My question to the Immigration Minister about strengthening control of our borders

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): Will the Government introduce urgent legislation to strengthen control of our borders, and could that include a notwithstanding clause to guide the courts against using other laws that undermine the fundamental principle of the Prime Minister’s policy?

Robert Jenrick, Minister for Immigration: My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister set out last week our intention to bring forward legislation early next year, and at the heart of that legislation will be a simple point of principle that we on this side of the House believe: no one should gain a right to live in this country if they entered illegally. From that, all things will need to flow. Nothing is off the table. We will take our obligations to deliver on that policy very seriously. That is in stark contrast to the Labour party. At the weekend, the shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), could not even say whether illegal entry to this country should be an offence. That says it all. We believe in securing our borders and in controlled migration. The Labour party is the party of mass migration.

My Intervention to the Minister during the SNP Opposition Debate on Scotland’s Future

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): The SNP was very critical of the electricity and energy regulation in the UK, and said that it wanted change in it. It did not seem to realise that all our current regulations are those of the European single electricity market, and that it is only because of Brexit that this Government are now consulting on changing those unsatisfactory regulations.


John Lamont MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland: That is a useful reminder that, while the SNP advocate breaking away from the rest of the UK and breaking away from Westminster and London, it wants even closer ties with Brussels and all the challenges and bureaucracy around that. I always welcome the opportunity that the SNP gives us to talk about the benefits that we all get from being part of the United Kingdom, and all the positives and strengths that come from working together across the whole country. The United Kingdom is the most successful political and economic union that the world has ever seen. In challenging times, we are stronger together. We are better prepared to deal with any crisis, particularly an issue on the scale of the energy crisis, or of the very thing that created the energy crisis—Vladimir Putin’s awful war in Ukraine.

In these volatile times, I continue to believe that the last thing people need is greater uncertainty. This is a time for unity behind a common purpose, not division that would split us apart. The challenges facing all of us across Scotland and the whole of the United Kingdom demand all of our attention.

On the substance of the motion, as the hon. Member for Edinburgh East well knows, the Scottish people do not see another referendum as a priority. There is no consensus across Scotland on another referendum and all the division and distraction that that would bring. We already know the process by which a constitutional question can be asked, because it happened back in 2014. We had a referendum and the people of Scotland decided our future by an overwhelming majority. That happened after there was consensus across political parties in the Scottish Parliament, in civic society and among people across Scotland. That is not where we are today.

If SNP Members want to focus their arguments solely on opinion polls, then what do they have to say about the polls, including recent ones, that show that people do not want another referendum on Nicola Sturgeon’s timetable? No matter how many polls there are that show a majority of Scots against another referendum, the SNP still wants us to go through the distraction of an all-consuming constitutional debate. It is all it cares about—another referendum at all costs.

My Intervention to the SNP Spokesman during the SNP Opposition Debate on Scotland’s Future

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): As I understand it, the hon. Gentleman wants Scotland to pull out of the UK but join the European Union. How easy does he think that would be, given the EU’s stubborn attitude towards the Catalan claims and its support of Spain resisting even a referendum?


Tommy Shepherd MP, SNP Spokesman: The difference, of course, between the EU and the United Kingdom is that Scotland can leave one but not the other. I can imagine how the right hon. Gentleman might have felt if he and his Brexit colleagues, who wished for Britain to leave the EU, had been told, “Well, you simply can’t do that. You have no right to do that,” because that is the situation that is being presented to Scotland with regard to the UK.

In my view, which I think is accepted, Scottish independence requires two things. First, it requires the majority consent of the people who live in Scotland, and they need to express a wish for that to happen. Secondly, it concerns a negotiated settlement with this place and it will eventually require an Act of this Parliament. Those two things were fused together in the 2012 Edinburgh agreement, but because of the UK Government’s reticence, we will have to decouple them and take them separately.

Our ambition now is to find some means to allow people in Scotland to express their view. It does not sit well for the UK Government to take a stance of actively trying to frustrate and deny that happening. This motion, if they were to vote for it today, fixes the problem, because it gives the Scottish Parliament the power to organise the first of those things—to determine the view of the people. We are asking for the Scottish Parliament to have the power not to legislate on the Union or on becoming an independent country, but merely to consult the people and to articulate on behalf of those who elected the Holyrood chamber. That is the opportunity that is offered by the motion’s proposed Bill, and I hope that hon. Members will take it.

The more that we tell people that they cannot have something, the more they want it. We have seen that in recent opinion polls with the surge in support for independence. Most significantly, in last week’s opinion poll, we saw a clear majority of people saying that there should be another referendum on this question before the end of the Scottish Parliament’s term in 2026—that is the first time that there has been a clear majority on the timing of the referendum.

All that is happening as a result of the UK’s obstinance, insistence and denial of the democratic mandate in Scotland is that the case for independence is being fuelled. If it comes to a situation where there is a conflict between the British constitution and the claim of right of the Scottish people, it is our responsibility, which we will not shirk, to make sure that the latter triumphs over the former.


My Interventions in the debate on the Remaining Stages for the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): Can the Minister remind the House how the Government will stop developers gaming a local plan and getting permissions that are not within the local plan under some silly rule?

Lucy Frazer, Minister of State: This Bill and the proposals that we are bringing forward through the revised NPPF will do exactly that. At the moment, in 60% of areas, building is through speculative development, not where communities want it. We want to streamline the local plan process, get those plans in place, where communities want it, and then we can start and continue to build.

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): Does the hon. Member not understand that the whole point about more local determination is that the local community ultimately has to say, “This is all we can manage and we cannot be overridden”?

Clive Betts MP (Lab): Yes, I understand that, and that should be taken into account, as it can be at the local plan stage. The problem is that, if every local community decides that it does not want house building, we end up with not enough houses being built nationally. That is the simple reality of life. What I am saying is, yes, have the argument at the local plan stage, but all too often now, local plans get bogged down not with where the houses should be built or with the quality of the housing and the infrastructure, but with arguments over housing numbers, with developers and councils employing lawyers and consultants to argue with each other. That is what happens. If we can get agreement between the council and the Government and that is then accepted as the target for the way forward, that is a suitable way to do it, rather than the current endless debate and argument about numbers and calculations.

I want to mention one other amendment, on environmental outcomes. One of the biggest arguments at local level is often on the environmental impact of development. There is great concern among local communities about the environmental impact and the fact that, when developers commission an environmental report, it is commissioned by the developer and paid for by the developer. Communities are often suspicious that the report produces what the developer wants to hear, rather than what the actual environmental impact is for those communities. My amendment 105 is simple: in future, the developer should pay, but the local authority should commission. In that way, we make it absolutely clear that environmental outcome reports on individual developments are completely independent, and that local communities can trust them. That seems to be a sensible suggestion. I hope that the Minister will accept it and move it forward.



My Intervention at the Ministerial Statement on Energy Security

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): Over the last 48 hours, wind has generated as little as 1% of our electricity, and it was at 2% when I checked this morning, while of course most of the homes we represent use gas for heating. Will the Secretary of State confirm that we need to get on with issuing more production licences for domestic oil and gas, which cuts the carbon dioxide involved and will enable us to keep the lights on, which we cannot do when the wind does not blow?

Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: My right hon. Friend is characteristically correct that we cannot always rely on a single form of electricity generation. As the French have found out, we cannot always rely on nuclear. I think France has 71 nuclear power stations in its fleet, but about half of them are down at the moment, so it cannot rely only on nuclear. I was discussing this very fact with my opposite number yesterday. I know that my right hon. Friend welcomes the ÂŁ700 million development approval cash that we have put into the first new nuclear since the 1980s, and he is absolutely right that we need a broad spread of different energy forms to ensure that we can provide the cheap power we require at all times.

My Speech at the Opposition Day Motion on Britain’s Industrial Future

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): I congratulate the Minister on a lively and informative speech. It was great to have a positive vision for the future from him. He rightly reminded us that many of the exciting new technologies and opportunities available to modern industry and business are being grasped by both the private sector and the Government working together. I congratulate him and his Department on that work. However, I urge him and the Department to greater efforts in the range of more traditional industries that are still very much industries of the future. We have a choice. If we make the right decisions on taxes, regulations, support frameworks and orders, we can produce more such things at home. If we make the wrong decisions, we will end up importing too many of them.

I start with energy. The Minister’s Department has a crucial role in organising our energy and the transition that it wants as well as ensuring that we have enough of the traditional energy forms when they are crucial to heating our homes and turning our factories. In this period of transition, we can do more to extract more of our own oil and gas. That is greener than importing it, because, in burning gas that comes down a pipe from the North sea, far less carbon dioxide is generated than if the gas were extracted somewhere else, transformed into liquid form and transported—at least half the CO2 is saved that would otherwise be generated. More importantly, that is a safer supply. Even more importantly, if we are still to have high taxes on it, we will collect those taxes. At the moment, the more we import, the more dead money goes out of our country to pay somebody else’s taxes, doubly burdening our industry with the extra cost of what are sometimes extreme market prices to secure the supply—when there is not a long-term contract—and extra transport costs that must be put into the equation for effective delivery.

I urge the new ministerial team to take up from where the old team were moving to and understand that there are quite a lot of good proven reserves out there now. Production licences could be granted in a timely way, and we could have more of our own import substitution and more secure supplies for the future. It is possible to work with the industry on existing fields so that maintenance schedules can be kept to a minimum and output can be maximised, particularly over a difficult winter. We all know that if anything goes wrong with the UK and European gas supply over the winter, it will be our industry that gets caught first; industry is very reliant on plentiful gas supplies for much of its important processes.

We must be careful about carbon accounting. I think a lot of us feel that it does not make a lot of sense to say that the heavy gas-using industries and other fossil fuel-using industries in the United Kingdom, such as cement, glass, ceramics, steel and so on, will be penalised because they are generating carbon dioxide in their process, only to substitute imports of those same products that will certainly produce more CO2, not only because of the long-distance transport, but quite often from the processes as well, as this country has often gone a bit further in more efficient processes than some import substitutes. So that, too, is an area that we need to look at very carefully.

On the car industry, I would like to expand a little on the intervention. Again, a difficult transition is under way and it can only go at the pace that the customers are willing to let it go. At the moment, as we have been hearing, a relatively small minority of the cars built in this country are full electric cars—something to do with price and range, and people getting used to the idea of the electric vehicle—and so during the transitional period we again have a choice: either we produce the diesel and petrol cars that people still want to buy, or somebody else does that and we end up importing them. Again, I do not think that that is a good course. I would not want to be ahead of some of the other leading car producers in the world in definitely ruling out producing vehicles that still sell well, when we have put a lot of investment collectively into developing more fuel-efficient vehicles, which have much less coming out of the tailgate.

My final brief point builds on one that the Minister eloquently made in certain contexts. We can do a lot more, as the Government are trying to do, with sensible purchasing of our own products. Of course, we do not want to buy products that are less good quality or too expensive. There has to be competition within the UK market to reassure the Government they are getting value, but just as we have always done with things like warships, so we can do for more essential products. We should give the home base the best chance and, if necessary, help people come in as major investors with their factories in order to do so.

My intervention at the Urgent Question on Asylum Seekers Accommodation and Safeguarding

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): Will the Government legislate urgently to deal with the obvious loopholes in the law that are exploited by people smugglers and economic migrants? And I share the concerns of my colleagues about the use of hotels in my area.

Robert Jenrick MP, Minister for Immigration: My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and I are reviewing whether further changes to the law are required. One area we are particularly interested in is the modern slavery framework. That is important and well-meant legislation, but unfortunately it is being abused by a very large number of migrants today, and if we need to make changes to it so that we can ensure that it is not exploited, we will do so.

My Intervention at the debate on the UK Infrastructure Bank Bill [Lords]

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): Can the Chief Secretary explain why the bank is investing in a very expensive cable electricity link between the United Kingdom and Germany, given that we are in the same time zone and have similar weather, and both countries are chronically short of electricity capacity? It does not sound like a good idea to me.

My Intervention in the Ministerial Statement on National Security

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): What urgent action will the Government take so that we grow more of our own food, produce more of our own oil and gas, and refill our depleted reservoirs? Having more domestic supply of the basics is now fundamental to national security, given the obvious threats from Russia and others.

Tom Tugendhat MP, Minister of State for Security: I will not comment on the details of the taskforce, but I think I can safely say that that is a little beyond even what I was hoping for. I will not go into details, except to say that my right hon. Friend is absolutely right: the reality is that supply chains in our country and around the world have changed as covid has influenced different issues, and sadly the nature of the decoupling that some states have sought to pursue has changed the way in which we must consider our own security.

My Intervention at the Home Secretary’s Statement on Western Jet Foil and Manston Asylum Processing Centres

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): I strongly support all that the Home Secretary said in her opening statement: she spoke for the nation in saying we need to control this problem, and she spoke for all those caught up in these tragic events. I hope that all men and women of good will get behind her, and that the Home Office fully supports her in making sure we can speed up processing and return all illegal economic migrants to the safe countries they came from.

Rt Hon Suella Braverman MP KC, Secretary of State for the Home Department: My right hon. Friend speaks a lot of sense, as always, and he is right; the British people have had enough of an out-of-control borders system. It is incumbent upon this Government to address that, and I know for a fact that this Prime Minister takes the problem extremely seriously, and I know he will leave no stone unturned until it is fixed.