those decisions. Now, because of that, we are in a position to act and to support people.