Business, Innovation and Skills Questions: 15th December 2015

Carolyn Harris (Swansea East) (Lab)
T6. Several organisations, including Electrical Safety First, welcomed the recent product safety review conducted by the Department and headed by Lynn Faulds Wood. We must work to prevent ineffective product safety recalls and improve traceability better to protect customers and business in the UK. When will the Department publish the review? [902693]

The Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise (Anna Soubry)
I have met Lynn Faulds Wood and I thank and commend her for her work. I will have a further meeting with her to see when we can publish the review and make the progress that we all want.
 
Michael Tomlinson (Mid Dorset and North Poole) (Con)
T7. Will the Secretary of State update the House on the objectives of his recent visit to India, and how best local businesses in my constituency can tap into that market? [902694]

Sajid Javid
Yes, I will. The recent visit was to build on the momentum generated by Prime Minister Modi’s recent visit. Along with the Minister for Universities and Science, I went to India to promote getting more Indian students to come to the UK and study. I took 30 vice chancellors, including two from Dorset. That is just the kind of export that we want.
 
Ms Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (Ochil and South Perthshire) (SNP)
T8. Last week, The British Chambers of Commerce downgraded its forecast for overall GDP growth, citing weaker than expected trade. On Thursday, the Office for National Statistics released data, which showed that the gap between imports and exports grew from £3.1 billion in September to £4.1 billion in October. Will the Secretary of State update the House on the measures that he is taking to support export growth, given that his current plans are clearly not working? [902695]

Sajid Javid
The hon. Lady knows that there has been export growth in the past five years, including to some of the fastest growing markets in the world such as India and China, which came up earlier. We obviously need to do more, and that is why we have several measures in place, some of which I have mentioned. Those kinds of changes, such as increases in exports, are leading to falls in unemployment throughout the country and generating jobs, including a 53% decline in jobseekers’ allowance claimants in her constituency.

Nicola Blackwood (Oxford West and Abingdon) (Con)
T10. As Tim Peake blasts off today, we are reminded again of the exponential value of science funding well spent. For that reason, the Science and Technology Committee intends to continue our work of testing science spending plans. Will the Business Secretary reassure the House that the welcome increase in science funding will be ring-fenced? Will he accept our invitation to appear before the Committee in January to go over that in detail? [902697]

Sajid Javid
First, I accept the invitation—thank you very much. I also take the opportunity to commend my hon. Friend for her leadership of the Science and Technology Committee and the way in which has made the case so well for science. I can confirm that the ring fence is protected in real terms, not just cash terms. I also confirm our manifesto commitment to spend £6.9 billion on science infrastructure over the next six years. I am sure that she will agree that, this Christmas, batteries are included.

Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough) (Lab)
T9. I previously raised with the Secretary of State the Teesside Collective’s industrial carbon capture and storage ambitions, which will not only contribute massively to the climate change agenda, but secure existing industries and attract investment. In the light of the Paris agreement, will he meet me and industrialists leading that key initiative to explore how we might bring that important project to fruition? [902696]

Anna Soubry
I hope that I do not disappoint the hon. Gentleman, but I am more than happy to have a meeting with him. He knows the terms on which we always have our meetings: not to shout at me. [Interruption.] Only in the House. I hope that he will join me in congratulating the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change on her outstanding achievement on behalf of our nation in playing a full and important role in securing the excellent way forward to ensure that the planet that we leave for our children will be better than the one that we inherited. Yes, I will have the meeting.

John Stevenson (Carlisle) (Con)
As the Minister well knows, Carlisle and Cumbria have experienced devastating floods recently. As part of the recovery, it is vital that confidence is restored as quickly as possible, especially in the business community. Will the Minister confirm that she and the Department will do everything to support Cumbrian businesses, and wherever possible, ensure that people know that Carlisle and Cumbria are open for business?

Anna Soubry
Yes indeed, and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend and all Members of Parliament affected by this issue for their great work. I will go to that area on Tuesday, and I hope to visit Carlisle as well as Cockermouth, Kendal and Keswick if possible. I am delighted that we were able to secure £5 million funding for all businesses affected by the flooding, which will make a huge improvement. We have done that very quickly, and the money will be available quickly and—most importantly—in time for Christmas, so that all those businesses and shops can be open for businesses.

Mr Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab)
The Secretary of State mentioned simplifying and clarifying the business environment in this country, as well as paring back bureaucracy and identifying a further £10 billion reduction in red tape over this Parliament. Why did the autumn statement propose that small businesses should file tax returns four times a year, rather than annually? Will the Secretary of State outline how that helps small businesses to reduce their costs and burdens? To keep the “Star Wars” quotes going, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”
 
Sajid Javid
I have not heard that quote from “Star Wars”. [Interruption.] It is really important that we keep deregulating for small businesses, and that was achieved during the previous Parliament. As Chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, the hon. Gentleman knows that that measure is a net target, and because of the Enterprise Bill, and many other measures, I am confident that we will see huge net deregulation, running into the billions, for businesses over the lifetime of this Parliament.

Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con)
The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee had a discussion this week about the phrase “industrial strategy”, which seems to mean all sorts of things to different people. I do not know what that phrase means, but I know that if I did, I would be against it. Will the Minister reassure the House that while he is Secretary of State, this Government will not go about picking winners?

Sajid Javid
Like my hon. Friend, the Government believe passionately in free enterprise. Free enterprise has motored this economy for decades, and it will continue to lift people out of poverty. We do have a strategy—it is called the long-term economic plan.

Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op)
I am sure that the space Minister will praise the foresight of the previous Labour Government who established the UK Space Agency. Given that Tim Peake’s incredible mission is launching today, will she say a little more about how she will spread inspiration ​from that mission to a budding generation of new space scientists, engineers and astronauts, including in Cardiff South and Penarth?

Anna Soubry
Tim Peake is going to the International Space Station, but I mentioned seven years because—as you know, Mr Speaker—I am not prone to partisanship, and I will always give credit where it is due. I wish that Labour Members would do the same.

We have made huge progress to help great industries such as the steel industry, including our announcement on energy intensive industries, but I notice—let me get this point in when I have the opportunity, Mr Speaker—that nobody has mentioned that or said how good it is. The hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) are right to say how important it is that we inspire the younger generation—boys and girls—about great future career opportunities, especially in engineering.

Jo Churchill (Bury St Edmunds) (Con)
Will the Minister update the House about life science clusters as a way to stimulate start-ups, excellence and growth in the sector? Does he have any plans to use devolution city deals for such clusters?

George Freeman
My hon. Friend makes an important point, and around the country—not just in Cambridge, Oxford, and London MedCity, but in the Northern Health Science Alliance and the Scottish belt—the UK life science industry is building clusters of excellence and growth for the benefit of our citizens. I am holding discussions with the Chancellor and the Department for Communities and Local Government about how the devolution package could drive and support greater development of those health clusters around the country.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
The Minister referred earlier to moneys that have been set aside by the Government for research and development in the aerospace industry. In my constituency, 6,500 people are directly employed by Magellan and Bombardier, and double that number are subcontracted. What discussions has the Minister had with the Northern Ireland Assembly to ensure that we can be part of that research and development?

Anna Soubry
I have not had those discussions, but I am more than happy to hold them with the hon. Gentleman—he knows my door is always open, especially to him. I recognise the huge importance of Bombardier, and the role that it plays in his constituency and the whole of Northern Ireland.