Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): What steps his Department is taking to promote innovation (a) in the regions and (b) nationally.

The Minister for Climate Change and Industry (Mr Nick Hurd): Innovation is at the heart of our industrial strategy. Investment in science, funding through Innovate UK, and research and development tax credits all contribute to our goal of making sure the UK remains one of the most innovative countries in the world.

Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. The latest figures from the Patent Office show that my constituency has more patents awarded than any other district in the east midlands, more than Manchester, more than Cheshire East, and is in the top 8% in the country. May I ask that the measures we take, some of which he outlined, do not stop at urban boundaries and extend into rural areas, fully using the talents of people and businesses there, including the incredible level of talent that has been demonstrated in High Peak?

The Minister for Climate Change and Industry (Mr Nick Hurd): I congratulate, through my hon. Friend, the innovators in his constituency on an outstanding achievement. Let me reassure him that the Government are determined to make sure, both through the industrial strategy and tools such as the innovations audits, that we are better informed and better equipped to support innovation across the country.

Hansard Source

Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Nuttall. In a constituency such as mine, this debate is of great relevance and importance. Let me state from the outset that I am in favour of driven grouse shooting and all the benefits it brings to communities such as mine in the High Peak. However, I will qualify that and outline some of the issues, as I see them, and what I have learned over the past few weeks as I have looked into the matter in greater depth. Although many of the points I wish to make have already been made by my right hon. and hon. Friends, some of them need adding to or repeating.

My support for grouse shooting is matched by my support for enforcement of the law against the killing of birds of prey: kestrels, peregrines and hen harriers, to name but a few. They are majestic animals—seeing one is a fantastic experience—and anybody caught killing one must feel the full force of the law. That is not in dispute.

As I understand it from the representations I have received in the High Peak, opposition to driven grouse shooting exists for three principal reasons. The first is the persecution of birds of prey: it is alleged that they are being killed to protect grouse from predation. The second is ecological: the maintenance of grouse moors harms the environment. The third is the objection on philosophical grounds.

I suspect that my remarks, along with those of colleagues, may incur wrath on Twitter, because many proponents of banning driven grouse shooting tend to use Twitter as a method of expressing their views. However, I reassure them and others that my views are not preconceived ideas; they are the result of extensive discussions with people on both sides of the argument. I have met constituents who asked to see me on the matter, regardless of whether they are for or against driven grouse shooting, and our discussions have generally been cordial and reasonable.

I pay tribute to all those who have taken the time to come to see me on this issue. I thank them for their time and interest. As with any issue, I am always impressed when people feel impassioned enough to come to talk to me about it because it is close to their heart. In a world in which it is easy to just click and send an email, for someone to physically take the time and trouble to make their case in person always resonates more with me than an intemperate email.

In addition to meetings in my constituency office, I have been out on the High Peak grouse moors over the last two weeks to see how they are managed. There is a deluge of conflicting evidence on this issue, both authentic and anecdotal. As ever, as parliamentarians we have to digest it all and formulate our own views on that basis. I make the following observations on the three issues I have highlighted.

On the persecution of birds of prey, claims have been made about gamekeepers killing birds willy-nilly to protect the grouse from predation. I am not saying that all those claims are without foundation, but we cannot assume that all gamekeepers are going round killing birds of prey. That would be ridiculous. Having met gamekeepers, landowners and tenants over the last few weeks, I am convinced that that is not the case.

I have seen and heard of raptors living and being encouraged on grouse moors in my constituency and others. The hon. Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith) says there are no hen harriers in her constituency at all, but on Friday I saw a video of five hen harriers that had hatched there. I was assured that they were in her constituency by the chap who discovered them. That is what I have been told and I will happily discuss it with her after the debate.

Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Lab): I feel the need to respond to that point because I have been named. That just is not true. There are no hen harriers in my constituency. They have not nested in my constituency for years. There have been just three nests across the whole of England this year, and none of them is in the Peak District. The hon. Gentleman ought to talk to the national park in which he and I are neighbours to establish the truth. The Peak District national park is on the point of walking away from voluntary partnerships because we are not getting the success on hen harrier nesting that we deserve.

Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): I refer the hon. Lady to an article that appeared in The Derbyshire Magazine written by Jim Dixon, who is the former chief executive of the Peak District national park. The article is about hen harriers, and the last sentence says:

“These harriers raise their precious family on a grouse moor in the Peak District.”

That was what the then chief executive of the Peak District national park wrote in 2014.

Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Lab): In the Peak District, not in my constituency.

Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): The hon. Lady just said that there were none in the Peak District. I shall confirm it with the chap who found them, but he assured me. He actually said that he would be happy to speak to the hon. Lady if she wanted to. I have seen and heard of raptors living and encouraged throughout my constituency. The management of grouse moors requires the control of predators such as foxes, weasels and crows, which actually aids and promotes the survival of birds of prey.

I have seen the ecological benefits that the management of the moors can bring. There are claims that the burning of heather can result in the burning of the peat and so on. On Friday, I saw evidence that that is not the case. When it is done properly, the cool burning of heather does not burn the peat. If we left the heather unburned, it would grow longer and become more of a fire hazard, which, were it to catch light, certainly would burn the peat. The burning of heather, little and often, does not have an ecological impact.

As we have heard, there is also a philosophical opposition, which can be applied to many country sports, from grouse shooting through even to fishing. I have never been grouse shooting. My only experience of shooting is a couple of attempts at clay pigeon shooting that were not successful, so I have no vested interest other than the impact on my constituency. Shooting as a whole makes a contribution to country life and the rural economy.

Nigel Adams (Selby and Ainsty) (Con): Those who seek to ban driven grouse shooting, such as Mr Avery, who my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker) referred to earlier, argue that walked-up shooting could be a practical alternative. Does my hon. Friend agree that that argument simply flies in the face of basic economics, given the obvious reduction in the bag and the amount of money that a day’s walked-up shooting would take compared with a driven day?

Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): I completely agree. I think the figures cited earlier were that that alternative would account for only 10% of the economic benefit of driven grouse shooting.

Simon Hart (Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire) (Con): On enforcement, does my hon. Friend agree that trying to write a law that defines shooting a grouse that is flying towards one as a criminal offence, but leaves it perfectly legal to shoot it when it is flying away, could pose some difficulties?

Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): Yes, that would be completely unenforceable and probably slightly ridiculous.

Grouse shooting makes such a huge contribution to country life. Not only does it provide employment and people’s livelihoods, but it helps with social cohesion in rural areas. I fully respect those who hold the view that we should not hunt, shoot or fish any animal, but there is always the alternative. Look at the benefits to rural areas such as mine. Shooting providers spend millions every year on the conservation and management of some of the most beautiful areas of the country, which are often the hardest to maintain.

I have studied this matter in some depth. I have listened to all sides of the argument and I have been out to the moors to see things for myself. I have met many people; at this point I shall mention Mike Price from the Peak District raptor monitoring group, to whom other Members have referred. He came to London to see me and articulated his concerns. The report referred to by the hon. Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge actually says that the group does not currently support a ban on driven grouse shooting, although Mr Price expressed a desire to see stronger penalties enforced for those who transgress the law. I thank him for the time he took and for his reasoned approach.

As a result of all the discussions I have had, I conclude thus. Grouse shooting provides economic, ecological and environmental benefits not just to the areas where it operates but beyond. The shooting community continues to make its case and should continue to demonstrate zero tolerance of those who break the law. Similarly, opponents are free to make their points and voice their opposition, but it should be based on rigorous evidence that would stand up in a court of law. It cannot be anecdotal, but should be strong enough to lead to prosecution, if required. It is not only possible for birds of prey and successful grouse moors to co-exist; in many ways, they are necessary for each other to survive.

Hansard Source

Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): Thank you for calling me to speak in this important debate, Madam Deputy Speaker. The report was brought to my attention by Lucy Boadman, my local member of the Youth Parliament, who has been in the Chamber for Youth Parliament debates. Lucy is in the Public Gallery to listen to the debate today and has even assisted me in formulating my remarks today—I will return to that later. As a result of the contact from Lucy, I made my own application for a Westminster Hall debate, but owing to an administrative error somewhere behind the Chair it was unable to be heard. I therefore congratulate and thank the hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Helen Hayes) for bringing this debate to the Chamber today.

Before I address the subject directly, I would like to applaud not only the hon. Lady but the Backbench Business Committee for granting this debate, not just for the seriousness of the issue but for the legitimacy it confers on the Youth Parliament. As we all try to engage with young people more and more, it is imperative that the efforts of the Youth Parliament get acknowledged and debated in here. As Lucy, now a former member, tells me, when the Youth Parliament casts out for subjects, mental health is very often in the top five or six that concern young people, so it is important that it is considered. The report is excellent, but it is also important that we debate it today.

The report is thorough and makes several conclusions and recommendations, as highlighted by the hon. Lady, but I wanted to get a better understanding of the issues facing young people in the modern age that can lead to the mental health issues laid out in the report. It is a long time since I was a young person—[Hon. Members: “No!”]—thank you—so I thought the best way for me to understand the issue was to make use of the expertise of young people, as highlighted in recommendation 17 of the report. I decided to do that off my own bat, so I had a conversation not only with Lucy but with another 17-year-old young lady I know very well, Martha Banks Thompson. I asked them to tell me what their thoughts and experiences of life as a teenager were and about the pressures that they and their friends have to face in the modern-day world. Both girls are A-level politics students, but from different ends of the country. Lucy is from my constituency of High Peak and Martha lives in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove). My remarks today are very much—although not completely—based on the conversations we have had.

Mental health issues in any person, of any age, are very often difficult to diagnose. As has been highlighted, they are not like a broken leg, which can be seen; they are not as tangible as that. Mental health issues can often be mistaken for a temporary emotional upheaval or distress, but in the young they can often be put down to other things: pure teenage angst, raging hormones or just plain old teenage moodiness—or, as some people say, the Kevin and Perry syndrome. Consequently, these issues go unspotted and unnoticed and therefore untreated. By the time it is realised that there is a problem, it has manifested itself to such a degree that it becomes even harder to treat.

Who would, should or could identify the problem? In all likelihood it would be an adult—a parent, a guardian or even a teacher. Because of that, there is a generational gap. I am sure anyone in the Chamber or listening today will have heard from a teenage the line, “You don’t understand”, and in this case I think that, as adults, we do not understand. So what should we look for and how does the problem manifest itself? There are various symptoms and they are all too easy to miss. As we have heard, there could be anxiety, depression, eating disorders, contemplation of suicide or maybe even self-harm. Self-harm can sometimes be seen as a cry for help or attention, but more often it is a symptom of a much deeper problem. When can it occur? In days gone by, the pinch points for stress among teenagers were usually exam times: January for their mock GCSEs—they were O-levels when I took them—or May for their final exams. However, in the modern world there are so many more pressures that can impact on young people and bring about problems.

How are things different from when we were young? What are the extra factors and circumstances that we did not have to contend with that the modern-day young person or teenager does? There are many, but it would be a derogation of our duty to consider this question without looking at the impact of social media, whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp or Snapchat, or the many more that those of us in the Chamber have probably not heard of. Only a few years ago, they were a figment of the imagination—in my day they were science fiction—but now not only are they part of everyday life, but for the modern teenager they are often the preferred method of communicating with each other.

These technologies have much to commend them and have many advantages, not just for the teenager but for all of us in the Chamber. I am sure many of us tweet and have Facebook pages, and I am sure we all have websites. Indeed, I would venture to say that most of our communication as Members of Parliament with our constituents comes via email, making us more accessible than we have ever been. It is good that we are, and so is communication between young people. Again, I am going to betray my age now, but the days of sending notes to the object of our affections across the classroom with “SWALK” written on the back of the envelope—

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): SWALK?

Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): Exactly. I mentioned this to Martha and Lucy and they did not know what SWALK was. I can tell my hon. Friend that it stands for “Sealed with a loving kiss”. Those days are long gone. Now everything is done via social media. It is out in the open for everyone to see and it is also there forever. The SWALK letter is read. If it is not reciprocated, it is thrown away; if it is reciprocated, it is replied to. On social media, it remains there forever.

That brings with it perils and pressures. Relationships, appearance, fashion, style—all are analysed in the public glare. Relationships, attitudes and opinions once shared privately between friends are now put out for the world to see, with every comment seemingly soliciting a further comment or response and the rhetoric growing from that. With, for example, chat groups on applications such as WhatsApp, it is very easy for what could be seen as a little verbal leg-pulling or teasing to take on a sinister complexion. We increasingly hear stories of cyber-bullying and the posting of revenge pictures. I am sure all of us in this House have at one time or another been on the receiving end of comments online that we would see as offensive or upsetting. However, for a teenager, maybe uncertain, vulnerable or lacking in confidence, such remarks can have a shattering effect on their self-confidence and in turn their mental state.

Let us look at the media in general. The modern media seem to present all young people in reality programmes such as “Made in Chelsea” as perfectly formed human beings, which puts pressure on so many young people to be absolutely perfect. The slightest imperfection, perceived or otherwise, can become a major issue. We hear a lot about body image, too, and young people’s attitude towards it. Again, the desire to be perfect crops up, so when a perceived imperfection is not only remarked on but ridiculed via social media, it can be amplified and re-tweeted, when “likes”, “unlikes” and “comments” can become very cruel, particularly to uncertain and vulnerable teenagers. This can severely damage the self-esteem and mental health of a young person.

Our consumer society is another issue. As we see with mobile phones, clothing and computers, everywhere we look there is a thirst for the latest, the best, the biggest, the fastest and the shiniest, while anything less than the optimum is seen as a problem. This is another issue that ratchets up the mental pressure on young people. I am not saying that a young person’s not having the latest iPhone will lead to mental health problems, but I am saying is that if someone is vulnerable and has low self-esteem, this sort of thing can work to enhance those insecurities and push someone into the territory that we are discussing today.

We need to remember, too, that all these pressures—I have mentioned only a few—are impacting on young people at a time when their minds, brains and characters are still growing and forming. As we get older, we form our minds and personalities, and we develop our own resilience to many of these outside pressures.

John Glen (Salisbury) (Con): My hon. Friend is putting forward a pertinent case and providing an accurate analysis of the pressures on our teenagers. Does he agree that it is important to recognise that we need an integrated solution, which requires education and NHS response, so that schools can get in very early and start tackling some of the behaviours that lead to poor mental health outcomes?

Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and his point about the need for a whole school approach is acknowledged in the conclusion of the report. It states that when children leave school, they should be conversant with all the issues around mental health, which the hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood also mentioned in her speech. As I was saying, as we get older, we develop our own resilience, but in young people that development is not complete. That is the issue that we need to be aware of, and it is where schools need to play a part in helping to develop that resilience.

As we know, a stigma is attached to mental health—and nowhere more so than with young people. No young person wishes to admit to it for fear of being labelled, and people often are labelled in this society. Parents are similarly affected, so this leads to a situation of potential denial—I am not sure that “denial” is exactly the right word—which further exacerbates the problem. There seems to be a lack of willingness to say, or a fear of saying, “Look, I have a problem, and I need some help.” There should be no stigma attached to any young person admitting that they are struggling with certain issues, and neither should there be any barrier to parents making a similar plea.

Young people should have somewhere to go to ask for help—the report mentions a counsellor—without fear of ridicule. They should not be judged or labelled either by their peers or by society. Parents can be the strongest help and support for any young person, and we should look to families and family support units as well. We need to enable parents to play as full a part as they can. A young person who is getting some help at 15 can find on turning 16 that they are suddenly deemed to be an adult and their parents can be almost excluded from playing a full part. An attentive parent who is trying to help can face being told, “We can’t discuss this with you, because your girl or boy is now 16”. We should look to see whether there is a way around that problem.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Lucy Boardman and Martha Banks Thompson for their help. They have given me an insight into the world of the modern teenager and into how 21st-century pressures impact on their lives in a way that did not impact on my life as a teenager or that of many other Members here today. It was a very illuminating and educational experience for me, and I pay tribute to both of them for their candour and their honesty. As I have said, talking about these issues freely takes a lot. Many of my remarks today have come as a result of their contribution.

I say gently to the Minister that we must not in any way fall into the trap of dismissing mental health issues in the young as mere growing pains. This is a serious matter. I know she understands, but let us recognise that to provide the help needed, it needs to be not only readily and easily available, but available for as long as it is needed for each person according to their individual needs.

Hansard Source

Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): I have an example in my constituency of state aid preventing development. That development would help companies, and if we can do so, they will grow and create jobs upon jobs. The current situation seems ludicrous and we would be well rid of it, in my view. Does my hon. Friend agree?

Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) (Con): There will be some real opportunities. We will have the chance to re-examine our regulatory regime and competition policy to ensure that the UK is at the forefront of not only oversight, but competition.

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Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): I had a pension scheme collapse in my constituency about 12 years ago, the Federal-Mogul scheme. Schemes go into the PPF and there are assessments, and all the while that that is going on there is uncertainty. Does my hon. Friend not agree that Philip Green should deal with the situation as he has said he would—well, first of all he should have his knighthood taken away—because all the uncertainty impacts on those poor BHS pensioners?

Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and that is why—I intend to finish my remarks on this note—today’s debate matters.

Hansard Source

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