House of Commons
Wednesday 29 June 2016
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
The Secretary of State was asked—
Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
1. What her policy is on the investment case for the replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. (905508)
Before I answer Question 1, may I briefly offer my voice to the many tributes that have been made in this place to Jo Cox? I know that I speak for the entire development community when I say that she was an incredibly impressive Member of the House. We also had the chance to work together on Syria. Indeed, the Order Paper does not show it but she should have been asking topical question 5. I believe that the House is a much, much poorer place for not hearing from her today.
I also welcome the shadow Front-Bench team and welcome the shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Edmonton (Kate Osamor), to her role. I wish her well.
In response to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile), we welcome working through the global fund. This country has helped to keep 8.6 million people alive with HIV therapy. We have distributed 600 million mosquito nets and have treated 15 million cases of TB. We are actually the third largest funder. The UK is planning to support a successful replenishment of a strong, value for money global fund later this year.
Mr Speaker, as you can see from my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, I visited Zambia last year with RESULTS UK and saw for myself the excellent work that global fund investment is doing, particularly on TB-HIV co-infection. Will the Minister do everything possible to ensure that the fund’s replenishment target of $13 billion is met as a minimum?
Yes we will. The global fund is a novel but powerful model for delivering improvements on AIDS, TB and malaria at scale. We therefore want to see it do better. It still needs to focus on delivering value for money, but we will be lobbying other Governments, countries and organisations to continue supporting it.
May I press the Secretary of State on whether she accepts the case for a 20% increase in the UK’s contribution to the global fund, something which the global fund has specifically asked us to contemplate and which several other countries are doing? Might she also take the opportunity to make a speech on the continuing worldwide HIV and AIDS crisis?
That is an important question. Following the announcement of the multilateral aid review, which is coming out shortly, we are looking at how we approach the forthcoming replenishment. The key thing is to ensure that we lobby other countries and players to provide support alongside the UK, but, as the hon. Gentleman says, it is important that we show leadership ourselves.
Before I ask my question, may I express our solidarity with the people who were involved in the bombing in Istanbul last night?
The cap is a bizarre self-limitation. If Britain wants to give £1.2 billion to the global fund, why do we set a cap that prevents us from doing so?
It has been done precisely to incentivise others and to make it clear that the fund will work best if it is supported by a broad donor base. While we have always been key supporters of the global fund, it is important that countries such as the UK do not let up on challenging other players and countries to play their role. Although we are a strong supporter of development and can be proud of our work, we want other countries to follow our lead, not lag behind.
I would first like to congratulate the Secretary of State on coming out over the weekend. I look forward to future exchanges across the Dispatch Box.
The global fund replenishment conference in September presents an incredibly important moment for the fund, which provides more than three quarters of all international finance to the fight against TB. Without renewed commitment, we will not realise the global plan’s targets, so when exactly will the UK commit to the global fund?
We will make an announcement following the publication of the multilateral aid review. I can assure the hon. Lady that two things are being focused on: ensuring that the global fund offer is strong so that countries are persuaded to invest in it and having a smart investment ourselves, as we have had in the past, to encourage other countries to join us.
The global fund has a remarkable record, having saved more than 70 million lives and treated over 13 million people for TB. Notwithstanding that record, Canada, Italy and Japan have each significantly increased their contributions to the fund by at least 20%. Will the Secretary of State ensure that the UK also increases its contribution?
As I have said before, we will finally announce what we are doing on the replenishment after our multilateral aid review. I can assure the hon. Lady that we are very keen to see a successful replenishment of the global fund. Our country has supported that for a number of years now. Looking at the progress on malaria, TB and AIDS, it is clear that we need to keep our foot on the pedal if we are to eradicate these diseases, because, in the end, they are holding back their countries from developing.
Burundian Refugee Safety
2. What assessment she has made of the safety of people from Burundi in refugee camps in neighbouring countries. (905509)
May I associate myself with the remarks of the shadow Secretary of State about the Secretary of State, and with the remarks about standing in solidarity with Istanbul?
More than a quarter of a million Burundians have fled their country since 2015. We remain very concerned about their wellbeing, which is why we are the second largest bilateral donor to the regional refugee appeal.
My hon. Friend will be aware of reports over recent months of Burundian refugees being followed over the border into camps and attacked by those from whom they have tried to flee, often to punish remaining family members or silence those with stories of abuse. What are the Government doing to offer support to authorities and non-governmental organisations running refugee camps in Rwanda, Tanzania and other neighbouring countries to ensure that those fleeing Burundi are safe?
I thank my hon. and learned Friend for that question. We are aware of the reports. Indeed, I have spoken personally to a number of Burundian refugees in camps, and we have made it very clear to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that we expect it to protect all refugees, and in Rwanda we have funded it to provide additional protection in the Mahama region refugee camp.
May I welcome what the Secretary of State said about Jo Cox? We particularly miss her today, as she had a track record on these important issues.
There is concern in all parts of the House about the crisis in Burundi. Can either the Department for International Development or the Foreign Office come to the House soon with a full statement on the crisis and how we can best address it?
If that is the wish of the House, I am sure that both Departments will listen to it carefully. We are extremely concerned about the situation and have been for very many months. I am in regular contact with the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge), who has responsibility for Africa, about what he is doing on the diplomatic front and what we are doing in terms of planning contingencies in the event of an escalation of the humanitarian crisis.
Young people from specific communities are being taken from their homes, tortured and then killed. We have a deep crisis in Burundi: a President in denial who refuses to accept the validity of the Arusha peace process. What can the UK Government do to encourage other neighbouring African countries to take this matter even more seriously than they appear to be doing at the moment?
I share my hon. Friend’s concern and passion about this situation. I assure him that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary and I work together extremely closely to put whatever pressure we can on countries that may have influence, and to ensure that we are in a position to do the right thing in providing support for the Burundian people.
May I too associate myself with the remarks about showing solidarity with Turkey?
In 2012, the UK Government closed DFID’s office in Burundi despite the history of electoral turmoil in the country and an understanding that the next election would be just three years away, in 2015. The election was identified as a key possible flashpoint for future violence by many NGOs and the International Development Committee, which criticised DFID’s decision to close the office. As the refugee crisis in Burundi escalates, will the Minister assure me that DFID has in place clear and effective measures to ensure that it identifies where crises may occur and is fully able to react and respond to them?
Yes, I think I can give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. This has been an issue that has been glowing red on our radar screen for some time now. As I have said, we are the second largest bilateral donor to the regional appeal. We have contingency plans in place. We have announced an additional £15 million to support Tanzania in its preparedness for an escalation and we have released money and technical expertise to be deployed in Burundi to support any escalation in the humanitarian crisis.
Food Insecurity: Eastern and Southern Africa
DFID has provided an additional £200 million since mid-2015 to respond to the impact of El Niño-related climate shocks in Africa. More than 4 million people have already been supported by DFID programmes in the horn of Africa and southern Africa.
The drought in Africa is affecting millions of people and is predicted to continue until November and possibly beyond. If the rains do come, there will be a hunger gap for families across the region while they wait to see whether there is anything to harvest in the next three to five months, so what steps are the Government taking now to make sure that food and other essentials are ready to be delivered then if it becomes necessary?
I thank the hon. Lady for throwing a spotlight on a humanitarian crisis that is under-reported and underfunded. I am proud to say that the UK has shown genuine leadership in making large amounts of funding available early—as I said, £200 million in the past year alone—and we are reviewing what more needs to be done, but critically we are also picking up the phone and speaking to all the other donors in the international community to encourage them to do more, as well as working very closely with domestic Governments such as Ethiopia’s to make sure that they have the right plans in place to protect their people.
I congratulate DFID on the support that it is giving, particularly to Ethiopia. On a recent visit to that country, I learned of the work that is being carried out and also of the funding gap in the support programme. I also learned that there is a need for donors to be there on a long-term basis because the problems are not going to go away. Will the Minister redouble his efforts to bring in more donor countries and make sure that they are there for the medium to long term?
Yes, I can reassure my hon. Friend of that, and I thank him for his letter after his visit. We are making those calls and encouraging other donors. I should place on record our respect and recognition for the work that the Ethiopian Government have done in making domestic resources—$700 million—available to be part of this response.
In many instances charitable institutions are doing great work in trying to provide clean, plentiful water supplies in sub-Saharan Africa, which allows those nation states to produce food on a much greater scale. What is being done to supplement those efforts and help those institutions provide that much needed water supply?
DFID is extremely proud of its co-operation and partnership with NGOs in many areas. In the context of making sure that people have access to clean water and sanitation, we have a manifesto commitment to support 60 million people achieve that, so partnership working is fundamental to our approach. A large amount of that £200 million funding has been to help people access the most basic services.
I am pleased to hear the Minister acknowledge that climate change is having a huge impact on food security in the region. What efforts is his Department making to look at the impact on fish stocks, which very many people in that region depend on?
The hon. Lady is entirely right that we have to factor in climate change, not least because on our assessment there is a 75% probability of La Niña following El Niño. A large part of the work that we are doing involves doing the best we can to help people now, as well as to plan for the future and build in greater resilience so that those countries and those populations are better protected in the future.
May I associate those on the SNP Benches with the good wishes and congratulations that have been extended to the Secretary of State in recent days, and also welcome the new Labour spokesperson to her post?
Will the Minister recognise the role of faith and civil society organisations in developing countries in the delivery of food and emergency aid? Given the need for forward planning mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan), what steps is he taking to make sure that DFID can support such organisations in responding to the food crisis?
The key thing is to act early and to act decisively. The British Government have made a lot of money available and have acted early, which is critical to being cost-effective. Fundamental to our approach is working through other organisations. That includes the best NGOs, which are passionate about trying to provide basic services and keep people alive.
Bilateral and Multilateral Aid Reviews
The reviews will ensure that we allocate our budget to the right places and in the right ways based on solid evidence, translating our UK aid strategy into a set of delivery plans for DFID that are ambitious in driving development and tackling poverty, but also deliver value for money. That is in our UK national interest. We are planning to publish the outcome of the bilateral and multilateral aid reviews in the early summer.
Part of our work has been through the European development fund, so work is now under way to understand where the end point of Brexit is and, critically, the transition plan in the meantime. That work is under way, but I emphasise that overwhelmingly our work is not through the EDF, and that, of course, is unaffected.
15. I am proud of our international aid record, but we have to take the public with us. Does my right hon. Friend agree that if the target were to apply over a longer period, thereby allowing for annual variations to reflect need, taxpayers could have the greatest possible comfort that they were seeing value for money? (905522)
Value for money comes from how we take decisions and monitor their impact in the Department, and less from how we structure the budget. We have a commitment to investing 0.7% of our gross national income in international development each year, and we are going to stick to that.
Palestinian-Israeli Co-existence Projects
5. What support her Department provides to projects facilitating peaceful co-existence between Palestinians and Israelis. (905512)
We support projects that bring Palestinians and Israelis together, to which end we have made provision for funding through our conflict, security and stability fund to support co-existence projects, but I am keen to identify what more we can do.
As I am asking my question in slot No. 5, which would have been taken by Jo Cox, may I, too, add my tribute to her excellent work in this area? Why do my right hon. Friend and his Department think that it is a good use of taxpayers’ money to continue to support the Palestinian Authority?
I agree with my hon. Friend about Jo Cox. The reason we think it is a good idea to support the Palestinian Authority is that they deliver essential public services, not least healthcare and the education of 770,000 pupils. I believe that it is in our national interest to build up Palestinian institutions so that in a future Palestinian state, they can be reliable and effective partners for peace.
I endorse the tributes that have been made to the work of Jo Cox for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine. Will the Minister join me in recognising the contribution to peaceful co-existence of Israelis who speak uncomfortable truths, whether that be the Mayor of Tel Aviv speaking out against occupation, the veterans of Breaking the Silence speaking out against the reality of occupation, or Peace Now mapping settlements that are undermining the chances of a two-state solution?
Alongside visiting refugee camps in Kenya, at the end of May I headed the UK delegation at the world humanitarian summit where we helped to secure widespread agreement on the need to reform the humanitarian system. I committed £30 million of support to a new joint fund for education in emergencies to help to make sure that no child misses out on an education. Our commitment to international development is, and will continue to be, firmly in our national interest as well as the right thing to do.
I note we have UK advisers in the refugee camps in Europe. I hope they will remain. What steps is the Department taking to ensure that the best people do this essential work? Will the Secretary of State look into a Teach First-style scheme so that we get the best graduates?
Britain is working with Greece, Turkey and others in Europe. The first UK team has arrived in Greece, and it includes experts in supporting vulnerable groups, such as unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, and those trained to tackle people trafficking. My hon. Friend raises an interesting point, and I will certainly take it up with my colleagues at the Home Office and the Department for Education.
T3. Given what the Overseas Development Institute has called the misrepresentation of its recent report on the state-building grant to Palestine, will the Secretary of State take this opportunity to confirm that UK aid to the Palestinian Authority is for wholly legitimate purposes and is essential to peace-building in the region? (905525)
I believe the hon. Gentleman is right in his assertion. Indeed, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of State has just set out, the work we are doing is helping to provide not only health facilities for people in that area but, critically, education for children who so badly need it. [Interruption.]
Order. There are a lot of very noisy private conversations taking place. It is incredibly discourteous to the Secretary of State and discourteous to Members treating of matters affecting some of the most vulnerable people on the face of the planet, and I rather doubt it does much good to the reputation of the House at this important time, so if Members who are chattering away privately could stop doing so, that would help.
T5. Tanzania saw some great progress against the millennium development goals, but areas of the country still lack access to basic services such as water. I am glad that the Secretary of State met Councillor Louise Richardson, but will she comment on how her Department is working with Tanzania on those vital areas? (905529)
I very much appreciated the time that my hon. Friend’s local councillor took to meet me and to talk about the work she has been involved in. DFID is helping Tanzania to improve access to clean water in rural areas and rural water sustainability. Alongside that, we have a strong focus on improving electricity access, off-grid energy solutions and, of course, rural road infrastructure, which is so important.
T4. Will the Secretary of State join me in welcoming the appointment of Dr Alasdair Allan as the new Scottish Government Minister for International Development and Europe? As she never managed a one-on-one with his predecessor, will she make it a priority to meet Dr Allan? (905528)
T6. Encouraging business growth in developing countries helps to cut poverty and to create new markets for British exports. Will the Secretary of State update the House on what the Government are doing to help entrepreneurs in developing countries? (905530)
My hon. Friend is absolutely right: we will end aid dependency through creating jobs. DFID has doubled its bilateral work on economic growth. That includes supporting entrepreneurship through expanding access to finance and easing the cost and risk of doing business.
Given the support that the Government provide to the Government of Sri Lanka for reconciliation and human rights, will the Secretary of State give a commitment that her Department will make the strongest representations to the Government of Sri Lanka that there will be no peace or reconciliation without international involvement in the prosecution of historic war crimes during the Sri Lankan civil war?
What a very important question my hon. Friend asks. I am very proud to be a founding member of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, which will report in September. This is central to DFID’s work. Indeed, since 2011 we have helped 2.5 million women to improve their land rights and 35 million women to access financial services. With financial independence comes much broader independence, so this is absolutely vital.
Even in the United Kingdom, adverse childhood experience is a major cause of dysfunction in families. In conflict zones, it will of course be much worse, particularly where a family have suffered a bereavement. Will the Secretary of State look at a package to include mentoring, parenting, and child development, as well as all the other good work that her Department does?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that in our Syria response we very much focused on children, not least in making sure that there is no lost generation of children out of school. The broader point about understanding the impact of conflict on children in the longer term is extremely important. Mentoring, psychosocial support, and counselling need to be in place to help children get through situations that would be hard for most of us adults, let alone small children.
The Prime Minister was asked—
I know the whole House will join me in condemning the horrific terrorist attacks in Turkey last night. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were killed and injured, and their families. As yet, there are no reports of any UK casualties, but the Foreign Office is working urgently with the Turkish authorities to establish the full facts. I spoke to President Erdogan this morning to express the UK’s condolences and to offer assistance. Details are still emerging, but we stand as one in our defiance against these barbaric acts.
This week marks the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, and there will be a national two-minute silence on Friday morning. I will attend a service at the Thiepval memorial near the battlefield, and it is right that the whole country pauses to remember the sacrifices of all those who fought and lost their lives in that conflict.
This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
May I first associate myself with the Prime Minister’s remarks of condolence to all those who have been affected by the dreadful attack in Istanbul?
May I offer my personal best wishes to the Prime Minister and his family for life after Downing Street? He has served his country, but he has not done it alone. It is right that we should acknowledge the support that he has had, as we all have, from our families in public service.
Before the Prime Minister goes, though, will he attend to one matter that, when he was in opposition, he described as doing enormous moral damage to the moral authority of our country—the involvement of our security services in rendition? Now that the Crown Prosecution Service has decided that it is not going to prosecute Sir Mark Allen for what he did, will the Prime Minister reconstitute the Gibson inquiry so that we can know what was done in our name, and on whose authority?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his generous remarks. I am very proud to have served this country, and proud to be the first Prime Minister for, I think, 30 years to get to both Shetland and Orkney to make sure that I fully looked into his constituency.
The right hon. Gentleman raises an important point about the Libya rendition issue. The Government co-operated fully with the police investigation. The CPS set out its position recently, concluding that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. I would say—I can say these things now—that very few countries in the world would have had such an independent and thorough investigation into an issue like this. The right approach, as Sir Peter Gibson has finished the report on what he was able to do, is that the Intelligence and Security Committee has agreed to look at the issues raised in his report, and it should continue to do so.
Q3. As my right hon. Friend has said, perhaps putting current events into perspective, at 7.30 am this Friday we will start the process of commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. Will he join me in thanking all those involved in organising the Forget Never project in Basildon, who have done so much to ensure that our young people will learn the lessons of the past? Forgetting our current challenges, will he join me in encouraging everyone to remember, salute and commemorate those who made the ultimate sacrifice? (905450)
I certainly join my hon. Friend in commending all those who are organising these important events, particularly the event he mentions in his constituency, but also the events up and down the country. It is important, not only because of the appalling slaughter—57,000 people were killed or wounded on the first day of this battle—but because so many people are learning so much about their own family’s involvement. In many ways, there is a link between the current events we are discussing and what happened 100 years ago: the importance of keeping peace, security and stability on our continent. It was noticeable at last night’s European Council dinner that the French President mentioned the Somme commemorations and how proud he was that we would be standing together to remember those sacrifices all those years ago.
I echo the words of the Prime Minister concerning the 36 who died and the 100 injured in the vile terrorist attack at Ataturk airport. I am sure that our consular services will be doing everything they can to assist those affected. I thank him for referring to the memorial service in the Somme on Friday; I look forward to being with him for the memorial service for those who died in that dreadful battle.
I think it would be appropriate to pay tribute to Lord Patrick Mayhew, who died last weekend. As Northern Ireland Secretary, he was the driving force behind the Downing Street declaration in 1993, which led to the first ceasefire. I think the relative peace we have now in Northern Ireland is in part thanks to him and of course his successor Mo Mowlam, who achieved so much.
What people in the country are worried about is the extra insecurity for their living standards, jobs, wages and pensions following the EU referendum. In recent days, we have heard uncertain words about the future of some of the major companies in Britain, such as Siemens, which has been here for a very long time. What meetings has the Chancellor had with major companies—Siemens, Visa, Vodafone and others—to try to stabilise the situation?
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to mention Patrick Mayhew, who played a huge role in the delivery of the peace process, and he was also a brilliant Attorney General. He exuded a belief in public service in the national interest, and he was a kind and goodly man. I was very sad to hear of his passing. I sent a message to him via his wife shortly before he died, and I know that many people in the House will want to send their good wishes to his family.
The Leader of the Opposition rightly asked what conversations we are having with business and what preparations we are making to deal with the economic challenges we face. We are in a strong position to meet these challenges, because we have paid down so much of our deficit and we have had strong growth and job creation, but I do not at all belittle the fact that the consequences will be difficult. There are going to be very choppy waters ahead—I do not resile from any of the warnings I gave during the referendum campaign—but we have to find the best way through them.
One of the things we must do is to talk to businesses and reassure them about the stability that there is today and the strength of the British economy. The Business Secretary has met a whole range of businesses already. I have a meeting of my business advisory group tomorrow, and I am inviting other companies to it, including Siemens, which plays a huge role in the British economy. We need to discuss the reassurances about stability that we can give now and the fact that our circumstances do not change until we leave the European Union, and then I will want to hear from them—as we draw up possible blueprints for Britain’s future position with Europe—what they think will be the right answer.
The credit rating agencies have cut the UK credit rating to double A from double A plus. The Chancellor pledged to keep the triple A rating. What estimate have the Government made of the cost to the Exchequer of this downgrade in borrowing costs and risks to pension funds?
The Leader of the Opposition is absolutely right that the credit rating of one agency has been taken down by several points and another has put us on watch. To answer his question directly, the cost to the Exchequer and to the taxpayer will depend on what happens to the interest rates in the market at which Britain can borrow, and it is absolutely right to draw attention to that.
As I have said—Mario Draghi, head of the European Central Bank, confirmed this last night—all the warnings were that if we voted to leave the EU there would be difficulties in our own economy, growth rates and instability in markets. We are seeing those things, and we are well prepared for them in the reaction of the Bank of England and the Treasury, but there is no doubt in my mind that these are going to be difficult economic times. We must make sure we maintain our strong economy so we can cope with them, but we should not belittle the challenges: they are going to be difficult and we are going to have to meet them.
All Members of the House should be concerned about indications from business and investors that suggest they see the UK as less attractive, thus putting current and future jobs at risk. In those circumstances, will the Prime Minister consider suspending the Chancellor’s fiscal rule, which is in effect preventing investment?
I do not believe that would be the right approach. Business, consumers, investors, and those concerned about our economy want to hear that we have taken huge steps over the past six years to get the budget deficit down, to make the British economy more competitive, and to make us an attractive destination for investment. They want those things to continue, and one way to react to economic difficulties is to ensure that our public finances and economy remain strong. We should not have taken all the steps of the last six years to get the deficit down just to get us on to a more difficult path. I do not think it would be right to suspend fiscal rules and, as I have said, there are three phases: first, volatility, which the Bank of England and Treasury must cope with; secondly, uncertainty about Britain’s future status, which we must bring to an end as fast as possible by examining alternative models and by my successors choosing which one we should go for; and, thirdly, we should bear in mind that long-term damage to the British economy will be based on how good our trading relationship is with the European Union. For my part, I think we want the closest possible trading relationship with the European Union, and that can be discussed and debated in this House as well as by the next Government.
This week, sadly, there has been more evidence that racist incidents are increasing. Evidence collated by monitoring groups shows that in the past three or four days alone there have been attacks and abuse from Stoke to Stockton, and from Dorset to the Clyde. What monitoring systems have the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary put in place, what reports have they received from the police, and what extra resources will go to communities that have been targeted in those vile racist attacks?
I agree that those attacks are appalling. They need to stop, and it is right that all Members of the House, and on both sides of the referendum debate, utterly condemn them. That is not what we do in Britain, and at last night’s meeting I reassured the Prime Ministers of countries such as Romania, Poland and the Czech Republic, who were concerned about the issue. We do monitor these attacks. The Home Secretary receives regular reports, and we will soon publish a new action plan on tackling hate crime to step up our response. We want new steps to boost the reporting of hate crime and to support victims, new CPS guidance to prosecutors on racially aggravated crime, a new fund for protective security measures in potentially vulnerable institutions, and additional funding for community organisations so that they can tackle hate crime. Whatever we can do we will do to drive those appalling hate crimes out of our country.
I thank the Prime Minister for that answer. The vote last Thursday was a rejection of the status quo—a status quo that clearly is not delivering. There are now 13.5 million people living in poverty in Britain, which is up by 300,000 over the last year. Some 4.5 million people in England and Wales are in insecure work, and two thirds of children in poverty are living in households where at least one adult is in work. The Prime Minister has two months left. Will he leave a one nation legacy that includes the scrapping of the bedroom tax, banning zero-hours contracts, and cancelling cuts to universal credit?
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that of course we need to do more to tackle poverty and to spread wealth and opportunity. However, to try to pretend that last Thursday’s vote was a result of the state of the British economy is complete nonsense. The British economy is incomparably stronger than it was six years ago. We must all reflect on our role in the referendum campaign. The right hon. Gentleman says that he put his back into it; all I say is that I would hate to see him when he is not trying.
Government figures released yesterday show that the number of children in this country who are living in poverty has jumped by 200,000 in a year to a disgraceful total of 3.9 million. Should the Prime Minister at the very least apologise to them and to parents who have been failed by his Government, and do something about it so that we reduce child poverty in this country?
If the right hon. Gentleman wants to deal with the figures, let me give them to him. Income and inequality have gone down. Average incomes have grown at their fastest rate since 2001. He asks about poverty. There are 300,000 fewer people in relative poverty since 2010 and half a million fewer people in absolute poverty since 2010. If he is looking for excuses about the referendum and the side that he and I were on, frankly he should look somewhere else. I have to say to him—he talks about job insecurity and my two months to go—it might be in my party’s interests for him to sit there; it is not in the national interest. I would say: for heaven’s sake man, go!
Q8. While media attention seems to be focused elsewhere, all of us in this House have constituents who have problems that need to be addressed. For weeks and weeks, my constituents have been struggling with the impact of unofficial industrial action on our railways—not over jobs, not over wages, but over who gets to press a button. Will my right hon. Friend condemn this in the strongest possible terms and help to resolve those issues? (905456)
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Our transport infrastructure is a crucial part of our economy. I condemn any industrial action that disrupts the travelling public, and rail passengers will not thank the RMT and ASLEF for their recent unnecessary disruption. Frankly, the performance of Southern has been unacceptable and passengers deserve better. I can tell the House we will be providing more generous compensation to passengers affected by the latest strike and the Transport Secretary will be announcing further details soon.
We on the Scottish National party Benches join the Prime Minister and the Leader of the official Opposition in our condemnation of the terrorist tragedy in Turkey, and we send our condolences to the people of Turkey.
A strong majority voted for Scotland to remain in the European Union. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is in Brussels today, where she is meeting the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Parliament. Yesterday, there was a standing ovation in the European Parliament when the case was made to protect Scotland’s place in Europe. What will the UK Government do to protect Scotland’s place in Europe?
First of all, let me thank the right hon. Gentleman for what he says about the terrorist attacks and how we should stand together against them.
On the United Kingdom’s future and our relationship with the European Union, we need to negotiate the best possible deal for the United Kingdom and the closest possible relationship. That will also be the best possible deal for Scotland. That is what we need to focus on. That is what needs to be done.
On the contrary, the Prime Minister is wrong. Yesterday, the Scottish Parliament, including the Labour party, the Scottish Liberal Democrats and the Greens, passed a motion that
“mandates the Scottish Government to have discussions with the UK Government, other devolved administrations, the EU institutions and member states to explore options for protecting Scotland’s relationship with the EU, Scotland’s place in the single market and the social, employment and economic benefits that come from that”.
Every party in the Scottish Parliament voted for that except the Conservative party, which abstained. When will the Conservatives finally join all the other parties in Scotland in protecting Scotland’s place in Europe?
The best way to secure Scotland’s place in the single market is for the United Kingdom to negotiate the closest possible relationship with the European Union, including, in my view, the closest relationship with the single market. Our membership of the European Union is a UK membership and that is where we should take our negotiating stance.
Q11. Market traders in Rossendale and Darwen make a huge contribution to our local economy. With that in mind, will my right hon. Friend call, with me and literally thousands of Darreners, to stop Blackburn Council going ahead with its plan to bulldoze Darwen’s three-day market? (905459)
Let me join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to all the hard-working market traders across the country who provide us with their excellent goods, often locally produced and sourced. I know how important these markets are. I certainly hope the local council will listen carefully to my hon. Friend’s campaign and make sure this historic market is not lost from Darwen altogether.
Q2. The Prime Minister will recall visiting the Vauxhall car plant in my constituency as part of the referendum campaign. Now that we have voted to leave the EU, we face a fight to keep those jobs in this country, so I will urge General Motors to recognise its responsibility to build vehicles where many are bought. I ask the Prime Minister to ensure that there are early talks with General Motors and the wider motor industry, so that it is given the reassurance needed that it will still be able to export motor vehicles to the EU at a competitive price. (905449)
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The story of the automotive industry in Britain over the past decade has been a remarkably positive one: 150,000 people are directly employed, and another 300,000 people are in the supply and components industry, more of which has been coming onshore in recent years. I remember my visit to his constituency very well. We need to secure the best possible deal for Britain and to ensure that we have that full access to the single market, because one of the reasons why so many companies, including General Motors, Nissan, Toyota and Jaguar Land Rover, have invested in Britain is access to that market. I urge General Motors and others to make their voices heard, and we will certainly be listening to them in the weeks ahead.
Yesterday, a former member of my staff was verbally abused and attacked while out shopping in London because of the colour of his skin—he is of Pakistani origin. He was chased down the road by a lady shouting about how we had voted out, and that people like him shoot others and blow people up. Will the Prime Minister reiterate the commitment he has given this morning to do everything in his power to eradicate that evil hatred, and reiterate that leaving the EU should not be used to breed racism but, in fact, the opposite—it should provide us with an opportunity to be much more international rather than just European?
We have many imperfections in this country, but we do have a claim to be one of the most successful multi-race, multi-faith and multi-ethnic democracies anywhere on earth, and we should do everything we can to safeguard that. That means having the clearest possible statements from all our political leaders, which we have heard today and should go on hearing. More to the point, we want action by the police and the prosecuting authorities. The laws are there to prosecute people, they should be used, and we will strengthen the guidance in the way that I have suggested. We should absolutely not put up with that in our country.
Q4. Turning to the Chilcot report, is the Prime Minister satisfied with the arrangements announced for prior access for the service families of soldiers who died in Iraq, given that Mr Blair has had months to prepare his PR defences and that he has seen the relevant passages? What are the parliamentary arrangements for secure prior access, so that the House can properly examine the findings and express any relevant views concerning future suitable accommodation for Mr Blair? (905451)
First, in terms of members of service personnel families, we have ensured that they will not face the cost that they originally were going to face to access the report. I will check the details on the time they get to access the report and write to the right hon. Gentleman. On the parliamentary process, I can put that in a letter to him so that we are absolutely clear about what time the statement will be, how much time people, including the Leader of the Opposition and other right hon. Gentlemen, will have to study the report in advance. I remember how important having access was to me when I was Leader of the Opposition.
As for those people who could be criticised in the report, the right hon. Gentleman will know that there is a process—letters have to go out so that people have a chance to respond to what is in the report. That is entirely independent of the Government. Ministers have not seen it and I have not seen it—it has been dealt with by the Chilcot report under long-standing conventions. Again, I will put that in my letter to the right hon. Gentleman.
Moving to more cheerful matters, would my right hon. Friend educate the House from his experience as Prime Minister on how, in terms of their countries’ reputation and success, he would compare the undemonstrative, competence and dignity of Angela Merkel with the theatrical and comical antics of Silvio Borisconi?
Fortunately for my answer, neither of the people my right hon. Friend is talking about is a candidate in the election—an election that I will stay firmly out of. I was given lots of advice on becoming Prime Minister, and one was not to go to a party with Silvio Berlusconi. That is one piece of advice I took and stuck to.
We on the leave side should recognise that although we won, it was a narrow mandate and plenty of decent, patriotic people voted for remain. Does the Prime Minister agree that both sides now need to come together to achieve a new post-EU national consensus, whereby we have close links with our friends and allies in Europe and beyond, while reclaiming our sovereignty?
Let me thank the hon. Gentleman for making the point that there were people with a deep sense of patriotism on both sides of the argument. I also agree that it is time for people and our country to come together. What is more, he is right that we now have to work very hard on the alternatives. Of course, they were discussed and debated in the referendum campaign, but they were hypothetical alternatives; they are now real alternatives, and one of the roles for the Government in the next few months is to set out the different blueprints—the Canada blueprint, the Swiss blueprint, the Norway blueprint and any other blueprints—and to look at the costs and benefits. That way, people can make a reasoned assessment, now that this is a real choice, rather than a hypothetical one.
I know that all Kent’s Members of Parliament will wish to be associated with my right hon. Friend’s tribute to the memory of Paddy Mayhew. He was a scholar, a gentleman and a great friend to his younger colleagues.
There are hundreds and thousands of expat United Kingdom citizens living around Europe who did not vote in the referendum. Many are elderly and frail and live on UK pensions and benefits. Will my right hon. Friend seek to ensure that his successor defends their interests?
Let me add to my hon. Friend’s comments about Sir Patrick Mayhew. He was a wonderful man and a great public servant, and I know he meant a lot to my hon. Friend and many others.
On the issue of British citizens living overseas, we should reassure people that until Britain leaves the EU, there will be absolutely no change in their status. In the coming weeks, this unit at the heart of Whitehall can go through these issues very methodically and work out what might need to change in all the different scenarios in order to give these people certainty about their future. It is obviously very important that we do that.
Its prosperity and tax revenue are vital for the whole of the United Kingdom. London voted remain. Does the Prime Minister agree with the Mayor of London—a Labour winner, Sadiq Khan—that London now needs to remain in the European single market, and that it needs additional devolved powers to deal with the problems caused by the vote last week?
I certainly agree with the Mayor of London not only that London is the greatest city on earth but that London needs to make its voice heard in these vital negotiations. Obviously, there are many vital industries in London, but it is the capital not only of the UK’s financial services but of Europe’s financial services, and securing the best possible access to the single market will be a very important challenge in these negotiations. So London should have its voice heard. This is a UK negotiation, but we should listen to the nations of the UK as well as to the cities and the regions.
May I take this opportunity to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for his premiership and for the many achievements of his Government, of which we can be proud? I also commend his condemnation of the vile racist attacks that have been reported from all over the country. Will he take this opportunity to condemn the ridiculous and revolting behaviour of a certain MEP in the European Parliament yesterday and make it clear that that MEP does not represent this country and he does not represent—[Interruption.]
Order. We cannot have people adding their own take on these matters. [Interruption.] Order. The hon. Gentleman has the Floor—[Interruption.] Order. I do not need any help from the Scottish National party Benches; I am perfectly capable of discharging my responsibilities. The hon. Gentleman will be heard, and that is all there is to it.
Let me thank my hon. Friend for his kind remarks and congratulate him on the role he played in the campaign. As for what MEPs and others have said, people should judge them by the remarks they make. I have made clear what I felt about Nigel Farage and that appalling poster in the campaign. I think the motive was absolutely clear and everyone can see what he was trying to do.
Q7. My constituency of Torfaen has received substantial amounts of EU funding. The leave campaign in the referendum promised that that funding would continue even if we left the European Union. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that if my constituency loses a penny piece of its funding under his successor, that would be a gross betrayal? (905455)
It is the case that Wales as whole is a net beneficiary of EU funds. As I said throughout the campaign, if the vote was a no vote, I would want to do everything I could to make sure that we continued to help disadvantaged regions and our farmers. Obviously it is difficult for anyone to give guarantees, because we do not know exactly what will happen to our economy in the event of a leave vote, and our economy does face challenges. It will be a matter for my successor as we leave the EU to make good on what they said at the time.
I am pleased to announce that residents from across Erewash have chosen the Rocking Horse nursery entry as the winning card for my “design a birthday card for the Queen” competition. Will the Prime Minister congratulate the 207 children who entered the competition—[Interruption.]
There are many ways in which Members of Parliament are able to interact at a more human level with our constituents, and getting them to make birthday cards and Christmas cards is an excellent idea. I once got it slightly wrong. Having Brize Norton in my constituency, someone did a Christmas card with Santa letting presents out of the back of a C-17. I thought it was excellent, but some of my constituents felt that Santa was carpet bombing rather than handing out largesse. With that proviso, it sounds a very good idea, and I am sure Her Majesty will be delighted to receive these cards.
Q9. Sheffield city region was set to receive £180 million in European structural funds through to 2020. Much of that money is now at risk. Those leading the leave campaign did give guarantees that no area and no sector would lose out as a result of Brexit. We know that those promises were worthless, but will the Prime Minister join me in urging his successor to ensure that Sheffield city region is compensated by the UK Government for every pound of funding lost as a result of last Thursday’s decision? (905457)
Obviously, as we negotiate our way out of the EU, a whole range of decisions will have to be made. What a future Government must do is make sure that we help our universities, the sciences and disadvantaged parts of the country and continue to support farmers. There is going to be a challenge, but we will be able to judge for ourselves whether we will have more money to do this because we have left the EU or less money because of the impact on the economy. But that is something that we will all be able to judge for ourselves in the years ahead.
Unfortunately, earlier this morning the Supreme Court ruled against a right of return for the Chagos islanders to their homeland. I know that my right hon. Friend will be pleased that I will not be pestering him much more on this issue, but may I suggest that a fine legacy of his premiership would be to allow these British citizens to return to their homeland?
Q10. Grade I listed Rochdale town hall has been described as possessing a “rare picturesque beauty”, but a bid to renovate that iconic building was rejected by the Heritage Lottery Fund in April. All five of the projects that were awarded grants are based in the south of England. Would the Prime Minister consider supporting the renovation of this fantastic municipal building? (905458)
The hon. Gentleman is right. It is a beautiful building, and it is an historic town that he represents. As for what he said about the Heritage Lottery Fund, I think he was being a little unfair in focusing on those last five projects. If he looks more broadly, he will find that, for instance, the Blackpool Museum—I think—received a grant of more than £13 million. I believe that the position is fairly balanced across the country, but I will look into it further, and, perhaps, write to the hon. Gentleman about both the general point and the specific issue of his town hall.
As well as Brits living abroad in the European Union, there are a number of EU nationals living in this country—including my constituency—who are working hard and paying their taxes, entirely legitimately. What reassurance can the Prime Minister give them that their position is secure? I know that a number of them are very concerned.
I think that the first thing we should do is appraise the contribution that those people make to our country. There are 50,000 EU nationals working in our NHS and 60,000 working in our care sector, looking after our elderly as they approach the end of their lives. There are also many working in education.
As I said quite exhaustively on Monday, we can obviously say that all rights are guaranteed, as we are members of the European Union. In the future, we will have to make sure—and I have heard members of the leave campaign make this point—that people who are already here, people who are already studying or working, must have their rights and their access guaranteed. However, we cannot say that now; we will have to say it as part of the negotiation that will shortly take place.
Q12. May I join in the tributes paid to the Prime Minister for all that he has done during his time in office? Does he agree that, whatever the disagreements about the European Union—he was in the remain camp, while my party and I were part of the leave campaign—the Union that really matters is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and preserving it should be of the utmost importance? It works, and it is staying together. What is being done to ensure that that continues during the Prime Minister’s remaining time in office? (905460)
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. I agree with him that keeping the United Kingdom together is an absolutely paramount national interest for our country. Because of the decision that has been made about Europe, there need to be exhaustive conversations between officials in Whitehall and in Northern Ireland, and we need to have very strong relations with the Republic of Ireland, so that we can keep the benefits of the common travel area.
The hon. Gentleman has always supported one blue team, Leicester City. I hope that one day he will support another blue team, but there we are.
Having been members of the single market for more than four decades, many businesses have deeply embedded supply chains and customer relationships throughout the European Union. Does the Prime Minister agree that any future deal with the EU must include access to the single market?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, but, obviously, the term “access to the single market” has many potential meanings. Countries that are outside the EU have access to the single market, some through a trade deal and others through World Trade Organisation rules. Obviously the best access is through membership of the single market. What the country will have to decide—and what the next Prime Minister will have to decide—is what sort of access we want, and what are the costs and benefits of that access. I am sure we will talk about that in a moment when I make my statement on the European Council.
Q13. The Prime Minister will be aware that Terex Trucks in my constituency is consulting its staff and unions this week about the shedding of a sixth of its workforce. The company has approached the UK Government for support from UK Export Finance, but from a £40 billion fund it has received only a guarantee to the value of one of its trucks. Will the Prime Minister commit himself to meeting me to discuss the perilous position of the company and its workforce, and what support his Government can provide? (905461)
I am aware of the recent announcement about the further job losses. This is obviously going to be a difficult time for the workers and their families. I understand that both the Scottish and UK Governments have been working closely together with the company over the past couple of years as part of the partnership action for continuing employment scheme. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is also keeping a close eye on the situation, and I am happy to arrange a meeting between him and the hon. Gentleman to talk about what more can be done.
With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on yesterday’s European Council. This was the first Council since Britain decided to leave the European Union. The decision was accepted and we began constructive discussions about how to ensure a strong relationship between Britain and the countries of the EU, but before the discussion on Britain there were other items on the agenda. Let me briefly touch on them.
On migration, the Council noted the very significant reductions in illegal crossings from Turkey to Greece as a result of the agreement made with Turkey in March, but it expressed continued concern over the central Mediterranean route and a determination to do all we can to combat people smuggling via Libya. Britain continues to play a leading role in Operation Sophia with HMS Enterprise, and I can tell the House today that Royal Fleet Auxiliary Mounts Bay will also be deployed to stop the flow of weapons to terrorists, particularly Daesh, in Libya.
On NATO, Secretary General Stoltenberg gave a presentation ahead of the Warsaw summit and the Council agreed the need for NATO and the EU to work together in a complementary way to strengthen our security.
On completing the single market, there were important commitments on the digital single market, including that EU residents will be able to travel with the digital content they have purchased or subscribed to at home. On the economic situation, the president of the European Central Bank gave a presentation in the light of the outcome of our referendum. Private sector forecasts discussed at the Council included estimates of a reduction in eurozone growth potentially between 0.3% and 0.5% over the next three years. One of the main explanations for that is the predicted slowdown in the UK economy, given our trade with the euro area. President Draghi reassured the Council that the ECB has worked with the Bank of England for many months to prepare for uncertainty and, in the face of continued volatility, our institutions will continue to monitor markets and act as necessary.
To return to the main discussions around Britain leaving the EU, the tone of the meeting was one of sadness and regret, but there was agreement that the decision of the British people should be respected and we had positive discussions about the relationship we want to see between Britain and our European partners and the next steps on leaving the EU, including some of the issues that need to be worked through and the timing for triggering article 50. Let me say a word about each.
We were clear that, while Britain is leaving the European Union, we are not turning our backs on Europe—and they are not turning their backs on us. Many of my counterparts talked warmly about the history and values that our countries share and the huge contribution that Britain has made to peace and progress in Europe. For example, the Estonian Prime Minister described how the Royal Navy helped to secure the independence of his country a century ago. The Czech Prime Minister paid tribute to Britain as a home for Czechs fleeing persecution. Many of the countries of eastern and central Europe expressed the debt they feel to Britain for standing by them when they were suffering under communism and for supporting them as they joined the European Union. President Hollande talked movingly about the visit that he and I will be making later this week to the battlefields of the Somme, where British and French soldiers fought and died together for the freedom of our continent and the defence of the democracy and values that we share.
Therefore, the Council was clear that, as we take forward this agenda of Britain leaving the European Union, we should rightly want to have the closest possible relationship that we can in the future. In my view, that should include the strongest possible relationship in terms of trade, co-operation and of course security, something that only becomes more important in the light of the appalling terrorist attack in Turkey last night.
As I said on Monday, as we work to implement the will of the British people, we also have a fundamental responsibility to bring our country together. We will not tolerate hate crime or any kind of attacks against people in our country because of their ethnic origin, and I reassured European leaders who were concerned about what they had heard was happening in Britain. We are a proud multi-faith, multi-ethnic society and we will stay that way.
I now turn to the next steps on leaving the EU. First, there was a lot of reassurance that, until Britain leaves, we are a full member. That means that we are entitled to all the benefits of membership and full participation until the point at which we leave. Secondly, we discussed some of the issues that will need to be worked through. I explained that in Britain there was great concern about the movement of people and the challenges of controlling immigration, as well as concerns about the issue of sovereignty. Indeed, I explained how those had come together. In turn, many of our European partners were clear that it is impossible to have all the benefits of membership without some of the costs of membership, and that is something that the next Prime Minister and their Cabinet are going to have to work through very carefully.
Third, on the timing of article 50, contrary to some expectations there was not a great clamour for Britain to trigger this straightaway. While there were one or two voices calling for this, the overwhelming view of my fellow leaders was that we need to take some time to get this right. Of course, everyone wants to see a clear blueprint in terms of what Britain thinks is right for its future relationship with the EU, and, as I explained in my statement on Monday, we are starting this work straightaway with the new unit in Whitehall, which will be led by a new permanent secretary, Oliver Robbins.
This unit will examine all the options and possibilities in a neutral way, setting out the costs and benefits so that the next Prime Minister and their Cabinet have all the information they need with which to determine exactly the right approach to take and the right outcome to try and negotiate. But the decisions that follow from this, including the triggering of article 50, are rightly for the next Prime Minister, and the Council clearly understood and, I believe, respected that.
I do not think it is a secret that I have, at times, found discussions in Brussels frustrating, but, despite that, I do believe we can be proud of what we have achieved, whether it is putting a greater focus on jobs and growth, cutting the EU budget in real terms for the first time, reducing the burden of red tape on business, or building common positions on issues of national security, such as sanctions to stop Iran getting a nuclear weapon, standing up to Russian aggression in Ukraine, and galvanising other European countries to help with the lead that Britain was taking in dealing with Ebola in Sierra Leone.
In all these ways, and more, we have shown how much more we have in common with our European partners as neighbours and allies and friends who share fundamental values, history and culture. It is a poignant reminder that while we will be leaving the European Union, we must continue to work together, for the security and prosperity of our people for generations to come. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Prime Minister for providing an advance copy of his statement. As he took part in what I assume will be his last ever EU Council summit, I was very pleased he took a more conciliatory tone in relation to our European neighbours than Nigel Farage did in the European Parliament yesterday.
As we negotiate our exit from the European Union, the British people are relying on the Government to facilitate as positive a transition as possible, and if we are to achieve this, we must proceed in a constructive and decent manner. I look forward to joining the Prime Minister, as I said at Question Time, at the commemoration of the Somme on Friday. He was right, too, to emphasise the role played by Britain in Europe in negotiating agreement with Iran and securing support for action to tackle the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone. So I thank the Prime Minister for that.
Yesterday the Prime Minister said at the EU Council summit that in order to strike a new relationship between Britain and the EU, European leaders would have to offer the UK more control over immigration. The threat of losing access to the single market means we are already seeing a negative effect on investment and business in this country. On Monday, the Prime Minister said access to the single market without accepting free movement was impossible. Does the Prime Minister now believe that Britain can negotiate an unprecedented deal? Can he also spell out a little more clearly than in his statement what further discussions were held in this area? This is an issue on which there needs to be an open debate—dare I say, an open and “straight-talking” debate, that absolutely failed to materialise during much of the referendum campaign.
The Prime Minister stated in the House on Monday that article 50 will not be triggered until his successor is in place. I heard what he just said about the views of other leaders at the summit. When does he expect article 50 actually to be triggered so we will know what the negotiating timetable is?
As I raised in my response to the Prime Minister on Monday, we in this House have a duty to act in the national interest and ensure we get the best agreement for all our constituents. Does the Prime Minister feel that, without the structures in place for this House to debate the alternatives and lead a discussion in our communities, there is a risk of leaving Britain in a state of paralysis at a time when people need clear answers to their concerns? Will he also be able to tell us if there has been any further thought about the role of devolved Governments in future negotiations with the EU? We have seen today the First Minister of Scotland creating her own separate negotiating group and starting talks with the EU and it appears the Chief Minister of Gibraltar is doing the same. What conversations has the Prime Minister had with the First Ministers in Scotland and Wales and what legal advice has he received on separate negotiations by devolved Administrations and, indeed, overseas territories? I welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment that HMS Enterprise will continue to play its part in Operation Sophia.
Last week’s vote to leave the EU means that this country is currently in an unstable position. The next steps we take may be our most important and they must be taken with care. We have a duty now to reshape and rebuild an economy for the future—one that protects social and employment rights and builds new policies on trade, migration, environmental protection and investment, in order to deliver a country in which the prosperity that we create is shared by all. Therefore I urge the Prime Minister, and whoever his successor may be, to recognise that what our economy needs now is a clear plan for investment, not the further austerity and cuts to public services that the Chancellor put forward yesterday. I also urge the Prime Minister and his successor, one more time, to look at the suspension, and preferably the termination, of his now even more counterproductive fiscal rule.
I thank the Prime Minister for his assurances and his condemnation of racist attacks and abuse, wherever they occur in this country. I join him in that. We all need to calm our language and tone, and Members in all parts of the House must condemn the rise of racism in our society. Will he also reiterate absolutely his assurance to European Union nationals who are working here, providing support in our health service and in so many other services, that they are welcome and will remain welcome because of the work they do and the contribution they make? Our country is divided, so we must heal that division. Our economy is fragile, so we must begin to rebuild it. Our duty now is to move forward in a calm and conciliatory manner to build a new relationship with Europe and to build a Britain that works for everyone in every part of this country.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his response and for the way he has gone about it. He is right to say that “constructive” is the correct word. I was pleased that the discussions last night did not have a tone of European Union countries demanding this set of actions while Britain argued for that set of actions. There was a mature and calm understanding that we need each other and that we need this negotiation to proceed well and have a good outcome. That is in all our interests. I think we got off on the right foot, and I will do everything I can—whether in this job or as a Back-Bench MP—to ensure that we keep those strong relationships with our European partners, because we are going to need to.
On the issue of immigration versus the single market, the right hon. Gentleman is right to say that this is the biggest and most difficult issue to deal with, whether we are in the European Union arguing for changes or outside it and trying to secure the best possible access to the single market. My answer to the problem was to bring in the welfare restrictions that I negotiated. It was incredibly tough to negotiate them, and I am sad that they will now fall away as a result of the referendum decision. There is no doubt that the next Government are going to have to work very hard on this. I personally think that access to the single market and the strength of our economy will be the single most important issue that they will have to deal with.
On the question of article 50, that will be a matter for the next Prime Minister, and there is a very good reason for that. Before we go into the tunnel of the article 50 negotiations, which have a two-year time limit, we will want to have made the best possible preparations for the precise blueprint that we want to achieve at the end. That will help Britain, and frankly it will help the other European Union countries to understand what it is that we are shooting for. They have said that there can be no negotiation without notification, but I do not think that that excludes discussions between the new Prime Minister and partners or institutions, so that we can continue to get off on the right foot. That is the strong advice that I would give to them.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about the devolved institutions. I have had conversations with the First Minister of Scotland, the First Minister of Wales and the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, and I shall continue to do so. I want them to be as involved as possible and I want their voices to be heard loud and clear.
The right hon. Gentleman also asked about legal advice, and the legal advice that I have seen is that this is a UK decision to be made by the United Kingdom Government and the United Kingdom Parliament. It has to be done in that way. I completely agree with what he said about racism. We should all reiterate the statements that we have made to the EU nationals who are here. We should thank them for their contribution and say that their rights are guaranteed while we remain in the EU and we will be working hard on that question. I am sure that all the contenders in the Conservative leadership campaign will want to make it clear that they want to safeguard for the future the rights of people from the European Union who work here and study here, but that will be a matter for them.
Finally, the right hon. Gentleman asked about suspending the fiscal rule. This feels a little bit like a stuck record. Whatever the problem or issue, his answer always seems to be: more borrowing, more spending, more taxing and more debt. I have to say that you do not get investment unless you have economic stability, and you do not have economic stability if you do not have a plan for dealing with your debts and your deficit. This has been proved the world over, including in some of his favourite countries such as Venezuela, and I really would argue against going down that route.
My right hon. Friend has quite rightly referred to trade and co-operation with the European Union, and we on the leave side have always argued for that. Will he, however, give us some further advice? He is talking about very precise blueprints and about alternative models. Will he give us an absolute assurance that any such models or blueprints will be exclusively based on the assumption that we are repealing the European Communities Act 1972?
We are leaving the European Union, so surely that must be the case. The reassurance that I can give my hon. Friend is that I am not saying that there are only four or five blueprints and that Britain has to follow any one of those. Obviously, we can try to amend blueprints and have Norway-plus or Norway-minus or a better trade deal than Canada. It is important for colleagues in the House and people in the country to understand that there are some quite fundamental questions about whether we want full unrestricted access to the single market and the price we might have to pay in return, or whether we will be satisfied to have less than full access along with some other compensating advantages. We have to go through all those questions, and the more we can attach facts and figures to them, the more we will enable people to make an informed choice.
Since the Prime Minister returned from Brussels, for the first time in 40 years member states from the rest of the EU have remained there to discuss the future of Europe. While the Prime Minister is not in Brussels, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is in Brussels. She has gone there to protect Scotland’s interests in Europe and to preserve our place in Europe. She has met the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Parliament. She is also meeting one of the key European negotiators on Brexit, the former Prime Minister of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt. The First Minister has also spoken to the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, and will be meeting diplomats from other EU member states. Nicola Sturgeon is doing this with a mandate from the Scottish Parliament, with support from the Labour party, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Green party. An expert group has been established to advise on protecting our place in Europe. It includes eminent diplomats, economists and constitutional experts. These include a former British judge in the European Court of Justice, the former British ambassador to NATO, the former economic adviser to the European Commission and the former permanent under-secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and head of the UK diplomatic service.
We all need to explore ways to protect Scotland’s relationship with the European Union, Scotland’s place in the single market and the social, employment and economic benefits that come from that. I want to ask the Prime Minister whether he even raised the question of Scotland at the Council of Ministers. Did he say that Scotland wanted to stay in the European Union? Did he say that Gibraltar wanted to stay in the European Union? Did he say that London wanted to protect its important position in Europe? When are we going to get some leadership on this from the UK Government? Or is he just going to stand by and watch England leave the European Union and declare independence from the rest of the United Kingdom?
Yes, there is a meeting of the 27 other members of the European Union this morning, and that was always going to happen if we made the decision to leave because, just as we must prepare our negotiating position, they will want to prepare theirs. The good thing about last night’s conversation was that it started off on a very reasonable, fair and constructive basis. I am glad that the First Minister of Scotland is having those meetings. It is always useful to meet and talk to our European counterparts, but at the end of the day, the best way we can secure the best possible access for Scotland into the single market is for the United Kingdom to negotiate as hard as it can, as one.
To answer his specific question about whether I talked about Scotland last night, yes I did; I talked about this Parliament and I talked about Scotland. In managing last night’s meeting, we took a bit of a cue from what happens in this House. I set out what I thought was the result of the referendum and why. I set out what I believe would be the aims of Britain and the United Kingdom and I explained how different parts of the United Kingdom voted. All the other 27 members then spoke, many asking questions, and I answered all their questions at the end of the dinner as fully as I could, as I do in this House. A little bit of British parliamentary practice was introduced into the European Council and I think it was a good way of doing things.
On that subject, did my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister reiterate to the European Council that the United Kingdom does not have a federal structure? We did not vote in the referendum as England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or even London, but as British citizens, each with an equal voice and equal weight. All future decisions must be taken by the United Kingdom Government and no one else.
Such was the importance of free movement of people in the referendum, does the Prime Minister also accept that any future deal with our European partners that includes free movement would be regarded as a betrayal by the millions who voted to leave?
I did emphasise that it was a UK decision, but also that the UK will want to listen carefully to all the constituent nations and to the views of their Ministers and their Parliaments in setting out the negotiation that we want to carry on. As for the free movement of people, that will be for the next Prime Minister, Government and Parliament to decide on. I am in no doubt, however, that it is the difficult issue. Frankly, it is a difficult issue when inside the EU and with all the negotiating ability to try to change things. In many ways it will be even more difficult from outside, if we want full access to the single market, to secure changes. Nevertheless, that is the challenge.
I explained very clearly to the meeting that that was my reading of the referendum result and that it was a coming together of concern about free movement of people and migration combined with a sense of control and sovereignty over that. I said that I was very sad at the result. The economic case for staying in was very strong, but if we want to make this relationship work, whether out or in, we have to listen to people and try to find a way through this.
I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. In his discussions yesterday, was he aware of a growing mood among Heads of Government across the European Union—I certainly saw it among the seven Liberal Prime Ministers to whom I spoke yesterday—that given that three quarters of Britain’s young people voted to remain in Europe, they should be permitted, as far as possible, to remain in Europe? What can be done to ensure that young people are allowed access to Europe—perhaps even over and above the rest of us?
Is the Prime Minister also aware of the great concern among many communities that depend on European funding? Most important perhaps are Britain’s farmers, many of whom are deeply worried about the loss of CAP payments at some point in the next two years. Will the Prime Minister guarantee today that British farmers, particularly livestock and dairy farmers, will continue to receive direct payments to keep them in business even after we leave the European Union—if we do?
On young people, the hon. Gentleman is right that people want the opportunities to work, to travel and to study. One of the things that the EU unit will need to do is to work out the precise nature of agreements such as the Erasmus programme and what access we can have to them from outside the EU.
On funding, the European budget between 2014 and 2020 has been set out, including the amount of money that goes to our farmers. What I can guarantee is that those payments will continue while we are in and that contracts will obviously be honoured, but it will be for a future Government to determine at the point of departure what payments we should continue to make to our farmers. If it was me making that decision, I am keen to have a living, working countryside, but we will have to go through those options and a future Prime Minister will have to decide.
Does the Prime Minister agree with the unanimous view of the Foreign Affairs Committee that the construction of article 50 means that it is perfectly likely that there will be no agreement on the other side of the negotiations, which will require qualified majority voting, or agreement in the European Parliament at the end of the two years? As such, we would still have access to the single market but would be subject to World Trade Organisation most-favoured-nation terms. Since that would mean no free movement of people and no payments into the budget, that would represent a perfectly sound bottom line for the United Kingdom in the negotiations. It is likely that other advances will be made on that before we arrive at a deeper, comprehensive free trade agreement.
Will the Prime Minister also tell us about the fate of the British presidency next year? We will still be a full member, so are we going to take up our responsibilities?
I did look at the Foreign Affairs Committee report, and while I am not fully liberated and able to say what I think, I thought that the conclusions were—[Hon. Members: “Go on!”] I was thinking of a place in London close to Dagenham, but I won’t go there.
If we leave the EU and have no deal in place, the WTO tariffs involve 10% on cars, 12% on clothes and 36% on some dairy produce. It would not be a good outcome for the United Kingdom. I will look at the Foreign Affairs Committee report as we get this unit up and running and look at all the alternatives, but I really think that that would not be a good outcome for the United Kingdom. On the presidency, no decisions have been made.
May I thank the Prime Minister for his service to this country, for his support of Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Executive through very difficult times during his premiership and for his support of the United Kingdom? He and his family have my very best wishes for the future.
Regarding the EU summit, will the Prime Minister spell out again our commitment to NATO, not least to reassure our partners in central and eastern Europe? Our European partners, who are now speaking somewhat ill of our decision last Thursday, should be reminded that the UK is one of NATO’s main contributors and a firm supporter of European defence and security and that they should play a greater role in contributing to European defence, along with the Americans and ourselves. The wider perspective needs to be considered in all of this. The EU is an important single market, but NATO and the defence and security of Europe, not least with regard to Russian aggression, need to be strongly borne in mind.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks. He is right that our commitment to and membership of NATO, an important organisation, continues. He is also right that our spending of 2% of national output is now responsible for a large share of the overall European commitment and that we should be encouraging others to increase their spending. We must ensure that our membership of NATO continues and that we are not disadvantaged by being in one and out of the other.
My right hon. Friend consistently made the case for British car workers. Indeed, he made his final appeal to the country from Birmingham, which was much appreciated. Does he agree that reciprocity between the UK and the EU is absolutely vital in protecting the hundreds and thousands of jobs that depend on our access to that principal market?
I grateful for what my right hon. Friend says. Anyone who thinks that something of a manufacturing renaissance is not happening in Britain should go to that Jaguar Land Rover plant. Seven or eight years ago there were 4,000 people there; there are now 14,000. It is about not just manufacture and assembly, but design, R and D and technology. The company is taking on hundreds of apprentices every year. It is a magnificent car plant and we want to see more of them. It is absolutely crucial for companies such as that that we keep the European market open, and it is crucial that they keep investing in our country rather than in countries inside the European Union. That will always be an alternative, which draws into sharp relief the importance of maintaining strong access to the single market.
There is obviously a difference between future free movement reform and the position of existing residents. The Prime Minister said earlier that we could not confirm residency or employment rights for EU citizens who already live here until the negotiations were under way, but why is that the case? Given that the matter is being exploited by awful “go home” or repatriation campaigns, we should take a firm stance against them and pass some swift motions or legislation or new immigration rules in this House before the summer recess to put an end to that speculation and to provide reassurance to EU citizens who may have worked here for many years. I urge the Prime Minister to consider that because it would be a wise thing to do for the sake of community cohesion.
Obviously, I will look very carefully at what the right hon. Lady says. I have tried to answer the question as accurately, factually and legally as I can. If we come out of this negotiation arguing for visa requirements, restrictions on numbers, quotas, work permits or whatever for European nationals to come here—this will be for a future Government—other countries might take reciprocal action against British citizens trying to travel, work and live in other countries. Even if that were to happen, the answer would be to guarantee the status of anybody here now. We can say that while we are in the European Union, but it is for a future Prime Minister to make that decision.
I readily understand that, on economic issues, negotiations will be long and protracted, but on our automatic co-operation on matters of security, both at formal and informal meetings, we have seen a big improvement in the past few years. I cannot see that that should be much of a weighty negotiating piece. Surely it makes sense to ensure that those formal and informal meetings continue in order to deal with both terrorism and economic crime.
My right hon. Friend puts it very well. There are a number of informal mechanisms that have grown up, including the counter-terrorism group of countries, mostly from the European Union, and very high-level meetings between our intelligence and security services. There are also quite a lot of now growing mechanisms within the EU, such as the Schengen Information System and the watch lists for people travelling between European Union countries, some of which are very much bound up in EU institutions and rules. People may like that or not, but the fact is they exist and we will have to work out—we can start that now—how to maintain access to as much of that as is possible for our national security.
Will the Prime Minister explain to the millions of people who voted to leave why, in the next few months while we await a new Prime Minister, this country, using all the professionalism of Her Majesty’s Government, cannot start talking and negotiating—informally perhaps—with Canada, Australia, Malaysia and all those other countries that will be desperately keen to sign up to a trade agreement? Why can we not do some of those things? If we are still paying our full amount into the European Union, will we have to sign up to every single directive that comes through in the next two years?
On the hon. Lady’s point about Canada, Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia, of course we can start those conversations. It is difficult to start full-on trade negotiations because until we know the relationship between Britain and the European Union single market it would be quite difficult to get into an intensive discussion, but we can certainly have some pathfinding discussions. On the issue of EU directives, we must be very clear that we are members of this organisation and that we pay into this organisation. That continues until the day we leave. Therefore, we have to obey the rules and laws—we would not expect other EU countries suddenly not to obey the rules with respect to us. That is important. On the decisions that have to be made right now, there are those that must be made for legal and practical reasons. There may be some decisions that can be put off for a month or two so that we can get in place a new Government who can think of them in the context of the renegotiation, but we should not do anything that breaks the law.
Although we are naturally focused on our future role in Europe, our friends in the Baltic nations are concerned about their immediate risks across the border—risks related to both military and cyberspace matters. Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that all that can be done to stand by our friends is being done both within NATO and the European Union?
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. Yes, enough is being done. We have the Warsaw summit coming up where we will be playing quite a big role in ensuring that there is a visible military presence in the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. We will be playing our part and the Americans will be playing theirs. It is important that we keep up that reassurance, because, for those states, this is the key thing that Britain brings to help their security.
I was at the passionate pro-EU demonstration outside the House of Lords last night, and I have to report that I did not see the Prime Minister or the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) there. The most popular chant that was repeated over and again was “Eton mess! Eton mess!” Many of the people there were students and young people, and that is because universities have benefited greatly from membership of the European Union. My own university in Bangor reckons that £100 million has come our way over seven years. What can the Prime Minister, his Government and the future Government do to ensure that that funding, or similar funding, is secured?
Obviously I was not there because I was in Brussels at the time. While I am all for having my cake and eating it, I have not yet worked out how to be in two places at the same time. I think that I have said what I can about funding for universities. It is important that we continue to get it through the European Union under the Horizon programme while we are a member. Afterwards, decisions will have to be made, but we will support our universities. The hon. Gentleman and I have to be frank with each other: Wales did not vote to remain in the European Union despite being a net beneficiary. Welsh farming does well out of Europe, and the Welsh steel industry will do far better if we are in rather than out. I take my share of responsibility that we did not win this campaign. Even now we are leaving, we all have to think about how we can make better arguments about how Britain can remain as engaged as possible.
May I thank the Prime Minister not just for his statement today, but for all the work he has done over the past six years to protect UK interests at these European Council meetings? With respect to the meeting yesterday, did he detect any regret on the part of other EU leaders that they did not make more concessions when he sought to renegotiate our terms of membership?
That is a very good question, and one that I am quite keen to answer. The sense in the European Council was that it had bent over backwards to give to a country that already had a special status—out of the euro and out of the Schengen System—things that they found profoundly uncomfortable. Many of those countries really do believe in ever-closer political union however wrong we might think it is here in this country, and they hated saying to Britain, “Right, you are out of this.” That really pained them, but they did it. They particularly disliked having to agree to cut welfare benefits for their own citizens, because that is what they signed up to do. I believe, and will always believe, that it was a good negotiation. It did not solve all of Britain’s problems, and I never said that it did, but it certainly addressed some of the biggest concerns that the British people had. I would like to know whether there is more that could have been done, but the very strong sense that I get is that this issue of full access to the single market and reform of free movement is very, very difficult. We achieved some reforms of free movement, but the idea that there is an enormous change to free movement, particularly from outside the EU, is a very tough call and people have to think that through very carefully before we get into the negotiations.
The referendum was about our membership of the European Union and not about our membership of the single market. Given the very grave damage that is already being done to our economy because of the uncertainty, will the Prime Minister call on all of those in this House who aspire to lead this country to commit themselves to keeping Britain in the single market with full access?
The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point. This is one of the key arguments. When I examine why I have always believed that we are better off in, even though I have wanted to see reform, it has always come down to this: the single market exists, we are in it, and it will go on existing even if we leave it and it has a profound effect on our economic, business, political and national life. I certainly urge my colleagues to aim for the greatest possible access, but, obviously, they will have to think about what the benefits and disbenefits of that route are.
Does the Prime Minister accept that, when negotiating with the EU, we should remember our many strengths? One of the strongest economies, Britain has many competitive advantages that would more than compensate for any tariffs, which the World Trade Organisation will ensure cannot be punitive even if they were imposed. Furthermore, nations around the world, including Australia and New Zealand, are already knocking at our door with regard to trade deals.
Certainly no one is more impressed by the strength of the British economy than I am. It is strong, and it has a lot of advantages and many key industries that are admired the world over. We have to recognise that it will be a hard and difficult negotiation in many ways, because we are negotiating with a bloc of 440 million people, but we should make the most of our strengths. I would avoid tariffs, though. The idea that tariffs can be compensated for in other ways is quite dangerous talk. If we think of the car companies and others that want to come and invest here, they do not want to do that and then pay tariffs as they sell into the European single market, so I think tariffs are, on the whole, to be avoided.
The leave campaign undoubtedly made totally false pledges, which have all been exposed accordingly, but on the issue that has been raised on a number of occasions today, does not some of the responsibility for the result lie with the EU leadership, which showed no flexibility whatsoever over an issue that is certainly important in the area that I have the honour to represent—the issue of free movement of labour? EU law did not come down with the 10 commandments.
For once, I have great sympathy with the hon. Gentleman. That was why I chose to aim at the issue by saying that people could come here and work, but could not get full access to our welfare system for four years. That addressed the concern that his and my constituents have that there should not be something for nothing. The point that we have to understand is that European Union countries see the single market as consisting not only of the free movement of goods, people, services and capital. They see those things bound together, but they also see the single market as including the payments that countries make into the EU to strengthen the weakest members and those that have recently recovered from communism. Of course, one can try to negotiate amendments to these movements—and I did—but one has to think about that mindset as we go into the negotiation.
The Prime Minister will be aware that North Hertfordshire voted to stay in the EU. Many of our businesses rely on the single market, and many of my constituents work in London in insurance, financial services and legal work. Does he agree that part of this negotiation must be about the passporting arrangements that enable these service interests to do so well? I do not know whether that was mentioned at the European Council. May I also thank him for everything he has done?
I thank my hon. and learned Friend for his remarks. The issue of passporting will loom large in the negotiations because financial services are 7% of our economy and two thirds of the jobs are outside London. We are the financial centre for Europe—40% of financial services are in Europe—and we will be strong in that area whatever the outcome, but it is undoubtedly true that the passport does help British firms, and it helps other countries’ firms come to Britain. One of the reasons why the Swiss banks are here in such large measure is that they do not get passporting rights through Switzerland. This should be a very important feature; it is one of the aspects of what access to the single market actually means.
I thank the Prime Minister for all his efforts. Does he fully recognise the very difficult position that Northern Ireland is now in? We voted to stay and we want to stay, yet we are hostage to the mistakes of others who were misled by false promises—unlimited funding for the NHS and lorry loads of money for farmers. Does he recognise that Northern Ireland will need to open up opportunities to protect its interests and maintain a closer relationship with Europe? In particular, has he had time to give any thought to how the settlement of 1998—the Good Friday agreement—is undermined by the dismantling of much of the legislation that hinges on the EU?
Obviously, we will look very closely at the specific questions that the hon. Gentleman raises. That is something that officials in Northern Ireland and in Westminster can start with straightaway. I want us to keep all the benefits that we have had from the common travel area, and I think we will have the closest possible co-operation with the Government of the Republic of Ireland. The Taoiseach last night made a very moving speech about Britain and Ireland. I think he said that we had been fighting each other since 1169. I have not checked my dates—
The hon. Gentleman is nodding, so I think I have got that right. The Taoiseach then went through some of the key elements of the conflict, in which relatives of mine were probably involved, but who knows? He said he was very proud that relations between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland have never been stronger than today, and we must not let that go.
My constituency is home to a number of significant manufacturing and technology businesses, which play a major role in our local economy. What reassurance can the Prime Minister give me that this trade will continue to grow, not least after Warwick’s very strong vote to remain?
I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks. This comes back to the issue of manufacturing and access to the single market, and that needs to loom very large in the negotiation. Nothing changes for probably the next two years at least while the negotiation carries on, but we need to make sure, as we come out of the end of the article 50 process, that we have that access properly set out so that our manufacturers know what they are doing.
May I thank the Prime Minister for his strong condemnation of the racist attacks on members of the Polish community and others, and may I pay tribute to him for the respect and commitment that he has shown to Britain’s ethnic minority community over the past six years, and for creating the most diverse Administration of any Conservative Prime Minister in history? In respect of the summit yesterday, was there a discussion of the comments made by the Mayor of Calais or the French Economy Minister that the juxtaposed borders should be taken out of France and returned to the United Kingdom? Does he agree that that deal was made between Britain and France and has nothing to do with the referendum?
First, let me thank the right hon. Gentleman for his comments about my support for Britain’s ethnic minorities and the diversity that we see on the Government Benches. That has been a very important change in our politics and one that I hope will continue. We did not discuss last night the juxtaposed border control issue or the remarks of the Mayor of Calais. My view is that this is a treaty between Britain and France. We certainly want to keep it, and we hope that the French do too, but I do not resile from anything I said in the referendum campaign about the risks that there are. We need to redouble our efforts to try to make sure that the borders remain where they are.
I would not put it like that. The point that I have always made is that I think we should have a sense of what the net migration should be. In a modern advanced world and a modern advanced country such as Britain, often well over 100,000—many hundreds of thousands—British people and EU nationals here move to Europe and elsewhere, and European nationals come here. Measuring the net number, which is obviously imprecise and difficult, because people leave Britain for all sorts of reasons, is a good way of measuring the pressure on public services. As recently as 2008, the number of people leaving the UK and the number arriving from Europe was a little bit negative. That is why I have always focused on the net migration issue, but the overall numbers should be measured at quite a large level, because the gross movements can be much bigger than the net figure at the end.
Does the Prime Minister recognise that whoever becomes the next Prime Minister will have no mandate to negotiate on behalf of the people of this country, not least because the leave campaign failed to set out any serious plan for what Brexit looks like in practice, and so the fairest, clearest thing to do would be to go for an early general election?
I would argue that we are a parliamentary democracy, so the new Prime Minister and the Cabinet should draw up their negotiating mandate based on the work that is going to be done over the next few weeks and months to set out all the alternatives, and then they will have to bring it here, explain it and defend it in this House. That seems to me the right way forward.
The formal negotiation will start when article 50 is triggered, but does the Prime Minister agree that our first piece of negotiating leverage is when we decide to trigger article 50, and that there is no reason—legal or moral—for us to do that until we are ready and we have sight, month by month, of what will happen in the 24 months after it has been triggered?
My hon. Friend is right that when to trigger article 50 is a British decision. It is important to recognise that our European partners have concerns, too. The economic problems that we are currently suffering and may have more of are also affecting them. The Dutch Prime Minister said to me last night that he thought that his growth rate would be materially affected by the position in Britain and the uncertainty. Given that negotiations are, yes, hard work and hard graft, but they also rely on a certain amount of goodwill, we do not want to put too much of that goodwill at risk by how we proceed.
With the pound going down 10% against the dollar, with our future trading position completely unknown, with the unity of the UK under threat and with appalling racist attacks happening on our streets, does the Prime Minister agree that, as a response to the referendum, the setting up of a unit in the Cabinet Office under the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr Letwin) is simply not up to the task? This is, after all, the greatest change in Britain’s position in the world since the end of the second world war.
First, let me agree with the right hon. Gentleman on the issue of racist attacks. We need to take urgent action, and I announced that at the Dispatch Box today during Prime Minister’s questions. In terms of the steps we need to take, there is, I believe, a limited amount that can be done before a new Prime Minister and a new Cabinet arrive, but we should not belittle that, because a lot of this is cold, hard facts about what the different alternatives are, and what the different costs and benefits are. There is a world of difference between a referendum campaign in which the leave side offered all sorts of things that went with the hypothetical new status and the real facts now of what those things look like. That is something that we need to see, and I think that the mechanisms that we are putting in place will help that to happen.
The Prime Minister says that we are entitled to all the benefits of EU membership until the point at which we leave. May I clarify whether there has been any discussion about access to funding such as regional selective assistance, which has created and safeguarded 10,000 jobs and been worth £83 million to Glasgow since 2010? In addition, the long-term conditions of loans issued under the European Investment Bank, which were also worth significant amounts of money, require some clarification for the local authorities that were involved in them.
Any contracts entered into before Britain leaves the EU should be honoured in full in terms of EU funding for research or for regions of our country. The status we have with respect to the EIB will have to be determined as part of the negotiation. Again, that is the sort of technical issue that a Whitehall unit can look at now to find out what the options are so that we can discuss them in this House.
Vote Leave is so confident of delivering its overblown promises that it has recently wiped much of its website and removed from it the key claims that it made during the campaign. I disagreed with many of the claims that were made, but does the Prime Minister agree that the public will never forgive Vote Leave politicians who form part of the new Government if they break those pledges? There will be no hiding place from being held to account on those overblown promises in the next Government.
One thing we all experience and share in this House is that when we make commitments and promises, we are held to account for them, in this House and at these Dispatch Boxes, in a way that is probably more direct and often more brutal than in other democracies. Long may that remain the case.
The renegotiations will clearly be difficult and will take some time. One area in which we must take more action now is improving the jobs, skills and infrastructure in our market towns and coastal areas, where many people feel that they have not seen the benefits of growth. May I ask the Prime Minister to work with local council leaders to make sure that the devolution deals being struck across the country deliver for those areas, not just our great metropolitan cities?
The hon. Lady makes an important point. Not only do pledges such as our 3 million apprentices help to address the issue of immigration, because they mean training our own people to do the jobs that our economy is creating, but they offer hope and help to our regional economies—not just, as she says, to the city economies. We should continue with all the devolution deals. They are popular with local authority leaders and they have real teeth, and we will carry on that work.
Northern Ireland, as has already been stated, voted to remain in the European Union. My constituency, being a border constituency that contains part of Carlingford lough—one bit of it is in Northern Ireland and the other bit is in southern Ireland—and Warrenpoint port, depends on free access to goods and services and the essential access to markets, as 46% of what is exported and imported comes from the south of Ireland. Our economy depends on membership of the European Union. How can that be guaranteed?
The vote in Northern Ireland was very strong, not least in respect of the fact that the party of the First Minister wanted to leave the European Union. It was a very strong statement. I would argue that all the constituent parts of the United Kingdom need to make their voices heard. The process over the next few months of drawing up the different blueprints is an important opportunity to influence the debate in this country and in Europe about what the outcome should be. The example that the hon. Lady gives of cross-border trade in Northern Ireland is a very good one with which to inform the debate.
British troops are on the Polish-Ukraine border taking part in the largest military exercise since the end of the cold war. The Prime Minister has committed 1,000 British personnel to participate in NATO’s very high readiness force in the event of any Russian aggression, and the ceasefire in Ukraine is on the brink of collapse. May I encourage him to use his final appearance as a NATO Prime Minister on 8 and 9 July at the Warsaw summit to urge all our European colleagues to continue to press sanctions against Putin’s Russia, and not to give in to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right. We have done a lot to reassure our Polish and Baltic friends and allies; that is why the troops are taking part in this exercise. We are taking a leading role in this NATO conference. We are going to make sure that we provide visible troops. Ours will be stationed in Estonia, and I think that America and other countries are going to be in the other Baltic states so that when people look over these borders, they see not just Estonian troops or Latvian troops, but American troops, British troops or French troops. I think that that is absolutely right.
Several weeks ago, in the lead-up to the EU referendum, I asked for a personal commitment from the Prime Minister to the Tay cities deal for the city of Dundee and the surrounding areas, and he gave that full commitment. Since the EU referendum, we have heard comments from the Secretary of State for Scotland to the effect that that may be in doubt because of new Tory leadership in the near future. Can the Prime Minister reassure the people of Dundee and the surrounding areas that this city deal will be delivered in terms of funding, regardless of who is Prime Minister now or in the near future?
I cannot bind the hands of my successor, but I will say to any of the candidates that the city deals have been a great success throughout the United Kingdom. It has been quite a marked thing that even though Scotland now has a powerhouse Parliament, city deals have been popular and successful where they are being tried in Scotland. I will certainly make that clear.
Relying on the WTO or a Canadian-style free trade agreement clearly would not be the best possible deal for our country. I think it is pretty irresponsible of some of the leading leave campaigners to have suggested during the campaign that that was somehow a good alternative to our membership of the EU. Is it not also clear, from what European leaders said both in February and yesterday, that if the Prime Minister’s successor prioritises stopping free movement in the light of the referendum, we will not have the same unfettered access to the single market? The parameters of the choice are actually pretty clear.
The hon. Lady makes a strong point, and I can add to it. Although yesterday’s meeting was relatively successful, it is worth pointing out that the Canada free trade deal is not yet agreed. There are countries in the EU that are getting very nervous about free trade deals—I happen to think that they are wrong, but that is worth bearing in mind. On what she says about access to the single market, if that is the most important thing, there are trade-offs that we have to consider. That is certainly the way I see this negotiation.
Denmark voted in a referendum to reject the Maastricht treaty. A year later, the country voted in a second referendum to accept it, in the fine European tradition of keeping on voting until there is the right result. We know that many millions of people in this country felt deceived by the exaggerations and lies in both campaigns. They now feel cheated by the result, and millions of people are protesting. Is it not right that we look again at the possibility of a second referendum, in the certainty that second thoughts are always superior to first thoughts?
I think we have to accept the result, and I am certainly not planning a second referendum. What we have to focus on now is getting the closest possible relationship between Britain and Europe. We can start the work in shaping that debate; the exchanges that we are having now are very constructive, and we can start that debate right now.