House of Commons
Thursday 9 February 2017
The House met at half-past Nine o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
Culture, Media and Sport
The Secretary of State was asked—
In a fast-changing and challenging broadcasting environment, the Government want to ensure that Channel 4 has a strong and secure future, and that it can continue to provide for audiences and support the creative industries across the UK. The Government are looking at a broad range of options, and we will set out our plans in that area in due course.
It is a shame that the review is not as fast-changing and fast-moving as the broadcasting environment. At the end of this month, the review will have taken longer than the BBC charter review, so can we now put the review out of its misery, and declare that Channel 4 works well and will not be privatised?
Unlike the BBC charter review, this is not a formal process and there is no end date at which the charter expires, as there is with the BBC, but we do need to make sure that we get this right. I want to see Channel 4 survive, flourish and prosper in what is an ever-changing broadcasting world, as the hon. Gentleman rightly says, and that means that we are working with Channel 4 to get the right deal for viewers and the whole country.
What does my right hon. Friend think the view of the Competition and Markets Authority would be if a company that already owned one broadcaster the size of the BBC wanted to own another the size of Channel 4? If she agrees that that simply would not be allowed, will she please immediately begin the process to sell off Channel 4?
I know that my hon. Friend has strong views on this subject. I assure him that we are looking at all options, and we will report to the House in due course.
As my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) said, the question of whether Channel 4 will or will not be privatised is one of the longest running soaps in this House. Can the Secretary of State confirm that there will not be a shareholder solution, that it will not be privatised and that it will not be for profit—that it will be not for profit? I expect that she is coming under pressure from Government Back Benchers to privatise Channel 4.
I know that the hon. Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) is particularly interested in long-running soaps on Channel 4, given that “Hollyoaks” is set in his constituency. I want to make sure that “Hollyoaks” and other programmes set across the UK are able to prosper so that we have a plurality of broadcasting that works for everyone.
The Secretary of State will be aware that Channel 4 recently won broadcaster of the year at the Broadcast Awards. Does she therefore agree that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?
The important point is that we make sure that Channel 4 has a long-term, sustainable future. That is why we are looking at all options so that we can ensure that a station that relies very predominantly on advertising revenue is able to continue, and to provide the excellent broadcasting for which Channel 4 is renowned.
When the Secretary of State spoke to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee last year, she said that she would come to a decision in the “nearish future.” Now she says that she will come to a decision “in due course.” I do not know whether the nearish future is sooner than in due course, but this faffing around on Channel 4 has to stop. She has to show some leadership because the uncertainty is damaging its business and our broadcasting industry. Rather than taking a decision in the nearish future, will she now commit to doing so immediately?
I do not agree that this is affecting the quality of broadcasting that Channel 4 is able to produce. The fact that Channel 4 has committed, for example, to broadcasting the para-athletics, which is being held in London next summer, is a very positive move that we all welcome. I want to get this right, and I am working with Channel 4 and all stakeholders. I want to make sure that Channel 4 has a long-term, sustainable future, and I will report back to the hon. Gentleman as soon as possible.
We strongly support brass bands through regular Arts Council funding to organisations such as Brass Bands England. Additionally, large brass bands can take advantage of the orchestra tax relief, which was introduced in April 2016.
Youth Brass 2000 is a young people’s brass band based in the village of Wilbarston in the Kettering constituency. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating it on recently being crowned British open youth brass band champion for the fifth year running? Is it not an excellent example that other youth bands should be pleased to follow?
I am delighted to trumpet the success of the British open youth champions, who have won for the fifth year in a row. I played the cornet in a brass band when I was a boy, but I never rose to the dizzying heights of the national champions whom my hon. Friend represents. I send congratulations to them all.
In my constituency of Strangford, we have the wonderful Newtownards silver band, which brings together the young and the not so young playing instruments that are also young and not so young. I understand that the Minister is keen to support that, so will he endorse the need for cross-community participation and gender balance to ensure that the brass brands of the future can succeed?
As we can see by the response in the House, there are brass bands right across the country—the Haverhill band in my constituency is a particularly good example. The hon. Gentleman’s point that brass bands, like other music organisations, can bring together people from different backgrounds across cultural divides and provide a point of unity is well made.
The Minister is certainly not known for blowing his own trumpet. I am sure that, like me, he would like to congratulate the Haslingden and Helmshore band, the Water band, the 2nd Rossendale Scout band, the Whitworth Vale and Healey band and the Darwen brass band, all of which work with young people in particular. Will he take this opportunity to thank all those bands for the fantastic work that they do to get young people off the street, give them a love of music and get them performing?
I never got to the point of playing the trumpet—I was a mere cornet player—but I do want to bang the drum for all the brass bands that my hon. Friend mentioned.
The long-term sustainability of our brass bands, including the fine Blaenavon town band in my home town, depends on affordable music lessons being available in schools. Does the Minister agree that the Government’s cuts to the devolved Administrations’ local councils have put that at risk?
People who play in brass bands right across the country should be enthused by the support for this question from both sides of the Chamber. I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. In England, where the UK Government are responsible for support, we have put £300 million into music hubs to ensure that everybody gets the opportunity to play a musical instrument. It is up to devolved authorities to do that outside England, and I wish that the Welsh Government would do something similar.
Leaving the EU: Creative Industries
The Government want to ensure the best deal for Britain on leaving the European Union and to provide as much certainty as we can. The creative industries are one of the UK’s greatest success stories, contributing more than £87 billion to the economy and more than £19 billion in exports. I am confident that that will continue when we leave the European Union, and we have been working with the industry to ensure that that is the case.
I am sure the Secretary of State has her favourite rock band, so could she assure us that the Government are taking steps to ensure that increased carnet costs and work visa requirements do not kill off UK musicians’ ability to tour European venues post-Brexit?
It has been pointed out by hon. Friends behind me that we have moved from brass bands to rock bands—that was a nice segue by the hon. Gentleman. The point is that the UK music industry is a global leader—it is a leader not just in 27 European Union countries, but around the world. It is British bands that are touring around the world. I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point, and I am working closely with the industry to ensure that we get the very best deal for British music not only in Europe, but around the world.
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has committed to securing funding until 2020, which is after the UK will leave the European Union. I am working closely with the industry and across Government to make sure that we get the right deal for Britain so that we have the support needed to ensure that our creative industries flourish.
When I look at the stylish men and women on the Government Front Bench, I think that each and every one of them—except, perhaps, the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the hon. Member for Reading East (Mr Wilson)—could be models on the catwalk at London fashion week. The fashion industry is concerned that, as the UK leaves the EU, we will lose the right to protect original designs, which would have serious knock-on effects for trade showcases, including fashion week. Will the Secretary of State tell us what the Government are doing to make sure that our designers’ intellectual property rights are protected post-Brexit?
The hon. Gentleman asks a very timely question not only because fashion week is coming up, but because the Minister of State and I met the fashion industry only on Monday to discuss exactly those points. I reassure him and the fashion industry that, because the great repeal Bill will bring European rules into UK law, therefore making sure that there is no cliff edge, those rights will be protected.
Last week, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee took evidence from John Kampfner and others representing the creative industries. Some of those industries employ a 40% EU workforce, and these people are now in limbo. What reassurances can the Secretary of State give that their roles and livelihoods are secure?
I pay tribute to the work of the Creative Industries Federation, led by John Kampfner, and the role that it has played in working with the Government to develop our plan to ensure that we get the right deal for the creative industries when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. The hon. Gentleman will also know that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been very clear that she wants an early settlement on the matter of EU nationals in the UK, and UK nationals living in Europe. She is working hard, as we all are across Government, to ensure that we can achieve that as soon as possible.
Sports Stadiums: Accessibility
We expect all sports and all clubs to take the necessary action to fulfil their legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010 so that disabled people are not placed at a substantial disadvantage when accessing sports venues. Football has the highest profile on this issue and is stepping up to fulfil those obligations, and we expect all other sports to do the same.
As chair of the all-party group on disability, people from across the United Kingdom have been contacting me with grave concerns about the lack of accessibility to sports stadiums. Will the Minister meet me and the all-party group to discuss this extremely important matter and the steps that can move us forwards?
May I start by congratulating the hon. Lady on all that she does in championing disability rights? Her reputation on this matter is fast spreading around the Chamber and beyond.
My hon. Friend the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work and I would be delighted to meet the hon. Lady to discuss this issue, which we care passionately about and are making progress on. It is not just the English premier league that we are talking about, but football throughout this country and across the other home nations. I urge all Members to do what they can to encourage their local clubs to be as successful as possible.
Given all the wealth in premier league football, does the Minister agree that it is unacceptable that there are still clubs that do not yet have a plan to meet accessibility targets for their stadiums? Does she also agree with the Select Committee’s report that clubs that fail to do that should face legal action?
I do not agree that the clubs do not have a plan; they have a plan, but they might not be meeting it. My hon. Friend is right that there should be legal action, but it is not for me to advance that. He will be aware that the Equality and Human Rights Commission is the body that enforces the Equality Act 2010. If insufficient progress is being made by clubs, the commission should consider using its legal powers—it would have my full support were it to do so.
I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman listened to my answer. The Equality and Human Rights Commission is the enforcement body. If it decided to take legal action, it would have Government support. I know that he is a fan of Wolverhampton Wanderers, and that Molineux is still 62 spaces short of its own target. I hope that he will do all he can to continue to encourage the excellent disabled fans group to make sure that the club meets its target.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have committed to a comprehensive review of S4C this year. It will look at a range of issues, including funding arrangements, remit, accountability and governance. I look forward to his contributions to that review.
I thank the Secretary of State for her answer. She will be aware of the huge significance of S4C to the people of Wales. When the announcement of a review was made last year, the Government wisely froze the cut to the Department’s share of S4C’s budget. The review has not yet started—it will conclude this year—so will she guarantee again to freeze any proposed cut to S4C’s budget?
The Government are committed to ensuring that S4C has a strong and sustainable long-term future in broadcasting. We will ensure that the appropriate budgets are available.
We have ensured that S4C has appropriate funding for a very long time. It was a Conservative Government who introduced S4C in the first place. The Government gave more than £6 million this year and we will be giving more than £6 million next year. That funding is in addition to the money that comes from the licence fee. I hope that that reassures the hon. Lady that we are committed to S4C.
The current projection for S4C still means a 10% cut in its funding between now and 2021. Will the Secretary of State assure me that the review will strongly look at ensuring that there is a definitive base for S4C’s funding?
We are putting together the terms of reference for the review. I look forward to the right hon. Gentleman’s comments when the review is put forward.
Superfast Broadband: Universal Coverage
We strongly support the roll-out of superfast broadband, which is on track to be available to 95% of premises by the end of the year.
Almost one in three homes in my Aberavon constituency have broadband speeds of below 10 megabits a second. Moreover, I recently conducted a survey of my constituents in which 44% of respondents reported repeated loss of broadband service. Does the Minister agree that the future growth prospects of Aberavon will be severely constrained if this situation continues?
I will look into the figures that the hon. Gentleman mentions. Thinkbroadband, the independent body that publishes figures on this, thinks that the number of properties in Aberavon to which superfast broadband is available is much higher and, indeed, ahead of the national average. There has been a huge effort to roll out superfast broadband but, of course, there is a difference between something being available and it being taken up. It is important to ensure that people take up broadband when it is available.
The hardest-to-reach rural and isolated areas across the country have still not been reached by broadband. I urge the Government to have a flexible approach—perhaps using a voucher system in some cases—and to use all technologies to get broadband out to those isolated areas.
I very strongly agree with my hon. Friend.
When they were designing the superfast broadband tender, the Government were warned that they were effectively entrenching BT’s monopoly. In designing the universal service obligation, they now appear to be making exactly the same mistake again. Will the Minister commit to delivering choice in our broadband networks?
The premise of the hon. Lady’s question is wrong. Many companies are now delivering into the Broadband Delivery UK scheme. In fact, companies that did not even exist a few years ago are now delivering superfast broadband—and much faster—right across the country.
The Government are providing support for library authorities throughout England to deliver library services that are accessible and modern, and that meet local needs. That includes a £4 million libraries innovation fund, new wi-fi provision and support for library authorities to explore alternative operating models such as mutuals. I strongly believe that staff should have a stake in the public services they provide.
Lichfield library is situated in a lovely old building, but it would cost more than £1 million to maintain it, so Staffordshire County Council decided to move the library into a heritage centre, which will strengthen that centre, and the old library building is now being privatised and restored. It is a win-win situation. What sort of advice on best practice does the Department give to other county councils? Perhaps Staffordshire County Council could be a model, in this instance at least.
I welcome the approach that has been taken by Lichfield library and congratulate Staffordshire County Council on its work. Local authorities need to think imaginatively about how libraries can deliver their priorities, and the ambition document that we recently published through the Libraries Taskforce challenges them to do so. Standing still is really not an option. I encourage local authorities to embrace change and to be bold in finding solutions, as Staffordshire has done.
May I thank the Minister for being so personally engaged in supporting our efforts to protect Swindon’s vital community libraries? Will he join me in praising Councillor Dale Heenan for setting up the community library trust that has saved Covingham library and that should be expanded further?
May I thank my hon. Friend for all the efforts he is making in Swindon? I recently visited the local authority, and I was really encouraged by the desire to keep local libraries open. I join him in congratulating his local colleague and local councillor on the work he has done in setting up a local trust and keeping libraries open.
Today, my Department published the first annual report setting out our progress against “Sporting Future”, our sport strategy for an active nation. Since the last oral questions, my ministerial team and I have held a series of roundtable meetings with representatives from various DCMS sectors. The purpose of these meetings is to identify challenges and opportunities as the United Kingdom prepares to leave the European Union.
Last week, when I visited Deptford Green secondary school, a teenager from the school council asked me a question, and she started by saying, “It’s not political.” She asked me, “Why are there not more sports facilities for young girls in the area?” Female sports participation is half men’s—this was a very political question from a young girl—and is that any surprise when female role models such as Steph Houghton, England’s women’s football captain, is paid £65,000 a year, while Wayne Rooney is paid £250,000 a week? That is £12 million—
Order. I am sorry—it is a very good question, but it is far too long. Topical questions have got to be much shorter. I am sorry to interrupt, but I think we have got the gist.
I very much got the gist of the question, Mr Speaker. I do appreciate the point. We are well aware of it, and we are working across the Government to address it.
My right hon. Friend raises a very important point. We all know that the voluntary sector has the ability to bring greater social value to our public services, but we also know that it can sometimes face barriers when up against more established providers. That is why we announced a new programme of measures in this area in December and why an implementation group chaired by Sir Martyn Lewis and attended by my hon. Friend the Member for Reading East (Mr Wilson), the Minister for Civil Society, met for the first time yesterday to lead our work on this issue.
Keeping our children safe online is one of the Government’s most important responsibilities. That is why section 67 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 rightly made it a criminal offence for adults to send sexual messages to children, yet the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children says that, two years on, the law is still not enforced and the police cannot enforce it. Will the Minister explain to the House why the Government are dragging their feet on this and ensure that this legislation is implemented immediately?
It is very good to see a member of the shadow team who has been voting with the rest of the shadow Front Bench this week.
On the important issue that she addresses, ensuring internet safety is, as she knows, at the top of the Government’s agenda. It has been a crucial part of the Digital Economy Bill, and the proposal she makes is also something we are considering very seriously.
I recognise the valuable contribution that horse-racing makes to the north and, indeed, to the whole country. We remain on course to implement the reforms to the levy in April 2017, and we will lay legislation to that effect shortly.
I certainly join the hon. Gentleman in praising rugby league for all its efforts to make progress on this issue. Homophobia should not be allowed in sport. We share the same rugby league team, Leeds, and we wish them well this evening against St Helens.
I have in my constituency Chapel Down, one of the finest English wines that we sell in this country. I am certainly very passionate about English wine, for all the right reasons, and we must ensure that it is a key part of the tourism offer.
Manchester United should be applauded for its recent announcement on increasing the number of disabled supporters attending games by 300, but this is not a step that clubs at all levels can afford to take. What will the Minister do to support the smaller clubs that are looking to improve the experience of disabled supporters attending their matches?
Manchester United should be applauded for this. A number of other premier league clubs are improving their offer for disabled spectators, but it is true that clubs in lower leagues find it difficult. They are working well with Level Playing Field to ensure that they meet their commitment going forward, and we as a Government do all we can to support that.
I agree with my hon. Friend, who makes an important point. The Advertising Standards Authority, a non-statutory body, is looking into some of these issues, but it needs to look more broadly to make sure that people know what they are getting and advertising is proper and fair.
In 2014-15, nearly £4 million was lost in fixed odds betting terminals in my constituency by those who can least afford it. I know that the Minister is aware of the concerns again highlighted last week in a report by the all-party parliamentary group on fixed odds betting terminals. May I urge her to respond positively? Let us have lower stakes for these machines.
The Government announced a review of gaming machines, including FOBTs, on 24 October 2016. I am currently considering its findings and will publish my recommendations shortly.
I am very pleased to hear that Oakfields has now opened. Having the right facilities in the right places and combining sports within them is not only important in driving up participation but excellent value for money.
The tech sector’s No. 1 Brexit concern is that, when we leave, it will become unlawful to send personal data from Europe to UK firms unless the European Commission has declared our data protection arrangements to be adequate. What steps are being taken to secure that declaration in time?
This is a very important point. It is vital to make sure that we have an unhindered flow of data between the UK and the EU, and indeed other trading partners around the world such as the US. We are implementing the general data protection regulation in full, to make sure that we can have that unhindered flow of data.
Last week, I had the honour of meeting the team who are putting together the Mayflower 400 celebrations. I also attended an event at the US embassy last summer where I saw a replica of the Mayflower that is going to be part of the celebrations that we look forward to in 2020. It is important that as many people as possible can visit those celebrations. I had discussions with the Secretary of State for Transport on this matter only last night.
When the Government reduced the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals to £50, they accepted the principle that lowering the stake would have a positive impact on problem gambling. As part of the review, will you examine the success of that measure and, if it has been successful in dealing with that problem, will you consider reducing the stake even further?
I will do neither of those things, but the Minister might do one or the other or, conceivably, if the hon. Gentleman is a lucky boy, both.
We have had plenty of responses to the consultation, and you will be very welcome to help to consider them, Mr Speaker. I will be making my recommendations shortly. We are looking through the body of evidence that came to us as a consequence of the review that was published in October. I expect to publish the recommendations and the findings of the call for evidence in the spring.
The Secretary of State was asked—
Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement
The EU-Canada comprehensive economic and trade agreement—CETA—is a good agreement for the UK. It will promote jobs and growth and benefit consumers. The UK Government are fully committed to supporting such agreements while we remain an EU member. The investment protection provisions in CETA will have no impact on UK environmental legislation. They cannot force the UK or other parties to change their laws on the environment or any on other area of public policy.
I am grateful for that answer, but many of my constituents are worried about us maintaining our current environmental standards post-Brexit. Can the Minister guarantee that with this trade deal and, indeed, any other trade deal that the UK intends to make, our current environmental standards will not be watered down?
Enshrined in CETA and many other free trade agreements is the UK’s right to regulate in these areas, and that includes key environmental protections. There is nothing, for example, in the investment court system that would force the UK to change its environmental regulations. I notice, however, that the hon. Gentleman voted against CETA yesterday, in line with the Leader of the Opposition, but he may not know that when CETA was debated in Committee on Monday, the Official Opposition were actually in favour of it.
Has my right hon. Friend heard of CANZUK, and is he encouraged by it? This is the plan being proposed in the Canadian Parliament for a Canada, Australia, New Zealand and United Kingdom trade partnership after Brexit. Does he share my enthusiasm for it?
I have seen this proposal, and we are very enthusiastic about the future of UK trade with Canada. I repeat that we are currently very supportive of CETA going through. We think it is very important for the UK, for the European Union and for Canada, and we will continue to campaign for it to go through, not least in the face of the new-found opposition by Her Majesty’s Opposition.
May I point out to the Minister that in the deferred Division, a majority of Labour Members voted for the trade deal? Given that Canada is such a long-standing Commonwealth friend, ally and defence and trade partner, could he answer this basic question: in a post-Brexit world, if we cannot do a deal with Canada, who the hell can we do a deal with?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman very much indeed for that question. He is right that more Labour MPs—86—voted for CETA than the 68 who voted against it, with perhaps more than 100 abstaining. This agreement has been eight years in gestation. You would have thought, Mr Speaker, that the Opposition would have got their act together by now. On the point that the right hon. Gentleman made, I quote from one of his colleagues, who said:
“If we don’t support a trade deal with liberal, Justin Trudeau-led Canada, who do we support trade deals with?”
That was actually me.
Post-Brexit, will CETA be transitioned into a bilateral arrangement, or will there need to be a fresh Canada-UK agreement?
My hon. Friend raises an interesting point, and I think we will have to look at that when we come to it. There are a number of important aspects of CETA that we might look to replicate in a future deal, but, for the time being, while we remain a member of the EU, the UK remains strongly supportive of CETA going through.
I heard the right hon. Member for Warley (Mr Spellar) say that he was the unnamed Back Bencher referred to in the “Politics Home” article. It is good to see that he is now named, and that he is supporting the Labour party’s traditional friends in Canada, the Liberal party.
The Government will lead the way in ensuring that developing countries have the opportunity to trade their way out of poverty. While the UK is a member of the European Union, we remain committed to development through the EU, including economic partnership agreements, the generalised scheme of preferences and “Everything But Arms”. We are working closely with the Department for International Development to ensure that the global trading system of the future is as fair and as free as possible.
Trade with developing countries is crucial to ensuring jobs and livelihoods, and our commitment to the sustainable development goals. Will the Secretary of State commit to fair trade principles in relation to future trade deals with developing countries to ensure that local populations can benefit sustainably and to complement the work of the DFID staff in my constituency and beyond?
Let me join the hon. Lady in paying tribute to the fair trade campaign. It is very important in ensuring that farmers receive a fair price for their products, that agricultural workers receive better wages and that agricultural practices are made more sustainable. As Britain leaves the European Union, we will actually have greater freedom outside the common external tariff to be able to do some of the things she recommends.
Whether we look at west African cocoa, east African coffee or Tunisian olives, time and again we find that the cause of unfair trade policy is the European Union. Does the Secretary of State agree with me that once we can set our own tariffs outside the common external tariff of the EU, we will be able to help those countries to trade their way out of poverty?
This Government are committed to an open and liberal trading system. One of the best ways to help poor countries is to have even greater liberalisation than we have today. When we are outside the common external tariff of the European Union, Britain will have the opportunity to act unilaterally, which will give us new opportunities, as my hon. Friend rightly suggests.
The 21st century offers us an opportunity to build on our pride and identity as a nation that promotes human rights, workers’ rights and environmental protection—all part of fair trade principles. How will the Government build on this part of our national identity in trade negotiations?
We are already playing a full part in that. Britain played a major role in the World Trade Organisation’s arrangement that is going to come into effect in just a short time—the trade facilitation agreement. It will be worth about £70 billion to the global economy, and for some of the poorest countries, such as those in sub-Saharan Africa, it will be worth about £10 billion. We made a major contribution to that, and we should be very proud of it.
I have a role as the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Nigeria. In the context of fair trade, will the Secretary of State join me in encouraging the Nigerian Government to share the benefits of trade more widely with their people?
That is a message I will be taking with me when I make a visit to Nigeria in the not-too-distant future.
Space Exploration Sector
The Department for International Trade supports efforts to grow the UK space sector. We are working closely with the UK Space Agency, Innovate UK and the industry to provide sector growth. In January, I led a DIT and UK Space Agency mission to the US, where I advocated the UK as an attractive market for space sector companies. We intend to highlight progress at the UK space conference in Manchester in May. UK Export Finance offers finance and insurance to help UK-based companies in the space sector.
It is really great to hear that the UK is fast becoming a world leader in the space sector. Will my hon. Friend inform the House about his efforts to secure foreign direct investment into the United Kingdom to support domestic growth in this industry?
My hon. Friend is right to raise the importance of this sector. The numbers are absolutely fantastic: it has six times the average research and development investment, and it has 2.7 times the average productivity in the UK. During the past couple of years, the DIT has supported 19 successful inward investment projects in this sector, and we will continue to work with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to deliver the UK space innovation and growth strategy in the future.
The encrypted public service channels of the new Galileo space navigation system are restricted to EU member states. What steps will the Government take post-Brexit to ensure that the UK has access to Galileo, in which we have invested?
Galileo is the satellite navigation system that is being put up by the European Space Agency and the European Union. That is one of the many things we have to negotiate over the coming years. The use of spectrum is incredibly important, because spectrum is limited. The Government will look at that among many other important things, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that spectrum is a very valuable asset for this country, and we will work with Ofcom to ensure that we get our fair share.
Since 23 June, the UK has continued to attract investment from global technology companies, including SoftBank’s purchase of ARM, Facebook expanding by 50% in the UK, Google pledging to invest an estimated £1 billion, Snapchat’s new global headquarters in London and more. This Department additionally promotes and showcases the UK’s leading technology capability through our overseas network, and via our recently launched digital platform, GREAT.gov.uk.
The global market for smart city technologies is now worth something in the region of $400 billion. British firms lead the way in many of the specialisations, but we could win more contracts if there were a UK approach to a complete smart city solution. I encourage Ministers to promote greater collaboration, both among businesses and between businesses and the Government.
My hon. Friend is absolutely correct and I agree with everything he said on the size of the UK capability, the size of the potential market and the need for a “Team UK” approach, which I spoke about recently when I visited his smart cities all-party parliamentary group just two weeks ago. In addition, I can announce today that two UK companies—Carillion and Zaha Hadid Architects—have secured a contract worth tens of millions of pounds to build a new headquarters in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, with support from UK Export Finance, which shows that the UK remains very much open for business.
The No. 1 tech Brexit worry is that when we leave, it will become unlawful to send personal data from Europe to the UK unless we have achieved an adequacy declaration from the European Commission about our data privacy arrangements. Important businesses will overnight become unviable. Will that declaration be achieved in time?
Fortuitously, I was in the Chamber for the earlier Question Time and heard the right hon. Gentleman ask precisely the same question of the Minister for Digital and Culture. The UK is committed to implementing the global agreement, and to ensuring that it works for the UK once we transition outside the European Union.
I welcome the British Business Bank announcement of £1 billion of funding. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the technology sector gets its fair share so that Britain’s leadership in the fourth industrial revolution can continue?
I very much agree with my hon. Friend. I again praise his work on the fourth industrial revolution both in the House and beyond. He is a key advocate, not just in the UK but around the world, of ensuring that the UK takes advantage of its very great strengths in technology and its technological expertise.
Figures published by the Centre for Cities show that Glasgow’s exports of goods and services to the EU were worth more than £2.5 billion in 2014. Given the importance of Scotland’s membership of the single market to the technology sector in Glasgow, will the Minister commit to considering the Scottish Government’s proposals in the “Scotland’s Place in Europe” paper to keep Scotland in the single market?
I am very sympathetic to Glasgow maintaining its exports and capability in smart cities. The UK and the Department for International Trade follow a whole-UK approach, often working with key partners such as Scotland Development International. However, I would point out to the hon. Lady that Scotland remaining in the United Kingdom is more important. Some four times as much Scottish produce and capability is exported within the United Kingdom than to the European Union.
British tech firms have been unable to go to two US trade shows, and look unlikely to be able to attend a top conference and exhibition in Singapore, owing to extensive delays by the Minister’s Department in announcing trade access partnership funding. Will he go back to the Department and confirm the funding, so that British businesses can attend trade shows and play their part in boosting our exports and economy?
The Department continually reviews its products and services to ensure that it meets its customer needs and represents good value for the taxpayer. Business planning will be completed very shortly, so we will be confirming events shortly.
Building on my visit to Taiwan in September, we will continue to work with the Taiwanese authorities to address market access issues and to further increase our trade in this important market. The UK and Taiwan share a strongly favourable outlook on free trade and enjoy a robust trade partnership. Bilateral trade reached £5.9 billion in 2014, up 8% compared with 2010.
I am pleased that the Minister met the Taiwanese President in September. I hope he shares my belief that as Britain reaches out to secure more trade deals, we keep in sight our foreign policy values. Does the Minister agree that increased trade with Taiwan and the UK is a win for both our economies and our liberal democratic values?
I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman. The UK and Taiwan share so many commitments, including the importance of environmental protection and the importance of a free society. We also have very strong shared values of free trade, open markets and an openness to foreign investment. I had very productive talks with President Tsai in September. She is a big friend of the United Kingdom, not least because of her time as an undergraduate at the London School of Economics.
Yes. In terms of both trade with Taiwan and the Commonwealth, the Department remains extremely supportive of Members being involved. In relation to the Commonwealth Trade Ministers meeting, I very much hope the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association will be involved in those discussions.
With trade deals in place for the likes of Bushmills whiskey and Northern Ireland pork products, will the Minister outline how he intends to use that success for other agri-food business products, such as long-life dairy supplied by Lakeland Dairies to 77 countries across the world?
When I held talks with the Taiwan authorities in September, agricultural produce was very much at the centre of those talks. We talked about pork and poultry exports, and we made real progress on Scotch whisky. Taiwan is Scotch whisky’s third-largest global market and we made important progress on it being certified by Taiwan.
I know a lot of British businesses focus on the China market, for obvious reasons, but when I led a delegation to Taiwan in September, as chairman of the British-Taiwanese all-party group, I witnessed a vibrant economy. Does the Minister agree that if British businesses ignore Taiwan they are missing a trick?
I totally agree. I think my hon. Friend and I were in Taiwan at roughly the same time back in September. I applaud the work he does for the all-party group. Taiwan has been a longstanding open market for UK goods and services, and we need to ensure that we work hard to remove the few remaining barriers. That was the purpose of the Joint Economic Trade Committee—or JETCO—talks in September. The message from this House should go out loud and clear to British businesses that Taiwan is a very good place for them to do their business.
Given that the UK currently receives two thirds of all investment into Europe from Taiwan, does my right hon. Friend see any reason why that will not continue after we leave the EU?
New Business Markets: Cornwall
The south-west FoodEx directory connects food and drink companies in Cornwall with buyers across the world. Local companies can also benefit from FoodEx workshops. Cornish companies in all sectors can access the full range of Department for International Trade services. We have launched the GREAT.gov.uk website, and our experienced international trade advisers are supporting new Cornish exporters to step into the global marketplace and helping experienced exporters compete in high-growth markets.
In west Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, a flurry of businesses have been producing food, drink and other goods. There is no doubt about the quality of their produce, but the reality is that very few of those products—food and drink—go beyond Cornish borders, let alone overseas. Will the Minister accept an invitation to meet these producers and help them to expand their markets?
As my hon. Friend knows, my family has roots in Cornwall that go back over 100 years, which I think means that we are now no longer incomers. The Secretary of State, of course, is a south-west MP and I believe he has met Cornish producers, and I am a frequent visitor to the extraordinary county that produces such fabulous produce. At the very first opportunity, I will go with my hon. Friend to meet his constituents and, indeed, people across the whole of Cornwall to explore ways in which we can push this fantastic county’s product.
I launched a trade policy dialogue with the New Zealand Trade Minister last October to consider how we can strengthen our economic ties. Last month, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister met the Prime Minister of New Zealand and agreed that preparatory work should be undertaken on the potential for an ambitious new free trade agreement between the UK and New Zealand, once the UK leaves the European Union.
I warmly welcome the early and constructive dialogue with our colleagues and friends in New Zealand. Will my right hon. Friend do all that he can to explore every opportunity for bilateral trade with New Zealand, including the natural synergies between our rural economies?
I very much agree. The UK exported over £1.2 billion-worth of goods to New Zealand last year, and opportunities for our rural businesses and farmers will be a very important part of our work as we take forward the dialogue with New Zealand, which I intend to visit over the summer months.
This year the British New Zealand Business Association, which exists to develop trade between our two countries, reaches its centenary. As someone who has worked in New Zealand, I have first-hand experience of the warmth that exists between our two countries. Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is hope for, and that we look forward to, a great increase in trade between our countries in the years ahead?
I certainly hope that will be possible, given the freedom that we will have outside the European Union to negotiate such a free trade agreement. It is not just our two countries that will benefit; all countries around the globe will benefit from the new global Britain and our attitude towards global free trade, with all the benefits it brings, especially to the world’s poor.
The Secretary of State will know that New Zealand is a land of 30 million sheep—there are six or seven sheep for every person—so has he discussed the impact of a trade deal with the leader of the National Farmers Union? It regards the combination of a 43% World Trade Organisation tariff on sheepmeat and increased market access for New Zealand as potentially fatal to our sheep farmers. How will he protect them?
As I said in answer to an earlier question, that will be an important part of our discussions. We will want to discuss how we do that with the NFU and others, but we also need to take something into account that does not seem to be mentioned very often, which is the interests of UK consumers in any trade deal that we come to.
The Department for International Trade has three tasks: promoting UK exports to support a growing economy that serves the whole country; maximising opportunities for wealth creation, including through overseas direct investment to support the current account; and negotiating the best international trading framework for the UK outside the EU. In terms of investment, I can announce to the House this morning that McLaren will be opening a £50 million manufacturing plant in Sheffield that will create 200 new jobs.
Given how desperate the International Trade Secretary is to negotiate a trade deal with the US, what guarantees will he give that Scottish farmers will not be undercut by chlorinated chicken and substandard beef imports?
The quality of produce sold will be a major part of any negotiation, but as for undercutting the Scottish economy, I am regularly told by investors in the United States that one of the things hanging over them and depressing investment opportunities is the threat of separation.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the very good trading relationship we have, and hope to continue to have, with Israel. The Prime Minister announced the trade working group when the Israeli Prime Minister visited earlier this week, but it is worth bearing it in mind that the EU already has a trade arrangement with Israel, and this is something that, in the first instance, we would look to continue. I am sure, however, that there will be many opportunities to improve on that, given that that trade deal was done between one country and 28 countries, whereas a bilateral deal will be easier to negotiate.
The Secretary of State promised that Parliament would have the opportunity to debate the important comprehensive economic and trade agreement between the EU and Canada on the Floor of the House. Unfortunately, he broke that promise and the debate was sidelined to an obscure Committee of the House earlier this week. Given that the UK will soon be responsible for negotiating its own international trade deals following Brexit, what assurances can the Minister give the House that parliamentarians will have an opportunity to scrutinise such trade deals fully in the future, and not be afforded the discourtesy we unfortunately were in relation to CETA?
It was not an obscure Committee; it was a two-and-a-half hour debate in Committee Room 10 following the proper procedures laid out by the House. I remind the hon. Lady that, at the end of the debate, she failed to oppose CETA, yet the Scottish National party in yesterday’s deferred Division voted en masse against it. Like the official Opposition, it changed its position on something that has been debated for eight years now within the space of merely 24 hours.
It is good to see the far west of this country being so well represented today, on a one-line Whip just ahead of the recess. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There are fantastic products coming from her constituency, including award-winning brands such as Cornish Orchards cider, Cornish Blue and Cornish Gouda. It is absolutely the job of the Department to go out to the rest of the world and, as I said before, to push Cornish exports far beyond the Tamar to the four corners of the globe.
When I wrote to the Secretary of State in November to ask for an investigation into his Department’s support for any British businesses engaged in corrupt practices, he replied that his Department had no power to conduct such an investigation. Last week, after the publicity surrounding Roll-Royce’s deferred prosecution, he announced precisely such an investigation. When did the powers of his Department change, when will the inquiry report back, and will he explain why he has refused to comply with the open government principles of the OECD anti-bribery convention?
Rolls-Royce has made it clear that it will not tolerate improper business conduct of any sort. It continues to co-operate fully with the Serious Fraud Office, and we await the final outcome, on which it would not be proper to comment beforehand. UK Export Finance notes, and is reviewing, the statement of facts released as part of the deferred prosecution agreement with regards to Rolls-Royce, but the details of the statement are a matter for the SFO and it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.
Continuing the trend of exporting from the south-west, last week Gloucestershire-based SME Fluid Transfer International won a £6 million contract to supply aircraft-refuelling vehicles to Indonesian airports. The key ingredients were British manufacturing, a strong commitment to the market, and a very good local partnership. Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating Fluid Transfer, and will his Department work with me to produce a short video to capture the story and inspire other small and medium-sized enterprises by showing them what can be achieved?
I am sure that my hon. Friend played a part in that deal, given that he is a trade envoy to Indonesia and given the extraordinary work that he does in some of the ASEAN countries. We shall all be delighted to help to promote investment of this kind in every way we can.
It has been the Government’s clear aim to ensure that there is tariff and barrier-free access once we have left the European Union, and that is exactly what we intend to negotiate—and, of course, the Scottish aerospace industry will be all the stronger for being represented by the whole United Kingdom.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that company registration with the use of a Companies House-type model is important to promoting the economies of developing countries that seek foreign direct investment, and is also good news for the UK’s financial services sector?
My hon. Friend has made an important general point in his specific question. An open trading system is a win-win: our economy, as well as other economies, can gain from sharing the same open system.
The entire departmental strength is now some 3,000. We are adding some 50 extra staff to our trade policy group this week, and the process will continue. We will increase the numbers further in the months ahead as we look to our WTO obligations, the transposition of our EU free trade agreements, and the FTAs that we have. The current number of about 200 staff will be augmented as we proceed.
As the Secretary of State knows, UK steel is the best in the world. What opportunities does he envisage to promote the sale of it around the world?
We take an ongoing and strong interest in the steel sector. It faces difficulties at present because of the low global steel price, but we see a good future for UK steel, and the Department looks forward to taking part in a whole-of-Government approach to ensuring that it is sold abroad.
Unaccompanied Child Refugees
To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department to make a statement on the Government’s decision to close the Dubs scheme for child refugees.
The Government take the welfare of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children extremely seriously. That is why we have pledged more than £2.3 billion in aid in response to the Syria conflict—our largest ever humanitarian response to a single crisis.
The United Kingdom has contributed significantly to the hosting, supporting and protection of the most vulnerable children affected by the migration crisis. In the year ending September 2016, we granted asylum or another form of leave to more than 8,000 children. About 50% of the 4,400 individuals who have been resettled through the Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme so far are children. Within Europe, in 2016, we transferred more than 900 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to the UK, including more than 750 from France as part of the UK’s support for the Calais camp clearance. As Home Secretary, I am proud that the UK played such a key role in helping the French to close the camp safely and compassionately.
Yesterday the Government announced that, in accordance with section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016, we would transfer the specified number of 350 children who reasonably meet the intention and spirit behind the provision. That number includes more than 200 children who have already been transferred from France under section 67. I must make it absolutely clear that the scheme is not closed. As required by the legislation, we consulted local authorities on their capacity to care for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children before arriving at the number. We are grateful for the way in which local authorities have stepped up to provide places for those arriving, and we will continue to work closely to address capacity needs.
The Government have always been clear that we do not want to incentivise perilous journeys to Europe, particularly by the most vulnerable children. That is why children must have arrived in Europe before 20 March 2016 to be eligible under section 67 of the Immigration Act. The section 67 obligation was accepted on the basis that the measure would not act as a pull factor for children to travel to Europe and that it would be based on local authority capacity. The Government have a clear strategy and we believe this is the right approach.
Here in the UK, we have launched the national transfer scheme and we have also significantly increased funding for local authorities caring for unaccompanied asylum- seeking children by between 20% and 28%. The Government have taken significant steps to improve an already comprehensive approach and we are providing protection to thousands of children in this year. I am proud of this Government’s active approach to helping and sheltering the most vulnerable, and that is a position that will continue.
Last week the Prime Minister said:
“On refugees, this Government have a proud record of the support…and long may it continue.”—[Official Report, 1 February 2017; Vol. 620, c. 1016.]
This week, the Government cancelled the Dubs scheme after it had been running for less than six months. The Home Secretary said that it has not closed, but will she confirm what it said in the statement yesterday: that once those 350 children are here, that is it—it is closed? Where does it say in the Hansard record of our debates on the Dubs amendment that I have here that we will help lone child refugees for only six months? Where does it say that, instead of the 3,000 that Parliament debated, we will help only one tenth of that number? Where does it say that when we get the chance we will somehow turn our backs once again? It does not, because we did not say that at the time.
The Home Secretary knows that what she is doing is shameful. Not only has she closed the Dubs programme, but she has cancelled the fast-track Dublin scheme to help those with family here. The Home Secretary did very good work in the autumn of last year to help those in Calais and to make sure we could take as many children as possible, and I commended her for it. But she also knows that most of those have family here already and were entitled to be here. She has said local councils cannot do more; the truth is that many local councils have said they can do more with more support or more time. It takes time to set up these schemes, and they should not be closed down so quickly.
There are still so many children in need of help. The Home Secretary knows there are thousands in Greece in overcrowded accommodation or homeless, or in Italy still at risk of human trafficking, or teenagers in French centres, which are being closed down now, who have nowhere left to go. The Home Secretary talked about clearing Calais; they are heading back to Calais, and back to Dunkirk: back to the mud, back to the danger, back into the arms of the people traffickers and the smugglers, the exploitation, the abuse, the prostitution rings—back into the modern slavery that this Parliament and this Government have pledged to end.
We know Britain and France can both do better. There are Eritrean teenagers here now in foster homes, after awful trafficking experiences, who are in school with a better future. We can do this; Britain can do better than this. Will the Home Secretary accept that and reinstate the Dubs programme now?
I have listened carefully to the right hon. Lady’s questions and I will try to address them all.
I repeat that the Dubs amendment that is in place is not closed. We have done what we were obliged to do, and we have correctly put a number on it. The right hon. Lady implies that this is a business of accepting the children and that it is all about numbers; I respectfully say to her that these are children who need looking after over a period. When we accept them here, it is not job done; it is about making sure that we work with local authorities and that we have the right safeguarding in place. That is why we engage with local authorities—why we make sure they have sufficient funds, which we have increased, to look after those young people.
I completely reject the right hon. Lady’s attack. The UK has a strong reputation in Europe and internationally for looking after the most vulnerable. That will continue. We have a different approach to where the most vulnerable are. We believe that they are in the region, and that is why we have made a pledge to accept 3,000 children from the region. We are committed to delivering on that. They are the most vulnerable.
I am clear, through working with my French counterparts, that they do not want us to continue to accept children under the Dubs amendment indefinitely. They specify that that acts as a draw, and I agree with them—[Interruption.] It acts as a pull. It encourages the people traffickers. I know that the right hon. Lady does not want that, and I ask her to think very carefully about the approach that she prefers.
I am very much aware of the great shortage of resources in Wycombe, so I commend the Home Secretary for the resilience she is showing under this strident attack. Will she reassure me that the Government will remain committed to bringing refugee children here where that is appropriate and that she will have due regard to the children we already have?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. We are always grateful for the work that local authorities do. We must not underestimate the difficulties involved, particularly in taking children who have been through war zones. We work with them to ensure that they deliver the extra work and care that those children need. He is also right to suggest that we must ensure that the children in the UK are always looked after.
Last year, I visited a number of refugee camps in Europe, including some in Lesbos. I met the Red Cross volunteers who were saving refugees from the sea, and they said to me that the worst thing was the children. The worst thing about this Government’s failure to step up to the totality of the refugee crisis is the children. In a written statement yesterday, the Minister for Immigration said:
“All children not transferred to the UK are in the care of the French authorities.”
They might technically be the responsibility of the French authorities, but many of those children are not being cared for at all. They are sleeping on the streets and in informal encampments, and they are making their way back to Calais, to Dunkirk and to the mud. Will the Home Secretary tell me how the UK plans to find, screen and process the 150 extra Dubs children, and from which countries they will transferred? What conversations has the Home Office had with the French, Italian and Greek Governments regarding taking such a small number of children? How does she live with herself when she is leaving thousands of people—[Interruption.] Members opposite can jeer, but I ask her how she can live with herself when she is leaving thousands of children subject to disease, people trafficking, squalor and hopelessness.
I share one thing with the hon. Lady: it is the children who matter most. We have a disgraceful situation on the borders of Europe, with so many people being trafficked through to Italy and, in the past, to Greece to meet their desire to come to Europe. Too often, they find themselves in the hands of the people traffickers. It is because we care in this way that we have put together our plan to take the refugees from the most vulnerable places. She says she doubts that the children in France are being looked after, but I can tell her that the children who are most vulnerable are the ones in the camps in Jordan and Lebanon. They are the ones who are really vulnerable, and they are the ones we are determined to bring over here, to give them the benefit of safety in the UK.
I would also say to the hon. Lady that I do speak to my European counterparts about the best way to help the refugees who are now coming to Europe in such numbers. The French are very clear that they are processing the children who have come out of the Calais camp, and they want to continue to do that, but one of the things that stops the children operating with the French authorities is the hope of being taken into the Dubs scheme and coming to the UK. The authorities are clear with us that if they are to manage those children and do the best thing for them—which is what I want and, I think, what the hon. Lady wants—making it clear that the scheme is not going to be open indefinitely will provide the best outcome for them.
I do not doubt the sincerity of Opposition Members, but this situation was a classic dilemma when I was chair of the all-party parliamentary group on human trafficking and modern slavery. If we continue to take unaccompanied children into this country, more and more will be taken from Syria and across the dreadful sea routes, with many dying, and we will be feeding and encouraging human trafficking. The right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) is sincere, but she is absolutely wrong. I urge the Home Secretary to continue to take people from Syria, but to abandon taking them from Europe, which encourages human trafficking.
My hon. Friend has substantial experience in this area having worked so hard on the issue of human trafficking. I note his point about this being a dilemma. It is not always clear what the right strategy is, but I ask Opposition Members to recognise that we are a taking a different approach. It is honest and compassionate—they do not have a monopoly on that—and we can deliver the best. I urge them to support us in that aim.
I am struggling to understand exactly what the Home Secretary is telling us. She says that the scheme is not closed, but she seems to have specified a number of 350, so that must mean that the scheme is closing once the 350 children get here. Will she clarify that? If that is the case, does she appreciate that that goes completely against the spirit of what was discussed in this House? I understand the “pull” argument, but thousands of children are already in Europe and many of them are unaccompanied and vulnerable.
Lord Alfred Dubs described what was done yesterday as “shabby” and deceitful. It seems that the Government tried to sneak out what they knew would be an unpopular announcement when they were busy avoiding scrutiny of the Brexit deal in this House. Is that the shape of things to come? Is that what comes from cosying up to President Trump?
I expected better from the hon. and learned Lady. Clearly, she did not listen to my point that taking this view is in the interests of the children we are helping. Instead, she is casting aspersions. There has been no attempt to hide anything. If there had been, today might have been the day to put out the written ministerial statement, not yesterday, because here I am to answer the urgent question—I am delighted to do so—and to provide clarity on any misunderstanding.
As for the hon. and learned Lady’s first comment about the number, the scheme is still open because we expect to transfer another 150 children. We have Home Office representatives in Greece and Italy to ensure that we can do that. In accordance with what the regulations set out, we had to put a number on it after consulting local authorities, and that is what we have done.
The Secretary of State says that the scheme is not closed, so I urge her to respect the House: when we voted on the Dubs amendment, we never expected the scheme to close at all. Does she agree that Britain should be leading the way? There should be more resources for local authorities. Will the Government consider reintroducing a Minister for refugees, not just for Syrian refugees, to show the importance that we give to this 21st-century problem?
I know that my hon. Friend cares a lot about this issue, just as I and this Government do. That is why we have made substantial commitments to help children from the region and to help 20,000 Syrians to come over here. I can say that we are transferring 100 people under the Syrian scheme just today. We will continue to step up and show the world that the UK is doing the right thing by helping these families and children.
I disagree with my hon. Friend and some Opposition Members on one thing. At the time of the amendment, it was made perfectly clear that a number needed to be set and that a number would be set. We have stuck to the letter and spirit of the amendment.
The Home Secretary says that she has talked to the French authorities and that they want to stop the Dubs scheme. An average of 50 children every day are going back to Calais and the camps. Does the Home Secretary recognise that the policy clearly is not working? What does she think will happen to those kids now that she has closed the door on them?
I ask the hon. Lady to consider why the children are going back to the camps rather than staying in the centres the French have taken them to in order to process them. Perhaps it is because they think that they will be able to move to the UK. Does that help them? It does not. What will help those children is if they have their claims processed in France, rather than going back to Calais and the mud. I am sure that she would not want that, just as I do not.
Like Lord Dubs, I have Jewish ancestry and I find it distasteful when some commentators compare the situation today with the 1930s and the Kindertransport. In those days, there was no opportunity to go to Germany or other Axis countries and assist those children who faced death in concentration camps. This situation is very different. Will my right hon. Friend condemn those commentators—thankfully, there have been none so far in this House—who compare the situation in the 1930s with today?
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. It is not the same. Perhaps the one comparison one might make is the condition, sometimes, of the camps out in the region, some of which are in a terrible situation. We should put all our effort there to make sure that we take the children that we can from that most vulnerable area.
Tens of thousands of refugees stranded in Greece, including hundreds of unaccompanied children, are living in appalling conditions and face immense and avoidable suffering. Yet last year the Government took only five Dublin children from the area and none under Dubs. What will the Home Secretary do proactively to seek out those who could benefit from Dublin transfers?
I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we have staff in the region who are looking to see which children might qualify under the Dubs amendment and which children might qualify under the Dublin regulations. We are actively looking to make sure that we do assist the children in Greece and Italy that we can.
While the Dubs amendment is one part of the overall strategy on refugees, does my right hon. Friend agree that the UK’s record on the full strategy has been exemplary and our biggest humanitarian contribution in our history?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The UK has stepped forward financially and with support for refugees. We will take 20,000 by 2020, about half of whom will be children. He, the House and the country can be proud of the UK’s commitment to helping refugees and the most vulnerable.
The Prime Minister never misses an opportunity to tell us that she wants to see Britain as an outward-looking player with a global vision. May I say gently to the Home Secretary that on this issue she has an opportunity to demonstrate that this country’s global vision is about more than just trade deals? Limiting our ambition to less than 1% of the desperate children who need to be helped is not worthy of that vision. Will she look at the way in which she uses the Dublin regulations? They include discretionary clauses that could be used more effectively to identify children with family links already in the UK, to ensure that they are helped.
The right hon. Gentleman raises an important point about the Dublin arrangements. Until we had an accelerated process and really leant in to identify children who qualified under the Dublin arrangements into Calais, it was not really working. The numbers of children being transferred under Dublin previously were small. We managed to transfer nearly 600 under Dublin last year, and I now feel that the Home Office and associated organisations that help us to deliver on Dublin have learnt how to make sure that it operates better in the future. I am confident that those numbers will improve going forward.
A two-tier—in fact, multi-tier—system in response to refugees and asylum seekers is emerging, with incomprehensible contradictions and many vulnerabilities, especially for children. To live up to our well-deserved reputation, which we should be proud of as a nation, among those fleeing war and persecution, who see us as a place of safe haven, and to do our best for a fair share of the thousands who are arriving in Europe—desperate, but with huge potential to offer this country—will the Home Secretary commit to appointing a Minister for refugees and integration?
I thank the hon. Lady for her recommendation. I have a substantial ministerial team and an excellent Minister for Immigration. I do not see the need at the moment for additional Ministers, but of course I will keep that under review.
The UK is helping the most vulnerable children in the region, and I agree that that must be the principal focus of our effort to avoid a pull factor. However, having committed to resettlement from Europe, we should revise our approach only after very careful thought. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that this announcement follows the clear advice of our French friends and allies?
I reassure my hon. Friend that I work closely with my European counterparts, particularly in France, because many young people arrive in the camps in northern France and create an environment that is so difficult for themselves and for the local authorities. Yes, I will always work closely, particularly with the French, to ensure that our plans work with theirs.
Does the Home Secretary agree that the secret to reforming the system in this country is a fair dispersal of refugees and asylum seekers? My city is happy, with some strain, to take hundreds of asylum seekers every year but there have never been any asylum seekers welcomed in the constituencies of the present Prime Minister, the previous Prime Minister or the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer. Will she look at that situation?
I am proud that my constituency of Hastings and Rye does welcome asylum seekers. The hon. Gentleman is of course right that we want more constituencies to welcome asylum seekers. Indeed, under the national transfer scheme, which allows some councils to help other councils where a lot of these children arrive, we are encouraging local authorities to step forward, on a voluntary basis, to spread the support around. The fact is that, at one point, Kent had to look after more than 1,000 children who had arrived unaccompanied. We must do more to spread that out, and I urge right hon. and hon. Members to speak to their local authorities about taking advantage of the scheme.
Those who traffic and abuse young children across Europe really do meet the modern definition of evil people committing evil acts. What are the British security services and police, together with their European counterparts, doing to track down, arrest and prosecute these perpetrators of evil?
My hon. Friend raises such an important point. He is absolutely right that we will always make sure that we combat human trafficking and the misery and abuse that go with it. I work closely with my European counterparts to make sure that we share information. Our National Crime Agency carefully tracks serious organised crime groups, and Europol works with us and other European partners to make sure that we work across Europe to guard against the terrible damage done by these people.
The Home Secretary is a good person, so I am not here to make a personal attack on her, but what signal does she think this sends to the world in the wake of President Trump’s announcement last week, albeit in a different context? There are always those who say that we should look after our own, that charity begins at home—“Britain first”, “America first”, “France first” and so on. Does she want us to be aligned with that sentiment or a different one?
We are not saying that we are closing the door and pulling up the drawbridge. I urge the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members on both sides of the House not to fall into the trap of suggesting that we are not a country that welcomes refugees. We are stepping up to our obligations and supporting the most vulnerable with money and refugee programmes. I do not recognise the comparison he is making, and I hope that other Members share my position.
Like several other Members of this House, I saw for myself the conditions in Calais. I thank my right hon. Friend for her work to transfer children with family in the UK from France to the UK. As she has said, in Kent we look after more than 1,000 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Does she agree that, when we welcome vulnerable children to the UK, we must make sure that we can give them a genuine welcome, with councils having the resources and capacity to look after them as well as British children in need of care?
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. The fact is that we are so fortunate that Kent does step up, because it so often takes the brunt and has to take the largest number of unaccompanied children. We need other councils to engage with the national transfer scheme so that we can spread that responsibility around. My hon. Friend also makes a good point about the need not to feel that it is “job done” when we take the children in. We need to have care, time, money and professional support to look after these refugees, because they are children, they are here, and we will make sure they are looked after.
Regarding the unfortunate remarks made by the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), is it not the case that what he referred to was an act of common humanity at the time, and it is no less now? It is the same, as far as children are concerned.
People will use their own language, but it seems clear to me that the most vulnerable place where there are children we can help is the region itself. We have agreed to take 3,000 of those children by 2020, and we will absolutely be sticking to that. About half of the 20,000 that are coming from Syria by 2020 will be children, and we will continue to move the children we can to take them under the Dublin arrangements.
British charities are working hard on the ground in the Syria region to help young people. Will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State continue to support their work and to tackle the people-trafficking networks that are exploiting their situation?
My hon. Friend is of course right about British charities. The British Government are the second-largest bilateral donor in the region, and we are proud of that. We work closely to make sure that part of the support that we give goes towards helping children and helping to educate them so that we do not have a generation who grow up without any schooling. We are very focused on making sure that we support the people and the children in the region, as well as fulfilling our obligations under refugee arrangements.
I am genuinely struggling to understand how it could possibly be in the best interests of vulnerable lone children for us not to take more of them in. I just do not understand what kind of perverse global leadership this is. If we have the compassion and humanity—and, indeed, the capacity, which we do—to take in more, why are we not doing so? Will the Secretary of State please take the feeling from the House today and think about changing the decision she has made about these lone refugee children?
I respect the hon. Lady’s views, but they are different from the one we take. That is not because of a lack of compassion, though; it is basically about trying to work out what is best for those children. She has failed to acknowledge the point that several Members have made, and that I have made as well: if we continue to take numbers of children from European countries, particularly France, that will act as a magnet for the traffickers. I wonder whether she has come across traffickers, or children who have been trafficked. It is a terrible crime and such danger is done to lives. It is imperative that we take action here to protect those children and stop that crime. Part of our process, by focusing on the most vulnerable from the region, tries to do exactly that.
We should applaud all councils, individuals and families who have stepped up to the plate to assist these vulnerable children. Will the Secretary of State clarify whether the capacity of councils throughout the country to host these children has met, exceeded or disappointed the Government’s expectations?
My hon. Friend is right that part of the proposal was to make sure that local authorities can support these children. We need to ensure that when the children arrive, it is not a feeling of “job done,” and that they are supported over the few years, however young or old they are, to make sure they have a good life here. We consulted with councils, and they came up with the number 400. I remind the House that that is not the total number that councils take in; we have an average of 3,000 unaccompanied minors arriving in addition to that, which councils generously step forward and support. My hon. Friend is right: we should all thank them very much for the work they do.
I am very surprised that the Home Secretary did not understand the depth of feeling in the House and make a statement to the House on this announcement, rather than publishing it in a written ministerial statement yesterday. I am really struggling to understand how, if we put a cap of 350 on the scheme, that is not closing the scheme. Perhaps the Home Secretary can explain that one more time.
Under the Immigration Act 2016, we were required, by a date that is fast approaching, to name a number after having consulted with local councils. We have now done that. At some point, the scheme will close, but it is not closed yet, because we still need to transfer 150 under the amendment.
My right hon. Friend has already pointed out the disparity that exists in the dispersal of these vulnerable young children. What more can she do to ensure that they are received across the country in a variety of local authorities so that they have the opportunity to have the life that we all want for them?
That is a very good question. We have been working closely with local authorities. People in my Department have made presentations across the country, and more than 400 people have attended them. We are helping local authorities to step up by ensuring that they have sufficient support each year for the young people. I hope that they see this as the right thing to do when we are experiencing so many problems from the region and refugees arriving here. We are working with local authorities on a persuasion basis and urging them to participate. The sign is that more of them are stepping up.
When I spend time with my young niece and nephew, I often wonder what would happen to them if they were in similar circumstances. I would hope and pray that they found a country of compassion, safety and sanctuary, and that is what we want for all young children across the world. However, on that basis, can the Home Secretary tell us what discussions she and her Department have had with Lord Dubs and children’s charities before making this decision?
I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that my Department meets regularly with children’s charities and Lord Dubs.
When the former Prime Minister announced that Britain would take 20,000 Syrian refugees, West Oxfordshire district council led the way in laying out the scheme, quite contrary to what the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) said. West Oxfordshire has taken six Syrian refugee families. I know that, because I chaired the Committee that helped to settle them in west Oxfordshire and I have met some of them. Does the Home Secretary agree that, although it is necessary that we take in as many children as we can, it is also important to ensure that councils have the capacity to help these families? We are constrained not by money, but by issues such as the availability of translators.
My hon. Friend makes a helpful point. We want to make sure that the refugees who arrive here—children, families and adults—are looked after in the best tradition of the UK. I am delighted to hear of his personal involvement. I have heard fantastic stories about local churches and local charities stepping up and ensuring that these frightened families are really well looked after. We sometimes see the real best of British values.
We are told that the scheme is not closed; it will just be capped and discontinued. Hearts seem to be closed—that is the message that is going out. The Home Secretary attributes a lot of calculation to those desperate, lonely children who are making their way back to the camps. Is it not the case that what we are being treated to is calculated indifference dressed up as a measured commitment? Will the Government do more in respect of both Dubs and Dublin?
It is disappointing that the hon. Gentleman clearly has not heard a word of what I have been saying about the efforts that the UK is going to, the generosity of local authorities, and the commitment from the international aid budget. Those are all strong pieces of evidence to show that this country and this Government are stepping up to their responsibilities.
Having been to Domiz refugee camp on the Iraq border, I am particularly proud of Britain’s biggest ever response to a humanitarian crisis, which amounts to £2.3 billion. Will the Home Secretary confirm that if communities and councils want to continue with the scheme and also to take more vulnerable young refugees in the future, they will be welcome to do so?
We always welcome initiatives from local councils to ensure that we look after the refugees and children who come over here. I urge any local authorities that think they can do more to get in touch with the national transfer scheme, which will support the councils that are, sometimes, having to accommodate too many children in their area and long for additional support.
French centres are closing, and there are children in Dunkirk—in today’s freezing weather—who have families in this country and were hoping to be considered. Will their needs be assessed if the Dubs scheme is not closed? If not, what does the Home Secretary expect will happen to them?
The French have transferred the young people—indeed, all the people—from the Calais camp to centres, where they were given beds and food, so that their applications for asylum could be considered. The hon. Lady is right that some camps are now beginning to form in northern France. I am in constant touch with my French counterparts, and we are helping them with money, support and advice to ensure that another camp like that does not emerge. The French are committed, and they have a responsibility to allow the people there to apply for asylum in France, which is where that should happen. We will continue to monitor where we can help and act on the Dublin arrangements.
The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden) said that there will always be some who say that charity begins at home. He is right, but the important thing is that charity does not stop at home. It never has done in this country and it never will do, which is why I applaud the Home Secretary’s comments that recognise the great work that has been done, that is still being done and that will continue to be done to help children and refugees from Syria in general. I commend the work of Gloucestershire County Council and Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers.
I regret that the hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) made some very personal comments about the Home Secretary today. Surely it is time for all Members of this House to realise that, whatever our differences of opinion about the right way forward, everybody—particularly Ministers in the Department responsible—starts from the same position of wanting to do the best thing.
I thank my hon. Friend for those comments. It is disappointing when people do not recognise that the Government and the Opposition both share the ambition of compassion, but have a different strategy for delivering it.
Many in this House have listened to the Home Secretary with total disbelief. We cannot understand, given the intensity of the debate around the Alf Dubs amendment, which was accepted by this House, why she has come forward with what is essentially the closure of the scheme at a number well below what any of us would have expected. Does she not agree that the reality is that many children in desperate need across Europe will be left with no hope?
No, I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. We have communicated our plan to the French and to other European countries, and we have discussed with them what is best for these children. Like so many other hon. Members, he fails to listen to my points about how these children are made vulnerable and what is in their best interest. I respectfully ask him to reconsider his very high moral tone. Although he might not agree with it, we are doing what we believe is best for those children.
The hon. Lady is chuntering, but we are doing what we believe is best. I recognise that the hon. Member for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) has a different position, but I ask him to reconsider his language.
The capacity of the hon. Member for West Ham (Lyn Brown) to chunter from a sedentary position is not in doubt and does not require proof, but she should desist. I very politely say to her that as she is a supporter of West Ham—[Interruption.] Well, I am glad she is an Arsenal supporter, but she still should not chunter. As she represents West Ham, she might find it therapeutic to blow some bubbles.
As part of our commitments under the Dubs amendment, we have consulted local authorities on capacity. It is clear that there is capacity to support the children whom we intend to take from Calais at the same time as meeting our other commitments. I find it unbelievable that councils would be willing to take in only an average of two children each. Did the Home Office ask all local authorities individually how many children they could actually take, or did it suggest numbers to each of them?
No, we did not suggest numbers to the councils. We set out for them what the challenges were and what our payments were—those had been increased by 20% on one scale and 28% on another, so under-16s were to get £41,000 of support a year and over-16s were to get £33,000. We urged councils, we worked with them and we did presentations all around the country, and the councils came back to us with this proposed number. I repeat that accepting the children is one thing; having the capacity—and, indeed, the confidence—to look after them is what we urge local authorities to think about. I would like to give particular thanks to the Scottish authorities that did so much to accept vulnerable young women, in particular, who were moved from Calais. They are now making their life in Scotland, and we are very grateful for that.
Contrary to what the Secretary of State seems to believe, civil society in my constituency—and, I am sure, many other constituencies—is ready to help the Dubs children. In the past few days, I have visited my local council; St Christopher’s Fellowship, which took in about 30 of the Calais children last year; and Hammersmith and Fulham Refugees Welcome, which sources accommodation locally for refugees. They all want to do their bit, so why will the Government not let them?
We are very grateful for the work that Hammersmith has done. I would urge it to also consider taking children who are just as vulnerable from the national transfer scheme. It is not just the children from Calais who need help, but those from the national transfer scheme. I urge the hon. Gentleman to have that conversation with his council as well.
The closure of the Dubs scheme will affect the most vulnerable child refugees who have been persecuted by Daesh, including Yazidis, 90% of whom are ineligible under the Syrian scheme and none of whom have been resettled in the United Kingdom. Many are trapped in countries in the Mediterranean. Given the UK’s role in Iraq over the past decade, is this where our legacy of aiding Iraqi citizens ends?
The UK position on aiding refugees from the region, which I think is what the hon. Gentleman is asking me about, is very strong. It is added to by the fact that we have one of the largest aid donation plans in the world, with our 0.7% commitment and the £2.3 billion that goes into the region. The hon. Gentleman should join me in being proud of the commitment and support, including financial support, that we give to the region to make sure we do look after vulnerable people.
I have seen at first hand the work of my local authority in Torfaen to assist refugees, but what sort of moral and political lead does the Home Secretary think the Government are giving by doing only the bare minimum under the Dubs scheme?
I would in no way identify what the Government and local authorities are doing as the bare minimum. We are taking 3,000 children from the region by 2020. We are taking 20,000 vulnerable citizens by 2020. We are making sure that we give them the financial support that they need. I do not recognise the hon. Gentleman’s characterisation.
As others have pointed out, the Home Secretary says that the Dubs scheme is not closed but the UK needs to send out a strong message against the pull factor. Both those statements cannot be correct. She also says she is still working within the spirit and intention of the Dubs scheme. If that is the case, will she confirm what she is doing to ask councils to take in more children rather than hiding behind the excuse that capacity has already been reached?
There is no hiding here. Another 150 children will be transferred over the next period under the Dubs agreement. We are working closely with local authorities to ensure that they have the support for the children they have said they will take. I would add that approximately 3,000 unaccompanied children a year already arrive. In addition to the Dubs commitment, local authorities work with us through the national transfer scheme to ensure that those children are looked after.
What assessment has been made of the numbers of children in Greece and Italy? The charities that have been working with many of those children believed that they would be eligible under the Dubs amendment? How many of those children will now not be eligible?
I cannot say how many children will or will not be eligible until those assessments have been made, but I can say that, having accepted 200 children under the Dubs amendment, there will be another 150. In addition to that, we will continue to assess the children to see whether they are eligible for the Dublin arrangements.
We talk about numbers, but surely the only measure that matters is whether a child is vulnerable. On the bigger picture, I have been lucky enough to visit seven internally displaced person and refugee camps. There is a disparity between those camps as some have very poor standards, whereas standards are high in others. The Government seem to be doing nothing to help the people in some of the poor camps. I have visited Harran camp, north of Raqqa, which is of a very high standard and provides good education, whereas some of the other camps are exceedingly poor. What are the Home Secretary and the Government doing to help the people living in these camps and to sort out this problem?
We work closely with the organisations that run some of these camps. I absolutely recognise that they are of differing standards. However, the UK is stepping up with a financial commitment of £2.3 billion to make sure that we help to make those camps places where families can exist and children can be taught. I want the hon. Gentleman to be in no doubt that we lean in to make sure that we assist in the vast movement of people that is taking place in the region.
As chair of the all-party group on disability, my understanding was that the most vulnerable children, including those with disabilities, were to be prioritised, so how many children with disabilities have arrived, and what are the arrangements for vulnerable disabled refugee children who are now left behind?
At the time of the clearance of the Calais camp, in particular, we were determined to prioritise the most vulnerable. That was why we immediately moved to remove a lot of girls and young women whom we believed—the evidence showed this—were most vulnerable to being trafficked. We will always ensure that we prioritise those young people who are more likely to be vulnerable. I do not have the information on the numbers of disabled people who have been transferred, but I will endeavour to get it and get back to the hon. Lady.
I know that just one Christian charity in London is housing more than 30 children, which appears to be 10% of the entire national effort. Many faith communities are willing to step up to do what we would like the Government to do themselves. If they want to do more, will the Home Secretary let them?
There is still plenty of need for support from community organisations such as churches. I, too, have met several that are doing their bit to welcome families and look after children. I urge the hon. Gentleman to get in touch through the national transfer scheme, or via my office, and we will work closely to make sure that any communities groups that think they can support families or children are able to do so.
I am glad to hear that another 150 children will be coming to the UK under this scheme before it closes, but is the Secretary of State able to look the 151st child in the eye and say no?
I wonder how the hon. Lady would feel about the children who are in the camps in the region. They are not in France or Italy; they are the ones in the camps where the conditions are much, much worse. How would she feel about looking them in the eye?
Is this not a shameful betrayal of not just the thousands of children being denied a secure future, but the tens of thousands of our constituents who signed petitions and wrote letters in support of the Dubs amendment? No one is suggesting that this country is not welcoming of refugees, but it increasingly appears that the Government are not.
I would urge the hon. Gentleman to correct any misunderstandings that anybody has. The fact is that we have stuck to the agreement in the Dubs amendment. We were obliged to put out a number, having consulted local authorities. Perhaps he would consider putting out a message to his constituents so that they are clear that the Government are stepping up their commitments, are taking 20,000 by 2020, and are looking after these children. We are proud of our response.
Last week I met staff at the tech company Equator, who volunteered to create a digital classroom project for the 150 children at the La Linière camp in Dunkirk. Those children are stuck there. As everybody in this country—organisations, companies and individuals—seems to be willing to do something to help, what kind of signal does it send out when the Government are not meeting their commitments?
The hon. Lady should be clear that the Government are meeting their commitments, and exceeding them, through the aid that we give to the region of £2.3 billion, through our commitment to making sure that we bring over from the region the most vulnerable children—20,000 by 2020—and, most of all, through making sure that the children who arrive here, who are often from vulnerable areas, are looked after and given support. We ensure that local authorities have this ability. We should be proud of our response.
Before we proceed to the business question, I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) on his 82nd birthday and on reaching the mid-point of his parliamentary career.
Business of the House
Will the Leader of the House give us the forthcoming business?
Before I answer the hon. Lady’s question, I associate myself with your congratulations, Mr Speaker, to the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn).
The business for the week commencing 20 February will be as follows:
Monday 20 February—Remaining stages of the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill [Lords] followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill.
Tuesday 21 February—Remaining stages of the Criminal Finances Bill followed by motions relating to the draft Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 2017 and the draft Guaranteed Minimum Pensions Increase Order 2017.
Wednesday 22 February—Motions relating to the police grant and local government finance reports.
Thursday 23 February—Opposition day (un-allotted half day). There will be a debate on a motion in the name of the Democratic Unionist Party followed by business to be nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.
Friday 24 February—Private Members’ Bills.
The provisional business for the week commencing 27 February will include:
Monday 27 February—Estimates day (1st allotted day). Subject to be confirmed by the Liaison Committee.
I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 23 and 27 February will be as follows:
Thursday 23 February—Debate on publicly accessible amenities for disabled people followed by a debate on the second report from the Transport Committee on road traffic law enforcement.
Monday 27 February—Debate on an e-petition relating to attacks on NHS medical staff.
I thank the Leader of the House for his statement. May I add my birthday wishes to my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn), who is my predecessor? I bought his book, and I found it very handy when I first came into the House.
Will there be business questions on Thursday 20 July, or will that be allocated as a pre-recess adjournment day? Can the Leader of the House tell us whether there will be any progress on a debate in Government time on restoration and renewal? In the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), I note that the Leader of the House has allocated an Opposition day on 23 February. Is that going to be a regular occurrence, and will he ensure that the debates that have been listed by the Backbench Business Committee also have a day allocated to them?
It was 25 years ago this week that the Maastricht treaty was signed. This week, in responding to and respecting the referendum, we have voted to trigger article 50 and leave the EU. In July, the Prime Minister said, “Brexit means Brexit”. The Opposition asked, “What does that mean?” The Opposition asked, “Do you have a plan and a White Paper?” Seven months later, we had a speech at Lancaster House, and eight months later we have a White Paper—which is the speech, with a few graphs. On page 9, in paragraph 1.4, the White Paper states that the Government
“will bring forward a White Paper on the Great Repeal Bill”.
Will that be a further White Paper and, if so, when will it be published? Could the Leader of the House ensure that it is not published on the day of the Queen’s Speech, whenever that is?
Businesses wanted to stay in the single market, and there is the prospect of losing 32,000 jobs in financial services. Could we have a statement on what the Government will do to protect those jobs and secure London’s place as the No. 1 financial centre, as ranked by the global financial centres index? The EU budget is mentioned only twice in the White Paper, both times in section 8.51, which consists of 83 words. Will the Government be revealing more words and, more importantly, figures on the budget in a statement?
Could we have a definition of “frictionless” negotiations? The word appears 12 times in the White Paper. Can the Leader of the House tell us whether the concession made on Tuesday by the Minister on a vote before the final deal was an example of frictionless negotiations—that is to say, meaningless and not to be trusted?
Labour Members tabled amendments to put the case for those who voted to remain and for the country, but it was a sad day when the Government voted down all the amendments so that the Prime Minister could say that the Bill was unamended. The Prime Minister delivered for her party, but not for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.
The Government will want to take note, in negotiations, that the Serious Fraud Office has found that Rolls-Royce admitted it used multimillion pound bribes to secure export orders and received financial support from the Government’s credit agency in 1991, when it paid a $2 million bribe to win a contract with Indonesia. There is a review, so may we have a statement on what safeguards there will be to ensure that, as the Government negotiate trade deals around the world in 730 days’ time, there will not be a repeat of this?
At Prime Minister’s questions yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister three times whether a special deal was offered to Surrey for social care. The Prime Minister was dismissive, and did not answer the question. If there is no special deal for Surrey, why did the Prime Minister simply not confirm that? I and other hon. Members want a memorandum of understanding to secure our libraries and social care, so may we have a statement on Surrey-gate and the discussions Nick and Dave had about securing an MOU?
Turning to House matters, my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) has had his Child Poverty in the UK (Target for Reduction) Bill talked out yet again. I have previously raised the issue of Bills being talked out, which makes Parliament look petty. How can we move forward on the Procedure Committee recommendation about a time limit under Standing Order No. 47, given that the Government response of 16 January says that they will not accept that? How can we progress this matter and break this impasse? Many hard-working Members who have worked hard on their Bills want to see them get through.
May we have a debate on early-day motion 890, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty), which has been signed by 201 Members, including Front Benchers?
[That this House deplores recent actions taken by US President Donald J Trump, including his Executive Order on Immigration and Refugees, and notably his comments on torture and women; notes the historical significance and honour that comes with an invitation to address both Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall or elsewhere in the Palace of Westminster; and calls on the Speaker, Lord Speaker, Black Rod and Serjeant at Arms to withhold permission from the Government for an address to be made in Westminster Hall, or elsewhere in the Palace of Westminster, by President Trump.]
When a person refers to a senator, Elizabeth Warren, as Pocahontas and she is then silenced by her party; when a person repeats the cry “Lock her up” of a candidate when no offence has been committed; when a person suggests women should be grabbed in certain places without their consent; when a person has consistently questioned the birthplace of a president, President Obama; when a person wants “America first”, but made his business investments anywhere but America; when a person has a key adviser who ran an alt-right website and whose appointment was welcomed by the Ku Klux Klan; and when a person forgets there were native Americans or first nations before he arrived in the US, then I—born in Aden, Yemen, of Goan Indian heritage, who may or may not be directly affected by the travel ban—and others welcome the support given to us and to the reputation of Parliament. Will the Leader of the House therefore confirm that the Government will not support any attempts to act on the letter to the Prime Minister about comments made in a point of order in this Chamber? Will he also confirm that the House of Lords will not be threatened with abolition when dealing with article 50 legislation?
Sixty-five years ago on Monday, Her Majesty ascended the throne, and this House congratulates her on that sapphire milestone. May I ask the Leader of the House for clarification: who issues an invitation for a state visit, can the Prime Minister do it without consulting anyone and who did she consult in this case, or is this a case of frictionless negotiation—“You give me a trade deal in exchange for a state visit”? We should be told.
May I first associate myself wholeheartedly with the hon. Lady’s words about Her Majesty’s sapphire jubilee? At the same time, it is important for us to be conscious that the anniversary is inevitably a time for reflection, for Her Majesty in particular, as her accession was obviously made possible by the death of a much-loved father. I think everyone in the House, whatever views they have about our constitutional arrangements, will want to share in the tributes to Her Majesty for her selfless service to the United Kingdom over all those years.
The arrangements for state visits have not changed under this Government. They are exactly the same now as they were under Prime Ministers Blair and Brown.
On the subject of restoration and renewal, I am not in a position to announce a specific date, but I can tell the hon. Lady that the Government’s intention is that there should be debate in Government time before the Easter recess.
On the hon. Lady’s question about the arrangements for business, and particularly Back-Bench business on Thursday 23 February, I am conscious that I owe something of an apology to the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), the Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee. It is always difficult to accommodate the various pressures on time. A date that had been planned for an Opposition half-day was lost as a result of the Supreme Court judgment and the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, which we debated earlier this week. The Government have therefore agreed that we will protect the time for the remaining Backbench Business Committee debate on Thursday 23 February. I will use my best endeavours to ensure that we reinstate as soon as possible the Backbench Business Committee time lost.
The hon. Lady asked me about trade deals. One change since the days to which she referred is that Parliament enacted the Bribery Act 2010, which has made a profound difference to the duties imposed on the directors and managers of United Kingdom companies when they do business overseas. In addition, the terms of the International Development Act 2002 mean that aid and help for the poorest in the world cannot be used to lubricate a trade deal in the way that once might have been the case.
The hon. Lady asked about the White Paper on the great repeal Bill. That is a separate and distinct White Paper and I cannot give her an exact date, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union will know that there will be an appetite in the House for Members to read and digest it before we debate the repeal Bill, which will be launched early on in the next Session after the Queen’s Speech.
The hon. Lady asked about Surrey County Council and social care. She clearly missed the public statements made by the Department for Communities and Local Government yesterday. There is no secret deal. Surrey County Council has asked whether it can participate in one of the pilot projects for the proposed 100% return of business rates to local government responsibility. That is not possible in the 2017-18 financial year but, like any other local council, including hers, it is free to apply to be considered in the 2018-19 financial year. There is no memorandum of understanding. There is no secret document.
The hon. Lady asked about private Members’ Bills. The reality is that there is not and never has been under any Government an automatic right for proposed legislation to become law, including Government Bills—when Governments enjoy only a small majority, they have to think carefully about the legislation they introduce and how they ensure that they secure parliamentary support.
I take note of the strong feelings expressed in the early-day motion led by the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty). Hon. Members are of course entitled to have strong opinions not just on what happens in this country, but on what happens anywhere else in the world. Like previous Governments of different political parties, whatever view any of us as individuals have of any leader of another country, the reality is that we have to deal with other Governments in the world as they exist, particularly elected Governments who can claim a mandate from their own people. The result of the election in the United States is a matter for the people and the constitution of the United States. We should note the fact that, despite the bitterness and the hard-fought nature of the presidential election campaign, Presidents Carter, Clinton and George W. Bush, and Secretary Hillary Clinton, attended President Trump’s inauguration. There was no challenge to the legitimacy of the constitutional process involved in that election.
On the House of Lords, the House of Lords has a valued function under our constitutional arrangements in terms of scrutinising and reviewing legislation from the House of Commons. I am sure they will do that on the Bill we have been debating this week, as they do on every other Bill. I am sure they will also bear in mind the reality of the referendum and the popular mandate that lies behind the article 50 decision.
Finally, the hon. Lady asked me at some length about Europe. I simply say this: her Front Bench supported the decision to have the referendum; her Front Bench supported the motion that endorsed the Prime Minister’s timetable for triggering article 50 before the end of March this year; and her Front Bench last night supported the Third Reading of the unamended Bill. It is therefore a little bit rich for those on the Opposition Front Bench to be giving us lectures or posting tweets saying the “Real fight starts now” when they have been endorsing, through their voices and their votes, the approach the Government are taking.
May we have a debate on how local councils review school catchment areas? Is the Leader of the House aware that the council in my area is seeking to tear up the current catchment areas in the Muxton ward, meaning that parents who have invested in local housing to access Burton Borough school in Newport will have to look elsewhere? It will also fundamentally change the way their children get to school. May we have an urgent debate to ensure children are not disenfranchised, either today or in the future?
In terms of opportunities for a debate, my hon. Friend may wish to seek an Adjournment debate through the usual procedures. These are always very difficult decisions. I think many of us know that from time to time, because of changes in population—to state the most obvious example—local authorities need to review school catchment areas. Such proposals are always subject to a period of public consultation and I am sure my hon. Friend will, as always, be extremely forceful in representing the interests of his constituents.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the business for the week but next. May I wish the happiest of birthdays to the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn)? I think he was my third shadow Leader of the House, but it is so hard to keep pace with the revolving door of the Labour shadow Cabinet.
It has been a thoroughly miserable, frustrating and depressing couple of weeks, which have shown this House at its absolute and utter worst. The article 50 Bill ran through Parliament at breakneck speed: no amendments accepted, very few amendments actually debated and considered, no Report stage programmed and no Third Reading debate held. It was more like a medieval court than an advanced parliamentary democracy.
It is not as if we are overburdened with work. Why was the Bill rushed through at such a speed when we could have taken time to consider the many amendments that were tabled? That showed massive disrespect not just to this House, but to the many constituents who paid very close attention to our proceedings last week.
The Bill is now on its way to our friends down the corridor. Our unelected friends have been threatened with abolition if they dare mess with the Government’s Bill and do not do their “patriotic duty”, as the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union said. I am sure they are now quaking in their ermine. I offer nothing other than encouragement to these fine tribunes in ermine, who will now pick up the case. For us, it is very much a win-win whatever the outcome. I say to their lordships: reach for the barricades and take on the Government.
We need a debate about respect for the devolved Parliaments in the nations of the UK. Article 50 was not just voted on by this House this week; the Scottish Parliament also voted on it, and the overwhelming majority of Members rejected triggering it, just as every single Scottish Member of Parliament did here, bar one. Yet we have to be driven off this cliff edge with this hardest of hard Tory Brexits, even though Scotland wants absolutely nothing to do with this madness. Time is running out for Scotland’s voice to be heard and our positions respected. I am sure that the Leader of the House saw this week’s opinion poll putting support for independence at almost 50%, so I gently say that we have options to consider if Scotland’s voice continues to be ignored.
I felt at times from the hon. Gentleman’s paeans of praise to the House of Lords that I could visualise the ermine and the coronet descending on him—that some hidden ambition was finally shining through.
The allocation of five days for a debate on this two-clause Bill that did no more than authorise the Prime Minister to trigger article 50 seems perfectly reasonable to me. That allocation of time has allowed, even this week, about half the number of Scottish National party Members to participate in proceedings, either through speeches or interventions. Listening to some of the contributions from the SNP Benches, my impression was that the atmosphere was far from being all doom and gloom. The hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) entertained us royally for nearly an hour this week and seemed to be enjoying himself immensely.
The reality is that the Bill has been brought forward in response to a very clear referendum decision by the electorate of the United Kingdom. It is very different from the Bills that the House debated previously to ratify various EU-amending treaties over the years.
The hon. Gentleman complains about the alleged lack of respect and attention being paid to Scotland. As the Prime Minister said yet again yesterday, the United Kingdom Government are determined to work with the Scottish Government, as well as with the Governments in Cardiff and Belfast, to ensure that the interests of every part of the United Kingdom are represented in the negotiations on which we are about to embark. That commitment is sincere: it is felt very strongly by the Prime Minister, and she has impressed it on every member of the Cabinet.
Local concerns have been raised in Cambridgeshire—not least as a result of the excellent forensic work of my neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for North East Cambridgeshire (Stephen Barclay)—about funding decisions taken by the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough local enterprise partnership. May we have a debate in Government time to ensure that there is proper transparency and accountability of LEPs so that their decisions are fair, properly scrutinised and their efficacy is appropriately tested?
Members of LEPs on the whole do a good job in providing a forum for bringing local business and public authorities together and for trying to leverage private sector investment, along with public sector investment, to support such things as infrastructure projects. However, they have to pay regard to the fact that they are the custodians of public money and need to make sure that they have proper rules on accountability and transparency, as would be expected of anybody in receipt of taxpayers’ money. My hon. Friend may have the opportunity to raise these issues further at Communities and Local Government questions on Monday 27 February.
Will the Leader of the House arrange for an urgent debate on social care funding? As part of that, will he ask the Department for Communities and Local Government to publish any contact between Surrey and Ministers or aides in the Department, so that the debate can be informed? My local authority in Nottinghamshire is absolutely incandescent, as I am sure are other authorities, about the way in which, it appears, Surrey has been offered a sweetheart deal while it has been left to fend for itself.
As I have already made clear, there is no sweetheart deal, and Nottingham is also welcome to apply, as Surrey has indicated it wishes to do, for the full return of business rates finance to local authorities in the 2018-19 financial year. The DCLG statement yesterday gave a full account of what has happened. There has been a lot of fuss and complaint, but actually it is much less of a story than the hon. Gentleman believes.
May we have a debate on armed forces charities? I am honoured to be president of the Huddersfield branch of the Royal Air Forces Association. If parliamentary business had been different, I would have been at Huddersfield crematorium this afternoon for the funeral of Trevor Burgin OBE. He was 92. During the second world war, he was a bomber pilot and flew many missions over Europe. He then had a successful 40-year career as a teacher. Last year, he celebrated his platinum wedding anniversary— 70 years of marriage—with Kathleen. Will the Leader of the House please pass on the condolences of every Member and express our sympathy for the family and our support for armed forces charities? Trevor was an enthusiastic and popular member of the Huddersfield branch of the Royal Air Forces Association.
No one in the Chamber would dissent from my hon. Friend’s tribute to the late Trevor Burgin. It was particularly good that my hon. Friend talked briefly about his late constituent’s career of service, because it reminds us that behind the statistics and generalities there are stories of true heroism and a lifetime of public service and commitment. We are all aware that armed forces charities do incredibly important and good work in our constituencies, often quietly and unsung, in reaching out to people still scarred by the physical and mental consequences for their health of their time in service.
Order. Over 30 Members are seeking to catch my eye. I advise the House that 36 Members wish to speak in the first of the two Backbench Business Committee debates, and 12 wish to contribute to the second. If I am to have any chance of accommodating that later Back-Bench interest we need to be moving on by, or very close to, 12.30 pm. May we please have short questions and short answers?
Last week, I visited the Sanger Institute, just outside Cambridge, where 1,100 people, of whom over 25% are non-UK EU nationals, are transforming our understanding of the human genome. Its senior manager has impressed upon me the gravity of the situation. Many of those people are poorly paid and would be unable to work through the tier 2 visa system. May we have a statement on this pressing skills crisis, which could damage some of the UK’s most successful research institutions?
The hon. Gentleman makes a reasonable point about his and other scientific institutions. As the Prime Minister said, the Government regard an early deal to secure the position of both EU residents already here and British nationals in other European countries as a primary objective. We want that sorted as quickly as possible.
I very much agree with my right hon. Friend’s remarks about the recent proceedings on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill. Should the other place seek to delay the triggering of article 50 beyond the end of March, will he find time for a debate in Government time so that this House can discuss possibility of either the abolition or the full-scale reform of the other place?
I am more optimistic than my right hon. Friend. I think there is an awareness among Members of the House of Lords that, in an unelected Chamber, there are conventions that apply to the way in which they scrutinise and deal with proposed legislation. I do not want to take anything away from their proper constitutional role. I think they are very cognisant of the fact that ours is the elected House and we voted in favour of the Bill by a huge majority last night, and also of the fact that behind that vote lay the much bigger vote of the people of the United Kingdom as a whole.
May we please have a debate on the legal definition of the word “normally”? Section 2 of the Scotland Act 2016 states that
it is recognised that the Parliament of the United Kingdom will not normally legislate with regard to devolved matters without the consent of the Scottish Parliament“.
“If the Government intend to ignore the wishes of the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament over issues of such importance as the triggering of article 50, may we please find out what other important issues relating to the devolution agreement they intend to ride roughshod over?
I think the ears of every lawyer in the country will have pricked up at the suggestion that we have a debate on the meaning of the word “normally”. I suspect that the interpretation of the word may depend on which lawyer’s opinion is sought.
I repeat that the Government have been absolutely consistent in saying that the interests of the entire United Kingdom, from Fair Isle to the Scillies, will be fully represented in the approach that we adopt to these negotiations.
Last month I hosted a reception to welcome a report published by Rural England, “State of Rural Services 2016”. It considers the growing impact of rural challenges on, for instance, health, education, welfare, broadband and transport. Last week I chaired a local meeting to discuss the impact of the loss of bus services. It is evident that the rural agenda is becoming increasingly difficult to deliver, and rural residents are understandably becoming ever more frustrated. Will my right hon. Friend grant a debate so that we can consider the challenges to rural funding and rural services more broadly?
My hon. Friend may have two bites at the cherry after the recess: Communities and Local Government questions will take place on 27 February, and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions on 2 March. I can also tell her that the Department for Communities and Local Government is currently undertaking a review of the fair funding formula to establish whether authorities throughout the country are indeed receiving their fair share of the overall cake.
Although the Department for Work and Pensions office in Cwmbran in my constituency does not face immediate closure, the jobs there will be relocated to Cardiff in the next three years. Before that happens and those jobs are lost from my local community, may we have a debate on the DWP’s strategy in relation to where it locates its offices?
I shall ensure that the hon. Gentleman’s particular concerns about Cwmbran are relayed to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, but the principle behind these changes must be the right one. It must be right for the Department to stop paying out unnecessary rent on property that is partly empty, to use a smaller estate—particularly given the significant fall in unemployment—and to use savings partly to fund additional advice services for the people whom it is most difficult to help into work. That must be the right way of going about things.
This weekend, following an inquiry chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Johnny Mercer), the Defence Sub-Committee will publish a report entitled “Who Guards the Guardians?” It sets out in some detail the circumstances in which a poisonous charlatan such as Phil Shiner was able to abuse our system of legal aid and the provisions of human rights legislation to hounds hundreds of British soldiers who had served bravely in Iraq and done nothing wrong. May we, at the earliest opportunity, have a statement, resulting from consultations between the Ministry of Defence, the Northern Ireland Office and the Ministry of Justice, on what legislation will be introduced to ensure that nothing like that can happen to former service personnel who served in Northern Ireland?
As the Prime Minister made clear yesterday, we take this issue very seriously, and I can assure my right hon. Friend that when the report is published Ministers from the Departments he has mentioned will want to study it closely and consult our hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Johnny Mercer) about the potential policy implications.
Exactly a month ago I asked the Secretary of State for Transport about the new High Speed 2 spur line running through Derbyshire, which means there will be two HS2s running through Derbyshire, not one—a fast track and a slow track. This new line is going to bring destruction and havoc to the village of Newton, which will result in the villagers losing their homes. I called upon the Secretary of State to intervene, but have never had a reply. Shall we have a statement about this matter? How far will the Government take it without responding to the people of Newton, who have suddenly realised that the second HS2 line is going to destroy their homes and their lives? Now, sort it out.
I know only too well the impact of the HS2 proposals on communities close to the designated route, and I undertake to the hon. Gentleman to ensure that the Secretary of State for Transport is reminded about his inquiry on this matter. It is right that the people the hon. Gentleman represents should get a proper response from HS2 Ltd, and I undertake to try to make certain that that happens.
The Leader of the House will recall that last week I spoke about the mounting excitement in Cleethorpes in anticipation of a visit from the northern powerhouse Minister. He will appreciate that it is now at fever pitch, with the visit only 24 hours away, and people are talking about a parallel career path with the last Front Bencher to visit Seaview street, my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May). More seriously, the Seaview street traders won a Great British high street awards award. Up and down the country, traders are facing difficulties. May we have a debate to discuss the future of our high streets?
I cannot offer my hon. Friend a debate in Government time, but I agree that this is an important issue that affects many communities, and the growth of online sales means many small retailers face challenges. It is important that retailers are able to learn from high streets that are successful and innovative in managing to keep their customers. After what my hon. Friend has said, there will probably now be a swathe of my ambitious and thrusting ministerial colleagues making a beeline for Cleethorpes at the earliest opportunity.
May we have a statement on the shock and disappointment being felt across Scotland at the failure of former England captain David Beckham to gain a knighthood? This is particularly the case since he had been advised that his fawning support for the Better Together campaign in 2014 would
“play well with establishment and in turn help your knighthood.”
We can all associate with his sense of disappointment when he replied:
“They r a bunch of”
“It’s a disgrace to be honest and if I was American I would of got…this 10 years ago.”
Surely the Leader of the House can bend one for Beckham?
I was not quite sure whether the right hon. Gentleman was speaking on behalf of Mr Beckham or whether there was some other motive there—a certain yearning for the knighthood himself. But I can honestly say to him that this is not a matter for me.
The Leader of the House will know that I am keen to have another debate on international women’s day, which is forthcoming in March. Meanwhile, it is lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans history month, and given the utterly false suggestion by some Opposition Members yesterday that Brexit will mean a bonfire of lesbian, gay, transsexual and women’s rights, may we have a debate on this area around Brexit as Hampshire County Council starts to fly the rainbow flag for Hampshire Pride week?
I am glad that I can provide the reassurance that my hon. Friend seeks. The United Kingdom had a strong and proud tradition of human rights and liberal values before we entered the European Union, and that tradition will continue after we have left it. She has only to look at another non-EU country in Europe, Norway, to see that there is no bar to a liberal approach to individual rights as a result of being apart from the European Union.
It is currently possible for the widowed parent of a new-born baby to receive up to £119,000 over 20 years, but if a partner dies after 6 April 2017 bereavement payments will be limited to a mere £9,800 over 18 months. May we please have a debate in Government time to discuss these Department for Work and Pensions reforms, which will cause severe hardship to grieving families?
There will be questions to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on our first day back, Monday 20 February, so the hon. Lady will have an opportunity to raise the matter on that occasion.
I do not know whether you have ever attended a speedway meeting, Mr Speaker, but that fast, exciting motor sport has always attracted a family audience. Speedway racing has taken place at Brandon in my constituency since the early days of the sport in the 1920s. Unfortunately, as a consequence of a dispute over the use of the stadium at Brandon, the Coventry Bees will start the new season this summer 25 miles away in Leicester, at great inconvenience to local fans. May we have a debate on the governance of this sport?
I am sure that if my hon. Friend were to draw his concerns to the attention of the Minister for Sport she would be only too delighted to see what is happening in the speedway world in the midlands. As he has suggested, however, the governance of the sport is a matter for the independent governing bodies of the sport rather than a matter in which Ministers should intervene.
Order. Before we proceed further, I can say to the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner), in the light of his business question, that before I came into the Chamber this morning I selected his proposed subject matter for the end-of-day Adjournment debate on the first Thursday after we return from the half-term recess, Thursday 23 February.
May we have a statement from the Leader of the House himself—perhaps he could do it now—on how the Government bring forward Bills to this House? The fact that they did not programme a Report stage for the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill makes it quite clear that they had no intention of accepting any of the 100 amendments that were tabled by well-intentioned Members. May we have a statement on whether it was indeed the Government’s intention to ride roughshod over this parliamentary process, making the past three days a sham?
The programme motion was very clear that there was provision for a Report stage. Whether there would be debating time for one would, as always, depend on whether amendments had been carried and on how long the House wished to continue to debate the amendments in Committee ahead of a Report stage.
I should like to wish the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) a happy birthday. He has been an outstanding parliamentarian. I should also like to thank him for inspiring me. I was once his constituent, and his antics drove me to run for Parliament. I thank him for that. Does the Leader of the House accept that this Parliament works because we have two Houses? Sometimes the other place does not agree with us, which annoys the Government, but that is no reason whatever to threaten it with abolition. May we have a statement from the Leader of the House to confirm that?
The Government’s position is that we completely respect the constitutional role of the House of Lords. As I said earlier, the House of Lords itself accepts that, as an unelected House, it needs to abide by certain conventions.
I should like to thank you, Mr Speaker, and other Members for your very kind comments; I am less happy about the fact that I must carry for life the burden of being responsible for the parliamentary career of the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone).
I have a suggestion that might appeal to you, Mr Speaker, given your great record as an innovator and trailblazer in this House. May we have a debate on procedure during Divisions, to enable us to enjoy more of the singing of the Scottish National party choir? The only bright spark in the midst of yesterday evening’s bleak, mean-spirited chauvinism was hearing the glorious words of the European anthem:
“Freude, schöner Götterfunken,
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!”
And the essence of the European ideal:
“Alle Menschen werden Brüder,
Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.”
That looks forward to the great European ideal, on which this Government are now trampling, and embodies the idea that a day will come when all humanity will be one family.
It is rightly a Welshman who highlights the importance of singing. My advice to hon. Members on the Scottish National party Benches would be that we have an all-party parliamentary choir—for staff as well as Members—that meets in the Crypt every Monday evening. I know that SNP Members would be welcome to join those who already participate.
I am not sure how to follow that question! In the past 10 days, we have heard about Weetabix’s £30 million investment, and about the expansion of the Tayto Group, all of which is good for jobs in Corby. Of course we must never be complacent, but may we have a statement next week from Ministers on the real news, rather than fake news, about the number of jobs that have been created and the investment that has taken place in the UK economy since 23 June?