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House of Commons Hansard

Commons Chamber

19 October 2016
Volume 615

    House of Commons

    Wednesday 19 October 2016

    The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock


    [Mr Speaker in the Chair]

    Oral Answers to Questions


    The Secretary of State was asked—

    Infrastructure Investment

  • 1. What recent discussions he has had with the Welsh Government on future infrastructure investment in Wales. [906612]

  • I am sure the whole House will join me in marking the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan tragedy this Friday. That event shocked not just Wales but the whole of the country and the wider world. I am sure colleagues across the House will pay tribute to the bravery and strong community ties that pulled the people of Aberfan through the immediate aftermath and provided so much support in the months and years that followed.

    Wales is benefiting from millions of pounds of UK investment across the country. We are modernising our rail infrastructure, investing in the North Wales prison, and providing significant funding and support to improve internet speeds. This is a clear demonstration of the Government’s commitment to delivering improvements in infrastructure in all corners of Wales.

  • Wales receives its funding from the Barnett bloc, but does my right hon. Friend recognise that the UK Government have a part to play in UK infrastructure so that it meets the strategic need in the UK as well as in Wales?

  • My hon. Friend raises an important point. He rightly underlines the Barnett arrangements, and we were pleased to introduce a funding floor that provides Wales with £115 for every £100 that is spent in England. In addition, we have the electrification of the Great Western main line, North Wales prison is a significant project, and we have broadband roll-out. After all, we are interconnected economies, and the Government are determined to do the best for the whole of the UK.

  • 15. May I first associate myself with the right hon. Gentleman’s appropriate remarks concerning Aberfan? I am pleased to hear the emphasis on infrastructure interconnectivity. The Minister will know that the excellent north Wales growth bid—supported by business, cross-party politicians and local authorities in north Wales—needs financial support from the UK Government. Will the UK Government give financial support to the growth bid? [906626]

  • I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for the work he is doing cross-border with the Mersey Dee Alliance and the all-party group on Mersey Dee North Wales. That resonates with our policy to develop a growth deal that works on a cross-border basis. We are working with those who are developing the north Wales growth deal. We are in negotiations on that. We have recently received the Growth Track 360 bid, and we will analyse that in due course. We are keen to work together, and with the Welsh Government.

  • 10. As my right hon. Friend knows, train passengers from and to my constituency use part of the Great Western railway line. When will the new intercity express trains for the Great Western rail line be operational? [906621]

  • My hon. Friend highlights the investment in the Great Western main line, and much attention is rightly drawn to the infrastructure of the electrification itself. However, it is fair to say that, as soon as we have electrified as far as Didcot or Swindon, the new trains will be operational, so his constituents, my constituents and those in Wales and the south-west in general will benefit from modern trains well before the infrastructure has been completed.

  • Roads are critical in infrastructural investment—roads on both sides of the border. What conversations has the right hon. Gentleman had with the Welsh Government about the A5/A483, which goes from Oswestry towards the Wrexham area, given the particular road safety problems in the community of Chirk?

  • The hon. Lady raises an important point. It is something that has crossed the discussions over the north Wales growth deal, and it underlines the interconnectivity of the region she mentions with Manchester, Merseyside and north Wales. We are working closely with the Welsh Government on their infrastructure plan and the national infrastructure plans for the whole of the United Kingdom. It is important that they dovetail appropriately.

  • 12. The Minister will be aware of a range of infrastructure improvement proposals in the north Wales and Mersey Dee taskforce’s Growth Track 360 plan. Could he advise on the merits of seeking funding via a north Wales growth bid supported by cross-border partners to accelerate the delivery of those elements of the plan that are priorities in the short term, and would he help facilitate that? [906623]

  • I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work he has done on this important issue. I think he drew attention to it at one of the first meetings immediately after the general election, and that started the discussions that have led to the Growth Track 360 proposal. There are growth elements and transport infrastructure elements, and it is important that we ensure that those come together for the benefit of the whole region. I am happy to work with him and with the Department for Transport as we approach the control period 6 considerations that will take place in due course.

  • I, too, associate my party and myself with the Secretary of State’s comments on the Aberfan disaster.

    The Treasury aims to pool local government pension schemes in Wales and England to create wealth funds to invest in infrastructure, with each fund containing accumulated assets of £25 billion. Combined Welsh assets amount to £13 billion, meaning that if the Treasury has its way, Welsh funds will be swallowed up by a cross-border pool. Will the Secretary of State demand a specific Welsh wealth fund so that the contributions of Welsh local government workers are used to invest in infrastructure projects in Wales?

  • The hon. Gentleman raises a fairly technical area of policy. Appropriate economies of scale are involved in this. I am happy to discuss the details with him. The Welsh Government have made their views clear. However, it is not only about “Welsh money for Wales”—which, on the face of it, would sound good—but about having the economies of scale such that we can access funding elsewhere as well. Therefore, it is not necessarily the right thing, but I am certainly not closed to the idea.

  • Swansea Bay City Deal

  • 2. What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on whether funding for the Swansea bay city deal will be included in the autumn statement. [906613]

  • I am very supportive of achieving a deal for the Swansea bay city region. However, this is not about Government telling local authorities what to do; it is about empowering them to bring forward bespoke proposals for their region. I welcomed the announcement in the Budget that we were opening negotiations, but it must be the right deal—a well-thought-out deal that delivers for the whole region.

  • The Minister will know that Brexit will deal a major body blow to Swansea’s universities and the Swansea region overall. What assurances can he give that in the autumn statement the Chancellor will make a firm commitment to put his money where his mouth is, because we want hard cash, not hot air, to provide the required support for jobs and prosperity in the area?

  • First, I should correct the hon. Gentleman: the city of Swansea voted to leave, so if there was a body blow to Swansea, it was delivered by people in Swansea. On the city deal, he has to be slightly fairer about what this Government are doing. We have delivered a city deal for Cardiff, with over £1 billion of investment, including £500 million from this Government, and a guarantee that the European elements would be supported. If the Swansea city deal is as good as early indications appear to suggest, it can be supported by this Government in due course.

  • The Swansea bay city deal aims to turn the region, which includes Neath, into a digital super-hub to boost the local economy, transform energy delivery, and improve health and social care. Will the Minister assure the House that this deal will not face the delays experienced by the Swansea bay tidal lagoon and rail electrification projects?

  • It is important to point out that this was announced in the last Budget and is being taken forward. However, there is a bottom-up approach. This Government do not take the view that Westminster knows best. We believe very strongly that the proposal should come from the region, and it is fantastic to see the way in which the four local authorities are working together. I am confident that the deal brings something quite special to south-west Wales, but let us see the detail. If the detail is persuasive, then the support will be forthcoming.

  • Rail Electrification

  • 3. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Transport on rail electrification in Wales. [906614]

  • This week will see the completion of the engineering work in the Severn tunnel required for the electrification of the Great Western main line. This is a truly historic occasion and a clear demonstration of this Government’s commitment to deliver a rail investment strategy that will benefit the people of Wales in its entirety.

  • The Secretary of State has spoken of the Growth Track 360 campaign, which, as the Minister will know, has the potential to transform the north Wales and Cheshire area by delivering 70,000 new jobs over 20 years. Improving the Wrexham to Bidston line, which serves Neston in my constituency, has been identified as the first priority for the team. Will the Minister join in the words of encouragement that we have already heard in agreeing to make representations to the Chancellor ahead of the autumn statement so as to deliver some of this much-needed investment?

  • I am pleased to echo the words of the Secretary of State, who highlighted the Growth Track 360 proposals. These are made in north Wales or made in north-west England proposals which will try to improve connectivity between parts of north-west England and north-east Wales. We are supportive of the proposals. I am pleased to say that this morning the Treasury wrote to the proposers in north Wales stating that support.

  • Some £738 million has been ring-fenced for the electrification of the valley lines, although that is not expected to be completed until at least 2022 or 2023. What assurances has the Minister had that the £120 million from the European regional development fund will still be forthcoming for this project before the UK leaves the EU?

  • The situation is very clear. The proposals for the south Wales metro are part of the Cardiff city deal. They are a significant investment, and they include a contribution of around £110 million from the European fund. My understanding from the Treasury is that it will, if necessary, underwrite that element of the contribution, but if the proposals move forward in a timely manner, the European elements will be funded by the European Union.

  • I associate myself with the words of the Secretary of State on Aberfan. In 1966, I was the same age as the schoolchildren who were killed in that tragedy. My predecessor Cledwyn Hughes, who was Secretary of State for Wales, said that that was the darkest day of his life when Aberfan lost a generation.

    On rail integration, can the Minister tell the House whether he has had discussions with the Welsh Government, and indeed the Irish Government, about connectivity between rail and the port of Holyhead?

  • I assure the hon. Gentleman, who is a keen advocate of rail links in north Wales, that the Wales Office has had discussions with the Welsh Government, with the Irish Government and, just as importantly, with the Rail Minister at Westminster.

  • Is it not a scandal that during its 13 years in government, Labour failed to electrify a single mile of railway track in Wales?

  • That is a most interesting point, but it is not germane to the hon. Gentleman’s responsibilities. A brief sentence in response to the right hon. Lady will suffice.

  • I agree entirely with the comments made by my right hon. Friend.

  • Does the Secretary of State agree that the Department for Transport and its predecessors have prevaricated over funding rail electrification in north Wales for more than 40 years, and can he give us a definite date for the project to move ahead?

  • I agree with the hon. Lady that the situation in north Wales has been one of under-investment for a very long time, so it is important to highlight the current investments: £43 million for signalling in north Wales, and a significant investment in the Chester links into Wrexham. It is important to look at the Growth Track 360 proposals carefully and coherently to see how we can improve connectivity through rail in north Wales.

  • I join the Secretary of State in marking the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan tragedy, and I pay tribute to the spirit and resilience of the people of Aberfan.

    Rail passenger numbers into our capital city station, Cardiff Central, are forecast to increase to 22 million a year by 2025, so the expansion of the station, in conjunction with the south Wales metro project that includes EU funding, is critical. Will the Secretary of State explain why the Government have been willing to invest in Birmingham and Edinburgh stations but will not confirm funding to accelerate feasibility work on expanding Cardiff Central? Does he want our capital city to have a station that is fit for purpose, or not?

  • I welcome the hon. Lady to her place on the Front Bench. The situation in Cardiff is another example of the old-fashioned view that Westminster knows best. We are still waiting for the proposals from south Wales for what needs to be done in relation to Cardiff station. This Government are investing in rail in a manner that simply did not happen under 13 years of Labour government. If the proposal from south Wales meets the Government’s expectations, it will be looked at in a constructive manner.

  • In April’s Welsh questions, the Minister told the House:

    “The European Union makes a massive contribution to the Welsh economy: it is our largest trading partner; it supports thousands of jobs; and it ?provides significant investments for projects all around Wales.”—[Official Report, 13 April 2016; Vol. 608, c.340-341.]

    Four months on from the referendum result, what is the Secretary of State’s Brexit plan for Wales to replace that trade, those jobs and that infrastructure? Where is that plan, and when are we going to see it?

  • I remind the hon. Lady that the people of Wales voted to leave the European Union. I stand by the comments that I made four months ago, but it is important to point out that the Wales Office has been going around Wales and talking to stakeholders, identifying the opportunities as a result of Brexit and trying to provide reassurance. I hope that the hon. Lady will at least welcome the commitment made by the Chancellor to support European funding projects in Wales and agricultural funding in Wales. Those are underwritten proposals from the Treasury that Opposition Front Benchers should welcome.

  • Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon

  • 4. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on the Swansea bay tidal lagoon. [906615]

  • I remain in close contact with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on the proposed lagoon at Swansea bay. This is an exciting project for Wales. I am due to meet Charles Hendry tomorrow to gain an update on the progress of the independent review, and I look forward reading the findings when he reports later this autumn.

  • Last week, Sheffield Forgemasters and a host of other industrial companies in the northern powerhouse urged Charles Hendry to back a new tidal lagoon project, so I welcome the Secretary of State’s comments. If the Government will not listen to Wales, will they listen to the industrial north and finally get on with the Swansea bay tidal lagoon project ?

  • I recognise the hon. Lady’s interest in all things environmental, but Charles Hendry’s review has been seen as a positive intervention. The approach he has taken has been welcomed, as has been pointed out, not only by the lagoon company, local authorities and politicians, but by the business community in south Wales and across the northern powerhouse. We recognise the contribution that it could make, and we are looking forward to his judgment.

  • While it is important to take the findings of the Hendry review into account, will the Secretary of State press for progress on this exciting project as soon as it reports? The project not only has the potential to deliver clean energy, but will continue to build on the success, vibrancy and ambition that characterises Swansea and Wales.

  • My hon. Friend, like me, looks forward to the Charles Hendry report. There is no doubt that, as a test project, it has great potential for Swansea bay, but he, like me, has an obligation to the taxpayer to ensure that it works for consumers and taxpayers, and that it represents good value for money for all concerned.

  • 13. Having taken a bloody nose for Hinkley and a black eye for fracking, is it not about time that this Government took an energy decision that enjoys the full support of this House and of the population at large? Why hold up any further the British-made, British-owned tidal lagoon projects that could change the fortunes not only of Wales, but of manufacturing businesses across the country? [906624]

  • The hon. Lady and I agree that we would like something like that to be developed and to go ahead for the prospects and opportunities it will provide, but we have an obligation to the taxpayer: we have to ensure that it provides value for money. Only in recent weeks, the hon. Lady and her colleagues have complained about the cost of energy for Tata and other energy intensive industries. It is important that we generate energy in a cost-effective way that suits consumers as well as taxpayers.

  • Tourism

  • 5. What steps he is taking to encourage increased tourism to Wales. [906616]

  • I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for his time as shadow Secretary of State and thank him for his contribution at the Dispatch Box in that role.

    As the House will know, tourism is vital to delivering economic growth in Wales. It has been a great year for inbound tourism in the UK and in Wales, with day visits increasing by 24% in the last 12 months.

  • Will the Minister pay tribute to the magnificent tourist attractions in Newport—Tredegar House, the wetlands, Celtic Manor, the splendid Roman baths and amphitheatre—all of which increased tourist numbers last year by up to 70%? Will he confirm that visitors to all parts of Wales always praise the warmth of our hospitality?

  • I clearly agree fully with the comment about the welcome in Wales. In particular, I pay tribute to the South Wales Argus and its “We’re Backing Newport” campaign, which highlights the fact that Newport is not just a great place to live, but a great place to visit.

  • With B&Bs such as the Old Rectory on the Lake and the Ty’n y Cornel in Tal-y-llyn under new management and prepared, I hope, to do bar mitzvahs and gay weddings, does the Minister not agree with me that Welsh B&Bs offer a warm welcome to the English?

  • I agree with my hon. Friend that Welsh bed and breakfasts offer a great welcome, whether people are English, Welsh or any other nationality. They are a key part of the Welsh tourism offer, and they are to be applauded for the work they do.

  • I associate myself and my colleagues with the tribute to the people of Aberfan on the 50th anniversary.

    In a previous life, the Minister was a very passionate supporter of the campaign to reduce VAT on tourism. He has made some very pronounced comments about that campaign in the past. Does he stand by them? More importantly, what representations will he make to the Treasury to make such a case to benefit tourism in our communities?

  • The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right in saying that I am a politician who advocates lower taxes, so I welcome the fact that this Government have cut national insurance contributions for small businesses and are cutting corporation tax for small businesses. There is a case to be made on VAT for many sectors of the economy, and that case will be made by the Wales Office, but there are no promises, I am afraid.

  • Does the Minister agree that one dividend of Brexit has been the fall in the pound against the euro, meaning that holidays in Wales are now 15% cheaper for our European friends?

  • Certainly I am more than happy to agree with my hon. Friend that tourism in north Wales has done extremely well over the past few months. Last week I spoke to hoteliers in Llandudno, who were saying that they have enjoyed 90%-plus occupancy during the summer, so there has been a Brexit dividend in that respect.

  • Steel Industry

  • 6. What steps the Government are taking to support the steel industry in Wales. [906617]

  • I am in regular contact with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the First Minister and the Welsh Minister for the Economy. We have not lost focus while these issues have been out of the headlines. The Government leave no stone unturned in supporting the steel sector.

  • What assurances can the Secretary of State give that, in the event of the completion of a joint venture by Tata Strip Products and ThyssenKrupp, commitments will be made on jobs, investment and the continuation of primary steel making at Port Talbot and across Wales?

  • It is in the UK’s strategic interests to maintain a steel-making capacity, and so quite obviously to maintain that at Port Talbot. The Government stand ready and waiting to support any bidder. It is a matter for Tata as to whether it pursues the joint venture. We are maintaining a relationship with Tata and other potential bidders that were in discussions earlier this year. We are keen to maintain a sustainable future.

  • Welsh steel is obviously of the highest quality, and I hope that when Heathrow airport is expanded Welsh steel will be used. In that sense, will the Secretary of State have a word with the Prime Minister to ensure that she stops faffing around on Heathrow expansion and that we have a positive decision as early as possible?

  • The hon. Gentleman tempts me, but he knows that that decision will be coming soon. He makes an important point about the use of steel in infrastructure projects. The UK Government have already changed procurement rules, making it easier for British steel to be used in contracts. For example, Crossrail, Europe’s largest civil engineering scheme, uses almost entirely British steel.

  • As the representative for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney—[Interruption.]

  • Order. The hon. Gentleman has a very personal constituency reason for wishing to acknowledge the anniversary of the Aberfan tragedy. Let us hear him with the courtesy he warrants.

  • Thank you, Mr Speaker. As the representative for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, I too would like to associate myself with the comments of the Secretary of State and the shadow Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff Central (Jo Stevens), in relation to the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster, an unimaginable loss for the families and, indeed, the whole community.

    One major challenge—if not the major challenge—facing the Welsh steel industry is that its energy costs are far higher than those of our competitors. Despite warm words, little action has been taken. What action is the Secretary of State or the Government taking to bring down energy costs faced by energy-intensive industries?

  • I welcome the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State to their positions. He makes an important point on steel-making capacity and energy costs. He will be well aware that the energy-intensive industry package the Government have brought forward responded to the demands from the industry and from Tata specifically. We have reduced energy costs to the steel sector by £109 million, which has been welcomed and has put the sector in a much stronger position, with a turnaround in profits from a loss of £64 million to an operating profit of £95 million.

  • Arriva Trains Franchise

  • 7. What discussions he has had with the Welsh Government on the Arriva Trains franchise renewal. [906618]

  • The in-principle agreement between the Welsh Government and the Department for Transport to devolve the Wales and Borders franchise was announced on 21 November 2014. We are engaging constructively with the Welsh Government to enable them to achieve the successful procurement of the next Wales and Borders franchise in October 2018.

  • Labour has tabled an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill, which will write free wi-fi into the renewal of any rail franchise. Does the Minister agree that this requirement would be welcomed by passengers in Wales and should be included in Arriva’s next franchise agreement?

  • This is a fair point. That would be appreciated by passengers in Wales. As part of the devolution package, that is something to be agreed between the Department for Transport and the Welsh Government, but I am sure they will have heard the hon. Lady’s comments.

  • Rural Broadband

  • 8. What plans his Department has to work with the Welsh Government on extending the roll-out of broadband in remote rural areas of Wales.


  • Ensuring rural areas of Wales benefit from our broadband roll-out is one of my key priorities. The UK Government have supported investment in broadband across rural Wales, including £14.2 million in Powys and £13.9 million in Gwynedd. The Secretary of State recently had positive discussions with the Welsh Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and the Minister for Science and Skills on future work to roll out broadband in Wales.

  • I thank the Minister for that reply. Does he agree with me that superfast broadband is a key driver for successful diversification in remote rural economies, and does he agree that it is time BT Openreach raised its game?

  • I am sure the mailbox of every MP would highlight the fact that it is time for BT Openreach to raise its game. On the importance of broadband to rural economic development, I can only agree fully with my hon. Friend. In my constituency of Aberconwy we have a call centre in Llanrwst, which is only in place as a result of the broadband roll-out encouraged by this Government’s funding.

  • In a Twitter message to me, the director of BT in Wales said that the

    “vast majority of rural Wales, including Arfon, can already access superfast broadband”.

    Does the Minister agree with her?

  • The “vast majority” is perhaps overstating the case, but the improvement over recent months has been spectacular, with rates of 90%-plus in many rural counties. There is still more work to be done, but in terms of rural broadband we are going in the right direction in Wales and the UK.

  • The main superfast broadband line passes the community of Crymlyn in my constituency, literally at the bottom of the people’s gardens. Many of these people run businesses from home and need to access substantial documents, but the download speed in Crymlyn would be an embarrassment even in the previous century. When will the Minister, or his Labour confederates in Cardiff, actually do something to remove this huge barrier to prosperity and economic growth?

  • The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the investment in his own constituency, which is approaching £12 million. There are still issues in relation to broadband roll-out in Wales, but sometimes we have to recognise that what has been achieved is tremendous. We are slightly ahead of the situation in England, which is something we should all applaud. However, I make no bones about the fact that more and faster broadband connectivity in Wales is crucial. The Wales Office will carry on pressurising BT Openreach to ensure that that is achieved sooner rather than later.

  • Prime Minister

    The Prime Minister was asked—


  • Q1. If she will list her official engagements for Wednesday 19 October. [906662]

  • I know the whole House will wish to join me in remembering all those who lost their lives and were affected by the Aberfan disaster 50 years ago this week. It claimed the lives of 144 people, the vast majority of them children. It caused devastation to the local community. It is right that we pause and reflect on this important anniversary, and recognise the solidarity and resilience of the people of Aberfan to overcome this powerful tragedy.

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

  • May I associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister? I am of an age that I can remember the terrible black and white film of this tragedy. It affected everyone. We in this House pass on our thoughts to the people of Aberfan today.

    Mr Speaker, as you might know it is my birthday today. The Prime Minister has already given me a huge birthday present by letting everyone know that we will be out of the European Union no later than 31 March 2019. May I press her for another present? Her excellent policy of closing Victorian prisons and opening modern ones is spot-on. Will she support the reopening of Wellingborough prison as part of this excellent programme, or would she rather just sing happy birthday?

  • I am very happy to wish my hon. Friend a very happy birthday today: many happy returns! I hope that Mrs Bone is going to treat the occasion in an appropriate manner. [Laughter.]

  • Order. I want to hear what is coming next.

  • Calm down, Mr Speaker.

    On the serious issue about prisons, I welcome the fact that my hon. Friend applauds the policy we are following of closing out-of-date prisons and building new ones. I hear the lobbying he has made for Wellingborough, and I can assure him that Wellingborough is one of the sites that is being considered. The Secretary of State will look at the issue very carefully and make an announcement in due course.

  • I join the Prime Minister in commemorating the disaster at Aberfan all those years ago when 118 children along with many adults died. Many in that community are still living with that tragedy, and they will live with it for the rest of their days. As a young person growing up at that time, I remember it well, particularly the collections for the disaster fund. The BBC documentary presented by Huw Edwards was brilliant and poignant, and serves to remind us all of what the disaster was about.

    One in four of us will suffer a mental health problem. Analysis by the King’s Fund suggests that 40% of our mental health trusts had their budgets cut last year, and six trusts have seen their budgets cut for three years in a row. Is the Prime Minister really confident that we are delivering parity of esteem for mental health?

  • First, like the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone), I am of an age when I can remember seeing on television those terrible scenes of what happened in Aberfan. I did not see the whole of Huw Edwards’ documentary, but I thought the bits that I happened to see last night were very poignant, as the right hon. Gentleman said. Interestingly, what it showed again was the issue of those in power not being willing to step up to the plate initially and to accept what had actually happened, but the inquiry was very clear about where the responsibility lay.

    It is right that we are introducing parity of esteem for mental health in our national health service. We have waited too long for this, and it is important that it is being done. We are actually investing more in mental health services—an estimated record £11.7 billion. In particular, we are increasing the overall number of children’s beds to the highest number for mental health problems, which I think is important. There is, of course, more for us to do in looking at mental health, but we have made an important start and, as I say, that funding will be there.

  • I received a letter from Colin, who has a family member with a chronic mental health condition. Many others, like him, have relatives going through a mental health crisis. He says that the

    “NHS is so dramatically underfunded”

    that too often it is left to the underfunded police forces to deal with the consequences of this crisis. Indeed, the chief constable of Devon and Cornwall has this month threatened legal action against the NHS because he is forced to hold people with mental conditions in police cells because there are not enough NHS beds. I simply ask the Prime Minister this: if the Government are truly committed to parity of esteem, why is this trust and so many others facing an acute financial crisis at the present time?

  • May I first of all say to Colin that I think all of us in this House recognise the difficulties people have when coping with mental health problems? I commend those in this House who have been prepared to stand up and refer to their own mental health problems. I think that has sent a very important signal to people with mental health issues across the country.

    The right hon. Gentleman raises the whole question of the interaction between the NHS and police forces. I am very proud of the fact that when I was Home Secretary I actually worked with the Department of Health to bring a change to the way in which police forces dealt with people in mental health crisis. That is why we see those triage pilots out on the streets and better NHS support being given to police forces, so that the number of people who have to be taken to a police cell as a place of safety has come down. Overall, I think it has more than halved, and in some areas it has come down by even more than that. This is a result of the action that this Government have taken.

  • The reality is that no one with a mental health condition should ever be taken to a police cell. Such people should be supported in the proper way, and I commend the police and crime commissioners who have managed to end the practice in their areas. The reality is, however, that it is not just Devon and Cornwall that are suffering cuts; the Norfolk and Suffolk mental health trust has been cut in every one of the last three years.

    I agree with the Prime Minister that it is a very good thing for Members to stand up and openly discuss mental health issues that they have experienced, because we need to end the stigma surrounding mental health conditions throughout the country. However, NHS trusts are in a financial crisis. According to NHS Providers, it seems to be the worst financial crisis in NHS history: 80% of acute hospitals are now in deficit. There was a time, in 2010, when the NHS was in surplus. What has happened?

  • Let me remind the right hon. Gentleman what has happened in relation to NHS funding. We asked the NHS itself to come up with a five-year plan, and we asked the NHS itself to say what extra funding was needed to deliver on that. The NHS came up with its five-year plan, led by Simon Stevens as its chief executive. He said that £8 billion was needed. We are giving £10 billion of extra funding to the NHS. I might also remind the right hon. Gentleman that at the last election, it was not the Conservative party that was refusing to guarantee funding for the NHS; it was the Labour party.

  • In six years, the NHS has gone from surplus to the worst crisis in its history. A total of £3 billion was wasted on a top-down reorganisation that no one wanted, and Simon Stevens made it very clear to the Select Committee yesterday that he did not believe that NHS England had enough money to get through the crisis that it is facing.

    May I offer an analysis from the Care Quality Commission, which seems to have quite a good grasp of what is going on? It says that cuts in adult social care are

    “translating to increased A&E attendances, emergency admissions and delays to people leaving hospital, which in turn is affecting the ability of a growing number of trusts to meet their performance and financial targets.”

    Will the Prime Minister also address the reckless and counterproductive adult social care cuts that were made by her predecessor?

  • The right hon. Gentleman quoted what had been said by Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England. At the time of the autumn statement last November, he said that

    “our case for the NHS has been heard and actively supported.”

    The right hon. Gentleman also raised the question of social care, and the interaction between healthcare and social care. More than £5 billion extra was put into the better care fund in order to deal with precisely those issues, and local authorities are able to raise 2% of council tax to deal with the social care costs that they face. What is important, however, is for the health service and local authorities to work together to ensure that they deliver the best possible service to people who require that social care. I saw a very good example of that at Salford Royal on Monday, and I want to see more examples throughout the national health service, delivering for patients. We have put in the funding, which the right hon. Gentleman’s party would not have done, so that the NHS will receive better care for patients.

  • We all want local government and the NHS to work closely together, but the problem is that local government funding has been cut, and 400,000 fewer people are receiving publicly funded social care as a result. The NHS is having difficulty coping with the crisis that it is in, and unfortunately there is bed-blocking. Acute patients cannot leave, because no social care is available for them somewhere down the line. The issue is a funding crisis in both the NHS and local government. Figures published by NHS trusts show that the total deficit is £2.45 billion, but the chief executive of NHS Providers says that the figure may be even bigger. The Government are disguising the extent of the crisis through temporary bailouts. [Interruption.] They are bailing out trusts in a crisis. That is, of course, a good thing, but why are the trusts in a crisis in the first place?

    Next month, sustainability and transformation plans are going to be published. Many people across the country are quite alarmed by this because of the threat to accident and emergency departments. Will the Prime Minister deal with this issue now by quite simply saying there will be no downgrades and no closures of A&E departments in the statement coming out next month?

  • I say to the right hon. Gentleman that over the course of this Parliament, the Government will be spending over half a trillion pounds on the national health service. That is a record level of investment in our national health service. There is a key difference between the way the right hon. Gentleman approaches this and how I approach it: Conservative Members believe that people at a local level should be able to make decisions about the national health service, and that decisions about the national health service should be led by clinicians—it should not be a top-down approach, which is typical of the Labour party.

  • Wow! Well, top-down was what we got. It cost £3 billion for a reorganisation that nobody wanted at all.

    I started by asking the Prime Minister about parity of esteem. All this Government have produced is parity of failure—failing mental health patients; failing elderly people who need social care; failing the 4 million on NHS waiting lists; failing the five times as many people who are waiting more than four hours at A&E departments—and another winter crisis is looming. The Society for Acute Medicine has it right when it says that this funding crisis and the local government funding crisis are leaving the NHS “on its knees”.

  • What has happened in the NHS over the past six years? More patients being treated, more calls to the ambulance service, more operations, more doctors, more nurses—that is what has been happening in the NHS. But let us just look at the right hon. Gentleman’s party’s approach to the national health service: a former shadow Health Secretary said that it would be “irresponsible” to put more money into the national health service; and a former leader of the Labour party wanted to “weaponise” the national health service. At every election the Labour party claims that the Conservatives will cut NHS spending; after every election we increase NHS spending. At every election Labour claims the Tories will privatise the NHS; after every election when we have been in government we have protected the NHS. There is only one party that has cut funding for the NHS: the Labour party in Wales.

  • Q3. Is the Prime Minister aware that research shows that infrastructure investment most benefits areas that are prepared to capitalise on it with new associated possibilities for housing, skills and jobs? Will she ensure that current opportunities are taken for inward investment to preserve and re-energise essential national industries such as rotorcraft in the Yeovil area as we seek to capitalise on the dualling of the A303? [906664]

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We are right to invest in infrastructure such as the A303. That can make a real difference to local communities, but it is important that local communities embrace those opportunities. I know that my hon. Friend has been putting together ideas for a vision for Yeovil and I am sure he will share them with my right hon. Friend the Communities Secretary.

  • I join the Prime Minister and the leader of the Labour party in remembering the Aberfan disaster. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by that.

    Thousands of innocent civilians have now been killed by Saudi air strikes in Yemen. Can the Prime Minister assure the House that those civilians have not been killed by Paveway IV missiles partially manufactured in Scotland that are under licence from her Government to Saudi Arabia?

  • First, may I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his election as deputy leader of the Scottish National party?

    As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we have one of the toughest regimes in the world in relation to arms exports. When allegations arise, we press—I have pressed in the past and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has pressed—the Saudi Arabia Government to properly investigate the issues and to learn lessons from them.

  • I thank the Prime Minister for her kind wishes but, to return to the subject of my question, it is beyond doubt that Saudi air forces are bombing Yemen. Planes made in Britain are being flown by pilots who were trained by Britain and dropping missiles that are made in Britain. I asked her a direct question and she could not answer it, so I will try a second time. Can she give the House an assurance that civilians have not been killed by Paveway IV bombs being dropped on Yemen that are partially manufactured in Scotland under license by her Government? If she does not know the answer to that question, how can she possibly, in good conscience, continue selling them to Saudi Arabia?

  • In response to the right hon. Gentleman, the point that I made was very simple: we press for proper investigations into what has happened in those incidents before we reach a decision or a conclusion. We have a very strong relationship with Saudi Arabia, which is important for this country in terms of dealing with counter-terrorism and a number of other issues, but what matters, when incidents happen about which there is concern, is that they are properly investigated.

  • Q5. A few weeks ago I thought that I had successfully bought four tickets online for one of my favourite bands, Green Day, only to be told that the tickets were unavailable and the gig was sold out, but within minutes I could buy the tickets on another site, for twice the price. It turns out that the ticket site had been the victim of a computerised attack by organised touts who then resell tickets at inflated prices. Will the Prime Minister ask her Ministers to give close consideration to my amendment to the Digital Economy Bill that would make the computerised harvesting of tickets for resale an offence? Similar legislation exists elsewhere, and it would go a long way towards protecting consumers and genuine music fans. [906666]

  • I thank my hon. Friend for raising that issue. I am sure that he is not the only Member of the House who has had that experience, and he is certainly not the only person who has been affected, as Members will know from their constituency mailbags. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 introduced a review of online ticket sales. Professor Mike Waterson’s independent report on online secondary ticketing makes a number of recommendations, including some whereby the industry itself could better protect itself from the problem. The Government will look very carefully at those recommendations to see what can be done to address the issue.

  • Q2. The child abuse inquiry needs to regain the trust of survivors. In September, the Home Secretary said that she had no information about serious leadership failings, but on Monday she told the House that she had known about serious problems since July. Yesterday it emerged that senior Home Office officials were briefed as early as April.The Prime Minister set up the inquiry and appointed the chair. She was the individual responsible for the inquiry’s success. She was the Home Secretary in April and the only person who had the power to act. Will she now finally tell us when she personally learned of the serious problems developing in the inquiry, and why she took no action at all? [906663]

  • I recognise that the hon. Lady has taken a particular interest in this issue. I am sure that she will recognise, as I hope other Members do, why it was that I set up the inquiry. For too long, people who had been subjected to child—[Interruption.]

  • For too long, the voices of people who had been subjected to child sexual abuse went unheard and they felt that they were not getting justice. That is why it is very important that the inquiry is able to continue and to find that justice for them.

    I have to say to the hon. Lady that one of the important aspects of this is that, over the years, too many people have had concerns that those in positions of power have intervened to stop them getting justice. There were stories around about the inquiry and about individuals related to the inquiry, but the Home Secretary cannot intervene on the basis of suspicion, rumour or hearsay.

    The hon. Lady refers to the statement that was made in this House yesterday about information being discussed with a director general at the Home Office. She will also have noted that it was asked that that conversation would be confidential, and it was, as far as I am aware, treated as such. It is important for us to recognise that when the Home Office was officially informed of issues, it acted. It is now for the inquiry to get on and deliver for victims and survivors.

  • Q8. Having been born in and grown up in south Wales, and as a former Secretary of State for Wales, may I associate myself with the heartfelt tributes paid by Members on the Front Bench and throughout this House to the valley community of Aberfan? That absolutely unparalleled tragedy stunned the world. Will the Prime Minister now step up to the plate, to use her own words, reconfirm her commitment to Wales and ensure that her Government work with the Welsh Government, particularly after leaving the EU, to maintain the investment that is so vital to the long-term social and economic development of the valleys communities and the rest of Wales? [906669]

  • As a former Secretary of State for Wales, my right hon. Friend is well aware of the impact of the Aberfan disaster on south Wales and those local communities. As I said in my opening remarks, the events were absolutely tragic and the thoughts of the whole House are with those affected by them. I can give the commitment that she is asking for to Wales and to working with the Welsh Government. I am clear that this Government will deliver a country that works for everyone, and that means every part of the United Kingdom. Of course, the Wales Bill will put in place a historic transfer of powers to the Welsh Assembly. It will allow the Welsh Government to focus on the job of transforming the Welsh economy and, of course, we are talking to the Welsh Government about how we go forward with negotiations for leaving the EU.

  • Several hon. Members rose—

  • Order. Progress today has been very slow, so I appeal to colleagues to speed up. I call Stephen Pound.

  • Q4. I am much obliged, Mr Speaker. Can there be a single Member of this House who does not have reason to be grateful to those heroes of our high street, community pharmacists? Can there be any member of the public who is not as bemused as I am that the Government are proposing a 12% cut in the community pharmacy budget, potentially leading to 3,000 closures? Will the Prime Minister express her support for community pharmacies and have another look at this divisive, corrosive and destructive proposal? [906665]

  • Everybody in this House recognises the role and contribution of community pharmacies up and down the country, but it is also right that we look at how we are spending NHS money. That is why the Government are looking carefully at this whole issue. If the hon. Gentleman supports community pharmacies, perhaps he ought to have a word with the Leader of the Opposition, because his right hon. Friend’s policy is to nationalise the health service completely, lock, stock and barrel—GP surgeries, Macmillan nurses and community pharmacies.

  • Q11. May I welcome the fact that next week this Government will finally make a decision on airport capacity in the south-east, which eluded three of my right hon. Friend’s predecessors and will help to boost trade? Does the Prime Minister agree that, on this issue, substance matters more than symbolism, and will she outline to the House her timetable for implementation? [906672]

  • I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue, and he is absolutely right. This month, the Government will take a decision on the appropriate site for extended airport capacity in the south-east. The subject has been debated, discussed and speculated about for 40 years; this Government will take a decision, but then a formal process has to be undertaken. The Government will identify their preferred site option. That will go to a statutory consultation, and then the Government will consider the results of that consultation and introduce an airports national planning statement on which the House will vote.

  • Q6. Does the Prime Minister agree that any move to close the historical barracks at Fort George would be not only a poor military decision after 250 years of service, but a betrayal of the Black Watch and a slap in the face to the highlands? [906667]

  • I recognise the strength of the hon. Gentleman’s view. No decisions on Fort George or other locations have been taken and the Ministry of Defence will engage with all parties impacted by any such decisions, including in Scotland.

  • My right hon. Friend has expressed reluctance to submit to the House even the broad plans for our negotiations with the EU because of worries that to do so might weaken her Government’s negotiating position. She might have noticed that, this week, one or more Brexiteer members of her Cabinet have been briefing the newspapers copiously on every proposal being put forward in papers to the relevant Cabinet Committee by their colleagues and launching political attacks on Cabinet colleagues who seem to disagree with them. Will she take firm action to stop this process? Does she also agree that the proper approach should involve parliamentary scrutiny of the broad strategy, once her Government have reached agreement on what it should be?

  • The Government are very clear that the vote on 23 June was a vote to ensure that we had control of movement of people from the EU into the UK. Also, we want the best possible access for businesses for trading in goods and services, and for operating within the European market. That is what the Government will be aiming for, and we will be ambitious in that. Parliament will have its say. There are going to be lengthy negotiations over the course of the two years and more, and Parliament will have its say in a whole variety of ways, not least in relation to the great repeal Bill.

  • Q7. Some of my constituents who have had their tax credits suddenly stopped by Concentrix have been accused of being in a relationship with the previous tenants of their homes, even though they have never met them, and in some cases of being in a relationship with members of their own families and told to prove that they are not. This Kafkaesque situation is causing deep distress and hardship among working mothers in my constituency. Is this what the Prime Minister means by being on the side of working people? What is she going to do to put this right? [906668]

  • The hon. Lady raises an issue that is a matter of concern to Members across the House. I am making sure that those who are being assessed are being assessed properly and that the right decisions are being taken. The Department for Work and Pensions is looking at the whole process of what should be done and how those assessments should be undertaken. I hope that she welcomes the fact that this Government have said that those with long-term conditions that are not going to improve will not be put through the regular assessments that they had under her Labour Government.

  • The first nuclear science degree apprenticeship, with apprenticeships with EDF at Hinkley Point and with the Ministry of Defence, has just been launched at Bridgwater and Taunton College. This is at the forefront of the Government’s apprenticeship reform policy. The course combines academic study with practical work experience and it is paid. Does the Prime Minister agree that this is exactly the kind of business-led course that the nation needs if it is to forge ahead?

  • I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. I commend Bridgwater and Taunton College for the steps it is taking to work with businesses to ensure that its courses are what business needs. That is exactly what we want to see. We also want a regeneration of our expertise in the nuclear industry.

  • Q9. The Prime Minister recently celebrated her 60th birthday, but she is not going to retire. That is her choice, but she is denying that same choice to many of my constituents, including women such as Christine from Springburn, who has worked every bit as hard as the Prime Minister, but will now have to work for an extra six years. When will the Prime Minister do the right thing and give the WASPI women their transitional arrangements so that they, too, can make the choices that she enjoys? [906670]

  • I am sure that the hon. Lady knows that we have transitional arrangements in place and that action was taken by the Government to ensure that the period of time for the pension age change would be no more than 18 months compared with the previous timetable. For 81% of women affected by the 2011 change, it will be no more than 12 months.

  • The employment figures that have come out today are of course fantastic news, but I am wary about the economic volatility that could result from Brexit, with the potential for inflation to rise and the cost of living to go up for people on very modest wages. Does the Prime Minister agree that we need to keep as many people in employment as possible? We have made the right decision on tax credits. May I urge her personally, ahead of the autumn statement, to look at the cuts that are still embedded in universal credit to ensure that she understands what they will do to people who are trying to get into work?

  • My hon. Friend is right to talk about the importance of getting people into work, which has a benefit not just in terms of families having an income. I am proud of the Conservative Government’s record over the past six years of getting more and more people into work so that hundreds of thousands fewer households now have no work income coming in. That is extremely important. The point of universal credit is to ensure that the transition from benefits into work means that people do see a benefit if they get into the workplace. The previous system meant that some people said that they were better off on benefits. We want to see people in work and that is what the system is there to encourage.

  • Q10. I have been asking questions for 15 months about this Tory Government’s appalling two-child policy and rape clause, but the Government still do not know how it will work. From one feminist to another, can the Prime Minister tell me how she justifies putting vulnerable women through the trauma of proving that their third child was born as the result of rape? [906671]

  • We have been clear that women who have a third child as a result of rape would not be subject to the limit that is being considered in relation to benefits. I absolutely recognise that the hon. Lady’s point addresses concern about dealing with individuals who have been through the trauma of rape, and that is why the Government are taking their time to consider that. We are consulting at the moment and looking at how to ensure that we do this in absolutely the right way.

  • Given the increasing relevance of the Commonwealth for trade, will the Prime Minister give her personal support to the first ever meeting of Commonwealth Trade Ministers here in the UK next year? When she goes to India next month, will she commit to persuade Prime Minister Modi to attend the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in the UK?

  • I am happy to encourage all leaders to attend CHOGM when it takes place here in the United Kingdom. I assure my right hon. Friend that we are indeed looking at the possibility of trade deals in relation to the Commonwealth. I applaud that first ever meeting of Commonwealth Trade Ministers, which is an important step as we look to forge a new global role in the world, ensuring that we make a success of leaving the EU and trading our way around the world.

  • Q12. Local clinicians are absolutely clear that the removal of 24-hour consultant-led maternity services from the West Cumberland hospital in Whitehaven will cost lives. Ultimately, it is a decision that the Government will have to make. Will the Prime Minister please commit today to visit my constituency to see what the effect of the decision will be on west Cumbrian families, women and children? [906673]

  • I recognise that this is not the first time that the hon. Gentleman has raised concerns about West Cumberland hospital. The point of how we are approaching this is that decisions are taken at and generated from the local level. It is the local area that will be looking at the services that people need, and at ensuring that they can be provided and are safe for his constituents and those in other parts of Cumbria.

  • The tragic murder of one prisoner and the critical wounding of two others at Pentonville prison last night brings home the stark decline in safety in our prisons. Will the Prime Minister give the Secretary of State for Justice her full support in commissioning an immediate, thorough and complete review of the operation, management, capacity, leadership and resourcing of the National Offender Management Service, which has singularly failed to arrest this declining situation?

  • My hon. Friend raises a matter that was one of the first issues that my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice raised with me: violence and safety in prisons. That is why my right hon. Friend is looking across the board at the action that needs to be taken. She has already announced extra money for more staff in prisons and recognises the importance of this particular issue.

  • Q13. Just one in every 1,000 pupils is a child on free school meals in a grammar school. Does the Prime Minister agree that that tiny number is a flimsy evidence base on which to create a new national schools policy? Would it not be better for her to look at the real evidence base and at how to reduce inequality in education? [906675]

  • I want to see every child getting the education that is right for them. I want every child to be able to get on as far as their talents and hard work will take them. That is why we need to increase the number of good schools in this country. If we look at the gap in attainment in grammar schools between those who are from disadvantaged backgrounds and those who are not, we see that it is virtually zero—that is the not the same in other schools. I just say to the hon. Lady that it is wrong that we have a system in this country where a law prevents the opening or expansion of good schools. That is what we are going to get rid of.

  • Will the Prime Minister work with her Ministers and Secretaries of State to champion a reduction in the ivory trade and in the trade in the organs of endangered species throughout the world so that this country tries to lead by example?

  • My hon. Friend raises an important issue. This is something the Government have been taking up, and I can assure her that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has not only heard her representations, but promoted this as an issue that the Government will take up.

  • Q14. The pottery industry is witnessing a modest renaissance, in part through EU exports and EU action on Chinese ceramic dumping. The previous Prime Minister said that he would make sure that the ceramic industry’s voice is heard and that we would get a good negotiation. What is this Prime Minister doing to ensure that Stoke-on-Trent’s ceramic manufacturers maintain both tariff-free access to the EU and a level playing field in the face of protectionist dumping? [906676]

  • I am very pleased to welcome the renaissance in the ceramics industry that the hon. Gentleman refers to. His constituency, of course, has a long-standing history of and tradition in ceramics. What are we doing? As we go through the negotiations for leaving the European Union, we will be ensuring that this country has the best possible access to trade with and operate within that European market. That is what people want and that is what we will deliver.

  • Many constituents have contacted me to express concern about anti-Semitism. I am sure that every Member of this House can agree that we should show zero tolerance of anti-Semitism, but does the Prime Minister also agree that we must ensure that all parties do not allow a situation to arise in which it appears that an environment is created where anti-Semitism is tolerated?

  • Yes, I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend that this House should send a very clear message that we will not tolerate anti-Semitism. I have been concerned about the rise in the number of incidents of anti-Semitism in this country. We should very clearly ensure that those incidents of anti-Semitism are properly investigated and dealt with, and that we give the clear message that we will not tolerate it. But that does have to be done by every single political party in this Chamber, and I say to the Leader of the Opposition that given the report of the Home Affairs Committee about anti-Semitism and the approach to anti-Semitism in the Labour party, he needs to think very carefully about the environment that has been created in the Labour party in relation to anti-Semitism.

  • We are now just one month from the start of the new inquest into the Birmingham pub bombings. West Midlands police has set aside for itself a legal fund of £1 million, but as of today, the bereaved families have no legal funding. Prime Minister, this is a shameful state of affairs. Please intervene and show the Birmingham families the same compassion as was shown to the Hillsborough families.

  • The right hon. Gentleman might be aware that the Birmingham families have been encouraged to apply—I believe they have applied—to the legal aid fund for exceptional funding. That was, as I understand it, what happened after the 7/7 bombings. The Home Secretary has made clear her expectation that funding will be provided. We are waiting for the decision from the legal aid fund, and we are hopeful that it will be a positive one.

  • Why attempt to build a new runway at Heathrow when we could deliver one at Gatwick in half the time, for half the cost and with a fraction of the environmental impact?

  • I assure my right hon. Friend that no decision has been taken on the site of airport expansion in the south-east. As she will know from her previous background, the Davies commission said that airport capacity in the south-east should be expanded and the Government accepted that argument. The Davies commission identified three sites, all of which it said would be credible and deliverable, and the Government will take a decision this month.

  • It is fitting that we finish with a question from Mr Gerald Jones.

  • May I thank the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and other Members for their comments about the Aberfan disaster, and about the resilience and quiet dignity shown by the people of Aberfan? At 9.15 on Friday morning—the anniversary of the disaster—the people in that community and communities across Wales will mark the disaster with a minute’s silence. As the disaster affected communities right across the country, if not the world, will the Prime Minister support that minute’s silence being marked across the UK as well?

  • I know that the Secretary of State for Wales will be attending the memorial that will take place in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency on Friday. It is appropriate that we all show our respect for those who lost their lives and for the families who suffered as a result of the Aberfan tragedy 50 years ago. As we said earlier, it was a terrible tragedy not just for individual families, but for a whole community, and it is right that we recognise that and mark it.

  • Sale of Annuities

  • (Urgent Question): To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on why the Government have abandoned plans to allow savers to sell their annuities in return for a cash lump sum.

  • This Government have taken a great step forward in giving more and more people freedom to choose how they use their pension savings when they retire. We have already seen more than 300,000 people choosing to access their pension flexibly since the reforms were introduced. Alongside our efforts to do that, we also said that we would look at how we could spread that flexibility to people locked into existing annuities. We consulted extensively with the industry and with consumer groups to explore whether we could put in place the right conditions for a market to develop to facilitate that idea.

    Throughout our investigations, one of our very highest priorities was to establish whether people could get a good deal through such a market. In the course of our efforts to investigate the viability of a secondary market in annuities, two things became clear. First, without compromising on consumer protections there would be insufficient purchasers of these annuities to create a competitive market in which British pensioners could get a good deal. Secondly, pensioners trying to sell their annuities would also be likely to incur high costs in doing so.

    This Government have made it very clear that we want this to be a country that works for everyone, and that includes making sure that everyone gets a high level of consumer protection. It has become clear, through our extensive research, that a secondary market would not be able to offer this. Rather than being to the benefit of British pensioners, it would instead be to their detriment. It is for that reason that we are not prepared to allow such a market to develop, and we will not be taking this policy further.

  • No disrespect to the Minister, whom I like, but the Chancellor should have been here to answer this question, particularly given the disgraceful way in which the announcement was made.

    The move towards pension freedoms was the flagship announcement in the Budget just two years ago, in 2014. Originally the brainchild of the former Liberal Democrat Pensions Minister Steve Webb, it was embraced by the former Chancellor and specifically included in the manifesto on which this Government were elected. Yet yesterday afternoon, the Government announced via the press, not via this House, that they were scrapping the whole deal. This is a huge U-turn, which was announced after clear lobbying by an industry that never really subscribed to it, and a failure by the Government to build a reasonable secondary annuity market. Of course it is right that protections are put in place to ensure that people are not exploited on the secondary annuities market, but there are tens of thousands of people trapped in poor value annuities who are eager to be able to take advantage of the new freedoms. Based on the promises in this Government’s manifesto, many of them will already have been considering how to take advantage of the plans in order to release themselves from their annuity and invest their savings differently. This announcement will leave many people having to make different decisions about their retirement from those to which they were being directed—if, that is, they have even heard of the change, given the way that it was rushed through and the way it was announced by the Government.

    Can the Minister say, first, when the decision was made to drop the new pension freedom plans? Secondly, why was this decision not announced to Parliament before it was announced to the media? Thirdly, what are the Government doing to inform those who may wish to cash in their annuity that they will no longer be able to do so? Fourthly, what assessment have the Government made of people’s change of behaviour in response to the freedom, and how will this affect their financial decisions?

    The pensions freedom plan was about trusting people with their money. Clearly, this Government have decided that they no longer trust people. They owe an apology to those who have spent time and money examining their options for retirement, and I hope we get one today.

  • It is easy to wish to have the cake and eat it, as the Lib Dems regularly do. It is difficult being a Minister. Sometimes we have to make hard decisions, but on balance, the interests of the consumers, often older people and the most vulnerable in our society, have trumped the desire to further increase pensions flexibility. The hon. Gentleman is disingenuous. It was one element of our pension freedoms and, after extensive consultation, it transpired that it would not provide value for money. Which?, which is totally independent of Government, has said that

    “it would have been wrong to move forward without assurances that consumers could get value for money and have the necessary protections”—

    assurances and necessary protections protecting those most vulnerable people in our society.

  • Several hon. Members rose—

  • Order. I did not interrupt the Minister in his flow, but may I ask that from now on we avoid the use of the word “disingenuous” or “disingenuously”? There is an imputation of dishonour and we should avoid that. The Minister is a dextrous fellow with, I am sure, an extensive vocabulary and he can deploy some other term to get his point across. On the subject of those with dexterity and great vocabulary, I call Sir Desmond Swayne.

  • It is the right decision for the circumstances, but does my hon. Friend think that there is any connection between poor value in the annuities market and the Bank of England’s monetary policy?

  • Mr Speaker, I acknowledge your sound advice, as ever, and apologise if I have been anything other than my usually well-behaved self.

    My right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne) raises an interesting point, but this is about people, many of whom are older and more vulnerable, making the right choices, and the Government making sure that the market is there to support them. That is not the case, which is why we have changed tack.

  • This is the latest of the many U-turns that the Government have made. I thank the hon. Member for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland) for securing this urgent question. Labour Members want to know why the Government did not do proper market analysis prior to the announcement. They were warned at the time. If they had done that analysis at the outset, they may have realised the chaos and confusion that such an announcement would cause for up to 500,000 pensioners across the country, who are already worried about their long-term future.

    This U-turn on pensions comes in the same week as the Government have pushed forward with their proposals for a lifetime ISA, despite widespread cross-party concern about the impact of future public finances on personal retirement plans. In the UK pension market the consumer is unable to make an informed choice because of a lack of cost and performance data. We believe that it should be the role of the Government to provide those data. What will the Government do to assist with that process?

    Like the hon. Member for Leeds North West, we would like to know when the Government decided to abandon the policy. Who made the final decision? Was there another interference by the Prime Minister in the previous Chancellor’s decisions? Who was consulted? How extensive was that consultation? The Government were warned. What assessment has been made of the pension market in general and the knock-on effects of this decision? What influence, if any, has the recent vote for Britain to leave the European Union had on this decision?

    There is an indication that because of this decision, £900 billion may be lost in the first two years in tax that would have come in as a result of people paying tax on the sale of their annuity. Where is that money going to come from? Is that not another black hole in the Government’s finances?

  • Let me deal with the points in reverse order. The hon. Gentleman will have to wait for the autumn statement to see what the finances look like, but it became increasingly apparent that not only was it not a good deal for consumers—those vulnerable people who we care about—but it was unlikely to provide the kind of income that had first been expected. We consulted extensively with the industry and consumer groups. I had many conversations with the Department for Work and Pensions, and particularly with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Pensions. The hon. Gentleman asks where information will be provided. The Government are introducing a new money advice service that will provide such information.

    I shall finish with a quote from the Association of British Insurers, in whose interest the hon. Gentleman might suppose it was for us to continue with the policy. The ABI says:

    “This is the right decision for the right reasons”

    and that there were

    “considerable risks for customers, including from unregulated buyers”.

    We do not want to see unregulated buyers out there or vulnerable people affected.

  • Does my hon. Friend agree that for a market to work, buyers as well as sellers are needed? To try to create a market where there are not both is an impossibility, and to have done so would have led to a potential disaster for consumers.

  • As ever, my hon. Friend makes an excellent point. There were very few people interested in buying those products, which would have resulted in a very poor deal for customers. The market was not big enough to provide value for money and on that basis we decided not to proceed.

  • On that point, given that we now know that there was an absence of buyers in the market, where was the Government’s consultation before they offered their proposal? We cannot get away from the fact that this was a manifesto commitment from the Government. I welcome the U-turn; they have done the right thing, but why was the matter not brought to the House? Why did we read about it in the media?

    Last April the Financial Conduct Authority said that there were concerns about the secondary market in annuities, which would mean

    “a significant risk of poor outcomes for consumers”.

    The regulator said:

    “Annuities are inherently difficult for consumers to value, and consumers who will be able to participate in this market will include a higher proportion of older, more vulnerable consumers.”

    We could see that. The FCA came out with that last April. Why has it taken so long for the Government to do the right thing? We recognise some of the concerns for consumers as a result of the pensions freedoms introduced. May we have a full review of the pensions freedom policy?

  • I thank the hon. Gentleman for recognising that this is the right thing to do. It is a difficult decision and it is, as ever, a balance between two conflicting viewpoints. My job as a Minister at the Treasury is about making sure that consumers are protected, that industries are regulated sufficiently, and that there is the very best possible deal for customers. Withdrawing this product, which is aimed at many old and vulnerable consumers, is absolutely the right thing to do.

  • I know that the Minister has very bravely taken this decision to protect the more vulnerable pensioners who are suffering, but what will he and the Treasury be able to do to ensure that pensioners on very low incomes who are trapped in difficult annuities can escape those punishing regimes?

  • We are looking at an economy that works for everyone, including those pensioners on low incomes. The Treasury will be considering this very carefully, but my hon. Friend will have to wait until the autumn statement to hear how we are best placed to deal with this. However, those people are absolutely at the centre of our attention, and we will do all we can to help.

  • Of course, guarding against mis-selling is important, but does this announcement not represent two new problems? It is a problem, first, for those hundreds of thousands of pensioners who have been marched up the hill only to be marched back down again, and left uncertain about their financial options, but, secondly, for those other generations of potential savers who are baffled by pensions generally and who will find this mixed message—this chopping and changing—on flexibilities even more of a reason to feel sour towards the attractiveness of pensions? We have a savings crisis in this country, and the Government need far more consistency and a clearer policy.

  • None of us wants to see people being baffled, and none of us wants to see uncertainty, but at the end of the day we are surely better off making the right decision, which protects vulnerable consumers, rather than carrying on regardless. The hon. Gentleman is right that we all have a responsibility to educate and inform people throughout their lives about the importance of savings and pensions, and that is something the Government fully intend to continue doing.

  • I know that this is a difficult decision for my hon. Friend, because he feels passionately about pension freedoms. Can he assure the House, though, that every effort is now being made to ensure that pension providers fully co-operate with all other aspects of the Government’s wider pension freedoms, which have been so warmly welcomed around the country?

  • I can give my hon. Friend the reassurance that I will do all I can to make sure that providers work closely with the Government to get the best possible deal for older people and indeed savers, including younger people—people who are perhaps not in the habit of saving or contributing to pensions. That is an important thing, and I am happy to pursue it with my full vigour.

  • I will ask the Minister a third time why this announcement was not made to Parliament before it was made to the media. Also, what is he going to do to inform people who may have intended to cash in their annuity, but who are now not going to be able to do so?

  • It is fair to say that there are often circumstances where information or announcements are market sensitive, and sometimes that drives how things are announced.

  • Given that these retirement annuities can form the bedrock of many people’s financial security, it is right that a decision is taken to secure the interests of those people rather than to press ahead purely because of a manifesto commitment. Will the Minister reassure me, though, about what work the Treasury is doing to ensure that people get a better deal on their annuities in the first place? For many people, looking to cash in their annuity in was about trying to deal with the bad deal they got on that annuity, not necessarily about wanting a lump sum.

  • My hon. Friend is absolutely right: two wrongs, sadly, do not make a right. The Government are committed to giving people pension freedoms so that they can choose what to do with their money, because that is the right choice to make, but, in this particular and individual circumstance, it was not the appropriate way forward.

  • My constituent, Mr Anderson, contacted me and advised me that, despite the risks, he planned to take up the option of selling his annuity. I wrote to the Treasury and was assured only 19 days ago:

    “The Government remains committed to delivering these proposals”.

    Yesterday’s announcement is a betrayal of people such as Mr Anderson. I notice that the Minister did not answer the question a few minutes ago, so what exactly do the Government suggest that Mr Anderson and others do now?

  • Obviously, Mr Anderson is as important as all the other people who, no doubt, will be very interested in this announcement. It transpired through consultation that a very small percentage of people would be better off. We were looking at legislation that would oblige the Government to provide guidance and advice; in the vast—very vast—majority of cases, that advice would be that it would not be appropriate and in the consumer’s best interests to proceed. There is no easy answer, but at the end of the day, I am not going to allow vulnerable older people to take advantage of what may, superficially, seem a good deal, but what, in the long term, is a poor one.

  • John Lawson, the head of retirement policy at Aviva, has said that one of the obstacles in the way of the secondary annuities market is the existence of statutory override clauses in annuity contracts. Has that played any part in the Government’s decision, and do they have any plans to at least look at passing legislation to deal with that?

  • That is certainly something we will be looking at. At the end of the day, many people got a poor deal on the way in; the last thing I want to do is to give them a doubly poor deal on the way out because the market is not big enough to provide value for money. If that means the option of reducing regulation, I am not a fan of that; regulation exists to support people and to help them make the right decisions.

  • The industry opposed this; millions of pensioners who were locked into low-paying annuities supported it. The Chancellor at the time knew all the problems, yet he claimed to be the champion of choice for the people. What has changed? Do the Government now believe that the people they said would make good choices because they were sensible and had good advice have changed? Given that the Minister has removed choice, but not the problem, what does he intend to do for those who still find themselves locked in annuity arrangements that do not give them a sensible and fair income?

  • It is fair to say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time was not in possession of all the information following the consultation. It was our intent, clearly, at the time to listen carefully to not only the industry but consumer groups, which we have done extensively. It is worth saying that we remain absolutely committed to all the other pension freedoms that we are introducing. This is a sensible way forward, and I hope the hon. Gentleman welcomes it.

  • This pop-up policy, which has now been popped down again, came from a Government who had a long-term economic plan, yet this policy has not survived very long. As has been indicated, the policy was a response to the bubbling sense of scandal that was there because people were stuck with meagre and marginal annuities, and it was a chance to give them something different. If the Minister is convinced that he is avoiding the new scandal that would have happened, of people ending up mis-selling their annuities, what is he doing about the original scandal, of the meagre annuities that people are trapped in, which this policy was designed to respond to?

  • The hon. Gentleman is right in as far as that certainly was the intention of the policy. There is a long-term plan, because I am concerned about the long-term financial wellbeing of these older and vulnerable people, and it is important that they get the right deal and make the right decisions. That is why this suggestion, which is only one of many, is not appropriate to carry forward. It is not a pop-up policy; we have listened carefully, and we have made the right decision.

  • This U-turn has come about because of concerns about mis-selling and protecting consumers. The same risks and concerns must surely apply to the people who are currently exercising pension freedoms by cashing in their pension policies for lump sums. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford) said, when are this Government going to have a coherent review of the existing pension freedoms legislation?

  • What happens in the secondary annuities market is very different from cashing in existing pensions for lump sums. To be clear to the House, selling an annuity would never have been the same as getting a refund on all the money that was put into the product or the original pension pot minus any payments made. Purchasers would have paid what they thought the income stream was worth. Without a competitive market, that income stream would have represented poor value for money, and they would have got a very poor settlement as a result.

  • Point of Order

  • On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yesterday at Foreign Office questions, the shadow Foreign Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry), asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood):

    “When can we expect full, independent, UN-led investigations of the thousands of airstrikes on civilian targets in Yemen?”

    In his reply, the Minister stated:

    “There are not thousands, as the hon. Lady suggested—that is to mislead the House—but there are a number with which we are concerned that need to be clarified.”—[Official Report, 18 October 2016; Vol. 615, c. 667-668.]

    However, I have discovered that on 16 September The Guardian newspaper stated that the independent Yemen data project

    “records more than 8,600 air attacks between March 2015, when the Saudi-led campaign began, and the end of August this year.”

    Moreover, Human Rights Watch lists dozens of airstrikes that have appeared to be “unlawfully indiscriminate” and have caused civilian casualties. Can you advise the House on whether the Minister needs to come to the Chamber and correct the inaccurate and rather dismissive reply that he gave to my hon. Friend yesterday?

  • I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice that he intended to raise this point of order. What Members say in this House—I often have to make this point, but it bears repetition—is their individual responsibility. This applies to Ministers, and indeed to Opposition Front Benchers, as it does to other right hon. and hon. Members. The hon. Gentleman believes that Ministers have been inaccurate in what they said yesterday—or, specifically, that the response to the shadow Foreign Secretary was inaccurate. He has made that view clear, and he has done so on the record. I am sure that it will have been heard by those on the Treasury Bench, and that it will be relayed to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I am also sure that if the Foreign Secretary and the Minister feel that the House has been inadvertently misled, the relevant Minister will take swift steps to correct the record. It is only fair to say, as it is not for me to umpire on whether a clarification is required, that a Minister may take a view of the facts of the matter that differs from that of the hon. Gentleman. As to whether that is the case, we will have to await events.

  • Cosmetic Surgery (Standards of Practice)

    Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

  • I beg to move,

    That leave be given to bring in a bill to make provision about the training, qualifications and certification of medical practitioners conducting cosmetic surgical procedures; to establish a code of practice for the provision of information to patients on the options and risks in relation to such procedures; to make provision about permissible treatments and the advertising of such treatments; and for connected purposes.

    I became aware of the scandal around the £3.5 billion-a-year cosmetic surgery industry through a constituent, Dawn Knight, who in 2012 had cosmetic surgery on her eyes at Dolan Park hospital, run by Hospital Medical Group. The surgery was sold to her with a lifetime aftercare package to take care of any complications arising from the procedure. Following the surgery, Dawn was unable to close her eyes, and still, to this day, has to apply artificial tears to her eyes every two hours to stop them drying out. Dawn saw the surgeon who undertook the procedure, Arnaldo Paganelli, who refused to admit there was a problem. When she contacted Hospital Medical Group about the aftercare package, it simply pointed out a clause in her contract that said that treatments could be undertaken only if the surgeon agreed to it. No further help was offered, making a complete sham of the aftercare plan she was sold. As in similar cases, the NHS is now having to pick up the bill for Dawn’s ongoing care. Dawn’s case is not an isolated one. Many others have come forward since the publicity around it.

    Although Hospital Medical Group promotes itself as a cosmetic surgery company, along with its associated companies, it is nothing of the sort. Rather, it is a facilities management company, simply providing the facilities where surgery takes place and marketing the procedures. When Dawn complained, she found out that her contract was not with Hospital Medical Group but with the surgeon who performed the procedure, and was told that it was her responsibility to check his General Medical Council registration and insurance. In Dawn’s case, her surgeon was a bankrupt, under-insured individual who was based in Italy and flew into the UK to work for Hospital Medical Group.

    Herein lies the problem: at present, cosmetic surgery is not a defined surgical speciality in its own right. As the Department of Health has noted, the training within certain defined specialities such as plastic surgery, ear, nose and throat surgery, and eye surgery includes an aspect of cosmetic training, but no qualification is available for those who perform cosmetic surgery. In fact, the law allows any qualified doctor—they need not even be a surgeon—to perform cosmetic surgery without undertaking additional training or qualifications. My Bill aims to close this loophole. It has the support of the Royal College of Surgeons.

    The Government and the Department of Health are aware of this situation. Following the PIP breast implant scandal, the Government asked Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, the then NHS medical director, to undertake a review of the regulation of cosmetic interventions. That review was published in April 2013. It asked the Royal College of Surgeons to establish a cosmetic surgery inter-speciality committee to set standards for cosmetic surgery practice and training, and to make arrangements for formal certification of all surgeons regarded as competent to undertake cosmetic procedures, taking into account their training and experience.

    The Department of Health requested the Law Commission to draft legislation, and this was done in 2014. The legislation was widely supported, but the coalition Government failed to enact it, as have the current Government. The Royal College of Surgeons would like only surgeons with appropriate skills and experience to undertake cosmetic surgery. I strongly support that, and I think that most members of the public would do so. To facilitate this, the GMC needs to be given legal powers to formally recognise additional qualifications or accreditations such as those that the Royal College of Surgeons are developing in cosmetic surgery. It should then be mandatory for those offering cosmetic surgery not only to have these but to make it clear to the public that they have them when advertising their services.

    This is not the first time I have spoken about this case; I raised it in the House on 20 October 2015. I would like to put on record my thanks to the right hon. Member for Ipswich (Ben Gummer), the then Health Minister, who met me and my constituent, Dawn Knight.

    Another area that the Bill aims to address is the marketing of cosmetic procedures. Some of the techniques that are used would be more appropriate for selling double glazing than cosmetic surgery, with its related risks. They include two-for-one offers, along with glossy brochures with no explanation of the potential risks of undertaking the surgery. The whole thrust of the advertising is to sell such procedures without any counselling or advice on whether it is appropriate for an individual to undergo them. Individuals who have already undergone surgery are often bombarded with more adverts, by email or on Facebook, despite the fact that that practice has been reported to the Advertising Standards Agency. Such aggressive marketing needs to be banned and a mandatory cooling-off period introduced once people have signed up to allow them to change their minds. I would go further and include mandatory counselling for individuals before they undertake any such procedure.

    I want to address the way in which the companies that sell cosmetic surgery are structured. Dawn Knight responded to an advert from the Hospital Group, but her contract was with a company called the Hospital Medical Group Ltd. If we look at the Companies House register, we see that under the main Hospital Group holding there are eight different companies. In 2012-13, the group’s turnover was £44 million and dividends of some £7.5 million were paid to its directors. In 2016, the Hospital Medical Group was liquidated and its assets were sold to one of its parent companies. Some 80% of creditors on the liquidator’s list are solicitors representing former clients. One suspects that that structure was put in place to avoid any potential for former clients to sue the company for negligence.

    With the liquidation, the lifetime guarantee that Dawn was sold is, like those sold to many other people, now completely worthless. Regulation is needed to ensure that guarantees offered on cosmetic surgery can actually be used to get redress. Despite the fact that a large number of women now have no recourse to law, the Hospital Group continues to operate and sell its products. The continuing care of individuals such as Dawn is falling on the NHS, while the group and its associated companies continue to make a profit. Guarantees must be backed up by insurance, so that if a company is liquidated, people can get legal redress.

    The Prime Minister, in her speech to Conservative Party conference, said that the state should intervene where the market fails. We have here a classic example of the market not only failing but being used to exploit people, which is ruining their lives and costing the NHS millions of pounds a year. The Government are aware that action is needed in this area, and there is no reason why they should not act.

    Question put and agreed to.


    That Holly Lynch, Judith Cummins, Claire Perry, Helen Jones, Fiona Mactaggart, Paula Sherriff, Mr Iain Wright, Mrs Anne-Marie Trevelyan and Mr Kevan Jones present the Bill.

    Mr Kevan Jones accordingly presented the Bill.

    Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 March 2017, and to be printed (Bill 77).

  • Opposition Day

    [9th Allotted Day]

    Rights of EU Nationals

  • I beg to move,

    That this House recognises the contribution that nationals from other countries in the EU have made to the UK; and calls on the Government to ensure that all nationals from other countries in the EU who have made the UK their home retain their current rights, including the rights to live and work in the UK, should the UK exit the EU.

    It is nearly four months since the EU referendum, and the long-term status of non-UK EU nationals living in the United Kingdom is still unclear, just as the Government are still without a plan or a negotiating strategy for the Brexit that they accidentally delivered. The status of millions of our fellow workers, friends and neighbours is uncertain. That is simply not good enough. Despite repeated requests, the Government have refused to guarantee, in the long term, the rights of EU nationals who have made their home in the United Kingdom. In the meantime, in England and Wales hate crime has soared and xenophobic rhetoric is common in the mainstream media and, sadly, sometimes in the mouths of Ministers.

  • I thought that the Government had clearly said that they had no wish to make anybody leave unless there were evictions from the continent. Is the hon. and learned Lady saying that continental countries are going to evict British citizens?

  • The whole point of this motion is that human beings should not be used as bargaining chips in negotiation. If the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues think that the United Kingdom has so much to offer the European Union in its negotiations, why do they insist on using human beings as bargaining chips?

  • Does the hon. and learned Lady agree that many of the people we are talking about provide vital services and work in our public services? For instance, 6% of doctors working in the Welsh health service come from the EU. We face a crisis in that a third of our doctors may retire in the next few years, so we will need those people and additional qualified individuals to work in our health service. If the Government’s rhetoric is translated into policy, it will have a detrimental impact on the delivery of health services in my country.

  • I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The statistics are very similar in Scotland, where about 6.7% of staff in the NHS are EU nationals. The net result of the refusal to guarantee the long-term status of EU nationals, and of the xenophobic rhetoric and hate crime across the United Kingdom, is that many EU nationals are living with considerable stress and worry. We all receive letters from them as their constituency MPs. Damage has been done to the British economy and, importantly, to our international reputation.

  • My hon. and learned Friend will undoubtedly have read the disgraceful comments in some quarters of the press this morning by a Tory MP who suggested that some child refugees should have to undergo dental checks to confirm their age before gaining passage to the UK from Calais—as if those children had not been through enough. Leaving aside the fact that those children have a legal right to family reunification here—

  • On a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption.]

  • Order. The hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Neil Gray) will resume his seat. We will be with him in a moment. There is a point of order from Mr David T.C. Davies.

  • I am the Conservative MP who has just been referred to. This is not a matter that is before us today. I wanted to speak about EU migrants, being married to one myself. If the hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Neil Gray) wants to raise a completely unrelated matter, will I be able to answer that in the speech that I hope you will call me to make later on, Mr Speaker, even though it has nothing to do with this debate?

  • Order. I did not judge the remark to be disorderly, although it needs to be made briefly. I did not and do not think it was disorderly, but I give the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) the assurance, which he is entitled to seek, that he will have an opportunity in his remarks to respond as he thinks fit. No one should deny him that opportunity. Briefly, Mr Gray; let us hear it.

  • Does my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) agree that such disgraceful, xenophobic rhetoric is unhelpfully fuelling the xenophobic attacks that we have seen across the country since the Brexit vote?

  • I very much agree with my hon. Friend. It is incumbent on all of us in public life to be mindful of the language we use, particularly when we are talking about refugees who are children—the definition of a child being someone under the age of 18.

  • I will make some progress. Those of us who have actually been to Calais, met some of these child refugees—some of them are young men, but they are still children—and seen them separated from their families and in tears found the comments to which my hon. Friend referred deeply distasteful.

  • Will the hon. and learned Lady give way?

  • I am going to make some progress.

    Tomorrow, the Prime Minister will attend her first European Union summit in Brussels. I very much hope that it will not be her last. Britain’s position on EU migrants will be a central issue. Now is the opportunity for the UK Government to do the right thing, so the Scottish National party calls on this House today to recognise the contribution that EU nationals have made to the UK. We also call on the Government to ensure that all EU nationals who have made this country their home retain their current rights, including the rights to live and work in this country, should the UK exit the European Union.

  • I asked the Home Secretary how an EU citizen demonstrates that they have lived in the UK for five or more years, how citizenship is claimed after six years, which Department will be responsible for confirming the right to remain, what citizenship they will be able to claim, what certification of these rights will be provided and what the estimate is of the costs of going through this process. In reply to that parliamentary question, I was told:

    “The Home Office has indicated that it will not be possible to answer this question within the usual time period.”

    Is it not time we got our act together as a country and gave people who have given their lives and their taxes to this country the security of knowing that they can remain?

  • Order. These are all very serious and worthy interventions, but they suffer from the disadvantage of being too long. This must not continue. We must try to restore some sort of order to this debate. I do not want to embarrass him unduly, but if Members would model themselves in terms of brevity on the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood)—or on the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart)—they would serve the House well.

  • I could not agree more with the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon). Is this not symptomatic of the complete failure of various Departments to answer any questions arising from the strategy they will presumably need to adopt as a result of the result on 24 June?

  • Will the hon. and learned Lady give way?

  • I will give way in a moment.

    To pick up on the hon. Lady’s point, I am delighted that Scottish National party Members have the full support of Labour party colleagues for the motion. We are very happy to work with them as part of a cross-party, progressive alliance, which I am sure will include some Government Members, to protect the rights of EU nationals across the UK.

  • Several hon. Members rose—

  • I am spoilt for choice, but I will take an intervention from the right hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper).

  • Briefly, I completely agree with the first part of the hon. and learned Lady’s motion, which I have read very carefully, in which she recognises the contribution made by EU nationals, but does she not accept that the first responsibility of the Minister for Immigration and the Prime Minister is to British citizens, more than 1 million of whom are in European Union countries? Their rights must be protected, but her motion is silent on their interests.

  • It is of course open to the right hon. Gentleman to bring forward such a motion. This motion is about protecting the rights of EU nationals in the United Kingdom, which the United Kingdom Government are in a position to do.

  • My husband is a UK citizen based in Germany, where he runs a very small business. He was horrified by the tone of his Government in looking after his rights as a person who is working and has established himself abroad. He said to me, “Do they not understand that threatening Europe is not the best way to open negotiations?” I merely said, “No, they don’t.”

  • I could not agree more with the hon. Lady. As I have said, if, as we are constantly told by the Brexiteers, having trade agreements with Britain is such a fantastic option for the other 27 member states of the European Union, why must the Government keep individuals up their sleeve as bargaining chips?

  • I note in passing that if the right hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper) wanted to make his point, he could have tabled an amendment, but he chose not to do so. Is not the right thing to look after our own communities, and EU nationals are essential to the functioning of many businesses and services in our communities?

  • Absolutely. I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. The purpose of the motion is to make sure that we do not get into the very unfortunate position of having people living, working and paying taxes in the United Kingdom who have lesser rights and status than others. That would be deeply invidious and, if I may say so as a Scottish nationalist, I would have thought it was contrary to the British tradition.

  • Equally, there will be British citizens working abroad whom we do not want to suffer from having any lesser rights. Would the hon. and learned Lady go into the negotiating chamber armed only with the glow of the good will and the moral high ground as against the hard-headedness of her interlocutors in the negotiations?

  • I am very happy and very proud to say that I and my Scottish National party colleagues would never go into the negotiating chamber using individual human beings as bargaining chips.

  • Several hon. Members rose—

  • I am going to make a little progress, and I will then give way.

    I use the phrase “bargaining chips” advisedly, because it is a source of shame to this House and to the United Kingdom that the Prime Minister and several of her Ministers—including the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and, I am particularly ashamed to say, the Secretary of State for Scotland—have hinted at using EU nationals living in this country as bargaining chips. Indeed, at the Conservative party conference, which we all so much enjoyed watching on television, the Secretary of State for International Trade went so far as even to compare European Union nationals with “cards” in a game.

  • The hon. and learned Lady is talking about European Union citizens being used as bargaining chips. Does she recall that in 2014 Nicola Sturgeon threatened to strip EU nationals of their right to remain in an independent Scotland? As reported in The Scotsman newspaper, she said:

    “There are 160,000 EU nationals from other states living in Scotland, including some in the Commonwealth Games city of Glasgow. If Scotland was outside Europe, they would lose the right to stay here.”

    Who is being used as bargaining chips there?

  • May I in the gentlest and friendliest way counsel the hon. Gentleman against taking advice, first, from the Conservative party in Scotland, and secondly, from The Scotsman newspaper, which is frankly not what it was when I was a girl?

  • Several hon. Members rose—

  • I will just finish responding on that point.

    There is absolutely no question that the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, or her distinguished predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond), ever threatened EU nationals with not being part of Scottish society. Our policy has been clear for many, many years: we want an independent Scotland in the European Union, with equal rights for all living in Scotland. We are quite clear on that. This debate is about making the UK Government be clear about having equal rights for all across the United Kingdom.

  • I have listened to the hon. and learned Lady’s speech with care. She has been pressed time and again to say whether she would defend the rights of citizens of this nation who are living abroad, and time and again she has refused to do so. I will give her one more opportunity. Would she stand up for Britain and British citizens and their rights around the globe?

  • Yes, of course I would, but I am not going to be sidetracked on an issue that is not the subject of this debate. If the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues were so agitated about this aspect of the argument, they were free to table an amendment, as my hon. Friend the Member for Angus (Mike Weir) said. I am delighted to hear that they are so concerned about the welfare of British citizens in Europe, which has been put at risk by the Brexit vote, but I would like them to extend the same concern to EU nationals living in the United Kingdom. That is what the motion is about, and no amount of obfuscation from Government Members is going to sidetrack me.

  • Does my hon. and learned Friend not agree that we can negotiate in two ways—positively or negatively? If, on 24 June, we had graciously said that everyone who has settled here can live here, that approach would have been returned. When I met the German ambassador, it had not occurred to the Germans to throw out British citizens. That idea has arisen only because we are threatening their citizens.

  • I could not agree more with my hon. Friend.

  • I am now going to try to make some progress, as I have taken a lot of interventions. I will be very happy to put Government Members right on a few points later, but at this stage I want to make some progress.

    We would not expect the 1.2 million UK citizens who live in other EU countries to be treated as bargaining chips, and we would not expect the Governments of other EU countries to preside over a shocking rise in xenophobic hate crime, so the UK Government must accept their share of responsibility for what is going on in this country at the moment and stop fuelling division.

  • I entirely share the hon. and learned Lady’s sentiment that we all want to reassure people who are here, so we must be careful not to arouse a sense of insecurity among them. I do not know of any Member of this House in any party who wishes to remove EU nationals who are now lawfully here and making their lives here. I have never met a European politician from any country—and I have met quite a lot of them—who wishes to remove British nationals who have settled down there, as the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) pointed out. We are having a rather artificial debate here. Would it not be best if this were all sorted out at the summit tomorrow, with the leaders quickly agreeing among themselves that neither side would seek, in any negotiations, to remove nationals lawfully living in their respective territories?

  • I always listen to the right hon. and learned Gentleman with great care, because he has made an amazing contribution to the debate about the European Union over the years. However, this is not an artificial debate. I hate to disillusion him, but a Conservative and Unionist party colleague of his in Scotland, a Member of the Scottish Parliament, suggested recently in a press release sanctioned by the Conservative and Unionist party that EU citizens living in Scotland should not have the same right to participate in civil society as others—for the record, that person was referring to a French national who lives in Scotland and was previously a Member of the Scottish Parliament—so it is a very real concern.

  • Several hon. Members rose—

  • I will take more interventions later, but I would like to make some progress as I am conscious that many other Members want to speak.

    Scotland is an inclusive and outward-looking society. We recognise the immense contribution that migrants make to our economy, society and culture. We firmly believe that similar views are held by many throughout the rest of the United Kingdom. We appeal to the UK Government to listen to the voices from across the UK of those who do not want EU nationals living in the United Kingdom used as bargaining chips in the Brexit negotiations. This union of nations should be better than that.

  • I think we can agree that the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) is right to say that no one in this House would want to see EU nationals who are living and working here expelled. The point is that there are people out there who have been emboldened by the current political climate who want to see EU nationals living here expelled, and worse. The sort of signal that the hon. and learned Lady is calling for, and which I support, would be very powerful in saying that the views of those people are wholeheartedly rejected by all right-thinking people.

  • I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that point; I am also grateful for the support of the Liberal Democrats and, indeed, of Plaid Cymru for the motion.

  • I intend to make some progress.

    I will say a little about the valuable contribution that EU migrants make to our society across the UK. As we all know, about 3 million EU migrants live in the United Kingdom, about 173,000 of them in Scotland. Data produced during the EU referendum show that, contrary to popular myth, EU migrants to the UK make a net contribution to the economy. Indeed, the EU citizens who come to live and work in Scotland are critical to key sectors of our economy. More than 12% of the people who work in the agricultural sector in Scotland are EU migrants, and 11% of people who work in our important food, fish and meat processing sector are EU citizens. There are two major universities in my constituency, Edinburgh Napier University and Heriot-Watt; they would be gravely affected by a decrease in the number of EU nationals choosing to study, research and teach in Scotland.

  • The hon. and learned Lady is making a wonderful case for the contribution that EU nationals make to Scottish and British public life; we must be much more confident in making that case. Does she agree that we should consider not just about the contribution that they make, but in which particular sectors, such as the one she is about to come to in her speech? For example, 25% of the staff of the Edinburgh University King’s Buildings, our world-renowned science institute, are EU nationals. They need the certainty that they can stay so that Edinburgh can stay in the top 100 universities around the world.

  • The hon. Gentleman and I are privileged to have students and academics from three very fine universities spread across our adjoining constituencies. I am sure that, like me, he spent the summer meeting those academics and students. Shortly after the EU referendum I was informed by the principal of Edinburgh Napier University that within days of the referendum she had been advised of potential staff members from other EU countries withdrawing from job offers at universities across Scotland. When I met her academic staff and those from Heriot-Watt University over the summer, they expressed similar concerns about how the quality of their teaching and research could be undermined if the position of EU migrants in Scotland were not guaranteed. I have no doubt that that is the same across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  • How EU citizens feel about remaining in the UK is a really important point. I have not heard a single Member on the Government Benches say that they want anyone to leave at all. The issue is being raised only by the SNP and the Labour party. I very gently say to her that she should be aware, when she makes such cases for political reasons, of the concern that she sows—concern that should not be felt by any EU citizen in this nation.

  • I cannot speak for the hon. Gentleman’s constituents or the mail that he receives, but SNP Members are all receiving a considerable weight of mail and emails from concerned EU citizens. I am sure that Members on the Opposition Benches will speak to the same later in the debate. This is not fearmongering—and believe you me, Madam Deputy Speaker, we in the SNP are experts on fearmongering having been on the receiving end of it during the 2014 referendum.

  • I am not going to give way; I will make some progress. This is a valid issue about which many constituents are very concerned. We would be failing in our responsibilities if we did not raise it, no matter how embarrassing it is for those on the Government Benches.

    I want to get back to the contribution that migrants make to our economy. The hon. Member for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (Jonathan Edwards) has already mentioned the NHS. As he said, 6% of doctors in Wales are EU migrants; it is just under 7% of doctors in Scotland. The British Medical Association and the Scottish Government say that 5% of the total NHS workforce were born in other EU countries. Put bluntly, our NHS would struggle to cope without them.

    There are very valid concerns that pushing EU nationals to leave because of uncertainty about their future would have a devastating impact on the NHS, the hospitality and agriculture sectors, higher education and science, all of which rely heavily on labour from the EU. I also share the concerns raised by the Trades Union Congress, which has said that the longer we leave EU workers uncertain about their future, the greater the likelihood that they will leave, creating staffing shortages that will particularly negatively affect our public services. That will serve only to increase the concerns felt by those who voted to leave the EU in order to increase resources for public services—and there is not much sign of that happening, is there?

  • Talking of uncertainty, as the hon. and learned Lady was just then, may I ask her about the last few words of the motion? Why does it say

    “should the UK exit the EU”?

    Why is it “should”?

  • To annoy you, David!

  • The reality is that 17.4 million people voted for this country to leave the European Union and we are going to leave. There is no “should” about it; that word should surely be “when”.

  • I do not think I can answer the intervention better than my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands), but the hon. Gentleman will be aware that in Scotland, by a huge majority, we voted to remain a member of the EU. The SNP will do everything in its might to ensure that the wishes of the Scottish people are respected.

  • The hon. and learned Lady makes a very powerful case. Am I right in saying that all she is seeking to do in this debate is ensure there is clarity? The right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) said that nobody in this House would like to see any EU national leave the country. Would it not be the best possible course of action at the end of the debate if the Minister were just to say that these rights are granted?

  • I could not have put it better or more succinctly. I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman.

    I mentioned earlier the phenomenon of the rise in hate crime across England and Wales since the referendum. Home Office statistics published just over a week ago show that hate crimes have soared by 41% in England and Wales. I suggest that this is a symptom of the negative and xenophobic rhetoric used by some—not all—in the lead-up to the referendum. This has had a major effect in legitimising hate crime on the part of a small but violent and vocal minority.

    Many of us were very concerned about some of the rhetoric that came out of the Conservative and Unionist party conference in Birmingham the other week. This is not just a concern of the SNP. Concern has also been raised by other Members and by international human rights bodies. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and the Council of Europe’s European Commission against Racism and Intolerance have all expressed concern about the spike in hate crime in England and Wales.

  • Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that this situation requires leadership and a Prime Minister who will advocate in the best interests of every single individual in this country, EU national or otherwise? Will she share with me support for the First Minister’s statement on inclusivity and the need for leadership in this debate?

  • I do share that. Indeed, it is the purpose of this motion to invite the United Kingdom Government to follow the lead that the First Minister and the Scottish Government have shown in that respect.

  • I am very grateful to the hon. and learned Lady for giving way again. Again, I emphasise that she is making a compelling speech. Do the Government not have to look at the will of this House, which in July voted by 245 votes to two to do the very thing for which her motion asks? Rather than making xenophobic speeches at the Conservative party conference, they should abide by the will of this House and do what this House has voted for already.

  • The hon. Gentleman rightly refers to the debate on this issue on 6 July. The Government have failed to respect the outcome of the vote in that debate.

    Returning to the international concern about what is going on in the United Kingdom at the moment, the Polish ambassador gave evidence yesterday to the Lords EU Justice Sub-Committee. He said that he had

    “noticed an increase in xenophobic behaviour”

    in Britain since the Brexit vote. He expressed concern about the uncertainty being caused to Polish nationals living in the UK. So there we have another non-SNP voice talking about the very concern that has made us bring forward the motion today.

    I am pleased that we have not seen any increase in hate crime north of the border, but we must always be vigilant to ensure that hate crime is made unacceptable across the whole of the United Kingdom.

  • I have been a remainer for a very long period of time. I have come to the Chamber and listened very intently to what the hon. and learned Lady is saying. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) said that nobody disagrees with what she is saying, and no one in this House disagrees with protecting EU nationals as well as we protect our British citizens. From one remainer to another, may I just ask why—I would have voted for it—you did not put this in your motion?

  • Sorry, Madam Deputy Speaker, I did not mean you.

  • The hon. Gentleman definitely, in everything he has just said, did not mean me. He has got the point without my saying anything further.

  • The motion is as framed advisedly. If Conservative Members felt it could have been improved, it was open to them to bring forward an amendment. We would have looked at it carefully, as we always do. I am now going to make a little bit more progress. I am conscious that I have taken a lot of interventions and I want to wind up fairly soon.

    I want to say a little bit about what the Scottish Government have been doing since the referendum. Members will recall that immediately after the referendum result the First Minister moved very quickly to give EU citizens in Scotland reassurance that

    “the Scottish Government is pursuing every possible option to protect Scotland’s position in Europe and, by extension, the interests of the people from across the European Union who live here.”

    Indeed, at an event unprecedented in my constituency in August, the First Minister held an open question and answer session with EU nationals. I can tell Conservative Members that it was extremely well attended by EU nationals living and working in my constituency and in other parts of Scotland. They had many concerns and questions for the First Minister about their status in the United Kingdom following the vote. At our conference last weekend, the SNP passed a motion condemning xenophobia and prejudice in all its forms, making it very clear, in no uncertain terms, that international citizens are welcome in Scotland. In her closing address to the SNP conference in Glasgow on Saturday, the First Minister talked of the “uniting vision” of

    “an inclusive, prosperous, socially just, open, welcoming and outward-looking country”

    and contrasted that with the xenophobic rhetoric of the UK Government. The difference between the SNP conference and the Tory conference could not be starker.

    I am very well aware that the desire for inclusivity, openness and being welcome and outward-looking is not the preserve of the SNP and the Scots. It is shared by many people across these islands. It is about time that Conservative Members lived up to the good aspects of British tradition and the good aspects of our reputation abroad, and stopped undermining them by encouraging the sort of xenophobia we have seen in recent months as a result of some of their rhetoric. [Interruption.] I am absolutely delighted to get such a reaction.

  • I am very grateful to the hon. and learned Lady for giving way. Nobody is suggesting that anybody is going to be ejected from the United Kingdom. She is simply setting hares running. Does she understand and admit that there is a layer of complexity that she has completely ignored? If she is giving rights to people, which I think we would all accept, what effective date is she going to choose? What then happens when people go outside the UK and seek to return? All these things are also relevant to British nationals, on behalf of whom the Government have to negotiate.

  • I must admit to deriving some satisfaction from the fact that my speech is touching such a raw nerve with those on the Government Benches. What I would say to Conservative Members is that actions and rhetoric have consequences, and these are the consequences of some of their actions and rhetoric.

    My right hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond) has often said that Scotland’s problem is not immigration but emigration. We in Scotland would like immigration powers to be granted to Scotland in recognition of the differing needs across the United Kingdom, and the fact that in Scotland we require immigrants to help boost our economy and skills, particularly in remote areas. Both Australia and Canada pursue sub-national immigration policies that respond to the needs of skills and expertise across the variant regions within their states. Now is the chance for the United Kingdom to do likewise, but I shan’t hold my breath.

    To be fair, even many leavers during the campaign, said:

    “there will be no change for EU citizens already lawfully resident in the UK.”

    Speaking on Radio 4, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart), who co-chaired the campaign to leave the EU, said:

    “I think it would be good for the British Government to take the initiative, say that we will protect EU citizens’ rights, and then expect the same for UK citizens in the rest of the EU to be similarly protected.”

    So there we have the answer to the question raised by Government Members. She went on to say:

    “One of the duties of politicians is to be humane and when we deal with people’s lives, I think to show that we are open, we are a welcoming country, that we simply decided to leave a political institution called the European Union, that doesn’t mean we are ignoring people’s rights.”

    It is not often in recent months that I have found myself in agreement with the right hon. Lady, but on this occasion she is right: if the British Government do the right thing, take the initiative and say that they will protect EU citizens’ right, they could hope for a reciprocal gesture towards British citizens abroad, about whom we are all so concerned. It is a question of basic humanity—human beings should not be used as bargaining counters.

    To conclude, I do not believe that this failure to reassure the EU nationals living in the United Kingdom represents the best traditions of these islands. Much of what underlies that failure and, I believe, the rise in hate crime, is misinformation put about during the leave campaign. That is due also to a failure of leadership by the previous Prime Minister and many in the remain campaign to articulate the truth about the benefits that migration and EU migration bring to the UK. Sadly, that failure of leadership is being perpetuated by this new Government, as they spin rudderless in the tailwind of Brexit.

    Now is the time to put things right, so today, the SNP—with the support of others, for which we are very grateful—calls on the Government to provide a cast-iron guarantee for EU citizens who have made the UK their home; to reject and to continue to work on tackling the rise of xenophobia, which has been confirmed by the Home Office for England and Wales; to recognise that the UK-wide blanket approach to immigration policy is not working and disregards the national, regional and demographic differences across the UK; and, most of all, to reassure all those who choose to make Scotland and the UK their home, that their rights will be honoured, that they are welcome to remain here and that their vital contributions are valued by all of us. Until that commitment is given, people will have the sort of worry and uncertainty that leads them to flock to events such as that organised by the First Minister in Edinburgh, and to write emails to all of us on a regular basis.

  • There are many limits to my capabilities, and one of those is the inability to be in two places at the same time. I apologise if I have to dash off at the conclusion of my remarks to give evidence to the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, but the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union will wind up the debate and pass on any comments particularly directed at me.

    My job this afternoon is to reassure the House of our aspirations to protect the interests of EU citizens living in the UK and to counter some of the scaremongering that we have just heard. When I read the motion on the Order Paper, I was concerned and thought that there was a typographical error whereby the word “should” had been substituted for the word “when”. The fact of the matter is, as the Prime Minister has made clear, that Brexit means Brexit, and we are determined to carry out the wishes of the British people to leave the European Union. The negotiations that take place will be to secure the best possible deal.

    As the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU said in the Opposition day debate last week, the Government are determined that

    “Parliament will be fully and properly engaged in the discussion on how we make a success of Brexit.”—[Official Report, 12 October 2016; Vol. 615, c. 326.]

    I am therefore pleased that the House has the opportunity to debate this aspect of our future relationship with the European Union.

    There are over 3 million European Union nationals currently living in the UK. They make a vital contribution to important aspects of our economy and public services, not least in the NHS and care sector.

  • I thank the Minister for providing us with the figure of 3 million. However, some EU nationals will have arrived without passports, and those coming from Romania or Italy would have travel documents in order to enter the United Kingdom. How is the Minister’s figure a genuine one, given that he could not know precisely how many people are here?

  • That is certainly one aspect of the negotiations that we would need to explore. Indeed, the security aspects of some of these travel documents are not as robust as passports that have the biometric data that is so important to ensure that people’s identity is clear when they are crossing borders.

  • I am not raising the issue of identity, which is, of course, important but a separate issue. My point is that when an EU national comes here—for example, a Romanian or an Italian—with a travel document instead of a passport, it is not stamped. EU citizens do not get their passports stamped. Is the Minister basing the 3 million figure on those who have acquired national insurance numbers, namely those in work, or is it based on some other data? That is what I want to know; it is not a security issue.

  • The right hon. Gentleman is right. The 3 million figure can only be an estimate, particularly as exit checks have been introduced only recently. Although we might know who has come into the country, historically we were not aware of who had left. There are a number of ways of compiling the figures, including national insurance numbers, but there are other ways, too.

  • A few moments ago, the Minister was speaking warmly of the immense contribution made by EU nationals in the UK. Is he aware of any Conservative Member who is saying that EU citizens should leave this country, or is it purely coming from the other side?

  • I think I have made the point previously that the only quote I have seen that has in some way threatened EU nationals was one from The Scotsman dated 14 July 2014, which referred to a specific threat being made that if Scotland was not allowed the join the European Union as an independent country, there would be a threat to the status of those people. If SNP Members are concerned about the accuracy of reports in The Scotsman, perhaps I could draw their attention to the official record of the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee dated 27 September 2016—quite recently.

  • Will the Minister give way?

  • Let me make the point, after which the hon. Gentleman can have his try.

    At a session of the Health and Sport Committee in Holyrood, Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, said that in response to the Brexit, the Scottish Government were looking at including additional questions on the workforce survey to try to gather more information about whether people are EU nationals or indeed where they come from more generally, and that that would be helpful. Following that, Sarah Gledhill, a Scottish Government official, confirmed that they were looking at adding additional questions to workforce surveys as a matter of urgency. Who is using whom as a political bargaining chip?

  • I think workforce planning is a fantastic idea. On the quote from The Scotsman, I have the article with me. It is a very small article. The point that the then Deputy First Minister was making was that if Scotland were to be pulled out of the EU against its will, the rights of EU citizens might, of course, be put at risk. Lo and behold, having been pulled out of the EU against their will, the rights of EU citizens are being put at risk! The Minister could end this today. Can he guarantee that the rights of EU citizens will be protected, and will he stop pandering to the attitudes of the United Kingdom Independence party, which wants to use people as bargaining chips?

  • Let me see what I can do. As Madam Deputy Speaker knows, my middle name is “Reasonable”, and I think we need to be a bit more reasonable and not indulge in scaremongering. Many EU citizens watching this debate will be unnecessarily concerned about some of the rhetoric that we have just heard.

    The Government have been clear that they want to protect the status of EU nationals resident in the UK. As the Prime Minister has made clear, the only circumstances in which that would not be possible were if British citizens’ rights in other EU member states are not protected in return. The Government have provided repeat assurances on this point, and their position has not changed. I am sorry that the SNP has not included that reassurance in their motion.

  • Several hon. Members rose—

  • Let me make a little progress, if I may.

    I want to make it absolutely clear that the Government have also been clear that the timeframe for resolving this issue is to address it as part of a wider negotiation on the UK’s exit from the EU, to ensure the fair treatment of British citizens—including those from Scotland, by the way—living in other EU countries. Over 1 million British citizens have built their lives elsewhere in Europe, and they are counting on us to secure their future. We simply want a fair deal for both EU nationals in the UK and British citizens in the EU. That is a sensible approach, and it is the one we will take. As the House is aware, the Government have committed to invoking article 50 by the end of March 2017, once they have clear objectives for the Brexit negotiations.

  • This is becoming increasingly baffling to me, I am afraid. I understand that the Minister is proposing to ask us to vote against the motion, but what he has just said confirms that the motion coincides exactly with the committed aim of the Government, which is to seek to ensure that all EU nationals who are living and working here now can be reassured about their status. If we let the motion go through, the chances of some proposal from the continent that British nationals should be expelled is almost nil. Of course we might have to revisit the thing, but even then we would not want to take reprisals against wholly innocent people who are contributing to our economy here. Should we not get on to the next motion and stop splitting hairs in this way, given that we are all agreed on the objectives?

  • My right hon. and learned Friend has made a perfectly reasonable point. The only problem that the Government have with the motion is that it does not go far enough, in that it does not include the rights of British citizens living in other EU member states, which we would demand to be protected in return. It is impossible for us to support the motion, because that reassurance is not contained in it.

    I fully appreciate the importance of giving certainty to EU citizens who have built a life here in the United Kingdom. As I have already said, they should be reassured that we are working on the basis that we want to protect those people’s status in UK law beyond the point at which we leave the EU.

  • As the Minister knows, I am very fond of him—[Interruption.]. It is true; it is a guilty secret. However, I am genuinely wondering why he has not responded to the question asked a moment ago by his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke). Why are we still debating this issue, given that the Government clearly agree with the motion?

  • I have made crystal clear, I hope, that the motion does not go far enough because it does not extend the protections that SNP Members want for EU citizens here in the UK to British citizens, including Scottish citizens—people from Stranraer, Montrose and Edinburgh—who are living and working elsewhere in the EU and who require reciprocal protection. That is all we are saying. If the SNP Members had included that in their motion, we would have been more than happy to support it, but this is a fatal omission.

  • There is another reason why I think that my hon. Friend is right to be both reasonable and cautious. As a former Immigration Minister, knowing the difficult challenges that he faces, I suggest that one of the important things that the House must do in order to deliver certainty is use very clear language. Many immigration matters go to court. Referring to people who have made their home here does not make clear whether they are people who have been here for five years, 10 years or five minutes. That description also excludes the thousands of EU nationals who fall within a group that I do want to leave the United Kingdom—the thousands of EU nationals who currently reside in Her Majesty’s prisons having committed criminal offences, and whom I want the Government to be able to remove from this country at the end of their sentences.

    This matter is complicated. It is not straightforward. I urge my hon. Friend to continue to be reasonable and careful, in order to get this right and provide the certainty that is necessary. The position is not as simple as the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) makes out.

  • My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The issue is much more complex than it is sometimes painted, and we need to engage in the negotiations with that in mind.

    We intend to reach an agreement as soon as possible, but the fact remains that there needs to be an agreement, and I strongly believe that it would be inappropriate to lay down unilateral positions. Indeed, it would be irresponsible to do so. In the meantime, as the Government have made clear on numerous occasions—and I will repeat it again today—until the UK leaves the EU, there will be no changes in the circumstances of European nationals in the UK. They will continue to have to have the same rights under EU law that they had before the referendum.

    As I have said, however, this issue is also about British citizens living and working in other EU member states and exercising their treaty rights. The Prime Minister has made clear that, through the negotiations, we are seeking to secure the best deal for Britain, and that deal rightly includes protecting the status of British citizens who are living, working and studying elsewhere in the EU. It is disappointing that the motion makes no reference to those British citizens. The Government are therefore unable to set out a definitive position now: that must be done following an agreement with the EU. Those EU nationals who are worried about their current status can have the Government’s complete reassurance that their right to enter, work, study and live in the UK remains unchanged. They continue to be welcome here.

  • I share the Minister’s aspiration to protect the rights of UK citizens living elsewhere in the European Union, but may I suggest that the best way to achieve that end would be to make a commitment to EU citizens living here, thus creating an atmosphere in which positive negotiations on other matters might take place?

  • I am sure the right hon. Gentleman agrees that, while this will be a negotiation of the willing on both sides, other complex issues, such as those identified by my right hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper), will need to be worked out. Immigration is a complicated matter. However, I hope that, following what I have said today, EU citizens who are living and working here, exercising their treaty rights and contributing to the industries of our country —and we know that they make a fantastic contribution to, for instance, agriculture and the hospitality industry—will be reassured that we will seek to protect their status, while at the same time seeking to protect the status of UK citizens living and working elsewhere in the EU.

    The Prime Minister has said in numerous statements that there will be no immediate changes in the circumstances of EU nationals. In addition, let me draw the House's attention to the recent confirmation by the Department for Education that EU students applying for places at English universities or further education institutions in the 2017-18 academic year will continue to be eligible for student loans and grants for the duration of their courses.

    Given that it is in the interests of all interested parties to protect the rights of their citizens once the UK exits the EU, we are confident that both EU and British citizens will be protected through a reciprocal arrangement following discussions. As I have said, I want to be able to conclude this matter as quickly as possible once negotiations begin, but there is a balance to be struck between transparency and good negotiating practice. Any attempt to pre-empt our future negotiations would risk undermining our ability to secure protection for the rights of British citizens living in the EU, and that is why we are unable to support the motion.

  • The Minister is now well established in his new role, but let me take this opportunity to welcome the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr Walker). I look forward to working with him and the rest of the team in the years ahead.

    I am grateful to the SNP for bringing this issue back to the House. For the avoidance of any doubt—and, if the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) were still in the Chamber, I would say that this applies particularly to him—I should make it clear that Opposition Members accept the result of the referendum. We simply want to ensure that our departure from the EU takes place on the best possible terms for the UK. As one of my colleagues said during last week’s Opposition day debate, the British people voted to come out; they did not vote to lose out. Providing guarantees for EU nationals now is part of securing the best deal for the UK. That is why we made it the topic of an Opposition day debate just two weeks after the referendum, and why we support the motion moved so ably today by the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry).

    Back in July, as now, it was clear that the Government did not have a plan. They had no plan for what Leave would look like, and no plan for the 3 million EU nationals who are living, working and studying in our country. During that debate, however, one of the leading leave campaigners rightly pushed for certainty on the issue. He said:

    “I would like to put on record what I think has been said already—that countless times the Vote Leave campaign gave exactly this reassurance to everybody from EU countries living and working here, and it is very, very disappointing that that should be called into question. I think it is absolutely right to issue the strongest possible reassurance to EU nationals in this country, not just for moral or humanitarian reasons, but for very, very sound economic reasons as well. They are welcome, they are necessary, they are a vital part of our society, and I will passionately support this motion tonight.”—[Official Report, 6 July 2016; Vol. 612, c. 939.]

    Let us give credit where it is due. After making that contribution, the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson) not only talked the talk but walked the walk, as did the overwhelming number of Members who voted for the motion to guarantee EU nationals the right to remain here. I hope that now that he is Foreign Secretary he is making the case even more strongly, because I guess in his new role at the Foreign Office he is learning the art of diplomacy. [Interruption.] Yes, he may have some way to go; I appreciate the Prime Minister is not yet entirely convinced. What he will know by now is that the way in which the Government have turned EU nationals living here into bargaining chips for the Brexit negotiations, or, as the Secretary of State for International Trade put it,

    “one of our main cards”,

    is not only deeply unfair to those concerned, but is severely undermining our reputation with the very people with whom we want to be entering into negotiations next spring, not to mention the damage it does to our economy. Put simply, it is not in our national interest.

    It is absolutely wrong for the Government to suggest that we cannot guarantee the status of EU nationals here—many of whom have been here for decades—without a reciprocal arrangement for UK nationals abroad. The Government are effectively asking people—doctors in our NHS, business owners and entrepreneurs, teachers in our schools—to put their lives on hold and wait until March 2019 to find out what their future holds. But many will want certainty for themselves and their families.

  • The following question then arises: if he were in the Government, what guarantees would the hon. Gentleman give to British citizens living in the EU regarding their rights? What possible guarantees or safeguards could he give them?

  • By giving those guarantees to EU nationals living in this country, we set the marker, and we give the best guarantees to our citizens living in the rest of the EU by making that stand now.

  • Would it not therefore be better for Ministers to be out there negotiating and getting the reciprocal rights, rather than having to remain at the Dispatch Box for these futile debates that stop them getting on with the job?

  • I think it would be much better if Ministers did not see EU nationals in this country as bargaining chips, but instead saw them as citizens contributing to our economy and society, as the Foreign Secretary said in the debate in July.

  • The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Foreign Secretary and diplomacy, so may I ask a question that might test his? Does he agree with his party leader, and presumably his party’s policy, that Labour wants to continue having free movement even after we have left the EU? That is the position set out by his leader. Can he just confirm to the House, because we want clarity and certainty, if that remains his party’s position?

  • The shadow Secretary of State made that very clear last week. The right hon. Gentleman misrepresents Labour’s position. I do not know whether he was present for the debate, but he might usefully read Hansard. Opposition Members accept that there will be adjustments to the arrangements and believe in reasonable management of migration.

  • I congratulate my hon. Friend most warmly on his appointment to his new post; I am sure that he will find it very challenging. The Opposition’s position is very clear, and it is the common sense position, which is a double guarantee: we want to see British citizens keep their rights in the EU, and we want to give EU citizens their rights to stay here. No EU country has said that it wants British citizens to leave the EU. Does my hon. Friend agree?

  • My right hon. Friend is absolutely right, and it is unfortunate that some of the cavalier comments by Ministers have put this issue on the table.

    As I was saying, EU nationals want some certainty for themselves and their families, and, if we do not offer it, many of them will only find it by leaving the UK. That is unfair to them, but it is also a loss to our country.

    The Opposition do not believe in cutting off our nose to spite our face. We want unilateral and immediate action from the Government to guarantee the status of EU nationals who contribute so much to our society, and we do not believe that that will undermine the Government’s ability to secure the status of UK nationals living in other EU countries, because we believe that they, too, are an asset to the communities in which they have set up home.

    If the Government position is not playing too well with our partners abroad, it is not going down well here at home either. Polling for British Future conducted immediately after the referendum shows that an overwhelming majority of both leave and remain voters take the same view: that EU nationals should be allowed to remain. Some 84% of people, including 77% of leave voters, want existing EU nationals to stay. A letter to The Sunday Telegraph back in July calling for guaranteed rights for existing EU nationals brought leave and remain supporters, Migration Watch UK and migrants’ rights groups together.

    Last week this House made it clear that simply repeating “Brexit means Brexit” will not wash. It will not wash for this House, and it will not wash for people up and down the country. The uncertainty it is creating is having its impact on our economy. So we welcome the Government’s commitment to share their plan for Brexit with Parliament, albeit following pressure from both sides of the House, but there are some issues that cannot wait, and this is one of them.

    People who have made their lives here deserve better. Withholding rights from EU nationals here until rights for UK nationals abroad are guaranteed sounds logical enough until we look into what it means in practice. It means that decisions to invest or expand businesses are being scrapped because EU nationals do not want to wait until 2019 to find out if they are welcome and public services are strained further as EU doctors, nurses and teachers uproot and move somewhere they are welcome and can plan for their future. In the meantime the status of UK nationals in other European countries is no more secure since Brexit negotiations are ongoing.

    In his statement to the House last week the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union said that

    “five out of six migrants who are here either already have indefinite leave to remain or ?will have it by the time we depart the Union.”—[Official Report, 10 October 2016; Vol. 615, c. 48.]

    Leaving aside the arrogant assumption that EU nationals will just wait around and hope that they will be okay rather than go somewhere that they know they will be welcome, what will concern EU citizens who heard that statement is that indefinite leave to remain is not handed out automatically on the basis of length of residency. It has to be applied for, and applying for it is costly and onerous, and there are no guarantees. Perhaps the Minister can today clarify whether that is really what our offer is to those helping run our public services and contributing to our economy—“stick around for two years and you might be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain.” That is simply not good enough: it is not good enough for them, and it is not good enough for our country.

    We are grateful to the SNP for bringing the issue back to the House, and we repeat the call we made in July, which this House endorsed, which is that the Government should provide immediate clarity to EU nationals who are taking decisions about their future now.

  • Several hon. Members rose—

  • Order. Time is limited and many Members wish to speak. I will impose an initial time limit of eight minutes, with the proviso that it might well have to be reduced.

  • I will endeavour to keep my comments pithy—I do not have a lisp. First, I thank the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) for being so unwilling to take interventions from my hon. Friends during her speech, because so many of the points I had scribbled down for my speech were being brought up by colleagues that otherwise I would have nothing left to say.

    I had intended to begin by saying that I assumed that the motion was driven by genuine concern, rather than a desire to play simple party politics. Unfortunately, however, as the hon. and learned Lady’s speech progressed, I found it less easy to maintain that position, because, time and again, I heard examples of this important issue being used as a Trojan horse to simply cast unpalatable accusations at my party. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Darlington (Jenny Chapman) says from a sedentary position, “Look in the mirror.” I look in the mirror every morning when I shave, and what I see is a black face looking back at me. When hon. Members start accusing Conservative Members of being xenophobic, I ask that they reflect on those comments before they start accusing—[Interruption.]

  • Order. Comments are to be reflected upon and discussed; they are not be made from a sedentary position. If the hon. Member for Darlington wishes her comments to be noted, she should stand up and make them. If not, she should not make them.

  • Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.

  • Several hon. Members rose—

  • Time is limited, so I will make some progress. The most important point—this has been brought up numerous times by my hon. Friends, but it has been ignored and left unanswered by the motion’s proposer and those Labour Members who support it—is that British citizens currently living in the EU have had no confirmation about their future status. I remind Members that it is not from the British side of the negotiating relationship that we hear words such as “punishment”. It is from voices at the Commission—EU members—that we hear that Britain needs to be punished. I have spent a lot of time scouring the internet, but I am yet to find an assurance from the EU that British citizens can expect protection as part of the negotiations.

  • The hon. Gentleman casts an aspersion that members of the Commission are threatening British citizens in Europe. Has he actually seen, read or heard that, because nobody else has? We started it: we voted to leave, so we are the ones who have to start the solution.

  • No Government Members or likely members of the negotiation team have been using words such as “punishment”. We should respect the decision of the British people and enter the negotiations—this has been said by Members on both sides of the House, to be fair—with a desire to get the best outcome not only for the British people and our friends and colleagues in the EU, but for British people living in the EU and EU nationals living in Britain. Our collective desired outcome is to come out of the negotiating period with a relationship that works for the EU, us and all people living both in the EU and in the UK.

    An estimated 1.2 million British nationals live in the EU, and at the moment their status has a question mark over it. Yet we heard nothing from SNP or Labour Members, despite the numerous opportunities they were given, about whether any effort has been made to secure the status of those British nationals. My right hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper), who has unfortunately left the Chamber, was right to say that the British Government’s first responsibility is to the British people. While there is a question mark over the status of British nationals living in the EU, unfortunately it is not legitimate for us to say, unilaterally, that we are going to secure the rights of EU nationals. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Darlington speaks again from a sedentary position, saying, “Humans as bargaining chips.” She accuses the Government of doing that, but fails to use the same phraseology when talking about the people negotiating on behalf of the EU.

    We want—this has been said from the Dispatch Box on numerous occasions—to maintain, as closely as possible, our excellent relationship with EU nationals in the UK. We value their commitment.

  • I am short of time, so I am afraid that I am going to make progress. As the son of a migrant, I absolutely recognise the incredible value to the UK of immigrants from EU countries and wider afield. This Government have said on many occasions that the value of migrants will be recognised, both now and moving forward.

  • I am the daughter of an immigrant. Does it not cause the hon. Gentleman great concern that, since the EU referendum, there has been an exponential rise in hate crime in England and Wales? That is not the position in Scotland.

  • I do not have access to the detailed figures or the time to answer that question fully, but I would be more than happy to have an extended discussion about the validity of those figures. With the best will in the world, I find it hard to believe that there have been no racially motivated crimes north of the border.

    The hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West, who proposed the motion, kept saying that people were being used as bargaining chips. That fundamentally misses the point that everything we do in politics, including every policy position and every negotiating position we take with the EU, is about people. Politics is about people—always has been, always will be. Every decision that we make through this negotiation will have an impact on people. Yes, our collective attitude towards migration polices has an effect on people, but so do our policies on trade and agricultural subsidies. All those things have a real effect on people. To single out one element of a future negotiation and say that we should unilaterally close it down suggests a naive at best and cynical at worst attitude to our negotiating position. I want the negotiations to be successful for both Great Britain and the EU, but that will not be possible if Great Britain takes unilateral decisions. It has been confirmed from the Dispatch Box that if our EU partners provided a resolution on this issue, it would go away immediately, yet I have heard nothing from them.

    Our Government need to have the flexibility to negotiate the best possible deal for the British people. I encourage hon. Members who support the motion to put as much energy and passion into speaking to people on the continent with whom they may have influence about clarifying the position of British nationals in the EU. The whole issue would then be taken off the table and we would end up in the position that I think Members on both sides of the House want—namely, that of having a positive attitude towards the negotiations, with the ultimate goal of giving as much clarity and reassurance as possible both to EU nationals living here and to British nationals living in the EU. I call on Members to reject the motion.

  • The simple reason we should make the move is that it is the UK that has voted to leave. It is we who have caused the insecurity, whether for our citizens in Europe or for EU nationals here, so it is incumbent on us to make the move to try to deal with that. As for the idea that people are not having problems, I have constituents struggling to get loans or mortgages for businesses and for houses. It is ridiculous to say that they are not concerned; they absolutely are. The idea that they should spend two years in limbo is frankly appalling.

    Obviously, with my health background, I can say that we know that our health and social care system completely depends on EU nationals. We have more than 50,000 such doctors and nurses. The Minister was berating Shona Robison about trying to collect the data in Scotland, but we do not have data for Scotland. The 130,000 is for England, because we never considered it at all relevant where someone who was settled in Scotland came from and therefore never asked. Now, we need to know how many people might have an issue, whether it is that they will get thrown out or that they will get fed up with the insecurity and leave.

    The other question is how we think we will attract more. One in 10 medical jobs in England is empty; we have massive rota gaps. How easy do we think it will be to attract EU doctors to come and fill those posts in the coming years when the message they get is that they are not terribly welcome and that, if they come, they might be asked to go home because they came after—

  • The hon. Gentleman was not keen on taking interventions, so I shall crack on.

  • My hon. Friend talks about how EU nationals might feel about coming here in future. Does she share my concern and that of my constituents that this goes right back to the debates in this House on the European Union Referendum Bill, in which we even froze them out of having a vote on the issue? The message is not good, and they might decide to turn their backs on this new Brexit Britain.

  • Absolutely. So much of this is about not technicalities but the message we give outside this place. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) said in winding up her speech, it is also about Britain’s reputation. Britain previously had a reputation for fairness. Look at the second or third generation of immigrants, who have made their home for generations in this country. Now we say, “You might not be able to stay,” or “You might not be able to come.” The best way to secure the place of British nationals in Europe is for us to be gracious.

    The hon. Member for Braintree (James Cleverly) asked what we have done to try to make the position secure. I am on the all-party parliamentary group on Germany; we raised this issue both when we met the ambassador here and when we visited Berlin, and they were incredulous that we would even think that they would ask British nationals to go away. They said, “Should we make a move?” It is our move to make because the UK has created this situation.

    We cannot survive without these people in the NHS and, in particular, the 80,000 who work in social care. If they apply because they are anxious for British citizenship, it will cost them almost £1,500 per head, per member of their family, to do so. That is quite a lot when someone might not even be earning the minimum wage. If the final position is that they are eventually treated the same as non-EEA citizens, it will cost £4,000 per head, including the NHS surcharge, which, despite working in it, they might actually have to pay to access it. To say that these things are trivial and that these people should be reassured is, I think, naive.

    There is already an impact on medical research and academia. When I was at the graduation of my local university just a week after Brexit, they had lost a senior researcher from mainland Europe who was almost at the point of stepping on the boat. He said, “Why would I move my children to an English-speaking school? Why would I disrupt and move my family when I might get sent home in two years?” The idea that this is having no effect and that people should just cling on to soft reassurance is childish. We are the ones who need to make the first move and we should make that move. Future agreements can be negotiated, but everyone settled here on 23 June or earlier should have that right to remain and we are the ones who should make that move.

    The APPG visited Berlin and it was very interesting. I picked up a couple of points. Peter Altmaier, second-in-command to Angela Merkel, was quite shocked that we use the term EU migrant. He said that they would never use that term; to them, migrant means someone from outside Europe. It would be like our being described as Scottish migrants, or Irish migrants, within the British Isles. It seems abhorrent.

  • This is the nub of the issue with the Brexit vote. The Germans are quite happy to describe people from outside the EU as migrants, but not people from within the EU. It was that exclusive club that I think led many ethnic communities in Britain to the out vote.

  • Frankly, this is an immigration arrangement from Europe. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that having stirred up the anti-immigrant view that led to leave we are going to say that we will not take EU nationals but that we will take many more people from all over the world, he is deluding himself.

    Another point came up when members of our group said that Europe had to change free movement, so that we could stay in the single market. Where were we sitting at that moment? We were sitting in what had previously been East Berlin. We need to understand that for all Germans and east Europeans free movement of people comes from the heart; it is not a technical problem. They do not realise that we do not understand that. Twenty-seven years ago, there was a wall through Berlin. The last person trying to get over it was shot just a few months before it came down. Angela Merkel could not travel west until she was 36 years old.

  • I am sorry, but I am running out of time.

    In our debate in July, I mentioned that my husband Hans is a GP who has worked in our NHS for 30 years. At first, he did not really think that this concerned him, because he thought that it would all disappear, but four months on it has not. The problem is that these people are finding it terrible. The Minister said in that debate that anyone who had been here about five years could apply for right to remain, and when I mentioned my husband he said, “Oh, he can definitely stay.” My husband has printed out Hansard and is keeping it in his passport to prove absolutely that he has his personal reassurance. The Minister also said in that debate that we would have to consider what rights and benefits they have and which of our public services they can access. My husband, nearing retirement after 30-odd years in the NHS, is really concerned that he might get to stay but might suddenly have to pay for the healthcare he has been delivering for 30 years. And we are told that we are the scaremongers.

    The story of my husband’s family is this. His father was German; his mother was Polish. They met during the war and were not allowed to marry. They had a child who was taken away from them. They were lifted and interrogated by the Gestapo. His father was imprisoned and his mother was turned into a forced labourer. Long before this debate arose, my husband used to say, “I can’t believe that in one generation I have been allowed to marry who I like, settle where I like and carry out the profession I chose.” I cannot believe that in one more generation we could lose those rights and take them away from our young people.

  • It is with some sadness that I rise to contribute to the debate, because where I can I, as a fellow Celt and a Welsh MP, look to support much of what my friends the Members from Scotland do. I was a happy remainer until the referendum and my constituency, Cardiff, voted by 60% to remain, but now I am working with my constituents to remain with the best bits of the European Union. Most of them, and especially me, are convinced that we are leaving and that is that. We get on with it.

    I represent the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff. Much has been said about how much the medical profession relies on people coming in from all over the world, not just the European Union. I wonder whether Scottish National party Members have thought about the impression that their language and rhetoric in today’s debate are creating. I have just heard the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) use the term “thrown out”. That kind of language is not coming from those on my Benches. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) made the point that we are agreed on much of this. My right hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper) and the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire said that people who lived here before 23 June should have the right to stay, but that is not what the motion states. It talks about people who have “made the UK their home”. That is open to interpretation. My right hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean, a learned Member with much experience as an Immigration Minister, explained why the motion was so clumsily worded.

    I am rising not to support the motion but to say that I am working to ensure that the EU nationals in my constituency, in Wales and in the United Kingdom know that they are welcome. They make a terrific contribution to our economy, our communities and our society, and we want to keep them there, but we are also rightly trying to protect the interests of British people in the EU as well. As a Welsh MP, I am protecting Welsh people across the European Union. They have settled all over the place. I hope that hon. Members from Scotland will support me in that, but I have been saddened to hear their rhetoric in this debate.

  • The hon. Gentleman talks about the language being used in this debate. I should like to ask him whether he was at the Tory party conference. My wife is an EU national, and she already feels as though she is a second-class citizen because she does not get a vote from the UK Government. After she had listened to the speeches at the Tory party conference, she said to me, “I am no longer welcome in the UK under this Government.” How does the hon. Gentleman answer that?

  • I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman was tuning into the Conservative party conference. I was indeed at the conference, with many EU nationals from my constituency and from my team in this Parliament. I have EU nationals working for and with me. This is absolute nonsense. It is scaremongering and it is terrible. The scaremongering is coming from those on the Opposition Benches and it is deplorable—

  • What about “bargaining chips”?

  • Is this about bargaining chips? No it is not.

    I fear that SNP Members are trying to rerun the arguments of the referendum. I was with them on many of those arguments during the referendum, but I am afraid that we lost. I know that it is the ambition of SNP Members to ignore referendum results until they get them right, but speaking as a Welsh Member, I do not take that view. We must now respect the will of the British people.

  • Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, during the independence referendum in Scotland, the leader of the Conservative and Unionist party in Scotland, Ruth Davidson, told the voters of Scotland that the only way they could guarantee their continued EU membership was to vote to remain part of the UK? Does he agree that that is now a broken promise?

  • Absolutely not. Ruth Davidson is a politician without parallel in Scotland and I am incredibly proud that she leads our party up there. I was up there during the independence referendum, campaigning alongside her. I could happily chuck in many quotes from the Spanish Government echoing my point about Scottish membership of the European Union, but that would do nothing for my constituents. Much of this debate will do nothing for the EU nationals in my constituency who are seeking leadership and certainty from this place. We are hearing that from the Government, but not from Members across the House who want to use this issue as a political football. That is deplorable.

    I want to quote some Government Ministers at this point. The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has said:

    “We always welcome those with skills, the drive and the expertise to make our nation better still. If we are to win in the global marketplace, we must win the global battle for talent”.

    How much more welcoming could anyone be towards EU nationals, or indeed towards the world, than that? The Home Secretary has said:

    “I believe immigration has brought many benefits to the nation. It has enhanced our economy, our society and our culture. That is why I want to reduce net migration while continuing to ensure we attract the brightest and the best”.

    This is what my constituents put me here to do. This is the Government I am supporting and I am delighted to do so. The Prime Minister has said:

    “Let me be absolutely clear: existing workers’ legal rights will continue to be guaranteed in law—and they will be guaranteed as long as I am Prime Minister”.

    I can assure the House that she will be Prime Minister of this great country for many years to come and that those workers’ rights will be guaranteed. The Economic Secretary to the Treasury made a speech to representatives of the UK financial services industry recently, in which he said of the negotiations that, as long as we get a comparable relationship with other EU nations, there will be no question but that EU nationals who are already working here will be able to stay. The nub of the question is that we must achieve a reciprocal arrangement with our EU neighbours.

  • I am grateful to my Welsh colleague for giving way. He has quoted various Ministers, and indeed the Prime Minister, on the subject of people working in this country. What does he have to say to the EU nationals living in my constituency who are pensioners? They have had no such reassurances from Ministers or from the Prime Minister. He keeps talking about the workers and the brightest and the best, and I am sure that everyone welcomes the fact that such people are working in this country, but I am not scaremongering when I say that my constituents who have retired and who are living here have had no assurances from those on the Government Front Bench that they have the right to remain here.

  • I personally want them to remain here happily spending their money in our economy, but what about the British pensioners in Spain who are spending their money in the Spanish economy? This is the point: there must be a reciprocal arrangement. If British pensioners in EU states can be protected, we will protect the EU pensioners in this state. That is the nub of the issue.

    This has been a sad debate for me, as a remainer and now a committed leaver. I want to work constructively across the House to protect the best bits of the European Union while getting the best possible agreement for British citizens who currently reside in the EU, be they pensioners, workers, students or those doing research. However, it is clear that this whole issue is being hijacked by Opposition Members to provoke needless outrage, and that does not help anybody. I hope that the speakers who follow me will try to change the tone of the debate and help my constituents in Cardiff.

  • It is a pleasure to support such a consistent politician as the hon. Member for Cardiff North (Craig Williams)—a remainer one day and a leaver the next! However, he made a strong case for a guarantee for EU citizens to remain in this country. The difficulty is that all those amazing quotes he has gathered—which the hon. Member for Braintree (James Cleverly), with all his internet shopping, was unable to give us—are actually worth nothing unless they are spoken from the Dispatch Box. The hon. Member for Cardiff North is right to say that Ministers and others have talked about the contribution made by EU nationals, but at the end of the day it is for the Government to make those statements here in this House or in written statements.

    I congratulate the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) on her powerful, eloquent and clear speech. In fact, all that she has sought is clarity, and all that we have heard from Ministers so far—the Minister for Immigration has left the Chamber, leaving it to the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, whom I congratulate on his appointment, to answer for the Government—is that it is all going to be all right on the night, but they just cannot say that in the House of Commons. All Members of the House have made the point that clarity is extremely important. If we have that clarity, it will be clear where we stand and there will be no need for the Opposition to keep bringing this debate back to the House every two weeks or so.

    As a former Minister for Europe, I know that nothing at summit meetings is kept private. There is no question that any EU Head of Government has said to our Prime Minister either publicly or privately—if it was private, it would be public by now—that they want to remove British citizens from the EU. We heard today about the double guarantee. There is no question but that the SNP and the official Opposition would guarantee British citizens the right to remain in the EU if we had the power. All that we seek is the guarantee that EU residents in this country will be allowed to stay here.

  • Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that we are the White Queen in these negotiations and that we have to make the first move? If that move is gracious, it will invite a gracious response.

  • The hon. Lady, who made a powerful speech, is right. It is possible for us to take that position, and the position of the other EU countries is also clear because nobody has said that they want to do any damage to British citizens abroad, so we can show leadership by saying what the deal is. That would clear the matter up immediately.

    The problem with putting the matter into the negotiations is the disparity of numbers. There are 1.2 million British citizens in the EU and 3 million EU citizens here. We do not want people to say as part of the negotiations that we will have absolute parity of numbers. That is what worries me. The Minister nods. He will have the chance when he winds up the debate to state that there will be no question of our saying to the other EU countries that we will allow only 1.2 million people to stay. That is why it is far better to be clear about the rights of EU citizens now than to wait until the end of the negotiations.

    There are three possible cut-off dates: 23 June, the date of the referendum; 31 March 2017; and 31 March 2019. I favour the date of the referendum, because it is absolutely clear. Others may favour the date that we actually leave the EU, but the point is that we are making a mess of our immigration policy if we keep negotiating in this way. We need absolute clarity, particularly on immigration. The Government are worried that if they wait until 31 March 2019, there will be a spike in EU citizens coming to this country before we exit in order to secure the right to stay here. When the Minister comes to wind up, I hope that he will give us the figures for how many EU nationals have actually come to Britain. In fact, many are so worried that they are considering leaving our country because they simply do not know where they stand.

    The right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) asked the SNP whether it was necessary to keep bringing this debate to the House when the matter is actually all settled. I am sure that it is settled in his mind and my mind, but it is not settled in Government policy. However, we can have a settled Government policy. We just heard an excellent statement from the Immigration Minister that EU citizens who are studying in our country will be allowed to remain and get the support that they have had in the past. If a Minister can come to the Dispatch Box and make a clear statement of that kind to reassure EU nationals who are studying here, then it is simple for the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union to get up and make exactly the same statement about EU nationals who are resident here. The fact that the SNP included the word “should” in its motion should not stop the Government supporting it. They had the opportunity to enter into negotiations with the SNP, as we saw last week when they avoided another vote, which everyone thought was going to happen but which did not happen, thanks to the position taken by the Government. If we are trying to ensure that the fears of EU nationals are put to one side and that EU nationals are reassured, we can easily make such a statement today.

    My next point relates to the right hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper), a former Immigration Minister, who said in his intervention on the current Immigration Minister that we would also consider the matter of EU nationals in our prisons as part of the negotiations. That is news to me. I did not realise that that was going to be part of the negotiations. Over the past 10 years, successive Governments have been trying to send EU citizens back. They constitute 10% of the entire prison population and we have not been able to move them out. Are we suggesting that we will put the question of EU citizens in our prisons into the negotiating pot as part of the deal for allowing EU citizens to remain here?

  • We have an EU agreement whereby all EU Governments agree that they will exchange prisoners, so the current legal position allows that to happen. The problems that have stopped that happening are largely logistical and rather wrapped up in the bureaucracy of the Interior Ministries of different countries. At the moment we have reciprocal agreements, and EU countries have agreed to accept their own nationals to complete their sentence in their own country if they are returned as prisoners from other countries.

  • The right hon. and learned Gentleman is absolutely right. He probably negotiated that agreement when he was either Home Secretary or Lord Chancellor. There is therefore no need to put that into the negotiations because it is already there, although Poland has a derogation and the Polish situation will become live again only at the end of this year.

    The Minister is in his first, well-deserved job in Government and can make a hero of himself to the Government Whips, because they will not need to keep bringing back debates on the European Union and the rights of nationals, to Worcester and to the EU. Rather like the hon. Member for Cardiff North (Craig Williams), he was a remainer but is now a committed exiter as a result of the decision on 23 June. All we seek is clarity, so let us be clear. Nothing is put at risk by accepting what the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West has said. Let us put the matter to bed. Otherwise, the Minister can be sure that the issue will return again and again.

    Finally, the EU summit is tomorrow and the Prime Minister will presumably, since we are still members of the EU, be there. Some Members have suggested that Members of this House should begin the negotiations, which is well above our pay grade, but the Prime Minister is going to that EU summit tomorrow. The will of the House can be expressed today and the Prime Minister can begin the discussions on this particular issue tomorrow. I am sure that she will get a positive reply from the other EU leaders.

  • I echo the comments about how disappointing it is that the SNP chose to play a game of political football rather than to discuss the issues seriously. There is little in the motion that I would disagree with except for the word “should”, to which I will return in a moment. The motion asks us to recognise the huge contribution that people from other EU countries have made to this country. Of course we all recognise their contribution. That point has been made over and over again on these Government Benches, and inside and outside the House by people in both the remain and leave camps. Let me say it again: people from other European Union nations have made an enormous contribution to this country. They are very welcome in this country. They were welcome before the referendum took place, they are welcome now and they will be welcome after we exit the EU.

  • May I add the hon. Gentleman’s wife, who is of Hungarian origin, to that list of people?

  • I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I was going to mention that. I declare an interest in that my wife is Hungarian. My children are completely bilingual and have dual nationality. It is a cliché, but when I say that some of my closest friends are from eastern Europe, I mean that I go on holiday and share houses with them, which makes us pretty close friends. It is ludicrous even to suggest that people who are involved in the leave campaign—dare I say that I was the leader of the campaign in Wales?—have some kind of xenophobic or anti-EU agenda.

    At the same time, we should also be making it clear that we welcome the contribution of professionals from countries outside the EU. I have dealt with many EU nationals who work in the NHS and the public sector in Wales, but I have also dealt with doctors from Egypt, businessmen from India and nurses from the Philippines, and they are also making a huge contribution to our economy. These people from outside the EU nations are also very welcome and will continue to be so. It is ridiculous to suggest that people from EU states should somehow be scared or worried about what is going to happen when we leave the EU, given that we already welcome and appreciate the contribution of so many people from outside it.

    This Government have put compassion at the heart of their policy. We are spending more money on foreign aid than any other Government in this country has ever done and more than any other country in Europe is doing; we have ring-fenced NHS spending in England—Labour certainly has not done that in Wales; and we are dedicated to ironing out the inequality within the education sector. It is ludicrous in the extreme to suggest that anyone on any part of the Government Benches would ever want to round up people from other EU nations and throw them out—that is a fantasy and it will never, ever happen. Nobody wants it to happen and nobody has ever called for it to happen. I am just grateful for the opportunity to say that clearly once again.

    Apparently, there have been issues with hate crime. May I say once again, as someone who was heavily involved in the leave campaign, that I, along with everyone I campaigned with, unreservedly condemn any form of hate crime towards anyone, be they from EU nations or outside, and whether it is because of their sexual orientation, the colour of their skin, their religion or their nationality; I, along with every person I have ever worked with on the leave campaign and with every person I have been involved with in politics, totally condemn that sort of behaviour. We should not run away with the idea that people from eastern Europe or from other European nations are constantly being hassled as they walk around; in my experience, which is considerable, that is simply not happening. I have been married for 13 years to somebody who moved here from eastern Europe and who has never been a victim of that sort of behaviour. I am not suggesting it does not happen, but I sometimes think there is a tendency to over-exaggerate.

  • Does the hon. Gentleman accept the statistics produced by the Home Office showing that hate crime has increased by 41% in England and Wales since the EU referendum? Does he accept those stats produced by his Government’s Home Office?

  • Of course, but the statistics have increased because the Government have rightly said that they are determined to stamp out hate crime and are looking to police forces—

  • Several hon. Members rose—

  • Let me answer the question and then perhaps I will give way again. The Home Office has rightly said that it is determined to stamp out hate crime and it is expecting police forces to produce figures and to seek out examples. Of course we also face the additional problem that social media sites such as Twitter make it easier for keyboard warriors to commit hate crimes—one has only to look at my feed today to see that that is the case.

  • I am very interested by what the hon. Gentleman has just said, as I think he is suggesting that the Home Office has changed the basis on which it calculates hate crime in the UK since the EU referendum. Would he like to tell us his source for that? Or perhaps the Minister will be able to help us with that later.

  • I have not suggested that; I have said that the Home Office is rightly determined to stamp out hate crime and it has asked police forces to be much more rigorous in getting the figures. The Home Office will be looking to use those figures to investigate this, and quite right too; there is nothing wrong with that. But what I find concerning is that the hon. and learned Lady and others seem to have tried to make a correlation between hate crime and Brexit, and the clear and worrying implication of what they are doing is to suggest that the 17.2 million people who legitimately voted for Brexit are in some way responsible for hate crimes. That is an absolutely outrageous suggestion and I hope that—

  • I hope that if I give way to her for the third time, the hon. and learned Lady will take this opportunity to make it very clear that those people who voted to leave the EU were exercising their democratic right to do so and do not, in any way, support hate crimes.

  • I was going to ask the hon. Gentleman this: how does he explain the 40% increase in hate crime in England and Wales since the referendum if it is not down to the vote? To what does he attribute this? How does he explain why there has been no such increase in Scotland? We would love to hear his wisdom on that.

  • I am not an expert on Scotland, but I can tell the hon. and learned Lady that the Government are absolutely determined to stamp out hate crime and are rightly demanding that police forces come forward with those figures, and I am very glad that they have done so. The problem she has is the same as a conundrum I faced about 17 or 18 years ago when I was on the losing side of the referendum on whether or not we should have a Welsh Assembly. That all went through on a very small vote and issues were raised about how the press had handled it. Those in the anti-Assembly campaign all sat down afterwards and thought, “What are we going to do? We should challenge this and get the Lords to chuck it out. It is outrageous. How dare they do this on the basis of a vote of about one in four of the population?” At that time, I was probably a little less older and wiser than I am now, and I was probably all for fighting the campaign and re-running the whole referendum. I am glad that wiser heads within the Conservative party prevailed and those in the anti-Assembly campaign said, “Hang on a minute, people have voted for this. It may only be one in four of the population in Wales and we lost out by only a few thousand votes, but the reality is that people have voted for it and we now need to let them get on with it.” What we did was to appoint to the National Assembly advisory group somebody who is now a Conservative Minister, Nick Bourne, who became a very good friend. He decided that he was going to get the Conservative party involved in this, to iron out the details of what was actually going on.

    The motion’s use of the word “should” is what would lead me to vote against it; the rest of the motion is absolutely fine. We do recognise the contribution that is being made by EU migrants within the UK, and the Government are doing everything they can to ensure that their rights are respected post-Brexit. The whole point of what the Government are doing at the moment is to say to other EU nations and to the EU itself, “Look, we’ve got 3 million people here. We want to protect their rights. We want to ensure that their freedom to move around continues in every single way, but you are going to need to reciprocate in some way.” As someone who is married to an EU immigrant, may I say that I utterly support what the Government are doing and trust them to do exactly the right thing?

  • I gently point out that this is a debate on the EU and not on Wales. It is absolutely the case that people who voted leave are not racist or xenophobic, but unfortunately what that vote has done is give authorisation to people who are to feel emboldened, now they are in the majority, and we have seen these incidents across the country.

  • Everyone absolutely condemns any form of hate crime. The hon. Lady made a point earlier about Berlin and the Berlin wall, so let me say how strongly I feel about that. I have visited Sopron, where the Berlin wall really fell; the videos of people cutting through the barbed wire can be seen on YouTube. These were people from Berlin who had gone on holiday in that summer of 1989 to Sopron in Hungary. They snipped through the wire and walked into Austria because they had been told that they were not going to get shot at for doing so. It was there that the Berlin wall really began to fall and the socialist Government in East Germany finally realised that their blinkered view of how people should live their lives was not going to prevail because people do demand freedom.

    We are not in the business of erecting a wall as a result of Brexit; we are in the business of taking down a wall—a much less violent wall but one that exists around the European Union—going out into the world and giving people the freedom to trade and to do business all over the world. That is what this is all about.

    Let me finish by saying how delighted I am that the hon. Lady recognises the important significance of the Berlin wall coming down and the defeat for socialism, for that is what it was. I hope that she will join me in paying tribute to Lech Walesa, Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul and Mrs Thatcher, who did so much to bring about the end of socialism in eastern Europe.

  • Several hon. Members rose—

  • Order. This has been such a lively and excellent debate, with so many interventions, that speeches have gone way over eight minutes. I am afraid that I therefore now have to reduce the official time limit to six minutes, but I am sure there will still be lively interventions.

  • I commend the words of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) when setting out the case as to why it is important that we give reassurance to European citizens across the UK. That case is even more focused in Scotland and, in particular, in the highlands, given the history there of struggling over many centuries to retain our population. Our issue is one of emigration and being able to retain young people and young families—being able to make the highlands a place where people will stay. We have done great work over the past decade or so to turn around the situation where people are leaving. I wish to read out two quotes from a report by Highland Council, the first of which is:

    “An area at risk of depopulation needs to welcome those who want to make it their home.”

    As a former leader of Highland Council, I am particularly proud that it also put forward this statement in the report.

    “Highlanders have always warmly welcomed people from other countries who choose to live and work in our area and it will be important at this time to provide reassurance to EU nationals that this welcome continues and that we value their contribution to Highland life.”

    Highland Council drew up this report and put out its statement on a cross-party basis—all parties and none. There was no scaremongering. The council just saw a need to reassure people, and I wholeheartedly agree with it on that.

    I wish to talk about language. When we talk about the welcome that people have in Scotland and in the highlands, let me be absolutely clear that welcome means welcome. A French national came to my surgery recently. He had been living in our area for 30 years and spoke with a Scots-French accent. He was concerned that he might have to make changes. In our economy, we depend on EU nationals for our agriculture and fisheries, food industry, hospitality industry, the care industry and the NHS, and the tourism industry. One local hotel owner told me that, during the busy part of the year, 40% of his employees are EU nationals. We require these people. The new University of the Highlands and Islands depends on European involvement as well as the young people.

    This issue does not just affect the highlands and Scotland. Antony Walker, chief executive officer of TechUK, said;

    “The UK is one of the leading digital economies in the world. Part of the reason is because the UK is able to attract the world’s most talented individuals to fill jobs where the UK simply does not have the domestic skills base. Making it harder for tech companies to bring in the best and brightest is not the solution and will be a lose-lose situation for everyone—growth will slow as companies find it harder to recruit, meaning lower revenue for the Treasury.”

    Clearly, there is a warning there.

    I held a meeting in my constituency for concerned EU nationals. This was not about scaremongering, but about reassuring people. That meeting was completely sold out. It was packed to the rafters with people who were looking for some reassurance that they would be able to stay.

    I wish to use my remaining time by quoting from a local woman of Polish extraction. Paulina Duncan is a UK citizen and a Pole. She said:

    “Maybe I can summarise some of the comments I got from people when I initiated the discussion on the Poles in Inverness Facebook group over the weekend. I did it to find out what people think. I also went to the Polish delicatessen to chat to people there. Without any doubt, the common theme appearing in people’s comments was uncertainty and confusion about their future. There was also a lack of trust in the assurances from the Westminster Government. Generally, people would like something more than just words, being aware that words have no value and that they might be used as pawns during the negotiations.”

    Those are the words of an EU citizen, not of Members in this debate. Paulina went on to say:

    “Sadness and disappointment and maybe also disbelief is another common sentiment. One of my French friends, who came to Scotland as a student 15 years ago and has stayed here ever since, commented on how sad it was to see how inward looking Britain has become when other countries have so much healthier communities when they are more open.Some people consider returning to their countries, which is maybe what Theresa May has in mind. However, some have nowhere to return to as they have bought their houses here, their children were born in this country and never went to Polish school.”

    This is about reassuring the people who live here—our friends, our neighbours and the people in our community. They are vital to our community and to our future. I urge the Minister to make a statement—an easy-to-make statement—to reassure EU nationals that they will be given the right to remain here, live here, work here and be valued as part of our society.

  • It is with some trepidation that I rise to speak in this debate; my constituency has seen, proportionally, more EU migration than any other in the country. Drawn by the UK’s relatively high minimum wages, literally tens of thousands of people have come from Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and elsewhere to Boston and to Lincolnshire more generally in search of better lives, more money and greater pr