Ben Dean-Titterrell

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Tag: Finance Bill

James Heappey weekly: No.19

jamesheappey

Week 5 September – 11 September

In a week when Parliament came back from its summer recess, the Prime Minister, Theresa May, attended the G20 Summit in China, and the government announced plans to lift the ban on opening new grammar schools, what did James Heappey do?

Speeches and written questions

James Heappey spoke several times in Parliament this week, firstly at Prime Minister’s Questions and later during two House of Commons debates.

During PMQs on Wednesday Mr Heappey asked the Prime Minister a question on the issue of high speed broadband. He raised the example of event he held the previous week where local residents and businesses could claim a £500 voucher from Connecting Devon and Somerset to fund an alternative broadband connection capable, asking whether the Prime Minister would “confirm that the Government remain committed to delivering a universal service obligation of at least 10 megabits per second by 2020?”

Later on the same day James Heappey spoke multiple times in a debate about the Paris Climate Change Agreement, his first contribution to the debate was an intervention during the debate’s opening speech by Barry Gardiner, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change. The Wells MP took issue with what he saw as Mr Gardiner’s manufacturing of a disagreement, saying “I think that there is consensus on both sides of the House that we should ratify it [the Paris Climate Change Agreement]. All member states of the EU must ratify it in their time, so in my view, his sense of urgency is also manufactured.”

Mr Heappey’s main contribution to the debate came later on when he gave a lengthy speech on the matter of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, as well as alternative and renewable energy issues. He started his speech by affirming his belief that the agreement reached in Paris last December will be ratified by the UK government, “as far as I can tell, there is consensus in the House on tackling climate change and ratifying the Paris agreement.” He again dismissed the idea of there being a division in the Commons on the issue, “To present a picture of disunity is rather unhelpful when there is real consensus of opinion in this place that we must all tackle this real challenge together.”

He then sought to alter the frame of the debate by looking at the opportunities presented by decarbonisation, specifically focusing on the issue of supplying energy for heating. He described an occasion in which he met a man on benefits and living in fuel poverty in east London and how a district heating system had helped him heat his flat. “Once the district heating system had been installed, he had put £30 on to his new meter in his flat. He had done so in October; when I went to see him at the beginning of March, there was still £13 left on the meter. He had heated his flat for an entire winter for seventeen quid. That is just extraordinary. It is socially just to adopt such policies; it does not just help tackle climate change.”

James Heappey also pointed to a hospital in London carrying out “socially just” energy policies, laying out how the hospital “combined heat and power station to cut down its energy bills by synergising heat and electricity.” It realised it could sell the excess heat to a district heating system at low cost. He described as extraordinary how it was able to us the proceeds from the heating network have allowed it to build a new cancer centre.

The final example the MP for Wells pointed to was a chain of hotels he knew of that were installing combined heat and power stations, “It is making huge savings on its energy costs while still absolutely meeting its customers’ needs for roasting hot water at whatever time of day. It is achieving that while saving money and decarbonising.”

Mr Heappey’s speech focused on this theme of finding new and profitable ways of decarbonisation rather than subsidies. Warning about the overuse of government subsidies for renewable energy, he said “Sound climate change policy is not about the levels of subsidy. Subsidy can become a crutch if we are not careful. The Government have used subsidy as a lever to grow the renewables industries to the point at which they can go it alone.”

Bringing his speech to a close he briefly touched on the plans to build a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point, “as far as I can see, new nuclear is the only low-carbon generation technology that is ready to guarantee now that it will meet our baseload needs in the middle of the next decade. We cannot wish away the reality that our existing nuclear fleet will decommission in the next decade or so.”

Looking to the future of energy policy, James Heappey said he sought to “champion decentralised energy, a digitised smart energy system and the incredible economic and industrial opportunities that come with it.”

The following day Mr Heappey spoke at length in another Commons debate, this time on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (essentially a period of further development of advanced digital technologies). His first contribution to the debate was an intervention during a speech by Ronnie Cowan, an SNP MP. He gave more detail on the hospital he mentioned in his speech the previous day, “Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London has been able to install in a hospital a combined heat and power system that saves it £2 million a year on its operating costs. It has done that not through Government promotion but because the technology is there and it has sought to adopt it, and it is doing immediate good for that public service.”

Minutes later Mr Heappey rose to give his speech to the debate, it was long and touched on a vast range of different issues. He started by mentioning that there was still some contention as to whether this is currently the third or the fourth industrial revolution, but said that reading about the topic had led to him developing his thinking on the changing nature of energy policy.

A large portion of James Heappey’s speech was about challenging the idea that consumers would have to change their habits in a changing energy market, “The idea that we have to change our consumption habits to meet a changing energy market sounds like a nightmare to most people, but the reality is that we already have many of the technologies in our homes.” He also pointed to the importance of smart meters, “As Ministers know only too well, the smart meter programme is the keystone in achieving the digitisation of our energy system, and I know that they will be keen to push on with that roll-out at best speed.”

Another part of Mr Heappey’s speech focused on electric cars and he commended the government’s actions to increase the number of electric cars on the roads. He pointed specifically to “the £4,500 that they contribute towards the car and the contribution they make towards a charging point at the buyer’s home” and described such policies as fantastic. However he said more work needed to be done in growing charging infrastructure across the country if more are to buy electric cars.

He began to bring his speech to a close by saying that focus on energy infrastructure was just as important as more high profile technology issues, “The bottom line is that, while we will focus very much on our digital infrastructure with broadband and 5G mobile phones and we will worry very much about the preparedness of our airports and air routes, as well as of our roads and rail, the energy infrastructure is just as important.”

Voting record

The MP for Wells cast nine votes this week, all on the Finance Bill.

On 5 September Mr Heappey voted five times on the Finance Bill. He voted: against a proposed amendment that would require the Chancellor to carry out review of corporation tax treatment of UK oil and gas companies; against an amendment that would abandon plans to lower the rate of corporation tax from 18% to 17% for the financial year 2020; against a proposed new clause that would require the Chancellor to carry out a review of the tax regime which applies to Scottish Limited Partnerships on levels of tax avoidance and evasion by such partnerships; against a proposed new clause that would require the Chancellor to carry out a review of the UK tax gap for the previous five financial years; and against a proposed amendment that would make women’s sanitary products manufactured, acquired or imported any date before or after 1 April 2018 no longer subject to VAT, rather than leaving the Treasury to choose the day when the changes take place.

On 6 September Mr Heappey voted a further four times on the Finance Bill. He voted: against a proposed amendment that would abandon plans to reduce the rate of capital gains tax; against a proposed new clause that would require the Chancellor to carry out a review into  changes to the tax on dividend income implemented the Act affect directors of microbusiness companies; against a proposed new clause that would prevent the raising of VAT on energy saving materials; and for a government amendment that would delay from 1 October 2016 to 14 November 2016 the introduction of excise duty of aqua methanol.

Mr Heappey voted with the majority and was loyal to the government on all nine votes this week.

Energy and climate change committee

Even thought the Department for Energy and Climate Change was abolished by Theresa May when she took office as Prime Minister, the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee still exists and is publishing reports. However it has not carried out any evidence hearings in the week since Parliament came back from summer recess.

Expenses

While Parliament was away the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority published data on MPs expenses for April and May 2016.

During the two month period Mr Heappey claimed a total of £12,498.35 through 27 expenses claims. The most expensive of his claims was for a subscription to the Parliamentary Resources Unit (PRU) for £2,671. The PRU is a scheme available to Conservative MPs which makes the process of hiring researches  by allowing research staff to be shared among subscribing MPs.

James Heappey claimed £7,944.80 on accommodation and constituency office rent. The rest of Mr Heappey’s claims throughout April and May were mainly small claims almost all below £50 for things like office stationary.

One of Mr Heappey’s claims during this period was made on 14 April for a banner, it was listed as an stationary purchase in the office costs category. It says he claimed and was subsequently paid £-9.60, that’s minus nine pounds sixty. My best guess at what this means is that it relates to a claim made on 26 October last year, a banner for £9.60. I believe he made the claim back in October accidentally on his expenses when it was for personal use, realised this in April and decided he needed to pay back the IPSA the £9.60. Rather than be forced to repay the claim, he submitted a claim which allowed him to repay it voluntarily. I have no assurances that’s what happened but it is my best, and I think most likely, interpretation of the evidence available.

All of Mr Heappey’s claims for April and May were paid in full and none have had to be repaid to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

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James Heappey weekly: No.15

jamesheappey

Week 27 June – 3 July

In a week when Boris Johnson stunningly ruled himself of the race to lead the Conservative party following Michael Gove’s last minute decision to withdraw his support and run for the leadership himself, the Labour party fell into turmoil as Jeremy Corbyn lost a no-confidence vote by Labour MPs 172-40 following mass resignations from his shadow front bench team and then nearly a leadership challenge from Angela Eagle, and Wales beat Belgium 3-1 to make it into the semi-finals of Euro 2016, what did James Heappey do?

Speeches and written questions

James Heappey spoke at length in the House of Commons this week firstly asking a question during Defence questions and then leading a debate on bank branch closures later in the week.

Mr Heappey asked a question during Defence questions on Monday 27 June about expanding the number of school aged cadets. He expressed his gratitude for earlier comments made by Julian Brazier, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Ministry of Defence with responsibility for the Reserve Forces, about the cadet expansion programme before asking if he would “tell us at what point, if at all, expressions of interest from schools in non-priority areas will be accepted if insufficient applications are made from priority areas?”

Mr Brazier replied to the Wells MP’s question by stating that he was reflecting on the problems of success. He added, “We have many applications from priority areas” but said “I cannot make any firm promises, I am afraid, for those who do not meet the priority criteria.” He finished on a positive note by affirming “We are firmly on track to deliver the schools we need.”

Later in the week on Thursday 30 June James Heappey led a debate on the issue of bank branch closures, something that has been a issue of great concern in Glastonbury in his own constituency. Mr Heappey spoke at great length throughout the debate. He opened his contribution to the debate by thanking the Backbench Business Committee for allowing the debate to go ahead and outlined the scale of the problem of bank branch closures by pointing to the 222 branches that closed in 2013, the 681 in 2015 and the 333 that have closed so far this year.

Mr Heappey pointed out the scale of the problem in his own constituency, “There have been closures in, for instance, Wells, Shepton Mallet, Burnham-on-Sea and, most recently, Glastonbury.” He added that due the recent Glastonbury festival, held just a few miles from Glastonbury itself, it seemed ridiculous that the area didn’t have a single bank branch, “Today’s debate is timely, because the following week there were 200,000 people in fields not far outside Glastonbury. The idea that the town does not have a single bank must seem quite remarkable to all Members.”

The MP for Wells affirmed how the issue should not be taken lightly, “Glastonbury contains only about 10,000 people, but it serves a much wider hinterland. How extraordinary it is that 750 businesses should reply to a survey entitled “Glastonbury Bank Closures”! That tells us just what an important issue this is.”

He took an intervention from Labour MP David Lammy who asked whether “the bank bother to consult him before making its decision, or was he presented with a fait accompli?” Mr Heappey responded that the banks did notify of their decision and did agree to meet him to discuss the issue. However he added that “It was more about assuaging my fears and trying to persuade me that various steps were being taken in mitigation.”

James Heappey also took and intervention from Labour MP Albert Owen who said the Wells MP was giving an eloquent description of his constituency’s situation. Mr Owen complained about lack of government action, “There is also a survey by Government to retain and regenerate town centres, which has been ignored, because the hon. Gentleman highlighted four empty buildings in his relatively small town.”

Mr Heappey then took an intervention from Gareth Thomas, a Labour Co-operative MP, who drew attention to the United States, “when banks take significant deposits from particular communities, they are required by regulators to demonstrate that they are offering significant financial services to those communities in return.” He asked Mr Heappey whether he thought “such a requirement might have meant that his Glastonbury constituents might have had some confidence that the banks were at least going to help a credit union or community bank to get up and running, to offer an alternative service if those banks were still determined to leave?”

Mr Heappey replied to Mr Thomas by saying he had read “Congress’s Community Reinvestment Act”. He said that many some of the things carried out in the United States, such as making a requirement for banks to “offer equal access to banking in less affluent areas” could be something for the government to consider.

Mr Heappey later moved onto the impact of bank branch closures on small business. He stated that “The reality is that the bank branch network is most valuable to small businesses” adding, “It is the small business community that has no other choice. Small businesses rely on cash, and sometimes they have no other staff.”

James Heappey continued to detail the reasons why convenient and accessible bank branches were so important before bringing his speech to a close. He finished by saying “This is a simple matter of fairness. People value their access to a bank. There are many reasons why the access to banking protocols need to be strengthened, and I am sure that the Treasury will take note of this debate today.”

Voting record

James Heappey voted eight times this week on matters relating to the Finance Bill.

On 27 June he voted three times on aspects of the Finance Bill. He voted: against a proposed opposition amendment to the Bill that would have made an exception for low emissions vehicles in changes to how diesel cars are taxed; against a proposed SNP amendment to the Bill that would require the Chancellor of the Exchequer to conduct a review of the impact on workers defined as providing services through intermediaries of their treatment for income tax purposes; and against a proposed Labour amendment to the Bill that would require the Chancellor of the Exchequer to conduct a review of the impact of the Climate Change Levy in reducing carbon emissions.

On 28 June the MP for Wells voted a further four times on matters relating to the Finance Bill. He voted: against a proposed Labour amendment to the Bill that would require a relevant group to include a country-by-country report in the publication of its tax strategy; against a proposed Labour clause to the Bill that would require the Chancellor to publish an estimate of the impact on levels of tax avoidance and tax evasion of extending the current requirement on UK-based companies to publish information about people who have significant control over them to companies incorporated in the Crown Dependencies and the Overseas Territories which have significant levels of trading activity within the UK; for a proposed clause to the Bill that would lower the rate of corporation tax for the 2020 financial year from 18% to 17%; for a proposed clause that would reduce the rate of capital gains tax; and against a proposed Labour clause to the Bill that would require the Chancellor to commission a review of ways in which the law could be amended to ensure that no element of the remuneration paid to an investment fund manager may be treated as a capital gain, and that such remuneration shall be treated for tax purposes wholly as income.

Mr Heappey voted with the majority and was loyal to the government on all eight voted this week.

Energy and climate change committee

The committee carried out two oral evidence sessions this week on the issues of progress towards the 2020 targets for renewable transport fuels and the impact of Government policy on confidence in the energy sector.

On 28 July the committee heard evidence for their inquiry into 2020 heat and transport renewable targets. Mr Heappey asked many questions during the session among which were questions about the rate of uptake in biofuels. He asked Dr Nina Skorupska, Chief Executive of the Renewable Energy Association, “It is predicted that if sterling continues to fall quicker than the price of oil petrol pump prices will become higher and, therefore, people might seek alternatives. Would you agree with that?”

Dr Skorupska replied that “I haven’t worked out the economics around the arguments about what would drive people—sorry for the pun—to make those choices” adding “Who knows how low the currency will sink?” Mr Heappey put it to Dr Skorupska that “It must figure that higher pump prices are a problem for the cost of living, of course, but they do make people think about what the alternatives are.”

She replied by saying “It does. Also a large proportion of what they are paying at the pump is fuel duty, so there are then choices for the Government whether to help negate those impacts if there is a perception that having bioethanol introduced into the price of the fuel would cause it to be higher.” She put forward the introduction of lead-free fuel as an example, “There was a great success in the past with the introduction of lead-free fuel, for example, through changes in duties.”

On 29 July the committee held an oral evidence session for their inquiry into investor confidence in the UK energy sector. Andrea Leadsom, Minister of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change was questioned during the session. Mr Heappey was not present at the session and hence did not ask any questions to the Minister.