House of Commons
Wednesday 7 September 2016
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
The Minister for the Cabinet Office was asked—
Government Estate (Modernisation)
Working collaboratively with Departments and local government, we are delivering a public sector estate that is cost-effective, supports the delivery of better-integrated public services, and exploits surplus land and property to help build homes and create jobs. In so doing, since 2010 we have raised £1.8 billion in capital receipts and reduced running costs by £750 million.
I welcome the Minister to his place and congratulate him on his well-deserved promotion. Does he agree that at a time when the country needs to build more housing on brownfield sites, it is essential that the Government lead the way in this? Have the Government done any audit that has ascertained the amount of land available and the number of houses and flats that could be built on it?
We have done some partial work, as my hon. Friend suggests. It is in the nature of the work that we are doing that there is not sufficiently good-quality understanding of public sector land, and that is why we are seeking to make it better. Despite that, we delivered 100,000 homes on public sector land in the previous Parliament, and we aspire to build 150,000 in this one. I shall provide him with further details as and when we discover them.
I welcome the Minister to his post. He will know that in 2010 a report said that the changes to the civil service—the regionalisation of the civil service—would require political leadership. We have seen a reduction in the size of the estate in London but an increase in the number of top officials and civil servants in London. Under his tenure, will we finally see that political leadership and the regions actually having a voice?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind comments. In my previous ministerial post, it was a great pleasure for me to work with civil servants, especially in Yorkshire, including senior civil servants working there. I saw myself how it is possible to have senior civil servants around the country. I completely agree that the more we can get senior positions of all kinds around the country, the better we will be able to serve the people whom we were elected to serve.
The speed with which the new Brexit Department has been established from scratch since 24 June has been truly impressive. Is not the key to a modern Government who can respond to modern needs to have as much flexible, open-plan office space as possible?
I completely agree with my hon. Friend. The way in which we have been able to set up the new Department and the other Departments of State so rapidly is a tribute to the work done by my predecessors as Ministers at the Cabinet Office in reforms to the civil service and to the Government Property Unit. He will have heard the comments of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State of State for Exiting the European Union about the very significant support that he has received, in number and in quality, from the civil service so far.
Electoral Law Reform
The Government are committed to ensuring that our electoral system is as transparent, accurate and effective as possible. We are working closely with the Law Commission to consider what reforms might be brought forward in the light of its report on electoral law published earlier this year. The Government are also considering the review by my right hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Sir Eric Pickles) of electoral fraud, and we will respond to his proposals in due course.
Smaller parties received almost a quarter of the votes cast in the 2015 election. While once 97% of the country voted Labour or Tory, that number is now less than 70%, and indeed falling, but none of that is reflected here. Is it not now time for a very serious and mature discussion on how we can make every vote count in UK general elections?
The Government believe that first past the post is the best system for electing a Government at the same time as ensuring that the vital constituency link between a Member of Parliament and their constituents is retained. This is clearly in line with the public mood, reflected in the overwhelming majority support for first past the post at the referendum held in 2011.
Many 16 and 17-year-olds feel disfranchised by Westminster. In 2007, Austria lowered its voting age to 16, and has found that turnout among 16 and 17-year-olds is higher than for older first-time voters. Will the Minister now commit to seriously examining the evidence for extending the franchise to our young adults?
The Government believe that it is absolutely vital to our democracy that young people should be engaged in the democratic process, and we will continue our commitment to increasing participation. The current voting age of 18, however, is widely recognised as the point at which one becomes an adult and gains full citizenship rights. I note that the question of lowering the voting age has been debated in this House on several occasions, when it has been repeatedly defeated, including three times during proceedings on the European Union Referendum Bill. The Government therefore have no plans to reduce the voting age.
I welcome my hon. Friend to the Dispatch Box, and I thank him and his predecessor for the help that they have given in the compilation of my report. Is my hon. Friend alarmed by the fact that it is harder to take out a library card or collect a parcel from the post office than it is to vote or obtain a postal vote in our trust-based system? That places our ballot boxes at a peculiar risk. When will the Government respond?
I thank my right hon. Friend for the work that he has undertaken in producing his report on electoral fraud, which was published in the summer. It made an excellent summer read. The Government take electoral fraud incredibly seriously. His report highlights that important issue, and as a result we are currently considering his proposals and will formally respond to his report in due course.
I join in warmly welcoming the Minister to his new position. In the EU referendum The Daily Telegraph’s Charles Moore voted twice, spoiling the ballot paper from his second home, to show how the system could, in theory, be cheated. As the Minister considers proposals to strengthen electoral law against voter fraud, would he therefore also consider a new legal requirement for people with more than one residence to choose one of them in advance as the only place where they wish to be legally registered to vote?
I hope you do not mind, Mr Speaker, but I would like to pay tribute to my predecessor for the work he has undertaken. He has left me with a rich inheritance.
The incident involving Charles Moore is the subject of an investigation, and therefore it would be inappropriate for me to comment on it. I note, however, that the Law Commission report includes recommendations on electoral residence, which the Government will respond to in due course.
I welcome the Minister to his position, and I look forward to working with him. I think there has been a frightening complacency in the answers to this question so far. The Prime Minister spoke recently on the steps of Downing Street about the disfranchised. Does the Minister not realise that the voting system itself disfranchises many of our citizens, particularly 16 and 17-year-olds and those who vote for minor parties? Will he now commit, in this new Government, to reviewing our system to make it more fair and democratic?
The Government are committed to ensuring that we have a democracy that works for everyone. Already, the introduction of individual electoral registration has made it easier to register to vote than ever before, with 20 million applications to register to vote online since 2014. The Electoral Commission’s report from July 2016 found that thanks to IER, electoral registers are not only more complete than ever before, but, critically, more accurate than ever. The Government recognise that there is always more to do, and we are committed to a programme of boosting registration among certain vulnerable groups in order to build a more engaged democracy.
The Boundary Commissions for England and Wales will be publishing their initial recommendations on Tuesday 13 September, and the Boundary Commission for Scotland will do so later this year. The Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland published its recommendations yesterday. The conduct of the boundary review is a matter for the independent Boundary Commissions. The initial proposals will be the subject of extensive consultation with political parties and local communities, after which revised proposals will be published at a later date.
I thank the Minister for his response, and I warmly welcome him to his position, where I am sure he will do an excellent job. I represent a rapidly growing new town with low voter registration, where an additional 5,000 new voters have hit the electoral roll in the past six months. Does the Minister agree that if the boundary review is to achieve constituencies of equal size by the next election, those factors need to be taken into consideration?
During every previous boundary review, Parliament has accepted that there must be a defined date and a set of registers to access. That was set down as a result of the delay to the 2013 review, which was voted for by Labour Members. Not only do those who now seek to delay the boundary review even further seek to overturn the accepted will of Parliament, but to delay the boundary review again would ensure that we have constituencies that are of dramatically unequal size, and that are based on data more than two decades old.
Without the implementation of the reforms, legislated for by a majority in the previous Parliament, Members will continue to represent constituencies that were drawn up on the basis of data collected over 20 years ago, disregarding significant changes in the population since that happened. The status quo cannot and must not be an option. In future, boundary reviews will take place every five years to ensure that constituencies remain up to date, as they should be.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We cannot continue with the historical injustice of allowing such unequal representation. That representation currently allows for the electorate of one seat to be twice the size of another’s or, to put it in other words, allows one elector’s vote to be worth twice that of another. This injustice, long recognised, must be resolved.
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his well-deserved promotion to the Treasury Bench. In the past, Ministers have argued that cutting the number of MPs will save the taxpayer £12 million. That is exactly the same amount of money that the previous Prime Minister has just spent on his lavender list of resignation honours. Is it not the case that this boundary redistribution is proceeding on the basis of a register from which 2 million people are excluded, and is that not an absolute affront to democracy?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to recognise that cutting the number of MPs from 650 to 600 will not just save £12 million, but save £66 million over the course of a Parliament. At a time when many areas of public life have found savings, it is right that we should put our own house in order. Equally, it is right that we should finally establish the democratic principle of constituencies with an equal number of voters, which was first called for by the Chartists back in 1838 and recently endorsed by the Committee on Standards in Public Life.
Cross-Government Departmental Resourcing
All Departments are currently reviewing their own structures and resources to ensure that we get the best deal for the whole of Britain. The Cabinet Office is helping to co-ordinate that effort.
The shake-up of Whitehall comes as insiders fear that Whitehall may simply be unable to face up to the scale of the Brexit negotiations if resources stay as they are. With the negotiations looming, rather than laying off civil servants and slashing budgets, is it not now time that our civil service was properly resourced and able to fight for the best deal for Britain?
I reject the hon. Lady’s assertions. The civil service is one of the finest in the world. It has already risen to the challenge of the immediate opportunities that, with Brexit, face us as a country. That is why I am delighted that we have been able to resource the two new Departments so successfully, and their Secretaries of State are very content with the support they are receiving.
May I congratulate my right hon. Friend and the Parliamentary Secretary on their appointments, and say how much we on the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee look forward to working with them? As well as focusing on resourcing and machinery, our inquiry into the civil service will focus on civil service leadership. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need to develop stronger leadership in the civil service to inculcate the right values, the right attitudes, and the trust and openness on which a high-functioning organisation depends?
I, too, look forward to continuing my long-standing relationship with the Chairman of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, my near constituency neighbour. I agree with him entirely on his point about senior talent. We need to get as much talent as possible into the civil service at all levels. I have recently met the senior talent team in the civil service, a very impressive outfit, who have their work cut out to make sure that we can do even better.
In the context of the recent machinery of government changes, when will we know—or can the Minister tell us now—who will have responsibility for cross-Government co-ordination in respect of the work of the British-Irish Council, which relates to all eight Administrations in these islands?
Anonymous Voter Registration: Domestic Violence Victims
The Government are determined that those whose personal safety would be at risk if their details appeared on the register should be able to register anonymously. I have arranged to meet representatives from Women’s Aid to discuss concerns they may have over the process of anonymous registration and have also written to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Women and Equalities to set out our plans to look at regulations on this important policy.
I thank the Minister for the information he has just given me and am pleased with what he has said. He has to acknowledge that some domestic violence victims choose not to go to the police and do not have easy access to the qualifying officers or registrars at present. I am pleased that he is having meetings and look forward to his announcing the steps he is going to take—[Interruption.]
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am pleased that the Minister has acknowledged some of the difficulties these women have in registering. They are victims. I look forward to hearing the steps he will announce in the future. A very real barrier to registering to vote at present is the limited number of officers. The women do not have easy access to those people, which disfranchises them.
I thank the hon. Lady for raising this issue with me. I recognise what she says. Those who have left domestic violence to seek a new life may be seen as some of the most vulnerable in society, but I believe that they are also some of the bravest. As I said, today I can announce that the Government will look closely at representations from Women’s Aid and other domestic violence charities. I am happy to meet the hon. Lady, since we are determined that no one should be denied the opportunity to vote.
I warmly welcome the Minister to his position. He will find that his letter is a reply to one I wrote on this topic when I was Minister for Women and Equalities. I warmly welcome what he has said, but he could speed things up by adding domestic violence protection orders and domestic violence protection notices to the list of evidence needed. I urge him to do that speedily.
I appreciated receiving my right hon. Friend’s letter. It was one of the first things in my inbox that I was determined to act on straightaway. The situation is slightly more complex, because changing the regulations would require a change to the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, but the Government will review all aspects of the policy.
Most victims of domestic abuse never report the abuse to the police. Will the Government commit to reviewing the regulations, so that those women are able to register anonymously?
The Government are investing £2.25 billion in digital services over the next four years in order to recast the relationship between the people we seek to serve and the state. There is more to come. We are doing a lot, but there is a lot more to do.
My hon. Friend is entirely right that it will be a digital solution that brings the most advantage to the area of the health service that she identifies. I am glad that the close working of the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch, NHS Improvement and the NHS Litigation Authority, enabled through digital, will mean that we can reduce never events and serious untoward incidents.
The Cabinet Office is responsible for delivering a democracy that works for everyone, supporting the design and delivery of Government policy and driving efficiencies and reforms to make government work better.
It is not for me to revisit the arguments over the House of Lords, and as our manifesto made clear, that is not a first priority of this Government. The right hon. Gentleman will be glad to know that, over the past few years, we have reduced the cost of the House of Lords quite considerably. [Interruption.]
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that we must take electoral fraud very seriously. The April 2015 election court judgment in Tower Hamlets exposed worrying electoral fraud and corruption. The Government are currently considering the recent review by my right hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Sir Eric Pickles), which provides a range of measures to tackle electoral fraud, and will give a full response in due course.
I welcome you back, Mr Speaker, and give a very warm welcome to the new ministerial team. I congratulate them all on their appointments. We look forward to a positive working relationship with them, holding them to account and making a difference where we can.
I apologise to you, Mr Speaker, for my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith), a new member of my team. She is on her honeymoon and cannot be with us today, but I am sure we wish her well in her marriage to Ben. My colleague may be on her honeymoon, but let me reassure the ministerial team that the honeymoon period for the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is well and truly over. I have asked a series of questions about his responsibilities, but they have not been answered after 56 days in office. I therefore ask any member of the team: where is he today and what does he actually do?
My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that my job is merely to serve. I will ensure that my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary, the International Trade Secretary and the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union have all the resources they need to do their important job of work to ensure that we make a success of Brexit.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
During the recess, the Government Digital Service lost its second director general within a year and the Government received the resignations of the chief digital officers of two other Departments. As services are removed from local communities, what steps is the Minister taking to get the Government’s digital provision under control and to ensure that people have access to reliable online services?
I am very proud of what the Government Digital Service has achieved in the past few years. That is why it is rated the foremost digital service in the world connected with a Government. I am pleased to welcome Kevin Cunnington as the new director general—it is the first time the office has had a director general. He has a fine pedigree in the private sector and will bring his expertise to the Government Digital Service.
I am very glad to hear my hon. Friend endorse the words, on the steps of Downing Street, of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. She will be glad to know that we have already had a substantial meeting to discuss the remit of the racial disparity audit. It will uncover uncomfortable truths, but unless we do that we will not be able to face up to the burning injustices that remain in our country.
The other place has an important role, as a revising chamber, in scrutinising and improving draft legislation. The Government are clear that an unelected chamber should not seek to block the will of the Commons. The Conservative manifesto is clear that reform of the House of Lords is needed and we have seen significant reforms, including the retirement of peers. Over 150 peers have left the Lords since 2010 and the Chamber is 400 Members smaller than in 1998. The operating costs of the Lords have also fallen by 14% since 2010.
My hon. Friend is entirely right: small and medium-sized enterprises power this nation. I hope that in the negotiations we are soon to begin we will unleash them even further into the global markets that Britain will now be able to exploit. She is also right to say that we should be giving more central Government contracts to small and medium-sized enterprises. We beat our target in the previous Parliament. We have an ambitious target of a third of all projects to go to SMEs in this Parliament. I hope to work with her to make sure we achieve that target, too.
The Prime Minister was asked—
I know the whole House will join me in congratulating the British Olympic team on a truly magnificent performance in Rio: the record medal haul, second in the table ahead of China and so many memorable moments. We can say they did themselves and their country proud. I know the whole House will wish to give our very best wishes to our Paralympic athletes and wish them the best of success. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]
This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
May I add my warm wishes to those of the Prime Minister to all Paralympians, in particular Bristolians? I know they will do us proud.
I am sure the whole House will be delighted that this country hosts a disproportionate number of the world’s finest universities. However, some of them are saying that they are already being shut out of important collaborations with other fine universities in the European Union, in anticipation of Brexit. They are very important for scientific, medical, engineering and other research, as well as for our economic prosperity. In view of this, will the Prime Minister please tell us what her strategy is?
May I first of all say to the hon. Lady how very good it is to see her in her place in this House? Of course we agree on the importance of our universities and the work they do and the research collaboration they have with a number of other countries, both within the EU and elsewhere. That is why, earlier this summer, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made an announcement giving certain guarantees to universities in relation to funding decisions that are being taken by the European Union. We are standing behind our universities because we recognise the value they bring to the country.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The announcements by the Chancellor, to which I referred in answer to the first question, provided guarantees to the farming industry about the support available to it up to 2020. We need to recognise the significant role that the food and farming industry plays in the United Kingdom, and we will of course look to working with the sector—my right hon. Friend the Environment Secretary will be doing this—to see how to develop those industries with a view to the trade deals that will play their part as we look to the future.
May I join the Prime Minister in congratulating the entirety of the Olympic team on their fantastic achievements at the Olympics in Rio and wish the Paralympic team all the very best? Did our Olympic success set off the visit to China in a good way, or was there a bit of tension there, when bragging rights were allowed?
The average house price in Britain is now £215,000—over eight times the average wage. The average price of a first-time buyer’s home has risen by 12% in the past year. Is not the dream of home ownership for many people just that—a dream?
In response to the right hon. Gentleman’s first point, President Xi actually congratulated me on the United Kingdom’s success in the Olympic games.
The right hon. Gentleman mentions housing, which he has raised on a number of occasions both with my predecessor and with me before we broke for the summer recess. Let me simply say this. Of course it is important for us to look at helping people to get their first step on to the housing ladder and ensuring that people are able to have the home that they want. That is why I am pleased that house building has been up under a Conservative Government by comparison with a Labour Government. We are not complacent, however, which is why we will do more to see more houses built under this Conservative Government and continue to provide support for people to ensure that they have the financial support that helps them to own their own homes.
Actually, house building under this Government is 45,000 fewer a year than it was under the last Labour Government, and many people are desperate to get their own place. Let me refer the Prime Minister to a note I received from a lady called Jenny whose partner and herself work in a supermarket earning £7.37 an hour each. They are trying to get a mortgage and have been told that they can borrow £73,000—not much hope for them, then. The former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr Cameron) promised a one-for-one replacement for every council house sold under right to buy. Sadly, the reality is that there is only one for every five that are sold. Will the Prime Minister give a commitment and tell us when the one-for-one replacement will be a reality?
Let me first say to Jenny that I fully understand and appreciate the concerns individuals have about wanting to be able to set up and have their own home. I fully recognise the difficulties some people face in doing that. I have to say to the right hon. Gentleman that he is wrong about the figures on council houses. We have delivered on the one-for-one replacement under right to buy.
I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman had asked all his Twitter followers what questions he should ask me this week, so I thought I would look to see what sort of responses he had received. I have to say that the first one was quite good. In fact, he might want to ensure that he stays sitting down for this. Lewis writes, “Does she know that in a recent poll on who would make a better Prime Minister, ‘Don’t Know’ scored higher than Jeremy Corbyn?” What we do know is that, whoever wins the Labour party leadership, we are not going to let them anywhere near power again.
The number of first-time buyers has halved in the past 20 years, and their average age has increased a great deal. There is a housing crisis in Britain. Ten million people now live in the private rented sector, and many are forced to claim housing benefit to cover the costs of rents. Devastating figures released over the summer show that £9.3 billion of public money is paid through housing benefit directly into the pockets of private landlords. Does the Prime Minister think that that £9.3 billion going into the private rental market is really money well spent?
The right hon. Gentleman starts off talking about the importance of people being able to be in their own homes, and then challenges one of the measures that actually help people to get into their own homes, through housing benefit support in the private rented sector. It may be that he just has an ideological objection to the private rented sector, but I say to him that this Government are looking across the board to ensure that more houses are being built. We are seeking to ensure that there is a diversity of opportunity for people who want to be in their own homes.
Everything that the right hon. Gentleman says tells us all that we need to know about modern Labour: the train has left the station, the seats are all empty, and the leader is on the floor. Even on rolling stock, Labour is a laughing stock.
The Prime Minister’s predecessor, when discussing this issue, said:
“The simple point is this…every penny you spend on housing subsidy is money you cannot spend on building houses.”—[Official Report, 10 February 2016; Vol. 605, c. 1569.]
“If landlords rent out houses in a very bad state, such as heavy damp, wet walls, no working toilet…they need to be getting a fine. The government has to regulate”.
That is what Joyce wrote to me. The Citizens Advice Bureau says that one sixth of housing benefit goes to private sector landlords who are letting unsafe homes. Does the Prime Minister really think that that is a satisfactory state of affairs?
If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that housing benefit is such a bad thing, why is it that, when we changed the rules on housing benefit, the Labour party opposed those changes? He talks about bad landlords. We are making changes. We have changed the rules on selective licensing. We think that giving councils free rein to impose burdensome bureaucracy on landlords would cause problems in the market that would actually lead to higher costs for both tenants and landlords. We are introducing new regulations in relation to houses in multiple occupation. We are looking at all those issues. I recognise, as will every Member in the House, the problems that people sometimes experience when they are living in accommodation that is not up to the standard of the accommodation in which we would all wish people to live. That is why we are changing the rules and ensuring that the regulations are there.
That is extremely interesting, because only a year ago the Prime Minister voted against a Labour amendment to the Housing Bill that said, quite simply, that all homes for rent in the private sector should be fit for human habitation. Just over a year ago, the Treasury estimated that it was losing half a billion pounds a year in tax unpaid by private sector landlords. So there we have it: £9.5 billion in housing benefit, half a billion pounds not being collected and a very large number of homes that are not really fit for human habitation. Does that not require Government intervention on the side of the tenant and those in housing need?
The right hon. Gentleman asks for the Government to intervene. The Government have, through the Housing and Planning Act 2016, introduced further tough measures such as civil penalties, banning orders for serious offences and the extension of rent repayment orders. We have provided money so that local authorities can conduct more inspections of people’s homes, and we have seen more properties being inspected. Thousands of landlords now face further action. Far from not taking action in this area, the Government have done so.
But I say this to the right hon. Gentleman: he may have a model of society where he does not want to see private landlords, and where he wants to see the Government owning everything, deliberating on everything and doing everything for everybody. That is not what we want: we want opportunities for people; we want to help them to take those opportunities. That is a big difference between him and me.
Of course we all recognise that there is a mixed housing economy, but we want to make sure that those living in the private rented sector are properly treated and not having to pay excessive levels of rent.
Women’s Aid has said that two thirds of women refuges are going to close because of the benefit cap when it comes into force and that 87% of women and children in those refuges will suffer as a result, and that most of those refuges require an income level that comes mainly from housing benefit—90% of their income comes from it. Does the Prime Minister recognise that the women in those refuges are very vulnerable and that closure of those refuges would be devastating for them—very dangerous for the most vulnerable people in our society? Will she take action to make sure that the cap does not apply to Women’s Aid refuges in any part of Britain?
The right hon. Gentleman raises the very important issue of domestic violence. We should across this House be doing all we can to stop these terrible crimes that are taking place and obviously to provide support to the victims and survivors. That is why we are working on exempting refuges from the cap in relation to what he speaks about, but I would also remind him of the very good record we have on domestic violence. It was a Conservative Government who introduced the new offence of coercive control that put into practice the domestic violence protection orders, who introduced Clare’s law, and who are putting £80 million into support for domestic violence victims in the period up to 2020. We are listening and responding to these problems, and we all take this very seriously indeed.
I say to the right hon. Gentleman as well that it is 50 days, I think, since he and I last met across this Dispatch Box—
Well, it is very good to see him sitting in his place. Let us just look at the contrast in what has been done over this summer. The Conservative Government have been working tirelessly to support everyone in this country: £250 million of loans to small businesses, the introduction of the racial disparity audit looking at public services and how they treat people, and of course setting the groundwork for new trade deals around the world. What a contrast with the Labour party, divided among themselves and incapable of uniting our country. What we do know is that there is only one party that is going to provide a country, a Government, an economy, a society that works for everyone, and that is the Conservative party.
My hon. and learned Friend raises an important point, and there has, I think, been a collective concern about the way in which mental health is dealt with. That is why we have put a record £1.4 billion into transforming the dedicated mental health support that is available to young people across the country. That includes £150 million for services to support children and young people with eating disorders. There are various other things, too: we are publishing a blueprint for school counselling services, because my hon. and learned Friend is right that the role that schools play is very important, and I know that my right hon. Friend the Education Secretary will be looking very closely at the “Good Childhood Report” to see what more we can do.
I join the Prime Minister and the leader of the Labour party in praising all Olympians. This is the first day of the Paralympics, and I wish all Paralympians from all parts of these islands well. They are an inspiration to us all.
There is real concern and worry about the prospects for Brexit, especially in Scotland, where the majority of people voted to remain within the European Union. The UK Government have had all summer to come up with a plan and a strategy, but so far we have just had waffle. I want to ask the Prime Minister a simple but important question. Does she want the UK to remain fully within the European single market?
What I want for the UK is that we put into practice the vote that was taken by the people of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, that we get the right deal for trade in goods and services with the European Union in the new relationship that we will be building with it, and that we introduce control over the movement of people from the European Union into the United Kingdom. I say to the right hon. Gentleman that we can approach the vote that took place on 23 June in two ways. We could try to row back on it, have a second referendum and say that we did not really believe it, but actually we are respecting the views of the British people. More than that, we will be seizing the opportunities that leaving the European Union now gives us to forge a new role for the United Kingdom in the world.
Thank you Mr Speaker. The European single market is the biggest market in the world and it really matters to our businesses and to our economy. I asked the Prime Minister a very simple question, to which there is either an in or an out answer. Let me ask it again. Does she want the United Kingdom to remain fully part of the European single market? Yes or no?
The right hon. Gentleman does not seem to quite understand what the vote on 23 June was about. The United Kingdom will leave the European Union and we will build a new relationship with the European Union. That new relationship will include control over the movement of people from the EU into the UK, and it will include the right deal for trade in goods and services. That is how to approach it. I also say to him that, in looking at the negotiations, it would not be right for me or this Government to give a running commentary on them—[Interruption.]
And it would not be right to prejudge those negotiations. We will be ensuring that we seize the opportunities for growth and prosperity across the whole of the United Kingdom, including growth and prosperity in Scotland. As we saw from the figures released this summer, what really gives growth and prosperity in Scotland is being a member of the United Kingdom.
I am very happy to give my hon. Friend that assurance and also to join him in paying tribute to his council and the work that it is doing, and indeed to all those involved in that innovative scheme. High-speed broadband is an important part of 21st-century infrastructure, and we will be doing everything we can to ensure that it is available for people, because that will enable us to develop jobs and to grow prosperity in this country.
Of course, our thoughts are with all the families affected by what has happened to Penman Engineering. The administrator has a role in ensuring that any sale of the business protects the maximum number of jobs, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has made it clear that that is his priority. I hope that the Scottish Government will offer their support to this long-standing business. As I said, our thoughts are with all those who have been affected, and the administrator will obviously be looking to ensure that the best possible options are found for the company.
I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. He is absolutely right and the Government’s position is clear. This is a prerogative power and one that can be exercised by the Government. As he alluded to in his question, no one should be in any doubt that those who are trying to prolong the process by their legal references in relation to Parliament are not those who want to see us successfully leave the European Union; they are those who want to try to stop us leaving.
I absolutely agree with all my hon. Friend’s points. We must never forget the importance of NATO. It is the cornerstone of our defence and security, and that strength is based on the fact that all NATO partners have committed to article 5 and to operating on the basis of article 5. Anybody who rejects that is rejecting that security and that defence. They would be undermining not only our national security, but the national security of our allies. What we know from the Labour party is that far from delivering stronger defence, it would cut defence spending, undermine NATO and scrap the nuclear deterrent.
The hon. Lady is right: what happened at Loughinisland was a terrible evil. I am sure everybody across the House will want to join me in expressing our sympathies to all those affected by the appalling atrocity. As she has said, and as my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr Cameron) said, the Government accept the police ombudsman’s report and the Chief Constable’s response. It is important that where there are allegations of police misconduct, those are taken seriously and are properly looked into; if there has been wrongdoing, it must be pursued. Obviously, this is now a matter for the Police Service of Northern Ireland, although I would remind the hon. Lady that the Chief Constable has made it very clear that he is determined to ensure that where there has been wrongdoing, people will be brought to justice.
It is absolutely the point of these plans that they are locally driven. They will be considered locally and should be taking into account the concerns and interests locally, not just those of the clinical commissioning groups, but those of the local authorities and of the public. These plans must be driven from the locality, so I give my hon. Friend that assurance.
Parties from across this House supported the proposal that the Boundary Commission would follow this timetable and would bring forward these proposals, and that by 2018 those Boundary Commission proposals would be put in place. All parties supported that, and I continue to support it.
My hon. Friend has been a passionate advocate for support for his local area, given some of the pressures Dover finds itself under as a cross-channel port. This is an important issue and we are committed to providing support. The money for the lorry park was, of course, announced last November, the site was announced in July and I believe that consultation is now taking place on the potential design for that site. On the possible dualling of the A2, he is right to say that we want to support local infrastructure to be able to handle the growth in traffic, particularly given that there are expansion plans for the port. I assure him that Dover will be considered as part of the planning for the next road investment strategy.
I join the hon. Lady in wishing all those going to school, many for the first time, well in their education. We will be aiming to ensure that every child has the education that is right for them and the opportunities that are right for them. It is right that we look at the national funding formula, but that will be done carefully to see what the impact will be across all parts of the country.
Again, my hon. Friend raises an important point about the relevance and significance of our universities. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was able to give confidence and reassurance to universities in the summer about the funding arrangements that will continue while we are still a member of the European Union. While we are a member of the EU, we will maintain our full rights and obligations of membership, and expect others to deal with us on that same basis. Of course, looking ahead, we have a higher education Bill going through this House, which is about how we can ensure that we have the university places available in this country to provide the education that we want to provide. We have a great record on higher education in this country. We want to build on that and develop it for the future.
The right hon. Gentleman’s question tempts me to go down a number of routes in answering him. What I will say is that I recognise the importance of his local hospital trust, and I am pleased to say that, over the past six years, we have seen more doctors and more nurses in that trust able to provide more services and more facilities. Indeed, since 2010, the capital spend in the trust has been £72.7 million. We will be looking to ensure that we provide the health service that is right for everyone in this country.
At the moment, there are 80 vulnerable elderly patients in Kettering general hospital awaiting delayed transfer to social care. The national guidelines say that there should be 25. In the next few weeks, the number is likely to rise to 200—the highest in the country—with a similar number at Northampton general hospital because of proposals by Northamptonshire County Council to extend social care assessments from three days to four weeks. To prevent this crisis, will the Prime Minister authorise a joint meeting of local government and Health Ministers, county MPs, the local NHS and the county council to bang heads together to prevent this crisis from happening?
I will ensure that the Health Department is aware of the requests that my hon. Friend has put forward. I think that everybody in this House is well aware of the challenge that we face in relation to the interaction of social care with hospitals. We have already looked at this issue. We have put money into the better care fund, and we have been considering the better working together of health services and social services under local authorities, but it is one of the challenges that we face. There are some areas where this interaction has been done very well, and it is right that we look at those and try to spread that good practice. I will make sure that the Health Department is aware of his concern.
Nine months after signing the Paris climate agreement, the Government still have not ratified the treaty. According to the Committee on Climate Change, they lack half the policies they need to meet their climate targets. With the delayed carbon reduction plan and the very real risk of missing our renewable energy targets, will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to reassure people that the Government remain committed to climate action? Will they follow the example of the 26 states that have already ratified the treaty, including the US and China? Will they give us a firm date for ratification before the follow-up negotiations in November?
I am happy to assure the hon. Lady that we will be ratifying the Paris agreement. Indeed, it was my right hon. Friend the current Home Secretary who, as Energy Secretary, played a very key role in ensuring that the Paris agreement was achieved. We have been identified as the second best country in the world for tackling climate change, and I had hoped that the hon. Lady would want to congratulate us on that.
Today is World Duchenne Awareness Day, which is designed to draw attention to a terrible muscle wasting disease that affects a small number of young men. On this day, will the Prime Minister join me in welcoming the recent announcement that the drug Translarna will now be available to these young boys in NHS England, and will she congratulate my constituent Archie Hill, Muscular Dystrophy UK, and all those colleagues in this House and some former Ministers who have worked so hard to make this life-changing drug available in this country?
I am very happy to join my right hon. Friend in congratulating all those who were involved in making sure that that innovative drug is available, and I thank her for raising awareness of this very important issue. I know that, as Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr Cameron) met Archie, the young man with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and was inspired by him. I am sure that all Members across the House will welcome the fact that this innovative drug is now available on the NHS. We are committed to ensuring that patients with rare conditions get access to the latest medicines and we are taking some bold steps to speed up that process.
Will the Prime Minister join me and, I am sure, the whole House in sending our deepest sympathy and sincere condolences to the family and friends of Rozanne Cooper and her 10-year-old nephew, Makayah McDermott, who were mown down by a stolen car in Penge last week? May we also send best wishes to the three young girls who were involved, all family members? While other inquiries, including those by the police and the Independent Police Complaints Commission, are being undertaken and the matter is before the courts, I shall say no more about the specific case. However, is the Prime Minister aware of the widespread public concern that the law on causing death by dangerous driving is wholly inadequate? Will she undertake a review of both its suitability and its applicability as the courts implement it?
First, I join the hon. Gentleman in expressing our sympathies to all those who were involved in that terrible accident—the terrible tragedy that took place when, as he said, a stolen car mowed down two people and affected others as well. I am aware of the concern that there is about the law on dangerous driving. The daughter of constituents of mine was killed as a result of dangerous driving, and they have raised concerns with me specifically about their case. This is a matter which, I believe, the Ministry of Justice is looking at.
With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the G20 summit in China.
Before I turn to the G20, however, I would like to say something about the process of Brexit. On 23 June the British people were asked to vote on whether we should stay in the EU or leave. The majority decided to leave. Our task now is to deliver the will of the British people and negotiate the best possible deal for our country. I know many people are keen to see rapid progress and to understand what post-Brexit Britain will look like. We are getting on with that vital work, but we must also think through the issues in a sober and considered way.
As I have said, this is about getting the kind of deal that is ambitious and bold for Britain. It is not about the Norway model, the Swiss model or any other country’s model—it is about developing our own British model. So we will not take decisions until we are ready, we will not reveal our hand prematurely, and we will not provide a running commentary on every twist and turn of the negotiation. I say that because that is not the best way to conduct a strong and mature negotiation that will deliver the best deal for the people of this country. As the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union told the House on Monday, what we will do is maximise and seize the opportunities that Brexit presents. That is the approach I took to the G20 summit.
This was the first time that the world’s leading economies have come together since the UK’s decision to leave the EU, and it demonstrated the leading role that we continue to play in the world as a bold, ambitious and outward-looking nation. Building on our strength as a great trading nation, we were clear that we had to resist a retreat to protectionism, and we had conversations about how we could explore new bilateral trading arrangements with key partners around the world. We initiated important discussions on responding to rising anti-globalisation sentiment and ensuring that the world’s economies work for everyone, and we continued to play our part in working with our allies to confront the global challenges of terrorism and migration. Let me take each in turn.
Trading with partners all around the globe has been the foundation of our prosperity in the past, and it will underpin our prosperity in the future. So under my leadership, as we leave the EU, Britain will seek to become the global leader in free trade. At this summit we secured widespread agreement across the G20 to resist a retreat to protectionism, including a specific agreement to extend the roll-back of protectionist measures until at least the end of 2018.
The G20 also committed to ratify by the end of this year the World Trade Organisation agreement to reduce the costs and burdens of moving goods across borders, and it agreed to do more to encourage firms of all sizes, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises and female-led firms, to take full advantage of global supply chains. Britain also continued to press for an ambitious EU trade agenda, including implementing the EU-Canada deal and forging agreements with Japan and America, and we will continue to make these arguments for as long as we are members of the EU.
But as we leave the EU, we will also forge our own new trade deals, and I am pleased to say that just as the UK is keen to seize the opportunities that leaving the EU presents, so too are many of our international partners, who recognise the attractiveness of doing business with the UK. The leaders from India, Mexico, South Korea and Singapore said that they would welcome talks on removing the barriers to trade between our countries. The Australian Trade Minister visited the UK yesterday to take part in exploratory discussions on the shape of a UK-Australia trade deal. And in our bilateral at the end of the summit, President Xi also made it clear that China would welcome discussions on a bilateral trade arrangement with the UK.
As we do more to advance free trade around the world, so we must also do more to ensure that working people really benefit from the opportunities it creates. Across the world today, many feel these opportunities do not seem to come to them. They feel a lack of control over their lives. They have a job but no job security; they have a home but worry about paying the mortgage. They are just about managing, but life is hard, and it is not enough for Governments to take a hands-off approach. So at this summit I argued that we need to deliver an economy that works for everyone, with bold action at home and co-operation abroad. That is why, in Britain, we are developing a proper industrial strategy to improve productivity in every part of the country, so more people can share in our national prosperity through higher real wages and greater opportunities for young people.
To restore greater fairness, we will be consulting on new measures to tackle corporate irresponsibility. These will include cracking down on excessive corporate pay, poor corporate governance, short-termism and aggressive tax avoidance, and giving employees and customers representation on company boards. At the G20, this mission of ensuring the economy works for everyone was echoed by other leaders, and this is an agenda that Britain will continue to lead in the months and years ahead.
Together, we agreed to continue efforts to fight corruption—building on the London summit—and do more to stop aggressive tax avoidance, including stopping companies avoiding tax by shifting profits from one jurisdiction to another. We also agreed to work together to address the causes of excess global production in heavy industries, including in the steel market, and we will establish a new forum to discuss issues such as subsidies that contribute to market distortions. All these steps are important if we are to retain support for free trade and the open economies which are the bedrock of global growth.
Turning to global security, Britain remains at the heart of the fight against Daesh, and at this summit we discussed the need for robust plans to manage the threat of foreign fighters dispersing from Syria, Iraq and Libya. We called for the proper enforcement of the UN sanctions regime to limit the financing of all terrorist organisations and for more action to improve standards in aviation security, including through a UN Security Council resolution which the UK has been pursuing and which we hope will be adopted later this month. We also agreed the need to confront the ideology that underpins this terrorism. That means addressing both violent and non-violent extremism and working across borders to tackle radicalisation online.
Turning to the migration crisis, Britain will continue to meet our promises to the poorest in the world, including through humanitarian efforts to support refugees, and we will make further commitments at President Obama’s summit in New York later this month. But at the G20 I also argued that we cannot shy away from dealing with illegal migration, and I will be returning to this at the UN General Assembly. We need to improve the way we distinguish between refugees and economic migrants. This will enable our economies to benefit from controlled economic migration. In doing so, we will be able to get more help to refugees who need it, and retain popular support for doing so. This does not just protect our own people. By reducing the scope for the mass population movements we are seeing today, and at the same time investing to address the underlying drivers of mass migration at source, we can achieve better outcomes for the migrants themselves. As part of this new approach, we also need a much more concerted effort to address modern slavery. This sickening trade, often using the same criminal networks that facilitate illegal migration, is an affront to our humanity, and I want Britain to be leading a global effort to stamp it out.
When the British people voted to leave the European Union, they did not vote to leave Europe, to turn inwards, or to walk away from the G20 or any of our international partners around the world. That has never been the British way. We have always understood that our success as a sovereign nation is inextricably bound up in our trade and our co-operation with others. By building on existing partnerships, forging new relationships and shaping an ambitious global role, we will make a success of Brexit—for Britain and for all our partners—and we will continue to strengthen the prosperity and security of all our citizens for generations to come. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Prime Minister for her statement on the G20 statement and for giving me an advance copy of it.
I first went to China in 1998 to attend a United Nations conference on human rights—the same year in which the European convention on human rights was incorporated into UK law in our Human Rights Act. That legislation has protected the liberties of our people and held successive British Governments to account. That is why Labour Members share the concerns of so many at the Prime Minister’s Government’s plans to repeal the Human Rights Act.
On the issues of Brexit and the G20, the Prime Minister said that she was not going to reveal her hand on this subject. Nobody would blame her, because she has not revealed her hand, or indeed any of the Government’s many hands, on this particular thing; they are unclear about what they are trying to do. The G20 met in the wake of the vote to leave the European Union. We have to be clear: we accept the decision taken by the majority of our people. However, we cannot ignore the fact that the outcome has left this country divided, with increased levels of hate crimes, huge uncertainty about what comes next for our country, and an extraordinary lack of planning and preparation on how to navigate the post-referendum situation in relation to Europe.
That uncertainty and division have been made worse by Government Ministers’ political posturing and often very contradictory messages, which do not seem to add up to a considered position. Yesterday the Brexit Secretary said that staying in the single market was “improbable”; the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said that was not the case. It is one or the other; it cannot be both. So can the Prime Minister tell the House what the Government’s policy actually is?
The negotiations for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU must focus on expanding trade, jobs and investment, and on defending social, employment and environmental protections. Many colleagues raised during Prime Minister’s Question Time the uncertainty facing universities, for example. The question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire) is a very important one. They need certainty about their relationship with European universities immediately—it cannot wait. Parliament and the public cannot be sidelined from this, the greatest constitutional change this country has embarked on for 20 years.
Corporate globalisation is a key issue that has to be addressed, and I am pleased that the G20 did address it—or apparently so. The G20 was formed in response to the global financial crisis of 2008: a devastating event that was triggered by reckless deregulation of the financial sector. It is a model of running the global economy that, as the Prime Minister acknowledges, has produced huge increases in inequality and failed in its own terms. I raised this issue with President Obama during his visit earlier this year. It is clear that rising levels of inequality in all our economies fuel insecurities and pit people and communities against each another.
It has been 40 years since the UK has had to engage in bilateral trade negotiations. The free trade dogma that the Prime Minister spoke of has often been pursued at the expense of the world’s most fragile economies, and has been realised with destructive consequences for our environment. We need a UK trade agenda that protects people and the environment. I urge the Prime Minister to stand with me against the use of Britain’s aid and trade policies to further the agenda of deregulation and privatisation in developing countries. We need a trade policy that values human rights and human dignity.
In particular, could the Prime Minister inform the House about her talks with the Chinese president in two crucial areas, the first of which I raised with him in my meeting last autumn? The UK steel industry continues to face deeply challenging times. A key reason for this is the scale of cheap, subsidised Chinese steel that is flooding European markets. What assurances did President Xi give that this practice will stop, and stop now, because of the damage it is doing to the steel industry in this country, and indeed in others? On the question of Hinkley, during the summer the Prime Minister announced that she was postponing the decision on the new nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point. Could she take this opportunity to explain to the House why she decided to postpone the decision, and also set out which aspects of the contract she is apparently re-examining?
The Prime Minister was involved in discussions at the G20 about global challenges to security. As the complex, brutal conflicts continue across the middle east, I agree that we need a concerted global response to these challenges. The human cost of the refugee crisis, including the thousands drowning in the sea each year, must be our No. 1 concern and our No. 1 humanitarian response. That is why I remain concerned that at the heart of this Government’s security strategy is apparently increased arms exports to the very part of the world that most immediately threatens our security. The British Government continue to sell arms to Saudi Arabia that are being used to commit crimes against humanity in Yemen, as has been clearly detailed by the UN and other independent agencies. Will the Prime Minister commit today to halting the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia that have been used to prosecute this war in Yemen, with the humanitarian devastation that has resulted from that?
The right hon. Gentleman raised a number of issues. First, he referred to the question of hate crimes that have taken place in the United Kingdom. We have a proud history in the UK of welcoming people into this country, and there is no place in our society for hate crime. The Government have already published a new action plan to take action against hate crime. We are concerned about the levels of hate crime that we have seen. My right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the Foreign Secretary met Polish Ministers earlier this week to discuss the particular concern about some terrible attacks that have taken place on Polish people here in the UK. We are very clear, and the police are very clear, that they will act robustly in relation to hate crime. Anybody who has been a victim of this or who has allegations of hate crime taking place should take those allegations to the police.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about what we will be doing in our negotiations with the European Union. I covered this in my statement, but just to reiterate: what we will be doing as we negotiate our leaving the European Union is negotiating a new relationship with the European Union. That will include control on the movement of people from the EU into the UK—I do not think he referred to that—but it will also be about getting the right deal for trade in goods and services that we want to see. It will be a new relationship. As I indicated in my statement, and indeed in Prime Minister’s questions, I will not be giving a running commentary, and the Government will not be giving a running commentary, on our negotiations. There is a very good reason for that. We want to get the best deal. We want to get the right deal for the United Kingdom, and if we were to give a constant running commentary and give away our negotiating hand, then that is not what we would achieve.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the issue of steel. I raised the issue of over-production in the plenary session. That was important, because it was not just being raised with the Chinese Government but with all the leaders around the table. Crucially, the G20 has recognised the significant of this and recognised the steps that some Governments are taking, which are leading to some of the problems that we see. That is why the new forum has been introduced, which will be looking at these issues. The Chinese will be sitting on that forum, and they will be part of those discussions.
On Hinkley, I have said it before and I will say it again: the way I work is that I do not just take a decision without looking at the analysis. I am looking at the details and looking at the analysis, and a decision will be taken later this month.
On Saudi Arabia, I met the deputy crown prince at the G20, and I raised with him the concerns about the reports of what has happened in Yemen. I insisted that these should be properly investigated. The Leader of the Opposition referred to our relations with Saudi Arabia, and I think he implied that what happened in Saudi Arabia was a threat to the safety of people here in the UK. Actually, what matters is the strength of our relationship with Saudi Arabia. When it comes to counter-terrorism and dealing with terrorism, it is that relationship that has helped to keep people on the streets of Britain safe.
Finally, I hold the very clear view, as does the Conservative party, that if we are to see prosperity and growth in the economies around the world, the way to get there is through free trade. Free trade has underpinned the prosperity of this country. I will take no lessons from the right hon. Gentleman on action to help developing countries and those who are in poverty elsewhere in the world, because this Government have a fine record of humanitarian support, educating girls and others around the world and helping to give people access to the medical care, water and resources that they need. It is free trade that underpins our growth, and we will be the global leader in free trade. Free trade can also be the best anti-poverty policy for those countries. I will unashamedly go out there and give the message that we want a free trade country, and I am only sorry that the Labour party is turning its back on something that has led to the prosperity of the United Kingdom.
May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her emphatic support for free trade? In the European Union, according to the Office for National Statistics, we run a deficit with the other 27 member states of £62 billion a year. However, we run a surplus of more than £30 billion on the same goods and services with the rest of the world, and that surplus went up about £10 billion last year alone. Will my right hon. Friend therefore continue her crusade for free trade to develop our world opportunities through Brexit and to make sure that the European Commission and the European Union no longer continue to run our trade policy? We will do it ourselves, and we will do it really well.
My hon. Friend is right. We have an opportunity, and I want to ensure that we are ambitious in seizing that opportunity to develop trade deals around the world. We will be developing the new relationship that I have referred to with the European Union, part of which will obviously be about how we trade with the EU in relation to goods and services, but we have the opportunity to develop trading relationships around the rest of the world. Of course, we cannot formally have those deals in place and operating until we leave the European Union, but we can do the preparation to make sure that they are there when we need them.
May I begin by thanking the Prime Minister for an advance copy of her statement? In one area, I agree with her. The G20 summit was very much cast with the Brexit vote and her Brexit brainstorming from the previous week. I read one report about it, which said that what Brexit appeared to mean at the G20 was the Prime Minister getting shunted to the back of the row of the leaders’ group photo, being briefed against by the Americans and the Japanese and being left to big up the fact that Mexico, Australia and Singapore have expressed a vague interest in doing trade deals. [Interruption.] The Conservatives do not like it, but that is how other people view the United Kingdom internationally at present.
G20 leaders are as keen as we all are to learn what on earth the UK Government’s plans are for leaving the European Union. I asked the Prime Minister twice during Prime Minister’s questions a really simple question. Since then, she has said that she will
“not be giving a running commentary”—
it seems more like she is giving no commentary whatsoever—and that she is not going to comment on “every twist and turn”. Being a full member of the European single market is not a twist or a turn. It is absolutely fundamental to business across the United Kingdom. Does she seriously expect to be able to hold out for years in not confirming whether she wants the UK to remain a full member of the single market? Please can she tell us now: does she want the UK to remain fully within the single market—yes or no? It is not that difficult.
On trade, we know that the United States and pretty much every other country want a trade deal with the European Union ahead of the United Kingdom, and that they want a trade deal with the UK only after the UK leaves the European Union. Can the Prime Minister tell us how many trade negotiators the UK Government have hired since the referendum?
On immigration, we learned that the promise of a points-based immigration system is being ditched. At the same time, the UK Government apparently plan to trail-blaze a policy first mooted by Donald Trump and build a wall. Is the Prime Minister not totally ashamed? Surely she can come up with something better than that.
May I ask the Prime Minister two specific funding questions? Voters were promised that if they voted to leave the European Union, the national health service would receive an extra £350 million a week. Will the Prime Minister confirm that that promise, like the immigration promise made by the leave campaign, is being broken? An important question that really matters to a lot of people in coastal communities in Scotland is about the funding of more than €100 million that they were due to receive from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund between now and 2023. There has been no commitment whatsoever from the UK Government to honour that funding round. Will she give it now?
It has been very problematic in recent weeks to have to deal with a situation in which the Prime Minister’s party has suggested that EU citizens should not participate fully in Scottish public life. We in the Scottish National party totally repudiate that narrow-minded, racist and xenophobic position.
The Prime Minister is shaking her head, but she should be aware of this. Will she take the opportunity to dissociate her party from this, apologise for it and confirm that we value the contribution of European Union citizens living in this country, and that we are grateful for it? [Interruption.]
The Prime Minister has not yet had time to make an oral statement to the House on the important matter of the estates review of the Ministry of Defence. Will she confirm the commitment that the Government have given to communities that there will be consultation with them before final decisions and announcements are made?
I will try to limit my response to the key issues in my statement that the right hon. Gentleman picked up. First, on the issue of immigration, he says that a points-based system has been rejected. What the people of the United Kingdom voted for on 23 June, as part of the vote to leave the European Union, was to have control over people who move from the European Union into the United Kingdom. A points- based system does not give us that control. A points-based system means that anybody who meets a certain set of criteria is automatically allowed to enter the country. It does not give the Government the opportunity to control and make the decisions about who can enter the country. It is that issue of control that we will be looking for as we decide the relationship that we will have with the European Union in future.
The right hon. Gentleman said a lot about trade deals with other countries, about the EU, about opportunities and so forth. What I saw at the G20, in my discussions with a number of other world leaders, was a great willingness to seize the opportunities that come from the UK leaving the European Union and to do exactly the sort of trade deals that my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) has just referred to. I think we should, as a United Kingdom, be willing to seize those opportunities. We should be ambitious in the deals that we wish to do around the world. As I have said, we should be the global leader in free trade. We should be taking those opportunities and ensuring that, as we leave the European Union, we are able to have the relationships that will ensure growth and prosperity for the whole of the United Kingdom, including growth and prosperity for Scotland.
At the G20, with the Saudi deputy crown prince, the Prime Minister met the Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir, who is now in London. Is she as delighted as I am that he made it clear to parliamentarians this morning that we can now add the Gulf Co-operation Council to the list of those parts of the world seeking an early free trade deal with the United Kingdom?
I thank the Prime Minister for her statement and for early sight of it. Now that Australia has today joined America at the G20 last week in slapping down her Government—telling us that we are in fact at the back of the queue for a trade deal—the plain fact is that this Government are not concealing their hand because they have not got a hand or, it would appear, a clue. Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to reassure business and confirm that we will remain a member of the European single market? Does she agree with me that we trusted the British people with the question of our departure, so we should trust them with the question of our destination and put whatever deal she negotiates to the British people in a referendum?
The hon. Gentleman refers to the remarks that have been made by the Australian Trade Minister. What the Australian Trade Minister has done is, very simply, to set out the legal position. I mentioned it in response to an earlier point. The legal position is that we are not able finally to sign or put into practice trade deals with other countries while we remain a member of the European Union. That is just the situation. It does not mean we cannot prepare for that. It does not mean we cannot negotiate about and discuss that.
I am also very clear that as long as we are full members of the European Union—until the point at which we leave—we will be advocates for free trade. We will be advocates for the trade deals that the European Union is negotiating with other countries. I have given that commitment to Prime Minister Trudeau in relation to the EU-Canada trade deal. I have given that commitment to President Obama in relation to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the negotiation on it. We will play our full part, but at the same time, we will be looking to have the discussions that will enable us, when we leave the European Union, to have the trade deals that will give us the growth and prosperity we want.
I congratulate the Prime Minister on the way in which she, quite rightly, puts forward the huge benefits of free trade. I know that she will be aware and share the concerns of, notably, the financial and automotive sectors about any consequences of our abandoning our membership of the single market, which of course ensures that we can trade free of customs duties and with all the benefits that the single market confers. Although she is right to say that we do not want a running commentary on what now faces us, may I urge her to consider the fact that we do need some principles? What assurances can she give us about customs duties and tariffs, and about our membership of the single market?
I absolutely recognise the important role that our automotive industry plays in the United Kingdom. I was very pleased to visit Jaguar Land Rover in Solihull a few days ago to see the huge success that has been made of that company, with the extra employment it has brought and, as I say, the growth that it continues to make.
On the issue of the sort of language used about membership of the single market, access to the single market and so forth, I would say this to my right hon. Friend. As I said earlier—I repeat it again—we want the right deal for trade in goods and services for the United Kingdom. This is about saying, when we are outside the European Union, what the right relationship will be with the European Union on trade. That is why it is important for us not simply to think of this as trying to replicate something here or something there, but actually to say, “What is the deal that we want for the future?” That is the work the Department for Exiting the European Union is doing at the moment, looking at and, in particular, talking to different sectors—the automotive industry will be one of those sectors—to ask what they are looking for and what they want to see, so that we can forge the deal and then go out there, be ambitious and get it.
Three months ago, the International Syria Support Group agreed, as a last resort, to back airdrops to deliver much needed humanitarian supplies to besieged areas of Syria, including Aleppo. However, since then, the only things that have arrived from the sky have been Russian missiles and Syrian barrel bombs, including, as was alleged yesterday, those with chlorine, a banned chemical weapon. Will the Prime Minister tell the House, based on her discussions at the G20 about the situation in Syria, whether that commitment still holds, and if so, when she expects humanitarian relief finally to get through by whatever means to the people who have suffered for so long?
I think I can give the right hon. Gentleman the reassurance that there is still that commitment. The situation on the ground has, as he said, made it incredibly difficult for the delivery of that commitment. The issue of humanitarian aid getting into Aleppo was one that I raised directly with President Putin in my discussions with him.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to concern about the sort of weaponry that is being used, potentially, by the Syrian regime. We have been very clear, as he will know, about our opposition to what is happening in relation to that. We are very concerned about the reports that have come forward. Obviously, it is important that those reports be properly looked at. In the longer term, we remain committed to a political transition in Syria, and that will be a political transition to a Syria without President Assad.
I am very pleased to hear the Prime Minister’s full support for free trade as underpinning our prosperity in Britain and across the world. I had thought, until I listened to the Leader of the Opposition, that that was widely shared on both sides of the House. Given that it is not, and given the worrying noises we are hearing from both candidates in the US presidential election—they both sound not terribly enthusiastic about free trade—will she make it a policy of her Government to campaign for free trade in the United Kingdom and to argue for its merits on the global stage?
My right hon. Friend expresses his surprise—I think there was surprise on this side of the House—when the Leader of the Opposition showed his hand in saying that he was not in favour of free trade. Indeed, I suspect many right hon. and hon. Members on the Labour Benches were surprised to hear that that was the policy of the Labour party. We will be advocates—strong advocates—of free trade, as my right hon. Friend suggested, and we will ensure that we send out that message. As he says, free trade underpins our prosperity.
Like the right hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry), we all understand that this is an early stage of the negotiations, but it would be helpful to know more about what the Prime Minister values in the negotiations and about her aims. She talked a lot about free trade, but she is still resisting saying what she actually thinks about the ultimate expression of free trade in Europe, which is the single market. Please will she tell us and clear up the confusion from yesterday? Does she value membership of the single market? Does she think it should be an aim or an objective of the negotiations, and that we should be trying to stay in it if we can?
I have to say to the right hon. Lady that I have answered this question on a number of occasions already today. She will find that if people ask me a question, I will give an answer, and if they ask me the same question, they will get the same answer. I think that that is perfectly reasonable and perfectly normal.
Our aim is to get the right deal for trade in goods and services with the EU, but this will be a new relationship. We will be looking to develop a new model of the relationship between the UK and the European Union. As I said earlier, we will not be setting out every bit of our negotiating hand in advance of entering those negotiations, because that would be the best way to come out with the worst deal.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement, not least what she said on the international concern about some of those on the edges of the market economy: it must be made to work for everyone. On global security, will she firmly back and support the attempts being made today in London by the Syrian coalition to bring forward its own proposals to settle the matter? Will she urge the respective powers that have interests—competing interests—in Syria to accept that the longer they go on fighting over the bodies of the people of Syria, the longer the risk to global security will continue, and that this opportunity being presented in London should certainly be taken?
I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend. Today is an important point, with the Syrian opposition coming together and the meeting taking place here. I also agree that the best thing for global security is to see an end to the conflict taking place in Syria. I continue to believe that that conflict and the actions of the Syrian regime, under President Assad, are what we have seen encouraging people to join terrorist organisations and go out there to fight, and then perhaps to return to other countries and conduct terrorist attacks. We must ensure that we are playing our part—as I believe the UK is today in hosting the Syrian opposition for these talks—in ensuring that we bring an end to the conflict.
I thank the Prime Minister for her statement. I commend her for the common-sense realism of her approach to negotiating our exit from the European Union. Is it not very clear that a lot of criticism and commentary now coming from those who advocated for the remain side—a perfectly legitimate point of view—demonstrates a lack of respect for the decision that the British people as a whole have now made? It is time to get on with making the best of that in the way that she proposes. I offer the support of Democratic Unionist Members and of the First Minister of Northern Ireland to the Prime Minister as she tries to achieve the best possible deal for all of the United Kingdom and for Northern Ireland in particular.
On terrorism, I ask the Prime Minister simply this: will she ensure that more action is taken to put in place greater deterrents for those who go around preaching hatred and the radicalisation of young people in the United Kingdom? More needs to be done to send out a strong message by ensuring that strong sentences are passed to act as a deterrent.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his support for the Government’s approach. As he says, that is the sensible way to go forward in the negotiations. I want to ensure that the interests of Northern Ireland are fully taken into account in our work, and that was the message I gave when I visited Northern Ireland shortly after I became Prime Minister. In fact, the message I have given to all the devolved Administrations is that we want that full engagement so that we can ensure that the interests of the whole United Kingdom are taken into account.
On terrorism, it is important that we deal with those who preach hatred. We saw the sentences that were given yesterday to Anjem Choudary and another individual. The whole question of the radicalisation of young people in particular, but also generally, whether online or in other ways, is important and needs to be addressed. As the right hon. Gentleman said, we want sentences that give the clear message that that is not acceptable activity for people to be involved in, but we also need to do the sort of work that is happening through, for example, the Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit and within Europe, as well as what we are doing to promote mainstream voices against preachers of hate.
After her discussions with other world leaders at the G20, will my right hon. Friend ensure that small and medium-sized businesses are at the heart of future trade negotiations, including the many successful local businesses that will be attending my jobs fair in Louth on Friday?
I commend my hon. Friend for holding her jobs fair. I am sure that many opportunities will be offered by local businesses and that many people will be able to take up those opportunities and benefit from the jobs fair.
Small and medium-sized enterprises will play an important role. Earlier in the summer I had a meeting at No. 10 Downing Street with a number of small and medium-sized businesses and representatives of SMEs. What struck me was their optimism about the opportunities now available to the United Kingdom and their willingness to play their part in taking up those opportunities and encouraging the prosperity we want for everyone in our country.
Does the Prime Minister accept that, like all developed economies with ageing populations, Britain needs to import labour to thrive? Would it therefore not be an act of extreme self-harm for us to give up our full and unfettered access to the single market out of a dogmatic and arbitrary desire to reduce immigration?
It is not an arbitrary and dogmatic desire. We recognise the impact that uncontrolled immigration can have on people, particularly those at the lower end of the income scale. The right hon. Gentleman needs to consider carefully the message that the British people gave in the vote on 23 June. I think that vote told us that they want to see the Government able to take control of the movement of people from the European Union into the United Kingdom, and that is what we will do.
People coming to my constituency and driving along the A45 will see the Rushden Lakes retail development going up with huge steel constructions—the Leader of the Opposition will be pleased to know that 100% British steel is being used there. Does coming out of the EU not give us an opportunity, if necessary, to deal with Chinese dumping of steel? Will the Prime Minister find time next year to come and see Rushden Lakes, as it has some very good shoe shops?
My hon. Friend may just have sealed the deal. I commend and welcome the fact that the Rushden Lakes development is using 100% UK steel—that is very good. We need to look at the issue of overcapacity and over-production, not simply as an individual country, or indeed as the EU, but globally. That was why it was so important that that was on the agenda for the G20 and that the new forum has been set up, with Chinese representation on it.
I believe in enterprise and wealth creation, but I also believe in fair taxes. The International Monetary Fund and the OECD have both said that if the amount of tax that is owed to developing countries was actually paid, that would greatly dwarf the amount of support they get through international aid. Given the Prime Minister’s statements on tax avoidance, and as we now have public country-by-country reporting enshrined in law, how will she make this issue a priority for the G20?
In my interventions at the G20 I was able to refer to the important issue of tax avoidance and the work that needs to be undertaken. The G20 has been playing a leading role in addressing the issue and galvanising action on it. A number of initiatives have taken place, including on the whole question of those who, as I have said, try to use different jurisdictions to resist the payment of tax due. Action is being taken and I was able to refer to the need to push that particular initiative forward. There are other initiatives, too, such as providing support to developing countries for collecting tax within their countries—that tax is needed and should be collected. Initiatives such as the Addis tax initiative are also important. We have played a leading role in the G20 on this, and the G20 is now playing an important global role.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on taking the opportunity at the G20 summit to raise the issue of modern slavery. Will she outline what further steps can be taken to engage with countries around the world to eradicate this evil practice?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the hugely important issue of modern slavery, which is a heinous crime that we need to do more about. I have been encouraging people in other countries to look at the initiative we have taken through legislation—our Modern Slavery Act 2015 is the first of its kind. There is more we can do through law enforcement and other Government agencies working together to ensure that we stamp out the organised crime groups that are behind this terrible crime. In doing that, however, we must never forget that modern slavery takes place here in the UK and that UK individuals are taken into slavery as well. We must not simply think of this as a global issue. We need to act globally, but we need to act locally as well.
Why did the Prime Minister authorise a very public dressing down of the Brexit Secretary merely for telling the House that membership of the single market and free movement of people tend to go together? Is it not possible that the Brexit Secretary, who has believed in this stuff for years, has thought more deeply about it than the Prime Minister, who has been a Brexiteer for a matter of weeks? Can we revert to the traditional practice whereby Ministers are disciplined for misleading the House, as opposed to for the odd occasion when they are caught telling the truth?
First of all, I do not recognise the picture the right hon. Gentleman sets out. The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union very clearly set out that this is not a zero-sum game. As I have said in response to other questions, the Government are absolutely clear that we will go out there and get the right deal for the United Kingdom and that we are negotiating a new relationship with the EU.
Is it not vital during this Brexit period that we maintain confidence? Is it not the case that with the opportunity to forge new global trade deals, with record low interest rates, and with the opportunity to free ourselves from burdensome regulation, now is a golden time to invest in the United Kingdom? Will the Prime Minister use forums such as the G20 to continue to make that case?
I am very happy to do so—I was doing so in Hangzhou at the G20 summit—but we must also welcome the vote of confidence that has been given in the United Kingdom since the vote to leave the EU. The single biggest vote of confidence came from the Japanese company SoftBank, with the £24 billion investment in ARM, but we have also seen investment from companies such as GlaxoSmithKline. This is a time to be confident about the British economy—the fundamentals of the British economy are strong—and we want to encourage that investment in the UK, which is exactly what the Government and I will be doing.
In July, on the “ConservativeHome” website, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union wrote:
“I would expect the new Prime Minister on September 9th to immediately trigger a large round of global trade deals with all our most favoured trade partners.”
Will the Prime Minister confirm that she will be able trigger those deals in two days’ time on Friday, as predicted by her Secretary of State, and which countries will be involved?
I was involved in discussions with countries on free trade deals that we can develop at the weekend at the G20 summit; I listed some of those countries in my statement, but there are others. I am pleased about the opportunities we now have and at the willingness of other countries to sit down around the table and talk to us about trade deals.
Does the Prime Minister agree that for trade to be truly free and to work for everyone, it needs to be free of corruption? Will she update the House on discussions at the summit on tackling corruption and taking forward the actions agreed at the London summit earlier this year? Perhaps she can explain how some of the countries at the summit are a little less keen on taking action and responding to that.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is important that we deal with corruption if we are to have free trade deals and people trading freely around the world but, in addition, corruption sadly gets in the way of the ability of some countries to develop their economies, and of people in them taking the benefits that economic development can bring. The G20 collectively was clear that it wanted to continue that anti-corruption work. I made specific reference to the international anti-corruption co-ordination centre, which we are setting up here in London—a number of countries are joining us in that. That is one part of the action that we need to take, but I can assure my hon. Friend that the G20 was very clear that we needed to continue to press on the outcomes of the London anti-corruption summit.
Many people are not getting a share of globalisation, especially in this country. What specific measures did the Prime Minister and other leaders agree at the G20 to deal with that problem and to ensure that the benefits of globalisation are given out more equally?
The hon. Gentleman is right. As I said in my statement, there was a collective agreement echoing the comments that I made for the United Kingdom that we need to ensure that the benefits of globalisation and economic development are truly shared among people. We need to take a number of steps in order to ensure that. As my hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Nigel Mills) indicated, in some countries, that means dealing with corruption, but there are a number of other areas. I referred earlier to the work we will be doing on corporate irresponsibility, which was picked up and echoed by a number of leaders around the G20 table. Our commitment remains absolutely strong.
I very much welcome the Government’s announcement this week that they plan to ban plastic microbeads in many cosmetic products, including face scrubs and toothpastes. As well as the moral stance that the Government take in forums such as the G20 on anti-slavery and free markets, my request is that we continue to be world leaders in taking forward environmental policies so that we can protect our marine wildlife and the rest of the planet.
I thank my hon. Friend for his comments about our decision on microbeads. They have an impact on marine life and it is clearly right that we ban them in certain products. We are seen to be leading on issues such as climate change, and we can lead on the wider area of environmental concerns.
Public services are exempt from all EU-negotiated trade deals to which the UK is party. Will the Prime Minister commit today to a public services exemption clause in all post-Brexit UK trade deals, which her International Trade Secretary failed to do in answer to written question from me?
I refer the hon. Gentleman to my previous references to our approach. We are not setting out at this stage the details of any particular negotiation in which we will take part on trade deals. We will go out there and get the right deals for the United Kingdom.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s positive statement. The UK, the north-west, Cheshire, Manchester and Liverpool can rightly be proud of our clear strengths in science, with world-leading projects such as the square kilometre array at Jodrell Bank and, more widely, with life sciences. Will she confirm that those sectors will continue to be central to what the Government do with the northern powerhouse and their new industrial strategy, and central to the new trade deals, which are so vital to the future of our economy?
I thank my hon. Friend for that question, which enables me to recall that I did not respond to a point made by the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) when he talked about the northern powerhouse. The Government remain absolutely committed to the northern powerhouse. The developments in new industries and new scientific projects such as those to which my hon. Friend refers have been and remain an important part of that. I assure him that, as we look towards those new trade deals, we will also look at the developments that can take place and what innovative decisions we can take. We want to ensure that we are not only looking at trade in traditional goods and services, as it were, but asking what more we can do and what we can develop for the future.
I thank the Prime Minister for clarifying that her Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union was wrong to rule out membership of the European single market, that her Foreign Secretary was wrong to campaign for a points-based immigration system and that her International Trade Secretary was wrong to say that we are leaving the customs union, but is it not the case that, if we want to strike trade deals with non-EU countries—I am someone who appreciates the value of free trade deals—we will have to leave the customs union, which will bring disadvantages for UK businesses and foreign direct investment?
I am delighted to hear the Prime Minister’s obvious commitment to free trade, but in many respects free trade is on the retreat in the world today. Global trade and investment are on the decline, we have seen a lack of support for it in the United States Congress and from presidential candidates, and, even here, misinformation and scaremongering from some quarters in recent years has led to an erosion of faith in the benefits of free trade among our constituents. Does the Prime Minister agree that, given the centrality of free trade and of signing agreements to the future of our economy, now is the time to put aside that scaremongering, particularly from some parts of the left of British politics, and to believe in free trade and its ability to work for everyone?
It was significant that the G20 was very clear that we wanted to take action on protectionism and we did not want a retreat to it. My hon. Friend makes an important and valid point that was discussed at the G20 about the need for all who support free trade to go out there, make the case for it and show the benefits that it can bring. As I said earlier—this has been universally echoed on the Government Benches—free trade underpins our economic growth and prosperity.
Given, as we understand it, that comments made from the Dispatch Box by the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union on Monday are to be regarded as personal opinion as opposed to Government policy, and that the remarks made by the Secretary of State for International Trade on the customs union need to be changed and if it is the case that the Prime Minister is to continually amend statements and comments made by her newly appointed Ministers, why did she make the appointments in the first place?
The Prime Minister has already referred to the very substantial recent investment by the Japanese firm SoftBank. Will she give the House a little more on the reassurances she is able to give to overseas companies to enable them to continue to invest in the UK, as a centre of excellence in manufacturing?
I am very pleased to say that we encourage companies to invest in the United Kingdom. There are some real opportunities here in the UK. We are a centre of excellence in certain areas of manufacturing. I referred earlier to the visit I made to Jaguar Land Rover. To see the investment coming into the United Kingdom to reinvigorate that company, to create jobs and growth, is a very good example of what can be done. I want to see that happening across a wide range of industries and across the whole country.
May I follow the question from my right hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) on imported labour and people who come to work here? Some 10% of doctors in the NHS are EU nationals and their position is now very uncertain. We know that since 23 June doctors who are EU nationals have been put off applying to work here. Since then, of course, we have had the vicious attacks and the increase in hate crime to which the Prime Minister referred. We need more doctors in the NHS. We have many unfilled training places. What is she going to say to reassure EU nationals working in the NHS, and to the people who should be looking at coming to work here, that we value them?
I am pleased to say to the hon. Lady that under this Government we have more doctors working in the NHS. The number of doctors in the NHS has increased since we came into government. On the position of EU citizens, I fully expect to be able to guarantee the status of EU citizens. While we are members of the EU their status does not change. I fully expect, intend and want to be able to guarantee the status of those EU citizens. The circumstances in which that would not be possible would be if the status of British citizens living in other EU member states was not guaranteed.
During my right hon. Friend’s bilateral talks with President Putin, did she gently but firmly disabuse him of the notion, put around recently by among others the Leader of the Opposition, that this country is less committed than hitherto to its NATO treaty obligations, in particular article 5, and that on the contrary we remain wholly committed to the autonomy and sovereignty of our partners, particularly the Baltic states and Poland?
The Government and I are absolutely clear about our commitment to NATO and to article 5. As I indicated earlier, that is a central underpinning of NATO and of the joint security we provide for each other as members of NATO. I think many people will have been shocked and deeply concerned by the Leader of the Opposition’s statement, when he suggested that we would not be signing up to article 5. It is an underpinning of NATO that ensures not only our national security but the national security of our allies.