The Prime Minister was asked—
May I start, Mr Speaker, by wishing you, all Members and everyone who works on the parliamentary estate a very happy Easter?
This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
Under Conservative leadership since last May, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council has protected social care and other core services. Will the Prime Minister reject the calls from the Opposition to scrap the council tax referendum lock, which prevents excessive council tax rises?
I am very happy to agree with my hon. Friend, who raises an important point. He also makes a point about the success of Dudley Council under Conservative leadership. People living in the Conservative-led Dudley Council area pay among the lowest council tax in the west midlands. Since taking control from Labour, the council has reversed Labour’s street cleaning cuts, scrapped its plans to charge for green waste collection and maintained the weekly bin collection. It is very clear that if people want to pay less and get good services, they should vote Conservative on 3 May.
I join the Prime Minister in wishing you, Mr Speaker, all Members of the House, and indeed our entire community, a very happy Easter.
This week is Autism Awareness Week, and I welcome the work of the National Autistic Society and others. I hope the whole House will join me in paying tribute to the families of Connor Sparrowhawk and Teresa Colvin for their dignity in campaigning for answers about the deaths of their loved ones at the hands of Southern Health. Last week, the health service ombudsman said that too many patients suffered
“failings in mental health care”
“violations of the most basic human rights of patients.”
How confident is the Prime Minister that deaths like Connor’s and Teresa’s could not happen today?
The right hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. First of all, significant steps have been taken in raising awareness of autism and ensuring that there is support available for those who are on the autistic spectrum, but the very sad deaths of Teresa Colvin and Connor Sparrowhawk raise very real questions. I join him in paying tribute to the families for the way in which they have campaigned on this particular issue. Obviously these incidents took place some time ago, and lessons have been learned by the health and social care system as a result of the failings of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust. The Government are supporting NHS providers to be open and to learn from mistakes so that they reduce the risks to future patients and prevent tragedies from happening. A comprehensive Care Quality Commission inspection of Southern Health is expected later this year.
The ombudsman, Rob Behrens, also said that
“there aren’t enough skilled and qualified staff, there is a problem in recruiting them and there is an overuse of agency staff”,
so could the Prime Minister explain why there are 5,000 fewer mental health nurses than there were in 2010?
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we have already committed to improving mental health services on the ground. We are putting extra money into mental health services. I am pleased to say that about 1,400 more people are accessing mental health services every day compared with when we came into power. And of course it is this Government who have ensured that we have given parity of esteem to the treatment of mental health in the national health service and are increasing the training and recruitment of people to provide those mental health services. This is about the NHS; it is also about services in our communities; and it is also about ensuring that we can intervene at an early stage for those young people who develop mental health problems. That is why I was pleased to launch the initiative for there to be training in schools so that there is a member of staff who is able to identify mental health problems and able to ensure that young people get the support they need.
The Health and Social Care Act 2012 did indeed embed parity of esteem in law, thanks to a Labour amendment introduced in the House of Lords—but sadly the money never followed. The charity Rethink Mental Illness said recently that
“our overstretched services are failing”.
ITV’s Project 84 campaign highlights the horrifying figure that male suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45, with 84 taking their lives every week. Earlier this month, the Health Secretary said:
“The prime minister and I have made mental health services a personal priority”.
I fully acknowledge and accept the Prime Minister’s very genuine concern about mental health, but mental health trusts have got fewer resources. Why does the analysis by the Royal College of Psychiatrists show that mental health trusts have £105 million less than they had six years ago?
As I have just said, of course dealing with mental health is not just a question of what is happening inside the health service; there are wider areas of responsibility for dealing with mental health. What have we done on mental health? Yes, parity of esteem is there. As I said, 1,400 more people are accessing mental health services every day compared with when we came into power. Spending on mental health has increased to a record £11.6 billion, with a further £1 billion by 2020-21. We are ensuring that we are putting more money in. We have responded to the report of the Stevenson/Farmer review of mental health in the workplace. [Interruption.] It is all very well Labour Members chuntering about this, but dealing with mental health means addressing it in a variety of ways. We are taking more steps to address the issues of mental health than the Labour Government ever took when they were in power.
Mental health spending fell by £600 million between 2010 and 2015. Far too often, a mental health crisis has to be dealt with by police, friends, neighbours or people in the community, and too many of our fellow citizens suffer alone because there are insufficient staff to help them at a moment of crisis. It is quite clear that the mental health budget is insufficient. The Prime Minister mentioned young people. Can she explain why only 6% of the overall mental health budget is spent on children and young people when they make up 20% of our population?
As I have just said, we are in fact increasing the services that are available to children and young people, but this is not just about what happens in NHS trusts. It is important we look at this in the round. That is why we are ensuring that there is training in schools to help young people. We have committed to ensuring that 70,000 more children and young people each year have access to high-quality NHS mental health care by 2020-21. We have backed those proposals by additional funding for the work we are doing in schools and how they deal with children and young people’s mental health.
We are also taking action in other areas. When I was Home Secretary, one of the issues I saw was the fact that the police found it very difficult to deal with people in mental health crises because they did not have the training to do it. Putting those people, including young people, into a cell overnight was not helping them. We have changed that. We have seen a dramatic reduction in that number, and we have made it clear that young people will never be taken to a police cell as a place of safety.
I fully acknowledge the work the police do in helping people in a mental health crisis. My point is that there should be more mental health professionals to help people in a crisis. Half of all enduring mental health conditions materialise before the age of 14. Spending on child and adolescent mental health should be a priority. Instead, sadly, the number of child and adolescent psychiatrists has fallen by 6.3%. Fully staffing our children’s and young people’s mental health has to be a priority.
I am not aware that there was a question at the end of that, but I will repeat the point. Young people’s mental health is a very serious issue; the right hon. Gentleman is focusing on one aspect. That is why we are ensuring that we start to address this at an earlier stage. He is right about the high proportion of mental health problems that start before somebody is 14. That is exactly why we are doing more in our schools and working to ensure that we have training for teachers.
There is a wider issue here, which I am sure everybody in the House will recognise. When I talk to young people who have developed mental health problems and hear about the problems they are facing, sadly, one of the issues that puts increasing pressure on young people’s mental health today is the use of social media and the bullying and harassment that they get on it. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will join me in saying that we need both to help our young people to have greater resilience in dealing with that social media bullying and to ensure that social media is not used in a way that leads to mental health problems that could well be with those young people for the rest of their lives.
I hope, in the light of what the Prime Minister just said, that she will support our digital bill of rights, which will ensure that there are proper protections for people.
A young woman wrote to me this week who has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and is regarded as a high suicide risk. She was told to wait three months for an appointment. That was cancelled and she had to wait a further three months. It is very hard to explain to someone why they have to wait all those months for an appointment while they are in a desperate situation.
Mental health affects us all, and it is welcome that there is now much less stigma surrounding it. However, our NHS is in crisis, and the crisis is particularly acute in mental health services. Despite legislating for parity of esteem, the Government have failed to fund it. We have fewer resources for mental health trusts, fewer mental health nurses and fewer child and adolescent psychiatrists. Will the Prime Minister commit to ring-fencing the NHS mental health budget to support those going through a mental health crisis, at a time when they most need our help and our support?
The national health service is receiving extra funding from this Government—extra funding for mental health and extra funding for other services. Since November, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced that an extra £10 billion is going into our NHS over the next few years. How are we able to do that? We are able to do that because we take a balanced approach to our economy. That means keeping our debts down, ensuring that we are investing in our public services such as the NHS and mental health services, and actually keeping taxes down for ordinary working people. Labour’s approach would mean increased debt, less money for mental health services and higher taxes for working people—and ordinary working people would pay the price of Labour.
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend: we need to get on and deliver Brexit, recognising the vote that was taken. It is a pity that we have seen from the Labour party a track record of trying to frustrate Brexit, rather than trying to make it work. Its MEPs voted against our moving on the negotiations via the European Parliament; the Opposition voted against the Bill that will give us a smooth withdrawal from the EU; and they oppose us spending money to prepare for our exit. It is the Conservatives in government who are getting on and delivering for the voters of North Devon.
The public must have trust in our political process. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that transparency in political campaign spending and the integrity of electoral laws across the UK must be upheld, and will she join me in saying that all allegations of improper spending during the EU referendum must be fully investigated?
We have laws about election spending, and parties are required to abide by those laws. I understand that any allegations that have come forward in respect of spending during the referendum have already been investigated by the Electoral Commission, but it is of course right that allegations are investigated by the Electoral Commission.
We know that before the EU referendum the Democratic Unionist party received £425,000 from the Conservative-run Constitutional Research Council, chaired by Richard Cook, the former vice-chair of the Scottish Tories. We know that some of that money was given to Aggregate IQ, a reported franchise of Cambridge Analytica. We know that Chris Wylie is “absolutely convinced” of a common purpose between Vote Leave, BeLeave, Veterans for Britain and the DUP. The shady business of data mining and undermining electoral laws goes right to the heart of the Prime Minister’s party. Will the Prime Minister issue the full details of the transactions between the DUP and the Scottish Tory-linked CRC?
The right hon. Gentleman refers to the issue of Vote Leave. As I have just said, I understand that this matter has already been investigated twice by the Electoral Commission. He raises questions about inquiries. If there is an allegation of criminal activity, that should be taken to the police. The regulator of election spending is the Electoral Commission, so if there is an allegation of breaches of campaign spending or campaign funding rules, that should be taken to the Electoral Commission. My understanding is that the Electoral Commission does indeed investigate these and will continue to do so when allegations are brought to its attention.
This is an issue on which my hon. Friend has campaigned strong and hard in the interests of her constituents. The NHS in north Cumbria is working on plans for considerable investment in local health services, including the completion of the new build at West Cumberland Hospital and the creation of an academic campus. It is committed to doing all it can to maintain consultant-led maternity services at West Cumberland Hospital. Patient safety is the priority, and the NHS is doing all it can to ensure that a safe and sustainable service can be provided to her constituents and to others.
I would like, first, to look at the report that the hon. Gentleman’s group is providing. What he is saying would potentially fit into the modern industrial strategy that the Government have already launched. We want to build on the strengths of our economy, but also to ensure that people in the UK are skilled for the jobs of the future. I am happy to look at the report and to ensure that he can meet me or the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to look at the results.
As I have said before in this House, it is important that people can have confidence in how their personal data is used and that the Information Commissioner is able to investigate cases that are drawn to her attention. The Data Protection Bill will strengthen the law in this area. We will give the Information Commissioner’s Office tougher provisions to ensure that organisations comply with its investigations. At the heart of the digital charter that we have set out is the principle that personal data should be respected and used appropriately.
The hon. Gentleman talks about funding for local councils. Of course, we have heard in the announcements by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government that more money is going into local councils over the next couple of years. If the hon. Gentleman worries about what is happening at local council level, he ought to look at the figures that have come out today, which show very clearly that if you live in an area where the council is run by the Labour party, you pay £100 more than under the Conservatives.
I am very happy to confirm to my hon. Friend that promoting home ownership remains a central part of this Government’s policy. We are also introducing a number of measures that will help people who rent their properties. I am pleased, as he said, that the number of first-time buyers has reached its highest level for—he said 10 years, but I think it is 11 years. Of course it is important that we provide funding for Help to Buy, but that cut in stamp duty was also important. The Labour party sometimes talks about homes, but which party was it that voted against that cut in stamp duty? The Labour party.
Order. I do not care how long it takes—I have all the time in the world—but the question will be heard and the answer will be heard. That applies to every single answer and question in this Chamber, no matter how long it takes.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. To conclude my question, I was asking about families earning just £145 a week not receiving school dinners for their children while Members of this House, earning 10 times that sum, are subject to subsidised catering from the taxpayer.
I hope the hon. Lady was not implying that anybody who is currently in receipt of a free school meal will have that taken away from them, because they will not. They will not. She talks about changes that are happening next week. Yes, we will see pensioners getting a boost to their pension next week, 31 million income tax payers will get an income tax cut and 2 million people living on the national living wage will get a pay rise. That is Conservatives delivering for everyone.
I am very happy to wish everyone in Telford, and indeed around the country, a very happy Easter. I am very pleased to welcome, as my hon. Friend has done, the considerable investment announced by the NHS in the hospital that serves her constituents. This is another example of how all we ever hear from the Labour party is the NHS being done down in funding terms, when what we see on the ground is more money coming into the NHS, improving services and serving constituents.
Easter is of course the most important time in the Christian calendar. It is a time of new life and hope. The message of the cross and the resurrection help to support Christians around the world. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about the very real persecution faced by too many Christians around the world. I was pleased to meet recently Father Daniel from Nineveh and Idlib, who talked about the very real persecution suffered by his congregations. He presented me with a bible that had been burned after a church had been set on fire. It was rescued and is now in No. 10 Downing Street. We stand with those persecuted Christians. We will be looking to see what more the Government can do to support them.
My hon. Friend raises a very important point. This is why, when we look at the issue of mental health problems and mental health difficulties for young people, we need to look widely at the ways in which those problems can be caused and at the origins of those problems. She is right that the sort of abuse that she referred to can have a very terrible effect on the mental health of young people.
On my hon. Friend’s specific point, our Green Paper on transforming children’s mental health services proposes the establishment of new mental health support teams, who will be there, managed by schools, colleges and the NHS. One of the issues that they will particularly look at is supporting young people who have experienced trauma. She has identified a number of cases where those young people may experience that trauma. This is important: it is about young people’s futures.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman recognises this Government’s record in relation to LGBT rights. We have taken up and championed the issue. He will find that previous legislation—I think actually under the previous Labour Government—ensured that it would be dealt with as a devolved matter, and we hope that a Northern Ireland Executive will be in place soon and be able to address these issues.
I am sure that my hon. Friend’s working with those who are looking for a solution will be important and welcomed. I understand that when Church Hill dental practice closes, NHS England will be working with other dental practices in the area to ensure that services are available and that they can increase their capacity. A wider piece of work is being undertaken about dental services in east Kent—the needs and provision of those services—and I am sure, as I say, that my hon. Friend’s contribution to that will be welcomed.
The hon. Gentleman makes certain claims in that question that I did not recognise. I simply say this: if there are those who are trying to suggest that the Government should be rejecting the result of the referendum as a result of these sorts of claims, I say to them very clearly that the referendum was held—[Interruption.]
Order. Calm yourself, Mr Brown. I know you were obviously a very popular figure when you rose to ask your question, but you must listen to the answer—my dear chap, patience.
As I was saying, the referendum was held, the vote was taken, the people gave their view and we will be delivering on it.
I join my hon. Friend in recognising the work that is done by the Welbeck Defence Sixth Form College in his constituency and the skills that it gives young people who wish to enter the armed forces, but he raises an important point about funding in relation to our armed forces. I can announce today that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and I have agreed that the Ministry of Defence will have access to £600 million this coming financial year for the MOD’s Dreadnought submarine programme. Today’s announcement will ensure that the work to rebuild the UK’s new world-class nuclear submarines remains on schedule, and it is another sign of the deep commitment this Government have to keeping our country safe. Along with the £200 million carry-forward agreed at the supplementary estimates, that means that the MOD will benefit from an extra £800 million in the next financial year. We continue to exceed the NATO 2% target and remain the second biggest defence spender in NATO.
The Cambridge Analytica revelations suggest that there is something rotten in the state—[Interruption.]
Order. This is very unseemly. [Interruption.] No, I am sorry, it is very unseemly. The hon. Lady—[Interruption.] Mr Pound, your expertise in gesticulation is well known to all Members of the House, but it is not required to be on display at this time. Caroline Lucas will be heard.
The Cambridge Analytica revelations suggest that there is something rotten in the state of our democracy. The current electoral law is woefully inadequate at dealing with the combination of big money and big data, so will the Prime Minister commit to urgent cross-party talks to kick-start a process to ensure that we have a regulatory and legal framework that is up to the challenge of dealing with the digital age?
As I have said previously, clearly the allegations relating to Cambridge Analytica are concerning, because people should be able to have confidence about how their personal data is being used. It is right that we are seeing the Information Commissioner investigating this matter. I expect Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and any others involved to co-operate fully with the Information Commissioner’s Office in the investigation that is taking place. As I said earlier, our Data Protection Bill will strengthen the powers of the Information Commissioner, but it will also strengthen legislation around data protection, as will the other steps that the Government are taking—for example, through our digital charter. This is a Government who are committing to making sure that this is a safe place to be online.
Would the Prime Minister confirm her reported opinion that we are highly unlikely to introduce a new hard border between Britain and Europe by December 2020? Presumably it could take years to train thousands of customs officers and build new lorry parks and other infrastructure at Dover, Holyhead and elsewhere if we tried to, so will she confirm her strongly preferred policy option of frictionless trade in future between the EU and the United Kingdom and an open border in Ireland, in conformity with the Good Friday agreement, and seek a customs arrangement that I personally hope will resemble the existing customs union very closely indeed?
I say to my right hon. and learned Friend that we are indeed committed. We have given that commitment—we gave it in the December joint report and we have given it in the negotiating stage that was completed last week—to ensure that there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and also to ensure that businesses in Northern Ireland can continue to trade freely with the rest of the United Kingdom and vice versa. We are working to ensure that we have tariff-free trade and trade that is as frictionless as possible. As I am sure he will know, trade between the UK and the EU is not completely frictionless today, but we will ensure that trade is as frictionless as possible in the future. We have put forward proposals and we have started discussing them in detail with the European Commission, and I assure my right hon. and learned Friend that the Home Secretary and others are taking the steps necessary to ensure that we have the arrangements in place for when we come to the end of the implementation period.
It has been four weeks since the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse published a damning report about the treatment of British children sent overseas by their Government. They were physically, sexually and emotionally abused, separated from siblings and wrongly told that their families were dead. Successive Governments supressed information, ignored warnings and continued to send children to harm for decades. The report is unequivocal that compensation is owed and that this is now urgent. Many have died and others are dying, but in the last four weeks the Government have failed to issue a response, to set out any timetable for a response or even to agree which Department is responsible for formulating a response. The Prime Minister commissioned this report. Will she now get a grip on her Government, stand by its verdict and ensure that no more have to die waiting for justice?
I did indeed commission the work that is being done in looking at the treatment of children and the abuse of children in the past. I think that that was important. I said at the time that I thought that many people would be shocked by some of the results, including, obviously, the issue of former child migrants to which the hon. Lady has referred.
I can confirm that the Department of Health and Social Care is responsible for policy on former child migrants. As the hon. Lady will know, we have funded the Child Migrants Trust since 1990 so that it can expand its work in seeking resolution for former child migrants and their families. It has received more than £7 million, and in the 1990s we provided £1 million for travel to help former child migrants to be reunited with their families. At the time of the Government’s formal national apology to former child migrants in 2010, an £8 million family restoration fund was established.
Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the young British artist Hannah Rose Thomas and the charity Open Doors? Together they organised the current exhibition in our Upper Waiting Hall to draw attention to the plight of Yazidi women, 3,000 of whom are still in captivity and subject to some form of the slavery that my right hon. Friend has fought so hard to combat.
I am very happy to welcome this awareness-raising exhibition, and to commend Hannah Rose Thomas and others who have been involved in bringing the plight of the Yazidi women to the attention of the House and those visiting the House. I know that people felt horror and consternation when they first saw the treatment of the Yazidis, particularly Yazidi women, which is, of course, continuing. As my right hon. Friend says, we must not forget, and we must do everything we can to ensure that those women are freed from what is, as she says, a life of slavery in many cases.
Children at Canal View primary school in Wester Hailes, in my constituency, have just won the ultimate school trip competition, with the prize of a holiday to Mallorca next month. There is just one problem. One of their classmates is a Syrian refugee, and he has been told by the Home Office that he cannot travel with his friends because he does not have the proper documents. The Home Office says that it will take three months for those documents to come through. Will the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary help me to cut through the red tape so that this wee boy can go with his friends to enjoy the holiday of a lifetime?
I congratulate the primary school on winning the competition. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has heard what the hon. and learned Lady has said, and will look into the case.
As the Prime Minister will know, the High Court today overturned a decision by the Parole Board to release the black-cab rapist John Worboys. Does she share my admiration for the brave victims who challenged that the decision in court, does she agree that they should never have had to do so, and does she agree that this gigantic, landmark decision must now provoke a rethink of a criminal justice system in which many of us no longer have confidence?
Let me say first that I have the greatest sympathy with all those who were victims of Worboys, and I know that the sympathies of the whole House will be with them as well in the light of what they have suffered as a result of his horrific crimes.
I welcome today’s judgment which found in favour of the brave victims who brought this legal action. The court’s findings give rise to serious concerns, and it is right that my right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary will be making a statement shortly. One of those findings is that it is unlawful to impose a blanket prohibition on the disclosure of Parole Board information. My right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary had already been looking into that, and has made it clear that he will ensure that it is dealt with as soon as possible. The decision will now revert to the Parole Board, but the evidence that the board has will be updated, and it will take account of the findings of the court. My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond Park (Zac Goldsmith) is right to say that the case gives rise to serious concerns, and my right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary will set out the next steps to be taken in his statement later today.
I call Jack Dromey, who I trust will speak with his legendary succinctness.
Some 259 years of GKN history will be decided in the next 24 hours—a hostile takeover, not in the British national interest, that the Government have powers to block. May I ask the Prime Minister this? Disturbing evidence has come to light of a hedge fund scam to buy shares in GKN while avoiding paying tax on shares that will determine the future of GKN. Will she agree to condemn this outrageous practice and investigate as a matter of urgency?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, this is primarily a commercial decision for GKN. My right hon. Friend the Business Secretary is in discussion with the parties on an impartial basis and has sought reassurance from them on their plans. If the hon. Gentleman has evidence that illegal activity has taken place, that should be reported to the proper authorities.
The first words of the Speaker’s Chaplain this afternoon repeated Jesus’s instruction to love others.
I hope that the Prime Minister and leaders of Opposition parties will help to protect Jews from anti-Semitism and Muslims from Islamophobia.
If the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Home Office and others fail to have an independent inquiry into the recent prosecution of Gurpal Virdi, a Sikh, will the Prime Minister please meet me to discuss the matter?
I know that this is a case that my hon. Friend has taken up and championed for some time, and I believe that he and I have met and discussed it previously. Obviously, I am willing to meet him to discuss the case again. On my hon. Friend’s wider point, there should be a very clear message from all of us in the House that there is no place for racial hatred or hate crime in our society. That should not be part of our society—whether it is Islamophobia or anti-Semitism. That is something we should all stand up against and do our best to eradicate from our society.
I am sure that we all agree that the Speaker’s Chaplain is an example of love, compassion and empathy from which we can all benefit.
Shortly, I will be meeting workers from De La Rue in my constituency who are visiting the House today. Will the Prime Minister give the House an assurance that no decision or announcement will be made on the passport contract until after the recess, so that the House may discuss the issue?
This House did, of course, discuss the issue earlier this week during an urgent question to my right hon. Friend the Immigration Minister. I understand that the final decision has not been taken but that a preferred bidder has been announced. There is then a proper process that gives a length of time, as I understand it, for challenges to be brought forward by others in the process. The Home Office is following exactly the right process to ensure that we have secure passports produced on a basis that gives good value to the taxpayer.
The Government inspector’s report into Northamptonshire County Council makes it crystal clear that there is no reason to further postpone the transfer of the fire service from the county council to the police and crime commissioner. Given that that enjoys popular support and the support of the county’s seven MPs, and is essential to protect investment in the fire service and firefighters’ jobs, will the Prime Minister instruct the Policing and Fire Minister to approve the transfer without delay?
As I think my hon. Friend knows, as Home Secretary I was long a champion of fire services being able to come under police and crime commissioners’ areas of responsibility. Indeed, a former Conservative police and crime commissioner in Northamptonshire was one of the early proponents of that particular move. I have heard what my hon. Friend has said and will make sure that his comments are brought to the attention of the Policing and Fire Minister.