House of Commons
Monday 31 October 2016
The House met at half-past Two o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
The Secretary of State was asked—
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.
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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?
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.
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?
Refugees: Age Identification
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
Extradition Orders: Vulnerable People
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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—