In Parliament – March

Petition – Heanor Memorial Hospital – 11th March 2014

Nigel Mills MP: It is with great pleasure that I present this petition, signed by more than 3,000 of my constituents, showing the extent of feeling about the closure of the Heanor Memorial hospital.

The petition states:

The Petition of the people of Heanor and the wider Amber Valley area,

Declares that the Heanor Memorial Hospital provides essential services to the community of Heanor, and that the Southern Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group should allocate sufficient resources to ensure that the hospital is once again able to open and serve the people of Heanor.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to take all possible steps to ensure that Heanor Memorial Hospital remains open and that health provision in Heanor is enhanced not diminished.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.

Prime Minister’s Questions – 19th March 2014

Nigel Mills MP: Will the Prime Minister join me in praising Conservative-run Amber Valley borough council, which has frozen its council tax for a fifth straight year, providing real help to hard-working people, in stark contrast to the three Labour parts of the area, where it is going up this year?

David Cameron MP (The Prime Minister; Witney, Conservative): My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We should do everything we can to help hard-working people meet their budgets and meet their needs. That is why councils’ freezing council tax provides a huge amount of help. The Government are doing their part by freezing fuel duty, by raising the personal allowance and by doing everything we can to help hard-working people get on with their lives.

Pensions Strategy – 20th March 2014

Nigel Mills MP: I warmly welcome the reforms, which are a great step forward for the pensions industry. The solution to the annuities problem is perhaps more radical than even the Work and Pensions Committee envisaged. May I urge the Minister to make sure that the new guaranteed guidance arrives before people reach retirement age, so that they can have a plan in their mind about what they want to do and what is there for them to choose before they reach that date?

Steve Webb MP (The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions; Thornbury and Yate, Liberal Democrat): My hon. Friend is a distinguished member of the Select Committee, which has scrutinised the issues very effectively. He is quite right that the guidance must come at the right time. We want people to think about their retirement planning much earlier. Certainly, when they are thinking about buying financial products—or, in the jargon, decumulating—we need to make sure that there is someone on their side to give them impartial guidance. We will make sure that that happens.

Topical Questions – Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – 27th March 2014

Nigel Mills MP: I know that the Secretary of State likes visiting chocolate factories, so may I urge him to come and visit the Thorntons factory in my constituency and join me in praising it for the 10% increase in exports it enjoyed last year? That increase was part of the overall growth in exports by the food and drink manufacturing industry, which is a great way of taking this country’s economy forward.

George Eustice MP (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Camborne and Redruth, Conservative): I would be more than happy to come and visit a Thorntons factory. Thorntons is a fabulous chocolate manufacturer and a great success story in the UK. My hon. Friend is right: the food and drink industry is our biggest manufacturing industry in the UK. There is great potential for export opportunities, which is why the Government have an export plan and why we have prioritised exports and done a huge amount of work to open new markets.

Plastic Bags – 27th March 2014

Nigel Mills MP: Would the Minister or Secretary of State care to visit a factory in my constituency that deals with plastic recycling to see at first hand what damage to that industry could be done if biodegradable material accidentally gets into the waste stream?

Dan Rogerson MP (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; North Cornwall, Liberal Democrat): I am clear that we want to build on the good work in plastic recycling. If the hon. Gentleman gives me more details, I am sure we can discuss whether we can go on that visit to match his request.

Quality Workplace Pensions – 27th March 2014

Nigel Mills MP: I welcome the charge cap, which shows how far we have come from the days of stakeholder pensions and the level of charging that was allowed. Will the Minister update the House on some of the other ideas for reform that are out there, such as defined ambition schemes and large aggregator schemes, which might also give savers a better deal?

Steve Webb MP (The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions; Thornbury and Yate, Liberal Democrat): I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Stakeholder pensions were the previous Government’s one attempt to limit charges. He will recall that they initially introduced a 1% cap—again, we have seen the colour of their money—before going back on that and allowing 1.5% for 10 years. I have always wanted to say that we will take no lectures from the Labour party, and now he has now given me the chance. On defined ambition schemes, we will be taking that agenda forward, and I hope to have more to say about that when we publish our response to the consultation document. With regard to large-scale pension schemes, the command paper we are publishing today included a section on scale that I think he will find interesting. We think that the pot-follow-member model is the best way of ensuring that people build significant pension pots with the person they are currently saving with.

Northern Ireland – 27th March 2014

I spoke at length during the debate on Northern Ireland and on-the-runs, and the suggestion that they have been given an amnesty. You can read the full account of this debate here.