The Secretary of State was asked—
Syrian Children: Refugee Camps
The UK-led No Lost Generation initiative means that we fully back the Government of Lebanon’s Reaching All Children with Education plan. Our funding for education in Lebanon this year will increase from £10 million to £20 million, which will support the Lebanese Government’s efforts to double the number of Syrian children enrolled in Lebanese public schools.
Yes, I absolutely do. Education is vital for all children, but especially children who are refugees: they are children and they should be in school. Many of the children I have met have been through hugely distressing situations. When asked to draw pictures, they draw pictures of places that have been bombed. When they hear a supply plane go over their room, they dive underneath their desks for cover. Education is possibly their main chance of having some prospect of a successful life ahead of them, and that is why it is so important.
I welcome what the Secretary of State has said. Globally, just 1% of humanitarian aid is spent on education. Does she think that is acceptable? At this week’s Oslo summit, it has been suggested that there should be a global humanitarian fund for education in emergencies. Are the British Government willing to support that?
In fact, the UK has in many respects pioneered how we ensure that children caught up in emergencies still get the chance to be in school. I pay tribute to the Norwegians for taking up the issue, too. We want more funding in this area. It is absolutely vital if we are to go beyond just providing life-saving supplies today to helping to preserve the futures of children for tomorrow.
The main thing we are doing is to work hand-in-hand with the Lebanese Government, who have taken great steps over recent months to make sure that their schools can cope not only with their own children, but with a doubling in the number of Syrian refugee children who now need to use them. That means not just support for teachers, but support in schools, in their buildings and in textbooks as well.
The Secretary of State will be aware that the Lebanese Minister for Education said that Lebanon is facing a $100 million shortfall in the budget for educating Syrian refugee children. What representations has she made to her international counterparts to ensure Lebanon gets that $100 million?
The hon. Gentleman is quite right to raise that issue. As I have just said, the UK has already increased our investment. In fact, at the UN General Assembly last year, I held a pledge meeting to get international partners to fund more of the educational needs in both Lebanon and Jordan specifically. That raised $344 million at the time, but, as he set out, this is an ongoing requirement and the international community must step up to fund it.
Developing Countries: Private Sector Development
The Department for International Development’s private sector work has helped to mobilise £4 billion of investment, and we are expanding this work. We need to recognise that the private sector can often deliver development in ways that Governments and donors cannot. In fact, our development finance institution, CDC, reported last week that CDC-backed businesses directly and indirectly helped to create nearly 1.3 million jobs in 2014 alone.
I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. A recent Independent Commission for Aid Impact report on DFID’s private sector development stated:
“We found it impossible to identify how much DFID actually spends on PSD.”
Will the Secretary of State clarify how the £1.8 billion allocated for 2015-16 will actually be spent?
The strategic framework on economic development that we published several months ago gives the key pillars of work that we will invest in. As the hon. Lady points out, we are ramping up our investment in economic development. Later, we will have a question about migrants. If we are to stem the flow of migrants, it is vital that we do more to create jobs where those people are.
Thinking about the private sector in an alternative way, will my right hon. Friend ask our embassies and high commissions that operate in developing countries and have plants or offices in those places to source materials, including labour, as locally as possible and pay the relative living wage to those whom they employ?
That is a very sensible suggestion, which I will certainly pass on to the Foreign Secretary. We work hand in hand with the Foreign Office around the world, not least in countries such as Tanzania, with which we have a prosperity partnership that is helping to create jobs.
I recently met campaigners from Nigeria who told me that the privatisation of the country’s electricity system, which has been supported by DFID through projects worth £140 million over the past 12 years, has led to price rises, job losses and more blackouts. What evidence does DFID use when deciding to support privatisation as a means to improve the access to and affordability of public services such as electricity?
As the hon. Gentleman has, essentially, set out, investment in infrastructure, particularly energy infrastructure, is vital. The work in Nigeria has led to a doubling of the power supply that is available to Nigerian people and businesses, which I am sure he would support.
The ICAI report of May this year said:
“Collaboration between business and aid agencies has the potential to deliver major benefits for the poor”
of this world. However, the report also noted a “lack of clear targets” and oversight by the Department. Will my right hon. Friend indicate what she and her excellent officials are doing to remedy that?
We are developing our work with the private sector. I met John Cridland of the CBI yesterday to discuss how that ongoing work is progressing, and we both feel that the relationship between the Department and businesses has never been stronger. The relationship is evolving, but we are on the right path and I think that we should be proud of how far we have come.
Members on both sides of the House agree that decent work is the best route out of poverty, but last week, Radio 4’s “File on 4” revealed problems with a DFID programme in Nigeria. It alleged that the project exported rocks instead of leather products, and that it was used as a cover for export fraud and money laundering on an industrial scale. The right hon. Lady and her Department refused to speak to the programme makers, so will she tell the House what action she is taking as a result of those revelations?
The revelations were, as ever, not quite what they seemed. The export enhancement grant is not a mechanism that DFID is involved with at all; it is a Nigerian Government policy that was being misused and abused. We do work in the leather sector, but that work relates to helping local markets to develop. We became aware of issues with the export enhancement grant, and DFID worked with the Nigerian Government to encourage them, in the end, to shut it down, which they did about 12 months ago.
It is interesting that the right hon. Lady chose not to share that knowledge with the British public and had to say it here in the Commons. [Laughter.] Well, it is interesting that an answer was not given directly to the programme makers, but instead had to be dragged out of the Secretary of State. There is a lack of accountability, transparency and governance in another DFID project: the Private Infrastructure Development Group.
This year, DFID’s spending on private sector development will double to £1.8 billion, up to £400 million of which will be the UK’s contribution to the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank—China’s rival to the World Bank. What oversight and governance procedures has the right hon. Lady put in place to ensure that social and environmental standards and human rights are upheld in the work of the new bank?
The hon. Lady will be pleased to hear that we tried to make sure that the “File on 4” programme was well aware of the facts. It was aware of the facts and if she feels that the way in which they were presented gave her a misleading impression of the reality, that is an issue for her to follow up with the BBC. I obviously believe in freedom of the press. On the broader question, we are working to make sure that the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has the same quality of safeguards that we expect in the World Bank. Treasury Officials are working very hard on that as well.
3. What her Department’s role is in tackling conditions in countries from which migrants are trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean. (900803)
Last week I announced a package of initiatives that will provide emergency aid as well as jobs and education to help to address the root causes of the migrant crisis. This includes support worth £217 million to help some 2.5 million refugees and vulnerable people in Africa, and an additional £100 million to help those who have been displaced as a result of the Syria crisis.
Does my right hon. Friend believe that the number of people attempting to cross the Mediterranean would be far higher were it not for our aid programme that is helping to keep people in or near their own countries, thus preventing them from coming to Europe?
I believe that it does help. We know that people are moving to escape conflict as refugees, and to get jobs and a better future. Our work is upstream and is a long-term strategy, and our jobs agenda is providing jobs and better economic development to provide opportunities where people are. Our commitment to the Syrian crisis to date is £900 million, and as a result only 2% of the 11 million displaced Syrians have sought asylum in Europe.
8. A recent report by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact—the Government aid watchdog—gave Ministers an amber-red rating for their interventions in security and justice, and stated that they were not yet making“a real difference to fragile and conflict states”.Getting this issue right is crucial to solving some of the underlying reasons behind the migration crisis. What more is the Secretary of State doing to ensure that DFID funding is spent wisely? (900808)
The hon. Gentleman highlights a difficult area, and the issue of security and justice for a country such as Eritrea is one of the main drivers of people leaving that country. At the same time, our standards on human rights mean that we would not work with police forces, for example, if we thought that abuses were taking place while we were carrying out a programme. We try to strike the right balance and, as he mentions, tracking the results of that can be long term and not uncomplicated.
The Secretary of State has argued that so few Syrian refugees have sought safety in Europe because of aid sent to the region, but how does she square that with the increasing number of Syrians risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean?
As I said, that is a small proportion. The hon. Lady should be aware that the UN flash appeal, which is to encourage the international community to ensure the right level of support for refugees, is around 20% funded. We should not be surprised that the conditions that refugees end up living in are not good enough, and that they might want to seek a better life for themselves. We can be proud of the work that the UK is doing, but not enough other countries are joining us in that.
The Syrian crisis has created nearly 4 million refugees, yet fewer than 200 have settled back in the UK through the Syrian vulnerable persons relocation scheme. Given that, and the need for safe passage for those seeking asylum in this country, will the Minister say what discussions she has had with her counterparts at the Home Office to discuss expanding the numbers and the safety of those seeking asylum in the UK?
London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases
The UK is delivering on the commitment we made and our programmes are protecting millions of people from these diseases. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State for International Development participated in the recent launch of the third progress report on the London declaration.
By funding the global trachoma mapping project—the largest such project ever attempted—will my right hon. Friend say what the Department aims to achieve and how the lessons learned from that project can be used in the ongoing fight against other neglected tropical diseases?
As I just mentioned, we have data from mapping the problem, and support from Sightsavers for the elimination of blindness and trachoma is also critical. The Government have put in £195 million, a large amount of money, through the 2012 process to help to tackle this disease, as well as many others.
Driving the best value for money is a top priority for the Government. Robust processes are in place for the 86% of aid spent by my Department. Business cases are required for all projects, and their performance is also appraised and monitored.
I am sure the Secretary of State will want to give an explanation for how she will ensure value for money in her Department. May I give her one project for which I could ensure value for money, where it takes four to five weeks to see a doctor, the roads are filled with potholes and the police are in crisis? I refer, of course, to that tribe inhabiting the frozen plains of the north, the Lincolnshire yellowbellies.
As ever, my hon. Friend makes his point very eloquently. I can assure him that my Department is probably the most scrutinised of any in government. We have the Select Committee on International Development, the aid watchdog and the Public Accounts Committee. I can assure him we are rising to that challenge.
Order. There is quite a lot of noise in the Chamber. I was not able to hear fully the Secretary of State’s very important answers. I want to hear the right hon. Gentleman. Let us have a bit of order for the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, Mr Keith Vaz.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. One of the best criteria for value for money for our projects is to stem the humanitarian crisis occurring in the Mediterranean. Last week, I visited a camp outside Rome station where I met a number of migrants. If they had been provided with jobs and economic development in north Africa, they would not have travelled. Will she please make that one of the criteria?
The right hon. Gentleman will be pleased to hear that just a few days ago I announced additional support that includes in Africa creating additional jobs and livelihoods. As he sets out, many of these migrants are in search of better economic opportunities. If they cannot find them where they are growing up they will look for them elsewhere. We should be very aware of that and work to tackle it.
Developing Countries: Climate Change
The UK Government are playing a leading role in tackling the effects of climate change in developing countries through the £3.87 billion international climate fund. The ICF focuses on reducing poverty by promoting low carbon growth, building resilience to the impacts of climate change and tackling deforestation.
Combating poverty and tackling climate change are two sides of the same coin, as the poorest are often those who are hit first and most harshly by climate change. What steps is the Minister taking to ensure environmental sustainability and combating climate change are fully integrated into all the relevant sustainable development goals?
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right when he says the two are completely linked. That is why the £3.87 billion fund from the UK is so important. He is right to say we need to find new ways of delivering better climate outcomes, including, for example, through the UK Government’s efforts in Energy Africa, a programme that will help to ensure clean energy for the 1.2 billion people who have no energy in their homes.
Last week, at the Overseas Development Institute, in a wide ranging speech, I recognised the high value we place on our partnerships with civil society organisations and announced work on strengthening our relationship further. Yesterday, I had the privilege of joining the Prime Minister at an event for courageous recipients of the Ebola medal. In Sierra Leone, we continue to adapt our approach, including transitioning over the running of Kerry Town treatment unit from the Ministry of Defence. I will attend the international conference on Ebola in New York later this week. Next week, I will be at the Financing for Development Conference in Addis.
Given the substantial financial support that DFID provides for education in Pakistan, what assurances has the Secretary of State received from the Government of Pakistan that freedom of speech and religious tolerance of minority faiths, including Christianity, are being taught in Pakistan’s schools?
T2. I am sure the Minister will join me in congratulating Malawi on reaching its 51st anniversary of independence this week. DFID’s aid tracker shows that funding to Malawi has reduced from a peak of more than £120 million in 2012-13 to just under £60 million this year. If DFID continues to cut its budget for Malawi, will he consider ways of assisting the Scottish Government in helping to maintain and grow their important links with the country? (900832)
I do not recognise the hon. Gentleman’s figures. We provide £72 million, plus another £10 million from the UK taxpayer through the Scottish Government, and that is just in bilateral aid; of course, there are then the multilateral and international programmes. In total, it probably adds up to more than £150 million to Malawi.
T3. On Monday, the British ambassador to Yemen said that 6 million Yemenis were on the verge of complete starvation. In the light of the ongoing commercial blockade of fuels and supplies to Yemen and the failure of the Geneva talks, what discussions are the Government having with the Saudi Arabian-led coalition to stop the violence and meet the increasingly desperate humanitarian need? (900833)
My hon. Friend is right to highlight the dire situation faced by millions of people living in Yemen. We are now urging the Governments of Saudi Arabia and Yemen to work with the UN so that we can get commercial shipping through a new inspections regime and have more humanitarian pauses during Ramadan.
T5. The movement of many thousands of refugees from Burundi into neighbouring countries is of real concern, but I understand that there are even larger internal movements away from Bujumbura and growing anxiety about the prospect of food and health crises in the months ahead. What discussions has the Secretary of State had with NGOs working in Burundi about action to tackle this worrying situation? (900835)
We have been discussing with civil society what steps we can take to help the situation in Burundi. As the hon. Lady knows, many countries in Africa routinely face refugee flows within and across their borders, which is why we are right to be doing the work we are on the ground.
T7. Ten years ago, 250,000 people gathered in Edinburgh as part of the Make Poverty History campaign to argue for aid, debt relief and trade justice. We have seen less progress on the third. What is the Secretary of State doing to ensure fair trade deals for the world’s poorest countries? (900837)
Scotland can be proud of the role it played in helping to shape that critical summit, which the Make Poverty History campaign supported. The hon. Gentleman is right that trade is a key mechanism for lifting people out of poverty, which is why the jobs agenda is now central to DFID’s work.
T6. How does last week’s Gaza resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council help aid efforts when it draws an equivalence between Hamas, a proscribed terrorist organisation, and Israel, a democratic state defending itself against attacks on its citizens? (900836)
The UK is deeply concerned by the terrible human cost to both sides of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as underlined by the findings of the UN report that my hon. Friend refers to. We, along with our EU partners, voted in support of the resolution on the report last week. We would have preferred to see a text that gave more weight to Israel’s legitimate right to self-defence and to the threat that Israel faces from militant groups operating from inside Gaza, including Hamas.
T9. The Secretary of State will have seen coverage in the Daily Mail and other newspapers about four charities that are supported by her Department that are using aggressive fundraising tactics. No doubt she welcomes the decision by Oxfam to suspend all telephone fundraising in the UK while it investigates these claims of malpractice. What steps will she be taking to ensure that other charities embroiled in this case follow suit? (900839)
As I announced in my opening response to topical questions, we have a process under way within our Department, working with civil society both in the UK and internationally, to look at how we can strengthen that relationship. As part of that though, I believe there will also be a discussion around standards and commitments that NGOs can make to ensure that they are part of a strategy that we are delivering, but a good part and one that does not have reputational risk to it.
The Prime Minister was asked—
As the Prime Minister and, indeed, the Chancellor know, quality is not the issue with our armed forces, but quantity is. Given that we used to spend regularly between 4% and 5% of GDP on defence when we last faced a threat on the continent and a major terrorist campaign, should we not be aiming at a 3% target, rather than the bare NATO minimum figure?
My right hon. Friend is right: we do face very severe threats in our world. The point I would make to him is that the only way to have strong defence is to have a strong economy. That is absolutely key. We made some very clear commitments about the size of our armed forces, about the successor to the Trident submarine and also about the vital equipment programme, where we have the aircraft carriers and the other equipment vital to our armed services that are coming through. Those things are only possible because we closed the deficit in our MOD and the mess that we found when we became the Government and we have a strong economy.
Ten years ago, the 7/7 bombers cruelly took 52 precious lives. We remember them, the families’ courage and the injured, and we defy the terrorists.
Last month the Prime Minister celebrated Magna Carta, which set out that those who govern must be constrained in their exercise of power to protect those they govern. Our Human Rights Act is the very embodiment of those values. If he accepts that in a democracy there needs to be an effective check on Executive power, even though at times it can be uncomfortable for Government, will he abandon his plans to water down the Human Rights Act?
First of all, may I very much agree with what the right hon. and learned Lady said about the 10-year anniversary of 7/7 and about the bravery and the dignity of those families that lost their loved ones? She, like me, took part in the commemorations yesterday, which I thought were fitting and a permanent reminder of the threat we face and the work we must do to face down the evil of these terrorists and their narrative of extremism.
The point that the right hon. and learned Lady made about Magna Carta demonstrates that there were human rights before the Human Rights Act. The point I would make is that our proposed reform is to have a British Bill of Rights, so that more of these judgments are made by British judges in British courts.
It is very important that we are unhesitating in our compliance with international standards on this; otherwise it gives a strong signal to other countries that we want to undermine those standards. However, there have been mixed messages from the Government. Last week, senior Government sources briefed the newspapers that the Prime Minister’s view was that withdrawal from the European convention on human rights
“is not going to happen”,
but the Home Secretary, the Justice Secretary and the Leader of the House have indicated that they want to leave. So can the Prime Minister make it absolutely clear that Britain will be staying in the European convention on human rights?
As I have said to the right hon. and learned Lady before, there is a danger in believing everything that you read in the newspapers. Our intention is very clear: it is to pass a British Bill of Rights, which we believe is compatible with our membership of the Council of Europe. As I have said at the Dispatch Box before—and no one should be in any doubt about this—issues such as prisoner voting should be decided in this House of Commons. I think that that is vital. So let us pass a British Bill of Rights, let us give more rights to enable those matters to be decided in British courts, and let us recognise that we had human rights in this country long before Labour’s Human Rights Act.
If, as the Prime Minister reassures us, we are staying in the European convention, we might as well keep the Human Rights Act, which at least allows us to enforce it in our courts.
Ten years ago, the United Kingdom was awarded the 2010 Olympics and Paralympics. When he took office, the Prime Minister promised that the games would result in an increase in participation in sport. Will he tell us whether the number of people taking part in sport has gone up or down since the Olympics?
Participation in sport has gone up since the Olympics, and it has been a success. We should all remember what an excellent Olympic games that was. We have also seen a real success in primary schools, where there is more PE activity, and the primary school sports partnerships are working very well.
I do not know what it says in the Prime Minister’s briefing folder, but he is completely wrong. The number of people taking part in sport has gone down since 2010, and children at school are doing less sport too. Does the Prime Minister agree that what we now need is a proper national strategy for sports participation, so that we do not miss the golden opportunity presented by the Olympics—an opportunity that his Government have so far squandered?
He may be esteemed by you, Mr Speaker, but some of us take a different view.
As a result of the PE and sport premium for schools, the average time spent on PE at primary level has increased to over two hours a week, 91% of schools have reported an increase in the quality of PE teaching, 96% of schools have reported—[Interruption.] I know that Labour Members do not like facts, but when they ask a factual question, they should welcome a factual answer. [Interruption.] I have got all day, Mr Speaker.
There is not much else on today, Mr Speaker.
More than eight in 10 schools are seeing a rise in the number of children taking part in sport. The Olympics were a success for Britain, sports participation has gone up, more is now happening in our schools, and we will build on that legacy.
The fact that we do not like is the fact that since the Olympics, participation in sport has gone down, especially among children. The Prime Minister should get out and sort that out.
In the English manifesto that was published by the Conservative party, the Prime Minister promised that before making changes in the constitution on English votes for English laws, he would
“Consult the House of Commons Procedure Committee prior to seeking approval from the whole House to the proposed Standing Order changes.”
When did he do that?
There have been consultations with the head of that Committee, and there is plenty of time—[Interruption.] I have to say to Labour Members that at least we published an English manifesto.
I think that there is a very simple choice for the House. For once, why do we not talk about the substance rather than the process? Post-devolution, we have a problem of unfairness: English MPs have no say on Scottish issues, yet Scottish MPs have a say on English issues. That is the problem. We are proposing a very simple measure, which is that legislation should not be passed on English matters against the will of English MPs. It is a very modest proposal. Is the right hon. and learned Lady really saying that the Labour party will oppose that proposal?
We agree there is a problem and we agree there needs to be change, but it has got to be done properly—constitutional change has got to be done properly. Indeed the Prime Minister said at last week’s Prime Minister’s questions:
“We will publish our proposals shortly and Parliament will have plenty of time to consider and vote on them”—[Official Report, 1 July 2015; Vol. 597, c.1471-72.]—
and he cannot have consulted the Procedure Committee because it has not even been set up yet. The Prime Minister should recognise the strength of feeling in all parts of the House about the proper processes to get to this change. He should consult properly, or he will be breaking a promise he made in his manifesto.
The right hon. and learned Lady talks about proper processes: we have published proposals, we are having a debate in Parliament, and there will be a vote in Parliament. The Labour party has got to get off the fence and tell us: “Do you support this modest proposal or not?” We are still waiting for an answer.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that rural businesses in my constituency such as BSW Timber, which he visited during the election campaign, are benefiting from this Government’s long-term economic plan? What more can his Government do to further promote apprenticeships and create jobs in all sectors of the vital rural economy?
First, may I welcome my hon. Friend to his place, and say how much I enjoyed the visit to his constituency and that specific business? It has taken on a lot of employees and apprentices in recent years, and the claimant count in his constituency is down by 54% since 2010. What more we can do is encourage companies like this one to invest in training and apprentices because that is key to our future. We have got to ensure we do that, and that will only happen if we stick to our long-term economic plan.
This week we commemorate the worst atrocity in Europe since the second world war: the Srebrenica genocide. In a genocidal act, 8,372 unarmed boys and men were taken out of what was supposed to be a United Nations safe area and were murdered. Will the Prime Minister commit to doing everything in his power to ensure that this genocidal act is remembered and do everything he can to get the international community to mark this as well?
I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman about this issue: it was the largest act of genocide since the holocaust on the mainland of Europe—as he said, 8,300 people were murdered. The first thing is to be very clear that it was genocide, and to say to people who question that that they are genocide deniers. I am very proud of the fact that Britain has the second largest set of commemorations and events to mark the anniversary of these dreadful events. We have also been holding the pen at the UN in drafting a resolution to try and bring the world together to make sure it is remembered in the right way, and we should continue to do all we can to keep this at the front and centre of European and world politics so people realise this was a genocide, and we must learn the lessons from it.
I commend the Prime Minister on his answer and his efforts, and the Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones who is hosting a commemorative event in Cardiff today, and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who is doing a commemorative event in Scotland on Friday, but Bosnia’s suffering has continued since the genocide and the end of the war. Unemployment in Bosnia is more than 40%, among young people it is over 75%, and more than half the young people of Bosnia are considering leaving the country. Will the Prime Minister do everything he can, together with European partners, to support political and economic progress for Bosnia and Herzegovina and give the people there real hope for a better future?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and that is why I met the Bosnian President this week to discuss some of those issues, as well as to talk about commemorating and remembering Srebrenica. What matters is making sure that the institutions in Bosnia work better, and the politicians work better together in understanding their past and their shared future. It is very important that we keep the door of access to the European Union open, but for that to happen the institutions need improving and issues need to be dealt with properly—corruption and problems need to be addressed. But there is no doubt in my mind that the pathway to membership of the European Union has helped in Bosnia, as it can help in the rest of the western Balkans, and it is vital that we keep that door open.
Q15. Seven-year-old Jagger Curtis from Romsey suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Every day that he waits for first NHS England and now the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to make a decision about Translarna is a day that threatens his mobility. Last week’s decision to delay, potentially for up to five months, was a bitter blow. What action can my right hon. Friend take to make sure that NICE makes that decision with the utmost speed? (900830)
My hon. Friend rightly raises this issue, and I say to her that these are incredibly difficult decisions and we know how hard they are for patients and their families. I think it is right that it is expert clinicians at NHS England and not politicians who make these funding decisions, based on the available evidence. As she knows, NICE has not yet made a final decision on these drugs, so patients and their families, and other experts, can feed into its evidence-gathering and consultation process. She asks what we can do, and I think there are two things. First, when we have these drugs that cost over £400,000 per patient per year, it is right to ask some pretty challenging questions of the companies concerned and we should do so. Secondly, we must keep investing in our rare disease research and in genomics, and making sure that the NHS takes up these treatments rapidly. That is the sort of health service we want to build.
Q3. I put it to the Prime Minister again that in his manifesto for England, which was the only part of the UK where he won the election, he promised on English votes for English laws to:“Consult the House of Commons Procedure Committee prior to seeking approval from the whole House to the proposed Standing Order changes.”We all know that the Committee’s membership has not been agreed by the House and it will not meet until next week, and the EVEL vote will take place next Wednesday. Will the Prime Minister please tell us why he is breaking his manifesto promise? (900818)
We are consulting the whole of the House of Commons, and the whole of the House of Commons will have a vote. When it comes to have its vote, it might want to consider what the leader of the Scottish National party here said in 2007—you might find this interesting. He asked the then Prime Minister whether it is not
“completely iniquitous that although English MPs are not able to decide on matters in Scotland, Scottish MPs from the UK parties vote on matters that affect only England?” —[Official Report, 6 November 2007; Vol. 467, c. 25.]
That was the view. Given that our modest proposal would actually restrict the SNP from far fewer votes than its own self-denying ordinance does, I would think it should vote wholeheartedly with the Government on this modest proposal.
First, let me welcome my hon. Friend to her place. I do know her constituency well and I spent a lot of time there with her before the election. What I would say to her is that the offer of devolution is not limited to cities; we are just as open to proposals from towns, counties and districts. To help our high streets we need a strong economy; to press ahead with these local plans; and to have deregulation of the class orders that sometimes prevent development from taking place. I would also argue, in the case of market towns, that we should make parking easier—and, preferably, free.
Q4. The decision to pause indefinitely the electrification of the TransPennine rail line through Stalybridge and Mossley means that my constituents face many more years of delayed trains, cramped journeys and less frequent services. Are those really the characteristics of a northern powerhouse? (900819)
Is it not typical of the Labour party today that instead of trying to get behind the northern powerhouse and trying to build a balanced economy—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman says that there is an indefinite pause, but that is not the case. We will be pressing ahead with this investment, and it is right that the Labour party should be supporting it.
Q12. Will the Prime Minister lend his support to plans to extend the Robin Hood line in north Nottinghamshire, so that people living in former coalfield communities can get access to transport and employment, and those people who want to come as tourists can enjoy all that Sherwood forest has to offer? (900827)
Q5. Last Friday at Walsall football club stadium, there were tears, flowers and Walsall shirts and scarves as we remembered Joel Richards, aged 19, Adrian Evans, his uncle, and Patrick Evans, his grandfather, who were all Saddlers fans killed in Tunisia. Will the Prime Minister outline what steps he will take to ensure that bereaved families and the survivors of atrocities can have help immediately and in the future? (900820)
I thank the hon. Lady for her question. The thoughts and condolences of the whole House go out to the families of her constituents. I am glad to hear that Walsall football club is facilitating this very fitting tribute. I was very moved when I heard about it on television. As I announced to the House last week, I have asked the Cabinet Secretary for advice on a ministerial committee to ensure that work is properly co-ordinated across Government to support all those who have been affected. When I was talking to the victims of the 7/7 bombings yesterday, I was very struck by the way that they had been supported across many years in many different ways, covering all sorts of different issues in their own lives and the way they wanted to commemorate those terrible events in London. I want to ensure that we do it as well in the case of the Tunisian atrocities, and that is exactly what that committee will be set up to do.
May I associate myself with the Prime Minister’s remarks about the families of the victims of Tunisia, particularly the family of my constituent, Sue Davey? In the past three years, unemployment in Tamworth has fallen faster than anywhere else in the country. Will my right hon. Friend encourage high-tech firms such as Jaguar Land Rover and BMW to be the motors of the midlands engine, and remind the Labour party that Ed Balls’ comments that our long-term plan would choke off jobs and growth were just plain wrong?
I am delighted that Tamworth has that record, not least because it has such an association with Conservative Prime Ministers down the years and the Tamworth Manifesto. The point my hon. Friend makes is a good one. People who try to say that the jobs we have created are part-time and low paid should look at what is happening in places such as the west midlands where we see growth in manufacturing, engineering and jobs that have long-term successful careers attached to them, and we want more of that.
Q6. If the Prime Minister really is committed to the northern powerhouse, he will know that an essential element of that is improved transport connectivity between the key cities of Manchester and Leeds, and that is now under threat. Given the vague and evasive answer that he gave earlier, will he now join me in welcoming the Manchester Evening News campaign to get the electrification of the TransPennine line back on track? (900821)
I can certainly commit to that, because I said a minute ago that this is a pause and not a stop. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that the work goes ahead. We also want to get rid of the Pacer trains that were there all those years under Labour.
I am sure that there are all sorts of things to learn from the Greek experience. I fear for the future of that country. Obviously, we want Greece and the eurozone to come to an agreement, but we have to be prepared for all eventualities and to make sure that, whether it is helping British tourists, British businesses or British pensioners living in Greece, we have made all the plans and taken all the precautions that are necessary. My approach to negotiation is a little different from the Greek approach, which is why I have been to see every Prime Minister and President in Europe to talk through what Britain wants to see in terms of change in Europe, and change for our membership in Europe, and I believe that that will be successful.
We need to see a continued improvement in social care, and we need to continue to help pensioners. Pensioner poverty is at an all-time low because this party has kept its promises to uprate the basic state pension, to support pensioners’ benefits and to make sure that people have dignity in their old age.
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. I had a very good discussion with President Hollande last week. We have seen more action by the French police in arresting the ringleaders and trying to keep roads and ports open. As I have said at this Dispatch Box before, it is important that we do not engage in finger pointing with the French, but recognise that this is a shared problem. Our juxtaposed border controls in Calais work well for Britain and, I believe, can work well for France, and we should continue to work together to deal with this problem.
Q8. My constituents are still waiting for universal credit to be rolled out to them. In fact, they are still waiting for a timetable of planned rollout. We are about to hear about the latest stages of the Government’s welfare reforms. When will the Prime Minister finish the last one? (900823)
I make absolutely no apology for taking universal credit at a deliberate pace. Many of us in this House can remember what happened when Labour introduced tax credits in one go and people came to our constituency surgeries with problem after problem. It is quite right to roll out universal credit at a deliberate pace, but I can promise the hon. Lady that it will be coming to Bristol South soon.
I welcome my hon. Friend. It is important that we get this right. We saw a big increase in adoption during the last Parliament because of the changes that we made, and what we are putting on the table in this Parliament is not only extra money but the proposal to create regional adoption agencies so that counties and other adoption agencies can come together. What matters above all is finding a loving family and home for the child, rather than ensuring that it is in the precise geographical area where that child is in care.
Q10. I am sure that the Prime Minister had time to study the “Building Great Britons” report from the 1001 critical days all-party group earlier this year, which put the cost of perinatal mental illness and child maltreatment at £23 billion a year. Will he commit to focusing the welcome additional child and adolescent mental health services spending on a pre-troubled families programme which invests in strong attachments between parents and babies at the outset as the best way to secure well-rounded children brought up in strong, loving families? (900825)
My hon. Friend, who has great experience in these matters, makes a good point. We are looking at how to have proper parity between mental and physical health. Everything we can do to help to strengthen families should be part of our agenda of genuinely tackling poverty. We want to tackle the causes of poverty, and alongside worklessness, debt, addiction and the rest of it, family breakdown is a big cause of poverty, so the work he talks about is vital.
I think the priority for the country is to keep going with a growing economy that has seen 2 million more people in work, an economy that is going to see 3 million apprentices in the next Parliament, and an economy that is cutting taxes for hard-working people. That is the priority, and that is what the House is going to hear about in a minute or two.
Q11. Derbyshire is at the heart of the midlands engine, powering the economy of the country. Will the Prime Minister congratulate the workers of Bombardier on winning the £358 million contract to supply 45 more trains for London, securing local jobs for the next 35 years? (900826)
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Just as the automotive industry has been so important for the west midlands, the growth in the train industry has been important for the east midlands in recent years, and the progress at Bombardier is truly impressive. I had the great pleasure of visiting the company earlier in the year, and was even allowed to drive a train. I was not very successful at that, but the company is doing very well: it is investing for the future, providing trains for our country, and pulling through jobs and skills for the whole region.
The truth is that the Labour party ignored the north for years, and Labour Members cannot bear the fact that it is a Conservative Prime Minister and a Conservative Chancellor sitting for a seat in the north-west who are putting those issues firmly on the agenda and funding them.