The Prime Minister was asked—
This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I will have further such meetings later today.
May I take the opportunity to wish you, Mr Speaker, and all Members of the House a merry Christmas and a happy new year?
In the light of the Foreign Secretary’s display of chronic “foot in mouth” disease, when deciding on Cabinet positions, does the Prime Minister now regret that pencilling “FO” against his name should have been an instruction, not a job offer?
Order. There is far too much noise in the Chamber. We have heard the question, but I want to hear the Prime Minister’s answer.
I join the hon. Gentleman in wishing everybody a happy Christmas. I will of course have an opportunity to do that again on Monday, when I am sure the House will be as full for the statement on the European Council meeting. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] Funny, that seemed to come from this side of the House but not from the Labour side. I have to say that the Foreign Secretary is doing an absolutely excellent job. He is, in short, an FFS—a fine Foreign Secretary.
Order. I want to hear the voice of Cannock Chase.
Rugeley has a really bright future ahead, but only if we are ambitious, bold and visionary in our redevelopment plans. Will my right hon. Friend outline how the Government’s industrial strategy can create the conditions that will help us to build a sustainable local economy and highly skilled jobs for future generations?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that communities across this country have a bright future ahead of them, but we need to ensure that we create the conditions for that future. That is why we will be producing a modern industrial strategy that will show how we can encourage the strategic strengths of the United Kingdom and deal with our underlying weaknesses. It will enable companies to grow, invest in the UK and provide those jobs for the future, but we also need to make sure that that prosperity is spread across the whole of the United Kingdom and is prosperity for everyone.
May I start by wishing you, Mr Speaker, all Members of the House and everyone who works in the House a very happy Christmas and a prosperous new year?
Sadly, our late colleague Jo Cox will not be celebrating Christmas this year with her family. She was murdered and taken from us, so I hope the Prime Minister will join me—I am sure she will—in encouraging people to download the song, which many Members helped to create, as a tribute to Jo’s life and work and in everlasting memory of her.
The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise this issue. I am sure that everybody in this House would wish to send a very clear message: download this single for the Jo Cox Foundation. It is a very important cause. We all recognise that Jo Cox was a fine Member of this House and would have carried on contributing significantly to this House and to this country, had she not been brutally murdered. It is right that the Chancellor has waived VAT on the single. Everybody involved in it gave their services for free, and I am having a photograph with MP4 later this afternoon. Once again, let us encourage everybody to download the single.
For the benefit of those observing our proceedings from outside, I should state that the Prime Minister was, of course, referring to the outstanding parliamentary rock band MP4.
I applaud the work of MP4, but for the benefit of air quality I am not a member of it! I thank the Prime Minister for her answer.
Social care is crucial. It provides support for people to live with dignity, yet Age UK research has found that 1.2 million older people are currently not receiving the care they need. Will the Prime Minister accept that there is a crisis in social care?
I have consistently said in this House that we recognise the pressures on social care, so it might be helpful if I set out what the Government are doing and the position in relation to social care. As I say, we recognise those pressures. That is why the Government are putting more money into social care through the better care fund, and by the end of this Parliament it will be billions of pounds extra. That is why we have enabled the social care precept for local authorities. We recognise that there are immediate pressures on social care. That is why this will be addressed tomorrow by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in the local government finance settlement. We also recognise that this is not just about money; it is about delivery. There is a difference in delivery across the country. We need to make sure that reform is taking place, so we see best practice in the integration of health and social care across the country. We also need to ensure that we have a longer-term solution to give people reassurance for the future that there is a sustainable system that will ensure that they receive the social care they need in old age. That is what the Government are working on. There is a short-term issue; there is medium-term need to make sure local authorities and the health service are delivering consistently; and there is a long-term solution that we need to find.
The Care Quality Commission warned as recently as October that evidence suggests we have approached a tipping point. Instead of passing the buck on to local government, should not the Government take responsibility for the crisis themselves? Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to inform the House exactly how much was cut from the social care budget in the last Parliament?
We have been putting more money into social care and health. [Hon. Members: “How much?”] We have been putting more money in and, as I say, we recognise the pressures that exist. That is why we are looking at the short-term pressures on social care, but this cannot be looked at as simply being an issue of money in the short term. It is about delivery; it is about reform; it is about the social care system working with the health system. That is why this issue is being addressed not just by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, but by the Secretary of State for Health. If we are going to give people the reassurance they need in the longer term that their social care needs will be met, we need to make it clear that this is not just about looking for a short-term solution. It is about finding a way forward that can give us a sustainable system of social care for the future.
The Prime Minister does not seem to be aware that £4.6 billion was cut from the social care budget in the last Parliament. Her talk about putting this on to local government ought to be taken for what it is—a con. Two per cent. of council tax is clearly a nonsense; 95% of councils used the social care precept, and it raised less than 3% of the money they planned to spend on adult social care. Billions seem to be available for tax give-aways to corporations—not mentioned in the autumn statement—and underfunding has left many elderly people isolated and in crisis because of the lack of Government funding for social care.
Many councils around the country have taken the benefit of the social care precept and as a result have actually seen more people being able to access social care and more needs being met. Sadly, there are some councils across the country—some Labour councils—that have not taken that opportunity and we see worse performance on social care. The right hon. Gentleman once again referred to money, so I remind him that the then shadow Chancellor said at the last election that if Labour was in government there would be “not a penny more” for local authorities. When recently asked about spending more money on social care and where the money would come from, Labour’s shadow Health Secretary said:
“Well, we’re going to have to come up with a plan for that”.
This Government have cut social care and the Prime Minister well knows it, and she well knows the effects of that. She also well knows that raising council tax has different outcomes in different parts of the country. If you raise the council tax precept in Windsor and Maidenhead, you get quite a lot of money. If you raise the council tax precept in Liverpool or Newcastle, you get a lot less. Is the Prime Minister saying that frail, elderly, vulnerable people in our big cities are less valuable than those in wealthier parts of the country?
This is a crisis for many elderly people who are living in a difficult situation, but it is also a crisis for the national health service. People in hospital cannot be discharged because there is nowhere for them to go. I ask the Prime Minister again: the crisis affects individuals, families and the national health service, so why does she not do something really bold: cancel the corporation tax cut and put the money into social care instead?
The right hon. Gentleman referred to Newcastle council in his list. I have to say that Newcastle City Council is one of the councils that saw virtually no delayed discharges in September, so elderly people were not being held up in hospital when they did not need or want to be. That shows that it is possible for councils to deliver on the ground. Councils such as Newcastle and Torbay are doing that, but councils such as Ealing are not using the social care precept and the result is different. The difference between the worst performing council in relation to delayed discharges and the best is twentyfold. That is not about the difference in funding; it is about the difference in delivery.
Councils across the country work hard to try to cope with a 40% cut in their budgets, and the people paying the price are those who are stuck in hospital who should be allowed to go home and those who are not getting the care and support they need. The social care system is deep in crisis. The crisis was made in Downing Street by this Government. The former Chair of the Health Committee, Stephen Dorrell, says that the system is inadequately funded. The current Chair of the Health Committee, the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston), said that
“this issue can’t be ducked any longer because of the impact it is having not just on vulnerable people, but also on the NHS.”
Why does the Prime Minister not listen to local government, the King’s Fund, the NHS Confederation and her own council leaders and recognise that this social care crisis forces people to give up work to care for loved ones because there is no system to do that? It makes people stay in hospital longer than they should and leads people into a horrible, isolated life when they should be cared for by all of us through a properly funded social care system. Get a grip and fund it properly, please.
The issue of social care has been ducked by Governments for too long. That is why this Government will provide a long-term sustainable system for social care that gives people reassurance. The right hon. Gentleman talks about Governments ducking social care, so let us look at the 13 years of Labour government. In 1997, they said in their manifesto that they would sort it. They had a royal commission in 1999, a Green Paper in 2005 and the Wanless report in 2006. They said they would sort it in the 2007 comprehensive spending review. In 2009, they had another Green Paper: 13 years and no action whatsoever.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this issue. This is an appalling strike and he is right to raise the discrepancy in the attitude of ASLEF; we have seen driver-only operated trains on rail networks in the UK for decades and they are on Thameslink. I hope that the talks at ACAS are going to lead to an end to this strike, but I have a suggestion for the Leader of the Opposition, as he could do something to help members of the public. The Labour party is funded by ASLEF. Why does he not get on the phone and tell it to call the strike off immediately?
We join the leader of the Labour party and the Prime Minister in wishing great success to the Jo Cox single, which is available for download on Friday—I am sure we are all going to download it.
Civilians have suffered grievously from the bombing of hospitals, schools and markets. The United Nations believes that 60% of civilian casualties are caused by airstrikes. In the past 24 hours, the United States has stopped the supply of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia to bomb Yemen. When will the UK follow suit?
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we have a very strict regime of export licences in relation to weapons here in the United Kingdom. We exercise that very carefully, and in recent years we have indeed refused export licences in relation to arms, including to Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
The US Government have just said that
“systematic, endemic problems in Saudi Arabia’s targeting drove the US decision to halt a future weapons sale involving precision-guided munitions”.
The Saudis have UK-supplied precision-guided Paveway IV missiles—they are made in Scotland. The UK has licensed £3.3 billion-worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the bombing campaign. What will it take for the UK to adopt an ethical foreign policy when it comes to Yemen?
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the intervention in Yemen is a UN-backed intervention. As I have said previously, where there are allegations of breaches of international humanitarian law, we require those to be properly investigated. We do have a relationship with Saudi Arabia. The security of the Gulf is important to us, and I would simply also remind him that Saudi intelligence—the counter-terrorism links we have with Saudi Arabia and the intelligence we get from Saudi Arabia—has saved potentially hundreds of lives here in the UK.
My hon. Friend is right to raise the issue of looking at a sustainable way in which we can support integrated health and social care, and a sustainable way for people to know that in the future they are going to be able to have the social care that they require. As I said earlier in response to the Leader of the Opposition, we recognise the short-term pressures that there are on the system, but it is important for us to look at those medium-term and longer-term solutions if we are going to be able to address this issue. I was very pleased to be able to have a meeting with my hon. Friend to discuss this last week, and I look forward to further such meetings.
We do raise the issue of human rights when we meet the Gulf states, but the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right in relation to the role that Russia is playing in Syria. There is a very simple message for President Putin. He has it within his own hands to say to the Assad regime that enough is enough in Aleppo. We need to ensure that humanitarian aid is there for people and that there is security for the people who have, as the hon. Gentleman has said, been heroically saving the lives of others. I am sure that that is a message that he and others will be giving to the Russian ambassador. It is in President Putin’s hands; he can do it, why does he not?
First of all, I absolutely join my hon. Friend in congratulating everyone who took part in Singing for Syrians. I am sure the whole House welcomes the work that that group is doing and the money that it is raising and putting to extremely good use. The House was struck when she mentioned the number of people who are on the waiting list for prosthetic limbs. Our humanitarian aid support for Syria is the biggest such effort that the UK has made. Of course we are giving money to the refugees who have fled from Syria. We are also working diplomatically to try to reduce the suffering and to ensure that the sort of aid and medical support that she is talking about gets through to the citizens of Aleppo. We will continue to ensure that our humanitarian aid is being put to good use—helping those who are vulnerable and also helping those who need the education and support to be able, in due course, to rebuild Syria when it is stable and secure.
The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue. I recognise that there are many people who are just about managing and struggling to get by who find themselves having to revert to support from companies that do, sadly, charge the sort of interest rates that he is talking about. Action has been taken in relation to some of those activities in the past, but I will look at the issue that he raised.
I recognise the concern that my hon. Friend has raised; it is one that is shared by many Kent MPs who see this problem only too closely in their own constituencies. May I assure her that the Government share the desire to ensure that we do not see this fly-parking of lorries across Kent and that we do provide suitable lorry parking facilities in Kent? I know that the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones), is looking at this issue very carefully. I recognise, from my time as Home Secretary, the pressure that can be put on the roads, villages and towns in Kent at particular times. The Government are working on it, and we will find a solution.
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the issue of decent mobile coverage does not only affect the highlands. There are parts of England, Wales and Northern Ireland that are also affected. The Government have very strong commitments in relation to this; we have very strong commitments in relation to broadband. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport will deliver on those.
Money cannot compensate someone who has been accused of a very serious criminal offence and who then finds that the details are in the press along with their name. Nothing, in truth, can restore their reputation after it has been trashed in those circumstances. In 2011, I tried to change the law with a private Member’s Bill. Today, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said that it was time to introduce new legislation. Will the Prime Minister agree at least to consider changing the law so that everyone, with a few exceptions, has the right to anonymity if they are a suspect in criminal proceedings until such time as they are charged?
I recognise the interest that my right hon. Friend takes in this issue. She will know that it has been debated on a number of occasions in the House. The general assumption is that someone should not be named before the point of charge, but there is an allowance for the police to be able to raise someone’s name if it is a case where they believe that doing so will perhaps help other victims to come forward. This is of particular concern in matters of sexual violence—rape, for example—or where the police believe that the naming of an individual will help in the detection of the crime. This is a delicate issue, and I recognise my right hon. Friend’s concern. The College of Policing is looking at it very carefully, and is due to provide new guidance to the police in the new year in relation to the media.
We must all take responsibility for decisions that we have taken, whether we take them sitting around the National Security Council table or, indeed, whether we take them in the House, with the decision it took in 2013. The hon. Lady raised the question of UK-led action in relation to the protection of civilians. The UK has been pressing for action in the United Nations Security Council, working with the French. The two most recent emergency UN Security Council meetings were called for by us, and the most recent took place yesterday. As she will know, there have been six UN Security Council resolutions which have been vetoed by Russia. The most recent was also vetoed by China. We continue to work with the United Nations, but if we are to get a solution that works on the ground other countries have to buy into it, and it has to be a solution that Russia buys into, as well as the regime.
I have received a message from Nick from Grantham—actually, it was a text message from our hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles). For the avoidance of doubt, this is one text message that he is willing to have read out in public. Other than getting rid of his tumour and making a swift return to this place, nothing matters more to him than ensuring that round-the-clock emergency services are restored to his local hospital in Grantham. Will my right hon. Friend receive the petition that he has organised, ensure that the passionate views of his constituents are heard, and above all reassure people in that rural area that they will always have access to safe emergency care for them and their families?
I am sure the thoughts of the whole House are with our hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles), and I wish him the very best for his recovery as he goes through this illness. I recognise the strength of feeling he has about the emergency services in his local hospital. I believe that those concerns are shared by our new hon. Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Dr Johnson). I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford that the process that is taking place, which is looking at the development of local services, is about listening to local people, hearing the local voice and, above all, ensuring that the services available to people in their local area are the right services for that area and that they can be delivered safely and securely for local people.
No. Obviously we have put the social care precept in place in recognition of the pressures on social care, but I am very pleased to say that we have seen many examples over the country of good local authorities ensuring that they are keeping council tax down, including the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, which cut council tax for six years running.
On 14 August my constituents George Low and Ben Barker were the victims of a vicious knife attack in Ayia Napa. George Low, sadly, died later that day from his injuries. The two culprits fled to northern Cyprus, where they were arrested on unrelated matters. Despite representations made by the Foreign Office, one of those men was recently able to walk free, and it is feared that the second man will follow shortly. Will the Prime Minister do all she can to help to bring justice for George Low and Ben Barker for what was an horrific, vicious attack that was completely without provocation and has been devastating for both their families?
I am sure all of us across the House send our deepest sympathies to the family of George Low, and our very best wishes to Ben Barker for a full recovery from the terrible injuries that he suffered as a result of what was, as my hon. Friend said, a violent and completely unprovoked attack. The case was raised most recently with the relevant Government by the Foreign Secretary during his visit to Cyprus on 30 November, and he set out clearly our desire to see those guilty of this attack brought to justice. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will continue to offer help and support to both families. We will continue to raise this issue, and I am sure the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will keep my hon. Friend informed of any developments.
We will need to address such issues as we look at the arrangements that will be in place following our exit from the EU. I am sure everybody recognises the significance of the Arbroath smokie and other products from around the United Kingdom. At the end of his question the hon. Gentleman said “should we leave the EU”. I can tell him that we will be leaving the EU.
On 19 December 35 years ago, 16 people lost their lives in ferocious storms off the coast of west Cornwall. Eight of them were men from Mousehole, who had launched the Penlee lifeboat, the Solomon Browne, to rescue the crew of the Union Star. Thirty-five years later, this tragedy still haunts the village of Mousehole and West Penwith, and many people mark the anniversary every year. Will the Prime Minister join me in remembering these brave men and the loved ones they left behind, and pay credit to all our lifeboat men and women, who are prepared to risk their lives for those in peril on the sea?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue. I absolutely join him in marking the 35th anniversary of the Penlee lifeboat tragedy and in sending our sympathies to all those families who were affected, but also to the local communities who were affected, as he has set out. I am sure everybody in this House would want to pay tribute to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution as well and the tireless work it does. As an island, it is important that we have that security and safety around our shores. The RNLI works tirelessly to protect people who, as he said, are in peril on the sea, and we pay tribute to it.
I say to the hon. Lady that I am keen to ensure that we can protect the rights of EU citizens living here, but I am also keen that the rights of UK citizens who are living in the EU are protected as well. The Home Secretary, I think, is aware of the proposals that have been put forward and is looking at them very carefully.
In October, hundreds of people from across Europe attended a neo-Nazi rally in Haddenham, a small village in my rural constituency. What steps is the Prime Minister taking to tackle racial hatred?
First of all, can we once again, from this House, send a very clear message that there is no place for racial hatred in our society? This is so important. The Home Office has done a lot of work on racial hatred and hate crime. It has published a hate crime action plan, which shows what we are going to be doing during the lifetime of this Government. Of course, earlier this week, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary proscribed the right-wing organisation National Action, which means that being a member of, or inviting support for, that organisation will be a criminal offence. It is important that we take every step we can to stop racial hatred in this country, and I was pleased to announce on Monday that Britain will be the first country in Europe to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism.
The hon. Lady is right to raise the role that education plays in ensuring the futures of young people in Bradford. That is why I am pleased to say that there has been an increase of nearly 16,000 children in Bradford who have been at good or outstanding schools since 2010. We are taking action to ensure the quality of education, but I want to make sure that there are enough good school places for children across the whole country, and that is what our education consultation is about.
I came to Prime Minister’s questions today from an incredibly moving and powerful private session with the Work and Pensions Committee, where we talked and listened to victims of modern slavery who are now living in safe houses—I do not think I will ever forget it in my life. Please will the Prime Minister take her enthusiasm and the passion with which she drove this issue as Home Secretary and work with the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions? These people are vulnerable. When they come to the jobcentre, so often their background and their cases are not understood. As with survivors of domestic violence, they need to be fast-tracked through the system. If ever vulnerable people needed the state to step up and support them, it is these people. Please can we do more?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Nothing brings home the absolutely horrific nature of the crime of modern slavery than actually sitting down and hearing the testimony of a victim. These people have, very often, gone through the most horrendous, dehumanising experiences. It is absolutely right that the Government brought forward the Modern Slavery Act 2015. It is right that we have been looking at how victim support is provided and at the national referral mechanism—a whole number of steps—and of course we will work with the DWP in looking at the support that is given. She makes an important point in referring to jobcentres, but of course it is not just about jobcentres. One of the things we need to do is to ensure that those in authority who come into contact with people who have been the victims of modern slavery are able to recognise the signs, and able to treat it in the right way and deal with people sensitively and sympathetically in an appropriate way.
First of all, my right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary has been taking steps in relation to the general performance of Southern railway. We have stepped in to invest £20 million specifically to tackle the issue and bring a rapid improvement in services. We announced Delay Repay 15 from 11 December for the whole of Southern railway, which will make it easier for passengers to claim compensation. We have announced that we will give passengers who are season ticket holders on Southern a refund for a month’s travel. We have been looking at the wider issue. The hon. Lady raises the question of the current strike. There is only one body responsible for the current strike, and that is ASLEF. This a strike by the trade unions, and she should be standing up and condemning that strike, because it is passengers who suffer.
The £1.5 billion of additional funding for the better care fund is both needed and welcome, but the problem is that this money is not available until 2019. Will my right hon. Friend therefore look at seeing whether some of this funding can be drawn down earlier than that in order to alleviate the pressure on social care in areas such as Devon, where there is a very high level of elderly people?
My right hon. Friend raises an important point about the short-term pressures on social care. That is why the Government have been looking at what measures can be taken to alleviate those short-term pressures. As I say, my right hon. Friend the Communities Secretary will be making a statement on the local government finance settlement tomorrow, but we do need to look at the medium-term issues of delivery and the longer-term reassurance that we can provide to people in ensuring that we have a sustainable system of social care that gives people the comfort of knowing that they will be cared for in their old age.
May I join colleagues who urged people in this House and beyond to go out and buy the Jo Cox Foundation single by the excellent MP4, which is not just available on download but in hard copy for those of us who prefer that kind of thing?
Every day since the Brexit result on 23 June seems to have been a good day to bury bad news, and the worst news is in our social care and health system: the daily wave of tragedies, indignities and near misses; the £2.5 billion shortfall in social care funding; and thousands of operations already cancelled. Yesterday the Secretary of State for Health said that the NHS and social care needed more money, yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not offer a single extra penny for health or social care in the autumn statement. Which of the two does the Prime Minister agree with? Will she take this opportunity to provide health and social care with the money it needs this side of Christmas?
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government will be making a statement tomorrow on the local government finance settlement. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman waits for that statement.
Back in 2010, the overseas aid budget was around £7 billion a year. By 2020, it will have more than doubled to over £15 billion a year. The shortfall in social care funding by 2020 is estimated at about £2.5 billion a year. Surely the Government priority should be to look after the elderly, vulnerable and disabled people in our own country before we hand money over to other countries. Will the Prime Minister take some of that money—a small amount of that increase—from the overseas aid budget and spend it on elderly, vulnerable and disabled people in our own country? Surely charity begins at home.
I think it is absolutely right that the Government are taking steps on the pressures on social care here in the United Kingdom, but it is also important for us that we take into consideration those who are in different circumstances across the world. This Government’s record of ensuring that 0.7% of our GDP is spent on overseas aid is a record second to none. We should all be proud of the help and support that we are giving to people around the world who, often, are living in incredibly difficult circumstances. We look after old people here in the UK; we also take seriously that moral responsibility for people around the world.