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House of Commons Hansard
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Commons Chamber
11 July 2016
Volume 613

House of Commons

Monday 11 July 2016

The House met at half-past Two o’clock

Prayers

[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

Work and Pensions

The Secretary of State was asked—

Disadvantaged Families and Children: Life Chances

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1. What steps his Department is taking to improve the life chances of the most disadvantaged children and families. [905748]

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11. What steps his Department is taking to improve the life chances of the most disadvantaged children and families. [905760]

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20. What steps his Department is taking to improve the life chances of the most disadvantaged children and families. [905769]

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The Government are committed to tackling disadvantage and extending opportunity so that everyone has the chance to realise their full potential. Our life chances approach will focus on tackling the root causes of poverty, such as worklessness, educational attainment and family stability.

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While I welcome my right hon. Friend’s recognition that strong and stable families make an enormous impact on children’s life chances, will he spell out to the House precisely what his Department is doing to ensure that those relationships are fostered and strengthened, particularly in a coastal town such as Southend?

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My hon. Friend is exactly right: family stability is a really important part of our mission to tackle entrenched disadvantage. That is why we have doubled funding for relationship support to £70 million and are significantly expanding support for parents. In addition, through our local family offer, we are working with 12 local authorities, including his own in Essex, to learn how best to strengthen the support they offer to families.

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As my right hon. Friend might know, there is a 12-year difference in life expectancy between one side of my city of Plymouth and the other. What advice would he give to improve chances and life expectancy in Plymouth?

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My hon. Friend is right that such inequality is unacceptable in Britain today, and that is why our life chances approach includes a set of statutory and non-statutory indicators that will drive action to tackle the wide range of complex and deep-rooted factors that can trap people in poverty, damaging their health and preventing them from making the most of their lives.

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I would like to thank the Prime Minister for his amazing work on the life chances strategy. I hope that every Member, on both sides of the House, will continue to pursue this aim.

The troubled families programme has been a huge success, but does the Secretary of State agree that it could more positively be labelled the “supported families” initiative?

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I agree very much with my hon. Friend’s point about the leadership role that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has played—it has been critical in driving this agenda forward—and I am delighted that the future Prime Minister also shares his commitment. My hon. Friend is also right about the troubled families programme. It is important that we stay positive about the changes and that we do not stigmatise any particular communities, families or households.

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The Secretary of State has mentioned support for working parents several times, but those hit hardest by the Government’s cuts to in-work support for parents are single parents—those who least deserve it—so, on this issue and that of helping single parents, will he think again?

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I share the hon. Lady’s passion for helping single parents. The current statistics all demonstrate and underline that when lone parents are supported back into work, they can achieve remarkable things in bringing children in those households out of poverty. The trends are moving in the right direction. She should welcome initiatives such as universal credit and our support for childcare costs.

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Does the Secretary of State agree that efforts to improve the life chances of disadvantaged children and families will be undermined by neglecting the importance of current income levels?

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I have always been very clear that income levels are important—a regular income is vital for families in difficult circumstances—but it is important that we look beyond that and, for the first time as a nation, start to tackle the underlying root causes of entrenched poverty.

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Last year, child poverty increased by 200,000 as a direct result of the Government’s tax and social security policies, with two thirds of these children living in working households, and it is estimated that by 2020 more than 3.6 million children will be living in poverty. There is overwhelming evidence that child poverty has a direct and negative impact on children’s social, emotional and cognitive outcomes and ultimately on their life expectancy. Given the catastrophic consequences of Government policy implemented on scant evidence, will the Secretary of State do the right thing and repeal the damaging effects of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016, which threaten the life chances of these children?

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I welcome the hon. Lady to her new position on the Front Bench. Given her work in the Select Committee, I am sure she will do an excellent job in the shadow role.

The 200,000 figure that the hon. Lady mentioned exactly points to what was wrong with the previous relative income approach, which her previous Government took to tackling poverty. When real wages grow, poverty rates increase, despite people’s incomes not falling. It is much more important to tackle the underlying causes of poverty—worklessness, educational failure, family stability, problem debt and addictions.

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My right hon. Friend will know that Norwich is challenged by social mobility as per the social mobility index of earlier this year. Does he agree with me that it takes all parts of the community to come together to address these kind of problems, including the private sector and the third sector, and that constituency MPs can also play a key role in leading these things?

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I agree absolutely with my hon. Friend. The work she has championed in Norwich is a good example of local action, showing where local MPs can indeed be the champions. Much as we might want to talk about national levels of poverty and social mobility, it is much more important to understand what is going on at a local level and to drive local action with effective partnerships.

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Many disadvantaged families have an older disabled relative, including 2,000 in my constituency who receive attendance allowance. The Government have said that they will scrap attendance allowance and pass funding to councils. When are the Government going to consult formally on those plans?

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The Government have not said that they are going to scrap attendance allowance. We are looking at options for devolving it to the local authority level, but we have been absolutely clear that this does not mean a cut to supporting attendance allowance. It is about looking at more effective ways of delivering it at the local level to achieve what it is intended to achieve.

UK Pensioners Abroad

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2. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of the UK leaving the EU on British pensioners living overseas. [905749]

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There will be no immediate changes, as a result of the referendum, in the circumstances of British pensioners. Negotiations for Britain’s future relationship with Europe will begin under the new Prime Minister.

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What discussions has the Minister had with European countries about the exchange rate and its effect on pensioners abroad?

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As I say, the negotiations proper will begin when we have a new Prime Minister. In the meantime, we have a European unit that has been set up in the Cabinet Office, and it will report to the new Cabinet in due course.

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But would it not make sense for the Department for Work and Pensions to do some investigative work now, when there are thousands if not millions of British pensioners living elsewhere in the European Union? Those people currently have free access, for example, to the NHS in their local areas without contributing, but they might suddenly find their finances to be in dire jeopardy and wish to return to this country. Should not the DWP act immediately? Let me gently suggest to the Minister that just waiting as if the new Prime Minister is going to be some way away might be a bit of a mistake?

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I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are working closely with the new European unit set up in the Cabinet Office, to which I referred in my previous answer.

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This is about doing what is right. We are talking about British pensioners living overseas who have paid national insurance. Why not remove that uncertainty? Why not guarantee what they are entitled to? It is all about doing the right thing with a new Prime Minister. Let us get off on the right foot and make sure that happens..

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The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, but we need to have the new Prime Minister in place before those negotiations can start proper.

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Is the Minister not aware that the role of pensioners is a very sophisticated and complex one? Many of them depend for support on free access for their relatives in this country and on freedom to travel, as do young people going to places such as Spain to work. Has the Minister not already looked at this in some detail?

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As I said, the result of the referendum came only some few days ago, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that detailed conversations are going on in the Cabinet unit. Let me provide him with the further assurance that Britain still remains a member of the EU. I want to reassure British people living in EU countries and those EU citizens who are living in the UK that there will be no immediate changes in their circumstances.

Workplace Pensions: Automatic Enrolment

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3. What progress his Department has made on auto-enrolling people into workplace pensions. [905750]

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Automatic enrolment has been a great success with nearly 6.3 million people automatically enrolled into a workplace pension by almost 143,000 employers. We will continue with our programme to get many more people enrolled.

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Auto-enrolment has met or exceeded all initial targets. However, to maximise pensions in the long term, we need to bear down on charges. Two years ago, the Government put in place a cap of 0.75%, which is half that permitted by the Opposition when they had one for stakeholders. The Government said they would review the level of the cap, with a view to it being lower in future. Will the Minister update us on the status of that review?

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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this very important issue. I can give him an assurance that, in 2017, we will review whether the level of the charge cap should change, and whether to include some or all transaction costs in the cap.

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The Minister will know that in September last year, in evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee, the Economic Secretary said that if there was not transparency and comparability in fees, the Government would legislate. Does he think there has been transparency? If not, when will he legislate?

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The hon. Gentleman raises a good point. We are committed to transparency and openness, and, when opportunity allows, to putting them into place in legislation.

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I congratulate the Minister on the successful roll-out of auto-enrolment. What more could be done to help the self-employed to engage in the process?

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We are working very closely with the Pensions Regulator to ensure the whole programme of auto-enrolment is easily understood, in particular for self-employed people and those who have one or two employees, so that the rules are in very clear easy-to-use language on the website and in offline literature and any other offline facilities.

State Pension Age: Transitional Protection for Women

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4. If he will make it his policy to introduce transitional protection for women adversely affected by the acceleration of increases in the state pension age. [905752]

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9. If he will make it his policy to introduce transitional protection for women adversely affected by the acceleration of increases in the state pension age. [905758]

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Transitional arrangements are already in place. We committed over £1 billion to lessen the impact of the changes for those worst affected, so that no one will see their pension age change by more than 18 months compared with the previous timetable. We have no plans for further changes.

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My constituent who turned 60 this year has not received any information about the changes. She was the primary carer of her children and now cannot work because of disability. but now looks forward to having to work another six years. The Minister has been presented with many proposals, including transitional arrangements. When will the Government give these women the justice they deserve?

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The hon. Lady refers to notice. At the time of the Pensions Act 2011, more than 5 million affected people did receive notification. That was done using the addresses Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs then had. As far as the proposals are concerned, they all, regrettably, cost a huge amount of money. We therefore have no plans to go down that route.

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In reality, it is the 1950s-born women who are bearing the cost. My constituent is 62-years-old and is about to be made redundant in July. She suffers with diabetes, a heart condition and COPD. She tells me that, owing to limited childcare, she worked part-time when her family were young and could not contribute to her pension. She is now very anxious that she will never be able to secure another job, and will not receive her state pension until she is 66. She has a large black hole now in her life. How does the Minister advise her on facing that bleak future?

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I assure the hon. Lady that, under the coalition Government and the present Government, we have record levels of employment for women, including older women. That is something to bear in mind. We are working extensively with employers to ensure they appreciate the value of older workers, which they do. That is why we have record levels of employment, particularly for women.

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I suspect that most hon. Members have been acquainted with difficult cases like the one mentioned by the hon. Lady. Will my hon. Friend the Minister keep an open mind on pension credit arrangements for these people? They are, after all, means-tested and could deal with the worst hardship cases.

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We do have particular criteria and where people fit that criteria, they will of course qualify for whatever benefit it is they are seeking guidance on.

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Two thousand women in Dudley North worked hard to save and plan for their retirement, but have been affected by the changes. Will the Minister meet me, my constituent Hilary Henderson and the other women from Dudley North to discuss the changes in detail? If not, why not?

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I recently met the leaders of the Women Against State Pension Inequality campaign, and I have met many members of the campaign in my constituency, so I am very well aware of all the details and facts. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there have also been a huge number of debates about the subject in the Chamber in recent weeks.

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Given the imminent takeover by the new Prime Minister, who herself falls into the category of women affected by the pension changes, would this not be the ideal moment to look again at the various proposals that have been advanced for much fairer transitional arrangements—such as the one from Mariana Robinson of Wales—for all the women who do not have a prime ministerial salary to fall back on?

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I remind the House that in 2012 the DWP conducted a survey and found that only 6% of women who were due to retire within the next 10 years were unaware of an increase in the pension age. As I said earlier, the Government have no plans to review the matter.

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A little over a week ago, thousands of women from across the United Kingdom came to Parliament in a display of solidarity that reminded me very much of the Dagenham women some decades earlier. Is not the Secretary of State’s refusal to revisit the financial issues faced by the 2.6 million women whose pension ages have been increased without adequate notice a slap in the face for those women? Given that the former Pensions Minister admitted that the coalition Government had got it wrong, why is the Under-Secretary being so unreasonable?

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I find it deeply regrettable that Opposition parties seek to make capital at the Dispatch Box, and indeed from the Back Benches, when they do not have a solid proposal. They cannot provide a proper, credible solution that will ensure that the financial position of the country is taken into account. I might add that if the Opposition parties are so keen on this issue, they should bear in mind that although the Pensions Act came into being in 2011, the issue was not raised in any of their manifestos.

Policy Implications of Leaving the EU

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5. What assessment he has made of the potential policy implications for his Department of the UK leaving the EU. [905753]

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12. What assessment he has made of the potential policy implications for his Department of the UK leaving the EU. [905761]

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21. What assessment he has made of the potential policy implications for his Department of the UK leaving the EU. [905770]

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22. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of the outcome of the EU referendum on welfare spending. [905771]

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The British people have voted to leave the European Union, and the referendum decision must be respected and delivered. My Department is working closely with the EU unit that has been set up in the Cabinet Office, and we will be working with the next Prime Minister and the rest of the Cabinet as we forge a new path for the country.

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The European Union has provided a number of legal protections involving equality and human rights for disabled people. Given the delay in the publication of the Green Paper on the Work and Health programme, what plans has the Department to protect those rights following Brexit?

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No one with a disability or a long-term health condition should have any fear whatsoever about what will happen in the coming months and years as we negotiate Britain’s exit from the European Union. We are absolutely committed to protecting rights for disabled people in this country, and the Green Paper, which we will publish in the autumn, will outline our proposals for reforming systems in order to give better support to people with disabilities and long-term health conditions.

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Last week the Under-Secretary of State for disabled people confirmed that the Green Paper and the long-promised Work and Health programme for disabled people remained a priority for the Government. In the light of the current uncertainty, will the Secretary of State give us an assurance and a clear commitment that sufficient funds for that support are ring-fenced and the programme is guaranteed?

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The money has already been announced by the Chancellor on successive occasions, and it is there, waiting to be used. When the hon. Lady reads the Green Paper, which we hope to publish later this year, she will see how we will use it to develop longer-term reform options to provide better support for people with disabilities and close the disability employment gap. I think there is cross-party support for that in the House.

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Cuts in support for people who have been placed in the employment and support allowance work-related activity group from April 2017 will leave many sick and disabled people in the dark, and potentially without the protections provided by the European Union. Will the Secretary of State, unlike the Brexiteers, give us some assurance that the Government actually have a plan for the Green Paper to give back, so that those who are affected by these changes are accurately assessed and are recognised and valued by the state?

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I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman about the need to recognise and protect people with these health conditions, and we are absolutely committed to doing that. I do not want to repeat the answer that I gave earlier, but we have money set aside, and we will publish the Green Paper later this year. It will set out clear reform options which I hope will command support from Members on both sides of the House, and also from disability organisations.

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Michelle Thomson—not here.

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Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the most important policy developments is the fact that, once we have left the EU, decisions by his Department relating to eligibility for benefits will no longer be at risk of being overturned by the European Court of Justice?

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My hon. Friend is absolutely right: there will be that freedom in the future, but there are more options we can develop right now, even while we are still in the EU, for further ensuring that we have a fair benefits system that does not act as an unnatural draw for more migrants. We want people to come here, work and bring their talents, but we do not want the benefits system inflating those migration numbers.

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The impact of uncertainty on the economy following the Brexit vote is already being felt and ultimately will affect jobs, tax revenues and public spending. Before the referendum, the Government predicted that 500,000 jobs might be at risk, so what is the Secretary of State doing to protect these jobs and what is his estimate of the impact on social security spending?

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It is important that none of us talks up the risks and dangers to the economy. We need to be clear-sighted about the risks and challenges, but we should not be doing anything at the moment to talk down the British economy. The truth is that our economy is fundamentally strong: we have record numbers of people in work and, as we have seen from the announcement by Boeing today, continued investment in creating new jobs in our economy.

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The lack of planning by this Government post-Brexit is complacency verging on neglect. The FTSE 250 has already lost 10% of its value since the referendum outcome and that will impact on pension funds. Given that 5,000 of the 6,000 defined benefit pension schemes are currently in deficit and that the pensions regulator has raised concerns of additional risks to these schemes following the Brexit decision, what is the Secretary of State doing to protect the pensions of the millions of people who will be affected?

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Nothing fundamentally has changed since the outcome of the referendum: the economy continues to perform well and, as I said, we need to be careful that we do not do our bit in talking down the economy at the moment. I agree with the hon. Lady that there is a very real systemic issue with DB pension schemes that we need to look at, and my Department will be discussing it further in the months ahead.

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One thing that we do know has happened is the fall in the pound. That has resulted in making our exports much cheaper and imports more expensive. Employers have already said that that will lead to more business and jobs. Does the Minister agree that that would be helpful to him in reducing the number of unemployed?

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The truth is that right in front of us now, since the outcome of the referendum, we have a mixture of opportunities and challenges. It is incumbent upon us to turn those challenges into opportunities, and we are determined as a Government to do so. If the Opposition want to do their bit, they can stand up and not talk down the British economy at this time.

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Already during this Parliament the Government’s austerity cuts have taken more than £12 billion out of the pockets of low-income households, mostly through changes initiated by the DWP. With many economists predicting a further recession as a consequence of Brexit, and the pound now less stable than Bitcoin, will the Secretary of State assure me that he will not allow those on low and middle incomes to bear the brunt of further economic downturn?

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On previous occasions I have set out the broad approach I take to welfare reform. With regard to issues in Scotland, with which I know the hon. Lady is primarily concerned, she should be aware that I had a very constructive meeting last week with her colleague Angela Constance, the welfare Minister in the Scottish Parliament. We remain absolutely committed to giving the Scottish Government the new welfare powers agreed to in the Scotland Act 2016.

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In the past week, for the fourth year in a row, the Infrastructure and Projects Authority has given the roll-out of personal independence payments an “amber/red” rating, indicating that

“successful delivery of the project/programme is in doubt with major risks apparent in a number of key areas”

and adding that “urgent action” is needed to address the problems. What is the Secretary of State going to do to fix these problems, and how does he intend to protect his Department’s projects from the impending doom of a Cabinet full of Brexiteers?

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Any big project, whether it is the introduction of universal credit or the roll-out of PIP, carries substantial risks, and I think the IPA report recognised that fact. In the past four months, since I have been in the Department, I have been committed to driving through improvements to the PIP process. PIP still commands broad support across disability organisations, which recognise that it is a much better benefit than the old-style disability living allowance.

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On the one hand, Lush cosmetics has just announced that it is going to move most of its production overseas, because it says that its workers do not feel welcome here, while on the other hand there are those in the food and farming sector, 38% of whose workforce comes from overseas, who are saying that they could go out of business because they will not be able to find people to employ. What is the Department doing to protect jobs in the south-west in the wake of the Brexit vote?

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The Department has clear plans in place for any significant increase in unemployment, whether in a particular local region or right across the UK. We have contingency plans for dealing with up-ticks in unemployment. However, we need to be really careful that we do not exaggerate the bad news that the hon. Lady might think is out there. There are opportunities for this country in terms of trade deals and of securing new investment, such as the investment from Boeing that was announced today. There are also serious risks and challenges, and we need to be clear-sighted and prepared for those.

Workless Households

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6. What progress his Department is making on reducing the number of workless households. [905754]

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The number of workless households is now the lowest on record. Since 2010, it has fallen by more than 750,000.

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In Rhyl and district, the number of people requiring support through the Work programme for the long-term unemployed has dropped from 400 to 150 over the past 18 months. That is good news, but jobseeker’s allowance and employment and support allowance claimant rates in parts of Rhyl remain concerning, and the Work programme delivery company has recently closed its principal office in the town. Can the Minister assure me that the new Work and Health programme will take particular account of individuals who are less receptive to intervention and who need more intensive input?

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I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. The new Work and Health programme is being designed precisely to help those people who face multiple and complex barriers to getting into work. Beyond that, our upcoming Green Paper will look at the additional ways in which we can reduce the disability employment gap in the longer term. Of course, GPs play a key role in supporting those people, and I look forward to meeting my hon. Friend and his GP colleagues to discuss these important issues further.

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Given that the Work programmes have been cut by 87% and that the Secretary of State now knows who the next Prime Minister will be, will he confirm today that he will lobby her to increase the funding for the system that the Green Paper will produce? Will he also confirm the timetable for its roll-out?

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I am pleased to be able to tell the hon. Gentleman that the next Prime Minister of this country absolutely shares my passion and commitment to a one nation vision of our society, to breaking down barriers and disadvantage and to ending inequalities. We await the specific decisions that the new Prime Minister will take on the important issues we are discussing today.

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Building on the point about the significantly reduced amount of funding available for the Work and Health programme, what assurances will the Secretary of State be able to give us if, in the light of Brexit, we see a significant increase in the number of people looking for work generally? How on earth will a reduced programme be able to serve everybody?

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The important point to make to my hon. Friend is that the Work and Health programme is just one part of a wider package of initiatives that we are taking forward to close the disability employment gap and to provide better support for people with long-term health conditions. I shall not repeat what I said in response to earlier questions, but the Green Paper that we are publishing later this year will outline the full range of reform options that we are interested in taking forward.

Child Poverty

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7. What assessment his Department has made of the effect of recent changes to benefits on the number of children living in poverty.

[905755]

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We know that work is the best route out of poverty. The number of people in work is at a record high and the number of children living in a household where no one works has fallen by 450,000 since 2010.

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My constituency has the third highest level of child poverty in the country, and 13,600 families currently receive tax credits, leaving them vulnerable to the Government’s cuts to universal credit. In his aborted bid for the Tory leadership, the Secretary of State said that he had a

“strong grasp of…the social and economic divisions in our country”.

If that is true, does he agree that cuts to universal credit will only compound the social and economic divisions in our country? Will he now commit to reversing those changes so that our children do not have to pay the price of his Government’s political choices?

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I absolutely stand by what I said. There was a massive expansion of tax credits under the previous Labour Government, but it did not do a single thing to tackle the underlying causes of poverty. Universal credit is just one part of what we are doing. There is the national living wage, which the Labour party used to support at one time, and the increase in personal allowances. We are in the business of transforming the landscape for people on low incomes. That is why the figures are moving in the right direction.

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Whatever the recent changes to benefits, they do not seem to have dealt with the big issue of personal independence payments—PIP. I recently had to deal with a horrendous case in which an individual in my constituency should have received PIP, but did not and had to go through the appeal process. I wrote to the Minister and the Government just ignored it. What are the Government doing to ensure that people who should be in receipt of PIP get it early and are not left to wallow while waiting for a long time, as they have been recently?

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Disabled People or I will be happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss that specific case. As for the broader principles behind the question, we are improving the PIP process, speeding up applications, decisions and appeals. If the hon. Gentleman has specific concerns, I would be happy to meet him to discuss them further.

Disability Employment Gap

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8. What steps he is taking to support people with disabilities and health conditions who are looking for work. [905757]

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15. What steps he is taking to support people with disabilities and health conditions who are looking for work. [905764]

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16. What steps he is taking to support people with disabilities and health conditions who are looking for work. [905765]

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This Government are committed to halving the disability employment gap. In the spending review we announced a real-terms spending increase on supporting disabled people into work. In the past two years, 365,000 disabled people have entered employment. Our forthcoming Green Paper will set out our plans to support more disabled people into work.

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Over 99% of vat-registered enterprises in my constituency are small and medium-sized enterprises. Will my hon. Friend update the House on what he is doing to help smaller businesses get the support they need to recruit people with disabilities and health conditions?

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As someone who owned a small business for 10 years, I absolutely understand that point. We currently have three successful pilots, concentrating on a small employer offer and matching up those with a disability to the 45% of jobs that are available through SMEs.

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Britain has an astonishing 30% gap between disabled and non-disabled people in work. What steps are being taken to ensure that disabled people are afforded the same professional opportunities as those without disabilities?

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The Government are committed to halving the disability employment gap. We are ensuring that disabled people have the skills and confidence to enter work through a named coach in universal credit and we are upskilling our Jobcentre Plus staff and our employment support programmes. We also recognise that we need to create opportunities, so we are working with businesses through the Access to Work programme, the Disability Confident campaign, the small employer offer, and our reverse jobs fairs.

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I recently attended a celebration at Petroc college in North Devon to thank employers and congratulate the students who took part in the successful supported internship programme, which provides valuable work experience for young people with additional needs. Will the Minister join me in congratulating everyone concerned? Does he agree that such schemes play an important part in the Government’s policy of bringing people with disabilities closer to employment?

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I pay tribute to my hon. Friend because I had the pleasure of meeting the students and staff at Petroc at his own reverse jobs fair, where he took a proactive approach to linking employers with the greater opportunities provided by organisations such as Petroc.

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This has been mentioned previously but it did not get an adequate response. Given that the prominent Brexit campaign called for a bonfire of EU protections for workers, what guarantee can the Minister give that all the current protections extended to disabled people by our membership of the EU will be safe?

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This Government have a proud record on this issue. We spend over £50 billion a year supporting people with disabilities and long-term health conditions—up £2 billion since the previous Parliament—and will continue to work in this area.

Women Against State Pension Inequality Campaign

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10. What recent representations he has received from the Women Against State Pension Inequality campaign; and if he will make a statement. [905759]

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The Pensions Minister, Baroness Altmann, and I recently met WASPI representatives to listen to their concerns. We made clear the Government’s position that we will not be unwinding past decisions and that there are no plans to change policy.

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Between 2016-17 and 2025-26, more than 5,000 women in my constituency alone will be affected by the changes. Some of them will need to work six years longer than they had anticipated. For the last time, I ask the Minister to show some leadership. Rather than shrug his shoulders, will he step up to the mark and end this injustice?

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No one is shrugging shoulders. As I said, no credible alternative has been put forward by any of the parties in this House; it was not in their manifestos. Members do not help the WASPI women by leading them to have expectations when the position of the Government is absolutely clear. A £1.1 billion concession was made in 2011; the period involved was reduced from two years to 18 months; and for 81% of the women affected the period concerned is no more than 12 months—81% of the women will not be affected by more than 12 months.

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A few moments ago, the Secretary of State made a statement saying that Britain’s economy was booming—or words to that effect. [Interruption.] It was as near as dammit. If it is that good, why does he not make sure the WASPI women get the proper pensions, and not this load of crap the Government are chucking out now?

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Let me just correct the hon. Gentleman: my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that the economy was fundamentally strong. As for the other issues, it would have been helpful if the hon. Gentleman had listened to some of the answers I had given earlier, while he was rehearsing his question. If he had listened, he would have appreciated—

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You are in the Government.

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If he had listened to the questions, he would have found that I said a £1.1 billion concession was made in 2011.

Employment Trends: East Anglia

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13. What recent assessment he has made of job creation and employment trends in East Anglia; and if he will make a statement.

[905762]

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In the east of England, the number of people in employment has increased by nearly 300,000 since 2010, and the employment rate is close to the highest on record.

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Is the Minister aware that in my constituency unemployment has come down from 4.3% in 2010 to 1.5% last month, and that only last Friday Mars Food announced a very welcome £23 million investment in its King’s Lynn plant, thus creating more well paid, skilled jobs? Does he agree that in this post-Brexit climate we should all be doing what we can to flag up such successes?

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That is yet another sign of just how fundamentally strong our economy is, which is helping us to deliver record numbers of people in employment.

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rose—

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I did not study geography at university, but the hon. Gentleman’s constituency is a little way away from East Anglia.

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indicated dissent.

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I am in a generous mood. I have known the hon. Gentleman for 30 years, and if he wants to persuade me that Bedford and Kempston is a hop, skip and a jump away from the constituency of the hon. Member for North West Norfolk (Sir Henry Bellingham), he has a taxing task, but let us hear it.

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I am very grateful for your indulgence, Mr Speaker. As a lifelong watcher of Anglia Television from the heart of Bedford, I can say that we are very proudly members of East Anglia. In Bedford, a small town, we have only small employers—we do not have a large private sector employer. What steps are the Government taking to encourage small businesses to take on young people and others who are unemployed?

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I would never have done anything like what the hon. Gentleman has just done when I was a Back Bencher.

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As a Government, we recognise that 45% of private sector jobs are created by small businesses, and so such businesses are key to the success of creating new opportunities. This will be very much at the heart of the Green Paper, making sure that they are aware of initiatives, particularly the commitment to have 3 million more apprentices by 2020.

Young Disabled People: Work

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17. What steps his Department is taking to assist disabled young people into work. [905766]

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The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Work and Pensions have received the recommendations from my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard) and agree that the requirement to achieve level 1 English and Maths in an apprenticeship is a hurdle for some young people with learning disabilities. Therefore, subject to a candidate demonstrating need, we will look to adjust this requirement to entry level 3 as soon as possible and monitor the impact.

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Last month, I received a wonderful letter from a 13-year-old constituent, Eleanor, who wrote to me about her 20-year-old brother. Richard has autism and learning difficulties, and struggles to find work with the right support. The news about the educational assistance is therefore very welcome. However, he is met with frustration and discrimination in employment. Eleanor said:

“seeing how the public can treat him is terrible and it’s hard on me, him, and the rest of our family. Please help him and people with disabilities to have a fairer life with employment opportunities.”

Does the Minister agree that the enormous contribution of disabled employees such as Richard is not yet fully recognised by employers?

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The point about employers is absolutely right. That is why we have worked with Autism Alliance to improve knowledge and awareness across our Jobcentre network. We have specialist teams to assist with access to work, and the small employer offer will specifically match employers with the support and help that is available to create more opportunities for disabled people.

Personal Independence Payment Assessments

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18. What steps his Department is taking to ensure that personal independence payment assessments are undertaken fairly and appropriately. [905767]

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Provider performance is measured across a range of service level agreements setting out the Department’s expectations for a quality service. This includes an assessment report quality audit. Contractual remedies are in place if the provider fails to deliver against the service standards.

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Given that the Infrastructure and Projects Authority’s rating of the Department’s PIP programme is once again amber/red, meaning that successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of areas, what urgent action is the Minister taking to ensure that problems with assessment are addressed and that disabled people do not continue to bear the brunt of the Government’s policies?

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We have seen that of those who go through the PIP process, 22.5% of claimants secure the highest rate of benefit, compared with just 16% under disability living allowance. We have a constant evaluation, including working with charities and stakeholders, and currently a claimant can expect to have their assessment process over a median of 13 weeks end to end, which is well within expectations.

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Will the Secretary of State intervene personally in the case of one of my constituents, who suffered a stroke, has severe eyesight problems and is almost completely wheelchair-bound? He was refused PIP and as a result his wife has been refused carer’s allowance. He has not had a reassessment since November last year and that is not acceptable.

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I would be happy to meet the hon. Lady to discuss this specific case.

Welfare Reform: Effects on People with Disabilities in Scotland

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19. What assessment he has made of the effects of welfare reform, benefit sanctions and work capability assessments on people with disabilities in (a) Glasgow and (b) Scotland.

[905768]

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The Government set out our assessment of the impact of the welfare policies in the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 on 20 July 2015, with similar assessments for previous changes. Spending to support people with disabilities and health conditions will be higher in real terms in every year to 2020 than it was in 2010.

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Scotland and in particular my constituency, Glasgow East, has higher levels of long-term health problems and disability compared with the UK as a whole. People living with disabilities tend to be more dependent on benefits for a longer time and are therefore more vulnerable to changes to disability benefits. Given that this Government and their predecessor embarked on the biggest overhaul of the welfare state in living memory, does the Minister agree that it is vital for the Government to undertake regular cumulative impact assessments of welfare reform on those with disabilities?

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The Treasury already publishes cumulative distribution analysis, including welfare spending, health spending, employment support and infrastructure investment, but we also need to consider increases in employment, increases in hours and earnings, universal credit, PIP, personal tax allowance changes, health spending, employment support and investment in infrastructure.

Topical Questions

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T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. [905773]

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On 6 July I appointed Paul Gray to lead a second independent review of PIP. A call for evidence has been published today, seeking evidence from individuals and organisations to inform the review. The review will consider how effectively further evidence is being used to assist the correct claim decision. It will also look at the speed and effectiveness of information gathering, as well as building on recommendations from the first review. I am today announcing the Department’s intention to conduct an evaluation of PIP, with initial findings to be published by early 2017.

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To help deliver our manifesto commitment of bringing a million people with disabilities into work, will my right hon. Friend consider extending the current exemption from employer national insurance contributions for apprentices both to additional apprentices and to full-time employees with disabilities, so that, like the US, the Netherlands and Ireland, our tax system benefits employers who see the abilities as well as the disabilities of all our constituents?

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When it comes to closing the disability employment gap, I am absolutely clear that no options have been left off the table. We want to look at the widest possible range of solutions, including financial incentives such as our small employment offer, which will support small businesses to increase local job opportunities for disabled people.

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In May, after a two-year fight, the Government finally published redacted reports of 49 social security claimants who had died between 2012 and 2014, revealing that 10 of the 49 had died following a sanction, and 40 of the deaths were associated with a suicide or a suspected suicide. Another nine social security claimants have died since 2014. When will the Secretary of State publish the reports into their deaths, or will we have to wait another two years for those as well?

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I hear the hon. Lady’s point, but it is important not to infer too many causal links between the factors that she is raising, and she needs to be extremely careful in how she describes those cases at the Dispatch Box. I am happy to discuss the matter with her on another occasion.

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T2. What support is my right hon. Friend’s Department offering to those in later middle age and older who are seeking work? [905774]

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My hon. Friend raises a very good point. We are doing a number of things in this area. For example, as well as access to a full Jobcentre Plus offer of personalised support, the Department for Work and Pensions introduced older claimant champions in each of the seven Jobcentre Plus groups to work with work coaches within jobcentres to raise the profile of older workers, highlight the benefit of employing older jobseekers and share good practice.

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T5. Will the Secretary of State explain to the WASPI women from the north-east, some of whom have already retired in the mistaken belief that they would be receiving their state pension sooner and who live in a region that continues to have the highest level of unemployment in the country, how they are to make ends meet? [905777]

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The hon. Lady is well aware that a number of benefits are involved here. The DWP survey in 2012 found that only 6% of the women who were due to retire within 10 years were unaware that the state pension age had increased.

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T3. Thanks to the work of this Government, the unemployment rate in Bath is just 1.5%. Does the Minister agree that, as well as providing a steady income, working also provides health benefits, both physical and mental? [905775]

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I fully agree that being in work has many benefits beyond the immediate economic security that it brings. It gives us a sense of value and can greatly benefit our mental and physical wellbeing, which is why this Government are championing the transformative role of work. With more people in work than ever before, we are making sure that the whole of society benefits from our growing economy.

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T7. With an 87% budget cut by the UK Government in the first year of employability services in Scotland, will the Secretary of State tell us precisely what his Government are doing to support people back into work in Scotland? Perhaps he can take this opportunity to congratulate the Scottish Government on the £20 million of extra support that they have been giving to help people back into work when this Government have been letting down the people of Scotland. [905779]

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I totally disagree with the hon. Lady. We are continuing to roll out universal credit across Scotland, and the early results from Scottish jobcentres are very, very positive. As I said earlier, I had a very constructive and useful meeting last week with Angela Constance, the Scottish Minister with welfare responsibilities. I recognise that the Scottish Government have some separate choices and priorities, and we are committed to giving them the powers to take those forward.

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T4. Starting a new business is one of the best ways out of worklessness. Will the Secretary of State join me in encouraging entrepreneurial jobseekers from Havant and across the country to apply for the Government’s new enterprise allowance? [905776]

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We absolutely do want to support more people to move into self-employment and to help develop the entrepreneurs of the future. The new enterprise allowance has now successfully supported the start-up of nearly 85,000 new businesses and I look forward to visiting my hon. Friend’s constituency to see some of those businesses in action.

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T8. For obvious reasons, refugee families and children are not usually required to meet past residence requirements when accessing benefits, so why on earth are the Government trying to overturn a recent tribunal decision so as to deny disabled refugees, including children, access to disability living allowance on the grounds of those very residence criteria? Is that not particularly absurd given that many of them will have been resettled here specifically because they have such a disability? [905780]

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That is an issue on which we are considering taking legal advice.

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T6. As Paralympians from Cardiff, elsewhere in Wales and across the United Kingdom prepare for the Paralympics in Rio, how can we use the Paralympics to change the perception of disabled people, and what are the Government doing to prepare for that? [905778]

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I would like to thank you, Mr Speaker, for hosting the announcement of the tennis Paralympic team for Rio. I pay tribute to Channel 4, which will be showing over 700 hours of the Paralympics, with 75% of the presenters having a disability. This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase people’s abilities, and we are all in for a real treat next Friday, when Channel 4 launches its fantastic video promoting the opportunities offered by the Paralympics.

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I am extraordinarily grateful to the Minister for giving me my cue. First, let me take this opportunity on behalf of the House warmly to congratulate Gordon Reid on his great success at Wimbledon yesterday. Secondly, I am sure the whole House will want to join me in congratulating most warmly Andy Murray on an outstanding performance in winning his second Wimbledon title and his third grand slam so far.

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T10. The disabilities Minister just agreed to meet a Member of Parliament and their constituent regarding an issue they were concerned about, so can I try again with the Pensions Minister? Will he meet me and some of the 10,000 women born in the 1950s who are affected by the pension changes? Will he come to Hull to meet some of these people and hear directly from them? [905782]

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I have met the leadership of the WASPI campaign, and I have met my own constituents. The hon. Lady has articulated the views of her constituents, as have many other MPs on a regular basis. I know very well all the facts; the issue here is that Members such as her should not be giving expectations to women, when the position has been made absolutely clear at the Dispatch Box: the Government have no intention of changing their policy.

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I thank the disabilities Minister for accepting the recommendations of the review I chaired into learning disability apprenticeships. Will he confirm that he will look into which of those recommendations can now be applied to other hidden impairments, such as hearing loss and sight loss?

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I would like to thank my hon. Friend, as his taskforce concluded its work within a month, and we have now secured agreement from my Department and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to open up in the apprenticeship programme greater opportunities for those with a learning disability. I am sure we will be coming to my hon. Friend very soon to help to extend the remit of the taskforce, which I am sure he would be delighted to chair.

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The Government are trialling distributed ledger technology, or blockchain, for the payment and spending of claimants’ benefits. It is a fantastic new technology, but the Government’s own report says that it needs a regulatory, ethical and data framework. How do we know that vulnerable benefits claimants are not being forced to share their data without giving proper informed consent?

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I thank the hon. Lady for that very interesting question. This technology is very new, and I confess that I am not an expert on it—the person who is is my noble Friend Lord Freud, who is, of course, in the other place. When it comes to security of claimants’ data, we are absolutely committed to the very highest standards of protection. However, in terms of the wider technology issue the hon. Lady refers to, I look forward to discussing it with her in more detail.

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Currently, children under three are not eligible for Motability benefits. However, during my time in children’s hospices, I saw first hand how critical transport is for children with life-limiting illnesses, particularly given all the equipment they need. Will my hon. Friend agree to look at the issue again to see whether these young people can get the support they need?

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My hon. Friend has been campaigning on this issue for some time, using his first-hand experience. We are acutely aware of the issue, and I would be happy to meet him to discuss further opportunities.

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I do not want to upset anybody on the Labour Front Bench by showing passion and anger about the Government’s failure to tackle unscrupulous employers who give no guarantee of employment, no contract, no certainty and no pension—nothing but zero-hours contracts, with people being hired from agencies—but when will the Government take on these rotten employers?

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Zero-hours contracts, of course, form only a very small proportion of the overall jobs in the labour market. The thing that is particularly pernicious about zero-hours contracts is the exclusivity clauses—that has been recognised as widespread—and we are the Government who actually took action to deal with that.

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In my constituency we have an initiative with the DWP and the Salvation Army food bank whereby when people come into the food bank, the DWP helps them in any way it can by placing an officer there. Would my right hon. Friend like to come to Morecambe to see at first hand how this initiative is working out?

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Yes, I would like to go to Morecambe to see that project. I am very clear that something we need to be doing far better, and more of, through our job centres at a local level is integrating with local services, whether they are provided through the Salvation Army or any other charity.

Article 50: Parliamentary Approval

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(Urgent Question): To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to make a statement on whether the Government will seek parliamentary approval before triggering article 50.

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The question of how to invoke parliamentary discussion around triggering article 50 has two distinct facets, one legal and the other democratic. Taking the legal considerations first, I am sure that everyone will be aware of the debate about whether invoking article 50 can be done through the royal prerogative, which would not legally require parliamentary approval, or would require an Act of Parliament because it leads ultimately to repeal or amendment of the European Communities Act 1972. I will leave the lawyers to their doubtless very enjoyable and highly paid disputes. Apart from observing that there are court cases already planned or under way on this issue, so the judges may reach a different view, I simply remark that Government lawyers believe that it is a royal prerogative issue.

Nevertheless, I hope that everyone here will agree that democratic principles should out rank legal formalities. The Prime Minister has already said that Parliament will have a role, and it is clearly right that a decision as momentous as this one must be fully debated and discussed in Parliament. Clearly, the precise format and timing of those debates and discussions will need to be agreed through the usual channels. As everyone will understand, I cannot offer any more details today because those discussions have not yet happened. However, I will venture this modest prediction: I strongly doubt that they will be confined to a single debate or a single occasion. There will be many important issues about the timing and the substance of different facets of the negotiations that the Government, the Opposition, the Backbench Business Committee, and I dare say, perhaps even you, Mr Speaker, will feel it is important to discuss, but on the details of which topics, on what dates, and the specific wording of the motions, we shall have to wait and see.

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I thank the Minister for that reply. If the royal prerogative is used to trigger article 50, would that not be a clear breach of the promises made to the public by the Brexiters during the referendum campaign that they would “take back control” and “restore parliamentary sovereignty”? How could it be right to initiate negotiations with important and far-reaching significance for citizenship rights, immigration rules, employment and social rights, agriculture, trading relations with the EU and third countries, and Scotland and Northern Ireland, without seeking Parliament’s approval for the aims, objectives and red lines?

The issues at stake are the culmination of 40 years of legislation. Is it not extraordinary to suggest that changes to these areas should not now come back to this House? The priorities and trade-offs are extremely important to everyone living in the UK. Surely the Minister is not suggesting that they should be decided behind closed doors in Whitehall while Parliament is presented with a done deal. Is not his inability to say how Brexit will be negotiated a clear indication of the Government’s failure to do any contingency planning? Why is the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster wasting taxpayers’ money fighting a court case to keep the Government’s approach to Brexit secret? We know that the Minister cannot say today what the red lines will be, but why cannot he at least be clear that Parliament’s approval will be sought before the negotiations begin? When will he be able to say what the process will be? He says that these are matters for a new Government. Has the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) been consulted, and can the Minister tell the House when we will have a new Government?

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Mr Speaker—[Interruption.]

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A considerable burden has been placed by the hon. Lady on Minister Penrose’s shoulders. It is a burden that he seems to bear stoically and with fortitude, but it would be good if we could actually hear his response.

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Thank you, Mr Speaker. I shall try to bear up under the pressure. First, I gently say to the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) that it is difficult to argue that the Government’s approach is secret if it is in court. It is not a secret court; it will all be argued out in public. I have just said that the issues will be revealed as we go forward with the new Prime Minister. The point on which I hope I can reassure the hon. Lady is very straightforward: my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May)—it looks like she is going to be the new Prime Minister—has been very clear in saying that Brexit means Brexit. What that means is that the destination to which we are travelling is not in doubt. The means used to get there will have to be explained, but I think it only fair to wait until she is Prime Minister and has a chance to lay out her programme, the process and, therefore, when Parliament will have a chance to discuss and debate the issues. At that point I am sure that all will be revealed.

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Does the Minister agree that the way to take back control and seek parliamentary approval is to proceed quickly to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 while transferring all European law relevant to the single market into British law and at the same time protecting our borders and keeping our contributions? That is what we voted for. Will the new Government deliver that promptly?

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As I just said, the important thing—I hope this reassures my right hon. Friend—is that my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead has been clear that Brexit means Brexit. That means that the destination, on which he and I both agree, is not in doubt. There are questions on how we get there, precisely how to run the negotiations and the precise timing of what gets addressed and when, and I hope that both he and I will allow our soon-to-be-installed new Prime Minister time to lay that out. I am sure that she will do so at the first opportunity.

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I thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question and my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) for asking it.

The outcome of the EU referendum represents the most momentous constitutional change that our country has faced in the post-war era. Now is the time to take a considered view on the future of the negotiations and for the new Government to lay out the timetable, including when they anticipate that article 50 will be triggered. It should not be triggered, however, until there is a clear plan in place about what the UK will be negotiating for and how it will be achieved.

The Government have already indicated that they will consult the devolved Administrations and the Mayor of London, and they must do the same with Her Majesty’s official Opposition. That is the only way we can develop a consensus about what the country’s negotiating plan should be, and that should be put to a vote in this House.

The priority must be to ensure that the Government’s negotiating team, undertaking the most substantial set of negotiations on our behalf in modern history, are fully equipped, fully resourced and fully prepared to extract the best deal possible for Britain in the Brexit negotiations. There are 170 trade agreements that now need to be renegotiated, but it is suggested that only 20 people across the whole of Whitehall have the requisite experience to negotiate.

We have deep concerns that the autumn statement, which outlined drastic cuts for Whitehall long before Brexit materialised as a realistic possibility, is no longer fit for purpose. That is why Labour is saying to the Government that, while discussions about article 50 are vital, it is clear that what comes next matters even more. It would be an abdication of responsibility if our civil service negotiating team does not have the resources it needs and is instead forced to spend vital time implementing brutal budget cuts at home when it should be batting for Britain abroad. Let us properly resource our civil service and together develop a consensus for the future of Britain.

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I am pleased to hear the hon. Lady say that there is an opportunity for cross-party consensus. It will be much more powerful for this country in any negotiations that it undertakes, not only with other EU member states, but with other countries around the world, if they know that the political parties and the people of Britain are speaking with one voice and that we are anxious to be an outward-looking, international country that is aiming to establish new links around the world. I welcome the hon. Lady’s comments on that.

I also agree with the hon. Lady that it is important that we have a clear timetable as soon as our new Prime Minister is in place, if only because—she is right to point this out—the details of the timetable have to be geared to maximising our negotiating leverage. We know where we are going; the question is how we get there. Clearly, the order of play—the order in which issues are addressed—and the timing have to be planned out incredibly carefully, to make sure, as she said, that we get the best deal possible.

The final point on which I agree with the hon. Lady is that about devolved Government. She is absolutely right to say that we need to make sure that the devolved Administrations are involved as well, so that this is not merely a question of cross-party consensus in Westminster. It has to be a question of consensus, as far as it is possible to achieve it, right across the UK.

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The Prime Minister originally said that he would trigger article 50 immediately, so presumably he felt that he had the full legal authority to do so. Does my hon. Friend accept that those who want to have a vote before article 50 is triggered are concerned not with parliamentary sovereignty but at making a clear attempt to thwart the democratic will of the British people? Does he agree that they must be completely resisted by any real democrat? The referendum was not a consultation with the British people; it was an instruction from the British people that we have a duty to obey.

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I strongly agree with my right hon. Friend and parliamentary neighbour that the question here is not about the legal power, which clearly, as the Prime Minister has previously mentioned, is available. The question is: what is politically and democratically right to reflect the decision that has been made in the referendum? Therefore, although the Prime Minister is, very sensibly, saying that the timing and method of triggering article 50 needs to be a decision taken by his successor—we now know who that will be—his successor is also right to say very clearly that the British people have spoken and that Brexit means Brexit.

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We are grateful to the Minister for confirming that this will be done through royal prerogative. Given the events of today, perhaps that is the way we could determine the leadership of the Conservative party. However, I remind the Minister of the soon to be departed Prime Minister’s remarks that the Scottish Government will be fully consulted on any Brexit proposals. Can the Minister therefore confirm that, before any process is started on article 50, the Scottish Government will be fully consulted and able to give their consent for any move forward? I also remind the Minister that Scotland did not vote for this Tory-inspired Brexit, and for us it is the Scottish people who are sovereign. We have yet to hear any Minister say that they respect the Scottish result and are prepared to make sure that the Scottish people also secure what they voted for. This Government might be charged with taking the UK out of the EU, but those of us on the SNP Benches are charged with ensuring that the Scottish people always get what they voted for too.

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I am delighted to confirm that the Scottish Government will be involved. In fact, I believe that some early discussions are already under way. I hope and expect that those will continue, as they will with the other devolved Governments. I would, however, gently remind the hon. Gentleman that this is a commitment to consult, which is not quite the same thing as seeking an outright consent. As his own party has accepted very recently, this is not a devolved issue and is to be dealt with by this Parliament and the UK as a whole. It is a decision that we have taken as a country collectively.

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I am grateful to the Minister for that last clarification. We may be seeking consensus, but it will almost certainly not be forthcoming from those on the Scottish National Benches. Will the Minister confirm that there is no escape from doing this via article 50, to which we are bound by treaty, and whatever other parliamentary processes then come behind it? We have to meet our treaty obligations through invoking article 50, which is the instruction of the British people. Will he ensure that that is put in place as soon as we have our negotiating hand in place?

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I agree with my hon. Friend on both those points: consensus is always desirable and to be sought wherever possible, and article 50 is the route for achieving Brexit. He is also right to point out that it is only the tip of a much larger iceberg; there are a whole series of other things that have to wrap around it. We have heard some of those mentioned already during this urgent question, and I suspect that we will hear more of them in due course.

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Is it not the case that referendums are advisory and that this Parliament is sovereign? Is it not a constitutional outrage and supreme irony that those on the Conservative Benches who based their argument for Brexit on parliamentary sovereignty now want to deny this House a vote and are suggesting that an unelected Prime Minister, with no mandate, agrees to such a fundamental decision for this country? That is a disgrace, and they must not be allowed to get away with it.

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With the greatest possible respect to the right hon. Gentleman, who is extremely experienced, he may be right on strict constitutional legalities but democratically he is fundamentally wrong. We have had a referendum, the people have spoken and it would be unconscionable—it would be impossible—for us collectively to turn around and thumb our noses at the British people and ignore that democratic verdict.

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May I point out that it would be extremely odd, for the first time in this Parliament’s history, to start taking instructions on how to conduct our decision making from the administrative court, as seems to be implied by the case before it? Were legislative consent actually required for the exercise of article 50, that legislative consent was effectively given when we passed the European Union Referendum Act 2015, which established the referendum and put the question before the British people.

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I will endeavour to tread carefully because, as I have mentioned, there are cases either in train or planned. I think that the fundamental political and democratic point must be this: the people have spoken, and whichever side of the argument Members of this House or those out in the rest of the country were on, it is now up to all of us to come together, to unite as a country and to make sure that we respect the democratic decision and the democratic will that have been clearly expressed.

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The Minister is an honest man, and therefore when he says, “Brexit means Brexit”, he knows that there are as many versions of Brexit as there are Members on the Government Benches. He needs to reaffirm parliamentary sovereignty and ensure that Parliament can vote on the Government’s negotiating stance, for instance on the vexed and dangerous question of what happens at the Irish border.

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As I said in my opening response to the urgent question, I am sure that there will be many opportunities, on many different occasions, for Members in this Chamber to discuss and debate all sorts of different issues, including the one that the right hon. Gentleman has just mentioned and many others. This negotiation will be an ongoing process, not a single event, and therefore he is absolutely right that there will be many opportunities where specific issues will become salient, where people in this Chamber will have very strong views and where people in devolved Governments will have very strong views. Those views need to be heard and aired throughout the process.

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Does my hon. Friend agree that there is just the slightest chance that over the next few weeks we may be capable of generating more heat than light on this subject? It is not Parliament that will be negotiating with the European Union as we come out of it; it is the Government. Will he ask our right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to ensure that, while Parliament must be kept informed and may express its view, it will be for Ministers and for the Prime Minister, essentially, to carry out these negotiations once article 50 has been triggered? Parliament should not hamper the negotiating stance—[Hon. Members: “Hamper?”] I think somebody wants their lunch. Parliament should not constrain the negotiating tactics of any Minister.

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My right hon. and learned Friend gets the parliamentary award for optimism for saying that there is only the “slightest chance” that we might generate more heat than light on the matter over the next few weeks. He is absolutely right to say that this is something that Ministers need to take forward but, as I said earlier, I am absolutely certain that the Government, the Opposition, the Backbench Business Committee and others will take many different opportunities to make sure that Parliament’s views are forcefully expressed and the issues are debated as we go.

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The Minister will know that the triggering of article 50 will have profound consequences for the 3 million EU citizens who are living in the United Kingdom. Has the Minister for Europe, who is sitting next to him on the Treasury Bench, had any representations from other EU countries about the position of their nationals here? If not, will we be able to have clarity on whether they have the right to remain? At the moment, Ministers are saying different things about these rights, and we need that certainty before any triggering of article 50.

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The point, of course, is that there will be ongoing discussions about this and many other issues. The question of when those discussions might bear fruit, particularly given the fact that there have been some concerns about informal negotiations being inappropriate, is something that will have to be resolved.

At this stage, I give the right hon. Gentleman the same reply that I have given to others: we must ensure that we have a programme, which will be laid out by the new Prime Minister as soon as she is in place. I hope she will be able to give him more detail and clarity on that point as well as many others that will be involved in the negotiations.

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In terms of the doctrine of the sovereignty of Parliament, is it not true that that sovereignty is delegated by the British people, not given to us by divine right? It is absurd to think of the sovereignty of Parliament as being by divine right as it is the divine right of kings. The British people have spoken and given us a mandate, and that mandate must be fulfilled, but the details of that mandate will no doubt be implemented by legislation.

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I defer to my hon. Friend and parliamentary neighbour on the legality of where sovereignty begins and ends, and where it is delegated from and to. The fundamental point that is clear from his remarks—and, I hope, from my previous remarks—is that the people have spoken, we are now honour bound to deliver on that democratic decision, and we should not try to resile or step back from it in any way.

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I expect that the Minister also defers to his hon. Friend on the matter of knowledge of kings.

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Will the Minister consider the proposal put forward today by 1,000 lawyers of establishing of a royal commission or independent body to receive evidence from a wide range of groups, particularly about the risks and benefits of triggering article 50 at various times? Will he ensure that such a body will be able to report before Parliament votes?

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I think that I am not being over-cynical if I wonder whether a proposal by 1,000 lawyers for a commission to deliberate at length might be a delaying tactic. The concern will be not to tie the hands of the incoming Prime Minister or her negotiating team in how we approach this matter. As the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh) rightly pointed out, we must ensure that whatever we do and however we handle this, we aim to get the best deal possible for this country with not just other European member states, but other countries in the world.

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Quite a bit of controversy is already breaking out and we have scarcely started this debate. The Minister has been doing a great job with his outpouring of common sense on a heap of these questions. Will he confirm that all common sense points to not triggering article 50 until it is in the UK’s national interest to do so, as the Treasury Committee has reported, and as the Governor of the Bank of England and many people who have been closely involved with these issues have concluded?

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I am happy to confirm that this is not a question of “if” we leave the EU but “how”, so the calculation that we—particularly the new Prime Minister and her team—need to make is about the best way to structure and time negotiations to maximise our leverage. I am sure that the incoming Prime Minister will have read the Committee’s report with great care, as have we all, and will take those factors into consideration.

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At the beginning of his first answer, the Minister said that this was not just a legal matter, but a political matter, so I cannot understand for the life of me why the Government are challenging the legal case. Surely sending in lawyers is just a complete waste of money—whether it is 10 lawyers or 1,000, it does not matter. Why are the Government wasting money on trying to assert that this is just a matter of royal prerogative, rather than accepting the political fact that while, yes, Brexit is Brexit—that may be the case—the Minister is far more likely to get a good deal from other European countries if he has managed to bind both sides of this House and both Houses of Parliament into a strong negotiating position?

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I had thought, and hoped, that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley was speaking for more Labour Members and that we would be able to achieve a degree of cross-party consensus. It would be helpful to have country-wide unanimity on this issue, so I am sad that there does not seem to be such unanimity on the Opposition Benches. The Attorney General, who is sitting next to me, is convinced that the Government’s case is strongly arguable, and that is why we are taking this case to court.

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We are in the strange situation that last week the result of the referendum was so catastrophic for Labour that its Members passed a motion of no confidence in their leader, but today that result is neither here nor there, as we can just proceed and keep ourselves in the EU because of parliamentary democracy. Perhaps Labour Members will make their minds up soon. Does not what we have heard today emphasise the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox)—[Interruption.]

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Order. I want to hear the hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.]. Order. I do not care whether other people do; we are going to hear the hon. Gentleman. It is as simple as that. I do not care how long it takes.

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Does not what we have heard today show that what my right hon. Friend said was true and that the purpose of these devices is not to help the Government to implement the will of the public, but to ask for the right to try to prevent it from being implemented? If the Government do not implement it because Labour frustrates the process, Labour will be wiped out in the north of England in a future general election. Labour Members might be hellbent on self-destruction, but may I ask the Minister to save the Labour party and implement Brexit in full?

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There are many reasons to implement Brexit in full, but that is the first time anyone has urged me to do it to save the Labour party. I am particularly delighted to hear that coming from my hon. Friend. I agree that there will be a nagging concern in some people’s minds—unworthy though it might be—that some of these proposals to delay the decision or subject it to intricate parliamentary procedures might be aimed at frustrating the democratically expressed will of the people, which of course would be democratically entirely wrong.

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I supported remain—I have no regrets and make no apology—but is it not absolutely essential that the majority decision, taken rightly or wrongly, is respected, because otherwise it makes a complete mockery of democracy?

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That was beautifully and eloquently expressed. We are all, I hope, democrats first and foremost, and whichever side of the referendum debate we were on, we in this House and those more broadly across the country have to respect the democratically expressed will of the British people.

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I am glad to see the Attorney General in his place on the Treasury Bench. Does the Minister agree with these propositions put forward by Sir Paul Jenkins, QC, the former head of the Government Legal Service, and many others: first, that article 50 is the only lawful route for exiting the EU; secondly, that that is a matter for the royal prerogative; and, thirdly, that the European Union Referendum Act 2015 is not, of itself, adequate in law to constitute notice under article 50? Finally, does he agree that to repeal unilaterally the European Communities Act 1972 other than through the article 50 process would be a breach of a treaty obligation, which is something that no Government have committed in 300 years and would be wholly unconscionable?

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My hon. Friend asks four questions, and the answer to the first three is a straightforward yes. The only gloss I would add to his fourth question about how we might either amend or repeal not just the European Communities Act, but any other measures that need to be amended as a result of Brexit, is that that will inevitably require primary legislation, which of course will be brought forward when the time is right.

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The Minister referred to discussions with the devolved regions. Will he outline what discussions have taken place with the Northern Ireland Executive, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Irish Government, given issues around the need there for free movement of goods, services and people, the loss of which would be detrimental to the whole economy of the island of Ireland?

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The hon. Lady is absolutely right. These are extremely ticklish and difficult discussions. I can confirm that discussions have begun, but I cannot, I am afraid, go into huge detail about how far they have got or what the future plans are. If she has any concerns or doubts about how those discussions might be progressing, I would encourage her to talk to me or the Northern Ireland Office because I am sure that we could set her mind at rest.

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Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be positively contemptuous of the clearly expressed will of the British people were the Government to refuse to trigger article 50? What does he feel would be the response of the British people at the next general election to anyone who encouraged showing such contempt for their views?

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My right hon. Friend makes a very important point: it is essential for the health of democracy, as much as for the future direction of this country, that voters understand and believe that we here hold their opinions in high regard and feel morally bound to deliver on them. If we ignore their democratically expressed consent, we will face a much bigger problem than at present, because that would undermine the very foundations of the democratic consent that underpins this place. I cannot think of a more dangerous route for us to go down.

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Is not the situation a bit more than ticklish? This is the biggest constitutional change for our country for half a century. Last week, Chilcot criticised the legal processes that led to the Iraq war, criticised the way in which prerogative power worked in the run-up to that war and, most importantly, criticised the fact that there was not a sufficient plan for after the invasion had been completed. On that basis, is the Minister really saying that we should not come back to Parliament so that individual Members can reach a view on whether we should trigger article 50?

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I would draw a distinction in my reply between “whether” and “how”. We have been very clear, as has my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead, that the destination is not in doubt: Brexit means Brexit, as I have said several times already. How we get there, however, is a matter for discussion. It is a matter for my right hon. Friend to lay out and I am sure that, once she is behind the door of No. 10, she will do so. At that stage, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will have more detail about how those discussions and announcements might be made.

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Switzerland had a referendum that showed it was determined to cap immigration, but because of protracted negotiations with the EU, the EU decided to start retaliatory measures, including the country’s removal from the Erasmus scheme. How long, therefore, does the Minister think we have after activating article 50 before the EU starts retaliatory measures on us?

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My hon. Friend asks an extremely pertinent question. That will be one of the matters that the incoming Prime Minister and her negotiating team will factor into their decisions about the timing and order of play of the negotiations. I am afraid that I cannot offer my hon. Friend much more than that now, but the point he raises must be an important case study that will be front and centre of people’s consideration as the decisions are made.

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The majority of my constituents still feel very angry. They feel that they were misinformed—that is putting it mildly—and therefore think that they need to know the facts. One of the facts pointed out to the Foreign Affairs Committee was that the Foreign Office will need to be doubled in size. Given that the autumn statement said that there would be drastic cuts in Whitehall, should we not have a new autumn statement to spell out the implications of Brexit to the British people?

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It is clear that many things will change in the new world that we now face. The country’s trade orientation, foreign policy and so forth will all have to be readdressed and amended, just as many of our businesses will have to reassess how they do business. The right hon. Lady is absolutely right that some consequential changes might be needed, but I say again that I cannot prefigure anything that the incoming Prime Minister may be considering. Like me, the right hon. Lady will have to wait until announcements are made. I will take what she said as a potential submission to the new prime ministerial team, and perhaps it will consider her remarks in that light.

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The Opposition spokesman talked about 170 free trade agreements that will need to be renegotiated, but my understanding is that there are about 167 independently recognised countries outside the EU. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) suggested that the Government might be something other than inclusive when discussing Brexit, yet about 34 million participants to date have given us a clear message. Does my hon. Friend agree that rather than spending our time on whether we invoke article 50 and whether we adhere to the mandate of the people, we should focus our efforts on securing a looser, collaborative relationship with our European neighbours and grabbing the opportunities from the rest of the world?

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My hon. Friend is absolutely right—the focus now must be on how we get this done in the best and most constructive way possible for our nation. There will be opportunities and great new horizons as a result of the decision. We need to make sure we are clear about them and that we are set up in the right way to grab those opportunities as they present themselves.

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As things stand, Britain will have two years to withdraw from the European Union once it invokes article 50, but most analysts say that it will take much longer than two years for Britain successfully to extricate itself and have a new relationship. Have the Government therefore considered approaching member states about a possible extension to that period?

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As I understand it, I think that any alteration to the article 50 process requires unanimity from other EU member states, which represents a pretty high bar for any Government. I am sure that that factor will be considered by the incoming Prime Minister and her negotiating team. I am also sure that they will want to consider many other options to maximise our negotiating leverage. As I have said, the hon. Gentleman and I will have to wait until the new Prime Minister is ready to announce precisely how she and her team wish to approach these issues.

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The referendum has been a deeply divisive process that has divided city against town, community against community and nation against nation. Does the Minister agree that we now need a cross-party approach to deal with when to invoke article 50 and the basic negotiating position around that, and how we hold the negotiating team to account? Will he consider setting up a special parliamentary Committee to do both those jobs?

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The current Prime Minister has said that he believes it is very important not just for the UK Government to contribute, but for the devolved Governments—and, wherever possible, other parties on a cross-party basis—to contribute so that we can, whenever possible, speak as a nation with one voice. The hon. Gentleman is right to say the referendum was a pretty divisive affair. It is not just political parties that need to knit together again; society needs to knit together again. I am not sure that I would necessarily share the hon. Gentleman’s enthusiasm for a parliamentary Committee as the solution to achieve that, but I share his conviction that a degree of healing is required, and that all of us on both sides of the House have a duty to ensure that our respective parties and the communities that we represent are able to come together for the good of the country.

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More than 60% of my electorate voted to leave the European Union and I very much honour and respect their views. It is clear that the triggering of article 50 is unchartered waters for both this Government and the EU, so would it not make sense for the Government to be in open negotiation with their European counterparts to set out the parameters, process and areas of commonality, and then to come back to the House to announce the likely procedure so that we ensure that we have the very best deal for the people of Denton and Reddish and of the United Kingdom as we take forward the referendum result into reality?

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The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that article 50 is uncharted waters. No one has done this before and we are, of necessity, having to address brand-new problems. I will take the rest of his remarks as a submission to the incoming Prime Minister and her negotiating team. He is absolutely right that whatever decisions they make, and whatever process and timetable they lay out, those will have to be founded on one central principle that I hope we can all sign up to: we need to maximise the negotiating position and negotiating strength of this country as a whole to get the best deal possible.

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The Minister cannot say what “Brexit means Brexit” really means, so is it not vital that, given we have no idea what the terms of exit will be, this is properly scrutinised and voted on by democratically elected Members of this House?

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I think I addressed that in my initial remarks, but I am sure that there will be plenty of opportunities over a long period for Parliament to discuss many facets of the negotiations, and that the hon. Lady and many others will have a chance to make their views known. As for any decisions that might be made, I, like everyone else, will have to wait for the new Prime Minister to lay out her programme and timetable. I am sure that all will be clear at that point, and that we shall be able to address any decision points that may be offered.

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Most of my constituents in both Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan voted to remain. Although they are concerned about the result, they would be even more concerned to think that Parliament would have anything less than a full say in this process, not least because many Executive and legislative competences are also devolved to the National Assembly. Will the Minister explain what specific role he expects Welsh Government Ministers and the Assembly itself to have in deciding the final proposal that is put before us?

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As I said earlier to the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) and, I think, to the hon. Member for South Down (Ms Ritchie), discussions are already under way. We are endeavouring to involve everyone and to seek consensus whenever possible but, ultimately, foreign policy is reserved to the United Kingdom Parliament. While we want to ensure that everyone has a chance to contribute, and that, as far as possible, there is a collective view so that we understand what are the best opportunities for the constituent parts of the United Kingdom, at the end of the day the matter must come back to the United Kingdom Government and Parliament.

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Brexit means Brexit, but there is no agreed definition of what “Brexit” means, apart from the fact that it involves parliamentary sovereignty. Is the Minister seriously proposing that we should undergo such a momentous seismic change as Brexit without its having been defined to the British people before the referendum, or decided on by Parliament after it?

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The hon. Lady is right: the details will become a great deal clearer as the negotiation goes through. We will all discover more about the various facets of how Brexit will affect different parts of our lives as the negotiations near completion. However, I must repeat what I have said several times already: we shall not be able to say how Parliament will engage with that until the new Prime Minister has had a chance to lay out her timetable for the negotiations, whereupon it will be possible to assess when opportunities for debate and discussion will occur.

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This was not the question that I was going to ask, but given the Minister’s response to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), I want to press him on the extent to which devolved institutions will be consulted. Much of the work of some Departments is devolved—food and farming, for example—yet in terms of the European Union, this will be a UK Government negotiating position, and that really does need to be resolved.

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The hon. Lady gives a good illustration of instances in which it will be important to ensure that the constituent parts of the United Kingdom are closely involved so that their views can be factored in, whether the issue in question is devolved or non-devolved. There will be plenty of occasions when views will need to be fed back very carefully to inform the discussions and the negotiating team that is undertaking them.

Safety of Prison Staff

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To ask the Secretary of State if he will make a statement on the safety of staff in prisons.

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A central duty of the Ministry of Justice is security on our prison estate. It is imperative that the dedicated professionals who work in our prisons are kept safe. It is also critical that we safeguard the welfare of those who are in custody. It is therefore of profound concern to me that serious assaults against staff in prisons have been on the rise recently. In the 12 months to December 2015, there were 625 incidents, an increase of 31%.

Those who work in our prisons are idealistic public servants, who run the risk of assault and abuse every day but continue in their jobs because they are driven by a noble cause: they want to reform and rehabilitate offenders. That is why we must stand behind them. I know that members of the Prison Officers Association, and other trade unions, want rapid action to be taken to make their work safer; I understand their frustrations, and I am determined to help.

Violence in prisons has increased over recent years for a number of reasons. The nature of the offenders currently in custody is one factor: younger offenders who have been involved in gang-related activities pose a particular concern. Another factor is the widespread availability of new psychoactive substances or NPS—synthetically manufactured drugs which are more difficult to detect than traditional cannabis and opiates. The former chief inspector of prisons has said that NPS are

“now the most serious threat to the safety and security of jails.”

NPS consumption, and indeed violence in prison, are also often a consequence of prisoners’ boredom and frustration, and a lack of faith in the future.

There is no single solution to the problem we face, but we are taking steps to reform our prisons. To take account of our changing prison population, more than 2,800 new prison officers have been recruited since January 2015, a net increase of 530. To keep them safer, we are deploying body-worn cameras as additional protection for staff. In May, we outlawed new psychoactive substances and thus dramatically reduced the opportunities for easy profits to be made from their trade. In June, I allocated an extra £10 million in new funding for prison safety, and the money has gone direct to governors.

All these steps will, I believe, help improve safety, but there are two more critical points to make. First, I want to stress that my Department’s door will be open to staff and their representatives to ensure we work collaboratively to improve conditions for all in our prisons. Secondly, it is because I have seen for myself how important it is to change our prisons for the better that this Government have initiated a major reform programme. We will be replacing ageing and ineffective prisons with new establishments designed to foster rehabilitation. We will give governors greater scope to design regimes that encourage purposeful activity. We will ensure that prisoners are more effectively incentivised to turn their lives around. As we press ahead with this reform programme, I am confident we can ensure that our prisons can become what they should always be: safe and secure places of redemption and rehabilitation.

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The situation on our prison estate continues to deteriorate, as the Secretary of State concedes, and I am sorry we have heard nothing from him today that we have not heard before.

Over the weekend, prison staff held crisis meetings across the country amid concerns about their security and safety in the workplace. Incidents of violence and disorder are reported on a daily basis. On Friday around 100 staff at HMP Liverpool met outside their prison at the start of their shift, a pattern that was repeated at many other prisons. A Ministry of Justice spokesman unhelpfully called the action “unlawful” despite admitting that it posed no security risk. I wonder whether the Secretary of State thinks that is an appropriate response to members of staff concerned about their welfare and that of the inmates. According to local staff at Liverpool prison, over the past 12 months there have been more assaults than in the previous 12 years. This includes one member of staff who was stabbed, while others have been spat at, punched and kicked and had urine and faeces thrown over them. On the same day, a squad of specialist prison service riot officers was sent into HMP Birmingham, and in a separate incident in the same prison on the same day a prisoner was found dead in his cell in unexplained circumstances. A Prison Officers Association spokesman said that between 5,000 and 6,000 prison officers had taken part in the pre-shift meetings, with the numbers showing the “strength of feeling” of its members.

The Secretary of State will also be aware that a freedom of information request last week revealed there had been five walkouts in the past five months, including from Wormwood Scrubs in my constituency. Following that walkout in May, and the serious assault on two officers and an urgent question here, the Secretary of State announced £10 million, but, frankly, he has been absent in the last few weeks and we have had an inadequate and reactive response to each crisis.

We need a full response to a growing and increasing crisis and, as the Secretary of State correctly says, a growing number of serious assaults. I hope if we do not hear it today, we will hear that full strategy, and hear it soon, for the safety of our prison officers and prisoners. If we do not have that, he is going to lose control fully of the prison estate.

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I thank the hon. Gentleman for the detail and tone of his remarks. He continues now on the Back Benches the great work he did on the Front Bench, making sure that the condition of our prisons is kept at the forefront of our minds.

May I first say that in the limited time I had available in response to his original urgent question, I was not able to outline all the steps being taken? Thanks, of course, to his diligent work and that of the Justice Committee, a number of areas of concern have been brought to our attention or highlighted or underlined.

We have appointed a highly experienced prison governor, Claudia Sturt, formerly governor of Belmarsh, to lead work specifically to ensure that our prisons are more secure. She has set up a taskforce to visit the prisons that face the greatest challenge. Those visits have so far resulted in prison governors feeling reassured and strengthened that they have the best professional advice to help them deal with these problems. In addition, we have been rolling out something called the five-minute intervention, which is a specific intervention to help prison officers to de-escalate violent incidents. It is being pioneered by a first-rate professional, Russ Trent, who is due to be the governor of HMP Berwyn, the new prison in Wales.

The hon. Gentleman made the point that £10 million was only a start, and it is indeed only a start. I stress that the Treasury has given us £1.3 billion as part of a broad prison reform programme, but I shall not run away from the fact that we have a difficult situation in our prisons. That is one of the reasons that I invited the BBC in to visit our prisons in recent weeks. It is also one of the reasons that I have sought to work across the aisle to ensure that we tackle this problem fairly. I know that the hon. Gentleman is sincere and dedicated in his desire to ensure that our prisons work better, and I look forward to working with him to that end.

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The Secretary of State’s full and prompt response to our Select Committee report on prison safety published in May does great credit to his personal commitment to tackling this issue, and I am grateful for his frankness on the level of the challenge that we face. Will he update us on whether he is now able to take on board some of the report’s recommendations? For example, will the Ministry of Justice and the National Offender Management Service now produce a joint action plan to tackle the underlying causes of violence? Will he also address the issues of staff recruitment and retention, and will he agree to produce a quarterly report to the House so that we can measure progress on the action plan against clear, specific targets?

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I am grateful to the Chairman of the Select Committee for making those points. The report was exemplary, and, as I mentioned earlier, it has been a great help to the Ministry. I absolutely agree that we will bring forward an action plan and provide the House with regular updates on the steps that we are taking. He is also right to point out that the recruitment and retention of staff are critical. In response to his questions and those of the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter), I want to underline the fact that I want to work with the Prison Officers Association and all trade unions to ensure that legitimate concerns—all concerns, indeed—are addressed. I also want to ensure that we continue to attract high-quality people to the Prison Service, because it is a vital job.

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The situation in our underfunded prisons is deteriorating. There have been consequences of the Government’s decision to cut £900 million from the Ministry of Justice budget. Assaults on staff and on prisoners are up. There are 13,000 fewer prison staff than there were in 2010, but there are more prisoners. The Government have made prisons less safe for staff and for prisoners. It is a service in crisis. On Friday, members of the Prison Officers Association held meetings outside prisons across the country to discuss what they call the “perpetual crisis” in the Prison Service. The Secretary of State has accepted that there are “significant problems”. The chief inspector has said prisons are “a lot more dangerous” and that staff shortages have had an impact. The Justice Committee has demanded an “action plan”. In the light of all this, will the Secretary of State tell us whether he or the National Offender Management Service have spoken to the Prison Officers Association since Friday’s meetings outside the prisons?

What is the Secretary of State’s plan to reduce staff assaults, which have increased by 36% in the past year? On the £10million that he has allocated to staff safety, if he finds, as I suspect he will, that the significantly higher spending he has experimentally allocated to Bristol, Hewell and Rochester does indeed have a much greater impact, will he increase safety spending elsewhere? In relation to the prisons identified for greater operational freedom in the upcoming prison and courts reform Bill—a process the Secretary of State has likened to school academisation—will he confirm that we will not see any watering down of staff terms and conditions or creeping privatisation? Is it not time that this Government stopped failing prison staff, failing prisons and failing our society in this regard?

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First, I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his new role on the Front Bench. I know that he has a distinguished legal career behind him, and that he has represented some of the most vulnerable in our society. His questions today go directly to the heart of the matter and I am grateful to him for giving me this opportunity to respond to them. We have spoken to the Prison Officers Association. Senior figures in the National Offender Management Service have been in touch with the POA, and we will continue to be in touch in the future. When the Prime Minister made a landmark speech on prisons earlier this year, I had the opportunity to talk to senior figures in the Prison Officers Association and found their approach to be constructive and cordial, and I want to maintain good relations with them.

The hon. Gentleman made the point that the £10 million may need to be increased and that we may need to invest more money in staff safety. We will of course monitor how the money is spent. It has been given to individual governors to spend as they think fit, but we will do everything possible to ensure that the resources are there to safeguard not only those who work in our prisons, but the welfare of those in custody.

The hon. Gentleman asked specifically about the prison and courts reform Bill and the principle that the six reform prisons should have a greater degree of autonomy. He asked whether academisation, as an analogy, is a prelude to privatisation. The governors of those six prisons do exercise a greater degree of autonomy, but it is not intended that that should come at the cost of staff terms, conditions, security, safety or prospects. We want to ensure that staff in every prison feel that the idealistic work that they do is valued and rewarded, and that outstanding governors who are taking forward change in such prisons live and breathe respect for their staff every day.

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The Prisons & Probation Ombudsman told the Justice Committee about the “pervasiveness” of mental health issues within prisons. What is the Secretary of State doing to address that? How is he improving the response of prison staff when assessing such risks?

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My hon. Friend makes a good point. One difficulty is that many of those in custody have mental health problems—undiagnosed in some cases. It is often the case that the prison regime by its very nature and the restrictions that are placed on individuals as part of a sentence may not be the most effective ways of tackling mental health problems and ensuring that offenders do not offend again. We are considering how we can better review mental health provision within the prison estate. More announcements will be forthcoming, but Her Majesty made it clear in the Gracious Speech that improving outcomes for individuals with mental health problems in the criminal justice system is a core mission of this Government over the next 12 months.

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Is the Secretary of State prepared to acknowledge that the combination of rising prisoner numbers and shrinking budgets is a major factor affecting the welfare and safety of both prison officers and prisoners? The Scottish Government have committed to significant penal policy reform aimed at reducing reoffending by moving away from ineffective short-term prison sentences in favour of community sentences, which have been shown to be more effective at stopping reoffending.

In June, the Scottish Government announced £4 million of extra funding to allow for an increase in community sentences. Will the Secretary of State acknowledge that the UK Government’s policies and prisons are not working? Will he look instead to the Scottish Government’s approach of reducing the number of people in prison and making more effective use of community alternatives, rather than relying on prison sentences?

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I have an enormous amount of respect for the hon. and learned Lady. She is right that England and Wales can learn much from other jurisdictions. I would not say that Scotland has got everything right on criminal justice and penal policy, but some welcome changes are taking place in Scotland, not least with respect to the care and treatment of female offenders. I hope to have the chance to talk to leaders within the Scottish Prison Service and to visit some Scottish prisons to understand better what is working and to learn from the initiatives that are being piloted.

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Following that, will the Justice Secretary tell us how the number of attacks on staff in UK prisons compares with the figures for other countries? What lessons might be learned from those countries? I invite him to start by considering the punishments handed down in other countries to prisoners who attack prison staff and to extend sentences much more harshly for prisoners who attack prison staff here. I suspect that harsh sentences may lead to a decrease in attacks on prison staff.

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I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because I know that he wants to operate in a constructive fashion. I am always interested in learning from other jurisdictions. We do not collect statistics on assaults in a way that allows for an easy comparison, but we are changing how we analyse data within the Ministry of Justice and he poses a particular challenge.

I always want to be led by the evidence when shaping policy. The evidence suggests that a lack of hope or an inability to see how actions can lead to eventual redemption often contribute to frustration and violence. My hon. Friend’s point was made in a constructive fashion, and I will get back to him with evidence and comparisons to enable us to conduct this debate better.

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One of the most distressing things that can happen to a prison officer is going to unlock an inmate only to find that they have taken their own life. The review by Lord Harris on deaths in custody made a clear recommendation that Ministers should attempt to contact and speak with the families of people, especially the young, who have taken their own life in prison. As yet, Ministers have declined to adopt that recommendation, so will they please reconsider?

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The hon. Lady makes a very good point, and the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) will be meeting the relatives of someone who took their own life in custody recently. There are sometimes sensitivities about specific cases, but as a general rule this is something that, of course, we would wish to do.

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From his experience as Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend will have worked out that there is a catalogue of reasons why the safety of prison staff is placed at risk: overcrowding of prisons; the mental health issues he has described; and the lack of purposeful activity for prisoners, which he has described. Does he also accept that the continuing uncertainty for prisoners on IPPs— indeterminate sentences for public protection—making them the most difficult cohort of prisoners to manage, is something we ought to be dealing with very quickly? Can we not arrange to have them re-sentenced quickly to determinate sentences or put before the Parole Board so that their cases can be reviewed? This is a matter of urgent priority and I urge him to look at the IPP question, which is causing such a lot of disturbance in our prison system.

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My right hon. and learned Friend is a busy man, so he probably will not have had an opportunity to read the speech I gave to the governing governors forum some six weeks ago. In it, I outlined the urgent case for reform of IPP sentencing and said that the former Member for Sheffield, Brightside, Lord Blunkett, had acknowledged that the original intention when he introduced those sentences had not manifested itself in the way in which those sentences were applied. I can say to my right hon. and learned Friend that I will be meeting Nick Hardwick, the new chair of the Parole Board, later this week specifically to expedite some changes which I hope my right hon. and learned Friend and others in the House might welcome.

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I am sure the right hon. and learned Gentleman is keenly interested in the contents of the speech, and it may be a sentiment more widely shared. If that supposition on my part is judged to be accurate, perhaps the Secretary of State will place copies of the said speech in the Library of the House.

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We all look forward to reading the speech; whether or not it is in the Library, we will get a copy. The root cause of the problem is overcrowding, which creates stress on the staff and on other prisoners. Currently, there are 13,000 foreign national prisoners in our prisons, and the prisoner transfer arrangement with the EU has been going painfully slowly so far. We have now decided to come out of the EU. What further steps can be taken to get countries to take back their own citizens?

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First, I will, of course, place a copy in the Library. Secondly, for those who are even more eager to read it, I believe a copy is available on the Ministry of Justice website. We will do everything possible to facilitate the widespread dissemination and reading of that speech.

The Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee makes a very good point: there are far too many foreign national offenders in our prisons. I have been working with the Home Secretary to reduce those numbers. I am always loth to mention Albania, but some countries outside the European Union have concluded good bilateral arrangements with this country in order to facilitate the return of criminals, and Albania—outside the EU at the moment—is one such country. It is not necessary to be in the EU to have good bilateral arrangements, but it is vital, as we move to our new relationship with our European neighbours, to ensure that we return those offenders who are not British citizens.

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The safety of prison staff is a huge issue for me, as I have three prisons in my constituency. Does the Secretary of State agree that we will not get the rehabilitation of prisoners that we all want unless prison staff have the time and resources to enable it to happen and both they and prisoners feel safe enough to achieve it, and that this process will not be helped by ongoing reductions in prison staff numbers?

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The hon. Lady makes a fair point. I am delighted that we have been able to give Durham prison in her constituency an additional £220,000 in order to help deal with current problems. More broadly, she is right. Even though staff were reduced in the previous Parliament in order to meet benchmarking requirements, there has been a net increase in the number of prison staff since January 2015, and we will be making more announcements in due course about how we intend to recruit even more high-quality people into that important job.

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How many times has the National Tactical Response Group been called out this year? Last year there was one call-out for every day of the year. Has this figure gone up?

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I hope the hon. Lady will excuse me as I turn to my notes in order to give her the exact figure. The last year for which we have figures was 2014-15 and the National Tactical Response Group was called out 400 times during that year, so that was just over once every day.[Official Report, 14 July 2016, Vol. 613, c. 4MC.]

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In my constituency there is no extra money for HMP Kennet because it is closing. It has been open for only 10 years. In answers to letters that I have written to the right hon. Gentleman’s ministerial colleagues, I have been told that the staff will be expected to relocate to the new super-prison in Wrexham. The problem is that that is more than 70 miles away and there is no prospect of many of those staff being able to relocate. Is that not an example of one of the problems in the planning that the right hon. Gentleman is carrying out? He is closing a prison and the staff will not be able to get to the new one that he is opening. How will that help with problems of both overcrowding and prison staff safety?

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I would be delighted to meet, or have one of my colleagues meet, the hon. Gentleman in order to explain in greater detail the reasons for closing HMP Kennet. One of the things that we need to do is to make sure that we have modern and appropriate prisons for our prisoners. Of course, there will be opportunities not just in HMP Berwyn, the new prison in Wales, but elsewhere for staff who currently work in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency to continue to do the idealistic work for which I thank them.

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I have spent a lot of time in prisons over the past few months. There are two things that staff have raised with me. The first is that they are optimistic about the reform context that the Secretary of State has created and he should be congratulated on that. However, the second topic that staff have raised at prisons across the country is staff numbers, which have fallen substantially. In the new Government that we expect to begin shortly, does the right hon. Gentleman hope to see that reform agenda continue? Now that we are moving away from austerity, is it possible that staff numbers might begin to rise again?

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I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he says, and for the work that he is carrying out to ensure that black and minority ethnic individuals are treated fairly in our criminal justice system. On the reform programme, I have been delighted by the fact that across this House and throughout the Government there has been strong support for the reform programme that we are undertaking, and I think it will be central to the work of this Government over the next few years. I look forward to working with the right hon. Gentleman and other colleagues to ensure that we make progress.

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It is of paramount importance that the Government do all they can to ensure that prison staff are safe in their place of work. The Secretary of State will know that the recent safety in custody figures were quite shocking. Will he guarantee that when those figures are published in future, there will be fuller scrutiny of those statistics in Parliament, and will he commit to a frequent statement on what the Government are doing to improve the situation?

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Yes, I will do everything possible to make sure that Parliament is fully informed. That is entirely in line with the recommendations, which I welcome, from the Select Committee.

NATO Warsaw Summit

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With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement on the NATO summit held in Warsaw last Friday and Saturday.

The 2015 strategic defence and security review reaffirmed NATO’s position at the heart of UK defence and security. The United Kingdom remains a leader within the alliance, with the second largest defence budget after the United States, and the largest in Europe. The range of challenges that the alliance faces, including Daesh, migration and Russian belligerence, meant that this summit was of major importance for Euro-Atlantic security. The overwhelming message from Warsaw was one of strength and unity. We believe that the summit has delivered an alliance that is now more capable and that projects stability beyond our borders, based on stronger partnerships, which collectively protect our citizens and defend Europe.

At the Wales summit in 2014, NATO agreed its readiness action plan to ensure that the alliance can respond swiftly and strongly to new challenges. The UK is at the forefront of these efforts: our Typhoons are currently conducting Baltic air-policing missions from Estonia; our ships are making a significant contribution to NATO’s naval forces: and we will lead NATO’s very high readiness joint taskforce next year, with 3,000 UK ground troops ready to deploy within days.

To demonstrate the allies’ solidarity, determination and ability to act in response to any aggression, Warsaw builds on the Wales’ commitments by delivering an enhanced forward presence in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. I am proud that the UK is one of four nations to lead a framework battalion alongside Canada, Germany and the United States. These battalions will be defensive in nature, but fully combat capable. The UK force will be located in Estonia with two UK companies, a headquarters element and equipment including armoured vehicles, Javelin anti-tank guided missiles and mortars. Denmark and France have said that they will provide troops to the UK battalion. In addition, we will also deploy a company group to Poland. That is our response to Russian aggression. NATO’s approach is based on balancing strong defence and dialogue. Dialogue remains right where it is in our interests to deliver hard messages to promote transparency and to build understanding to reduce risks of mis- calculation.

Credible alliance defence and deterrence depend on NATO’s ability to adapt to 21st-century threats through both nuclear and conventional forces. The summit recognised the important contribution that the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent makes to the overall security of the alliance. I can confirm that we expect the House to have the opportunity to vote to endorse the renewal of that deterrent next Monday.

Initiatives on cyber and hybrid warfare among others will give the alliance the capabilities that it needs to respond quickly and effectively. However, modern capabilities require appropriate funding and here good progress has been made against the defence investment pledge, a key commitment from Wales. Following this Government’s decision to spend 2% of GDP on defence and to increase the defence budget in each year of this Parliament, cuts to defence spending across the alliance have now halted, with 20 allies now increasing defence spending, and eight allies committing in their national plans to reaching the 2% target.

Delivering the best for our country also means maximising the talent in our armed forces. The Prime Minister has accepted the recommendation of the Chief of the General Staff to open up ground close-combat roles to women. NATO’s role in preventing conflict and tackling problems at source has become ever more important as threats to alliance security grow out of instability and fragile or weak states. NATO’s defence capacity-building initiative, which was first announced in Wales, is a powerful tool in projecting stability and we in the United Kingdom continue to provide significant support to Georgia, Iraq and Jordan.

Building on that, the allies agreed that NATO will conduct training and capacity building inside Iraq. In Afghanistan, local forces are taking responsibility for providing security across their country. Our long-term commitment, as part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission, is crucial. Next year, we will increase our current troop contribution of 450 by 10% to help build the capacity of the Afghan security institutions.

The summit also reiterated its support for our European partners, including Ukraine and Georgia. I was delighted that Montenegro attended the summit as an observer, as a clear sign that NATO’s door remains open.

However, the scale of Europe’s security challenges means that NATO must work with a range of partners to counter them. This summit sent a strong message of NATO’s willingness to build strong relationships with other international institutions. I welcome the joint declaration by the NATO Secretary-General and the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission on NATO-EU co-operation. We continue to support a closer relationship between NATO and the EU to avoid unnecessary duplication.

Our strong message to our allies and our partners was that the result of the referendum will have no impact on any of our NATO commitments and that NATO remains the cornerstone of our defence policy. The United Kingdom will be leaving the European Union, but we are not reducing our commitment to European security—we are not turning our back on Europe or on the rest of the world.

HMS Mersey will deploy to the Aegean from late July to continue our support for NATO’s efforts to counter illegal migration. We will also provide a second ship—RFA Mounts Bay—to the EU’s Operation Sophia in the central Mediterranean, and NATO has agreed in principle to provide surveillance and reconnaissance support to that operation too.

It is a United Kingdom priority for NATO to do more against Daesh. NATO’s airborne warning and control system will now support the counter-Daesh coalition. In addition to our own assistance to the Government of national accord, we will consider what NATO can do in Libya—for example, through capacity building of the Libyan coastguard.

It is our firm view that the Warsaw summit successfully demonstrated that the alliance has the capacity, the will and the intent to respond to the range of threats and challenges that it may face. The summit also showed that Britain is stepping up its leading role in the alliance by deploying more forces to NATO’s eastern borders and to NATO’s support to Afghanistan and in countering illegal migration. With that strong UK leadership, Warsaw will be remembered for the concrete steps that were taken to deliver a strong and unified alliance that remains the cornerstone of European defence and security. I commend this statement to the House.

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First, I thank the Secretary of State and his team for the work that they did at the Warsaw summit this weekend. I would also like to remind him that rumours of my going absent without leave in the muddy fields of Glastonbury were greatly exaggerated.

The Opposition welcome the clear message from the Warsaw summit that NATO is determined to strengthen its commitment to our friends and allies in eastern Europe. Whatever the consequences of Brexit—and there will be some that are unforeseeable—we must not let one of them be that the UK is seen as retreating into isolationism. We therefore welcome the Government’s readiness to make the United Kingdom one of the four contributor nations to the new rotational force announced last year. That force will have an important symbolic value in providing a visible reminder of the article 5 commitment to collective defence.

Members may have noted that I deliberately emphasised the word “collective”, and that is because, in essence, the basic values that underpin NATO—collective endeavour, human rights, liberty and democracy—which were specifically re-emphasised in the communiqué this weekend, are the same values that underpinned two of NATO’s key founders: Clement Attlee’s Labour party and the United States’ new deal Democrats. As such, the Opposition are entitled to share some of the credit for helping to build those values into the alliance—values Opposition Members can genuinely get behind and reaffirm. But let me get back to the detail.

Many questions remain about how the deployments in Estonia and Poland will work in practice, particularly in terms of equipment, training and rules of engagement. As such, I would be grateful if the Secretary of State would commit to providing regular updates to the House as these plans move forward.

In the light of ongoing tensions between NATO and Russia, I was pleased to hear the Secretary of State mention the need for dialogue. That commitment was echoed in the summit communiqué, which recognises the risk of misunderstanding and calls for a renewed commitment to improving dialogue, particularly through the NATO-Russia Council. However, what steps are the Government taking through bilateral channels to reduce the risk of misunderstanding between the UK and Russia, or of a possible miscalculation, on defence matters?

It is now well over a decade since NATO took command of multinational operations in Afghanistan, where more than 450 British servicemen and women have been killed since 2002. As many in the House will know, I spent some time in the Afghanistan theatre on operations. I have some personal experience having served a three-month tour there back in 2009 as part of the NATO deployment. I will draw on that in our future debates. Although the UK’s last remaining combat troops were withdrawn in 2014, hundreds have stayed behind to continue training local Afghan security forces as part of NATO’s support mission. The announcement in Warsaw that a further 50 British troops will be deployed to Afghanistan next year, and the planned withdrawal date pushed back for a second time, will therefore be of concern to many. While I note that UK troops will continue to be deployed in non-combat roles, I would be grateful if the Secretary of State set out the measures that are in place to safeguard against the possibility of mission creep, given the substantial difficulties in handing over responsibility for the security of the country to Afghan forces themselves.

For a number of years, the UK has been the only major NATO power to continue to exclude women from ground close-combat roles. Labour Members therefore welcome wholeheartedly Friday’s announcement to approve the integration of women across all front-line combat roles. This decision is a huge step forward, not just for equality but for the effectiveness of the armed forces. In Iraq, in Afghanistan, and all over the world, women have served our armed forces with professionalism and distinction. I would be grateful for any information that the Secretary of State can provide today, or in the weeks ahead, as to what specific steps he will take to monitor and ensure the smooth transition of this process.

We must never lose sight of the vision of NATO’s founders. They understood that peace was always built on a foundation stone of justice—justice in the form of freedom, of democracy, and of economic fairness. The Secretary of State was right to affirm the UK’s commitment to NATO. I hope that the NATO he affirms is one that stays true to the vision of its founders, because that is a vision that Labour Members share and that I look forward to holding to account in the months ahead.

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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his comments and welcome him on his first appearance at the Dispatch Box. I think that he is the fourth shadow Defence Secretary in the past couple of years. I also welcome the broad welcome that he has given to this statement. I wholeheartedly welcome his reminder of the original establishment of NATO under a Labour Government who, of course, fully supported the nuclear deterrent at the time, and were ready, like every Labour Government, to commit that nuclear deterrent to the overall defence of the alliance, as well as the defence of this country. I am sure that he will explain all that in a little more detail when we come to the debate on Monday.

The hon. Gentleman asked four specific questions. First, on the battalion to be deployed in Estonia, yes, I will update the House on the precise arrangements for that deployment, which will begin, we hope, in spring next year. As he will understand, there is much detail to be finalised with regard to the command and control relationships and the precise activities that the battalion will be involved in, but, yes, we will keep him and the House up to date on that.

Secondly, the hon. Gentleman asked about the dialogue with Russia. I want to be very clear with the House: because of the annexation of Crimea and the aggression in Ukraine, it cannot now be business as usual with Russia, but there are interests that we have in common, as we saw in the refinement of the nuclear deal with Iran and ongoing discussions about a political settlement in Syria. It is right that we continue to talk to Russia in the areas where we have shared interests. I can confirm that the next meeting of the NATO-Russia Council will be on 13 July, and that we do continue links of the sort he mentioned, at ambassadorial level, to ensure that any misunderstandings can be avoided.

Thirdly, the hon. Gentleman asked about Afghanistan. Let me put on the record my tribute to him for his service in Afghanistan. We are increasing the number of troops deployed in Afghanistan by about 50. There is no danger of mission creep, because those additional 50 troops will be doing what the existing 450 are doing, which is supporting the security institutions, providing advice and support to the fledgling Afghan air force, and continuing the important work of mentoring at the officer academy. A number of other allies have been able to increase their support to Afghanistan. The hon. Gentleman will know, of course, that the alliance also welcomed the change of heart in the American position, which is not going to reduce down to the level originally forecast.

Finally, the hon. Gentleman asked about the decision to open combat roles in the Army to women. I am glad that he has welcomed that. Of course, we will do it on a phased basis, continuing the essential research to set the right physical standards as each role is opened up. I am very happy to keep him up to date on that.

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I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement, and thank him for emphasising the centrality of NATO in our collective defence. What particular discussions has he had with members of the European Union on those parts of the common security and defence policy that may continue to be of mutual benefit? I am thinking in particular of elements of the European Defence Agency and exercising with the EU battlegroups.

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Let me make it very clear that, until we leave the European Union, we remain full members of it and committed to the security that it adds to that provided through NATO. That includes our participation in the EU battlegroup and in missions such as Operation Sophia in the central Mediterranean, to which we are now committing an additional ship. It is also seen in our continuing work to get the two organisations to work more closely together, avoid unnecessary duplication and co-operate more closely.

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Paragraph 40 of the Warsaw summit communiqué focuses on NATO’s maritime security. Given that there are no surface vessels or maritime patrol aircraft based in Scotland, the UK Government are clearly failing in their duty. Did the Secretary of State have any discussions with his Norwegian counterpart over her plea earlier this year for increased co-operation in the maritime domain?

Paragraph 10 of the Warsaw summit communiqué lists a number of Russia’s destabilising actions and policies, including the annexation of Crimea; the deliberate destabilisation of eastern Ukraine; large-scale snap exercises; provocative military activities near NATO borders; aggressive nuclear rhetoric; and repeated violations of NATO airspace. Which of those actions has been deterred by Trident?

Finally, paragraph 64 of the communiqué focuses on nuclear non-proliferation. What specific discussions did the Secretary of State have with NATO counterparts on further nuclear disarmament? In the coming weeks, my SNP colleagues and I will vote not to renew Trident. May I invite the Secretary of State and Labour MPs to join me in voting against it, so that we can achieve the alliance’s aim of a world without nuclear weapons?

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In answer to the hon. Gentleman’s first point, the defence of the United Kingdom is organised on a United Kingdom basis. He should be in absolutely no doubt about that.

On our relationship with Norway, yes, I had a bilateral meeting with the Norwegian Minister. We work extremely closely on defending our respective countries and are looking for further areas of co-operation, particularly in the light of our strategic defence review and Norway’s long-term plan, which was published more recently.

On maritime patrol aircraft, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will have caught up with this morning’s announcement that we are to purchase nine Boeing P-8 aircraft, as announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister with me at the Farnborough air show this morning. I hope it will not be too long before those patrol aircraft are able to help better protect our deterrent, as well as protect our aircraft carriers and conduct other tasks.

Non-proliferation was not subject matter for the Warsaw summit. We remain, in principle, committed to the search for a world without nuclear weapons. However, I have to say to the hon. Member and his party that there are 17,000 nuclear weapons out there and states that are trying to develop nuclear weapons. There remains the danger that others, such as non-state actors or terrorist groups, may try to get hold of nuclear weapons. That is why I will be inviting the House to vote next Monday to continue the principle of the nuclear deterrent that has served this country well and will protect it in the 2030s, 2040s and 2050s.

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Let me say to my right hon. Friend how delighted I am that we have reaffirmed our commitment to the NATO alliance by sending the strong signal of using our troops on the ground in Estonia and Poland. Further, I thank him for making arrangements for French and Danish troops to join our battle group in Estonia. I speak as perhaps the only British officer to have commanded the 1st Parachute Battalion of the French Foreign Legion—albeit briefly.

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The purpose of this deployment is to reassure our allies on the eastern border of NATO, as much as to make Russia think twice about any further aggression. I can tell my hon. Friend that our deployment in Estonia was warmly welcomed, not simply by Estonia but by the other Baltic states too. We are seeing now a coming together of the NATO countries and a commitment to each other’s formations, whether it is the very high-readiness joint taskforce or the enhanced forward presence. We particularly look forward to working with French and Danish troops alongside our battalion in Estonia next year.

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The summit reiterated support for Georgia and Ukraine. However, in practical terms, what steps are being taken to support those countries in their bid for NATO membership and to ensure the defence of their borders?

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Georgia is an enhanced opportunity partner of NATO and a package of measures is in place to strengthen defence co-operation between NATO and Georgia. We are playing a significant part in the training of the Ukrainian armed forces, building up their capacity to deal with the insurgency in eastern Ukraine and to reduce the number of casualties that they were suffering initially. As for future accession to NATO, we have made it very clear that there can be no shortcuts to NATO membership. There are criteria to meet, and any future applications require the unanimous consent of all the existing members. Equally, the accession of Montenegro sends a very clear message that nobody, and certainly not Russia, has any kind of veto on future membership.

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Has my right hon. Friend seen the remarks from the former Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev, who has expressed concern that we are moving from a new cold war to a hot one? Speaking as somebody who was a soldier in the cold war, I express grave concern that all we are really doing is irritating Russia by putting a number of troops on its border. We have to recognise that Russia has a zone of influence, which includes Ukraine and Belarus. If we do not find a way of negotiating with Russia, we are only going to make the danger of a new cold war, or possibly a hot war, more likely. We really have to look at these realities.

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I pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s former service in the military, but I have to say to him, and to Russia, that NATO remains a defensive alliance and is not threatening anybody. However, given the commitments that we have all made to each other under article 5, it is very important that we reassure members, particularly those on the eastern flank of NATO, that we are ready to stand by those commitments and to come to their aid. I must remind my hon. Friend that they, of course, have seen Russia trying to change international borders by force, annexing Crimea and interfering in eastern Ukraine. It is very important that we remind members of NATO that it is committed to defending their territorial integrity, and that we send a message right across Europe to Moscow that we are not prepared to see the sovereign integrity of these countries further impugned.

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The Warsaw conference underlined NATO’s concept of deterrence. Does the Secretary of State agree that for deterrence to be effective, it has to be credible, and that any suggestion that our nuclear deterrent could be delivered other than by continuous at-sea deterrence would not only lead to its credibility being questioned, but threaten the nuclear posture of deterrence by NATO?

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I absolutely agree with that. The previous coalition Government looked exhaustively at alternative systems for delivering such deterrence. We looked at whether it could be done from the air, from land or with fewer boats, and the overwhelming conclusion of that review was that the simplest and most cost-effective form of deterrence is to maintain our existing four-boat nuclear submarine fleet. That is the purpose of the motion we will be putting before the House on Monday.

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I am very grateful indeed for my right hon. Friend’s robust statements on the NATO summit. Can he assure me that with the good news of more European nations pledging to spend 2% of their GDP on defence, and with the commitment to Trident, NATO will remain an alliance of co-operation between European states and Atlantic states?

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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he has said, not least because I think we were on opposite sides of the argument during the referendum. The most encouraging thing since the Wales summit—fully confirmed at Warsaw—is the number of European countries that have put plans in place to increase their spending. The general decline of defence spending in Europe has been halted and is being reversed. Allies such as the Czech Republic, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, the Slovak Republic and Turkey are putting in place plans to get to the 2%, as we have done.

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With your permission, Mr Speaker, it might be helpful for me to pass on to the House the news that the Unite trade union has just reaffirmed its strong commitment to the building programme for the submarine fleet, which is going on in Barrow and across the nation. I hope that that will help Labour Members as we seek to fulfil our manifesto pledge to carry on and complete the programme that we began in government.

I turn to the vote that will take place on Monday. What, in the Government’s view, would it do to the UK’s position in the nuclear alliance of NATO if we were suddenly to commit to unilateral disarmament by scrapping the programme to create a new fleet of Successor submarines?

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On the hon. Gentleman’s first point, let me welcome the decision of Unite to support the renewal of the nuclear deterrent. It is, of course, important for security, and it is also important for the economy. More than 200 companies are already involved in the supply chain and are starting to deliver some of the long-lead items that the House, through its expenditure, has already authorised, and several thousand jobs are beginning to be committed to the renewal of the deterrent. It is important to bear those in mind during the debate on Monday.

On the hon. Gentleman’s bigger point, any decision by this House to resile or withdraw from the position of successive Governments—Labour and Conservative—that we are committed to the nuclear deterrent, and committed to placing that nuclear deterrent in support of the NATO alliance as a whole, would fundamentally undermine that alliance and have serious repercussions for our relationships with our key allies, especially the United States.

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May I return the Secretary of State to the issue of Ukraine? The belligerence of Russia is of great interest to the Council of Europe, and at its last meeting, Madam Savchenko, the Ukrainian pilot who was arrested by the Russians, was able to join us. What will NATO involvement in Ukraine try to achieve?

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I had the privilege of meeting Madam Savchenko in Warsaw on Saturday, when she attended with the President of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Defence Minister. Although Ukraine is not a member of NATO, a number of NATO allies are working extremely hard to try to reinforce Ukraine’s ability to defend itself. We are co-ordinating our training effort, and doing what we can to stand behind the territorial integrity of Ukraine, not least through the sanctions that the European Union continues to apply.

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May I also welcome Unite’s decision to reconfirm the position that dates back to Ernest Bevin—the former general secretary of what was then the Transport and General Workers Union and today is Unite? Will the Secretary of State say more about the situation post-Brexit? Programmes such as that for the F-35 cost around $100 million per aircraft before the referendum. Will there be a rescheduling of the assessment of those programmes, as well as others in the strategic defence and security review?

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On the nuclear deterrent, I hope that we will get as large a majority as possible, and that Members across the House will join us in recommitting this country to the nuclear deterrent that has served us so well. We must send a further signal to the rest of the world that Britain is prepared to continue to play its part in the defence of NATO as well as of our own country. On the specific question about the cost of F-35, it is a little too early to be sure exactly where the sterling-dollar exchange rate will end up. Like any large commercial organisation, we take precautions against fluctuations in the currency, but it is too early to say whether that current level is likely to be sustained.

Point of Order

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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have notified my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) of my intention to raise this issue. On Friday, a member of my staff had his parliamentary pass deactivated, following an email from the office of the Leader of the Opposition to the parliamentary pass office. The email advised the pass office to terminate the passes of a number of staff who work for former members of the shadow Cabinet. May I seek your advice, Mr Speaker, about the propriety of Members seeking to deactivate the passes of other Members’ staff? Can you clarify the rules on that issue, because I was under the impression that authorising passes was the sole responsibility of the sponsoring Member?

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I am grateful to the hon. Lady for notice of her point of order, and she is correct—that is the basis on which these matters are handled. I am conscious that the passes of the staff of several Members were incorrectly suspended temporarily on Friday. [Interruption.] Order. As soon as the error came to light, the passes were reinstated. We do not discuss security matters on the Floor of the House, so I do not propose to say anymore on the matter. Moreover, I do not need to do so because I have given the information that the hon. Lady sought, and I have specifically answered her point of order about where locus lies. Let us leave it there for now.

Bill Presented

Parthenon Sculptures (Return to Greece) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Mark Williams, supported by Sir Roger Gale, Margaret Ferrier, Jeremy Lefroy, Mary Glindon, Hywel Williams, and Liz Saville Roberts presented a Bill to make provisions for the transfer of ownership and return to Greece of the artefacts known as the Parthenon Sculptures, or Elgin Marbles, purchased by Parliament in 1816; to amend the British Museum Act accordingly; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 20 January 2017, and to be printed (Bill 48).

Wales Bill

[2nd Allocated Day]

Further considered in Committee

[Mr Lindsay Hoyle in the Chair]

Clause 3

Legislative competence

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I beg to move amendment 118, page 2, line 28, after “7A)” insert

“and is not ancillary to another provision (whether in the Act or another enactment) that does not relate to a reserved matter”.

Clause 3 establishes the legislative competence of the National Assembly for Wales. This amendment makes clear that the Assembly has power to make provision touching upon reserved matters for the purpose of enforcing provisions in Assembly Acts that do not relate to reserved matters or otherwise making them effective.

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With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 148, page 2, line 33, leave out “subsection (2)(b) does” and insert

“subsections (2)(b) and (2)(c) do”.

The amendment restores the Assembly’s competence by enabling it to legislate in an ancillary way in relation to reserved matters.

Amendment 149, page 2, line 34, leave out from “provision” to end of line 6 on page 3 and insert

“which is within the Assembly’s legislative competence (or would be if it were included in an Act of the Assembly).”

The amendment restores the Assembly’s competence by enabling it to legislate in an ancillary way in relation to reserved matters.

Clause 3 stand part.

Amendment 2, in schedule 1, page 41, line 24, at end insert

“(that is, the property, rights and interests under the management of the Crown Estate Commissioners)

‘(3A) Sub-paragraph (1) does not affect the reservation by paragraph 1 of the requirements of section 90B(5) to (8).”

This amendment is consequential on new Clause (The Crown Estate) which would transfer executive and legislative competence of the Crown Estate in Wales to the Welsh Government and the National Assembly for Wales.

Amendment 6, page 41, line 30 , at end insert—

“2A Paragraph 1 does not reserve the consolidation in English and Welsh of the principal legislation delineating the powers of the National Assembly for Wales and the Welsh Government, including (but not limited to) the Government of Wales Act 2006, the Wales Act 2011 and the Wales Act 2016.”

This amendment would allow the National Assembly for Wales to consolidate in both English and Welsh the statutes bills containing the current constitutional settlement affecting Wales.

Amendment 155, page 42, line 20, leave out “prosecutors” and insert “the Crown Prosecution Service”.

The amendment clarifies the reservation so that “the Crown Prosecution Service” is reserved, rather than “prosecutors” more generally, as this could prohibit Assembly legislation enabling devolved authorities to prosecute, such as local authorities.

Amendment 119, page 42, line 26, leave out sub-paragraphs (2) and (3).

This amendment seeks to allow ancillary provision by removing the exception in paragraph 6(2) and the related definition in paragraph 6(3), so that reliance can be placed on the general power to make ancillary provision made clear by the amendment to clause 3 proposed by amendment 118.

Amendment 83, page 47, line 32, leave out Section B5.

This amendment removes the reservation of crime, public order and policing from the list of reserved powers.

Amendment 122, page 48, line 9, leave out

“The subject matter of Parts 1 to 6”

and insert

“Anti-social behaviour injunctions under Part 1”.

This amendment is intended to narrow the reservation to the system of anti-social behaviour injunctions provided for by Part 1 of the 2014 Act.

Amendment 84, page 48, leave out line 11.

This amendment removes the reservation of dangerous dogs and dogs dangerously out of control from the list of reserved powers.

Amendment 85, page 48, line 15, leave out Section B8.

This amendment removes the reservation of prostitution from the list of reserved powers.

Amendment 86, page 48, line 24, leave out Section B11.

This amendment removes the reservation of the rehabilitation of offenders from the list of reserved powers.

Amendment 117, page 49, leave out lines 5 to 10.

This amendment will remove the reservation of knives from the list of reserved powers.

Amendment 123, page 49, leave out lines 24 to 29.

Paragraph 55 of the new Schedule 7A to be inserted into the Government of Wales Act 2006 by Schedule 1 would reserve the licensing of the provision of entertainment and late night refreshment from the Assembly’s legislative competence. Paragraph 56 would reserve the sale and supply of alcohol. This amendment removes both reservations.

Amendment 116, page 49, leave out lines 24 to 26.

This amendment will remove the reservation of the licensing of the provision of entertainment and late night refreshment from the list of reserved powers.

Amendment 87, page 49, line 27, leave out Section B17.

This amendment removes the reservation of alcohol from the list of reserved powers.

Government amendments 53 to 58.

Amendment 88, page 55, line 5, leave out Section C15.

This amendment removes the reservation of Water and sewerage from the list of reserved powers.

Amendment 89, page 55, line 28, leave out Section C17.

This amendment removes the reservation of Sunday trading from the list of reserved powers.

Amendment 90, page 55, line 32, leave out Section D1.

This amendment removes the reservation of generation, transmission, distribution and supply of electricity from the list of reserved powers.

Amendment 91, page 56, line 27, leave out Section D3.

This amendment removes the reservation of coal from the list of reserved powers.

Amendment 92, page 57, line 2, leave out Section D5.

This amendment removes the reservation of heat and cooling from the list of reserved powers.

Amendment 93, page 57, line 17, leave out Section D6.

This amendment removes the reservation of energy conservation from the list of reserved powers.

Amendment 94, page 57, line 24, leave out Section E1.

This amendment removes the reservation of road transport from the list of reserved powers.

Amendment 161, page 57, line 35, leave out from “roads” to the end of line 36 and insert—

“107A Speed limits

107B Road and traffic signs”

This amendment would make speed limits and road and traffic signs reserved matters.

Amendment 95, page 58, leave out line 36.

This amendment removes the reservation of railway services from the list of reserved powers.

Amendment 96, page 59, leave out line 21.

This amendment is consequential on amendment 61 to Clause 28 which would remove the exception to the devolution of executive functions in relation to Welsh harbours of “reserved trust ports”.

Amendment 140, page 59, line 21, leave out “Reserved trust ports and”.

Section E3 of the new Schedule 7A to be inserted into the Government of Wales Act 2006 by Schedule 1 would reserve certain marine and waterway transport matters from the Assembly’s legislative competence. Paragraph 119 in that Section would reserve trust ports. This amendment removes this reservation.

Amendment 97, page 59, leave out line 23.

This amendment removes the reservation of coastguard services and maritime search and rescue from the list of reserved powers.

Amendment 98, page 59, leave out line 24.

This amendment removes the reservation of hovercraft from the list of reserved powers.

Amendment 141, page 59, line 28, leave out “, reserved trust ports or”.

This amendment is consequential upon amendment 140.

Amendment 142, page 59, line 37, leave out

“that is not a reserved trust port”.

This amendment is consequential upon amendment 140.

Amendment 143, page 60, leave out lines 4 to 5.

This amendment is consequential upon amendment 140.

Amendment 100, page 61, line 21, at end insert—

“Benefits entitlement to which, or the purposes of which, are the same as or similar to those of any of the following benefits—

(a) universal credit under Part 1 of the Welfare Reform Act 2012,

(b) jobseeker’s allowance (whether contributions-based or income based) under the Jobseekers Act 1995,

(c) employment and support allowance (whether contributory or income-related) under Part 1 of the Welfare Reform Act 2007,

(d) income support under section 124 of the Social Security and Benefits Act 1992,

(e) housing benefit under section 130 of that Act,

(f) child tax credit and working tax credit under the Tax Credits Act 2002.

The benefits referred to in paragraphs (a) to (f) above are—

(a) in the case of income-based jobseeker’s allowance and income-related employment support allowance, those benefits as they existed on 28 April 2013 (the day before their abolition),

(b) in the case of the other benefits, those benefits as they existed on 28 May 2015.”

This amendment devolves all working age benefits to be replaced by Universal credit, and any benefit introduced to replace Universal credit.

Amendment 101, page 61, line 21, at end insert—

“Benefits entitlement to which, or the purposes of which, are the same as or similar to those of any of the following benefits—

(a) guardian’s allowance under section 77 of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992,

(b) child benefit under Part 9 of that Act.”

This amendment devolves to the National Assembly for Wales, child benefit and Guardian’s allowance including conditionality and sanctions regimes.

Amendment 102, page 64, line 17, leave out Section H1.

This amendment would remove employment and industrial relations from the list of reserved powers.

Amendment 108, page 64, line 17, leave out Section H1 and insert—

“H1 National Minimum Wage

The subject-matter of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998.”

This amendment would devolve employment rights and duties and industrial relations, except for the national minimum wage, to the National Assembly for Wales.

Amendment 124, page 64, line 44, at end insert—

“Terms and conditions of employment and industrial relations in Wales public authorities and services contracted out or otherwise procured by such authorities.”

Section H1 of the new Schedule 7A to be inserted into the Government of Wales Act 2006 by Schedule 1 would reserve employment rights and duties and industrial relations from Assembly’s legislative competence. This amendment provides an exception to ensure that the Assembly retains its legislative competence over terms and conditions of service for employees in devolved public services and industrial relations in such services.

Amendment 99, page 65, line 7, leave out Section H3.

This amendment would devolve employment support programmes to the National Assembly for Wales.

Amendment 109, page 65, line 24, leave out Section J1.

This amendment removes the reservation of abortion from the list of reserved powers, to bring Wales into line with Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Amendment 103, page 66, line 31, leave out Section J6.

This amendment would remove Health and Safety from the list of reserved powers.

Amendment 105, page 67, line 14, leave out Section K1.

This amendment would remove broadcasting form the list of reserved powers

Amendment 107, page 67, line 17, at end insert—

“Exceptions

The regulation of:

(a) party political broadcasts in connection with elections that are within the legislative competence of the Assembly and

(b) referendum campaign broadcasts in connection with referendums held under Acts of the National Assembly for Wales.”

This amendment would devolve competence to the National Assembly for Wales in relation to party political broadcasts for Welsh and local elections.

Amendment 106, page 67, line 29, leave out Section K5.

This amendment would remove sports grounds from the list of reservations

Amendment 110, page 68, line 2, leave out Section L1.

This amendment removes justice from the list of reserved powers.

Amendment 111, page 69, line 25, leave out Section L11.

This amendment removes the reservation of prisons and offender management from the list of reserved powers.

Amendment 104, page 72, line 14, leave out Section N1.

This amendment would remove equal opportunities from the list of reserved powers

Amendment 112, page 73, line 24, leave out “bank holidays”.

This amendment, along with amendment 85, will devolve to the National Assembly for Wales, competence over bank holidays.

Amendment 113, page 73, line 27, at end insert “bank holidays”.

This amendment, along with amendment 112, will devolve to the National Assembly for Wales, competence over bank holidays.

Amendment 114, page 74, line 7, leave out Section N8.

This amendment will remove the reservation of the Children’s Commissioner from the list of reserved powers.

Amendment 115, page 74, line 11, leave out Section N9.

This amendment will remove the reservation of teacher’s pay and conditions from the list of reserved powers.

That schedule 1 be the First schedule to the Bill.

Amendment 120, in schedule 2, page 77, line 17, at end insert—

“1A Paragraph 1 does not apply to a modification that is ancillary to a provision made (whether by the Act in question or another enactment) which does not relate to reserved matters if it is a modification of the law on reserved matters in paragraph 6 or 7 of Schedule 7A.”

This amendment provides an exception for ancillary provision about certain justice matters that is not subject to a necessity test.

Amendment 121, page 77, line 18, leave out “a” and insert “any other”.

This amendment is consequential upon amendment 120.

Amendment 156, page 77, line 21, leave out from “matters” to end of line 26.

The amendment removes the necessity test in relation to the law on reserved matters.

Amendment 157, page 78, line 2, leave out paragraph 4 and insert—

“4 (1) A provision of an Act of the Assembly cannot make modifications of, or confer power by subordinate legislation to make modifications of, the criminal law. (See also paragraph 6 of Schedule 7A (single legal jurisdiction of England and Wales).)

(2) Sub-paragraph (1) does not apply to a modification that has a purpose (other than modification of the criminal law) which does not relate to a reserved matter.

(3) This paragraph applies to civil penalties as it applies to offences; and references in this paragraph to the criminal law are to be read accordingly).”

The amendment inserts a restriction so that the Assembly cannot modify criminal law unless it is for a purpose other than a reserved purpose. This would bring it into line with the private law restriction.

Amendment 34, page 79, line 29, leave out from “Assembly” to end of line 39.

The amendment removes the requirements relating to the composition and internal arrangements of the Assembly Committee with oversight of the Auditor General and/or their functions.

Amendment 35, page 80, line 41, at end insert—

“(i) subsection 120(1) as regards a modification that adds a person or body;”

The amendment will enable the Assembly to amend sections 120(1) of the 2006 Act which provide for ‘relevant persons’ which receive funding directly from the Welsh Consolidated Fund.”

Amendment 36, page 80, line 42, at end insert—

(iii) subsection 124(3) as regards a modification that adds a person or body;”

The amendment will enable the Assembly to amend sections 124(3) of the 2006 Act which provide for ‘relevant persons’ which receive funding directly from the Welsh Consolidated Fund.

Amendment 37, page 81, line 22, leave out from “taxes” to end of line 23.

The amendment removes the requirement for Secretary of State consent for the Assembly to amend the provisions of Part 5 of the 2006 Act which are not specifically referred to in paragraph 7(2)(d) and section 159, where the amendment is incidental to, or consequential on, a provision of an Act of the Assembly relating to budgetary procedures.

Amendment 128, page 82, line 30, leave out paragraph (c).

This amendment is consequential upon amendment 127.

Amendment 127, page 82, line 44, at end insert—

‘( ) Paragraph 8(1)(a) and (c) does not apply in relation to the Water Services Regulation Authority.”

This amendment would extend the existing exception for the Water Services Regulation Authority to include the matters that would otherwise be outside competence by virtue of paragraph 8(1)(c) of Schedule 7B.

Amendment 129, page 83, line 42, leave out paragraph (c).

This amendment removes the restriction in paragraph 11(1)(c) of the new Schedule 7B to the Government of Wales Act 2006 to be inserted by Schedule 2 to the Bill which would prevent the Assembly from legislating to remove or modify functions of a Minister of the Crown exercisable in relation to water and sewerage matters (including control of pollution) and matters relating to land drainage, flood risk management and coastal protection.

That schedule 2 be the Second schedule to the Bill.

New clause 7—Levies in respect of agriculture, taking wild game, aquaculture and fisheries, etc.

“(1) In Schedule 7A to the Government of Wales Act 2006, section A1 is amended as follows.

(2) In the Exceptions, after the exception for devolved taxes insert—

““Levies in respect of agriculture, taking wild game, aquaculture and fisheries (including sea fisheries) or a related activity: their collection and management.”

(3) After the Exceptions insert—

“Interpretation

“agriculture” includes horticulture, fruit growing, seed growing, dairy farming and livestock breeding and keeping, and the use of land as grazing land, meadow land, osier land, market gardens and nursery grounds.

“aquaculture” includes the breeding, rearing or cultivation of fish (of any kind), seafood or aquatic organisms.

“related activity” means the production, processing, manufacture, marketing or distribution of—

(a) anything (including any creature alive or dead) produced or taken in the course of agriculture, taking wild game or aquaculture, or caught (by any means) in a fishery,

(b) any product which is derived to any substantial extent from anything so produced or caught.””

This new clause would give the National Assembly for Wales general legislative competence in respect of agricultural, aquacultural and fisheries levies.

New clause 10—Water Services Regulation Authority

“(1) In section 27 of the Water Industry Act 1991 (general duty of the authority to keep matters under review)—

(a) in subsection (3), after “may” insert “subject to subsection (3A),”;

(b) after subsection (3), insert—

“(3A) The Secretary of State must obtain the consent of the Welsh Ministers before giving general directions under subsection (3) connected with—

(a) matters in relation to which functions are exercised by water or sewage undertakers whose area is wholly or mainly in Wales,

(b) licensed activities carried out by water supply licensees that use the supply system of a water undertaker whose area is wholly or mainly in Wales, or

(c) licensed activities carried on by sewerage licensees that use the sewerage system of a sewerage undertaker whose area is wholly or mainly in Wales.”;

(c) in subsection (4), in both places where it appears, after “Secretary of State” insert “, the Welsh Ministers”.

(2) In section 192B of the Water Industry Act 1991 (annual and other reports)—

(a) in subsection (1), after “Secretary of State” insert “and the Welsh Ministers”;

(b) in subsection (2)(d), for “as the Assembly” substitute “or activities in Wales as the Welsh Ministers”;

(c) in subsection (4), for “Assembly” substitute “Welsh Ministers”;

(d) after subsection (5) insert—

“(5A) The Welsh Ministers shall—

(a) lay a copy of each annual report before the Assembly; and

(b) arrange for the report to be published in such manner as they consider appropriate;

(c) in subsection (7), omit “the Assembly,””.

(3) In Schedule 1A to the Water Industry Act 1991 (the Water Services Regulation Authority)—

(a) in paragraph 1—

(i) in sub-paragraph (1), after “Secretary of State” insert “and the Welsh Ministers acting jointly”;

(ii) in sub-paragraph (2), omit paragraph (a);

(b) in paragraph 2(2), after “Secretary of State” insert “and the Welsh Ministers acting jointly”;

(c) in paragraph 3—

(i) in sub-paragraph (2), paragraph (a), after “Secretary of State” insert “and the Welsh Ministers”;

(ii) in sub-paragraph (2), paragraph (b), after “Secretary of State” insert “and the Welsh Ministers acting jointly”;

(iii) omit sub-paragraph (3);

(d) in paragraph 4—

(i) in sub-paragraph (1) and (2), in each place where it appears, after “Secretary of State” insert “and the Welsh Ministers acting jointly”;

(ii) in sub-paragraph (3), for “determines” substitute “and the Welsh Ministers acting jointly determine” and at the end insert “and the Welsh Ministers acting jointly”;

(e) in paragraph 9(3)(b), for “Assembly” substitute “Welsh Ministers”.”

This new clause would amend the Water Industry Act 1991 to confer functions relating to the Water Services Regulation Authority (OFWAT) (which exercises functions in England and Wales) onto the Welsh Ministers and it would adjust the functions of the Secretary of State to better reflect the current devolution of water matters to Wales.

Amendment 61, in clause 28, page 23, line 32, leave out from “Wales” to the end of line 33.

This amendment removes the exception to the devolution of executive functions in relation to Welsh harbours of “reserved trust ports”.

Amendment 134, page 23, line 38, leave out subsection (4).

Clause 28(4) provides an exception to the general transfer of functions by clause 28 so that where a function relates to two or more harbours the function is transferred only to the extent that both or all of the harbours to which it relates are wholly in Wales and are not reserved trust ports. This amendment is partly consequential upon amendment 61, but it would also ensure that the Welsh Ministers retain functions where one harbour is in Wales and the other is not.

Amendment 62, page 23, line 40, leave out “and are not reserved trust ports”.

See amendment 61.

Amendment 63, page 24, leave out line 6.

See amendment 61.

Clause 28 stand part.

Amendment 64, in clause 29, page 24, line 13, leave out

“, other than a reserved trust port,”

See amendment 61.

Amendment 65, page 24, line 17, leave out

“, other than reserved trust ports”.

See amendment 61.

Amendment 66, page 24, line 21, leave out

“or a reserved trust port”.

See amendment 61.

Amendment 67, page 24, line 25, leave out

“other than a reserved trust port”.

See amendment 61.

Amendment 68, page 24, line 26, leave out subsection (5).

See amendment 61.

A