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Volume 620: debated on Wednesday 1 February 2017

I am sure that the whole House will join me in offering our condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives and were injured in the gun attack in Quebec City on Sunday, and in paying tribute to our former colleague Tam Dalyell, who died last Friday. He was an outstanding parliamentarian, and I am sure that all our thoughts are with his friends and family.

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

I associate myself with the remarks made by the Prime Minister and the tribute paid to the victims in Canada and to the family of Tam Dalyell.

North Devon is quite rightly concerned that the current review of health services across the county may result in the loss of some acute services at our hospital in Barnstaple. For some residents, the nearest alternative could be three hours away. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that she will listen carefully to those concerns, because I want to be able to say to North Devon that we are the party of the NHS?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. I can reassure him that this Government are absolutely committed to ensuring the best possible healthcare for patients right across the country. I recognise that concerns have been expressed locally about the North Devon district hospital. I understand that there are no specific proposals at the moment, but I know that the input of local communities will remain crucial throughout the process, and I can assure him that of course it is this party in government that is putting the extra funding into the NHS and showing how we value it.

I join the Prime Minister in offering condolences to all those who died in the horrific attack, fuelled by hate, in Quebec, and we should send our solidarity to everyone in Canada on this sad occasion.

May I also associate myself with the Prime Minister’s tribute to the former Member for West Lothian, and later Linlithgow, Tam Dalyell? A Labour MP and former Father of the House, he doggedly fought to expose official wrongdoing and cover-ups, from the miners strike to Iraq. I am sure the Prime Minister would agree that Tam’s scrutiny and contributions made this House a better place, and may I recommend to all Members his autobiography “The Importance of Being Awkward”? [Interruption.] And I am quite happy to offer my copy to the Secretary of State for Brexit to have a good read of it. I am sure that he has probably already read it.

At last week’s Prime Minister Question Time, the Prime Minister told the House:

“I am not afraid to speak frankly to a President of the United States”.—[Official Report, 25 January 2017; Vol. 620, c. 288.]

What happened?

First, let me say that I was not aware of Tam Dalyell’s book “The Importance of Being Awkward”, but given the number of resignations that the right hon. Gentleman has had from his Front Bench, I suspect that some of his colleagues have indeed read it.

I am pleased to say to the right hon. Gentleman that when I visited the United States, I was able to build on the relationship that we have with our most important ally and get some very significant commitments from President Trump. Crucial among those was a 100% commitment to NATO—NATO which keeps us safe and keeps Europe safe too.

Downing Street has not denied that the Prime Minister was told by the White House that the Executive order on travel to the US was imminent, so let us be clear: was the Prime Minister told about the ban during her visit, and did she try to persuade President Trump otherwise?

On the policy that President Trump has introduced, this Government are clear that it is wrong. We would not do it. In six years as Home Secretary, I never introduced such a policy. We believe it is divisive and wrong. If the right hon. Gentleman is asking me whether I had advance notice of the ban on refugees, the answer is no. If he is asking me if I had advance notice that the Executive order could affect British citizens, the answer is no. If he is asking if I had advance notice of the travel restrictions, the answer is, we all did, because President Trump said in his election campaign that he was going to do this. The question is how to respond. The job of Government is not to chase the headlines; the job of Government is not to take to the streets in protest; the job of Government is to protect the interests of British citizens, and that is exactly what we did.

On the day after the Executive order was made to ban refugees and visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries, why did the Prime Minister three times refuse to condemn the ban?

I have made it very clear that we believe that this policy is divisive and wrong, and that it is not a policy that we would introduce. I have also made it very clear when asked about this that this Government have a very different approach to these issues. On refugees, this Government have a proud record of the support that we have given to them, and long may it continue.

The Prime Minister said:

“The United States is responsible for the United States’ policy on refugees.”

But surely it is the responsibility of all of us to defend the 1951 refugee convention, which commits this country, the United States and 142 other states to accept refugees without regard to their

“race, religion or country of origin.”

President Trump has breached that convention. Why did she not speak out?

First, I have made absolutely clear what the Government’s view on this policy is. Secondly, as I have just said, this Government and this country have a proud record on how we welcome refugees. In recent years, we have introduced a very particular scheme to ensure that particularly vulnerable refugees in Syria can be brought to this country, and something like 10,000 Syrian refugees have come to this country since the conflict began. We are also the second biggest bilateral donor, helping and supporting refugees in the region. That is what we are doing. I have said that the US policy is wrong. We will take a different view, and we will continue to welcome refugees to this country.

I also wrote to the Prime Minister on this issue and received her reply this morning. I hold in my hand her piece of paper. She makes no mention of the refugee convention and does not condemn US action in that respect.

Last week, I asked the Prime Minister to assure the House that she would not offer up our national health service as a “bargaining chip” in any US trade deal. She gave no answer. She also refused to rule it out when asked in the US, so let me ask her a third time: will she rule out opening up our national health service to private US healthcare companies—yes or no?

I could give a detailed answer to the right hon. Gentleman’s question, but a simple and straightforward reply is what is required: the NHS is not for sale and it never will be.

I hope that that includes not having US healthcare companies coming in to run any part of our national health service.

President Trump has torn up international agreements on refugees. He has threatened to dump international agreements on climate change. He has praised the use of torture. He has incited hatred against Muslims. He has directly attacked women’s rights. Just what more does he have to do before the Prime Minister will listen to the 1.8 million people who have already called for his state visit invitation to be withdrawn?

The right hon. Gentleman’s foreign policy is to object to and insult the democratically elected Head of State of our most important ally. Let us see what he would have achieved in the last week. Would he have been able to protect British citizens from the impact of the Executive order? No. Would he have been able to lay the foundations of a trade deal? No. Would he have got a 100% commitment to NATO? No. That is what Labour has to offer this country—less protection for British citizens, less prosperity, less safety. He can lead a protest; I am leading a country.

Q2. Today it is inconceivable that somebody would be prosecuted based on who and what they are. Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the posthumous pardon of some 49,000 men thanks to the Government’s Turing Bill which was enacted yesterday? Will she also encourage those who are still alive to come forward so that their injustices can be overturned? (908499)

I am very happy to join my hon. Friend in welcoming an extremely important change in the law. We committed to it in our manifesto and have now delivered on it. Passing Turing’s law has been a long-standing commitment for the Government. It is momentous and takes action to right the wrongs of the past. Like my hon. Friend, I certainly encourage those still alive to apply to the Home Office to have their offences disregarded.

We on the SNP Benches associate ourselves with all the comments thus far about the tragic deaths in Quebec City and about the passing of Tam Dalyell. Respect for him was held across the political parties and he served with great distinction for more than 40 years.

The Prime Minister had a successful international visit this last week—to Ireland. She spoke publicly about her commitment—this is important—not to have a hard border on these islands, to the continuation of free movement of peoples on these islands and to protect and enhance trade. Given that people will be watching this not just in Britain but in Ireland, will she take this opportunity to explain how she will deliver those sensible, important outcomes?

Those are absolutely the outcomes that we want to see. I was very pleased to meet the Taoiseach and to discuss with him the joint intent that both his Government and mine have to ensure that we do not see a return to the borders of the past in Northern Ireland. We focus on the land border that is between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Of course, the issue of movements from Ireland affects other places as well; it affects ports in Wales and Stranraer. Therefore, it is an important issue for us and we have agreed the work that we are going to do together to deliver what I believe will be as frictionless a border as possible. Also, one of the objectives that I set out in my plan for our negotiating objectives is to retain the common travel area.

We on the SNP Benches very much welcome what the Prime Minister has just said on all those issues. Of course, we also welcome the intensifying of negotiations between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations ahead of triggering article 50. The Prime Minister has very helpfully explained that it is perfectly possible for parts of these islands to be in the single market, without hard borders, with free movement of people, while at the same time protecting and enhancing trade with one another. That is very, very welcome, so will she give a commitment to work with the Irish Government and a commitment to work with the Scottish Government to deliver all those things—or will we just have to get on with it ourselves?

First, the right hon. Gentleman is right that following the meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee plenary on Monday morning, we agreed to intensify discussion on issues related to the bringing back of powers from Brussels and where those powers should lie within the UK—to intensify that in the run-up to the triggering of article 50 and beyond the triggering of article 50.

On the other question, the right hon. Gentleman really should listen to the answers that are given, because he is trying to imply something that is not there. [Hon. Members: “Oh!”] Yes. We are very clear that we want to see a frictionless border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, but I am also clear that one of the objectives of our negotiation is to see as frictionless a border as possible between the UK and the rest of the European Union. Of course, if he is so worried about having a frictionless border between Scotland and countries in the EU, he should not want to take Scotland out of the EU by wanting to see it independent. [Interruption.]

Order. We should not have to allow for the reaction from the SNP Benches to every answer before we proceed to the next question.

Q4. EU nationals provide a vital and expert service in my local hospital in Basingstoke and, along with thousands of others, they face an uncertain future. I know that this is something that the Prime Minister wants to give priority to and to sort out. Will we be hearing more about it in the forthcoming White Paper? (908501)

My right hon. Friend makes an important point about EU nationals. I would like to confirm my intention and expectation that we will be able to offer that reassurance to EU nationals living in the UK, but I also want to see reassurance offered to UK nationals living in the EU. I hope and will be working to try to ensure that this is an issue we can deal with at a very early stage in the negotiations. It was one of the objectives I set out in the plan. It will be referenced in the White Paper and I can inform my right hon. Friend and the House that that White Paper will be published tomorrow.

Q3. Prime Minister, your responses today have been deeply unsatisfactory. The President of the United States has advocated torture, misogyny, racial discrimination, sexual assault and isolationism. The leaders of Canada and Germany were able to respond robustly, but your response was to jump on a plane as soon as possible to hold his hand. Does this country not deserve a leader who is willing to stand up for British values? (908500)

Order. I have issued no response and the hon. Gentleman not only should not breach parliamentary protocol but should not tempt me.

I will tell you what standing up for British values is. I and this Government introduced the first Modern Slavery Act in this country. I have ensured that stop and search has reduced, because I do not believe that anyone on the streets of this country should be stopped and searched because of the colour of their skin, and I ensured justice for the families of Hillsborough.

Q5. In light of the fact that most of the countries covered by the Trump ban have a total bar on the admission of Israeli citizens, should the protestors not be calling for that ban to be lifted as well? (908502)

I thank my right hon. Friend for pointing that out. It is absolutely right that the House should be aware of the discrimination around the world and of that ban, particularly for those who are Israeli citizens. We are consistent: we do not agree with that approach and it is not one that we will take. I wait for the day when the right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn) stands up and condemns it too.

Q6. My constituent Dianah Kendall suffered a bleed on the brain in 2012 and has struggled to work since, but was due to retire in September. Government changes to her state pension retirement age mean that she will now not retire until 2022. This injustice has short-changed 2.6 million WASPI women and brings shame on this Government. Will the Prime Minister think again and support Dianah and the millions of women who deserve fairness in retirement? (908503)

On the issue of those who are known as the WASPI campaign, I refer the hon. Gentleman to the fact that, as I am sure he knows, we committed more than £1 billion to lessen the impact on those worst affected, so no one will see their pension age change by more than 18 months. There is a wider point: we need to be realistic when considering pension ages about the fact that people are living longer. If we want to carry on having an affordable and sustainable pension system, we need to equalise the state pension age for men and women faster and to bring forward the rise.

Q10. I welcome the £450 million announced in the autumn statement to fund a trial of the digital railway. Given the new fleet of trains on order and the economic growth opportunity for our region, does the Prime Minister agree that the great eastern main line has the most compelling case for that pilot? (908507)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the importance of transport links for economic growth. I understand that digital signalling could increase capacity on commuter trains by up to 40%, hence the investment of £450 million for trials over the coming years to which he rightly refers. I know that the Department for Transport is considering where those trials should take place, but we certainly recognise that the great eastern main line is one area that could benefit from those improvements.

Q7. A few moments ago, the Prime Minister tried to claim credit for passing Stonewall’s Turing Bill. She did not; the Turing Bill pardons all gay men found guilty of crimes no longer on the statute book. When will the Prime Minister follow the Scottish Government and automatically pardon the living as well as the dead? (908504)

It was during my time as Home Secretary that the legislation was introduced that gives those who are alive the opportunity to apply to the Home Office to have those offences that are no longer on the statute book expunged from their record—

The hon. Gentleman says that they are not doing it. In this Chamber today my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew) and I have both encouraged people to come forward and make that application, and that is a message that we should all put out.

Q11. At the White House, my right hon. Friend gained some assurances from President Trump about his commitment to NATO, an achievement that was welcomed by the Governments of the Czech Republic, Latvia and Lithuania. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the way to engage with President Trump and to win such agreements is not by insulting our close ally but by bringing him close, rather than doing as the Leader of the Opposition demands? If we reject our closest ally, would that not leave Britain and our European partners less safe and less secure? (908508)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We should never forget that America is our most important ally. Our relationship is long standing and American men and women served and died alongside UK men and women in two world wars to protect our security and the security of Europe. If we were not able to have that relationship and to see that commitment to NATO, in particular, we would leave this country and Europe less safe.

Q8. Many were surprised that immediately after those cosy images with Donald Trump were taken the Prime Minister chose to meet the Turkish President, who has been running an increasingly repressive regime since the failed coup last summer. Will she confirm whether she raised any human rights concerns with President Erdogan, or, as we turn our face from Europe, will it be the policy of post-Brexit Britain to put arms deals before human rights abuses? (908505)

First, the hon. Lady should recognise that Turkey is an important country in relation both to our security and the issue of migration into Turkey and potentially into Europe. She will also recognise that Turkey has, and continues to host, 3 million refugees from Syria, and I commended the Turkish Government on the welcome they have given them. I suggest that she should just have looked at the press conference I gave after my discussions with President Erdogan and Prime Minister Yildirim, in which I made it clear that we had condemned the coup but expected the Turkish Government to support their democratic institutions, international human rights and the rule of law.

Q12. I wholeheartedly congratulate my right hon. Friend on securing 100% for NATO from the new US Administration. Will she outline what she is doing to persuade our other NATO allies of the importance of achieving what was agreed at the NATO Wales summit on their obligations? (908509)

First, I thank my hon. Friend for the work that he does on the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. I know he is fully engaged with that. He is right that commitments were made at the NATO summit in Wales in 2014, when all our NATO allies committed to spending 2% of their GDP on defence within a decade. We have seen progress, but I agree with President Trump that many allies need to go further. I can assure my hon. Friend that I and other Ministers across Government raise the issue regularly with our allies and partners and will continue to do so.

Q9. Last week, air pollution in London was worse than in Beijing. Will the Prime Minister therefore assure me and my constituents in Osterley, Brentford and Chiswick that the hugely expensive proposal to double the capacity of the M4 as it arrives in London will be shelved forthwith? (908506)

I can assure the hon. Lady that this Government take the issue of air quality very seriously. A lot of work has been done. Since 2011 more than £2 billion has been committed to enable, for example, bus operators to upgrade their fleets, and to ensure that changes are made to reduce pollution from vehicles such as refuse trucks and fire engines. We do recognise, however, that more needs to be done. We have seen a reduction in nitrous oxide from some 17% in recent years, but we will bring forward proposals to ensure that we can maintain the air quality that we all want to see.

Will my right hon. Friend show her support for “Brighter Berkshire”, the campaign as part of the 2017 year of mental health? Will she give her continued commitment to ensuring that we have parity between mental health and physical health in this country?

I am very happy to endorse the campaign to which my hon. Friend refers. It is important that we continue to raise awareness of the issues around mental health. The fact the Government have committed to the parity of esteem between mental and physical health is important. There is more for us to do on mental health, and I have already set out some steps that we want to take. I commend all those, however, who are working to raise the issue of mental health and provide support to those with mental health problems.

Q13. The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services has said that £4.6 billion has been cut from social care budgets since 2010. Does the Prime Minister take any responsibility for the pain and the distress that the Tories have inflicted on poor, vulnerable old people being denied their rightful care? Yes or no? (908510)

The Government have taken a number of steps to increase the funding available for local authorities to provide for social care. It is also important that we ensure that best practice is developed and put into place across the country. In some parts of the country the record on social care and the interaction with hospitals is better than in others, but the longer-term issue is for us to ensure that we have a sustainable system for delivering social care for people in this country. The Labour party ducked that issue for 13 years. We are addressing it.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Morley Academy on its recently awarded World Class Schools quality mark and say how such awards drive pupil excellence?

I am happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating the whole team at Morley Academy on receiving the award, which I think shows the work that the GORSE Academies Trust is doing to drive up excellence and improve outcomes for pupils. We are determined to drive up standards in schools to ensure that more children have good school places—a good school place for every child—so that they can all reach the sort of level we see at Morley Academy.

Q14. How will the thousands of people who lost their jobs at British Home Stores feel about the fact that it may take years before the case of Philip Green, the totally discredited and disgraced businessperson, results in his knighthood being taken away or otherwise? Is it not remarkable? People lose their jobs and suffer all the consequences, but this man keeps his billions and his knighthood. (908512)

The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue. Many Members of this House have expressed concern about what happened at BHS and the attitude and approach taken by Philip Green. Whether a knighthood should be taken away from someone is a matter for the relevant committee—I have forgotten the name—which will be examining the case; I understand that it is waiting for the investigations to be completed. This is a matter for an independent committee and it is up to the committee how it looks into it.

Tonight, there will be an historic vote in this place, a vote that I thought I would not see in my political lifetime: the British Parliament voting to withdraw from the European Union under the excellent leadership of the Prime Minister. Is my right hon. Friend surprised that Opposition Members who demand time to discuss the matter and debate it—namely, the Liberal Democrats—did not even bother to turn up last night? The Government Benches were packed, the Scottish National party Benches were packed, the Democratic Unionist party Members were here, and there were some Labour Members. Is that not surprising?

Throughout my political career I have fought Liberal Democrats, and nothing that they do ever surprises me, but I join my hon. Friend in commending the Bill before the House. This House has a very simple decision to take. We gave the right of judgment on this matter to the British people, and they made their choice: they want to leave the EU. The question every Member must ask themselves as they go through the Lobby tonight is: do they trust the people?

Who would have guessed it, Mr Speaker? We are here now, asking the questions—[Interruption]—asking the questions about the future of our country and Brexit that a strong Leader of the Opposition should be asking—

Order. [Interruption.] Mr Knight, I am very worried about you. You recently suffered from a bad leg. With all that shouting, you will be suffering from a bad head. Calm yourself man!

The Prime Minister will return at some point with a deal with Europe that our people will have to live with for decades to come, especially our young people, 73% of whom voted to remain. Nobody knows what that deal will look like, but someone will get to agree it. Should it be her Government, should it be this Parliament, or should it be—as I believe it should—the British people?

Mr Shelbrooke, calm yourself. You are in a state of excessive excitement, even by your standards.

It is quite difficult to follow that, Mr Speaker, but back in the real world—[Laughter.]

In December 2015, my constituency suffered terrible flooding, especially in the town of Tadcaster. The damage became worse when the bridge collapsed, separating the town. Thankfully, the bridge will be reopened, hopefully this week. Will the Prime Minister join me in thanking all those who were involved in the restoration of the bridge and, most importantly, the residents of Tadcaster, who have had a terrible year?

I am happy to join my hon. Friend in commending and thanking not only all those who worked so hard to restore the bridge at Tadcaster, but the people of Tadcaster, who have had to put up with disruption and inconvenience for such a long time. I am sure that those people will all welcome the return of the bridge, and we commend all those who have ensured that that has happened.

The news revealed yesterday that Toshiba is reviewing its investment in the Moorside nuclear power plant, which puts a huge question mark over not only 21,000 jobs in Cumbria but the future of our nation’s energy security. What will the Prime Minister do personally to ensure that the deal stays on track?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that both the Business Secretary and I have involvement in a number of deals and possible deals around the nuclear industry. We are keen to ensure that those jobs are brought to the United Kingdom and that such deals are kept on track. I assure him of the Government’s commitment.

This week the Danish drug firm Novo Nordisk invested £115 million in the UK to further research into type 2 diabetes. Will the Prime Minister join me in welcoming that investment as well as the academics and scientists involved, many of whom are from the EU and around the world and will appreciate the assurance she gave earlier? Will she also work with me to ensure that any innovations and new treatments get to patients as quickly as possible?

As my hon. Friend will probably understand, I recognise this issue particularly personally, although I am a type 1 diabetic rather than type 2. Any investment in diabetes research is to be welcomed, and when new solutions and support for diabetics are found, it is important that they get to people as quickly as possible. A significant number of people in this country suffer from type 2 diabetes, and the figures show that there is a great risk that the number will increase significantly in the coming years. We need to do all that we can not only to prevent people from becoming type 2 diabetics in the first place, but to support those who have that condition so that people suffer from fewer complications and are able to manage their lives.

Today is World Hijab Day. Will the Prime Minister join me in recognising the right of Muslim women to wear the hijab if they wish, without fear, and indeed the right of all women everywhere to wear what they want, when they want? Will she also commit to standing up for the right to refuge for men, women and children wherever they may be, regardless of their religion?

On the hon. Lady’s second point, it is absolutely the case that this country welcomes refuges to the United Kingdom, and we do so regardless of their religion—there is no question of discriminating on religion.

I am absolutely in line with the hon. Lady on her point about wearing the hijab. I believe that what a woman wears is a woman’s choice.

Russian armed forces regularly carry out large-scale exercises, including with nuclear-capable equipment, on the borders of eastern Europe. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the American commitment to NATO is absolutely pivotal to protect the countries of eastern Europe from going the same way as eastern Ukraine?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. The 100% commitment to NATO that President Trump has given is crucial to ensuring that we can provide for the security of this country and others in Europe, especially those in eastern Europe on the border with Russia. I noted that my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge) referred to the fact that the Governments of the Czech Republic, Latvia and Lithuania had welcomed that 100% commitment. I am pleased to say that we are playing our part, as about 800 troops will be going to Poland and Estonia this year as a sign of NATO’s strength and our belief in keeping those countries free and democratic.

In 2015, my constituent Samia Shahid was lured to her death in Pakistan, where she was brutally raped and murdered. Will the Prime Minister join me in reiterating the commitment of this House and this country that we will not tolerate violence against women, and encourage the Pakistani Government to continue in their efforts to get justice for our British girl, Samia Shahid?

The hon. Lady raises a very tragic case, and our deepest sympathies are with Samia’s husband following her tragic death last year. We do not interfere in the legal processes of another country, but I understand from the Foreign Office that the Pakistani police have arrested two people and charged them with murder. The Foreign Office has provided assistance to Samia’s husband and will continue to do so. I am sure it will keep the hon. Lady informed, and I understand that the Home Secretary will meet the hon. Lady soon to discuss this issue.