Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): I suspect that the Secretary of State knows exactly what I am going to raise with him. He picked the years of 1997 to 2010 at random, and I will go along the same vein. In ’97, my predecessor said that the Mottram-Tintwistle bypass would definitely get built; in 2010, there was still no spade in the ground. We promised before the last election that we would build the Mottram relief road and the Glossop spur, and we are looking at extending that to deal with the Mottram and Tintwistle problem. Can he confirm to me and my residents that we are still determined to press on with that as fast as possible? We talk about growing the economy and growing jobs, and that project is vital for Glossop and the surrounding area.

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Patrick McLoughlin): My hon. Friend is my parliamentary neighbour: our constituencies share a border. He has made his case and I am pleased to confirm our road investment strategy, which reflects the points he has made. In fact, we want to go further. We have commissioned a report by Colin Matthews on better connectivity between Manchester and Sheffield, which would have a huge beneficial effect for my hon. Friend’s constituency.

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Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): As chairman of the all-party group on commercial radio, I welcome the comments that the Secretary of State has made about the need for distinctiveness, as there has been a concern that some BBC stations are mimicking those in the commercial sector. That factor combined with the removal of the 50% guarantee on in-house production will not only enhance the BBC, but allow the commercial sector, and commercial radio, to flourish alongside it, making room for both.

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr John Whittingdale): I am aware of the concerns expressed by commercial radio about some aspects of BBC radio provision. Certainly, the requirement that there should be distinctiveness in BBC services applies to radio just as it does to television. In future, if commercial radio has complaints, it will of course be able to voice them to Ofcom, the independent regulator. On the opening up of content for independent production, the 100% ambition that we have set the BBC applies to television. For radio, the BBC has agreed that it will aim to reach 60%, which would represent a huge increase on the present level, and provide sufficient opportunities to the radio independent production sector.

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Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): What steps the Government are taking to ensure that energy consumers are on the best value energy tariff. [904993]

The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Amber Rudd): The most effective way for consumers to ensure that they are on the best value tariff is by engaging with the energy market and switching supplier. I encourage all Members to urge their constituents to engage with the market and make use of the readily available Ofgem-approved price comparison websites. Meanwhile, we will continue to make it easier for consumers to switch, and we are working with Ofgem and the industry to move to reliable next-day switching by 2018.

Andrew Bingham:
High Peak is probably one of the coldest constituencies in England in the winter, so our household energy costs are probably disproportionately high compared with many other areas of the country. Has the Secretary of State made any assessment already of the trends of people changing suppliers and whether they are actually changing suppliers to keep those costs down?

Amber Rudd: I can reassure my hon. Friend that switching was at a four-year high in 2015, with 6.1 million electricity and gas switches across Great Britain—roughly a 15% increase on 2014. I am aware that some people are unable or unwilling to switch, which is why we have the big energy saving network programme. This year, that programme gave £10,000 of funding to two champions in High Peak who reached more than 350 customers directly, and trained 111 front-line staff. Over the year, more than 1,900 vulnerable customers were supported. It is important to reach all consumers.

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Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): What steps he has taken to increase the number of younger workers subscribing to pension schemes.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr Shailesh Vara): The Government continue to roll out the programme of automatic enrolment of all eligible workers into workplace pensions. Of those eligible workers, approximately half are under 40, and the largest increase in pension membership in 2015 was among those aged 22 to 29.


Andrew Bingham: Will my hon. Friend agree that the new state pension provides clarity for younger workers, who will now know what to expect from their state pension when they reach pensionable age? Will that not have a positive impact on how much they choose to save in a private pension, because, with this clarity, will come understanding and an ability to plan?

Mr Vara: I most certainly agree with my hon. Friend. The previous state pension system was extremely complex—it was difficult for people to know how much state pension they would get before they reached the state pension age—whereas the new state pension provides clarity from an early age as to what they can expect. In future, they will know that they can expect over £8,000 a year from the state—a solid foundation upon which to plan their own retirement savings.

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Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Stephen Crabb): As part of our reforms to give people greater confidence and certainty about what they will receive in retirement, we are improving the help on offer to people with keeping track of their previous workplace pension pots. I can inform the House that our new online Pension Tracing Service goes live today. This new service will make it simpler and quicker to reunite people with information about their lost pension pots; it will take a matter of seconds, rather than days, as under the old system.

Andrew Bingham: I welcome enabling people to find their old pension pots, but what more can the Secretary of State do, and we do, to enable people to understand how much they are likely to receive from those pension pots, when they have found them?

Stephen Crabb: My hon. Friend asks a good question. Many of our reforms of the state pension are designed to make things simpler and less confusing for people. Since the new state pension was introduced in April, everyone has been able to get a personalised state pension statement, based on the new rules, and there is a new online service, “Check your State Pension”, which offers a quick and accessible way for people to access information about their state pension.

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Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Lady on initiating a debate on a matter that she will know is close to my heart, because my constituency is just on the other side of the Pennines. Does she agree that the problems on the two principal roads between her constituency and Greater Manchester, which go through my constituency—the A628 and the A57—are preventing people from travelling, and preventing them from creating a link between two big economies that need to dovetail as part of the northern powerhouse?

Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Lab): I entirely agree with my constituency neighbour. As I shall go on to explain in detail, the key problem is that those two roads are effectively mountain passes—or what pass for mountain routes in England—and they run through a national park. The fact that two of our major northern cities are divided by the huge obstacle presented by those two very difficult roads lies at the heart of the problem.

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Andrew Bingham: The improvements to the A628 and the A57, the Mottram relief road and the Glossop Spur, are very welcome. The Minister will know from his visit to High Peak not long ago that we need to extend that work. I really must stress that, although this is welcome, speed is the key. I do not mean the speed of the traffic as it trundles through Glossop at 5 mph, but the speed of delivering these projects, because we are experiencing huge problems in my constituency.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Andrew Jones): I very much enjoyed the visit to my hon. Friend’s constituency, and the point he makes was brought home by that visit and by talking to residents and to neighbouring colleagues from this House who also joined us on that visit. I will come on to talk a bit more about that very shortly, but his point is fair, and I agree with the urgency of the case.

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