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House of Commons Hansard
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Oral Answers to Questions
23 May 2018
Volume 641

International Development

The Secretary of State was asked—

Co-operatives

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1. What steps her Department is taking to increase its support for the development of co-operatives throughout the world. [905504]

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The Department for International Development has supported co-operatives across many sectors and is increasing support to small-scale farmers to help them to commercialise. For example, the ÉLAN programme is working with women’s co-ops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to increase quality, improve marketing and establish systems for full traceability of product.

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The co-operative model of ownership has distinct advantages for sustainable international development. Regrettably, in 2011 the Government cut the £5 million fund for co-operative development. Will the Secretary of State commit to investigating the desirability of reinstating that fund, and match the ambition of Opposition Members by ensuring that the Department is looking properly at alternative models of ownership?

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I agree with the hon. Gentleman that co-operatives can be a hugely powerful and empowering model for delivering economic development. I do not think we should have just a small £5 million fund. We should be levering all the investment we have from DFID into those organisations. Through a new initiative, “GREAT for Partnership”, we hope to build connections with organisations that can do just that.

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The Secretary of State mentioned in passing the role of women in developing countries, particularly in the agricultural context. Does she agree that microfinance is an incredibly important way of developing women in such areas? What more will the Department do to enhance, prolong and enlarge the use of microfinance in agriculture in developing countries?

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DFID has a proud tradition as a leader in initiatives that empower women, including economically. Microfinance is critical to that. In most countries where we have a presence, we are running such a programme specifically for women.

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ActionAid has calculated that women in developing countries could be almost £7 trillion better off if their pay and access to paid work were equal to that of men. Will the Secretary of State make a commitment that, when establishing such agreements around the world, the UK will demonstrate its commitment to women’s rights and gender equality by ensuring that new co-operatives go further than they have before in protecting and upholding women’s rights?

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I will commit to do just that. We have a big opportunity with the forthcoming G7 Development Ministers’ meeting next week in Canada. Canada has done a huge amount on this agenda, and the issues of which the hon. Gentleman speaks will feature heavily in our discussions.

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Does the Secretary of State agree that women’s co-operatives have an important role to play in tackling poverty? I encourage her Department to do much more in this area.

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I congratulate my hon. Friend on his election to the Select Committee and wish him well in that role. He is absolutely right that unless we enable women to reach their full potential, nations never will.

Safeguarding

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2. What steps she is taking to improve safeguarding in the international development sector. [905505]

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We have introduced new safeguarding standards for all DFID programmes. I have requested and received assurances from our partners on their safeguarding policies and procedures. Internationally, we are leading the charge to raise standards.

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I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. Will she update the House on her Department’s plans for the international safeguarding conference that is being held later this year?

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The conference will be held on 18 October in London and will involve survivors of abuse, aid beneficiaries, multilateral organisations and others. Much work is being done globally to develop vetting procedures and new human resources practices, and to harmonise standards and policies across the board. At the conference, we will secure sector-wide action to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation.

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I welcome the Secretary of State’s international leadership on this issue. What conversations has she had with United Nations institutions, where there are serious concerns about potential sexual exploitation both by peacekeepers and by civilian staff?

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The hon. Gentleman will know that we have had extensive discussions with all UN agencies and partners, as well as core UN bodies. They are making progress. The safeguarding conference will be fundamental in consolidating that progress, but we are also talking with our counterparts in the Ministry of Defence to look at what we can do to help to build capacity in peacekeeping troops before they deploy.

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The International Development Committee is looking at this very issue. How can my right hon. Friend be absolutely certain that charities are telling her the truth about what has happened within their organisations, and does she believe that an international register of people working in those bodies would be a good idea?

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Absolutely. As well as the assurances we have sought and our oversight of projects and programmes we are contributing to on the ground, there will be other tell-tale signs. For example, if organisations are not reporting incidents or allegations, that is a red light to me that there is something wrong within those organisations. We are still monitoring this situation. We are leading an international donor group that is looking at setting up the precise procedures to which my hon. Friend refers.

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Before agreeing with Oxfam and Save the Children that they would withdraw from Government funding, did the Department carry out an assessment on the impact that that would have? Will the Secretary of State tell the House exactly how many jobs will be affected and how many vulnerable people will lose access to life-saving aid?

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My sole concern in making these decisions is the impact on the beneficiaries. Unlike other nations, I will not take decisions that impact negatively on beneficiaries. We are very conscious that both the organisations to which the hon. Lady refers may have difficulty in maintaining employment contracts—I suspect most of those people will transfer to other organisations—but how they maintain their staffing budgets is not the basis on which I am going to take decisions.

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I thank the Secretary of State for her answer, but we still do not know what assessments were carried out and whether they will be made public. What steps is she taking to guarantee that the agencies and contractors now bidding for Government funding will have safeguarding protections against sexual exploitation that are robustly stronger, not weaker, than those of Oxfam and Save the Children?

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I would be happy to share with the hon. Lady any information about any of the projects. For example, I looked at everywhere we are working with Oxfam, not just directly but with other partners who work with Oxfam. I will not allow any beneficiary to suffer and that will be key in my decision making. We have to strengthen the system across the board. We are leading the charge and other donors are following our lead. I hope that by the end of the year we will have vetting procedures, benchmarking and the harmonisation of policies to deter predatory individuals from the aid sector.

Rohingya Refugees

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3. What steps her Department is taking to support vulnerable children in Rohingya refugee camps during the monsoon season. [905506]

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9. What steps her Department is taking to protect Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh from the effects of the monsoon season. [905512]

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13. What steps her Department is taking to protect Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh from the effects of the monsoon season. [905516]

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Up to 200,000 Rohingya are living in areas at risk of flooding and collapse during the rainy season. We are working with the Bangladesh Government and humanitarian partners on preparedness, including improved shelters, water and sanitation, vaccination campaigns and pre-positioning of emergency supplies.

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Last August, Myanmar soldiers systematically brutalised and raped young Rohingya women. Nine months on, and in the middle of the monsoon season, many of those young girls are now giving birth to babies conceived as a result of rape. As these girls are often shunned by their communities, what support is the UK Government providing to these vulnerable girls and their babies?

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The hon. Lady is right to raise this issue. Some 16,000 women may be caught up in this. We have deployed a specialist maternity worker to be there. In addition, we are working with our partners to support Rohingya women who were raped and are pregnant. The deployment includes training of medical specialists, psycho-social support, clinical management of rape, and emergency obstetric care. This is all being provided despite the difficulty of the monsoons and other circumstances.

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Given the greatly increased risk of waterborne diseases facing the Rohingya during the monsoon season, what steps is the Department taking to make sure that as many people as possible are vaccinated?

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There are two issues here: first, work needs to continue to ensure that latrines and waters are as safe as possible, and secondly, an extensive vaccination campaign is already being undertaken. The United Kingdom is a major contributor to the vaccination programme.

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When the International Development Committee visited the refugee camps, we were told that non-governmental organisations had identified land that could be made available to them for the safety of the Rohingya refugees. What representations have the Government made to the Government of Bangladesh to ensure that that land is released, and that refugees are not put on an unsuitable island?

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Regular representations are made about this. The hon. Gentleman is right: a certain amount can be done at Cox’s Bazar to strengthen fortifications in relation to the forthcoming cyclones, but the land itself is difficult. Some have already been moved out, but we do make representations as well about the unsuitable nature of the island that is sometimes proposed.

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Now that the UK is providing 10.5% of the total budget set out in the humanitarian joint response plan, will my right hon. Friend advise and update the House on what he is doing to get other countries to step up to do their bit?

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First, may I congratulate my old friend on his recent award, which will please all of us, for his long service and devotion to this House and its duties? We are very proud of our record in relation to being a major donor. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced a further £70 million on 7 May to help with the current crisis, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Sir David Evennett) is right: we need to make sure that we continue to ask other donors to step up, and it is a regular part of our briefings and contact with other donor nations.

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We witnessed the precarious conditions in which many of the refugees are living in Cox’s Bazar; it was quite appalling. If the monsoon is devastating for the region, will my right hon. Friend redouble his efforts to ensure that land is made available, as well as emergency housing? Pushing them on to an island is totally unacceptable.

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To answer my hon. Friend, our sense is that as far as possible, preparations are being made both by the Bangladesh Government and the international community to meet the anticipated and expected conditions. Bangladesh has an excellent record on dealing with emergency crises caused by weather. No one can say, if something exceptional happens, what the response will be, but all preparations have been made. However, he is right: the nature of the land is extremely difficult and we must continue to try to urge that as many people as possible are moved to the safest possible areas.

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The hon. Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan) was right to raise the issues of pregnant women, new mothers and small babies, who are particularly vulnerable to issues of hygiene and sanitation, so will the Minister assure me that those will be key priorities for aid spending in this area?

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I can reassure my hon. Friend that as much as possible is being done in relation to this. UK-supported cholera, measles and diphtheria vaccination campaigns will help to provide protection against some of the most common diseases in the camps, and this is very much on people’s minds at such a vulnerable time.

UK Small Charities: Funding

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4. What steps she is taking to help small UK charities access funding from her Department. [905507]

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DFID’s small charities challenge fund was launched last summer to support small UK-based charities working in international development. The first round of grants will be announced shortly and the second review of applications is under way. We are also looking to improve the scheme.

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Crawley-based Vision Aid Overseas does really effective work in Africa, helping to provide sight health to some of the world’s poorest. Will the Secretary of State endorse such work and congratulate those local UK-based charities, which can make a real difference?

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I thank my hon. Friend for the opportunity to praise the work of Vision Aid Overseas. It is absolutely right that we want to connect more of these small, fantastic UK charities with the developing world. The “GREAT for Partnership” initiative will help us to do that.

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What steps is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that small charities can avail themselves of the fund with a minimum of bureaucracy to maximise the benefit to the countries they operate in?

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I absolutely agree with the issues the hon. Gentleman raises. We are learning from the first wave of applications to the small charities fund. I would like to make it less bureaucratic, more nimble and open to even smaller organisations.

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Far be it from me to intrude, but I thought that the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) had an interest in a charity appertaining to soccer. As we might not reach his question, he could take the opportunity to intervene with a flying tackle now.

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11. It is funny you should say that, Mr Speaker, because next month a group of largely unfit, slightly overweight wannabe celebrity footballers will be playing in the cause of Soccer Aid. I refer of course to the parliamentary football team. You would be most welcome, Mr Speaker, to don your Arsenal kit and join us, and show us how it’s done. On a serious note, I have seen the great work this money does in Djibouti in Africa. It changes people’s lives, including those of very young people. Will the Secretary of State join me in supporting everyone who gets involved with and donates to Soccer Aid for UNICEF? [905514]

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I thank both you, Mr Speaker, and my hon. Friend for plugging Soccer Aid. Every pound raised by the British public will be matched by UK aid. You and he might also like to know that today Arsenal announced a three-year partnership with Rwanda.

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Absolutely splendid! I am most grateful to the Secretary of State for announcing that, as I am sure will be both Rwanda and Arsenal.

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Will the Secretary of State join me in paying tribute to the Burnley-based charity Furniture for Education Worldwide, which will next week send its 100th container of furniture and equipment to aid developing schools overseas?

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I thank the hon. Lady for raising that. I will indeed endorse that fantastic organisation. It is a testament to the fact that we have small companies and charities in our constituencies that can make a big difference to many people across the world.

Global Disability Summit

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5. What steps her Department plans to take at the forthcoming global disability summit to promote disability inclusion in international development. [905508]

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The UK’s global disability summit in July will increase action and investment, share best practice and deliver lasting change. It will tackle the stigma faced by people with disabilities and provide educational, learning and economic opportunities and the means to access them through more available assistive devices.

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I welcome that answer. I recently met Sightsavers, a fantastic charity doing great work tackling sight loss and the stigma faced by disabled people around the world, particularly in the developing world. Can my right hon. Friend reassure me that at this important summit she will join with it in pressing for concrete goals for Governments to tackle the stigma faced by disabled people around the world?

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That is absolutely the aim of the summit. It has already galvanised people into action, including multilateral organisations around the world, which will be embedding disability in their programming.

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Given the new statistics showing that the number of disabled people able to access legal aid here in the UK has fallen by 99% since 2011, what steps will the Secretary of State take with Cabinet colleagues to get the UK’s own house in order before we host a global summit?

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When I speak to my opposite numbers in other nations, they tell me that one barrier to their making further progress is that they are starting from a low base. It is important that the summit is not just about the UK showcasing what it does; we can learn from other organisations, which is why we are co-hosting it with Kenya. My new role as Minister for Women and Equalities affords me the chance to make a difference in both the UK and the developing world.

Democratic Republic of the Congo: Humanitarian Assistance

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6. What funding her Department has allocated to humanitarian assistance programmes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. [905509]

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The UK is one of the leading humanitarian donors in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We have acted quickly to support the country and the World Health Organisation in tackling the Ebola outbreak; the Secretary of State today announced an extra £5 million to support the WHO response plan.

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What are the Government doing to prevent the outbreak from spreading to places such as Kinshasa?

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The plan announced by the World Health Organisation involves making sure that we use a new, experimental vaccine that the UK has helped to develop. It is being applied to anyone who has come into contact with Ebola. Yesterday vaccinations began to be offered to health workers and to anyone who has had contact with a contact.

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I commend the Department’s response to the outbreak, but what assurance can the Minister give that the capacity and leadership at the WHO are stronger than they were in 2014, when it made so many mistakes in responding to an earlier outbreak?

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I pay tribute to Jane Ellison, who is now very much involved in that. As my right hon. Friend will know, there has been an extensive programme of work to learn lessons from the outbreak in Sierra Leone, and, indeed, this is the ninth outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. On every occasion lessons are learnt, and we are helping the WHO and the Government to deliver on them.

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In the light of the DRC Government’s decision to boycott the April humanitarian pledging conference in Geneva and to deny the scale of the displacement crisis in the country, what representations has the Secretary of State made, now that Ebola poses a very real additional threat, to ensure that the same does not happen again, and that the DRC Government accept urgent assistance to prevent an international health emergency?

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The hon. Lady is right to highlight the wider humanitarian crisis in the DRC. I was there myself last month to see the fantastic work that UK aid workers are doing on the ground, and the extensive way in which we are helping. We are proud to have announced £100 million of support for this year, and we are the second largest donor.

Topical Questions

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T1. If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities. [905519]

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UK aid is currently dealing with 10 large-scale humanitarian emergencies and giving humanitarian assistance to 30 countries around the world. It is, for instance, protecting the Rohingya at Cox’s Bazar during the monsoon and cyclone season, providing food and healthcare for those affected by the conflict in Yemen, providing medical training and aid for families in Syria, and tackling Ebola in the DRC, for which I have announced £5 million of UK aid spending. We are also making preparations to provide support, if needed, for the Caribbean during the hurricane season. I am sure that the whole House will join me in commending the work of British scientists, British aid workers and our armed forces, and UK aid, in saving lives.

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My right hon. Friend will be aware of yesterday’s Westminster Hall debate about the persecution of Christians. Will she update the House on the Government’s efforts to promote freedom of religion and belief worldwide?

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The most stable societies are those that uphold the right to freedom of religion or belief. Through UK Aid Connect, DFID will fund a consortium of organisations to address the key challenges in building freedom of religion and belief. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is also very focused on that agenda.

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Order. I understand the sense of anticipation of the session that is to follow, but may I gently remind the House that we are discussing the plight—[Interruption.] Order. I remind the House that we are discussing the plight of some of the most destitute people on the face of the planet. I think that a respectful atmosphere would be appreciated.

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T2. There are few more desperate places in the world today than Yemen. As the Secretary of State will know, all the signs are that the Saudi-led coalition is gearing up for an attack on the port of Hodeidah. Will she explain to her colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office just how serious that would be for the humanitarian situation in Yemen, so that they may in turn explain to Saudi Arabia that if the attack happens, it will mean the end of UK arms sales to the Saudis? [905520]

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Both the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and DFID are acutely aware of the degree of concern about the situation in Yemen, and we are in regular contact with all parties there. The only answer is for the work of the United Nations envoy, Martin Griffiths, to be successful through negotiations, but we have already made clear that we do not see a military solution to the conflict.

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T4. What is my right hon. Friend doing to bring about greater transparency in the international aid system to ensure that there is probity and that other countries pay their fair share to international development? [905522]

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DFID scores very highly on the international aid transparency initiative, and we are working with other nations and multilaterals to help them to reach the same standards. We are also leading the charge on combating illicit money flows and capital flight, which is necessary if we are to help developing nations.

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T3. [R] Does the Minister agree that the tragic events of last week necessitate urgent action to tackle the plight of the Palestinian people, including the disarmament of Hamas, the return of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority, international donors meeting their reconstruction pledges fully, and Israel assisting in Gaza’s economic revitalisation? [905521]

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One of the main areas of focus at last week’s United Nations Security Council meeting was to accept special envoy Nikolay Mladenov’s persuasion that Gaza does indeed need more direct assistance and support to ease the circumstances there. Israel will be involved, as will other international donors, working in a very complex situation. The relief of humanitarian issues in Gaza is essential.

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T6. Will the Minister update the House on the food security situation in east Africa and let us know what help the Government are able to provide? [905524]

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I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his work as chair of the all-party group on Ethiopia and Djibouti and I assure him that the UK has provided assistance to more than 13.6 million people in east Africa and allocated £279 million in humanitarian aid to those countries this year.

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T5. Not backing the vote for investigation into the Gaza killings is another example of the UK Government not standing up to Israel. Will the Minister’s Department show some backbone and demand compensation for aid-funded structures that have been demolished? [905523]

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The UK is well aware of the circumstances surrounding the issues in Gaza and calls for a transparent and independent inquiry, but we are providing humanitarian aid through UNRWA to the Palestinian people and looking at further possibilities of providing direct aid to the medical situation in Gaza.

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The horn of Africa has been hit by a devastating tropical cyclone and Somaliland has been particularly hard-hit, with devastation to lives and livelihoods. Somaliland is already a progressive democratic country in an otherwise very troubled part of the world and, as a former British protectorate, it has strong ties to the UK, but because we do not formally recognise Somaliland, any aid we provide must pass through Somalia, which is much less stable. Will my hon. Friend reconsider that policy and consider working directly through Somaliland?

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I invite my hon. Friend to the meeting of the all-party group on Somaliland later today.

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T7. Recent local elections in Tunisia showed an encouraging increase in the involvement of young people in the democratic process. What further assistance can the Government give to good governance there? [905525]

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The excellent work of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy and those who have taken part through the British Council in encouraging the development of democracy are playing an important part in Tunisia, but the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to draw attention to a good move forward for Tunisia, which we hope foreshadows other things to come in the region.

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My right hon. Friend may be aware of the Dalitso project in my constituency. It involves more than 500 volunteers in Scotland and Malawi, and they have collectively generated funding for over 300 orphans in Malawi and employ 30 people. What is the Department doing to support such small charities that contribute so much to our overseas aid?

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I was recently in Scotland to dish out some UK Aid cheques to many of the wonderful organisations that have raised money and are doing fantastic work to benefit people around the world.

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T8. What assessment has the Secretary of State made of the effect of Oxfam and Save the Children withdrawing from her Department’s funding rounds on the beneficiaries of those charities? [905526]

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That is the only criterion that I look at when making those decisions: no beneficiaries will be harmed in any way as a result of the decisions we take about withdrawing funding or preventing people from bidding for funding.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—

Engagements

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Q1. If she will list her official engagements for Wednesday 23 May. [905527]

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This week has seen the start of the Grenfell Tower inquiry. This was an unimaginable tragedy and justice must be done for the victims, survivors, bereaved and the wider community. It is right that we learn everything we can about what happened and take the necessary steps to make sure nothing like it ever happens again.

Yesterday also allowed the nation to come together, one year on, to remember all the victims of the Manchester terrorist attack. That night saw the worst of humanity, but it also saw the best. The kindness, compassion and fortitude we witnessed that night triumphed, and the great spirit of Manchester continues to inspire us.

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.

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I echo the condolences expressed by the Prime Minister to the victims, friends and families of both Grenfell and the Manchester bombing.

On a happier note, I send congratulations from the Opposition side of the House to the royal couple. Even the fully paid-up cynics among us found it quite charming, and I am very much one of them.

A not so welcome American import is the fact that Britain now has a higher proportion of children classed as obese at the age of 11 than America. Yesterday’s Public Health England report shows the dismal failure of the first-year target on cutting sugar, at only 2%, compared with the 11% drop in sugar following the tax on sugary drinks. Will the Prime Minister admit that the voluntary approach is simply not working, and will not work, and that what we want to see in chapter 2 of the childhood obesity plan are mandatory targets and a ban on junk food discounts?

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I welcome the hon. Lady’s good wishes for the royal couple. We expressed our good wishes in the House last week, and indeed it was a perfect day and a perfect wedding. Windsor did the couple proud.

We know that childhood obesity is one of the greatest health challenges we face, and we are determined to tackle it. That is why nowhere in the world is setting more stringent sugar reduction targets than the Government have set. We are, as the hon. Lady says, taxing sugary drinks, and we are doing more. It is not just about sugar in food and drink; it is about helping children to exercise more. It is also about the funding we are putting into research on junk food advertising, and it is about cutting sugar and calories in food. We have made good progress on the sugar reduction target. Sugar in drinks has been reduced by 11% and the average calories have been reduced by 6% in response to the soft drinks industry levy. More needs to be done, which is why an updated plan is currently being worked up, and we will be in a position to say more on that shortly.

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Q2. I associate myself with the Prime Minister’s earlier comments. This week we have seen the start of the Grenfell inquiry, and last week Dame Judith Hackitt reported that our building regulations are not fit for purpose, yet she did not specifically recommend a ban on inflammable cladding. Can the Prime Minister confirm that, nevertheless, it is her clear intention to ban inflammable cladding and to ensure that another tragedy like Grenfell never happens again? [905528]

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The deeply moving testimonies we have already heard and will continue to hear this week from survivors and the bereaved leave absolutely no room for doubt. We must learn everything we can about what happened, and we must take the strongest possible action to stop such an unimaginable tragedy from ever happening again.

As my hon. Friend says, Dame Judith Hackitt’s recommendations do not include banning inflammable cladding. We are minded to go further by banning combustible materials in cladding on high-rise buildings. We are meeting our legal duty to consult on these proposals, and we will not delay any necessary action.

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Indeed it is almost a year since the Grenfell tragedy, and sadly justice has not yet been done. Many of those families have still not been rehoused and many are still living in tower blocks. People across the country are worried about the safety of cladding. More needs to be done more quickly.

I agree with what the Prime Minister says about the anniversary of the Manchester bomb. We were there at the service yesterday, and I pay tribute to the people of Manchester for the fantastic event they held last night in Albert Square, which brought all communities across Manchester together. That is the answer to terrorism, that is the answer to threats: bring people together.

In 2010, £4 billion of NHS services were outsourced to private companies. How much is it today?

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First, I echo the right hon. Gentleman’s comments. Terrorists attacked in Manchester, and we sadly saw a number of other terrorist attacks in this country last year. They were trying to divide us, and I think the response of all communities, whether here in London or in Manchester, has shown that we will not be divided by the terrorists. We will not let the terrorists win. We will defeat them.

The right hon. Gentleman asks about the outsourcing of services within the NHS. Of course, what we do know is that spend on the independent sector nearly doubled in the last four years of a Labour Government.

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My question was about the amount spent now. NHS budgets have increased by just 1% per year under this Government, but it is jackpot time for the privateers, whose share is up by 100% to over £9 billion per year. We have also learned that Surrey NHS has just paid Virgin Care £1.5 million, not for any service that it has delivered, but because its bid was not chosen—£1.5 million wasted on Virgin Care that should have been spent on healthcare. Is the Prime Minister concerned that the National Audit Office said this week that NHS England’s handling of private contractors had put

“patients at risk of serious harm”?

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The NAO report said that

“no actual harm has been identified.”

It is also the case that, in relation to the contracts that the NAO was talking about, the savings that have been made have all been reinvested into frontline NHS patient care and have helped to fund the equivalent of an extra 30,000 operations. The right hon. Gentleman talks about the percentage of money that has been spent on the private sector, and I must say that the proportion of spend in the NHS in England that was outsourced to the private sector last year did not go up at all. There was somewhere where it went up by 0.8%. Ah yes—Wales.

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The NAO criticised NHS England’s Capita contract, saying that it had put

“patients at risk of serious harm”.

Thousands of women were dropped from the national cervical cancer screening programmes. Another element of the contract handed over to Capita was for GP services, which resulted in two thirds of GP practices receiving incorrect medical records, and 500,000 new patient letters were left unsent. Is that not the inevitable consequence of this Government tearing up the founding principles of the NHS and putting private profit before public service?

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At every general election since the NHS was formed, the Labour party has scaremongered about the Conservative approach to the NHS. At every general election, Labour has made claims about privatisation and about funding cuts. What has every elected Conservative Government done? We have protected the NHS, we have improved NHS services, we have put more funding into the NHS, and we have ensured that we remain true to the founding principle of the NHS: that it is free at the point of delivery.

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From the party that opposed the NHS in the first place, that is a bit rich. [Interruption.]

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Order. There is far too much noise on both sides of the House. I have plenty of time, and I am sure that the principals have as well. We will get through the questions, but preferably in an atmosphere of calm.

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The Royal College of General Practitioners says:

“The long list of failures made by Capita have been incredibly frustrating for GPs and our teams, and we are still dealing with the fallout”.

Public servants are bearing the brunt of private failure. GPs are leaving the profession in despair—4,000 have retired early in the past five years, which is one in 10. In 2015, the Health Secretary said that he would hire another 5,000 GPs. How many more GPs are there than there were in 2015?

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We now have more than 14,900 more doctors in our NHS than we had in 2010. We are indeed committed to delivering 5,000 more GPs. We have increased the number training to be GPs. The right hon. Gentleman talks about the private sector being used in the national health service, but he might ask the shadow Health Secretary for his view. The shadow Health Secretary has said, “We are still going to buy from the private sector where we haven’t got capacity in the NHS.” The right hon. Gentleman’s shadow Health Secretary is committed to it.

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The shadow Health Secretary has a very good understanding of the needs of patients and will always put them first. He will not be the one putting the private sector first.

The reality is that there are 1,000 fewer GPs and the number is falling. It is no wonder that more and more people are writing to me every week saying how difficult it is to get a GP appointment. GPs are the bedrock of the NHS. We need more of them.

I had a letter this week from Anne, who is retired. Until recently, she cared for her mother at home. She wrote:

“The NHS pay a private nursing home for mum’s care…day after day we experience a catalogue of disasters. I can’t leave my mum knowing that her needs aren’t catered for, so I spend hours at the nursing home”.

What action are the Government taking to deal with the substandard care that providers give in the private care sector, which is so upsetting for so many people?

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I say to the right hon. Gentleman and to Anne that I fully understand that people want to have the confidence and reassurance of knowing that the care their loved ones receive is of a good quality. That is why this Government have put in place the various steps to ensure that we are looking into the quality of care provided in those sectors.

The right hon. Gentleman talks about the shadow Health Secretary recognising the needs of patients. I think he was saying that he recognises the needs of patients, which is why the private sector will be used in some cases. The former Health Secretary, now the Mayor of Manchester, said that

“the private sector puts its capacity into the NHS for the benefit of NHS patients, which I think most people in this country would celebrate”.

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The shadow Health Secretary is dedicated to the NHS, not to handing it over to private contractors. That is the difference.

The Care Quality Commission said last year that

“there is too much poor care”.

A fifth of care providers require improvement. Year after year, private sector care providers are letting down our elderly.

This year is the 70th birthday of the national health service—I pay tribute to all its staff over all of those 70 years—but the NHS reaches that milestone with the worst A&E waits on record, the worst delays for cancer referrals on record, falling numbers of GPs, falling numbers of nurses and the longest funding squeeze in its history, while this Government open the door to even more profiteering. Why does the Prime Minister not act now to end the siphoning off of billions of pounds from patient care, and give the NHS the funding it needs?

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We do indeed pay tribute to all those who have worked in the NHS over its 70 years and those who work there today. We want to see a bright future for the NHS, which is why we will be coming forward with a long-term plan for it. What we see today is a national health service not only with more funding going into it, but, crucially, with more people being treated and more operations being undertaken. There are people alive today who have suffered from cancer and would not have been alive just eight years ago, because our cancer outcomes have improved. That is the reality of our national health service. What we also see is that this Government can put money into the NHS only because we have a balanced approach to our economy. What did we learn this week that the Labour party and the shadow Chancellor want to do? They want to “overthrow capitalism”. What would that mean? It would mean families paying higher taxes—[Interruption.] It is supported by parts of the Labour party; now we know where the Labour party really stands on this issue. I say to the shadow Chancellor and others: what would this mean? It would mean families paying higher taxes; more debt for our children in future; fewer people in jobs; and less money for our schools and hospitals. A Labour party that would bankrupt our economy would do lasting damage to our national health service.

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Q5. The Government have stated their ambition for the UK to have 10% of the worldwide space industry by 2030. Central to achieving that is establishing our own launch capabilities within the UK, through UK spaceports. Cornwall is keen and ready to play a significant part in that, so will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government are committed to the establishment of UK spaceports? Will she ensure that the right people get together to deliver this in Cornwall as soon as possible? [905531]

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My hon. Friend has put in a good bid and is a good champion for Cornwall on this issue. He is absolutely right to say that our industrial strategy identifies the role of new markets, such as space launch, in driving growth across the UK. That is why we are delivering a programme to ensure that companies can offer small satellite launch and sub-orbital space flight from UK spaceports. On the specific issue relating to Newquay and Cornwall, strong enthusiasm for this new opportunity is being shown by Newquay airport and other locations around the UK, which is why in March the Government brought forward the Space Industry Act 2018 to support them and we have made £50 million available to enable small satellite launch and sub-orbital flight from UK spaceports. The space agency is considering funding to help kick-start promising projects and will be making announcements shortly.

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May I associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister on both Manchester and Grenfell?

The Windrush scandal has taught us that the UK Government’s “hostile environment” policy has targeted those who legally live here; young people who have grown up in the UK and know of nothing else face losing their lawful settled status because they simply cannot afford the paperwork. Home Office fees have increased by 148% since 2014. These children have the right to be here; the UK is their home. I am giving the Prime Minister the opportunity today: will she scrap these fees for young people, as she has done for the Windrush generation?

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A minor who has indefinite leave to remain will have access to benefits and entitlements which put them on an equal footing to their British citizen peers, so a grant of British citizenship is not therefore required. Of course specific exemptions from application fees are provided to several groups with limited means, such as stateless people, victims of modern slavery or domestic abuse, asylum applicants and children who are looked after by a local authority. And the Children Act 1989 imposes a general duty on local authorities to promote the upbringing of children in need by providing a range and level of services appropriate to those children’s needs, regardless of their status.

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That simply is not good enough. We are talking about up to 120,000 young people in this country. We are talking about young people who live here, who have to wait 10 years and pay up to £10,000 to achieve permanent right to remain. It is shocking. The Government are guilty of creating a generation of undocumented citizens without the rights that many of us take for granted. Will the Prime Minister change her policies that target young people, and will she meet me and my hon. Friend the Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald) to resolve this issue?

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First, the right hon. Gentleman cites a figure that I certainly do not recognise as the cost that he suggests applies for an application for citizenship here in the United Kingdom. I repeat the point that I have made: a minor who has indefinite leave to remain will have access to the benefits and entitlements that put them on an equal footing to their British citizen peers. A grant of British citizenship is not required in order for someone to access those rights and benefits.

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Q7. Through regular exercise, daily-mile initiatives help to make sure that children in schools are physically active, have better mental health and are best placed to learn and achieve. I know that my right hon. Friend recognises the value of prevention in helping to address some of the health challenges that we face as a nation, so will she join me in calling for schools throughout the country to roll out the daily mile? [905533]

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The daily mile is an excellent programme. It is simple and inclusive and, as my hon. Friend says, it can successfully engage in physical activity children who would otherwise not undertake that physical activity. This gives me the opportunity to congratulate my hon. Friend on running the London marathon for two of his local charities: Corby Nightlight and Crazy Hats Breast Cancer Appeal. Well done to my hon. Friend for doing that. I certainly agree that we want more schools to adopt the active approach and the daily mile.

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Q3. As the nation’s attention was rightly focused on the royal wedding, the Prime Minister was busy stuffing the House of Lords with 13 new Members. After all these defeats, apparently—[Interruption.] [905529]

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Order. The hon. Gentleman’s question must be heard. [Interruption.] It is his question. He has a right to ask his question and he will ask his question. The question will be heard and the answer will be heard. That is the way it has always been and that is the way it will continue.

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I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker—and I will be heard.

After all these defeats, apparently we need the right type of crony. There are now more than 800 cronies, donors and aristocrats in that circus down the corridor, embarrassing this nation and mocking any notion of democracy. How many more is the Prime Minister going to appoint? When will enough be enough?

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Actually, the total size of the House of Lords has fallen since I took office in July 2016. From the sound of what he says, I think the hon. Gentleman is making a bid for himself to be put in the House of Lords. He needs to speak to his leader.

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Q8. As my right hon. Friend is aware, at the end of last year my constituent, Natalie Lewis-Hoyle, the daughter of Councillor Miriam Lewis and our right hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Sir Lindsay Hoyle), took her own life, having been in a coercive relationship and suffering mental abuse through what is known as gaslighting. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need to raise awareness of this particular kind of abuse? Will she support Miriam Lewis in establishing the “Chat with Nat” website in memory of Natalie, to help and advise those affected by this behaviour? [905534]

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I thank my right hon. Friend for raising what is a very important issue. I am sure that Members on all sides of this House will join me in offering our deepest sympathies and condolences to Councillor Miriam Lewis and the right hon. Member for Chorley (Sir Lindsay Hoyle). [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] I thank my right hon. Friend for bringing this website in memory of Natalie to my attention. I am happy to offer my full support to the project, which I am sure will provide much-needed help and advice to those who are in the most difficult and painful of circumstances.

We have, of course, changed the law to introduce a new domestic abuse offence of coercion and control in intimate and familial relationships. Since the introduction of that offence, there have been almost 300 successful prosecutions. That shows what a problem this issue is out there. We are always looking for what more can be done and, in our consultation on transforming the law on domestic abuse and violence, we are currently looking for ideas on how the offence can be further strengthened, to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.

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Q4. In North Tyneside and across the UK, homebuyers are being sold new houses that have serious defects by developers such as Bellway and Persimmon with no means of sufficient redress. Following the recent Government consultation, will the Prime Minister put her weight behind establishing a new homes ombudsman to give those consumers the proper redress that they urgently need? [905530]

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Of course, as we are building more homes—and we need to build more homes for people—we want to ensure that those homes are fit for purpose. There are standards that house builders have to abide by, and also a number of ways in which it is possible to raise these issues, including where there are defects in the homes that are being built.

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Q12. Bowel cancer claims the lives of more than 44 people every day and has a devastating impact on families up and down the country, but it can be beaten if it is caught at an earlier stage through better diagnosis. Can the Prime Minister assure me that the Government will listen to proposals to lower the screening age from 60 to 50? [905538]

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We now have the highest cancer survival rates ever, as I mentioned earlier. The latest figures show that an estimated 7,000 or more people are surviving cancer after successful NHS cancer treatment compared with three years ago, but there is still more to be done. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that early diagnosis is an important element of that. We are looking at how the development of smart technologies, which allow us to analyse great quantities of data quickly and with a higher degree of accuracy than we have through the intervention of human beings, can be used to ensure that we get that earlier diagnosis. By 2033, we want to see at least 50,000 more people each year being diagnosed at an early stage of prostate, ovarian, lung or bowel cancer.

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Q6. Despite a groundswell of opposition from public, staff and clinicians, this Government are actively supporting the removal of vital services from South Tyneside Hospital. Will the Prime Minister tell the 149,000 people who rely on our hospital why? [905532]

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As the hon. Lady will know, it is for the local NHS to make decisions about the future of local health services; these matters are not determined in Whitehall. I understand that the Sunderland and the South Tyneside hospital trusts have formed an alliance to improve the sustainability, quality and performance of hospital services. Local commissioners did consult the public and they agreed a number of service changes in February, which will improve services for patients.

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Q13. In the 1940s, access by British epidemiologists to patient data established the causal relationship between smoking and lung cancer. How will the big data and artificial intelligence, which the Prime Minister spoke about on Monday, help us transform healthcare outcomes today, and what barriers to data sharing exist in the way of that? [905539]

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As my hon. Friend says, on Monday, I did announce that we will use data, artificial intelligence and innovation to transform the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases by 2030. I have just referenced, in response to my hon. Friend the Member for York Outer (Julian Sturdy), the fact that we want to see at least 50,000 more people each year being diagnosed at an early stage of prostate, ovarian, lung or bowel cancer. That will mean that, every year, around 22,000 fewer people will die within five years of their diagnosis compared with today. We are also committed to the highest possible standards in using data, which is why we brought forward the Data Protection Bill and have announced our intention to create a new centre for data ethics and innovation. Big data gives us a huge opportunity to improve services to patients in the NHS, but, of course, we must use that data very carefully, and patients need to have the confidence that it is being used carefully, and that is what we will do.

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Q9. May I thank the Prime Minister for agreeing to meet Sheffield young carers this afternoon? They are very much looking forward to sharing their views with her, and I am sure that she will enjoy the meeting. May I raise another issue? Last week, the Education Secretary told the House that he understood the cost pressures facing schools and that he would work with them to bear down on those costs. On Friday, I met a group of Sheffield primary and secondary headteachers who said that their schools were at a tipping point. They said that if the Government wanted to help them bear down on costs, they could start by fully funding the teachers’ pay increase, and the increase in national insurance and pension contributions. Will the Prime Minister do that? [905535]

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I look forward to meeting the hon. Gentleman, with the young carers, and I am sure that that will be a really interesting meeting. I am pleased that we will have the opportunity to hear directly from them.

On school funding, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the new national funding formula is providing for a cash increase for every school in every region, as well as protected funding for those with additional needs, but it is important that the Department for Education is helping to bear down on costs that schools are experiencing. That is exactly what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education is doing—ensuring that the Department is giving support to schools where it is needed.

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Q15. The UK motor industry has undergone a resurgence. It employs 900,000 people, generates one tenth of all manufacturing output, and exports 80% of the vehicles it produces. As we leave the EU, will the Prime Minister ensure that the sector continues to have access to the workers it needs, to bring in components without delays, and to sell into its biggest export market tariff-free? [905541]

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My hon. Friend draws attention to a very important sector in our economy. The motor industry does play a very significant role in our economy.

Our exit from the EU provides us with an opportunity to forge a new role for ourselves, to become that great global trading nation and to have those other trade deals around the world, but we also need to ensure that we provide as much certainty as we can at an early stage. That is why we are working with businesses and other stakeholders, including the motor industry, and looking for as free and frictionless trade as possible between the UK and the EU—because we want to see that trade flowing freely and those integrated supply chains being able to work as well as possible. That is what we are working for in our future partnership.

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Q10. Today in my constituency of Leigh, NHS workers are on strike—I am sure that the Prime Minister would like to wish them well. The strike is due to the move of more than 800 staff into a wholly owned subsidiary—a direct result of NHS underfunding. In the wake of Carillion, why is the Prime Minister allowing back-door privatisation, which has little or no public support, instead of keeping the NHS where it should be: safely in public hands? [905536]

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I think that I answered comments about the national health service in response to the Leader of the Opposition, but I will just reiterate: this Government are committed. We are putting extra funding into our national health service; we are committed to a long-term plan for our national health service that will give it certainty and sustainability over a longer period of time than through the annual budget-making process; and we are committed to a national health service that remains free at the point of delivery.

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The Prime Minister knows that stem cell transplants are the only lifeline for leukaemia patients. Tragically, children such as five-year-old Kaiya and 11-year-old Rajie, whose families are in Parliament today for a donor awareness event, have only a 21% chance of finding a donor match because there are simply not enough donors registered from an Asian background. Childhood leukaemia affects children of every ethnic group. Will the Prime Minister commit to leading a nationwide donor registration drive to help to save the lives of hundreds of children suffering from leukaemia, like Kaiya and Rajie?

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I thank my right hon. Friend for raising this issue, and for highlighting it with the experience of children like Kaiya and Rajie. I know that she is doing a lot of work to raise awareness of the lack of donors from Asian backgrounds, particularly with her event today in Parliament. We support efforts to raise awareness of the need to recruit more stem cell donors from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. More than £20 million has been provided to NHS Blood and Transplant and Anthony Nolan for stem cell donations since 2015, and that includes very specific stipulations about the numbers of newly registered donors with units stored in the UK cord blood bank who must be from BAME backgrounds, and specific funding to support the recruitment of donors from BAME backgrounds. Of course more needs to be done. I am happy to voice my support for my right hon. Friend’s event, which I think is continuing to raise awareness of this important issue.

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Q11. I am sure that the Prime Minister, like millions of other people, was glued to her TV set on Saturday watching an event of national importance—sadly, there was not a fairy-tale ending as Chelsea won the FA cup. That could be the last FA cup final played at Wembley before it is sold to an overseas owner. When the premier league is spending hundreds of millions of pounds every year on wages and transfers, does she agree that there is more than enough money in the game for there to be no need to sell off this iconic national asset? [905537]

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That is a decision for the owners of Wembley. It is a private matter; it is not a matter for the Government.

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Just over five years ago, the Francis report was published, at the instigation of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash), and since then there have been major improvements in patient safety throughout the NHS. Just in relation to County Hospital in Stafford, will my right hon. Friend congratulate the staff there, who have seen a great improvement over the years, with the result that in A&E we are now seeing more patients a day over 14 hours —I wish it was 24 hours—than we did previously over 24 hours, and the 95%-plus target being met on a weekly basis?

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The Francis report was very important. It highlighted an area of deep concern about what had been happening at the local hospital. I welcome what my hon. Friend says about County Hospital and the work that is being done there. Excellent work is being done to provide safety to patients, to provide more treatments for patients, and to provide those services to his constituents and others.

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Q14. The Prime Minister has two groups of Ministers considering different scenarios for a frictionless border with Ireland. We know that the backstop alignment can only be ended if another solution is found. Is not the truth that she does not have a clue how it might work? [905540]

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May I paraphrase our former colleague, the late, great Eric Forth? Prime Minister, I believe in the free market, I believe in individual freedom and individual responsibility, and I am suspicious of the nanny state. Am I still a Conservative?

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The Prime Minister and the Labour Leader of the Opposition—[Interruption.]

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Order. Let us hear the full eloquence of the right hon. Gentleman’s flow and the flow of his eloquence.

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The Prime Minister and the Labour Leader of the Opposition both agree that we should leave the single market and leave the European Union customs union, and that the public should not have a final say on the Brexit deal, so will the Prime Minister dispense with our tradition of party political point scoring and, in the spirit that I am setting, publicly thank the leadership of the Labour party for its help and support in making Brexit happen?

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First of all, I am not sure about the position of the Labour party, because it is talking about a second referendum. Secondly, can I just say to the right hon. Gentleman that there is nobody in this House who knows more about party political point scoring than the Liberal Democrats?

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Thank you for calling me at 12.43 pm, Mr Speaker. Your stewardship in allowing Back Benchers to get in to question the Prime Minister is much appreciated.

Prime Minister, how are the European Union negotiations going?

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They are going with purpose, and with good intent and good will on both sides. We have negotiators in Brussels this week doing further work on those negotiations, and we are determined to deliver a good Brexit for the United Kingdom.

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Mental health is now the No. 1 public health concern for a third of our country. Its importance has jumped 16 percentage points in the past year alone, yet the joint report published last week by the Health Committee and the Education Committee said that the Government’s strategy for young people’s mental health “lacks any ambition” and will fail a generation. Will the Prime Minister commit to think again and go back to the drawing board to ensure that we afford every young person in our country the best start in life?

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We have committed to ensure that 70,000 more children and young people have access to high-quality NHS mental health care by 2020-21. We recognise the importance of young people’s mental health because something like half of mental health problems later in life started before the age of 14. That is why one of the initiatives the Government have taken is to ensure that staff in schools are trained to better identify mental health problems, and are better able to ensure that young people with mental health problems get the treatment and support that they need.

It is important, as the hon. Lady says, that mental health has risen up the scale of people’s concerns. I would like to think that that is partly because we have ensured that there is greater awareness of the issue of mental health. Everybody in the House has a job to ensure that we remove the stigma attached to mental health so that people feel able to come forward when they have mental health problems.

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Does my right hon. Friend share the surprise that I felt, as a former Marks & Spencer employee, at the news that the Scottish National party Administration have bullied Marks & Spencer over the use of the word “British” and the Union flag on British produce? Will she stand with me against that petty bullying, and support companies that are proud of Scottish and British produce?

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I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. We should all be proud of Scottish and British produce, and of produce from any part of our United Kingdom. It is frankly appalling that the Scottish Government did not want to see the Union flag and the word “British” on produce. It is not only appalling; it fails to reflect the vote that took place in Scotland, which showed that people in Scotland want to stay part of the United Kingdom.

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Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust is struggling to recruit doctors because of immigration rules. One example is an experienced paediatric doctor who has applied for a visa every month for six months, but has now given up because he has been rejected six times. What can the Prime Minister say to my constituents to reassure them that Home Office delays will not impact on the safety and health of their loved ones at this time of greatest need?

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We keep the issue of tier 2 visas in relation to the health service under review. We have already taken steps. We took steps a while back to ensure that the numbers could be adjusted to reflect the need for nurses, and we continue to look at the situation in relation to doctors.