My intervention during the Westminster Hall debate on HS2

Sir John Redwood (Wokingham (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that covid has completely changed likely travel patterns, and that the big commuting demand will be much reduced? So where is the argument for capacity, which HS2 was supposed to be about?

Mr Greg Smith (Buckingham) (Con): I am grateful for my right hon. Friend’s intervention; he has read my mind—this is a point that I will come to shortly.

What is the Government doing to arrest people who take money from people seeking to cross the Channel illegally in unsuitable boats?

I have received the following answer to my recent Parliamentary Question:

The Home Office has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (41593):

Question:
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what further steps her Department plans to take to arrest people who take money from people seeking to cross the Channel illegally in unsuitable boats. (41593)

Tabled on: 03 September 2021

Answer:
Chris Philp:

The Government stands resolute in its commitment to tackle Organised Immigration Crime (OIC). We continue to pursue the Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) who facilitate illegal travel to the UK and who exploit vulnerable migrants, knowingly putting people in life-threatening situations.

We are committed to prosecuting those who profit from dangerous and unnecessary Channel crossings in small boats. We are working with national and international partners in these investigations, and are continuing to improve the intelligence co-operation that underpins them. The multi-agency NCA-led OIC Taskforce is the UK government’s response to tackling people smuggling. It has been involved in more than 1000 arrests, both in the UK and overseas, with suspects convicted sentenced to more than 720 years in prison. It takes a whole of route approach, deploying over 150 officers to operate in 17 countries, with Crown Prosecution Service prosecutors placed in key source and transit countries to disrupt OCGs profiting from people smuggling.

We also pursue those involved in the financial flows that support this activity. Using criminal powers in the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, an individual can be prosecuted for money laundering offences if sufficient evidence is obtainable and CPS agree to charging, or civil powers within the same act permit the action to be taken against the money concerned. Both these approaches are used to undermine the financial flows supporting small boat and wider clandestine smuggling, both in the UK and with foreign partners.

We are working with NCA and social media companies to agree a joint action plan to tackle content advertising illegal OIC services on online platforms, including content relating to small boat crossings.

Additionally, the Government published the New Plan for Immigration containing provisions to establish legislation to deter illegal entry into the UK, thereby breaking the business model of criminal people smuggling networks and protecting the lives of those they endanger. In July 2021, the Government introduced this legislation through the Nationality and Borders Bill.

The Government will continue to work tirelessly to stop the criminal networks facilitating OIC and protect the lives of those they wish to recklessly exploit.

What is being done to encourage the growing of crops for fuel?

I have received the following answer to my recent Parliamentary Question:

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (41598):

Question:
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what his plans are to encourage growing crops for fuel. (41598)

Tabled on: 03 September 2021

Answer:
Victoria Prentis:

Biofuels used in the transport sector have been supported since 2008 through the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO), led by the Department of Transport. The RTFO is a certificate trading scheme which sets targets and provides financial incentives for the supply of sustainable biofuels. To qualify for support under the RTFO biofuels must meet mandatory sustainability criteria, which include measures to prevent deforestation and other negative land use impacts.

This month, the Government introduced E10 (petrol with up to 10% ethanol) as the standard petrol across Great Britain. The introduction of E10 increases the amount of bioethanol blended with petrol sold at forecourts in the UK. Bioethanol production in the UK results in valuable by-products, such as high protein animal feed and stored CO 2 for the food and drink industries, reducing the need to import these products. Increased UK demand due to the introduction of E10 has wider economic benefits in terms of providing support for UK bioethanol producers and farmers in the supply chain.

In the Government’s response to the Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) annual progress report to Parliament in 2020, we announced that we will publish a new Biomass Strategy in 2022. This will review what amount of sustainable biomass could be available to the UK, including feedstocks grown for transport biofuels. It will assess how this resource could be best used across the economy to help achieve our net zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050.

We are clear that we will support farmers to produce high quality crops in a more sustainable way, ensuring that policy supports the conditions where domestic farm businesses can thrive, whether that be production for food or fuel production. Our Agriculture Transition Plan (2020) sets out how we will use public money to reward farmers and land managers for delivering environmentally sustainable outcomes.

The answer was submitted on 13 Sep 2021 at 15:53.

What proportion of the public service bus fleet is electric

I have received the following answer to my recent Parliamentary Question:

The Department for Transport has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (41596):

Question:
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what proportion of the public service bus fleet is electric. (41596)

Tabled on: 03 September 2021

Answer:
Rachel Maclean:

As of March 2020, two per cent of buses used by local operators in England were electric.

The latest data on the proportion of buses used by local bus operators is from the Department for Transport Annual bus statistics: year ending March 2020 which was published in October 2020. Information on buses used by bus operators by fuel consumption type, including electric buses, is provided in table (BUS0609b).

The Annual bus statistics: year ending March 2021 are due to be published in Autumn 2021.

The answer was submitted on 13 Sep 2021 at 15:10.

Average seat occupancy on public service buses

I have received the following answer to my recent Parliamentary Question:

The Department for Transport has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (41595):

Question:
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what the average seat occupancy is on public service buses in the most recent period for which figures are available. (41595)

Tabled on: 03 September 2021

Answer:
Rachel Maclean:

The table below shows average bus occupancy1 on local bus services by metropolitan area status and country in Great Britain, annually from 2004/05

Number
Year London English metropolitan areas English non-metropolitan areas England Scotland Wales Great Britain England outside London
2004/05 16.6 9.8 7.5 10.1 9.0 7.6 9.8 8.3
2005/06 18.3 9.7 7.3 10.4 9.2 7.3 10.0 8.2
2006/07 18.8 9.9 7.9 10.8 9.2 7.6 10.4 8.6
2007/08 20.3 10.3 8.5 11.6 9.1 7.8 11.0 9.1
2008/09 19.9 10.7 8.8 11.8 9.8 8.2 11.3 9.5
2009/10 19.6 11.0 8.6 11.7 10.0 7.6 11.3 9.4
2010/11 19.5 10.5 8.5 11.5 10.0 8.1 11.1 9.2
2011/12 19.7 10.1 8.6 11.6 9.5 8.9 11.2 9.2
2012/13 19.9 10.1 9.1 11.9 9.0 8.3 11.3 9.4
2013/14 20.6 10.2 9.4 12.3 8.9 8.4 11.6 9.7
2014/15 20.5 10.4 9.3 12.2 8.6 8.4 11.6 9.7
2015/16 19.8 10.2 9.0 11.9 8.4 8.4 11.3 9.4
2016/17 19.3 10.7 8.9 11.9 8.2 9.0 11.3 9.5
2017/18 20.2 10.5 9.1 12.2 8.2 8.8 11.5 9.5
2018/19 20.0 10.6 9.9 12.6 8.0 8.8 11.8 10.1
2019/20 18.7 10.8 10.6 12.8 7.6 8.8 11.8 10.7

1 Calculated as passenger miles (table bus0302) divided by vehicle miles (table BUS0203).

The answer was submitted on 13 Sep 2021 at 15:05.

My question during the Statement on Cyber-attack: Microsoft

Sir John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): The success or failure of the COP26 rests heavily on whether the UK, as chairman, can persuade China—the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide—to set tough targets to cut its output. Is this affecting the Government’s response to this issue? What is the UK’s strategy to influence China across the piece, as there are many areas where it needs to do so?

The Minister of State (Mr James Cleverly): I can assure my right hon. Friend that the actions of the UK Government in response to this cyber-attack are driven by this cyber-attack and our complete unwillingness to accept it as a pattern of behaviour.

He does make an incredibly important point though, and it reflects the point that I have made that we cannot simply ignore China. A previous question this morning highlighted the fact that China is still heavily reliant on coal as an energy production source, and we know the climate change implications of that. We want China to behave better on the international stage both on things such as cyber-security, intellectual property and human rights, but also on the incredibly important agenda that will affect our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren, which is the protection of the environment and a move towards greener energy generation.

My Question during the Statement on Covid-19, 28 June 2021

Sir John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): I welcome my right hon. Friend to his new role, I wish him every success and I support his plan to unlock soon.

Will he look at expediting trials of other drugs and treatments that may help covid-19 patients and have been looked at elsewhere? Will he also encourage work on air extraction and cleaning systems, to see what more can be done to stop transmission of the disease, as we are going to have to live with it to some extent?

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care (Mr Sajid Javid): I thank my right hon. Friend for his welcome. On his question, I simply say yes, I will.

My contribution to the Statement on Education Recovery, 7 June

Sir John Redwood (Wokingham (Con): Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating those schools that adapted rapidly to the virtual and hybrid world and taught extensive timetables sticking to exam syllabuses? What more can be done to spread best practice, while offering targeted support for those schools that faced special difficulties?

The Secretary of State for Education (Mr Gavin Williamson):
My right hon. Friend absolutely hit the nail on the head; the children who benefited most were those in schools that kept a clear focus on supporting children with a strong and rich knowledge-based curriculum.

That has very much been based on the reforms that have been rolled out by this Government over the last 11 years. There are sometimes siren calls to reduce the standards and quality of our curriculum and what is taught, but that most disadvantages children from the most disadvantaged areas. I reassure my right hon.

Friend that every action we take will be about reinforcing the evidence as to what actually works and how we can benefit children, including through tutoring, driving up teacher quality and ensuring that teachers have the right materials, support and training to deliver the very best for their children.

My speech during the Third Reading of the Environment Bill, 26 May 2021

I welcome cleaner air and cleaner water, and I wish the Bill well as it completes its passage. I hope that we will be nicer to nature and better to the other species we share our islands with.

I would like briefly to make a few points to the Secretary of State and the ministerial team, who have worked hard to get this far. The first point is on water. I urge them to work with the water industry and the regulators to put in more reservoir capacity. We have had many homes and new families coming into my area of Wokingham and West Berkshire, but there has been no increase in potential water supply. Nationwide, we still have a rising population, and they will need good provision of clean water.

There are two great natural advantages of having more reservoir capacity. First, when we have long periods of excessive rainfall—we seem to be having one at the moment—and there is the danger of the rivers overtopping and causing flood damage, we need more good places to park the water, and we could then recharge the extra reservoir capacity. Secondly, were we once again to have one of those long, hot summers with long dry spells, as we have had from time to time in the past, we would be able to draw down in more comfort, knowing that we had adequate reservoir capacity, without having to run the streams and rivers too low or draw excessively on the natural aquifers.

On Report, I talked about the excellent news that there will be many more trees and urged Ministers to ensure that they help to build a much bigger forestry and timber industry. We import far too much and need to replace it with home production and fewer wood miles. I also urge the Secretary of State to bring forward those great schemes to promote more food production here at home. We lost too much market share, particularly in areas such as vegetables and fruit, in our CAP days. I do not think it is morally right to be drawing so much of that food from a country such as Spain, which is parched and in great difficulties eking out its inadequate water supplies, when we have plenty of water at home and could do so much more to promote a good domestic industry, cutting the food miles and giving confidence in the environmental benefits of having the home product.

I would also like to draw Ministers’ attention to the unresolved business that they have promised to work on as we complete this piece of legislation: the possible conflict between the Office for Environmental Protection and the Climate Change Committee. I urge Ministers to recognise that they need to supervise both bodies and give them clear public guidance on their remits. The Government will need to bring forward that piece of work to explain what the relative roles of the two are and how the different sets of targets—the natural UK targets on the one hand and the climate change targets on the other—will knit together and be compatible, rather than cause tensions.

For example, we need to know what the thinking is about the pace of carbon dioxide reduction and transition and how that impacts on our natural landscape, because if we are going to accelerate the move to electric vehicles or from gas boilers or both, there will need to be massive investment. That investment includes the production of a lot of steel, glass and batteries. Mining activity somewhere is required to produce those raw materials and fashion them into something that can then be part of an electric product. We need to know whether we will be doing any of that in the UK, or whether the idea is that we should import much of it because we do not wish to husband our own natural resources for this purpose.

If we are going to import, we should properly account for it, because it is not helping the planet if we say, “Well, we’re not putting the mine here or burning the coal to smart the steel here,” but it is happening somewhere else. Indeed, it may be happening somewhere else where environmental concerns are taken much less seriously and the environmental damage of producing that product is far greater than if we had done it at home.

I hope that more work will be published on the pace and cost of transition. Again, the Bill seems to point us more in the direction of repair, maintenance, recycling and reuse, and not wanting a throwaway society but reckoning that, if we make good things, they could last for rather longer. How is that reconciled with the idea that we want a rapid transition to get rid of our existing fleet of petrol and diesel vehicles and to rip out all our gas boilers and solid fuel heating systems? Has there been proper carbon accounting on all that, and how is that reconciled with the very good aim in this Bill that we must consider the impact on our earth and the amount that we take out of our earth in order to fashion the things we may need?

There is a lot of work ahead for Ministers, who have already been very busy. As others have said, the Bill is only the first step, and it will then need to be fashioned into popular products and feasible programmes: things that business will want to collaborate with and things that people will want to do. There is an educational process involved. We also need to ensure that we know what the costs are and that they are realistic, that they are phased and that they fall fairly. I would still like to hear more from the Government on the total cost of all this work, because we need to ensure that it is realistic, that it does not get in the way of levelling up and greater prosperity, and that it reinforces our prime agenda, which is the health and welfare of the British people.