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House of Commons Hansard
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Commons Chamber
31 October 2016
Volume 616

House of Commons

Monday 31 October 2016

The House met at half-past Two o’clock

Prayers

[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

Home Department

The Secretary of State was asked—

International Students

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1. What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Education on the contribution made by international students to the UK. [906877]

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I am in regular discussions with the Secretary of State for Education on all aspects of policy relating to international students. We will shortly be launching a consultation on changes to the non-EU work and study migration routes. I encourage all interested parties to participate.

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The Government have previously suggested that tens of thousands of international students break the terms of their visa by overstaying. We also know, however, that international students contribute almost £11 billion to the UK economy and that about 30% of university revenues come from non-EU international students. Analysis conducted by the Home Secretary’s own Department shows that only 1% of international students break the terms of their visa arrangements. Will she confirm that the figure is 1% and, if so, what steps will she take to encourage more international students who are a benefit to our economy and our universities, particularly in places such as the north-east of England?

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The hon. Gentleman is right. Student immigration plays an important role in supporting our world-class university system, which is a great part of the British economy in terms of exports. He refers to some very encouraging work from my Department about getting a more precise hold on the number of those who overstay. That work is at an early stage, so I would not put too much weight on it yet. We are, however, watching it carefully and hope it will be able to give us more confidence in the numbers of students who leave as well as arrive.

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Is it not the case that post-Brexit we can design a student visa system that will attract the best and brightest from around the world, both within and outside the EU, while at the same time regularising the treatment of English students and EU students in Scotland, which is presently different?

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I can reassure my hon. Friend that our policy will remain as it is, both post-Brexit and pre-Brexit. It is to encourage the brightest and the best to come to this country, where they contribute to our economy and cultural life.

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Barely a fortnight ago, the Chancellor told the Treasury Committee that policy should be guided by public opinion in regards to the treatment of international students and the visa system. Does the Home Secretary agree with the Chancellor? If so, will she finally let common sense and public opinion prevail by removing international students from the net migration cap, which is what the Chancellor seemed to suggest?

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I certainly agree with the Chancellor that international students make an incredibly important contribution to our economy and our cultural life. On whether international students should be a part of the immigration statistics, they are part of the Office for National Statistics’ stated statistics and it is not for me to change that arrangement.

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In my experience, some time ago when I was doing another job, I found that when I was setting up broadcasting stations, whether in New York city or Gaberone, Botswana, it often helped if I was dealing with people who had been educated in Britain. I therefore certainly agree with the thrust of the question from the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns). Is not the point that we, the United Kingdom, should decide who should come here, not Brussels? That will be the case after Brexit.

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I agree with my hon. Friend that every student who has studied here can become an important ambassador for this country internationally. That is an incredibly important part of the soft power of this country, extending our influence. I would say to my hon. Friend, however, that international students are welcome now and we want to continue to attract the best and the brightest. We will continue to do so after we leave the European Union.

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Scottish business, the trade unions, the education sector and every political party in the Scottish Parliament, including the Conservative and Unionist party, agree that Scotland needs a return of the post-study route to allow talented students to remain and contribute to the Scottish economy. Similar views are shared by the all-party group on migration, the Home Affairs Committee, the Scottish Affairs Committee, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee and the Cole Commission on UK exports. Can the Home Secretary explain which organisations advised against the return of the scheme? Indeed, were there any at all who gave such advice?

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We think we have the right balance on welcoming the brightest and the best students to this country, and allowing them to stay where they can get a graduate-level job. We have to ensure that the system is fair in attracting people to our best universities and does not allow people to overstay where they do not have graduate-level jobs. If the hon. and learned Lady will indulge me, I will write to her regarding the particular question on what advice we have received.

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I would be interested to know what advice was received, but the truth of the matter is that, when compared with countries such as Canada and New Zealand, what the UK Government are offering students in Scotland is pathetic. Is not the real reason why the Home Office is picking on our universities in Scotland a result of the Prime Minister’s blinkered pursuit of her unrealistic net migration target? Is it not time to remove students from that target and recognise that one-size-fits-all immigration policies are neither necessary nor desirable for Scotland, nor indeed for the rest of the UK?

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I do not share the hon. Lady’s view. I think our figures are pretty clear. When we talk about net immigration figures, we know that they take account of students coming in and students going out. We have the right way of measuring the number of students who come in, and I do not think it inhibits our appeal to international students, because the fact is that they do want to study here in the UK. We have two of the top 10 universities in the world—and long may that continue.

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The Home Secretary is aware that international students contribute over £7 billion to the UK economy and receive 60% approval ratings in the polls, too. Given those figures, is it not clear that in a post-Brexit world, we should split up the immigration figures better to communicate with the public what UK immigration looks like? Will she agree to meet me and colleagues to discuss this issue?

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I am always delighted to meet my hon. Friend. There has been a lot of airing of this particular issue about the breakdown of the immigration figures, but I think there is a reasonable amount of clarity about which part of them are students and which part are not.

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Members of all parties agree that international students coming here to study is a good thing. Therefore, will the Home Secretary say something about how welcome they feel when hate crimes against black, Asian and minority ethnic people went up 41% in the month after Brexit? Many people over here as students report that when they are seen on the streets of our country, they are being told to go home. Should we not make our country more welcoming and deal with this post-Brexit problem?

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I wholeheartedly agree with the hon. Lady, and I hope she will join me in spreading the word that international students are welcome here. There should be no hate crime here, which is why I launched my hate crime action plan at the end of July. I can give her some reassurance that the unpleasant and unwelcome spike in hate crime in August has now fallen off.

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To return to the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting), we know that international students contribute £7 billion to export earnings, support 137,000 jobs across all regions of the UK and help to make us a world leader in the international knowledge economy, so does the right hon. Lady accept that we are not persuaded by her arguments not to remove international students from migrant totals, and will she undertake to look at the issue again?

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I think that the hon. Lady and I are in danger of violently agreeing on the benefit of international students to the economy and to this country in general. However, I think she is tilting at the wrong windmill here by focusing on whether international students are part of the immigration figures or not. As I explained earlier, this is a net figure, so it takes account of the people who come and the people who go. The hon. Lady may be exaggerating the impact that she would expect from the removal of international students from the figures.

Orgreave

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2. When she plans to announce the establishment of a public inquiry into events at Orgreave in 1984. [906878]

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Following the request of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign for an inquiry or independent review into the events that occurred at the Orgreave coking plant on 18 June 1984, I have today issued a written statement, setting out my decision. I have concluded that there is no case for either a statutory inquiry or an independent review.

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This is an astonishing and, frankly, shameful decision by the Government. They have led those families up the garden path for the last two years. Does the Home Secretary not understand that the disinfecting light of a public inquiry is the only thing that will give those communities and those families the confidence they need in the South Yorkshire police force?

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I urge the hon. Gentleman not to leap to anger quite so quickly. This Government have taken the time and looked at the documents. I have been in post for three months, and I have met the families and the campaigning MPs. The fact that I have reached a different decision from the one that the hon. Gentleman wanted does not mean that it is in any way dishonourable. This was a difficult decision to make. I have made it in consideration of all the facts, and I believe that it is the right one.

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Once again, the name “South Yorkshire police” besmirches the brave officers on the front line. I have raised this issue in the House on several occasions, and I raise it again now. Will my right hon. Friend, along with my right hon. Friend the Policing Minister, meet me to have a serious discussion about whether South Yorkshire police and West Yorkshire police can be merged to become Yorkshire police, so that the name “South Yorkshire police” does not do an injustice to the officers who are bravely putting their lives on the line every day?

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My hon. Friend has raised this matter with me before, and I can tell him that my right hon. Friend the Policing Minister will indeed meet him to discuss it. South Yorkshire police is under new leadership, and I am hopeful that it can make good progress. My right hon. Friend spoke to the police and crime commissioner today to explain the decision that the Government have reached.

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Is the Home Secretary aware that her predecessor made it clear to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham) some months ago that there would be an inquiry into Orgreave? This decision is not really any different from the one that we suspected beforehand. Why have the Government—and it appears to be the Government—now made a decision that is contrary to the one that the previous Home Secretary, now the Prime Minister, announced in response to a question from my right hon. Friend several months ago?

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I can tell the hon. Gentleman that I have taken this matter very seriously. I have spoken to the former Home Secretary about the decision, and I have ensured that all matters and papers have been carefully considered. We have taken our time to arrive at this decision. No commitment was made before; there was only a willingness to look at all the evidence—and perhaps the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that there was no such willingness on the part of the Labour Government—in order to ensure that the right decision was made after all the information had been absorbed.

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I welcome the Secretary of State’s decision. While public inquiries can be successful in some instances, too often they cost huge amounts of money, take many years to complete, and do not even answer the question that has been asked.

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I thank my right hon. Friend for making that point. In a way, the easier political decision would have been for the Government to agree to an inquiry, but I cannot see that that would be in the public interest, given the substantial policing changes that have taken place since 1984.

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Given that the Independent Police Complaints Commission found evidence of perjury and perversion of the course of justice, and given that in the last month new evidence of orchestrated violence and the mass manufacture of police statements has emerged from former police officers who were at Orgreave, are we not right to conclude that the establishment stitch-up that the Home Secretary has announced today is nothing more than a nakedly political act?

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No. The right hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong. He chooses to politicise the issue when there are no politics here. As he knows, I had a meeting with the campaign group, and we had a frank exchange of information. The fact that he disagrees with the decision I have made does not mean that it is the wrong decision. I have made it honestly, and it is based on the evidence.

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If the Government have decided against a public inquiry, I wonder whether the House will have the courage to establish a Select Committee inquiry. I understand why the Government are dubious about setting up another public inquiry, involving wall-to-wall lawyers, costing tens of millions of pounds, and taking years. However, if the Government could free up an ad hoc Select Committee, as can be done under the Osmotherly rules when there is a head of steam behind an issue—a proper Select Committee, led by a senior Member of Parliament and able to interview all witnesses about matters including advice to Ministers—we could deal with issues of this kind much more cheaply than a public inquiry.

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That is a very interesting suggestion. I believe that such a set-up would be a matter for the House, but I am sure that other Select Committees have heard my hon. Friend’s suggestion, and they may indeed take up the opportunity themselves.

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There will be huge concern across south Yorkshire and further afield at the Home Secretary’s decision. May I therefore ask her specifically if she will meet with the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign to discuss this matter further?

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I spoke to the head of the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign this morning, and I am not surprised that she was very disappointed. I set out my reasons and I have written her and the campaign group a six-page letter. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that they be given a chance to digest its contents before we set up any meeting.

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I do not think the Home Secretary fully understands how disappointed and let down the Orgreave families and campaigners will be by her decision. A six-page letter does not compensate for the violence and injustice that occurred at Orgreave so many years ago. We know the South Yorkshire police lied about what happened at Hillsborough, yet only five years earlier the same South Yorkshire police, including many of the same commanders, behaved in a very similar way at Orgreave. The Orgreave families and campaigners need the same justice as Hillsborough had; they need the same type of independent inquiry to establish the truth.

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I respectfully say to the hon. Lady that the Hillsborough situation was quite different from Orgreave; 96 people died at Hillsborough and it was right that we had an inquiry that analysed exactly what happened on the day. In this situation at Orgreave there were no miscarriages of justice, there were no deaths—[Interruption.] There were no convictions, the hon. Lady should be aware. Therefore Orgreave does not merit the same status as that needed for a public inquiry, which was required for Hillsborough.

Europol/European Arrest Warrant

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3. What assessment her Department has made of the potential merits of the UK remaining a member of (a) Europol and (b) the European Arrest Warrant mechanism after the UK leaves the EU. [906879]

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As the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have made clear, law enforcement co-operation with our European partners will continue after the UK leaves the EU. We will do what is necessary to keep our people safe. At the Home Office we are exploring all options for co-operation once the UK has left the EU, but it is currently too early to speculate on what future arrangements may look like.

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I thank the Minister for that answer, but may I press him? Have the Government decided whether they will seek to retain the European arrest warrant after we leave the EU, and has the Home Secretary had some stern words with the Brexit Secretary, who voted against it only two years ago? Also, have the Government decided to sign up to the new Europol regulations, and if not, when are they going to do so? If they miss the January deadline for that, there could be some severe implications for our membership; what would they be?

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The decision on whether we opt into the further Europol regulations will be announced to Parliament shortly. We will take that decision very soon; we are giving good consideration to where we are on that and will make an announcement to Parliament in due course.

The hon. Lady is right that the European arrest warrant provides a basis for a swift, and indeed cost-effective, extradition process across member states, but I will not presume what may or may not be in an agreement. We are in the early days of negotiations and will be going through that over the Brexit period.

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While some seem to want to water down the referendum result and drag us back into the EU, if not necessarily by name, does the Minister agree that co-operation on security, and particularly cross-border security, is important, and that when we take back control we must ensure that we keep that very important co-operation that keeps us safe and secure?

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My hon. Friend makes a good point. Our co-operation and membership of Europol will obviously continue in full with us as a full and strong contributing member of Europol, which of course predates the European institutions. We have been very clear that our co-operation with member states, and our determination to ensure the security and protection of the people of this country, will continue when we are no longer a member of the EU.

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After the Paris Metro bombing in 1995 it took 10 years to extradite Rachid Ramda from the UK, but after the London tube bombings in 2005 it took just 56 days to extradite Hussain Osman from Italy to the UK. The difference in time in bringing murderous terrorists to justice was a result of the European arrest warrant. I cannot believe that the Minister will not guarantee that, however Brexit is negotiated by this Government, there is no question whatsoever of our ending our commitment to the European arrest warrant. Can he please guarantee to the House today that the European arrest warrant will continue?

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I thank the hon. Lady for trying to tempt me into pre-judging what other EU member states may decide to agree to as part of the negotiations. We will be negotiating and I can guarantee that we will continue to put the security and protection of the people of this country absolutely first and foremost.

Fraud

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4. What steps she is taking to protect people from fraud and its effect on families and communities. [906880]

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7. What steps she is taking to protect people from fraud and its effect on families and communities. [906883]

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This Government are going further than any before to protect individuals and communities from fraud. We have established a new programme through the Joint Fraud Taskforce to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society are protected. Individuals should also be supported to protect themselves. Many cyber-attacks could be defeated by simple best practice.

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As the Home Secretary will be well aware, economic crime in Sussex disproportionately targets the elderly. My constituency has one of the highest dementia rates in the UK. If the number of pubs and bars can influence the police funding formula, could Ministers consider using dementia rates in the same way?

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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that suggestion. In fact, our constituencies share the same county of East Sussex—the county with the third highest number of over-80s—so I am familiar with the problem that he highlights. We are redoing the police funding formula and I will take his suggestion as part of the consultation.

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My right hon. Friend will be aware of the concerns raised by my constituents in Cardiff about criminal activity within the financial system. With the Criminal Finances Bill going through the House, will my right hon. Friend update us on how we are cracking down on these criminals?

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The UK is indeed one of the best places to do business, but the proceeds of organised crime and overseas corruption have for too long been able to move through the UK with considerable impunity. Significantly, the Bill will introduce new offences and measures to allow us to go after the money, the middlemen and the crime barons themselves.

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21. Several of my constituents have fallen foul of the pernicious crime of vishing, which often targets the elderly. What are the Government doing to protect people from such scams? Will she ask Ofcom to look at international calls? [906900]

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My hon. Friend is right to raise this issue. The Joint Fraud Taskforce is focusing on helping individuals to spot such attempts by fraudsters. The new “Take Five” nationwide fraud prevention campaign, which encourages people to take five minutes to consider the motives behind a cold call, will help people not to be tricked in that way. I will certainly look at his suggestion.

Online Child Sexual Exploitation

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5. What steps the Government and UK law enforcement agencies are taking to tackle online child sexual exploitation domestically and internationally. [906881]

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The Government’s response includes law enforcement agencies taking action against online offenders, developing new capabilities to find and safeguard victims and working with the internet industry to remove illegal images. We have led the global response to online child sex exploitation through the WePROTECT Global Alliance, working with countries, companies and civil society organisations to develop a co-ordinated response.

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I thank the Minister for that answer. How are the Government supporting a multi-agency approach to assist local authorities in tackling child exploitation issues?

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I thank my hon. Friend for that question. The child sexual exploitation response unit will ensure that local authorities with concerns about CSE can draw upon the support of specialist professionals. The unit will be supported by a soon to be launched centre of expertise run by Barnado’s, which will bring together best practice. Finally, a new system of multi-agency inspections is being delivered, the first of which focused on children at risk of CSE.

Online Radicalisation

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6. What steps she is taking to safeguard vulnerable people from online radicalisation. [906882]

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12. What steps she is taking to safeguard vulnerable people from online radicalisation. [906888]

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We are taking robust action to tackle online radicalisation and to counter the poisonous ideology promoted by extremists. In 2010, the Home Office and police set up the Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit to tackle and disrupt terrorism-related material. The Government are also supporting community-based initiatives that challenge extremists’ core communications and provide credible counter-narratives.

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Will the Minister tell the House how much online material has been removed as part of this initiative?

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Since February 2010, internet companies have removed 220,000 pieces of terrorism-related material following referrals from the CTRU.

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The Select Committee on Home Affairs has issued two reports calling on Twitter and Facebook to take much tougher action on extremist material, much of which breaches their own terms of use. Does the Minister agree that social media companies should do much more to prevent and remove this material voluntarily, without the need for a request from police officers, which is at the taxpayer’s expense?

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Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. Although the industry has taken some positive steps to address the issue, the internet is still being used to recruit, radicalise, incite and inspire. The CTRU’s relationship with the industry continues to be successful, but we would like internet companies to be more proactive and take more of a lead in tackling the global threat.

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Some 12 months ago, Zack Davies was sentenced to life imprisonment following his attempt to behead an Asian citizen in a random attack in a Tesco supermarket in Mold, in my constituency. He was radicalised on the internet by neo-Nazi and Hitler-worshipping material. Will the Minister focus on that issue as well as on Islamist terrorism?

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The right hon. Gentleman is right; interestingly, the Prevent strategy is seeing a growth in far-right referrals. In some areas of the country, these Prevent referrals outnumber those about the other parts we are worried out.

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In what many see as a blow to the Government’s Prevent scheme, the Muslim Council of Britain has announced that it will be setting up its own anti-radicalisation programme. The Home Secretary appears to be losing the confidence of Muslims, so what does she intend to do to reverse that loss of trust?

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I thank the hon. Lady for her question, but she is, of course, wrong. The Prevent programme set up by her Government in 2003 has had considerable successes throughout the communities. We should reflect on the fact that Prevent is about safeguarding vulnerable people from being exploited and saving many people’s lives, across the country and abroad. Repeating the echo chamber of people saying that this is about targeting one group or the other is a fallacy.

Immigration

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8. What steps her Department is taking to reduce levels of immigration into the UK. [906884]

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The latest figures show that our reforms to cut abuse across non-EU visa routes and our toughened welfare provisions are working, but there is no doubt that there is more to do. As we conduct our negotiations to leave the EU, it will be a priority to retain more control of the numbers of people who come here from Europe.

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Given that there is still some way to go, how confident is the Minister that the measures taken by the Government will result in our meeting the target of reducing net migration to the tens of thousands? Does he agree that ending the free movement of people principle imposed on us by the EU is essential if we are to stand any chance of meeting that target?

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There is no doubt that this is a challenging target, but I love a challenge. We are committed to bringing net migration down to the tens of thousands, and we have already taken significant steps to control immigration. The UK’s departure from the EU will give us control over EU migration, and we will shortly be publishing a consultation document on further changes to the non-EU work and study routes.

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A constituent of mine is awaiting an appeal in respect of a spouse visa application. Correspondence from the tribunals service stated that the process would take 15 weeks, but we have now been informed that it could take up to 18 months. Why are appeals taking so long? Why does the information given to applicants not reflect these delays? The lack of clarity is causing undue stress to applicants and their loved ones.

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Although I cannot comment on an individual case, I hope that the hon. Lady will give me the details. It is, however, absolutely right that we took measures to stamp out sham marriages and other routes whereby people can use marriage as a way of getting fraudulent entry to the UK. That does mean that some of the hoops people have to jump through can be slightly smaller than before.

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Many of my constituents would like illegal immigration stamped out, as well as there to be monitoring of how much migration there is. I was pleased to hear on the weekend reports of a Jetstream 41 turboprop plane being brought in to help control our borders. Will the Minister tell the House a little more about what he is hoping to achieve with that?

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We are determined to prevent illegal migration, from whatever route it comes. That can be through people getting on vehicles coming through the channel crossings, or through general aviation or general maritime routes. We are determined to clamp down on all of those.

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The policy to limit migration is at odds with the promise that we heard in the referendum campaign from the Secretary of State for International Development. She said that if we voted to leave, chefs from the sub-continent could have their visa restrictions relaxed to avoid a curry crisis. Was that pledge of the same value as the one that we saw on the side of a bus promising money for the NHS—meaning that it will never happen—or will the Government address the skills shortage in our economy rather than aping the UK Independence party?

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I will certainly take no lessons from Labour, as it was the party that allowed people to come in from outside the EU with no skills at all. Indeed, search parties were sent out to encourage mass migration. I lay down a challenge to the restaurateurs in our country to train our own people, because we have tremendously talented people in the UK who would love to train and work in that environment. We do not always need to bring people across from the sub-continent.

Domestic Abuse

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9. What steps she is taking to ensure that all forms of domestic abuse are recognised and investigated. [906885]

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The Government have introduced a range of new offences, including the offence of coercive or controlling behaviour. Victims who experience behaviour that stops short of serious physical violence but that amounts to extreme psychological and emotional abuse can now bring their perpetrators to justice. Every police force has published domestic abuse action plans, and new guidance and training has been introduced by the College of Policing.

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I thank the Minister for her answer, but in same-sex relationships and in orthodox religious communities domestic violence is often under-reported. What more can be done to train police officers to support victims and encourage them to come forward?

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My hon. Friend is quite right that domestic abuse can take many forms and affect all groups in society. New police domestic abuse guidance explicitly captures the fact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people may be abused by their partners in specific ways that are connected to their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Home Office is also funding the charity Galop to run a dedicated national helpline to provide emotional and practical support for LGBT people experiencing domestic abuse.

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New reports suggest that nurses are three times more likely to be victims of domestic abuse than the general population. Will the Minister undertake to speak to colleagues in the Department of Health about what the NHS, as an employer, may need to do to support this group?

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The Government have an absolute zero-tolerance policy for any sort of domestic abuse or violence. I will certainly take up the hon. Lady’s recommendation of speaking to my colleagues in the Department of Health to see what more we can do to prevent this awful crime from happening to our much-appreciated nurses.

Indefinite Leave to Remain

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10. What estimate she has made of the number of non-UK EU nationals currently residing in the UK who will be entitled to apply for indefinite leave to remain after the UK leaves the EU. [906886]

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The Government have been clear that they want to protect the status of EU nationals already living here. The only circumstances in which that would not be possible are if British citizens’ rights in European member states were not protected in return.

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My question was what estimate the Secretary of State had made of the numbers, because on 10 October her colleague the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union said that by the time we leave, five out of six migrants will have, or be entitled to, indefinite leave to remain. That is 2.5 million people. Is that the policy of the Government?

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I saw those reports. They were based on existing public research, which estimates that around 80% of EU migrants already here will have been resident in the UK for up to five years by the start of 2019. However, it is too simplistic and too early to reach definitive conclusions about what the outcome will be when we do leave.

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There are EU nationals who are working, contributing and paying tax and who have children at school in every parliamentary constituency in the UK. If it is not cynical using them as a bargaining chip, why on earth will she not finally do the right thing and announce that they will be allowed to stay in this country?

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In answer to an earlier question, the Prime Minister has already said that that is the intention. It is only to ensure that there is a reciprocal arrangement that we have held back from giving that final commitment, which we sincerely hope will be made.

Refugees: Age Identification

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11. What steps she has taken to ensure that young adult refugees are not entering the UK as children; and what checks she plans to put in place to improve age identification of such refugees. [906887]

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Where clear and credible documentary evidence of age is not available, criteria including physical appearance and demeanour are used as part of the interview process to assess whether a person is under 18. That can be followed, where necessary, by a local authority assessment in line with case law and approved by two social workers.

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Does the Minister agree that this country has always been very compassionate and understanding towards children fleeing persecution? Does he also agree, however, that every young adult over 18 whom we admit means one fewer child in desperate need being allowed in, and that we could extend checks to social media and university records, for example, to ensure that our generosity is not abused?

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Or that my generosity is not abused by a Member asking two questions, rather than one. It seems a bit rum.

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It is essential that a safe, lawful and efficient process to transfer eligible children is in place, but we must also ensure that the right safeguarding and security checks are carried out. Our focus remains to ensure that the minors who are eligible to come here arrive safely. This must be done through a proper process, with the agreement of the French in the case of the Calais children. The French have agreed to support the children in safe places in France while we carry out essential checks.

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The charities working with the children in Calais are reporting, first, that the UK assessment and transfer process has paused and, secondly, that there are 1,500 children and teenagers being held in the container camp, without proper water or food and without enough adults, social workers or youth workers to look after them and to prevent tensions and violence from rising. Will the Minister look into this urgently and make sure that the UK transfer system is restarted very quickly, and that the French urgently provide proper protection and support for these very vulnerable young people?

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I echo the points that the right hon. Lady makes. These are exactly the representations that I have received from many NGOs which are working very hard to assist us, and our own people are on the ground to ensure that that is done. It is very important indeed that, as we continue to process those children who are eligible to come here, that is done safely, and the French are determined to help us with that.

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On the subject of refugees, may we focus on the real issue of the safety of children? As children are being transferred from the containers to specialist centres across France, can the Minister confirm that Dubs and Dublin children have all been identified, that they will be transferred as soon as possible to the UK, and that they will be kept safe under the close supervision of NGOs and Home Office officials?

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I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that we are working hard to identify children who would qualify under Dubs and Dublin. It is very important indeed that we ensure that the most vulnerable, particularly the children under 13 and those who may be vulnerable to sexual exploitation, are prioritised under the Dubs amendment procedure.

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Bashir Naderi, who is 19, was trafficked to the UK at the age of 10 from Afghanistan after his father was murdered by the Taliban. I understand that this afternoon he was on his way to Gatwick to be removed from the country but that that has now been stopped. Will the Home Secretary accept my plea and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff Central (Jo Stevens), whose constituent Bashir is, to intervene urgently to stop this removal?

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Although it would be inappropriate for me to comment on individual cases, I am aware of this case. It is on my desk at present.

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I thank the Home Secretary and the Minister for their dedication to the issue in recent weeks. I understand that children are now being moved from the containers to resettlement camps around France. When might we see all the Dublin and Dubs children being extracted from there and brought here?

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We are assisting with that transfer process, and once those children are in a place of safety away from the people traffickers who would seek to exploit them, we will be able to carry out that work in a more methodical way. We hope to have the process completed within weeks.

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Further to the question from my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), we know that there are currently 30 young girls, some as young as under 12, in the container camp in Calais. Can the Minister confirm that the Home Office staff left the site on Saturday? If so, when will they go back and restart the rescue of those children and their transfer to the UK?

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We must remember at all times that the camp is in France. We must work closely with our colleagues in the French authorities to ensure that children are removed from the container camp and taken to a place of safety where they can be processed in a more orderly way.

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Although the House is raising so many genuinely felt concerns about the children in Calais, may I remind the Minister that by far and away the largest crisis involving children in the world at present is that in and around Syria?

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Which is precisely why the Government are determined to relocate 20,000 of the most vulnerable people from the camps in Syria and 3,000 vulnerable children from the region, which removes the pull factor that, of course, has meant that so many people have taken that hazardous journey across the Mediterranean or the Aegean.

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With unlawyer-like brevity, Mr Alistair Carmichael.

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Instead of treating refugees as if they were broken-mouthed ewes, surely we should be working with the authorities and the Government in France to ensure that we never again see the shambolic and shameful treatment that we saw last week.

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With equal brevity, I agree.

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I reassure the Minister that the Opposition do know that the camp is in France, but we are weary of French and British officials trying to pass the buck, even at this late stage, when desperate children’s lives are at stake. We know that there are more than 1,000 young people in the container compound at Calais without proper supervision and the help that they need. The Minister says that the assessment and transfer process has paused. Can he share with the House when it will begin again?

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The transfer process has been paused at the request of the French so that the relocation can take place and the children are not in the container camp, which so many people are critical of. We continue to work closely with our French colleagues to actually resolve this situation.

Heroin Addiction

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13. What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of interventions by her Department in dealing with heroin addiction in England. [906889]

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Recovery from drug misuse remains at the heart of our approach. More people are recovering from their dependency now than in 2010, and the number of heroin and crack cocaine users in England has continued to fall, with the number going below 300,000 for the first time since 2011. We are developing a new drugs strategy with other Government Departments and key partners, which will be published soon.

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With most drug services having been privatised across England in the past three years, the figures that the Minister has just quoted are fake, aren’t they? They are fake figures. Outcomes are no longer being measured on a health basis, are they? Will the Minister tell us what the outcomes currently are when it comes to heroin treatment?

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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question—[Laughter.] Decisions about services and how they are commissioned are made locally, as he well knows. The figures are far from fake; they are independently reported. I would think that he, as a local MP, would actually be praising his local services, because the latest data I have show that people have quick referrals to their service—96% of people who need access to treatment are receiving it within three days. In fact, his local area has a really good track record of engaging with people, and making sure they do not drop out of treatment and get good results from treatment programmes.

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I must say to the Minister, who is a very forgiving soul, that gratitude to the hon. Member for Bassetlaw is not always a commodity in plentiful supply.

Extradition Orders: Vulnerable People

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14. What steps she is taking to ensure that vulnerable people are given adequate protection when facing extradition orders. [906890]

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A judge must consider various statutory bars to extradition. It must be refused if a judge finds that it would be incompatible with a person’s human rights or an individual’s physical or mental condition, meaning that it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite.

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The Minister knows that the law has changed and the Home Secretary can no longer intervene in these cases. When young people are on the autism spectrum or suffering from mental health challenges, can we make sure that court officials, especially judges, understand their circumstances and challenges better? I am referring particularly to the case of Lauri Love.

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Without commenting on that particular case, which is before me at the moment—I will be making a decision by mid-November—the hon. Gentleman is right that those are the kinds of things that judges need to look at. They are the things that the judicial system does look at, and that is one of things that has come out of the change that was made when Parliament voted on this not that long ago.

Topical Questions

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T1. If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities. [906867]

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The Modern Slavery Act 2015 gave law enforcement agencies new powers, which must now lead to results. Progress is being made, but there is still much more to do. That was why on Anti-slavery Day last week, I announced an £8.5 million fund to transform our domestic police response. That will include funding for more than 50 additional analysts, specialists and investigators. Last week at the Vatican, I announced the £11 million modern slavery innovation fund, which forms part of the £33 million that we have dedicated to overseas aid. The fund will support, trial and test innovative ways of tackling modern slavery. These funds reflect the Government’s commitment to apprehend the perpetrators and protect the victims of these terrible crimes. I look forward to the first meeting of the prime ministerial modern slavery taskforce this week.

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Leicestershire County Council is looking at how it can support unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. What assurances can my right hon. Friend give to Leicestershire County Council about providing full reimbursements of costs incurred under the national transfer scheme?

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I pay tribute to Leicestershire County Council and all the local authorities that have stepped up and accepted unaccompanied children under the national transfer scheme. I assure my hon. Friend that the Government are committed to funding local authorities for the care of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. In July we significantly increased the rates by up to 33%. We will keep these arrangements under review.

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We are experiencing a cut of over 30% to fire and rescue services funding, with 10,000 jobs lost. Rescues are at an all-time high, with firefighters carrying out, on average, more than 100 rescues per day. Speed is essential when responding, but with fewer firefighters and fewer fire stations, the possibility of a slow response could mean the loss of life. Will the Minister acknowledge that now is the time to invest in the fire and rescue services and stop the reckless cuts—to prioritise saving lives, not saving money?

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First, I welcome the hon. Lady to her new position. I also take this opportunity to express my sympathy to all those affected by the recent devastating fires in Exeter, Birmingham, Doncaster and Cheshire, and to thank the firefighters for their efforts. They do save lives every day, as she outlined.

The hon. Lady should bear in mind that authorities still have more that they can do to reduce costs, as they say themselves. Over the past few weeks I have been talking at many conferences at which people have recognised the need to improve procurement and work collaboratively. She should also bear in mind that, since 2010, fire authorities’ non-ring-fenced reserves have managed to rise by 150%. There is still money so that we can ensure that authorities find future efficiencies.

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T2. One area that we have not covered today is rural crime. Many farmers in my constituency are greatly concerned about the prospect of becoming a victim of rural crime. What more can the Department do to help to reassure farmers that we will keep them and their businesses safe? [906868]

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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this really important subject. It is absolutely crucial that we support our farmers to ensure that the UK maintains a thriving farming industry. I welcome the Dyfed-Powys rural policing strategy, which sets out the force’s commitment to work with the wider rural community and other agencies to prevent crime and enforce the law. The modern crime prevention strategy published by the Government in March supports this approach.

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T4. Last Thursday, “Newsnight” reported serious allegations of sexual assault by the most senior lawyer on the child abuse inquiry, Ben Emmerson, QC. The disclosure was made in early September, but no action was taken until 29 September. The Home Secretary’s predecessor hand-picked Mr Emmerson for the inquiry. Can she therefore tell us why it took so long for action to be taken, why the investigation into his conduct was dropped, and why he is still reportedly being paid £1,700 a day even though he no longer works on the inquiry? [906870]

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My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I have set out what we knew at the time and its relevance. It is really important that this inquiry continues. The hon. Lady asks questions that are for the head of the independent inquiry. It is essential for the authenticity of this inquiry that it is held independently. It is not run by the Home Office, and that is an essential part of its integrity. I urge her to stop knocking the inquiry and start getting behind it.

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T3. Essex constabulary and Essex county fire and rescue service have a long track record of working closely together and are seeking to do more of that in the future. What can my right hon. Friend’s Department do to support police and fire services and encourage them to work more collaboratively? [906869]

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My hon. Friend is right that we are delivering on our manifesto pledge by allowing, through the Policing and Crime Bill, police and crime commissioners to take on the governance of fire authorities. There is also a statutory duty to collaborate, which applies to all the services that work together. It is important that our police and fire services work closely together, and I know that those in Essex are keen to be at the forefront of that work.

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T6. Lewisham uses the London crime prevention fund to employ officers dedicated to working in a serious youth violence team, but the post-April 2017 funding levels are not clear. How will the Minister ensure that serious youth violence work is properly funded regionally so that it is delivered at a local level? [906873]

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The hon. Lady raises a point that is an aspect of our annual funding formula. This year’s decision will take place after the autumn statement and the House will vote on it in February. We have also delivered our manifesto pledge by announcing that we will review the police funding formula. I have written to, and am engaging with, all chief constables and, indeed, police and crime commissioners across the country.

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T5. Police officers across this nation put their bodies on the line when protecting us. Some 23,000 officers were assaulted last year and sentences do not appear to be acting as a deterrent. Can Ministers assure me that they are liaising with other Departments to challenge sentencing guidelines and to vest in the Attorney General the power to challenge unduly lenient sentences? [906871]

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My hon. Friend makes a very important point, about which both the Home Secretary and I feel very strongly. We had an Adjournment debate about the issue the week before last. It is important that people acknowledge that police officers should be respected. They police by consent, which is unique to our country; we should be proud of that. My hon. Friend is right that sentencing should reflect the crime. I am in discussions with colleagues in other Departments, including on whether we prosecute for a criminal offence or under police Acts. There are some issues that we need to look at, but it is right that police officers should feel that they are respected and safe in their job.

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T8. Dungavel detention centre should close, but only as part of a wider plan to reduce the use of detention. Is not the Immigration Minister embarrassed to preside over one of the most bloated detention estates in the European Union and the only one without a fixed time limit? [906875]

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Pre-departure detention is always the last resort and we aim to minimise the number of those kept in detention. The new facility at Glasgow airport will facilitate the closure of Dungavel and will be a more purpose-built facility.

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T7. To give some certainty to the many EU citizens who live in Wimbledon and the surrounding area, will the Minister say when he expects to be able to announce the reciprocal arrangements? [906874]

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As the Prime Minister has said, we wish to protect the status of EU citizens working here. At the same time, of course, we expect the status of British citizens living and working elsewhere to be respected as well.

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Ten days ago, Allan Richards was convicted in Birmingham of the most horrific catalogue of offences against children, some as young as eight. I congratulate West Midlands police on the forensic investigation that brought him to justice, but he was a serving police officer for more than 30 years. Will the Home Secretary assure the House that the inquiry into what happened will be independent, that whistleblowers will be given protection and that, if other agencies, including the Crown Prosecution Service, made mistakes, they will form part of the investigation?

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The Independent Police Complaints Commission will take on this hugely important case which, by definition, will be an independent investigation. I reassure the right hon. Gentleman that the Policing and Crime Bill will go further by giving even more protection to whistleblowers and more powers to the IPCC to take on and lead such cases without the need for the involvement of, or a recommendation from, the police in the first place. I am happy to write to the right hon. Gentleman with more detail.

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T9. Given the closure of the Calais camps last week, will Ministers update the House on what steps are being taken to protect migrants against illegal trafficking through the use of lorries on cross-channel ferries such as the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry, which serves my constituency? [906876]

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Since the removals from the camps started—they have largely been completed—there has already been a tremendous reduction in the number of clandestines and illegal refugees trying to get across to the UK. We hope that, working closely with the French, we will be able to continue to ensure that my hon. Friend’s constituents, as well as everyone else’s, feel better protected.

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Will the Home Secretary confirm that she is publishing new guidance on immigration and asylum claims from Eritrea today? In future, will the Home Office listen to concerns raised in the House about human rights abuses in countries of origin, rather than being forced into policy change by the immigration tribunal?

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It is certainly important that with Eritrea, as with other countries, we act on the best possible information. Although Home Office officials have been in country and we consider reports produced by other EU countries, we are looking at the results of the tribunal with interest.

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I am, like many of my Staffordshire colleagues and the Staffordshire police and crime commissioner, incredibly concerned about the business case for Staffordshire fire and rescue service’s proposed life skills centre. Will my hon. Friend the Fire Minister meet me and my Staffordshire colleagues to discuss and review the business case to assess whether it offers value for money?

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My hon. Friend has raised this case with me. I know that she feels strongly about it, as do colleagues around Staffordshire. I will happily meet her and Staffordshire colleagues to look at the matter. I have also asked the police and crime commissioner, and indeed the chief fire officer and representatives from the fire authority, to talk to us about this process and exactly how they are delivering on it.

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The Home Secretary said earlier that the lack of any miscarriages of justice was one of the reasons why she would not instigate an inquiry into Orgreave. She will be aware, of course, that 95 miners were charged, and that many were remanded in custody and went through difficult trials based on charges and evidence that later collapsed. Will she reconsider what she has said about injustice and, given her predecessor’s record of a whole series of inquiries and reviews in cases where injustice was suspected, will the Home Secretary think again about her decision?

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I thank the right hon. Lady for her question. This Government’s record on inquiries is strong. We have not been shy about setting them up when they are needed. This was not an easy decision, and the fact that I made a decision that she and her colleagues do not approve of does not mean that I did not take incredibly seriously the matter or the meeting that I had with the families. When I weighed this up using a true public interest test, it did not meet that test. I urge the right hon. Lady and her colleagues to read the written ministerial statement that I have made today.

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Two of my constituents have been defrauded of in excess of £60,000, and their cases are not helped by the lack of co-ordination between Action Fraud and the local force. They are unable to get updates on the investigation. What can be done to improve that co-ordination?

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Following my hon. Friend’s contribution at the previous Home Office questions, I will be visiting Action Fraud to take up his specific case, and more generally to discuss how Action Fraud deals with constituents and inquiries from Members, to make sure that the service is improved.

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The Home Secretary’s decision is a slap in the face of the campaigners, the victims and their families, some of whom have lost their lives in the wait for justice. It is not just Labour Members who disagree with the decision; the police and crime commissioner, South Yorkshire’s chief constable and the Independent Police Complaints Commission all said that there was evidence to support a public inquiry. Will the Home Secretary ensure that all material pertaining to Orgreave is released, and at the very least the operational order of the day, which has never been made available to the IPCC?

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The Policing Minister has spoken to the police and crime commissioner, who has agreed that he will work with South Yorkshire police to make sure that information that the hon. Lady requires is released. I repeat what I said earlier: I made this decision, and the Government made this decision, thoughtfully, having assessed carefully what the facts were and thinking about the families involved. The fact that we arrived at a different decision from hers does not make it wrong.

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May I ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to come to Middlemoor, the home of Devon and Cornwall police, and also to Clyst St George, the home of Devon and Somerset fire and rescue service, to thank them for their quite extraordinary work over the weekend in Cathedral Close in Exeter at an incident that saw the loss of England’s oldest hotel, the Royal Clarence?

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We all saw over the weekend the dreadful scenes in Exeter. I would be delighted to come with my right hon. Friend to thank the police and the fire and rescue teams who did fantastic work dealing with such a difficult situation.

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Just recently, two very brilliant human rights campaigners in Zimbabwe were refused visas to come to this country to speak not just in this House but elsewhere, despite the support of our ambassador in Harare. Will the Minister for Immigration please look into what is going on there? Quite honestly, we are letting in people who have done dreadful things, yet two decent, law-abiding, respectable, hard-working people—one of them has been given asylum in America—have been refused entry.

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I am more than happy to meet the hon. Lady in person to discuss this issue. I am aware of a number of cases involving Zimbabwe that we have under review.

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As part of a comprehensive strategy to improve the resilience of our fire and rescue services, it is necessary to take all reasonable steps to stop fires from starting in the first place. Will my right hon. Friend therefore liaise with the Department for Communities and Local Government to ensure that the long-awaited review of building regulations takes place, and that our strategy on the installation of fire sprinklers is brought into line with those of other countries?

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I thank my hon. Friend and constituency neighbour for his question. I will make sure that my colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government hear what he says. There are suppression products other than sprinklers that builders can use, but we are keen to make sure that homes continue to be safe. That is one reason why the number of fires is now, fortunately, pretty much at a historically low level.

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May I take the Home Secretary back to her answer to my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson)? She said that people should not “leap to anger”, but I can tell her that people have been angry about Orgreave for 30 years. Specifically, Margaret Aspinall has said:

“We will never have the full truth about Hillsborough until we have the full truth about Orgreave.”

Will the Home Secretary agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh), who asked for full disclosure, and will she please, because this is never going away, just think again?

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I do not agree that there is an equality of seriousness between Hillsborough and Orgreave. Ninety-six people died at Hillsborough: it is a different situation. Two Hillsborough criminal investigations are going on now, and they have access to the Orgreave material. There will be no change in that respect.

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Order. I am sorry to disappoint colleagues, but we must move on.

NHS Funding

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(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State if he will make a statement on NHS funding.

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Compared with five years ago, the NHS is responsible for 1 million more over-75s. In five years’ time, there will be another 1 million over-75s. Our determination is to look after each and every NHS patient with the highest standards of safety and care, but there is no question but that the pressures of an ageing population make this uniquely challenging.

I welcome the chance to remind the House of this Government’s repeated commitment to supporting our NHS. The NHS budget has increased in real terms every year since 2010. NHS spending has increased as a proportion of total Government spending every year since 2010, and is 10.1% higher per head in real terms than when we came to office. The OECD says that our spending is 10% higher than the OECD average for developed countries. At 9.9% of GDP, it is about the same as that in other western European countries, for which the average is 9.8%.

Given the particularly challenging current circumstances, in 2014 the NHS stepped back and for the first time put together its own plan for the future. It was an excellent plan, based on the principle that because prevention is better than cure, we need to be much better at looking after people closer to or in their homes, instead of waiting until they need expensive hospital treatment. The plan asked for a minimum increase of £8 billion in NHS funding over five years. It asked for this to be front-loaded to allow the NHS to invest in new models of care up front.

Following last year’s spending review, I can confirm to the House that the NHS will in fact receive an increase of £10 billion in real terms over the six years since the “Five Year Forward View” was published. In cash terms, that will see the NHS budget increase from £98.1 billion in 2014-15 to £119.9 billion in 2020-21. That rise is highly significant at a time when public finances are severely constrained by the deficit that this Government regrettably inherited. Because the NHS’s particular priority was to front-load the settlement, £6 billion of the £10 billion increase comes before the end of the first two years of the spending review, including a £3.8 billion real-terms increase this year alone. That £3.8 billion represents a 52% larger increase in just one year than the Labour party was promising over the lifetime of this Parliament.

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This morning the Chair of the Health Committee and her colleagues on that Committee said that the Government’s NHS spending claims were “inaccurate” and “false”. The Opposition agree with that analysis. Ministers—and the Secretary of State has just done this again—tell us that they are investing £10 billion more in the NHS, but it has now been confirmed that that figure is

“not only incorrect but risks giving a false impression that the NHS is awash with cash.”

Is not the reality that the Government have cut adult social care, the public health budget and the NHS capital budget? Now we learn that the average amount we spend on healthcare for each person in this country will fall in 2018-19. Does that not raise serious questions about the claims that Ministers, and, indeed, Prime Ministers, have been making from that Dispatch Box? In fact, the only way the Government’s figures could be further discredited is if the Secretary of State slapped them on the side of a bus and got the Foreign Secretary to drive it.

Will the Secretary of State admit that the Government have not actually given the NHS the money it needed? Will he give us an accurate account of spending plans for the NHS? Will he tell us when the Chancellor is going to respond to the Health Committee’s letter, and what representations he himself is making to the Chancellor ahead of the autumn statement?

We have also learned today from Health Service Journal that one in three local areas intend to close or downgrade A&E departments within 18 months, one in five expect to close consultant-led maternity services, and more than half plan to close or downgrade community hospitals. Will the Secretary of State confirm whether those reports are accurate? How many A&E departments, maternity units and community hospitals does the Secretary of State expect to close or be downgraded within the next year and a half? Our constituents want those answers.

Before the last election, the Secretary of State told us he was “confident” about delivering the money the NHS needed. Today that confidence has been exposed as utterly misplaced. Tory promises are completely in tatters. Rather than defending the Prime Minister’s spin on the £10 billion figure, why does the Secretary of State not stand up for patients and staff, and deliver the funding that the NHS and our social care sector desperately need?

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I start by welcoming the hon. Gentleman to his first urgent question in his new role. As I am a relative old timer in my role, I hope he will not mind me reminding him of some of the facts about health spending.

First, the hon. Gentleman said that the Government did not give the NHS what it asked for. Let me remind him that Simon Stevens, a former Labour special adviser—I know for new Labour, but he was none the less a Labour special adviser—said at the time of the spending review settlement last year that

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

and that the settlement

“is a clear and highly welcome acceptance of our argument for frontloaded NHS investment. It will…kick start the NHS Five Year Forward View’s fundamental redesign of care.”

I will tell the hon. Gentleman who did not give the NHS what it asked for: the Labour party. At the last election, it refused to support the NHS—[Interruption.] I know this is uncomfortable for the new shadow Health Secretary, but the reality is that the party on whose platform he stood refused to support the NHS’s own plan for the future. As his question was about money, I will add that the Labour party also refused to fund it. The NHS wanted £8 billion; Labour’s promise was for additional funding of £2.5 billion—not £6 billion or £4 billion, but £2.5 billion, or less than one third of what the NHS said it needed. Even if we accept the numbers of the Chair of the Select Committee—and, as I will go on to explain, I do not—Labour was pledging over the course of the Parliament only around half of what this Government have delivered in the first year of the spending review.

The hon. Gentleman used other choice words, one of which was “spin”. I will tell him what creates the most misleading impression: a Labour party claiming to want more funding for the NHS when, in the areas where they run it, the opposite has happened. Indeed, in the first four years of the last Parliament, Labour cut NHS funding in Wales when it went up in England—[Interruption.] Yes, it did. Those are the official figures. That is in a context in which the Barnett formula gives the Government in Wales more than £700 more per head to spend on public services, so there is more money in the pot.

The hon. Gentleman talked about social care. May I remind him of what the shadow Chancellor at the time of the last election—Ed Balls, who is now sadly no longer of this parish—said? During the election campaign, he said of funding for local councils “not a penny more”. We are giving local councils £3.5 billion more during the course of this Parliament.

The hon. Gentleman talked about other cuts that he alleges will happen in A&E departments and other hospital services. I simply say to him that we have to make efficiency savings. I do not believe they will be on the scale he talked about, but how much worse would they have to be if the NHS got a third of the money it currently gets?

If the hon. Gentleman and his party think the NHS is underfunded, they need to accept that the policies that they advocated in the past two elections were wrong —they advocated spending less than the Conservatives. Until they are serious about changing their policy, no one will be serious about listening to their criticisms.

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I agree with the Secretary of State that prevention is better than cure, but he will know that achieving the aims of the five year forward view was dependent on a radical upgrade in public health and prevention. He will know that it was also dependent on adequate funding for adult social care. In addition, there are continuing raids on the NHS capital budget, and we need to put in place the kind of transformation that he and our sustainability and transformation partnerships wish to achieve.

Will the Secretary of State therefore confirm that he recognises the serious crisis in social care and the effect it is having on the NHS, and the effect that taking money from public health budgets is having? Although I accept that he does not agree with the Health Committee’s appraisal of the £10 billion figure, I am afraid I stick by those figures.

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I have enormous respect for my hon. Friend. I respect her passion for the NHS, her knowledge of it and her background in it, so I will always listen carefully to anything she says. I hope she will understand that just as she speaks plainly today, I need to speak plainly back and say that I do not agree with the letter she wrote today, and I am afraid I do think that her calculations are wrong.

The use of the £10 billion figure was not, as she said in her letter, incorrect. The Government have never claimed that there was an extra £10 billion increase in the Department of Health budget. Indeed, the basis of that number has not even come from the Government; it has come from NHS England and its calculations as to what it needs to implement the forward view. As I told the Select Committee, I have always accepted that painful and difficult economies in central budgets will be needed to fund that plan. What NHS England asked for was money to implement the forward view. It asked for £8 billion over five years; in fact, it got £10 billion over six years, or £9 billion over five years—whichever one we take, it is either £1 billion or £2 billion more than the minimum it said it needed.

I think my hon. Friend quoted Simon Stevens as saying that NHS England had not got what it asked for. He was talking not about the request in the forward view, but in terms of the negotiations over the profile of the funding we have with the Treasury. The reason that the funding increases are so small in the second and third year of the Parliament is precisely that we listened to him when he said that he wanted the amount to be front- loaded. That is why we put £6 billion of the £10 billion up front in the first two years of the programme.

I fully accept that what happens in the social care system and in public health have a big impact on the NHS, but on social care we have introduced a precept for local authorities combined with an increase in the better care fund—[Interruption.] This is a precept, which 144 of 152 local authorities are taking advantage of. That means that a great number of them are increasing spending on social care. It will come on top of the deeper, faster integration of the health and social care systems that we know needs to happen.

On public health, I accept that difficult economies need to be made, but it is not just about public spending. This Government have a proud record of banning the display sale of tobacco, introducing standardised packaging for tobacco, introducing a sugary drinks tax and putting more money into school sports. There are lots of things that we can do on public health that make a big difference.

On capital, I agree with my hon. Friend about the pressure on the capital budget, but hospitals have a big opportunity to make use of the land they sit on, which they often do not use to its fullest extent, as a way to bridge that difficult gap.

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With some 80% of trusts in deficit and only 4% meeting accident and emergency targets, I am grateful to the Health Committee for flagging up the dire financial state of the NHS in England, as evidenced by its letter to the Chancellor. We learn from that document that the £10 billion figure is a bit of a fallacy. In Scotland, the SNP Government are committed to investing an additional £2 billion by 2021, but any reduction in new money for the NHS from the UK Government would have an impact on Barnett consequentials. Given that the UK Government have already slashed Scotland’s budget by 10% between 2010 and 2020, they need to be honest and transparent about what that reduction will mean for Scotland’s funding. With the Department of Health having accidentally not adjusted its books for an extra £417 million from national insurance contributions, and having broken its control total by £207 million, will the devolved Governments get any share of that additional £624 million?

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Many people in Scotland will be somewhat surprised by the hon. Gentleman’s comments, because in the last Parliament spending on the NHS in England went up by 4%, whereas in Scotland it fell by 1%. The IFS confirmed that at the time of the independence referendum, saying:

“It seems that historically, at least, Scottish Governments in Holyrood have placed less priority on funding the NHS in Scotland…than governments in Westminster have for England”.

In this Parliament, the hon. Gentleman’s party has already lost a vote on NHS cuts in the Scottish Parliament and been criticised by Audit Scotland for its performance. When the SNP has the courage to increase NHS spending in Scotland by the amount we are increasing it in England, we will listen, but until then it should concentrate on looking after Scottish NHS patients in Scotland.

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Order. Understandably, there is extensive interest in this subject. Accommodating anywhere near the number of would-be contributors will require brevity, to be exemplified—I hope and if he is true to form—by Mr Philip Hollobone.

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People in Kettering appreciate plain speaking. Can the Health Secretary tell the House what the NHS budget was in 2014-15, what it will be in 2020-21 and what the difference is between the two numbers?

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I want to get the exact figures in order to live up to my hon. Friend’s reputation for plain speaking, which is second to none. The NHS budget in 2014-15 will be £98.1 billion and in 2021 it will go up to £119.9 billion. In real terms, that is a £10 billion increase.

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Is there not an urgent need to be straight with the British public about the resources we will need to maintain both the NHS and the care system, and to confront the fact that we will all have to pay a bit more to ensure that our loved ones get care when they need it?

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When the right hon. Gentleman and I worked in government, we both campaigned hard on many occasions for more funding for the NHS, including mental health—a particular priority for both of us. The answer to his question is yes, and that is why we are putting in more money in this Parliament. My own view is that in future Parliaments we will need to continue to increase the amount of funding going in to the NHS. The only point I would make is that what funds the NHS is a strong economy, so we have to make sure that increases in NHS funding are sustainable and compatible with a strong economy. That is something that this Conservative Government have a very good track record of delivering.

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The plans to achieve savings from community pharmacies are causing a great deal of concern in my constituency. The patients group at the John Hampden surgery and residents in and around Prestwood believe that the plans may result in the closure of our excellent rural pharmacy in Prestwood. What reassurances can the Secretary of State give to my constituents today that no pharmacies will close that are more than a mile from any other pharmacy? Will he make sure that he takes into account the implications for GPs’ workloads when looking at pharmacies?

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First, the people of Prestwood are lucky to have such an assiduous MP to campaign for their interests in Parliament today; indeed, my right hon. Friend always does so. I can give her that reassurance, because in the package of efficiencies we set out—it is right that we ask pharmacies to make efficiencies in the way they are run, just as we are asking the rest of the NHS to make efficiencies in the way it is run—we are protecting all pharmacies that are a mile or more from any other pharmacy. In that sense, we are absolutely determined to protect provision for her constituents and all our constituents who depend on rural pharmacies.

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If the Government had stood by their word and invested the promised £10 billion in the NHS, does the Secretary of State agree that the downgrade of Dewsbury A&E might not have been necessary?

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First, may I welcome the hon. Lady to her place in this House? I am sure that she will make an extremely important contribution. Yes, she is filling very big boots, but, if I may say so, she has made a very good start.

On what happens with A&E departments, changes in the pattern of the services we provide have been a feature, both when the hon. Lady’s party has been in power and when my party has been in power, because the needs of the people who use the NHS also change. We therefore need to strike the right balance between reassuring people that services are provided near where they live, while ensuring that they receive the right care when they get there. For strokes, that does not always mean going to the nearest hospital, but somewhere with 24/7 stroke care and the greatest chance of saving the patient’s life. If the hon. Lady has concerns about Dewsbury hospital, I am very happy to talk to her further.

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At a time when every Department, with the exception of the Department for International Development, has to reduce public expenditure, it seems a remarkable feat of political skill to have secured an increase for the NHS bigger than either the Home Office budget or that of the Ministry of Justice. Will the Secretary of State tell me whether there are parts of the United Kingdom where health expenditure is not rising as fast as in England? If there are, which political parties are in charge there?

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I thank my right hon. Friend, whose passion and commitment to higher standards for the constituents he serves have inspired me in this job, just as I know they have inspired many others in the education field. There are indeed parts of the United Kingdom that allow us to make a very good comparison of the commitment to and funding of the NHS. In Wales, funding went down in the first four years of the previous Parliament. In Scotland, funding went down over the course of that Parliament. Both the Scottish National party and the Labour party like to talk about the NHS, but when it comes to writing the cheques, they are nowhere to be seen.

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Can the Secretary of State guarantee that every A&E department in north-east London, with a rapidly rising population, will remain open for the rest of this Parliament? If he cannot guarantee that, how many will close and which ones? What is his hit list?

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What I can guarantee is that the decisions about the future of A&E departments will be taken locally by clinicians who have the best interests of their patients at heart. I think that the hon. Gentleman and I would be able to agree that these decisions are not best taken by Secretaries of State. It is much better that they are taken by people who do not have any party political axe to grind. Any decision to change service provision at an A&E has the opportunity, if it is so wished, to be reviewed by the Secretary of State when it goes through an independent process. That is exactly what would happen in north-east London, were the local community to wish it.

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Under the previous Labour Government, Burnley general hospital lost its A&E department and a number of key services. Under the coalition Government, a new £9 million urgent care centre opened and just last week the trust submitted plans for a £15 million development of the hospital. Does that not perfectly demonstrate the unprecedented investment in the NHS since Labour left government?

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It absolutely does. I much enjoyed visiting with my hon. Friend some health facilities in his constituency during the general election campaign. The difference between Conservative Members and Labour Members is that we recognise that every penny of the NHS budget has to come from a strong economy. We know that if we take that for granted, we end up having to cut the NHS budget, which is what has happened in Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal and many other countries that have lost control of their national finances. That is something that Labour Members would do well to remember.

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The Government have been well and truly found out on this issue. Rather than quote selectively from Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS, will the Secretary of State confirm that among the conditions that Mr Stevens put down to the Government as part of the five-year review was an increase in public health spending, not a 20% cut, and a policy of maintaining spending on social care? Will he also confirm—he was there in Simon Stevens’ presence before the Select Committee—that Mr Stevens made it quite clear that those conditions and others had not been met?

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Actually, what Mr Stevens said—I was there—was that social care and, indeed, public health provision needed to be maintained. We are increasing the social care budget by £3.5 billion over this Parliament. Although I accept that difficult cuts are being made to the public health budget, we are doing other things that do not cost money to make sure that we continue to improve this country’s excellent record on public health.

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We all want a well-funded NHS. I congratulate the Secretary of State on making sure that we now have record spending in England. Last night, the A&E department of the Queen’s medical centre was tweeting that it effectively could not cope. We all of course congratulate and thank the hard-working staff in A&E, but the problem was demand. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the NHS can do much more to improve the way it signposts people? It was urging people to go to the urgent care centre, which does stitching and mends broken bones, all of which was news for many people in Greater Nottingham.

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My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. That, of course, is why all parts of the NHS in England are embarking on the sustainability and transformation programme, which is designed to do precisely what my right hon. Friend says—to find smart ways to reduce demand. That will include, for example, better use of pharmacies, better use of GPs, more mental health provision—[Interruption.] Opposition Members are shouting, but why were they not prepared to put the money into the NHS to help us implement these plans? There would be no sustainability and transformation plans on the thin gruel that they promised for the NHS at the last election.

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I was always against the private finance initiative. This Government have set up a £1.5 billion bail-out fund for PFI. I put it to the Secretary of State that that is to rewarding past profligacy and penalising frugal trusts such as the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust. When will the Secretary of State redress this imbalance, stop rewarding profligacy and reward frugality?

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I am getting more and more impressed with the hon. Gentleman’s questions. Last time, he accused me of being a Corbynista, and today he is criticising me for profligacy, when the general tone of most Members seems to be that we are being rather too parsimonious with the NHS. I completely agree with him that private finance initiatives were an utter disgrace, leaving the NHS with over £70 billion-worth of debt by 2010. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a strong correlation between shiny new buildings and good care for patients, as can be seen in a number of Care Quality Commission reports. We are doing everything we can to unwind that very difficult problem.

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Order. We require pithiness personified. I think that calls for Sir Desmond Swayne.

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How much more would the Secretary of State have had to spend per year by 2021 if the Chancellor had taken the Labour party’s advice?

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If the Chancellor had taken the Labour party’s advice, the NHS would have had £5.5 billion less to spend every single year. I just ask Members who are worried about their A&E departments, worried about mental health and worried about GP provision on which of those services the axe would have had to fall if we had followed Labour’s spending plans?

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Since the 2010 general election, we have lost over 1,500 mental health beds, there are 5,000 fewer mental health nurses and over 400 fewer doctors working in mental health. The pledge that the Secretary of State made at that Dispatch Box on 9 December—that every clinical commissioning group would increase its spend on mental health—lies in tatters. When will this Government’s rhetoric on equality for mental health be matched with adequate resources?

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I will tell the hon. Lady when that rhetoric became reality. We now have the highest dementia diagnosis rates in the world, according to some estimates. We are treating three quarters of a million more people with talking therapies every year than we were in 2010. Every single day, we are treating 1,400 more mental health patients. By the end of this Parliament, because of our spending plans, we will be spending £1 billion more on mental health every single year, treating 1 million more people. I think that that is pretty good.

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Is not one way to help the NHS to deal with its financial pressures by focusing on improving quality and using proper data? Professor Tim Briggs’s report, “Getting it Right First Time” is already improving patient outcomes and saving the NHS money.

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I thank my hon. Friend for bringing Professor Briggs to meet me. He is an extremely inspiring man. He has established that every time someone has an infection during an orthopaedic operation, it costs the NHS £100,000 to put it right, but that is happening 0.5% of the time in the case of some surgeons and 4% of the time in the case of others. Dealing with variation of that kind is a way not just to reduce costs, but to avoid enormous human heartache.

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NHS managers in Greater Manchester have made it clear that the pressures on the NHS are a function of pressures on the social care system and that costs are rising because of increases in the national living wage and the need to fund overnight cover. What is the Secretary of State doing to address those financial pressures on social care, given that the precept does no more than scratch the surface?

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I agree that there are real pressures, although I should add that many Members were worried about some of the poor working conditions of people in the social care system and that 900,000 people on low pay in the system will benefit from the introduction of the national living wage. However, I agree that leaving people parked in hospitals when they should be being looked after in the community is financial nonsense. What is happening in Greater Manchester is one of the most impressive examples of health and social care integration in the country, and that must be the long- term answer.

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I am very proud of the Government’s funding record, but does my right hon. Friend agree that it is also crucial to make the right strategic decisions? For example, it was a Conservative-led Government with a Conservative Health Secretary who delivered the urgent care centre in Corby, which has transformed health opportunities in our area and taken pressure off our A&E.

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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Although I was not personally responsible for the decision in Corby, I am very happy to take credit for it.

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Representatives of the Department of Health and NHS England have appeared before the Public Accounts Committee eight times so far this year. We have taken a detailed look at the Department’s accounts, following the Comptroller and Auditor General’s unprecedented explanatory note, and I am glad that the Health Committee has said that it will examine the issue further.

The Secretary of State said that prevention was better than cure. The “General Practice Forward View” refers to a £2.4 billion increase in investment by 2020. Can the Secretary of State assure us that that crucial investment in primary care will be protected and not used to plug hospital deficits?

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It is a vitally important investment. The first speech that I made as Health Secretary after the last election was made to GPs, and I said then that we wanted to deliver an extra 5,000 doctors working in general practice. It is vital that we eliminate hospital deficits, but we are making good progress in doing so.

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Does my right hon. Friend agree that, when it comes to funding the forward view, the treatment of patients in their homes is not principally about cost-cutting but is part of a radical change in health provision for the future on which clinicians agree?

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Absolutely. The simple principle for those of us who are not doctors is that it is much cheaper to nip illnesses in the bud than to wait until they progress. Treating someone at stage 1 or 2 of cancer is not only cheaper for the NHS, but much more likely to lead to a full cure. That is the whole foundation of the strategic change that we are making in the NHS.

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My constituents who are watching these exchanges will think that the Secretary of State is living in a parallel universe. The sustainability and transformation programme in Merseyside is reputed to be tackling a £1 billion deficit. The way in which it has decided to tackle it in Wirral, in my area, is to draw up plans to close Clatterbridge, our cancer hospital, to close Arrowe Park, our acute hospital, to close the Countess of Chester hospital, and to create some new hospital in Ellesmere Port at some time in the future. No one believes the blather from this Secretary of State.

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I do not recognise the plans the hon. Lady is talking about, but I say to her that we do need to change our service provision; we are dealing with many more older people, and her constituents need better care at home and in the community than they are currently getting. Any big changes will be subject to a proper consultation, and would indeed go before the Independent Reconfiguration Panel and if necessary end up on my desk. I also say to the hon. Lady that setting her face against all changes may be—

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I didn’t say that.

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Well, that was the tone of the hon. Lady’s question, and setting her face against all changes may not be the right thing for her constituents.

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Does my right hon. Friend agree that patients get better in a cosy environment in community hospitals, and can he give me an assurance that he will love and maintain them for as long as he is in post?

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I am sure that no one could do a better job of loving and maintaining community hospitals than my hon. Friend. Community hospitals have an important role to play. I have three excellent ones in my constituency. At best, they represent the change we need to see in the NHS, which is personalised care closer to home, but that does also mean that they sometimes need to change the way they deliver services within a building even if the NHS logo remains firmly on the outside of that building.

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I was proud to sign the cross-party letter to the Chancellor on NHS funding, in which we quote the Care Quality Commission saying that

“adult social care…is approaching a tipping point”

and that is having an impact on those who rely on it and on “the performance” of the NHS. Does the Secretary of State recognise that this Government’s cutting social care funding by over a third was a false economy, that there will still be a gap in social care funding even if all councils took up the precept and that, for as long as we have that, we will have hospital deficits and delays?

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I do recognise the pressures in the social care system, but, in an era of very constrained national finances, funding for the social care system is going up by £3.5 billion a year by the end of this Parliament, which is a significant and important rise. I say to the hon. Lady that it is this Government who have set the CQC free to tell us the honest truth about the quality of care in our hospitals, GP surgeries and social care system, and it is because of that that we are able to have the kinds of questions and answers we are having today.

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This Government have shown their commitment to the NHS, promising and delivering increases in funding, unlike the Opposition parties. My right hon. Friend recognises the connections between health and social care and is driving the integration of those two areas. May I urge him to continue looking at both the funding and performance of health and social care in the round?

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I congratulate my hon. Friend on her excellent question. I absolutely agree with her, as someone who worked in healthcare before she came to this House, that it is vital to nurture the links between the health and social care systems if we are to deal with some of the issues that concern Members on both sides of the House. There are some very good examples of where this is working well, but it is not happening in as many places as it needs to, and we all must focus on that.

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The Secretary of State was in Cambridge on Friday. Did he have an opportunity to notice that at Addenbrooke’s, the hospital that serves Cambridge, the number of over-85s coming into A&E has risen by almost 12% year on year, and on Friday there were 100 over-85s in that hospital who should have been out in the community? Does he agree that that is proof perfect of the failure of this Government’s policies on social care, which are the root cause of the problems in our NHS?

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The hon. Gentleman is looking at the record of this Government: we have 1,200 more doctors in our A&E departments, who are treating within four hours 2,500 more people every single day. We are also putting more money into the NHS and into the social care system. Addenbrooke’s is a hospital under great pressure, but it is determined to co me out of special measures and do its best for patients, and I salute all the staff, whom I much enjoyed meeting there on Friday. The one thing they would not want is the NHS budget to be cut from current levels.

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The Secretary of State knows that over 50% of the deficit at my local trust, Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and 25% of all its annual revenue goes on paying off its PFI premium. Will the Secretary of State take this opportunity to look again at my trust and others? Will he also remind the House which party left that toxic legacy for my constituents?

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I am happy to remind the House, as my hon. Friend requests, that we inherited this situation from the Labour party in 2010. Despite that toxic legacy, the people working in the Sherwood Forest hospitals have done an incredible job of turning the trust around since it was put into special measures a few years ago. I commend them on their progress, which I hope will bear fruit and allow the trust to come out of special measures soon.

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I would like to conclude these exchanges by 4.30 pm because there is other pressing business. If people take a long time, they are preventing their colleagues from contributing. I am sorry, but it is as simple as that.

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Does the Secretary of State believe that there is a need for additional funding for adult social care over and above that which has been already allocated?

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We are putting extra money into adult social care, and local authorities have the ability to increase their funding to adult social care through the new precept. In an ideal world, everyone would like more money to go into the NHS and social care system, but Government Members know that those systems are powered by a strong economy and that we can increase our budget only at a rate that the economy can afford. The past six years show that if we take care of the economy, we can increase the NHS and social care budget, and that is what we are doing.

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Is it not the case that there will never be enough money to go into the NHS? Does the Secretary of State, like me, find the sanctimonious finger-wagging from the Opposition Front-Bench team utterly nauseating given that Carwyn Jones in Wales said that the Labour Government there would make an 8% cut to the NHS in Wales? That is the legacy of Labour.

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That is absolutely the point. In Wales, people wait twice as long to have a hip replaced and the figure on A&E is about 10% lower than in England. The consequences for patients in Wales are horrific. That is why everyone watching today’s exchanges will take them with a big pinch of salt.

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The Health Committee has been quite clear that of the actual £4.5 billion being spent by the Government on increased funds—not the £8 billion or the £10 billion mentioned by the Secretary of State— £3.5 billion comes from cuts to public health and to education and training. The Secretary of State can come to the Dispatch Box and twist it all he likes, but he has been found out. Every health sector worker in this country has his number and knows him to a tee—we know exactly what he is doing.

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I just do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. I stand by the numbers. I am afraid that, on this occasion, the Health Committee got its numbers wrong. The figure of £10 billion did not come from the Government; it was a figure that the NHS said that it needed. In fact, it needed less than £10 billion and we are delivering more than was asked for—something that the Labour party was not prepared to do.

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The Secretary of State has taken an interest in the rurality and sparsity that hospitals in Lincolnshire wrestle with. Will he confirm that it is because this Government are spending half a trillion pounds on the NHS over the course of this Parliament that workers and patients at Pilgrim hospital, for example, can be confident about the hospital’s future?

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All NHS facilities in my hon. Friend’s constituency and across the country can be confident that the NHS has a bright future. In fact, if we are to deliver the NHS plan, more rural and remote places are precisely where we must pay most attention to keeping people healthy and well in their homes. That is why not only community hospitals, but GP surgeries and all the places upon which rural communities depend are a vital part of the NHS’s future.

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I wrote to the Secretary of State over the summer because trollies were bumper to bumper in the corridors of Royal Stoke University hospital. This was not mid-winter but high summer. Since then, there have been more hospital bed closures in cottage hospitals, so I repeat my invitation and ask the Secretary of State to come to Stoke-on-Trent and see for himself the crisis in the funding settlement, which is hitting some of those with the most chronic health conditions.

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I am happy to visit the hon. Gentleman’s local hospital, as I have been concerned about it for some time. I know that things have been particularly challenging there in the wake of what happened in neighbouring Mid Staffs, which has created its own pressures on the hospital. I also know that its staff work extremely hard in very challenging circumstances, so, yes, I will visit that hospital.

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Does my right hon. Friend agree that achieving improvements in public health comes down not simply to the amount of money spent by the Government on it, but to a range of factors, including how it is spent, regulation, education and individuals’ choices?

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I absolutely agree with that. This House should be very proud of the fact that, according to the UN, when it comes to public health this is the fifth healthiest country on the planet—after Iceland, Andorra, Singapore and Sweden, if my memory serves me correctly. That is a record we want to continue.

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A lot of figures have been bandied about today. For the record, when Labour inherited office in 1997 the amount spent on the NHS was £33 billion, whereas by the time we left office in 2010, 13 years later, the figure had gone up to £100 billion. It is an easy figure to calculate: three times more in real terms. We can contrast that with this Secretary of State for Health, who is coming here today fiddling figures and shutting Bolsover hospital.

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I gently say to the hon. Gentleman that if he thinks his party was so right to increase funding during Labour’s time in office—and I think it was right—he should support the Conservative party when it is increasing NHS funding by three times more than his party is promising.

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It is clear to me that the NHS cannot rely solely on the Government to achieve financial sustainability; nor should it be used by some as a political football. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a responsibility on all NHS stakeholders to work together to cut waste where it exists, and towards a long-term sustainable social care programme?

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My hon. Friend is absolutely right about that, which is why we need to make difficult efficiency savings—around £22 billion during this Parliament. We made about £18 billion to £19 billion-worth of savings in the previous Parliament, so I think it is doable. It will not be easy, but she is right in what she says.

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If things are as rosy as the Secretary of State is making out, why is the London Borough of Redbridge, where I am an elected Member, suffering from public health cuts and, even while charging the social care precept, is still barely able to cover the costs of wage increases, let alone improve the service? He should have been lobbying the Chief Secretary this afternoon, not painting this ridiculously unjustifiable rosy picture.

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I do not think the hon. Gentleman was listening to my statement, which said clearly that the NHS is under unbelievable pressure. It does not really work for the Labour party to campaign for increases in the minimum wage, which we read about today, and then to criticise the increasing costs in the adult social care system caused by the national living wage that was introduced by this Government.

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Will the Secretary of State look at splitting the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, so that the disastrous PFI deal at Halifax, where we will pay £700 million for a hospital that cost £64 million, will stop dictating the closure and downgrading of services at Huddersfield?

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I salute my hon. Friend for the campaign he is leading at the moment, standing up for his constituents. He is right to point to PFI as one of the principal causes, and we now have to find a way to deal with that issue in a way that improves and does not detract from the quality of care offered to the people he represents.

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According to Sir Richard Sykes, the chair of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, “the problem is funding”, we are “killing” NHS staff by making them work 18 hours a day, and it is not in a position to close any more accident and emergency facilities in north-west London because there is not the capacity to do so. How is the NHS in north-west London supposed to save £1.3 billion over the next four years, as its sustainability and transformation plan proposes?

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The best way it could do that is by ignoring all the leaflets that the hon. Gentleman puts out, totally misleading his own constituents about the plans the NHS has.

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Give a serious answer to a serious question—you’re a buffoon! [Hon. Members: “Ooh!”]

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Order. I did not hear the offending term, but if it has been reported to me accurately, and the Clerks are invariably accurate in these matters, it seems to me to be a matter of taste, rather than of order.

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It is regrettable that the Chair of the Select Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston), has led this attack on a Government who are doing so much. Will my right hon. Friend tell me what more is being done to recoup the money that should have been clawed back from those who had health insurance and who should not have used our system?

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My hon. Friend is right to point out that problem. For years, under the previous Government, there was a total resistance anywhere in the NHS to ensuring that the only people who received care free at the point of use were people paying for the NHS through the taxes that they or their families pay. That is something to which we will put a stop. There is much more work to be done. We have the second biggest aid budget in the world. That is the way that we help developing countries, but we cannot have an international health service.

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NHS trusts’ deficits are now the worst that they have ever been, with 85% of acute hospitals unable to balance their books. That situation will be made even worse as the falling value of the pound raises the cost of imported medicines and equipment. What assessment has the Secretary of State made of the extra funding needed to protect the NHS from the devaluation of sterling following the Brexit vote? What will he do to support trusts, such as Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, which are already in deficit?

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There are indeed a number of cost pressures in the NHS, but the NHS also has the advantage of being the single largest purchaser of healthcare products—equipment and medicine—in the world, and therefore we have huge scope to get better prices for those things than we currently get. We are supporting hospitals such as the one in the hon. Lady’s constituency by centralising procurement and bearing down on the cost of agency staff and locum staff. Given that pay accounts for more than 70% of the typical hospital trust, that will help.

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Labour in my home area of Wales has cut the NHS by 8%. Can my right hon. Friend confirm to this House that he will never follow its example?

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It is not just the money that Labour has cut. It has refused to set up an independent inspectorate of hospitals such as we did in England, which is the sure way of knowing that we never have a repeat of what happened at Mid Staffs. I urge the Welsh Government to think again about their approach to that.

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Darlington’s A&E is among the one in three earmarked for closure or downgrading. In his opening response to what is an urgent question, not a statement, the Secretary of State said that he did not accept that figure of one in three. How many A&Es will be downgraded, or does he not know?

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Those plans come up from local areas. The NHS is not projecting that we will have significant reductions in the need for emergency care over the next few years. What matters is that we make sure that, yes, people can get to an A&E near them, but that when they get there, they get the right expert care, and that is what local areas are working on.

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In my constituency, a nurse-led practitioner service has been closed because of a lack of resources. Similarly, stroke rehab has been cut because of a lack of resources. Our A&Es are not meeting waiting times, and are now under threat because their orthopaedic services have been privatised and handed out to Circle, which may not contract back to their local healthcare trust, thereby undermining the capacity to maintain those A&Es. Does the Secretary of State accept responsibility for any of that?

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I accept responsibility for the fact that in the hon. Gentleman’s part of the country, as in every part of the country, we have more doctors, more nurses and more operations than there were when his party left office.

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I am particularly concerned that the Government are cutting supply in public health to create demand for a private healthcare market, which means that, like the United States, we will have a two-tier system. I was very concerned by the vague response that the Secretary of State gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle). Will he guarantee this afternoon that there will be no closures of Arrowe Park hospital, Clatterbridge hospital or the Countess of Chester?

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With respect to local service provision, these things are decided locally. If the hon. Lady wants to dig up the old chestnut about the privatisation of the NHS, let me say that the outsourcing of services to the private sector increased much faster under her Government than under this Government. If we did have those malign motives for the NHS, increasing its budget by £10 billion over the course of this Parliament and increasing doctor training by one of the biggest increases in its history would be a strange way of going about it.

Improving Lives: Work, Health and Disability Green Paper

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With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the Green Paper being published today by my Department, together with the Department of Health.

This Government are determined to build a country that works for everyone. That means an economy that serves the interests of ordinary, working people; it means a society where everyone has an opportunity to go as far as their talents can take them, regardless of their background. As part of that, it means creating a country where a disability does not dictate the path that a person is able to take in life.

Under successive Governments, we have made good progress in improving the lives of disabled people. Laws have been changed, old attitudes have been challenged, and understanding has improved. More disabled people are in work—half a million more than just three years ago. That is encouraging, but we need to build on that progress and do more to help disabled people reach their full potential.

It is clear that for many disabled people, the barriers to entering work are still too high, and that people in work who get ill too often fall out of work, lose contact, lose confidence and do not return to work. The impact extends far beyond the individual. Families suffer, the health service faces extra strain, and employers lose valuable skills, but most of all, it is a human tragedy. Potential is left unfulfilled. Lives are lessened. Of course, the health and welfare systems must support those who will never be able to work. It should offer the opportunity of work to all those who can, provide help for those who could, and care for those who cannot. It is the help for those who could that, through this Green Paper, we will transform—first, within the welfare system.

In 2010, we inherited a broken system, where there were too few incentives to move from welfare to work, and one where too many of our fellow citizens were simply taken off the books and forgotten about. Since then, we have brought control and the right values back to the system. I want to recognise my predecessors, particularly my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith) for his passion and conviction over the past six years, to make that a reality. Through reforms such as universal credit, we have ensured that work always pays, while ensuring a strong safety net for those who cannot work.

Spending on disabled people will be higher every year of this Parliament than it was in 2010, but we need to continue to review and reform the system based on what we know works. One of those areas is the level of personalised and tailored support that someone gets when they fall out of work. In the past 12 months, half of the people who attended a work capability assessment were deemed too ill to work, or even prepare for work, at that time. They then routinely receive no employment support at all. It is not surprising, then, that each month only 1% of people eligible for employment and support allowance after an assessment leave. For a benefit that was meant to help people back into work, the statistics show that it is not living up to that original aim, so we will build on the success of universal credit and provide more personalised employment support by consulting on further reform of the work capability assessment.

We will also introduce a new personal support package for disabled people, providing better tailored support, including a new health and work conversation between someone on ESA and their work coach, focusing on what they can do, rather than on what they cannot do. We will recruit around 200 community partners into jobcentres, to bring in expertise from the voluntary sector, and we will give young people with limited capability for work the opportunity to get valuable work experience with employers. These are practical steps and support that the welfare system will provide for disabled people.

This Green Paper marks a new era in joint working between the welfare and health systems—between the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health. Recognising that work and meaningful activity can promote good health, we will work with Health Education England, Public Health England and others to make the benefits of work an ingrained part of the training and health workforce approach. We will review statutory sick pay and GP fit notes to support workers back into their jobs faster and for longer. It is also about transforming the way services join up. We will be consulting on how best to do this, as well as boosting existing joint services—for example, we are more than doubling the number of employment advisers placed in talking therapies services. It is right that we focus on such services, as mental health conditions, together with musculoskeletal conditions, are behind many people falling out of work.

This is not a challenge for Government alone so, finally, I want to turn to the role of employers. Employers have so much potential power to bring about change, not just in their recruitment strategies, but in how they support their employees. We need all businesses—small or large; local, national or global—to use that power to deliver change. The fact is that, as well as being good for health, it makes good business sense; sick pay for workers who get ill costs business £9 billion a year.

Businesses are leaders in innovation and transformation. We need to harness that positive power of business to promote disability awareness, so we will create a “Disability Confident” business leaders group to increase employer engagement in looking after the health and wellbeing of their employees, and opening up opportunities to them. Now is the moment for every business to take a proper look at the relationship between work and health, and what that means for their business and productivity.

Over the coming months, we will be talking to disabled people and those who have health conditions. We will be talking to carers, families, professionals and a range of organisations that are so important to getting this right and, like us, want further change. Together, through this Green Paper, and building on our work since 2010, we intend to deliver just that—to improve the way the welfare system responds to real people with health conditions; to see employers stepping up and play their part; to see work as a health outcome; and to see a culture of high ambition and high expectations for the disabled people of this country, because they deserve it.

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I thank the Secretary of State for his statement and advance notice of it. This is again kicking into the long grass the issue of support for disabled people and halving the disability employment gap. He is the third Secretary of State who has promised a plan, yet we have just talk, no action.

During his announcement today, the Secretary of State claimed he was confronting negative “attitudes, prejudices and misunderstandings”. The audacity of the statement is offensive. The Government have been more responsible than anyone for the negative attitude towards disabled people, with their shirkers grand narrative. Only this morning, the Secretary of State himself described disabled people as

“sitting at home living on benefits”.

The consultation itself demonstrates that the Government fail to understand the reality of many disabled people’s lives and the real anxiety those people feel about the coded messages in the consultation, yet further cuts are on the way.

I must challenge the Secretary of State for suggesting that the so-called reforms to social security have helped to make work pay. These claims are derisory. All the evidence shows not only that the introduction of universal credit has been an unmitigated disaster—with seven delays to date, the Major Projects Authority and the National Audit Office expressing concerns regarding the scheme’s governance, and the additional £3 billion the taxpayer is having to pay—but that cuts to work allowances signally fail to make UC help to make work pay. The Resolution Foundation has shown that, on average, 2.5 million working families will be over £2,000 a year worse off, so will the Secretary of State commit to reversing cuts to work allowances and universal credit?

On the Green Paper, if the Secretary of State is committed to helping disabled people into work, why has he cut employment support for disabled people from £700 million to £130 million? Will he commit to providing Access to Work support to more than the 36,500 disabled people who received it last year? Given that 1.3 million disabled people are fit and able to work, that is obviously a tiny proportion.

The Secretary of State referred to a review of statutory sick pay. Can he confirm that it is not a vehicle for further cuts to sick pay? Will he commit to maintaining levels of statutory sick pay, both now and in the future? On the plans to broaden the number of professionals who can provide a fit note—notes currently can be provided only by a general practitioner—will these people be appropriately trained clinicians? Given the Government’s use of so-called healthcare professionals under the work capability assessment, we know that weakening the role of the medical profession in assessment processes is an underhand tactic to force people into work before they are ready.

On changes to the WCA itself, why will the Secretary of State not commit to scrapping this discredited process completely, as I have? As it stands, this dehumanising system does great harm and is nothing more than a vehicle for getting people off flow. Will the Secretary of State explain why only employment and support allowance is included in the statement? What are his intentions for the personal independence payment? How much funding is meant to underpin the health and work programme? Will he commit to reversing the cuts in support for the ESA work-related activity group, as those cuts will do untold harm? Does he accept his own data showing that people on ESA are more likely to die than the population at large, and that some sick and disabled people will never be able to work? As a civilised society, we must ensure that these people are adequately supported and not plunged into poverty, left destitute, or worse.

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I am disappointed by the hon. Lady’s tone because she seems to be completely out of touch with those who represent disabled people. Let me read her the words of the chief executive of Scope, Mark Atkinson, who said today:

“Disabled people are twice as likely as the general public to be unemployed. It is right that the Government has recognised this is an injustice that needs to be tackled. We welcome

the Green Paper’s

“publication, which recognises the need for real change and sets out some bold ideas for reform.”

Dr Liam O’Toole of Arthritis Research UK said:

“Today’s Green Paper offers a vital opportunity to better understand and then meet the needs of people with arthritis.”

The Work Foundation said:

“We have consistently advocated that good work and the benefits it brings to individuals, employers and society at large should be recognised as a positive outcome from a health perspective.”

I am afraid that her carping is out of touch with the sector comprising those who most represent disabled people.

Let me deal with some of the detail. The hon. Lady repeated her promise to scrap any kind of assessment system at all for people getting benefits. Let me quote one of my predecessors who, when the work capability assessment was introduced, said, “We want to have a system where virtually everyone who is getting benefits is doing something to prepare for a return to work. The benefits system is not there for people to stay on benefits but to help them get back to work.” I completely agree with that. It was said by Labour Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell in 2008 when introducing the WCA. I am afraid that, again, the hon. Lady is out of touch.

The hon. Lady said a lot about universal credit and described it as a failure. Let me give her the facts about universal credit. Under universal credit, people spend about 50% more time looking for work and move into work faster. For every 100 people who found work under the old jobseeker’s allowance system, 113 universal credit claimants have moved into a job. They are more likely to be looking to increase their hours—86% on universal credit compared with 38% on jobseeker’s allowance. They are more likely to be looking to increase their earnings—77% on universal credit compared with 51% on JSA. [Interruption.] I am afraid that despite all the shouting from a sedentary position, the hon. Lady is simply wrong about the effect of universal credit.

The hon. Lady asked me to make some commitments about Access to Work. Real-terms increases in funding under Access to Work will support an additional 25,000 people each year by 2021. Last year, more than 36,000 people were helped to take up or remain in employment, including 2,800 young people. Access to Work is doing very well for tens of thousands of people with disabilities.

The hon. Lady would also, I hope, welcome our personal support package, which includes the recruitment of about 200 community partners into Jobcentre Plus to bring in expertise from the voluntary sector. One of the key things about this Green Paper is that we will work closely with the voluntary sector and use its expertise to help people with a disability.

The hon. Lady talks about forcing people into work. I hope that underneath some of her rhetoric she recognises the fact—this is now recognised increasingly by medical practitioners and clinicians—that a good job is good for people’s health. Talking about forcing people into work demonstrates the wrong, old-fashioned mindset, and I genuinely hope she has moved on from that.

The hon. Lady asked about statutory sick pay. I assure her that there is nothing in this Green Paper about cutting statutory sick pay. We want to make it easier for people to move back into work, perhaps gradually, meaning that they take a few hours’ work in the early days and months of their getting back into work. The purpose of the useful changes to the fit note, which is given by a properly qualified medical practitioner, is so that the process does not simply write someone off work, but guides them into a system that will help them to get back to work, because in the long run that is the best way to improve their lives, which is what the Green Paper is about.

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May I unreservedly welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement, which builds on and elaborates previous work? I hope, however, that he will consider two issues during the Green Paper consultation. One of the greatest difficulties with the employment and support allowance is the binary choice that lies at the heart of its design, whereby it is deemed either that someone is too sick to work, or that they should work. We know that conditions can vary in many cases. Given that universal credit is now being rolled out, with this system forming part of that, would it be feasible to move away from that binary choice so that someone who moves into work can have that extra allowance before it tapers away? Given that universal credit is critical to this, will he look again at work allowances, particularly for those with limited capability for work, because they need to be increased to their original levels?

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I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his support. He is right about the binary choice that has obtained up to now under ESA and the fact that under the universal credit system, which he introduced, we have the capacity in the welfare system to make our approach much more flexible. That is precisely what the changes to the work capability assessment are designed to achieve—so that people are not simply put in one group or another and then left there. The much more personalised approach will mean that everyone should benefit from the assessment. We will be able to separate out the level of benefit that people should get from the level of support that they need to make the best of their lives. On the question of reversing previous changes in allowances, we have no plans to do so.

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May I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement? I am glad that, at last, this long-awaited Green Paper will be published. I broadly welcome the Government’s commitment to reform, to more personalised support, and to consulting widely with disabled people, carers and those who represent them.

We will work constructively with all parties to deliver real progress for disabled people, but we need actions, not just words. The truth is that the burden of austerity that has fallen on sick and disabled people in recent years has caused severe hardship and pushed many people further away from the workplace. Sick and disabled people have been disproportionately sanctioned in the benefits system and disproportionately hit by the bedroom tax. The raising of the bar on personal independence payments has resulted in thousands of sick and disabled people losing their Motability vehicles, which in many cases are their only means of getting to and from work. From next April, sick and disabled people with long-term conditions will be deterred from going back to work, because if they do, but then have a relapse and need to go back on ESA, they will find their income cut by £30 a week. Far too many people who are manifestly too sick to work are still being found fit for work.

Earlier this year, the Government cut the budget for their Work programme from £2 billion to £130 million. Given its performance, I understand why they did that, but we know from more successful schemes to support disabled people into work such as Access to Work, and from voluntary sector initiatives such as the Moving On programme of Action on Hearing Loss, that tailored, personalised support does not come cheap. What additional budget does the Secretary of State envisage will be attached to the Government’s proposals? What discussions has he had with the Treasury ahead of the autumn statement, and will there be Barnett consequentials for Scotland?

I also want to ask the Secretary of State about support for employers. To date, efforts have focused on improving employers’ confidence, which is fine as far as it goes, but that can be fairly nebulous if there are no practical resources to back it up. Employers need concrete support to make this work. Will resources be attached to the rhetoric this time around? Finally, may I plead with the Secretary of State to hold off the impending cuts to the ESA WRAG until such time as the Government have got this right?

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I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her general welcome for the appearance of the Green Paper and her commitment to work constructively on it. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work was in Scotland last week discussing with counterparts what needs to be done. As the hon. Lady might know, I will be there later this week to talk to the Social Security Committee.

The hon. Lady makes a point about resources, and I am able to tell her that there will be additional support for new claimants with limited capability for work. That will be £60 million next year, with the figure rising to £100 million a year by 2020. There will be new money for the third sector—something like £15 million by Christmas this year.

The hon. Lady made a very good point about employers. I agree that we need more than rhetoric, which is why we will be rolling out a small employer offer to support the creation of more job opportunities for disabled people. It will provide support for employers and enable them to apply for a payment of £500 after three months’ employment so that they can provide ongoing support. That kind of practical help, particularly for small businesses, will transform the situation for many people. We know that small businesses are the biggest creators of jobs in this country. We absolutely want them to use the great talent pool of people with disabilities, whose levels of employment are much less than those of people without disabilities.

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Order. Given extensive interest and the pressure on time, I am looking for single, short supplementary questions without preamble, and, of course, for pithy replies from the Secretary of State.

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My right hon. Friend is exactly right to take on this challenge. Does he agree that one of the keys to success in ending the enormous waste of human potential is, for the very first time, to get health services and his Department working together effectively at a community level to ensure that people on long-term sickness benefits get meaningful employment support and effective health intervention? At the moment, the system too often provides neither.

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I completely agree with my right hon. Friend, who did good work on the subject during his time in this job. He will see from the Green Paper that we will be carrying out large-scale consultations on precisely the issue that he raises. In specific areas, it is important that we get right the way in which the health system and the welfare system work together. The situation might well be different in various parts of the country, so we will be holding geographically based large-scale trials.

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As a former Minister for disabled people, I welcome the Secretary of State’s intention as stated in the Green Paper. Does he agree that the extra-costs benefits are tremendously important in helping people to work? Under PIP, hundreds of people a week are losing their access to Motability cars. Does he realise how important it is for those people to have their car to get to work, and what is he going to do to stop people losing their right to mobility?

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Of course, PIP is not a work-related benefit, as the hon. Lady knows. It is a benefit that is designed to meet the extra costs of those who have a disability, and it is sensible that people go through the appropriate assessment for it. As I have said, I completely agree that it is important to ensure that people have access to work, and that is why we are so keen on the Access to Work programme. There will be different ways for people to access work. As I have explained, the real-terms funding for the programme will increase through to 2021. I agree with her that this is an important issue, and we are doing something about it.

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Will the revised system ensure that if somebody is found fit for work on the basis of receiving a particular level of support, the need for that support will be passed on through the system and that support will be made available?

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Yes, that is exactly at the heart of what we are trying to do, because there have been too many gaps in the system. Health Ministers and I agree that we must get the systems working together much better so that individuals find the journey much more seamless than they ever have.

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Could the Secretary of State consider more carefully the role of GPs? With the work capability assessment, untrained people are sometimes overriding the advice of GPs. We do not want to see that with ESA regarding fit notes.

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The hon. Lady makes a reasonable point. GPs will play a significant role in the system, and we want the role they play to be as constructive as possible. We have looked at ways of changing the system so that GPs can be involved earlier. The reason for the consultation on the changes to the fit note is precisely to find a way of making the fit note help the person concerned back into work without adding to the burden on GPs. We want everyone involved in the system to feel they are playing a part in helping someone to get back into work.

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I too extend a warm welcome to the Green Paper. Within the next hour, we will launch, with the National Autistic Society, a report entitled “The autism employment gap”, which shows that only 16% of people on the autism spectrum are in full-time employment. That gap is bigger than the disability employment gap. I welcome the personalised support to which my right hon. Friend has referred. Will he say more about how he will tailor it to meet the individual needs of autistic people in particular?

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I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for her kind remarks. I congratulate her on all the work she has done over many years in Parliament for those on the autism spectrum. I am pleased to tell her that we will have 1,100 specialists in autism services in Jobcentre Plus premises. She is quite right that we should never assume that disabled people are in any way homogenous: people have different needs and different requirements. She will know better than anyone that the needs of those on the autism spectrum are specific, and that they therefore need to be dealt with in a personal and specific way.

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On the disabled, may I tell the Secretary of State that at my surgery on Saturday I saw a man—he will be 59 in two weeks’ time, and walks with tremendous difficulty on two crutches—who has had his employment and support allowance removed and who, during the time I was speaking to him, broke down in great distress? What sort of situation are we in when a law-abiding person of his age and suffering from disablement goes to his Member of Parliament in such a state of distress that he starts crying? I consider that a shameful situation. The Secretary of State should be aware that it is just one of many, many cases throughout the country. I will certainly write to his Department. With what result, we shall see.

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Obviously, if the hon. Gentleman wants to write to us about his constituent he should please do so, because we do not want any wrong decisions to be taken. I will happily look at the individual case, although he will recognise that I cannot possibly comment on it at the moment. The one point on which I would take issue with him is when he says that this is the tip of an iceberg. Actually, the number of successful appeals against ESA judgments has fallen very significantly, from 14% to 5% in recent months, so the figures suggest that the system is getting better at making such judgments.

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Those with mental health conditions often require specialist support. What will the Green Paper do for people who suffer from mental health conditions?

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It is particularly those with mental health conditions who will be helped by the Green Paper, with the more tailored and personalised support. Very often, people with mental health conditions have conditions that come and go, so they may work full time some of the time, part time some of the time and not at all at other times. The changes to benefits—particularly, perhaps, those to statutory sick pay—will make it much easier for such people to stay in touch with work, perhaps working part time for a period. All the evidence suggests that people with mental health conditions are disadvantaged if they are completely detached from the world of work, because their depression may get worse.

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I really welcome the Green Paper’s suggestion about the personal support package. It should be a significant improvement on the disastrous Work programme, which was a total failure for disabled people. Will the Secretary of State confirm that providers of such support will be adequately rewarded and incentivised to provide good enough support, because that was the difficulty with the Work programme?

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Yes. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her supportive words. I hope she will see the personal support package make a difference. I have already mentioned the 200 community partners that will come in, so we will engage the third sector very actively in this process. We will also extend the journey to employment job clubs to 71 Jobcentre Plus areas—those with the highest number of people receiving ESA—so we are trying new ideas in the areas where we think they will particularly make a difference.

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Does my right hon. Friend agree that in order to utilise the talent and enrich the lives of those with disabilities and ongoing health issues, including mental health issues, we need to make further improvements to reduce bureaucracy and personalise employment support for individual needs?

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I do. On a day-to-day basis in our constituency work we will all have seen people who are frustrated by the bureaucracy. When my hon. Friend and other Members read the Green Paper they will see an emphasis on making the systems more human and more personal, so that people do not feel that they are being ground down by a very difficult bureaucracy. Bureaucracy always takes a long time to change, but we absolutely want to change it.

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It is true that the Work programme has been hopeless for people claiming employment and support allowance, with a pitifully small number of people getting into jobs, as the Secretary of State acknowledged in his statement. By how much does he expect the proposals to increase the proportion of ESA claimants getting into work, and how long will it take to halve the disability employment gap?

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It would be premature of me to try to set targets on either of those. The sensible thing is to take practical steps. For example, we are more than doubling the number of disability employment advisers to help with specialist and local expertise for disabled people. Along with everything else I have announced, that will be a significant step forward in halving the disability employment gap. Of course, doing so depends on both ends of it, as the halving of the gap will depend on what the total employment level is, and we are in good shape on that, as 80% of working-age people who do not have a disability are in work. But as the right hon. Gentleman knows, only 48% of those with a disability are in work. I want to make steady progress towards halving the gap, but it may take some time.

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What discussions has the Secretary of State had with business to help people who can only work flexibly and at variable times but do not want to let their employers down?

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Very many—I have spoken to a number of private sector employers who are leading the way in providing the equipment needed. But what happens in the public sector is to some extent more under the Government’s control, so I hope that by the end of this year every Whitehall Department will be signed up as a Disability Confident employer and that in the course of 2017 the rest of the public sector will have followed. The public sector is a very large-scale employer so that will be very helpful.

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I broadly welcome the thrust of the Green Paper, but I suggest that there are two things the Secretary of State could do for people with mental health conditions now. One is to ensure that assessors undertaking work capability tests are properly qualified. Secondly, can we stop the small number of people with long-term, enduring mental health conditions, who are never going to work, going round this merry-go-round, which is not good for them or for the taxpayer?

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I am grateful for the expertise the hon. Gentleman brings to this. I will take both his points on board. In fact, on his second point, he may have seen that I have already announced that we are going to stop retesting those with a condition that already means that they cannot work and that will only stay the same or get worse. That seems to me a piece of pointless and fundamentally heartless bureaucracy that we can happily get rid of.

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I encourage the Secretary of State to apply his very human and welcome fresh pair of eyes to the whole system. Damage will be done to his very good intentions if he proceeds with the cuts to universal credit work allowances and the ESA WRAG. I urge him to personally understand the risks in proceeding with both of those cuts.

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As my hon. Friend knows, we have had private discussions on this point, and I have heard her discuss it on a number of public platforms as well. I can only repeat what I said to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith): although we are not looking for new cuts in the welfare budget or welfare benefits, we have no plans to reverse anything that has already been legislated for.

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I welcome the Green Paper in the broadest sense if we can have a dialogue about improving the lives of disabled people, but the point has just been made that we need to ensure that the funding is on the table to protect people going back into work and those who need support. Perhaps two words are missing from the document and the Minister’s statement: “compassion” and “dignity”. Let us hope we get them in the Government’s response.

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I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman and am grateful for his general support. I absolutely agree that the system should show compassion at all times, and that those who deal with the system should feel that they are being dealt with with dignity, and that it is being preserved. We are at one on that.

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I very much welcome today’s announcement. The chief executive of Scope, Mark Atkinson, rightly highlights that the assessment should be the first step for support. Therefore, will the Secretary of State set out how stakeholders and charities can not only shape future policy but help to deliver the expert tailored employment support so needed?

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I am grateful for the support from my hon. Friend, who did excellent work when he was the Minister for Disabled People. I am happy to reassure him that there will be localised services, with facilitated pacts done at a local level so that in each individual jobcentre and area the appropriate type of support will be available after an assessment has been made.

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I welcome the assurances given by the Secretary of State on statutory sick pay, but does he realise that millions of people in this country are in work but do not qualify for it because they are classed as self-employed? As part of this process, will he agree to consider implementing the relevant recommendations of the Deane review of self-employment?

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The hon. Gentleman is right that there are increasing numbers of self-employed people, and we want to ensure that they are treated as fairly as everyone else. Indeed, one of the successes of recent years is the new enterprise allowance, which has allowed nearly 20,000 disabled people to start up businesses. That is about one in five of business start-ups, so it is a significant part of the system, and it means that we are very alive to the needs of self-employed people.

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I welcome the Secretary of State’s statement and the announcement of the Green Paper, but will he reassure me that he will also look at making further improvements to the work capability assessment to make it as smooth as possible for claimants, because that will make a big difference?

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We have had five different reviews of the work capability assessment in the past six years, and the ideas I am bringing forward today are the latest response. There is no system so good that it cannot be improved, and I would welcome my hon. Friend’s input to make the system even better in future.

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The Government’s target of halving the disability employment gap is very welcome. The Green Paper offers £115 million in funding for a new model of employment support. Will the Secretary of State confirm that that figure represents less than 5% of the total cut that disabled people have experienced in disability living allowance and employment and support allowance?

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The hon. Gentleman is slightly confusing apples and pears. This is a support programme to get people with a disability back into work. The best route out of poverty for people with a disability, as it is generally, is to have a job. As a society, we have been much less good at allowing and encouraging people with a disability back into work than we have for the general population. The Green Paper is intended to address that problem.

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My constituents in Kettering want to know whether the Secretary of State thinks that the film “I, Daniel Blake” is an accurate portrayal of the benefits system. If it is, do the changes he has announced in the Green Paper address the problems raised? If it is not, what are the inaccuracies?

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I have not seen the film yet but have seen quite a lot of trailers. [Interruption.] I would point out to my hon. Friend and the hon. Lady on the Opposition Bench who is chuntering from a sedentary position that it is a work of fiction and not a documentary. It bears no relation to the modern benefits system. As I understand it, it is monstrously unfair to jobcentre staff, who are hugely conscientious people doing a job, sometimes in difficult conditions, and doing it very well indeed.

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If the Secretary of State believes that the disability appeals system is improving, will he explain why he is investing a further £22 million in recruiting more staff to assist the Department for Work and Pensions in defeating more personal independence payment and work capability assessment claims?

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Because I always seek to improve systems. Even though the appeals system does appear to be producing better results, no system is so good that it cannot be improved, as I said a moment ago.

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I welcome the Green Paper’s direction of travel. Will its additional, personalised and tailored support for disabled people reach them by April, when they will lose the WRAG payments—which was a condition of support for the ESA cuts for many of my hon. Friends?

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