The Prime Minister was asked—
Previously, I worked in an NHS service that the coalition Government gifted to Virgin Care, which is now seeking another contract covering my constituency. Among many unethical practices that I witnessed, Virgin imposed a system of double appointments, forcing patients to have unnecessary extra consultations before surgery, boosting its profits at the expense of the taxpayer and patient safety. Is that acceptable? If not, what is the Prime Minister prepared to do about it?
Of course, what we want to see in the provision of local services are the best services possible for local people. The hon. Lady talks about outsourcing of services in the NHS; I have to say to her that the party that put greater privatisation into the NHS was not my party but the Labour party.
Economy/Public Services: West Midlands
The west midlands economy, I have to say, is in a very positive position at the moment. I am very pleased to say that since 2010 nearly 200,000 more people are at work there, and there are 42,000 new businesses. I saw the strength of the economy when I was in Birmingham last week. Of course, we are giving the west midlands new powers with the devolution deal and the election of a Mayor. Andy Street, with his business and local experience, would be a very good Mayor for the west midlands.
On the subject of the NHS, 18 months ago my wonderful doctor, Helen Stokes-Lampard, suggested that I have a general “well man” check-up. It is just as well that I did: the blood test revealed a problem with my prostate, despite the fact that I was symptom-free. I was immediately referred to the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Birmingham, whose staff were simply wonderful. After a period of surveillance, I had a prostatectomy back in June.
But hey—I’m now fine! [Hon. Members: “Hooray!”] I want to thank the whole team at the QE, including my surgeon Alan Doherty and my excellent specialist prostate nurse Richard Gledhill, who gave me practical advice. But, in the next 10 years, there will be a real shortage of specialist prostate and urology nurses, as many are due for retirement. May I ask the Prime Minister what the Government can do to avert a shortage of these much needed specialist nurses?
May I say to my hon. Friend that the whole House is pleased to see him back in his position as his normal exuberant self? He raises a very serious issue. I join him in commending not only those doctors, nurses and other health service staff who treated him for his prostate cancer, but those doctors and nurses who, day in, day out, are ensuring that, as we see, cancer survival rates are at a record high.
The Government are putting more money into awareness of cancer problems. We will look at the training of nurses—50,000 nurses are in training—and continue to make sure that the specialisms are available to do the work that is necessary in the health service.
I, too, join the Prime Minister in wishing the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) well and obviously hope the treatment he got is the same treatment that everybody else gets, because we want good treatment for everybody in our society. [Interruption.] It is not controversial—I am just wishing him well. Is that okay? I am sorry to start on such a controversial note, Mr Speaker. I do apologise.
At the Conservative party conference, the Prime Minister said she wants Britain to be
“a country where it doesn’t matter where you were born”,
but the Home Secretary’s flagship announcement was to name and shame companies that employ foreign workers. Could the Prime Minister explain why where someone was born clearly does matter to members of her Cabinet?
First, may I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on winning the Labour leadership election? [Interruption.] I welcome him back to his place in this House as his normal self. The policy that he has just described was never the policy that the Home Secretary announced. There was no naming and shaming, no published list of foreign workers, no published data. What we are going to consult on is whether we should bring ourselves in line with countries such as the United States of America, which collect data in order to be able to ensure that they are getting the right skills training for workers in their economy.
I am most grateful to the over 300,000 people that voted for me to become the leader of my party, which is rather more than voted for the Prime Minister to become the leader of her party. She seems to be slightly unaware of what is going on: first, the Home Secretary briefed that companies would be named and shamed; the Education Secretary clarified that data would only be kept by Government; yesterday, No. 10 said the proposal was for consultation; and the Home Secretary clarified the whole matter by saying,
“it’s one of the tools we are going to use”.
This Government have no answers, just gimmicks and scapegoats.
Yesterday, we learned that pregnant women will be forced to hand over their passports at NHS hospitals. No ultrasound without photographic ID—heavily pregnant women sent home on icy roads to get a passport. Are these really the actions of
“a country where it doesn’t matter where you were born”?
I have made absolutely clear the policy that the Home Secretary set out. The right hon. Gentleman raises issues around the health service. I think it is right that we should say that we ensure, when we are providing health services to people, that they are free at the point of delivery; that people are eligible to have those services; that where there are people who come to this country to use our health service, and who should be paying for it, the health service actually identifies them and makes sure that it gets the money from them. I would have thought that that would be an uncontroversial view. Of course, emergency care will be provided, when necessary, absolutely without those questions, but what is important is that we ensure that where people should be paying, because they do not have the right to access free care in the health service, they do so.
Some of the Prime Minister’s colleagues on the leave side promised £350 million a week extra for the NHS. She does not seem to have answers to the big questions facing Britain. On Monday, the Secretary for Brexit, when questioned about the Government’s approach to single market access, replied:
“We…need hard data about the size of the problem in terms of both money and jobs”—[Official Report, 10 October 2016; Vol. 615, c. 50.]
It would have been much easier if he had simply asked his colleague, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because he would have been able to tell him that the Treasury forecast is a £66 billion loss to the economy—7.5% of the GDP. Can the Prime Minister now confirm that access to the single market is a red line for the Government, or is it not?
The right hon. Gentleman has asked me this question before. [Interruption.]. He says it is a simple question, and I will give him the simple answer: what we are going to do is deliver on the vote of the British people to leave the European Union; what we are going to do is be ambitious in our negotiations, to negotiate the best deal for the British people, and that will include the maximum possible access to the European market, for firms to trade with, and operate within, the European market. But I am also clear that the vote of the British people said that we should control the movement of people from the EU into the UK, and, unlike the right hon. Gentleman, we believe we should deliver on what the British people want.
Someone once said that in leaving the single market
“we risk a loss of investors and businesses…and we risk going backwards when it comes to international trade.”
That person is now the Prime Minister, and that was before the referendum.
The Japanese Government wrote to the Prime Minister in September, worried about a shambolic Brexit. Many Japanese companies are major investors in Britain—such as Nissan in Sunderland, which has already halted its investment—and 140,000 people in Britain work for Japanese-owned companies. They have made it clear that those jobs and that investment depend on single market access. What reassurance can she give workers today, desperately worried about their future, their company and their jobs?
First, I would say to the right hon. Gentleman that the biggest vote of confidence that we had in Britain after the referendum vote was the £24 billion investment from a Japanese company, SoftBank, in taking over Arm. Secondly, in relation to what we are doing in our negotiations, he does not seem to get what the future is going to be about. The UK will be leaving the European Union. We are not asking ourselves what bits of membership we want to retain. We are saying: what is the right relationship for the UK to have for the maximum benefit of our economy and of the citizens of this country?
The right hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry) has said that
“there is a danger that this Government appear to be turning their back on the single market”.—[Official Report, 10 October 2016; Vol. 615, c. 46.]
Staying in the single market was, indeed, a commitment in the Conservative party manifesto. The reality is that, since the Brexit vote, the trade deficit is widening, growth forecasts have been downgraded, the value of the pound is down 16%, and an alliance of the British Chambers of Commerce, the Confederation of British Industry, the British Retail Consortium and the Trades Union Congress have all made representations to the Prime Minister demanding clarity. Is the Prime Minister really willing to risk a shambolic Tory Brexit just to appease the people behind her?
What the Conservative party committed to in its manifesto was to give the British people a referendum on whether to stay in the European Union. We gave the British people that vote, and they have given their decision: we will be leaving the European Union. In doing that, we will negotiate the right deal for the UK, which means the right deal in terms of operating within and trading with the European market. That is what matters to companies here in the UK, and that is what we are going to be ambitious about delivering.
In his own inimitable way, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said:
“The reason the pound keeps zooming south is that absolutely nobody has the faintest idea what exactly we’re going to put in place.”
Those of us on the Labour Benches do respect the decision of the British people to leave the European Union, but this is a Government that drew up no plans for Brexit; that now has no strategy for negotiating Brexit; and that offers no clarity, no transparency and no chance of scrutiny of the process for developing a strategy. The jobs and incomes of millions of our people are at stake. The pound is plummeting, business is worrying and the Government have no answers. The Prime Minister says she will not give a running commentary, but is it not time the Government stopped running away from the looming threat to jobs and businesses in this country and to the living standards of millions of people?
Unlike the right hon. Gentleman, I am optimistic about the prospects of this country once we leave the European Union; I am optimistic about the trade deals that other countries are now actively coming to us to say they want to make with the United Kingdom; and I am optimistic about how we will be able to ensure that our economy grows outside the European Union. But I have to say to the right hon. Gentleman that Labour did not want a referendum on this issue—we, the Conservatives, gave the British people a referendum; and Labour did not like the result—we are listening to the British people and delivering on that result. [Interruption.] The shadow Foreign Secretary is shouting from a sedentary position. The shadow Foreign Secretary wants a second vote. I have to say to her that I would have thought Labour MPs would have learned this lesson: you can ask the same question again; you still get the answer you don’t want.
I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. What I said at our party conference, and have been saying since I became Prime Minister, is that we want an economy that works for everyone; that means for every part of our country, including areas such as Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. We have already negotiated a devolution deal with Cornwall, which was signed in 2015; that demonstrates that we recognise the challenges that Cornwall faces. We are open to further discussions on ways in which we can improve Cornwall’s economy for the future.
The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance has found that there are
“a number of areas of concern”
regarding political discourse and hate speech in the UK, as well as violent racial and religious attacks. Police statistics show a sharp rise in Islamophobic, anti-Semitic and xenophobic assaults over the past year. Does the Prime Minister agree that all mainstream Governments and mainstream political parties should do everything they can to oppose xenophobia and racism?
I have been very clear from this Dispatch Box on a number of occasions that there is absolutely no place in our society for racism or hate crime. It is right that the police investigate allegations of hate crime where they occur. I am pleased to say that as Home Secretary I was able to bring in arrangements that improved the recording of hate crime. We also improved the requirement on police specifically to record hate crime relating to faith, so that we can see when Islamophobia is taking place, as well as anti-Semitism and other types of hate crime. There is no place for such crime in our society. With one voice, from across this Chamber, we should make that absolutely clear, and give our police every support in dealing with it.
I remind the Prime Minister that when she was Home Secretary she put advertising vans on the streets of this country telling foreigners to go home. At her party conference we heard that her party wishes to register foreigners working in the UK. The crackdown and the rhetoric against foreigners from this Government have led to even UKIP—UKIP—saying that things have gone too far. Across the length and breadth of this land people are totally disgusted by the xenophobic language of her Government. Will she now confirm that her Government’s intention is still to go ahead with the registration of foreign workers, but that we apparently should not worry, because her Government will keep it secret?
My hon. Friend raises an important point. The configuration of services in his constituency and others is obviously a significant issue across the House. I am pleased to say that we are now seeing more people being treated in A&E. We will look at the proposals. The point about how this is being done is that local people should be able to have their voice heard and the decisions taken should reflect the needs in a particular local area. We all want to see that. A&E services are vital, and I pay tribute to all those who work in A&E in hospitals across the country.
The Government took a very simple approach. We asked the NHS itself to propose its five-year plan for the NHS. We asked it how much money it required. It said £8 billion; we are giving it £10 billion, which is more than the NHS said. Funding in the NHS is at record levels. The only place where money for the NHS is being cut is under a Labour Administration in Wales.
My hon. Friend campaigned long and hard for Gary McKinnon, and I obviously took that decision. At that time, it was for the Home Secretary to decide whether there was a human rights case for an individual not to be extradited. We subsequently changed the legal position on that, so this is now a matter for the courts. There are certain parameters that the courts look at in terms of the extradition decision, and that is then passed to the Home Secretary, but it is for the courts to determine the human rights aspects of any case that comes forward. It was right to introduce the forum bar to ensure that challenge on whether cases should be heard here, but the legal process is very clear, and the Home Secretary is part of it.
We recognise the concerns of British steelworkers. That is why the Government have worked, under both my predecessor and me, to ensure that we do what we can to promote, encourage and retain a steel industry here in the United Kingdom. A number of measures have been taken. If the hon. Gentleman was in the Chamber earlier for Scottish questions, he will have heard my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland setting them out.
As my hon. Friend says, we want to ensure that patients experience the same high-quality care regardless of where they live and wherever they are. That is why, as I understand it, the funding for my hon. Friend’s local clinical commissioning group is being corrected to reflect more accurately the local health need. An investment of more than £757 million will be going into his local area, which shows the Government’s intention to ensure that we see a health service that is working for everyone across the country, but we can do that only with the economy to back up the NHS.
I have been clear, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has been clear, and the Taoiseach has also said that, on both sides of the border, we do not want to see a return to the borders of the past. It is worth reminding the House that the common travel area has been in place since the 1920s, so it was there well before we were both members of the European Union. We are working with the Government of the Republic, and I have had discussions on this with the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. We want to ensure that we do not see a return to the borders of the past.
I commend my hon. Friend for taking his opportunity to support the bids from Pendle. He is absolutely right that the money put in has enabled growth in local projects like Brierfield Mill to be unlocked. We have seen £250 million committed to the Lancashire local enterprise partnership, £2.8 billion to the northern powerhouse through the local growth fund, and the latest round of funding is worth up to £1.8 billion, with good bids coming in from local LEPs. We are assessing the proposals, including those from Pendle. They will be looked at with the seriousness my hon. Friend would expect.
I will not comment on the individual case. I know that the hon. Lady sent me the details of this specific case in writing. I will make sure that she gets a full reply from the Immigration Minister. On the broader issue she raises about the income threshold for those wishing to join a partner here in the United Kingdom, the Government asked the independent Migration Advisory Committee to advise on the level of the income threshold. The committee suggested a range of figures and we actually took the lowest figure, £18,600, in that range. It recommended that figure because it is the level at which a British family generally ceases to be able to access income-related benefits, and is able to support themselves and integrate into society. We believe it is important that people coming here are able to support themselves.
I join my hon. Friend in commending all those who have been involved in the bid at Gainsborough’s House. Many people will enjoy visiting Gainsborough’s House in the future as a result of the work that will be able to be done. I know the importance of the Heritage Lottery Fund. It supported the excellent Stanley Spencer gallery in my own constituency, so I have seen the impact it can have. He is absolutely right. The point about devolution deals is people coming together with that ambition for their local area to generate the transformative investment he talks about. Suffolk is looking at the sort of deal it might wish to have locally.
We are very clear that it is for the courts to decide where a war crime is being committed. We co-sponsored a UN Security Council resolution in May 2014 to refer those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, regardless of affiliation, to the International Criminal Court. Of course, that was vetoed by Russia and China. On the issue of a no-fly zone, this has been addressed. People have looked at this over a number of years. The scenes we see of the indiscriminate slaughter of innocent civilians are absolutely appalling. We want to see an end to that, but there are many questions about a no-fly zone. Who is it there to protect? Would it lead to Assad bombing people in the expectation that they would then move to that zone? How would a safe area actually be enforced there? Who would do that enforcement? There are many questions that need to be looked at in those sorts of issues. What we all know is that the only real solution for peace and stability in Syria is political transition, and it is time Russia accepted that: that the future of Syria is a political transition to a stable Syria, free of Assad.
I thank my hon. Friend for the example she has given of the work that is taking place in her constituency. The whole aim of the Government’s education policy is to increase the number of good school places, so parents can have the confidence that their child will have a good school place and they will have the school place that is right for them. That is why we want to see universities more involved in schools, more faith schools being opened up and the independent sector helping the state sector where that is sensible and its expertise can help. And yes, we do want to lift the ban that currently says that one type of good new school cannot be opened. It is illegal to open a new good school that is a selective school. We want to remove that ban so that pupils of all abilities get the opportunity.
The Prime Minister appears to have made a choice, and that choice is to side with the protectionists and nationalists who have taken over her party, as surely as Momentum has taken over the Labour party. She has chosen a hard Brexit that was never on anybody’s ballot paper and she has chosen to turn her back on British business in the process. As a result, petrol and food retailers have warned of huge price rises at the pumps and on the supermarket shelves in the coming days. When will she put the interests of hard-working British people ahead of an extremist protectionism that absolutely nobody voted for?
The hon. Gentleman asks about who we are siding with. I will tell him who this Government are siding with. We are siding with the British people, who voted to leave the European Union. It is high time the hon. Gentleman listened to the vote of the British people and accepted that that is exactly what we are going to do.
I can say that I believe every effort is being made to fill the vacant obstetrics posts at the Horton general hospital. I understand that those mothers who are having a midwife-led delivery are still able to go to the Horton general hospital, but others have to go to the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford. Maternity services are important to people and I believe the trust is actively looking to ensure it can fill those posts. What matters is a safe maternity service for mother and baby.
Many people across the House will be reassured that the Government accepted the amendment to the Opposition motion to be debated later this afternoon that guarantees that this House is able properly to scrutinise the plan for leaving the European Union before article 50 is invoked. Can she tell us: will that scrutiny involve a vote?
I have to say to the hon. Lady that the idea that Parliament was somehow not going to be able to discuss, debate or question issues around Brexit is, frankly, completely wrong. Let me provide her with some examples. The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has already made two statements—and I believe four hours of questions followed from those. A new Select Committee has been set up, which crucially includes representatives from all parts of the United Kingdom to look at these issues. Only just over a week ago, I announced that there will be a great repeal Bill in the next Session to repeal the European Communities Act 1972. Parliament will thus have every opportunity to debate this issue.
Every year in the UK, 3,500 babies are still-born, and I commend the Government for setting the target of a 20% reduction by the end of this Parliament and a 50% reduction by 2030. Does the Prime Minister agree that in Baby Loss Awareness Week we must do all we can to provide the best quality bereavement care for those parents who sadly lose a baby?
I think my hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I am pleased to say that the Health Secretary will attend the Baby Loss Awareness Week reception, which will be held in Parliament immediately after today’s Prime Minister’s Questions. I encourage other Members to attend it, too. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that the loss of a baby must be absolutely devastating; I am aware that some people sitting in this Chamber have been through that tragedy in their lives. What is absolutely essential is that the best possible bereavement care be given to parents at this tragic moment in their lives when they are at their most vulnerable. That is why we have provided money to introduce dedicated bereavement rooms at 40 hospitals, as well as investing more in improving birthing facilities, which are also important. Care and counsel for people who have lost a baby is essential; I think we all accept that.
On 2 July, the Home Office was given details of the 178 children who are still stuck in the Calais refugee camp, but who had a legal right to be here in the UK with their families to keep them safe and protected. Given the delays in acting, what responsibility does the Prime Minister think this Government have to the 18 of those children who have now gone missing?
Far from not acting, this Government have been working with the French Government on dealing with those who are in the camps. We have put extra resource into speeding up the process of dealing with the claims of the unaccompanied children, making that process faster and quicker, with more children coming here as a result. That is alongside all the other work we are doing in relation to refugees and unaccompanied minors. Crucially, of course, we are also working to ensure that we deal with the traffickers and the smugglers who are often in the camps; we need to make sure that they do not have access to children in the future. We have speeded up the process and more children are coming here as a result.
Tomorrow is secondary breast cancer awareness day, and I would like to ask the Prime Minister to join me in wishing these men and women well. Currently, only a third of NHS trusts collect the data in this area. Does my right hon. Friend agree that better data collection can inform diagnosis, treatment and the use of NHS resources across the piece and give better outcomes for all patients?
I entirely accept my hon. Friend’s point that better information provides greater opportunity to address these issues. I join her in commending and wishing well all those—as she says, both men and women—who have suffered from breast cancer and who have come through that, as I know my hon. Friend has. Other Members and so many people across the country are in the same position; it is important that they receive the right care so that they can come through that and see a bright future.
Last night, a huge number of MPs presented in this House WASPI—Women Against State Pension Inequality—petitions from towns up and down the country, so will the Prime Minister now commit to overturning those mistaken arrangements of 2011 and provide justice and transitional arrangements for WASPI women?
The hon. Lady should know that transitional arrangements are already in place. We did make changes. We committed £1 billion to lessen the impact of the state pension age changes on those who were affected, so that no one would experience a change of more than 18 months. In fact, 81% of women’s state pension ages will increase by no more than 12 months, compared to the previous timetable.
The Department for Work and Pensions informed people of the change in the state pension age after the changes that were made in 2011. Moreover, in the future women will gain from the new pension arrangements that are being introduced. Women’s pensions are a long-standing issue, but there will be better pension arrangements for them in the future because of the changes that the Government have made.
I gather that the Prime Minister made Chancellor Merkel a gift of Wainwright’s “Coast to Coast Walk”, which describes the fabulous walk that runs through my constituency. Is she aware that the “coast to coast” is not, in fact, an official national trail, and will she meet me to discuss my campaign to give this national treasure its deserved national status?
As my hon. Friend knows, I enjoy walking as well. There are some fantastic walks across the United Kingdom. I have not yet done the “coast to coast” myself, however; there is not much time for me to do it at the moment.
My hon. Friend probably knows that the decision about the designation of the “coast to coast” is more appropriately one for Natural England, and I am sure that he will do all he can to lobby Natural England on the issue.