Thangam In Parliament

The Government’s new nuclear announcement talks about building the infrastructure the country needs, but these words seem empty, coming in the same week as it dropped investment in the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon. This could have significantly reduced our carbon emissions, generated electricity for more than 150,000 homes and put the UK at the forefront of an emerging technology.
Yesterday I asked when the Government would acknowledge the value of tidal energy. Minister Sam Gyimah replied that we should look at the hard facts, stating that offshore wind is cheaper than a tidal lagoon. This is a ridiculous argument.
‘Hard facts’ should also include the findings of climate science, which presents a very stark picture of our future if we fail to decarbonise our energy system over a very short time. The hard fact tell us it is not a case of wind or tidal energy – we will need both!

The Government ditches renewable energy, supports nuclear

The Government’s new nuclear announcement talks about building the infrastructure the country needs, but these words seem empty, coming in the same week as it dropped investment in the Swansea...

We will need to sign new trade deals after we leave the EU – but they cannot drive a ‘race to the bottom’ in environmental standards or workers’ rights.

Today I challenged new Trade Minister George Hollingbery to confirm that the Government’s eagerness to sign trade deals will not mean they destroy these vital protections. He said they would not – but I will be watching these deals closely in coming months.

I am concerned that we will come under increasing pressure to reduce standards. For example, a trade deal with the United States could include an agreement to open our borders to chlorine-washed chicken (something Hollingbery’s new boss Liam Fox has previously defended) or beef grown with high levels of hormones. Both are currently banned in the EU. Other deals could slash health and safety protections for workers, currently enshrined in EU law.

The environment is a success story of the European Union. Over four decades the EU has been a driving force behind our environmental policy, dramatically reducing air pollution, cutting carbon emissions and cleaning up beaches. Other EU laws have removed hazards such as lead in petrol, harmful chemicals and dangerous pesticides.

The EU has also been instrumental in improving workers’ rights in the UK, for example dictating limits to working hours, time off and protections for agency workers.

We should remember the motivation for these protections was originally economic, ensuring a level playing field, so that no one country could destroy its environment or over-exploit its workforce for economic gain. To be a world-class country after Brexit we need high standards, not a race to the bottom.

Post-Brexit trade deals must not mean a 'race to the bottom'

We will need to sign new trade deals after we leave the EU – but they cannot drive a ‘race to the bottom’ in environmental standards or workers’ rights. Today...

Spending on prisons fell by more than a fifth between 2009/10 and 2016/17. As with many other areas of Tory cuts, this has harmed the most vulnerable people in society.

In 2007 Baroness Corston led a review of vulnerable women in prison. One of the key recommendations was to create ‘Corston Projects’ such as Eden House in Bristol.

Eden House does excellent work helping vulnerable women make positive changes to their lives, reducing the risk of reoffending. But the staff there tell me their work has been seriously limited by cuts in recent years.

I welcome the Government announcement that they will put more funds into residential alternatives to custody (although calling this a new idea is a bit rich!). I hope this means they will be reinstating much-needed funds they cut from places like Eden House over the last decade.

Reversing Tory cuts could help vulnerable women in prisons

Spending on prisons fell by more than a fifth between 2009/10 and 2016/17. As with many other areas of Tory cuts, this has harmed the most vulnerable people in society....

Climate change is the biggest danger facing our planet but sadly seems a very low priority on the Tories’ agenda. Yesterday they demonstrated this – twice.

Earlier in the day, the Government announced they were dropping investment in the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, a project which could generate clean electricity for more than 150,000 homes.

In the House of Commons yesterday I challenged Business Secretary Greg Clark, asking why they had rejected the project based on short-term costs. He said it was not commercially viable, but this misses the point. Government investment is needed precisely because is not yet commercially viable, bringing down the cost of technology, and reducing climate change, a point I made in Parliament just last week. Most importantly, dropping this project dodges the Government’s responsibility to reduce carbon emissions.

This irresponsible attitude was evident from the other major event in Parliament yesterday, when the Government won their vote for a third runway at Heathrow.

Yesterday I voted against the Heathrow expansion as the plans did not sufficiently meet Labour’s four tests, including a commitment to meet CO2 reduction targets and minimise the impact on the local environment.

If part of a coherent climate change strategy, a new runway could result in lower CO2 emissions overall, for example reducing the time planes spend ‘in the stack’, needlessly burning fuel while circling above the airport. But this is clearly not the Government’s priority.

Both episodes demonstrate potentially catastrophic costs to the environment are being ignored, while decisions are being taken solely based on short-sighted economic reasons. I will continue to challenge the Government on this issue of global emergency.

Heathrow and the Tidal Lagoon: Tories demonstrate ignorance of climate change - twice in one day

Climate change is the biggest danger facing our planet but sadly seems a very low priority on the Tories’ agenda. Yesterday they demonstrated this – twice. Earlier in the day,...

The Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon is an opportunity to lead the world in renewable energy technology, but Government ministers seem indifferent to the huge environmental and economic benefits of this project.

Today in the House of Commons I continued to challenge the Government on this by asking the Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom about when the Government will announce their decision on the Lagoon. I also asked her schedule a debate on renewable energy.

The Swansea Bay project could generate a significant proportion of our power. Building it also has the potential to create 2,000 skilled jobs. Perhaps most importantly, it would give the UK expertise in tidal power which it could export around the world, multiplying the economic and environmental benefits of the scheme.

Critics of the project argue it is too expensive. I believe such arguments are tragically short sighted. In the 1970s Denmark started investing in hugely expensive wind power. Danish companies are now at the forefront of this technology, while wind generates more than two fifths of power in the country. In other words, the investment paid off. Britain has built successful renewable energy industries, but we must continue to invest to be at the forefront of this global race.

Unfortunately, the Leader of the House sidestepped my questions. Meanwhile, the world is watching the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon with interest, according to climate change economist Lord Nicholas Stern. I will continue to press the Government to make real progress in these areas. The ever-increasing danger of climate change means we must instil a real sense of urgency into the government – something which is currently lacking.

 

SPEAKER: Thangam Debbonaire.

THANGAM: Thank you Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, the Leader of the House mentioned the Swansea Tidal Lagoon, saying an announcement would be made ‘soon’, which I don’t think is good enough, for the thousands of highly-skilled manufacturing and technical jobs across South Wales and the West Country.

Moreover, renewable energy is the energy of the future, it will power our future manufacturing industries. So can we have a debate, in government time, on the renewable energy industry?

LEADER OF THE HOUSE: Well the Hon. Lady will be aware that we are ensuring that the UK has a diverse, secure and affordable energy mix. We’re looking very carefully at the potential to harness the UK’s resources, to make our energy mix sustainable and affordable for the future. So through competition and innovation, the leadership we have shown has led to dramatic reductions in the cost of renewable energy projects. So for example, the cost of offshore wind has halved, meaning we can secure a larger amount of electricity generation for every pound of billpayers’ money. That’s absolutely essential.

And the UK is doing incredibly well, right across European terms and world terms, in renewables. With regards to the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project, as I’ve said, BEIS continue to look into this with Welsh devolved administration ministers, and will come forward as soon as they can.

Renewable energy can power our economy

The Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon is an opportunity to lead the world in renewable energy technology, but Government ministers seem indifferent to the huge environmental and economic benefits of this...

So-called 'upskirting' is a vile act. It involves photographing up someone's skirt or other clothing without their consent, sometimes sharing it online. Last Friday I was outraged (as were most MPs), that a Tory backbench MP used an obscure rule to block the passage of a Bill designed to outlaw it.

I'm glad that the government has now responded to public and cross-party political pressure and will bring forward their own Bill on this within days.

Misogynistic and sexist attitudes are the basis of this behaviour and so many other acts of sexual harassment and abuse. These attitudes are a cause and a consequence of gender inequality. They limit women's full participation in public life and have no place in the 21st Century.

I campaigned for many years for high quality education on sex and relationships to be compulsory for all pupils in all schools, making sexism a fundamental part of the curriculum. I was proud to be part of the Parliamentary Bill Committee for the Children and Social Work Bill early in 2017 which achieved that in law.

But 18 months on, this law has not yet been implemented.

Yesterday, whilst congratulating the government on agreeing to outlaw upskirting, I challenged them to get a move on with the education part of it which could change attitudes among the younger generation.

‘Upskirting’: We need to change the law – and education too

So-called 'upskirting' is a vile act. It involves photographing up someone's skirt or other clothing without their consent, sometimes sharing it online. Last Friday I was outraged (as were most...

Will the UK be able to continue to recruit the best scientists and researchers from across Europe after we leave the EU? Today I asked Brexit Minister Robin Walker to give some clarity on this. The current state of confusion risks seriously damaging the international standing of our technology companies, research institutes and universities.

For example, the University of Bristol in my constituency has a well-deserved reputation for excellence, but this is dependent on getting the best staff. Many of my constituents working at the University tell me that that it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit academics and other staff that they need from across the EU. With the mess this Government is making of Brexit, it is completely understandable that world-class scientists and researchers would prefer to move to cities where they may have a longer-term future, with guaranteed rights to remain there as long as they like.

Research funding is another major area of uncertainty forcing researchers to look elsewhere. Researchers from Bristol have told me that they are extremely worried that funding will dry up when we leave the EU, leading to a brain drain. In this area, the Minister’s response was inadequate.

He states that UK institutions will be able to access Horizon funding (the EU’s research and innovation funding programme) until the end of the current budget, known as the Multiannual Financial Framework or MFF. What he fails to mention is that this is due to expire at the end of 2020 – just a couple of years away. What then? Several constituents carrying out world-changing research have told me they need longer term clarity.

Universities and technology companies are vital if we are to stay competitive outside the EU. This is yet another area where the shambolic Brexit negotiations are jeopardising our future. I will continue to hold the Government to account throughout this critical phase.

TRANSCRIPT BELOW:

SPEAKER: Thangam Debbonaire.

THANGAM: Mr Speaker, the Minister mentions that we want to attract the brightest and the best, but he missed some of what the Hon. Lady’s question was about, why my constituents at the University of Bristol are very concerned about. This is the free flow of researchers and scientists around the European Union and the exchange of knowledge. They say they are already struggling; scientific firms in my constituency say they are struggling. What further clarification can he give?

MINISTER: Well, I say to the Hon. Lady, we’ve reached some important agreements already with regard to the Implementation Agreement and the continuation of our existing membership of Horizon until the end of the MFF. What we want to do now is to secure the science and innovation pack which we’ve been discussing in our meetings with the Commission, and those meetings have been constructive and positive.

Challenging the Brexit Minister: How can we maintain a world-leading science and technology sector after we leave the EU?

Will the UK be able to continue to recruit the best scientists and researchers from across Europe after we leave the EU? Today I asked Brexit Minister Robin Walker to...

Thangam at BEIS questionsAt Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Questions on Tuesday 12 June, I had the opportunity to ask the government why they continue to drag their feet over a decision on whether to support the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon project.

One of my major interests in Parliament is exploring what investment and infrastructure we need to clean up our energy supply in the UK - to ensure homes are powered by green, renewable and sustainable energy sources, rather than polluting carbon fuels.

I recently met with the team who are leading on the Swansea bay project. In addition to hearing about the jobs and benefits this project would bring to South Wales, I learned about the huge opportunities for jobs and businesses across the South West of England and in Bristol that the project would create too.

But this project cannot get off the ground while the government remain on the fence and refuse to commit to invest in the project. That they won't support such a landmark clean energy project outright is frustrating enough, but the continued silence on the matter is creating unacceptable uncertainty and means we're falling behind in the global race to create new renewable energy infrastructure.

And at a time when we should be leading the way in delivering clean energy, that delayed decision becomes ever more irresponsible. I'll continue to push the government to invest in key infrastructure like the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon, and ensure that the expertise and talent in Bristol to meet our future clean energy needs is harnessed.

Thangam Debbonaire

Will the Secretary of State please think of the 150,000 homes that it would power, the thousands of jobs that it would create, the supply chain business that it would support in Wales and the west, and the climate change that it would tackle, and get off the fence and announce Government support for Swansea bay tidal lagoon today?

Claire Perry (Minister for Energy and Clean Growth)

Of course, the whole House will shortly be able to pass the price cap Bill, which will assist all consumers with the cost of energy, and this comes on top of the prepayment meter and vulnerable consumers price caps that are in place. We are determined to continue supporting vulnerable consumers through such things as the warm home discount, winter fuel payments and through repurposing the very large energy company obligation scheme to tackle fuel poverty.

Business questions: the government should get off the fence and invest in Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon

At Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Questions on Tuesday 12 June, I had the opportunity to ask the government why they continue to drag their feet over a...

People who beat their partners and family members are very likely to go on to reoffend. In many cases, they go back to the same partners or remain abusive in new relationships. Even if they spend time in prison for their crimes, they often return to the same patterns of violent, controlling behaviour.

In my previous work for domestic violence organisations, I saw first-hand how specialised perpetrator programmes can change attitudes and behaviour, preventing violence. To be successful, they must have the safety and welfare of victims and children at their heart.

Today I asked Secretary of State for Justice David Gauke MP whether the forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill will include programmes for prisoners serving time for crimes involving domestic violence. This seems like an obvious opportunity – prison could be a good environment for these programmes.

As I stated in a separate Parliamentary question this week, evidence shows that such preventative programmes have the potential to save billions of pounds in costs, in addition to immeasurable benefits for would-be victims.

The Domestic Abuse Bill has the real potential to save lives. I will be working with MPs from across all parties to keep up the pressure on the Government to make sure it does.

Prison is an opportunity to change violent behaviour

People who beat their partners and family members are very likely to go on to reoffend. In many cases, they go back to the same partners or remain abusive in...

Domestic violence destroys the lives of the victims and the perpetrators. It also has a hidden cost to the economy.

Today I raised this in Parliament, asking Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins whether she was aware of influential research on the costs of domestic violence.

Professor Sylvia Walby’s research, first carried out in 2004 and updated 2009, demonstrated that domestic violence has a serious cost to society. For the year 2008, this was estimated cost services such as the criminal justice system, healthcare and social services almost £4 billion. Domestic violence was also estimated to cost the economy £2 billion in lost economic output and impose human and emotional costs of almost £10 billion.

Ten years on, the numbers may have changed but the core idea is still relevant: domestic violence has a huge cost, so it is worth investing significant resources in prevention.

Of course, there are other reasons for addressing domestic violence. The most serious costs of abuse are not measured in pounds but in ruined lives, injuries, shattered families and deaths. These effects are not so easily quantified.

Nonetheless, I hope the Government considers the economic costs of domestic violence in the drafting of the forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill.

Economic calculations demonstrate yet another reason that prevention is better than a cure. Educating young people about domestic violence, in a compulsory programme of personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education could change abusive attitudes from a young age. And programmes to educate perpetrators of domestic violence can reduce the chances of reoffending. Both would pay for themselves many times over.

I will be working with MPs from across all parties to make the Domestic Abuse Bill an effective, practical piece of legislation.

Failure to prevent domestic violence has a high cost

Domestic violence destroys the lives of the victims and the perpetrators. It also has a hidden cost to the economy. Today I raised this in Parliament, asking Home Office Minister...

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