I beg to move an amendment, at the end of the Question to add:
“but respectfully regret that the Gracious Speech fails to end cuts to the police and the fire service; commend the response of the emergency services to the recent terrorist attacks and to the Grenfell Tower fire; call on the Government to recruit more police officers and fire-fighters; and further call on the Government to end the public sector pay cap and give the emergency and public services a fair pay rise.”.
On occasion, much of what we do and say in the Chamber must seem to ordinary members of the public looking on like something approaching an elaborate game, but the Opposition believe that the amendment goes to the heart of public concerns. We wish to commend the response of the emergency services to the recent terrorist attacks and to the Grenfell Tower fire; we wish to call on the Government to recruit more police officers and firefighters; but above all, we call on the Government to end the public sector pay cap and give emergency and public service workers a fair pay rise. As we have seen in recent months, in times of national and personal crisis, it is to public sector workers that the country looks.
We have all seen and read about the firefighters who ran towards danger, into the blaze in Grenfell Tower to save lives. Some of us wondered whether we could have summoned up that courage. We all know about the national health service workers who came in off shift to save lives and help the victims of the terror attacks at Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge and Finsbury Park. We know of the gallantry and professionalism of the police and the transport police who responded swiftly to the terror attacks. My mother was a nurse, and I know that the dedication and commitment of our public service workers is above price. It is one thing for hon. Members to praise public service workers for their bravery, heroism and effectiveness at times of national emergency, but we need to treat public service workers fairly every other day of the year. That is what the Opposition think, and increasingly that is what the general public think.
Ministers will be aware that the latest British social attitudes survey revealed that eight in 10 people wanted more cash pumped into the NHS; seven in 10 people wanted more investment in schools; and six in 10 wanted higher spending on the police. I will come on to Ministers’ claims to have protected police budgets later, but the question that Ministers have to answer is: how long will they continue to peddle hard-line austerity? Their targets for closing the deficit are receding ever further, raising the question of whether savage cuts are counterproductive to encouraging growth. How long are Ministers going to pursue austerity when any parent who has a child at school, anybody who uses an accident and emergency department, and anyone who has an elderly relative in need of social care can see for themselves that cuts have consequences, and that there is a human price to pay for Tory austerity?
I have much sympathy with the points that the right hon. Lady is making, and my colleagues and I will support the Labour amendment this evening. However, can she explain why in Wales, which is run by the Labour party, the number of firefighters has been cut by 20%?
It is not for me in this—[Interruption.] I think that the hon. Gentleman will find that the funding available to the Administration in Wales has been cut.
In her statement to the House last week, the Home Secretary said:
“We have protected the police budget from 2015.”
She went on to say:
“There has been a lot of scaremongering about changes to the budget, and I repeat here, in the House, that it will be protected.”—[Official Report, 22 June 2017; Vol. 626, c. 199.]
The Opposition are aware of the Government claim that the allowed increase in the council tax precept adds funds that will make good any shortfall, but this is a tax increase to provide funds, not Government protection for the budget. I wonder whom the Home Secretary is accusing of scaremongering. Is it Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary, who said in March that policing in England and Wales was in a “potentially perilous state”, as Government cuts lead to investigations being shelved, vulnerable victims being let down and tens of thousands of dangerous suspects at large?
I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way so quickly. What she is saying relates particularly to bobbies on the beat. Police are doing excellent work on knife and gun crime, particularly in hotspots; taking away bobbies on the beat has an undermining effect on otherwise excellent police work.
The public fully appreciate that community policing and bobbies on the beat are important, not just in respect of knife and gun crime but in providing the first line of connection and communication with the community when it comes to tackling terrorism.
I was wondering who the Home Secretary was accusing of scaremongering. Was it the president of the Police Superintendents Association of England and Wales, who said that
“There are now 34,000 fewer staff working in policing than there were in 2010, including 19,000 fewer police officers”?
On the right hon. Lady’s theme, has she heard Cressida Dick, the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner, talk about the need for more resources and say that the Met is stretched? Has she ever heard a Met Commissioner demanding more resources so publicly?
Can my right hon. Friend tell me whether the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey), who just got up to complain about police cuts, is related to the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton who was in the coalition Cabinet that reduced the number of police officers by 20,000?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that helpful intervention, and I ask the House to focus on the information he has brought forward.
After seven years of Tory government, there are 20,000 fewer police staff, 10,000 fewer firefighters and 1,000 fewer Border Force guards. When the Conservatives came to office in 2010, they immediately cut Security Service personnel by 650; now they expect plaudits when they pledge an increase.
All ordinary public sector workers have faced pay freezes and pay caps, which have made them worse off. Between the coalition’s coming into office in 2010 and May this year, inflation has seen prices rise by more than 15%. In reality, whatever figures the Government want to throw around, public sector workers have had effective cuts to their pensions and seen large-scale job losses because of inflation. They have been asked to do more with less.
The Opposition say that asking the security services, and public sector workers generally, to do more with less is unfair, unworkable and counter-productive. It has led to low morale, difficulties in recruitment and retention—particularly in parts of the country where house prices are spiralling—staff shortages and gaps in services. Those public services are among the most important that any civilised society offers. In his remarks, my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester South (Jonathan Ashworth) will highlight the effect of austerity and Government cuts on our NHS. The cuts in vital services—the police, the fire services, the Border Force and the security services—have been serious, and they come in addition to the cuts that have already forced out more than 20,000 police staff.
I turn to the counter-terrorism strategy. Labour welcomes the considered approach outlined in the Queen’s Speech; too often, the knee-jerk reaction of Governments has been further legislation. We believe that it is right to review what is happening in relation to the evolving terrorist threat and its many and varied sources and purposes, but the terms of the counter-terrorism review are crucial. Labour believes that the following questions must be addressed. Are there sufficient resources and are they properly directed? Are there gaps in the legislation, or is it catch-all and ineffective? What is the role of community policing in gathering intelligence? Sometimes, Ministers seem to think that community policing has no role in combating terrorism, but we believe that it does.
Is there a danger that communities are being alienated by Prevent, although good work is done under the Prevent badge? Should we review Prevent? How can community engagement be increased, and could we immediately take basic precautionary measures, such as installing barriers to cars and trucks? Should terrorism prevention and investigation measures, or TPIMs, be used more frequently, as Max Hill, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, says? If so, should they be subject to better due process?
We believe that some of the answers to these questions are self-evident. If the Government announced today that they were going to introduce more barriers to trucks and large vehicles along some major thoroughfares, we would support them. Advice could be issued immediately to all elected officials not to remove existing barriers, as the Foreign Secretary did when he was Mayor of London. If the Government announced that they were going to halt and reverse the police budget cuts this year, we would support them.
The Government have announced a commission to tackle extremism. We welcome such a commission in principle, although some have suggested that it is being set up because the Government cannot make good on their repeated promises to introduce anti-extremism legislation. We note that there are already laws against incitement, conspiracy and murder. We are told that some perpetrators were known to the authorities.
I was at the Finsbury Park mosque with the Prime Minister, and more than one of the faith leaders raised the importance of a review of the Prevent strategy. In common with many members of the communities involved, we believe that, despite the good work that has happened under Prevent, the strategy needs to be reviewed. It needs not to run the risk of alienating communities; we have to work with all communities. The terror threat confronts us all, and we must all confront it together. If the Government want to discuss with us how we can help engage all communities in the fight against our common threat of terrorism, we will be only too happy to help.
I have to make progress.
When I was at the Finsbury Park mosque last week, people there would have been concerned that Government Members do not want to take part seriously in a debate of this nature. I note that there was no promise of further legislation on counter-terrorism. Max Hill has said that the security services already have enough powers. The Opposition concur, and it now seems that the majority of the Cabinet also agree.
Resources remain the key issue in fighting terrorism. The Conservatives have constantly sought to portray Labour as not facing up to the challenges posed by terrorism, but in our communities—in the inner cities and in areas such as London Bridge, Finsbury Park and Manchester—we face up to the day-to-day threat of terrorism and disorder. Nobody takes those issues more seriously than Members on this side of the House. We speak for our communities, and for the parents concerned that their children may be drawn into terrorist activity. We seek to offer practical remedies and support, and to support the Government in strategies that do not run counter to our liberties and community support.
Talking tough on terrorism and antisocial behaviour is cheap. Like all decent services in a civilised society, security costs money. Records show that since 2010, the Tories have proved unwilling to spend what is necessary to keep us safe. We need only look at what has happened to police numbers and Border Force officials, the closures of fire stations and the cuts to fire officers. Labour is prepared to spend the money and commit the resources to keep us safe. In closing—
I said at the beginning that from some of what we do in this House, it might appear to members of the public looking at us on their television screens or reading the newspaper that some Members of this House see this as a game. Labour is fully aware of the fear and horror with which the public regard recent terrorist outrages and the fire in Grenfell Tower. We are talking about practical measures, real community involvement and, above all, the resources to keep our communities safe.
I agree with one thing that the right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) said—that the response from the emergency services to the series of attacks and the tragedy at Grenfell Tower has been truly heroic. The brave men and women of our emergency services were able to suppress their own emotions of fear and anger. As she said, they rushed in to save lives, putting their own thoughts on hold for a while. I had the privilege of meeting the numerous police officers, firefighters and paramedics who were first on the scene in Manchester following the arena bomb, and in London after the Westminster and London Bridge attacks. It is because of their bravery that there are people alive today who might otherwise have perished. The same is true of the Grenfell Tower fire. Lives were saved because of the skills and sacrifice of the brave men and women of our emergency services. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude and we stand behind them.
Nobody thinks of this as a game. We want to engage and debate with the Opposition because there are important subjects to be discussed. We are all serious about what has happened, what could happen in the future and what steps we need to take.
The shadow Home Secretary raised her concerns about cuts to the fire service. Let me remind the House of some facts. The fire crew at Grenfell Tower was on the scene within six minutes, and more than 200 firefighters responded. Can she really suggest that numbers were inexcusably low? We should also remember that the number of fire incidents has halved in the past decade, but the number of firefighters has fallen by less than 20%. They do an incredibly good job.
The Government do not recruit fire or police staff; chief officers do. It is up to each fire and rescue authority to manage their resources, and to decide who to recruit and when. In fact, some fire and rescue services are reporting an increase in the recruitment of full-time firefighters. Public safety is an absolute priority for the Government. Under my watch, fire and rescue services and the police will continue to have the resources they need to do their important work.
I will give way in a moment. I just want to address the clear points that the right hon. Lady made about resources.
Let us talk about the police. Since 2015, we have protected the police budget in cash terms. In order to maintain that, it is correct that chief officers have to maximise their access through the precept. To be able to say that we protect it in real terms, I have to draw attention to the police transformation fund. One of the differences between the Conservatives and Labour is that we know that we have to focus on outcomes. That means continuing the business of police reform and continuing to fund it through the police transformation fund. We are most concerned with outcomes—on how to get the best results for victims and communities.
The Secretary of State is of course right to talk about police reform, which is extremely important, but it misrepresents the Labour party to say that we are not interested in police reform. We introduced police community support officers when we were in government, and there was a constant period of reform then. The real point is that the Conservative party have cut budgets not since 2015, but since 2010. There has been a massive cut to the police budget, which is affecting my constituents in Wrexham.
Will the Home Secretary confirm that the Commissioner of the Metropolitan police, the head of counter-terrorism, the head of the National Crime Agency and the chair of the National Police Chiefs Council have written to her saying that the counter-terrorism, policing and protective security grant will fall by 7.2% in cash terms over the next two years?
I have received that letter and I will be speaking to all the individual leaders of those groups. The issue to which they are drawing attention is that they are under tremendous strain because of the events of the past three months. Additional resources are being deployed in order to work on the ongoing investigations into some of the terror events, including the investigation in Manchester. We recognise that and will work with them to see how we can support them.
The Secretary of State mentioned that there were 20% cuts to fire services across the country. On Merseyside, the figure is much higher. Since 2011, we have lost nearly 300 firefighters —that is a loss of 31%—and a third of fire engines. Both of the only two fire stations in my constituency are closing, which will make the situation less safe for my constituents. Will she look again at the funding for Merseyside fire and rescue service as a matter of urgency?
My right hon. Friend is presumably not wholly taken in by the shadow Home Secretary posturing as a defender of people’s safety, when, in 1989, she—now famously—signed an early-day motion calling for the scrapping of MI5 and the Metropolitan police’s special branch.
My right hon. Friend raises such an important point. It is a sad truth that those on the Opposition Front Bench—not those on the Back Benches, but sometimes those on the Front Bench—have such a poor record on supporting the people who do such great work to keep us safe.
I will make some progress first, and then I will come back to some interventions.
The Gracious Speech is about building on the Government’s strong economic record so that we can continue to invest in our priorities, such as the NHS and national security. Conservative Members know that it is only with a strong economy that we can fund our NHS, protect our elderly and back Britain’s defences.
The Gracious Speech we heard last Wednesday set out the Government’s legislative agenda for the next two years. It is a programme that will build on our strong record of achievement under the last Government. Crime has fallen by a third since 2010. Legal highs have been banned. More than 900 bogus colleges have been closed. Police and intelligence agencies have been given more powers and tools to keep the public safe. We have an ambitious programme of police reform, on which I am delighted to hear we may continue to get support from the Opposition. Some £100 million of funding has been provided to tackle violence against women and girls.
We have a proud record on the NHS. NHS spending has been protected. We have more doctors, more nurses, more midwives and more GPs. Last year, the NHS treated more people than ever before. Now we will build on the foundations we have laid, working even harder to create a Britain that works for everyone. Above all else, this is a Government committed to keeping families, communities and our country safe.
I, like the Home Secretary, want to hear about outcomes. Recently, the west midlands chief constable said that one of the outcomes for police there was that, as police officers are pulled away on to anti-terror alerts and more high-alert policing, call-outs on other crimes have to be downgraded. One of the things that was downgraded—this is the outcome of there not being enough police in the west midlands—was call-outs on domestic violence.
The past three months have seen an extraordinary series of attacks, which have put pressure on our police. They have dealt incredibly well with that by having mutual aid coming from different areas to support them. We recognise that there has been a particular surge, but I do not think the hon. Lady’s point—that we need to operate as though there were this level of attacks every three months—holds water. However, I will be engaging with chief police officers to find out whether they have the support we expect them to have, despite the additional work they need to do.
I am going to make some progress, and then I will come back to some more interventions.
In the last Parliament, we announced a 30% increase over five years in Government spending on counter-terrorism, increasing spending from £11.7 billion to £15.1 billion. We introduced measures to disrupt the travel of foreign fighters. We passed the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, which gives the police and intelligence agencies more of the powers and tools they need to keep people safe and secure.
Further to my right hon. Friend’s answer to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips), does it not increase pressures on the police when there are calls for days of rage and other activities on the streets that pull the police into London and take away resources from areas such as mine in Hertfordshire that have to provide mutual aid?
I am going to make some more progress.
We also legislated in the previous Parliament to strengthen our response to terrorist financing with the Criminal Finances Act 2017. We have protected overall police funding in real terms since 2015, and we have funded an uplift in the number of armed police officers.
Last Friday, I and a group of MPs from the west midlands met the chief constable and the police and crime commissioner, and they told us that funding for the police in the west midlands has been cut by £145 million, or 27%. That has resulted in the number of officers being reduced by 2,164, which is a quarter, and the number of PCSOs being reduced by half. It has also resulted in the closure of Dudley’s police station. Will the Home Secretary allow me and a group of my colleagues to come to talk to her about the terrible level of cuts her Government have imposed on west midlands police?
The hon. Gentleman puts it so kindly—I am so keen to have a talk on that topic. I assume that the figures he is looking at are from 2010; I have been referring to the figures from 2015, which have been protected in cash terms and in real terms. I would welcome a visit from him—perhaps to my police Minister—so that we can go through the figures and reconcile his thoughts with mine. [Interruption.] I do not think we are going to do that across the House right now.
The Home Secretary has just indicated that there is an uplift in the number of armed police officers. Does she recall that, the day I left office as police Minister in 2010, we had 7,000 armed police on the streets of Britain? We now have 5,500—a 20% drop. Will she reflect on the statement she has just made and correct it for the House?
I am afraid I do not particularly recall the day when the right hon. Gentleman stepped down, but I stand by what I said, which is that we are funding a significant uplift in the number of armed police. These officers are trained at a different level to those he oversaw as police Minister; they are much more effectively trained, to the high level required for counter-terrorism.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the way we now operate police officers means that the old days of a police officer being an accredited firearms officer have completely changed? Now we effectively have squads of crack officers, who are properly trained in all aspects of serious policing, and who, frankly, do a far better job than we have seen for many a long year.
I am going to make some more progress.
We are recruiting over 1,900 additional security and intelligence staff. To combat terrorism, we also work with technology companies to tackle terrorist and extremist use of their platforms. The UK has been leading in driving a global response on this subject. This week, leading communications service providers announced the formation of an industry-led global forum to counter terrorism, which they committed to following a meeting I had with them in March.
I have been listening with great interest to the Secretary of State, and she will surely welcome the private Member’s Bill being introduced by my colleague Lord Wigley in the other place, which calls for an independent resource audit for Welsh and English police forces. Will she look at that Bill and offer Government support?
I am going to make some progress, but I look forward to coming back to the right hon. Gentleman.
In terms of what else we are doing to combat terrorism, earlier this month the Prime Minister and President Macron announced a joint action plan, which included measures to tackle terrorist use of the internet. We have Prevent, which the right hon. Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington referred to, and I repeat my invitation to her to come and visit some of the Prevent initiatives. If people see them for themselves, they will find they do a really positive job in engaging with communities. In addition, the Channel programme, which offers voluntary tailored programmes of support to people assessed as being at risk of radicalisation, has supported over 1,000 at-risk individuals since 2012.
However, as we have, sadly, seen with the recent attacks at Westminster, Manchester, London Bridge and Finsbury Park, the country faces an escalating threat from terrorism—36 innocent people dead, 150 hospitalised, families torn apart, and communities left grieving. The Government must do everything in their power to defeat the scourge of terrorism.
Where we can learn more and improve, we will. That is why, as set out in the Gracious Speech, our counter-terrorism strategy will be reviewed. We will look at our whole counter-terrorism approach across Government, police, local authorities and the security services to ensure that they have what they need to protect our country.
If the review finds that further legislation is needed, the House can be assured that we will put this before Parliament. As I announced last week, there will also be a separate review of the handling of recent terror attacks to look at whether lessons can be learned about our approach to these events. This review will be conducted by the police and MI5, and I have asked David Anderson, the former independent reviewer of terrorist legislation, to provide independent scrutiny.
I am going to continue for a while.
We will establish a new commission for countering extremism to support the Government in eradicating extremist ideology in all its forms. Britain is a wonderfully diverse, inclusive and open country that many people proudly call home. Time and again, we have seen our communities come together, demonstrating unwavering acts of kindness, compassion and support for one another, but it is no secret that there are those in Britain who do not share our values—who do not share our compassionate outlook, and despise our way of life and wish to do us harm. That is what we saw in Finsbury Park, Westminster, London Bridge and Manchester. Extremism cannot just be ignored, and neither can it be wished or explained away. Extremists need to be confronted, and the narratives they use to weaponise people and breed this horrific violence need to be called out and taken head on, not afforded accommodation.
Does the Home Secretary accept that talk of Islamic extremism, in particular, is in danger of being misinterpreted as meaning “too much Islam” when in fact, of course, “Islam” is the Arabic word for peace; that the problem is those who pervert, distort and blaspheme in the name of Islam; and that the true Islam was shown by Imam Mohammed, who stood in front of the killer and said that life is sacred? Does she not want to pursue a route that says that the Islamic community should work with us to target those who would distort Islam and correct their interpretation, rather than talk about Islamic extremism, the danger of which is making out that Islam is the problem?
The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. We all need to choose our words carefully, but we also need to call out what we believe this is. We should talk about radical extremist ideology, whether it is Islamic or far right, but we need to make sure that we are clear that we are equally hostile to both, and will take action where either is doing damage to society.
Following up what the hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) said about the use of terminology, does the Home Secretary accept that there is a valuable store of experience from the past in the way agencies tackled the doctrines of fascism and Nazism, and subsequently of Marxism-Leninism, and that questions such as the use of vocabulary mean that we need a specialist agency to co-ordinate this effort in the future as we did successfully in those past instances?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his contribution. This may be something that the new commission for counter-extremism will want to look at.
Since 2015, we have had a Government-wide counter-extremism strategy, the first of its kind. At the heart of the strategy is a partnership with communities to make sure that we build on British values. We have published a hate crime action plan and funded additional security measures at more than 50 places of worship. We are also supporting 53 civil society groups that are confronting extremism in their communities.
However, defeating the evil ideology of extremism is one of the greatest challenges of our time, and there is more that we must be able to do. That is why we will have the new commission, which will support the Government to identify and eradicate extremist ideology in all its forms. Across society and online, we will work with communities, and public sector and civil society groups, to promote and defend our pluralistic values of democracy, freedom of belief and expression, the rule of law, mutual respect, and opportunity for all. The commission will advise the Government on what new powers might be needed to tackle the evolving threat. Work is under way on the design of the commission, and we will set out our plans in due course.
Turning to the future immigration system, the Gracious Speech included an immigration Bill that will allow the Government to end the EU’s rules on free movement of EU nationals in the UK, ensuring that we have the flexibility to create a fair and controlled immigration system. It will give us control over the numbers of people who come to the UK from the EU while welcoming those with the skills and expertise to make our nation better. What these rules look like will depend on the needs of the UK, and we are considering all the options of our future system very carefully. It is imperative that we understand what the impact could be on different sectors of the economy and the labour market, and that we make sure that businesses and communities have an opportunity to contribute their views on any future system. As now, new immigration rules will be subject to scrutiny by Parliament.
An issue that has been vexing many of my EU constituents who have been here for many years is whether the Government will admit that such people now face an income threshold if they wish to bring a family member here to the UK. Many of them who are on low incomes—for example, nurses who are in band 5 and on below £22,000—will not be able to bring a family member here. Will the Home Secretary confirm that, and is she going to investigate what impact it will have on public services?
The Prime Minister made her statement about the EU nationals earlier this week. I urge the hon. Lady to reassure her constituents who fall into that cohort that they maintain these rights until at least when we leave the EU in 2019, and then after that they will have two years in which to apply. I cannot give her any more detail than that in terms of the other rights, elements of which are subject to the discussions with the EU at the moment. However, I would say to her, and to other Members here, that the Prime Minister was absolutely clear that those 3.2 million or 3.4 million people are going to be allowed to stay. We are yet to have additional discussions with the EU about elements of these rights. I hope that Members here will take that message back to any concerned EU citizens in their constituencies.
Those discussions have not yet concluded. We have said that people will have this special right depending on from when we negotiate the cut-off date—whether it is when article 50 was invoked or when we actually leave the EU—but there will be existing rights in place for all those who can accumulate the five years and those who can, depending on when the cut-off date is, add to them because they arrived before that.
Not now, I am afraid. I am going to carry on because I want to cover some of the other Bills that are going to be introduced in the next two years.
We will also bring forward a domestic violence and abuse Bill. It is truly chilling that, every day, women and girls across the UK are being subjected to the most horrific abuse in their own homes. I am incredibly proud of the work that the Conservative Government have done to support victims, bring perpetrators to justice, and prevent those vicious crimes from ever taking place. In the previous Parliament, we published our strategy to end violence against women and girls. We made it clear that everyone needs to play their part—friends, family, employers, health providers, and the police—and to support this we pledged £100 million of funding. We also brought in domestic violence protection orders and the domestic violence disclosure scheme, and introduced a specific offence of controlling or coercive behaviour.
Our focus on this terrible crime has contributed to improvements for women, but the number of people experiencing domestic abuse is still far too high. Despite record numbers of prosecutions and convictions, there are 2 million victims of domestic abuse every year in England and Wales, and that is 2 million too many. All too often, domestic abuse is not properly understood, recognised or dealt with, and that can leave a devastating impact. Our landmark domestic violence and abuse Bill is one part of our programme of work aimed at addressing this insidious crime.
Of course the Bill is very welcome, but what can the Home Secretary say to reassure those who fear that the definition that is now going to be produced might not be strong enough to capture the level of emotional and financial abuse that terrorises too many women in the UK today?
I know that the hon. Gentleman has done a lot of work in this area. I reassure him and stakeholders who are, I hope, interested in what we are trying to do that we will be consulting widely to make sure that we get the Bill right, so that it delivers the strength of purpose he refers to. The fact that it will create a legal definition of domestic abuse to help to ensure that it is properly understood means that we will not have the same situation of isolated pieces of domestic violence not being added up into a pattern of a really grotesque form of domestic violence that some women have been subjected to.
The Bill will also create a new domestic abuse prevention and protection order regime. A new order to specifically tackle domestic abuse will lead to better protection and better prosecutions. It will ensure that if abusive behaviour involves a child, the court can hand down a sentence that reflects the devastating and lifelong impact that abuse can have. In addition, it will establish a domestic violence and abuse commissioner, who will stand up for victims and survivors, raising public awareness and holding local authorities to account.
Will the Home Secretary also include in the commissioner’s remit the ability to look at those victims of domestic violence who are subsequently subject to a new form of abuse, namely being constantly returned to court by ex-partners demanding extra access to the children? That is a way to intimidate, bully and impoverish many of those who have the children in their care.
Absolutely. That is exactly the sort of issue that I would expect us to look at in the domestic violence Bill, to make sure that that sort of abuse does not take place. We want to be a society where domestic abuse is not tolerated, victims feel safe and supported and perpetrators are punished, and we look out for situations such as that raised by the hon. Lady. Victims deserve the best treatment and justice, and we will make sure that they get it. I very much hope that the Opposition will support the Bill.
Turning to health, as the Government continue to strengthen the economy, we can continue to invest in the NHS, supporting that public service on which we all depend. As we set out in our manifesto, we will increase health spending by a minimum of £8 billion a year in real terms by the end of this Parliament. We know, however, that wellbeing is about being strong not just in body, but in mind. This Government recognise that mental health should be given equal priority to physical health. That is why we will consider reform of mental health legislation and ensure that mental health is prioritised in the NHS. We will look at the Mental Health Act 1983 to make sure that the law is working for those who need support, and we will also publish a Green Paper on children and young people’s mental health, to make sure that best practice is being applied and there is sufficient access to support.
In 10 years’ time there will be 2 million more people over the age of 75. It is essential that they are able to live well and get the care that they need. The Government have already invested an additional £2 billion in social care to relieve pressure, but more needs to be done. That is why the Government are committed to listening to people’s views about how to reform the system. Full plans will be consulted on in due course.
This is a Government with purpose, determined to deliver the best Brexit deal to secure a strong future as we leave the EU.
My right hon. Friend will know that there is much concern on both sides of the House about the situation pertaining to women who live in Northern Ireland who seek terminations. They cannot get them in Northern Ireland—it is a devolved matter—and come over to England for them, but find themselves being charged by the NHS. While that is being resolved, will she give an undertaking that access to terminations will not be in any way affected and that women can still come here from Northern Ireland to get them?
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to speak on health at the end of this debate.
We are determined to deliver the best Brexit deal to secure our future as we leave the EU. We are determined to enhance our standing in the world and bring our United Kingdom closer together, and intent on building a stronger economy and a fairer society, taking action to keep families, communities and our country safe.
I am not going to give way further. The hon. Lady will have a chance to make her own remarks later.
We will be challenging extremism, protecting the vulnerable, giving mental health the attention it deserves and improving social care for the long term, putting ourselves at the service of millions of ordinary working people for whom we will work every day in the national interest, setting out a programme for a Britain that works for everyone.
I rise to address matters arising from the Gracious Speech pertaining to security. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) will address health matters later.
I will speak to the Scottish National party’s amendment (h), which urges the Government to exempt Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service from VAT without further delay. In addition, the Scottish National party will support the Labour party’s amendment (i). The SNP has consistently opposed the Conservative party’s austerity agenda, and the manifesto on which we won the general election in Scotland indicated that, in these times, the pay cap is no longer sustainable and that we would look at it very closely. I am very happy to lend our support to the shadow Home Secretary. On police and fire service cuts, I am very happy to say that the Scottish Government have not imposed the cuts seen south of the border. I will come to that later.
I want to look in particular at the proposals for a counter-extremism commission; the proposals to review whether the police and security services have all the powers they need; and concerns that I and my party hold about the scope of the repeal Bill, particularly for justice and home affairs issues.
I also want to address the potential impact of Brexit on our security arrangements. The European Union enables European nations to come together not just for the common economic and social good, but to tackle crime and terrorism in the interests of all citizens across Europe. Last year Rob Wainwright, the current, British director of Europol, said that in the event of Britain leaving the European Union it would be very difficult to negotiate security pacts from outside the Europol bloc. He said that trying to do so would be a “damage limitation exercise”. We have yet to hear any detail about how the Government propose to address that problem. We need to look at it closely.
The Scottish National party has already welcomed the Prime Minister’s recent change in tone and rhetoric following the attack at Finsbury Park. We were very pleased to hear her equate all forms of extremism. We hope that that signals the beginning of a Government approach that will not single out any particular group in our community for counter-extremism or terrorism measures. We believe that measures to counter extremism are very important, but they must not be allowed to create division among our many diverse communities across the UK.
We continue to be very concerned that, despite the Government’s failed attempts to introduce a counter-extremism Bill in the previous Parliament, they have yet to offer any legally sustainable definition of extremism or British values. We are concerned, as I have said previously, that the new plan in the Gracious Speech to establish a commission to look at those matters risks bypassing parliamentary scrutiny and the need for legal certainty on the nebulous terms of “extremism” and “British values”. I was therefore pleased to hear the Home Secretary say in response to a question I asked last week that any commission recommendations will be fully scrutinised by this Parliament.
We have already heard about the Prevent strategy, which has been controversial, and concerns have repeatedly been raised about its implementation. May I respectfully suggest that the UK Government look at how we have implemented the Prevent strategy in Scotland as a model of how things might be improved? Although counter-terrorism is of course a reserved issue, the implementation of policies to counter extremism is the responsibility of the devolved institutions. In Scotland we have worked very hard to recognise that we have diverse communities and that they must all be allies in ensuring that all our citizens are safe. The delivery of Prevent in Scotland has benefited from positive relationships fostered with all communities in Scotland through years of regular engagement. We recognise that the way in which people are becoming radicalised is constantly evolving and changing. We must therefore remain vigilant and refresh our approach accordingly, but we must also continue to work with our communities, rather than against them, in making sure that terrorist messages will not resonate.
I now turn to the question of whether the police and security services have all the powers they need. The SNP believes that they do have sufficient powers at their disposal and that the real issue that the Government should be looking at is whether the police and security services have sufficient resources to fight terrorism. I am fortified in that view by the quote from Max Hill QC, the official reviewer of terrorism, that has already been referred to today:
“My view coming into the scrutiny which we are told the Prime Minister wants to conduct is that we do have the appropriate laws in place, and that essentially the police and security services, and those whose job it is to keep us safe, do have the powers at their disposal.”
It is already a crime to incite violence. People suspected of terrorist activity can be stopped and searched. People who aid terrorists are imprisoned and those convicted of plotting an attack can be locked up for life—so we have the powers.
During the passage of the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 in the last Parliament the Scottish National party repeatedly urged the Government to concentrate resources on robust, targeted surveillance of suspects rather than subjecting the whole population to blanket, suspicionless surveillance. During the election campaign, and after the terrible terrorist atrocities in London and Manchester, the Prime Minister rightly faced difficult questions about the resources she is putting into targeted surveillance. She was Home Secretary for seven years and it is clear that her influence still holds sway at the Home Office—for example, in relation to the unrealistic and unobtainable immigration targets that continue to be set. The Prime Minister must face up to her responsibility for cuts to police budgets and police numbers in England, which have been dictated by her party’s narrow austerity agenda. That is why I am happy that the SNP will support Labour’s amendment.
It does not have to be this way. In Scotland, the Scottish Government have increased police numbers and in particular invested in increasing the number of trained police armed responders, while still balancing our budget. We have been able to do that despite the UK Government’s repeated refusal to remove the burden of VAT from Police Scotland. Police Scotland is the only territorial police authority in the UK unable to recover VAT. My Scottish Government colleagues and I have repeatedly raised this issue with the UK Government. I wrote to the Minister about the issue earlier this year. The SNP has tabled an amendment to the Loyal Address calling on the Government to rectify that anomaly, and today we again call on them to do so. They have recently rectified the anomaly for several other national bodies: it is now time to do it for Police Scotland.
Notwithstanding the Tory Government’s failure to rectify that anomaly, the contrast between Scotland and the UK in policing terms could not be starker: 20,000 police officers have been lost in England, but in Scotland we have maintained 1,000 more than the number we inherited when the SNP came into government in 2007. We have also taken steps to increase the number of police officers who are trained to carry firearms. In the days following the Manchester attack, Police Scotland was able to provide the heightened level of police cover, including armed policing, without having to call on the resources of the military.
We have also protected the police resource budget in Scotland, but in England the Home Office has cut the amount it spends on policing by 20% since 2011. It is time for the Conservatives to stop diverting attention from their under-resourcing of the police and emergency services and to follow the Scottish Government’s lead in giving them the resources they need.
I have already said that international co-operation is essential to keep Scotland and the rest of the UK safe from the threats of organised crime, cybercrime and terrorism. In this Parliament, SNP Members will call for continued co-operation across Europe and we will oppose any moves that would seek to use security co-operation as a bargaining chip in Brexit or trade negotiations with our European friends and neighbours. It is too important for that.
The Gracious Speech promised a new law on the protection of personal data, but we will not be able to continue to co-operate with our EU colleagues unless we abide by EU data protection and privacy protection law. In practice, there will be limits to how closely the UK and the EU27 can work together if the UK is no longer accountable or subject to the oversight and adjudication of supranational institutions, such as—most importantly—the European Court of Justice. We saw at the end of last year that the Court took a dim view of the provisions for data collection and retention in the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, as many of us warned would happen when we considered the Act. If the UK does not comply with EU law on data sharing and privacy protection, our former partners will not be able to share information with us under the laws by which they are bound. That would be a disaster for security co-operation and for business, universities and research.
I am concerned that the Gracious Speech does not mention any specific legislation on the many changes to justice and home affairs, even though the Government have confirmed that the repeal Bill will include powers to allow for changes resulting from the negotiations to leave the EU. It is vital that Ministers and civil servants are not handed vast powers to change our legal landscape without proper parliamentary scrutiny, particularly in relation to security matters. Legislative consent motions must also be sought for justice and home affairs matters, and I am delighted that the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and the Secretary of State for Scotland have all acknowledged that legislative consent will be sought for the repeal Bill.
Finally I turn briefly to the issue of human rights protections. During the election campaign, the Prime Minister spoke of ripping up human rights to fight terrorism. I suspect the attack on human rights was an attempt to distract from her own security failings and the impact of policing cuts in England. So I renew my request to the Home Secretary to confirm that nothing in the Human Rights Act or the European convention on human rights would prevent a robust approach to terrorism. Will she therefore confirm that there are no plans to “tear up” human rights to tackle terrorism? I would remind her that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has said:
“Effective counter-terrorism measures and the protection of human rights are complementary and mutually reinforcing objectives which must be pursued together as part of States’ duty to protect individuals within their jurisdiction.”
Terrorism is a fundamental attack on our way of life and of course we must respond robustly and appropriately but it is at such times that human rights must be protected and cherished, not attacked and undermined. With the announcement by the CPS today on Hillsborough, we see the prospect of justice being achieved after many years as a result of the Human Rights Act guaranteeing a proper inquiry into that disaster. If we ripped up human rights, we would undermine the traditions that we all share across the House and play into the terrorists’ plans to undermine our democracy and the rule of law.
I want to start by extending on behalf of all my constituents our most profound sympathy to the victims, and their families, of the horrific events that have recently taken place in Manchester, London Bridge and Finsbury, and the appalling Grenfell Tower fire. I think the whole nation was greatly taken by the Queen’s response after the fire that she was
“profoundly struck by the immediate inclination of people throughout the country to offer comfort and support to those in desperate need.”
It is incumbent on us all to measure our language as we deal with these events, and I wish to place on record my deep shock at the words that the shadow Chancellor has recently used—that the fire at Grenfell Tower amounted to murder. That is an inexpressibly appalling thing to say. In a civilised society, there can be no room for such talk. It is not normal, it is not politics as usual, it is disgraceful and it is intolerable. All of us in public life have a duty to measure with care what we say in an era of brutal untruths, and to try to retain the language of reason and proportion.
The Queen’s Speech is a moment for the Government to set out their programme and for the rest of the country to regain its sense of balance. I want, as do my constituents, to see the Government exercise resolution, prudence, integrity and humility at a very difficult time in our affairs. I also want the Government to exercise what Field Marshal Lord Montgomery rightly called “grip”, and to govern effectively and with vigour, determination and energy. I place on record that I think our Prime Minister has all those qualities in abundance and I strongly commend and support her. If the Government manage to do that, my constituents, to whom I am yet again most grateful for their confidence, will be content.
Quite apart from the immense complexities, difficulties and grave uncertainties of the Brexit negotiations, this country has more than its fair share of major issues with which the Government must deal. What is it in our system that seems to mean we cannot arrive at a sane national plan—unlike Denmark, the Netherlands or Japan—that deals efficiently, humanely and decently with care for the elderly in all its complexity? I say to the Government, “Just get on and do it. Work across all the parties, and with all the considerable expertise in this country, to get this done.” Incidentally, I worry very much about the denigration of expertise at all levels when a deeply complicated world demands it more than ever.
There are many issues that can no longer be shirked: reform of care for the elderly; housing policy; prison reform, including the training of prison officers to enable them to do their very difficult job better; skills shortages; and nursing and leadership in the NHS. The Government must exercise their will to see that they are dealt with. The Gracious Speech sets out a good way ahead: promote fairness and transparency in the housing market; tackle unfair practice in the energy market; secure good, properly funded schools, which is a very important issue in Mid Sussex; secure high-wage jobs for the skilled; and get an increasing living wage for those in work. I think our constituents expect us to see to it that that is all done, along with an unrelenting effort for the continued building of a strong economy in the safe hands of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and, more obviously, a return to the Conservative facts of life of enterprise, aspiration, opportunity, wealth creation, sound money, good defence and, above all, the really effective running of our public services.
In my 34 years in this House, I do not think I have ever seen a way ahead that is more complex or difficult for our country, in particular the ongoing, desperately worrying low level of basic educational achievement in too many parts of the country; a separate lack of skills; low wages for too many; geographical economic and wealth inequality; intergenerational inequality; and what I am afraid to say is a very naive approach indeed to international trade relations. Leaving the single market will obviously restrict us from accessing the world’s most skilled peoples. Unless a good way is found to resolve that, it will further negatively influence our productivity. That is relevant to many of our industries, and of course to our universities, which are widely regarded as some of the very best in the world. My views on immigration are well known, but I have to say that in my judgment, persisting with the inclusion of students in the immigration targets makes no economic sense whatever. Surely it is absolute madness to have halved our student intake from dynamic India to the benefit of America and Germany. Whatever happens with Brexit, we should be wanting to attract even more of those talented young people to our country. This is all of a piece with the need for Britain to retain a global view of the world.
Britain seriously lacks key skills. There is a grave shortage of graduates in engineering and science, which is made all the more acute by the clampdown on immigration. I have to tell my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that that is already dissuading important young talent from coming to these shores, as any employer of PhDs will confirm. I have a suggestion in this regard: the Government should scrap tuition fees for the core STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and maths, all of which are critical for our survival as our transition from the industrial to the digital world goes on apace, a fact that hardly seems to have appeared on the Government’s radar.
Finally, may I make a respectful suggestion to the House and to the Government? I think pretty much all of us in this House are deeply concerned about the question of trust in public life. The Government have some very difficult tasks ahead of them. They need to remember that competence generates trust and respect. I want that to be their aim: to secure competent and effective government, and thus the trust of the people who did and did not elect us.
It is good to follow the right hon. Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames), who always makes a thought-provoking speech. I join the Home Secretary and the shadow Home Secretary in paying tribute to our police force and emergency services, who have dealt with so many difficult incidents in the past few weeks, and in expressing sympathy with the victims of both the terror attacks and the Grenfell fire.
The Queen’s Speech suggests that the Government are carrying on as if, in the words of the Prime Minister, “nothing has changed, nothing has changed.” In fact, very much has changed. The Prime Minister called the election wanting a landslide. Instead, she has a hung Parliament. That means that this hung Parliament has to work differently, and that the Queen’s Speech has to respond differently too. Many Members wish to speak in the debate today, so I will keep my remarks short and concentrate on two areas where the Government need to change course as a result of the hung Parliament delivered to us by the electorate: public services and the approach to the Brexit negotiations.
This week, the Government recognised the importance of investing more in public services in Northern Ireland. They have rightly supported additional investment in schools and hospitals in Belfast, but what about those in Birmingham, Bristol and many other parts of the country? I support the Democratic Unionist party’s request for more investment to stop school cuts in Portadown, but I want to stop the school cuts in Pontefract as well. The DUP is right to request more support for jobs in County Down but what about in Castleford and in other places across the rest of the country?
The Government cannot say to parents, patients and people who need the support of police officers right across the country that, as a result of this hung Parliament, they cannot have more support for their public services—that they will have to face further cuts to their public services, with teachers lost from our schools and services squeezed from our national health service—but those in Northern Ireland can have additional funding. They cannot say to Mark Rowley, Cressida Dick and the other police chiefs doing such a magnificent job in difficult circumstances despite being overstretched that the Government can somehow find £1 billion to support Northern Ireland and to support those in the Government keeping their own jobs, but they cannot provide the additional resources the police and emergency services need to support their jobs at this difficult time.
That is why the Government have to rethink. It would be easy to rethink the police cuts and to decide not to go ahead with the cuts to capital gains tax that the Chancellor has pledged. It would be easy to cancel those cuts and put the investment into additional police officers on our streets. It would be easy for the Government to recognise that if we care about recruitment and retention in our public services—in particular in our national health service, which in many parts of the country is struggling to recruit the nurses and doctors it needs—then continuing with the public sector pay cap will make it harder and harder for our NHS and all our public services to get the talented staff they need. In the end, that will cost all of us, including the Government, more in the long run.
The second area in which the Government need to change course is their approach to the Brexit negotiations. Britain voted for Brexit in the referendum and Parliament has voted to trigger article 50, but the Prime Minister did not win the free hand that she wanted for the Brexit negotiations. She asked for it, but voters said no. That means that the Government need to change their approach to the Brexit negotiations. If we are to get a deal that is not only the best for our country but is also sustainable—one that does not unravel in a year or two years’ time and does not end up undermined because there is so much disagreement, not just in this House but across the country—then there must be an effort to build a consensus around that deal as well, not just to get agreement in Europe but to build that consensus across Britain.
That is why I urge the Government not to keep pursuing the negotiations through a narrow cabal but instead to open up the process—to set up a cross-party commission to hold the Brexit negotiations or to find other ways to include more voices and more transparency, and to strengthen the powers of the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union, so that this House can properly have its say as well. I know that that means difficult ways of working and will be a challenge to those on both Front Benches, but they, and the whole House and the whole country, will benefit if we find a different way to do this.
I certainly think that the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government, and Northern Ireland too, need to be involved in this commission and this process, because it has got to work for the whole of the United Kingdom. I think that is possible, but only if all parts of the House and those on both Front Benches behave in a different way and recognise the responsibility that has been placed on us by the hung Parliament that we have been given. That means, too, that the great repeal Bill that the Government want to put forward can no longer be a Bill that simply accrues powers to the Government through Henry VIII powers, because in a hung Parliament the legislature simply cannot hand over huge power to the Executive. The legislature itself must be involved in those decisions, step by step along the way.
The right hon. Member for Mid Sussex was right when he said that the course before us is more complex than anything he or I can remember at any time. With a hung Parliament we will have to work differently, but that has to start with the Government. I urge them to start today by changing course on public services and, as the amendment before us asks, on public sector pay and supporting our public sector workers, but also by changing course in the approach to Brexit, in a way that can build consensus, not division. That ought to be the spirit of what the Prime Minister has said.
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I should have announced that there is now a time limit of six minutes, which I think he was aware of, in order to accommodate as many people who want to speak as possible. Dr Lewis, your six minutes start now.
I have at least benefited from a few extra seconds as a result.
There is plenty to welcome in this Queen’s Speech, from the prioritisation of mental health to the forthcoming visit of Their Majesties the King and Queen of Spain, which will give us all a chance to show that our friendship with that great country is as enduring and immovable as the Rock of Gibraltar. I will touch, however, on two other aspects of the Queen’s Speech, and they will not come as a surprise to colleagues who know of my areas of speciality.
The first is the reiteration of the Government’s pledge to continue to meet the NATO commitment to spend at least 2% of national income on defence. I am sorry to say that it is not enough. One of the things that the Select Committee on Defence managed to establish, through a great deal of hard work and original research by its professional and dedicated staff, was a comparison over the decades of what happened to defence with a graph showing something very different for other high-spending subjects. We found that in the early 1960s we spent similar sums—about 6% of GDP—on welfare and defence. Now we spend six times as much on welfare as we do on defence. In the mid-1980s we spent similar sums—about 5% of GDP—on education, health and defence. Now we spend two and a half times as much on education and nearly four times as much on health as we do on defence. In every year from 1981 until 1987, at the height of east-west confrontation, we spent between 4.3% and 5.1% of GDP on defence, yet even after the cold war had finished, even as late as the financial year 1995-96, we were spending 3% of GDP on defence—a total that does not include things such as war pensions and Ministry of Defence civil service pensions.
I thank the former Chairman of the Select Committee for giving way. He, like me, was at a dinner last night at which it was pointed out that at 2%, without pensions and all the other bizarre add-ons that the Government add to get this country to 2%, France will be spending €56 billion on defence; Germany, when it gets to 2%, will be at €70 billion. We are at £36 billion. How can we hold our heads up high and say that we can defend ourselves with sums like that?
The hon. Lady is a staunch defender of everything to do with the defence of this country, and she is absolutely right. It is a measure of the management downwards of our expectations that we are supposed to ring the church bells in triumph at our not falling below the bare minimum that NATO members are supposed to achieve. We really have to rethink this. We really should be looking at 3% of GDP, and not this bare minimum of 2%.
I want to turn mainly to what is said in the Queen’s Speech about the creation of a commission for countering extremism,
“to support the government in stamping out extremist ideology in all its forms, both across society and on the internet, so it is denied a safe space to spread.”
That implies, although it is not explicit, that the new body will be some form of executive agency. I want to hear from the Front Bench that that will be the case, because we are approaching a key point: it looks likely that the territory seized by ISIL/Daesh will be retaken from it. That will rightly be hailed as a considerable achievement, but we need to remember that only a few years ago no one had heard about ISIL/Daesh, and everybody was overwhelmingly concerned with al-Qaeda. It was unusual for a terrorist organisation to seize territory, because by doing that, ISIL/Daesh gave up the advantage of invisibility, which is what most terrorist organisations make maximum use of. However, I venture to suggest that when it has been removed from its territory and its moment has passed, there will be other groups that take its place, perhaps fighting in different areas and perhaps not trying to seize territory. This will go on and on, as long as there is no effective response to the underlying ideology.
This is not the first time that there has been talk of commissions of this sort. Back in 2013, David Cameron had a taskforce on tackling radicalisation and extremism. On that occasion, too, evidence was taken, but I believe that any future successful plan needs to draw on the similar threats that we faced and overcame in the past.
As I said in an earlier intervention, huge agencies were called into existence to counter other totalitarian ideologies. This rather massive book was never really meant to be published. It is called “The Secret History of PWE”. PWE was the Political Warfare Executive, and the book is a classified history of all the work that it did to counter fascist and Nazi ideology. It was published as recently as 2002. Another organisation, the Information Research Department at the Foreign Office, worked on a grand scale to counter the poisonous ideology of Marxism-Leninism.
What we need today is an organisation that is equally wide-ranging, equally proficient, and equally capable of answering the thoughtful interjection of the hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies) on the subject of the vocabulary that we should use—whether we should use the terms “Islamic”, “un-Islamic”, or simply “violent extremism”. We need an agency to do that. Until we have such an agency, and until it operates to scale, groups will continue to crop up to implement the ideology, and we do not want that to happen.
It is always a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis). He mentioned the new commission for countering terrorism. I look forward to debating the issues surrounding the commission with him and with many other Members, and to listening to what the Government have to say. This is a very important initiative, and we need to get it right.
As the House debates any issue relating to security and home affairs, not just today but in the coming weeks and months, we must recognise what has happened in the last few weeks. There have been the terrorist outrages in Manchester, at London Bridge and at the Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park, and, of course, there has been the tragedy at Grenfell Tower. Those issues, and how the House responds to them, will be a measure of whether Parliament is serving the British people properly.
Having read the Queen’s Speech, I want to address some of those issues, and others that will occupy this Parliament. I intend to concentrate on three themes: sovereignty, security and regulation. Let me begin with sovereignty. As we debate the issues surrounding Brexit, we must bear in mind that criminals, terrorists and organised crime do not recognise borders. They love borders: they can hide from justice, and seek succour. How we as a country keep our people safe and secure will be partly determined by how we work with other countries. In the European Union we developed, over time, a set of organisations, policies and systems that was keeping our people safe: Europol, Eurojust, ECRIS—the European Criminal Records Information System—the Schengen information system, and the European arrest warrant. Those systems and policies help our people. They catch terrorists, they catch rapists, they catch murderers. As we debate our relationship with those very important crime-fighting systems, we have to get it right.
During the Brexit debate, some have said, “We will still be part of those organisations: do not worry.” Well, I do worry. I visited Europol in 2009, and met Rob Wainwright, the head of Europol, a Brit and a former MI5 agent. He led, and leads, the organisation very well, but after Brexit, it will not be a Brit who is leading it. Over a period during the setting up of those institutions—those crime-fighting mechanisms—the British Government, and parties of all colours, were at the centre of the development of rules for them. We will not be, after Brexit. I worry greatly about how those mechanisms will evolve. These are very important discussions. I also worry about the Government’s position on the European Court of Justice, which manages issues relating to the European crime-fighting institutions. I think that the rejection of the Court is a serious mistake on the Government’s part, and that they will come to rue it.
When it comes to security, yes, those European co-operation systems are fundamental, but so is the need for more police. We heard from the shadow Home Secretary about the mess that the current Government have made in the police. We have heard from the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, that the situation is serious. The Government can quote figure after figure, but if they look at what is happening in our constituencies, they will know that cuts are affecting police on the ground. Since May 2015, my constituency has lost nearly 10% of our police officers, which is having a big impact: crime is going up in my area. The Government must stop these police cuts.
As we heard from the right hon. Member for New Forest East, the proposal for a commission for countering extremism prompts many questions. Will the commission be independent? Will it be accountable to the House? Will it reach out to all groups who want to help the Government fight extremism, and will it look at all causes of extremism? Common sense suggests that extremism must have multiple causes, including terrorist groups recruiting and the activities of hate preachers, but there is one cause on which I want to focus briefly, and that is Islamophobia.
Islamophobia is rife in our country, and we do not speak out against it enough. British Muslims play an incredibly important and positive role in our society, but that is rarely recognised, in the media above all. The reporting of some newspapers makes it appear that British Muslims are the enemy within, and the House should speak out against the press barons who allow such reporting. Just a few months ago, a headline in The Sun read “1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis”. The press regulator said that that was “significantly misleading”, but the headlines still come. “British Muslims are killing our troops”, according to one newspaper. Other headlines read “Britain goes halal” and “Muslims tell us how to run our schools”. Those are outrageous headlines, and they are irresponsible. I hope that when the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary meet newspaper editors, that issue will be No. 1 on their list, because if we are not countering Islamophobia, we are not working against one of the issues that are creating extremism.
My last point concerns regulation. We must challenge the way in which we debate regulation. Regulations are not always bad; many are superb. I am afraid that Conservatives have an ideological block about some regulations. I was once told by the former Member of Parliament for Brentwood and Ongar that regulations were communist. I told him that “Thou shalt not kill” was a good regulation—and it was introduced before the time of Marx or Lenin.
It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Sir Edward Davey).
When the national health service was launched in July 1948, it was launched on the basis of three core principles: that it should meet the needs of everyone, that it should be free at the point of delivery, and that it should be based on clinical need and not the ability to pay. Those principles continue to serve us very well; they are supported across the House, and they have been reinforced by the NHS constitution.
The extraordinary success of the NHS and public health provision lies in its delivery of increased life expectancy. Many people who now survive into adulthood would not have done so when I qualified as a doctor, some years ago. However, that extraordinary success hands us the key responsibility and challenge of ensuring that we can continue to provide and to meet the needs of everyone in the coming decades. The right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) spoke of the importance of joint working across the House. Given that we now have a different parliamentary arithmetic, I agree with her, and I would extend that to the way we talk about funding of health and social care.
Last week I was told by Pauline that her mum, 79-year-old Sheila, who has dementia and heart failure, suffers from seizures and is unable to eat, go to the toilet or dress on her own, has been denied a funded place in a care home. Does the hon. Lady agree that that is a scandal that needs to be resolved?
The hon. Lady has made a very important point. We will all see similar cases in our surgeries. However, we will not resolve the problem by having constant arguments about how we are going to do so. What we must do is agree, across the House, on how we are to provide long-term sustainable funding. I commend the House of Lords Select Committee on the Long-term Sustainability of the NHS for its work on the provision of long-term sustainable funding for health and social care. I welcome the commitment from Ministers in the Gracious Speech to seek sustainable social care solutions, but I call on the Government to extend that to health, because if we continue to view the two systems in isolation, we will fail exactly the patients, and others, to whom the hon. Lady has just referred.
The parliamentary arithmetic is such that there is an additional responsibility on all of us to ask what we can achieve by the end of this Parliament and what we can achieve when the NHS reaches its 70th birthday next year. I would say that by working together we could achieve something really remarkable, and I call on all Members from all parties to work to make that happen.
I also very much welcome the proposals in the draft patient safety Bill, but I put it to the Secretary of State that we need to get to grips with the impact of the workforce challenge across health and social care on patient safety. I agree with others that it is time for us to think again about the impact of the public sector pay cap. There is no doubt in my mind that seven years of the cap are now having a significant impact on morale in the health service and across our wider public sector. Again, I think that the change in the parliamentary arithmetic following the message that we have had from the electorate is very clear. People value our public services and they want to see this matter addressed.
One way in which we can address the issues of recruitment, retention and morale is to deliver a fair pay settlement, and I hope that we can make further progress on that. Again, however, we will achieve the funding that is required for that through realistic cross-party working. During the election campaign, and in the manifesto, we tried to address the issues of intergenerational fairness in funding these services, and it might be that, as we look realistically at how we are going to fund our public services, we need to take ideas from all parties in order to achieve our aims, so that we can do something about public sector pay and improve the retention rates in our health and social care workforce.
Another area of the Queen’s Speech that I want to touch on is mental health, and I should declare a personal interest, in that I am married to an NHS consultant psychiatrist who is also the registrar of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. I very much welcome the fact that we are the party that legislated for parity of esteem, but we now need to translate that into practice. It needs to be translated into ensuring that the welcome extra funding for mental health actually reaches the frontline and delivers.
I am pleased to see the proposals in the Gracious Speech for a Green Paper on children and young people’s mental health, and I hope that the Secretary of State will look at the joint work of the Select Committees on Health and Education in that area and take note of our proposals and suggestions. I also hope that he will look again at the work done by the Health Committee on suicide prevention. Suicide remains the single biggest cause of death in men under the age of 50 and in young people of both sexes. This is a core challenge, and one of the issues that we identified is now in the Government’s proposals—namely, how we involve the families of those with serious mental health challenges in their care and treatment. That does not involve riding roughshod over the important principles of confidentiality. Often, it can involve simple things such as ensuring that mental health professionals are aware of the consensus statement on how to achieve consent.
I welcome the progress that we have made on reducing the use of cells as a place of safety for those with serious mental health problems. Their use is wholly inappropriate and I hope that we can make further progress on that. There is much more that we can do to improve mental health care, but we have some excellent proposals in the five-year forward view. This is all about implementation, and I urge the Secretary of State to do everything he can to ensure that the money reaches the frontline, that there is transparency about that and that we make further progress on improving the mental health of young people and adults alike.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston), who chaired the Health Select Committee in the last Parliament.
It is now widely accepted that the adult social care sector in the UK is in a state of crisis. Over recent years, funding has fallen and demand has risen, and the sector has not kept pace. The Queen’s Speech has failed to address the long-term funding issues behind this crisis that are currently overwhelming not only the social care sector but the NHS. Our hospitals and surgeries are full, social care is on its knees and staff are working under impossible conditions in a system struggling to cope. The Government’s choice to provide less funding than the health service needs is compromising safe staffing levels. They talk about providing extra funding, but this is set against the backdrop of enforced savings in the NHS that are far in excess of the extra money that they tell us, in every debate, that the NHS is going to get.
It is wrong and counterproductive to look at social care simply as care for the elderly. Nearly 33% of all the people receiving long-term social care in 2015-16 were under 65 years of age. They account for almost 50% of the expenditure on social care, at approximately £6.6 billion a year. Working-age adults with a learning disability accounted for 33% of the total expenditure, at almost £4.6 billion a year. We need to recognise the full cost of social care in this country and decide how those costs are going to be met. In the fading final few months of the last Labour Government, tripartite talks took place between Labour Ministers, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats about how to meet those costs. Two Members who have spoken today—the right hon. Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames) and the hon. Member for Totnes—have emphasised that we need, as a nation, to take control of this. If any example is needed, it is the shambolic mess that the Conservatives got into during the general election campaign. Was there going to be a cap? Was there not going to be a cap? We need to take national action on this, and the sooner the better.
As a past officer of the all-party parliamentary group on smoking and health, I urge the Government to publish the new tobacco control plan. We have been waiting some 18 months for it now. A great deal was achieved under the previous plan: progressive tobacco control legislation was introduced; smoking rates among adults and children have fallen below the target levels; and rates of smoking during pregnancy are very nearly below 10%, which is a huge improvement on a decade ago. This is why Britain is a world leader in tobacco control, with the UK coming top in a European survey measuring the implementation of key tobacco control policies and passing legislation that goes further than the requirements set out in European Union directives.
As I was saying, we have gone much further than the European directives have told us to do. My understanding is that the new tobacco control plan will have vaping in it. NHS England has told us that vaping is 95% safer than using cigarettes, and it is not a way to get into cigarettes. Some 2.8 million smokers have voluntarily gone on to vaping, which is 95% safer, and we need to ensure that the action plan for tobacco recognises that fact. More will need to be done to support vaping, perhaps in public places as well.
Yes, indeed it is. Some people say that they do not like vaping because the products are produced by tobacco companies, but that is wholly wrong. I have had a running battle with the tobacco companies for decades in this place, and it is wholly wrong to use attitudes to vaping in that way.
I just wondered whether the right hon. Gentleman was aware that the European tobacco products directive, which makes things more difficult for vapers, was introduced by a British Labour Member of the European Parliament. At the time, the Conservatives in the European Parliament made the exact point that it would restrict vaping.
I am very aware of that. I am also very aware that vaping is good for the public health, and I support it.
Moving on, one area where the NHS has contributed to smoking cessation is through the huge network of community pharmacies across the UK, which was treated shoddily by the previous Government. In January this year, the all-party parliamentary health group, which I chair, launched an investigation into the Government’s community pharmacy reforms, and the report showed that the reforms have dented confidence in the sector and raised questions about the Government’s commitment to developing community pharmacy services. The APPG heard, however, that community pharmacy remains well placed to address some of the NHS’s biggest challenges, and we made recommendations that will hopefully strengthen the sector’s ability to serve its patients and mitigate some of the negative impacts of the reforms. The overriding priority, though, is for the community pharmacy sector and the Government to come together again to develop and realise a shared vision of clinical services in community pharmacies. I hope the Government will take heed of the report and work constructively with the sector.
The reforms have been made and, as we all know, there has been a massive decrease in the money going into NHS pharmacies, and we need to take stock of that. The Health and Social Care Act 2012 gave the Government—Governments of all sorts—responsibility for reducing health inequality in this country and to promote public health and population health. Running down our pharmacy sector and community pharmacies is not the way to do that. Those health professionals should be helping to improve population health to keep pressure off the NHS, but we are not doing that very well at the moment.
I see that I just have a minute left, so I want to say that nearly all of that work is performed by our superb staff in the NHS, but we are all aware that staff morale across the NHS remains low. The situation has been worsened by real-term cuts in pay through this Government’s public sector pay cap. Current estimates state that over £4.3 billion was cut from NHS staff salaries between 2010 and 2016. These are the people who treated the victims of terror attacks and the dreadful fire in London just a few weeks ago. I think the electorate said in the general election, “No more of this.” The Government should remove the pay cap in order to retain and attract staff, resolve the workforce shortage and ensure safe patient care. I will be supporting the amendment if it is put to the House tonight.
It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Rother Valley (Sir Kevin Barron), who made some extraordinarily sensible points. May I take this opportunity to associate myself, on behalf of my constituents in East Devon, with the earlier tributes paid to the victims of Grenfell Tower and the terrorist attacks? I also pay tribute to the extraordinary work of the emergency services and to NHS staff for their incredible efforts.
In the 2017 Gracious Speech, the only mention of social care, to which I will dedicate my speech, was:
“My Ministers will work to improve social care and will bring forward proposals for consultation.”
That is in line with the revised section of the 2017 Conservative manifesto, but no more details have been announced about the Green Paper or when it will be published. When it is published and goes out to consultation, it is vital that elderly people, who do not always have access to the internet, are given fair chance to respond and to put their views forward. I, too, believe that the recent election showed how worried people are about their future healthcare needs. While the system needs to be fixed, it is incumbent on the Government to have a frank and honest consultation on how we fund and provide social care for the most vulnerable in our society. The issue has been kicked into the long grass for too long, so I have two offers to make to the Government this afternoon.
Over 850,000 people in the United Kingdom are living with dementia—equivalent to the entire population of Devon—and that number is expected to double in the next 20 years. Over 12,000 people in Devon are living with dementia, 4,500 of whom are in East Devon. The number of over-65s in Devon will increase from 195,000 in 2015 to 264,400 in 2030—an increase of 35.5%. Seventeen per cent. of the UK population is over the age of 65, compared with 24% of the Devon population. Some 2.38% of the population is over the age of 85, compared with 6.25% of the population of Budleigh Salterton in my constituency. In other words, with those ageing demographics, the rest of England will look like Budleigh Salterton in 2050. East Devon has over 6,500 people over the age of 85 and about 40,000 over the age of 65, so my offer to the Government is this: if we want to get long-term social care right nationally, look at what the country will look like in 2050, which is what towns such as Budleigh Salterton look like now. If we get it right in Devon, we will get it right across the country. As a Devon MP, I am offering— I am sure my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) will also agree—to act as the guinea pig for getting social care right in this country. That is offer No. 1.
Offer No. 2 builds on what some of us tried to do with the Prime Minister some months before the general election when a cross-party group of us went to see her to talk about long-term care. We thought that the issue should be apolitical and that we should finally build on early reports to get things right. Our efforts were not taken up at the time, but in the new spirit of things following the election I believe that we would all be prepared to work together to make the offer again. Where better to start than to build on the “Fairer Care Funding” report—the Dilnot report—of July 2011, which contains many good things, not least a cap, but it also omitted other things, such as some form of insurance to cover the cap. We should leave nothing off the table, but a cross-party group should steer the Government forwards on this matter.
Those are my two offers. As a humble Back Bencher, I will work with other Back Benchers to get social care right in this country, and I offer up Devon, particularly East Devon, as the guinea pig or template for trying to get a social care system that is properly integrated with the rest of the NHS. If we get it right there, we will get it right across the nation, and everyone, including our electorates, will be enormously grateful to us.
I primarily want to talk about the state of GP services, with particular reference to a temporarily closed surgery in Trimdon village in my constituency, to try to make a point about the crisis in GP services. While the closure is only temporary, the surgery will open again next month with limited services.
I want to start with a few words about the national picture. One in four patients now wait a week or more to see a GP or do not get an appointment at all. We are 10,000 GPs, 3,500 midwives and 40,000 nurses short of the number we need. Against a target 3,250 GP training places for 2016-17, Health Education England said that only 3,000 were filled. The number of GPs in this country dropped by nearly 100 in the year to September 2016, and in three years’ time the NHS will have 1,200 fewer family doctors than predicted because there is a struggle to fill training places. There has been a huge drop in the number of GPs in training. In 2016, 92 GP practices closed and 34 were merged with other practices. A survey of 2,000 GPs found that two in five plan to quit in the next two years. Since 2014, there has been a 150% rise in patients being forced to move practices due to record levels of closures—that is 265,000 people. Although the Government want to recruit 5,000 more GPs by 2020, one in three GPs are considering retirement in the next five years—about 10,000 doctors.
That is part of the background that has led to the temporary closure of the GP surgery in Trimdon village. The surgery is one of four operated by Skerne Medical Group—the other three are in Sedgefield village, Fishburn and Trimdon Colliery. The surgeries are very busy and service some of the most deprived areas not just of the county but of the country. In a letter to the registered patients who use the surgery in Trimdon village, Skerne Medical Group announced that the surgery would need to close on 21 June 2017 due to
“unprecedented circumstances with our clinical team and the continued difficulties in recruitment”.
Eighty-eight per cent. of residents in the area are registered with Skerne Medical Group, and the GP group has told me that the building housing the surgery in Trimdon village is not fit for purpose, which for me is a reason not for closing but for upgrading the premises.
I also understand that the GPs are preparing to expand their facilities in Sedgefield village, which is good news for the residents of Sedgefield, but I do not see why, if investment is due in Sedgefield, it cannot be due in surgeries such as in Trimdon village, especially when, considering the indices of health deprivation, Trimdon is one of the 10% most deprived areas of England and Wales—Sedgefield village is not. There is still a great need for Skerne Medical Group to keep the surgery open in Trimdon.
The House of Commons Library has provided me with figures on the amount and kinds of prescriptions issued to the residents of Trimdon. More prescriptions are distributed in Trimdon than in 95% of areas of England. Furthermore, prescriptions for gastrointestinal drugs—issued for ulcers, for example—are 48% above the national average. Prescriptions for drugs for cardiovascular issues are 50% above the national average. Prescriptions for drugs for breathing difficulties, including asthma, are 55% above the national average. Prescriptions for antidepressants, some of which are issued for chronic pain, are 51% above the national average, and prescriptions for painkillers themselves are double the national average. More than 40% of Trimdon’s population are over the age of 50, which is well above the average for the rest of the UK. Trimdon has an ageing population with chronic health problems.
I say this to Skerne Medical Group: “I know the issues, and I know you offer the best service you can, but I do not believe the closure of the surgery in Trimdon, be it temporary or not, will help the situation. Especially when there are expansion plans for the surgery in Sedgefield, surely the needs of Trimdon are also great.”
If the surgery in Trimdon is not fit for purpose, it must be made so. I can understand the problem with the shortage of GPs, because that is an issue not just for this practice but is happening all over the region and the nation. I know that the closure of the Trimdon surgery is temporary and that it is to reopen in July, offering only a limited service, but Skerne Medical Group came to see me about a year ago to say that it wanted to close the surgery permanently, which I said I would oppose all the way.
How can a village that is in the 10% most deprived areas of the country be left without a GP surgery physically situated in the heart of the community? Of course the medical group has other surgeries, but forcing an ageing population with high levels of chronic illness to use those other facilities will put pressure on those surgeries, extending waiting times even further. The crisis in GP provision must be looked at nationally, because it is now starting to affect people who really need that support and help.
I wish to speak briefly on the Gracious Speech as my first modest contribution to the proceedings of this House. Before I go on, I pay tribute to my predecessor, Peter Lilley, who served in this House and served his nation for 34 years. Most hon. Members on both sides of the House will be aware of his distinction in high office, serving under the premierships of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, of his huge intellect and of his knowledge on a range of subjects. But they may be less aware of the genuine affection in which he is held by the people of Hitchin and Harpenden, which I know from every single day of the general election campaign, and of how effective he was as a local constituency MP, in addition to all the offices he held. I am inspired by his example.
I thank the people of Hitchin and Harpenden for sending me to this House. Hitchin and Harpenden, and all of our villages in between, are not just physically beautiful and historic, with a landscape and character unique not just in Hertfordshire but in England and this great nation as a whole; the people are what really make a place special, and my constituents are special, in a very good way. They are kind, open, tolerant and sometimes challenging—they do like writing letters—and it is a great honour to represent them here in this House.
I come to this House with no gilded lineage but as a child of immigrants. My mother, born in Britain but growing up in Nigeria, became a pharmacist. My father, born and bred in Nigeria, is now an NHS doctor. Both came to this country in the 1980s in search of a better life. In particular, they believe that a good-quality education is key, not just for giving a child—an individual—a decent start in life but as the foundation of the future health and prosperity of our society as a whole. They worked incredibly hard and sacrificed a lot—some might say too much—to pay for the best education that Britain could offer, and I was immensely fortunate in that. It was, indeed, an amazing start in life.
And it is education that I believe to be at the heart of everything. I believe we can do better. During the election campaign there was a lot of debate in my constituency, and I know in many others, about whether school funding is adequate and about the excessive bureaucracy that teachers still have to put up with. I happen to think that we need more of the former and less of the latter, but the debate on education needs to be bigger than that, more fundamental.
Are we truly preparing our children for the second industrial revolution we are living through, in which we do not know what jobs will be like in 10 years, let alone 20? Some hon. Members, on both sides of the House, obsess about the type of school, whether it be comprehensive, grammar or private, but should we not focus more on outcomes than on the form? How do we significantly raise both the morale and the standards of teachers everywhere in every school? I promised my constituents that I will bring a relentless focus to that area, and I intend to do so every single day I am in this House, and it starts with fairer funding for every school. In many areas, yes, that will mean more resources.
I enter this House at a time when we face serious challenges as a nation—not just Brexit or, indeed, health and social care but the challenge of creating the most dynamic, productive and technologically advanced economy in the world. Education is central to that challenge because it is our future. The world-class human capital produced by our education system needs to be combined with financial capital investment, with better infrastructure and with a more competitive, simpler tax system for individuals and businesses. That is what a 21st-century, new economy looks like.
Although all Conservatives believe in world-class education and a dynamic, forward-thinking free market economy, we must also consider the type of society we are building together—a just society that, in the words of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, works for everyone. That means zero tolerance of discrimination. That means making sure that our increasingly diverse society of all creeds and races is more cohesive. That means that the poorest among us deserve the right to live not just in decent and, yes, safe social housing but that they also have the right to aspire to own a home of their own. These are the challenges of our age. These are the challenges that we need to meet. I look forward to working with colleagues on both sides of the House on meeting those challenges in our time.
Order. I very warmly congratulate the hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Bim Afolami) on a maiden speech that was both eloquent and self-assured. It was a contribution of the highest quality, and the reaction of colleagues bears testimony to the truth of what I have just said. In welcoming the hon. Gentleman to the House, I wish him every success in the course of his parliamentary career.
Colleagues, before we continue the debate I have a short announcement to make. The House will know that the election of Deputy Speakers took place today and that the ballot was closed at 1.30 pm. The counting has now finished. Before I announce the results, let me thank, and thank effusively, I hope on behalf of all colleagues, the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess) and the right hon. Member for Knowsley (Mr Howarth) for public-spiritedly serving as temporary Deputy Speakers during the debates on the Queen’s Speech. They excelled themselves in that role, they are great public servants and I think the House is extremely appreciative of what they have done. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]
Let me also take this opportunity to pay a warm personal tribute to Natascha Engel. Natascha unfortunately lost her seat at the general election, but she served with real commitment and effectiveness as a Deputy Speaker in the last Parliament. That, of course, was service coming on top of a period of great distinction as the first Chair of the Backbench Business Committee. In all, Natascha served in this place for 12 years, and we thank her for the quality and commitment of her service. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]
I shall now announce the result of the ballot that was held today for the election of Deputy Speakers. Mr Lindsay Hoyle was elected as Chairman of Ways and Means. Mrs Eleanor Laing was elected as First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means. Dame Rosie Winterton was elected as Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means. I congratulate all three colleagues who have been elected, and I greatly look forward to working with them. I also want to thank the hon. Member for City of Durham (Dr Blackman-Woods) for contesting the election, and for all that she has done and continues to do in this House, not least in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association work which she enthusiastically, and to great effect, undertakes. I am sure we are going to hear a great deal more from her in the years to come in this Chamber. The results of the count will be made available as soon as possible in the Vote Office and will be published on the internet. I hope that we can have one last expression of congratulations, with a suitable, “Hear, hear” to victorious colleagues and thanks to the hon. Member for City of Durham, after which I am keen to proceed with the debate. Well done! [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]
May I begin by paying tribute to my predecessor, James Wharton, who showed a strong commitment to international development and worked hard for his constituents? I also wish to thank the Member of Parliament before him, Dari Taylor, who served Stockton South tirelessly for 13 years and was a formidable advocate for our community.
Some of my colleagues have been excited to see another doctor in the House. Members have told me about their bad backs and other problems that confidentiality and common decency prevent me from divulging, but I am afraid I have bad news for them: I have left my prescription pad at home. However, they can join me in keeping fit at my 6 am boot camp if they want. I am a big physical activity enthusiast, and I hope to encourage colleagues to lead active and healthy lifestyles. So Mr Speaker, I invite you and other hon. Members to set your alarms for tomorrow morning.
Stockton South is a diverse place with a proud history, a strong community and vast potential. It includes a large part of the town of Stockton, a vanguard of the industrial revolution and the birthplace of some of the finest ships to set sail. Innovation and industry have been a cornerstone in Stockton since the first tracks were laid for the Stockton to Darlington railway, and that is still evident in many of the businesses across the constituency. Today, Stockton shows strong leadership in regional arts; we are proud to provide sanctuary to refugees; and we have a vibrant voluntary sector and good-quality schools.
Stockton South also includes Yarm, which has a healthy small business community; Eaglescliffe, which has the leading manufacturing business, Nifco; Ingleby Barwick, which is home to many public servants, among others; and Thornaby, which has a proud history as an RAF base, protecting Teesside’s industry during the second world war. Thornaby was the place where Margaret Thatcher walked over the rubble that was once the Head Wrightson steel foundry—her infamous “walk in the wilderness”. The people of Stockton South have asked me to dispatch Thatcherism into the wilderness.
The diversity and tolerance among people of all faiths, beliefs and backgrounds in Stockton South is to be cherished, but, sadly, there is also diversity in terms of wide health and socioeconomic inequalities that cannot be tolerated. The life expectancy for people in some parts of my constituency is 10 years less than for those in others—10 years’ difference in life expectancy at birth. As a family doctor, every day I have seen too many people who have been left behind: people battling mental health problems, besieged by loneliness, and people with learning disabilities who have preventable illness. This holds people back and drains their potential. Not only is it unjust, but it is damaging to all of us. When a person’s health becomes so poor that they cannot work or someone’s father dies a premature death, we all lose.
Sadly, the people who have the most to gain from preventive healthcare are the people least likely to have their cancer screen or their diabetes check. We must challenge this so-called “inverse care law”, whereby those most in need are least likely to access healthcare. We need the most effort to be made to improve the health of the most vulnerable. We should invest in making pregnancy and the first 1,000 days of life from conception safer and better for people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. That is where the evidence tells us the greatest gains can be made. We should remodel our healthcare system so that prevention is given the status and resource now afforded to our treatment services. Prevention really is better than cure.
This Queen’s Speech did not have anything to say about health inequalities or about our lack of investment in public health. Every single person who cast a vote in this election wanted so much more from this Queen’s Speech, and they have been let down. The parents who told me they will have to wait three years for their child to get an assessment for autism—they wanted improvements. The families of people with dementia, worrying about the cost of care—they wanted clarity. The hard-working nurses facing 10 years of pay caps—they wanted fairness. An inspired and rejuvenated electorate have sent us here to create change. What an opportunity we have to listen to their voices. From many ordinary mouths came one extraordinary message: we must listen and we must act.
It is a pleasure to speak in response to the Gracious Speech, and to follow both the hon. Member for Stockton South (Dr Williams) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Bim Afolami)—two new Members. I have to tell the hon. Member for Stockton South that, having ruptured my Achilles twice in the last two years, I will be probably be looking at a pass note for the 6 am boot camp, but it is always reassuring, particularly for me, to have another doctor in the House.
May I also praise my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden for his contribution? His constituents will be reassured by his words today, including none other than Dora Scott, a constituent in Kimpton who is in her 90s and who also happens to be my aunt. We will both be keeping an eye out for him.
In the time that I have, I wish to focus on social care and its impact on health. Bexhill and Battle perhaps has a higher proportion of retired people than many other constituencies, and that requires me to speak up on their behalf. All politicians tend to do this when they sit on the Government Benches, but I urge us to get some form of consensus on this pressing issue for all our retired constituents.
It causes me great concern that despite the extra money that the Government put into the social care system, radical reform is absolutely required. I absolutely welcome the £2 billion that the Government put in earlier this year, but that remains unfunded, due to the failure to get the tax system to pay that extra amount. I also welcome the 3% levy on council tax bills, but in my constituency, where there is a smaller proportion of council tax receipts, it falls to people to pay even more. That concerns me for another reason that was prominent in the election campaign: intergenerational fairness. Is it right, for example, that my younger constituents, who do not have a home of their own, are saving as hard as they can, are paying private rent and cannot afford a deposit, are paying more and more on their council tax bills, which means that a home of their own is even further out of sight? We must look at not just funding, but radical reform, which brings me to the manifesto on which we stood.
The hon. Gentleman mentions funding. Does he think that England should see a change in the Barnett consequentials as a result of the Northern Ireland deal—the grubby deal or the protection money that has been offered to the Democratic Unionist party? I am talking about £30 billion to £40 billion for England, which would help greatly in the case that he mentions.
When I looked at the winter fuel allowance and the amount of money that we would put back into health as a result of the changes, I was concerned that, under Barnett, some of that money could end up funding Scotland, when Scotland already has the ability to make those decisions about funding. My concern is that as we devolve ever more powers to Scotland, we are not also asked to devolve ever more finance as well.
Let me come back to my main thread. With respect to social care, consensus and intergenerational fairness, I think that we should consider the ideas in my party’s manifesto. Those ideas were worthy of more thought than was afforded to them by the Opposition parties. I also found it incredibly distressing that our vulnerable constituents were receiving election literature through their letterboxes saying, “Under the Conservatives, you will be forced to sell your home in order to go into residential care.” That was put out by the Liberal Democrats, when, in fact, our manifesto was changing that current practice. They were completely misinterpreting the position—and, worse, to a group in our communities who are particularly vulnerable to that type of scare tactics.
Let me turn to pensions. Representing a constituency such as mine, I absolutely agree that we need to look after those on pensions, especially those who have been on fixed incomes and have not had much of a return over the past few years. It is true to say that the triple lock has ensured a 22% increase in pensions, whereas earnings have only risen by just over 7% and prices by only 12%. Again, we must look at intergenerational fairness and ask ourselves how we can ensure that, as well as equipping our elderly and retired constituents to ensure that they can continue with good means, we also look after those who will ultimately fund them.
I am absolutely delighted that this Government are pushing ahead with the consultation exercise. When it comes to contributions to social care, we should ask those who can afford it to take some form of individual responsibility. They should make those payments themselves; otherwise we will effectively see the taxpayer subordinated to those who end up inheriting under the system. Yes, I agree that those people have worked hard all their lives to create their nest egg and for their house, but ultimately I want to ensure that people have the best-quality social care, and that will not happen unless we reform it.
I ask all Opposition Members to think about intergenerational fairness, and to ask those people who can afford it to make more of a contribution, which means that those people starting off on the ladder, who have to think not only about buying a property but saving for their advanced age, have that opportunity as well. Without taking that type of adult decision, we will never get any further in reforming social care.
In my last 30 seconds, Madam Deputy Speaker—congratulations on your return—I make a plea on behalf of my schools. At a school hustings, at which there were candidates from all three parties, I told pupils that there was no point in getting something today, because they, more than any other generation, would have to pay for it tomorrow. Despite what has been said about our party’s popularity with the young, more people in that school voted for the Conservative candidate than any of the others, because they recognised that we have the policies to deliver for them, as well as for those who are retired.
I congratulate you, Madam Deputy Speaker—and my right hon. Friends the Members for Chorley (Mr Hoyle), and for Doncaster Central (Dame Rosie Winterton)—on your election to a fantastic role in which you will support the Speaker. I also congratulate the hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Bim Afolami) on a confident maiden speech. He made a good impression on the House today, and I am sure that he will do so again in the future. I welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton South (Dr Williams) and congratulate him on his maiden speech. He will bring great knowledge to this House. As his seat was a Labour gain in this election, I am particularly pleased to see him in his place.
This was the eighth election that I have fought in Delyn constituency, and the seventh that I have won, so I am certainly pleased to be back. I have never gone into an election knowing that I would win, and this one was particularly tough. It is important that, having returned to this House, I represent all the people of my constituency and ensure that the issues that are important to them are raised.
The Prime Minister called this election on Brexit. The Queen’s Speech is largely about Brexit, but the issues that my constituents brought up on the doorstep were anything but Brexit, most of the time. They were arguing about jobs, security, public spending, austerity and, particularly, security and policing. I wish to focus on the latter, not least because in the middle of this general election campaign we had the horrific events in Manchester, Borough Market and, latterly, Finsbury Park. We also remember the incident in this House earlier this year, when a brave police officer lost his life defending our liberties.
It is important that we focus on security and policing, and I will touch on four areas. I want to know how the Government intend to increase police numbers and change their policy—an issue also raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper). Our focus on policing has changed following those incidents and the acceptance that austerity has been a difficult challenge for the community. I want to know what progress is being made in improving the number of armed police. I want to know what happens in relation to Eurojust, the European arrest warrant and Europol, to which the Government have not made any commitment in discussions to date. I want to know what plans they have to look at terrorism legislation as a matter of course. Policing has changed dramatically over the past seven years of this Government.
We know the figures, but they are worth repeating: we had 144,235 police officers on the streets of Britain in 2010. We have lost 21,376 officers since then. We had a reduction of over 6,000 police community support officers in that period. The number of firearms officers, which the Home Secretary seemed to trumpet in her contribution today, has reduced by over 1,337 in that period.
Those reductions are important because we need to focus on how we re-embed the police in this country. Police on the ground help reassure communities, help strengthen neighbourhood policing, and help with the big challenges of terrorism. Police embedded in the community pick up intelligence and recognise some of the challenges of vulnerable adults—challenges posed by both the fascist right and, at the other end of the spectrum, extremist Islamist terrorist potential. That policing on the ground makes a difference. Looking at the current challenges, we should never forget that police officers, in their reduced numbers, are significantly stretched.
My right hon. Friend, having served as a Minister with responsibility for policing, will remember the inputs of the Ministry of Defence police in providing security and stability for much of our most important national infrastructure. Is he aware that there is to be a £12.5 million cut in Ministry of Defence policing in this year, which means that fewer armed police officers will be available to support Home Office police?
My hon. Friend makes an important point. I want to challenge the Government, in the winding-up speeches, to say what the Government mean when they talk about an uplift in the number of armed police officers. We have a downlift of more than 1,500 armed police officers.
I praise the speed and effectiveness of the response in London, and indeed in Manchester, but the events in London happened within one mile of a significant concentration of armed police, here in central London. If those events had happened in some parts of the country, there would have been great difficulty in effectively getting an armed police response at the speed that we would expect, and that was delivered by brave police officers here in London.
More police officers are now reporting sick because of stress. The number of police officers who have taken sick leave each year has increased by about 1,500 since 2010. That is because they are under pressure, because they do not have the numbers that there were in the past. It should also be remembered that police officers do not do 24-hour shifts. Police officers take holidays. Police officers sleep. Police officers have time off. Those police officers whom we have are very thinly stretched.
We should also recall that the police officer cohort is ageing; nearly 50% of officers are now in the higher age range. Unless we recruit effectively and speedily, we will not have the level of policing that we would wish to see in our community at large.
I mentioned the European arrest warrant and the European matters that we face as part of Brexit. On Monday, in answer to a question that I asked her, the Prime Minister said,
“As regards Eurojust, Europol and the European arrest warrant, those will be matters for…negotiations”—[Official Report, 26 June 2017; Vol. 626, c. 321.]
I am very sorry; they should not be matters for negotiation. They should be things that we, as a United Kingdom Government, are committed to participating in in the future. We need the European arrest warrant, Eurojust and Europol to ensure that we tackle crime, stop terrorism, bring back to this country people who have committed heinous offences here, and export to other countries people who have committed heinous offences there. I want a commitment from the Government as soon as possible that they will commit to the European arrest warrant, Eurojust and the European security co-operation measures that make so much difference to our lives and our security. We shall be voting against the Queen’s Speech tonight, and we are right to do so until we get clarification on those key issues.
All Members will have their own examples of mental health casework. Often, those constituents will have attended an advice surgery or sent an email for help about a different problem entirely. It could be housing; it could be employment or welfare; it could even be a problem involving the criminal justice system. But it soon becomes clear, after a few questions and a little bit of probing, that the underlying problem is one of undiagnosed—or unsupported—mental illness.
Poor mental health weakens people’s life chances, and many of the effects of deprivation further aggravate the impact of mental illness. Sadly, an increasing proportion of cases from our surgeries involve children suffering from poor mental health. I welcome the Green Paper on children and young people’s mental health, and I am pleased that the Government have committed £1.4 billion for child and adolescent mental health services by 2020. That is absolutely the right thing to do. It will transform mental health treatment for children and young people. We all need to ensure that it is properly directed and spent in those areas where it was intended to be spent, because it is a shocking fact that one in 10 children in this country have a diagnosable mental health condition.
I am pleased that the Prime Minister launched the expansion of the mental health first aid training scheme in secondary schools yesterday. It is essential that we do more to deliver early intervention to support people’s mental health, rather than relying so heavily on acute mental health services once conditions have deteriorated, sometimes to the point of psychosis. It is the difference between treating an illness and just tackling the immediate symptoms—a distinction that would be so obvious for physical health that surely nobody would argue against its existence. That means ensuring that training for GPs allows them to identify mental health conditions in patients who present with a completely different illness, and ensuring that continuing professional development allows GPs to keep up so that more senior GPs also have the necessary understanding of mental health. It means securing access to successful programmes such as Improving Access to Psychological Therapies—introduced by the previous Government and continued by this one—and other talking therapies, where alternatives to drug-based treatments are appropriate.
I am pleased that the Mental Health Act 1983 is to be reformed. It was doubtless introduced with the very best of intentions and has certainly had many beneficial effects, but in too many cases the starting point seems to be that it treats people with mental illness as threats that need to be contained, rather than as patients who need treatment and support. Of course, there are times when people need to be detained, for their own protection or that of those around them, but then the focus must be on medical treatment rather than, effectively, imprisonment.
In terms of providing that support in the right environment, would my hon. Friend like to show some appreciation of the Government for the mental health hospital that recently opened just down the road from my constituency? It is a £40 million investment, and will go a long way to providing that kind of support in the local community.
I absolutely agree. As part of the increased capital investment that the Prime Minister announced earlier this year, the £10 billion capital investment for the national health service will mean not only that new buildings such as the one to which my hon. Friend referred—the new hospital in Sandwell in the west midlands is an example—become more common, but infrastructure such as the new urgent care centre at my own local hospital in Russells Hall is provided so that our NHS can become more effective.
The Secretary of State should take great pride in the changes that he has introduced to guidance on section 135 and l36 powers, which mean that a safe place should usually be a place where patients can receive medical help, rather than the default position of a police cell. It is time for those changes to be given a statutory footing, and I hope that the new Bill will deliver that. There should be parity of esteem so that people with mental health conditions receive the same respect and equivalent status, and are treated with the same dignity, as people with physical health conditions. It is a positive step that that has been legislated for, and I hope that we will see more and more efforts to make sure that that commitment becomes a reality for constituents who receive treatment for mental health conditions.
If I may briefly speak of my own experience of the health service. As some hon. Friends know, I received rather more direct and personal experience of our hospitals, GPs and outpatient clinics than I had planned at the beginning of the year. I should like to place on record my thanks to the doctors, consultants, nurses and support staff who were all absolutely fantastic in keeping me alive so that I am here now. It has also given me the chance to work with the UK Sepsis Trust and the formidable Ron Daniels. I hope that during this Parliament the Secretary of State will have a chance to look at calls from the trust for simple measures that it is estimated would save perhaps a quarter of the 44,000 lives that are lost as a result of sepsis every year in the UK. They include instigating a national registry to record accurately the true burden of sepsis, raising awareness nationally, and looking at commissioning levers to deliver best practice and reinforce that.
Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker, and my congratulations, too, on your re-election.
I echo what the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) said when highlighting the fact that across all four NHS services the biggest challenge is the increased demand from an ageing population, with huge and growing workforce challenges. That has been aggravated by Brexit. There has been a 95% drop in nursing applications from the EU, along with a prolonged 1% pay cap. Members have rightly paid tribute to the emergency services after the terrorist attacks and the appalling Grenfell fire. It is now time that we met the rhetoric with a decent salary.
It is a bit strange to combine a debate on security with a debate on health, but when I made my maiden speech two years ago during a Queen’s Speech debate I highlighted to the Government the fact that their first priority was the security of their citizens, not by replacing weapons of mass destruction but by providing the security that comes from knowing that there is a roof over your head and food on the table. It also matters what kind of roof it is. The people of Grenfell were failed by local government scrimping and saving on cladding and sprinklers, and by successive UK Governments, who did not act on previous warnings. The issue of cladding and sprinklers was first raised as a result of a fatal fire in my constituency in 1999, when a disabled man lost his life. That was 18 years ago.
Does the hon. Lady not agree that it is absolutely imperative in the wake of this terrible tragedy that we wait to establish the facts? One fact that we know is that the local authority had almost a quarter of a billion pounds in reserves, which is a good indication that it was not about scrimping and scraping. There may well have been other serious failures, but we await the full public inquiry, and we will then establish all the facts.
I am not saying that the local authority was scrimping and saving because it did not have money; it was because it was not spending the money. It used cheap panels and it did not put in sprinklers. Some 600-plus buildings across London and England are covered in panels that clearly contain flammable materials. We hear from Camden that fire doors were missing, despite millions of pounds having been spent. As Ben Okri says in his poem, there has been a focus on surface and appearance rather than on the substance of such buildings and the protection of people who live in them.
I always listen to the hon. Lady with care and respect, but I appeal to her to look at the evidence base before making the remarks that she has. Words are important. We have established an inquiry that will establish the facts and make recommendations. Until then, with the greatest respect, I think that her remarks are premature.
The hon. Gentleman may feel that my remarks are premature with regard to Grenfell, but they are not when it comes to Lakanal, Irvine or other terrible fires that were clearly shown to relate to cladding and where sprinklers could have made a difference.
We have been repeatedly warned over the past 18 years and we have not taken action. The people in Grenfell died not only because of fire regulations, but because of inequality. They lived in the richest borough in the richest city, yet they were among the most poor and vulnerable. That tower stands like a black monolith shadowing the whole city and this place. The people in it were not well served.
We see people dying in Grenfell, suddenly—the drama and the horror. Yet people die of inequality, poverty and deprivation all the time. There is a 20-year gap in longevity between the richest and poorest, both in life expectancy and healthy life expectancy. Some 1,400 children under 15 die every year as a direct result of poverty—that is like the roof of a secondary school collapsing on them every year. If that happened, surely we would take action.
I echo the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison): I have a lot of respect for most of what the hon. Lady says. However, does she agree that no one side in this place has an exclusive hold on the moral things that guide us? All of us come into this place to make life better for all our constituents. The eradication of poverty runs deep to the roots of conservatism as it does elsewhere in this House.
If the right hon. Lady had listened to what I was saying, she would have heard me say “UK Governments”. I talked about a period of 18 years, which involves not one but repeated Governments, who have been complacent and not taken action.
The children who die because they are born into poverty die of low birthweight, chronic illness, suicide, road traffic accidents and—poignantly—house fires. Children who live in poverty suffer from hunger, malnutrition, cold and damp houses, and chronic illnesses. They lose their chance to succeed at school and to have the life opportunities that a lot of us take for granted.
The number of children living in poverty is now approaching 4 million and is expected to reach 5 million by the end of this decade; that is an indictment on everyone in this House. On average, 28% of UK children live in poverty, but that average hides the inequality across the UK. There are wards in the north of England where the figure reaches the high 40s—nearly half of the children in such areas grow up in poverty. Those children will not have decent life chances—and if we think that money is being saved, we are wrong: we will be picking up the pieces later in their lives when they end up with addictions or in the criminal justice system.
We need to tackle the situation now. The biggest driver of ill health is poverty and the biggest driver of poverty is the decisions that we make. We had welfare Acts in 2012 and 2015, and that was when child poverty stopped falling and started to rise. We need to change the situation. As the Prime Minister keeps saying, we have a responsibility to every single person across this country, and that includes children.
It is great to see you in the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is the hon. Lady aware of the news released by the Office for National Statistics today? Of the 28 EU countries, the UK has the fifth lowest rate of child poverty. There is more to be done, but surely that is a very good start.
That may come down to a matter of definition. Last year, this House had a Government who were trying to get rid of child poverty by simply putting a line through it with a pen and removing the title from the Social Mobility and Children Poverty Commission. They wanted to abandon the Child Poverty Act 2010 and the commitment to end child poverty, and to stop measuring income because—oh, let’s face it—the money within a family does not contribute to poverty.
I am sorry, but I am running out of time. We all have a responsibility to the children across the United Kingdom to invest in their future and not to allow them to be cast aside, or we will pay the price later. This needs to change now. That is how to change health and to protect NHS services.
I am delighted to see a fellow Scot in the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker; many congratulations. It is also an honour to follow the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford).
It is an honour to speak for the people of the constituency of Gordon. My constituency was formed in 1983 and has since been loyally represented by two Members. Malcolm Bruce represented Gordon from 1983 until 2015. He was an able and well-admired Member of Parliament, becoming a member of the Privy Council in 2006. He was knighted in 2012 and became a life peer in 2015 as Lord Bruce of Bennachie.
I also pay tribute to my immediate predecessor and former First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, who was elected to represent Gordon in 2015. He was first elected in Banff and Buchan in 1987, served at both Westminster and Holyrood and was a parliamentarian for 30 years—30 years as a public servant dedicated to his cause. I wish him all the very best.
The traveller through Gordon starts in the hills of the west, first coming to Huntly, the home of the Gordon clan. Heading east, they experience the howes and valleys, taking in the Garioch and Inverurie, on to Ellon and the coast at Newburgh and Balmedie. This is good, productive land on a scale that can compete, dominated by family farms. The constituency takes in large parts of the north of the city of Aberdeen. Expanding rapidly during the boom years, it has shown remarkable resilience. It is industrious and has adapted to lower oil prices, and I look forward to the city region deal linking the city and shire.
Gordon has a diverse and resilient economy driven by locally grown entrepreneurs. It is an area of enterprise and employment, where the number of registered businesses has grown from 4,500 to 5,200 over five years. Having seen downturns in the North sea before, many supply companies have moved their focus to exports outside Europe: exports of personnel with expertise developed in the North sea, technology built and manufactured in the north-east and unique engineering techniques applicable to other industries. Offshore oil and gas is focused on efficiency. It is a long-term investor and needs stability.
The downturn in oil and gas has taught us to promote other industries, such as tourism, which was long neglected. Gordon is rich with castles, stunning and bracing beaches and access to limitless outdoor pursuits. The area is well served by hotels and restaurants and very well served by golf courses, even one owned by the President of the United States. Industry, however, has been hurt by punitive business rates in the north-east. During the oil boom, there was a froth of high rents. Business rates increases of 100% to 200% are not unusual and coincide with a fragile recovery. The business sector recognises that it must contribute, but excessive rates damage employment, investment and sentiment, and we are at risk of displacing jobs. The Scottish Government committed that every penny raised locally would stay local. It was none other than my predecessor, the former First Minister, who made this change to regional finances. I ask that the north-east regional councils get to keep the extra funds raised, allowing councils to mitigate the business rates rises if they so choose.
All three of the north-east constituencies of Scotland are geographically dominated by farming. Farming in Scotland is the bedrock of the food and drink industry, which turns over £14 billion a year. It accounts for 19% of total manufacturing, and supports 360,000 jobs. As that bedrock, agriculture deserves our support to achieve efficient production and a fair share of the high street price.
In the light of today’s debate, I implore the Minister to highlight the plight of health provision in Gordon and the north-east of Scotland to his counterpart in the Scottish Government. Aberdeen Royal Infirmary serves 600,000 people. We depend on its continued expertise; it is of the utmost importance that it preserves its international reputation as a teaching hospital. In the last few years, it has been at risk of playing second fiddle to the hospitals of Glasgow and Edinburgh.
The people of Gordon would ask us to respect the geography—it is three to four hours’ travel time to the central belt—and to look again at the shortage of doctors and nurses in the north-east. Gordon, like so many other areas, has an ageing population, and I would encourage the Minister to bring the debate out into the open on how we best prepare for demands on our services in the future.
Gordon and the whole north-east makes a huge contribution to the Scottish and UK economies, paying for the services we all depend on. It is not an area of privilege, but an area of hard work, an area of new start-ups and reinvention, and an area of enterprise and employment. Gordon is an outward-looking constituency, a confident area and an area of optimism and growth, ready to embrace opportunities, including Brexit. Through the democratic process, Gordon has fiercely defended its place in the United Kingdom.
I would suggest to Opposition Members that this country needs to talk up its opportunities, talk up its position in the world and be positive about the road that lies before us.
I warmly welcome you back to your place in the House, Madam Deputy Speaker. I also congratulate the hon. Member for Gordon (Colin Clark) on an excellent maiden speech, and welcome him to the House—I am sure he will serve his constituents extremely well.
I welcome the focus, prioritisation and investment in the Queen’s Speech in regard to mental health—parity of esteem must be achieved. I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests and to my background in psychology.
In Scotland, we have a mental health Minister. We also have continued prioritisation and someone who will lead that forward. I am extremely happy to be named the mental health spokesperson for the SNP in this House, where we are also prioritising the issue of mental health.
A number of decades ago, in the 1990s—unfortunately, that shows my age—I started as a young psychologist in the NHS. At that time, patients could wait for up to a year to receive treatment, which was absolutely ineffectual. They came with their problems, one year after those problems had started, but their problems had often changed or multiplied. So I welcome the fact that we have been trying across the United Kingdom to establish waiting times. That is an important step forward for all.
Time is crucial in the delivery of services. It is extremely important that additional funding goes to those on the frontline—to clinicians. Most reviews since the 1990s that I sat on as a clinician sought to increase the number of management staff in our NHS, but it is extremely important that funding goes to the frontline and to the key professionals who will deliver the services—in relation to mental health, that has to be mental health practitioners. I would welcome some words from the Secretary of State about ensuring that staff on the frontline are prioritised when funding is produced.
The training of staff is also crucial. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford) spoke about the impact of Brexit, and we cannot take that lightly. It is extremely important that we have workforce planning. In recent weeks, I have been contacted by concerned psychologists.
Does my hon. Friend recognise the impact that Brexit will have on staffing? We have a 95% fall in EU nurses registering to come here, and up to 60% of doctors in a General Medical Council survey said they would go back. That would obviously threaten staffing in the north-east—an issue the hon. Member for Gordon (Colin Clark) raised.
As always, my hon. Friend makes an excellent point, which goes to the crux of this. With Brexit looming, we must ensure that our NHS and our social care services continue to be adequately resourced and staffed. Those are crucial issues, which I would certainly wish to be taken forward.
In recent weeks, I have been contacted by a concerned psychologist stating particular worries regarding funding for their profession. If we are going to place mental health as a priority at the core of what we do, then surely we have to ensure that funding for the placements of clinical psychologists continues. I would very much welcome comment and reassurance from the Secretary of State in that regard.
On services for people who have autistic spectrum disorder, very many constituents with families come to see me who are concerned that their children may merit a diagnosis of autism but still continue to find that the situation can be difficult. I am sure, given the background reading that I have done, that it is the same right across the United Kingdom. Diagnosis as early as possible is absolutely crucial to ensure access to services so that children can meet their full potential. What level of funding will be made available, and will any be ring-fenced for diagnosis, particularly for those with specific needs such as autistic spectrum disorder?
In child and adolescent mental health services, there is a real issue of demand at the current time. Prevention is absolutely key, as is early detection. That means that teachers will have an important role, alongside parents, and they must have a point of contact in primary care that they can reach in order to ensure that treatment and support can be taken forward. There is concern from professional bodies in relation to in-patient beds being made available within the locale. I have recently been reading reports saying that one patient from Somerset—a child—was sent for care in the highlands, 587 miles away. Use of out-of-area in-patient beds has apparently risen by 40% from 2014-15 to 2016-17. That really must be addressed. The knock-on effect of slashing mental health beds may be that the A&E bed figure lists are down, but we need particular investment in mental health beds and ring-fencing of money for mental health beds and services.
The very important aspect that we sometimes forget is mental health support for carers. Carers often feel at the very forefront of a crisis when that crisis happens. We must look at services and funding to protect carers to ensure that they have access to the support that they need at their greatest time of crisis.
Public sector pay has been discussed widely across the House today, and obviously pay recommendations must be reviewed. Many nurses and allied health professionals have been receiving a pay level which, given inflation, has meant that they have been, in effect, receiving a pay cut. This has to be taken forward positively. We cannot just rely on our crucial health services at the time of need; we must also walk the walk by ensuring that we pay them effectively and fairly, and give them the justice that they deserve.
It is delightful to see you back in your rightful place, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is also a delight to follow the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron), because I too want to talk about mental health services, particularly those for children.
It is sadly the case that many young people have very troubled existences in school, and it sometimes takes quite a long while to get a diagnosis that they are suffering from mental health problems. I am sure that over the years all colleagues will have seen desperate parents coming into their surgeries to raise this issue. As a parent myself, I can honestly say that there is nothing more desperate than feeling that one’s child is friendless, singled out, left out, and somehow missing out on what should be one of the happy periods of their lives.
I suggest to the Secretary of State that as we go forward with child mental services we look at how we can seamlessly integrate them with the schooling that children are receiving, or often missing out on as a result of their conditions. Parents who come to visit my surgery tell me that too often there are two silos where they are raising the same issues and problems—the school system and the child mental health services system—and they are having to do so over and over again because there is no transference of knowledge about the individual’s case. Parents have been put in the dreadful situation of being pursued by a school because it thought that the young person was truanting, when in reality they were unable to leave their room because they could not escape the utter mental trauma they were experiencing. It took a huge amount of work to ensure that that young person got some degree of education at home.
The way forward for many of our services is for them to integrate with others. I make the plea that child and adolescent mental health services be better hooked up with educational services. Different groups of professionals should not be prevented from discussing matters with each other, because that makes the situation worse. If a child or young person is experiencing a period of ill health, bad health or a crisis, that information should be seamlessly conveyed to the school. I know that there are all sorts of issues to do with protection of privacy, but if a young person’s opportunities to gain educational qualifications are slipping away and it is impossible for them to be home schooled or receive tutor support at home because of a lack of dialogue, we need to address that. That is why I am pleased about the proposed Green Paper, which will address how families can access information about mental health and treatment for loved ones, and how the Mental Health Act has been implemented on the ground.
We should look at the issue across the board, including the role of pharmacies. Many of us spoke in the debate on that subject in January. There is an argument that pharmacies should be encouraged to do more and not just be paid for the number of prescriptions they dispense. I repeat that we need to bring different services together. Some hon. Members have talked about loneliness and others about dementia. I am absolutely certain that pharmacies can play a part in the seamless transition I have mentioned by providing not only drugs and other forms of care but a listening service. I want pharmacies to do much more and for them to be encouraged to integrate more with other aspects of social and GP-led care in areas such as mine, where the National Pharmacy Association has its headquarters.
The hon. Lady has outlined the importance of pharmacies. Does she agree that money should be set aside for frontline GP services? One way of doing that would be for them to work closer with pharmacies to ensure that they can give an all-inclusive picture when someone visits their GP.
The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. Some people have described the Queen’s Speech as thin, but I think it touches on key points and gives us a chance to flesh things out and submit our views on what should happen. I want pharmacies to provide more support to other services than they do at present.
The West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which provides acute care services in my area, has been struggling for a considerable period, but I pay tribute to it, because it is now turning around some of its problems. I visited it recently and I am pleased to say that it now has a complete hold on hospital-acquired infections and has refurbished and upgraded some wards. The Herts Valleys clinical commissioning group has also launched a new community perinatal mental health team, which is starting to work with families. I believe that visionary approaches can be taken, using current resources, to ensure that we get the most out of our national health services.
It is a shame that this place focuses on the negative. I was frankly shocked to hear the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford)—this is how I understand what she said, but she can correct me if I am wrong—seem to support the claim by the shadow Chancellor, the right hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), that families and individuals had been “murdered” by political decisions over recent decades. That was an atrocious comment for him to make in public at Glastonbury.
I will give way in a moment, because I am sure the hon. Lady wants to respond. In these difficult times, it is deeply irresponsible to whip up resentment in political groups—the shadow Chancellor said that this had happened over decades—when we do not have the results. Building Research Establishment in my constituency is doing the panel testing, and we should have a period of reflective calm. There are still unidentified remains in that building, and it is deeply irresponsible to pass judgment on what caused the fire. I do not think it should ever be acceptable to suggest murder without any evidence—it is a very harsh thing to accuse people of.
If the hon. Lady had paid any attention, she would recognise that I did not use that term, and I talked about Governments. The fire in Irvine in 1999— 18 years ago—identified the issues with cladding and sprinklers. That is many Governments ago and a long time in which this place has not taken sufficient action on tower blocks.
In this period of deep distress and anguish, when many things remain to be found out and many lessons to be learned, it behoves us all not to use this as a political football. I hope that in future we will stop doing so.
I am delighted that the Queen’s Speech has a real focus on mental health, but I make a particular plea to the Secretary of State to work with education services and child and adolescent mental health services to ensure that young people do not end up, during troubled periods in their lives, missing opportunities to gain the qualifications and make the friendships and relationships they need. It is a tragedy that young people feel so isolated. When they reach adulthood, the continuity of services drops off a cliff, with no pick-up from adult mental health services. We should take seriously the need for a seamless transition to wellness for young people, and I am pleased that the Government have decided to spearhead that campaign.
I congratulate you on your election today, Madam Deputy Speaker.
The Queen’s Speech set out no strategy and no answers to solve the crisis of both staffing and funding in the health service. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, when the Conservatives were in power for so long, we saw a massive crisis, and that has been repeated under the Conservative Governments of the last seven years. There is not enough funding and not enough staff. The Government have done nothing to solve the crisis, but it needs funding.
Take trolley waits, for example. A recent Library paper says that in 2012-13 there were 152,754 trolley waits, and in 2016-17 there were 563,901. That is a disgrace, and it shows that the NHS needs to be funded properly. We have talked about the GP crisis, and the Library paper says that the estimate for this year is that the number of GPs will fall—although the number is now calculated differently. In my constituency and others, people cannot get to see a GP when they want to, and there is a real crisis in GP practices.
NHS deficits are still a problem and are estimated to be at least £7 billion. Some commentators claim that not even that figure is high enough to be correct. More than 100 NHS trusts have a deficit—when I last spoke to the chief executive of Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the deficit was about £5 million. We know the stress and worry the staff face because they do not have the resources they need.
Clinical commissioning groups have not been mentioned much, but the Government fragmented the health service through the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and it is not clear where to go for a decision or to get something done. I have regular meetings with my clinical commissioning group, and it has a serious funding problem, as do many CCGs. What will the Government do about that? I also ask the Secretary of State, who is in his place, why Halton CCG is mainly working in collaboration with Warrington CCG and not with the other CCGs in the local health economy, as it should. I have already raised that problem with the CCG, but it has not done anything about it. I hope that the Secretary of State will look into that.
The Care Quality Commission said clearly last year that social care was at a tipping point. The delays have been discussed many times in the House, and the Secretary of State knows that I have raised them. The Library paper states that delayed transfers were 24.5% higher in 2016-17 than in 2015-16, and 64% higher than in 2011-12. This is a real problem. The Government, despite talking about a Green Paper, have still not come forward with a strategy. There needs to be proper funding for local councils—my council has had £57 million cut from its budget—and proper funding for the NHS and the health economies of each area.
Education is the other big issue that is raised with me. Again, the Government have not set out a strategy, and the Queen’s Speech does not address it in the way it should be addressed. There are cuts taking place. I have been talking to headteachers in my constituency and they are making cuts as we speak, particularly in teaching assistants, but some are talking about cutting teachers as well. This mess is best summed up by reading an extract of a letter from a headteacher in my constituency:
“At my school, we manage the budget prudently and we have rising numbers so have received similar funding for 17/18 as for 16/17. In fact there has been a small increase of just over £1,000. Despite this, without any planned increase in spending on teachers or resources, I am unable to balance the budget. The increased costs for areas such as Employers NI, pension contributions, apprenticeship levy, salaries and utilities has meant that I don’t have the capacity”—
I stress this—
“to set a balanced budget without making reductions and using our carry forward. For 2018/19 the school will almost certainly need to undertake a re-structuring programme to reduce staffing costs. This will inevitably impact on the teaching and learning, at a time when we have increasing pupil numbers.”
I talk to teachers and headteachers on a regular basis and I know the stress they are under. It is not just an issue of better pay—although, of course, they would like more pay—but one of workload, which is a key factor in the problems and stress they face. I want to put on the record my praise for teachers and their work. The Government’s proposed new funding formula will see huge cuts in all but one secondary school in my constituency. That will not address the problem; it will make it worse. The new funding formula is not up to scratch.
Finally on education, further education colleges have been cut and cut over the years. We talk about apprenticeships and the need to ensure that we have the skills to improve productivity. We need to ensure that our further education colleges, which can deliver them, have the funding they need to do so. We cannot achieve an improvement in productivity and skills without that.
In the few seconds I have remaining, I want to talk about defence and security. We have heard about police numbers. My constituents tell me that they want more police in their community and on the streets. We have specialist security, police and intelligence teams, but my constituents want more police officers on the street.
The Government have cut and cut the armed forces. We now have our smallest Army since the Napoleonic wars. At a time when there is so much stress in the world and so many challenges, that is appalling. The Government should increase the amount of money available for our security and armed forces.
It is good to see you back in your place, Madam Deputy Speaker.
We have been treated to a range of excellent maiden speeches from my hon. Friends the Members for Gordon (Colin Clark) and for Hitchin and Harpenden (Bim Afolami), and the hon. Member for Stockton South (Dr Williams). They obviously have the measure of this place already, because not one of them is left in the Chamber, but in his absence, I reassure the hon. Member for Stockton South that we can never have too many doctors in the House.
I welcome the commitment in the Queen’s Speech to improving social care, and I welcome the plans for a consultation. All of us who have gone through the general election process—certainly on the Government Benches—will be aware of the importance of this issue. We may even recall the 2015 manifesto commitment, on which we stood, to implement something that looked a little bit like Dilnot. Most of us at the time thought that was a jolly good idea.
Our public services are all about pooled risk. That is what the NHS and our social services are all about—in everything, it seems, except for dementia and other chronic and long-term conditions that require ongoing care. For most of us, they will not actually be that expensive. Mercifully, for most of us dementia care will not be expensive. It is a condition that affects us right at the very end of our life and very few of us will require institutional care. For a few of us, however, it will be expensive. For those people and their families it will be a matter of huge importance, as many of us, particularly those of us on the Government Benches, found out a few weeks ago to our great cost. It seems reasonable that we should indeed have a Dilnot-style cap on our liability for these extraordinary costs that affect a few of us—a number of our families. It is surely right that we should do so, and I have no doubt that that will come out loud and clear in the consultation.
I very much welcome the commitment to mental health in the Queen’s Speech. I am particularly interested in mental health so far as it relates to the criminal justice system. It is welcome that we should be revising the Mental Health Act 1983. It has been a good piece of legislation and has served us well, but it is due for revision and updating. Some 10% of women and 30% of men in the criminal justice system have had some involvement with mental health services, or had to access acute mental health services prior to their incarceration. Ninety per cent. of people in the criminal justice system have some form of mental health problem. That is a huge indictment not, I would suggest, of the service, but of all of us. It is absolutely right that in our general attempt to reduce the rate of incarceration in this country, which is far too high, we focus particularly on the people in the prison system who have serious and significant mental health problems.
I very much welcome the focus on general practice articulated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and his Ministers. The service, it has to be said, is under pressure. It is certainly running hot, and my worry about the medical workforce—GPs, hospital doctors and nurses, and everybody who works in our NHS—is that we risk allowing the well of good will not just to get low but to run completely dry.
It is absolutely right that we should now look at removing the cap on pay for public sector workers, and that we should think in particular about those working in our health services. These people give far more back to the service than we give to them, in terms of the package, and those of us who go into medicine, healthcare or social care understand that. We do it because we want to give something back. We are altruists, but that only goes so far. When we have to support our families, pay the mortgage and deal with everything that bears down on people in their working lives, it is pretty rotten to see salaries increasing, rightly, in the general economy but not in the public service. It is absolutely understandable that the Government, as a big employer, should seek to contain cost. As an evangelist for reducing our deficit, I will support that, but there comes a point—I welcome the Government’s indication that it is rapidly approaching—when we have to look at pay settlement for those who work so well for us in the public sector.
I am absolutely obsessed by outcomes in healthcare; the Secretary of State will know that, because we have discussed it. Healthcare outcomes in this country languish behind those of countries with which we can reasonably be compared, and I do not mean the OECD average. I mean countries such as France, Germany and Holland. On Britain’s disappointing position in the league tables, we must do more to improve on things such as bowel cancer and cervical cancer, on which we are overtaking France and Germany respectively. We need to do that right across the board. I am left with the conclusion that because money, inputs and outcomes are causally related, we have to get the funding right.
I hope very much that the Government will consider again the proposal put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) and my right hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Sir Hugo Swire) that we should achieve consensus through a cross-party commission on this issue, so that we can discuss, in the NHS’s 70th anniversary year, how to get sustainable funding for our NHS and make sure that this great national institution is fit for the next 70 years.
Order. It will be obvious to the House that a great many people still wish to speak. I have to warn the House that after the next few speakers, I will have to reduce the time limit on speeches to four minutes. I so appreciate the good wishes that everybody has given me on my re-election this afternoon, but I realise that I will not get any more now. That is fair enough; we will try to get everybody in. Still with six minutes, I call Gill Furniss.
Thank you for calling me, Madam Deputy Speaker, and congratulations on being back in the Chair.
During the election campaign, I spoke to many doctors, nurses and other NHS professionals in my constituency, as well as service users, and listened to what they said about the state of our NHS and social care. At each and every meeting, I listened to people, many of whom felt demoralised by the state of the profession after seven years of this Tory Government. From longer waiting times to missed A&E targets to the cancelling of operations to record numbers of nurses leaving the profession, the NHS has suffered greatly since 2010.
The anger and frustration felt during the election campaign were reflected in the result: a vote that reduced the number of Conservative Members and wiped out the majority of the Government. The public have simply rejected the Tories’ austerity agenda. I hope I shall be forgiven for being hopeful—like many others—that that would be reflected in the Queen’s Speech, which, instead, reflected a continued total disconnect between the Prime Minister and Government and the wider public.
The Queen’s Speech failed to begin to tackle the issue of chronic underfunding in our NHS. Among the top 10 economies in the EU, the UK spends the smallest proportion of its GDP on health: 9.8%, compared to a 10.4% average. If the UK only half-matched the EU average, there could be 35,000 extra hospital beds and 10,000 more GPs, and the cuts in public health budgets could be reversed.
After the election, the Prime Minister and her Ministers appeared to be listening to the electorate when they were reported to have said that austerity was over. Sadly, that was just Tory rhetoric, and far from the reality. Only this week, secret cost-cutting plans drawn up by the Tories were leaked, suggesting shocking details that could pose further danger to our NHS. Reports suggest that NHS managers are being told to “make difficult choices” to curb overspending in a drive to cut costs. Full details of those plans have not been announced; in fact, I do not believe that the Secretary of State had any intention of announcing them before the leaks occurred. Instead, they are being worked out secretly behind closed doors. They could lead to even longer waiting times, rationing of care, job losses, and ward closures in hospitals. I am deeply concerned about what that could mean for my constituents, and I ask the Government to disclose the plans fully for the purpose of public scrutiny. The NHS belongs to the public, and should therefore be accountable both to Members of Parliament and to the public at large.
As for pay, while workloads have increased, nurses have been handed a 1% pay cap for seven years in a row. That does not even cover the rise in inflation. During the election campaign, the PM said that nurses went to food banks “for a variety of reasons”. I suggest that the only reason is that the Government have made them £3,000 worse off since 2010, while continuing to give tax breaks to the richest.
We know that their current conditions are causing more staff to leave the NHS out of desperation. Many of those vacancies are left unfilled. According to the Royal College of Nursing, there are 40,000 registered nurse vacancies in England, and an average vacancy rate of 11.1%. The rate has doubled in the past three years, and we are seeing the effects in NHS hospitals up and down the country. Furthermore, the Government’s shambolic approach to Brexit has created a feeling of uncertainty among EU nationals. No wonder the number of applications from EU nurses to work in the UK has plummeted by 96% since last year.
Nurses and doctors are not crying wolf when they warn us about the health and safety issues that are arising from the lack of proper staffing levels. Has the Secretary of State made any assessment of the impact of the drop in applications on the NHS, and, if so, what action does he propose to take to ensure that it does not affect the health and safety of patients?
The proposal in the Queen’s Speech for an immigration Bill provides no details to reassure those EU citizens currently living in the UK. Labour has been calling for all their rights to be guaranteed since the referendum was decided. I concede that the Prime Minister has finally made an offer for EU citizens, but it is a half-hearted one at best, containing little clarity.
I welcome any suggestion that would help and support the NHS, and I therefore welcome the Government’s commitment to reforming mental health legislation to give it greater priority. However, last Wednesday the Prime Minister gave no assurances that no mental health trust would see its budget cut this year, as 40% of them did last year. If the Government want to be taken seriously, they must back their rhetoric with the financial support that is needed. They have not done this. It is clear that the Prime Minister will find the money to cling to power, but not to secure mental health spending.
Finally, the debacle over the dementia tax revealed that this Government will gladly force the most vulnerable, particularly those suffering from long-term debilitating diseases such as dementia, to cover their own social care bill entirely. Surely we need to merge health and social care to get the best results, but we must pool the risk and not let the most vulnerable fend for themselves in old age.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. How very nice it is to see you back in your rightful place.
I am honoured to stand before the House as the newly elected Member for Brentwood and Ongar, that most beautiful constituency in the most beautiful county of Essex in this, our most beautiful country. At the heart of our community is the Brentwood-Shenfield-Hutton conurbation, a very hive of Thatcherite prosperity. We have the UK headquarters of Ford, a major BT office, many hundreds of people who work hard in the square mile to feed and fuel the City, and a large number of small, medium and large enterprises built by the sweat of local people. We have high employment and high home ownership. We have good schools. I would not say that our mission should be to make the rest of the country more like Brentwood and Ongar, but there are certainly parts of the country that could benefit from being more like it.
Brentwood is surrounded by the numinous beauty of the much-neglected Essex countryside, which contains many wonderful rural villages. I think just of one: Greensted by Ongar. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book, when it had 44 families and 520 pigs, which makes it slightly larger than it is today. It also has a small wooden church, which is unremarkable but for its beauty and its age, both of which are very great. You see, it is the oldest wooden church to be found anywhere in the world. It was built in the mid-9th century, and it is a somewhat stirring thought that some of those families mentioned in the Domesday Book might have shared the space that we can occupy today.
Such things matter to me not because I am a sentimental old fool—although I am—but because I was for a long time a student and a teacher of medieval history. One of my friends was kind enough to suggest that that was the perfect training for becoming a Conservative MP, and in that they may have been right, but perhaps not in the way they intended. I see a great many resonances between that period and our own. Let us take the peasants’ revolt of 1381, which started on the high street in Brentwood. It was a rebellion against vexatious taxation levied by a distant, overbearing Government. I warn the House that my constituents’ attitude to taxation has changed very little in the intervening 636 years.
I think also of the writings of the Venerable Bede, who said that in the mid-7th century, the East Saxons formed a great friendship with that great man of the north, King Oswiu. In our own time, the people of my constituency formed a great friendship with another great man of the north: Sir Eric Pickles. For 25 years, he was a great servant of his constituency, his party and his country. He was much loved, and he will be much missed. Sir Eric and I are alike in some ways. He and I are both great defenders of a property-owning democracy. But we are not alike in all ways. He is a great man and a great Yorkshireman, to boot, whereas I am a mere novice and a man of Wessex.
I was born in Dorset, the son of two state school teachers who taught me everything I needed to know about the importance of hard work, of family, of education and of home. While those are all things that are important to my constituents today, I suspect that they were important to the people of my area in the mid-14th century and, who knows, maybe in the mid-7th century. I would not go so far as to say that they are everything, but we are nothing without them. That view has been reinforced in me through my work with the Centre for Social Justice, which was founded by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith), and by my work in the Department for Education on the Munro review of child protection, which was established under the aegis of my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton).
Wherever in our country we find an absence of work, wherever we find families who have been broken by poor mental health, addiction or domestic abuse, wherever we find children failing in schools or families struggling with home life, we find the social problems that are so knotty. They are the challenges of our time, and the best of way tackling poverty and those problems is by tackling the root causes. We have a good record of that in government: we have record employment; we have 1.8 million more children in good and outstanding schools; we have a troubled families programme that helps 400,000 families with complex problems to get back on their feet; and we have a huge programme of house building. But there will always be more to do in this area. This House will face many challenges in this Parliament—historic challenges. To quote a former Prime Minister, we will
“feel the hand of history upon our shoulders.”
Who knows—but we may at times find its hand on other bits of our anatomy. The challenge of social justice is something that will continue throughout this Parliament and beyond, and I am here to try to do my part and to serve my constituents.
Madam Deputy Speaker, thank you for choosing me to make my maiden speech in this debate, which is of such crucial importance to our nation’s future. It is a pleasure to follow the entertaining speech of the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Alex Burghart). It is a particular honour for me to have the privilege of representing Edinburgh West 20 years after the late Donald Gorrie first won the seat for the Liberal Democrats. He was a great servant to the area, first as a councillor, then an MP, and then an MSP. He was succeeded by John Barrett and then Mike Crockart, who was replaced two years ago by my immediate predecessor, Michelle Thomson. I am sure that her powerful, moving speech on International Women’s Day, in which she revealed her own teenage trauma, was an inspiration to many.
Now it is my privilege to serve the communities of Edinburgh West. I know that each of us is confident of our constituency’s uniqueness, but few sights can compare with the majesty of our three bridges across the Forth. Whether arriving in Edinburgh West by land, rail or air, those three bridges seem somehow to encapsulate the essence and history of British engineering and its success. From the stark red girders of the 19th century Forth bridge, now a world heritage site, to the distinctive 1960s architecture of the road bridge, to the striking 21st-century sleekness of the soon-to-be-completed—we are promised—Queensferry crossing, all were created along the route of Queen Margaret’s 11th-century crossing, from which the community in their shadow takes its name: South Queensferry. It is just one of our many socially and culturally diverse communities, which include, in the west, Newbridge, Ratho, Ratho Station, and Kirkliston. Then there is Branton, Cramond, Muirhouse, Davidson’s Mains, Blackhall, Drumbrae, Drylaw, Corstorphine, and Murrayfield, whose stadium is of course home to Scottish rugby union, where we look forward to greeting the other nations of the United Kingdom—often with trepidation.
However, Edinburgh West is also home to one of Scotland’s most celebrated couples: Tian Tian and Yang Guang, the UK’s only giant pandas. Some Conservative Members may be relieved that, since the general election, they are no longer outnumbered in Scotland by the pandas. I reassure them that I sympathise; they are not alone.
The constituency is also a key driver of the region’s economy, which is dependent on European trade and European citizens who work in the health service and other sectors and who now find that they are under threat from Brexit. Edinburgh airport—a key link between Scotland and the international market—the royal highland show, which is crucial to agriculture, the RBS headquarters and a new bottling plant for one of the world’s leading drink companies all represent an economy now tensely awaiting the outcome of the next two years of negotiations.
Although we are an area that benefits from being home to many such companies, our communities are not without their challenges. They are challenges that are common to many across the UK: pressure on public services, rising household debt and overstretched health and welfare services. There are also local issues, such as the controversial proposed new flightpath into Edinburgh airport, the threat to our green belt, and the pollution along St John’s Road.
I intend to dedicate my time here to working with groups that take on those challenges, such as the award-winning Tenants and Residents in Muirhouse, the Corstorphine community, which is currently working to rebuild its historic public hall, and many others who campaign tirelessly to improve the lives and welfare of their neighbours. I promise to be their voice on the issues that affect their lives, their livelihoods and their health. I will work on their behalf for the open, tolerant society I believe in and that offers opportunity for all and protects our human rights. And I will remain true to the promise I made on the doorsteps of Edinburgh West last month, to stand up for the constituents’ view, as clearly expressed in two referendums and the recent general election, that although their overwhelming preference is to remain at the heart of the EU, they will have no truck with independence, and are determined that that will be as part of this United Kingdom.
It is good to see you back in the Chair, Mr Deputy Speaker.
I start my four minutes by paying tribute to the amazing maiden speeches we have heard this afternoon from my hon. Friends the Members for Hitchin and Harpenden (Bim Afolami), for Gordon (Colin Clark) and for Brentwood and Ongar (Alex Burghart), and the hon. Member for Stockton South (Dr Williams). It is great to follow the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine).
I will focus my short time on social care and the pay cap. I will not go over the same ground as my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston), because she echoed everything I wanted to say. My message to Ministers is that the consultation is much welcome, because we cannot kid ourselves. The current social care system is not working. I echo that we need to move health and social care together by commissioning them together, paying for them together and delivering them together. Until we do, we are just rearranging the deckchairs on a sinking ship.
My plea to Ministers is that the consultation is not just about how we fund social care, because we will be missing a trick if we just do that. We need to consider the structure of social care and the population we aim to serve. When the system was set up many, many years ago, with the NHS looking after healthcare and local authorities looking after social care, the population we were caring for was very different. We now look after a much older population who have many comorbidities who need multiple services. We are now looking after patients who are living with diseases that people used to die from; those patients often die from something else completely. It is a different population, and we need to structure the service around their needs and what works best for them.
I declare an interest in the pay cap. Having worked as a nurse from 2010 to 2015 under the pay cap, I know exactly how difficult it is and how challenging the finances are. Most nurses I know work in their hospital bank to supplement their wages. Let us look at the issue seriously. On the whole, nurses were initially very understanding of the pay freeze, but we are now seven years into this, with no end date in sight. We need to support nurses and all healthcare professionals in this situation because, unless we do, the £3.7 billion that we currently spend on agency fees will only increase as people vote with their feet. Nurses make life-and-death decisions on every shift. It cannot be right that they are paid, on average, £34,000—the Royal College of Nursing disputes that figure, saying that the real figure is £26,000 a year, as most nurses are paid, on average, in bands 5 to 6—yet hospital managers, who make important but not life-threatening decisions, are paid on average £45,000 a year and senior managers are paid £75,000 a year. We need to look at the pay structure for nurses, as well as the pay freeze.
I have a final point to make. When the Labour Government were in control they had a great opportunity in 2004 to deal with that situation under Agenda for Change, but they wasted that opportunity. They wanted to reduce the wage bill by £1.3 billion and they downgraded nurses from the General Whitley Council to the Agenda for Change banding structure, with many nurses losing pay and grades as a result. Let us not pretend that when the Labour Government were in charge they did any better.
I wholeheartedly support the vibrant campaigns to save our precious NHS and social care that are going on around the country, not least in South Tyneside. These are some of the noblest causes our country has. These things are under threat from austerity, and I want to raise a few issues today.
First, it is disgraceful that on the 69th anniversary of the NHS we are talking about the possible downgrading and closure of my local hospital in South Tyneside, but that is exactly what is happening. Next week, a bogus consultation exercise will start—it is one that we know only too well from our experience in the area. In Jarrow, we had an NHS walk-in centre used by 26,000 people a year, but it closed following the very same Mickey Mouse consultation exercise. The same is now going to happen to South Tyneside hospital. This week, there was a crowded meeting in the Jarrow Alberta club, which was organised by the Save South Tyneside Hospital group, who are demanding that the hospital stays open. There is only one reason why the hospital is under threat—Tory Government cuts.
Secondly, we are experiencing a national crisis on social care—it is a crisis caused in Downing Street and a crisis that can be solved in Downing Street. One word explains why our elderly and vulnerable are left unwashed, unfed, neglected and frightened; once again, it comes down to cuts—Tory Government cuts. Local councils have seen their grants cut by up to 50%. As the leader of South Tyneside Council, Iain Malcolm, has said,
“Adult social care is at a tipping point”.
Thirdly, let me deal with the issue facing cystic fibrosis sufferers. More than 10,000 people suffer from that life-threatening condition, half of whom will die before their reach the age of 30. The drug Orkambi has the potential to change that, and it is available through health services around Europe. It is recognised in this country by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, but it is not recognised by this Government, because, once again, of cuts, cuts, cuts.
I know people are going to be saying, “Where do we get the money from?” I will tell them where we can get it from. We can get it from the same magic Tory Government money tree that can give the Democratic Unionist party a £1 billion bung to save their necks in office. We can find it from the same magic Tory Government money tree that gave the top 1% of richest people in this country tax cuts. We can get it from the same magic Tory Government money tree that gave the richest 2% of estates in this country a tax cut. And we can get it from the same Tory Government magic money tree that gave the top 5% of richest corporations in this country tax cuts. That is where we will get the money from. I look forward to voting against this Queen’s Speech tonight and voting for a Queen’s Speech that will bring fairness to this country.
It is good to see you again in your place, Mr Deputy Speaker. The new Parliament gives us an opportunity to renew a commitment to address the significant challenges Great Britain faces. Following the general election, the majority of people I meet want us to work together to address these challenges in the interests of everyone. That is certainly the case as regards health and social care. People expect, want and deserve our commitment to work together to ensure that they get the care, respect and compassion they deserve.
This is an immense subject, and there will be many more opportunities to debate how healthcare, the NHS and social care are supported to meet the increasing demand. For now, I wish to refer to just a few areas using the experience in west Cornwall and Scilly in my constituency of St Ives. It is imperative that we increase efforts to integrate services. In Cornwall and on Scilly, GPs and healthcare workers have drawn up impressive locality plans that bring together services, which promise to improve patient care and to make better use of resources so that more people can be treated. However, progress is slow, as these efforts are frustrated by processes and external managers.
I have raised in this House before the Edward Hain community hospital, which was closed due to fire safety concerns in February 2016. Despite considerable local will and determination, the community beds remain closed even though hundreds of patients have been resident in urgent care hospitals, which is not the best place for them or good for the hospitals concerned. The community hospital remains closed because no one NHS body will take responsibility for reopening the beds.
Let me move further west and slightly overseas. On St. Mary’s on the Isles of Scilly, there is a united effort to integrate health and social care. However, progress is painfully slow. The islands have a community hospital and a council-run care home. Patient care would be even better if those services were brought closer together. There is wide agreement to do that, but islanders became dangerously close to losing their care home because of a lack of progress towards that integration and shared service provision.
There is an urgent need to integrate services so that patient care and use of resources are further improved. There is also a need to train, support and pay adequately our care and support workers. That will reduce the pressure on urgent care as we will be able to improve care in the community.
Cornwall council, our local authority, received an extra £12 million from the Treasury in April, yet three months on, the council has not made it clear how it intends to use those additional funds. It is vital that the council gets on and addresses that issue.
It is also important that, during this Parliament, considerably more is done to remove the pressure on health and care services. Prevention, improved education and understanding expectations are key to that. Healthcare specialists, GPs and consultants have made it clear to me that much more must be done to provide education for us all so that we are empowered to look after our own health and well-being long before we present to an NHS provider for treatment. That is true for diabetes, which is a condition that has such an impact on people’s lives. Better education, better use of community pharmacy and specialist health professionals and advancement in technology offer a brighter future for people with this condition and I urge the Government not to lose sight of their ambition to deliver these measures for those who suffer from diabetes.
In my constituency, I have found that people are unclear about where to turn for diagnosis and treatment. As a result, they present to urgent care centres when another service may be more appropriate. A great service could be delivered and considerable pressure on urgent care reduced if we can give, during this Parliament, greater clarity on who people should turn to when they are in need of care.
It is a pleasure, Mr Deputy Speaker, to see you back in your place. All is well with the world when you are back in the Chair.
May I begin by congratulating new Members from across the House on their maiden speeches, particularly our new friends from different political parties who are representing constituencies in Scotland?
My remarks will primarily focus on defence and international security. I am sure that I am not the only Member of this House who was dismayed by the fact that defence got so little attention during the election campaign, which explains why defence has been given such a poor showing in the Queen’s Speech, adumbrated by the fact that not a single Defence Minister has appeared at the Dispatch Box in the past five days.
That said, I should like to start on a note of consensus. I think that we can work with the Government on the Bill on flexible working for the armed forces. There is much to be welcomed in the fact that the Government are now looking at that seriously, as it is a model that works elsewhere in the world. Our manifesto committed to making the case for having an armed forces representative body on a statutory footing—something that is the norm in countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark. Our serving personnel should be properly represented within the military, and with defence policy decision makers. We look forward to making that case here in Parliament.
I should also like to express our continued frustration at the lack of a national shipbuilding strategy. In the previous Parliament, the Government continued to move the goalposts and avoided being up front with the country on what was happening here. Despite continual attempts by hon. Members on both sides of the House, the Government continued to duck and dive. Well, the time for ducking and diving on the national shipbuilding strategy is over. If it is not written, get it written. If it is written, the Government need to get it published.
More fundamental was the grave omission from the Queen’s Speech of a new strategic defence and security review. The previous SDSR was based on the premise that Britain would still be a member of the European Union. Given that it has not taken Brexit into account, its risk analysis, and ultimately its conclusions, surely require updating with some considerable urgency.
We will also hold the Government to account on their actions abroad. On Monday the Defence Secretary gave a very helpful briefing on the current situation in Syria, which I thank him for, but we remain concerned about the deconfliction lines between Russia and the coalition forces. We would also like to hear a bit more about what the Government are doing to tackle the poison of Daesh online.
There is something more profound that we would like to see change, and that is the defence posture of the United Kingdom Government. We would like to see not only a shift away from the militaristic projection around the world that relies on Trident, but a shift towards defending our own waters and those in the Icelandic gap and the high north. This is a massive dereliction of duty on the Government’s part in keeping their citizens safe, and it is also a dereliction of what we owe our allies. It was the former United States General and NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, Philip Breedlove, who described the north Atlantic as NATO’s lifeblood and the transatlantic link. So I plead with the Government to please face up to their responsibilities in the high north.
I do not have time to cover everything, but however long we are here for, I will be sure to get round to it.
All of us must listen and learn, and one lesson I take from the recent election is that we on the Government Benches must explain our values to a new generation and explain why our approach gives people opportunities and a chance to make the most of their lives, and funds the public services we care about. We must get on with the job we have been asked to do, see through a good Brexit, heal divisions in our society, sort out housing, set out how we will fund public services sustainably, and tackle the sense people have of being overlooked too often by those in authority.
In this Queen’s Speech, the patient safety Bill, creating an independent body to investigate patient safety, should help achieve exactly that for the NHS. It should give people a safe space to speak up, driving a stronger culture of listening and learning—applying lessons from the airline industry—so that patients are less likely to suffer the consequences of mistakes.
The commitments on mental health, along with the £1.4 billion of extra funding for children and young people’s mental health announced in the last Budget, address one of the great concerns across society, particularly among young people. I particularly welcome the introduction of mental health first aid training for teachers, so that more children get mental health help at school.
Providing social care as more people—thankfully—live longer is one of the great challenges we face as a country, and one that, I am afraid, Labour shirked in this election. We committed an extra £2 billion in our last Budget, but we know that is not enough for the longer term, and it is time to have the conversation about the contract between generations—about whether younger people, struggling right now to afford a home, to buy or even to rent, who are likely to work for more years than their parents, should really be the ones to pay for older people’s care.
I was surprised to hear the hon. Lady mention the references to social care in the general election campaign. Does she support what the Conservatives put forward, and the abandonment of the cap on care costs that they had previously committed to implementing?
I hope that we will consult on a cap, but I welcome the fact that we took the issue head on and came up with a plan that would fund and improve social care to address exactly the point that I am referring to. We need to make sure that it is not the younger generation—people of working age—who fund much of the bill for social care.
As with social care, we face growing costs for the NHS, and the Government have put more money where it is needed—an extra £8 billion more annually by 2022 compared with this year. We can do that because we have a strong economy—3 million more jobs since 2010; rising wages; and unemployment at its lowest for over 40 years. That economic growth changes lives for the better, and it pays for public services.
While I differ from the official position of the Democratic Unionist party on issues of equality and women’s rights, I thank DUP colleagues for their support and responsible approach in helping us to make sure that we have a Government. That is in contrast to the Opposition, who made it clear in their manifesto that they would put our economy and British livelihoods at risk. People voted for change in the election, but they did not vote for a socialist revolution. Britain deserves better. We should be an open, optimistic and united country: a great place to do business, with a strong economy that pays for world-class public services, where everyone has the chance of a decent job and a better life and people contribute their fair share because we all have a stake. I urge Members from all parts of the House to come together in the national interest and back the Prime Minister to get on with the job.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker—rightfully returned. I rise in this debate about health and security to speak about how the two things collide. I am pleased to see in the Gracious Speech that there is going to be a domestic violence and abuse Bill. I await the details of what exactly that means and look forward to working with the Government on the real action that is needed. I think I speak for every victim of domestic violence when I say that practical action and resources are what is needed, not more words written on goatskin.
No one will be surprised to hear that domestic violence is damaging to a person’s health. There has always been an argument, and it remains the case, that the Department of Health must do more to join the fight to tackle the issue, which for many years has been the poor relation. The fight has been left to local councils and the Home Office. I hope that tomorrow we will get to vote on real action by the Health Secretary that will really help vulnerable women in the United Kingdom—I am talking about the inequality that exists when it comes to abortions in this country.
I do not needlessly conflate the two issues of domestic abuse and abortion. Creating a world where women control their bodies and their lives is the beginning, middle and end of tackling violence against women. I have met hundreds of women who were kept pregnant as a pattern of their abuse. I remember one case where a young woman was held down by her husband’s brothers while he raped her to get her pregnant, thus ensuring her captivity. I have met victims of human trafficking brought to this country for their ability to bear children and reap the financial benefits for their slave owners. “The Handmaid’s Tale” is not a dystopia to me: I have met women whose wombs kept them captive. I will never forget sitting on the domestic homicide review of Natasha Trevis, a 22-year-old Birmingham mom of three murdered by her partner. During his trial it emerged that he learned of Natasha having an abortion after it was “let slip” by a social worker in the days leading up to the murder and was seen as the key motive. No one can tell me that the desire to control a woman’s reproductive rights by this man was not an act of abuse. She was 22 and on her fourth pregnancy.
The state must never collude with this abuse, let alone perpetrate it. By turning some women away from having abortions in any part of the UK we make a political act to control their bodies. We do not have to be culturally or religiously sensitive to our devolved nations or their persuasions. The Health Secretary has a real chance to help women who travel to this country by offering them safe, free abortions here in England. We would not tolerate other cultural practices such as female genital mutilation, so why do we tolerate this? Today I am here simply to ask for a change in health policy in this country. I want our NHS in England to provide a safe haven to the women of Northern Ireland.
While we are talking about wombs and how some want to tell women what they can and cannot do with theirs, I wanted to give a shout-out to my mate Ruth, a midwife. While the rest of my mates were chatting on WhatsApp last night about “Love Island”—Marcel, totally for the win—she was working a night shift as a midwife. She trained as a nurse first, then as a midwife; she has worked for the NHS for 19 years. For every hour she worked last night, like every night, she was paid £12.09. My baby took two hours to be born. I nearly died in those two hours and so did he, but both of us are here to tell the tale. I think that is worth more than £24.18. It seems that Ministers do not agree.
It is always difficult to follow such a powerful and passionate speech, but I will do so because I feel just as passionately about what I am going to talk about—the draft patient safety Bill, which I truly believe will do a great deal to assist my constituents and all of us who care about patient safety. I hope that it will embed a new culture of learning lessons in the NHS.
I am deeply concerned about how the NHS is often defensive when something goes wrong. It is not always transparent; the medical profession can be very hierarchical. Believe you me, as a former senior civil servant and Government lawyer, I know about hierarchies—not least from when I worked at the Ministry of Defence. The NHS is much worse than many of the organisations for which I have worked. It is right that we should focus on outcomes, not inputs.
Anybody who has ever met me will know that I talk about the Horton general hospital within about a minute of starting a conversation, but there may be a few new Members who have not yet heard that my hospital, in which I was born, is under threat; I reassure them that in Banbury we talk of little else. I am proud to have been re-elected with an increased vote share to continue the fight for all my constituents. Most of my constituents accepted the Conservative message that to have a strong NHS we must have a strong economy. But however they voted, I will continue to fight to save the Horton on behalf of them all.
Last week, I visited the Grange primary school, where I met seven and eight-year-olds. They had grasped the two main issues: we are worried about the safety of poorly babies and about mummies who have to spend up to two hours in the latter stages of labour in their cars going to the John Radcliffe hospital. Those children reminded me of my seven-year-old self: I, too, made a speech in defence of the Horton general hospital in my primary school a few minutes’ drive from where I was last week. It is noticeable that the pupils grasped some of my concerns about patient safety better than some of the members of the clinical commissioning group, whose meeting I also attended last week. The children understood how quickly babies can become high-risk during labour. I have many reasons for losing sleep over the safety of the mothers giving birth in my constituency, and we have significant challenges in the year ahead.
In the minute remaining to me, I shall quickly discuss governance issues. Yesterday, we heard that the chief executive of the CCG would be retiring, as will the clinical lead. I am concerned that the architects of the transformation process will be disappearing halfway through it. I really beg them to stop the consultation process at this point and start again—regroup. Let us listen to patients. We have a problem with recruitment. As I have said before in this place, for want of a nail the shoe was lost. I am concerned that the lack of two obstetricians means that thousands of women in my constituency will be unable to give birth close to home.
In Banbury, Bicester and the villages that I represent, we concentrate on doing the right thing. Our companies adapt to the challenges of Brexit. We are building five times more houses than the national average. We need healthcare that is kind, safe and close to home. The draft patient safety Bill will strengthen our resources to fight for the Horton general hospital, and I really welcome its inclusion in the Gracious Speech.
It is good to see you back in your place, Mr Deputy Speaker. Indeed, it is rather good to be back in mine after everything that has happened.
Those of us who occasionally glance at Twitter while we are listening attentively to speeches in the Chamber may have noticed that the Government appear to have told the media today that they may be relaxing the pay cap that has been strangling public sector workers for many years. The Minister was gracious enough to look at the badges that many of us are wearing, although he has declined to wear one. Given that we have heard no announcement, I do hope that he may be about to let the House know what the policy will be for the millions of public sector workers.
Absolutely. The cap is not only unfair to those workers who are just scraping by; it is becoming a barrier to delivering the first-class care that patients need.
Given the way this is being done, the Government are beginning to look like they are, to quote the now Lord Lamont,
“in office but not in power.”—[Official Report, 9 June 1993; Vol. 226, c. 285.]
Now, I have not been one to lavish unnecessary praise on our Front Benchers over the past two years, but it increasingly looks like the Opposition are driving the agenda in this country on behalf of people who are, frankly, sick of the way in which they have been taken for granted by the Government, and who gave that message strongly at the ballot box. It is so important that the Government put this right. Lord Lamont’s speech back in 1993 could have been made today. Back then, he said:
“There is something wrong with the way in which we make our decisions…there is too much short-termism, too much reacting to events, and not enough shaping of events.”—[Official Report, 9 June 1993; Vol. 226, c. 284-285.]
That is exactly what is happening now. The Government have lost their authority and are drifting. There are some welcome consequences—for example, the hateful message, “Bring back foxhunting”, is absent from the Queen’s Speech, and grammar schools have gone by the wayside—but this is no way to run a country.
My constituents want to know the future of the NHS sustainability and transformation plans. In my area, Lancashire and South Cumbria has more than £300 million of cuts on the table. If those cuts were applied proportionately to Furness general hospital in my constituency, we could lose our prized A&E and our hard-fought-for maternity unit. These cuts are not sustainable and are not in the long-term interests of the country. We need a Government who will take a grip for the long term and not be buffeted from pillar to post by events.
I end on an issue on which I hope there is consensus between Members on both sides of the House: the domestic violence and abuse Bill. It is really good that this has been brought forward, but it is concerning that, after the Government talked this measure up, it will now appear in draft form. If that means that the Government will take the time to get it right and bring forward the strongest Bill possible, that is all well and good, but when the Government’s majority is propped up by another party that does not share the culture and world view of many of the Conservative Members whose views I respect on issues such as women’s rights, which the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately) mentioned, I have to wonder whether there is some nervousness about what the definition of abuse will be.
The Minister shakes her head, but will she tell me whether that definition will take into account the full need to deter the horror of financial control and emotional abuse, as only a strong definition will? If it will, the Government can rely on full and hearty support from Labour Members. If it will not, we will push them to finish the job properly.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock). It is also a pleasure to be back in this place, and I thank the good people of the Yeovil constituency for sending me back here.
It appeared to me during the election campaign that people in the south-west really did understand what was at stake, and in my patch they voted overwhelmingly for the return of a Conservative Government and against any change to the Government. In part, that was because we will have high-quality public services only if we have a strong economy and a sensible plan for delivering those services.
I am very proud today to wear the tie of Yeovil district hospital, which is one of our nation’s vanguards when it comes to trying properly to integrate social care with healthcare. That has to be one of the main planks of a policy that will allow us to provide a high-quality service to our older generations in the future. Things are going very well: the hospital is performing according to its targets, its waiting times are down, and although things are challenging there, morale is actually very good.
I welcome the idea that there might be a bit more flexibility in how we pay our people, because recruitment and retention is a big issue in primary care, acute care and social care, and that is a major challenge for us. We have to look at the overall packages, and we have to incentivise good behaviour in our hospitals and in the whole sector.
While the hon. Gentleman is talking about recruitment, will he comment on the fact that although the Government scrapped the nurse bursary, saying that they would fund an extra 10,000 nursing places, they have so far not funded a single nursing place?
I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention. When it comes to the student loans system, I am keen to make sure that loans are made at a reasonable interest rate. Broadening the availability of loans and training places is also massively important, and I want to come on to that.
In Yeovil, we have a potential project to train more nurses and healthcare professionals locally. I would like to put in a plug for Yeovil College, which wants to set up a new facility to do that in conjunction with the district hospital. It is only by doing that that we can attract good people to the south-west to take part in this massively important work.
Another part of attracting people is having affordable housing. We have heard how some on public sector salaries—and on private sector salaries—find it hard to afford private market housing. That needs to be a major focus of the Government going forward. It is absolutely one of our values in the Conservative party to try to create more housing in the right places at the right price, so that young people can get on the housing ladder and take part in society.
With our ageing population, we will need to spend more money on our public services in general. We have serious challenges on that front, but the difference between the Government and the Opposition is typically that we want to plan properly for how to pay for those things, whereas the Opposition just think we can spend the money and borrow more and more. That is just not the case, and I for one will always try to come up with things that we can do.
We should be looking at the pension system. I see no reason why those who are very wealthy in retirement should have the same entitlement to a state pension as those with less money. I think we could save about £4 billion or £5 billion if the very wealthy did not have the same entitlement, and I am very happy to share that idea with Ministers.
All this depends on our having a very constructive and smooth approach to the Brexit process. That will clearly be a focus of this Parliament, and we need to make sure that it happens correctly. We need to work together on both sides of the House to make sure that we get a good Brexit that we can be proud of in the future. Compromise will be needed on both sides.
The issues that I wish to discuss encapsulate how the Health and Social Care Act 2012 is, day by day, weakening the fundamental foundations of the NHS; they include disparities in salaries and pay rises, lack of scrutiny and accountability, severe deficiencies in financial governance with regard to public moneys, and an emerging culture in which bosses feel they can act with impunity.
When I asked the Prime Minister about pay rises given to the Liverpool clinical commissioning group board, that information caused uproar and disbelief in health circles and among the wider public. While frontline staff were subject to the pay cap, the board gave themselves increases of between 15% and 81%. The chair got a 50% increase, taking him to £150,000; a practice nurse got 62%, taking her up to £65,000; and the chief executive and the finance director got 15% each. The board had only two non-exec directors; one was paid £105,000—a 42% increase—while the other got £55,000, a 25% increase. Deloitte’s limited-scope review confirmed that there were serious failings in governance, conflicts of interests, and payments to the board and non-exec directors that fell outside existing guidance. Only the chair of remuneration has resigned. The whole board who gave themselves these pay rises have not been held to account at all.
I alerted Simon Stevens to a cavalier attitude to contracting, including in the Liverpool Community Health NHS Trust break-up, in which the CCG insisted on a clinically unsustainable contract figure of £77 million, and then hid behind weak, low-ranking NHS Improvement employees. The conduct of the CCG in these matters fell well below that which would be required in commercial circumstances and should be investigated.
I alerted NHS England to the CCG’s handling of the SSP Health surgery contracts. One of the failing practices was allocated to the CCG chair’s practice. Several other surgeries went to Primary Care Connect, an organisation that did not even exist when the bids for these surgeries were opened and had only one director, who happened to be a former GP member of the governing body. I have had complaints from right across the city about how this was handled. The CCG is cutting clinical funding to vital organisations, telling them, “Don’t talk about it because you’ll be biting the hand that feeds you.”
My hon. Friend is describing an absolutely shocking case, which is about the treatment of NHS workers in her constituency. She talks about people being told not to talk about it. Today we have heard this Government say that they have heard our message about the importance of proper pay in our NHS, and now they are trying to shut that down because they are frightened about the reaction on their Back Benches. Is that not a terrible indictment of how they intend to run our country?