6 pm

Mark Durkan: As a Scottish nationalist, the hon. Gentleman speaks for himself on that. As an Irish nationalist, I have a different view on a number of his points.

In the part of the world I represent, I clearly say to people, “There is no acceptable level of sectarianism in our streets,” but the message from the Committee is that there is an acceptable level of sectarianism in our statutes. We are removing the bar on someone who marries a Catholic from succeeding to the throne, but we are not removing the grossly arcane and offensive language that remains on the statute book. We are saying, “That’s okay.” We have statements from the different Churches that have been consulted that they are just about okay with the compromise, but I am not comfortable with such received sectarianism.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: Does the hon. Gentleman share my view that, by amending the statutes, we are saying that all the provisions are modernised, and that the Act of Settlement and all its anti-Catholic provisions are acceptable in a modern world with a few words changed? Does he share my view that that is offensive to Her Majesty’s loyal Catholic subjects and possibly more offensive to republicans?

Mark Durkan: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point, which reinforces exactly the one I am making. The Committee will take a deliberate decision to amend only the legislation it needs to amend, and will not take the opportunity to do away with the offensive, discriminatory and provocative language. Such language will remain on the statute books—the language of the law of the land—which is offensive. Why would the Committee take a decision at this point in the 21st century not to make laws of our time and for the future?

To my mind, it is not acceptable for people to be satisfied by such received sectarianism, and it is a matter of sadness that it remains. That is my difficulty with clause 2. I welcome the fact that it makes a difference, but I have a fundamental problem with the fact that it says, “Everything else can stay the same. That’s okay. We’re happy with that sort of language.” We should be repulsed by the language that the Committee says should stay on the statute book.

Sir Gerald Howarth: I am delighted to take part in Committee under your tutelage, Mr Bone, and to follow the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan) and other hon. Members. There is a paradox in the situation in which we find ourselves. The Government are seeking to end part of a discriminatory law, and yet have resurrected rather a lot of hurt, as expressed by the hon. Member for Foyle and my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg). Perpetuating this debate could lead to further hurt.

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As an Anglican on the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church of England, the last thing I seek to do is to offend those in the Catholic Church, but I should tell my hon. Friend that he might at least allow us to take communion when we attend his Church. When he attends ours, he is allowed to take communion with us. Perhaps that little bit of discrimination could be ended by the Catholic Church.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Sir Gerald Howarth: If my hon. Friend has been able to get a tweet from the Vatican to indicate a change in policy, I would be delighted to give way to him.

Jacob Rees-Mogg rose—

The Temporary Chair (Mr Peter Bone): Order. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman’s intervention will be very concise and to do with clause 2.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: It is incredibly concise and relevant to clause 2. My simple point is that the matter to which my hon. Friend refers is one for the Papacy. I do not have the authority to do as he asks.

Sir Gerald Howarth: I am sure the day will come when such authority is conferred by the Vatican upon my hon. Friend, such is the power of his language.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith) made the point that the two Churches are coming together, and that Christian Churches generally are doing so. That is imperative, particularly given the rise of Islamic fundamentalism not just around the world, but in our country. The issue of succession and religion—which is what clause 2 is all about—is very significant. I welcome the fact that the Minister has put it on the record that section 3 of the Act of Settlement 1700 will remain firmly part of the law of this land. While an heir to the throne may be entitled to marry a Catholic, no one who is not in communion with the Church of England shall be sovereign of this country. It is important that that is stated, and I am grateful to the Minister. The reason I was prepared to support the additional confirmation of that by the hon. Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley) was that one is so aware of the zeal with which the present Administration prosecute their enthusiasm for modernisation that one does not want this to be subject to any form of modernisation. It is imperative that that is clear, and it has been made clear.

I will repeat the point I made on Second Reading as I had to make it in a rather curtailed style. If the heir to the throne were to marry a Catholic, the Catholic ordinances had not changed and the children were to be brought up in the Catholic faith—the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed—those children would face a decision on whether to be loyal to the Catholic faith or to renounce it, and subscribe to being in communion with the Church of England. Therefore, clause 2 does have consequences, and this is not a question of semantics between the Church of England and the Catholic Church.

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It is important to all Christians that the sovereign remains, as every coin of the realm testifies, the defender of the faith. I wonder how many children in our schools are taught that. If we put our hands in our pockets and look at our coins, we see the two letters “FD”, which stand for fidei defensor: defender of the faith, the Christian faith. All of us, whether we are Catholic, Congregationalist, Church of England, Baptist or whatever, have a huge interest in ensuring that the Christian faith remains at the heart of this nation, for it is that faith that has formed this nation. It is that faith that has given birth to the enthusiasm for liberty that has attracted so many people of other faiths to come to this country. While the hon. Member for Foyle may find this difficult—I salute the spirit with which he promoted his case—I do not believe it right to be anything other than uncompromising. This House—this Parliament—is governed by the values of the Christian Church and faith. It is therefore imperative that we are crystal clear.

Paul Flynn: In the hon. Gentleman’s hyperbole about the religious nature of the country, does he recall that the majority of people describe themselves as atheists, and that the number of those who describe themselves as adherents to the Church of England is 19%? That figure is dropping and the number who describe themselves as atheist is increasing. Has he not got a rather romantic view of society, and are we not legislating for the past, not the future?

Sir Gerald Howarth: I think the latest figures show that 60% of the country are adherents to the Christian faith. I do not know if I have a romantic view or not, but what I do know is that this nation, which has become a magnet for people from all over the world, has been forged and fashioned by the Christian faith.

It is a matter of deep concern to me that the leadership of my Church is completely consumed by other matters—in particular, homosexuality and women bishops—at a time when this nation is crying out for spiritual leadership, so I make no apologies for stating what I have said. That is why there is more to this measure than there might appear to be on the face of it. It is also why it is important that Parliament should be able to consider clause 2 in detail—because I think it goes deep into the heart of this nation.

We are not faced with a decision today, next week or next year, because as yet there is no successor to the son of the heir to the throne. We are therefore talking about something that is a long way off. Nevertheless, it is right that Parliament should debate these matters and be absolutely clear in the laws we pass and not leave them to the courts. It is wrong for the Opposition spokesman to assert that the clause heading is clear, because I think I am right in saying that the courts do not take into account the headings of clauses. I am sorry to be a bit pedantic, but that the courts take into account solely what is in the text of the legislation.

Ian Paisley: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way, as he allows me to point out that the 2011 census found that there were only 29,000 atheists in England and Wales, compared with 33.2 million who said they were Christian. That is why, once again, this point should be emphasised in our legislation, and why we should make it boldly and unashamedly.

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Sir Gerald Howarth: I am happy to make common cause with the hon. Gentleman in that endeavour. I entirely agree with him and that is why I have sought to use this opportunity to express my views. To reiterate, I am an active member of the Church of England—I am a church warden of the Royal Garrison church in Aldershot and proud of being so—and I am hugely concerned. I fear that, as my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset expressed so eloquently, this legislation will lead to all sorts of intricacies that have not been foreseen, and I am afraid that this issue is one of them.

I will conclude on a positive note. I again thank the Minister for putting it profoundly on the record that section 3 of the Act of Settlement 1700 remains firmly and centrally part of the law of this land.

Chris Bryant: It is a great delight to follow the hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth); it is only a shame that he is speaking from the Back Benches. It was rather nice when he was speaking from the Front Bench. They culled the wrong Minister in the Ministry of Defence, I thought. It is good to follow him also because he is a church warden and he will know that church warden was one of the first posts that women could be elected to in this country, long before they could be elected as MPs.

The hon. Gentleman was absolutely right on one point, which is that, in a sense, clause 2 opens a wound, but stitches up only part of it. The wound is actually much bigger. The provisions in the Act of Settlement and the Bill of Rights on Catholicism—only a tiny bit of which we are amending—are not only offensive, but meant to be offensive. They were deliberately intended as offensive legislation, to try to slap Catholicism on the face and send it flying. I know that the Minister wants to restrict things as much as possible and make this a tidy little Bill; none the less, the truth is that at some point we will have to get rid of all these provisions.

Wayne David: I understand what my hon. Friend is saying, but does he accept that it is not valid to argue that because we cannot change everything we might not like, we can change nothing?

Chris Bryant: Yes, and that is why I allowed Second Reading to go through, and I will—[Interruption.] Sorry, I meant that I added my assent to everybody else’s. I want clause 2 to remain in the Bill, but it points to the issue—to which hon. Members have referred—of the bringing up of children. Baptism was referred to earlier. At what point does one decide that somebody has been in communion with or reconciled to the See or the Church of Rome? Somebody suggested the point of baptism, but I do not think that that is categorical. As I tried to suggest earlier, baptism is not Catholic or Anglican—it is Christian. However, many children growing up in a Catholic family or being brought up by Catholic parents will be expected to take their first communion when they are quite young. I would have thought that, at that point, they were in communion with Rome.

6.15 pm

Jacob Rees-Mogg: When looking at the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement, we must bear in mind the particular concern of the people passing that law at that

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time to exclude James II’s newly born son. The wording is therefore quite all-encompassing in its aim to exclude a child from the first moment of Catholicism infecting it, so to speak, rather than thinking that a child could be brought up as a Catholic and decide at 21 not to be one any more. The terminology is

“reconciled to or shall hold Communion with the See or Church of Rome”—

The Temporary Chairman (Mr Peter Bone): Order. The hon. Gentleman is supposed to be making an intervention. This sounds rather like a speech.

Chris Bryant: It was a very good intervention, though, Mr Bone. I think you are being a bit mean this afternoon.

The hon. Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg) is absolutely right. That is the problem with the clause. I want the clause to go through, but I think it will provide us with long-term problems because it will change the point at which we consider someone to have become reconciled to, or to be in communion with, the Catholic Church. A Catholic can be in communion with the Church of England, as the hon. Member for Aldershot said, because we accept anyone who is in good standing with their own Church into communion with the Church of England. The same does not apply the other way round, however. This is where the issue of bringing up children comes in.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab): Those of us who are brought up as Catholics are also often confirmed in the Catholic faith at quite a young age. What is my hon. Friend’s understanding of the point at which a child’s Catholicism would become a problem? Could that problem be overcome simply by taking the oath of accession?

Chris Bryant: That is really a question for the Minister. There is a real question about pulling at one thread in the jumper. Are we undermining other aspects of the present settlement, and will we therefore need a whole new settlement? That is what I think will need to happen in the next 10 to 15 years. Charles II changed his religion on his deathbed; he became a Catholic. If he had then lived, people might have wanted to exclude him from the throne, just as they went on to remove James II.

Jacob Rees-Mogg rose

Chris Bryant: I can see the hon. Member for North East Somerset stirring his loins.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: Does the hon. Gentleman recall that the mother of Charles II and James II was a Catholic? That was in many ways the start of the problem.

Chris Bryant: The hon. Gentleman might say that that was the start of the problem, but I think it is fine to have a Catholic mother. I did not have one myself, but some of my best friends are Catholic mothers. I do not see this in quite the same light. The point is that the bringing up of children leads to the nub of the problem.


Jacob Rees-Mogg: I am sorry that my earlier intervention seemed like a speech, Mr Bone, but these are technically complex issues and one sometimes gets a bit more long-winded than one had intended.

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During the debate, a number of hon. Members have asked about the specific requirement. I know, because I tabled an amendment on the matter that was not selected, that the Act of Settlement states that

“whosoever shall hereafter come to the Possession of this Crown shall joyn in Communion with the Church of England as by Law established.”

So it does refer to the Church of England and not simply to the Protestant Church.

I also want to return to the point made by the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) about the age of the child being a Catholic. I think that the earliest age is relevant, because the Act of Settlement goes on to say that

“the said Person or Persons so reconciled holding Communion professing or marrying as aforesaid were naturally dead.”

The succession would pass as though they had died. I know that Christianity is all about the resurrection, but I do not think that statute law is. If a child of a marriage were christened and brought up a Catholic, that child would be deemed “naturally dead” under the Act of Settlement in relation to succession to the Crown. That is why the clause is, I think, so complex, without any further amendment. My view is that it would be better to leave well alone. I am in entire agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth), who looks as if he wants to intervene.

Sir Gerald Howarth: I wonder whether there is any way in which the Catholic Church might compromise, as it were, accepting that although the child could be brought up in the Catholic faith, in the event of their being in line for the throne the child would not be expected to do other than renounce the Catholic faith and accept the Church of England.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: Yes, of course that would possible. A papal indult could be granted, but when I suggested that earlier, the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith) thought that that would not do at all, and that having our succession subject to the Papacy would create difficulties of its own. I see the validity of that point. My concern is that by introducing clause 2, we will be passing into law something that brings our law into direct contradiction with the requirements of the Catholic faith. That is what brings us back to the whole offensiveness of the language of the Act of the Settlement.

As I say, I would be happy to see no change at all. The way a country builds up and the way its monarchy develops is lost in the mists of time. To whom that monarchy goes is another issue. We have had discussions about whether the monarchy goes through a strict genealogical line. It does not. By the time of the reign of George V, there were 1,000 people closer to Charles I in the succession than his late Imperial Majesty. It is not something that has been taken back, as we look at Asser’s “Life of Alfred”, to Adam and Eve. Asser’s “Life of Alfred” begins with his genealogy going back to Adam and Eve, but that is not true. Our monarchy is, in fact, established by statute—initially by ancient statute from which it has then developed. The difficulty is that when we start changing part of the statute and allow one thing to happen, there are consequences that will have an effect on other parts of the structure.

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Dan Rogerson: I am following the hon. Gentleman’s argument closely, and I see, as have other Members, that he is arguing that the provisions just move the injustice on a generation rather than deal with the issue. His solution would be “leave it alone”; another solution is “make a change”. My position would be “let us not make the best the enemy of the good.” We might be able to explore the issues raised by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan) on another occasion, but let us at least make some progress now.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: I do not agree with that, because when we bring legislation before this House, we are not limited by three or four words. We have it within our power to rewrite the whole of the Act of Settlement. That is why I think that, if we are not going to leave the whole thing alone, we have to make the fundamental change: we have to get rid of the fundamental injustice.

I am not going to hold myself up as a great bastion of political correctness. That is not a creed to which I particularly hold or one for which I have any great concern, but I do think that, broadly speaking, there should be equality of tolerance among the religions people choose to follow in this country, and that statute law should not favour one religion against another within the context of an established Church that provides a backdrop of Christianity for historical reasons and that has been a strength of this nation.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): My hon. Friend is such a valued Member and knows so much, so does he think that we are about to produce bad law?

Jacob Rees-Mogg: Yes, indeed I do. It is the point I have been making at great length all afternoon. In making that point, I would like to thank the Minister for her patient answers to my almost interminable questions. She has done that with great grace and thoughtfulness, for which I am deeply appreciative, but I am still in disagreement. I think this clause would be better left out of the Bill. If we are going to make a change, it needs to be thoroughgoing; otherwise, we simply reinforce the offence of the Act of Settlement and the wording of the Bill of Rights. We need to live, however, with our great and noble history, which is part of what we have grown up with, part of being a subject of the Queen, and part of being a person of the United Kingdom, to put it that way. My preference is for the clause to be removed, but if it is to be included, it should be part of a thoroughgoing reform that allows a Catholic to succeed, but protects the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

Miss Chloe Smith: With the leave of the Committee, Mr Bone, I shall be very brief.

Let me again acknowledge the breadth and, indeed, the quality of the arguments that have been advanced this afternoon. I shall not even begin to attempt to define key points in important religions, and for that reason I shall not accept the challenge issued to me by the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant). I do not think that it is for a Minister to do that. However, I also acknowledge that clauses such as this lead to tensions in Government.

The existing legislation prevents a successor to the Crown from marrying a Catholic. I hear the arguments that the proposal in the Bill may create a situation

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requiring—as one Member put it—wisdom and good sense on the part of parents, and indeed the child himself or herself, and I accept that that constitutes a tension, but I believe that the clause strikes a balance that will be helpful to the 21st-century monarchy.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 2 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 3

Consent of Sovereign required to certain Royal Marriages

Miss Chloe Smith: I beg to move amendment 2, page 1, line 20, after ‘descendants’ insert ‘from the marriage’.

Clause 3 is, as one Member put it earlier, one of the more arcane provisions in the Bill. The Royal Marriages Act 1772 currently requires, subject to some very limited exceptions, the descendants of George II to seek the consent of the monarch before marrying. That probably affects hundreds of people, and we do not think that such a sweeping provision continues to serve a useful purpose today.

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Mark Durkan: I do not intend to detain the Committee for long. I merely wish to ask the Minister to address herself to questions that have been raised about the number six. The hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil) suggested one explanation, and other Members made further suggestions. I should also like the Minister to consider how the Government envisage the discharging of the sovereign’s consent in practice, and whether the decision on granting that consent could depend on the religion of the person concerned.

Chris Bryant: Would it not be helpful if the Minister at least told us that the Government would consider amending the Bill in another place to ensure that the provision could not be used to prevent an heir to the throne from marrying a Roman Catholic?

Mark Durkan: Absolutely. Earlier, a Government Member referred to clause 2(1), in which we seem to think we are telling ourselves that we are removing the bar on the marriage of an heir to the throne to a Roman Catholic. However, it could well be that clause 3 allows the sovereign to continue to exercise such a bar, or a future monarch to exercise it, precisely to avoid some of the issues that other Members have already raised.

Mark Reckless: Does the hon. Gentleman think it would be helpful if the Minister were to clarify the position on what we think is implied by the Bill, which is that clause 2(1) is subject to clause 3(1)?

6.30 pm

Mark Durkan: That would be very helpful, because the problem is that clause 3(1) reads as though it could be an ouster for clause 2(1); the joker still rests with a future monarch to refuse marriage on the grounds I have set out. Of course other issues might arise, and this provision would be the subject of all sorts of conjecture

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and speculation. The Government would therefore want to clarify it where they can, if not today, at least on a future occasion.

In this stand part debate, I would like the Minister to address one other area, which has not yet been raised. The Bill refers solely to marriage and does not mention civil partnership. I therefore take it that somebody would not be barred from having their place in the line of succession if they had a civil partnership, with or without the consent of the sovereign. The provision specifically refers exclusively to marriage, so will the Minister clarify that it would not present an issue in respect of a civil partnership? Such a partnership might raise its own issues for the Churches, particularly the Church of England. I wonder why the Government specifically refer to marriage, because most other bits of legislation that refer to marriage also refer to civil partnership.

Kevin Brennan: Would it not have been more sensible, in this constitutional monarchy of ours—no matter what one thinks of that as a system of government—for the person succeeding to the throne to be determined either by God, through the accident of birth, or through Parliament? It should not be determined by the caprice of the monarch.

Mark Durkan: I thank the hon. Gentleman for speaking up for God as well as for Parliament. His point again raises some of the issues that we have been dealing with today and the difficulties we find when we get into the constitutional fineries, particularly those of an unwritten constitution.

Let me return to the issue of civil partnerships and why the Bill contains no reference to them. I remind the Minister that equal marriage legislation will be coming before the House, and many hon. Members will be tabling and supporting amendments that would also seek to have opportunities in respect of civil partnerships. They may propose that civil partnerships would no longer be restricted as an option only for same-sex couples, but would be open for other people to register their loving relationship, so that couples of either type would have an equal choice between the rite of marriage and civil partnership. That equal marriage legislation might be amended so that civil partnerships could end up being available to people of different sexes, and therefore children would issue from those, too. So again the question arises: why do this Bill and this clause refer only to consent for marriage, and not consent for civil partnership?

Christopher Pincher: I am grateful to the Minister for suggesting on Second Reading that in 200 or 300 years I may be Father of the House. My right hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Sir Peter Tapsell) may have something to say about that, either now or in 200 or 300 years’ time.

May I press her on the clause a little more, because her earlier remarks cause me to do so, and refer her to clause 2 of the Royal Marriages Act 1772? It states:

“In case any descendant of Geo. 2.—

George II—

“being above 25 years old, shall persist to contract a marriage disapproved of by his Majesty, such descendant, after giving 12 months notice to the Privy Council, may contract such marriage;

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and the same may be duly solemnized, without the previous consent of his Majesty; and shall be good; except both Houses of Parliament shall declare their disapproval thereof.”

In other words, if someone is over 25 and has made their intentions clear to the Privy Council, they can get married unless Parliament says that they cannot.

The Bill states in clause 3:

“A person who (when the person marries) is one of the 6 persons next in the line of succession to the Crown must obtain the consent of Her Majesty before marrying.”

In other words, no matter how old that person is they must actively gain the consent of the monarch before marrying and must wait for the Queen or King to say yes. Any reasonable person would infer that the Government appear to be trying to tighten the rules about whom members of the royal family can marry and to give the monarch some extra leverage. Will the Minister confirm that? If that is the case, can she explain much more clearly, as the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan) asked, why six has been chosen for the number of those in the line of succession who are subject to this rule? If the idea is to tighten the rules and make it easier for the sovereign to control whom his or her descendants close to the line of succession may marry, surely the number should be greater than six or we should prescribe that it applies to the heirs and descendants of Elizabeth II. Surely grandchildren of a reigning monarch who are Royal Highnesses and active members of the royal family might not be subject to the provision.

I would be grateful if my hon. Friend the Minister could make the decision-making process in reaching that number clear and tell us what advice the Government were given about the number six, why they rejected other numbers and why they rejected the idea of having no numbers. That will allow us to be clear about the Government’s intentions.

Chris Bryant: I rather agree with the hon. Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher). I am wholeheartedly in favour of getting rid of the 1772 Act, which seems a ludicrous piece of legislation that has always been ineffectual. It has encouraged monarchs to be capricious in granting or not granting consent and it was introduced as a capricious piece of legislation. My problem is with clause 3, which is meant to replace it. As the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan) said, there is no stipulation about whether such permission is necessary for a civil partnership. I presume that all six members could form a civil partnership and succeed to the throne without that being an issue, but if the Government’s same-sex marriage proposals were introduced, they would then have to make a request and have consent granted. I simply do not understand, and I am afraid the Minister has made it far worse for me this afternoon than it was before. Her suggestion that some convenience will be drawn up between Ministers who might or might not be advising means that there will be no clarity for Parliament.

For instance, a potential future heir to the throne might be denied consent to marry by the monarch deliberately because they wanted to exclude them from the succession, and for no other reason. The Bill makes no provision to state that that would be inappropriate. I say that that might happen in the future, because that is

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precisely what George III tried to do to George IV through the 1772 Act. If the clause is carried into legislation, the monarch will be able, entirely of their own volition and without any guidance from Parliament, to decide who should be excluded from the succession. The only thing that might militate against that would be if somebody got married before they became one of the six or before the monarch took offence or a dislike to them.

The Minister pointed out that other countries have similar provisions. It is true that, of the constitutional monarchies in Europe, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands have similar provisions. However, Norway has no such provision—it just has a simple law of succession, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) said. It is provided for by the caprice of God, as it were, whereas in two of the three countries that have a similar provision it is a vote of Parliament that decides. For the Crown and the Crown’s Ministers to reserve to themselves the decision as to who should be barred from the succession flies in the face of the history of this country, as the succession is a matter that has always been decided by the whole of Parliament—both Houses of Parliament—through statute law. That is why I am deeply, deeply suspicious of the first three subsections, and my suspicions have been made far worse by what the Minister has said this afternoon.



Mark Reckless: The Minister owes the House and perhaps the wider nation and realms beyond these shores an explanation as to why the number six has been selected in subsection (1), and what considerations have been brought to bear on the matter.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher) suggested an alternative, and said that the measure should apply to all heirs and successors of Queen Elizabeth II. I am concerned that, if we moved in that direction, such a measure would contain the seeds of its own obsolescence, rather like the Royal Marriages Act 1772 excluding all the descendants of George II except for those with a particular exemption. The numbers would balloon over time, and many of the same issues would remain.

The key issue to which the Minister should respond, and which Parliament should debate before the measure becomes law, is whether subsection (1) is subject to clause 2(1). For me, that is an important point. Having listened to all the debate, I remain undecided as to whether the Bill is an improvement on the status quo because it removes the discrimination with respect to a Catholic being able to marry someone who may inherit the throne, or whether I ascribe to the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Jacob Rees-Mogg) that it may kill a minor discrimination at the expense of reopening the whole issue, and we would then be looking at the Act of Settlement as amended by the Bill increasing the offensiveness of those words on the statute.

I can see the virtue of both arguments, but what weighs in the balance is the question of whether clause 2(1) is an absolute improvement or whether it may be overturned by a Crown decision under clause 3(1) acting under the prerogative on Ministers’ advice, which could still lead to someone being excluded as a result of marrying

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someone of the Roman Catholic faith, notwithstanding clause 2(1). I should appreciate it if the Minister provided clarity on that, preferably today, but if not, in subsequent proceedings.

Wayne David: As the Minister knows, we support the Bill, particularly clauses 2 and 3. However, a number of Members have raised the issue that the hon. Member for Rochester and Strood (Mark Reckless) just mentioned. He put it very well, and there appears to be a contradiction, or at least a potential contradiction, between clause 2(1) and clause 3(1). If there is, which provision has precedence? That is an important point, and if explicit clarification cannot be given now it would be advantageous, if it is provided when the Bill goes to the other place. That reinforces the point made by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan), which was well put.

6.45 pm

Will the Minister take a step back and consider the rationale behind the clause? A different approach would have been to make the reference point the descendants of George VI, rather than the descendants of George II. I do not know how many descendants that would include, but in some ways it would have been clearer, instead of the apparently arbitrary figure of six.

I endorse the comments of those who asked why six. The Deputy Prime Minister said that it was a pragmatic decision. The Minister suggested that there was some historical justification. We need a little more meat on that skeleton to justify the figure of six. If six is seen to be a fairly arbitrary figure, perhaps it is not too late to rethink the rationale for the way the clause is framed. We support the intention behind the clause. Clearly, what is on the statute book is unacceptable and even ridiculous, but we need to find a rational and sensible way to move beyond that.

Clause 3(2) states that when consent has been obtained,

“it must be-

(a) signified under the Great Seal of the United Kingdom,

(b) declared in Council, and

(c) recorded in the books of the Privy Council.”

That is clear as it stands, but what are the implications for public knowledge of what decisions might be taken? It would be useful to know if any of these decisions will be made available to the public at some point in the future. Would we have to wait a number of years? Would the decisions be subject to freedom of information requests? Those are reasonable questions. We need a monarchy that is modern, in tune with the thinking of our times and supportive of the principle of transparency. I would welcome clarification on those points.

Chris Bryant: The Minister referred to the 1967 provisions. As I understand it, that was because some members of the Cabinet were unhappy at the idea of somebody in the line of succession to the throne marrying a divorcee. Obviously, that does not apply today, where the other person’s partner is still alive. This cannot be left to the discretion of the monarch and of Ministers. It must come to Parliament.

Wayne David: That is almost an extrapolation of what I was saying. If the decision is in the public domain, it becomes, in a sense, the property of Parliament

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and it is open to us to discuss the issue, if not to make a determination. I would welcome the Minister’s response to those points.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: I have only one question on the clause. It relates to the position of members of the royal family who are not among the first six and therefore not subject to the new royal marriages Act. As the Minister will know, members of the royal family are generally excluded from Marriage Acts, as they have been from Hardwicke’s Marriage Act onwards, and I would be concerned if members of the royal family who were not the six closest to the throne had any complications in being certain that their marriages were valid.

I wonder, therefore, what the Government’s view on this is and whether any future legislation is intended, or whether it is intended that members of the royal family outside the six will be brought under the normal Marriage Acts in future.

Miss Chloe Smith: Now might be the moment to make a few general comments on clause stand part, as well as to respond to hon. Members’ questions. As has been made particularly clear, clause 3 repeals the Royal Marriages Act 1772 and replaces it with provisions that we believe are more suitable for the modern context. The original 1772 provision probably affects hundreds of people. We do not think that such a sweeping provision is practical or serves a useful purpose today. Indeed, if we want to dwell on Cabinet history, the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), who thought that those provisions were obscure and unsatisfactory, might note that this was raised by the Cabinet as far back as 1960.

Clause 3 seeks to ensure that the sovereign’s consent is obtained before the first six people in the line of succession can marry. Various hon. Members have asked why the number is six. I want to answer that question with reference to the reasonable reach of changes, which I referred to earlier. There is a question about unreasonably changing the legitimate expectations of those closest to the throne, and I think that we ought to take a cautious approach in such an area. The Government believe that the consent of the monarch for the marriages of the first six people in the line of succession provides a measure of reasonable proximity. Indeed, since the 1772 Act was enacted, the throne has never passed to anybody who was more than six steps away in the line of succession. Therefore, subsection (1) limits the requirement to seek the monarch’s consent to the first six people.

Mark Reckless: If the Crown has not passed to anyone beyond No. 6, has it passed to anyone who was No. 6? If so, is that the rationale for choosing that number?

Miss Smith: Historians in the House might leap to correct me, but I understand that Queen Victoria was the most extreme example, at No. 5. I hope that answers my hon. Friend’s question.

Let me turn to the notion that the sovereign ought not to have a part in that decision. The role of the sovereign in giving consent to a royal marriage is part of our tradition and is entrenched in law. The Government also consider that there is a public interest in the marriages

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of those closest to the throne, so we believe that the requirement to seek the sovereign’s consent continues to serve a valuable purpose.

Christopher Pincher: If my hon. Friend accepts that the public have a legitimate interest in active members of the royal family, who might be styled “Royal Highness”, and that the monarch might therefore wish to have some control over who they marry, does she not agree that the monarch might wish to have some control over those who are seventh, eighth or ninth in line to the throne marry, as they, too, might be active members of the royal family who are styled “Royal Highness”?

Miss Smith: Two points need to be made in response to that question. We here in Parliament, taking due account of our responsibilities to legislate on such matters, do so cautiously. We have used a pragmatic number, and I have tried to explain from where we have derived that number. We think that it is cautious and pragmatic. However, I also referred to the notion of the people who come within the scope of the Bill also exercising wisdom, good sense, pragmatism and caution. I suggest that it would not be beyond the realms of possibility for a person who is No. 7 or No. 8 to be careful in such matters. That is perhaps as far as I ought to go on that, but I do not think that that is beyond the bounds of reasonableness. However, the fact is that we in Parliament have to fix a number. I have tried to explain why we think that number ought to be six.

Mr Andrew Turner: Will my hon. Friend help me, because I simply do not understand what she means by five, six or seven. For example, what was Queen Victoria’s number in relation to the previous King?

Miss Smith: Putting blood relationships to one side, as I understand it Queen Victoria was the fifth in line to the point at which those consents were sought. We want the current monarch to be able to look ahead six times. It is the case that the throne has never passed to anyone more than six steps away in the line of succession. I hope that those two points answer my hon. Friend’s question.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: It might help my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Turner) if I went through the list as it relates to Queen Victoria in relation to George III. George III’s heir, George IV, is No. 1; Princess Charlotte is No. 2; King William is No. 3; the Duke of Kent is No. 4; and Queen Victoria is No. 5. That is how we get to five on the basis that the Minister has been calculating.

Miss Smith: I am eternally grateful in so many ways to my hon. Friend. I suppose that an alternative way of expressing the point would be to say that the throne had changed hands five times. I hope that the combination of comments has made things clear to my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Turner).

Let me turn to the common question, asked by several hon. Members, of whether clause 2 knocks out clause 3, as it were. I want to answer it with reference to what I said to the hon. Member for Rhondda. The monarch

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will act having taken advice from Ministers, who will wish to take account of the public interest. That is a clear expression of my earlier point.

If, as I hope, the Bill passes, clause 2 will stand and Ministers will need to have regard to it if they consider a situation under clause 3.

Chris Bryant: What happens if, for instance, the monarch disagrees with Ministers and Parliament disagrees with Ministers or the monarch—if it takes one side or the other? There is no means of determining a proper reason for coming to the decision, and now the Minister has added yet another category, which is that No. 7 and No. 8 in the line of succession have to be careful. This is just a mess.

Miss Smith: The legislation is clear. The sovereign’s consent is required. The 1772 Act, as the hon. Gentleman identified, had a role for Parliament. Clause 3 repeals that Act and replaces it with provisions under which the sovereign’s consent is required. Clause 3(2)(a), (b) and (c) explains how that occurs.

I will be happy to come back to the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Wayne David) with further details about how data are handled under those three categories; as he well knows, there is a greater debate to be had.

I want to reiterate and clarify my points about Nos. 7 and 8 in the line of succession. I simply note that the line of succession is such that, without being blunt about it, people pass away. Nos. 7 and 8 ought to be able to expect that such situations change; that is the only comment I make. It is therefore clear that a certain amount of pragmatism should go into that situation.

Chris Bryant: I am not sure what “being careful” means. Nowhere in the Bill is a valid reason given for not giving consent. For instance, would marrying a drug baron be a reason for not giving consent? I raise that because that was the case in the Netherlands, and it was one reason why consent was denied. But it was denied by Parliament, because that is the Dutch system, which is much more sensible. Would it be legitimate to refuse consent on the basis of there being a same-sex marriage?

Miss Smith: I shall be happy to come in a second to the provisions on civil partnership and same-sex marriage.

On the use of caution, I simply reiterate the point that I have made several times in the course of the debate—that we are talking about human beings and, on the whole, a limited family. It is not beyond the bounds of reason for members of that family to act with regard to the legislation that we are passing. I will leave it at that, as Mr Bone would of course stop me if I went further into matters that are outwith the scope of this Bill. There is a need for Parliament to select a number, and I have explained why six is appropriate. I have also attempted to deal with what happens to members in the line of succession who might be close to becoming No. 6.

7 pm

Mark Durkan: The Minister said that six is a practical number, but she also said that Nos. 7 and 8 will need to be “careful”. Needing to be careful might be interpreted

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in their minds as, “Get married quick before anything happens that means that you become No. 6 and therefore have to get the monarch’s consent.” It might appear to mean, “Marry in haste.”

Miss Smith: I have nothing more to add to the comments I made a few moments ago. I think that in these situations a degree of pragmatism might prevail.

Christopher Pincher: The Minister talks about practicalities and pragmatism, and people showing good sense. May I remind her that Queen Victoria had nine children, all of whom contracted marriage? Under these proposals, six of them would have had to seek the Queen’s consent to marriage and three would not. Is that sensible? Would the Queen have been amused?

Miss Smith: My hon. Friend asks me to comment on a direct historical precedent. I do not think it is helpful to do that, because it is, after all, the past. Mr Evans, who is now in the Chair, would of course stop me if I sought to impute any opinion to any member of the royal family, past or present.

Let me move on to what the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan) said about civil ceremonies and civil partnerships. There is no bar on the heir or other members of the royal family marrying in a civil ceremony. Moreover, I am unaware of any legal bar to somebody who is in a same-sex relationship acceding to the throne. I would envisage that the sovereign’s consent measures in clause 3 would continue to be the case for same-sex relationships. I will not comment on legislation that this House has not yet considered, which, as the hon. Gentleman might understand, would cover the notion of same-sex marriage.

Mark Reckless: Like the hon. Gentleman, I have been trying to clarify whether clause 3(1) will be subject to clause 2(1). The Minister has said that Ministers would have regard to clause 2(1) in advising the Crown on use of the prerogative. Is that an intentionally weaker formulation than being subject to clause 2(1)?

Miss Smith: My response was not in any way an attempt to fail to answer my hon. Friend’s question. As clause 2 will be a part of this legislation, it will be lawful for Ministers to refer to it. I would therefore say that clause 2 does apply to decisions made under clause 3.

The hon. Member for Caerphilly and my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher) suggested alternative ways of replacing or updating the Royal Marriages Act 1772. My hon. Friend suggested that we simply substitute descendants of George II with those of Elizabeth II, our current monarch, and the hon. Gentleman suggested that we do the same with regard to the descendants of George IV. Either of those approaches could lead to an identical ballooning of the problem that we have seen under the Royal Marriages Act. It is obvious that the situation would only get worse with time as more and more descendants came into existence. A sensible approach is to replace the unworkable provisions of the Royal Marriages Act with a measure that is limited, pragmatic, and, as the Bill suggests, subject to procedures including the Great Seal and Order in Council.

Finally, clause 3(5) makes provision that marriages previously made void by the Royal Marriages Act are

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not to be regarded as invalid, which is important. Subsection (6) ensures that the validity of the descent of the Crown from King George II down to the present day will not be affected by the changes in subsection (5). We have already covered the other subsections. The measures provide a sensible update. We have already dealt with the Government amendment that ensures that the clear policy intention behind the Bill is correctly expressed by it.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 3, as amended, accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 4 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 5

Commencement and short title

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Sir Gerald Howarth: I rise to speak briefly to clause 5 because earlier, when I put it to the Deputy Prime Minister that this Bill, if and when it is enacted by this Parliament, will not be effective until such time as it has been ratified by the legislatures of the other 15 realms, the Deputy Prime Minister was unfortunately not able to give me an answer as to when he thought that process might be complete. Although I understand that he confirmed that this Bill will not be enacted until the other 15 realms have enacted their provisions, will my hon. Friend the Minister expand on and enlighten the House about subsection (3), which states that the provisions will come into force at different days and times?

Miss Chloe Smith: I shall certainly do my best. I thank my hon. Friend for seeking to end our debate with an issue about which we spoke earlier.

All the realms need to bring these measures into force. We have a clear commitment from them that they are doing so, and we are working closely with them to ensure smooth application. It is difficult to give a date today, but I shall endeavour to keep not only my hon. Friend, but the House updated on it. As I think he knows, not all the realms need to legislate, so slightly different processes will take place in each. The agreement between the Commonwealth countries is that the measures will apply from the point in 2011 when agreement was secured.

Wayne David: Is my understanding correct that, under the Statute of Westminster 1931, although individual Parliaments in the respective states of the Commonwealth might give their assent in different ways, they do have to give their assent?

Miss Smith: I share that understanding. The hon. Gentleman reinforces my point that although other realms will make their provisions in slightly different procedural ways, we certainly expect that to happen and I look forward to them being brought into force.

Sir Gerald Howarth: I apologise for persisting in this, but much emphasis has been given throughout the day to the idea that, if we amend this Bill, that might prejudice the agreement that was reached at Perth. Presumably

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that stricture applies to all the other 15 realms. Does my hon. Friend have any intelligence to share with the House in how others see it? Also, if any of those 15 realms were to amend their legislation, would that affect us?

Miss Smith: As I said, I think it is best to acknowledge the challenges in that co-ordination process, and my hon. Friend makes clear some of the complexity involved. As I said, we are working with those realms to ensure smooth application of the legislation, and I look forward to keeping the House updated.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 5 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule

Consequential amendments

Question proposed, That the schedule be the schedule to the Bill.

Chris Bryant: I want to ask the Minister about the provisions relating to the Treason Act 1351. I presume that one reason why different legislatures around the world might come to slightly different legislative answers, yet still give the same assent, is that they have different provisions on the law of treason, whereas we still have the 1351 Act on the statute book. Why has the Minister insisted on including paragraph 1(b) in the schedule?

Miss Chloe Smith: I suspect that the hon. Gentleman is seeking to draw me into matters that have been the subject of public controversy in relatively recent years. The important point, as he suggested, is that the realms to which the Bill will apply have other relevant legislation and customs. For example, one of the many reasons why we are not discussing hereditary peerages today is that they are not a uniform matter across all the realms. There are other reasons, but you will be pleased to know that I shall not reopen the debate, Mr Evans. I confirm that we are working with all the other realms to ensure that the relevant legislation is amended appropriately.

Chris Bryant rose

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr Nigel Evans): Is the Minister giving way?

Miss Smith: I would rather the Question be put.

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Question put and agreed to.

Schedule accordingly agreed to.

The Deputy Speaker resumed the Chair.

Bill, as amended, reported.

Bill to be considered tomorrow.

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Energy Conservation

That the draft Green Deal Framework (Disclosure, Acknowledgement, Redress etc.) (Amendment) Regulations 2013, which were laid before this House on 10 December 2012, be approved.—(Mr Swayne.)

Question agreed to.

European Union Documents

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

Control of Fluorinated Gases

That this House takes note of European Union Document No. 15984/12, and Addenda 1 and 2, relating to a draft Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on fluorinated greenhouse gases; and supports the Government’s view that changes to some aspects of the Commission’s regulatory proposal are required to deliver the legislative basis necessary to support and encourage the use of lower global warming potential refrigerants whilst offering a pragmatic solution that is not technology prescriptive, does not hinder innovation to lower greenhouse gas emissions over the different fields of applications and does not prohibit the use of equipment that has not reached the end of its economic life.—(Mr Swayne.)

Question agreed to.

Business of the House (31 January)

Ordered,

That, at the sitting on 31 January—

(1) notwithstanding Standing Order No. 20 (Time for taking private business) the Private Business set down by the Chairman of Ways and Means may be entered upon at any hour, and may then be proceeded with for three hours, after which the Speaker shall interrupt the business;

(2) notwithstanding sub-paragraph (2)(c) of Standing Order No. 14, the backbench business set down for consideration shall be entered upon at the conclusion of the Private Business set down for that day.—(Mr Swayne.)


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UK Trade and Investment

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

7.13 pm

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): I am pleased to have secured this Adjournment debate on the performance of UK Trade & Investment. The last time we had a debate on UKTI on the Floor of the House was last March, when it was secured by my hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Laura Sandys). I very much regret that there are not more opportunities for Members to scrutinise UKTI’s performance.

I very much welcome the work done by Lord Green and his colleagues at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, but it is regrettable that so few Members of Parliament seek opportunities to scrutinise UKTI’s performance. We debate a great deal in this Chamber about how to slice up and apportion the cake, but exports are about making the cake bigger. I spent most of my working life before entering this House in exports, and I feel passionately about their importance in bringing wealth and prosperity to our nation.

As the European Union continues to diminish in importance vis-à-vis British exports, so I turn to the middle east and north Africa. I pay tribute to my American intern, Mr Justin King—it is entirely plausible that one day he will become a congressman, and I very much hope so. He is helping me greatly to interview hundreds of small British companies. They are coming from all over the United Kingdom to my office in the House of Commons to show me their evidence and experience of UKTI, and of trying to interact with it.

Before I continue with my speech I want to give three examples of why the MENA area—middle east and north Africa—is so important. I am chairman of two all-party two groups: the Saudi Arabia all-party group, and the all-party group on Libya. When we went to Saudi Arabia, the Saudi King himself admonished me saying that the lack of British exports to that country was regrettable. He said that all our European Union competitors were motoring ahead, and that it was regrettable that the United Kingdom is falling behind our main competitors in exports to Saudi Arabia.

Sixty British companies operate in Tunisia, compared with 1,800 French companies. I will repeat that—60 compared with 1,800. I was the first British Member of Parliament ever to go to Mauritania since its independence in 1960, and almost no British companies export there. We are good at exporting to countries that speak English, but the French-speaking part of the world is almost a vortex for British interests, particularly commercial interests. If this week has shown anything, given the problems in Algeria and Mali, it is that it is essential that we engage with those strategically important countries of north Africa, primarily by assisting our own companies to interact with those countries, and help them with exports, and—vitally—technology transfer.

Mr Mark Williams (Ceredigion) (LD): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. Does he also agree that there is a role for promoting our higher education institutions in those countries? My hon. Friend does a great deal, and as Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Wales Office he does a lot for Wales. I am sure he

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will be aware of the significant and important businesses we could be exporting that originate in our universities in Wales.

Daniel Kawczynski: I concur with my hon. Friend and he reminds me of an important point. Whenever I go to the middle east I see that the British brand is so strong. Because we are British we tend to hide our light under a bushel, but overseas the British brand is incredibly strong—it is sterling, A-plus, gold standard—and people are desperate to buy British.

My hon. Friend is correct. Shrewsbury school, one of the best private schools in the world, is so popular that we cannot accommodate all the foreigners who wish to study there. They have had to build a Shrewsbury school in Bangkok, and there are current negotiations to build another in the middle east. I completely concur with my hon. Friend.

Let me say how important advertising is. I understand there are constraints on Government budgets, and that the Cabinet Office is obviously not keen to loosen the purse strings. There should, however, be a significant increase in the budget for UKTI. I want a nationwide campaign in this country, through the television, media, newspapers, and even product placements in soap operas, by which we constantly inform small and medium-sized companies throughout the country that UKTI exists and that there are opportunities to engage with it and for them to receive support to export.

I still remember the “Tell Sid” campaign in the 1980s to try to get us to buy British Gas. I want such a campaign now—a campaign that people talk about and get excited about.

The best campaign I have experienced in my seven years as a Member of Parliament was Joanna Lumley’s Gurkha campaign. She revolutionised the campaign when she took it over. The media suddenly became extraordinarily interested. I want a national figure—somebody of renowned business intellect and experience, whether Richard Branson or Alan Sugar—to have a programme on television. It could be called “Export Apprentice” rather than just “The Apprentice”. They should also be a guru and a champion and spearhead a nationwide campaign to ensure that our small and medium-sized companies are passionate about exporting.

Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): I will not endorse my hon. Friend’s support for Joanna Lumley, who has inflicted 10,000 elderly Nepalese on my constituency—he will forgive me if I do not hold her up as a role model—but, the Defence and Security Organisation, which is part of UKTI, has magnificent champions in Richard Paniguian, the head of DSO, and his entire team. The UK defence industry owes a huge amount to the energy and enthusiasm of DSO. The Prime Minister, who has been the key champion of defence exports, particularly in the middle east and north Africa regions of which my hon. Friend speaks, has been hugely well supported by UKTI and our noble Friend Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint. DSO is doing a superb job and yielding results.

Daniel Kawczynski: Of course, parts of UKTI are extremely successful. If DSO’s success could be replicated in all other sectors, we will be firing on all cylinders.

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Chris White (Warwick and Leamington) (Con): Is my hon. Friend aware that the video games industry added £1.4 billion to exports in 2010? Would he support UKTI giving appropriate resource to the creative industries?

Daniel Kawczynski: I concur with my hon. Friend. We should support overseas all the industries that we are good at.

UK export finance is available, but many of the small and medium-sized companies I speak to in my constituency of Shrewsbury are not aware of the export finance support they can get from UKTI.

I asked a very good friend of mine who works in the private sector what he would do if he were promoting business in a country such as the United Arab Emirates, where 130,000 British citizens reside. He said he would put just four people in an office in the UAE and give them the sole task of constantly updating a database of all the public and private sector procurement opportunities in the country. The database would have to be updated daily and constantly reviewed to include not just the large, multi-million pound opportunities, but smaller ones.

The database could be relayed daily to the regional directors of UKTI in the UK. I recently met Paul Noon, the UKTI regional director for the west midlands. The regional directors should in turn create databases of all the companies in their regions, so they understand every company in, for example, the west midlands, and what they can do. Like a telephone switchboard operator, they could then marry up each company in the west midlands to each opportunity identified in the UAE. I know from the discussions I have had with Shrewsbury businesses that they are simply not being told of the opportunities that exist in the UAE. That is just one case in point.

Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth) (Con): The support I have received from UKTI in the south-west for businesses in my constituency has been fantastic. It put on an export fair with me this summer that attracted more than 90 small businesses in Cornwall. A tea-growing company in my constituency now exports lots of tea to China. Small businesses in Cornwall get a lot of help from UKTI.

Daniel Kawczynski: I am very pleased for my hon. Friend and wish the company every success in exporting tea to China.

UKTI should appreciate these debates. I am proud of its achievements, but of course we should always scrutinise it to see if it can do more. This country became one of the greatest countries in the world through its ability to trade. We are not exporting as much as I would like, which is why it is so important to have these debates, and I am pleased that my hon. Friend has had a positive experience.

I do not want salaries to be just mediocre or okay for UKTI staff—many do a very good job. I want them to be the best, because I want UKTI to recruit the best. I want them to have greater incentives and bonuses to push for trade. My understanding—the Minister may correct me if I am wrong—is that UKTI staff are monitored as a whole, rather than as individuals. It is extremely important that we start to monitor individual performance. When I was in exports, if I did not hit my

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one-month target there would be problems; if I did not hit the two-month target, there would be serious problems; if I did not hit the three-month target, I would be out of a job. We have that pressure in the private sector, and it focuses the mind on delivering what is expected. I hope we can bring that private sector focus to UKTI.

I mentioned co-ordination across the country. I am the chair of two all-party groups: for Saudi Arabia and for Libya. Not once have I ever been contacted, in seven years, by anybody in UKTI about all of my delegations to Saudi Arabia and Libya—not on a proactive basis anyway. We, as parliamentarians, do an important job when we go to such countries. We meet important officials and leaders, so it is important for UKTI to understand all-party groups. Some are very active and UKTI should be engaging with us to find out what we are doing and try to have a common approach.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): Does the hon. Gentleman see that it is the export not just of UK products, but of skills that help to increase business in Libya and the other countries in the middle east to which he has referred?

Daniel Kawczynski: I spent the afternoon with His Excellency Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the former Libyan Prime Minister, who, with his counterparts, bravely brought about the revolution. He said the very same thing to me: that they are desperate for British skills, not just exported goods. They desperately need our experts in the fields of banking, commerce, education and health care. I agree with the hon. Gentleman.

The Prime Minister has started to appoint trade ambassadors and I have not heard from any of them so far, apart from my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham), who I think has been appointed to look after Indonesia. He is not in the Chamber at the moment, but I pay tribute to how he has been trying to engage with parliamentarians in a proactive way, and explaining what he is doing with companies from across the UK. He is helping them to enter Indonesia, and encouraging other hon. Members with companies that could benefit from participating. The Middle East Association and the Arab British Chamber of Commerce are also acutely involved in exports to the middle east. I hope that the Minister will give me an assurance that efforts will be redoubled to co-ordinate with all trade ambassadors, all-party parliamentary groups, the MEA and the ABCC to ensure that we have a co-ordinated approach as one country with one strategy, with all of us who are interested in exports consulted and utilised constantly to update our constituents on all the opportunities that exist.

I have come across instances where business has been lost in the United Arab Emirates, Iraq and other countries, when business men from those countries have wished to come to the United Kingdom to visit a particular project or institution—to see whether it is appropriate to build in their country or whether their company has the calibre to undertake such a project—and their visas have been rejected. As a result, the business has been lost, obviously to the great annoyance of the host country and the business people involved. There must be greater co-ordination between UKTI and the Home Office to ensure that visas are granted to the genuine

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business men from all over the middle east who are trying to come to the United Kingdom either for training courses or to look at projects and companies.

UKTI is good at high-value opportunities. As I have said, I recently had the privilege of meeting Paul Noon, the director of UKTI in the west midlands. I applaud the work that UKTI does and I am grateful to the Minister for all his efforts. In my view, there has been a radical shift over the last two and a half years. The Prime Minister has said that he wants our embassies to be shop windows for British businesses. To a degree, I can see a vast improvement in our embassies. A lot of that is a tribute to my hon. Friend the Minister and his colleagues who have ensured that all the people at our embassies, from the ambassadors downwards, are focused on supporting small and medium-sized companies to export overseas to the middle east and north Africa, but too many of these opportunities are the really big ones. We need a massively increased focus, drilling down in every MENA country to the smallest of opportunities, no matter how small. We also need the sharing of information between all British companies. We are very bad at exchanging information with one another in this country compared with our European Union counterparts.

This debate follows the last one, almost a year on. My colleague Mr Justin King and I are writing a report—it will go to every Member of Parliament, including the Prime Minister—about the real experiences of small and medium-sized companies and their feedback. I very much hope that the Minister will give me an assurance that he and his Department will take seriously that report and our passion for increasing British exports.

7.32 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mark Simmonds): I join others in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) on securing this important debate and putting on record his dedication not just to his constituency, but to driving the UK’s recovery by rebalancing the economy, based on export-driven recovery. He was absolutely right to highlight at the beginning of his speech the importance of the progress made since May 2010, with the refocusing of the Foreign Office on the prosperity agenda and the refocusing of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on the strategy of pursuing an export-led recovery.

My hon. Friend was also right to highlight some of the progress made in exporting expertise, particularly in responding to our hon. Friend the Member for Ceredigion (Mr Williams) about its importance in the education sector, and also in discussing other key areas. My hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham was right to point out that the UK is highly regarded elsewhere in the world, not just in traditional Anglophone countries, but in the French-speaking world, in which I travel quite extensively given my additional and other responsibilities in Africa. He was also right to imply that more needs to be done. We certainly should not rest on our laurels, but ensure that we are maximising the opportunities for UK businesses elsewhere in the world.

The support provided to businesses by UKTI has created significant economic benefits since May 2010. Indeed, some £45.6 billion-worth of total additional

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sales have resulted from UKTI assistance. In 2011-12, UKTI support helped firms to create 36,400 jobs and secure a further 68,500 jobs. The role of UKTI is not just to maximise exports, for both large companies and SMEs in the UK, but to persuade foreign companies to invest here in the UK too. In that regard, the UK has benefited from 1,406 inward investment projects in 2011-12 in which UKTI has been involved, which have helped to create or safeguard more than 112,000 jobs in the UK. It is therefore fair to say that UKTI is making a significant contribution to driving the UK’s economic recovery.

I want to say a little about the background—the architecture—against which UKTI operates. In early 2011, the Government published the White Paper “Trade and Investment for Growth”, which outlined our commitment to an open trading system and to removing barriers and supporting UK firms that wished to export. The Government’s “Plan for Growth”, which was published at the time of the 2011 Budget, linked the policy objectives for greater global trade to our economic aim of providing a climate that would help businesses to grow and prosper. The key objective was to encourage investment in exports as a route to a more balanced economy.

Some of the issues that my hon. Friend has raised are particularly pertinent. It might help his constituents and others who are unaware of the opportunities that UKTI offers to know that those opportunities are posted on the UKTI website, and that companies can sign up to alerts for any opportunities that might be relevant to them. I would certainly be happy to provide him with details of how to access that information, which he can pass on to the relevant businesses in his constituency.

My hon. Friend also raised the important issue of the Prime Minister’s appointment of trade ambassadors. I can give him an assurance that all the trade ambassadors—not just my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham)—are very significantly engaged in the countries for which they are responsible. Many of them have already made visits, and many are planning—with the missions on the ground as well as with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills—to lead trade delegations to those countries.

It is also important to put on record that the Government are seeking a transformation of the UK’s export and inward investment performance—so much so that, in November 2011, the Prime Minister and the relevant Minister, the excellent Lord Green, launched the national export challenge, to encourage more SMEs to export. As my hon. Friend rightly pointed out, in some markets, the UK is below the EU average percentage of exporting SMEs. We want to see it achieve at least that level, if not higher. To that end, the Prime Minister has set the extremely ambitious target of getting another 100,000 companies exporting by 2020 and doubling UK exports to £1 trillion.

However, UKTI cannot deliver the Government’s ambition to transform the UK’s export and inward investment performance alone. It is working in close co-operation with the rest of Government and particularly with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Outreach with business intermediaries such as banks, lawyers and accountants is also playing a major role. We aim to access their client bases to help businesses to expand into key markets.

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My hon. Friend also raised the important subject of marketing. He will understand the very challenging—to put it politely—macro-economic situation that we inherited, and it was absolutely right that when we came into office, we looked at every aspect of Government expenditure to ensure that UK taxpayers’ money was being spent properly and that we could make a significant inroad into the huge deficit that we inherited. That does not mean, however, that we have been unable to persuade the Cabinet Office, which is the responsible Department, to put in place marketing budgets when and where appropriate. Perhaps the best example is the “Great” campaign, which was linked to the Olympics and to our Olympic legacy. I can inform the House that that campaign has had a significant positive impact, persuading businesses based abroad to invest here and enabling our missions abroad to persuade UK companies to invest elsewhere in the world.

Indeed, the House has played its part, too, with Members of Parliament hosting seminars in their constituencies to highlight the opportunities that exporting can offer businesses, especially to small and medium-sized enterprises. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Stourbridge (Margot James) who has played such a significant role in engaging and encouraging MPs across the House to hold such meetings in their constituencies. If Members either here this evening or reading the debate in Hansard tomorrow are interested, I would urge them to contact my hon. Friend who will provide them with the information necessary to enable them to hold such meetings in their constituencies.

That is not all. Last August, the Government announced additional support to help UK businesses. There will be more money available for SMEs to attend trade shows abroad, and I very much hope that the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham will access this funding. There will also be increased support available for travel on overseas missions. Substantial discounts will be available and will be offered through the Overseas Market Introduction Service, which provides targeted research to help businesses find those first

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crucial contacts in the markets. In addition, the autumn statement provided a further resource allocation of £70 million a year for the next two years.

This package of support will play an important role in helping realise the Government’s ambitions, by building up the capacity and capability of the British Chambers of Commerce overseas, where we lag behind competitors such as the Germans. Lord Green has made this a personal crusade, and I am 100% supportive of the direction of travel. It is focused initially on 20 pilot chambers in key export markets. Once again, I very much hope that my hon. Friend’s constituents will engage with this excellent new initiative.

Increasing the number of international trade advisers in the English regions is a key part of how the money will be spent, offering additional funds to SMEs with high-growth potential, enabling more companies successfully to export. I can inform my hon. Friend that some of these advisers are private sector employees, who are performance-related rewarded—exactly the agenda he talked about—and I think that is exactly the right direction in which to go. We hope that this additional funding will double the number of companies given financial support towards the cost of exhibiting at their first overseas trade shows; and double the support for private sector-led project teams campaigning for UK success, by enhancing inward investment support in growth markets, such as the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Russia. I hope that some of that inward investment will end up in my hon. Friend’s constituency. This is also about positioning the UK as the leading location of choice for European headquarters and elite global enterprises, building on the success of Tech City and developing further inward investment campaigns as well as building on the Olympic legacy.

This has been an important debate. My hon. Friend is right to continue the work he is doing to raise the significance of the contribution that UK exports can make to our own UK economic recovery.

Question put and agreed to.

7.43 pm

House adjourned.