Ben Bradshaw

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On the Chilcot Inquiry

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

It gives me great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Witney (Robert Courts). I congratulate him most warmly on an excellent maiden speech. He talked with great descriptive beauty about his constituency. He used humour and he was serious. He talked about his own family’s political journey in having a Labour grandfather. My family has had a political journey in the opposite direction: of my two grandfathers, one was Liberal and one was Conservative. I noticed, however, that he did not talk about the political journey of his predecessor but one—an interesting journey that took place rather more recently than his grandfather’s. I thought that what he said about his predecessor was absolutely right, at a time when a lot of people are saying not very nice things about the previous Prime Minister. I am really pleased that the hon. Gentleman said what he did and put it on the record. I thank him for that.

Before addressing the motion itself, I would like to consider what we might be debating today instead. We could be debating the crisis in the national health service and social care. We could be debating the devastating impact on living standards of the Government’s autumn statement. We could be debating what the Scottish National party Government in Scotland might be doing with the powers they have, but resolutely refuse to use, to mitigate that. Or we could have used this precious debating time to put pressure on the Government to drop food and medicine to the people of Aleppo, who, as the French Government said today, are facing the worst massacre of civilians since the second world war.

But no, we are debating the motion before us—and why? SNP Members are furious, livid and incandescent with rage that Sir John Chilcot did not find that Tony Blair lied. After seven years and five independent inquiries, the lie that our former Prime Minister lied has finally been laid to rest, and SNP Members cannot stand it. The motion, of course, does not talk about lying. However, the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), who supports the motion, let the cat out of the bag when she told The Observer on Sunday

“The Chilcot report confirmed Tony Blair lied to the public, parliament and his own cabinet in order to drag us into the Iraq war.”

She has clearly not read the Chilcot report; it did no such thing.

Without going over the detail as we did in a very full debate on this back in the summer, let me remind the House briefly of what the Chilcot report did say. Volume 4, paragraph 876, says clearly that there was no falsification or improper use of intelligence. Volume 5, paragraph 953 ​says that there was no deception of Cabinet. Volume 1, paragraph 572 onwards, says that there was no secret commitment to war either at Crawford in April 2002 or anywhere else. Although outside the body of the report, as a number of hon. Members have pointed out, Sir John Chilcot himself, in his appearance before the Liaison Committee, said:

“I absolve him”—

Tony Blair—

“from a personal and demonstrable decision to deceive parliament or the public—to state falsehoods, knowing them to be false.”

Some people just cannot give up. Some people do not seem able to accept the possibility that reasonable people can come to different views on a difficult subject but do so in good faith. Some people cannot accept—

Alex Salmond

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr Bradshaw

No, the right hon. Gentleman had half an hour and a lot of Members want to speak.

Some people cannot accept that however much one disagrees with a decision taken, it can still have been taken in good faith. So here we are debating a motion that seeks to distort and rewrite Chilcot and, in effect, put Tony Blair back in the dock. I am delighted that my own party is having none of this nonsense and that we will be voting against this mendacious opportunism in an hour and a half’s time.

I think there may be another reason why some people persist in trying to claim falsely that there was deliberate deceit in all this. They are more than a little nervous that as we look at what has happened in Syria, and is still happening in Syria today, where there was no intervention and we left a brutal dictator to continue to slaughter his own people, history will prove our former Prime Minister right.

On the letter from the NFU

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

In his discussions with the Home Office, has the Minister talked about the letter written to it by the National Farmers Union warning that British fruit and veg will go unpicked this winter because of the current labour crisis in the horticultural and agricultural industries, and what is he doing about that?

Mr Jones

The right hon. Gentleman is entirely right: the agricultural industry has traditionally relied on seasonal agricultural labour. These are matters that we are giving close attention to. Indeed, I discussed them only yesterday with representatives of farming unions.

On the UK Fishing Industry

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

Let me begin, like a number of other Members, by taking a moment to remember all the fishermen who have left their families, ​friends and harbours this year, not to return. The pain in those communities is always palpable, and we must do more than we have in the past to ensure that we do not begin our fisheries debates every year by remembering people who have been lost. Let me also pay tribute to the work done by the Fishermen’s Mission and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in helping to keep our fishermen safe.

On a happier note, there is good news in our fishing industry, which is often not reported. It comes after many years of decline. In 2005, for example, 90% of the stocks around UK waters were overexploited, but that has now fallen to 45%. A great deal of progress has been made in the last 10 years. The story of cod recovery in the North sea is thanks to some of the difficult decisions that we took when we were in government, and plaice and sole are doing well too. We need to spread that good news around the rest of our waters, because it translates into real people’s lives and incomes in regions such as mine. In the last 12 months, the markets of Brixham and Plymouth experienced record landings in terms of value.

First, I should like the Minister to assure all of us that he will continue the successful policies that have led to this improvement—policies which, to give him credit, he has continued since we were in office—whether from inside or outside the EU. Secondly, I should like him to reassure us that the overall environmental objectives that successive UK Governments have fought to achieve for sustainable fisheries will be continued and embedded in UK law. We need to complete the network in marine protected areas. We also need to fully embed the birds and habitats directive, the bathing waters directive, the urban waste water treatment directive, the water framework directive, and the marine strategy framework directive in UK law through the great repeal Bill that the Government are proposing. I hope that the Minister will reassure us that that will be done.

I also hope that when the Minister goes to the Council in December, he will take a very tough line on bass. The state of bass around our waters is catastrophic, although that was completely avoidable. We have done far too little, too late. I cannot understand why we in this country do not adopt the policy that operates in the Republic of Ireland, where bass is treated solely as a recreational species. Many Members may not realise this, but if we look at the big picture, it is clear that recreational angling contributes more to our overall economy than the commercial catching sector. However, it does not have such a loud voice in the negotiations. The commercial sector will be breathing down the Minister’s neck when he is in Brussels, but I hope he will remember the words of the millions of anglers in the country—as well as those who run bed and breakfasts, and all the other services that anglers support—who say that they want a better deal on bass. We need a complete moratorium on commercial bass catching with no exemptions next year, with some allowance made for the recreational catching need.

I hope the Minister will not forget about the good progress that the Government have made on marine litter. That may not appear to be a big issue, but it is a huge issue for the marine environment. I commend the Minister for his successful plastic bag charge and on the proposed microbeads ban, but that ban must include detergents and other household products, not just cosmetics.​
I do not doubt that many catchers in the UK commercial fishing sector did vote to leave the EU, partly based on a long-time grievance that they got a terrible deal under the then Conservative Government when we joined the Common Market, but my fear, which I think is shared by many in the industry, is that just as they were done over on our way in, they may be done over on our way out. There are two main reasons why they worry about that.

First, there is the simple arithmetic of 26 against one in the negotiations, which will obviously make the Minister’s job very difficult. There will be an early test of that at the forthcoming Fisheries Council, where he knows as well as I do that it is those late night deals that matter, and the relationships built up with fellow Ministers over the years are what enable us to get the good deals for our own industry. I cannot help thinking that some of the chaos and antics and confusion around the Government’s messaging on Brexit will not be helpful in that endeavour. I wish him well in those negotiations, however, in a couple of weeks’ time.

The second reason why the industry is nervous is the level of priority the Government will be prepared to give this sector, which after all represents a relatively small part of our economy compared with all the other sectors referred to—the manufacturing sector, the financial services sector and even the farming sector. There is a real worry that the fisheries sector will lose out because the Government will not take it seriously enough.

Another interesting long-term trend in fisheries is that, as several other Members have pointed out, it is now more of an import-export industry than a pure catching industry. Both imports and exports have grown exponentially and steadily over recent decades, partly because of our taste for white fish—cod and haddock—and partly because of our relative lack of enthusiasm, which I regret, for some of our more exotic, but not terribly exotic, species, which we therefore export in large quantities to the continent. I do not know whether anyone can guess what the main catch in terms of value is in the south-west at the moment. It is cuttlefish, a non-quota species, and almost all of it goes straight to the fish markets of Italy, to grace the tables of our Italian friends and relatives, and I am sure they enjoy it very much. We catch the best crab and lobster in the world off the south Devon coast; it almost all goes straight to France and Spain in salt tanks—what a waste.

We need to eat more of our own produce, but the point I am making is that because the export of fish is in many ways more important economically than catching, and more jobs and livelihoods rely on it, the issue of tariffs is very important. I have asked several times in this Chamber already in recent weeks for some clarity from the Government about tariffs, because if we cannot have tariff-free access for those exports to the continent, what kind of future will there, not just for the markets, merchants and processors but for the catchers themselves? I would like the Minister to give some clarity on how he will reconcile situations where the interests of the catching sector and the exporters are not aligned, which may sometimes arise. If, for example, we declare our unilateral 200-mile limit, how does he expect that to influence the mood of the 26 other countries we will be negotiating with over tariffs? I am rather nervous that it might antagonise them.​
I want to ask the Minister about enforcement as well, as that is a matter of great concern that has not been raised yet in this debate. Regrettably, there has been a huge cut in enforcement under this Government. In 2010, there were 1,500 at-sea inspections; that figure halved by 2015. In fact there is less enforcement now than there has ever been. There were 40 foreign boats fishing off the coast of Devon and Cornwall this week alone, as they are perfectly entitled to, and of course under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea rules boats are entitled to come through our waters, but how is the Minister’s 200-mile limit going to be enforced when we do not even currently enforce the rules as they stand? What naval assets can he assure the House will be available to do this work? What access will we have to the vital EU monitoring system? Have we got guarantees that we will still be able to participate in that, or will we have to invent a whole new system or rely on a different sort of satellite system? This is crucial, because it is about fair play for the fishermen, and also confidence for the consumer that the fish being caught is caught legally and sustainably.

The point my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Melanie Onn) made so excellently is that there are huge expectations, and hopes have been raised not just by the Minister but by the other Brextremists in this whole fisheries debate. My worry is that the recipe for what they are proposing is also a recipe for potential conflict, a race to the bottom and environmental degradation. I hope the Minister can give some clarity and demonstrate that he will have a sensible approach to the fishing industry that will not lead to that, and that he can give us some outline of a realistic long-term plan that recognises the need to collaborate over a finite and mobile resource, that catching will continue to have to be restricted in order for stocks to recover and thrive, and that that is what is really in the interests of our fishing industry, not conflict and a return to some mythical golden age that some imagine might be the case.

Commons Interventions 30th November - 2nd December

On the Chilcot Inquiry Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) It gives me great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Witney (Robert Courts). I congratulate him most warmly on an...

On a UN Vote for an Independent Expert for the LGBT Community

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

When I was a Foreign Office Minister, I was told by one leader of a Commonwealth country that I would not be welcome to visit, so we have come quite a long way. I thank the Minister for what he is doing. Is it not time to make our generous aid conditional on respect for all humans’ rights?

Sir Alan Duncan

I obviously speak for the Foreign Office, not the Department for International Development, but I am a former DFID Minister. The issue of conditionality always raises the moral question of stopping money, but that would then harm the impoverished people we are trying to help. It is not as straightforward as the right hon. Gentleman suggests, but I take on board the importance of campaigning strongly and using any budget and expenditure to maximise our influence over this issue.

On Hospitals in Special Measures

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

The Secretary of State will know that with depressing regularity the same hospitals come up on that list that he has just referred to. Sustainability and transformation plans provide the opportunity to address some of the unsustainable elements of local health economies, but only, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander) says, if the money is there. With the health service facing its tightest financial settlement in its history, these plans are just not deliverable.

Mr Hunt

The right hon. Gentleman understands health extremely well, both from his ministerial position and from being on the Select Committee. If he looks at the hospitals going into special measures, he will see that we are beginning to succeed in moving hospitals out of special measures, but because we have an independent inspection regime, sometimes other ones go in. That is how it should be. That is what works very well in the education sector and is beginning to work well in driving up standards in health care as well.

To go back to my answer to the hon. Member for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander), £1.3 billion more in the NHS this year compared with what would have been put into the NHS if Labour had won the last election means 30,000 nurses, 13,000 doctors or 200,000 hip replacements that we are able to do because of this Government’s funding of the NHS.

On the South West Growth Charter

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

I will try to adhere to that advice, Sir Roger, but as I am the sole Opposition MP in the region that we are discussing, it will be a challenge. I congratulate the hon. Member for South West Devon (Mr Streeter) on securing this debate, which as he said is timely because the autumn statement is tomorrow, and because once again, overnight, the south-west railway has been cut off by flooding.

I do not think that anyone can criticise the document that we are debating. It is an excellent document, and no one could find fault with it. However, the regular loss of our connectivity, which has happened yet again in the last 24 hours, is a more accurate reflection of the current reality on the ground than the vision that the charter rightly sets out for the future of the south-west. As the hon. Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow) said in an intervention, the reality is that we in the south-west feel neglected. When we look at all the investment going into London with Crossrail, the north of England with high-speed rail and all the other massive, multi-billion-pound infrastructure investments, we in the south-west feel like the poor relations. The electrification of the railway line to Bristol and south Wales has now been delayed, and even that will not come down to our part of the region, which needs it just as much.​
We all remember the grandiose promises made before the last election. We could not move in the south-west, particularly after the Cornish rail collapse, for visiting Prime Ministers, Chancellors and Ministers promising £20 billion of investment in infrastructure in this Parliament. I remember the then Prime Minister saying that he would do whatever it took to put our infrastructure in a good condition, but we have seen very little of that investment so far. Some might even argue that those promises and all those visits helped to sweep an almost full house of Conservative MPs to power in our region, with Exeter the only surviving constituency with Opposition representation. My Conservative colleagues have a big responsibility. If I may give them a little gentle advice, at some stage they will have to play hardball with the Government and demand that the promises made to them before the election are actually fulfilled.

Rail infrastructure is not the only problem. The hon. Member for South West Devon has already mentioned broadband; our broadband roll-out in Devon and Somerset is badly behind schedule and the way it has been handled has been an absolute shambles. Broadband is vital in rural areas, particularly for our small and medium-sized enterprises. There is also an awful lot of uncertainty, as the hon. Gentleman said, about Brexit—particularly in Cornwall, given Cornwall’s reliance on huge economic support from the European Union. Sectors in our region such as farming and fisheries, which are disproportionately involved and engaged in importing and exporting within the single market, face big uncertainties. Our higher education sector is very dependent on the free movement of students and academics and on all the investment that our membership of the European Union brings. All that uncertainty, combined with historic under-investment in infrastructure, raises real concerns in our region.

To add insult to injury, we have learned that our local enterprise partnership in Devon and Somerset—Heart of the South West, which the hon. Member for South West Devon mentioned—has been told that it can expect only a tiny fraction of the money that it had originally hoped to receive in the next round of development support grants. That led to an unprecedented letter, which we all signed last week, to ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to think again—I cannot remember another time when every single MP in Devon and Somerset signed such a letter. As the hon. Gentleman said, it seems to be something to do with the fact that we do not have an elected mayor model; we also have a shortage of big businesses to match-fund the Government money. That is stating the bleeding obvious, because our region’s strength is our small and medium-sized enterprises. We have some excellent big companies, but we do not have the large number of big companies that a northern powerhouse, or whatever, has.

I very much hope that the Chancellor’s autumn statement tomorrow will reflect some of the serious concerns expressed in this debate. I also hope that the Communities Secretary will look very carefully at our letter, because there is a lot of anger about how we in the south-west have been treated, and that anger will only get worse if our next growth funding deal is even worse than we expected or is a lot worse than the previous two. I congratulate ​the hon. Member for South West Devon again on securing the debate; it is well overdue, and I hope the Government are listening. Our region must get the investment that it needs. Sadly, that has been symbolised again in the last 24 hours by its being cut off by flooding.

On Dementia Training for Homecare Workers

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

Did the Minister see last week’s shocking report from the Alzheimer’s Society showing that only 2% of people affected by dementia feel that their home carers have adequate training in dementia, that only 38% of home care workers have any dementia training at all, and that 71% did not have accredited training, with dreadful consequences for dementia sufferers and their families and carers? Does he accept that until social care is properly funded, this situation will just get worse?

Mr Marcus Jones

The right hon. Gentleman raises an important issue. By 2020, we expect all social care providers to provide appropriate training on dementia to all relevant staff. Over 100,000 care workers have already received such training. As I said with regard to the funding of adult social care, we have provided a package that will provide up to £3.5 billion of extra funding during this spending review period.

On Aleppo

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

I have a lot of time for this Minister, but he should not rewrite the history of what happened in 2013. As one of the Labour MPs who did support action against Assad back then, may I gently point out to him that two of his colleagues who were recently Foreign Office Ministers, a former Secretary of State on his own Benches, the Labour Front-Bench team and Labour Back Benchers are all calling for the Government to bring something back to the House on airdrops, so why does he not just do it?

Mr Ellwood

I will answer that in two parts. First, why do we not just do it? Because of the very challenging issues that we face. We do not have permission to send in aircraft. We saw what happened to the Russian aircraft that wandered into Turkish space. It is a volatile environment and we would need to gain the permissions at this point to make that happen. On the other part, I do not wish to antagonise the House and try to rewrite the history. It is as much the Government’s fault for failing to win across all parliamentarians. For me, that is the biggest error from our Government—we did not take with us Parliament itself. We collectively need to work together to ensure we are all up to date and, in that way, the Executive can be empowered to do such things, whether no-fly zones or airdrops. However, only with the will and support of Parliament can we make that move forward.

Commons Interventions 8th-28th November

On a UN Vote for an Independent Expert for the LGBT Community Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) When I was a Foreign Office Minister, I was told by one leader...

My latest column for the Express and Echo, on the US elections and the fire in Exeter, is now available to read online here.

Latest Echo Column

My latest column for the Express and Echo, on the US elections and the fire in Exeter, is now available to read online here.

You can now support the Official Historic Exeter Fire Appeal here.

Official Fire Appeal

You can now support the Official Historic Exeter Fire Appeal here.

On press regulation:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

I thought I was going to welcome the Secretary of State’s statement, because she explained in clear detail why the incentives contained in section 40 are essential to the Leveson recommendations, which this House approved overwhelmingly in the royal charter and which, as she said, are already in law—and we now have a recognised regulator. But she went on to say that rather than commencing section 40, the Government were just going to consider it further. Why does she not just do the right thing by the victims and commence the legislation that this House and the House of Lords have already passed?

Karen Bradley

What I said is that we are going to consult; it is a 10-week consultation, and it is very clearly about part 2 of the Leveson inquiry and the commencement of section 40. I want to hear all views in that consultation.

On the NHS:

Mr Bradshaw

Although the Government say that they want to devote a greater proportion of overall health spending to primary care, our Health Committee’s report on primary care, published in the summer, showed that a smaller proportion was being devoted to the primary care sector, which, of course, includes pharmacies. ​Is that not the ultimate false economy? If we do not invest more in primary care, all the pressure goes into the acute sector.

Jonathan Ashworth

My right hon. Friend is another experienced former Health Minister, and he is right. As we learnt this week, the Health Committee has completely blown apart the Government’s figures on the financing of the NHS.

On police officer safety:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

Is my hon. Friend surprised to learn that, in relatively peaceful Devon and Cornwall, there were 267 assaults on the police in the last year, more than doubling the associated costs in one year? Does she agree that one of the reasons that the police and other services are so vulnerable is that, because of cuts, they are increasingly operating on their own and not in pairs?

Ms Abbott

I thank my right hon. Friend for his important intervention. I agree with him and will come to cuts in police numbers later.

On the fire in Exeter:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

The Minister will be aware that a devastating fire destroyed one of the most historic and best loved parts of Exeter city centre last Friday and Saturday. The owners have said that they intend to restore the building to its former glory, which is very welcome, but will she guarantee that English Heritage will make absolutely sure on behalf of my constituents that it is restored to the highest possible standard?

Karen Bradley

I am very aware of the devastating fire in Exeter—I was actually in the west country over the weekend and saw the local news coverage. Having visited Exeter on a number of occasions, I know how important that building is in the cathedral precinct. Historic England sent a team of experts to the site on Monday to assess the situation, but I will take up the points that the right hon. Gentleman has raised.

On fishing:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

Some 80% of the fish caught around our coastline in the south-west goes straight for export to the rest of the European Union, and there is huge concern in the industry about the impact of tariffs if we leave the single market. Given that concern, and the excellent news from the High Court, would it not be wise of the Government not to invoke article 50 as early as March?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Trade (Mark Garnier)

Export tariffs on food products, and on animal products in particular, are determined outside the provision of trade agreements. They are determined in terms of licensing based on the quality of the food products, on a separate basis.

On air pollution:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

May I gently suggest to the Minister that talking about sledgehammers and nuts is not really appropriate in this context? Air pollution is the biggest avoidable killer apart from smoking. The Minister needs a sledgehammer, and she needs to take the sledgehammer to the Treasury.

Given that this is the second humiliating defeat that the Government have suffered in the courts, surely there was a plan to announce some action here, today, in response to that defeat. Where is it? Where are the new measures?

Dr Coffey

As the right hon. Gentleman will know from his time in government, measures take some time to work up. He may shake his head, but I am not going to become involved in the blame game and talk about what happened under Labour, when the number of diesel vehicles on the road increased. What I will say is that I am working closely with officials to come up with the wide range of actions that we wish to take, and I can only add that we hope to announce them in due course.

On Aleppo:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

Nevertheless, that relationship would be a lot better if President Clinton wins, as I am sure most people in this House agree. Does the Foreign Secretary see any prospect in that of then not giving up on his desire to see a more robust response to the Russians and to Assad in Aleppo?

Boris Johnson

I cannot, as I say, comment on the elections in another very friendly country. We have to wait and see what happens there, but I do not think that anybody here wants the United Kingdom under any circumstances to abandon its driving role in that question.

On Article 50:

Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab)

Does my hon. Friend agree that today’s excellent ruling in the High Court gives the Government a chance to reflect on the invocation of article 50 and the impact that it is already having on the financial services employers to which she refers, particularly with regard to the uncertainty about our future membership of the single market?

Liz Kendall

My right hon. Friend is right. Many companies have been planning for months, even before the referendum, to try to mitigate the risks of Brexit. There is a mandate to leave the European Union, but there is no mandate about the terms. The Court’s decision today should allow this House to have its say, to raise the important issues and to hold the Government to account, and I hope that the Government listen.

Commons Questions 1st - 4th November 2016

On press regulation: Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab) I thought I was going to welcome the Secretary of State’s statement, because she explained in clear detail why the incentives contained...


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