6.27 pm

Mr Ranil Jayawardena (North East Hampshire) (Con): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to speak in this debate. I know that others wish to make their contribution so I shall be brief.

It is incumbent on us all to protect the society in which we live. Rehabilitation, as my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Dorset and North Poole (Michael Tomlinson) says, is an integral part of that, but rehabilitation is not new. Those of us who worship from the Book of Common Prayer will recognise the words that God

“desires not the death of sinners, but rather that they may turn from their wickedness and live”.

27 Jan 2016 : Column 370

That has been with this country for many centuries. It is important that the Lord Chancellor outlined today, as he has done previously, the increasing focus on rehabilitation, but I would like to temper that enthusiasm and that positivity with a note of caution.

We must be mindful of those who do not wish to change, those who show no remorse, those who should be punished so that if they are locked up, they are not a risk to the good people of our country. But to be positive and to return to the agenda that the Government have outlined, it is right that we give those who want to change the opportunity to do that. They should not be written off by society, but should be seen as individuals and given the tools to make a contribution to our country.

A troubling issue at the moment is the number of individuals returning from fighting with so-called Islamic State—the satanic state, as I call it, because those people are not followers of Islam. The number of such individuals continues to rise, so it is inevitable that our prisons will soon be housing unprecedented numbers of extremists. We must address the unfortunate truth that British prisons have in some cases been incubators of extremism. I urge Ministers to ensure that we develop an ever-more successful de-radicalisation programme; one that can both punish and rehabilitate, and transform extremists into more tolerant individuals while they serve their time and repay their debt to society. That is a huge task, but it is a vital one. If properly carried out, not only will it tackle the problem of radicalisation in British prisons, but, if we can show that these abhorrent ideologies can be defeated, it will do much to challenge extremist groups in Britain and across the world.

Since 2010, those who break the law have been more likely to go to prison, and for longer, than they would have been in the past. I cannot support the motion because I do not believe that that is wrong in all cases. I do not believe that rehabilitation is right in all cases, as I have outlined. I believe that prison can give us the opportunity, as a country, to change those who wish to change for the better.

6.31 pm

Kwasi Kwarteng (Spelthorne) (Con): I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for giving me an opportunity to speak in this important debate. There are constraints on time, so I will keep my remarks brief. I want to make three main points, some of which I do not think have been made in the debate.

First, I am very proud to have in my constituency HMP Bronzefield, which is an excellent women’s prison. It is run privately. Some disparaging remarks have been made about privatisation and the involvement of the private sector in prisons. I think the example of HMP Bronzefield belies all those disparaging remarks. It is progressive, highly effective and very efficient. Interestingly, the prison was opened in 2004, seven years into the previous Labour Government. I think that sort of development should be welcomed.

Secondly, and we have not spoken about this enough, it is an incredible success that crime is down 30%. That is the broad context in which our constituents understand the criminal justice system. The figures that really worry the people of this country are the overall crime figures—the likelihood of being a victim of crime. That sits at the

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top of people’s concerns. It is to the Government’s real credit that those figures have come down considerably over the past five years. That point should always be made.

Lastly, I completely understand the need for punishment, as my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) mentioned—I share some of his views on these matters, but not all of them. Rehabilitation is clearly a very important part of any criminal justice system. What I will say—I fear that this is a slightly partisan point—is that when times were good we did not invest enough in maintaining our criminal justice infrastructure, by building and modernising prisons and by moving away from the model of the old Victorian prisons. That was a missed opportunity. I am glad that, under the guidance of my right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary, we are trying, despite a constrained budget, to bring about reform in this respect. He is to be commended for that.

6.33 pm

Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con): Helping prisoners to maintain stable family relationships improves rehabilitation and reduces reoffending rates, making a real contribution towards improving the life chances of a prisoner after they leave. There are already a number of positive Government and volunteer projects alive to that and they are seeing exceptional returns on investment. Sadly, however, despite the recognition of the stability and quality of prisoners’ family relationships as a key contributor to rehabilitation, NOMS’s own review of parenting and relationship support has found that there is considerable variation in the quality of provision across the country, and that only a third of offenders are given help in maintaining family ties.

Will Ministers consider including the issue in the outcomes that governors will be expected to deliver as they have greater autonomy? There are some really good examples that could be replicated more widely, including informal projects such as the family visit days run at Thorn Cross, where prisoners can eat family meals together and do crafts with their children. There is also the involvement of families of victims and perpetrators in restorative justice programmes. It is important for families of offenders to be involved and to hear their apologies. That enables them to see their father, husband or son say they are sorry and show a desire to live differently, and gives them, as a family, the chance to forgive their loved one, too.

There are more formal programmes such as the Stronger Families and Building Bridges programme. The Family Man programme, which, in effect, pays for itself in preventing reoffending, citing returns of £1.33 for every £1 invested, uses drama, group discussions and written work to help to improve relationship skills—skills that we all need and can be learned in the absence of positive role models in early life.

It is also critical that we enable prisoners to maintain contact with their young children. That is vital if we are to improve the life chances of not only the offender but their children, and break the potential cycle of reoffending into the next generation. At present, two thirds of young males separated from imprisoned fathers

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in childhood go on to commit crime themselves. The numbers are substantial. A recent report by Barnardo’s estimates that 200,000 children have a parent in jail. That is why courses like Time to Connect, the work of family engagement workers, and even the marriage course at HMP Spring Hill are so important in helping families to communicate and understand each other better.

Will Ministers look at how such courses can be replicated in other prisons? Will they take steps to ensure that such initiatives are highlighted to governors and consider how they can be expanded to help offenders to build strong, positive relationships and give their families a better start when they come out of prison?

6.36 pm

David Warburton (Somerton and Frome) (Con): I not only join others in celebrating the conduct of this debate but commend the Opposition for their choice of topic.

Fluffy bunnies aside, I think it is fair to say that there is perhaps no greater test of a civilisation than how it treats those who have fallen foul of its laws. Those who do so often come from deprived, or certainly more vulnerable, sections of society. The Lord Chancellor’s speeches on this subject over the past twelve months or so, like those of Ministers, have been among the most thoughtful and the most wide-ranging I can remember on this subject, and today’s was no exception. The focus on prison education and the redemptive power of work, along with, of course, the necessity for prison to act as a place of punishment, is very encouraging and reflects the importance of answering coherently the question of what prison is actually for. At no time and in no other area will the state have such a direct influence over our lives as with those who are in its care, and it is of course absolutely right that we should be held to the most rigorous standards.

Work and education are the real arteries of rehabilitation. Prisoners are removed from society, but they do not stop being a part of it. Through work and education, they can see beyond the confines of the prison. As my hon. Friend the Prisons Minister pointed out yesterday, employers who subsequently hire ex-offenders talk about a higher than average level of commitment and loyalty. Last August, the Government brought in mandatory assessment of maths and English for all newly arrived prisoners. This, combined with the Coates review, which will report in March, and the proposals to give prison governors more control over their own prisons, offers hope to all those who see education as a transformational force within our prisons. Almost half of those in prison were expelled or otherwise excluded from education. It is obvious that a relationship of cause and effect is at work: society is paying the price for its failure to offer these people a route to the future.

Of course there are ongoing problems that we need to address, and, as this debate has shown, are addressing, but we are seeing signs of progress. The £1.3 billion investment in modernising the prison estate, shifting it away from its Dickensian infrastructure and improving the lives of inmates, and a renewed focus on education and work as tools of redemption and rehabilitation, are very welcome, but there is still much more to do.

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6.39 pm

Lucy Frazer (South East Cambridgeshire) (Con): The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter) opened the debate by saying that it was not one about blame. He was right to do so because it would be absolutely wrong to suggest that the problems in our prison service can be laid at the foot of a particular Government or that the other party has a monopoly on the answers or on success. Government after Government have grappled with the problem of how to reduce recidivism. Throughout the Blair and Brown years, prisoners reoffended in their tens of thousands.

To understand the problems, it is important to start with some statistics. Some 67% of young people who leave custody reoffend within a year, while 72% of those young people regularly played truant from school and more than half of them do not have any qualifications. Those few facts tell us that it is the disadvantaged in society who end up in prison. The Secretary of State is therefore absolutely right to look into the provision of education in our prisons, as he is doing. We know, as the Centre for Social Justice reported, that prisoners who do not take part in any education or training during their years in prison are three times more likely to be reconvicted on release.

It is important to look not only at the availability of education—it is already currently offered—but at how we can encourage people to take up such education. I hope that Dame Sally Coates will consider in her review whether it is appropriate for education to form part of a prison sentence, and whether a reduction in a sentence might incentivise prisoners to improve their skills.

Nelson Mandela said that

“no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”

Our nation—our one nation—should hold out a hand and help all those who need a step up and a step out of their current world. However, our ambition should not just end there. We should aim to cut not reoffending, but all offending. For those who are vulnerable, who lack skills and who mix in circles where there is truancy and crime, the other world may be daunting and difficult. Fear is sometimes the greatest prison of all. Victor Hugo said:

“He who opens a school door, closes a prison.”

Let us continue to invest further in the education of the next generation to ensure not simply that our young criminals do not reoffend, but that they do not offend in the first place.

6.42 pm

Jo Stevens (Cardiff Central) (Lab): I thank all hon. Members for their contributions to the debate. The tone of the debate has been one of consensus. Hon. Members from both sides of the House want improvements, perhaps with the exception of the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies). He appears to want to take us back to the penal system of the 18th century. Fortunately, penal policy has moved on since then, and I often think it would be nice if he did so too. There have been many notable speeches, and I apologise in advance that the constraints of time mean I cannot mention everybody.

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We heard from the former Lord Chancellor, the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke). He said he was disappointed by the progress made on rehabilitation and criticised our ridiculously excessive prison population. He referred to the last vestiges of indeterminate sentences, and I look forward to hearing from the Minister about any plans he has about such sentences. My hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Ian Lavery) made a wide-ranging speech, and gave examples of the terrible things going on at HMP Northumberland.

The Chair of the Justice Committee, the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), spoke about the excellent report by Lord Harris, which has not been fully implemented. He referred to the protocol we would like for the chief inspector of prisons. It would ensure that his independence does not become compromised, as was suggested in a recent Justice Committee hearing.

I particularly want to mention the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Jenny Chapman), who is very experienced in these areas. She talked about the tragic case of Lorraine Barwell, and made two requests of the Minister—about naming prison officers killed on duty at the start of Prime Minister’s questions, and about the Harris report recommendation for a personal telephone call to be made to the family of prisoners who take their own lives and to the officers who find them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith) asked whether a retirement age of 68 is too high for prison officers and whether it is safe for them to continue working up to that age. My hon. Friend the Member for St Helens South and Whiston (Marie Rimmer) spoke from personal experience as the chair of a secure unit for children in her borough and did so with great passion. Finally, my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes) rightly highlighted the problems in probation since privatisation.

The public and victims of crime need to have confidence that justice is being done, that offenders are being punished appropriately and rehabilitated, and that communities are being protected. Making prisons work is not only the right thing to do; it will save us money and make us all safer. What we have heard in this debate is deeply concerning. We have a prison service that is at breaking point, with nearly 85,000 people in our prisons. We have the highest imprisonment rate in western Europe, with an average annual cost per place of over £36,000. There is projected to be an increase in the prison population at a time when the Ministry of Justice is required, under the Chancellor’s spending review, to reduce its running costs by £600 million by 2019-20. That is what it costs to run 30 medium-to-large prisons annually.

It does no one any favours—not the Government, the Ministry of Justice, those working in the prisons sector, taxpayers or prisoners themselves—to ignore the fact that we have, despite what the Justice Secretary said earlier, a crisis on our hands. That crisis was eloquently summed up by the current chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, whom the Justice Secretary rightly praised yesterday and again today in this House. His annual report stated:

“You were more likely to die in prison than five years ago. More prisoners were murdered, killed themselves, self-harmed

27 Jan 2016 : Column 375

and were victims of assaults than five years ago. There were more serious assaults and the number of assaults and serious assaults against staff also rose.”

Here is just one example of what that looks like. At Cardiff prison in my constituency, Darren Thomas, who was jailed for breaching an antisocial behaviour order for street begging in the city centre, was stabbed to death with a ballpoint pen in his cell by his cellmate. The perpetrator was convicted of Darren’s murder last year.

We need to look wider than Medway. According to press reports that feature in Private Eye this week, the failure of the operators of a G4S-run prison to allow medical assistance to be given to a 37-year-old prisoner meant that he died in his cell because his epilepsy had not been diagnosed. That prison was HMP Parc in Bridgend, which the Justice Secretary singled out for praise this afternoon, so I repeat the Opposition’s call for him to instigate a review of all G4S-run prisons.

Prison staff are not safe either. Serious assaults on staff are up by 42%. The prison watchdog has warned that the increasing use of psychoactive drugs is the most serious threat to the safety and security of jails. The use of those drugs increased by 615% between 2014 and 2015, and the use of the drug Spice has increased by 4,813% over the past four years. I know that the Justice Secretary has said that the legislation on psychoactive substances is making possession within prison a specific offence, but does he really think that that alone will solve the problem in our prisons? As my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter) has pointed out, the issue is the smuggling of the drugs into prisons.

The combination of a growing prison population, prisons awash with drugs and alcohol, cuts to staffing and prison budget cuts is a very dangerous mix. The former chief inspector of prisons predicted the danger in a report published as long ago as 2010:

“The hidden and incremental pressures this produces should not be underestimated, even though they are at present being contained. As I said…there are two risks: of increased instability in inherently fragile environments, and of reducing prisons’ capacity to rehabilitate those they hold.”

What was predicted has now happened. All of these problems have costs. They cost lives, they cost livelihoods and they cost taxpayers’ money.

We all agree that we need to reduce our prison population. We can solve the problem only through effective prevention. Prisons try to teach offenders to be good prisoners and to be compliant, but it is more important that we teach them to be good citizens and to be able to show initiative and independence to prepare them for reintegration into our communities. That is why the reckless privatisation of the probation service by the coalition Government was such a mistake, artificially splitting responsibility for offenders between two separate organisations based on different levels of risk, while taking no account of how risk levels fluctuate.

Mr Kenneth Clarke: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Jo Stevens: I am sorry, I do not have time.

What was predicted by probation professionals, outside experts, Napo and service users has happened: chaos; huge numbers of redundancies—up to 40% of staff in

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some community rehabilitation companies—and IT systems not fit for purpose; cases falling through the cracks; and service in South Yorkshire, which the Government gave to a French catering company to run, under threat of renationalisation. Will the Minister tell the House whether the rumours of renationalisation of the South Yorkshire CRC are correct? Decisions on the supervision of dangerous offenders should be determined by public safety rather than profit.

I believe the Justice Secretary is trying his best, and I almost have some sympathy for him. It cannot be easy having to take up his role equipped with a shovel to clear up what I will politely call the residue that his predecessor, now Leader of the House, left him. Perhaps when he has finished shovelling that up—which will obviously take some time—we will see more than just an acknowledgement of the problems or references to prison reform strategy, and instead see concrete steps taken to address the scale of the crisis. This is the third time the Conservatives have promised a rehabilitation revolution. I look forward to hearing soon the Justice Secretary’s explanation of what went wrong last time and what will be different this time round on his watch.

6.51 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Andrew Selous): We have had an excellent debate, with 22 Members taking part. I want to start, as others have, by putting on record my thanks to the men and women of our probation and prison services. They are outstanding public servants. They are often not in the public eye and do not get the thanks and appreciation they deserve. Probation officers make difficult professional judgments every day, often to tight timescales for the courts and the parole service. Prison officers face unacceptable violence, which we do not tolerate and are determined to reduce.

The Government are not in denial about the problems we face. We are not rehabilitating or reducing reoffending enough in order to keep the public safe. That is why our reforms are so vital, to protect the public by better rehabilitating offenders. That is why I am delighted that we have more support for prison reform from the top of Government than we have had for very many years. Reoffending has been too high for too long. That is why we have brought together the best of the voluntary, charitable and private sectors to join our excellent public service probation workers in bringing in our probation reforms. That has meant that we have extended probation supervision to some 40,000 short-sentence offenders who did not get it before. We have also introduced a through-the-gate service, joining up probation from prison into the community.

We have created the National Probation Service, and I should tell Members that 19 of the 22 CRCs are being run with a staff mutual or a voluntary, charitable or social enterprise sector body alongside their owners. We monitor their performance very carefully indeed, and the October 2015 performance figures showed that we are advancing in performance in almost all areas. South Yorkshire CRC has developed an action plan to deal with the issues it faces, but I can tell the House that no CRC is in a formal remedial plan. I can also tell the House that there are 560 more probation officers than there were 12 months ago. That is the largest intake of newly qualified probation officers for some considerable period.[Official Report, 23 February 2016, Vol. 606, c. 4MC.]

27 Jan 2016 : Column 377

In the Prison Service, we saw a net increase of 540 prison officers in the year to 30 September last year. We have appointed some 2,340 extra prison officers. As of last week, we have increased prison officer training to 10 weeks, to make sure they are able to deal with many of the serious issues that colleagues from around the House have mentioned. We are going to carry on recruiting at that rate to make sure that we run safe prisons.

Many Members raised the very serious issue of self-inflicted deaths. I want to reassure the House that the Justice Secretary and I continue to take it very seriously indeed. We have acted on the vast majority of the recommendations of the prisons and probation ombudsman and will continue to do so. We have put more money into providing safer custody in prisons and at a regional level. We have also revised and improved our case management system for at-risk prisoners, which is being implemented.

We are reviewing early days care—sadly, prisoners often take their life in the first few days of their sentence. I draw the House’s attention to our extensive use of the Samaritans-trained prisoner volunteer listener scheme. That is extremely worth while and very much appreciated by prison officers.

I attend every single inter-ministerial group on deaths in custody and will continue to do so. We will carry on learning lessons around the system.

Jenny Chapman rose—

Andrew Selous: I will mention the hon. Lady’s points. I regularly meet victims and commit to keep on doing so, but she raises a good point. I will increase the amount of victims that I meet, specifically and particularly the families of those who have lost their life in prison. However, as the prisons and probation ombudsman has said, there is no simple, well-evidenced answer as to why self-inflicted deaths have increased so sharply.

Many Members mentioned violence within our prisons. We are taking a lot of measures to equip prison officers better. We are trialling body-worn cameras in 23 prisons. That evaluation is progressing well, and both staff and prisoners see the benefits of it. We are ensuring that every conversation a prison officer has with prisoners is productive and supportive.

We have better multidisciplinary case management involving psychologists and mental health workers to get on top of violence in prisons. For the first time, we have introduced a national protocol to ensure that the police and the Crown Prosecution Service work as closely as they should with the National Offender Management Service to ensure that cases are dealt with seriously. I will take up the specific case that the hon. Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith) mentioned, when a victim impact assessment appears not to have been addressed in time. We have given clearer guidance to staff on defending themselves and will do everything to get on top of this issue, which is not acceptable. A positive, rehabilitative culture, with rigorous education, purposeful work and strengthened family links, is absolutely central to dealing with it.

Part of the reason why violence and assaults have gone up is that we have too many drugs within our prisons, specifically the new psychoactive substances. The good news is that this month, at last, we start to test for those new types of drugs, which we have not had the

27 Jan 2016 : Column 378

ability to do in the past. We will extend that testing to all prisons by 1 April this year. We are currently evaluating a full-body scanner in one of our prisons, which will give us the technology to help us to get on top of that problem. We have trained drug dogs and made it illegal to throw anything over the wall—it was not illegal in the past—and we are communicating in every possible way with prisoners about the dangers of those substances.

As many Members have said, there are too many mobile phones within prisons. We are acutely aware of that and are investing in new technology such as metal-detecting wands, body orifice scanning chairs, signal detectors and blockers, and dogs that can specifically find phones. However, we recognise that more needs to be done. We will carry on until we are on top of that issue.

Many colleagues who have spoken today mentioned the prison estate. It is excellent news that the Chancellor committed to invest £1.3 billion to build nine new prisons in addition to the new prison that we are building in north Wales, which has not had a prison for well over 100 years. We will design out the features of the new prisons that facilitate bullying, drug taking and violence, so that we get on top of those problems.

Many Members rightly said that it is not acceptable that people go into prison with educational qualifications and leave with none. We are determined to do better in this area. We want prisoners to have the literacy, numeracy and information communications technology skills they need to get on, get a job and sustain that job. It is excellent that the Secretary of State has got Dame Sally Coates—

Mr Alan Campbell (Tynemouth) (Lab) claimed to move the closure (Standing Order No. 36).

Question put forthwith, That the Question be now put.

Question agreed to.

Main Question accordingly put.

The House divided:

Ayes 186, Noes 278.

Division No. 178]


6.59 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Barron, rh Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Benn, rh Hilary

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brown, Lyn

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burgon, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Cadbury, Ruth

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Jenny

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, rh Jeremy

Cox, Jo

Coyle, Neil

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cummins, Judith

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Dowd, Peter

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Field, rh Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Fletcher, Colleen

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Gardiner, Barry

Glindon, Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goodman, Helen

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Greenwood, Margaret

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Haigh, Louise

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harris, Carolyn

Hayes, Helen

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mr Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Hoey, Kate

Hollern, Kate

Hopkins, Kelvin

Howarth, rh Mr George

Huq, Dr Rupa

Hussain, Imran

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Gerald

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Kane, Mike

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Kinnock, Stephen

Kyle, Peter

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Long Bailey, Rebecca

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian C.

Lynch, Holly

Mactaggart, rh Fiona

Madders, Justin

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marris, Rob

Marsden, Mr Gordon

Maskell, Rachael

Matheson, Christian

McCabe, Steve

McCarthy, Kerry

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, John

McGinn, Conor

McInnes, Liz

McKinnell, Catherine

Mearns, Ian

Miliband, rh Edward

Morden, Jessica

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Onn, Melanie

Onwurah, Chi

Osamor, Kate

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Pennycook, Matthew

Perkins, Toby

Phillips, Jess

Pound, Stephen

Powell, Lucy

Pugh, John

Qureshi, Yasmin

Rayner, Angela

Reed, Mr Steve

Rees, Christina

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Rimmer, Marie

Ritchie, Ms Margaret

Rotheram, Steve

Shannon, Jim

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sherriff, Paula

Shuker, Mr Gavin

Siddiq, Tulip

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Andy

Smeeth, Ruth

Smith, Angela

Smith, Cat

Smith, Nick

Smyth, Karin

Spellar, rh Mr John

Starmer, Keir

Stevens, Jo

Streeting, Wes

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, rh Ms Gisela

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thomas-Symonds, Nick

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turley, Anna

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Watson, Mr Tom

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Dame Rosie

Woodcock, John

Zeichner, Daniel

Tellers for the Ayes:

Vicky Foxcroft


Sue Hayman


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Allen, Heidi

Amess, Sir David

Andrew, Stuart

Ansell, Caroline

Argar, Edward

Atkins, Victoria

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Mr Steve

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bellingham, Sir Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Berry, James

Bingham, Andrew

Blackman, Bob

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Borwick, Victoria

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, rh James

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Robert

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Sir Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burt, rh Alistair

Cairns, Alun

Carmichael, Neil

Cartlidge, James

Cash, Sir William

Caulfield, Maria

Chalk, Alex

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Churchill, Jo

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Cleverly, James

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Colvile, Oliver

Costa, Alberto

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, rh Stephen

Davies, Byron

Davies, Chris

Davies, Glyn

Davies, Dr James

Davies, Mims

Davies, Philip

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorries, Nadine

Double, Steve

Drax, Richard

Drummond, Mrs Flick

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evennett, rh Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Fernandes, Suella

Field, rh Mark

Foster, Kevin

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Frazer, Lucy

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Fysh, Marcus

Garnier, rh Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Ghani, Nusrat

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Chris

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, rh Robert

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, rh Matthew

Hands, rh Greg

Harper, rh Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heald, Sir Oliver

Heappey, James

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Henderson, Gordon

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoare, Simon

Hollingbery, George

Hollinrake, Kevin

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Huddleston, Nigel

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, rh Sajid

Jayawardena, Mr Ranil

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Jenkyns, Andrea

Jenrick, Robert

Johnson, Boris

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Knight, Julian

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Dr Phillip

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Sir Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, rh Dr Julian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Lumley, Karen

Mackinlay, Craig

Mackintosh, David

Main, Mrs Anne

Mak, Mr Alan

Malthouse, Kit

Mann, Scott

Mathias, Dr Tania

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Johnny

Merriman, Huw

Miller, rh Mrs Maria

Milling, Amanda

Mills, Nigel

Milton, rh Anne

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, rh Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Morton, Wendy

Mowat, David

Mundell, rh David

Murray, Mrs Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Dr Matthew

Parish, Neil

Patel, rh Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penrose, John

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Sir Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Prentis, Victoria

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pursglove, Tom

Quin, Jeremy

Quince, Will

Raab, Mr Dominic

Redwood, rh John

Rees-Mogg, Mr Jacob

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, rh Amber

Rutley, David

Sandbach, Antoinette

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Simpson, rh Mr Keith

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Julian

Smith, Royston

Solloway, Amanda

Soubry, rh Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mark

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Graham

Sturdy, Julian

Sunak, Rishi

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Thomas, Derek

Throup, Maggie

Timpson, Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tomlinson, Michael

Tracey, Craig

Tredinnick, David

Trevelyan, Mrs Anne-Marie

Truss, rh Elizabeth

Tugendhat, Tom

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, rh Mr Andrew

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Wallace, Mr Ben

Warburton, David

Warman, Matt

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Wharton, James

Whately, Helen

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, rh Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Craig

Williamson, rh Gavin

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wragg, William

Wright, rh Jeremy

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Guy Opperman


Jackie Doyle-Price

Question accordingly negatived.

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Business without Debate

delegated legislation

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

Social Security

That the draft State Pension and Occupational Pension Schemes (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2016, which were laid before this House on 30 November 2015, be approved.—(Guy Opperman.)

The Speaker’s opinion as to the decision of the Question being challenged, the Division was deferred until Wednesday 3 February (Standing Order No. 41A).

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

Social Security

That the draft Pensions Act 2014 (Consequential and Supplementary Amendments) Order 2016, which was laid before this House on 30 November 2015, be approved.—(Guy Opperman.)

The Speaker’s opinion as to the decision of the Question being challenged, the Division was deferred until Wednesday 3 February (Standing Order No. 41A).

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

Environmental Protection

That the draft Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2016, which were laid before this House on 17 December 2015, be approved.—(Guy Opperman.)

Question agreed to.


Planning and studentification (Chester)

7.14 pm

Christian Matheson (City of Chester) (Lab): I beg leave to present to the House a petition on planning policy relating to studentification, signed by my constituents and others, including the constituents of my right hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw), who I see in his place. My constituents seek a change in planning law better to secure the character of local communities during expansion of universities.

The petition states:

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House urges the Government to make provision for legislation to ensure that local authorities sustainably manage the interests of all parties when considering where student accommodation is developed.

Following is the full text of the petition:

[The Humble Petition of residents of the City of Chester,

Declares that Government planning guidance requires amendment to ensure that it includes a statutory strategic studentification policy and to ensure that student accommodation demand is factored into housing assessment made as part of any emerging Strategic Local Plan; further that the Government should make clear all development options and locations concerned with delivery of amenities to meet higher education growth; further that student

27 Jan 2016 : Column 383 accommodation has been and continues to be permitted at inappropriate locations to house increasing numbers of students in the City of Chester; further that this adversely affects the working city and residential local community; further that the Local Authority and Inspectorate decisions taken to allow this accommodation undermines commitments made on the Petitioners' behalf in the recently adopted Strategic Local Plan to bring a growing West Cheshire elderly population and required future workforce into the city; further that this undermines the Government's National Planning Policy Framework commitment to protect the character of local areas and to defend people's rights to tranquillity as well as compromising delivery of required affordable and mixed residential accommodation; further that in Chester the loss of potential inner city development sites are having adverse effects; and further that in 2011 the Council voted in favour of consolidating a significant body of student intake into a single area by way of a student village solution but despite this, student accommodation is appearing in many areas in the city, causing unbalanced outcomes.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House urges the Government to make provision for legislation to ensure that local authorities sustainably manage the interests of all parties when considering where student accommodation is developed.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.]


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Flood Defences (Leeds)

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

7.15 pm

Rachel Reeves (Leeds West) (Lab): The River Aire runs through my constituency on its way through west Yorkshire to the heart of Leeds city centre and towards the East Riding of Yorkshire.  The Aire has been central to the life and development of Leeds, and Kirkstall specifically, for centuries. Kirkstall Abbey, a Cistercian monastery founded in the Aire valley in 1152, served as a centre of work, education and welfare for hundreds of years. A corn mill built by the monks on the river’s banks survived the abbey’s dissolution to power iron production and the manufacture of agricultural tools. Around Kirkstall forge grew engineering works that became a centre for steam train and automotive manufacturing, and the forge is now the focus of a major redevelopment and regeneration scheme which includes the building of a new railway station.

The industry and inventiveness of the local community has seen Kirkstall through the ups and downs of history, and today the area is home to more entrepreneurial people and businesses than ever. On Boxing day night, however, the Aire showed its full force when it rose to its highest-ever level of 5.2 metres—more than a metre higher than it has been since its previous peak in 1886—and its banks burst, devastating local businesses, families and the community. At the latest count, 519 businesses across Leeds were affected, along with 2,113 residential properties and 14 other properties, including the industrial museum at Armley Mills and Rodley nature reserve in my constituency.

In Kirkstall, approximately 250 businesses employing 2,500 people were affected. Businesses of all sizes lost machinery and stock, workers were laid off, and jobs were lost. Many small businesses have not yet been able to reopen, and many have laid off staff. I have heard from some that may never open their doors again. Furthermore, £8 million worth of key infrastructure across the city was damaged.  The A65 Kirkstall Road, one of the main routes into and out of our city, had to close, as did the railway line from Leeds to Ilkley and Bradford. 

The clean-up operation that took place so intensively in Kirkstall was a tribute to the community, as well as to Leeds City Council and our emergency services.  With nearly 1,000 volunteers in Kirkstall alone, my constituency saw countless acts of everyday heroism that will be remembered by the people of Leeds for years to come. It is at times of adversity that we often see communities at their strongest, and we are reminded that together we can achieve so much more than we can alone. I have never been so proud to represent the people of Leeds West in Parliament. 

I intend to focus on the flood defence scheme in Leeds, but let me first touch briefly on two other issues: flood insurance, and the funds that are available for immediate support. There is absolutely no guarantee that the businesses that are able to open their doors again after the floods will be able to gain access to affordable flood insurance.  The Flood Re scheme, which is very welcome, applies to residential properties, but will not help small businesses in my constituency.

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The Government must immediately review the extent of the challenges faced by businesses, and think about how they can step in to help when markets fail.

Sue Hayman (Workington) (Lab): One of the problems with flood insurance for businesses is the fact that they often have to pay huge excesses. It is not just a question of obtaining affordable insurance; it is a question of ensuring that the excesses are manageable.

Rachel Reeves: I entirely agree. Many businesses, particularly in Kirkstall industrial park, have spoken of excesses of £8,000 or more. Others were underinsured. Because it was Christmas, a number of businesses had more stock than they would usually have, so their insurance claims will not meet the full extent of their losses.

Fabian Hamilton (Leeds North East) (Lab): I thank my hon. Friend for securing this important debate. The whole of Leeds was affected by these terrible floods. She has highlighted many of the businesses that were affected. Does she agree that one of the greatest tragedies was that of Duffield Printers, which has been in existence for many decades, and which has been forced to close with the shedding of 27 skilled jobs because of the under-insurance and its inability to get future insurance? That is a tragedy for everybody in Leeds.

Rachel Reeves: I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. He is right to say that Duffield Printers has had to lay off 27 workers. The Sheesh Mahal on Kirkstall Road, which has been open for 26 years, has also closed, and there are fears for the future of those businesses and many others, in part, because of the worries about their being able to access affordable insurance in the future.

The second point I wanted to make was about immediate support. Leeds must continue to receive the immediate funding it needs. The people have played their part in the clean-up operation, and now it is time for the Government to play theirs. The city has received £4.7 million up to 11 January in Government grants to help with the clear-up and recovery efforts from the recent flooding, but that is still not half the overall £11.44 million that is deemed to be needed. I urge Ministers to release the additional funds without any further delay and, importantly, to allow local authorities dealing with these situations as much flexibility as possible in how these funds are spent, so that there are no unhelpful barriers preventing them from assisting local residents and businesses.

Now let me turn to the crucial issue of flood defences in Leeds.

Hilary Benn (Leeds Central) (Lab): As well as the river that ran down Kirkstall Road, residents and businesses around the The Calls, Dock Street and Stourton were affected. Given that we have known in Leeds for a long time that there was a risk of serious flooding, which is why the full flood defence scheme was drawn up in 2011, does my hon. Friend agree that the only way to give the city and the economy of Leeds the protection it needs is by having a full scheme now, funded by the Government?

Rachel Reeves: I thank my right hon. Friend for that intervention. He speaks with great authority on these matters, and of course the constituency of Leeds Central was badly affected by the floods. I agree wholeheartedly

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with what he says and I will come now to why it is so important that we have a full and comprehensive flood defence scheme in Leeds.

As my right hon. Friend said, in 2011 there were plans on the table for a £188-million flood defence scheme. This would have provided a one-in-200-year standard of flood protection for our city, yet the decision was taken to split the defence scheme into three phases and funding was available only for phase 1. This phase, which has the aim of defending the city centre against a one-in-75-year flood event is under way with additional funding from Leeds city council.

Phases 2 and 3, which would cover the 12-mile stretch from Newlay bridge through Kirkstall and the city centre to Woodlesford to provide a one-in-200-year standard of protection, was cancelled in 2011. I recognise that the scheme is expensive, but let me also say this: the costs of inaction exceed the costs of investing in infrastructure. A full flood defence system does not come cheap but, according to previous estimates, if the flood had happened on a normal working weekday the cost would have been about £400 million, twice as much as the cost of investing in the first place.

Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): I praise the hon. Lady for securing the debate and the work she is doing to co-ordinate this matter—the wonderful Kirkstall Bridge inn in her constituency, where a lot of help was necessary, is run by constituents of mine. Does she agree that the statement made by Ministers in 2011 that we did not need this Rolls-Royce scheme for the River Aire, but that a family-car scheme would do, was a flawed decision? We still have not had answers and, considering the damage, it was an utterly false economy.

Rachel Reeves: For the reasons I have outlined, I agree with the hon. Gentleman. It is a false economy not to make these investments in flood defences because of the damage that has been done to businesses and prosperity in cities such as Leeds. The president of Leeds Chamber of Commerce, Gerald Jennings, has this week also described the failure to invest in flood defences as a false economy, and I agree with him, as do many other hon. Members in the Chamber this evening.

Richard Burgon (Leeds East) (Lab): It gives me no pleasure to say this, but what will my hon. Friend’s constituents think when they reflect on the fact that my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds North East (Fabian Hamilton) and my predecessor, George Mudie, spoke in this place in 2011 of the flooding that could happen in Leeds if their dire warnings were not heeded? I am afraid that those warnings were not heeded.

Rachel Reeves: My hon. Friend is right to say that we gave those warnings in 2011. Many people have been affected by the floods—whether it is their houses or their businesses that have been flooded, or whether they have lost their jobs—and they are all asking how many warnings have to be given and how many times Leeds has to flood before we get the flood defences we need. That is why I am asking the Minister to listen carefully to what we are saying and to make the investments that our city desperately needs.

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Mary Creagh (Wakefield) (Lab): We heard in the meeting with Leeds City Council’s leaders that, had the flooding happened on a weekday, 27,000 office workers would have been trapped in the city centre with no road or rail exits. Does my hon. Friend agree that we would not tolerate that lack of resilience in any other large city in the country? It is totally unacceptable for this country’s third-largest city to be left so vulnerable.

Rachel Reeves: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend.

I want to turn now to the economic effects on Leeds of the floods. The workforce in Leeds total 470,000 people, with a huge number travelling into the city from the surrounding areas every day. If the flood had happened on a working day, thousands of people would have been unable either to get to work or to get out of the city, resulting in huge amounts of congestion and countless working days being lost. The disruption to mobile telecoms infrastructure was bad on Boxing day, but it could have been worse. Significant risks have been identified at key infrastructure sites, including the Vodafone site off Kirkstall Road, which provides important communications to the council, the police and the national health service, and the power substation on Redcote Lane in Kirkstall, which powers 50,000 properties. Both were disrupted on Boxing day and for days afterwards. Leeds is also the regional centre for emergency and specialist healthcare, hosting the largest teaching hospital in Europe, and it relies on that infrastructure on a daily basis. For that reason as well, the city needs to be accessible by road and by rail.

Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op): In York, 50,000 phone lines went down and vital emergency infrastructure was impacted, including the lifeline that 700 elderly residents depend on. Is it not right that telecoms should now be part of the gold command and silver command operations, to ensure that we have full support for our communications?

Rachel Reeves: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend, whose constituency has also been devastated by the floods.

The point is that important infrastructure sites such as the Vodafone site off Kirkstall Road and the power substation on Redcote Lane were not protected and were badly damaged on Boxing day. In Kirkstall, in my constituency, the consequences for the local economy of having no investment in flood defences is devastating. Businesses will leave, and new businesses will not come. We risk creating ghost towns if we take no action.

Last week, I and my fellow Leeds MPs—all eight of us—along with Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake and the council chief executive Tom Riordan, met the Secretary of State to ask for the reinstatement of the flood defence scheme in Leeds. We welcomed her by saying that further flood protection for Leeds was a priority for the Government, but we were disappointed that no firm commitment was made to provide funding—not even the £3 million required to commence urgent design and preparatory work for flood defences over and above phase 1. We need that money for flood defences if we are to turn her commitment into a reality. I fully appreciate the budgetary challenges relating to flood defences, but we must all acknowledge the significance of the flooding arising from Storm Eva and the significant

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economic risk that the city of Leeds, and thus the UK economy, will therefore face without adequate investment in flood defences.

Stuart Andrew (Pudsey) (Con): I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way, and I am pleased that she has been able to secure this debate. I, too, welcome the fact that the Secretary of State has said that flood protection for Leeds is a priority. I have also had a meeting with the Chancellor, who has promised to look at this matter personally. Although there is a role for Government, does she agree that there is also a role for local councils in looking at where future housing will be built, because the rain that may fall in my constituency could have a severely adverse effect on her constituency?

Rachel Reeves: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. Leeds City Council helped to fund phase 1 of the flood defence scheme in Leeds, recognising that it was important to make that contribution to protect our city. Of course we need to consider where housing is built, and it is right, as the Secretary of State has said, to look at the whole catchment area, and not just at the parts of the river that flood. As the hon. Gentleman will agree, we need £3 million to carry out an urgent feasibility study to see what the flood defence scheme will look like. That said, we need the flood defence scheme to protect our city. Many constituents from Pudsey rely on the A65 and the train links to get to work, so the problem affects both of our constituencies.

Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley) (Con): On the point about catchment areas, in Calder Valley, which of course has high-sided valleys, it is a case of not just building walls down the river, but looking at the moors above, tree planting, and how we slow water coming down the valley. If we do not stop the water in the Calder valley, Leeds will flood anyway.

Rachel Reeves: The hon. Gentleman speaks with great authority and knowledge because of the flooding that he has seen on many occasions in his constituency. Again, I agree that we need to take a whole catchment area approach. It is now more than a month since those floods happened, and we do need those feasibility studies to be quickly carried out, so that we are protected in the future.

In his letter to the Chancellor this week, Gerald Jennings of the Leeds chambers of commerce said:

“As the engine room of the Yorkshire economy, Leeds already plays a major role in driving forward economic prosperity; we have seen significant private sector investment over the last 25 years. The city has created jobs in large numbers as a consequence, which have benefited the entire city region. Without further investment in flood defences, businesses may be forced to reconsider their own investment plans and the ability to attract new investment will be curtailed.”

People’s homes, jobs and livelihoods are at stake, and so too are communities, local economies and the future of the northern powerhouse. The community played its part in the immediate aftermath of the floods, clearing up, rebuilding and repairing, but now the Government must do their part, too. They must ensure that there is affordable and available flood insurance; that financial support is available to those most affected; and that they build the flood defences that our city so desperately needs. To fail to do so will let down the people who turn

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to Government to harness our collective effort. Let us build the northern powerhouse—let us not sink it before it has a chance even to set sail.

7.32 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Rory Stewart): I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves) for her powerful speech in which she made a very strong case for the unique status of Leeds and its importance as a city—and, indeed, as the hub of a whole city region. That is the nub of the discussion that we are having today. We must strike the right balance between the unique needs of Leeds and being fair across the country to many other communities. I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady that Leeds is unique in many ways and requires unique treatment. I will try to come back to that point, hopefully with some good news, at the end of my speech.

Let me develop a few points to put the whole matter in context. Clearly, the challenge that we face in dealing with a floods budget—it does not really matter how much money a Government have—is being fair across the country and trying to find a way of looking different communities in the face and explaining why we are investing in one place rather than another. There are 250,000 houses in the Humber which are below the mean sea level. If the water were to over-top the defences there, there would be a national emergency. In 1953-54, 400 people were killed there. An investment of £80 million in the Humber would protect 50,000 homes.

The challenge that Leeds faces—we can go back in time to the shadow Foreign Secretary’s involvement with this between 2008 and 2011—involves that funding formula, and getting the right balance between the hon. Lady’s good points about Leeds’s enormous importance as one of our great cities, and the number of houses protected and the level of protection offered to them. I defend the Environment Agency because I think that it works transparently and straightforwardly, and it has always clearly explained how its decisions are made. However, I agree that it is time to look again at Leeds for reasons that I shall come on to later.

I also pay huge tribute to the people of Leeds for their response to this extraordinary event. As the hon. Lady pointed out, flooding of this sort has not occurred on the Kirkstall Road since 1866, so it was very unusual. The 24-hour, 48-hour and monthly rainfall records were broken. In addition to the 1866 flooding, there was flooding on the Kirkstall Road in 1946, but with the exception of those two cases, we have not seen an event of anything like this sort, which was why the historical decision was taken to invest south of the train station. It is absolutely right that £10 million of the £44 million investment has come from Leeds City Council, but that was not the only source of funding. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has put £23 million into flood defences in Leeds. All the protection that covers Asda and the Royal Armouries, and the work on the movable weir and the canal, was done not on the basis of the traditional formula, but through our growth fund, because we recognise the unique importance of Leeds and its real importance to the broader economy.

We should pay tribute to the shadow Foreign Secretary for his work to make that innovative scheme possible.

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From the first installations of weirs in 1699 right the way through to 1816, as the canal network developed, the large concern was how to keep water in the centre of Leeds for navigation and to power the wool industry. Those weirs therefore existed to keep water back. There are still navigation needs in Leeds, which means that there has to be a way in which those weirs can remain when the water is low, but we now have a kevlar solution that allows us to demount them and to let the weirs down so that the water can come out. Furthermore, the important Knostrop scheme will benefit constituents further upstream. By taking away the distinction between the canal and the river, we are essentially creating a catchment lagoon downstream that will benefit people a long way beyond the upper walls.

Let us move on from the past because we need to think about the future. The hon. Lady said that she had a good meeting with the Secretary of State. I do not think that I am sharing any secrets when I say that the Secretary of State is genuinely moved by Leeds. I believe that her parents live there and she is committed to the city. She cares about proving that something can be done in Leeds, so I hope that the hon. Lady sensed that during their meeting.

A cross-party case needs to be made, because we will need to have difficult conversations with other communities throughout the country to explain why we are acting in such a way, but we will build a case together exactly along the lines of what the hon. Lady set out. We need to point out that Leeds is the UK’s second, third or fourth largest city, depending on where we put the boundaries. It certainly has the second largest legal centre in the United Kingdom after London. It is one of our leading financial centres, with an economy worth £54 billion. It is an extraordinary transport hub. It has, after London, the second or third busiest commuter train station in the United Kingdom with 140,000 people a day passing through it. If we get this right, there is enormous potential in Leeds for not only existing businesses, but development land. With its many brownfield sites, Leeds has more potential than almost anywhere else that one can think of for the development of new businesses. The headquarters of businesses such as Asda and Direct Line are in Leeds city centre.

Over the next six years, we will invest £2.3 billion in flood defences, and the £44 million for Leeds, or at least our contribution to that, forms part of that investment. To make this new argument, which I am fully behind, we need to focus on a different kind of economic case—not the traditional formula, but a case about how a northern powerhouse requires a great northern city. If we get this right, there could be huge economic benefits, as well as in terms of amenities, because bringing people forward to see the river and canal could involve benefits similar to those experienced by cities such as Newcastle.

We are keen to work with Leeds City Council, and the Environment Agency had another meeting with it yesterday. May I break with protocol, Madam Deputy Speaker, and ask whether the shadow Minister intends to speak, or whether I can take a couple of minutes to develop my argument?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): The shadow Minister is not allowed to take part in the debate. The Minister has nearly five minutes left.

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Rory Stewart: Thank you very much indeed, Madam Deputy Speaker. In that case, I shall exploit my five minutes.

The right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) made a powerful argument as someone who was involved. To some extent, he embraced the £44 million scheme, but he would like much more to be done and a higher level of protection throughout the city. The hon. Member for Leeds North East (Fabian Hamilton) made a powerful contribution, with an argument for an economic centre. We also heard from the hon. Member for Leeds East (Richard Burgon), my hon. Friends the Members for Calder Valley (Craig Whittaker) and for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew), and finally from the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh), who made a strong argument about how all of this should be tied together.

Greg Mulholland: What about Leeds North West?

Rory Stewart: Many apologies. The hon. Member for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland) also made a good case.

There has to be a cross-party approach, because we need investment from businesses and councils. We have to deal with communities upstream or downstream that are concerned about the impact of the flood defences that we are putting in. We need a communications drive across the country. I am happy to confirm that we will now go ahead with the feasibility study that the hon. Member for Leeds West requested. That money will be made available, and we will make a full analysis of the Leeds scheme. That will allow us not just to complete phase 1 but to look at the future.

We will have to look at various options. Outside the window in the apartment of the right hon. Member for Leeds Central, he would be looking at the possibility of raising those walls that are already going in. There is not much more that we can do downstream, as that

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work has already been done with the moveable weirs. Upstream on the Kirkstall Road, we would have to look at putting in walls where walls do not currently exist, and higher than that we will have to look at the possibility of two different types of reservoir: permanent reservoirs and offline reservoirs—in other words, farmland can occasionally be used. We can also look, as my hon. Friend the Member for Calder Valley said, at the potential of measures on upstream catchments to slow the water coming downstream.

The feasibility study will address the catchment coming through Leeds. It will look at upstream mitigation, reservoirs and the potential for walls to be built along the road, which will involve many hon. Members discussing with local residents whether they are prepared to have their views cut off, how high the walls should go, and to what extent companies want to contribute to those walls. I believe that, after this flooding event, the political will is there and residents will be happy to do that. It will have to go all the way down to the constituency of the right hon. Member for Leeds Central, where we will have to look at raising the walls of that £44 million scheme.

On that, and with great thanks to the hon. Member for Leeds West, I wish to say a huge thank you for all the work that has been done by people in Leeds, including the leader of Leeds City Council, who has put a huge amount of heart and soul into this, and by the thousand volunteers who were mentioned. May I assure the people of Leeds, as was made absolutely clear by the Secretary of State, that Leeds is a priority, exactly because of the unique characteristics that have been raised so powerfully in this debate?

Question put and agreed to.

7.43 pm

House adjourned.