The Secretary of State was asked—
Leaving the EU
I meet the political parties in Northern Ireland regularly to discuss a range of issues including the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. As I have said repeatedly, these conversations are no replacement for a fully functioning, locally elected and accountable Executive.
During my discussions with political parties, I do need to ensure that we discuss a range of issues, such as the appointments that cannot be made in the absence of Northern Ireland Ministers. I am actively considering the issue of those public appointments, including assessing what action could be taken to address the problem. I will return to the House before the recess to set out my course of action in more detail.
May I thank the Government for their engagement at the highest level with the Democratic Unionist party here on these Benches on a continuing and intensive basis? In the absence of devolution, it is important that Northern Ireland’s voice is heard here, in the corridors of power. I ask the Secretary of State to bear in mind that Monsieur Juncker and Monsieur Barnier go to Dublin tomorrow and that we are likely to hear a lot of harsh rhetoric. Will she encourage them to bear in mind the principle of consent in the Belfast agreement and its successors, and not to take a one-sided approach to this issue in Northern Ireland?
I have been clear, as have all Ministers in this Government, that we are committed to the Belfast agreement and all its principles, including the principle of consent. I hope that the political leaders that the right hon. Gentleman referenced have also heard that message.
The Secretary of State referenced the absence of devolution. Of course, one of the issues is the absence of funding for the Commonwealth youth games in 2021. Will she look carefully at what might be done to bring forward funding for this prestigious event? It should not be stopped as a result of Sinn Féin refusing to form a Government.
I met the Commonwealth Games Federation last week and I am aware of the concerns about this matter. I urge political leaders across Northern Ireland to make clear their support for the Commonwealth youth games in order that the Northern Ireland civil service can release the funds.
There is already a border, which is a tax border, an excise border and, as my right hon. Friend will know very well, a security border. The Government have made some very sensible proposals that whatever the final arrangements are on the border, there should be more authorised economic operators. What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with local parties in Northern Ireland and parties in the Republic of Ireland about extending the use of authorised economic operators?
My right hon. Friend is very aware of and knowledgeable about the border, having been my predecessor in this role as Secretary of State. I can assure him that I have discussed with all political parties—both north and south of the border—the matter of the border and the practical ways in which we can overcome the problems that some people put forward as being an issue.
The EU has been instrumental in helping Northern Ireland to address its legacy issues and in promoting economic development. What are the Stormont parties—or, indeed, the Government—saying needs to be done to address the deficiencies there once the UK leaves the EU?
Many people bear credit for the developments that have happened since the signing of the Belfast agreement and the economic development of Northern Ireland. I say gently to the hon. Lady that perhaps the fact that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom has more of a bearing on its economic strength than many other matters.
The technical note published on 7 June spoke of free trade agreements that could be entered into that would not affect any temporary customs arrangements. What discussion has the Secretary of State had with the parties on specifically what form those free trade agreements might take and who they might involve?
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade is of course responsible for those free trade agreements. However, my hon. Friend alludes to the very important point that for Northern Ireland, leaving the European Union as part of the United Kingdom means that it will have access to those free trade arrangements with the rest of the world and a land border with the European Union. That puts Northern Ireland in a unique, privileged situation.
Brexit is the most fundamental issue that our generation faces. The voice of Scotland is heard through its Parliament and the voice of Wales through its Senedd; the voice of Stormont is silent. What urgent initiatives is the Secretary of State now going to take that will make a material difference in getting Stormont back to work?
The hon. Gentleman is right. In the absence of a functioning Executive, the normal processes—the Joint Ministerial Council meetings, for example—do not have Northern Ireland representation. I am working, together with my officials and Ministers in the Department, to ensure that all Northern Ireland parties are fully apprised of the situation. As he says, the important point is that if an Executive were in place, a full voice for Northern Ireland would be heard in all the normal structures that enable it to be heard.
But it is not just Brexit: there are many urgent decisions now piling up in Northern Ireland. Those decisions cannot be made by civil servants—the High Court has decreed that—and cannot be made by devolved Ministers because there are none. The case of Billy Caldwell is urgent enough for the Home Secretary to act here in England for the Secretary of State’s constituents and mine, so what will she now do to make sure that Billy is not an unwitting victim of this constitutional crisis?
The hon. Gentleman is right: there are a number of matters that are pressing. I have already referred to public appointments. I can also confirm that I will bring forward legislation before the summer recess to put the budget on a statutory footing for 2018-19.
The use of medicinal cannabis is of course a matter for the Home Office for the whole United Kingdom. That is why I welcome the decision by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to have a review of the use of medicinal cannabis. I assure the hon. Gentleman that during the whole of last week, officials from my Department were in close contact with health officials in Northern Ireland, and that, across Government, we pressed to make sure that the case of Billy Caldwell was dealt with with suitable respect and dignity for the little boy.
Northern Ireland Economy
This Government are delivering a fundamentally strong economy for Northern Ireland, with unemployment down to 3.3% from over 7% in 2010. Nearly 19,000 new jobs have been created over the last year, the highest number on record, meaning that more people have the security of a regular pay packet for themselves and their families.
Redditch has a proud history of manufacturing businesses that trade with Northern Ireland. One such business is Trimite, which manufactures specialist coatings for the defence and aerospace industries. What assurances can my right hon. Friend give to my constituents at Trimite and other businesses that there is a prosperous global outlook after Brexit?
My hon. Friend makes a very important point about the opportunities for United Kingdom manufacturers—those in her constituency of Redditch and those based in Northern Ireland. The Trade Bill will enable the UK to continue with existing trading arrangements, and that will provide certainty, continuity and reassurance for businesses such as Trimite.
Northern Ireland benefits substantially from being part of the world’s fifth largest economy, with access to an internal UK market of about 65 million people—the most significant market for Northern Ireland businesses, worth £14.6 billion in sales and supporting thousands of jobs. This Government have built a strong economy that can invest in services such as the NHS and deliver public spending. On Monday, I visited Omagh to see the Strule shared education campus, which is benefiting from £140 million of funding from this Government.
In welcoming the progress in the economy in Northern Ireland, does the Secretary of State realise that sport plays an important part in that? On Friday, the Commonwealth Games Federation will meet to decide whether Belfast will get the youth games. It is a small amount of money. Birmingham is getting a huge amount for the Commonwealth games the following year. The permanent secretary has said no, so will she step in?
We know that the greatest roadblock to economic growth in Northern Ireland is the lack of an Assembly being in place. That economic difficulty is being created because no decisions can be made. What measures are the Department and the Secretary of State taking to allow that to happen, so that we can go forward?
The hon. Gentleman will know that there is an appeal against the Buick judgment, which I think is what he was referring to. That appeal will be heard on Monday, and we await the outcome of it, but the Government stand ready to take whatever decisions are necessary.
Leaving the EU: Border Policing
Clause 43 of the December joint report makes it absolutely clear that there will be no physical infrastructure or related checks and controls on the border. As for the use of technology, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the details of a potential solution have yet to be worked out.
I thank the Minister for his response. He will be aware that the Government’s own assessment shows the economy being damaged by the Government’s plans and that the least worst option is staying in the customs union and the single market. Is that the case, or does he have alternative economic advice that he could publish?
I do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s analysis. The fact is that the Northern Ireland economy is doing very well, with the lowest unemployment rate in the country, and exports are increasing. On the single market and the customs union, let me be absolutely clear: the people of the United Kingdom collectively voted to leave the EU, and that includes the customs union and the single market.
In recent discussions with the political parties in Northern Ireland, was the issue of the European arrest warrant raised? Will the Secretary of State come to the House and make a statement on the serious implications for the Police Service of Northern Ireland if the availability of the European arrest warrant were closed down to the Chief Constable?
I can assure the hon. Lady that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State spoke to the Chief Constable this morning about the European arrest warrant. We very much hope to have, as the Prime Minister has suggested, a UK-EU security treaty that will be all-embracing and bespoke. As the GCHQ director Jeremy Fleming said this morning, it is important to recognise that four European countries have benefited directly from our intelligence in the past year.
With regard to the border, throughout Operation Banner and the troubles in Northern Ireland, the military and the police desperately tried to get a hard border between the north and south. We would blow up crossing points and the following morning they would be open again. With the automatic number plate recognition that we have now, there should be no hard border, and I cannot see how it could be possible.
The threat from Northern Ireland-related terrorism continues to be severe in Northern Ireland, meaning an attack is highly likely. The Government provided the Police Service of Northern Ireland with £230 million between 2010 and 2016, and we are providing a further £160 million in this Parliament. Our response to terrorism and paramilitary activity is co-ordinated, effective and fully resourced.
I welcome what my right hon. Friend says, but how can it be right that loyal octogenarian veterans now have to look over their shoulders as a result of spurious and vexatious complaints in relation to allegations of which they have already been cleared? Is it not time for a statute of limitations to back our servicemen and women?
My hon. Friend is a doughty campaigner for his constituents on this matter. I am sure he will agree with me that the current mechanisms for investigating the past are not delivering either for victims or for veterans. Right now, too many cases are not being investigated, including hundreds of murders by terrorists.
The Chief Constable in Northern Ireland has expressed some concerns about cross-border security in today’s Belfast Telegraph. Will the Secretary of State give us some assurances about what discussions she has had with the Irish Government to allay the concerns that the Chief Constable has raised?
Some of those responsible for ensuring the peace in Northern Ireland during the days of the troubles are now being summoned to court again. Many of these individuals are suffering from all kinds of post-traumatic stress disorders and are terrified about going back to Northern Ireland. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that anyone called back to court will be wrapped around with a package that makes them feel safe and secure?
My right hon. Friend, who has served in the Northern Ireland Office, knows a great deal about this matter. He is right that the current situation simply is not working—it is not working for victims and it is not working for veterans—and that is why we want to deal with it.
With viable devices being found in County Down as recently as the start of this month, will the Secretary of State outline what discussions she has had with the Chief Constable to ensure there are sufficient resources and sufficient police officers on duty in stations throughout County Down to make sure that terrorists do not succeed?
Further to the question of the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon), Michel Barnier has said this week that the United Kingdom could not remain in the European arrest warrant system post Brexit. What plans does the Secretary of State have to meet this concern, and to address the issue of the 300 additional PSNI officers for which there will be a vital need post Brexit?
Article 50 Negotiations
There is regular engagement by the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union with the EU’s chief negotiator, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland hopes to have a meeting with the chief negotiator for the EU very soon.
I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. Will the Minister therefore enlighten the House about the timetable for publishing the Government’s policy on the backstop for the Northern Ireland border, and as I say, with the discussions ongoing, will the Secretary of State discuss that with the chief negotiator?
Does the Minister agree that threats from the European Union about having a hard border in Northern Ireland are simply unhelpful, and that what we need is co-operation in the use of technology so that things can continue to flow just as they do today?
May I just say that the European Commission has agreed, in the joint report it signed in December, that there will be no hard border—no physical infrastructure on the border? It is also incumbent on us to make sure that the details of the Belfast agreement are met, which means ensuring that there is not a hard border.
As I said earlier, we will not be giving an ongoing commentary on all our meetings. However, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we have the implementation period until the end of December 2020, and then the backstop agreement, but only if that is required under specific circumstances, and no more.
Leaving the EU: Agricultural Sector
I recognise how fundamental agriculture is to Northern Ireland economically, socially and culturally.
The Secretary of State and I are fully committed to ensuring that, as negotiations progress, the unique interests of Northern Ireland are protected and advanced. We want to take the opportunities that leaving brings to reform the UK’s agricultural policy and ensure we make the most of those for our farmers and exporters.
Bagged salad, seed potatoes and beef are the high-quality products that make up around a third of Northern Irish farmers’ exports. Those farmers rely on the EU for around 90% of their income, and they would see animal and plant health tariffs and produce checks as a nightmare. How can the Minister guarantee those farmers a future income and a market while also guaranteeing environmental standards?
The hon. Gentleman is right: agriculture and farming is a massive industry in Northern Ireland. Some 49,000 people are employed in the sector and there are 25,000 farms. What I will say to him is that if we can get that overall economic framework with the EU through negotiations, the tariffs he refers to will not apply.
Armed Forces Veterans: Legacy Investigations
I have regular discussions with the Secretary of State for Defence about a number of issues relating to Northern Ireland.
This House knows that, were it not for the bravery of the British Army, the Ulster Defence Regiment and the Royal Ulster Constabulary, George Cross, there would never have been a Good Friday agreement. Yet the Secretary of State's proposals include legacy investigations into veterans—in some cases going back 50 years. Will she agree to give evidence to the Defence Committee inquiry into this matter so that we can ask her how her proposals are compatible with the principles of the armed forces covenant?
I agree wholeheartedly with my right hon. Friend. As I said at the recent Police Federation conference in Northern Ireland, we owe all those who served an enormous debt of gratitude. Without the contribution of our armed forces and police, there would quite simply have been no peace process in Northern Ireland. I want to reassure my right hon. Friend that we are consulting on how to address the legacy of the past. This is a consultation.
Chester is a garrison city, and numerous constituents who have retired from the services are affected by uncertainty. I have no problem with crimes being investigated where there is evidence, but what comfort can the Secretary of State give those servicemen and ex-servicemen in my constituency who have served honourably and are living under a cloud of suspicion and uncertainty?
Those people are living under that cloud of uncertainty under the current system, and I want to see an end to the disproportionate focus on our veterans that is happening under that current mechanism. There is widespread agreement that the current system is not working. I urge the hon. Gentleman and all his constituents to respond to the consultation—we are consulting.
An end to disproportionate focus is not the answer we need. What we need is for a line to be drawn, and the way to draw that line is to have a statute of limitations and a truth recovery process. Why has the Secretary of State excluded that from the consultation when it was supposed to be included?
Our armed forces and security forces served bravely and valiantly during the troubles. What action has the Secretary of State taken to ensure that no one who served is unnecessarily dragged into the criminal justice system for actions that have already been investigated?
The consultation entitled “Addressing the Legacy of Northern Ireland’s Past” launched on 11 May and will run until 10 September. We are determined to provide a better outcomes for victims and survivors, and to ensure there is not a disproportionate focus on former soldiers and police officers.
Even though it is absent from the legacy consultation, and further to the questions asked by my right hon. Friends the Members for Rayleigh and Wickford (Mr Francois) and for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), will the Secretary of State reconsider promoting a statute of limitations so that veterans are protected from legal assault and are not hounded into old age?
The Prime Minister was asked—
Yesterday marked one year since the attack on the Finsbury Park mosque. That truly cowardly attack was intended to divide us, but we will not let that happen. We have been joined today by the imam of the mosque, Mohammed Mahmoud, and I am sure that Members from across the House will join me in paying tribute to his extraordinary bravery and dignity. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]
Friday is the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the MV Empire Windrush at Tilbury docks. It is right that we recognise and honour the enormous contribution of the Windrush generation and their descendants. That is why we have announced an annual Windrush Day, which will keep alive their legacy for future generations and ensure that we all celebrate the diversity of Britain’s history.
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 concur with the Prime Minister’s remarks concerning the terrorist attack on the Finsbury Park mosque. One year on, it is right that we remember it.
Following the agreements to which the UK signed up at the Paris climate change summit, will the Prime Minister now commit to a new UK climate change target of zero net emissions before 2050?
The United Kingdom has been leading the way in relation to dealing with climate change. The United Kingdom was, I think, the first country to bring in legislation relating to it, and the Government have a good record in dealing with these issues. Crucially, we have ensured that we remain committed to the Paris accord. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd), who played a key role in ensuring that the Paris accord was agreed to and that everybody signed up to it.
I reassure my hon. Friend that I agree with him: upskirting is a hideous invasion of privacy. It leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed. We will adopt this as a Government Bill. We will introduce the Bill to the Commons this Thursday, with Second Reading before the summer recess, but we are not stopping there. We will also ensure that the most serious offenders are added to the sex offenders register, and victims should be in no doubt that their complaints will be taken seriously and perpetrators will be punished.
I join the Prime Minister in welcoming my friend, Imam Mohammed Mahmoud, here today. He showed enormous humanity and presence of mind on that terrible day a year ago, when he prevented violence from breaking out on the streets of my constituency. I thank him and all the religious leaders in the local community who did so much to bind people together. As a country, we should be bound together in condemning racism in any form wherever it arises.
I was pleased that the Prime Minister mentioned the Windrush generation. I, too, join her in commemorating that event, when the Windrush generation arrived in this country. I hope that the hostile environment will be put behind us, and that we will take a special moment today to welcome a daughter of the Windrush generation as a new Member of this House. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham East (Janet Daby) brings to this House enormous experience of dealing with the problems of poverty and dislocation in her borough, and she will make a great contribution to the House.
Today marks World Refugee Day—a time to reflect on the human misery of 65 million refugees displaced across the globe. There is a responsibility on all political leaders both to aid refugees and to act to tackle the crises and the conflicts that drive this vast movement of people.
The Prime Minister said—[Hon. Members: “A question?”] Thank you. The Prime Minister said that extra funding for the national health service will come from three sources: Brexit, economic growth and the taxation system. Well, there can be no Brexit dividend before 2022. Economic growth is the slowest since 2009, so which taxes are going up?
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned a number of issues in his opening question. First, I take this opportunity to say that when I visited Finsbury Park mosque after the attack, I was struck by the very close work that was being done by a number of faith leaders in that community. I commend them for the work that they are doing—they were doing it then, and that I know they continue to do it. We see such work in other communities, including in my own constituency of Maidenhead.
The right hon. Gentleman ended up by asking a question, I think, on the national health service, so can I be very clear about this? We have set out a long-term plan for the NHS. That is securing the future for the national health service. We have set a five-year funding settlement. That will be funded. There will be money that we are no longer sending to the EU that we will be able to spend on our NHS—[Interruption.] Hon. Members may shout about this, but I know that that issue is not the policy of Labour Front Benchers. In relation to money that we are no longer sending to the EU being spent on the NHS, the shadow Housing Secretary called it “bogus”, and the shadow Health Secretary said it was a deceit. Perhaps I can tell them what another Labour Member said a few weeks ago:
“we will use funds returned from Brussels after Brexit to invest in our public services”.
That was the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition.
I am very pleased that the Prime Minister is reading my speeches so closely. I said that the money sent to the EU should be ring-fenced to replace structural funds to regions, support for agriculture and the fishing industry, and funding for research and universities.
May I remind the Prime Minister that my question was about taxation to deal with the NHS promises she made at the weekend. Last year—she might care to forget last summer, actually—she wrote in the Conservative manifesto:
“Firms and households cannot plan ahead”
with the threat of unspecified higher taxes. By her own admission, households and businesses need to plan, so can she be straight with people? Which taxes are going up and for who?
As I said on Monday, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will set out the full funding package. We will listen to people and he will set it out properly before the spending review. I am interested that the right hon. Gentleman has now confirmed that the Labour party thinks there will be money coming back from the European Union. I think there is one circumstance in which there would be no money coming back from the EU: if we adopted Labour’s policy of getting a deal at whatever price.
At the weekend, the Prime Minister said that
“about £600 million a week more in cash”
would be spent on the NHS. She continued:
“That will be through the Brexit dividend.”
Our net contribution to the European Union is about £8.5 billion a year, but £600 million a week is more than £30 billion a year. Her figures are so dodgy that they belong on the side of a bus. We expect that from the Foreign Secretary, but why is the Prime Minister pushing her own Mickey Mouse figures?
The right hon. Gentleman thanked me earlier for reading his speeches. I suggest that he or perhaps his researchers spend a little more time carefully reading and listening to what I actually say. He claims that I said that by 2023-24 there would be £600 million more in cash terms per week spent on the NHS from the Brexit dividend. No, I did not say that. I said the following: there will indeed be around £600 million more spent on the NHS every week in cash terms as a result of a decision taken by this Conservative Government to secure the future of the NHS. That will partly be funded by the money we no longer spend on the European Union. As a country, we will be contributing a bit more. We will listen to views on that, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will bring forward the package before the spending review. If the right hon. Gentleman is so concerned about people’s taxation, why, when we increased the personal allowance, thereby taking nearly 4 million people out of paying income tax altogether, did he and the Labour party oppose it?
Last night, the Prime Minister sent an email to Conservative party members telling them:
“The money we now send to the EU will go to the NHS”.
The Government’s own Office for Budget Responsibility says we will not see any dividend until at least 2023. The Prime Minister talks about a strong economy, but our economic growth last year was the slowest of any major economy, and it has already been downgraded this year. If growth does not meet expectations, does that mean—this is the question—extra borrowing or higher mystery taxes?
It is the balanced approach that this Government take to our economy that has enabled us—[Interruption.] Oh, they all groan! They do not like to hear that there is a fundamental difference between us and the Labour party. We do believe in keeping taxes low, we do believe in putting money into our public services, and we also believe in dealing with our debt and making sure that we get debt falling. What would the Labour party do? The Labour party would not have money to put into the national health service, because the Labour party would bankrupt our economy. And yes, if we are talking about the amount of money that is being put into the NHS, let us just look at what the Labour party offered at the last election. The Labour party said that 2.2% more growth for the NHS would make it
“the envy of the world”.
Well, I have to say to my right hon. and hon. Friends that I chose not to listen to that. We are not putting in 2.2% more growth; we are putting in 3.4% more growth.
Under Labour the NHS increase would have been 5% this year, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies confirmed that this year there would be £7.7 billion more for the NHS. What is the Prime Minister’s offer? She has promised £394 million per week without saying where any of it is coming from, apart from those mysterious phantom taxes that the Chancellor is presumably dreaming up at this very moment.
There is a human element to all issues surrounding the national health service and public spending. Let me give an example. Virginia wrote to me last week. She said:
“my diabetic daughter has fallen down on 4 occasions in the last month. She has both legs in plaster and is being told there isn’t enough money for the NHS to give her a wheelchair”.
The IFS says that the NHS needs 3.3% just to maintain current provision, which I remind the Prime Minister is at crisis levels. Does she think that standing still is good enough for Virginia, or for anyone else who is waiting for the treatment that they need and deserve?
We are putting in extra money to ensure that we see improved care in the NHS. Let me remind the right hon. Gentleman what the chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, has said of our announcement. He said:
“we can now face the next five years with renewed certainty. This multi-year settlement provides the funding we need to shape a long-term plan for key improvements in cancer, mental health and other critical services.”
If the right hon. Gentleman wants to talk about what the Labour party does in relation to the health service—and that is where he started—let us look not at what it says, but at what it actually does. For every £1 extra that we spend on the NHS in England, Labour in Wales spends only 84p. Typical Labour: say one thing and do another.
Health spending grew by 5% in Wales last year, rather more than in England. The Prime Minister’s 3.4% is actually just 3%, as it is only for NHS England. There is nothing for public health budgets, nothing for community health, and, vitally, nothing for social care. That is less than is needed just to stand still.
After the longest funding squeeze in history, A&E waits are at their worst ever, 4 million people are now on NHS waiting lists, and the cancer treatment target has not been met for over three years. Nurse numbers are falling, GP numbers are falling, and there are 100,000 staff vacancies. NHS trusts are £1 billion in deficit, and there is a £1.3 billion funding gap in social care. The Prime Minister is writing IOUs just to stand still. Until the Government can be straight with people about where the money is coming from, why should anyone, anywhere, trust them on the NHS?
I will tell the right hon. Gentleman why people should trust us on the national health service. Over the 70 years of the NHS, for 43 of those years it has been under the stewardship of a Conservative Government. Despite taking difficult and necessary decisions on public spending in 2010 as a result of the deficit left by the last Labour Government, we have consistently put extra money into the NHS. We have now announced a national health service plan that gives it certainty of funding for the next five years, and, working with clinicians and others in the NHS, we will see a 10-year plan to improve services and to improve care for patients. The right hon. Gentleman can stand up here all he likes and talk about the Labour party’s plans for money, but what we know is that the Labour party’s plans would bankrupt this economy. The IFS has said:
“Labour would not raise as much money as they claim even in the short run, let alone the long run.”
In short, its plan “absolutely doesn’t add up”: Conservatives putting more money into the national health service; Labour losing control of the public finances and bankrupting Britain.
I thank my hon. Friend for continuing to highlight this important issue of family support and family relationships, and we are determined to do as much as we can to support families. That is why we are providing for high-quality relationships education, helping children to be equipped and prepared to maintain healthy and respectful relationships in their adult lives. The Department for Work and Pensions is providing relationship support services to families through the voluntary sector, and, backed up by up to £39 million, the reducing parental conflict programme will help councillors across England integrate support for family relationships into the local services for families. As my hon. Friend says, and as she has said before, children who are exposed to frequent, intense and poorly resolved conflict can experience a decline in their mental health; we understand the importance of supporting families at an early stage.
May I associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister on the incident a year ago at the Finsbury Park mosque?
Many of us in this House will be aware of the deeply distressing audio and images of children separated from their parents in US detention centres. Infants as young as 18 months are being caged like animals, babies of eight months are being left isolated in rooms, and last night the former head of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said he expects hundreds of these children never to be reunited with their parents—lost in the system, orphaned by the US Government. Is the Prime Minister still intending to roll out the red carpet for Donald Trump?
May I first of all say to the right hon. Gentleman that I am pleased to see him in this Chamber to be able to ask his questions? But on the very important issue he has raised of what we have seen in the United States, the pictures of children being held in what appear to be cages are deeply disturbing: this is wrong; this is not something that we agree with. This is not the United Kingdom’s approach; indeed, when I was Home Secretary I ended the routine detention of families with children. We have a special, long-standing and enduring relationship with the United States and there will rightly be a range of issues that I will be discussing with President Trump about our shared interests, and it is important that we make sure that when we welcome and see the President of the United States here in the United Kingdom we are able to have those discussions, which mean that when we disagree with what they are doing we say so.
I have to say that that is a disappointing answer from the Prime Minister. We should all be unreservedly condemning the actions of Donald Trump, and I ask the Prime Minister to do that. On the issue of immigration, while the US Administration call it a zero-tolerance policy, the Prime Minister calls it a hostile environment. We know that this Government detain children in detention centres here in the UK. The UK is the only EU country to detain people indefinitely. Will the Prime Minister today, on World Refugee Day, show some leadership and end her policy of indefinite detention?
First, in relation to the right hon. Gentleman’s question about what is happening in the United States, I clearly, wholly and unequivocally said that that was wrong. On the issue of the detention policy here in the United Kingdom, he referred to the detention of families with children and, as I have said, we ended the routine detention of families with children early after 2010. We do, on occasion, need to detain people, but we take their welfare extremely seriously. That is why, when I was Home Secretary, I commissioned Stephen Shaw, the former prisons and probation ombudsman, to look at this issue. As a result of his report, we introduced the at-risk policy, which means that we have a clear presumption that adults who are at risk should not be detained, along with better mental health provision for them. We have asked him to go back and look at this issue again, and he has reported. We are carefully studying that report and will publish in due course.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that care proceedings should be a last resort. They should be undertaken only after other steps have failed, because we want every child to be in a stable, loving home that is right for them. The sector-led review that she mentions is an important contribution to work that is being done across the family justice system to address the pressure caused by rising public law volumes in family courts, and we are carefully considering the report’s findings and recommendations.
First, I have just said in response to questions about the pictures and the behaviour that we have seen in the United States and about the way children are being treated, that is clearly, wholly and unequivocally wrong. On the wider issue of the President of the United States coming here to the United Kingdom, there are many issues that Members of this House—including the hon. Gentleman’s right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition—consistently encourage me to raise with the President of the United States. We do that: when we disagree with the United States, we tell them so. We also have key shared interests with the United States, in the security and defence field and in other areas, and it is right that we are able to sit down and discuss those issues with the President. He is the President of a country with which we have had, and will continue to have, a long-standing special relationship.
I completely understand my hon. Friend’s concerns and have dealt with issues of contaminated land sites and development on them in my constituency in the past. We take local residents’ safety seriously in relation to contaminated land, and we ensure that the guidance is regularly updated. Developers are already required to ensure that they comply with a host of legal and regulatory safeguards before they build on contaminated land, and we also require that they work in conjunction with the Environment Agency and meet building regulations to ensure residents’ safety.
I offer my deepest sympathies to those suffering from severe conditions where other treatments have not been effective and where cannabis-based medicines have the potential to help. I recognise that people suffering from such issues will of course want to look to alleviate their symptoms, but it is important that medicines are carefully and thoroughly assessed to ensure that they meet rigorous standards, so that doctors and patients are assured of their efficacy, their quality and their safety
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced a two-part review yesterday. We see from recent cases that we need to look at this carefully, and the first review will be carried out by the chief medical officer followed by a review from the Advisory Council of the Misuse of Drugs. My right hon. Friend is also acting to set up an expert panel of clinicians that can advise Ministers on any applications to prescribe cannabis-based medicines.
I am happy to join my hon. Friend in commending the work of the groups in her constituency that she referred to, such as Brightlife and Age UK. She is right that Saturday marked the two-year anniversary of the death of Jo Cox, but she is also right that Jo Cox’s legacy lives on every day in the work on the issues that she cared about, particularly loneliness. I was pleased that we were able to announce £20 million to combat loneliness, and that will be used to help bring people together, to explore the use of technology to connect people in remote areas and to improve transport connections to make face-to-face contact easier. Jo was passionate about seeing a step change in how we deal with loneliness in this country, and we are determined to support the continuation of her work after her sad and tragic death.
There are many good examples of mutuals and co-operatives that operate in our economy, and they do well and provide services to individuals. There is no limit on the number of mutuals and co-operatives that could be set up. We want a mixed economy, and they play an important part.
As my hon. Friend says, he has been a consistent campaigner on this particular issue. We have announced over £3.9 billion of new additional capital funding for the NHS up to 2022-23, and the majority of that is to support the implementation of the local sustainability and transformation partnership plans. Major projects are under consideration across the country, and we intend to announce one large-scale scheme the size of the Shrewsbury and Telford plan every year going forward. They will be based on high-quality plans, but they will arise from local NHS leaders. It is important that such plans are driven by the local NHS, but they will ensure better care for patients.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising this important issue. Our sympathies are with the family.
We take the teaching of water safety very seriously, which is why we are supporting the National Water Safety Forum’s national drowning prevention strategy, which aims to achieve a 50% reduction in drownings by 2026 by encouraging people to stay safe while enjoying themselves. We have made sure that swimming and water safety is compulsory in the national curriculum for physical education at primary level, but we recognise there is more to do. We have established an implementation group, and we are reviewing the recommendations of the report, which is part of the Sporting Future strategy that aims to improve the swimming curriculum.
I can absolutely give my hon. Friend that assurance. We do not want to see money going to the NHS and being wasted or spent on bureaucracy, and not actually getting to patient care. That is why it is so important that, alongside the extra money, as part of the 10-year plan we will be working with the NHS on making sure not only that we see better outcomes for patients as a result of this extra money but that the money is spent wisely and in the interest of patients.
The hon. Lady refers to documents that she describes as having been leaked from the Department for Transport. No Government respond from the Dispatch Box to leaked documents they have not seen. In advance of the timetable changes for both Northern and Govia in May, a separate independent panel was set up by the DFT to reassure the Department about the nature of those plans.
Is the Prime Minister aware that Birmingham airport will have 15% fewer international flights than otherwise, and that Manchester airport will have 11% fewer, Newcastle 14% will have fewer and Bournemouth will have more than 40% fewer, by 2030 as a result of Heathrow expansion? How do we help investment in our regions by suffocating the regional airports’ growth?
My right hon. Friend asks about expanding Heathrow and the impact it is going to have on regional airports, so may I just tell her one anecdote? When we made our first announcement about the in principle decision on the third runway at Heathrow, I went down to Cornwall and visited Newquay. People there were very pleased and welcomed the announcement, because of the ability it was going to give them to improve their local economy and expand their tourist industry, in particular.
I recognise the value of community pharmacies. I think everybody across this House recognises the valuable work they do in communities, and indeed we have recognised it with our £100 million contribution to a health transformation fund. We have done and will continue to do what we can in the absence of an Executive to protect the delivery of vital public services. The Secretary of State’s budget for 2018-19 addresses the key pressures across public services, including the Northern Ireland health service, and she will be bringing forward legislation to put the budget position on a legal footing. I know that she will be more than happy to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss this issue further.
May I join the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in paying tribute to the bravery of the imam from the mosque in Finsbury Park? May I also pay tribute to two people who are also in the Gallery today and who have shown dignity, bravery and integrity: the parents of Alfie Dingley? Alfie got the licence yesterday so that he will not have so many fits, which is what we know this treatment will do. I thank the Prime Minister and, in particular, the Attorney General for their input into this, but I want us to try to work with the family so that we can speed this up for other families. I know that is the most important thing the family want now.
I say to my right hon. Friend that I, too, welcome the parents of Alfie Dingley and commend them for the dignity they have shown in dealing with this difficult issue of ensuring that what they wanted to see for their son was available. As my right hon. Friend has said, a licence has now been issued, but it is right—this is the point of the reviews that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has set up—to make sure that our process of considering these drugs to ensure that they are going to be efficacious and safe for patients is not a long drawn-out one, because the length of process, as, sadly, Alfie’s parents found, can be deeply distressing.
The European Union and Michel Barnier say that they do not want a hard border on the island of Ireland, and we agree with that, but in his remarks yesterday on security co-operation he seemed to be erecting barriers in the way of the best possible co-operation between the UK and the rest of the Europe. The Belfast Telegraph, in its editorial today, says that this brinkmanship by the EU is a boon to terrorists. Will the Prime Minister make it clear that that kind of approach is completely wrong? It appears that the EU wants to make Brexit harder for the UK but easier for those who want to cause damage across Europe.
The future security partnership we want with the EU is an important part of the deal that we are negotiating with it. I set out our intentions on that security partnership in the speech I gave at the Munich security conference. I fully recognise the importance of this, and in particular, of some of the instruments we have been able to use within the European Union, to the working of the police across the border of Northern Ireland and Ireland, and to ensuring that those who would seek to do the people of Northern Ireland harm are apprehended, prevented from doing so and brought to justice. I am absolutely clear that that security partnership is a key, important and essential element of what we are negotiating.
In the Gallery today are two young men from my Cleethorpes constituency, Callum Procter and Oliver Freeston, both of whom won seats on North East Lincolnshire Council at last month’s elections. Oliver is just 18 years old and is perhaps the youngest councillor in the country. Will the Prime Minister congratulate Callum and Oliver? Does she agree that it is this country that provides the policies that allow young people to prosper and be successful?
I am very happy to welcome Callum and Oliver and to congratulate them on their important success in the May local government elections. The fact that it is under this Government and this party that we see an 18-year-old taking a seat on the council shows that, as my hon. Friend says, it is this Government who are ensuring that young people have the opportunities to prosper and to pursue their hopes.
The conclusions of the Gosport independent panel, which I set up with the Secretary of State’s support when I was a Minister, are truly shocking, not only because of the fact that 456 people lost their lives following the inappropriate prescribing of opioids, but because there was a closing of ranks that prevented families from getting to the truth. Does the Prime Minister agree that there now needs to be an independent and thorough police investigation by another force? Will she agree to meet me and family representatives to discuss the report’s implications? Does she agree that we must never again ignore families in this way and that there must be a mechanism whereby when allegations of wrongdoing are raised, they are investigated immediately, and that that mechanism must include the family?
My thoughts, and I am sure those of everybody in the House, will be with all the families of the patients who died as a result of what happened at Gosport War Memorial Hospital. The events there were tragic and deeply troubling, they brought unimaginable heartache to the families concerned, and they are a matter with which the whole House should be concerned. The right hon. Gentleman raised the way in which the public sector often, in his terms, closes ranks; that is an issue that we have to deal with across the public sector.
I pay tribute to the right hon. Gentleman for establishing the inquiry when he was a Minister. I am sorry that it took so long for the families to get the answers from the NHS. I thank Bishop Jones and his fellow panel members for what they have done, and I would be happy to meet the right hon. Gentleman with Bishop Jones. This case shows why it is absolutely right that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has been putting such a focus on patient safety and transparency in the NHS, because we need to ensure that we do not see these things happening in future. The findings are obviously distressing and deeply concerning. Of course, measures have been put in place to deal with issues, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will make a statement on the report shortly.
Peak hurricane season is due to hit Bangladesh and the Rohingya in the camps there. The UK is leading in the provision of aid to the Rohingya; other countries pledge aid but do not deliver. What more can the Government do to put pressure on those countries that renege on their pledges of aid for the Rohingya?
My hon. Friend raises an important point: this country not only says what it is going to do but actually puts its money where its mouth is and goes out and helps people around the world, including the Rohingya in the circumstances to which she referred. We will continue to put pressure on all those countries that say they will do something but do not actually deliver the money, to ensure that they do.
I want to return to the broader context of the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton South (Mr Shuker). This has been a chilling week for those of us from right across the House who believe in the values of tolerance and diversity. It is not just President Trump: Viktor Orbán has proposed a new tax on organisations that defend refugees and the Italian Government are targeting the Roma people. It is good that the Prime Minister said that President Trump’s policy is wrong, but I want her to do more, and I think that the House wants her to do more. What is she going to do proactively to defend those values? What work is she going to do with Chancellor Merkel and President Macron to make it clear to the rest of the world and to the European Union that these other values, which are so inimical to our country, cannot stand?
We do work with Governments across Europe, particularly with the French and German Governments, on these issues of migration in relation to Europe. We expect all members of the international community to adhere to international law and commitments to human rights. As a Government, we oppose extremism in all forms, including when such extremism threatens to damage ethnic and community relations. We believe in the fundamental values of liberty, of democracy and of respect for human rights. We will continue to work with others to ensure that it is those values that are pre-eminent in everything that we and they do.
The Prime Minister’s renewed commitment to the NHS is extremely welcome. Recently, the Health and Social Care Committee visited the Larwood House GP surgery in Worksop where, generally, all patients are seen by the doctors the same day. What more can the Government do to make sure that this best practice among GP practices is spread across the whole country so that all of our constituents can get in to see a doctor when they need to?
My hon. Friend raises a very important point. One principle underpinning what we will be looking to the NHS to do across its 10-year plan is to ensure that the best practice that we see in many parts of the NHS is indeed spread across the whole of the NHS so that patients are able to get the access and the same standards that they need across the NHS. I commend the work that has been done in the GP surgery to which he has referred in his constituency. This is very important. I also commend work that is being done elsewhere to bring services together to ensure that patients see an improvement in the care and treatment that they receive.
The last Labour Government oversaw a 5.9% increase in spending on the NHS. The Thatcher and Major Governments managed 3.6%. So far, the Prime Minister’s predecessor, David Cameron, and the right hon. Lady herself have managed 1.9%. Why, therefore, are we meant to be happy and amazed by her unfunded pledge to deliver an increase of 3.4%, which is under the annual average achieved since the NHS was first created?
As was recognised by the chief executive of NHS England, this is the funding that the NHS needs. Crucially, giving a multi-year funding settlement based on a long-term 10-year plan will give the NHS the stability and the certainty that it needs to be able to introduce the transformation that we all want to see in patient care. We will also ensure that, unlike what happened under the Labour party, this money will be seen in improved patient care.