James Heappey weekly: No.16
by Ben D-T
Week 4 July – 10 July
In a week when the UK was guaranteed its second female Prime Minister as Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom made it onto the ballot to be presented to Conservative Party members to elect their new leader, the United States seemed more divided than ever on the issues of race, guns and police violence as five police offers were shot dead in Dallas, Texas following two high profile police killings of unarmed black men, and Portugal and France made it into the Euro 2016 final, what did James Heappey do?
Speeches and written questions
Mr Heappey spoke three times in Parliament this week, twice in a Westminster Hall debate on electric cars and once in the Commons on the inquiry into the Iraq war.
All of Mr Heappey’s contributions this week came on Wednesday 6 July. During the debate on Electric Cars and Hybrid Electric Cars, Mr Heappey first rose to make an intervention while fellow Conservative MP Neil Parish was speaking. He pointed to a previous debate that he had participated in on the matter, “Our hon. Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Glyn Davies) secured a similar debate in this Chamber a few weeks ago, in which I made the point that when the petrol combustion engine was rolling out at the beginning of the last century, the cars came before the petrol stations.” He added his thoughts on how the government should go about trying to increase the uptake in electric and hybrid cars, “Rather than focusing on the provision of charging points, the Government should focus on incentivising the take-up of electric cars. The charging points will surely follow.”
Mr Heappey later rose to give a full speech on the debate. In his speech he outlined the three areas he wished to talk about, “I want to talk briefly about three areas of Government policy: fuel duty, low-carbon generation capacity and the preparedness of our energy system.” On the first issue Mr Heappey outlined how “road duty is worth about £27.2 billion a year, which is about 4% of the Exchequer’s money.” He pointed to his estimate that each vehicle pays about £460 of fuel duty and said that “The big challenge for the Department for Transport is to work out how that £460 of fuel duty per vehicle can be transferred to some other tax, be that car tax—although then we could be talking about paying £500 or £600 of car tax per vehicle—or a road pricing scheme.”
Moving onto the second area of his speech, low carbon generation capacity, he said “Bloomberg envisages that, on current expectations, by 2040 electric cars will require about 1,900 terawatt-hours of electricity around the world. That represents about 10% of what we are currently generating globally.” He added that there needed to be a focus on “creating the renewable generation capacity to meet that increase in demand.”
On his final point about the preparedness of our energy system, the Wells MP said “This is not just about the number of charging points; it is about the ability of the energy network behind those charging points to carry the energy to the required areas so that cars can be charged.” He also drew attention to recent appearances by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in front of the ECC select committee. “The Secretary of State has been to see the Energy and Climate Change Committee, on which I sit, on many occasions, and she has told us of a mythical cross-departmental Cabinet-level working group that is working on all these things. We have pushed her quite hard on who sits on it, how often it meets and where we can see the minutes of those meetings, but they do not seem to be forthcoming.” Mr Heappey asked if the Minister could “reassure us that the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Department for Transport and the Treasury are working on these issues in parallel?”
Also on 6 July James Heappey spoke in the Commons following the Prime Minister’s statement about the Chilcot report of the inquiry into the Iraq war. Mr Heappey said that it had “been sobering this afternoon to hear the reflections of those who took the decision here in 2003.” He reflected on his own experience of being sent to Iraq, “I went to Iraq in 2007 to deliver on that decision; it was a difficult and dangerous time. During that summer and the rest of the campaign, many of my friends and colleagues were sent home dead or injured.” He asked whether the Prime Minister could “reassure the House that the urgent operating requirement process is now quick enough so that we will never again send troops into battle in vehicles that are not fit for purpose?”
The Prime Minister responded to Mr Heappey’s question by first thanking Mr Heappey for his service in the Armed Forces in Iraq and then went on to say “one of the positive things that has come out of this and Afghanistan is that the urgent operational requirement system means we have commissioned some fantastic kit for our soldiers, sailors and airmen more quickly, and responded to their needs.” The Prime Minister added, “There are some positive lessons to learn from all of this, as well as, obviously, the negative ones.”
James Heappey also asked his first written question of the Parliamentary session this week. His question, submitted on Tuesday 5 July was directed towards the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. The MP for Wells’s question asked the Secretary of State, Sajid Javid whether his department will undertake an assessment of the potential effect on business of introducing a minimum wage of £17.50 per hour. The question is yet to be answered.
Mr Heappey voted a total of six times this week, once on energy spending priorities and five time on the Wales Bill.
On 4 July Mr Heappey voted once on energy spending priorities. He voted: for a motion on the Department for Energy and Climate Change’s expenditure that would reduce resources authorised for current purposes by £2,605,722,000.
On 5 July James Heappey voted five times on the Wales Bill. He voted: against a proposed Plaid Cymru amendment to the Bill that would replaces the Bill’s proposed recognition of Welsh law with provisions to separate the legal jurisdictions of England and of Wales, as drafted by the Welsh Government; against a proposed Labour amendment to the Bill that would require the Secretary of State to keep the justice system as it applies in relation to Wales under review with a view to its development and reform, having regard in particular to divergence in the law as between England and Wales; for a clause that would ensure the requirement of a justice impact statement when a Bill is introduced to the Welsh Assembly; against a proposed Labour clause to the Bill that would amend the Wales Act 2014 to replace a provision that requires that the majority of the voters in a referendum in Wales vote in favour of any income tax provisions coming into force with a provision for a fiscal framework to be prepared by the Secretary of State, which must be approved by the Assembly and each House of Parliament before the income tax provisions may be commenced; and for adding the clause in the Wales Act 2014 that requires a referendum to change income tax rates to the Wales Bill.
Mr Heappey voted with the majority and was loyal to the government on all six votes.
Energy and Climate Change Committee
The Committee held two oral evidence sessions this week on 5 July and 6 July.
On 5 July the committee held a one off hearing looking into the Competition and Market Authority’s proposals to reform the energy market. Mr Heappey asked several questions during the hearing. Among the questions he asked the panel was “Why is it necessary to have a transitional price cap for prepayment customers and what did you hope it would accomplish?” Roger Witcomb, Chair of the Energy Market Investigation at the Competition and Market Authority (CMA), replied by saying “I think the first thing to say is that the prepayment market is very different from the credit meter market.” He added that “In the prepayment market there is not nearly so much competition. The deals available to prepayment customers are not nearly so good.”
Another member of the panel, Simeon Thornton, Project Director at the CMA, also helped answer Mr Heappey’s question by saying “we were very convinced that the situation for the prepayment customer was very different to that of other customers.” Mr Thornton gave some statistics on the scale of the issue, “They are overpaying to the extent of about 12% of their bill…It is a last resort, but that is why we thought a price cut was necessary.”
On 6 July the Energy and Climate Change Committee, along with the European Scrutiny, Business, Innovation and Skills, Welsh Affairs and Work and Pensions Committees all asked questions to Anna Soubry, Minister of State for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. They asked questions on the matter of the steel crisis and the implications of the Brexit vote on the UK steel sector. Mr Heappey was not present at the hearing.