Lithium: Critical Minerals Supply — [Sir Gary Streeter in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall am 3:24 pm ar 23 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Alan Mak Alan Mak Minister of State (Department for Business and Trade) (jointly with the Cabinet Office) 3:24, 23 Ebrill 2024

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I will come shortly to the possibilities for Northern Ireland, and I will certainly cover the point that he makes. As ever, he is a great champion for Strangford and for Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom, and I very much welcome his contribution to this debate on the topic of how we can co-operate, both among the home nations of the United Kingdom and with our international partners.

I want to reassure the hon. Gentleman that we are making real progress when it comes to co-operation with our international partners. For example, we have agreed bilateral partnerships on critical minerals with Australia, Canada, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, Zambia and Japan, with more to follow. The UK has also been represented at major multilateral forums, including the Minerals Security Partnership, which I attended in my second week in this role, and we are involved in the International Energy Agency, the G7 and other such forums. All this work means that we are collaborating closely with our partners to improve the resilience and security of the critical minerals supply chain.

My hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay asked about the EU dimension, and I want to reassure him that the opinion on EU regulation is owned by the Health and Safety Executive, which is part of the Department for Work and Pensions. I will be very happy, if he would like me to, to assist him in following up with the HSE and the DWP to find answers to his queries, while respecting the scientific independence of those organisations.

That brings me to the question of Northern Ireland. I want to let the hon. Member for Strangford know that I will be visiting Northern Ireland before the summer recess—hopefully in the coming weeks—and I am looking forward to meeting my counterparts and exploring the opportunities for the UK Government to support businesses in Northern Ireland. I will certainly make lithium and minerals part of the agenda, and I look forward to any support he can give me in making sure that we cover those topics. Northern Ireland is a crucial part of the United Kingdom, its economy is thriving, and I want to ensure that we seize any opportunities we find there. I also say to the hon. Member for Gordon that, when I am next in Scotland, I will do the same there. I thank him for raising the possibilities north of the border.

A core element of our international engagement, beyond the multilateral partnerships I have mentioned, is helping like-minded resource-rich countries to develop critical minerals resources in a market-led way that aligns with our shared sustainability, transparency, human rights and environmental values—I am glad that they were mentioned in the debate. That is how the Government are ensuring that the UK is leading the way on critical minerals, driving up industry resilience, ramping up domestic production, and fostering closer international collaboration on the world stage.

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay for securing the debate. I am grateful for the work that he and other hon. Members across the House do in supporting us in the mission to ensure that our critical minerals supply chains are strong, sustainable and resilient now and for many years to come.