15 Jun 2011 : Column 884

When it comes to spending commitments, the Opposition do not seem to know whether they are coming or going. They would have us believe that they would have taken responsible decisions on the economy, but if they had had their way in Committee, the amendments would have entailed extra spending commitments running into billions of pounds. Not once have they said that they approve of any of the changes or the savings within the scope of the Bill. It was all the more surprising when, the other day, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill complained—irony of ironies—that the housing benefit bill is apparently set to increase in the course of this Parliament. Imagine that—the man who watched while housing benefit spending crashed through the roof, nearly doubling in 10 years, and was set under his Government to rise by a further £2.5 billion in this Parliament alone, has started to tell us that somehow we are not being harsh enough. What a contrast with his hon. Friend the Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck) in her place beside him, who claimed that our changes to housing benefit

“would lead to social cleansing on an unprecedented scale.”

Frankly, they need to get their act together, as they do not seem to know whether they are in favour or against cuts—or whether they simply do not agree with anything.

The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill wants to speak, so I shall finish. These measures have always been about welfare reform that forms a contract with the people of this country. It is a promise on our part to provide a simpler, fairer system that protects the most vulnerable and makes work pay; and a promise on the part of those who are claiming benefits to play their part, to look for work whenever they are able to do so, and to take some of the responsibility that the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband)spoke of just two days ago—although half of his party does not agree with him. As I said before, this is about fairness to recipients and fairness to the hard-pressed taxpayer. On that basis, I ask all Members to get behind this Bill, and perhaps the Opposition will make up their minds about whether or not they are in favour of this reform.

6.49 pm

Mr Liam Byrne (Birmingham, Hodge Hill) (Lab): I am grateful for the chance to speak on Third Reading this evening. I am glad that the Bill has finally come back to the House and I wish I could say that I thought the Bill’s passage through this place had improved it. I cannot with justice say that. We said from the outset that we wanted to approach this question in a spirit of national consensus.

The Opposition are proud of our record of delivering welfare reform in this country. I am glad that the Secretary of State referred to statistics from the Office for National Statistics that were published the other day because they were the same statistics that confirmed that by 2008 the claimant count was half the level we were left by the previous Government back in 1997. The number of people claiming unemployment benefit for more than 12 months in that year was down to a quarter of the level we inherited in 1997, so, no, it is not a surprise that his own welfare Minister, Lord Freud, said that our record of delivering welfare reform was remarkable.

15 Jun 2011 : Column 885

On Monday night, I set out how I thought that further reforms should be made to toughen the responsibility to get back into work and to enshrine a culture of work in every community in this country. Throughout the passage of the Bill, we have sought to table amendments that would have improved it and allowed it to leave this place for the better. The Government have refused to listen and have refused to accept advice and amendments. The Bill presented to this House might have started with an instinct for compassionate Conservatism in action, but we have in front of us tonight a law that cuts benefits for people with cancer when the Minister says that they will not be ready to work by the time that cut hits them.

I said that we would not oppose the Bill on Second Reading to give the Government some space to improve it. We back welfare reform that gets people back to work and that simplifies the benefit system. We support the principle of universal credit and we support sanctions for those who are not trying hard enough to get a job. We support a cap on benefits if it saves public money, but this is where the agreement ends, not least because this Bill is so cold and so hard that it ends a tradition of compassion in the welfare state that we should conserve and not consign to history.

Once upon a time, this Secretary of State knew about compassion. In 2009, he said that the welfare state is a symbol of a compassionate and civilised society. I think that he has honourable intentions, but he has not presented us tonight with a Bill that is in an honourable state. It is, frankly, a disgrace that the Government have not found additional time to debate cuts to contributory ESA that would cut benefits to people with cancer before they are fully recovered. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) asked for additional time from the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), on Monday, but he refused to give the House that time.

To single out for the proposed cuts benefits that would allow cancer patients to go on receiving the benefits they need is unacceptable. It is unacceptable because it is an attack on compassion. It is unacceptable because we cannot ask people who are still battling cancer to start filling out job applications. It is unacceptable because most of us in the Chamber tonight will either have personal experience or families with experience of the truth that it takes more than courage to beat cancer and finding a job is not part of any recovery programme I have heard doctors recommend. Worse, this is a benefit that people have actually paid in for. Now, when they need it most, it is being taken away.

Ciaran Devane, the chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said:

“Many cancer patients will lose this crucial benefit simply because they have not recovered quickly enough…This proposal in the Welfare Reform Bill will have a devastating impact on many cancer patients. We are urging the government to change their plans to reform key disability benefits to ensure cancer patients and their families are not pushed into poverty.”

Even at this late stage, I ask the Secretary of State to speak to his friend the Prime Minister and to sit down with cancer charities, disability groups and other

15 Jun 2011 : Column 886

campaigners to try to get this sorted out. I ask him to take heed of what Owen Sharp, the chief executive of the Prostate Cancer Charity, has said this afternoon:

“The changes to disability benefits will mean that a significant number of people with cancer will be left without vital financial support at a time when they need it the most…The current proposals in the Welfare Reform Bill will discriminate against cancer patients and should be amended.”

Perhaps the Government would be on stronger ground if only a tiny minority of people were affected, so the House is right to ask how many people will be hurt. On 16 May, the Government told us: 77% of people in the work-related activity group will not have recovered from their condition after a year, yet that is when their benefit will be cut. How on earth can that be justified? The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell gave us his answer in Committee when he said that

“this is a sensible measure”.––[Official Report, Welfare Reform Public Bill Committee, 3 May 2011; c. 655.]

It is a decision that is, in his words, “not about recovery times”.

Perhaps I could understand that argument if I felt that the Department had its spending priorities straight, but the truth is that its message is so harsh that it has had to hire media trainers to teach the Minister with responsibility for disability, the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Maria Miller), how to spin her lines. The Department has passed to me documents that detail the media training bill for her, which equals three and a half months’ worth of somebody’s employment and support allowance, which would be cut. It is a shame that her expensive eloquence was not more convincing this afternoon. Cutting benefits for people with disabilities and hiring media trainers instead—that tells us all we need to know about this Secretary of State’s priorities.

Mr Duncan Smith: Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Byrne: I am afraid that I will not—[ Interruption. ]No, because the Secretary of State talked for well over the time we agreed through the usual channels this afternoon and he is now wasting—[ Interruption. ]

Mr Speaker: Order. Mr Rob Wilson, you have just toddled into the Chamber, do not shout across the Chamber in that way. [ Interruption. ] No, no; do not argue the point. [ Interruption. ] Order. I am telling the hon. Gentleman—[ Interruption. ] I do not need any expression; I am telling him what the situation is.

Mr Byrne: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I say to Liberal Democrat Members tonight that today is the deadline for advice on motions to their conference and one has found its way to me this afternoon. They should listen to what their grass roots are saying—that they should support the amendments that we tabled on Report. The Liberal Democrats should not be fooled by the idea that to succeed in politics one has to rise above one’s principles, and they should not betray the principles of Lloyd George, Beveridge and Keynes for the political convenience of the hour. They should show us, show people and show their grass roots that like us they have heard the voices of the vulnerable, who are calling on them to act—and to act tonight.

15 Jun 2011 : Column 887

As if the cuts for cancer patients in clause 51 were not bad enough, they are rendered worse by the determination of this Government to leave people on disability benefits as prisoners in their own homes. On Saturday morning, my constituent Stephen McClaren came to see me. He has cerebral palsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities and he gets these mobility payments in order to help him to see his mum, go to the gym and live the quiet miracle of a normal life. These plans have filled him with fear. He and 80,000 disabled people are now worried sick about what the Government have in store for them.

The charities say that the changes are “fundamentally unfair”, so what is going on? The Prime Minister has said that the DLA mobility component will not be cut for those in residential care homes—that is what he told the House on 23 March—but the Budget book says that cuts to the DLA mobility component will total £475 million from people in residential care by 2015. Who is telling the truth? We now know that there is a review, but today is the Third Reading of the Bill. The Government want to change the law, but what is their policy? It is a secret. The Minister for spin, the hon. Member for Basingstoke has said, with her new expensive eloquence, that the Government

“have no plans to publish the findings of this work”.—[Official Report, 9 May 2011; Vol. 527, c. 1003W.]

Tonight, we are supposed to give the Government powers to abolish the benefit when their evidence for reform is to be kept secret. What a shambles.

The Bill violates every basic test of compassion and, just as bad, it also fails the test of fostering ambition to work. I know that the Secretary of State is trying as hard as possible to introduce reforms that will help to make sure that work pays, but he cannot honourably say that and give that guarantee for anyone with children because he cannot make up his mind how much parents are going to get for child care under universal credit. We are being told that that credit will be abolished tonight with no sense of what is going to come in its place.

In February, the Secretary of State was unable to say what the Government’s plans are. He told the House, not once but twice—most recently on 24 March, I think—that he would tell us, here in the House before the Bill got through the Committee stage, that he would publish his child care policy. Leaked documents from the DWP say that the cuts could disadvantage 250,000 people, cutting support almost by half, yet tonight we are at Third Reading and the Secretary of State still has not told us what his plans are for child care.

There are new penalties in the Bill for savers. There are new penalties for the self-employed. The Bill was supposed to be a milestone in the evolution of the Government and the compassionate Conservatism they espoused, but tonight they have been found out. We have a law to hurt cancer patients and a Bill to trap the disabled, confusion for parents and penalties for savers. Whether people are ill, disabled or working hard to do the right thing, the Government are determined to attack the benefits they paid to receive. We should stand up—

7 pm

Debate interrupted (Programme Order, 13 June ).

15 Jun 2011 : Column 888

The Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (Standing Order No. 83E), That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The House divided:

Ayes 288, Noes 238.

Division No. 297]

[7 pm


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Amess, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, Gregory

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Beith, rh Sir Alan

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brake, Tom

Bray, Angie

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Mr Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Byles, Dan

Cairns, Alun

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Carmichael, Neil

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Crabb, Stephen

Crockart, Mike

Crouch, Tracey

Davey, Mr Edward

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorrell, rh Mr Stephen

Dorries, Nadine

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Mr Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Ellis, Michael

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, Michael

Field, Mr Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Mr Roger

Garnier, Mr Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gibb, Mr Nick

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Graham, Richard

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Damian

Greening, Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, Matthew

Hancock, Mr Mike

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harris, Rebecca

Harvey, Nick

Hayes, Mr John

Heald, Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollingbery, George

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Horwood, Martin

Howarth, Mr Gerald

Howell, John

Hughes, rh Simon

Huhne, rh Chris

Huppert, Dr Julian

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr David

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lamb, Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leigh, Mr Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Lumley, Karen

Main, Mrs Anne

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, Esther

Mensch, Mrs Louise

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Patrick

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, Maria

Mills, Nigel

Milton, Anne

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, Mr Stephen

Offord, Mr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Pawsey, Mark

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Mr John

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Russell, Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shepherd, Mr Richard

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Miss Chloe

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Tapsell, Sir Peter

Thurso, John

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Mr Mark

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Jeremy

Wright, Simon

Yeo, Mr Tim

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mark Hunter and

Mr Shailesh Vara


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Alexander, rh Mr Douglas

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Ashworth, Jon

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Bell, Sir Stuart

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blears, rh Hazel

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, rh Mr Gordon

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burnham, rh Andy

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Caton, Martin

Chapman, Mrs Jenny

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

Darling, rh Mr Alistair

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobbin, Jim

Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas

Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Goggins, rh Paul

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Havard, Mr Dai

Healey, rh John

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Heyes, David

Hillier, Meg

Hilling, Julie

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hood, Mr Jim

Hosie, Stewart

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Jackson, Glenda

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Jowell, rh Tessa

Joyce, Eric

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leech, Mr John

Leslie, Chris

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Lloyd, Tony

Long, Naomi

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McCrea, Dr William

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McGovern, Jim

McGuire, rh Mrs Anne

McKechin, Ann

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Mearns, Ian

Michael, rh Alun

Miliband, rh David

Miliband, rh Edward

Miller, Andrew

Mitchell, Austin

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Mudie, Mr George

Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Mr Jim

Murphy, rh Paul

Nandy, Lisa

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Phillipson, Bridget

Pound, Stephen

Qureshi, Yasmin

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Riordan, Mrs Linda

Robertson, Angus

Robertson, John

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Joan

Seabeck, Alison

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watson, Mr Tom

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Wicks, rh Malcolm

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wishart, Pete

Wood, Mike

Woodcock, John

Woodward, rh Mr Shaun

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Noes:

Phil Wilson and

Mark Hendrick

Question accordingly agreed to.

15 Jun 2011 : Column 889

15 Jun 2011 : Column 890

15 Jun 2011 : Column 891

15 Jun 2011 : Column 892

Bill read the Third time and passed.

European Union Documents

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 119(11)),

Cultivation of Genetically Modified Crops

That this House takes note of European Union Document No. 12371/10, a Commission Communication on the freedom for Member States to decide on the cultivation of genetically modified crops; Document No. C(2010) 4822, a Commission Recommendation on guidelines for the development of national co-existence measures to avoid the unintended presence of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in conventional and organic crops; and Document No. COM(10) 375, a draft Regulation amending Directive 2001/18/EC in relation to the ability of Member States to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs in their territory; and supports the Government’s view that the Commission’s legislative proposal raises significant concerns and should not be supported by the UK.—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question agreed to.

15 Jun 2011 : Column 893

Kidderminster Enterprise Zone

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

7.13 pm

Mark Garnier (Wyre Forest) (Con): I thank the Minister for his time this evening to hear the case for the Kidderminster enterprise zone bid. I am pleased to be able to hold this debate because I am passionate about the future of the local economy, not just in Kidderminster or even in Wyre Forest but in the whole of Worcestershire.

What we are debating this evening is more than just Kidderminster’s enterprise zone bid. It is about how the Worcestershire local enterprise partnership has come together with enthusiasm and considered the many submissions from across the county, and how the business community has worked through the options and come up with what it believes is the best possible enterprise zone bid for the whole county. I am delighted to see so many Members present, and members of the business community in Worcestershire have come down this evening to show their support for this incredibly important bid.

Before I speak more specifically about Kidderminster, I want to speak about Worcestershire as a whole. I do this because it is important to remember that it is the Worcestershire LEP that has looked carefully at the county and decided that the best option for the county—not just for Wyre Forest—is the Kidderminster business enterprise zone. It is important that it becomes an enterprise zone because it is a strong and early bidder for a county-wide enterprise partnership that will bring together business, civic and third sector leaders as an effective advocate for the whole county.

Worcestershire has around 560,000 residents, and across the county there are a number of strong but localised industrial specialisms. We have agriculture and food processing in Wychavon and the Malvern hills, research and development in Malvern and automotive-related industries in Bromsgrove and Redditch.

Karen Lumley (Redditch) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that although the bid from Kidderminster is great, we must all work together with the Worcestershire LEP to ensure that in future years other areas have successful bids, including my constituency?

Mark Garnier: My hon. Friend makes a good point; this is about the whole of Worcestershire and it is incredibly important that we work together for this important opportunity.

Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con): I thank my hon. Friend and neighbour for securing this extremely useful debate. Does he agree that developing the Kidderminster enterprise zone would be extremely beneficial, particularly for those in the north of my constituency, because it would be so easy for them to travel to Kidderminster for work?

Mark Garnier: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. The whole point about an enterprise zone is that it will not only help people in the immediate vicinity, but attract many people and a lot of economic activity from a fairly wide area—a point I will develop later in

15 Jun 2011 : Column 894

my speech. The economy of the south of the county looks to the rural and research-based drivers in her constituency, and the north of the county looks to the black country as its engine for growth. It is for this reason that strengthening the advanced manufacturing base in the north of the county will draw down the manufacturing prosperity of the black country into Worcestershire.

The issues Worcestershire faces are important and the LEP has already got to grips with the major economic priorities and challenges that the county will face in the coming years. Crucially, private sector employment shrunk over the past decade by 1%. This trend was more marked in the north of the county, with Kidderminster seeing an 8% reduction in private sector employment and Redditch seeing a 14% reduction. That said, Redditch has a greater proportion of manufacturing jobs in the region, which is encouraging.

Moreover, work by the West Midlands Regional Observatory shows that Kidderminster and, to a lesser extent, Redditch suffer from problems relating to longer-term restructuring and job losses from the contraction of their industrial base, lower employment rates and higher claimant levels, especially among young people, and a higher proportion of the working-age population having no qualifications at all. To deal with those issues, the LEP sees restructuring the local economy away from public sector jobs, supporting and growing the tourism industry, and building on the industrial assets in the north as the key priorities. It was with this in mind that the Worcestershire LEP identified Kidderminster as the unanimous option for the Worcestershire bid for an enterprise zone.

The town of Kidderminster was once the hub of the world’s carpet industry, with some 20,000 people employed in that key industry as recently as the ’70s and ’80s. Carpets declined as the preferred floor covering, although I am pleased to say that that trend is now in reverse.

Karen Bradley (Staffordshire Moorlands) (Con): I am listening carefully to what my hon. Friend is saying. It is a great relief to me, as I represent a Staffordshire constituency, that we are no longer under a regional development agency, as what works in one place in the west midlands does not necessarily work in Staffordshire, so I am delighted that we now have the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent LEP. However, I have to stand up for Minton floor tiles and say that, although carpets in Kidderminster are important, floor tiles are equally so.

Mark Garnier: They certainly are, but I must say that one cannot get a better carpet than those made in Kidderminster. My hon. Friend makes a good point about Advantage West Midlands, which is now disappearing. The LEPs are incredibly strong because they bring together enterprise and business to try to structure what they need economically, and the way in which some enterprise zones in the west midlands have come together to take advantage of that opportunity and build on it is very encouraging.

I am pleased to see my friend and co-chair of the all-party group on the economy of the west midlands, the hon. Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin), in the Chamber in support, because it is incredibly important that we work together across the whole of the west midlands to ensure that we have a strong local economy.

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The carpet industry in Kidderminster, as I said, employed 20,000 people, but now we have fewer than 2,000 working locally in that once-great sector. Having said that, I must note that Kidderminster produces some of the finest carpets on the planet, and that is very encouraging. Kidderminster and the wider Wyre Forest now find themselves a post-industrial area, with a handful of significant employers but 5,000-plus small and micro-businesses. Local unemployment in Wyre Forest stands at 4.6% overall, but the figure I find most upsetting is that of the 18 to 24-year-olds not in education, employment or training, the so-called NEETs, who number 9.1% against an equally tragic but lower 7.2% for the wider county.

The Kidderminster and wider Wyre Forest area is made of stern stuff, and the local district council is keen to promote growth. In 2009, Wyre Forest district council created a private-led regeneration project known as the ReWyre initiative, which is helping to drive forward the economic growth of local businesses in Wyre Forest and, combined with the new LEP private enterprise, taking a firm lead in driving forward economic regeneration.

Owing to that already strong local drive and the early establishment of the Worcestershire LEP, the opportunity for a Kidderminster enterprise zone was seized unanimously. The proposal is to establish an enterprise zone, the South Kidderminster business park, in an area broadly defined by two main arterial roads through the district, the Stourport road and Worcester road business corridors. There is already significant economic activity in those areas, and, although some 3 hectares of previously speculatively developed site is available for immediate occupation, a further 44.5 hectares of brownfield site is available for redevelopment and the specific needs of new and relocating businesses to the enterprise zone.

It is anticipated that that redevelopment alone will bring some 4,000 new jobs to Kidderminster and Wyre Forest, and importantly not just the people of Kidderminster but the wider county of Worcestershire will benefit from those jobs. It is anticipated also that the enterprise zone’s local stimulus will benefit many existing businesses and create new jobs in the wider area, particularly in the towns of Stourport-on-Severn, Bewdley and Redditch.

Ian Austin (Dudley North) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this debate and commend him for his valuable work for and great contribution to the all-party group that we have established for the regional economy. Does he agree that it is not just the towns of Stourport, Bewdley and Kidderminster that will benefit from the establishment of the enterprise zone, but the black country towns of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton? If greater enterprise, more jobs and prosperity can be brought to areas such as Kidderminster, that will only benefit the constituents I represent just a few miles away in the black country, and that is why I assure the hon. Gentleman that the bid will receive my support and, no doubt, that of other black country MPs.

Mark Garnier: I am incredibly grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. It shows the cross-party support for the local economy in the black country and the west midlands, and that we are all coming together to try to support the local economy, to move things forward and to deal with the issues that face us. They

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include slightly stagnant economic growth, but we will deal with that through local enterprise partnerships and business expansion zones.

The development’s knock-on effect will be incredibly important. The Stourport road corridor runs through one of the most deprived wards in England and Wales, Oldington and Foley Park, where almost 8% of residents are on jobseeker’s allowance and almost 30% of 18 to 24-year-olds are NEETs. There will be not only an immediate impact on local unemployment, but a long-term change of prospects for the large numbers of families who have been hit by the long-term decline of the carpet industry—families whose unemployment can be measured not in weeks, months or years but, in far too many cases, in generations.

Specifically, it is anticipated that growth in the Kidderminster business park will come from a mix of new businesses moving to the area, the expansion of existing businesses benefiting from the local economic stimulus and, importantly, the creation of new businesses, all of which will take advantage of the local mix of good and available skills, existing supply-chain businesses, the availability of land and existing property for immediate use and, of course, the incentives available through the enterprise zone.

The existing and well established ReWyre initiative and the Worcestershire LEP, working together in partnership, will manage and implement the enterprise zone. Not only will they draw up a flexible and sustainable investment plan for the zone, but crucially they will create a single, strong marketing identity, developing a vision for the zone and the district for the next one or two decades. South Kidderminster business park already benefits from an up-to-date local development framework, with the Wyre Forest core strategy having been adopted in December last year. The core strategy already identifies the fact that South Kidderminster business park will offer attractive, accessible and high-quality employment locations. The area also provides a strong and clear basis for the designation of local development orders, simplifying planning requirements and thus accelerating development opportunities.

What is important about the Kidderminster business zone bid is that there are qualified, work-ready people willing to take on work immediately. I recently spoke to a local employer who was advertising for new staff and who told me that he was inundated with good-quality candidates, all of whom he could have taken on. That is as good an indicator as any of a willing and ready work force available to meet the needs of new businesses in Kidderminster.

The Wyre Forest and Kidderminster area is an incredibly wonderful place to live. At that all-important final meeting when the managing director of a company seeking to relocate to a town such as Kidderminster has to discuss moving home with his or her family, I am sure that the family members will relish the opportunity of living in an area with outstanding natural beauty, fascinating towns, excellent nearby shopping, good schools, and a wide range of activities to keep any family healthy and happy. [ Interruption. ] And good carpets, yes.

I am here to urge the Minister to do everything he can to help Kidderminster’s bid to pass successfully through the selection process. The ingredients for success are already there. We have an available and willing work force ready for immediate employment. We have available

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space for new businesses to take up immediately. We have a local development plan already in place supporting South Kidderminster business park. We have a local business organisation—the ReWyre initiative—already in place to drive the Kidderminster enterprise zone forward. We have the unanimous support of the local enterprise partnership behind Kidderminster. We have the will to rebalance the local economy towards private sector employment.

Crucially, an enterprise zone in Kidderminster will help to enable our third sector partners who work in more challenging areas to prepare the long-term unemployed for long-term employment. It will raise aspirations, drive economic regeneration and give breadth to the wider Worcestershire economy. I invite the Minister to visit, because I am sure that he will agree that there is no better candidate for a business expansion zone than Kidderminster.

7.27 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Greg Clark): How can I resist such an invitation when my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest (Mark Garnier) has extolled the virtues of Kidderminster, and indeed Worcestershire, in such lyrical terms that I am surprised that every Member present is not changing their holiday plans to spend the summer there?

I sincerely congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate on enterprise zones in general, and Kidderminster in particular. I was enormously impressed by the chorus of approval that greeted him when he got to his feet, not only from Members from Worcestershire, welcome though their support is, but from all over the country—Staffordshire, Dudley, Brighton, Yorkshire and Oxfordshire. If he is so skilled in putting together such a supportive chorus for the Kidderminster bid, I think it will fare well.

I have to be careful in what I say; my hon. Friend places me in a difficult position. He will understand that the application process is still open—it closes later this month—and that it would be invidious of me to favour the claims of Kidderminster above those from other parts of the country. However, he has put the merits of Kidderminster forcefully on the record and into my mind.

Ian Austin: I am delighted to hear the Minister accept the invitation to visit Kidderminster. When he does that, would he prepared to make a short detour—just 12 miles or so up the road—to visit Dudley to examine the case for Government support for measures that will bring enterprise, new industries and new jobs to my constituency so that we can see growth right across not only Worcestershire but the black country?

Greg Clark: I would be very happy to extend my trip to include the black country as well as Worcestershire.

Let me take the opportunity to set out some of the background to the process that has resulted in such an enthusiastic bid from Kidderminster. Like my hon. Friend, I pay tribute to and recognise the breadth of support that he has been given. The fact that Mr Woodman

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and his colleagues from Worcestershire have come to the House today shows the depth of support for the case that my hon. Friend mentions.

The coalition agreement, which was published a year ago, sets out two overriding aims for the Government’s term of office. The first was to get the economy back on track. The second was to achieve an historic shift in power and influence from central Government to local communities. What we are discussing encapsulates both aims. It is about living up to economic potential and realising that by giving communities their head and the ability to drive growth themselves.

This policy addresses the situation that we had before the election. My hon. Friend referred to the artificial constraints that divided some areas of the country and forced others into an uncomfortable relationship. The previous approach of regional development agencies being imposed from the top down clearly went against the grain of our historical geography and of how people live their lives locally. To that extent, it suppressed rather than enhanced the ability of different parts of the country to establish their economic identity in the same way that they have always had different characters. Part of the purpose of this degree of decentralisation is to empower different parts of the country to prosper economically.

Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con): Has the Minister given any consideration to allowing a local enterprise partnership to have more than one enterprise zone at the same time if they are of a small size? Such an approach would suit an enterprise zone in the town of Coalville in Leicestershire in my constituency.

Greg Clark: My hon. Friend makes a powerful point. I did not include Leicestershire in my list of places that are represented. One characteristic of local enterprise partnerships is that they are of different sizes. We have made it clear in the guidance that we expect an LEP to make one nomination, but I hear what he says and other parts of the country, especially areas that have larger LEPs, have made a similar point. I will certainly reflect on that.

The purpose of LEPs is not just to reflect, though they do, the economic geography of the areas that they cover. In contrast to the previous approach, whereby areas had to conform to regions that were administratively determined in Whitehall rather than locally, when my colleagues and I considered how we could establish LEPs nine months ago, we gave careful thought to what areas they should cover and came to the decision that we should give people the chance to nominate the most appropriate areas and to specify the natural connections. I feel justified in giving people that possibility, because LEPs have been formed that frankly would not have been invented in the Government. They represent a reality on the ground that does not conform to the uniformity that tends to come from the central Government approach.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest is vigorous in his promotion of the Worcestershire local enterprise partnership. I think also of north-east England, where the Tees valley—my home town of Middlesbrough and the surrounding towns—has asserted its unique characteristics. It wants to have a strong voice and to take advantage of the opportunities that have been presented, which in many cases were submerged in the

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old region of the north-east, important though the connections are across that wider area. Other LEPs recognise the natural economic connections between parts of the country, even though they may be in different counties. For example, the Coast to Capital LEP covers the area from Croydon down to Brighton. The area has a lot in common and businesses see it as important.

Recognising the appropriate areas was the first step, but the second was to ensure that local enterprise partnerships were genuine partnerships—combinations of business, local communities, the voluntary sector and social enterprises. All the bids that we approved represented strong partnerships, with a degree of enthusiasm that has been striking. There is greater enthusiasm than can be obtained from a body that is a creature of government. The fact that the bid my hon. Friend described enjoys such strong business support is testament to how energy can be tapped if business and communities get the chance to work together.

The approach that we are taking in encouraging local enterprise partnerships to make decisions locally in the best interests of their population is reflected in other parts of our policy. In planning, we are introducing reforms inspired by the work that my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (John Howell) performed for the party in opposition, which will give local communities the opportunity to influence and shape their area. That is not just about housing, important though that is. Communities everywhere in the country want to have regard to their future economic prosperity, and it is important to give them the chance to promote a local plan and neighbourhood plan that reflect their best traditions and their potential, rather than make them conform to a high-level regional strategy that does not represent and reflect the different localities within it. My hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest said that his local council has its core strategy in place, which puts it in a strong position to take advantage of the new planning powers, including neighbourhood plans. In some areas, business will want to take a leading role in those plans along with residents, and I dare say that may be the case in Kidderminster.

Through the new homes bonus and reforms to the community infrastructure levy, we want to ensure that some of the benefits of growth stay within the community, so that they can be used to reinforce that growth and ensure that it is genuinely sustainable. People who live in an area must have a genuine reason to say yes to growth.

Up and down the country, the local enterprise partnerships that we have established are already setting a vision for the future. They are driving growth, planning for new infrastructure and seeking to attract jobs and investment. I know that the Worcestershire LEP, in particular, is in the vanguard of the movement nationally.

Let me say a word about enterprise zones themselves. As my hon. Friend knows, they were announced in this year’s Budget, and we want to see 21 of them across England. We want them to be hothouses for growth and places in which we create the conditions for the public and private sectors to work closely together to create new jobs, set up new firms and attract new investment. They are there to help places with strong potential to grow to do so quickly, and he has made a strong case for Kidderminster having that potential. There is to be no hanging about, and we will make the decisions during the summer. It is important that the enterprise zones are

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up and running with good speed, so that the opportunities for the areas in question and for the country are maximised. I know that if it is successful, the enterprise zone bid that his LEP has made will bring with it an enthusiasm to get on with it.

On what an enterprise zone comprises, first, as my hon. Friend knows, it will involve a 100% relief from business rates, worth up to £275,000 over a five-year period. All the business rate growth generated by the zone for a period of at least 25 years will be kept by the LEP for reinvestment in the wider area. Greatly simplified planning zones will be in place through local development orders, making applications quicker and more certain for developers, and the Government will ensure that superfast broadband is rolled out across the zones.

That is the set menu, the standard elements that will be common to all local enterprise zones. However, the fact that they will be driven and promoted by the LEPs means that those elements can be adapted and supplemented to reflect the particular needs and priorities of the area. There will be an opportunity to consider the use of tax increment financing to support the long-term viability of a zone. Some aspects of local government funding are being reviewed in the local government resource review that is taking place.

We are determined that the local enterprise partnership should nominate an enterprise zone for consideration. That is the right approach, rather than Ministers centrally deciding where a zone will be. That should be a local decision.

Some enterprise zones were nominated in the first wave, but my hon. Friend makes a case for the second wave. Let me say something on the timetable for that. He will know that formal bids are due by 30 June. We hope to announce the successful LEPs during the summer. He will know that it would be inappropriate for me to go any further and to anticipate the outcome of that process, but it is obvious, from what he said and from the support that he has had from colleagues on both sides of the House, just how much support his proposal attracts. That is encouraging.

My officials are already working closely with the Worcestershire LEP and Kidderminster representatives on plans for the area. One thing that we have been particularly impressed by is the strong sense of local partnership between elected members, including councillors, businesses and the voluntary sector. The bid is therefore a strong one, but we are expecting other strong bids from other areas of the country—this is a competitive process. Whatever happens, the enthusiasm and volition to encourage growth by doing things differently locally does not rest entirely on the bid. The LEP has many powers available to it—for example, to create a simplified planning zone, or to promote discounts in business rates for certain types of businesses in particular areas. It can go ahead with such initiatives even in anticipation of an enterprise zone, and take other opportunities whether or not its bid is successful.

My hon. Friend has put a very strong case firmly on the record, and he does not have too much longer to wait before he hears the result of his passionate advocacy in the House today.

Question put and agreed to.

7.42 pm

House adjourned.