Last Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of the London Bridge terrorist attack. I, and others from this House, attended the very moving memorial service at Southwark cathedral, and I am sure Members from all sides of this House will join me again in offering our deepest condolences to the friends and family of the victims. I would also again like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the extraordinary bravery shown on that night by the emergency services and those who came to the aid of others.
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.
I would like to associate myself with the remarks about London Bridge.
The number of children growing up in workless households in the United Kingdom has fallen to a record low. Does the Prime Minister agree that to further drive opportunity and social mobility in our country, it is vital to support projects such as the Cheltenham cyber park, so that, in the future, all our children can go as far as their talents will take them?
I agree with my hon. Friend. It is important that we ensure that all children have the opportunity to go as far as their talents will take them, and initiatives such as the Cheltenham cyber park are an important element in that. The wider point that he makes is absolutely right. If we are to ensure that we lift people out of poverty, as we have been doing, then helping them to get into the workplace is the most important thing that we can do. That is why, thanks to this Government’s economic strategy, we see employment up to another record high, unemployment at a 40-year low, and, as my hon. Friend has alluded to, 1 million fewer people in absolute poverty since 2010.
I, too, attended the service last Sunday in memory of those who died at London Bridge, and I would like to put on record my thanks to Southwark cathedral and the Borough of Southwark for all the work that they put into that, and, of course, to all our emergency services who keep us safe all the year round. Yesterday, I was able to do that in person at the Fire Brigades Union conference in Brighton where I was able to thank them for the work that they do to keep us all safe.
Last month, the Brexit Secretary promised a “detailed, ambitious and precise” White Paper on the Government’s negotiating position. Will it be published in advance of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill debate next week?
I echo the right hon. Gentleman’s comments about the work that our emergency workers do, day in and day out, to keep us safe, and I think that everybody across this House recognises that and we are all grateful to them for the dedication that they show.
Yes, my right hon. Friend the Brexit Secretary and I agree that we want to publish a White Paper that goes beyond the speeches and the papers that have been given and published so far, that does go into more detail and that ensures that when we publish it we are able to negotiate with our European Union and European Commission colleagues on the basis that this is an ambitious offer from the United Kingdom for an ambitious trade deal and security partnership in the future.
The question was a very simple one actually: it was to ask when this White Paper will be published. Next week, we will be debating the most important piece of legislation we have seen for a very long time and we still have not seen the Government’s negotiating position. Will the Prime Minister at least assure the House that not only will the White Paper be published ahead of the crucial June EU summit, but that there will be an opportunity to debate it in this House ahead of the summit?
The right hon. Gentleman talks about the votes that will take place in this House next week on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, and indeed those votes will be important. They will be important to show our commitment to do what the British people have asked us to do, which is to leave the European Union. If he is talking about clarity ahead of those votes, perhaps he will take this opportunity to do what he refused to do when I asked him last time in Prime Minister’s questions—[Interruption.]
The last time I looked at the Order Paper, it said “Prime Minister’s Question Time”. We were told three weeks ago, to a great deal of fanfare, that the White Paper would set out the Government’s ambition for the UK’s future relationship with the EU and their vision for a future role in the world. It is nowhere to be seen and there is no answer to when it will be published. Four weeks ago the Prime Minister did confirm that the Cabinet was looking at two options for a future customs arrangement with the EU: a customs partnership model and a maximum facilitation option. Will she now tell us which of her sub-committees has met, what decisions they have made, when they are going to report to the Cabinet and whether we will be told about it?
We have already set out our ambition for our future relationship with the European Union, but crucially the Government are delivering on the vote of the British people to leave the European Union. I did not ask the right hon. Gentleman a question. I simply suggested that he could stand up and say what the Labour party’s policy was on a second referendum. If he wants to enter the debate next week in the right spirit, he will do just that and rule out a second referendum.
It is not the Opposition who are conducting the negotiations but, very sadly, it is not the Government either. Last week the Brexit Secretary put forward yet another new plan, including a 10-mile buffer zone in Northern Ireland. Is that now the Government’s option?
We are looking at the two options for the customs model. Both of those will do what we have committed to do, which is to ensure that we deliver no hard border in Northern Ireland. We were very clear about what that means in the December joint report. It also means that we ensure that there is no border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland—no border down the Irish sea as the European Union proposed. That is why we are putting forward alternative proposals to the European Union. We continue to negotiate with the European Union on all the issues that need to be addressed before we bring legislation before this House with the withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill. The debate that will take place in this House next week is important because it will show the sincerity of this House to deliver on the vote of the British people to leave the European Union.
We have had no answer on the White Paper and I do not think that we have had an answer on the buffer zone. I could say that the one thing that the buffer zone proposal has achieved is bringing just about everybody in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland together. The British Irish Chamber of Commerce said, “the idea is bonkers”. Will the Prime Minister confirm that it remains her plan to leave the European Union in March 2019 and complete the transition by December 2020?
Well, I look at the faces behind the Prime Minister and they are not all at one on this matter. The right hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green) does not share her certainty; he said that there will be a transition period that will follow her implementation period. When it comes to Brexit, this Government have delivered more delays and cancellations than Northern Rail. The Government’s White Paper is delayed, their customs proposals have been cancelled and they have ripped up their own timetable, just like our shambolic privatised railways. This Government’s incompetence threatens our economy, businesses, jobs and communities. My question to the Prime Minister is this: which will last longer, the Northern Rail franchise or her premiership?
If the right hon. Gentleman is not willing to stand up in this House and talk about the Labour party policy on Europe, we actually learned a little today from the shadow Brexit Secretary about the Labour party’s policy on Europe, who made it clear that it was a
“pretence that somehow everybody in the Labour party is in the same place on this”.
So now we know what the right hon. Gentleman is. Labour Members voted for a referendum; they voted to trigger article 50; and since then they have tried to frustrate the Brexit process at every stage. Their MEPs voted against moving to negotiate the trade discussions. They voted against the withdrawal Bill. Today, we saw again that they are refusing to rule out a second referendum. The British people voted to leave the European Union, and this Government are delivering on the vote of the British people.
I thank my hon. Friend for the work that he has done on distributive ledger technology, as I think we should call it. We are committed to supporting the development and uptake of emerging digital technologies in the UK such as AI and DLT. The Government have invested around £10 million through Innovate UK and our research councils. The Treasury and the Bank of England are working on crypto-currencies and looking at these issues in a working group together. We are deploying the technology that my hon. Friend has referred to in order to help Government discharge our duties more effectively, and many Departments are already developing DLT proofs of concept. I thank him for the work that he has done. He might like to distribute the article on the work that he has done to all Members of this House.
Supermarkets running out of food within days. Hospitals running out of medicines within a fortnight. Petrol reserves dwindling after just two weeks. These are the concerns of UK Government officials, and now the—[Interruption.]
Order. There is excessive noise in the Chamber. Mr Wishart, you are a very distinguished fellow, but you are not conducting an orchestra and your services in that regard are not required—at any rate, not on this occasion. Mr Blackford’s question must be heard, and however long it takes, it will be heard.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
These are the concerns of UK Government officials, and now the Dutch Government are telling Dutch businesses not to risk buying UK products. Does the Prime Minister understand the catastrophic negotiating position she has cornered herself into?
We have already set out our ambition for that trade deal with the European Union in the future. The right hon. Gentleman talks about supermarkets in Scotland and supermarkets across the rest of the UK. He might pay attention to the supermarket chains in Scotland, which said that one of the most important things for Scotland is to remain part of the United Kingdom.
Quite simply, the Prime Minister did not listen to the question, because it was about the fears that have been raised by her own officials on the consequences of Brexit.
For this Government in the negotiations, jobs have been an afterthought, the Irish border has been an afterthought, and the economy—at all costs!—has been an afterthought. While the Leader of the Opposition is playing games, the question he should have asked today is: will the Prime Minister stop her charade and vote for the Lords amendments next week for membership of the EEA and the customs union, protecting jobs and prosperity?
Jobs are absolutely at the forefront of what we are considering in terms of our future trade partnership. That is why we are as ambitious as we are for the possibilities of that economic partnership in the future.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about the Northern Ireland border. The Leader of the Opposition complains that we are giving too much attention to getting the answer right on the Northern Ireland border, and the leader of the Scottish nationalists says that we are using it as an afterthought. We are committed to ensuring that there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. We also want to ensure as frictionless trade as possible with the European Union and that we are able to operate our independent trade policy. All those are about ensuring that we protect jobs here in the United Kingdom.
I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting the upcoming National Democracy Week, which is important. I certainly support it, and I hope everybody across the House does. Because it falls on the 90th anniversary of the equal franchise Act, the week gives us an opportunity to look back and see how far we have come as a flourishing democracy. It also gives us an opportunity to champion and encourage greater democratic participation across the country. I hope every Member of the House supports that and will support National Democracy Week.
The people of Scotland voted in a legal and fair referendum to remain part of the United Kingdom, and it is SNP Members, who are completely out of touch with the people of Scotland, who are continuing to press the issue of independence. Now is not the time for a second independence referendum. Now is the time for the United Kingdom to be pulling together, to get the right deal for the United Kingdom and the right deal for Scotland in our negotiations. As I indicated earlier, and as is recognised by many people across Scotland, the most important thing for the future of Scotland is to continue to be part of the UK’s internal market.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his words of support for the third runway at Heathrow. We will ensure that that vote is brought to the House in a timely fashion. There is a requirement for it to be brought within a certain period, and we will ensure that that happens. This is an opportunity to increase job opportunities. It is also an opportunity to increase connectivity with other parts of the United Kingdom, which in itself will be of benefit to jobs in other parts of the UK.
My hon. Friend makes two important points: the first is the importance and significance of the investment that is being put into infrastructure across the country; and the second is of course that, as we do that—when we are putting in place these large infrastructure projects—we must make sure that they are planned in consultation with, and with sympathy towards, local communities. Of course, as we see with the proposals for Heathrow, for example, that does come with a significant compensation package for those people who will be personally affected.
I am sure my hon. Friend understands and recognises that, alongside other terms and conditions, pay is a matter for authorities to manage as individual employers. Of course, since 2010, the Government have put in place a number of measures to increase accountability and transparency on senior pay. The Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015 and the transparency code 2015 require authorities to publish details of senior salaries for staff earning £50,000 or more, which is why we are now able to see the sums that are being earned. We are also legislating on measures—on another issue that has been of concern, I know, to Members in this House—for capping pay-offs at £95,000 and clawing back redundancy payments should workers return to the public sector within 12 months of their exit, making sure that taxpayers’ money is spent responsibly.
I think “Nice try” is the answer to the hon. Gentleman, but he said that there were fewer opportunities for young people here in this country. May I just point out to him the considerable improvement there has been in the opportunities for young people to get into work and the way in which we have seen youth unemployment coming down?
Heathrow has played an absolute blinder with the Department for Transport. It is a privately owned company that now has a DFT policy to give it an active monopoly status. Better still, it has somehow managed to get a poison pill clause agreed by the DFT that means the taxpayer has to cover all its costs if things go wrong. Is this not the worst kind of nationalisation—the public sector and taxpayers owning all the Heathrow downsides and risks, and the private sector owning all the upside and the financial returns?
Yesterday’s decision to support Heathrow’s expansion demonstrates this Government’s commitment to delivering the jobs and major infrastructure that this country needs to thrive, but the airport expansion will be fully financed by the private sector. The statement of principles is clear that it does not give Heathrow Airport Ltd the right to claim any costs or losses from the Government should its scheme not proceed.
Of course, we are taking action on the issues on the railways, to ensure that trains are able to arrive without delay. We will be leaving the European Union on 29 March 2019, and the implementation period will last until the end of December 2020. That is our commitment, and that is what is going to happen.
I think Members across the House will recognise the role that animals play during war, not only in the sacrifice they make but in the support they give. I thank the Prime Minister for meeting the war horse memorial group from Windsor. The unveiling will take place this Saturday, and I am very proud of the work the group has done. Does the Prime Minister agree that recognition of the role of animals in war can unite us with the Commonwealth and the entire world?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. I was pleased to see the maquette of the war horse memorial, which will be unveiled in his constituency this weekend. I am pleased to say that that model is now in Downing Street. We have recognised the important role played by animals in warfare, and I am sure that when the memorial goes up in his constituency, it will remind many more people that we should never forget the part that animals have played.
I congratulate all Members who came into this House after the 2017 general election, including colleagues on this side of the Chamber, and I hope they will not take it amiss if I mention in particular the 12 Scottish Conservatives who came in after that election.
This Government takes very seriously the issue of social mobility. We take it seriously through the policies we are implementing to help ensure that our young people get the skills they need, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) mentioned in the first question, so that they can take the jobs of the future. I want a country where how far somebody gets on is a reflection not of their background or where they come from, but of their abilities and willingness to work hard.
I absolutely recognise the problem that passengers have faced. Passengers have been let down and the delays they have been experiencing are unacceptable. That is why we need to take immediate action, which is what the Department for Transport is doing.
I commend the work that the hon. Lady does with the all-party group on this issue, which I know that, as she expressed through her question, she takes very seriously. As she will probably know, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has published guidance that aims to improve the diagnosis of ADHD and the quality of care and support that people receive. She raised the particular issue of the data that is available; the National Institute for Health Research has awarded £800,000 to fund research to help to identify existing services and gaps in provision for young adults with ADHD, and the Department of Health and Social Care is exploring what data on ADHD diagnosis could be made accessible through the mental health services dataset.
At his valedictory address yesterday morning, the Chief of the Defence Staff said that he was very concerned about the growing practice of legacy investigations of British servicemen and veterans, often many years after the events in question. There is growing concern in the House about the prospect of brave servicemen being, effectively, scapegoated by others for political or financial gain. We call our servicemen and women heroes; we should treat them accordingly, so would the Prime Minister be prepared at least to entertain some investigation of the concept of a statute of limitations to protect those who have served on the frontline and those who will follow them in future?
As my right hon. Friend said in his question, we do not just call our servicemen and women heroes; they are heroes. They are incredibly brave and put themselves on the frontline for our safety. We owe a vast debt of gratitude to our servicemen and women, who have shown such heroism and bravery over the years.
We want to ensure that we do not see our servicemen and women—and, indeed, in relation to legacy issues in Northern Ireland, police officers—as the sole subject of investigations, which is what is happening at the moment. I want to ensure that terrorists are investigated for past crimes as well, which is why the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has launched the consultation on legacy issues. It is of course open to people to respond to that consultation. We should recognise the importance of ensuring that these matters are dealt with fairly and proportionately. I want to ensure that a focus is put on and investigation is possible for the terrorists, not just, as we see today, servicemen and women and police officers under investigation and terrorists not investigated.
It is absolutely right that as a Government, over the years since 2010, we have taken action against illegal immigration. I am pleased to say that we have been removing illegal immigrants from this country and yes, we have tightened the conditions to ensure that we can take action against illegal immigrants. What is important is that we ensure that people who are here legally are not caught up in the actions intended for those who are here illegally. I hope that the Labour party will understand, recognise and support the need—sadly, one or two comments from those on the Labour party Front Bench suggest that they do not—to take action when people are here illegally.
The biggest challenge between the Commons and the Lords takes place next week—yes, I am referring to the Lords versus Commons pigeon race, which has been revived after a 90-year gap and takes place at Bletchley Park next Wednesday. Each Member of both Houses has been asked to sponsor a pigeon, and the money will go to that excellent charity Combat Stress. Will my right hon. Friend join me in not only wishing this revived event great success but sponsoring a pigeon?
I would be happy to do so. There was a little bit of laughter when my hon. Friend asked his question about the pigeon race, but it is in an extremely good cause: it will raise money for Combat Stress. We have just made the point about the bravery of our servicemen and servicewomen. We should support them in every way we can. I am happy to sponsor a pigeon and I encourage every Member of this House to do so as well.
The Brexit vote means that families are already £900 a year worse off, while both Tories and Labour peddle the fiction of single market rewards without responsibility. I ask the Prime Minister, her hon. Friends and the Opposition: how much poorer will families become as they indulge in fantasy politics?
I have made clear to the House the ambition we have for our future economic partnership. The hon. Lady stands up and talks about fantasy politics. Perhaps she would like to go out and speak to the people of Wales, who I might remind her voted to leave the European Union.
Does my right hon. Friend share my disappointment and astonishment that Labour and Scottish National party MEPs last week ignored the interests of British fishermen when they voted to back the European Parliament in an attempt—[Interruption.] It is true—to keep the UK inside the common fisheries policy? Will she confirm today that she still intends the UK to become a fully independent coastal state?
I find it extraordinary that the SNP and the Labour party are supporting our continued membership of the common fisheries policy. This party, the Conservative party, is the party that will take the United Kingdom out of the common fisheries policy and ensure that we can become the independent fishing state to which my hon. Friend refers.
Despite the Prime Minister’s claims that she has put more money into education—she claims she has put £1.5 billion into education—over the past two years she has cut about £4 billion from education. With classroom sizes rising, teachers’ pay capped and school budgets cut, what is the Prime Minister going to do about it?
I do not recognise the description the hon. Gentleman sets out. We have indeed put more money into education in our schools. Through our national funding formula we are ensuring its fairer distribution across schools and we are making more money available for schools over the next two years.
We all appreciate what an extremely difficult job the Prime Minister has in striving for the best possible deal for our country regarding Brexit, but has the time not come to reiterate to our EU friends, echoing the words of the Prime Minister herself, that no deal is better than a bad deal? In what circumstances is she prepared to walk away from the negotiations, saving the British taxpayer billions of pounds?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that I have said consistently that no deal is better than a bad deal. I have also said that we are working to ensure that we get the right deal and the best deal possible for the United Kingdom. We recognise the importance of ensuring that as a country we prepare for all scenarios. That is why Government Departments are looking at the issue of a no deal, because they are preparing for all contingencies. That is absolutely right for them to do so. Some of the arrangements that will be put in place for a deal will be the same as arrangements for a no deal and the Treasury has of course made money available to Government Departments to ensure that they are able to make all the preparations necessary.
Wolsingham school in my constituency has been forced to suspend its sixth form as the result of years of cuts to post-16 education by this ruthless Government and a national funding formula that discriminates against smaller rural communities and their schools. The Education Secretary has washed his hands of the issue. As a result, young people in my community will face four hours or more in journey time for their education. Wolsingham is the first to face this crisis, but sixth forms across the country will collapse under the current funding situation. Will the Prime Minister intervene to help our schools, and the broader network of sixth forms and sixth-form colleges?
I understand that the decision to suspend recruitment to Wolsingham School’s sixth form was made by the school governing body after student numbers had fallen in recent years and that other good and outstanding school sixth forms and colleges are available within travelling distance of Weardale. Some young people are already choosing to access those, rather than the local school sixth form, but the local authority is looking at the question of future travel arrangements—that is its responsibility for post-16 transport—while our new national funding formula for pre-16 schools will help to safeguard rural schools by ensuring a more appropriate funding formula across the country, with a lump sum for every school and additional support for small rural schools.
Will the Prime Minister join me in congratulating four schools in Redditch—Inkberrow First School, Woodfield Academy, Crabbs Cross Academy and Ridgeway Academy—which have received nearly £1 million to improve their buildings, which will help our young people get a great start in life? Does she agree that it is only because of our strong management of the economy that we can invest so much to help young people up and down the country?
My hon. Friend makes a very important point, and I am happy to join her in welcoming the funding available to those four schools in Redditch. We are able to put more money into our schools and education only because our strong management of and balanced approach to the economy means that that money is available. Labour in government would borrow more, spend more, tax more and leave the country on the brink of bankruptcy.
Following the tragic murder of a 17-year-old on Saturday in broad daylight in front of his friends, will the Prime Minister meet me and the police and crime commissioner for Suffolk to discuss how such violent crimes might be prevented in Ipswich?
Of course, we are deeply concerned about crimes such as the one the hon. Gentleman has referenced, which took place in his constituency. The former Home Secretary had already published a serious violence strategy, and the current Home Secretary will be taking it forward. I am sure the Home Office, working with the police, will look at this issue very carefully to ensure that every effort is being made out there to take the steps necessary to deal with serious violence. I will ask the relevant Home Office Minister if he would be prepared to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss the matter.