The Secretary of State was asked—
Ties with the Rest of the UK
The United Kingdom is the vital Union for Scotland, and this Government will always work to strengthen the integrity of the UK. That includes working closely and constructively with the Scottish Government. But I was disappointed that, unlike the Welsh Government, Nicola Sturgeon has been unwilling to agree our proposed amendments to clause 11 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. The Welsh Government have said that this is a deal that respects devolution. They have said:
“This is a deal we can work with which has required compromise on both sides.”
I absolutely agree, and I continue to hope that the Scottish Government will join us.
I share my right hon. Friend’s disappointment and surprise that the SNP Administration in Edinburgh have been unable to reach agreement with the Government. I ask him to work with those people in the devolved Government in Edinburgh who are willing to reach agreement to ensure that we put the politics of division behind us and work together so that we can move the conversation on for our constituents.
I absolutely agree. I was certainly very disappointed that the Scottish Government, despite sharing the same concerns as the Welsh Government, decided not to agree with this approach. We will of course continue to have a constructive dialogue with the Scottish Government, and I want to put it on the record that Mike Russell, the Scottish Minister, has put a lot of personal effort and commitment into getting this over the line, and I still hope that his Government will join him in reaching that agreement in the coming weeks.
In the interests of facilitating negotiations, will the Secretary of State confirm whether the Lords will be asked to agree to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill on Third Reading before the Scottish Parliament has had time to consider a legislative consent memorandum?
What will happen is that today the UK Government will table an amendment to clause 11 of the withdrawal Bill in the House of Lords, on the basis agreed with the Welsh Government, and on the basis offered to the Scottish Government. The intergovernmental agreement accompanying the clause will also be published.
As my right hon. Friend knows, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has taken a close interest in this matter. Is he aware that we will be travelling to Edinburgh on Sunday, for hearings on Monday on the matter? I invite him to feel less disappointment and more hope, because the SNP Government have always insisted that their interests are aligned with those of the Welsh Government. Can we give the Scottish Government time to reflect on the fact that the Welsh Government now support the UK Government’s position, and that they might wish to do so in future?
I am sure that the Committee will be made very welcome in Edinburgh. Anything that it can do to focus Nicola Sturgeon’s mind on what has been offered, and what the Welsh Government have been able to sign up to, given that it protects the devolution settlement, will be very welcome. I hope that Nicola Sturgeon will think again.
May I first place on the record my congratulations to the Scottish Commonwealth games team on their success in Melbourne?
Coming back to the task in hand, it has been widely reported that Mike Russell was happy with the amendment and agreed to the deal, before being overruled by Nicola Sturgeon. Can the Secretary of State confirm whether there was an agreement on this issue from the Scottish Government at any point during the process?
What I can confirm is that there were extensive negotiations on the proposal, which has ultimately been agreed with the Welsh Government, and the Scottish Government were actively involved in those discussions. To be fair to Mike Russell, he has never led us to believe that there was any decision maker in the Scottish Government other than Nicola Sturgeon.
I thank the Secretary of State for that non-response. The Labour party anticipated that political games would be played with the constitution. It is time for the people of Scotland to know exactly what has been going on behind closed doors, so will he tell me the truth and shame the devil, and agree to publish the minutes of all meetings and conversations between the Scottish and UK Governments and any member of the Conservative party or the SNP on clause 11?
The SNP’s Brexit Minister, Mike Russell, said that he could not envisage a situation in which Scotland would be content and Wales would not be, or vice versa. Those words ring hollow today. Does my right hon. Friend agree that Nicola Sturgeon’s belligerence in snubbing an agreement on clause 11 reminds us that the SNP believes in independence, manufactured grievance and a narrow nationalist agenda, which will always come before the good of the country?
Some people might conclude, given that Mike Russell did say that the Welsh Government and the Scottish Government were in exactly the same position, that there might be just one issue where there is a difference. That difference is that the Welsh Government believe in devolution and the Scottish Government believe in independence.
Does the Secretary of State think that taking the Scottish Parliament to court to overturn the democratic decision of that Parliament will help to strengthen the ties between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom?
For the first time ever, I probably agree with the Secretary of State. It comes as no surprise to us that Welsh Labour has so easily capitulated to the Tories on this issue. We will never stop defending the integrity of our Parliament, and we will never allow the Tories to diminish our Parliament’s powers. We will not allow that to happen. Is it the case with these amendments that, if the Scottish Parliament does not give its consent in these devolved areas within its responsibilities, the UK Government will simply overrule our democratic Parliament again? Is that what is going to happen?
I read recently on the hon. Gentleman’s blog that the SNP should stop talking nonsense. He needs to take his own advice. Our position is still clear: we want to secure the agreement of the Scottish Government to our proposals in relation to clause 11. We have been very clear. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office has been clear. Our door is open. We hope that we will have direct discussions with the Scottish Government next week, and we hope that they will change their position and sign up, as the Welsh Government have, to proposals that protect the devolution settlement.
Leaving the EU: Scottish Exports
From funding UK Export Finance support to re-establishing the Board of Trade, the UK Government are working to support all Scottish businesses that are looking to export or expand their operations abroad.
The Scottish borders have a number of industries with international reach, including the textiles industry, which is a global player in fashion. There is also an international market for food and drink from the borders, and indeed from across Scotland. Can my right hon. Friend reassure me that producers of textiles and of food and drink in the borders and across Scotland will be taken account of as part of the Brexit negotiations so that they can take advantage of the opportunities that Brexit presents?
My hon. Friend is always a champion for the businesses in the borders, and I can of course give him that reassurance. We are talking to producers in the borders, across Scotland and indeed across the UK to ensure that they can make the most of the opportunities around the world as we leave the EU.
Scottish seafood is rightly famous around the world. I was pleased that my hon. Friend could join me earlier this month when I met the Scottish Seafood Association to discuss the impact of the EU exit. As I said then, there are growing opportunities for the sector in Scotland, and I would of course be happy both to meet the fish processing industry myself and to encourage my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade to do so.
Consistently, reports have said that Aberdeen is set to be hit the worst by Brexit, not least because of the number of incredibly successful exporting businesses we have. What is the Secretary of State doing to ensure that we stay in the single market and the customs union to protect businesses in Aberdeen?
The hon. Lady will be pleased to know that the Secretary of State for International Trade is visiting Aberdeen. We recognise Aberdeen’s great exporting tradition, which is why we want to ensure that there are opportunities for Aberdeen’s businesses around the world. This Government will not sign up to a customs union so that we can negotiate free trade agreements that allow businesses to take advantage of those opportunities.
The Netherlands has overtaken the USA as Scotland’s biggest export market, which demonstrates the increasing importance of EU trade to the Scottish economy. The Secretary of State should be representing the voices and interests of Scotland in the Cabinet. With respect, he did not answer the question of the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman) about the single market, because representing Scotland’s interests can only mean arguing for continued membership of the single market.
I respect the Liberal Democrats’ position that they want to stay in the EU and, indeed, to stop the UK and Scotland leaving the EU, but a decision has been made across the United Kingdom that it will leave the EU. It is now incumbent on this Government to negotiate the best possible terms for that departure. The Government have made it absolutely clear that we will not be part of a customs union and will look to negotiate our own bespoke free trade agreement with the EU.
Renewable Energy Sector
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has regular discussions with colleagues on a range of issues, including the renewable energy sector in Scotland. The Government remain committed to a thriving renewables industry across the UK, and Scotland is a central part of that, with up to £557 million of support being made available for new generation projects.
Given that we are an island, wave and tidal energy should be a priority for this Government. However, due to the allocation of funding through the contracts for difference scheme, wave and tidal energy have never secured funding, as they cannot compete financially with more established technologies. Will the Secretary of State undertake to review the way those allocations are carried out and consider allocating a specific pot to less established technologies?
In previous rounds of contracts for difference, Scottish projects won 11 of the 25 contracts. On the specific point the hon. Lady makes, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has committed to raise the issue with the Minister responsible and will come back to her on that.
Recently, I visited the community hydro scheme in Callander, which is a first-class project that makes the best of our Scottish rain—there will be no shortage of that in the short term or the long term. What encouragement can the Department give to Scotland’s hydro energy businesses?
Social Media Consultancies
The Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland does not currently use social media consultancies and has not done so in the past.
Freedom of information requests published by The Ferret show that one advertising campaign from the Scotland Office targeted small business owners solely in the Secretary of State’s Dumfriesshire constituency. Did he direct his officials in the Department to target his own constituency specifically?
It must be more than a coincidence that the Scotland Office did a very targeted Facebook campaign in the Secretary of State’s own constituency, excluding cohorts such as those with an interest in Scottish independence, so can he tell the House when he knew that his Department was using social media to target his constituents only?
I have clearly answered the point that the hon. Gentleman’s colleague, the hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Neil Gray), raised, and if he has specific suggestions that the very clear rules under which the Government operate have been breached, I would like to hear them. But it is very clear, for example, that the Scottish Government target specific audiences, and if he is saying that they do not, I would be very surprised to hear that.
We have been told that the Scotland Office published numerous Facebook posts to coincide with Government visits, but it appears that only the posts relating to the Secretary of State’s constituency received a financial boost. If that is the case and the Scotland Office is seen to be micro-targeting tailored Facebook adverts only on voters in his constituency, does he consider that a misuse of taxpayers’ money and an abuse of power?
The hon. Gentleman does have a track record of asking questions when he does not know what the answer is going to be. I return very clearly to the point that, if there are specific suggestions that the code under which the Government operate has been breached, they should be made and taken forward in the proper way. But if the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the Scottish Government do not target specific individuals with their material, he is misleading this House.
Well, if the hon. Gentleman were suggesting it, he would be, but he is not, so he is not. I am sure that the SNP is not accusing the Secretary of State of impropriety, as that would be the wrong thing to do on the Floor of the Chamber, but equally, I am sure that the Secretary of State is not making any accusation of impropriety.
Cambridge Analytica claimed yesterday that the SNP’s involvement with it was far more than Nicola Sturgeon has previously claimed. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the SNP should be far more open and honest about its involvement with Cambridge Analytica, particularly with its own MPs?
Did my right hon. Friend share my interest in the answers provided to the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O'Hara) by Cambridge Analytica yesterday, in the most recent hearing, and does he agree that it is important that the separatists are equally open about how they have used these consultancies?
What I agree with, and this is not necessarily the forum, is that the SNP has a very great many questions to answer about its involvement with Cambridge Analytica. Perhaps Mr Peter Murrell, when he deigns to speak to the MP group, will answer some of those questions for them.
It is rather ironic that the SNP submitted this question en masse, given its subsequent unwillingness to offer basic transparency over the party’s dealings with Cambridge Analytica, but I hope that today the Secretary of State can be more transparent than the SNP has been. While his Government decimate public services, his Department is spending £50,000 on targeted social media, so can he tell us what data the Scotland Office gathered on the public and whether he believes that this was an appropriate use of taxpayers’ money?
The Scotland Office did not gather data on the public. We used established methods of advertising effectively on Facebook. If the hon. Gentleman pays attention to some of the debates and discussions in this House, he will know that many people now gain information through social media, so in terms of the Scotland Office fulfilling its obligation to the people of Scotland about what the Government and the Scotland Office are doing, social media is a perfectly appropriate channel to do it through.
Leaving the EU: Effect on Scotland
I have regular discussions with the Prime Minister and Cabinet colleagues. The UK is committed to securing a deal that works for all parts of the UK, including Scotland.
The Home Office cap on tier 2 visas has been reached in each of the last four months, meaning that applications are now being prioritised according to the salary offered. As a result, the average salary now needed has risen from £30,000 to £55,000, meaning that the majority of such visas are likely to end up in high-income areas such as London, as companies in Scotland, and indeed the NHS, cannot simply double their salaries. Does the Secretary of State not accept that we in Scotland need our own immigration system so that we can recruit high-skilled professionals for our industries and NHS?
The Secretary of State’s Government have repeatedly talked the talk about a partnership of equals, so will he explain where on earth is the equity and partnership in proposals that the Westminster Parliament be able to restrict the Scottish Parliament’s powers for up to seven years without its consent?
As I made clear earlier, the UK Government are committed to working with the Scottish Government, but we are not just partners; what the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues cannot accept is that Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, and that is the nature of the agreement we have reached, which the Welsh Government say protects the devolution settlement.
The SNP asked the Secretary of State countless times whether amendments to clause 11 of the EU withdrawal Bill would be tabled to protect devolution, and time and again he promised that they would. The Scottish Government have drafted amendments and provided proposals, but the Westminster Government have ignored all of them. Is this not just another broken Tory promise to Scotland?
I am sure that question looked better written down than it sounded. The Welsh Government, who Mike Russell only last week said were fully aligned with the Scottish Government’s purpose and requirements, have made it clear that the amendment we are lodging to the EU withdrawal Bill protects the devolution settlement.
East Renfrewshire has a vibrant business community, but only 75 of its businesses have more than 20 employees, and by far their most important market is the rest of the UK. What reassurances can my right hon. Friend give them that as the UK leaves the EU they will have seamless access to the rest of the UK?
Two thirds of the UK’s jobs in financial and professional services are outside London and many are in Scotland. Reuters estimates that 5,000 jobs in financial services might move because of Brexit. What advice has the Secretary of State been given about how this could affect jobs in Scotland?
The hon. Lady is right. It is very important that everyone is clear that financial services are not just in the City of London but are hugely important in Scotland and the other constituent parts of the UK. That is why we are fighting for a good deal from the EU on financial services.
Leaving the EU: Scottish Economy
We want our future relationship with the EU to be a deep and special partnership that takes in both economic and security co-operation. We are confident that this is in the interests of both sides, so we approach these negotiations anticipating success. We do not want or expect a no deal outcome.
In its year-end report, the Fraser of Allander Institute pointed to uncertainty over Brexit as one of the principal drags on the Scottish economy. The people of Scotland are fed up with the ongoing pantomime that is the relationship between the Scottish Tories and the SNP. What meetings has the Secretary of State had with the Scottish Government on clause 11, and how does he intend to bring this farce to a close?
I think my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made it very clear that we want the Scottish Government to agree to the clause 11 amendment as the Welsh Government have. The Welsh Government have accepted that the UK Government have gone a long way, and I hope that the Scottish Government are listening and will take part.
Does the Minister agree that the most important way of mitigating the disastrous effects of Brexit in Scotland would be an agreement between the two Governments? Will he encourage the Scottish Government to stop their constitutional posturing and think about what the people actually want?
Universal Credit: Low-Income Families
Universal credit is transforming lives across the country. Research shows that universal credit claimants spend more time searching and applying for work than those on previous benefits. There are now more than 100,000 fewer workless households in Scotland than there were seven years ago.
I think it is widely accepted that there are many reasons why people use food banks, and many different issues. Even the all-party parliamentary group on hunger and food poverty has accepted that. We have rolled out universal credit slowly and made changes when we have considered them to be necessary, and we continue to do so.
Ayrshire Growth Deal
I am sure the hon. Lady will join me in welcoming the commitment made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when she visited Ayr and said that the UK Government were opening talks to deliver such a deal.
Given that the Secretary of State has told me on the Floor of the House that he shares my frustration at the lack of progress on the deal, and given that the Prime Minister has now committed herself to it publicly, will he finally, at long last, for the love of God, give us a timetable?
I think that somewhere in the hon. Lady’s question there was a note of positivity about the fact that the UK Government have committed themselves to taking the deal forward. We are working closely with the local authorities and other partners on a timetable.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the city and growth deals that cover the vast majority of Scotland are a great example of what can be achieved when Governments and authorities work closely together rather than picking a fight with one another?
The Prime Minister was asked—
I am sure the whole House will wish to join me in offering our warmest congratulations to their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their son earlier this week.
I know that Members on both sides of the House will also want to join me in marking Stephen Lawrence’s death 25 years ago. For each of those years, the Lawrence family have fought heroically to ensure that their son’s life and death will never be forgotten. As I announced earlier this week, the Government will work with the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust to establish a national annual commemoration of Stephen’s life and legacy.
This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
My colleagues and I acknowledge the fortitude of the Lawrence family, and, indeed, the joy that the nation shares on the occasion of a royal birth.
In 2017, through the confidence and supply agreement, the Prime Minister not only recognised the need to give Northern Ireland an economic boost but agreed to a package of measures, including a Belfast region city deal, a city deal for others, and ultra-fast broadband investment. That will transform our part of this United Kingdom. In response to the eager anticipation of our communities and in reaffirming her commitment, will she ensure that sufficient progress is made to advance both in time for the autumn Budget?
The hon. Gentleman has raised an important issue. He is absolutely right: the Government have set out several public commitments, including in the confidence and supply agreement, to work towards a comprehensive and ambitious set of city deals across Northern Ireland. There is progress being made, which I welcome, by the Belfast city region partners in developing the city deal proposals. I look forward to their submission, which will obviously be considered by the Government. Of course, in the absence of an Executive, there are some issues to work through, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend the Northern Ireland Secretary is committed to working positively with partners in the UK Government, the Belfast city region and the Northern Ireland civil service to progress the city deal.
I am pleased that we are making progress on the withdrawal Bill. I think that has been acknowledged by all sides, and after many months of negotiation—I pay tribute to my right hon. Friends, particularly the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster for the work he has done in those negotiations—we have reached agreement with the Welsh Government. That is a significant achievement and will provide legal certainty, increase the powers of the devolved Governments and respect the devolution settlements. We have made considerable changes to the Bill to reflect issues raised by Members and the devolved Administrations. It is indeed disappointing that the Scottish Government have not yet felt able to add their agreement to the new amendments, and we sincerely hope that they will reconsider their position.
I join the Prime Minister in congratulating the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their baby and I wish them well.
We should also reflect on the fact that Doreen and Neville Lawrence fought for years to get justice for the death of their son. The Macpherson inquiry showed that institutional racism was a major factor in the inquiry. We need to drive out institutional racism in all its forms, wherever it raises its head within our society. We recognise that the Home Secretary has rightly apologised to the Windrush generation and made a commitment to compensate people for the hardship they have endured. The Government are committed to compensation in theory, but as yet nothing in practice. There is an understandable lack of trust on the part of the Windrush generation, so can the Prime Minister today be clear and confirm that those British citizens, who have worked, paid taxes here for decades and been wrongly denied pensions and benefits, will be fully compensated?
It is absolutely right that across this House we should all be absolutely clear in our determination to ensure that we stamp out racism in every form. Let me set out to the House the action that has been taken. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made very clear the offering in her statement to the House that those who came here before 1 January 1973 from Commonwealth countries—this is from Commonwealth countries as a whole—will be offered citizenship status without paying the fee and without taking the knowledge of language and “Life in the UK” test. The children of the Windrush generation who are in the UK will in most cases be British citizens already, but where that is not the case, they will be able to apply to naturalise at no further cost.
We are also taking action in relation to those who made their life here but retired to their country of origin and have found it difficult or impossible to return to the UK. We will work with high commissions to make sure that they can easily access the offer of formal British citizenship, because the Windrush generation are British; they are part of us. There will be a compensation scheme, the details of which my right hon. Friend will set out in due course, but I think everybody will see that the action the Government have taken is because we know the Windrush generation—[Interruption.] The Labour Front Benchers shake their heads and go, “Oh no!” The Windrush generation are British, they are part of us, and we will ensure that.
It is not an act of generosity to waive citizenship fees when they are British citizens already. They should be granted full status immediately. Four years ago, an internal Home Office memo stated that the right hon. Lady’s “hostile environment” policy could make it harder for people like the Windrush generation to find homes and that it could “provoke discrimination”. Why did the Home Secretary ignore that memo?
The right hon. Gentleman talks about a “hostile environment”:
“What we are proposing here will, I think, flush illegal migrants out. We are trying to create a much more hostile environment in this country if you are here illegally.”
Those are not my words; they are the words of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne) when he was Labour’s Immigration Minister. The Labour leader ought to know about this because the right hon. Gentleman sits on his Front Bench.
What I am talking about is the Windrush generation of people who came here completely legally. The Prime Minister herself was warned directly about these policies in 2014 by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), who is now the shadow Home Secretary. And when the Immigration Act 2014 was going through Parliament, the then Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, wrote to the right hon. Lady warning:
“The costs and risks considerably outweigh the benefits”.
Why did the Prime Minister ignore his advice as well as the request from my right hon. Friend?
In relation to the Windrush generation, we have made it absolutely clear that those people who came here from the Commonwealth before 1 January 1973 have a right to be here: they are British, they are part of us. The problem at the time was that they were not documented with that right, and that is what we are now putting right. He talks about action that the Government have taken in relation to those who are here illegally. The Windrush generation are here legally. Action against those who are here illegally has been taken by successive Governments. Checks on someone’s right to work here came in in 1997, measures on access to benefits in 1999 and civil penalties for employing illegal migrants in 2008—both under a Labour Government. Why have these actions been taken? Because people up and down this country want to ensure that the Government are taking action on those people who are here illegally. It is not fair to those people who work hard, who have a right to be here and who have contributed to this country if they see people who are here illegally being given the same access to rights and services.
The Prime Minister seems to want to get away from the injustice done to the Windrush generation. The Equalities and Human and Rights Commission warned her about the Immigration Act 2016, saying that the Bill
“is likely to lead to destitution and may cause inhuman and degrading treatment, in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights”.
The Government have quite rightly apologised for the scandalous way in which British citizens have been treated, but it was due to the 2014 and 2016 Immigration Acts, so will the Prime Minister now commit to reviewing that legislation to make sure this never happens again?
As I set out for the House last week, this is a generation who came here prior to 1973—[Interruption.] Labour Front Benchers say “We know this,” but the questions that the right hon. Gentleman is asking suggest that they are ignoring some of the facts in relation to this. This is a generation who came here prior to 1973. We are not ignoring the problems that some members of this generation are facing. That is why my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has set up a special team in the Home Office, not just to deal with their inquiries but to actively help them find the documentation to clarify their status. That is why we have made the offer that my right hon. Friend made of ensuring that we can give them formal British citizenship which recognises that they are British but does so in a formal, documented way. The problem was that, prior to 1973 when the Windrush generation came here, they were not given documents that set out their status. We are now putting that right, and we will leave no stone unturned to put that right.
In 2013, the then Home Secretary said that introducing the legislation was about creating “a really hostile environment”. Had the Windrush generation not mounted a campaign and had Opposition Members not raised the matter persistently, there would have been no compensation, no review and no apology. Any review of legislation needs to go wider than just immigration law. The dismantling of legal aid provision in 2012 made the impact of the Immigration Act 2014 harder to challenge. The policies swept up British citizens and legal migrants, causing them immense suffering, as the Prime Minister was warned. Will the Prime Minister send a clear message today and tell us that the hostile environment is over and that her bogus immigration targets, which have driven the hostile culture, will be scrapped? The Windrush generation have served this country and deserve better than this.
The Windrush generation are British. They have contributed to this country. They have made their life here. This is about dealing with those people who are in this country illegally—not the Windrush generation, who are here legally. I say to the right hon. Gentleman again that I have quoted the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill from when he was Labour’s Immigration Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition referred to 2013. In 2013, the then shadow Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), said that
“we need much stronger action from Government to bring illegal immigration down.”
That is—[Interruption.] Labour Front Benchers are saying that the Windrush generation are not illegal. They are not illegal; they are here legally. That is why we are providing support to enable them to get the documents for their status. What the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is talking about is whether we should deal with illegal immigration, and up and down the country the British public will tell him that we should deal with illegal immigration.
We are talking about the environment created by the Prime Minister when she was Home Secretary for six years, when she knew full well of the problems that the Windrush generation were facing, and at last she has been forced to act upon that.
Last week, the current Home Secretary admitted that the Home Office
“sometimes loses sight of the individual.”—[Official Report, 16 April 2018; Vol. 639, c. 28.]
Yet we now know that when she took over from her predecessor, her intent was to harden this cruel and misdirected policy, pledging to do so “ruthlessly”. A report last month by immigration officials stated that “hostile environment” measures were not even having the desired effect. The current Home Secretary inherited a failing policy and made it worse. Is it not time she took responsibility and resigned? [Interruption.]
Up and down this country, people want to ensure that the Government are taking action against those people who are here in this country illegally, because it is not fair that people who work hard day in and day out, who contribute to this country and who put into the life of this country are seeing people who are here illegally accessing services in the same way.
We are acting to ensure that those people who are here legally are given the support they need. We welcomed the Windrush generation those many years ago. They are British, they are part of us, and we are ensuring that they remain here and are able to continue to live their lives here. But it is also right that this Government take action against those people who are accessing services despite being here illegally, not putting in and not contributing to this country.
If the Leader of the Opposition wants to talk about issues of fairness, if he wants to talk about a Government that is kind, let us look and see what a Labour Government would be like, because a Labour Government would wreck our economy, would damage people’s jobs, would tax people and would end up with debt for future generations. That is not a Labour Government that would be kind or fair to anybody.
I join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to Matt Campbell. I understand Matt Campbell’s JustGiving page has now raised over £140,000 for the Brathay Trust, which works to inspire vulnerable young people to make positive changes in their life. I am sure Members across the House will want to join me in offering condolences to Matt Campbell’s family and friends, but I am also happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating the runners in this weekend’s London marathon, including the 15 Members of this House who competed.
If I may say so, I particularly congratulate my hon. Friend, who was the fastest Member of Parliament in the marathon, completing it—we should have it on the record—in 3 hours and 38 minutes. Many congratulations to him.
It is also right that we pay tribute to the ambulance workers and medical staff for all they did on the day to enable the marathon to take place.
On behalf of those of us on the SNP Benches, I pass on our congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their son. I associate myself with the Prime Minister’s remarks on Stephen Lawrence.
The CBI, the National Farmers Union, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government, the House of Lords and, overwhelmingly, Members of this House want the UK to remain in the customs union. Why is the Prime Minister on the side of her cynical Brexiteers and Front Benchers and not working in the interests of all the nations of the United Kingdom?
The British people voted to leave the European Union. In voting to leave the European Union, they voted to leave the single market and the customs union. What we want to ensure is that, as a country, we are able to independently negotiate free trade deals around the rest of the world, that we deliver on our commitment to no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and that we have as frictionless a border as possible between the United Kingdom and the European Union. What businesses tell me is that they want a tariff-free, frictionless border, and that is what we are negotiating for them.
That answer simply is not good enough. The single market and the customs union, quite simply, were not on the ballot paper. The Prime Minister’s own Government analysis shows that almost every sector of the economy in every region of the United Kingdom would be negatively impacted if the UK left the customs union. Negotiations in Brussels are effectively at a standstill because the Government are bereft of ideas for how to deal with the Irish border issue.
Why is it that jobs, living standards and even the Good Friday agreement are all secondary concerns to this Government? Will the Prime Minister confirm now that if this place votes in favour of a customs union, that will be the negotiating position of her Government?
The right hon. Gentleman is wrong in so many of the statements that he has just made. First, this Government are not bereft of ideas on how we can approach the issue of the Northern Ireland border, because we have published proposals for dealing with that very issue. If he wants to listen to Scottish businesses, I suggest he listen to those businesses—the Food and Drink Federation Scotland, Scottish Bakers and the Scottish Retail Consortium—that just yesterday said:
“Scotland’s businesses benefit enormously from the existing and largely unfettered UK single market.”
The Scottish National party Government in Scotland should listen to that.
I thank my hon. Friend for raising an important issue, on which I am happy to update the House. First, let me make it absolutely clear that Public Health England has said that Salisbury is safe for residents and visitors, and there is no need for anyone to take any additional precautions. Cordons are in place to protect the public while decontamination work is carried out on the sites he has referred to. After decontamination is undertaken at each site, sampling will be carried out to ensure that the sites are safe to be released back to the public. I assure him that the need to expedite this work is well recognised, but we want, of course, to ensure that it is done in a way so that those sites will in the future be available to, and safe for, the public.
I understand that the hon. Gentleman raised this case with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week. My right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary has offered to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss the wider issue. HMRC is working closely with the trustees’ representatives to resolve the case and will be meeting them next month. HMRC is operationally independent, and that is important. It must of course apply the law fairly and collect the taxes set out in legislation by Parliament, but it is working with the trustees’ representatives, and as I said, the Financial Secretary is happy to meet him to discuss this.
Obviously, this question of the fisheries is a matter that my hon. Friend and others have raised previously. Let me reassure him that, during the implementation period we have negotiated, the UK’s share of catch cannot be reduced. This safeguards the livelihoods of our fishing communities and, importantly, also delivers a smooth and orderly Brexit. There is also an obligation in the agreement on both sides to act in good faith throughout that implementation period, and any attempts by the EU to harm the UK fishing industry would obviously breach that obligation. Obviously, in December 2020, we will be negotiating fishing opportunities as a third country—as a fully independent coastal state—deciding who can have access to our waters and on what terms for the first time in more than 40 years.
What we are doing through our national shipbuilding strategy is focusing on giving the Royal Navy the ships it needs, while increasing economic growth across the country and investing in a more skilled workforce. We are encouraging a more competitive industry in shipbuilding and growing jobs across the country. The hon. Gentleman may have been referring to the future support ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary that are being procured through international competition. Three ships will be built in the fleet solid support programme. They will be subject to international competition to secure the best possible value for money for the UK taxpayer. Through our national shipbuilding strategy, we are ensuring that we develop that shipbuilding capability in the UK, so that we can encourage all UK shipyards with the necessary skills and expertise to continue to engage in that programme.
Will my right hon. Friend congratulate the doctors who are members of the Faculty of Homeopathy on their work in the health service, particularly in dealing with cases that are too difficult to treat conventionally? Does she agree that homeopathic vets should be able to make their own minds up about whether to use homeopathy on its own or with other treatments, too?
My hon. Friend has been a long-standing advocate in this House for homeopathy. Obviously, some patients who are treated in the NHS and the private sector are users of complementary and alternative therapies, but it is the responsibility of the local NHS to make decisions on the commissioning and funding of healthcare treatments and to take account of issues with safety, clinical and cost-effectiveness, and the availability of suitably qualified and regulated practitioners. As regards all the issues he has addressed, it is right that those who are professionally able to make these judgments are left to make them.
We already have plans to tackle childhood obesity that are world leading. No other developed country has done anything as ambitious. Our soft drinks industry levy is a bold action that we are taking, and our sugar reduction programme will cut the amounts of sugar consumed by young people. Of course, we are also putting in plans for the amount of exercise and physical activity primary school children get every day. Those steps will make a real difference and help reverse a problem that has been decades in the making, but of course we have not ruled out further action if the right results are not seen.
Does the Prime Minister agree that events since the very powerful debate on anti-Semitism that we held in this Chamber have demonstrated that Labour is still not taking these problems seriously and that it now needs to take urgent action to root out this form of racism from its party?
Of course, my right hon. Friend raises an extremely important issue. As I said at the beginning in response to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, it is important that everybody across the House takes action to stamp out racism in all its forms. I include anti-Semitism in that.
The City of London has recently topped the worldwide Z/Yen index and it supports 450,000 jobs and is worth £45 billion to the UK economy. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is essential for both the EU and the UK that the final Brexit agreement supports these financial services, because otherwise they will simply move elsewhere in the world?
That is an important issue and I referred to it in my Mansion House speech. I said that we wanted to ensure that financial services were a part of the deep and comprehensive partnership that we wished to build with the EU27. Our goal should be to establish access to each other’s markets. That should be based on maintaining the same regulatory outcomes over time, with a mechanism that determines proportionate consequences where they are not maintained. That is part of my ambition for an economic partnership with the European Union that goes way beyond any existing free trade agreement, covering more sectors and co-operating more fully. My hon. Friend is right that if firms and financial services are looking to go elsewhere, they are more likely to look to go elsewhere in the world, rather than elsewhere in Europe.
I am happy to join the hon. Lady in congratulating those people in Coventry and elsewhere who have already signed up to be donors. Anthony Nolan has done excellent work over many years. I was not aware of that particular campaign, but I will certainly look into it. It sounds like a very good campaign, and I am sure that she will be encouraging other Members of this House to support it as well.
This is very important. Parents will sometimes decide to educate their children at home, and they will have their reasons for wishing to do so, but it is important that those children get an appropriate quality and level of education. I reassure my hon. Friend that I know that the Secretary of State for Education is looking at the issue.
I am happy to say to the hon. Lady that I think it is important that we are providing and building more homes for people, and that within that we include affordable homes, too. I am pleased to say that, since we came into office in 2010, we have delivered more affordable homes than the previous Labour Government did in their last seven years in office. The Government are in fact working with Manchester—with the Mayor of Manchester and the combined authority—to ensure that we are supporting them in certain areas with funding, encouraging that building of affordable homes, and indeed ensuring that there are homes to which young people can aspire, so that those who never thought they would be able to get their foot on the property ladder can do so.
Morley Newlands Academy scored “outstanding” during a recent Ofsted inspection, and Bruntcliffe Academy in Morley scored “good” for the very first time in its history. Will the Prime Minister confirm to the House that an additional 1.8 million children since 2010 are now taught in “good” and “outstanding” schools, under this Conservative Government? I hope that the Prime Minister will join me in congratulating the principals, teachers, staff and students of the two schools on their hard work to attain this admirable achievement.
I am happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating the teachers, heads and all the staff of those two schools on their achievements, which have resulted from the work that they have been doing. She asked me to confirm that there are now 1.8 million more children in “good” or “outstanding” schools. I am afraid that I am not able to confirm that because, in fact, there are now 1.9 million more children in “good” or “outstanding” schools.
In October last year, the national bereavement care pathway was launched in 11 pilot sites. Last week, it launched in a further 21 hospital sites. I am delighted to announce that yesterday, the Government set aside funding for a national roll-out of the national bereavement care pathway. Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming that funding, which will make such a difference to bereaved parents up and down the country?
My hon. Friend has championed and campaigned on this subject with great personal commitment. I recognise the importance of providing this bereavement counselling and of supporting parents in the most difficult circumstances of having lost a child. That is why the Government are providing this funding.
The Prime Minister will be aware of the concern that if the Home Office cannot deal humanely and efficiently with the immigration status of 50,000 UK residents of Caribbean origin, it will seriously struggle to deal efficiently and humanely with the registration of 3 million European nationals. Will she address the particular concern that the Home Office is now taking powers, under the Data Protection Bill, to cover up future mistakes by blocking access to individual files sought by individuals and their lawyers to check the accuracy of their data?
The right hon. Gentleman’s interpretation is not correct. It will be possible for people to access the information that they need. He mentioned the issue of EU citizens. There is a real difference between that case and the situation where people came to this country but were not given documented status here. That is the issue with which we are dealing regarding the Windrush generation. They have contributed to this country and lived here, but when they came here they were not given that documentary evidence. There is a difference in the system that we are putting in place for EU citizens, who are being encouraged and asked to apply for settled status, so that they have evidence of their status. We are ensuring that this problem will not occur in relation to EU citizens.
This week in this place, we have been talking about higher education. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the action the Government are taking shows that a Conservative Government are committed to delivering for students, working with them and treating them as adults, in stark contrast to Opposition Members, who look to win votes from young people by offering illogical and undeliverable free stuff?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The review we are bringing in on tertiary education is about ensuring not just that the funding and financing of tertiary education is right, but that young people have access to the routes through education, be it technical or university, that suit their particular needs. Of course, last year the Leader of the Opposition said that he would deal with student debt. Students thought he was going to abolish student debt. What happens after the election? He goes back on his promise.
I was not going to raise this, but the Prime Minister quoted me. Let me say this to the Prime Minister: do not try to hide behind me or the Labour party when she was warned repeatedly of the damage that her obsession with her migration target was doing. Do not try to hide behind the Cabinet when they do not agree with her on this and are trying to clear up the mess, and do not try to hide behind civil servants—[Interruption.]
Do not try to hide behind civil servants when she set the policies and instilled in them the culture of hostility, and when the high commissioners told us this morning that they had warned the Foreign Office about the Windrush generation immigration problem in 2016. What did she do? Because a few years ago the Prime Minister said:
“I’m actually sick and tired of government ministers…who simply blame other people when something goes wrong”.
What has changed?
Nobody is trying to blame anybody else. The question of the Windrush generation arises from the fact that when they came here, their status to live here was not documented. Over the years—[Interruption.] Yes, there have been individual cases over the years of people who have had to regularise their documentation and have done so. We have now seen cases of people in difficulty because they have not been able to do that. That is why the Home Office is taking action to deal with that. But under Governments of every colour, including the Government in which the right hon. Lady served, action has been taken against illegal immigrants. This does not apply to the Windrush generation. They are here; they are British; they have a right to be here. Under Labour, action was taken for a compliant environment; under the Conservatives, action has been taken to deal with illegal immigrants. That is what we are doing.
I have apologised to the Windrush generation and I do so again. We are doing everything we can to ensure that they are reassured, and that they do not have the anxiety that some of that generation have had. But we also owe it to them and to the British people to ensure that we deal with people who are here illegally.
Does my right hon. Friend still subscribe to her excellent maxim that no deal is better than a bad deal, and does she acknowledge that locking ourselves into a customs union with the EU after Brexit would be a very bad deal indeed?
I am very happy to confirm what I have always said: no deal is better than a bad deal. As regards being in a customs union, that means that we would not be able to negotiate our own trade deals around the rest of the world, and we want to be able to do that. As I saw last week at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, there is considerable interest around the rest of the world in being able to have those independent trade deals negotiated between other countries and the UK.
In 2011, I wrote to the Prime Minister’s then Immigration Minister, the right hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green), about my constituent who came here in 1956 aged four, and in 2011 was told that he could no longer work and he did not have British citizenship. Her Minister wrote to me and basically said, “Tough.” Can she now explain in a little more detail what compensation will be available for my constituent, who has been unable to work since 2011—for seven years? Will she also, importantly for many people who are feeling vulnerable and scared, assure them that if they ring her hotline, they will see no enforcement action to remove them from the country, because they are scared when ringing that hotline?
As I said earlier, obviously, individual cases will have different circumstances, but my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will be setting out the compensation scheme shortly.
On the right hon. Gentleman’s second point, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has made it clear on a number of occasions that the hotline is there to help people get the documents they need to clarify their status, such that they do not suffer from the problems that the right hon. Gentleman’s constituent has suffered from in the past. The Home Secretary has also made it clear that there is no question of taking enforcement action when people ring that hotline. We actively want people to ring that hotline, to bring their cases forward, so that the Home Office can help them to ensure that they have got the documents needed, so that they can be reassured and will not see any problems in the future.
I thank my right hon. Friend for a very positive meeting about the need for NHS England to release all of the £200 million cancer transformation funding to frontline services, so that they can better deliver on the cancer strategy. However, the system has been painfully slow in following through on what was agreed at that meeting. If that continues, will the Prime Minister meet me, so that we can unblock the logjam on behalf of cancer patients and their families?