House of Commons
Wednesday 10 June 2015
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
The Secretary of State was asked—
This is the first Scottish questions since the passing of the former Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber. Charles Kennedy was a regular participant at Scottish questions and I wish to pass on my personal condolences to his family at this sad time.
I have regular discussions on a range of economic issues with my Cabinet colleagues, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
It gives me great pleasure to welcome the Secretary of State to his new role and wish him well. In my constituency RBS has announced the closure of branches in Kelty and in Aberdour, a further sign of withdrawal from the banking sector that should be supporting small and medium-sized enterprises and communities. What is the right hon. Gentleman’s view of the retail banking sector in Scotland? Has he had discussions with the Chancellor about creating challenger banks out of RBS?
This is a momentous question because it is the first time that a Member representing Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath has asked a question at Scottish questions. I share the hon. Gentleman’s concern about RBS’s approach to branch closures, its commitment to smaller communities and its breach of a commitment not to be the last branch to leave a community. I will certainly take up with RBS the issues he has raised.
The Secretary of State will know that my Dual the A1 campaign has achieved committed funding from this Government of £290 million for the 13 miles of dualling towards the Scottish border. I will need cross-border support to build the economic case for the remaining 35 miles to complete the dualling between London and Edinburgh. Will my right hon. Friend support my campaign?
I associate my right hon. and hon. Friends with the comments of the Secretary of State in respect of Charles Kennedy, and I welcome the right hon. Gentleman back to his place in his role as Secretary of State for Scotland.
The next UK Budget is going to continue the austerity course of the Tory Government, and it will hit the poorest in society. Will the Secretary of State be up front and explain whom it will hit when £12 billion of cuts hit families and communities across Scotland?
When it comes to being up front, it is the Scottish National party that needs to be up front about its proposals for taxation and spending. It used to tell us it wanted full fiscal autonomy, but now it does not seem to want that. It is for the SNP to answer the question of where the additional spending in Scotland would come from.
The last time I looked, this was Scottish questions, where it is the Government who have to answer the questions on the powers for which they are responsible. They are about to bring in £12 billion of cuts and the Secretary of State for Scotland has not been up front about where they will hit. On a related topic, the living wage can make a huge difference to those on low incomes, and I am very proud that the SNP Scottish Government are the first Government in the UK to become an accredited living wage employer. When will his Department and his Government follow the SNP lead on the living wage?
I am very proud of the proposals that my colleague Ruth Davidson has taken forward in the Scottish Parliament to incentivise small businesses to pay the living wage. One would have thought, when one hears SNP rhetoric, that it supported such proposals, but it does not.
13. A number of businesses in Pendle trade with Scotland, including Carlson Filtration in Barnoldswick, which supplies products to the Scotch whisky industry. Does my right hon. Friend therefore agree that we are better together? (900162)
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend that businesses right across the United Kingdom benefit from the continuance of our United Kingdom. This Government’s commitment particularly to the Scotch whisky industry is evidenced in the last Budget, which was warmly welcomed by the Scotch Whisky Association.
First, I thank the Secretary of State for his fine words in relation to the passing of Charles Kennedy and of course associate myself and my party with them.
The Secretary of State will have seen at the weekend reports indicating that the Chancellor of the Exchequer intends to use next month’s Budget to start increasing fuel duty again. As the economic recovery starts to take hold, does the Secretary of State understand the very serious impact that that could have on the economies of rural Scotland, and will he use his office to argue against such a move?
I, too, congratulate my right hon. Friend on his superb election victory and his appointment as Secretary of State for Scotland. Does he agree that, with greater fiscal devolution to the Scottish Parliament, places such as Carlisle will assess the potential effects on Carlisle of measures in the Scottish Government’s budgets as well as the national Budget? Does he also agree that the Carlisle principle set out during the election campaign is important not only to the north of England but to the south-west of Scotland?
Indeed I do agree with my hon. Friend. Of course, the nature of the devolution settlement means that different decisions will be taken in Scotland on those matters that are devolved, so inevitably different policies will be pursued on one side of the border from the other. I think that the Carlisle principle set out by the Prime Minister during the general election should be followed.
As this is the first Scottish questions, I also pay tribute to Charles Kennedy. He was warm, he was witty, he was kind, and our condolences go out to his family, his friends and his party, and, of course, his son Donald.
How many more Scottish children of working-age families will fall into poverty as a result of his Government’s decisions on welfare?
There is no evidence that there will be a further increase in the number of children falling into poverty as a result of welfare changes in Scotland. Indeed, the evidence shows that since statistics began there has been a relative decrease in child poverty in Scotland. As the hon. Gentleman will know, the Scotland Bill is devolving extensive welfare provisions to the Scottish Parliament, and if the Scottish Parliament believes that there is any detriment in Scotland it will have the opportunity to top up or create new benefits.
The Secretary of State says that there is no evidence. I find that answer contemptible. Let me give him some evidence. John Dickie, the head of the Child Poverty Action Group, has said that the Government’s £12 billion cuts to welfare could lead to a “child poverty crisis”. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that those most likely to be affected are low-income working households with children. Is it not time that the Secretary of State stopped ducking the question and came clean about the impact this will have on vulnerable Scottish families, given that 50% of children in poverty in Scotland are from families who are in work?
The Government’s position is clear: the best way out of poverty is into work. There is a record low number of workless households in Scotland, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman welcomes that. I also hope that he welcomes the Government’s decision to devolve significant welfare powers to the Scottish Parliament so that if there are specific issues in Scotland decisions can be made in Scotland to deal with them.
Scotland Act 2012: Financial Provisions
The report has already been published: it was laid before this Parliament on 23 March 2015.
I thank the Secretary of State and also say how much I and all my Back-Bench colleagues will miss the real gentleman who was Charles Kennedy.
Part 3 of the Act includes the power to devolve further existing taxes as well as creating new ones. Just so that we know where we stand following the election, will the Secretary of State update the House on what further taxes the emboldened Scottish Government have asked to be devolved and which requests he is minded to grant?
The hon. Gentleman will know from the Second Reading debate on the Scotland Bill that there was some uncertainty on the SNP Benches about whether proposals would be brought forward to put in place the SNP’s previous policy of full fiscal autonomy. I now understand that such proposals will be brought forward, but only on the basis that other parties with a real interest in Scotland will vote them down.
Will my right hon. Friend explain to SNP Members how the Barnett formula actually works? If there are spending cuts in English Departments, it follows that there are cuts in Scottish spending as well. If they support the Barnett formula in the vow, they presumably understand why these reductions have to be made.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and other UK Ministers and officials meet business groups in Scotland regularly. I am pleased to say that one of my first visits in my new role will be to Aberdeen.
Absolutely. It is imperative that Administrations right across the United Kingdom work together to reduce the burden of red tape and deregulate as much as they can. We achieved £10 billion of benefit to small businesses and other sectors under the previous Government, and our aim is to achieve another £10 billion of savings for the benefit of everybody in the United Kingdom.
Has the Minister met the open-cast coal industry recently, and if so will she urge the Chancellor to introduce a site-specific coal carbon tax exemption in the July Budget? This move would create 1,000 jobs, provide a net income for the Exchequer and restore open-cast sites in east Ayrshire.
We are in the process of bringing forward new legislation in relation to trade unions to make sure that we carry out our manifesto commitment. I have not yet met any of the trade unions in Scotland. I look forward to that so that we can make progress with the Bill.
From what the Minister has just said, it is quite clear that she has regular discussions with business, but no discussions with trade unions. It is clear that trade union association is a matter of human rights, and that the right to strike makes the difference between people being workers and being slaves. Will she assure the House that she will listen to the voice of the trade unions, and will she confirm that these rules will not breach International Labour Organisation conventions?
May I make it very clear to the hon. Gentleman that as a former trade unionist and shop steward I am more than willing to listen to trade unions? Equally, however, it is really important to understand that in the modern world it cannot be right that a minority vote to strike has the most profound effect on travellers and on carers and children. It is in everybody’s interests for us to make sure that our trade unions are democratic and work for everyone.
Does the Minister agree that strong trade unions are vital if we are to ensure that people receive fair pay for the work they do? What steps is she taking to work with Scotland’s trade unions to promote the living wage in Scotland?
As I hope I have made clear, I agree with the hon. Lady. Trade unions play an important part in economic success, or at least they should do. The difficulty is that too many trade unions do not represent their members and do not engage and work with their members. We therefore need to make sure that we have modern legislation for our trade unions so that they do not hold people, in effect, to ransom.
Stranraer to Larne Ferry
5. What steps he is taking to tackle security issues on the Stranraer to Larne ferry route. (900154)
Home Office Immigration Enforcement in Northern Ireland and Police Scotland work together closely to intercept and share information about illegal immigrants travelling between the west of Scotland and the Northern Ireland ports.
Of the people stopped on that route—they are a small percentage of the total number of travellers—a very high number are illegal migrants or people who mean to do harm to our country and seek backdoor routes between the Republic and mainland Britain. What conversations has the Secretary of State had with Police Scotland to ensure that the resources are there to catch those people?
I have been heavily involved in this issue and I was very disappointed that the Scottish Government chose to dissolve Dumfries and Galloway police force, which had considerable expertise in that area. Police Scotland has set up a ports unit, which is seeking to deal with these issues, but I will continue to pursue the hon. Lady’s concerns with the Scottish Government.
This is yet another example of the Scottish Government having to step in and stump up following further UK Government cuts. Given the security concerns raised by the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) and the further cuts proposed to Scotland’s budget, will the Secretary of State commit to revisit his Government’s decision to withdraw border agency staff from the port of Stranraer in 2010?
I particularly welcome the hon. Gentleman to his place because he is my neighbouring MP, but I do not share his analysis. The most unhelpful contribution to policing in Stranraer and surrounding areas was the Scottish Government’s decision to get rid of Dumfries and Galloway police force, against the wishes of local people.
In March, Her Majesty’s Treasury published an analysis that estimated that funding available to Scotland under full fiscal autonomy would be £7.7 billion lower in 2015-16 compared with the current arrangements. The assessment made by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that deficit reaching £9.7 billion in 2019-20.
The Secretary of State and his Tory friends have an ideological fixation with austerity, but is he surprised that the nationalist ideology of a self-identifying left-wing party such as the Scottish National party leads it to advocate full fiscal autonomy, which would lead not just to austerity but to “austerity-max”?
I agree with part of the hon. Gentleman’s analysis, but he will be aware that it is now not clear what the SNP is asking for. I welcome the fact that it will be able to table amendments in relation to full fiscal autonomy during the Committee stage of the Scotland Bill. My suspicion, however, is that it is asking for something it does not really want, and that it will complain when it does not get it.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that to reduce poverty in Scotland and indeed in the rest of the UK we need full employment? Would not the worse thing be to have an SNP Government in the United Kingdom with no understanding of fiscal responsibility, which would result in mass unemployment and mass poverty?
I am not clear whether my hon. Friend is suggesting that the SNP take over the Government of the UK, although that may be one of Miss Sturgeon’s aspirations—we do not know. It is for the people of Scotland to choose their own Government, but the SNP’s policies are clearly now for higher taxation and we need to know what that tax will be.
The Scottish Secretary is absolutely wrong about full fiscal autonomy. It does not lead to a reduction in tax yield. Surely he would agree that if we were to use the flexibility in the tax code to grow the economy and increase tax yield, that would be a good thing.
Given that the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated that full fiscal autonomy would result in a near £10 billion black hole in Scotland’s finances, and that, as the Secretary of State said, the Scottish National party Member for Edinburgh East (Tommy Sheppard) has called it a disaster—perhaps we should lock him in the gents—is it not clear that it would not lead to a stronger Scotland or promote fairness and social justice? However, given the Scottish Government’s reluctance to accept the impartial IFS’s figures, will the Secretary of State back Labour’s amendment to the Scotland Bill to provide a full and independent report on the implications of full fiscal autonomy?
Child benefit will continue to provide essential help for low-income families, and the latest statistics show that it has benefited more than 966,000 families and children in Scotland. We are also supporting Scottish families by cutting tax for nearly 2.3 million people, taking 261,000 people out of paying income tax altogether. Some 210,000 families in Scotland will also benefit by up to £6,000 a year from tax-free childcare.
On a day when the Chancellor is saying that he will take action on how this Government and future Governments run deficits, will the Secretary of State tell us that he will protect the worth of child benefit in Scotland for the lifetime of this Parliament?
Will the Secretary of State acknowledge that the people most likely to be impacted by the changes to the child benefit policy are the most vulnerable individuals in society? Those people are also the most likely to be affected by the changes made in the welfare reforms implemented by this Government.
I could not have been clearer—we are retaining child benefit and keeping to the promises made in the election campaign. We are also devolving significant responsibility for welfare to the Scottish Parliament, so that if it wishes to make alternative decisions, it will have the capacity to do so, provided that it can pay for them.
Scottish Government Funding
On Monday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury met Scotland’s Deputy First Minister to discuss the new fiscal framework. While the Barnett formula will continue as promised, the Scottish Government will be less reliant on the block grant.
The SNP manifesto proposed an alternative to austerity—0.5% public spending increases a year. Does the Secretary of State accept that that means that his Government’s cuts are ideological, not inevitable, and that it is in fact possible for the Government to increase public spending by £93 billion a year to invest in the economy and public services?
National Minimum Wage
So far no companies have been prosecuted, but we have named the 14 that have not complied with the law. We feel that is the right way to go about things, but if there are serious cases, they are referred to the Crown Prosecution Service in England or the procurator fiscal in Scotland.
I have to disabuse the hon. Gentleman of a few misconceptions. We are actually following guidance that his party’s Government introduced in 2008, and it was good guidance. In very serious cases, companies should be referred onward for prosecution, but those decisions are ultimately left to the CPS or, in the case of Scotland, to the procurator fiscal.
I congratulate the Secretary of State on his position. Everyone across the Chamber will agree that it is vital to enforce the minimum wage, but does the Secretary of State agree that we need to go further to deliver a fair wage for thousands of our fellow citizens? Will he now confirm the answer he failed to give to my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Angus Robertson): when will his Department become an accredited wage employer?
I remind the hon. Lady that the minimum wage will be going up in October. It is up to employers to make sure they pay the wages they seek and want to. It is also important to remember that as a result of the policies of this Government, we have reduced the amount of taxation the low paid are paying. That is the right thing to do. Take low-paid people out of taxation—a Conservative policy.
The Prime Minister was asked—
The great British jobs boom has earned the Prime Minister and the Chancellor the admiration of leaders the world over and the support of my constituents. Does my right hon. Friend agree that businesses in Kingston and Surbiton could create even more jobs if we had better train services and, particularly, Crossrail 2?
First of all, let me start by welcoming my hon. Friend after his excellent election result. He is right to say that we have had something of a jobs boost in this country, with more than 2 million more people in work. In his constituency, for example, the claimant count has fallen by 48% since 2010. Our manifesto made it clear that we will push forward with plans for Crossrail 2 and we are working with Transport for London on a detailed business case. Let me take this opportunity to praise everyone who has been involved in Crossrail 1. The Secretary of State for Transport and I were in those tunnels a week ago. The tunnelling phase is complete. It runs for 26 miles across London. It is a feat of great engineering and it is going to be brilliant for our economy.
Last night, the House agreed that there should be an EU referendum, but it has to be done in the right way and it has to be fair. First, on the issue of who can vote, why will the Prime Minister not let 16 and 17-year-olds vote? This is about the future of our country. They did in the Scottish referendum. It is their future too.
First, may I thank the right hon. and learned Lady and all those Labour MPs who joined us in the Division Lobbies last night? After five years of opposing a referendum, to watch them all trooping through was like seeing the biggest mass conversion since that Chinese general baptised his troops with a hosepipe. It was very impressive.
On 16 and 17-year-olds, I believe this House should vote on that issue. The Conservative manifesto is clear and my position is clear: I think we should stick with the current franchise at 18, but the House of Commons can vote.
On the right hon. Gentleman’s initial response to my question, may I just say that the right hon. Gentleman won the election and he is the Prime Minister, so he does not need to do ranting and sneering and gloating. He can just answer the question. Frankly, he should show a bit more class.
The right hon. Gentleman and I both want to see a yes vote, but it is essential that the referendum is fair and seen to be fair, so why are they changing the law to exempt the Government from the rules which are there to ensure the Government do not inappropriately use public funds or the government machine in the short campaign. Will he think again on this?
The right hon. and learned Lady is right that it was an excellent debate last night. A lot of important issues were raised, and they can be discussed in Committee. Let me answer directly this issue of purdah, because all the concerns raised can be addressed. There are two reasons for looking at this carefully and taking the proposals we put forward. First, as the Europe Minister said, because the European issue is so pervasive, I do not want a situation where, in the four weeks before a referendum, Ministers cannot talk about the European budget, make statements about European Court judgments, respond to European Councils and all the rest of it. That seems a very real danger, as the Europe Minister set out last night.
The second issue is a bigger one. When the negotiation is complete and the Government have taken a clear view, I do not want us to be neutral on this issue; I want us to speak clearly and frankly. In the last few weeks before the Scottish referendum, the UK Government were often being advised that they could not take a view on the future of the UK. I think that was a ridiculous situation, which is why we have proposed changes to the purdah rules. However, the right hon. and learned Lady raises an important question, and it will be debated in the House, but I have set out the position as I see it.
The problem is that it is not a change in the rules, but a blanket exemption. We must have a legal framework in the Bill. We cannot rely on ministerial restraint.
The Electoral Commission said that the referendum should not be on the same day as any other election, and we strongly agree. This is an important constitutional issue that should be considered on its own. Will the Prime Minister guarantee a separate voting day for the referendum?
Again, the right hon. and learned Lady raises an important issue of process and procedure that should be debated and discussed in the House. [Interruption.] I will tell you exactly my view in two seconds. My view is that the timing of the referendum should be determined by the timing of the renegotiation—when the renegotiation is complete, we set a date for the referendum. I do not think it should be determined by the timing of other elections. For instance, it was possible to have the AV referendum and other elections on the same day. I think people are capable of making two decisions, but, as I say, the timing of the referendum should be determined by the timing of the renegotiation; that is the clear principle.
Apropos the negotiations, we are talking about whether the referendum should take place on the same day as other elections. The Prime Minister mentioned the AV referendum. We agree with the Electoral Commission that it was not right that it was held on the same day as other elections, but we will have the opportunity to consider these issues further in the G7 statement coming next.
I would like to turn to an issue important to many families across the country. Before the election, the Prime Minister promised that his tax-free childcare policy would be launched this autumn. Is he on track to meet that promise?
It is an important principle we are introducing: if families spend up to £10,000, they should be able to get £2,000 back. This is a Government for working people that want to help people with the cost of childcare. Not only are we doing that—the Chancellor will set out the timing of the introduction in his Budget—but we are doubling to 30 hours the number of hours people will get if they have three and four-year-olds. The Government are determined to act for working people.
It does not help working people to make promises and then not meet them.
Let me ask the Prime Minister about another election promise. We know that childcare providers already have to increase their fees to parents who pay for additional hours above the 15 hours they get free. Given that the free entitlement is going up to 30 hours, how can he guarantee that families will genuinely benefit and will not just end up being hit by increased fees elsewhere?
First, we will have a review of the fees being paid by the Government to childcare providers, because I want this to be quality childcare. Secondly, there is the increase from 15 to 30 hours, which will be of real benefit to working families. Thirdly, we have this new tax relief coming in, so if someone spends up to £10,000, they will get £2,000 back. That means that families under this Government will have far greater choice and resources on childcare. The right hon. and learned Lady said the other day that a
“greater number of people…feel relieved that we are not in government.”
I suspect that those parents will feel the same way.
He just cannot help but gloat, can he? He can go right ahead and gloat, but why can he not just answer the question about childcare? Perhaps we could have an answer to the next question rather than a gloating session.
I will try again. We know that grandparents often help out. Most parents say they just could not manage without the grandparents, but increasingly those grandparents are not retired but are themselves working. Will the Prime Minister agree to look at how we can help grandparents get flexibility at work by allowing them to share parental leave?
I am certainly happy to look at that because the right to request flexible working has been championed by this Government. I am sorry if the right hon. and learned Lady thinks I am gloating. It must be the first time someone has ever been accused of gloating while quoting the Leader of the Opposition. For instance, she said the other day:
“People tend to like a leader who they feel is economically competent”.
I think she has been talking a lot of sense, and I shall be quoting her as often as I possibly can.
I was pleased to hear the announcement in our manifesto that there would be a review of business rates. This is something that came across loud and clear over the election period in St Albans. My businesses want assistance with this. Can I ask the Prime Minister, through his good offices, to get the Chancellor to get a move on, as this is so important for good business across the country?
The Chancellor will have heard my hon. Friend’s instructions loud and clear. We do want to get on with this review of business rates. Like all Members, my hon. Friend and I will have listened to the complaints of high street stores that sometimes feel they face unfair competition from internet retailers who do not face the same sort of business rates. Let me give this warning, however. Business rates raise a large amount of revenue—revenue that is necessary—and it will not be possible to come up with a review that will satisfy everybody.
The UK remains in the top 10 most unequal societies in the world. Helping people on low incomes receive the living wage can be transformational for them and their families. Will the Prime Minister take the opportunity to praise all employers who deliver the living wage?
I am very happy to praise all those employers who deliver the living wage. That has long been the Conservative position and it is set out in the manifesto. I am proud to say as Prime Minister, and I hope this is not gloating, that No. 10 is a minimum wage—a living wage—employer, too.
However, the Scottish Government are the only Government in the UK as a whole that are an accredited living wage employer. Will the Prime Minister tell us when he will ensure that all UK Government Departments, all agencies and all employees will receive the living wage?
We want to make progress. The Scottish Government obviously have the advantages of the additional funding they have been getting under this Government. I notice that consensus in the Scottish National party has rather broken down over full fiscal autonomy. Of course, if they got full fiscal autonomy, they would probably not be able to afford to be a living wage employer. I have been following these things closely. The new hon. Member for East Lothian (George Kerevan) has called the policy “economic suicide”, while the new hon. Member for Edinburgh East (Tommy Sheppard) has called full fiscal autonomy “a disaster”. It seems that the SNP’s new approach is to demand something they do not want and then complain when they do not get it.
Q2. A far-right neo-Nazi group is planning to stage a demonstration in Golders Green, an area with a large Jewish population, on Saturday 4 July. Will my right hon. Friend join me in calling on the police to use all their public order powers to combat this anti-Semitic demonstration? (900201)
I think that my hon. Friend speaks for the whole House. I can tell him that the Home Secretary recently wrote to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner about that specific demonstration, and has said that when any criminal offences are committed and when individuals have demonstrated anti-Semitic hostility, they should face the full force of the law. We do have freedom of speech and freedom of assembly in our country, but people should not feel free to extend those freedoms to harassment or threatening behaviour. That is not permitted, and it should be prosecuted.
Q3. As a new Member of Parliament, I am still wondering whether the Prime Minister ever actually answers a question during Question Time, but if he does, can he explain why my city of Bradford—which was “the” northern powerhouse—continues to be neglected in his regional plan? (900202)
First, on behalf of the whole House, I welcome the hon. Lady to her place. She replaces someone who had, I think, the unique distinction of always speaking with immense power, but always being completely wrong. I am sure that she will take a different approach.
What I will say to the hon. Lady about Bradford is that it should be part of the northern powerhouse, because the concept means linking the great cities of the north of England and making the most of them. As for Bradford’s being neglected, I would say quite the opposite. The spending power per dwelling of the hon. Lady’s local authority is nearly £2,300, which is nearly £300 more than the average for England.
Q4. The long-term economic plan—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”]—is working in Worcestershire, which has the third fastest economic growth rate in England. Moreover, unemployment in my constituency has fallen by 62% since 2010. Does the Prime Minister agree that the further redoubling of the Cotswold line would provide additional economic benefits for my constituents, and for all who live along the route? (900203)
I congratulate my hon. Friend on winning his constituency. He has got off to a tremendous start by not only mentioning the long-term economic plan, but mentioning a railway line that goes straight through the middle of my constituency. I want to see the further redoubling of that line, so he is already my new best friend.
As my hon. Friend will know, we plan to operate intercity express trains between London and Worcester from 2017 onwards, and new and updated trains are planned for every part of the Great Western franchise. However, as my hon. Friend says, further investment in the redoubling of the railway between Oxford and Worcester really is necessary if we are to deliver the extra and more reliable services that both his constituents and mine would like.
Q5. As a Back Bencher, the Prime Minister campaigned for group B strep awareness. I am sure that he is aware of Northwick Park hospital’s highly successful programme of universal GBS screening, which proves the very case that he used to make. Will he now encourage Ministers to roll out GBS-specific testing as a routine offer to all pregnant women in all our health services? (900204)
May I say how grateful I am to the hon. Gentleman for raising the issue? Two of my constituents, Craig and Alison Richards, came to my surgery and raised it with me, and that is what caused me to become interested in it in the first place.
We have made some big breakthroughs. The national health service is doing much more screening and taking much more action to help those who potentially have the infection, although there are difficulties with national programmes because of the whole issue of anti-microbial resistance and the use of antibiotics. However, I am happy to take this opportunity to look into what has been achieved so far and what more can be done, and then write to the hon. Gentleman.
In my constituency, where the average wage is far lower than the national average, cutting the taxes of the lowest paid and helping them to stand on their own two feet is the most effective poverty-tackling measure there is. Will the Prime Minister explain how the Conservatives will reward hard work and benefit those who earn the minimum wage, not only in Plymouth but throughout the country?
First, may I welcome my hon. Friend to this place and praise him for his maiden speech which moved all those who heard it or have subsequently read it? He is absolutely right that the best way to tackle poverty is to get people into work, then make sure that there is a decent minimum wage that rises over time, and then cut people’s taxes by taking those earning minimum wage out of income tax. Our plan to raise the personal allowance to £12,500 will make a real difference and I want to see progress on the minimum wage going on at the same time as that, but all the while we have to recognise that the absolute foundation is a growing economy that is producing jobs. Getting into work is the greatest way to combat poverty.
Q6. Can the Prime Minister reassure me that press reports that he is going to cut funding support to household energy efficiency programmes are wrong, and that instead he is committed to maintaining support for programmes to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society have warm homes to live in? (900205)
We made some very big progress in the last Parliament with home insulation programmes and support for solar panels. There are now almost 1 million homes in the UK with solar panels. We want to carry on with those programmes and make sure there is value for money.
I hope it will not be seen as gloating to welcome the hon. Gentleman back, because he is quite a rare bird: a Labour MP in the south of England.
Q7. In my constituency of Morley and Outwood one issue that is constantly raised on the doorstep is economic migration from within the EU. The Government have already taken steps and clear action to reduce incentives that draw migrants from within the European Union, but what further steps are being taken to tackle economic migration from outside the EU? (900206)
I welcome my hon. Friend to her place. I have to say that her election result was one I was dreaming of, and am very grateful for. She is absolutely right to raise this issue. In the past it has been too easy for some businesses to bring in workers from overseas rather than to take the long-term decision to train our workforce here at home. We need to do more to change that, which means reducing the demand for migrant labour, and that is part of our plan. So I can tell the House today that the Home Secretary has written to the Migration Advisory Committee asking it to report back on how to significantly reduce work-related migration from outside Europe. It is going to advise on restricting our work visas to genuine skills shortages and specialists. It is going to look at putting a time limit on how long sectors can claim to have a skills shortage, because frankly they should be dealing with that. We are going to look at a new skills levy on businesses who recruit foreign workers so that we can boost the funding to UK apprenticeships, and we are also going to look at raising salary thresholds to stop businesses using foreign workers to undercut wages. All these steps, combined with the measures we are taking within the European Union, can help bring migration under control, but also, more to the point, make sure that hard-working British people who get the skills and training can find the jobs that will help them build a better life.
Q8. Six young boys with the devastating disease of muscular dystrophy will be in Downing Street this afternoon, supported by Muscular Dystrophy UK, to make a plea to the Prime Minister to help them access the Duchenne drug Translarna that they need now to stop them losing their mobility. Will the Prime Minister make time to see them and will he tell the House that these children can expect the positive answer they so desperately need now? (900207)
I thank the hon. Lady for raising this issue. Muscular dystrophy is a terrible disease and I hugely admire the courage shown by the sufferers and their families. Unfortunately, I will not be able to hold that meeting this afternoon because I have to go from the statement after Prime Minister’s questions straight to an EU summit in Brussels. I do remember meeting Archie Hill, who is one of the group, back in January. He is an amazing young boy—incredibly brave. The situation is that NHS England has now completed a consultation on how it prioritises investment in these specialised services, including drugs for rare conditions. It closed at the end of April and a decision can be expected in the near future. I recognise how vital it is to give those affected and their families a decision as soon as possible.
Q9. Thank you colleagues, and thank you Mr Speaker. On Monday, I attended the formal opening of the Magna Carta Centre in Lincoln—a magnificent vault built in our city’s beautiful castle to showcase Lincoln’s original Magna Carta as it celebrates its 800th year. Having visited Lincoln on various occasions, would the Prime Minister like to join me in recommending that other Members and their constituents should visit the city to see for themselves our original Magna Carta and our majestic cathedral, as well as Lincoln’s myriad other attractions, especially as we move towards a new British Bill of Rights? (900208)
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to take this opportunity—in this, the 800th anniversary year of the signing of Magna Carta—to advertise the fact that there is an original copy in the great city of Lincoln, and that people can go and see that and all the other advantages that Lincoln has to offer. But this is not just a point about British history. There are so many countries and peoples around the world that do not have the rule of law and do not have protections against arbitrary arrest, and that document, which was signed 800 years ago, is not just important in Britain; it is important that we promote its values around the world.
Q10. Most working people aspire to decent, sustainable jobs—indeed, thousands of my constituents work at Nissan or in the automotive supply chain in east Durham—so when will the Prime Minister publish the Treasury’s assessment of the cost to the British economy of withdrawal from the EU? (900209)
First, let me praise the hon. Gentleman’s many hard-working constituents who work in the Nissan factory in the north-east. Nissan in the north-east is now producing more cars than the whole of the Italian car industry. It is a great example of the manufacturing renewal that is taking place in this country. I want the widest possible debate about Britain’s future in Europe and I would encourage all organisations to bring forward ideas, facts and figures so that this debate can be formed, but above all let us remember that this is not going to be a decision made by politicians; it is going to be a decision made by the British people.
If northern Lincolnshire is to obtain maximum benefit from the northern powerhouse initiative, further improvements to transport connections will be required. One such improvement would be a direct rail service to London King’s Cross from the Grimsby, Cleethorpes and Scunthorpe area. Alliance Rail has submitted an application to the rail regulator, and it has been with the regulator for more than a year. Will my right hon. Friend do all he can to ensure that an early decision is made?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the importance of direct connectivity between his constituency and London. We are investing at least £6.4 billion in Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire in this Parliament for that very reason, and I can reassure him that we are listening. Only late last year, the Transport Secretary announced that we would be retaining the direct connection between Cleethorpes and Manchester airport, which is something that my hon. Friend has been campaigning for, and I will look very closely at what he has said today.
Q11. At the time of the Bloomberg speech, the Prime Minister promised that he would seek the repatriation of power from Brussels, saying that “power must be able to flow back to Member States”. He specifically promised that social and employment law would be returned to Britain. Why is he not even asking for this any more? (900210)
First, I welcome the hon. Gentleman back to this place. He has made some history because, as a party of one, he has managed to have a Back-Bench rebellion, which is something to be admired. What I have set out in terms of the renegotiation is a whole series of things that need to change: making sure we deal with the problem of ever-closer union; making sure we deal with the issue of competitiveness, which, yes, does impinge on some of the issues, under what was called the social chapter, that have never been acceptable to the United Kingdom; and making sure that we have a better balance and proper fairness between those countries that are in the euro and those that are outside it—the Chancellor will be setting out more detail on that this evening. All these areas in our negotiation, and more, are very important.
We have just heard from the hon. Member for Easington (Grahame M. Morris) the ridiculous scaremongering, which we are getting used to, that if we left the EU we would end free trade with the EU. Will the Prime Minister confirm that last year the UK had a £56 billion trade deficit with the European Union? Will he also tell us whether, in any of his discussions with Angela Merkel, she has indicated that if we were to leave the EU, she would want to stop trading BMWs, Mercedes, Volkswagens and Audis free of tariff into the UK?
My hon. Friend makes his case with his characteristic vigour and clarity. The only issue that I would add is that, of course, Britain’s relationship with Europe is not just about a trading relationship; it is about having a say over what the rules of the single market actually are. It is that that we are going to have to discuss and think about over these coming months before the European referendum—the difference between a trading relationship and actually having a say over the way a market works.
Q12. Under the Prime Minister, British productivity has plummeted. It is 30% behind Germany, the US and France—the widest gap since 1992 and another Tory Government. But in the north-east, thanks to our manufacturing and technical prowess, we have the highest productivity growth in the country. Is it not time that he gave us the powers that we need to build an economy that matches our values, without a Boris—I mean, a mayor—attached? (900211)
First of all, the hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise this issue. There is a huge challenge in terms of raising productivity and the productive potential of the United Kingdom. I would be the first to say that we have had the success of getting 2 million more people in work and we have had the success of paying down half the deficit and getting the economy growing. But the challenge for the years ahead is to increase levels of productivity in Britain. How are we going to do that? I would argue that we will do that by reforming planning, by encouraging entrepreneurship, by making sure we invest in success, by investing in science—these are the things that we have been doing as part of a long-term economic plan, mostly opposed by the Labour party.
Any move to legalise assisted suicide is viewed with the utmost concern by disability groups and others, who fear that it could put pressure on the vulnerable to make decisions that are not in their best interests. Will the Prime Minister inform the House of his view on this issue?
On this issue I very much agree with my hon. Friend, which is that I do not support the assisted dying proposals that have come out of the other place. I do not support euthanasia. I know that there are imperfections and problems with the current law, but I think that these can be dealt with sensitively and sensibly without having a new law that actually brings in euthanasia. As she says, I think the problem is the pressure that is then put on frail elderly people to take a decision that they might not want to go ahead with.
Q13. The Prime Minister will be aware of Tata Steel’s decision to close its British Steel pension scheme. This will have a devastating impact on steelworkers and their families. Can I urge the Prime Minister again to demand that Tata get back around the negotiating table and re-engage in meaningful consultation with the trade unions, and to stop Tata from playing fast and loose with its own employees’ pensions? (900212)
We need a country where every city, town, village and region benefits from the growing economy. Will the Prime Minister kindly explain how the measures in this Queen’s Speech will bring that about, particularly in relation to my area of the south-west and even more particularly to Taunton Deane, which I would like to make the gateway to the south-west?
What I would say to my hon. Friend, after congratulating her on her magnificent election victory, is that there are some very important infrastructure proposals that need to go ahead—for instance, the A358, which, during the election campaign, the Labour party pledged to cancel. We must make sure that that expressway to the south-west is built, including the tunnel under Stonehenge, and, crucially for Taunton and the whole of the south-west, we must make sure that we deliver on our promises on high-speed broadband. For businesses, that is as important as being connected to the road or rail network, and we really have to make sure that we get to those final businesses and homes that want to see high-speed broadband.
Where schools get to outstanding we should, first, be singling them out and praising them, because we want to see many more children taught in good or outstanding schools. Where we need to focus is on schools that are either failing or coasting. The education Bill in the Gracious Speech will make sure that we intervene more quickly, because if you have children at a state school, as I do, one extra term in a failing school is a term that is wasted. We should not let bureaucracy get in the way of taking over failing schools and turning them around.
Q15. Last week, the High Court ruled that severe delays in assessing disabled people for benefits were unlawful. Given that, will the Prime Minister personally take charge to ensure that these distressing delays do not happen again? (900214)
First, let me welcome the hon. Gentleman to this place. He is absolutely right to raise this issue. Some of the delays have been unacceptably long for people getting their new benefits, particularly when we are transitioning from disability living allowance to personal independence payments. Those delays are coming down, and I give him my assurance that we will keep on this and make sure that the delays come down still further.
With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the G7 in Germany earlier this week. I went to the summit with two clear aims: to advance our economic security and to protect our national security. The two, of course, are interlinked, because you cannot have one without the other, and I believe that at this summit we made some progress on both.
First, on economic security, we reached important agreements on trade, global poverty, green growth and corruption. On trade, I was determined to progress the EU’s trade deals with other G7 countries, which, together, could be worth around £20 billion to our economy every year. The G7 agreed to step up efforts on the EU-Japan deal and to accelerate immediately all work on the EU-US trade deal. It is over 700 days since we launched negotiations at the G8 at Lough Erne and every day without a deal is costing the global economy £630 million, so the agreement talks about finalising the outline of an agreement by the end of this year.
We want all countries to grow, including the poorest, not just for their benefit but because we all benefit from the wider increase in global growth. We should never forget what has been called the “bottom billion”. We agreed on the importance of setting ambitious goals at the UN in September that can eradicate extreme poverty in our world by 2030, and we reaffirmed our previous commitments on aid. Britain is keeping its promises to the poorest in the world, and I directly encourage others to do the same.
Turning to green growth, there were important agreements about the global deal we hope to reach in Paris at the end of the year. It needs sufficiently ambitious emissions targets to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 2° within reach. It needs binding rules with real transparency and accountability, so that countries have to follow through their commitments. And it needs a long-term goal for emissions cuts at the upper end of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommendations, so that businesses have the confidence to invest in low-carbon technology. We also reaffirmed our strong commitment to mobilise the climate finance that will be so essential for developing nations and making sure that they sign up to an agreement.
There was a new element that I added to this G7, and that was fighting corruption. We met just after the FIFA scandal, but the point I made was that corruption is not just wrecking an institution that is vital for football, but is sitting at the heart of so many of the problems we face around the world today. Cutting corruption by just 10% could benefit the global economy by $380 billion every year. And corruption does not just threaten our prosperity; it undermines our security, too, so at this summit I was determined that we should do more to confront this issue. In Britain we have passed the Bribery Act, with a 40-strong team of criminal investigators to enforce it, and we have ensured that all our 28 country aid programmes include anti-corruption measures. But we need the full support of our international partners. We made some progress in Germany: we reaffirmed our commitment to the issues around tax and transparency that I first put on the table in Lough Erne two years ago; we will work with the OECD and the G20 to finalise an international plan to stop companies artificially shifting their profits across borders to avoid taxes; and the G7 will push for a targeted monitoring process to ensure its implementation. More than 90 countries have agreed to share their tax information automatically by the end of 2018, and the G7 urged others to follow suit so that more people pay the tax that is due.
Britain has become the first major country in the world to establish a public central registry of who really owns companies, and now other countries must follow, with the implementation of their own national action plans, which is a key step in countering money laundering and corruption. We also agreed that leaders should give special focus to corruption in the run-up to the UN in September and the G20 in Turkey, which will culminate in a major anti-corruption summit in London next year.
Turning to national security, a number of issues were discussed, beginning with ISIL in Iraq and Syria. We have a three-pronged strategy. First, in Iraq, we are helping to train Iraqi security forces so that they can defeat ISIL on the ground. We have already trained more than 1,200 Kurdish troops in Irbil, and at the summit I announced that we will now deploy an additional 125 military personnel to expand that training effort right across Iraq. Secondly, I met Prime Minister Abadi and reiterated our support for his efforts to build an inclusive Government that brings the country together against the common enemy that is ISIL. Thirdly, we need to do more to tackle the causes—not just the consequences—of this terrorist threat. That means defeating the poisonous ideology of extremism at home and abroad.
In Syria, there is no greater recruiting sergeant for ISIL than President Assad’s war against his own people, so the G7 called for a genuine UN-led political transition as the only way to bring peace and defeat terrorism in Syria.
In Libya, there is a real danger of ISIL terrorists exploiting ungoverned spaces to establish a new base from which to plot attacks against European countries while criminal gangs are exploiting an open corridor to make Libya the new gateway to Europe for people smuggling. We agreed to give our full backing to the UN-led effort to put in place a national unity Government in Libya, and we agreed on a comprehensive approach to going after the gangs who are trafficking people, to stabilise the countries from which those people are coming and to continue to play our full part in the humanitarian rescue mission. Britain is playing its part in all of those things, with HMS Bulwark picking up another 2,500 people at the weekend.
We are also stepping up our efforts to support Nigeria. I met President Buhari during the summit and also discussed with President Obama how we can best help Nigeria to tackle corruption and to win the fight against Boko Haram. The National Security Council has agreed that that will be a specific priority. We are setting up a new cross-Government unit dedicated to that task and we will be offering significant help, including training the Nigerian army to help in its work to defeat Boko Haram.
Turning to global health, playing our part in fighting disease overseas is not just a moral obligation but the single most effective way of preventing diseases infecting people here in the UK. Following the Ebola outbreak, it was right that the G7 devoted significant time to finding out how best to try and prevent a future global pandemic. At the summit, I announced that we would create a new £20 million UK research and development fund, focused on breakthrough medicines. We are also leading by example in promoting greater transparency over clinical trials and forming our own crack team of medics that can deploy rapidly to tackle infection outbreaks anywhere in the world. We are learning the lesson of the slow response to Ebola, chiefly by the World Health Organisation.
Finally, this was the second year running that we met as a G7 rather than a G8. President Obama summed up the choice facing President Putin: he can either continue to wreck his country’s economy and continue Russia’s isolation or he can recognise that Russia’s greatness does not depend on violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other countries. The G7 was clear and unambiguous about its position: diplomatic efforts must succeed in restoring Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and existing sanctions must remain in place until the Minsk agreements are fully implemented.
We expect Russia to stop trans-border support of separatist forces and use its influence on them to bring violence to an end. We were clear that we
“stand ready to take further restrictive measures in order to increase costs on Russia should its actions so require.”
Fully implementing Minsk also means action from Ukraine. It is vital that President Poroshenko’s Government have the support needed to deliver the necessary political and economic reforms. The UK is already helping through our good governance fund and we will continue to look at what more we can do, but we should never forget that Ukrainians are the victims and not the aggressors.
Following the general election, with our economy growing, the deficit falling and unemployment tumbling, people can see that Britain is back. We are working for trade deals; fighting corruption; leading the battle against poverty, disease and climate change; fighting ISIL over the skies of Iraq; saving lives in the Mediterranean; and standing firm with sanctions against Russia’s actions in Ukraine. On every front, we are playing a leading role in advancing prosperity and security around the world, and in doing so, delivering both the economic and national security on which our own future depends. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. I welcome the conclusions of the summit, including the reaffirmation of the G7’s aid commitment and the commitment to fighting corruption and to fighting disease overseas. I particularly welcome the support for Nigeria.
As the Prime Minister said, this is the second G7 summit from which Russia has been excluded. It is right that there should be consequences for what it is doing in Ukraine, and Russia should continue to be excluded until President Putin changes course. Sanctions against Russia should remain until the Minsk agreements are fully implemented. European Union sanctions will expire at the end of July, and the Prime Minister has said that they should be rolled over. He said in his statement that the G7 stands ready to take further restrictive measures, so will he argue at the next EU Council for sanctions to be strengthened?
At the summit, the Prime Minister acknowledged that sanctions are also having an impact on those who are imposing them, so it is right that G7 leaders agreed that more must be done to support those EU member states that are being particularly affected. Will the Prime Minister tell the House what that could mean in practice?
The Prime Minister mentioned the fight against ISIL, and we have seen the horrors of what they are doing in Mosul. It is extremely worrying to see their advances in recent weeks, particularly into Ramadi. A strong and united approach to tackling ISIL continues to be vital. We back the UK’s contribution to that effort and welcome the extra 125 military trainers being sent to Iraq at the request of the Iraqi Prime Minister.
As the Prime Minister said, the Iraqi Government must be supported in their efforts to push back ISIL’s advance and to restore stability and security across the country, so is there a need to further accelerate the recruitment, training and equipping of Iraqi forces? An inclusive and enduring political settlement is vital, so is Britain continuing to press the Iraqi Government to do more to reach out to Sunni tribes, who are key to that?
The summit also reached important conclusions on the global economy and climate change. Can the Prime Minister confirm whether, in discussions on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, he sought specific assurances from President Obama that our NHS will be protected? On climate change, will the Prime Minister clarify whether the G7’s commitment to a global goal of greenhouse gas emissions reductions will, like our Climate Change Act 2008, be legally binding?
Most of the press coverage of the G7 summit was not about the global economy, climate change or ISIL; it was once again about the Tories rowing about Europe, and it was entirely of the Prime Minister’s own doing. On Sunday, he spent the flight to Germany boasting to journalists that he would sack any Cabinet Minister who did not toe the line on the referendum. On Monday, a loyal Minister was dispatched to the “Today” programme to drive home the Prime Minister’s tough line.
Later that very day, however, the Prime Minister sounded the retreat: the travelling press had apparently misheard—it was a case not so much of collective responsibility for the Cabinet, but of collective mishearing by the travelling press pack. That sometimes happens on a flight: your ears get blocked. The Prime Minister graciously and kindly said to them:
“If you’re not certain about something I said…ask”.
May I say how grateful I am for that new approach? There are things that people are still uncertain about, so I ask the Prime Minister: what are his reform proposals and his red lines? Will he say clearly now whether, when he has finished negotiating and he comes back arguing for a yes vote, he will sack Ministers who do not agree with him, or does he agree with the Mayor of London, who says that Ministers can vote as they want? What about the Work and Pensions Secretary? Will the quiet man be here to stay, or will he be allowed to turn up the volume?
Yet again, another international summit vital to our national interests has ended in the usual way: a Tory Prime Minister fighting with his own party on Europe.
I enjoyed the last bit of the right hon. and learned Lady’s speech; that was going back to the old Punch and Judy that she rather restrained herself from at Prime Minister’s questions. There was only one problem, which is the premise that all this happened with journalists on the plane and their not being able to hear. I can confirm that there were no journalists on the plane, so next time she might want to get the details straight.
Let me go back to the beginning of the right hon. and learned Lady’s speech. On Russia, I am very grateful for her backing for the sanctions. She asked about the EU Council in June and the aim there will be a full rollover of the sanctions. More sanctions would be produced, I believe, if Russia took further aggressive action. We hope that that does not happen, but Russia needs to know that there would be costs if it did. We need to be cautious on the question of helping other EU states. Putting in place sanctions damages all European countries in different ways, and Britain itself faces some damage, but our argument should be not that we can individually compensate EU states but that it is in all our collective and individual interests that the rules-based system of our world continues to work and that Russia does not violate it. We should make that argument first before we consider whether there are separate measures we can take.
I thank the right hon. and learned Lady for her support of our campaign against ISIL in Iraq. She is absolutely right that that is being driven by the Iraqi Government and the long-term answer to the problems in Iraq and Syria is inclusive Governments that can represent all of their people. I am grateful for her support for the extra 125 personnel we have sent. She asked whether, in our view, Iraq needs to do more to reach out to the Sunni tribes and to train more of the security forces. She is right on both counts and that needs to happen.
On the question of TTIP, I would argue that the NHS is protected. There is no way that a TTIP agreement can lead to changes in our NHS. I suggest to the Labour party that instead of raising the profile of a threat that does not exist and trying to seek false reassurances, it would be better if the whole of the UK political system could come together and push the Americans to go further and put more on the table, so that this trade deal benefits working people in Britain. That is the argument we need to make.
The right hon. and learned Lady asked about the climate change agreement. Our view is that it should be legally binding and that is what we are pressing for. The language in the communiqué is progress and America is pitching into these arguments, but of course we would like them to go further.
I think that we dealt with all the European stuff during Prime Minister’s questions. We should lift our eyes to the horizon. The right hon. and learned Lady says that we are back to the usual service of the 1990s, but there is something very different about this Government compared with the Governments of the 1990s, either of a Labour persuasion or of a Conservative persuasion, in that we have made the historic decision to let the people decide when it comes to Europe.
I am pleased to hear from the Prime Minister that there was time at the G7 to consider the humanitarian tragedy in the Mediterranean, where huge numbers of people are drowning trying to flee conditions in their own countries. I agree with him that the long-term solution is development aid in the countries from which they come, but was there discussion of an international diplomatic effort and the giving of administrative and technical support to the Government of the failed state in Libya, which remains a lawless space through which huge numbers of people will continue to come unless and until some sort of stability is restored to the country?
My right hon. and learned Friend has identified the core part of the problem that needs to be solved urgently, which is the need for a Government of national unity in Libya. We can and do offer technical assistance, border security and the training of Libyans, but until there is a Government they do not join up and make a comprehensive strategy. At the G7, we talked about ensuring that our Foreign Ministers and others do everything they can to support Special Representative León and his work to form that Government. Once that is done, we can pour in the assistance to help them deal with the criminal gangs and secure their borders.
I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of his statement. There is much in the communiqué to be commended. For example, the first paragraph states:
“We are committed to the values of freedom and democracy, and their universality, to the rule of law and respect for human rights, and to fostering peace and security.”
We on the Scottish National party Benches will support human rights by seeking to protect the Human Rights Act in the weeks and months ahead. The communiqué also contains paragraphs on the global economy and the need for growth and on women's entrepreneurship, two areas that are vital throughout the world.
On tax, tax evasion and anti-corruption measures, I am sure that the Prime Minister would like to confirm that every co-operation has been given to the Swiss and US legal authorities in relation to FIFA. On trade, the communiqué welcomes progress on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, but the Prime Minister will also be aware of the concerns about the potential adverse impact on public service provision such as the national health service. What safeguards did the Prime Minister highlight as UK Government requirements to protect the NHS? We have heard him say from the Dispatch Box that there is no reason for concern. If there is no reason for concern, I see good prospects of those safeguards being included in any final TTIP deal, so why not secure that on the face of the treaty?
On foreign policy, I agree with the G7 conclusions about the territorial integrity of Ukraine, the role of Russia and the need to maintain sanctions against the Russian state, but I warn of the risks of the situation in eastern Ukraine becoming a frozen conflict. Anybody who has witnessed what happened in eastern Europe since the fall of the iron curtain will be aware of what has happened from Transnistria to South Ossetia and from Abkhazia to Nagorno-Karabakh and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Although the immediacy of the situation merits action, there must also be a medium and long-term perspective for normalisation.
I welcome the provisions on maritime order and maritime security. These are relevant to the Pacific and also in our northern European neighbourhood. I encourage the UK Government to take this seriously for a change. The high north and the Arctic did not even rate a mention in the last strategic defence and security review—I hope that they will be included in the forthcoming SDSR—and the UK has not a single maritime patrol aircraft.
Finally, I will welcome the inclusion of migration and refugees in the G7 conclusions. I asked the Prime Minister about that last week. Has he had any time to reflect on the appalling UK record of giving refuge to those fleeing the war in Syria and elsewhere? Does he now not agree that he should be working with his international colleagues, with those in the European Union foremost amongst them, so that we all take a fair share of those requiring refuge?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his response. Let me take all his points in turn. On maritime security and the SDSR, he is right to make the point that the high north and the Arctic should be carefully considered in the SDSR and I will ensure that that happens. I do not agree with him on our record on refugees. We have an excellent record and we are the second largest bilateral donor to ensure that those people fleeing conflict in Syria and Iraq are properly looked after. We have a programme for resettling particularly vulnerable families, but if he thinks that the answer to a refugee crisis of tens of millions of people is a resettlement programme, he is completely wrong. The answer must be stabilising those countries and allowing people to return.
I think the hon. Gentleman is right about frozen conflicts. One reason we should take the problems of Russian aggression into Ukraine so seriously is to be clear that we will not tolerate the situations that happened in Georgia and elsewhere, where frozen conflicts have been created. It is important that we take a strong stand through sanctions, unlike what happened with Georgia, where the international community moved on.
On TTIP, I will say to the hon. Gentleman, as I said to Labour, that raising these false fears about potential privatisation of the NHS is a waste of an opportunity. In the English NHS, the commissioners of services will make the decisions and they invest over and over again in a national health service. In Scotland, as he knows, the only person who can privatise the NHS is the Scottish Government. Instead of raising false fears, we should be putting on the table bold proposals to open up American markets. For instance, the Scottish knitwear manufacturer that I visited recently, suffers from massive tariffs and wants to be able to sell into the US. He should spend his time looking after those businesses and those jobs and fighting for them.
On the question of tax evasion, tax avoidance and collaborating with the FIFA investigation, I am sure that we can give that reassurance but I will check carefully.
Finally, I say to the hon. Gentleman that I believe in human rights and I think that the best way to safeguard them is to have a British Bill of Rights. Why not have these decisions made in British courts rather than in Strasbourg courts? That is the position of the Government.
Further to discussions about Russia and ISIL, the Prime Minister will be aware that during Russia’s annexation of the Crimea the Foreign and Commonwealth Office did not have one in-house Crimea expert, and that at the height of the Arab spring the FCO was so thin on the ground that retired Arabists had to be recalled. Has not the time now come for greater investment in the FCO in order to help us navigate this increasingly uncertain world?
I can reassure my hon. Friend that the FCO is hiring more Russian speakers, but the advice I get from our excellent ambassador in Russia, Tim Barrow, is of a very high standard. His team works extremely hard and I want to take this opportunity to thank them publicly.
The hon. Lady makes an important point. I know from speaking to members of our armed forces that they benefit hugely from training in different countries and in different conditions. Training in Kenya and in Canada, as I understand it, is going to continue.
Whether or not one agrees with either side of the climate change argument, one thing is certain: we do not want to sign up to anything that damages our economy. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that he will not sign up to anything that does that?
I can certainly give my hon. Friend that assurance. The argument that I would make to sceptics about the issue is that Britain has already taken some very significant steps to improve renewable energy and to improve the situation with regard to carbon emissions in transport, housing and elsewhere. It is now in our interest that other countries sign up to those things. That is why we can see from the discussions at the G7 that countries that have previously been at the back of the queue, such as China and America, are now coming forward with plans to make sure that they put such changes in place. Even if one is a sceptic about these matters, it is a time to get enthusiastic about a deal.
At the Enniskillen summit, many of my constituents were pleased that the Prime Minister took the lead on the issue of tax-dodging by major companies, which robs countries, especially developing countries, of major tax revenue. Two years on, companies are still thumbing their noses at national Governments on the issue of tax. When does the Prime Minister expect to see tangible results from the measures that were introduced and the promises made at the G7 summits?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I would be a bit more positive, in that two things have happened. One is that countries have signed up to the automatic exchange of tax information, which is vital. Secondly, the culture in business is changing. Businesses now know that the old discussions about how they can minimise their tax bill will not stand up to public scrutiny. We see company after company now—we have seen it recently with some of those in the world of hot drinks—recognising that they need to engage in the debate and start paying taxes in the country where they make their money.
May I particularly commend the Prime Minister for the announcement that there is a commitment to mobilising climate finance for developing nations? This is hugely significant. Can he please update the House on when he expects that mobilisation to come forward?
My hon. Friend is right. In looking at the components of a deal, we need Europe to come forward with an offer, which we have done, and we need America and China, the big countries, to be engaged in the debate, making offers about carbon emissions, but what will bring it all together is making sure that the advanced world brings forward climate finance funds, so that we can reassure poorer countries, island states and others that there will be assistance for them as they fight climate change and make the necessary changes in their own economies. Britain has put a lot of money on the table. We now need others to do the same, and I think we will make progress in the coming months.
Further to the contributions of the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) and the leader of the Scottish National party, Prime Minister Renzi told the summit that 100,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean since 1 January and 1,750 have died. They are crossing at the rate of 600 a day. I agree with the Prime Minister that this is a frustrating situation, but the Khartoum process does not seem to be working and Frontex is not doing its job. Do we need another mechanism to try to deal with this problem?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question. The mechanism that we need is to have a partner with whom we can work. Frankly, until there is a Libyan Government and an ability to go after the criminal gangs and to turn people back as they get into boats, all the other steps we take—picking people up and all the rest of it—are vital for humanitarian reasons but will not add up to a policy that will reduce this migration flow. We have to recognise that the one place where that has worked in the past, the Spanish efforts to stop people going to the Canary islands, was where they were able to work with Governments, invest in those Governments and invest in the necessary security. That is the model we need to follow.
The Prime Minister has spoken about the conversations that he is having about stopping companies, particularly large companies, artificially shifting profits abroad. That made the British people very angry recently. Can my right hon. Friend give us a little more detail about the content of the discussions?
We are doing two things. One is working internationally to get that done; the OECD has been leading a piece of work on base erosion and profit shifting, trying to stop companies shifting their profits artificially around the world. The 90 countries that have signed up to automatic tax information exchange will give that work real teeth, but we have not waited for that. In this country in the last Budget the Chancellor introduced what was called the diverted profits tax, so that if we see a company that is making lots of money in the UK but not paying taxes in the UK, we can present it with a tax bill. So we are taking international action but we are not waiting for it here domestically. This is changing the culture of the companies concerned.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s conversations with President Buhari and the commitment to tackle Boko Haram in Nigeria. He also mentioned that he had had discussions about tackling corruption, which is obviously a serious issue. Can he give us more detail about those discussions and actions?
I hope the hon. Lady agrees that President Buhari’s election is a very important moment for Nigeria, because he won the election even though he was facing some pretty overwhelming odds in relation to what his opposing candidate’s party was doing, if I may put it that way in the most gentle form. President Buhari has a track record of fighting corruption and has put it at the top of his agenda. His speech at his inauguration was a model of doing that. He needs to sort out corruption in the army and in the oil department and industry. What Britain is trying to say is, “We are there as your partner and want to help you, so the more we can do to help you clean up this corruption, the better for people not only in Nigeria, but throughout the region and here too.”
May I commend the Prime Minister for his statement on ISIL? It is a national security threat. President Obama spoke about a developing plan for ISIL. Prime Minister Abadi is clearly trying to cope with bringing the Shi’a militias under the Iraqi army command. The Sunni Speaker of Parliament is talking about a Sunni national guard, and the Kurds are struggling to cope with 1.6 million internally displaced persons and a 1,000 km border with ISIL. Did my right hon. Friend discuss with President Obama that plan for redoubling the efforts, both in Iraq and in Syria, in respect of ISIL?
We had a pretty lengthy discussion about ISIL, because in my view Islamist extremists, violence and terrorism are the greatest threat that we face on the national security front. It is a threat that very directly affects us here and it is worrying how many people from Britain have gone to fight for ISIL, so we have to cope with this right across the piece. My hon. Friend is right: we need to invest in the Iraqi Government and their capacity to bring the country together by being a Government for all—Sunni, Shi’a and Kurd—and having security forces that represent all Sunni, Shi’a and Kurd. We need to encourage President Abadi to take bold steps in that direction, while helping him to train his forces, which is what our effort and above all the American effort is all about.
Order. As Members who were present during the previous Parliament will know, and as the Prime Minister can certainly testify, I am not averse to running exchanges on statements very fully because I think that is what democratic scrutiny requires. I simply point out that there are two heavily subscribed Opposition day debates today, and therefore there is a premium upon brevity.
The G7 leaders’ declaration refers to the appalling suffering of the Rohingya people in the bay of Bengal. This is a humanitarian crisis and there is rising public concern in this country about it. Does the Prime Minister agree that it is time for the UN Secretary-General to take personal charge of dealing with this crisis?
I welcome the consideration being given to tackling pandemics. Will my right hon. Friend set out more details on how the UK research and development fund will help to prevent pandemics and prevent infection of people here in the United Kingdom?
The discussion was around a couple of things. One is that when a pandemic breaks out, we need faster action. That is why we need a crack team of epidemiologists—medics; I will say it the simple way—to get out there and measure the situation, which is what Britain stands ready to do. The second thing is to put money into development of medicines and vaccines so that we have better ways of coping with these things when they happen.
What assurance can the Prime Minister give us, following the G7 discussions, that any transatlantic trade deal will be based on genuine free trade, meaning mutual standards of recognition, and not on regulatory standardisation drafted in favour of big vested corporate interests?
I suspect that it will be a combination of both those things. We should not shy away from that, because the opportunity for the two largest economies in the world—the EU and America—in writing some of these rules together will make sure that we have good and decent standards rather than a race to the bottom. It is important to see that as a potential advantage of the TTIP deal.
Did the G7 agree that the situation in eastern Ukraine has gone from bad to worse, and if so, why has not more been done to say that there should be increased sanctions against the Russian Federation rather than just a rolling over of existing sanctions?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. There has been a mixed picture since the Minsk agreements were signed. Overall, there has been some sign of lower levels of violence and aggression, so we should recognise that. I think the decision to roll over the sanctions automatically in June is right, with the very clear warning that if things were to get much worse—if there were to be, for instance, a Russian-backed push for more territory—that could lead to higher sanctions.
May I point the Prime Minister to the part of his statement on economic security, which was quite short? What does he say to those who criticise the G7 and say that we have never learned the lessons of the world economic meltdown in 2008 by putting together a policy, a set of regulations and a set of organisations that could prevent it from happening again?
The G20 has in many ways been the key organising body for driving changes to rules on bank regulation and capital requirements, for instance, and reform of global institutions. I think that helps, because of course banking problems and meltdowns can happen in developing countries as well as advanced countries. The strength of the G7 is that yes, of course, we discuss economic and trade issues, but we have very like-minded conversations about the big security challenges such as ISIL and Russia. Frankly, it was helpful that the conversation was at the G7, because it was that much more candid and frank.
The hard work of the British people, including my constituents in Charnwood, combined with our long-term economic plan have ensured that our economy in the UK is growing, but external economic risks remain. Will my right hon. Friend enlarge on what discussions he had on those wider external risks and how to mitigate them?
There are a number of risks, including the potential slow-down of the Chinese economy, which was obviously discussed. There were a number of discussions at the margins of the G7, and some round the table as well, about the threat to the stability of the eurozone of the very unstable situation in Greece, which is of interest to all the members of the G7. We are approaching some pretty crucial days where agreement needs to be reached in order to maintain the stability of a bunch of economies that are very big trading partners for Britain.
With further deployment of UK and US troops in Iraq, what measures has the Prime Minister put in place to guard against mission creep?
One of the most important things is to come back regularly to this House and discuss and debate what we are doing. This latest deployment is in response to a request from the Iraqi Government. These individuals, who are mostly involved in training the Iraqi troops on how to counter IED—improvised explosive device—threats, will save lives, and that is a sensible approach for Britain to take. More broadly, we are the second largest contributor in terms of the airstrikes over Iraq. That has been essential in shrinking the amount of territory that ISIL controls and making sure that the Kurds have been able to maintain their situation in the Kurdish regional authority. There are regular reports back and a clear statement from this Dispatch Box: this is not about trying to re-invade a country; it is about helping the legitimate Government of that country, as recognised by the UN, to do the work that they know is vital.
I went with John Major, when he was Prime Minister, to meet Boris Yeltsin, and I am not at all sure that it is in the British national interest that we are now at loggerheads with Russia given all this trouble in Arabia and with ISIL. Has my right hon. Friend seen the recent remarks by Lord Carrington, Mrs Thatcher’s Foreign Secretary, that Ukraine “was always part of” Russia, that the US
“was crazy to suggest Ukraine could join Nato one day”,
“Henry Kissinger…agrees with him”?
We have not picked the fight with Russia; Russia has brought this on herself by destabilising and encouraging separatists to take Ukrainian territory. As for whether Ukraine is a country, we should recognise that the Ukrainian people themselves have decided that it is a country; it is recognised by the United Nations. The whole point we have to learn is that redrawing the lines and maps of Europe by force can end in disaster for everyone in Europe, including the people here in this country.
The G7 pledge on climate action is very welcome, but a new report from Oxfam warns:
“Coal plants in G7 countries are on track to cost the world $450 billion a year by the end of the century”.
Given that the Committee on Climate Change recommended that we should end unabated coal generation by the early 2020s, will the Prime Minister put in place a policy framework to try to achieve that?
We all want to see an end to unabated coal, but the key is in the term unabated. We need to make sure that we invest in carbon capture and storage so that we can accelerate the decarbonisation of electricity, but in a way that does not damage our economic interests.
I welcome the new focus on corruption and the plan for an anti-corruption summit in London.
On Syria and the call for a UN-led political transition, will the Prime Minister share with us a little more about what that would look like—for example, whether Bosnia-Herzegovina is a useful precedent—and how we would arrive at it?
I am not sure that it is easy to identify an exact precedent. The point is simply this: President Assad himself, as I said in my statement, has become a recruiting sergeant for ISIL because of the way that he has treated his people, but everybody knows that what Syria needs, long term, is a Government who can represent everyone in Syria, including the Alawites. Therefore, clearly it would be acceptable to have a Government who were able to represent those people as well as the Sunni majority. That is the sort of transition that we should be aiming for.
When the Defence Committee went to Iraq at the end of last year, it was clear that one of the biggest obstacles to defeating ISIL was the lack of involvement of the Sunni tribes and Sunni people, and that is obviously down to the Iraqi Government. I welcome the support we are giving to the Iraqi Government, but what is the strategy of the Prime Minister and the other leaders of the G7 to bring on board the Sunnis and get the Iraqi Government to change their position, because that is essential in order for us to defeat ISIL?
The hon. Gentleman’s analysis of the situation is absolutely spot on. We will not succeed in Iraq unless the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi security forces have representation from both Sunni and Shi’a, so our strategy is not to try to do things for the Iraqi Government but to encourage the Iraqi Government to do them and say, “We’ll work alongside you.” In everything we do, we should be encouraging them to reach out to the Sunni tribes, because in the end their Government will succeed only if they represent all the people.
I call Mr Richard Graham. [Interruption.] Have I already called Mr Graham? Yes, I have. How could I have forgotten the pearls of wisdom with which he just favoured the House? It was very remiss of me and I apologise to the hon. Gentleman. I call Mr Crispin Blunt.
Islamic State is an enemy of civilisation, which is why it finds a coalition of 60 countries ranged against it. It requires military defeat, and the sooner that task is undertaken, the easier it will be. However, it is not going to happen if the regional powers are not co-ordinating their policies. What discussion was there at the G7 about getting Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia, at the very least, to co-ordinate their policies towards Islamic State?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that that sort of co-ordination is required. Some important steps have been taken, not least President Obama’s meeting at Camp David with all the Gulf countries. I have had conversations in recent days with the Turkish President and have visited Turkey to discuss this issue. I am not sure we will be able to achieve the perfection that my hon. Friend requires of getting everyone round the table at the same time in the same way, but certainly working with regional partners to make sure everyone has a co-ordinated approach is the right thing to do.
I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. I would pick up two points that he raised—corruption and FIFA. Sadly, they seem to have become synonymous. Does he think it appropriate that Sepp Blatter attends the FIFA women’s world cup, which is taking place at the moment, given his promise to resign and given his sadly inappropriate comment that women footballers should wear tighter shorts to make women’s football more popular?
The hon. Lady makes a very important point. Sepp Blatter’s track record on these things is very disappointing. Sepp Blatter has said he is going to resign, and in my view he should get on and resign. The organisation needs new leadership and needs to be cleaned up, and the sooner that starts the better.
For the first time in a number of G7s and G8s, we actually got the 0.7% commitment back into the text, so it is clear and there for all to see. I would argue that it is not just right for Britain from a moral standpoint, but that it actually increases our standing in the world that we can point out that we have kept our promises and were able to use that money to enhance not only the economic standing of those countries, but our own security as well.
I am pleased that the G7 discussed global poverty and action to address it, but given that the IMF, the OECD and Nobel economists have all agreed that inequalities have a negative influence on growth and on societies, why are he and his Government exacerbating inequalities across the UK, including having a negative impact on addressing health inequalities?
First, the figures show that inequality actually fell during the last Parliament. I would slightly take issue with the hon. Lady about the priorities for development in terms of the UN goals that we will agree in September. Of course we all want to see reductions in inequality, but when we have to determine the absolute priority for the world in tackling poverty and in trying to inspire a new generation of people to take action, as the Live Aid generation did, I would argue that eradicating extreme poverty—people living every day on almost nothing—is where we should really put the emphasis.
We did have discussions about that. There is obviously very good information sharing between Britain and America, and there is increasingly better sharing of information among European countries, with the progress on the passenger name record. Where we need even more co-operation is clearly between countries such as Britain and Turkey, which can sometimes act as a gateway for people joining ISIL. That is where we need to focus our efforts.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement on investment to tackle pandemics, but does he agree that vaccines and drugs will be effective only if countries have domestic healthcare systems that can distribute them through their populations? Was that discussed at the G7, and what conclusions were drawn?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right. Making sure that teams visit countries where a pandemic starts and making vaccines available is only a sticking plaster on top of a very large problem. What we need is stronger health systems in such countries, which is one of the things that our aid programme is designed to deliver.
Yes, I can. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this matter. In these gatherings, there is sometimes a danger that everyone looks at the next problem, rather than at trying to examine how well the work has been done on the last problem to secure the future. It is very important that we keep our eyes on supporting the Afghan Government and the Afghan security forces, because they are now carrying out the role that our soldiers helped to carry out, which is to stop that country being a haven for terror.
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. A number of those who were abducted have returned, but Boko Haram still holds a very large number of them. This brings together the things about which I have been talking: first, one reason why these things happen is that the endemic corruption in such countries means that the military and security services are not effective, and people sometimes turn to extremist organisations because their Governments are not working; and, secondly, we should not try to take over the organisation of such things, but be there to help to train the military and assist in dealing with the corruption in such countries so that they are better able to protect their people.
Staying with Nigeria, I welcome the National Security Council prioritising help for the Nigerian Government in their fight against Boko Haram. Does the Prime Minister agree that the security forces of Chad, Mali, Niger and Nigeria need to work out a regional solution and work more closely together?
Was there any discussion at the G7 of the importance of freedom of expression as a human right, particularly in view of the very severe clampdown in Saudi Arabia on freedom of expression and the fact that the blogger Raif Badawi is due to be brutally flogged again on Friday? Yesterday, the Foreign Secretary made very encouraging sounds. Will the Prime Minister take this up personally, and does he have some further news on the issue?
There was not a specific discussion of that, but the great thing about the G7 is that all its countries sign up to certain norms for human rights, freedom of expression, the rule of law and democracy, so we can have like-minded conversations in which we deal with issues very frankly. We have set out very clearly our views on what has happened in this case in Saudi Arabia, and we will continue to do so.
The New York Times reported recently that Iran is increasing its nuclear stockpiles, notwithstanding the fact that the issue was due to be discussed at the G7 summit. Will the Prime Minister assure the House that there remains a determination among G7 countries to ensure that Iran is never able to obtain a nuclear weapon of its own?
I can certainly give my hon. Friend that assurance. There was a good conversation about Iran, when President Obama reported back on his view of the state of the negotiations that are taking place. The aim is very clear: to make sure Iran is a good distance away from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon. Crucially, the agreement has to include a lot of inspection and verification so that we know that to be true. On that basis, a deal is absolutely worth pursuing.
My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for International Development have probably done more than any of their predecessors to tackle poverty in the developing world and Africa through the 0.7% target and by ensuring that our aid is well spent. Perhaps the biggest bar to economic development in Africa and the developing world is the issue of corruption. Will the Prime Minister consider discussing with the Foreign Secretary whether we can open an international convention for signature at next year’s summit, which was announced today, so that we can put in place common standards across the entire world?
My hon. and learned Friend makes a very good suggestion. We have already set up the Open Government Partnership, which is an international organisation encouraging transparency from its members, and we are going to hold the anti-corruption summit. Because we have met our 0.7% pledge, we are able to make the running and make the arguments on this issue. People know that we have kept our pledges about the money, so we can now talk about the corruption. His suggestion is a very good one.
During the long discussions that the Prime Minister was able to have with other leaders of the G7—apparently they were walking around a very nice park while they were doing it—did they manage to discuss seriously two things? First, did they discuss why ISIL is so powerful, so successful, so well funded and, crucially, so well armed with efficient, modern high-calibre weapons? Secondly, was there an opportunity for a longer discussion about the past 15 years of western foreign policy in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and other places, which appears to have created the circumstances under which an organisation such as ISIL can grow, and indeed is still growing? Was there an opportunity for reflection on that?
I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that it was not a park. It was the beautiful Bavarian Alps, where I think the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart) comes from originally—she was waxing lyrical to me about it yesterday.
Of course there was a long discussion about ISIL, and I will take the hon. Gentleman’s question in two parts. First, the reason why ISIL is so well armed and well funded is that it is a death cult that has effectively taken over a country, oilfields, money and weaponry. Where I part company with him completely is on the idea that ISIL has been caused by the Iraq war, western aggression or whatever. I think it is nonsense. We can see the growth in extremist Islamism dating back to well before the attack on the twin towers, which of course itself happened before the Iraq war. We have to confront the real problem, which is the rise of this poisonous extremist narrative and death cult, which long predated the Iraq war. If we get that the wrong way round, we will get ourselves in a total mess.
I saw a press report, which was not well covered, saying that in the private meetings the world leaders wanted to know from the Prime Minister, given that he had inherited an economic mess and had to cut public expenditure, how on earth he got re-elected with a huge majority, the three main Opposition leaders resigned and he had a united party. Was that press report right?
I am delighted that my hon. Friend refers to my majority as huge. I take that as an indication that he will be part of it at all times throughout this Parliament.
I am pleased to report that I did have a number of pleasant discussions with Prime Ministers and Presidents inquiring after the general election, and some of them who are coming up for re-election themselves were seeking some tips and ideas.
We are well aware of the Prime Minister’s wish to have control over decisions taken in this House and the courts of this country. Will he and his Government therefore fight the investor-state dispute settlement that is hidden within TTIP, which could undermine public health decisions taken in this House and by our devolved Government?
The hon. Lady, like some others, is chasing after a false demon. There have been such clauses in all the trade agreements that we have signed, and my understanding is that we have not lost a single case. My view is that instead of asking for things that are not necessary, we should ask for things that will benefit Britain, such as opening up the United States. Let me give one example. Because of the Jones Act, if we want to ship goods from one port to another in America, we have to use US vessels. In a world of free trade and openness, we should be pushing for changes to that sort of thing. Let us put our efforts into that, rather than into raising false demons over trade deals.