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Commons Chamber

Volume 643: debated on Wednesday 27 June 2018

House of Commons

Wednesday 27 June 2018

The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock

Prayers

[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and minister for the cabinet office

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office was asked—

Outsourcing: Value for Money

A recent Public Accounts Committee report found that after more than 25 years the Treasury still has no data on whether the private finance initiative model provides value for money. People in my constituency are concerned about back-door privatisation and the kinds of PFI contract often used in hospitals, which leave staff in the dark, not knowing about the security of their jobs. Will the Minister review PFI contracts and privatisation across all Departments in the light of the PAC report’s findings?

Let us consider this:

“It simply would not have been possible to build or refurbish such a number of schools and hospitals without using the PFI model.”—[Official Report, 14 November 2007; Vol. 467, c. 665.]

Those are not my words, but those of Gordon Brown, the last Labour Prime Minister.

My right hon. Friend might be aware of a petition in Gibraltar for it to have an MP elected to our Parliament. The petition now has close to 10,000 signatures, which is almost half the electorate of the rock. Will he therefore consider backing my private Member’s Bill to give Gibraltar the option of electing an MP to this place and reward Gibraltarians for their unwavering loyalty?

That is an extreme case of shoehorning in a particular concern, but it suffers from the disadvantage of bearing absolutely no relation to the question on the Order Paper. The hon. Gentleman has made his point in his own inimitable and mildly eccentric way, and we are grateful to him for doing so. Let us have a question that is in order.

On a serious point, many of my constituents were affected by the collapse of Carillion. How confident is the Minister that the big four accountancy firms have learnt their lessons for the future?

Clearly, criticisms have been made of the major accountancy firms by Select Committees of this House and others. The appropriate financial services regulator keeps this under review, and it is for the regulator to decide what, if any, steps to take.

With 2,300 jobs down the pan and the taxpayer paying £148 million to clean up the Carillion fiasco, how can the Minister give such complacent responses on value for money? Will he now admit that earlier Front-Bench assurances from those on his side of the House that the burden of Carillion’s collapse would not fall on the taxpayer have turned out to be incorrect?

No, I would not accept that at all. We have said from the start that our priority has been to keep public services running. We have paid the costs of the official receiver to enable the contracted operations to continue; the schools have been cleaned, and the meals have been served in schools and hospitals, by those providers. It is the lenders, directors and shareholders in Carillion who have taken the big financial hit, and rightly so.

The fact of the matter is that the Minister has admitted that £150 million has been paid to the liquidators. We see that his commitment to value for money has no credibility when we consider that only one civil servant is monitoring 700 taxpayer-funded contracts, with £60 billion in assets. The Government are sleepwalking from one outsourcing disaster to the next. Will he now accept the widespread public view that he should abandon his obsession with outsourcing?

The report by the Select Committee on Work and Pensions and the Select Committee on Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy concluded that the directors, not the Government, were responsible for the fact that Carillion failed and that the Government had made a competent job of clearing up the mess. I refer the hon. Gentleman again to the fact that independent research commissioned by the last Labour Government showed savings to taxpayers of, on average, between 20% and 30% from outsourcing, compared with undertaking tasks in house. That is money that can go back into frontline public services.

Voter ID Pilots

2. Whether he has made an assessment of the operation of recent voter ID pilots; and if he will make a statement. (906086)

7. Whether he has made an assessment of the operation of recent voter ID pilots; and if he will make a statement. (906091)

We are encouraged by the data from the returning officers and the statements they have made indicating that the pilots were a successful test of the implementation of voter ID. The Electoral Commission will publish its evaluation in July and the Cabinet Office will conclude its own evaluation at the same time.

Does the Minister agree that additional measures should be brought in, given that the issue affects the vulnerable, the elderly and, in my constituency, ethnic minorities?

I welcome my hon. Friend’s commitment, which I share, to helping voters to be able to cast their ballots in a way that also protects the integrity of the wider system. Let us never forget that that is not only an individual advantage, but in the collective interest.

Following the recent trials in this year’s local elections, the Minister will be aware that local authorities such as Woking recorded a 99.7% success rate on voters bringing the correct ID. Does she agree that that demonstrates that we should consider rolling this out further to secure the integrity of the ballot?

What my hon. Friend says is absolutely the case. The measures that we piloted at the local elections just past were reasonable and proportionate and have been shown to have worked. Furthermore, other countries already do this without problem. The overwhelming majority of people were able to cast their votes in these pilots without any issue. I look forward to considering the best next steps, informed by those pilots.

I am sure that the Electoral Commission will provide those who look for problems with a little bit of data to chew on, but the point is this: it seems to me that the Labour party is looking for problems. Actually, most voters regard this as a reasonable and sensible step that protects our democracy.

We agree about the importance of preventing voter fraud and other electoral malpractice. The Electoral Commission ruled that Leave.EU breached spending limits and other rules, fined the organisation and reported its responsible person to the police. What steps are the Government taking to address that and how will the Minister ensure that the issue of cheating in the Brexit referendum is pursued?

As you will know, Mr Speaker, given your role in connection with it, the Electoral Commission is an independent body. I am not able to respond at this point to questions about investigations that it is undertaking.

Government Procurement: Small Businesses

10. What steps his Department is taking to encourage the use of small businesses in Government procurement. (906094)

11. What steps his Department is taking to encourage the use of small businesses in Government procurement. (906095)

Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and we are determined to continue to level the playing field so that they can compete for Government contracts. That is why in April I announced a number of measures to help achieve that and have recently met the Government’s strategic suppliers and Ministers in several Departments to ensure that those measures are delivered.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Specifically, how will coastal towns such as Southend-on-Sea benefit from the changes in this procurement procedure?

As my hon. Friend will know, small businesses generate more than 16 million jobs and we are determined to level the playing field so that those in coastal towns such as Southend get their fair share of prosperity and win Government contracts. I encourage businesses in Southend to look on Contracts Finder, on which more than 17,000 small businesses are already registered, for procurement opportunities.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is vital that we have a vibrant and mixed group of suppliers and small businesses from all corners of the UK, including Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and that they should all be considered equally in the procurement process?

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. It is crucial to ensure that we have a diverse supplier base. We have made a number of changes to the Government procurement processes to assist small businesses, including requiring prime contractors to advertise subcontracting opportunities on the Government Contracts Finder. We also divide contracts into separate lots, including by region, when that makes commercial sense.

I thank the Minister for his responses. As seen from my recent work on the Public Accounts Committee, there sometimes appears to be a conflict between large strategic suppliers who see themselves as aggregators of several procurement contracts for small business and other instances in which small businesses would like to get certain contracts directly from Government. Will he explain the Government’s thinking on how to balance those two approaches?

We already require buying authorities to disaggregate contracts so that small and medium-sized enterprises can compete. However, there will, of course, be contracts in which disaggregation would affect value for money. That is why we recently announced that when large contractors are successful, they will be required to advertise those subcontracting opportunities on Contracts Finder, so that small businesses can bid.

What assessment has the Minister made of the cost implications where outsourced contracts have been overturned by the High Court because of incompetent procurement processes? I refer specifically to the expensive mess created by Conservative-controlled Lancashire County Council in connection with a Virgin contract for children’s services.

As the hon. Lady will know, the Cabinet Office has extensive processes to ensure successful procuring. If she is questioning the overall purpose of procuring, I refer her to the comments made earlier by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office. In addition, research shows that public authorities save at least 11% by contracting out services. That means more money for health and education.

The Minister referred to small businesses as the backbone of our economy. What plans does he have over this Parliament to strengthen that backbone and increase targets in terms of accessibility of procurement for small businesses?

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. In the previous Parliament, we set and met a target of 25% of all Government procurement going to small businesses. We set a challenging target in this Parliament of a third of all procurement going to small businesses. I am taking a number of steps to help us to try to achieve that.

6. Thirty thousand Carillion suppliers are owed £2 billion in unpaid invoices. When will Ministers enforce the prompt payment rules for Government contracts and stand up for small businesses, or is the reality that under this Prime Minister the Conservatives really are the anti-business party? (906090)

We are absolutely committed to prompt payment. That is why the Government pay over 96% of their suppliers within 30 days. In respect of application to contracting, I have just announced a consultation to ensure we can exclude contractors if they fail to pay small businesses on time.

House of Lords

4. When the Government plan to respond to the report of the Lord Speaker’s Committee on the size of the House of Lords. (906088)

The Prime Minister responded to the Lord Speaker’s Committee on 20 February. In her response, she committed to do her bit to address the size of the House of Lords by continuing the restrained approach she has so far shown to appointments.

Thanks to the Minister’s actions during the debate here on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, the couple of minutes that Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town had on devolution was more time than all the devolved MPs got collectively. Does the Minister think it acceptable that unelected Members of the House of Lords had more opportunity to debate the Government’s redrawing of the devolution settlement than any elected Member from Scotland?

As you will know, Mr Speaker, because you spent many hours in the Chair, we spent several hundred hours debating the Bill. I am proud that it has attained Royal Assent. I think we can all agree that that will provide greater certainty to businesses and citizens as we exit the EU. It is a shame that the Scottish National party seems not to be interested in that.

Does the Minister agree that the House of Lords would be vastly improved if it was smaller and democratic?

I echo what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said about the role we see for the House of Lords: it should continue as a scrutinising Chamber but respect the primacy of the Commons, which certainly is the democratically elected Chamber.

Does the Minister really think that next week’s by-election, with 31 electors who are the children and grandchildren of people who got there illegitimately, is, in a modern democracy, the right way to elect Members of Parliament in another place?

The right hon. Gentleman is an experienced Labour Member of Parliament, so he might recall that Labour had a hand in the legislation that guides this process. He will also recall that the Conservative party won the general election on a manifesto that said it would not prioritise reform of the House of Lords.

It is all very well the hon. Gentleman breezily declaring, “Never mind about the House of Lords.” The question, inconveniently for him, is focused on the House of Lords. Generosity gets the better of me, however, and I am itching to hear the ministerial reply.

Mr Speaker, I think the simplest answer is that the Boundary Commission will return with its proposals shortly and the House will have the pleasure of looking at them.

Senior Public Appointments: Widening Access

We want to ensure that public boards represent the people they serve. That is why in December we launched our diversity action plan, which committed to 50% women and 14% ethnic minority representation by 2020. Just last month, I appointed Lord Christopher Holmes to undertake a review of removing barriers that disabled people might face when applying for public appointments.

What proportion of appointments made to public bodies are people from working-class backgrounds and what proportion went to private school?

The hon. Lady raises a very important point about our making sure that public appointments reflect the country as a whole. That is why we have taken a number of measures to increase diversity based on the Bridge report recommendations.

I am sure that the Minister agrees that we have a huge amount of talent for public appointments, including in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, so will he set out what he is doing to ensure that regional voices are heard around senior public appointments?

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Diversity means not just ethnic diversity or gender diversity, but regional diversity. That is why, for example, we recently held an event in Glasgow to encourage people in Scotland to apply for public appointments.

One way in which we could widen public appointments is to limit the amount of them to just two per person, instead of the gravy train that seems to appear as far as public appointments are concerned.

As ever, my right hon. Friend is absolutely correct, and I take on board his recommendation. Diversity also means ensuring that we do not have the same old faces constantly applying for and succeeding in winning public appointments. That is why, as part of our diversity measures, we are encouraging a wider array of people to apply for public appointments.

Does my hon. Friend think that online abuse acts as a deterrent to people putting themselves forward not just for elected office, but for public appointments? Does he also agree that such abuse should be dealt with robustly and that we all have a responsibility to call it out?

Yes, my hon. Friend is absolutely right, and we will be launching a consultation shortly to deal with exactly that point.

Edward Timpson was appointed chair of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service and of the new Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel. Andrew Tyrie has been appointed chair of the Competition and Markets Authority. Baroness Stowell was appointed chair of the Charity Commission. They are all probably worthy appointments individually, but a clear pattern is emerging, so will the Minister confirm that the main criteria now for senior public appointments is that someone has to be a former Tory MP or Cabinet Minister?

As ever, the hon. Gentleman makes a rhetorical flourish. Sadly, the facts just do not bear it out. The Government’s code for public appointments is clear that political activity is neither a judgment of merit nor a bar to becoming a political appointee. If he looks at the statistics, he will see that of 1,000 candidates in the past year—2016-17—4.9% were Conservative and 4.8% were Labour.

National Democracy Week

National Democracy Week begins on Monday and events will take place across the United Kingdom, encouraging everyone to get involved in our democracy. I thank those partners who are helping particularly to make sure that we reach under-registered groups. I hope that Members across the House will support it.

National Democracy Week is about encouraging people to be active British citizens. What steps have been taken to extend the National Citizen Service to Scotland, so that my constituents can have the same opportunities as others throughout the United Kingdom?

I welcome my hon. Friend’s enthusiasm for National Democracy Week and for the National Citizen Service. Funding is available for the devolved Administrations to deliver the NCS, although the decision is a matter for them. As a proud Unionist like him, I would like to see young people across the United Kingdom benefiting from it.

I am just wondering how the Government can, with a straight face, celebrate something called National Democracy Week when they are completely undermining democracy in this country by passing laws without the consent of the Scottish Parliament, ripping up the Sewel convention and fundamentally undermining devolution.

There was not a question in that, but none the less, the hon. Gentleman is wrong. This Government believe fundamentally in the treatment that our House of Commons has given to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, which will now serve our country, in leaving the European Union, with certainty for businesses and citizens.

I think a fair interpretation is that it was a rhetorical question, which is not entirely without precedent in the history of the House of Commons.

Voter ID Pilots

My Department has not received any representations about the legality of the pilots. The powers to make the pilot scheme orders are in section 10 of the Representation of the People Act 2000, which was, of course, passed by Parliament. Those powers enable changes to be made to rules regarding the conduct of any local elections in England and Wales.

At the last general election, my constituency had the lowest turnout in the UK, and it also has a low registration rate. What kind of democracy are we living in when the Government actively pursue a scheme that results in people being denied the vote, as was shown by the pilot in May, instead of seeking better engagement and participation in our democracy by potential voters?

The hon. Gentleman will have just heard me setting out measures to encourage more people to be involved in our democracy. He knows, as I hope does every Opposition Member, that there is a point of principle at stake here. Do we defend our system from fraud or do we not?

Two barristers have concluded that there is no provision in the Representation of the People Act to introduce schemes by secondary legislation that restrict or discourage voting, and that the scheme is therefore beyond the scope of the law. Can the Minister reassure the House that she acted within the law?

Yes, I can. I can also reassure those listening that this is clearly a series of Labour Whips’ handout questions.

The Labour party might like to reflect on the fact that it was its 2000 Act that allowed the pilots to be run.

The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Laura Smith) is signalling that that was very much her own question. It has to be said that Whips’ handouts are also not unprecedented in the House, but she is keen to draw attention to her own independent mindedness on this important matter.

I recently spoke at an event at Newbattle Abbey College in my constituency about encouraging people to vote—no Whips were in attendance. Meanwhile, the Government’s voter ID pilots saw at least 340 people turned away, and many more would have been discouraged from voting. Is this not a slap in the face of people who are working hard to encourage people to vote?

To be clear, that was 340 out of a total of more than 230,000. I also want to be clear on the matter of principle. The Labour party accepts this principle for its own selection meetings, where it routinely asks for ID from members. Is this good enough for Labour but not for the rest of the country?

Topical Questions

The private sector has a vital role to play in delivering public services and is something that this Government will continue to champion. Earlier this week, I announced new measures in the wake of the collapse of Carillion to promote and deepen responsible capitalism, whereby everyone plays by the same rules and businesses recognise their duties and obligations to wider society. That is in line with the Government’s commitment to deliver an economy that works for everyone.

As Carillion showed, the outsourcing of Government contracts is nothing but a gamble with jobs and public money. When will the Tories put the public interest first instead of their friends, spivs and speculators?

The collapse of Carillion has shown that outsourcing genuinely transfers risk from taxpayers to shareholders, directors and lenders—to the private sector company.

T2. What work has the Cabinet Office done to ensure that Departments have the skills and people required to deliver a successful exit from the European Union? (906101)

My hon. Friend is right to ask that question. We are focused on ensuring that we deliver a successful and positive exit from the European Union. The Cabinet Office works closely with colleagues in the Department for Exiting the European Union and other Departments to ensure that all those places are professionally filled. I can confirm that, as of the end of March 2018, some 5,500 staff have been recruited to the Departments most affected.

We empathise with the hon. Gentleman. It is okay; maybe some lozenge will be provided, or some water. Please, let us hear the question.

Was that heard? I apologise to the hon. Gentleman, but I think we may have to ask someone else to ask his question for him.

I take it that the hon. Gentleman, through the hon. Lady, was asking for examples of successful outsourcing. I refer him to the outsourcing of the teachers’ pension scheme, which has cut administrative costs by nearly half, to the benefit of pension scheme members.

T3. What progress has my hon. Friend made in allowing the Jain community to declare their religion in the new census, and will she agree to meet a delegation from the community? (906102)

Yes, and I look forward to that meeting. Since the response to consultation on the matter in May 2016, the Office for National Statistics has continued to consult stakeholders, and has met the members of the all-party group on Jainism. It is considering all the evidence provided, and will finalise its recommendations shortly.

T7. Will the Minister please explain how the Government justify wasting time and taxpayers’ money on the “testing and scrutiny” of contractual arrangements, only to ignore their own highest possible risk rating for Capita and award it the fire and rescue contract? (906106)

As the hon. Gentleman will know, the Cabinet Office has extensive functions to ensure that we award contracts only to companies that offer the very best value, and that was exactly the case in that instance.

T4. What progress is the Department making in implementing the findings of the race disparity audit? (906103)

The Government have committed themselves to explaining or changing ethnic disparities highlighted by the audit. We have already announced action on criminal justice, employment support, school exclusions and youth unemployment, and we continue to talk to a range of stakeholders to take that work further.

You will recall, Mr Speaker, that representatives of Wick High School were here last week—thank you for your kind remarks about them. Does the Minister agree that bringing schools the length and breadth of Britain, including my faraway constituency, to the House will do much for learning about democracy here in the mother of Parliaments?

Yes. I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s constituents to this place. I hope that they will find things of interest to them during National Democracy Week, and that the resource packs that are available to all parliamentarians will enable them to make the most of it.

T5. What recent discussions has my hon. Friend had with Cabinet colleagues about the cost to the taxpayer of public sector workers’ taking trade union facility time? (906104)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. For too long, unions in the public sector have received taxpayer funding for an activity that is inadequately controlled and poor value for money, which is why we are introducing transparency in respect of facility time. We believe that proper management could save our taxpayers up to £100 million.

The anniversary of the Prime Minister’s announcement of a public inquiry into contaminated blood is fast approaching. Can we expect a statement in the House to say that the terms of reference have finally been agreed and the public inquiry can get on with its work?

I am acutely aware of that anniversary date, and the justifiable expectations of survivors of that tragedy. I have sent the draft terms of reference proposed by the chair of the inquiry to the devolved Administrations, as I am obliged to do. I hope that I can announce the full details as rapidly as possible.

T8. What reassurance can my hon. Friend give that Departments will work together to deliver our ambitious plans to create more jobs and prosperity in Weymouth and on the Isle of Portland in the years ahead? (906107)

Departments across the Government are committed to working with local partners in Weymouth and Portland to build jobs and prosperity. In July, representatives of a range of Departments will visit local partners to see for themselves the enormous opportunities that exist in the area, and to identify how Government policies and programmes could help to support their ambitions.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—

Engagements

This week is Armed Forces Week, and I know that Members from across the House will attend events on Saturday to celebrate Armed Forces Day. This will provide an opportunity to recognise the source of pride and inspiration that our serving men and women are to us. Today is also Reserves Day, and I pay tribute to reservists, including hon. Members, for the integral and vital role that they play in maintaining this country’s security here and overseas, balancing their civilian lives alongside their military careers.

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House I shall have further such meetings later today.

The Prime Minister is right: we all celebrate the huge contribution our armed forces and reserves make.

Last year the Prime Minister promised that no school would see a cut in its budget, yet half the schools in Bishop Auckland continue to face real cuts, some of more than £1,000 per child. Does she not understand the damage this does to children’s life chances?

As the hon. Lady knows, we are putting extra funding into schools. We are making extra money available for schools, and the fairer national funding formula that we have introduced is ensuring that some of the schools that have previously been among the worst funded in this country are seeing increases in their funding to help to redress the balance.

Q3. As a former Chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, may I ask the Prime Minister whether, given the unresolved issues that remain in Northern Ireland, she has any plans to visit the Province in the near future? (906072)

We are considering a number of issues in relation to Northern Ireland at the moment, in the context of both Brexit and the devolved Administration. We hope that the Administration and the Assembly will get back up and running. I can say to my hon. Friend that I hope to visit Northern Ireland in the next few weeks.

I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to Armed Forces Day and Reserves Day. I hope that we also recognise that we need to do far more to address veterans’ housing and health needs.

I also pay tribute to the firefighters tackling the blaze on Saddleworth moor. I am sure all our thoughts are with them, and their communities and families, and my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds) is there today to support them.

On Brexit, the Business Secretary believes that business

“is entitled to be listened to with respect.”—[Official Report, 25 June 2018; Vol. 643, c. 609.]

I am sorry to see that the Foreign Secretary is not with us today. He takes a very different view, using an Anglo-Saxon term to make his point. Which is the Prime Minister’s view?

This party and this Government have always backed business and we will continue to back business. And we back business because it is businesses that create millions of jobs for people in our country and provide billions of pounds in tax that we can spend on our public services; and because it is businesses that are the backbone of our prosperity. I say to the right hon. Gentleman that if he wants to start talking in favourable terms about business, he has a decision to make. He can either back business or he can want to overthrow capitalism; he cannot do both.

I take the Prime Minister’s response as a thumbs-down to the Foreign Secretary.

In recent days, an unprecedented number of concerns have been raised by trade unions, business and even some Cabinet Ministers. Today the CBI director general said:

“Facts ignored today mean jobs lost tomorrow.”

Airbus supports 110,000 jobs in the UK supply chain, many of which are very highly skilled, well paid and unionised. The company says that no deal

“would force Airbus to reconsider its footprint in the country, its investments”

and its

“dependency on the UK.”

Can the Prime Minister reassure thousands of workers today, and take the phoney threat of no deal off the negotiating table?

The right hon. Gentleman has raised the question of Airbus. If he is so concerned about our aerospace and aviation industry, why did he not back the expansion of Heathrow in this Chamber? [Interruption.]

Order. [Interruption.] Order. Mr Snell, calm yourself. Acquire the quality of an aspiring statesperson. Calm! The question has been asked, and the answer from the Prime Minister must, and will, be heard.

I do not normally agree with the secretary general of Unite, but on this occasion I actually do agree with him, because he says that backing the expansion—the third runway—at Heathrow would ensure that our country

“remains a world leader in aviation and aerospace”.

Well, the Foreign Secretary did not back it either, but in his own way, he was helping the aviation industry: by spending 14 hours in a plane for a 10-minute meeting in Afghanistan.

The Government are not threatening the EU with their ridiculous position; they are threatening skilled jobs in this country. But at least one Government Minister understands this: the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, the hon. Member for Aberconwy (Guto Bebb). He has asked this question, which I think is about the Health and Foreign Secretaries:

“Do the leadership aspirations of multi-millionaires trump the need to listen to the employers and employees of this country?”

Well, apparently they do. The head of BMW, which directly employs more than 8,000 workers—that is 8,000 jobs—in this country, has said that he needs to know the Government’s plans for customs. He says:

“If we don’t get clarity in the next couple of months we have to start making those contingency plans”—[Interruption.]

Order. The Prime Minister was heard. No concerted attempt from either side of this House to shout a Member down will ever succeed. However long it takes, the Prime Minister will be heard and the Leader of the Opposition will be heard. Get the message.

The noise of people hiding behind the Gallery is interesting, Mr Speaker. I am asking the Prime Minister how many more firms are telling her in private what Airbus and BMW are now saying very publicly.

We have been meeting with business and we are listening to business. That is why we are very clear on our customs arrangement that we want to ensure not just that we deliver on our commitment in Northern Ireland, with trade as frictionless as possible, but that we can trade around the rest of the world. If we are talking about Government plans for business, it is this Government who have brought the deficit down and it is this Government who are seeing employment at record levels. What would Labour’s three-point plan for business be? A 7% rise in corporation tax, nationalisation without compensation and a run on the pound. That is not backing business; it is a plan to break Britain.

It is very interesting that even those Brexiteers who have made Brexit their life’s work are concerned about their own financial interests. The hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg), for example, is relocating his hedge fund to the eurozone, and the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) is advising his clients to disinvest in Britain. Meanwhile, in the real world, Andrew, who works for Honda in Swindon, wrote to me—[Laughter.] I would not laugh if I were you. These are real people with real jobs and real concerns.

Andrew writes:

“I have seen nothing that gives me confidence that the government is going to deliver a trade agreement allowing the seamless flow of goods through Europe’s borders. My job along with many others in manufacturing, suppliers and the supply chain hang on this”.

So will the Prime Minister ignore her Foreign Secretary, listen to workers, and secure an agreement that safeguards jobs in this country?

We are putting jobs at the heart of what we do in relation to Brexit. We are putting jobs at the heart of what we do as a Government through our modern industrial strategy and we are ensuring that, when we deliver Brexit, we deliver a Brexit that is good for our economy, good for jobs and good for people up and down this country.

Through most of his career, the right hon. Gentleman has been rather a Brexiteer himself. Why is it then that at every stage he and the Labour party are trying to frustrate Brexit in this House?

The Labour party’s priority is defending jobs in this country. I doubt that Andrew from Swindon is alone among skilled workers when he goes on to say:

“I will hold the Prime Minister and her party culpable if my job and those of my colleagues at Honda end up being under threat.”

The Cabinet was split in two apparently on options for future customs arrangements with the EU. The Prime Minister’s preferred option was a customs partnership. We have had no official feedback on that working party, so did the Leader of the House speak for the Government when she said on Monday:

“I think the customs partnership looks quite bureaucratic and unwieldy”?

Is that option now ruled out as well?

As I have made clear on a number of occasions in the House, we are looking at both options in relation to customs because we want to ensure that we deliver as frictionless trade as possible with the European Union and the ability for us to negotiate trade deals around the rest of the world. That is what we should be looking for. It is what we are doing as a Government. The right hon. Gentleman says that the Labour party’s interest is in delivering jobs. Why is it then that every Labour Government leave office with more people out of work than when they went in?

Coming from a Prime Minister who presides over an economy in which 1 million people are on zero-hours contracts, that is very rich. She rules out a customs union, the Leader of the House rules out the Prime Minister’s preferred option and reality rules out a maximum facilitation model. That leaves only no deal, which she refuses to rule out. She is putting jobs at risk. Sadly, it is not those of the warring egos in her Cabinet—they have now been rewarded with an invite to a pyjama party at Chequers. Meanwhile, thousands of skilled manufacturing jobs and the future of whole industries in Britain are at stake. The Prime Minister continues to promote the fallacy that no deal is better than a bad deal. No deal is a bad deal. Is not the truth that real jobs—[Interruption.]

Order. I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman. I will say it again: there is unlimited time—[Interruption.] Order. There is unlimited time as far as I am concerned. [Interruption.] Order. The questions will be heard and the answers will be heard, and nothing and no one will stop that happening. It is as simple and unmistakable and clear as that.

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

No deal is a bad deal, but is not the truth that the real risk to jobs in our country is a Prime Minister who is having to negotiate round the clock with her own Cabinet to stop it falling apart rather than negotiating to defend the jobs of workers in this country?

I will tell the right hon. Gentleman what I and this Government are delivering. We are delivering a successor to Trident; stamp duty slashed for first-time buyers; a modern industrial strategy for jobs and growth; action on childhood obesity; 1.9 million more children in good or outstanding schools; fairer schools funding; new technical education; improved mental health services; expansion of Heathrow; record levels of employment—record levels of employment; falling borrowing; and rising real wages. We have triggered article 50, we have agreed an implementation period and we have passed the EU (Withdrawal) Bill: a Britain fit for the future and leaving the European Union on 29 March 2019.

Q5. Last weekend I attended celebrations marking 70 years of production of the great British Land Rover. Will the Prime Minister join me in congratulating the workers of Solihull, commit to securing post-Brexit global trade deals and recognise that new clean diesel engines have a role to play for years to come? (906074)

First of all, I congratulate all the workers at British Land Rover on 70 years of production. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Leaving the European Union gives us an opportunity to be in a position to conduct our own trade policy and to sign our own trade agreements with countries around the world.

My hon. Friend raises a specific point about cleaner diesel engines, which can play an important part in reducing CO2 emissions from road transport and could reduce CO2 emissions further while meeting ever more stringent air quality standards during the transition to zero-emissions vehicles. This country is leading on the issue of zero-emissions vehicles, and Land Rover is playing its part.

I commend the armed forces and our reservists for the fine job they do for our country.

Airbus, Honda, BMW, the CBI, the TUC and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders—this Government have completely failed to listen to business, have insulted the business community and have left companies in the dark. Can the Prime Minister tell the House why 186,000 car manufacturing jobs are disposable to her?

We have been consistently listening to business throughout the negotiations so far. Business said it wants us to give priority to EU citizens’ rights here in the UK, and we did just that. Business said it wants an implementation period so there is not a cliff edge next March, and we have negotiated an implementation period so there will be a smooth and orderly Brexit. Business said it wants as frictionless trade as possible, so we are putting forward proposals to ensure we provide that frictionless trade with the European Union.

Alongside that, we will be developing a global Britain, looking out around the world and signing trade deals around the world. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks trade and business is so important, why did he not support Heathrow expansion?

Not for the first time, the Prime Minister has failed to answer the question, and the cost is that investment in Britain is being turned off by a Government who refuse to listen. More than a year ago, the Scottish Government presented a plan for the United Kingdom to remain in the single market and the customs union to give certainty to business. Just this week, Scotland’s First Minister took a trade delegation from Scotland to Berlin.

Every step of the way, the Scottish Government have been seeking to protect jobs and our economic interests. Two years on from the EU referendum, and with the clock ticking down, the Prime Minister has done nothing but increase uncertainty. Has she completed any economic analysis of jobs and the economy were the UK to stay in the single market and the customs union? If not, why not?

The right hon. Gentleman talks about investment into the United Kingdom. Last year, the United Kingdom remained the preferred country for foreign direct investment in Europe. Last year we saw 76,000 jobs being created as a result of foreign investment here in the United Kingdom, more than in the previous year.

If the right hon. Gentleman wants to talk about further confidence from business, he should just look at the fact that this month we have seen £2.3 billion of investment announced by the tech industry as part of London Tech Week, creating another 1,600 jobs, and I could give him more examples. If he wants to listen to business, he should listen to Scottish business, because its message is very clear: stay in the United Kingdom.

Q7. Fresh from my success in managing to stagger over the line in the recent London marathon, I will be running a 10k road race as part of the Black country fun run in Halesowen this Sunday. The event has raised thousands of pounds for local charities in my constituency. Will the Prime Minister thank the organisers, particularly Alan Bowler and the Halesowen and Rowley Regis rotary club, for the work that they have put into the event, and will she offer her congratulations to those participating in the race on Sunday? (906076)

First, I congratulate my hon. Friend for completing the London marathon earlier this year and, I know, raising money for a very worthy local cause. I am happy to join him in wishing Alan Bowler, the Halesowen and Rowley Regis rotary club, and all those taking part in Sunday’s fun run the very best of luck. They are doing it for good causes and we congratulate them and wish them well.

Q2. The Prime Minister will know that we still have every nuclear submarine that the Royal Navy has ever had. There are 13 old nuclear submarines tied up in Devonport, seven in Rosyth, and little room for the ones that will come out of service soon. Further to our letter to her a fortnight ago, will the Prime Minister agree to meet me, the hon. Member for Copeland (Trudy Harrison) and the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Douglas Chapman), who represents Rosyth, to discuss how we can extend civil nuclear decommissioning to those nuclear submarines, to ensure that we recycle them and create jobs in Plymouth, Scotland and west Cumbria? (906071)

We take the issue of the safe storage and disposal of nuclear submarines very seriously indeed. There is capacity for safely storing all remaining operational Trafalgar-class submarines at Devonport following their decommissioning, and work has started on the dismantling of the first submarine, Swiftsure, with more than 50 tonnes of radioactive waste having been removed by the end of May. I believe that the hon. Gentleman and other Members have written to me about this issue; I will respond to him in further detail in due course and ask the relevant Minister to meet him to discuss the issue further.

Q8. Last week, I met three students at the Spires College in Torquay who have been working on the Send My Friend to School campaign to make schools safe. Will the Prime Minister say what action the UK will be taking to ensure that the safe schools declaration makes a real difference to children who otherwise might not be able to access education? (906077)

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that important issue. We know that conflict is a key driver of educational exclusion. Our education in emergencies work supports greater community awareness of how to protect children in education, by teaching students and teachers about peacebuilding and strategies for conflict resolution. We view compliance with international humanitarian law as the primary basis to protect schools and educational facilities. We are also encouraging international partners to endorse the declaration, most recently Germany, which signed up last month. We take this issue very seriously and we are acting on that. We are supporting the United Nations’ work and I am pleased to say that we are the largest single financial contributor to the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

Q4. West Wales and the valleys remains one of the poorest areas in western Europe, yet since 2015 we have seen the UK Government renege on manifesto promises to electrify the main line to Swansea and the north Wales line, and, more recently, on the development of the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon. Will the Prime Minister commit to ensuring that the mid-Wales growth deal does not suffer a similar fate? Or is it her Government’s assessment that Wales is simply not worth the investment? (906073)

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point about the mid-Wales growth deal. As he knows, I was happy to sign the Swansea city growth deal, the city deal for the Cardiff region, and one for north Wales as well. I understand from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales that we are in discussions about the mid-Wales deal and will involve the hon. Gentleman in that.

Q9. Will my right hon. Friend set out the Government’s plans to improve educational provision for children with special educational needs, and will she congratulate Geraint Edwards, headteacher of the Priory School in Hitchin, on his brilliant and inspirational work in that regard? (906078)

I am happy to congratulate Geraint Edwards on the excellent work that he is doing as headteacher of the Priory School. We are committed to helping those children who have special educational needs to achieve well in their education, find employment and, obviously, lead happy and fulfilled lives, so we are implementing the biggest changes to the special educational needs and disabilities system in a generation, to improve these children’s lives, and we are investing £391 million to support the reforms.

Q6. Three weeks have passed since the Muslim Council of Britain wrote to the chair of the Conservative party to raise concerns about Islamophobia in the party and it has yet to receive a reply. He has also failed to respond to my letter of 16 June following reports of what looked like an attempt by Tory headquarters to cover up allegations against one of the Conservative party’s vice-chairs, the hon. Member for Mansfield (Ben Bradley). Does the Prime Minister agree with Baroness Warsi and the Conservative Muslim Forum that the Conservative party is in denial about Islamophobia in its ranks? (906075)

Anti-Muslim discrimination is wrong. There is no place for it in our society. That is why, when I was Home Secretary, I required the police specifically to record anti-Muslim hate crime so that we could understand better what was happening and better tackle the issue. We have introduced a new code of conduct in the party. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Brandon Lewis), the chairman of the party, has met Tell MAMA. We investigate any allegations of Islamophobia that are made relating to members of the party. Action is taken and, in some cases, members have been suspended or expelled from the party as a result.

Q10. Recently, my right hon. Friend visited my constituency where she announced the Ayrshire growth deal. Does she agree that the deal has the potential to transform the local economy, and may I ask what steps the Government are taking to drive the matter forward? (906079)

I was very happy to visit my hon. Friend’s constituency and to highlight the opportunities that the Ayrshire growth deal gives us. As he says, it is important locally, regionally and nationally because of the economic benefit that it can bring. Negotiations have now commenced between both Governments and the Ayrshire councils on how to implement the deal. I understand that officials met on Monday this week to discuss aerospace and proposals for Prestwick, and the work is ongoing across Ayrshire. Therefore, the work is continuing and I can assure him that we recognise the importance of the Ayrshire growth deal.

Q11. Will the Prime Minister join me in congratulating the Foreign Secretary for expressing so pithily what her hard Brexit will do to British jobs and British businesses? (906081)

I say to the hon. Lady, as I have said many times in this House before, that we are pursuing a Brexit that will be a good deal for the UK, a good deal for business, a good deal for citizens, and a good deal for jobs. I believe that we will achieve that because it will be good not only for the United Kingdom, but for the European Union.

12. After the tragedy of the Grenfell fire, may I put it to the Prime Minister that the people left being asked to pay for the costs of removing cladding and replacing it are the private leaseholders in private high-rise blocks? Can she try to make sure that the owners—the freeholders—have put to them the points well known to the all-party group and to the charity, Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, particularly Martin Boyd and Sebastian O’Kelly, that the situation is intolerable and needs to be solved properly? (906082)

My hon. Friend will be aware of the action that we have taken as a Government in relation to the social sector and to local authorities, but we are calling on building owners in the private sector to follow the example set by the social sector in taking action to remove unsafe cladding. Some in the sector—I could name Barratt Developments, Legal & General and Taylor Wimpey—are doing the right thing and taking responsibility, but we want others to follow their lead and we will continue to encourage them to do so. They must do the right thing, and if they do not, we are not ruling anything out at this stage.

Q13. Redford barracks has stood proudly for more than 100 years in Scotland’s capital city, yet this Government are threatening its closure with an adverse impact on both service personnel and the local community. My constituents have been waiting for months for an update on the better defence estate plan. It being Armed Forces Week, will the Prime Minister help me get an answer from the Secretary of State for Defence, and will she tell him that, rather than concentrating on his plans to replace her as Prime Minister, he should halt the destruction of the defence estate in Scotland? (906083)

A number of decisions are being made to ensure that we have the defence estate that is right for our future capabilities and requirements. I will ensure that the hon. and learned Lady’s point about not yet receiving a reply from the Secretary of State is brought to the attention of the Ministry of Defence.

We all need to keep our election pledges, whether we made those pledges one year ago or nine years ago, so will the Prime Minister update us on our Conservative manifesto election pledges to leave the single market, leave the customs union and pursue an independent trade policy?

I thank my right hon. Friend for the service that he has given to the Government over the past seven years, most recently in an important role on the very topic that he has just raised—as Minister of State at the Department for International Trade—and also in his time as Minister for London. He conducted all these jobs with great ability and distinction, and I thank him for all the work that he has done.

My right hon. Friend is right that we want to ensure that we can negotiate independent trade deals around the rest of the world. We will be leaving the single market and the customs union so that we can do exactly that—have an independent trade policy and negotiate our own trade deals with the rest of the world.

Q14. Almost two weeks after the significant fire at Glasgow School of Art and the O2 ABC, neighbouring constituents and businesses are still out of their properties. Many are struggling to get their insurance companies to provide adequate support as their own properties have not been damaged. Will the Prime Minister do all in her power to push insurance companies to provide the maximum support possible to my constituents and businesses? (906084)

This was a terrible fire, damaging one of Glasgow’s iconic landmarks, which was rightly regarded as a building of great architectural significance.

Yes, I am coming to the issue that the hon. Lady has raised. I just wanted to take this opportunity to give my heartfelt thanks to the work of the emergency services, which did their best in addressing the fire. The hon. Lady has raised a specific issue about insurance and ensuring that others can return to their buildings that are close by. I will ensure that the Secretary of State for Scotland is aware of that question, and we will look at what can be done.

At 6.49 am my constituent, James Wheatcroft, emailed me to say:

“I am currently standing at Shepreth station. 06.40 has just arrived. 05.38, 06.10 and 07.25 bus cancelled so this is on the ONLY train to London this morning until the 8.10…Five people have been on the platform for over an hour and…miss their Eurostar connection the station car park is totally empty—people giving up and working from home.”

At 7.29 am he sent another message:

“Our train has now broken down…Another train has arrived but there is not enough room for everyone.”

At 7.59 am, he said that the rest of the passengers had to get a train back north, there was no room for them on that either and that

“people simply decided to go home.”

Please, Prime Minister—assurances from Govia Thameslink Railway are not enough. We need a taskforce to micro- manage these contracts back to performance. Will she please commit to that?

I recognise the concerns expressed by my hon. Friend. The performance provided for passengers has been unacceptable. The Department for Transport has been working on this issue with GTR, and it is working to provide a new timetable, which will provide more capacity on the services, but it is not the same timetable that was originally introduced in May. The Department for Transport will continue to work to ensure that the rail company is providing the performance that passengers rightly expect and deserve.

On Saturday, around 100,000 people gathered in Parliament Square to demand a people’s vote on the final Brexit deal. I did not see the Prime Minister among the many Conservatives in the crowd, and the Leader of the Opposition was in the middle east avoiding the many Labour supporters. Since the Prime Minister—[Interruption.] Since the Prime Minister has such confidence that she will produce a good Brexit deal, why is she so afraid of allowing the final say to the public to endorse it?

The Liberal Democrats have argued in the past that we should have a referendum to give people the choice about whether to stay in the European Union. We gave the people a choice, they have voted and we will deliver on it.

Will the Prime Minister confirm to the House today that she is absolutely committed to this country retaining its tier 1 military status, and equally open to the idea that increased threats require increased resources, but also committed to reforming the Department so that we end the narrative of constant decline of UK military capability when the truth is in fact the complete reverse?

We are absolutely committed to this country remaining a leading military power. There is no question but that the Government will do what they need to do to ensure that we are a leading military power, but we need to ensure that we look at the threats that we are now facing and the capabilities we need as these threats change. That is what the modernising defence programme is about. My hon. Friend makes the important point that this is also about making sure that our Ministry of Defence is operating as cost-effectively as it can so that we ensure that we are providing for the brave men and women in our armed forces, but also addressing the needs of the future. What do we need the Ministry of Defence and our armed forces to look like in 2030? That is the question, but we are committed to remaining a leading military power.

On Saturday, I was at BMW Cowley with 15,000 people, all of them BMW workers and their families. Just two days later, we had the starkest warning yet from BMW about the damage of a chaotic deal on Brexit for customs processes. When will the Prime Minister’s Government ditch the ideology and in-fighting and prioritise reaching a workable deal on customs?

We are doing exactly that. We are putting forward proposals—[Interruption.] We are putting forward proposals to ensure that we can have as frictionless a trade with the European Union as possible. That is the aim of this Government, that is what we are working on, and that is what I am sure we will deliver on.

Across the country, people are taking great pride in the disciplined performance of Gareth Southgate’s young and diverse team. Will my right hon. Friend signal her Government’s support for their campaign during the play-offs by asking public buildings across England to fly the St George’s cross, alongside the Union Jack if they want? Will she also offer especial help to the right hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) in raising her own St George’s cross to support our World cup campaign?

On the issue of flying flags, as I am sure my hon. Friend will appreciate, we are flying the armed forces flag at No. 10 this week, but I do want to join him in congratulating the England team on making it through to the next round in the World cup. I can assure him that No. 10 will be flying the England flag on the day of each of England’s matches from now on, and we will be encouraging other Government Departments to do the same. I can also say that I am going to go further than my predecessors: next year we will do the same for the women’s World cup.

Social care workers up and down the country are being paid less than the minimum wage as a result of incorrect Government guidance. We are repeatedly told that the Government are in talks with the EU to resolve this issue. Why are the talks taking so long? Will the Prime Minister do the right thing and commit to paying the workers what they are owed, directly through an HMRC scheme?

The hon. Lady raises an issue about people being paid the minimum wage. Obviously, there are rules in place to ensure that exactly that happens.

We are aware of the issue that the hon. Lady has raised. There have been discussions taking place in relation to that. We have been working to ensure that this matter can be dealt with not just in the interests, obviously, of those who are working in the social care sector but also in having a care for the impact that it will have on the charities that are working in that sector.

In matters relating to my constituency, education, defence and local government are all in need of more funding. Can the Prime Minister assure me that the very welcome allocation of more money to the NHS does not crowd everything else out?

My hon. Friend is right to stand up and speak on behalf of his constituents and their interests, as other Members of the House do. As I made clear when I made the announcement about the NHS funding, other Departments’ budgets will all be considered in the spending review.

Everyone knows that Black country brewers brew the best beer in Britain. Holden’s in Dudley has been bottling beer continuously for 75 years, even through the war, but along with other producers, it has had to cease production this week because of the European CO2 shortage. What are the Government doing to sort that out, so that we can all enjoy a beer during the World cup?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that that is predominantly a commercial matter for the companies affected—the producers and suppliers. I am aware of the reports of shortages across Europe, and I know that industry is working on the solution. Although it is an issue for industry, the Government are in regular contact with the UK producer, distribution and consumer companies and trade associations, including those in the food and drink sector. He has made his point well, and I am sure that all those involved are working hard to ensure that his aim can be achieved.

This morning the Supreme Court ruled that the Government had created inequality in not extending civil partnerships to everyone when they passed the equal marriage legislation back in 2013, and that discrimination needs to be addressed urgently. Will the Prime Minister now support an amendment to my Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration Etc.) Bill when it goes into Committee next month, as the quickest way to resolve this illegal inequality and extend civil partnerships to everyone?

We are very well aware of our legal obligations, and we will obviously need to consider the judgment of the Supreme Court with great care. We also recognise the sensitive and personal issues that are involved in this case, and we acknowledge the genuine convictions of the couple involved. My hon. Friend refers to his private Member’s Bill. As he will know, we have committed to undertake a full review of the operation of civil partnerships. I know that there has been a lot of discussion with him about his Bill. We are supporting his private Member’s Bill, which would enshrine that commitment in law.

Over 100 firefighters are tackling fires across Saddleworth moors, spread over 7 square miles in my constituency and the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds). Will the Prime Minister join me in commending members of the Greater Manchester fire and rescue service and Greater Manchester police and the many others who have volunteered and contributed to bringing the fires under control? Will she commit to allocate contingency funds to those authorities affected, in recognition of the huge impact of this major incident on their resources?

I am sure that the sympathies of Members across the whole House are with everyone affected by the fire, and I join the hon. Lady in commending the emergency services and all the volunteers and others who have been working to deal with the fire and fight it. I can reassure her that the Home Office is monitoring the situation closely with the National Resilience Assurance Team. So far, no request for Government support has been made by the Greater Manchester fire and rescue service, but we are keeping this under constant review, and operational policy arrangements are in place to provide support if required.

All Rolls-Royce motorcars—an iconic global brand—are made in my constituency. Every day, 150 trucks arrive from Europe to supply BMW plants, and 120 trucks leave the UK headed for Europe. We are the only serious party of business, so can the Prime Minister give some certainty and confidence to the largest employer in my constituency and businesses up and down the country that they can continue their seamless operating model as we leave the EU?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise that issue. Obviously Rolls-Royce plays a very important role in her constituency, but also in our country. It is an iconic brand for our country. We want to have the greatest possible tariff-free and frictionless trade with the European Union. That is what we are working on. At the same time, we want to ensure that we can negotiate other trade deals around the rest of the world. We want UK companies to have the maximum freedom to be able to continue to trade with and operate within European markets, while letting European businesses do the same here in the UK, but we also want to encourage our excellent, iconic businesses to have better opportunities to trade around the rest of the world.

Two Select Committees—the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee—have today released a joint report describing a vision of a social care system where quality personal care is delivered free at the point of need, separated from the ability to pay, and how to achieve that vision. The Committees’ citizens jury said this was a system they were prepared to pay for. Does the Prime Minister share that vision?

We will obviously look very carefully at reports that have been produced by Select Committees of the House. We are committed to producing a social care Green Paper in the autumn.

Points of Order

Order. I will come to the hon. Gentleman when there is an appropriate air of hush, anticipation and respect for the hon. Gentleman—to which we are gradually approximating. [Interruption.] I know the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy) used to be a teacher, but she does not have to raise her hand in the Chamber, as though she was asking a question. We will come to the hon. Lady and her point of order in due course. First, I hope the House will be quiet as we hear the point of order from Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for taking my point of order earlier than normal. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition referred to me in his comments earlier. He has only been a Member of the House for 35 years, so he may not have learned the form—it is considered good form for a Member to tell another Member in advance when they are going to refer to them—but that is not the point. What the right hon. Gentleman said was false in all respects. My company does not actually run any hedge funds, so to have moved a hedge fund out of this country would have shown a remarkable acrobatic nature within the business; we have not in fact done so. I wondered whether he might like to take this opportunity, as he is still in the Chamber, to set the record straight, rather than otherwise be a peddler of false news or perhaps guilty of terminological inexactitude.

Ah, I know that terminological inexactitude is of unfailing interest to the hon. Gentleman, who appreciates the historical significance of the term that he has just used. It is perfectly open to the Leader of the Opposition to come to the Dispatch Box if he wishes to do so. [Interruption.] Order. All this hand waving is rather unseemly. However, the right hon. Gentleman is not under any obligation to do so. The hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg) has made his point, and it is on the record. I thank him for making it, and we will leave it there.

If there are other points of order, I will exceptionally take them now, before we proceed to the urgent question.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I rise to ask your advice on a matter of exceptional importance to my constituents. As you know, I have been seeking for quite some time now to get a simple, clear answer to what I believe to be a simple, clear question. I have written to Ministers, put in written questions and asked questions during oral questions, and so far I have been unable to get a straightforward answer to this question: when will this Government release the money for the child and adolescent mental health services unit in my constituency that they have long promised? In fact, to the last written question I put in, I received what can only be described as the slightly offensive reply that

“details of ministerial discussions are not…disclosed.”

They have not even had the decency to give me some kind of timeframe. How can I get the Department of Health and Social Care to tell me when it will release the money for the CAMHS unit that is so desperately needed in my constituency?

I thank the hon. Lady for her point of order, and for giving me notice that she wished to raise it. I can understand her frustration at the responses she has received from the Treasury. I believe that the practice of Departments in responding to questions about ministerial discussions varies somewhat. I would be most concerned if Departments were not giving equal treatment to questions from Members on both sides of the House. This point will be heard—if not immediately, then in due course—by the Leader of the House, who is the custodian of the rights of all Members, or one of the important custodians of the rights of all Members.

The hon. Lady may wish to raise her concerns with the Chair of the Procedure Committee, the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker), as his Committee keeps a watchful eye on Departments’ patterns of answering parliamentary questions. Meanwhile—I know this is frustrating and irritating for her—I encourage her to persist in questioning. My almost failsafe advice to a Member seeking guidance about how to proceed in relation to some unresolved matter is: persist, persist, persist! There are many examples of Members on both sides of the House who have specialised in such an approach. I feel sure that the hon. Lady will not mind my praying in aid the late and, to many, great Sir Gerald Kaufman, who was not to be dissuaded from the pursuit of what he thought was proper by non-answers, delay or procrastination. That right hon. Gentleman simply went on and on and on until he secured the satisfaction that he sought, and I commend such an approach to the hon. Lady.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Before the Leader of the Opposition leaves the House, may I raise the point already raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg)? You, Mr Speaker, are very much against our using the word “lie” in the House, and I understand why, but what about “misleading”, because there is no doubt that the Leader of the Opposition has misled the House and the country? Normally, it is the tradition for a Member to apologise if they mislead the House. I seek your advice on this urgent matter, Mr Speaker.

It is an important matter, but I have the benefit of the Clerk, who has instantly consulted his scholarly cranium, having swivelled round and advised me, “No”. The reason why I say no to the hon. Gentleman—I accept that the point is serious—is that to say that the Leader of the Opposition has misled the House and committed an offence is to accuse him of having deliberately misled the House. There is no suggestion of that, even from the hon. Member for North East Somerset.

Although I completely understand both the support of the hon. Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax) for his colleague and his genuine concern about this matter—he is himself unfailingly polite at all times—it is not for the Chair to seek to arbitrate in such a matter about whether a parliamentary error has been committed. Each Member of this House, whoever that Member is and whatever post he or she occupies, is responsible for words uttered in this Chamber and, as appropriate, for the correction of them; I am not the umpire of whether he or she is required to make a correction. That is not just a doctrine evolved on the spot, but the very long established practice of this House. The hon. Gentleman has made his point and it is on the record, and it may even wing its way to the people of his Dorset constituency.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is my first point of order in three years, so I am actually quite excited.

It is about a serious matter, however. At Prime Minister’s questions on 14 March, the Prime Minister instructed the Home Secretary to meet me to discuss the epidemic of gun crime in Haringey. A further meeting with a junior Home Office Minister was promised in connection with the totally separate case, involving mistaken identity, of an anti-terror raid in my constituency in April. It has now been 15 weeks since the first promise was made, and neither of these meetings has materialised. Mr Speaker, teenagers are dying in my constituency from knives and guns, and I urgently seek your advice about whether there are any parliamentary mechanisms by which I can ensure that the Government fulfil the promises made to meet me on behalf of those constituents.

My instant response to the hon. Lady is to mention to her—she will be aware of this fact, but it may not be known to people observing our proceedings—that an important Bill, the Offensive Weapons Bill, is about to be debated on Second Reading. If I may politely say so, that would be a convenient opportunity again to flag up her discontent on the matter. I thank her for giving me notice of this point of order, and I would say, more widely, that I entirely understand her—and, in her position, I would feel—great annoyance that it seems to be taking an inordinately long time to arrange a meeting with Home Office Ministers to discuss these very serious matters, and specifically to honour, as I understand from what she has said, a commitment to her. The concern will have been noted by those on the Treasury Bench, and I hope that a meeting will be swiftly arranged. It would be unfortunate—not just in terms of inconvenience to the hon. Lady, but of embarrassment to the occupants of the Treasury Bench—if it were necessary for her to raise this matter in the Chamber on a subsequent day, so I hope that help will be at hand sooner rather than later.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Perhaps surprisingly, the Prime Minister did not choose to tell the House during Prime Minister’s Question Time about the resignation this morning of the leader of the Welsh Conservative party over remarks he made about Brexit and business. This was despite their being indistinguishable from the remarks made by the Foreign Secretary, apart from the swearing. Is there any means by which this matter could be put on the record?

The hon. Gentleman, who is a very experienced and dextrous Member of this House, has found his own salvation. Furthermore, he has not just stumbled into finding it; he knows that by the utterly bogus device of a contrived point of order he has achieved his objective, as his demonstration of amusement evidently testifies.

Privately Financed Prisons

(Urgent Question): To ask the Justice Secretary to make a statement on the Government’s plans for more privately financed prisons.

Yesterday, I attended the Justice Committee hearing on prison populations and confirmed that, in line with the 2016 White Paper and the 2017 manifesto, we remain committed to delivering 10,000 new prison places in order to replace the places in prisons that at the moment often have old, unsuitable and expensive accommodation.

During the Committee testimony, I confirmed two things. The first was that we will be proceeding at Wellingborough with a public capital financed prison, with work to begin at the end of this year or the beginning of next, subject to the usual tests of affordability and planning. I also confirmed that at the Glen Parva site we will be continuing with the current demolition and proceeding, again subject to the normal tests of affordability and planning, to a competition for a private finance initiative construction of the Glen Parva prison. We will then continue to push ahead with the four subsequent prisons, bringing us to the total of 10,000 places.

We are also investing £16 million in further investments in repairs in the existing estate. All of this is absolutely essential because, as the shadow Lord Chancellor is very aware, much of our estate remains old, expensive and unsuitable for prisoners, and we must move to regenerate it.

Yesterday, the prisons Minister announced a new private prison at Glen Parva. Previously, the Government had announced a £1.3 billion plan to build 10,000 new prison places. Despite repeated questioning from Labour, the Government had provided only obfuscation as to how these places would be paid for—now we know why. I hope that my list of questions will finally be answered today.

The Ministry of Justice has been cut more than any other Department—it has been cut by 40%, or £4 billion per year. The flipside of cuts is a greater dependence on privatisation and outsourcing, and when it comes to our prisons it is the public who pay the price. Carillion’s collapse affected half the prison estate, where it was contracted to do basic prison maintenance. Yesterday, the prisons Minister revealed that the contract was “completely unsustainable”, costing the public millions of pounds more each year, yet now we have more private contracts on the way. There are therefore questions to answer.

How many other new prisons are the Government considering building under PFI? What is the estimated additional cost to the public ministry of building prisons under PFI? Will the new prisons have their maintenance work outsourced? Does the Minister still definitely intend to sell off Victorian prisons that do nothing to reduce reoffending? If not, does that mean less income and more privatisation in our prisons estate? Will he allow any of the companies being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office for overcharging the MOJ—Serco and G4S—to bid to run the new prisons? Will the new residential women’s centre announced by the Government today be financed by the private sector? Finally, will the new Justice Minister, who once worked in a senior role at Serco, which has £3.6 billion worth of MOJ contracts, be involved in the tendering process for any more of these private prisons?

The shadow Lord Chancellor asked a number of important questions. Let me go through the answer on the six prisons where the 10,000 places are. At the first prison, Wellingborough, the construction will be funded by public capital. The second prison, Glen Parva, will be funded through PFI. We are exploring a range of other funding arrangements, including private finance, for the remaining four prisons but we have yet to achieve a resolution on that.

On the question of who we would like to bid, of course we will be looking for legal, reliable bidders, but I wish to emphasise that the key here is about getting quality and diversity into the estate. We do not want to be overly ideological about this. We believe in a mixed estate. There are some excellent public sector prisons. I had the privilege of visiting Dartmoor prison recently, where prison officers within the public sector estate are delivering excellent services and getting very good inspection reports. At the same time, Serco is running a difficult, challenging prison at Thameside, which has 1,600 places, and is innovating. It is bringing in new technology, it is bringing computers into cells and it has had a real impact on violence and on drugs.

At Liverpool’s Altcourse prison, G4S is running a prison where there are fantastic employment facilities and workshops in operation. The inspectors have clarified that in Liverpool the private sector, drawing on the same population size, is outperforming the public sector. This is not a question of a binary choice between the private and the public sectors; it is a question of a diversity of suppliers, who can often learn a great deal from each other.