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Oral Answers to Questions

Volume 602: debated on Wednesday 18 November 2015

Wales

The Secretary of State was asked—

Steel Industry

I would like to start by putting on record the enormous sense of solidarity felt by all people across Wales with the French nation. We stand with them shoulder to shoulder in these difficult and anxious days.

The steel industry in Europe is facing a perfect storm as a result of a glut of cheap imports, falling prices and high energy costs. With nearly half of the UK’s primary steel industry employed in Wales, we fully recognise the impact of these global challenges on Welsh steelworkers and their families. We are working closely with the industry and with the devolved Administrations to do everything possible to support the industry at this time.

We on the Labour Benches associate ourselves with the Secretary of State’s words about the people of Paris.

On 28 October, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills attended an extraordinary meeting of the Competitiveness Council on the steel industry. Following that EU meeting, plenty of warm words were issued in a written statement, but can the Secretary of State tell the House what practical measures were agreed to help the steel industry in this extremely difficult time?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for the question. Before I answer it substantively, I should make the House aware that there has been an explosion in the past hour at the Celsa Steel plant in the constituency of the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty). Our thoughts are with the workers at this time and with the emergency services who are at the plant as we speak.

On the practical response to the global challenges facing the steel industry, the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Wayne David) will be aware of the specific practical working groups that we established following the national summit. Those engage the Welsh Government as well as the Scottish Administration, and action has been taken by the Business Secretary at a European level to get our European partners to focus much more seriously and more urgently on tackling dumping and bringing forward state aid clearance so that we can fully compensate our steel industry for the higher energy costs that it faces.

What assurances can my right hon. Friend give me that procurement for large infrastructure projects, such as the electrification of the great western main line, will prioritise the use of British steel?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question, as it gives me the opportunity to talk about one practical measure that we have taken in recent weeks: we have changed the guidelines for Departments on procuring steel for major projects, allowing for Government contracts to take into consideration wider economic and social impacts, which we hope will create more opportunities for UK steel manufacturers to win those bigger contracts. With this Government making a record investment in infrastructure, that creates future growth opportunities for the British steel industry.

Although we clearly need measures such as help with business rates and energy costs, does the Secretary of State agree that if we do not tackle Chinese dumping, all those other measures will count for nothing and that the future of the industry in this country is bleak?

I agree with the sentiment and the direction of the question. That is the backdrop to the global challenge, not just for the British steel industry, but for the steel industry in north America and all across Europe. With a glut of cheap Chinese steel coming on to the market, we are leading efforts at a European level to tackle dumping. We voted for the anti-dumping measures in one specific section of the steel industry and we are continuing with those discussions.

I thank my right hon. Friend for the answers that he has given so far, but what measures is he taking with the Wales Office to lobby other Government Departments to pre-order steel from Wales and other areas of the country for our infrastructure projects to ensure that there is a future for steel in Wales?

My hon. Friend is right. That taps into the point that I made a few moments ago about the changes that we have made in the procurement guidelines. The Crossrail project, for example, which has used 50,000 tonnes of high-quality steel from Celsa Steel, which I mentioned a few moments ago, is a great example of the UK Government investing in infrastructure and using the power of our procurement to create growth opportunities for British steel manufacturers.

The incident this morning at Celsa in my constituency to which the Secretary of State has referred is obviously deeply concerning news. Can he say anything more about the incident and ensure that there is full support from all in responding to and investigating it?

As I understand it, the incident happened in the past hour. Ambulances are at the scene. I am told by officials that there are three injuries at the site. That is all I know at this moment. As the hon. Gentleman says, our thoughts are very much with the workers, their families and the emergency services at the scene.

First, I echo the words of the Secretary of State in respect of the tragic events in Paris and the explosion at Celsa this morning.

The Secretary of State knows just how serious is the crisis facing the steel industry in Wales, and indeed the whole of the UK. Four years ago, the Chancellor promised a compensation package for energy-intensive industries. What reassurance can the Secretary of State now give to the thousands of workers in Wales whose jobs depend on the steel industry that his Government will deliver that package by the end of this month?

The point I would make first up is that we are in the process of delivering that compensation. We have already paid out about £50 million in compensation to British steel companies, not least to companies based in Wales, so the money is already getting to them. What we are talking about at the moment is getting state aid clearance for the final element of the compensation package. That is really important for the steel companies, and we are pressing hard to get it.

After four years, the Secretary of State’s Government have still not finished negotiating one package. That hardly bodes well for the promises the Prime Minister is making about EU reform.

The Government have made much of merely renewing existing anti-dumping measures, but with 94% of the Chinese steel that comes into the EU flooding the UK market, why is the Secretary of State’s ministerial colleague in the EU Council of Ministers blocking the much needed reform of the trade defence instruments?

I am not sure that the hon. Lady is fully sighted on all the actions on steel that we are taking at a European level. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and his colleague, the Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise, have been at the forefront in discussions and negotiations at a European level to get change, with real, practical, urgent action on anti-dumping and on state aid clearance for compensation for energy costs. We are leading the way in trying to get change at a European level to support and protect our British steel industry.

Access to Justice

It was of course a Conservative Government who introduced the Welsh Language Act 1993, which provided for the use of the Welsh language in the courts system. We are committed to remodelling our courts to make them more cost-effective and efficient, and these changes will give due consideration to the needs of Welsh speakers.

I take this opportunity to extend our sympathies to every nation that has suffered at the hands of IS in recent days, and to express concern at the news of the explosion in south Wales.

I understand that the Ministry of Justice has closed its consultation on the court and tribunal estate in England and Wales, which proposes the closure of 11 courts in Wales, including Dolgellau in my constituency, and that is without undertaking a Welsh language impact assessment, as required by law and under the Welsh language scheme. Will the Secretary of State ensure that a Wales-wide assessment is undertaken and that its recommendations are implemented before any decisions are reached on court closures?

I am happy to confirm to the hon. Lady that a full Welsh language impact assessment will be included in the Government’s response to the consultation. We are determined to protect the interests of Welsh language speakers, as demonstrated by the Department’s Welsh language scheme.

Over many decades, Conservative Governments have a strong record of supporting the Welsh language. Does my hon. Friend agree that every Department at Westminster, including the Ministry of Justice, should be committed to supporting the Welsh language and the modernisation of Government services, enabling us to give even more support to the language that we in Wales call the language of heaven?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Protecting and preserving our heritage is a core Conservative principle, and this Government, like previous Conservative Governments, have done a lot to secure that, as he rightly mentioned. The Government’s digital agenda provides an opportunity to bring about innovations to enhance the opportunities to use the Welsh language in the courts system and in other Government services.

Access to justice in both Welsh and English is important to my constituents in north-west Wales, but following court closures alternatives such as audio-visual facilities and paying fines over mobiles would not be possible in such areas, in English or in Welsh, because we simply do not have the infrastructure. Can we put court closures on hold until we get that infrastructure?

Estate reform of the Courts Service must continue, but that is allied to the digital transformation that the Government are bringing about. A total of £69 million has been invested in broadband services in Wales, in addition to European aid and Welsh Government money. We have also announced a consultation on a minimum service requirement for broadband distribution, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will welcome that.

Inward Investment

Almost exactly one year on from the UK investment summit in Newport, inward investment figures for Wales show the best performance for a quarter of a century. This is no coincidence. With the support and assistance of UK Trade & Investment and the UK Government, Wales continues to provide a world-class offer for foreign investors.

Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating all the workers in Wales who make it such a brilliant place in which to invest? Does he agree that this record investment shows that the Government’s long-term economic plan is working?

I completely agree with my hon. Friend. The economy in Wales is getting stronger, thanks partly to new inward investment. Just a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of welcoming Israeli investors to south Wales, where they announced £3 million of new investment, creating almost 100 new jobs. We should all be encouraged by the fact that inward investment in Wales is back to the level of the days of the Welsh Development Agency before the Welsh Labour Government abolished it.

I am pleased to hear the Secretary of State welcome the more than 100 inward investment projects in Wales in 2014-15. Will he now congratulate the Welsh Labour Government on making it possible?

The important thing is to welcome the more effective partnership that now exists between the UK Government and the Welsh Government to deliver the inward investment. Of the new projects coming into Wales, 87% were secured on the basis of co-operation between the Welsh Government and the UK Government, and I have no hesitation in congratulating both.

High-quality transport infrastructure is crucial to attracting inward investment. I was therefore delighted to see the Under-Secretary at the rail summit in Llandudno last week. Will my right hon. Friend convey to his colleagues in the Department for Transport the clear message that came out of that summit that north Wales regards itself as part of the northern powerhouse and demands an electrified railway line?

My right hon. Friend has been a powerful champion and advocate for investment in transport infrastructure in north Wales. The summit that happened last week was very important, and the Transport Secretary has received loud and clear the message about the importance of investing in transport in north Wales.

Welcome though the figures are, the Secretary of State will acknowledge the important contribution of higher education to inward investment. Is he satisfied that UKTI is fully aware of what is happening in Welsh universities? That would give it more ammunition to promote the very good story of Wales.

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. We have some world-class higher education institutions in Wales that are at the cutting edge of innovation. It is a reminder to us to keep reminding UKTI of the importance of that, and how higher education links into business growth in Wales.

Single Market

The single market offers enormous opportunities for Welsh business, accounting for 42% of Welsh exports. However, exports to non-EU countries account for 58% of our total exports and are worth more than £7 billion to the Welsh economy. That is why we are seeking EU reform to go further and faster on economic competitiveness, trade and deregulation, which will strengthen Welsh exports.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the success of Airbus in Wales and in the south-west, which has connections to my constituency, demonstrates the value of the single market, and that reforming it further to include the digital economy and energy will give those important sectors even more capacity to expand and grow?

My hon. Friend makes an important point, not least about the importance of investing in technology. If we are to drive up prosperity in Wales, we need more growth in higher technology. This afternoon, I am proud to be helping to launch a new compound semiconductor centre for IQE and Cardiff University. That is emblematic of the changes in the Welsh economy.

Twenty-five thousand jobs in Swansea bay city region rely on being in the single market. Swansea is, of course, in the convergence funding area. Will the Secretary of State support Swansea bay city region MPs’ bid to get the new tax centre for Wales in Swansea bay city region, given that it is an area of relative deprivation, and not Cardiff?

Exciting things are happening in Swansea and the Swansea bay city region. I am delighted that Swansea MPs are working together. If they have a proposal about future changes to the delivery of Government services, with opportunities for Swansea, I ask them please to send them through and we will consider them.

Does the Secretary of State agree that no one who believes we should leave the European Union is suggesting that we stop trading with our European neighbours, and the fact that they sell more to us than we do to them means that there is no chance of their wanting to stop trading with us?

The truth is that Wales’s future prosperity depends on whether we can transform the economy, improve productivity, invest in transport infrastructure and improve our skills and education. That is where Wales’s future prosperity and success lie, and the question of whether or not we remain in the European Union is therefore a secondary one.

The Secretary of State is just a little bit shy today. Why cannot he just recognise that 191,000 Welsh jobs are totally dependent on EU trade and that Wales is a net beneficiary of EU aid? Cannot he just say—we will protect him from the Tory “Little Britain” sketch on the Benches behind him—that Wales is better off in?

I am not often described as shy; I am interested that I have come across in that way to the hon. Lady this morning. I do not recognise the figure that she cites. The important point is that the single market creates a really strategic opportunity for Welsh business. That is what we need to defend and extend.

International Sporting Events

5. What effect the hosting of international sporting events has had on the Welsh economy in 2015 to date. (902187)

The rugby world cup demonstrated yet again how Wales punches well above its weight in the global sporting arena. It was the most successful rugby world cup in history, generating £316 million for the Welsh economy. There should be no limit to our ambition to build on these successes and to attract more tourism and inward investment to Wales.

What steps is the Minister taking to attract even more high-quality sporting events to Wales, such as the Commonwealth games, which would make my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff North (Craig Williams) very happy, as well as people across our great country?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making such a suggestion. It was on a Conservative motion back in 2006 that the Assembly voted unanimously to attract the Commonwealth games to Wales. The next opportunity is in 2026, and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff North (Craig Williams) is keen on that date and keen to ensure that Cardiff makes a leading bid. The Wales Office is standing ready and waiting to support any bid that comes forward from any part of Wales.

We were all pleased to see the rugby world cup come to Cardiff. I know that the Secretary of State shares my concern about the delays on the great western railway. What will he do to ensure that such delays do not happen again?

The hon. Lady raises an important point. Immediately after those disruptions occurred, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State spoke with the train operators, who have apologised to him and to the public. Of course, we are upgrading the great western main line, which will make a significant difference in the long term. We also call on the Welsh Government to bring forward their proposals for the M4 in order to improve the infrastructure for those coming to Wales by road as well as by rail.

Rebalancing the Economy

Our long-term plan is turning around the Welsh economy: since 2010, unemployment has fallen, manufacturing industry has created 12,000 jobs and the Welsh economy has grown faster than any other part of the United Kingdom.

Does the Secretary of State agree that key to rebalancing the economy is getting a proper grip of the public finances? Does he share my shock and horror at the recent TaxPayers Alliance report that exposes the enormous amount of waste in the public sector in Wales?

With his eagle and sharp eye on the care of the public finances, my hon. Friend makes a really important point. I was actually shocked by some of the examples from the TaxPayers Alliance that we have read. Clearly, the Welsh Government and the entire public sector in Wales need to get a much stronger grip on the disciplines of cost control and to get on top of managing the national finances.

Provisional results from the annual survey of hours and earnings by the Office for National Statistics show that Wales is at the bottom of the pay table and is the only part of the British state where earnings have gone down. Does that not indicate that the Welsh Government need to be empowered with a wide portfolio of fiscal powers—the Secretary of State has supported that for Scotland—as direct control from Westminster is clearly failing?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the Welsh Government need more fiscal tools. They need the responsibility of income tax devolution to encourage them to be a more financially responsible Administration. The point that he makes about earnings is also important. That is why he should be giving full-throated support to the steps that we are taking to drive up wage levels and end the curse of low pay in Wales.

Draft Wales Bill

7. What progress he has made on consulting civic society in Wales on the likely effects of the provisions of the draft Wales Bill; and if he will make a statement. (902189)

Last month, I published the draft Wales Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny and I continue to meet members of civil society, the judiciary and leading business organisations across Wales to take soundings and hear their views.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. There was a substantial deliberation on our country’s constitutional future, led by a distinguished former Officer of the House, Sir Paul Silk. However, the Secretary of State has so far chosen to include very few of the recommendations of the Silk commission in the draft Wales Bill. Will the final version of the Wales Bill give his final vision of our country’s constitutional future? Is this it for the foreseeable future?

A lot of the Silk recommendations do not require primary legislation and we have already delivered them. We are committed to delivering the Silk recommendations that we have agreed on, which we set out in the St David’s day announcement earlier this year.

There is general, substantial and growing dissatisfaction with the draft Wales Bill, not least among legal colleagues. Would the Secretary of State not be better advised to withdraw the Bill and start again?

I fear that if we were to withdraw the Bill, we would see no progress whatsoever on strengthening and clarifying Welsh devolution, which I understood Plaid Cymru and the Labour party supported.

When I raised this issue before the general election, a previous Secretary of State for Wales said that I was wrong. Will the present Welsh Secretary say that if the Welsh people would like a Welsh Parliament, rather than a Welsh Assembly, they will be able to have one?

To paraphrase the famous old man of Pencader, it will be the Welsh people ultimately who determine the direction and pace of Welsh devolution. The draft Wales Bill will give powers to the Welsh Assembly to call itself a Parliament and take on more law-making responsibilities.

Tax Credits

Low pay has been a scourge on the Welsh economy for too long. Reforming tax credits is an important part of our plan to transform the whole of the UK to a low tax, low welfare, higher wage economy. The Chancellor will set out details of these reforms in his autumn statement.

What representations have the Minister and the Department made to the Chancellor about the impact on 44,600 people in north Wales and 200,000 people across Wales of the loss of £1,300 per year as a result of his changes? What has he said to the person who is sitting next to him?

The Wales Office is in regular dialogue with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and the Treasury. The Chancellor will set out how we plan to achieve the goal of a lower tax, low welfare, higher wage economy in next week’s comprehensive spending review. The right hon. Gentleman needs to recognise that the tax credit changes are part of a wider reform that includes increases to the national living wage, changes to universal credit and help with childcare, on which we hope the Welsh Government will follow suit.

Order. There is still too much noise in the Chamber. The Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee must be heard.

12. Will the Minister confirm that while the Government are, of course, listening carefully to any concerns about tax credits, the people of Wales stand to benefit enormously from the increase in the tax threshold, the increase in the minimum wage and the Government’s determination to stick to the long-term economic plan? (902196)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. When we move from the basic minimum wage to the national living wage next April, there will be an increase of 7.5%. That means that 100,000 people in Wales will benefit immediately from next April.

Small Businesses

9. What assessment he has made of the effect in Wales of the Government’s measures to support small businesses. (902191)

Small businesses are the lifeblood of the Welsh economy and are leading the way in creating new jobs and driving growth. There are now 22,000 more businesses in Wales than in 2010. Supporting these businesses to grow is a key part of the Government’s long-term plan for Wales and the UK.

Does the Secretary of State agree that infrastructure is critical to supporting small businesses and that the electrification of the Great Western railway, which serves my constituency too, will unlock social and economic opportunities for his constituents and mine?

I totally agree with my hon. Friend. Of course, investing in the Great Western line is just one part of the largest programme of investment in British railways since the days of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

May I associate myself with the comments about the explosion in Cardiff today and the sad situation at the Celsa steelworks, and thank the Secretary of State for making us aware of it?

The legal profession is a crucial part of the small business sector in my constituency. The Secretary of State will be aware that the First Minister now wants a separate Welsh legal jurisdiction, despite what he said 18 months ago. Will he assure me he is protecting our jurisdiction?

I am aware of the calls from the First Minister and Plaid Cymru for Wales to have a separate legal jurisdiction. One of the sources of Cardiff’s growth in recent years has been investment in legal and professional services, and I fear that moves to create a separate jurisdiction for Wales will lead to a flight of talent from the Welsh legal profession.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—

Engagements

This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, and in addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings later today.

May I associate myself, and I hope the whole House, with what the Prime Minister and others in government have said about the attacks in Paris? No man or woman is an island. People from Blackpool were among those murdered on the Tunisian beach, and, like other places worldwide, our tower was lit in red, white and blue in remembrance of those killed by the terrorists in France. I raised concerns with the Prime Minister here two weeks ago about neighbourhood policing and security being threatened by the scale of the proposed cuts and about the Lancashire funding formula, which has now been admitted to be flawed. Will he reflect on the words: “When facts change, I change my mind”? Given that police local intelligence can be crucial against terrorists, perhaps this is not the time to jeopardise it with arbitrary Treasury targets for cuts.

First, I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments about Paris and the importance of the whole House coming together. Perhaps the House would like a brief update: as I said yesterday, one British national, Nick Alexander, was killed at the Bataclan theatre; three other British nationals have now been released from hospital and returned to the UK; and the Foreign Office and Red Cross are providing support for trauma to at least another 15 British nationals. We will make sure we provide support to those injured and traumatised by the events that have happened. There has been progress this morning in France with the arrest of terrorists, but perhaps I can say more about that later.

On policing, we rightly protected counter-terrorism policing in the last Parliament, and we will protect it again in this Parliament. Otherwise on policing, we have seen an increase of 3,800 in the number of neighbourhood officers over the Parliament and a 31% cut in crime. I commend the police—not just counter-terrorism police, but all police—for the work they do, and we will announce our proposals on police spending next week.

Q2. As our hearts go out to the people of France, will the Prime Minister agree that the first duty of Her Majesty’s Government must be to protect British citizens from harm? So will he take immediate action to secure our UK borders against those who threaten our nation and, on security grounds alone, restore complete sovereignty over our British borders from the European Union? (902133)

My hon. Friend raises an important question. In answering, I want to explain an important point: because the UK is not in the Schengen area, we already retain full control over who enters our country and can check all entrants at the border, including EU and European economic area nationals. The House might be interested to know that, since 2010, we have refused entry to almost 6,000 EU nationals, more than 3,800 of whom were stopped at our juxtaposed border controls in Calais. Since 2010, we have denied entry to nearly 95,000 people. Of course, one of the principal reasons for not letting people in, be they EU or non-EU nationals, is national security concerns. We are in that situation already because we are not in Schengen.

Let me start by expressing the horror of all Opposition Members at the events in Paris on Friday evening, and our continued solidarity with the victims and all those affected by conflict and terrorism, whether in Paris, Beirut, Ankara, Damascus or anywhere else in the world. Nothing can justify the targeting of innocent civilians by anyone.

We know that at least one British national has been killed, and many more injured. Many British people live and work in Paris, and millions visit Paris and France every year. Will the Prime Minister continue what he was saying in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool South (Mr Marsden) about the support given to British nationals affected by the attacks, and will he say what the Government’s latest advice is for those travelling to France, and speak about our need to show the best possible normality in our relations with the French people?

I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his remarks, and it was a pleasure to be with him last night at the England-France football match where there was a tremendous display of solidarity. I am sure that they can sing the Marseillaise louder in the Stade de France, but I think we did a pretty good job yesterday, and I was proud to be there.

The right hon. Gentleman is right to say that there is never any justification for terrorism, and we should be clear about that right across the House and at all times. He asked specifically what more we can do to help British people who are caught up in these problems, and Peter Ricketts, our ambassador in France, has done a brilliant job with his staff. I have been keeping a close eye on the consular situation, and I think that everything that can be done is being done.

Our travel advice is all on the Foreign Office website, but I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the most important thing is for people to carry on with their lives. It is important that the Eurostar continues to function, that flights continue to go, and that people continue to travel and to enjoy London and Paris. We must continue going about our business. As we do so, yes, we need enhanced security, and that is happening in the way that the police are acting in the UK and elsewhere. One way to defeat terrorism, however, is to show the terrorists that we will not be cowed.

We know that, sadly, after atrocities such as those we have seen, intolerance such as Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and racism often increase. Does the Prime Minister agree that it is vital that everyone in public life—particularly we as politicians—must be careful how we discuss these issues? Will he join me in making it clear that the dreadful terrorism in Paris has nothing in common whatsoever with the 2 million British Muslims in this country who are as appalled as anyone else by the events in Paris last Friday?

I am happy to join the right hon. Gentleman in that, and some of the strongest and best statements following the Paris attacks have been made by a series of British Muslims who have come together to say that these attacks are in no way carried out in their name. I do think—we talked about this yesterday—that this raises an important issue, because it cannot be said often enough that these butchers of ISIL are no reflection of the true religion of Islam, which is a religion of peace. At the same time, we must recognise that whether these terrorists are in Tunisia, Egypt, Paris or London, they spout the same bile that they claim comes from the religion of Islam. That is why we must take apart what they say and prove that that is not the case. It is not good enough to say that there is no connection between these terrorists and Islam; they are making a connection, and we need to prove that it is not right. As we do so, the support of Muslim communities and scholars is vital, and I commend them for their work.

Surely a crucial way to help defeat ISIL is to cut off its funding, its supply of arms, and its trade. May I press the Prime Minister to ensure that our allies in the region—indeed, all countries in the region—are doing all they can to clamp down on individuals and institutions in their countries who are providing ISIL with vital infrastructure? Will he, through the European Union and other forums if necessary, consider sanctions against those banks and companies, and if necessary countries, that turn a blind eye to financial dealings with ISIL that assist it in its work?

As I said yesterday, we play a leading role in ensuring that the supply of money, weapons and support is cut off. However, we should be clear about where ISIL got its money from originally. Because we did not have a Government in Iraq that effectively represented all their people, and because in Syria there is a leader who is butchering his own people, ISIL was able to get hold of oil, weapons, territory and banks, and they have used that to fund their hatred and their violence. We cannot dodge forever the question of how to degrade and destroy ISIL in both Iraq and Syria, and that is why I will be setting out my response to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. Yes, we should go after the money and the banks, and cut off supplies to ISIL, but we should not make that a substitute for the action that is required to beat those people where they are.

Next week the Chancellor will present his autumn statement to the House. Can the Prime Minister clarify something about the source of the necessary extra funding for the security services, which we support? Will it come at the expense of other areas, either within the Home Office budget or other areas of public spending, from the reserves, or from new funding? Does he want me to go on longer so that the Chancellor can explain the answer to him?

We will set out in full our decisions next week, but we have already said that we will fund an increase in the security services of 1,900 personnel. We will safeguard the counter-terrorism budget and we will see an increase in aviation security. All that is part of an overall spending settlement. At the same time as funding our security and increasing our defence spending, we have to make decisions that eradicate our budget deficit and keep our economy strong. We do not do that just for the current generation: we do it for our children and grandchildren, because none of these things—not even strong defence—is possible without a strong economy.

I am not absolutely sure where the money is coming from following the Prime Minister’s answer, but no doubt it will come.

London has been targeted by terrorists before, and this weekend’s events in Paris have focused attention not just on London but on other cities throughout the whole of Britain. Policing plays a vital role in community cohesion, gathering intelligence on those who might be about to be a risk to all of us, but that is surely undermined if we cut the number of police officers by 5,000. Does the Prime Minister agree with the commissioner of the Metropolitan police, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, who said:

“I genuinely worry about the safety of London”—

if the cuts go through on this scale?

The right hon. Gentleman asks where the money comes from. On this side of the House, we never forget that every penny we spend comes from taxpayers. Borrowed money is simply taxes that are deferred, and that is why it is so important to eradicate our deficit at the same time as making sure that we fund our security and intelligence services and police properly. As I have said, we are protecting the counter-terrorism budget. We saw a 3,800 increase in neighbourhood police officers in the last Parliament, at the same time as a 31% cut in crime. The shadow Home Secretary has said that a 10% efficiency target for the police is doable. Is the Leader of the Opposition saying that he does not agree with the shadow Home Secretary? There does seem to be a little bit of disagreement on the Opposition Front Bench today.

I have a question from a taxpayer, actually. His name is John and he says—[Interruption.] He says that at a time when we are experiencing the greatest threats from terrorism ever faced, our police office numbers and their resources are being cut and that

“Demands on the police have been increasing steadily as budgets are slashed, increasing stress on officers. Couple that with detrimental changes to their pay, terms, conditions and pensions, it’s no wonder that morale”

in the police force

“is so poor that 1 in 3 are considering leaving.”

Will the Prime Minister be able to tell us whether community policing and other police budgets will be protected or not in next week’s autumn statement?”

Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman again: neighbourhood policing numbers have gone up by 3,800. In the capital city, we have seen a 500% increase in neighbourhood policing. Because we have cut bureaucracy, we have also put the equivalent of an extra 2,000 police on the streets. But I will tell him something: as well as wanting resources, the police want the appropriate powers. Has it not come to something when the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition is not sure what the police’s reaction should be when they are confronted by a Kalashnikov-waving terrorist?

Q3. The attacks on Paris were quite clearly an attack on all of us. Does the Prime Minister agree that our resolve must be unbreakable and that we should hunt down ISIL wherever it is operating, wherever it is planning, wherever it is plotting, and if that means “shoot to kill”, so be it, and if it means action in Syria, so be it? (902134)

I think my hon. Friend is right. What I have said is that in order to respond to this very severe threat that we face, we need to focus on counter-terrorism here in the United Kingdom, giving our intelligence agencies the laws they need and our police the powers they need and ensuring that we are vigilant. We need counter-extremism, as we discussed earlier, emphasising the importance of stopping the poisoning of these young minds, not least by radical preachers on the internet. We also need to stop the problems at their source. We know where much of this problem is coming from: it is ISIL not just in Iraq, but in Syria. I told the House yesterday that I will prepare a detailed response to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report to demonstrate that we have a clear strategy of bringing in the neighbourhood powers and the regional powers, building a future for these countries and stability in the middle east. I believe that part of that is taking action against ISIL wherever it is.

In the wake of terrorist outrages and the ongoing civil war in Syria, it is very welcome that there is significant diplomatic progress in trying to find a solution to the Syrian crisis. The UK joined the US, France, Russia and Iran at talks in Vienna at the weekend, and all signed a communiqué committing to progress through the United Nations. Will the Prime Minister confirm that he will support a UN Security Council resolution on this before seeking to intervene militarily in Syria?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for asking this question. The point is that Russia has different aims from us and has repeatedly threatened to veto any such resolution. Of course, it is always preferable in these circumstances to have the full backing of the UN Security Council, but what matters most of all is that any action we would take would be both legal and help protect our country and our people right here. As I said yesterday, we cannot outsource to a Russian veto the decisions we need to keep our country safe.

The first survey of UK public opinion on Syrian intervention since the Paris attacks, conducted by Survation, has shown that 52% believe that

“the UK should engage with all countries to co-ordinate an appropriate response, military or otherwise, backed by United Nations resolution”,

and only 15% believe that UK should independently launch air strikes. Will the Prime Minister give a commitment to secure a UN Security Council resolution, which the UK agreed to and which Russia agreed to as well?

I could not be clearer with the right hon. Gentleman. Of course it is always preferable in whatever action we are taking—whether it be lifting people out of the Mediterranean, flying air patrolling missions over Baltic countries that feel a Russian threat or taking action in the middle east against ISIL—to have a UN Security Council resolution. However, if such resolutions are vetoed or threatened with a veto over and over again, my job as Prime Minister is, frankly, not to read a Survation opinion poll but to do the right thing to keep our country safe.

Q7. The French armed police who stormed the Bataclan and killed those vile, murderous scum are heroes, and so are the British armed police who protect our public spaces and the people. Will the Prime Minister send a note of unequivocal support today to those officers on patrol, and ensure that in next week’s review, they have the resources they need to keep us safe? (902138)

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. We ask the police every day to take risks on our behalf. Let me thank the police who policed so effectively the game at Wembley last night.

In terms of what the French police have done, I think the House would welcome an update. We have seen the news of a police operation in Paris this morning. Two terrorist suspects died, including a female suspect who blew herself up. Seven arrests are reported to have been made. This operation has now finished. As the French Interior Minister has said, we should all acknowledge the bravery of the French police in dealing with what is a very challenging situation.

I hope there can be consensus across the House—I mean right across the House—on this. If we are confronted with a situation like this, the British police should not be in any doubt. If you have a terrorist who is threatening to kill people, you can—indeed, you must—use lethal force.

Q4. In a recent Financial Times article, President Obama said:“I have emphasised the importance…of tax credits to help working families afford childcare and keep two-earner families in the workforce.”Does the Prime Minister agree with the importance the President of the United States has attached to tax credits? (902135)

I think it is important that we do the best we can to help low-paid people. That is why we are taking people out of income tax: 3 million of the lowest paid taken out of income tax since I became Prime Minister. We are going to be setting an £11,000 threshold before people have to start paying tax at all. We are helping working families with childcare. We are helping with a national living wage of £7.20 starting next year, something I suspect President Obama would love to introduce in the United States. We are doing it right here.

Q10. Integrating health and social care will be a great prize for devolved cities and regions, but without effective democratic and clinical oversight things can go badly wrong. Already, in Manchester a major hospital reorganisation is awaiting judicial review. May I urge my right hon. Friend to ensure that proper safeguards are in place so that local authorities retain a last resort power to refer NHS changes for independent clinical review? (902141)

I will look carefully at what my hon. Friend says, but I think this does go to a larger point, which is that we are currently changing the way our country is run. These big devolution deals, first to Greater Manchester but now, with the announcements yesterday, to Liverpool and to the west midlands, mean that we are going to have powerful metro mayors who are accountable to local people for the decisions they make. That is a very direct form of accountability and that is why we can be confident of devolving health and social care to those authorities. For too long, our country has been too centralised. The great cities of Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool—and soon Leeds, I hope—will benefit from these massive devolution deals, but if we devolve the power and we devolve the money, we have to devolve the trust and the accountability too.

Q5. Against the backdrop of a tidal wave of local job losses, the Teesside Collective for industrial carbon capture has the very real potential to secure a major step change in our industrial renaissance. Ahead of the Paris conference, will the Prime Minister meet me and the industrial leaders driving this project so that we can secure these immense climate change gains with the UK leading this new industrial revolution, and make this initiative a reality for Teesside and the UK? (902136)

I know how important it is that we all work on behalf of Teesside, not least because of the difficulties there have been in Redcar. That is why we have the taskforce and why the additional resources are going in. I am very happy to look at the project the hon. Gentleman talks about. It may be best for him to meet the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, because we have to make important decisions about all these technologies in the run-up to the Paris conference and beyond.

Q12. In my constituency, manufacturing is thriving thanks to innovative small businesses such as Powerkut and Naysmith Group, which are creating high quality local jobs and apprenticeships in the engineering sector. Given the challenges that these types of companies face in finding traditional bank and funding support, what assurances can the Prime Minister give that this Conservative Government understand the importance of our innovators and will continue to provide initiatives, such as the annual investment fund, to ensure British businesses continue to lead the way? (902143)

We want to rebalance the British economy not just in terms of the devolution of power I have just talked about, but to see a thriving manufacturing sector. Manufacturers have told us that they want continued investment in the catapult centres, which do a good job of making sure that technology is taken up. They want strong support for the apprenticeship programme, and we have set a target of 3 million apprentices during this Parliament. They also want to make the annual investment allowance permanent, and it will be permanent at £200,000 throughout this Parliament so that manufacturing companies and others that want to make investments know they can do so in a way that will be profitable for them.

Q6. My niece Ruby is safe and well after being caught up in the aftermath of the Paris attacks. She has been a student in Paris for three years, and she wants to know whether this country will be safe on her return. She has a question for the Prime Minister. She is worried about the cuts to the ambulance, police and fire services here, and whether those cuts will allow us to have the preparedness that was shown by the emergency services in Paris. I also want to know why we are not joining the Russians in calling for a UN mandate to remove ISIS from Syria. (902137)

First, let me say how glad I am to hear that the hon. Gentleman’s niece is safe after those terrible attacks. Let me answer her question very directly. We are doing everything we can to make sure that this country is safe. After receiving intelligence some years ago about the potential for a marauding firearms attack at multiple locations—perhaps in our capital city or elsewhere in our country—we have run exercises and we have done research. We have looked at everything we can do to make sure, for instance, that ambulances and their crews will be able to go into a so-called hot zone and recover casualties, that we have the right number of armed police in the different parts of our country, and that we can respond in ways that will include using other forces in all the ways that we can. We have looked carefully at what the French have done in surging troops on their streets and have made sure that that can now happen here, and that all the permissions are given.

There is never a 100% guarantee of safety in any country, but I would say to the hon. Gentleman’s niece that we are doing everything that we possibly can.

Q13. In that spirit, I warmly congratulate the Prime Minister on the new funding that has been announced for special forces equipment, but may I draw his attention to the plight of David and Maria Summers, in my constituency, who have struggled to obtain permanent residency for Maria despite having been married for 45 years? May I ask the Prime Minister to encourage officials to look at the case again? (902144)

I shall be happy to look at the case again, but, given the constituency that my hon. Friend represents, his question gives me an opportunity to say something about a group of people we say very little about because we do not comment on the amazing work that they do. Hereford is a very important part of the nation’s security, both domestically and overseas. Very, very brave people work there, and we should all give credit to them.

Q8. A constituent of mine was a soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is currently training to be a doctor in London. He tells me that with the proposed junior doctors’ contracts, morale in the NHS is lower now than it has been at any time during his time on the frontline. Does the Prime Minister agree that low morale among our junior doctors and nurses is a threat to patient safety? (902139)

I would say that the hon. Lady’s constituent and all junior doctors should please look very carefully at what the Government are offering before they decide to go on strike. What is on offer is not an increase in hours—indeed, for many doctors it will mean less long hours—and it is not a cut in the pay bill for junior doctors; it is actually an 11% basic pay increase. It will also mean better rostering of doctors, including at weekends, and more support for consultants.

I would say to the hon. Lady’s constituent, as I would say to others, “Look at the Department of Health’s website, look at the pay calculator, and see how you will be affected.” We have given a guarantee that anyone who is working legal hours will not be worse off under the new contract. It is good for the NHS, good for doctors, and good for patients. Even at this late hour, I hope that the British Medical Association will call off its damaging strike.

Q14. Fundamental to the success of the Good Friday agreement was a spirit of peace and reconciliation that saw dozens, or even hundreds, of convicted terrorists released from prison. Many had been found guilty of murder. Yet in the last week, we have heard the alarming news that a 66-year-old former paratrooper has been arrested in connection with events that took place in Londonderry 43 years ago. In a week when we are all having to once again contemplate sending our young men and women into harm’s way, with our security services and police are on high alert, what message does the Prime Minister feel that that sends to our armed forces, our police and our security services? (902145)

I understand my hon. Friend’s concern and the feelings that many will have on seeing this news, but the truth is that one of the most important things about our country is that the Government do not decide who is prosecuted and who is not prosecuted. We have the rule of law; we have independent prosecuting authorities. This is something that people across the world cry out for and we have here, and we have to support them even when they take decisions that sometimes we would want to question.

In that context, let me make a broader point. Yesterday the principal parties in Northern Ireland came together and agreed a deal to make sure that the devolved institutions can continue to work. That deal involved people who have lost loved ones to terrorism, and who have been opposed to each other all of their lives, sitting down and working together to try to deliver good government for this part of our United Kingdom, It is that spirit we should look to for the future.

Q9. HMRC’s decision last week to close its offices in the Bradford district will mean the loss of over 2,000 high-skill, high-wage jobs, £1.2 million in business rates and almost £12 million of the district’s retail spending. This will have a devastating impact on Bradford’s families and economy, so will the Prime Minister give me assurances that HMRC will meet Bradford MPs to consider the clear economic and social case for keeping those offices in Bradford open? (902140)

First, I am happy to ask the Financial Secretary to meet the local MPs. Secondly, we will make sure that Jobcentre Plus and all the support is there for people who potentially are losing their jobs. The point I would make in Bradford more broadly is that the claimant count is down by 26% in the last year, so jobs are available. But let me also make this point, because it is a difficult and important point to make: everyone in this House wants to see HMRC raise more money and make sure that people and companies do not avoid their taxes. That does mean reform, and it means making sure that HMRC is even more effective in raising the taxes on which our public services depend.

In acknowledgement of the fact that sport can bring a nation together—and, for that matter, nations, as was demonstrated at Wembley last night—will my right hon. Friend ensure that, in addition to the welcome extra investment in the police and security services, investment in sports such as cricket will be maintained because they are a tool to help us face longer-term challenges in integrating communities?

I am sure that over the next week the spending requests will quicken as we get closer to the spending review. It is important that we have put in place the school sport premium for primary schools—it is making a real difference—but of course there is a role for the sporting bodies to play themselves. Many of them receive large amounts of money from the television contracts, and if more of them can use that money to invest in grassroots sports to make sure we are bringing on the young stars of tomorrow, that will be absolutely vital.

Q11. As the new leader of the anti-austerity movement in Oxfordshire, will the Prime Minister tell us how his campaign is going? (902142)

What I said to my local council is what I say to every council: “You’ve got to get more for less, not less for more.” As I said, on this side of the House we want to make sure that every penny raised in council tax is well spent, and if the hon. Gentleman’s council would like to come in and get the same advice, I will gladly oblige.

At a time when my right hon. Friend so rightly emphasises the need for our solidarity with France, will he see what he can do to ensure that the Franco-British Council, set up over 40 years ago by both nations’ Governments to promote civil society partnership, can continue to do its important work in fields as diverse as defence and community cohesion, because without a very small amount of funding from both Governments, it will not be able to do that?

I am very happy to look at that proposal. France and Britain have a lot to learn from each other, and we should enter into these discussions in that spirit. We have a lot to learn about how we try to integrate people in our country, how we have effective counter-terrorism policing, and how we share intelligence, and I am very committed to making sure that we pursue all those things with our French friends.

Q15. Wigan council has had a cut of over 40% in its funding over the past five years and lost a third of its staff. Does the Prime Minister advise that I should write to the leader of the council regarding the consequent reductions in services, or should I place the blame firmly where it belongs: in the hands of his Government? (902146)

If the hon. Lady is looking for someone to blame, she might want to blame the Labour party, which left this country with the biggest budget deficit anywhere in the western world. And as she does so, the advice I would give her about her local council is to look at its overall spending power—the combination of business rates, council tax and grant—and ask what money it has to provide good local services.