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Oral Answers to Questions

Volume 621: debated on Wednesday 22 February 2017

International Development

The Secretary of State was asked—

Export Licences

1. What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for International Trade on the granting of export licences to Saudi Arabia. (908730)

The hon. Lady will be aware that a judicial review into UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia is currently under way, and that we cannot comment on ongoing legal matters. The role of the Department for International Development in the export licence process is to provide advice on criterion 8 of the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, which assesses whether a country can afford the export.

Following the recommendation made by the International Development Committee and the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee in November, what progress has been made in formally including DFID in cases in which the proposed arms transfer might ultimately be used, as is the case with Yemen and equipment supplied to Saudi Arabia?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. Specifically on DFID’s involvement, we engage across government on some of the really significant issues that are associated with Yemen, particularly on the humanitarian aspect. As I mentioned in my opening answer, there is a case under way right now, so I cannot comment on those ongoing legal matters.

Given the situation in Saudi Arabia, and indeed in China and other countries, does the Secretary of State not think it rather hypocritical to be carrying on about Trump—or is that out of order, Mr Speaker?

As my hon. Friend will have just heard me say very specifically with regard to Saudi Arabia and to export licences, a judicial review is under way and we cannot comment on ongoing legal matters.

Famine looms over Yemen, as the Secretary of State will know. What is the UK doing to ensure that aid is not being impeded by the Saudi-led coalition?

The right hon. Lady may be aware that the UK has not just funded the Yemen appeal, but led the way in the UN with our support. We are the fourth largest bilateral donor. DFID and the British Government have been very clear and direct on the matter of working on the ground and of making the case to the Saudi Arabian authorities that they must not impede humanitarian aid and support. We have been working with many of our international partners to monitor the access routes to ensure that supplies can get into Yemen, which, as she knows, is vital at this difficult time.

On the subject of granting export licences to Saudi Arabia and indeed to other countries, does DFID make representations about matters such as civilian casualties and breaches of international humanitarian law?

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we do more than make representations, and we do so not just through Government, but directly. I have dealt directly with the authorities in Saudi Arabia and with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia relief fund, and made some very specific requests with regard not just to the situation on the ground and the conflict, but, as I have already said to the right hon. Lady, to getting support to the people who need help in this crisis.


The situation in Syria is devastating and appalling. The UN estimates that 13.5 million Syrians are in need of humanitarian assistance, and 1.5 million are living in siege-like conditions. There are 4.9 million refugees in the region. The UK, as my hon. Friend will know, has been at the forefront of the international effort in providing support to the region and to Syria directly.

I commend that leading effort. Can the Secretary of State assure me that our aid is reaching Christian refugees who face jeopardy because, sometimes, they avoid the official camps for fear of persecution? Those who end up in those camps face further persecution because of their faith.

My hon. Friend is right to raise that matter. It is a really important issue given the movement of migrants and refugees. Ensuring the safety of refugees and protecting them from persecution is absolutely at the heart of the UK’s involvement, especially with regard to the aid and support that we provide in Syria and the wider region. I can assure him that all the agencies and partners with which we work pay particular attention to monitoring the welfare and safety of minorities, including those of Christians.

I recently had a very helpful meeting with one of the DFID Ministers about the situation in the berm—an area of no man’s land between Jordan and Syria. I am aware of how much the Government are doing with aid, but will the Secretary of State please update us on the humanitarian situation in the berm and what else is being done and could be done to help those refugees?

I thank the hon. Lady for raising the appalling situation in the berm; it is a devastating situation. She asked about what we are doing. Obviously, work has taken place through our agencies and partners, and more directly with the Jordanian Government. We are working with them in a very difficult, hostile terrain and territory in order to ensure that people and children are being protected and that they are getting access to food and water, which, frankly, is a major priority in the berm.

Last week, I met a number of Syrian refugees along with the hon. Member for Tooting (Dr Allin-Khan); we were guests of Oxfam in Jordan. The Secretary of State was also in Jordan not that long ago. Will she tell us what plans she and the Government have to continue to support Jordan in its magnificent efforts—a country of 9 million people that has taken in and housed 1.5 million Syrian refugees? What more can we do to help Jordan?

I thank my right hon. Friend for her question. She has seen at first hand the incredible and remarkable work in Jordan—a host country and a host community. It is under great strain and pressure, particularly economically, but also in providing the vital support that is needed. What more are we going to do? Post the London conference is the Brussels conference. I have been clear—this is exactly why I was in Jordan—about the additional support that we will give to Jordan, not just as the UK but through the international community, with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and through many of the reforms taking place in Jordan itself.

9. At DFID questions on 11 January, the Secretary of State told my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) that her Department was actively pursuing the possible use of drones to drop emergency aid in Syria. Will she update the House on what progress has been made since then? (908738)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. In besieged areas inside Syria, there are enormous problems of access to humanitarian aid and things of that nature. On drones, we are examining all options for getting aid into besieged areas in Syria. That includes the possibility of using drones to deliver aid directly.

The Government should be congratulated on being the second biggest donor in the area—second only to the United States. We can look after more people closer to home than we can in this country. What is the Secretary of State doing to encourage other European countries to match our level of support for the region?

My hon. Friend raises a really important point. We are constantly calling on other donor countries to step up and effectively pull their fingers out by putting more money into the international system. The Government are leading reform of the international system: we are challenging donor countries to be much more efficient and effective in how we distribute aid and get resources directly to people in the country and in the region.

Like the Secretary of State, I met thousands of children in the camps of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey who had fled Syria; I saw etched on their faces the fear they had experienced while in Syria. As others have done, I welcome the work in those host countries, but is the Secretary of State not embarrassed that the Government have turned their back on our obligation to take 3,000 unaccompanied children who have fled Syria and are in Europe?

I, too, have met and spoken to hundreds of such children and seen and heard from them directly the trauma that they have experienced in travelling from Syria into the neighbouring countries. The hon. Gentleman cannot justify saying that we are not helping those children: we take the welfare of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children more than seriously. We have made very clear commitments to those children and that is what we are doing. We have committed to resettling 20,000 Syrian nationals through the Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme and 3,000 of the most vulnerable children. That is on top of being the second largest bilateral donor to Syria and inside the region.

I thank the Secretary of State for all the work she is doing in Syria, but I draw her attention to the humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad region, where around 450,000 children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition. Can she assure me that the Government’s response to this crisis is purely humanitarian, and does she think the UK is acting in good time?

I am sure that the hon. Lady meant also to refer to Syria—it was probably a slip of the tongue—as that is the question on the Order Paper. She probably did, but I did not hear it.

I thank the hon. Lady for speaking about the humanitarian crises in Syria and in the Lake Chad region; she is right to mention the awful situation there. UK aid is clearly directed and focused on providing food, water and shelter to give protection to the most vulnerable people who need that life-saving support at this very difficult time.

UN Gender Equality Initiative

3. What support the Government are providing to the UN’s Step It Up for Gender Equality initiative. (908732)

UN Women is an important organisation and partner in the global fight to deliver gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment. The UK Government provide £12 million a year in core annual funding support for that organisation.

Budget day on 8 March is also International Women’s Day. Given that 93 countries have already made firm commitments to the UN’s Step It Up initiative, will the Minister now set that date as a deadline for the UK to make its formal commitment and show that it is fully engaged in international action to combat gender inequality?

The UK is a world leader in combating gender inequality. Since 2011, more than 5 million girls have been through education thanks to the work of the UK. We have seen 10 million women get access to modern family planning, and have saved more than 100,000 lives in childbirth. We have seen 36 million women given better access to financial services. Women’s empowerment and gender equality are key parts of what we do and of what this Government do, and we intend to continue to deliver on that.

8. In the light of the large number of unaccompanied children who remain at risk of trafficking and exploitation in Europe, and bearing in mind councils such as Lewisham, which offered 23 places but has filled only one, will the Government reconsider their decision to drop the Dubs scheme? (908737)

The hon. Lady, of course, expresses her concern for some of the most vulnerable children, including girls, in the world who have suffered such terrible persecution and problems in the countries from which they have fled. The UK is the second largest donor in the region, and we can assist many more by helping where the need is most immediate. We must always be careful to ensure that steps taken by the UK Government do not inadvertently facilitate further trafficking and difficult journeys. We must channel money to where it can have the most impact and help the most people.

10. Part of preventing exploitation is allowing women access to family planning services, so will the Minister join me in utterly condemning Trump’s global gag rule? Will we offer any new funding for projects that are now under threat? (908739)

The UK is a global leader in the area of family planning. The Secretary of State is bringing together a significant family planning conference, which the UK will host in the coming months. We need to ensure that where we are able to help people to lead better lives, to deliver economic growth, and to empower women and deliver on gender equality, we continue to be a global leader in that space. That is what we will continue to do. Of course, we always have to adapt to decisions made by our international partners.

Despite the leading role that the former Prime Minister played in shaping the sustainable development goals globally, there has been slow progress domestically. Will the Secretary of State update the House on the progress of implementing the goals across Government Departments?

The global goals are absolutely embedded not just in what the Department for International Development does, but across Government. As I may have mentioned in response to other questions, we are in the process of revising every single departmental plan across Government, and the global goals will be fully recognised in that process.

South Sudan

The humanitarian situation in South Sudan is deeply concerning, with 4.9 million people who do not have enough to eat. Famine has been declared in the Unity State. We are monitoring the situation and working to get direct aid into South Sudan at what is, quite frankly, a devastating time for that country.

I thank the Secretary of State for her response and for the work that she is carrying out in South Sudan. As well as providing the immediate humanitarian assistance, is there any prospect of building some sort of in-country resilience for the future?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Our priority, of course, is emergency aid—food assistance and water. We are also asking others to step up, particularly donors. We are calling on all sides that are involved in the conflict to end the fighting, because we need long-term political solutions if we going to end the current crisis.

The famine declared in South Sudan is the first anywhere in the world for six years. Last night the all-party Sudan and South Sudan group launched its report on the need for peace in the wider region. How is the Secretary of State’s Department responding specifically to these crises? Will she confirm that she will defend the aid budget so that it focuses on those in desperate need and is not subject to smash-and-grab raids by the Foreign Secretary to support diplomatic empowerment funds?

It is important that we recognise the state of the world right now. We are seeing four crises—four famines—around the world. We are in an unprecedented time. This is the first time we have seen this situation since the last certified famine in 2000. I do not see it as an issue about how we spend money across Government Departments; it is about how the UK shows global leadership when it comes to times of humanitarian crisis in the world. The British Government are leading the world right now, calling on others to step up, but also saving lives and changing lives at this critical time.

The Anglican communion and the Anglican Alliance have a network of churches in southern Sudan and can help to get aid to those who most need it. How is the Secretary of State engaging with the Anglican communion in that area?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right: the Church community—the Anglican communion—are present there. We are working with all partners because of the nature of the challenging situation on the ground. Let us be very frank: there is no easy solution in terms of aid access and getting support to people, so we are working with all partners. It is important to recognise that all partners and humanitarian workers are doing very difficult work in very challenging situations. This House should praise them all for what they are doing at this difficult time.

We have been offering assistance for some considerable time in the general area, but given the problems that have been generated in South Sudan in the past six months, can the Secretary of State outline what specific steps have been taken to get assistance to the people there in recent months?

I absolutely can. We have been very specific, not only in terms of UK support through the partner network that I have referred to but through DFID and the UK presence on the ground, in getting direct assistance to people. The situation is challenging. People are being persecuted and violence is driving them out of their homes. People are now in camps. We are working to protect civilians and ensure that within those camps they are protected and safeguarded as well as in receipt of food, shelter and water.

Scottish Government: Meetings

I am grateful to the Minister for his answer. Does he agree that Scottish international development organisations, while often smaller than their English counterparts, can offer as much or more in terms of value for money and impact, as well as continuing to contribute to the preservation of positive public opinion in relation to international development? What steps can he take to ensure that DFID-funded programmes are made more accessible to smaller funded international non-governmental organisations based in Scotland as well as their counterparts in NIDOS—the Network of International Development Organisations in Scotland?

There are two separate questions there. First, I pay tribute to Scottish charities, ranging from major charities such as the HALO Trust through to smaller charities working with the Scottish Government on the ground in Malawi. Secondly, our Department is very much committed to working with smaller NGOs and civil society organisations which often know more, can do more, and care more than bigger organisations.


The Department is continuing to provide significant support to Montserrat, including budgetary support and work that we are doing to help to develop the economy to make it sustainable into the future.

The Premier of Montserrat, Donaldson Romeo, recently told MPs and peers that he does not want his country to be the recipient of international aid for generations to come. Instead, he is looking for strategic capital investment to develop, for instance, the tourism industry. Will the Minister meet the all-party group on Montserrat to discuss some of his suggestions so that the country can once again become self-sustaining?

As always, DFID Ministers would be delighted to meet parliamentary colleagues. I am sure we would be happy to arrange an appropriate meeting, and I can assure the hon. Lady that we are looking to invest in long-term economic prospects in Montserrat, as elsewhere.


The United Nations assesses that more than 3 million people are currently victims of the ongoing violence in Ukraine. Our particular concern is about the 800,000 people living along the line of contact, suffering continual violence over the past three years.

Russian aggression in the east of Ukraine has resulted in the internal displacement of 1.6 million Ukrainians. Russian aggression is now heightening in the east of Ukraine. Apart from seeking a resumption of the ceasefire in the east of Ukraine, will the Government commit to providing additional support to the Ukrainian Government to deal with such numbers of internally displaced people?

The British Government currently provide support to Ukraine in two ways. First, we provide support directly to the Ukrainian Government and governance programmes. Secondly, through the International Committee of the Red Cross and People in Need, which is a Czech organisation, we provide humanitarian assistance. We must be clear that this conflict in Ukraine was caused and is sustained by Russian aggression.

Topical Questions

This year the world faces numerous humanitarian crises, to which I have already referred. Parts of South Sudan are now in famine and there is a credible risk of famine in Yemen, north-east Nigeria and Somalia. That is why today I have announced new packages of support. The UK’s message to the world is clear: we need to act now to help innocent people who are starving to death.

Can my right hon. Friend be more specific about measures her Department is taking to help to address the potential crisis that is developing in Somalia, South Sudan and other countries in the region?

Specifically, our focus right now is on emergency food and water. That is where the need is. We are talking about more than 1 million people in both countries who need urgent support. They are the focus of our attention right now. Obviously, working with our partners, we will make assessments to see what additional support we will need to continue to put in.

The Rohingya are among the most persecuted people in the world today. In recent weeks and months, they have faced new waves of violence perpetrated by the Burmese Government. How much of the £95 million budget for the Burma project will go towards much-needed assistance for the Rohingya, and what steps are the Government taking to ensure that that happens?

We absolutely agree that the situation for the Rohingya is deeply troubling. We are dealing with it in different ways. I raised it personally on my last visit to Burma with the Minister of Home Affairs and Aung San Suu Kyi. DFID staff are accessing the Rohingya areas and we continue to work with Kofi Annan and the UN system, but the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that it is vital that we get humanitarian access and support to the Rohingya population.

T2. Action on Poverty, a charity based in my constituency, is doing great work in Sierra Leone, empowering women by providing loans for businesses. In the run-up to International Women’s Day, what work is the Department doing on gender inequality in the developing world? (908781)

The UK has much to celebrate when it comes to global leadership on gender equality. Of course, International Women’s Day will be another strong example of that. We not only continue to champion the rights of women and girls but, importantly, support them in their own economic development and empowerment prospects.

T3. The UK and Italy have the largest number of very restrictive tax treaties with poor Asian and African countries, harming their economic development. Will the Secretary of State press her Treasury colleagues to review these treaties? (908784)

I did not fully hear the question, but I did hear the most important point, which was that of Africa and economic development. The British Government, through UK aid, are at the forefront of leading the way when it comes to prosperity and economic development. We will continue to do exactly more of that. [Interruption]

Order. We are discussing matters affecting some of the most vulnerable people on the face of the planet. Let us have a bit of order for Mary Robinson.

T6. Like many Members, I have visited the UNICEF-run Zaatari camp in Jordan, where almost 80,000 refugees have settled since being forced from Syria. Overwhelmingly, the children I spoke to had wonderful aspirations to become doctors, nurses, scientists and engineers. What steps is the Department taking to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches these camps and helps refugee children to get the education they need? (908787)

My hon. Friend is right to raise this important issue. Education is crucial in the camps but also in the region. In both Jordan and Lebanon we have helped to support more than 200,000 children to have access to education. The UK, once again, is leading the way to enable more and more children to go to school in the region.

T4. On Sunday, the Israeli military authorities issued 40 demolition notices on the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the occupied Area C of the west bank. If this happens tomorrow, it will mark a dramatic escalation of the demolitions and will compromise DFID’s actions in the region. Can I ask the Government to call on the Israeli authorities to cease— (908785)

This is an issue that the hon. Gentleman and I have discussed on a number of occasions. We remain absolutely clear, as the British Government, that it is necessary both to protect the security of the Government of Israel and to ensure that the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people are protected. We will continue to work carefully to monitor illegal demolitions.

The Independent Commission for Aid Impact is a unique body created to scrutinise DFID. What assurances can Ministers give that the forthcoming review of ICAI’s own performance will be conducted independently of the Department that it scrutinises?

I can assure my hon. Friend that the tailored review of ICAI will be carried out in accordance with the guidance that has been set very clearly for the reviews of non-departmental public bodies, including all the relevant and appropriate levels of independence.

T5. As we approach Fairtrade fortnight, what is the Secretary of State doing to ensure that fair trade is at the heart of our new trade deals? (908786)

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise the importance and significance of fair trade. This is at the heart of everything that we in DFID stand up for, in terms of principles and values. In our economic development work, that is exactly what we are championing throughout DFID.

Daesh continues to commit genocide against the Yazidi people. May I ask the Secretary of State what aid is being targeted to support Yazidi men and women?

My hon. Friend will have heard my earlier response about the persecution of minorities in conflict areas, particularly with regard to the middle east crisis. We are working with all our partners to ensure that the Yazidi people are receiving aid and protection through our partnership-working on the ground.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—


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

Yesterday, the campaign group fighting cuts at West Cumberland hospital was due to deliver a 30,000-strong petition to Downing Street. Despite having a slot booked, they were turned away at the gates and told, “Today isn’t a good day. Come back after Thursday.” How can the Prime Minister justify this disgraceful dismissal of the people of Copeland?

A petition was indeed delivered to No. 10. The petition was accepted by No. 10 Downing Street yesterday, so I suggest to the hon. Lady that she considers what she said in her question. I am aware of the issues that have been raised around West Cumberland hospital. I am aware of them because the very good Conservative candidate in Copeland, Trudy Harrison, has raised them with me. She has made it very clear that she wants to see no downgrading of services at West Cumberland hospital. She has made that clear to me and to Health Ministers.

Q3. I recently met many of my local headteachers in High Peak, and they are concerned about the new national funding formula. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that when we decide on the funding for our schools, we will look at unavoidable costs, such as the national apprenticeship levy, to ensure that our schools have the money that they need to educate our children? (908790)

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this. The question of schools funding, and the system we have for schools funding, is important. I think the current system is unfair. It is not transparent and it is out of date. That has been the general view for some time now. The problem is that it cannot support the aspiration of all our children to get a great education. We do, indeed, want children to be able to get the education that they deserve and that ensures that they can go as far as their talents and hard work take them. The Labour Government did nothing to address the funding system. We are looking at that funding system. It is a consultation, and I am sure that the comments and the issue my hon. Friend has raised will be noted by the Secretary of State for Education.

When hospitals are struggling to provide essential care, why is the Prime Minister’s Government cutting the number of beds in our national health service?

Thanks to the medical advances, to the use of technology and to the quality of care, what we see on hospital stays is actually that the average length of time for staying in hospital has virtually halved since the year 2000. Let us look at Labour’s record on this issue. In the last six years of the last Labour Government, 25,000 hospital beds were cut. But we do not even need to go as far back as that. Let us just look at Labour’s policy before the last election, because before the last election, the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), the former Labour shadow Health Secretary, said the following:

“what I’d cut…are hospital beds”.

Labour policy: cut hospital beds.

In 2010, there was the highest ever level of satisfaction with the national health service, delivered by a Labour Government. The British Medical Association—[Interruption.] It’s doctors. The British Medical Association tells us that 15,000 beds have been cut in the past six years, the equivalent of 24 hospitals, and as a result, we have longer waiting times at A&E, record delayed discharges and more people on waiting lists. The Prime Minister claims the NHS is getting the money it needs, so why is it that one in six A&E units in England are set for closure or downgrading?

I will tell the right hon. Gentleman what is happening and what has happened since 2010 in A&E: we see 1,500 more emergency care doctors—that includes 600 more A&E consultants—and we have 2,400 more paramedics. We have more people being seen in accident and emergency every single week under this Government. He talks about what the NHS needs: what the NHS needs is more doctors—we are giving it more doctors; what it needs is more funding—we are giving it more funding. What it does not need is a bankrupt economy, which is exactly what Labour would give it.

I asked the Prime Minister why one in six A&E units are currently set for closure or downgrading; she did not answer. One of the problems—she well knows this—is the £4.6 billion cut to social care, which has a knock-on effect. Her friend the Tory chair of the Local Government Association, Lord Porter, has said that

“extra council tax income will not bring in anywhere near enough money to alleviate the growing pressure on social care”.

Two weeks ago, we found out about the sweetheart deal with Tory Surrey. When will the other 151 social services departments in England get the same as the Surrey deal?

The right hon. Gentleman refers to the questions he asked me about Surrey County Council two weeks ago. Those claims were utterly destroyed the same afternoon, so rather than asking the same question, he should stand up and apologise.

Far from my apologising, it is the Prime Minister who ought to be reading her correspondence and answering the letter from 62 council leaders representing social service authorities who want to know if they are going to get the same deal as Surrey. They are grappling with a crisis, which has left over 1 million people not getting the social care they need.

We opposed Tory cuts in the NHS which involved scrapping nurses’ bursaries, because we feared it would discourage people from entering training. The Prime Minister’s Government said that removing funding for nurses’ bursaries would create an extra 10,000 training places in this Parliament. Has this target been met?

There are 10,000 more training places available for nurses in the NHS. The right hon. Gentleman talks about the amount of money being spent on the NHS. It is this Conservative Government who are putting the extra funding into the NHS. I remind him that we are spending £1.3 billion more on the NHS this year than Labour planned to spend if it had won the election.

My questions were about social services funding to pay for social care—no answer. My questions were about the number of training places for nurses being brought in—no answer. In reality, 10,000 fewer places have been filled because there are fewer applications. A problem is building up for the future. In addition, the Royal College of Midwives estimates that there is a shortage of 3,500 midwives in England, and the Royal College of Nursing warns:

“The nursing workforce is in crisis and if fewer nurses graduate in 2020 it will exacerbate what is already an unsustainable situation”.

Will the Prime Minister at least commit herself to reinstating the nurses’ bursary?

The right hon. Gentleman asked me a question about nursing training places, which I answered. If he does not like the answer he gets, he cannot just carry on asking the same question if I have answered it previously. He talks about all these issues in relation to what is happening in the NHS, so let us look at what is happening in the NHS: we have 1,800 more midwives in the NHS since 2010; we have more people being seen in accident and emergency since 2010; and we have more operations taking place every week in the NHS. Our NHS staff are working hard. They are providing quality care for patients up and down the country. What they do not need is a Labour party policy that leads to a bankrupt economy. Labour’s policy is to spend money on everything, which means bankrupting the economy and having no money to spend on anything. That does not help doctors and nurses, it does not help patients, it does not help the NHS, and it does not help ordinary working families up and down this country.

Yes, let us look at the national health service and let us thank all those who work so hard in our national health service, but also recognise the pressures they are under. Today, a Marie Curie report finds that nurses are so overstretched they cannot provide the high-quality care needed for patients at the very end of their lives. The lack of care in the community prevents people from having the dignity of dying at home. There is a nursing shortage and something should be done about it, such as reinstating the nurses’ bursary.

The Prime Minister’s Government have put the NHS and social care in a state of emergency. Nine out of 10 NHS trusts are unsafe, 18,000 patients a week are waiting—[Interruption.] Mr Speaker, I repeat the figure: 18,000 patients a week are waiting on trolleys in hospital corridors and 1.2 million often very dependent—[Interruption.] It seems to me that some Members are not concerned about the fact that there are 1.2 million elderly people who are not getting the care they need. The legacy of her Government will blight our NHS for decades: fewer hospitals, fewer A&E departments, fewer nurses and fewer people getting the care they need. We need a Government who will put the NHS first and will invest in our NHS.

First, the right hon. Gentleman should consider correcting the record, because 54% of hospital trusts are considered good or outstanding—quite different from the figure he cited. Secondly, I will take no lessons on the NHS from the party—[Interruption.] Oh, the deputy leader of the Labour party says we should take lessons on the NHS, but I will not take any lessons from the party that presided over the failure that happened at Mid Staffs hospital. Labour says we should learn lessons. I will tell the House who should learn lessons: the Labour party, which still fails to recognise that if you are going to fund the NHS—we are putting money in, and there are more doctors, more operations and more nurses—you need a strong economy. We now know, however, that Labour has a different sort of phrase for its approach to these things. Remember when it used to talk about “boom and bust”? Now it is borrow and bankrupt. [Interruption.]

Order. We must get through Back Benchers’ questions and the Prime Minister’s answers to them. I call Mr Michael Tomlinson.

Q4. Brendan Cox will meet today with the Duchess of Cornwall to launch plans to bring communities together over the weekend of 17 and 18 June to mark the first anniversary of our colleague Jo’s death. The aim of this Great Get Together, as it has been called, is for more than 10 million people across the country to come together as communities and neighbours for events such as street parties, picnics and even bake offs. Will the Prime Minister join me in agreeing that such events and moments of national reflection and celebration in our communities will be a fitting tribute to Jo and will remind us all that, as she herself said, we have far more things in common than things that divide us? (908791)

My hon. Friend raises an extremely important point, and I am very happy to agree that what is becoming known as the Great Get Together is a fitting and important tribute to our late colleague Jo Cox. I commend her husband, Brendan—I am sure that everyone across the House would wish to do so—for the work that he has done. As my hon. Friend said, it is important to remember that there is more that brings us together than divides us, and this is an important moment of national reflection and celebration of the strength of our communities. As we face the future together—these are momentous times for this country—it is important that we remember that being united makes us strong and recognise the things that unite us, as a country and a people, and the bonds we share together. This is a very fitting tribute to our late colleague.

In recent days, the Prime Minister has said that it is a key personal commitment to transform the way domestic violence is tackled. It is hugely welcome that she has called for ideas about how the treatment of victims could be improved and more convictions against abusers secured. Combatting violence against women and preventing domestic violence is the aim of the Istanbul convention, which the UK is yet to ratify. Does she agree with Members on both sides of the House that the convention should be ratified as a priority?

The right hon. Gentleman raises an important subject. As he says, I take it particularly seriously—I worked hard on it as Home Secretary and I continue to do so as Prime Minister. There were still an estimated 1.3 million female victims of domestic abuse in the last year and more than 400,000 victims of sexual violence. He is right that we signed up to the Istanbul convention, and we are fully committed to ratifying it, which was why we supported in principle the private Member’s Bill of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford) on Second Reading and in Committee. In many ways, the measures we have in place actually go further than the convention, but I am clear that we need to maintain momentum, which is why I am setting up a ministerial working group to look at the legislation and at how we can provide good support to victims, and to consider the possibility of a domestic violence Act.

This Friday, the House will consider a Bill on the Istanbul convention. We know that Ministers have been working hard with my hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Dr Whiteford), who has cross-party support for her Bill. Given the importance of this issue and the Prime Minister’s personal commitment, which she has outlined again today, will she join me in encouraging Members to support the Bill and discourage any attempts to use parliamentary wrecking tactics to stop it?

I am happy to join the right hon. Gentleman in that. I know that the Minister for Vulnerability, my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Sarah Newton), has had a number of constructive discussions with the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan. The Government have tabled some mutually agreed amendments, for which the Government will vote this Friday. I hope that all my hon. Friends who are present on Friday will support these measures. This is an important Bill. The Government have supported it, and I hope it will be supported on both sides of the House.

Q6. Residents in the village of High Lane in my constituency are concerned about 4,000 homes proposed under the Greater Manchester spatial framework, which will more than double the size of the village. What assurances can my right hon. Friend give to my constituents that the green belt is safe with this Government? (908793)

I am happy to give that commitment to my hon. Friend. The Government are very clear that the green belt must be protected. We are very clear that boundaries should be altered only when local authorities have fully examined all other reasonable options. If they do go down that route, they should compensate by improving the quality or accessibility of the remaining green-belt land so that it can be enjoyed. I know about the particular issue that my hon. Friend raises, and I believe that the Greater Manchester spatial framework led to quite a number of responses. There was a lot of interest in that consultation, which closed last month, and I am sure that all those views will be taken into account.

Q2. Last week, the all-party group on children of alcoholics launched a manifesto for change. Some 2.5 million children are growing up in the home of a problem drinker—I did, too. These children are twice as likely as others to have problems at school, three times more likely to consider suicide, and four times more likely to become an alcoholic, yet today 138 local authorities have no plan to support these children. Will the Prime Minister work with the all-party group to establish the first ever Government strategy to tackle this hidden problem that blights the lives of millions? (908789)

The right hon. Lady raises an important issue. I know that she recently spoke very movingly about her own experience. I am sure that Members on both sides of the House recognise the devastating impact that addiction can have on individuals and their families, so this is an important issue for her to raise. It is unacceptable that children bear the brunt of their parents’ condition. The Government are committed to working with MPs, health professionals and those affected to reduce the harm of addiction and to get people the support they need. We shall look carefully at the proposals suggested by the right hon. Lady.

Former Military Personnel: Northern Ireland

Q9. If she will take steps to introduce legislative proposals to provide legal protection to former military personnel who served in Northern Ireland at least equivalent to that offered to former republican and loyalist paramilitaries. (908796)

As I have made clear, I think it is absolutely appalling when people try to make a business out of dragging our brave troops through the courts. In the case of Northern Ireland, 90% of deaths were caused by terrorists, and it is essential that the justice system reflects that. It would be entirely wrong to treat terrorists more favourably than soldiers or police officers. That is why, as part of our work to bring forward the Stormont House agreement Bill, we will ensure that investigative bodies are under a legal duty to be fair, balanced and proportionate so that our veterans are not unfairly treated or disproportionately investigated.

While I welcome that reply, it does not go quite as far as I and many other people would like. There is no prospect of new credible evidence coming forward against our veterans of the troubles up to 40 years after the event, yet people are starting to use the same techniques in Northern Ireland against them as were used against veterans of Iraq. Surely the answer has to be a statute of limitations preventing the prosecution of veterans to do with matters that occurred prior to the date of the Belfast agreement.

As my right hon. Friend knows, we are looking at this issue as part of the Stormont House agreement. What we are doing is ensuring that the investigative bodies responsible for looking at deaths during the troubles will operate in a fair, balanced and proportionate manner. We want cases to be considered in chronological order, and we want these protections enshrined in legislation. We are going to consult fully on these proposals, because we want to make sure that we get this right.


Q5. When the new local housing allowance cap for social tenants is introduced in 2019, it will hit people on low incomes in my constituency hard. In places such as Maidenhead, the allowance will often exceed the average rent, but the basic weekly allowance in Merthyr Tydfil is £67, while the rent charged by Merthyr Valleys Homes is £76, which is already one of the lowest social housing rents in Wales. That will mean that tenants, including many older people, will be expected to find nearly £500 a year to put towards their rent. Will the Prime Minister act now? Will she issue clear guidance to exempt older people, at the very least, from these crude cuts, and also to ensure that the local housing allowance is in line with local rents? (908792)

Local authorities have a fund and can exercise discretion. There will be some variation across the country, and steps have been taken to ensure that particularly vulnerable people are not affected in the way that the hon. Gentleman suggests.

Q10. The lack of large-scale vaccine manufacturing has been described as a national security issue for our country, and it will take many years to build that up. Will the Prime Minister look into what more the Government can do to address this highly critical health and defence concern? (908797)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the issue in that context. The Government take it very seriously. The ability to ensure that we can readily scale up vaccine production in the event of a pandemic is, as she says, vital to our national security. As I am sure she will understand, the precise details are necessarily confidential, but I can assure her that we have provisions in place to ensure that urgently needed vaccines are available in the UK at short notice, including in the event of a pandemic. As an added contingency, we are funding a £10 million competition to establish a world-leading centre for vaccine manufacturing. However, that is only part of the picture, because we are in a strong position: we have one of the most comprehensive and successful vaccination programmes in the world, backed up by £300 million in this year alone.

Q7. Last night Bristol City Council set its budget. Very difficult decisions were made more difficult by the abject failure of the previous Mayor to get a grip on the council’s finances. It has taken a Labour Mayor to face up to the challenge, but Government cuts are making his task almost impossible, and devolution simply means asking us to do more with less. We did our bit last night in setting the budget; will the Prime Minister now meet the Mayor of Bristol to discuss the fairer funding deal that the people of Bristol deserve? (908794)

I understand that my right hon. Friend the Communities Secretary has indeed had such a meeting to discuss the issue that the hon. Lady has raised.

Q11. Seventeen years ago, my constituents Sue and Glyn Jones received a phone call that no parent should ever have to take. The caller told them that their daughter Kirsty, who was backpacking in Thailand, had been brutally murdered. The Thai authorities are due to close their investigation of Kirsty’s murder soon but, as yet, her case remains unsolved, her killer remains free, and her parents have neither justice nor closure. May I ask my right hon. Friend to press the Thai authorities to use recently improved DNA techniques to bring the killer to justice, to endeavour to provide more support for families who have lost loved ones abroad and, finally, to ensure that Kirsty’s personal effects are, at last, returned home to her parents from Thailand? (908798)

I am sure that the whole House will join me in offering condolences to the Jones family and in recognising the terrible trauma that they have been through as a result of the killing of their daughter. As I am sure that my hon. Friend appreciates, it is not for the British Government to interfere with police investigations that take place in another country, but I understand that the Foreign Office has been providing support and remains ready to do so. Our embassy in Bangkok will continue to raise these issues with the Thai Government, and I am sure that the Foreign Office will keep my hon. Friend updated on any developments.

Q8. In the Prime Minister’s Lancaster House speech, she said of a future trade agreement with the EU:“no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain.”In the spirit of consistency, will that rule also apply to any future trade negotiations with the United States of America, where President Trump has said that America comes first? (908795)

I assure the hon. Gentleman that, as I have said consistently, we will be ensuring that when we negotiate trade deals with whichever countries around the world, they will be good deals for the UK.

Q12. In the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, we took the power, subject to a consultation and the laying of an order, to give humanists in England and Wales the opportunity to celebrate marriages as they do in Scotland. We have had the consultation, with 90% approval, and there has even now been reference to the Law Commission, which has concluded. Will my right hon. Friend now give her attention to laying this order and giving humanists in England and Wales the same rights and freedoms as they enjoy very successfully in Scotland? (908799)

My hon. Friend has been following this issue closely over recent years. I think he recognises that this is an important and complex area of law, and we want to make sure that proposals are considered properly. That is why the Ministry of Justice is carefully examining the differences in treatment that already exist within marriage law, alongside the humanist proposals, so that the differences can be minimised. I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that it is both right and fair to approach this in that way.

Q14. My constituent Kevin’s chances of survival from pancreatic cancer were no better than his mother’s, who died of that disease 40 years earlier. This disease is soon to become the fourth biggest cancer killer in the UK. Will the Prime Minister join MPs on both sides of this House to champion a significant increase in spending on pancreatic cancer research which, sadly, currently lags behind that on other cancers? (908801)

The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point that is obviously of particular relevance in the case of the constituent to whom he refers. As he says, pancreatic cancer is one of those cancers that it is very difficult to deal with and treat. There has been a lot of attention over the years on certain cancers, such as breast cancer increasingly, as well as bowel cancer and prostate cancer, but it is important that the appropriate attention is given to cancers that are proving more difficult to deal with, such as pancreatic cancer.

Q13. In February 2008, Mr Barry Pring, the brother of one of my constituents, was unlawfully killed in Ukraine. Mr Pring’s Ukrainian wife is clearly implicated in his death. Earlier this year, our coroner in Devon ruled that Mr Pring was tricked into standing on a carriageway before being run down by a car that had stolen licence plates and no lights—death was immediate. However, every time an investigating officer makes progress with the case in Ukraine, they are replaced. This has happened 10 times and the case has stalled. May I implore my right hon. Friend to raise this case with the Ukrainian Prime Minister so that we can get justice and closure for Barry’s mother and brother and the Pring family? (908800)

I am sure that the whole House will join me in offering condolences to Barry’s family following his death in 2008. I understand that my hon. Friend has discussed this case with my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. As I said in reply to an earlier question, it is not for the British Government to interfere in the legal processes of another country, but the Foreign Office has been regularly raising this case with the Ukrainian authorities and will continue to do so. It is my understanding that UK police have assisted the investigation on a number of occasions and all information from the UK coroner’s inquest will be passed on. I am sure that the Foreign Office will keep my hon. Friend updated on any developments.

Q15. Tens of thousands of disabled people on the Motability scheme have had their cars removed by this Government. In November, the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work said that they will be looking at allowing personal independence payment claimants to keep their cars pending appeal. Next week, my constituent Margaret Gibson will lose her car, which she regards as a lifeline, despite a pending appeal and two decades of receiving higher rate disability living allowance. Will the Prime Minister update the House on the progress of this review to help Margaret and thousands like her? (908802)

The hon. Gentleman raises an issue about the way in which these assessments are made and the implications of the decisions taken. He referred, I think, to a review in relation to PIP payments and the Motability element of that. If I may, I will write to him with further details.

It was a year ago this week that the Edward Hain community hospital was temporarily closed due to fire safety concerns. There are now no community beds in the towns of St Ives, Penzance and St Just, or in the rural areas in between. GPs, residents and local campaigners agree with me that this valued community hospital needs to be reopened as an urgent priority. Will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister apply pressure to NHS Property Services and to Cornwall’s NHS managers to find a way of getting that building work done and reopening those community beds?

This is obviously a concern for my hon. Friend’s constituents—he is right to raise it. I am sure that he recognises that the first priority must be to ensure that patients are treated in a safe and secure environment, and I understand that the local clinical commissioning group and the NHS have been working closely to ensure that community hospital facilities in Cornwall are fit to deliver that expectation. I think that a review has already been undertaken into the repairs and improvements needed to bring the Edward Hain community hospital up to a safe standard, and the CCG will be looking at the infrastructure and facilities that it needs, once a final local plan has been agreed. Obviously my right hon. Friend the Health Secretary has heard my hon. Friend’s representations.

The Government’s business rates hike could devastate the local economy in my constituency. Brighton pier is facing a 17% increase, the World’s End pub a 123% increase, and Blanch House hotel a 400% increase. Does the Prime Minister recognise that Brighton will be disproportionately affected? Will she urgently set up a discretionary fund to support small and micro-businesses, and agree to a full review of the whole system?

If we just stand back, we can see that business rates are based on the rental values of properties. Those values change over time—they can go up and down—and it is right that business rates change to recognise that. That is the principle of fairness that underpins the business rates system. However, we also want to support businesses and we recognise that, for some, business rates will go up when the revaluations take place. That is why we have put significant funding in place for transitional relief. I recognise that there has been particular concern that some small businesses will be adversely affected as the result of this revaluation, and that is why I have asked the Chancellor and the Communities Secretary to ensure that there is appropriate relief in those hardest cases.

My right hon. Friend gave a sympathetic answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) and I know that she has taken particular interest in the matter that he raised. May I put it to her that, for many of us, there is something profoundly wrong with a criminal justice system that can pursue veterans who have risked their lives for this country 40 years on, long after there is any possibility of new evidence, while it is at the same time capable of paying out £1 million to a terror suspect?

In relation to the issue in Northern Ireland, the legacy bodies were part of the Stormont House agreement and we are working to deliver on that agreement. As I said in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), the overwhelming majority of our armed forces in Northern Ireland served with great distinction and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude. The situation at the moment is that cases are being pursued against officers who served in Northern Ireland, and we want to see the legacy body set up under the Stormont House agreement taking a proportionate, fair and balanced approach. As I said earlier, we recognise that the majority of individuals who suffered did so at the hands of terrorists.

On the steps of Downing Street, the Prime Minister pledged to end the “burning injustice” of so few working-class boys going to university. Will she tell me how cutting every single secondary school in Leigh, Wigan, Rochdale, Trafford and Manchester through her new schools funding formula will do anything other than make that injustice even worse?

I want to ensure, through the education system that we provide, that there is a good school place for every child. I am pleased to say that under Conservatives in government, we have seen 1.8 million more children in good or outstanding schools. We are looking at the funding formula for schools and listening to the comments that have been made, but everyone across the House will recognise that it has been said for some time now that the existing formula is not transparent or fair. We are looking at a new formula, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that our education policy is about ensuring that every child has the opportunity to go as far as their talents and their hard work enable them to go.

Mr Speaker, you saw at first hand what a cup run means to a town and a club such as Sutton. With AFC Wimbledon out of the picture, I wonder whether my right hon. Friend will join me in congratulating Sutton United on such a spirited performance on Monday, and in wishing Lincoln City well for keeping the non-league spirit alive in the next round of the FA cup. Finally—[Interruption.]

Finally, will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating and thanking Arsenal for their generosity in allowing Sutton to keep a little extra slice of the FA cup pie?

If I may say so, that was a neat reference to pie at the end of the question.

I am happy to congratulate Sutton on their extremely good run in the FA cup. It makes a huge difference to a local area when its football club is able to progress to that extent, to be up there with the big boys, and to do as well as Sutton did. I am also happy to congratulate Lincoln City—I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln is sitting next to my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Scully)—on their success. We wish them well for the future.

The UK Green Investment Bank, which is co-located in Edinburgh, is being sold, and recent newspaper reports suggest that the contract could be concluded soon. That is happening despite the UK’s stated focus on research and development, and the fact that no realistic guarantees have yet been given as to the continuation of a proper headquarters and board based in Edinburgh. Will the Prime Minister commit to looking again at why a sale at this time is not in the best interests of Edinburgh, the green agenda or UK taxpayers?

Before I respond to the hon. Lady’s question, I am afraid that I owe a couple of apologies. I am sorry for mixing up my hon. Friends the Members for Stroud (Neil Carmichael) and for Lincoln (Karl MᶜCartney). I was obviously getting carried away with the football fever that my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam introduced into the Chamber.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Michelle Thomson) mentioned the Green Investment Bank. If I may, I will write to her with a response to her question.

I think it is fair to say that in dealing with the matter the Prime Minister has deployed a very straight bat.