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Volume 624: debated on Wednesday 29 March 2017

Q3. The Prime Minister will be aware that the Welsh Labour Government have established a children’s funeral fund. Many independent and leading funeral providers, such as The Co-operative and Dignity, have also indicated that there will be no charges for children’s and young people’s funerals. I know that she is a compassionate woman, and I know that she understands the importance of a children’s funeral fund, so will she agree to work with me to further establish this fund, to bring some comfort to bereaved parents in their darkest hour? (909558)

I pay tribute to the hon. Lady, who has campaigned tirelessly on this issue. Obviously, she is not just a passionate campaigner, but has on many occasions spoken movingly in this House about her own experience, which she is bringing to bear on this issue. I welcome the decision that has been taken by the Co-op to waive funeral fees, and I recognise the actions of the Welsh Government. Of course there is some financial support available, but we are looking at the issue and the problems faced by parents. We are looking at what more can be done through cross-Government work, and I will ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office, who is leading on that work, to meet her to talk about the idea.

Q12. As the Prime Minister will know, the Budget gave an extra £200 million to the Welsh Labour Government in order to provide business rates relief. Does she agree with me and the leader of Monmouthshire County Council, Peter Fox OBE, that Welsh Labour must now commit to spending that money on supporting Welsh businesses and giving them the same support that is being provided in England by this Conservative Government? (909567)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As he says, at the Budget, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced a £200 million boost for the Welsh Government’s budget. They will be able to use that money to support their own priorities, but the people of Wales will be able to send a very clear signal about those priorities by voting for Conservative councillors, like Peter Fox, on 4 May. It is the UK Government’s actions to support ordinary working families throughout the country that will ensure that Wales benefits from an economy that works for everyone.

Q4. During the EU referendum campaign, the now Foreign Secretary urged people to“take back control of huge sums of money”—£350 million a week—“and spend it on our priorities”,such as the NHS. The Prime Minister will trigger article 50 today. Can she confirm precisely when she wants to fulfil the promise made by her Cabinet colleague, who is sitting on the Front Bench and smirking at the British public? (909559)

Order. Boris is sitting perfectly comfortably, and there is an air of repose about the fellow, to which we are accustomed. Let us hear from the Prime Minister.

I am very happy to tell the hon. Lady that, of course, when this country leaves the European Union, we will have control of our budgets and we will decide how that money is spent.

Q13. With modification, schools in my constituency welcome the national funding formula. Given the Leader of the Opposition’s contribution, I hope that the next part of my question does not land me on the naughty step. Given that Stockport schools and other f40 schools have been at the bottom of the funding pile for years and therefore have less scope for efficiencies, will my right hon. Friend consider providing more immediate support to them? (909568)

As my hon. Friend is saying, we are aiming to end the postcode lottery of schools funding, and as I said, schools funding is now at a record high. On the minimum funding level, as I have said before, the Department for Education has heard representations on the issue on this national funding formula and will, of course, be considering those. This was a consultation, and there have been a lot of responses to it, but it is an historic and complex reform. There has been general agreement for many years that reform is needed. We want to get this right, which is why we are carefully considering the representations.

Q5. After nine months of this Prime Minister’s approach to Brexit, Northern Ireland is deadlocked, the Welsh are alienated, Scotland is going for a referendum, the English are split down the middle, and Brexit MPs are walking out of Commons Committees because they do not like home truths. Has the Prime Minister considered, in terms of invoking article 50, that “now is not the time”? (909560)

What the UK Government are doing in invoking article 50 is putting into practice the democratic vote of the British people on 23 June last year in a referendum. There was a referendum in 2014 in Scotland, when the Scottish people voted to remain part of the United Kingdom. I suggest the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues put that into practice.

Three quarters of my constituents voted to leave the European Union. Does the Prime Minister agree that triggering article 50 marks a watershed moment, not only in this country’s control of immigration and our sovereignty, but in listening to the views of people who were forgotten for far too long?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend; in invoking article 50, we are not just putting into practice the views of the British people as set out in that referendum on 23 June last year. Crucially, that was not just a vote about leaving the EU; it was a vote about changing this country for the future. This Government have a clear plan for Britain that will change this country, and that will see us with a more global outlook, a stronger economy, a fairer society and a more united nation.

Q6. The people expect the Prime Minister to follow her party’s manifesto, and to abide by a majority vote of this Parliament, so why does she say that the First Minister of Scotland should do the opposite? (909561)

What I say is that as we face this historic moment of invoking article 50 and setting in process the negotiations for the future of this country and its relationship with the European Union, now is the time to pull together and not try to hang apart.

On Friday, thousands of people up and down this country will be raising funds for and awareness of brain tumour research. Many of them will know someone, or have had a family member, who has had a brain tumour or is suffering from one, yet brain tumour research receives only about 1% of all cancer research funding, despite this being the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under 40. Will the Prime Minister join me in commending all these people raising awareness and funds, and see what more we can do to increase funding for brain tumour research?

This is a very important area, and the UK has a good record of research on brain tumours. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that the people who are raising funds for this important cause should be commended. As he said, many of them will have had personal experience of brain tumours, in one way or another. It is important that we recognise that there are many killers out there that often do not receive the publicity and support that other causes get. We should recognise their importance and commend those who are raising funds.

Q14. As we enter the world of article 50, will the Prime Minister say what she is doing to ensure that national and local government prioritise the buying of British goods and services? I have to say that her record on police vehicles when she was Home Secretary does not give us much cause for optimism. (909569)

We have, as a Government, been encouraging the procurement of British goods and services. The right hon. Gentleman asks what we can do for local authorities; if people around the country want local authorities that take their best interests to heart, they should vote Conservative.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on invoking article 50 today. Does she agree that this needs to be the end of the phoney war—the end of the posturing we have heard from Members on the Opposition Benches—and that we must now focus on the detail for every industry, sector and community, so that we get a bespoke deal that we can all get behind?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. Now is the time for us to come together, and to be united across the House and across the country to ensure that we work for the best possible deal for the United Kingdom, and the best possible future for us all.

The Prime Minister has rightly emphasised her determination to deliver for all the constituent parts of the United Kingdom on this historic day. While others are content to moan and whine, we want to see that delivery, and we are confident that she will make it happen. In Northern Ireland, some have walked away from their responsibilities with regard to devolution, but we want to see devolution up and running, and to have a functioning Northern Ireland Government, and we have set no preconditions in the way of that. If others continue to stay away from devolution and walk away, will the Prime Minister pledge to work ever more closely with those of us in this House to defend and protect the interests of Northern Ireland?

We all want to work together to ensure that we protect the best interests of Northern Ireland. As the right hon. Gentleman just said, ensuring that we have strong devolved government in Northern Ireland is important for the future. It is important, so that we can build on the significant progress that has been made in recent years for the people of Northern Ireland. I urge all parties to come to the talks with a view to finding a way through, so that Northern Ireland can once again be restored to devolved government.

Does the Prime Minister agree that social media companies need to take action now to remove extremist and hate materials from their platforms proactively, and to foot the bill for the police, who are currently doing those companies’ dirty work at the taxpayer’s expense?

The whole question of working with the companies to ensure that extremist material is removed as quickly as possible is not new; that work has been going on for a number of years. Through the counter terrorism internet referral unit, we have a process that enables the police to take material down. Some 250,000 pieces of material have been taken down from the internet since February 2010, and there has been a significant increase in that activity in the past couple of years or so. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will meet the companies later this week to talk to them about this important issue. We do not want to see extremist material on the internet, and we want to see companies taking action to remove material that encourages hate and division.

Late on Saturday night, a massive explosion devastated New Ferry in my constituency. We are thinking of all those who are hurt. It is a miracle that more people were not injured. The community now faces significant dereliction. Will the Prime Minister join me in thanking all those who looked after my community over the weekend and in recent days? Will she arrange for me a meeting with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, so that we can discuss how the Government can help us to rebuild New Ferry?

I am very happy to do both of those things. First, I commend and thank all those in the emergency services and others who worked so hard to support the hon. Lady’s local community when the devastating explosion took place. That work will continue; it did not happen just over the weekend. Support will be given to the community into the future. I am very happy to ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to meet her and discuss how that community can be rebuilt and can overcome the impact of this explosion.