This week, the UK plays host to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. I know the whole House will want to join me in welcoming to London leaders from 52 countries, who collectively represent a third of the world’s population. Over the coming days, we will discuss a range of shared priorities, from oceans and cyber-security to continuing to tackle malaria and ensuring all children have access to 12 years of quality education. With 60% of the Commonwealth under the age of 30, the summit will have a particular focus on how we revitalise the organisation to ensure its continuing relevance, especially for young people.
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.
The whole House will be aware of the stories of people who came to this country from the Commonwealth more than 45 years ago—people who are facing the anxiety of being asked for documents they cannot provide to prove their right to reside in the country they call home. Will the Prime Minister update the House on what she and the Government are doing to provide reassurance in these cases?
My hon. Friend raises a very important issue, which I know has caused a great deal of concern and anxiety, so I would like to update the House.
People in the Windrush generation who came here from Commonwealth countries have built a life here; they have made a massive contribution to the country. These people are British. They are part of us. I want to be absolutely clear that we have no intention of asking anyone to leave who has the right to remain here. [Interruption.] For those who have mistakenly received letters challenging them, I want to apologise to them. I want to say sorry to anyone who has felt confusion or anxiety as a result of this.
I want to be clear with the House about how this has arisen. Those Commonwealth citizens—[Interruption.]
Order. The House must calm down. The Prime Minister is responding to the question. There will be a very full opportunity for questioning of the Prime Minister on this occasion, as there is on every occasion, but the questions must be heard and the answers must be heard.
Thank you. Let me update the House on how this has arisen. Those Commonwealth citizens who arrived before 1973 and were settled here have a right conferred by the Immigration Act 1971 to live in the UK. They were not required to take any action with the Home Office to document their status. The overwhelming majority already have the immigration documents they need, but there are some who, through no fault of their own, do not, and those are the people we are working hard to help now. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has made clear that a new dedicated team is being set up to help these people evidence their right to be here and access services, and it will aim to resolve cases within two weeks, once the evidence has been put together.
Last month, I raised the case of Albert Thompson, a man who has lived and worked here for decades, paid his taxes, and yet been denied national health service treatment. The Prime Minister brushed it off. Will she say what she will now do to ensure that Mr Thompson gets the cancer treatment he urgently needs and is entitled to?
The right hon. Gentleman did indeed raise the case of Albert Thompson. It was not brushed off—[Hon. Members: “It was!”] No, the Home Office has been in contact with Mr Thompson’s representatives. First of all, I want to make one point very clear: no urgent treatment should be withheld by the NHS, regardless of ability or willingness to pay——[Hon. Members: “It was!”] No, I also want to make clear that as it happens, Mr Thompson is not part of the Windrush generation that I have just spoken about in answer to the first question. And finally, clinicians have been looking at Mr Thompson’s case and he will be receiving the treatment he needs.
On 20 March, the Prime Minister wrote to me stating,
“while I sympathise with Mr Thompson...we encourage him to make the appropriate application”
and provide evidence of “his settled status here.” Yesterday, we learnt that in 2010, the Home Office destroyed landing cards for a generation of Commonwealth citizens and so have told people, “We can’t find you in our system.” Did the Prime Minister, the then Home Secretary, sign off that decision?
I remind the Prime Minister that it was her Government who created “a really hostile environment” for immigrants and her Government who introduced the Immigration Act 2014.
We need absolute clarity on the question of the destruction of the landing cards. If she is trying to blame officials, I remind her that in 2004 she said she was
“sick and tired of Government Ministers…who simply blame other people when things go wrong.”
Does she stand by that advice?
The right hon. Gentleman asked me if the decision to destroy the landing cards—the decision—had been taken in my time as Home Secretary. The decision to destroy the landing cards was taken in 2009 when, as I seem to recall, a Labour Home Secretary was in position.
It was under a Tory Government, and she was Home Secretary at that time, and that is what is causing such pain and such stress to a whole generation. On Monday, the Home Secretary told the House:
“I am concerned that the Home Office has become too concerned with policy and strategy and sometimes loses sight of the individual.”—[Official Report, 16 April 2018; Vol. 639, c. 28.]
Who does the Prime Minister think is to blame for that—the current Home Secretary or her predecessor?
The Home Office is a great Department of State that touches people’s lives every day in a whole variety of ways. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has been swift in responding to the unfortunate confusion and anxiety, for which we have apologised, that has arisen from the Windrush generation. The right hon. Gentleman referred earlier to action that we had taken as a Conservative Government to deal with illegal immigration. It is absolutely right that we ensure that people who access services that are paid for by taxpayers and relied on by people living in this country have the right to do so and that we take action against people here illegally. The Windrush generation are here legally—they have a right to be here; they are British. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to question the idea of taking action against illegal immigration, I suggest he has a conversation with the former shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), who in 2013 said:
“we need much stronger action from Government to bring illegal immigration down”.
This is not about illegal immigration; this is about Commonwealth citizens who had every right to be here. Cases such as Mr Thompson’s have occurred because it was Home Office policy in 2012 to create “a really hostile environment” for migrants, and the right hon. Lady was the Home Secretary who sent Home Office vans around Brent telling migrants to go home. On Monday, the Immigration Minister said that some British citizens had been “deported in error”. The Home Secretary did not know, and then asked Commonwealth high commissioners if they knew of any cases. Does the Prime Minister know how many British citizens have been wrongly deported and where to, and what provision has she made to bring them back home to Britain?
As the Immigration Minister has made clear, we apologise unreservedly for the distress caused to anyone who has been told incorrectly that they do not have the right to be in the UK. We are not aware of any specific cases of a person being removed from the UK in these circumstances and we have absolutely no intention of asking anyone to leave who has the right to remain here, but the Home Office will work to reach out to those from the Windrush generation who do not have the necessary documentation to ensure that that is provided. There will be no cost to them; nobody will be out of pocket as a result. There is a difference between the Windrush generation, who are British, are part of us and have a right to here—we want to give them the reassurance of that right—and those other people who are here illegally. It is absolutely right that the Government make every effort to ensure that people who access our services have a right to do so and that we take action against people who are here illegally.
I am informed that Mr Albert Thompson has still not been informed when he will be getting the treatment he obviously needs as a matter of urgency. Does the Home Office not keep records? It has been months since these occasions were first brought to the Government’s attention. We know of at least two British citizens languishing in detention centres in error, and this morning the Jamaican Prime Minister has said that he knows of people who are unable to return to Britain.
This is a shameful episode, and the responsibility for it lies firmly at the Prime Minister’s door. Her pandering to bogus immigration targets led to a hostile environment for people contributing to our country, and it led to British citizens being denied NHS treatment, losing their jobs, homes and pensions, and being thrown into detention centres like criminals and even deported, with vital historical records shredded and Ministers blaming officials. The Windrush generation came to our country after the war to rebuild our nation, which had been so devastated by war. Is not the truth that, under her, the Home Office became heartless and hopeless, and does not she now run a Government who are both callous and incompetent?
As I have said, the Windrush generation did come here after the war, they did help to build this country, many of them worked in our public services and they contributed. They have a right to be here: they are British. That is why we are working with those who have no documentation to ensure that they have that provided for them. The decision was taken in 1971 not to require them to have documentation. That is what has led to the problem that we now see in relation to the anxiety of these people.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about being callous and having a disregard for people. I have to say to him that I am the Prime Minister who initiated the race disparity audit, which said: what are we doing in this country to ensure that people have equal opportunities in this country? The right hon. Gentleman talks about being callous. I say to him that I will not take that, following a debate last night where powerful contributions were made, particularly by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Ruth Smeeth), the right hon. Member for Barking (Dame Margaret Hodge) and the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger). I will not take an accusation of being callous from a man who allows anti-Semitism to run rife in his party.
May I assure my hon. Friend that Theresa from Maidenhead would bring exactly that? I am very pleased that, in yesterday’s unemployment figures, we see employment in this country at a record high. Any visit to Carlisle will be about jobs, it will be about the future and it will be about national security—our commitment to spend 2% of our GDP on our defence, our commitment to ensure that we have the powers for our intelligence services and law enforcement agencies that they need to keep us safe—and I look forward to my visit to Carlisle.
I know this is an issue that has been raised a number of times in this House. It is an incredibly sensitive issue, and of course I fully recognise the sensitivities that are involved for the mothers involved. We have taken great care—considerable time and care—to set up procedures, following extensive consultations, that mean that no Government staff will question these mothers about what they have experienced. The point my right hon. Friend was making was that a mother will be granted the exemption through engaging with specialist professionals, such as health and social workers, who may be able to provide them with support in those circumstances over and beyond the issue of their entitlement.
That is not quite the point that the Secretary of State made when she seemed to offend all who were at the meeting of the Parliament in Edinburgh.
Rape Crisis Scotland has clearly stated:
“Hinging benefits on proving trauma isn’t a choice, it’s a disgrace and one which may well re-traumatise women.”
The chair of the British Medical Association in Scotland has said that the rape clause
“is fundamentally damaging for women—forcing them to disclose rape and abuse at a time and in a manner not of their choosing, at pain of financial penalty.”
This is the form, Mr Speaker, with a box for the child’s name. What kind of society do we live in?
We live in a society in which we have taken every care to ensure that this is dealt with in as sensitive a manner as possible. That is why the Government took considerable time and engaged in extensive consultations when putting the arrangements in place. As I have said, no mother in these circumstances will be granted the exemption by dealing with jobcentre staff; mothers will be granted the exemption by dealing with specialist professionals.
My hon. Friend has raised an important point, and he is absolutely right to do so. Home ownership is a dream, and, sadly, too many young people today feel that they will not be able to achieve that dream. We have been having success—last year more homes were built than in any but one of the last 30 years—but we need to ensure that we are helping people into home ownership and seeing more homes being built. I should be happy to meet my hon. Friend and others to discuss this matter.
I understand that it is, in fact, possible for special arrangements to be made for split payments. Domestic abuse—domestic violence—is a terrible abuse, a terrible crime that we must deal with, but I understand that it is possible for those arrangements to be made.
I am very much aware of the key role that is played by the A5 in the midlands and of the plans for growth—the plans for new housing to which my hon. Friend has referred—along a route that is so important to him and his constituents. As he will know, we are already making investments in the A5. However, I have also heard his case promoted by Midlands Connect, as has my right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary, and it will be considered very carefully as we make decisions on further road investment.
We do of course particularly want to ensure that we are recruiting people with the skills our armed forces need. In the modernising defence programme, we are looking at the capabilities we require to defend this country against the threats we face, and that will also involve looking at the particular skills that are necessary.
We are actively considering the proposals for the mid-Wales growth deal. I know that my hon. Friend has put a lot of effort into this, particularly into bringing local partners together, including by making important cross-border links for this area. We believe that the best decisions and proposals for what will work for mid-Wales will come from people who live, work and do business there. We will be offering help and support, and UK Government Ministers in Wales have already met a variety of local partners to start this process off. We are ambitious for Wales and I am keen to see every part of Wales having a city or growth deal.
I was very pleased to be able to meet Alfie and his family, and I know the sympathies of Members across the House are with them as he undergoes treatment. I have written to the family to reiterate our commitment to explore a range of options for finding a solution for Alfie. Of course we want to ensure that people get the treatment they need. It is also important that medicines are properly and thoroughly tested, but I will certainly ensure that the Home Office looks at this application speedily.
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this very important issue. It is one of the issues we will be focusing on in this Commonwealth Heads of Government week, and yesterday I called on my fellow Commonwealth leaders to join the UK in committing to halving the number of malaria cases by 2023. We are the second largest donor to the fight against malaria and, as the Minister for the Middle East, my right hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt) said in International Development questions, we remain committed to our five-year pledge to spend £500 million tackling it. Yesterday I announced that the UK will commit a further £100 million to the global fund, which has the aim of unlocking a further £100 million of investment from the private sector.
I am aware that the right hon. Gentleman has raised this issue with me before. The contract between the trust and the private finance initiative company is still in place, so the PFI company is contractually obliged to manage the project and find another subcontractor who can continue to deliver the building work and the services. As the right hon. Gentleman may know, even before the issue arose with Carillion there were some delays to this project. The Department of Health and Social Care is working actively on it, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is doing so as well and he has also been in discussions with the Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, who has also been in discussions with the trust. We recognise the level of concern being raised on this issue and we are working to resolve it.
Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Team England on winning the second largest tally of gold medals at an overseas Commonwealth games, as they return on Saturday to Birmingham, which will be the next host of the games?
Wait for it. I am also happy to congratulate Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, all of whom had a very good Commonwealth games. It was an excellent Commonwealth games; Australia put on a very good show. I was pleased to see that one of the last results was in the women’s netball, in which we beat Australia.
More money is being made available to police forces in the 2018-19 year, and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has taken action in relation to the serious violent strategy that she has published. Also, I have to say this to the hon. Lady:
“We do not say that there is a direct causal factor between the number of officers on the ground and the number of crimes.”
She may wave her hand at that, but those are not my words but those of the shadow Policing Minister.
My right hon. Friend has rightly made reference to yesterday’s debate on anti-Semitism. I sat in the Chamber and listened to that debate, including the two appalling testimonies from the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) and particularly from the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Ruth Smeeth), which were deeply moving. They were horrifying in the sense of the abuse that those hon. Members have faced, but also uplifting in the sense of the bravery that they have shown in tackling their abusers. Does my right hon. Friend agree that what came out of yesterday’s debate was that there should be absolutely no place in any political party for anyone who is an anti-Semite and that, just as importantly, any apologists for anti-Semites should be kicked out of their party as well?
I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend. It is incredibly important for us and for the political parties in this country to show a clear signal that we will not accept or tolerate anti-Semitism in any form. I have made reference to a number of the speeches that were made yesterday, and I also join my right hon. Friend in commending those Members, particularly the hon. Members for Stoke-on-Trent North and for Liverpool, Wavertree, who have suffered incredible abuse as a result of this anti-Semitism but who have also shown incredible bravery in being willing to stand up and set that out to the House. Theirs was a fine example of the best of this House of Commons and the best of Members of Parliament.
The hon. Gentleman raises a question that I know has been raised in the House before. I am sure that it is a matter of concern not only to him but to a number of his constituents. We continue to take the view that the best resolution of this issue is for India and Pakistan themselves to come together and resolve the matter. That will be the way to resolve it that will actually ensure the sustainability of a resolution.
RBS recently announced plans to reduce the number of mobile banking visits to Dufftown in Moray. Following strong representations from myself, Dufftown and District Community Council, and Speyside Community Council, the bank confirmed yesterday that it would not go ahead with its plans. Will the Prime Minister join me in welcoming that? However, does she agree that RBS needs to engage more with local communities, because had it done so, it would have realised how unacceptable its proposals were?
I am happy to join my hon. Friend in welcoming RBS’s decision, but I commend him for his efforts on behalf of his constituents in Dufftown. Such things are commercial issues for the banks, but we have been clear that banks need to consider carefully the impact on people and their access to services when making such decisions.
The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue, and we are happy to ensure through various channels that we encourage others to follow the example that India has shown in relation to TB. At one stage, it was eradicated here in the UK, but we need to ensure that action is taken in other countries around the world.
As the Prime Minister said, unemployment is at a 43-year low, and investment in UK industries, including the tech industry, is at a high. When she is on her way to Carlisle, will she come and visit Imagination Technologies? It has received an £8 billion investment, which shows the confidence that overseas technology investors have in our tech industry.
Search and rescue at sea is provided by several organisations, including the coastguard and the RNLI. The RNLI has a proud tradition, and we should be grateful for its record on search and rescue at sea. It is obviously independent and decides where best to put its resources, but we are supporting the work of independent lifeboat charities through our rescue boat grant fund, which has allocated more than £3.5 million since 2014 to increase capacity and resilience by providing new boats and equipment.
The Commonwealth is a wonderful organisation, but too many Commonwealth countries have anti-gay legislation on their statute book. Of course, a lot of that is a legacy of the colonial days, when Britain was a very different country. What message about gay rights does the Prime Minister have for Commonwealth leaders this week? More importantly, that message should go out to gay people in those countries who are suffering because of such legislation.
My hon. Friend raises an important point. We have a special responsibility to help to change hearts and minds on such issues within the Commonwealth. When I addressed the Commonwealth forum yesterday, I said that across the Commonwealth
“discriminatory laws made many years ago continue to affect the lives of many people, criminalising same-sex relations and failing to protect women and girls.”
Many such laws were put in place by this country, and I deeply regret the legacy of discrimination, violence and even death that persists today. As a family of Commonwealth nations, we must respect one another’s customs and traditions, but we must do so in a matter that is consistent with our common value of equality. The message that I sent yesterday is that we stand ready to support any Commonwealth member that wants to reform outdated legislation that makes such discrimination possible.
London welcomes our good friend Prime Minister Modi today. Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity to condemn absolutely the mobile billboards that are going around London attacking our good friend Prime Minister Modi, and will she congratulate and thank the 1.7 million members of the Indian diaspora on their contribution to the work of this country?
India is indeed a good friend of the United Kingdom, and the Indian diaspora here in the UK plays an enormous role and makes an enormous contribution to our society and our economy. I am very happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating and thanking them, and indeed in encouraging the continuation of that contribution. When I spoke to Prime Minister Modi, we discussed how we can encourage and increase the links and development between our two countries.
The vile online and social media abuse suffered in particular by female politicians, which was movingly highlighted in yesterday’s debate and also by events at the weekend back home in Northern Ireland, is testimony to how this must be tackled head-on. Can the Prime Minister assure us that steps will be taken to bring social media companies and platforms to account, so that the wild west culture of “anything goes” is brought to an end as quickly as possible?
The right hon. Gentleman raises a very important point about how these platforms can be used for the sort of abuse that we heard about in the Chamber last night and that, as he says, has also been raised in Northern Ireland in the past few days. We are working with the social media companies. Good work has been done with them on a number of aspects, such as child abuse on those platforms, and we continue to work with them on the wider issues. We are also looking at the issue of the liability of social media companies. They are not publishers, but on the other hand, they are not just platforms. We are looking at that issue urgently.
Free and fair elections are the foundation of our democracy. I am sure that the Prime Minister will be aware of the events that happened in the Gower constituency during last year’s election, where the Labour activist Dan Evans has admitted spreading lies and libellous accusations against our former colleague Byron Davies, to influence the outcome of the election. It appears that his efforts worked. Does the Prime Minister believe that the leadership of the Labour party needs to make it very clear that our democracy has no place for this sort of behaviour? Does she believe that the honourable thing would be for the new incumbent of that seat to resign and fight a free and honest by-election?
Of course, our former colleague Byron Davies has received an apology, and I understand that a donation has been made to charity. Of course, our former colleague lost his job as a result of the action that was taken. People across the House talk of free and fair elections—that is what we believe in as a democracy—but political parties need not just to talk about free and fair elections; they need to ensure they put it into practice.
Last week, Shop Direct announced that it is closing all its Greater Manchester sites, with the loss of 2,000 jobs, including nearly 1,400 in my constituency at Shaw. That was without prior warning or discussion with staff, the unions, Oldham Council or even myself. Given that this is about the ascendance of automation, what specific measures is the Prime Minister taking to support my constituents? Will she meet me and my colleagues to discuss this and the longer-term, more general impact of automation on the labour market?
Obviously, this is a time of great concern for the Shop Direct workers and their families in Greater Manchester. The Department for Work and Pensions and Jobcentre Plus are working with the company to understand the level of support that is required for employees, and the DWP stands ready to put in place its rapid response service to support any workers who are made redundant and to help them back into employment as quickly as possible. There are a number of ways in which Jobcentre Plus can support workers, and it will ensure that it does that in this instance.
The hon. Lady raises a wider issue about the impact of automation on jobs. We are looking at the question as part of our industrial strategy, and I will ask the Business Secretary to meet her to discuss it.
Malaria has been mentioned by several Members in the Chamber today. In her conversations with the Prime Minister of Canada this week, will the Prime Minister be discussing how the G7 can help to drive progress towards a malaria-free world?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising that. I have not yet met Prime Minister Trudeau this week, but this is certainly an issue that we have made sure is being spoken about here at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, and we will raise it within the G7 context.
In 2009, Michelle Samaraweera was raped and murdered. Since 2012, Aman Vyas has been avoiding extradition for this and eight other charges of sexual violence against women in Walthamstow. There have been 47 hearings to date, with the judge not showing up for seven of them, and seven different judges have been appointed. When the Prime Minister talks to her good friend Prime Minister Modi while he is here in London, will she commit to raising this case with him and asking India to take it seriously, so that we can finally get justice for Michelle?
I have already met Prime Minister Modi for our bilateral discussions. There are a number of issues of extradition between the two countries—the UK and India. We raise a number of cases with the Indian Government, as I did this morning. It is important that we recognise the independence of the judiciary in both countries.