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House of Commons Hansard
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Commons Chamber
27 June 2018
Volume 643

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

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1. What recent assessment he has made of the value for money of outsourcing public services. [906085]

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Recent business cases submitted by Departments for approval show savings to taxpayers from outsourcing in the range of 9% to 30%.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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

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

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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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What problems were there with the pilots?

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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.

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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?

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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

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3. What steps his Department is taking to encourage the use of small businesses in Government procurement. [906087]

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

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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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]

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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: Membership

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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]

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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.

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Thanks to the Minister’s actions during 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?

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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.

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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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Never mind the House of Lords. When are we going to see this House reduced to 600?

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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.

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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

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5. What steps he is taking to widen access to senior public appointments. [906089]

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13. What steps he is taking to widen access to senior public appointments. [906098]

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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.

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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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

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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?

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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

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8. What plans he has to mark National Democracy Week. [906092]

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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9. What representations he has received on the legality of the voter ID pilots. [906093]

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12. What representations he has received on the legality of the voter ID pilots. [906097]

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14. What representations he has received on the legality of the voter ID pilots. [906099]

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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?

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

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indicated dissent.

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

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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.

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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?

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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

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T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. [906100]

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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.

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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?

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

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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]

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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.

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T6. Further to the question about outsourcing, can the Minister— [906105]

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

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Can the Minister give us some examples?

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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.

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Can the Minister give us some examples?

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We are grateful to the hon. Lady, and we wish the hon. Gentleman well.

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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.

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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]

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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.

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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]

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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.

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rose—

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Ah, yes, a south-east London knight. Sir David Evennett.

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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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]

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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]

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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

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Q1. If she will list her official engagements for Wednesday 27 June. [906070]

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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]

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.]

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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.

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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”.

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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.]

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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?

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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?

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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.]

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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]

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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?

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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.

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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]

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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.

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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 canextend civil nuclear decommissioning to those nuclear submarines, to ensure that we recycle them and create jobs in Plymouth, Scotland and west Cumbria? [906071]

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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.

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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]

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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.

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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]

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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.

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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]

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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.

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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]

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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.

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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]

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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.

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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]

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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.

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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]

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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.

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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]

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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]

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

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What about constituents?

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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.

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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 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?

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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.

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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?

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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

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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It is not happening.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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Finally, I call Dr Paul Williams.

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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?

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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

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On a point of order, Mr Speaker—[Interruption.]

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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?

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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.

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rose—

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I will come to the hon. Lady, but first I call Mr Richard Drax.

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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.

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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.

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

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As are we all.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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

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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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Does my hon. Friend agree that the question of whether a prison is publicly or privately financed and operated is an ideological irrelevance to the very many problems he faces? While accepting my congratulations on all the announcements he and the Secretary of State have made this morning, will he confirm that he will continue to give priority to reducing the numbers in prison, where possible, by removing those who are merely inadequate, those who are mentally ill and who could benefit from rehabilitation elsewhere? Will he also ensure that he gets rid of the older, slum, overcrowded prisons and that the new prisons can provide the quality of security and rehabilitation that the public deserve?

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That question comes from someone who was of course a very distinguished Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice. My right hon. and learned Friend makes a powerful point: we need to ensure that prison is there primarily for the purposes of punishment, the protection of the public and turning around lives in order to prevent reoffending. We have to be absolutely clear that people who ought to be in prison must be in prison and properly housed there, and we must work to turn their lives around. He has put his finger on the fact that we have inherited a very challenging estate. Almost a quarter of our prisons are buildings that stretch back to the Victorian era or, in some cases, to the late 18th century. That causes unbelievable problems of maintenance, and it contributes to problems of overcrowding and to issues of decency. All of that gets in the way of our ability to provide the conditions that allow us to turn around prisoners’ lives. Therefore, it unfortunately gets in the way of preventing reoffending, which, ultimately, is the best way of protecting the public.

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In the same week that the east coast line trains began running under public ownership, following the third failure in 10 years of the privatised model, we now have the Tories moving to privatise yet more of the Prison Service. We know it was the then Justice Secretary—he is now Transport Secretary—who awarded Carillion the £200 million outsourcing contract for prison maintenance. What due diligence did he complete on Carillion before signing off on that? Why was it allowed to underbid for the contract by £15 million? The prisons Minister said that the Carillion deal was “completely unsustainable” and a “real, real lesson” for the MOJ, so why does he think that yet more privatisation is the solution?

Lastly, the MOJ confirmed in a written answer on 21 June that the Government hold contracts worth £3.6 billion with the private firm Serco, despite the firm having been the subject of an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office. Does he honestly think that will reassure the public that we are not heading for a repeat of what happened with Carillion?

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To some extent, we are going over old ground again. The key, I believe, is to focus on the results on the ground. Let us start with the hon. Gentleman’s final question. We should really be judging Serco’s, Sodexo’s and G4S’s performance in prisons by what they are currently doing in prisons. Nearly 25 years of experience now lie behind this. We have a highly experienced Department. There are 14 privately run prisons with very clear key performance indicators. The inspection reports on those prisons are strong—some are among the cleanest and best run in the country, with very good scores from the inspectors on decency, purposeful activity and resettlement.

To clarify on the issue of Carillion, yes, the company was losing approximately £15 million a year on that contract, but the taxpayer was not losing that money. Carillion was bearing the cost. The taxpayer was effectively saving £15 million a year on that contract. At the same time, I agree that we need to take a lesson from what happened, look carefully at the financial viability of these companies and look at their performance in prisons.

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I warmly welcome my hon. Friend’s statement, as I did everything that he said about the Government’s approach to prisons at the Justice Committee yesterday. Does he agree that anyone who takes an interest and has regularly visited prisons will be aware that the successes and failures within the prison estate have nothing to do with ownership? He has cited two examples of excellent private sector provision; as a south-east London MP, I am well aware of Thameside myself. Does he agree that what we really need to do across the House is make the case that prison reform is in the interests of society and victims, rather than going down ideological side tracks?

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I think that is something we share across the Benches. Both sides of the House share a common desire: to reduce crime and reoffending, and turn around people’s lives. It is a terrible waste that nearly 40% of our prison population have been in care, that nearly 50% have been excluded from school, and that the literacy level of nearly 50% is lower than that of an 11-year-old. The rates of reoffending have been stubbornly high for 40 or 50 years.

We need to work together to crack these problems. Decent, clean, well run and well managed prisons are part of the key. Another part is getting cross-party consensus on the difficult and brave political choices required to begin to reduce the prison population and protect the public through a reduction in reoffending.

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Yesterday, the Minister confirmed that the Carillion contract for facilities had not been managed well by his Department and had resulted in additional costs to Carillion. What guarantees can he give the House that the contract for the new prison will be managed in an effective way? Will he ensure that the contract is published and subject to freedom of information, so that we can scrutinise his decisions?

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The right hon. Gentleman has enormous experience of the issue, having been the prisons Minister responsible for managing private prisons. He is therefore aware that one reason we can stand up in front of the House and say we are confident we can do this is that we have been doing it for 25 years.

Some 14 private sector prisons are operating, with good reports from the inspectors. We have a lot of experience of how this is done. This is not a new area of Government activity; the right hon. Gentleman himself managed exactly these prisons. The key is balancing proper competition, which brings in diversity and innovation, with the right key performance indicators to make sure that we stay on top of that performance.

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Unsurprisingly, I add my congratulations to the Minister to those of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke); I absolutely endorse his non-ideological approach. In considering what he will put in place in future, will he look carefully at prison maintenance contracts? I think it would be better if the prisons themselves had greater control over such contracts, rather than there being one contract let centrally to maintain very many prisons.

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Getting the balance right on maintenance will be central. We are talking about three different kinds of maintenance: big structural maintenance, the daily replacement of fittings and so on, and the basic cleaning and facilities management. We need new approaches to all three, but in relation to the last, I pay tribute to the governor of Leeds prison, who is showing that prisoners, by focusing on such things, can get qualifications themselves, improve living conditions for prisoners and prison officers, and take those skills back into the wider community to find employment.

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In the spirit of developing a cross-party consensus on prisons, I welcome the Government’s apparent conversion yesterday to the Liberal Democrat policy of axing the vast majority of prison sentences of under a year. When will the policy be implemented? Has the prison building plan that the Minister announced yesterday to the Justice Committee factored in such a policy change?

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The argument that I was making yesterday is that the recent evidence from our Department shows very clearly that people sentenced to short prison terms are more likely to reoffend than somebody with a community sentence—in other words, they pose a greater threat to the public at the moment of release. They also pose a destabilising factor in prisons: they are disproportionately connected to drugs and violence.

At the same time, as has been pointed out, we have an obligation to protect the public and be careful about who exactly we are talking about within this category. An enormous amount more discussion needs to take place. I would be very happy to sit down with the right hon. Gentleman to discuss ideas. This is not an easy one to resolve, but the data is driving us in a particular direction.

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When it comes to fixing our prisons, what matters is what works. Does my hon. Friend agree that HMP Altcourse is an example of a private sector prison doing a good job? As we embrace the future, the approach should be about pragmatism, not dogmatism.

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Absolutely. We are very much open to both types of ownership. While praising some of the performance of private sector prisons, I take this opportunity to reiterate that prison officers in public sector prisons are astonishing individuals. On Thursday, I was lucky enough to attend the prison officers’ annual awards, where we heard extraordinary stories about their work, courage, resilience and dedication on long shifts in some of the most challenging environments in this country. They need real tribute. Our public sector prisons are wonderful examples of public service.

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The Minister speaks of the prison population who have been in care, and I know he is well aware of the high proportion of women in the prison system who have been abused in other relationships and settings, but Baroness Corston pointed all that out 11 years ago, which led to the Labour Government setting up what were often called “Corston projects”, such as Eden House in Bristol East, which has suffered, I am afraid, from cuts under successive Tory Governments since 2010. It is a bit rich to hear this morning an announcement that coming up with residential alternatives to custody is a new idea.

In addition to what the Minister has said this morning, will he please update us on how facilities for women in the criminal justice system but outside prison are going to be brought back up to scratch, as Baroness Corston intended?

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The Secretary of State and Lord Chancellor met Baroness Corston yesterday and they had a constructive conversation in which they welcomed each other’s points. I absolutely accept the hon. Lady’s basic point—that it often feels as if there is nothing radically new in criminal justice; I have just been looking at reports from 1962 on HMP Albany in the Isle of Wight and saw a lot of echoes with what, unfortunately, is still going on in many places today. That is because prisons for offenders are very difficult.

The hon. Lady is also absolutely right that nearly 65% of women in custody have experienced some form of domestic abuse. That is why we are very proud, whatever the cross-party discussions, that we are pressing ahead with the female offenders strategy today. The Lord Chancellor is leading on this, along with the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood (Edward Argar), the Minister responsible for the female estate.

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I thank the Minister for visiting Chelmsford prison with me a fortnight ago and seeing at first hand the challenges of running the prison in what are, let us say, the more antique wings. Does he agree that rather than there being some public/private ideology, we should focus on prisons that are well built and managed, on making sure that our staff are well supported and on ensuring that prisoners do not reoffend and return after they leave?

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I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, who I believe has visited Chelmsford prison no less than seven times, and to the staff at Chelmsford. When I visited, they had had a very difficult three nights, up night after night dealing with a difficult incident. Chelmsford prison represents one of our local prisons that is going through a huge transition. There is a lot of focus on training new staff and one of the keys here is balancing the right physical infrastructure in prisons with getting the training and leadership right, in particular for new prison officers.

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Last week, a Defence Minister stood at the Dispatch Box and told us that the Government had awarded a contract to Capita, despite the Ministry of Defence saying it was the highest risk possible for failure— 10 out of 10. I just wonder whether this Minister might be able to reassure the House that if Capita comes forward with a bid for any of these contracts and scores a risk of 10 out of 10, it will not be awarded a contract.

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The general point the hon. Lady is making is difficult to disagree with. Obviously, we need to look at the viability of particular companies. I cannot comment on Capita, or on what exactly the MOD is doing, but when assessing bids the Ministry of Justice will very much take into account the financial viability of the company bidding.

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To maximise the efficacy of any contract, one needs a devoted and focused contracted business, but one also needs expertise in the management of that contract. Will my hon. Friend assure me that the skill set among his officials monitoring contracts on a daily, in-real-time basis is as sharp, professional and focused as it needs to be?

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That is absolutely right. It has traditionally been a challenge to bring those private sector skills into government and to make sure we have a critical mass of people who really understand how to stay on top of those contracts, as my hon. Friend says, not just annually but day by day. We are very proud of our director, Ian Porée, who focuses on this procurement, particularly in relation to probation, and has those private sector skills. As I said, we also have 25 years of experience here.

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I appreciate there are major issues around funding prisons and keeping staff and prisoners safe. The Minister wrote to me about drug scanners in Holme House prison in Stockton North, but he did not address the issue of scanners to detect drugs concealed in prisoners’ bodies when they leave one prison for another. Will we get one soon, or is there not enough money?

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There are, as the hon. Gentleman points out, two different types of scanner. There is a straightforward x-ray scanner, which will generally pick up on bits of metal and things outside a body. Then there is a millimetre wave scanner, which is able, in certain of our prisons, to detect objects inside the body. These are expensive pieces of kit: in certain cases, they can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. We are now beginning to roll them out across the estate. I absolutely agree that that is the technological future and we will be piloting them in 10 prisons to see that they do what we both believe they should do.

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Glen Parva prison is in my constituency, and I commend the Minister for his welcome announcement yesterday with regard to investment. He said at the Dispatch Box that he welcomes quality and diversity of supplier. May I invite him to speak with his officials to ensure that, wherever possible, local suppliers are invited to bid not just for the construction, but for the maintenance and ongoing supply, of Glen Parva prison?

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As right hon. and hon. Members are aware, in tendering for public procurement contracts we can look at social aspects, including local supply. I very much look forward to sitting down with my hon. Friend, who is a real champion for local suppliers in his constituency, to see what we can do to make sure, in this and in other contracts where we are putting a prison in a local area, that local businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, have a fair chance to participate in those contracts.

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In public or private procurement, what attempts will be made to stop the overuse of solitary confinement as a punishment? My constituent, a young man in his 20s, has on several days been locked up for 23 hours a day. He could well take his own life.

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We are very aware of the seriousness of solitary confinement. Segregation should be used only in the most exceptional circumstances. It is sometimes unfortunately necessary, but we want to minimise its use. We want to make sure that segregation, above all, is used for rehabilitation and that that opportunity is used to turn someone’s life and behaviour around, so they can get back on to the prison wing and into education and purposeful activity. We will be underscoring, just as the inspector does, the fact that segregation is a last resort.

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What my constituents and taxpayers care about is that the prison system delivers value for money, and that when people come out of prison they are equipped to contribute to society and become citizens again, with a second chance at life. Will the Minister say more about how these contracts will help that agenda?

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This is a very good question. All the 10,000 additional spaces we are bringing in are for category C resettlement prisons. That has been one of the real gaps in the system. We tend to have too many people in local reception prisons and not enough in resettlement prisons, preparing people to make sure they have housing, employment and the right kind of support when they leave. That is vital to getting them a job and stability, and will ultimately prevent reoffending. The entire design of the contracts is to ensure that the prisons, in their architecture and purpose, work for resettlement.

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Responsibility for prisons in Northern Ireland, as the Minister well knows, is a devolved matter. He will also be well aware that we have not had a functioning Assembly in Northern Ireland for 18 months, so we have no Justice Minister. Given those circumstances, will he please give reassurance to the Northern Ireland Prison Service—its members are enormously courageous and face risks daily in their jobs—that the prison estate in Northern Ireland will not be neglected in the continued and unfortunate absence of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and in particular that the UK Government are well aware of those daily risks run by members of the Northern Ireland Prison Service? Two of its members have been murdered in recent years. No one has faced justice yet, but I live in hope.

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I would like to take this opportunity to pay huge tribute to the Northern Ireland Prison Service. Our permanent secretary works very closely with the permanent secretary of the Department of Justice, and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is working hard to try to bring the devolved Assembly back. We really do feel this. The Northern Ireland Prison Service has very, very unusual conditions, which in some ways makes its work even more challenging than the very challenging work undertaken in England and Wales. These are very courageous individuals doing a very difficult job day in, day out. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

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I welcome the Minister’s recent statement and his overall progressive approach towards prisons. I welcome, too, the gratitude and appreciation he shows for all who work in the Prison Service. Will he confirm whether, under the previous Labour Government, the use and number of private prisons increased or decreased?

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This is a beautifully framed question that is clearly teeing me up for something I am unable to use. I am afraid I am not entirely sure, Mr Speaker, what the answer to that question is. I apologise—it is such a beautiful question.

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I warmly welcome the Minister’s statement. Like the Chairman of the Select Committee, I welcome his approach and that of the Secretary of State to our prisons and to offenders more generally, in particular the female offender strategy and the renewed focus on rehabilitation. Will he consider in due course rolling out the female offender strategy more widely to other prisoners, in particular young offenders?

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This is a matter for my colleague who has responsibility for the youth estate and the female estate, but there are certainly elements in the female offender strategy that have absolute application not just to the youth estate, but to the adult estate. The basic principles, particularly of a trauma-informed approach to the individual still in custody, should have an effect on everything we do in prisons across the board.

Speaker’s Statement

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I wish to inform the House that I have received a letter from the Leader of the House seeking precedence to move a motion to refer to the Committee of Privileges the refusal of Mr Dominic Cummings to attend a meeting of the Select Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, in defiance of the Order of the House of 7 June. I am happy to accede to that request, and I will invite the Leader of the House to move such a motion as the first business tomorrow, Thursday 28 June, after any urgent questions or statements.

Bill Presented

Northern Ireland Budget (No. 2) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Secretary Karen Bradley, supported by the Prime Minister, the Attorney General, Elizabeth Truss and Mr Shailesh Vara, presented a Bill to authorise the issue out of the Consolidated Fund of Northern Ireland of certain sums for the service of the year ending 31 March 2019; to appropriate those sums for specified purposes; to authorise the Department of Finance in Northern Ireland to borrow on the credit of the appropriated sums; to authorise the use for the public service of certain resources (including accruing resources) for the year ending 31 March 2019; and to repeal certain spent provisions.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 238) with explanatory notes (Bill 238-EN).

Toilets (Provision and Accessibility)

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

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I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require certain buildings to have toilets which meet the needs of persons with a range of disability and accessibility requirements; and for connected purposes.

I realise that access to toilets might sound far from a glamorous political campaign. As a somewhat taboo subject—I am an MP who has often not been afraid to raise taboo subjects in the House—it is rarely mentioned in the media or, indeed, in political debate. Most of us take it for granted, and we rarely hear about it when basic human rights for our citizens are listed, so much is taken as a given. When the subject is raised, it is usually with reference to the developing world where, quite rightly, campaigners seek to raise the importance of people’s access to basic sanitation and hygiene, yet too many people are denied that here in modern Britain as well.

Let me start by making it clear what my Bill means by fully accessible toilets, more commonly known as Changing Places toilets. Changing Places toilets should not be confused with standard disabled toilets. They are designed to meet the needs of people with complex needs, providing a height-adjustable, adult-sized changing bench; a tracking hoist system or mobile hoist; adequate space in the changing area for the disabled person and up to two carers; a centrally placed toilet with room either side; a screen or curtain for privacy; a wide tear-off paper roll to cover the bench; a large waste bin for disposable pads; and a non-slip floor.

As the regulations stand, Changing Places toilets are recommended in larger buildings, such as large train stations, motorway services and museums, but are not mandatory. As a minimum, my Bill seeks to strengthen regulations by making the provision of Changing Places toilets mandatory in large new builds, complexes with public access, or sites where visitors can reasonably be expected to spend long periods of time. I say this to every Member in the House this afternoon: if you are not aware that we have a Changing Places facility here in the Palace of Westminster, please take a moment or two today to establish where it is, because one day soon, somebody might ask you if a Changing Places facility is available in this place. Of course, it is ever important that here in Parliament we seek to set an example.

Such a proposal is the aim of the Changing Places consortium, which launched its campaign in 2006 on behalf of more than a quarter of a million people here in the UK who cannot use standard accessible toilets. That includes 130,000 older people, 40,000 people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, 30,000 people with cerebral palsy, 13,000 people with an acquired brain injury, 8,500 people with multiple sclerosis, 8,000 people with spina bifida and 500 people with motor neurone disease. I am sure that there are many more.

The number of people with complex disabilities is growing. Medical advances mean that more babies are, thankfully, saved when once they might not have been, but often they will require considerable assistance as children and as adults. We are all living longer, and older people make up an ever larger proportion of our population, so the need for extra provision will only become greater. It would be a sad reflection on our society’s priorities if people’s basic freedoms, such as going out with their family or friends, were restricted by the absence of suitable toilet facilities, yet every week, this is a reality for the thousands of people who are denied access to many of our country’s most popular attractions.

While drafting the Bill, I heard from too many people who suffer in this way. Kerry from Milton Keynes has a form of muscular dystrophy and her husband is her full-time carer. She told me:

“Taking a simple trip out these days can be a military operation. We have a checklist of things to take, especially if it’s more than a few hours out. The biggest problem I face when going anywhere is when it comes to using a disabled toilet. Some are simply too small to fit me, wheelchair plus hubby—it can sometimes feel very claustrophobic. I find myself limiting my time out because you just can’t risk the embarrassment of having an accident—which is exactly what I’m doing more times than I care to admit to.”

Adam George, who is 11 years old, requires a toilet with a ceiling hoist and an adult-sized changing table. He loves outdoor activities, and his favourite place to go for a day out is the nearby Flambards theme park, but as he got bigger, the family could not manage with the standard disabled toilet. His mother, Rachel, says she made excuses for a year as to why they could not go, telling him it was closed. After consulting the park about installing equipment to meet Adam’s needs, the family have made the difficult decision to undertake legal action against Flambards. Rachel quite rightly asks:

“Can you imagine not being able to access a toilet on a family day out? Especially one you have just paid a lot of money for? Do you just go to places expecting your toilet needs to be met? Why shouldn’t disabled people expect the same?”

Samantha Buck’s son, Alfie, is seven years old and was born with quadriplegic cerebral palsy after being starved of oxygen at birth. They go into town regularly to shop, to have lunch and to meet up for coffee with other mums and their disabled children and teenagers in the same situation. Samantha explained what she has to go through:

“This is what I am forced to do with my seven-year-old son: I have to lay him on a urine soaked floor inside the disabled loo, with the 2nd carer standing outside with the wheelchair. They have to pass the changing accessories through the open door for all passers by to view. This is one of the most awful experiences I have to face every time I come into town.”

Samantha set about campaigning for better facilities for Alfie and the thousands of people who face the same struggles as them every day. I am glad to tell the House that her local council has now agreed to put in two Changing Places toilets, but she feels that the responsibility should not just be for parents and carers to lobby councils.

Current data suggests that there are only 1,123 Changing Places toilets in the UK, with the highest concentrations in major cities. Some areas do not have a facility even within an hour’s drive, so people are either confined in their home, need to rush back if nature calls, or have to face the indignity of being changed on the dirty floors of public toilets. Needless to say, the result can be social isolation. The availability of even the existing facilities is under threat, as public services such as libraries are being closed. Often, those buildings provided the only Changing Places facilities in an area but, sadly, that is rarely a priority when local authority budgets bear the brunt of unprecedented cuts. In my area of Kirklees, the nearest Changing Places toilet was lost when the local children’s playground closed due to Government cuts.

Another issue is that many accessible toilets are provided for children, but not the adults who also need them. A hospital local to my area has its Changing Places toilet situated on the children’s ward. Unfortunately, adults with disabilities cannot access it for safeguarding reasons. We need to urgently rethink our attitude to toilets. Simply labelling a facility as “disabled” or “accessible” does not guarantee that it will be suitable. Most do not have a hoist system or a large changing bench. Disabled and accessible toilets have been found with no level access, and with heavy or narrow doors that are not automated, often with unsuitable or unclean handles and locks. Diverse facilities are also needed to reflect the diversity of the people who need them. Some people need bright fluorescent lights or air fresheners to reduce anxiety, whereas those can lead to sensory overload for others.

My Bill addresses one of those issues that sometimes suffers from being a bit taboo, but for the sake of those who suffer in silence, I believe it must be tackled head on. I hope that the whole House will join me in this campaign.

Question put and agreed to.

Ordered,

That Paula Sherriff, Nic Dakin, Robert Halfon, Layla Moran, Gill Furniss, Tracy Brabin, Rushanara Ali, Mary Creagh, Ruth Smeeth, Chris Elmore, Mr Kevan Jones and Marsha De Cordova present the Bill.

Paula Sherriff accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 23 November, and to be printed (Bill 239).

Offensive Weapons Bill

Second Reading

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The House will wish to know that Mr Speaker has certified clauses 6 to 8, 11, 12, 26 and 27 as relating exclusively to England and Wales on matters within devolved legislative competence.

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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

For the past two years, we have seen an unacceptable increase in recorded knife and gun crime. We have also seen a rise in acid attacks. Sadly, there was a vivid example just this week, with the fatal stabbing of Jordan Douherty, a young man of only 15 who had a great future ahead of him, but whose life was tragically cut short. The Bill will strengthen powers available to the police to deal with acid attacks and knife crime. Its measures will make it more difficult for young people to use acid as a weapon and to purchase knives online.

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Craftsmen such as carpenters rely on mail order for the provision of their specialist tools because that can no longer be maintained locally. Will the Home Secretary ensure that this excellent Bill does not intrude on the provision of lawful trade?

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I am glad that my right hon. Friend, like me, thinks that the Bill is excellent. I can give him that assurance. As I talk a bit more about the Bill, it will become clear that the right types of reasonable defence will absolutely be in place. For example, knife sales to businesses and for other legitimate use will remain unaffected.

There have sadly been 77 homicides in London alone this year, but violent crime affects all parts of our country, not just our big cities. Violent crime destroys lives and devastates communities, and it has to stop.

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The murder of the young man to whom the Home Secretary referred at the beginning of his remarks took place in the Collier Row part of my constituency. My right hon. Friend will know that we are not used to that kind of crime and people in my area are living in fear. Yesterday we had another incident, this time involving a machete-wielding individual near the town centre. Last month, we had the murder of an elderly lady with a hammer. Crime is spreading out to areas such as Essex, and I have to say that we need more than what is in the Bill. Measures need to be much tougher and the punishment has to fit the crime. Most people want the Conservatives to be a party that really gets to grips with this issue, because people in my area and many other parts of the country are really frightened at the moment.

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My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this issue. I know that soon after the terrible crime in his constituency this weekend, he was on the scene with others. I look forward, if I have the opportunity, to discussing the incident with him in more detail and listening to his ideas. He is right that more is needed than just this Bill, and I assure him that these measures are part of a much larger sweep of action the Government are taking, which I will talk about in a moment. I also want to listen to colleagues such as him about what more we can do. I would be happy to do that and to discuss how we can prevent such crimes taking place on our streets.

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As a west midlands MP, I was surprised and shocked by the latest figures on gun and knife crime, because we have more gun crime per head of population than London. Will the Home Secretary elucidate how he thinks these new strategies will deal particularly with urban knife and gun crime?

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I hope that my hon. Friend will agree with what I say about the Bill’s provisions on the sale of knives and on the possession of knives and acid—I will come on to certain firearms later. Taken together, these measures will help. However, as I said to our hon. Friend the hon. Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell), other measures in the serious violence strategy will also help to make a big difference.

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A young man in my constituency was tragically murdered in an incident in Liverpool recently, and unfortunately we in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan have also seen a rise in incidents involving knives. I am deeply worried about material glorifying violence that is shared online in closed social media groups and other forums. What is being done to tackle the sharing of such material online?

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The hon. Gentleman is right to talk about how, in some cases, social media contributes to the rise of such crime. That was the main topic of conversation at the last meeting of the serious violence taskforce, and soon afterwards we unveiled the new social media hub on serious violence, which will work with internet companies to track down that kind of material. In some cases, that material will be taken offline and, in others, an alternative message will be put out. We are very alive to this and are responding with fresh funding, but I want to see what more we can do in that space.

I have seen at first hand the fantastic job that our police do to protect the public and to help to keep this country safe, but they cannot tackle serious and violent crime alone. We must all work together. I am committed to taking strong action to end this blight on our communities. My predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd), published the comprehensive new serious violence strategy to which I just referred on 9 April. This marks a major shift in our approach to violent crime and is supported by an extra £40 million of new funding. It shows that the increase in violent crime is due to a number of factors, so this debate should not just be about police numbers, as is so often the case when we discuss such issues. I remind the House that this Government have increased police funding in England and Wales by over £460 million this year, and I have been clear that police funding will be a priority for me in the next spending review.

As the strategy makes clear, the rise in violent crime is due to many factors, including changes in the drugs market. A crucial part of the strategy is also about focusing on early intervention and prevention, which is why we are investing £11 million in an early intervention youth fund, running a national campaign to tell young people about the risks of carrying a knife, and taking action against online videos that glorify and encourage violence. To oversee this important work, we have set up a taskforce that includes hon. Members from both sides of the House, the police, the Mayor of London, community groups and other Departments. I hope that this is just the first stage of us all working together across parties and sectors.

The Bill covers three main areas: acid attacks, knife crime and the risks posed by firearms.

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I welcome the Home Secretary’s commitment to tackling serious and violent crime, which we know has such devastating consequences for families. I also agree about the importance of prevention, as well as the legislative measures. Given that some of the measures announced in the serious and violent crime strategy were concentrated around London, Birmingham and Nottingham, and that we have had awful stabbings in Leeds, Wolverhampton and Ipswich, what more will he do to make sure that the prevention work is done right across the country?

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I welcome the right hon. Lady’s support and the work she does on the Home Affairs Select Committee, which she chairs, to scrutinise this type of work. She is right that some of the announcements on the community fund to help with early intervention have focused on big cities, but this is just the start. We have more funding to allocate and are already talking to community groups well spread throughout the country. As I said right at the start, although there has been much debate about London and other big cities—we just heard about Birmingham—that suffer from these crimes, they are widespread and extend to our smaller towns and, in some cases, villages, so we have to look at all parts of the country.

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As my right hon. Friend will know, there is some concern among Conservative Members about the proposal in the Bill to ban .5 calibre weapons, because it would criminalise otherwise law-abiding users of a weapon which, as far as I know, has never been used in a murder. Will my right hon. Friend undertake to enter into full discussions with his Ministers before the Committee stage?

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I will say a bit more about that in a moment, but my hon. Friend has raised an important issue, and I am glad that he has focused on it. The Bill does make some changes in relation to high-energy rifles and other such weapons. We based those measures on evidence that we received from intelligence sources, police and other security experts. That said, I know that my hon. Friend and other colleagues have expertise, and evidence that they too wish to provide. I can give my hon. Friend an absolute assurance that I am ready to listen to him and others, and to set their evidence against the evidence that we have received.

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I generally welcome the Bill, but I should point out that the measures he is talking about mean banning the weapons. They relate to about 200 bulky, expensive and very loud rifles which, as far as I know, have never been used for a single crime in this country. It is probably the gun least likely ever to be used in a crime. Is the Secretary of State aware that in pursuing this policy without good evidence, he is losing the confidence of the entire sport-shooting community for no good reason?

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According to the information that we have, weapons of this type have, sadly, been used in the troubles in Northern Ireland, and, according to intelligence provided by police and security services, have been possessed by criminals who have clearly intended to use them. That said, I know that my hon. Friend speaks with significant knowledge of this issue, and I would be happy to listen to his views and those of others.

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If we follow my right hon. Friend’s logic, we must conclude that literally every single weapon should be banned. Having served in Northern Ireland myself, I know that there is no end to saying that everything should be banned. If we accept that these weapons are not likely to be used if they are properly secured and controlled, we should think carefully about banning them. If we just go on banning weapons, we will not achieve what we want. In Waltham Forest where I live, handguns are available to any criminal who wants to use them, but those are banned as well. The right people cannot use weapons, but the wrong people certainly carry on using them.

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My right hon. Friend makes the point that our response must be proportionate, and we must ensure that banning firearms leads to the right outcome. He has alluded to his own experience in this regard, and I hope he is reassured by my indication that I am happy to talk to colleagues about the issue. He has also mentioned the need for control and proper possession of any type of weapon that could be used in the wrong way. The Bill contains clear measures based on the evidence that has been brought to us thus far, but I am happy to listen to what others have to say.

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The right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) referred to the pervasive nature of the culture that is leading to violent crime. Will my right hon. Friend work with other Departments on some of the drivers of that culture? Some people are driven by the internet and social media, but there may be other malevolent sources of information that lead people into the business of crime. This will require a great deal of lateral thinking, and I know my former apprentice is capable of that.

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I thank my right hon. Friend for making that important point. He speaks with experience of the Home Office, and my predecessor as Home Secretary established the Serious Violence Taskforce for precisely this reason. I have already held my own first meeting of the taskforce. Each meeting leads to action, and, as I mentioned earlier, the last one led to action on social mobility and online activity. However, there are also roles for the Department for Education, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and other Departments. They will need to do their bit, because, as my right hon. Friend says, this will require cross-governmental action.

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My right hon. Friend has spoken of the drivers of this type of crime, and the changing nature of the drugs market. I wrote to him this week about the “zombie” drugs, such as mamba, which are affecting my town centre. Is the Bill likely to lead to crackdowns on those new drugs?

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The Bill does not focus on drugs, but my hon. Friend has made an important point. It is clear from the evidence that we have seen at the Home Office that changes in the drugs market are a major factor in the rise in serious violence, not just in the UK but in other European countries and the United States. We want to take a closer look at the issue to establish whether more work can be done on it.

The Bill covers three main areas: acid attacks, knife crime, and the risks posed by firearms. We have consulted widely on these measures, and have worked closely with the police and others to ensure that we are giving them the powers that they need. The measures on corrosives will stop young people getting hold of particularly dangerous acids, the measures on online knife sales will stop young people getting hold of knives online, and the measures on the possession of offensive weapons will give the police the powers that they need to act when people are in possession of flick knives, zombie knives, and other particularly dangerous knives that have absolutely no place in our homes and communities. I believe that the Bill strengthens the law where that is most needed, and gives the police the tools that they need to protect the public.

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I support the Bill—I do not want the Home Secretary to think otherwise—but may I make a point about clause 1? When it comes to refusing to sell goods to individuals, it is shop staff who will be on the front line, and it is shop staff who may be attacked or threatened as a result. Would the Home Secretary consider introducing, in Committee, an aggravated offence of attacks on shop staff? They, like everyone else, deserve freedom from fear.

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I welcome the right hon. Gentleman’s support for the Bill. As he will understand, we want to restrict sales of these items in order to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands, but he has made an interesting point about those who may feel that they are under some threat, particularly from the kind of people who would try to buy knives of this type in the first place. If he will allow me, I will go away and think a bit more about what he has said.

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Sheffield, like other cities, is deeply affected by a rise in knife crime, and I strongly support the Bill’s objectives in that regard. However, our city is also famous for knife manufacturing, and a number of local companies have expressed concern to me about the blanket prohibition of sales to residential addresses, which they fear could have unintended consequences. As the Bill progresses, will the Home Secretary consider alternative ways of achieving its objectives—for example, an online knife dealers’ scheme that would be mandatory for all distance selling, with age verification standards set by the International Organisation for Standardisation?

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I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point, but, as he will know, before we settled on any of these measures—particularly the one dealing with knives—there was an extensive consultation involving many people, including manufacturers from the great city of Sheffield and other parts of the UK. I hope it is of some reassurance to the hon. Gentleman that, while it is true that deliveries to solely residential addresses will be prohibited, deliveries to businesses operating from residences will not. There are some other defences which I think will help with the issue that he has raised. For example, the prohibition will not apply to table knives, knives to be used for sporting purposes, knives to be used for re-enactment purposes, or hand-made knives. I hope that that indicates to the hon. Gentleman that we have thought carefully about the issue, but if he has any other suggestions, he should write to me and I will consider them.

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The UK already has a reputation for having the strongest and best firearms legislation across Europe. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the intention of this Bill is to make sure dangerous knives and toxic chemicals are equally strongly legislated against, but it is not the intention to take action against law-abiding citizens?

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My hon. Friend is absolutely right and I could not have put it better myself. She will know that there are already some restrictions on knives; for example, there are restrictions on buying the so-called zombie knives, but there is no restriction on possessing them at present. Part of the Bill’s intention is to fill in some of those obvious gaps, as members of the public have asked why the Government have not addressed them before.

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I think the point my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford) was making is that it is the law-abiding holders of .50 calibre guns who are being made criminals yet these are target rifles. Sometimes the law of unintended consequences in Bills catches us out, such as in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, and we should not be making these people criminals when no crime has been committed in Great Britain by using this calibre of rifle.

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I understand my hon. Friend’s point and I hope he takes some reassurance from what I said on that topic just a few moments ago.

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All of us on both sides of the House wish to see action taken to combat the scourge of violent crime, but a great many of my constituents have written to me expressing concerns about the inadvertent impact of the Bill particularly on rural sports, and the Home Secretary has heard those today. Will he meet me and groups of others so we can make sure those concerns are heard and rural communities’ views are taken into account?

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My hon. Friend will know that my constituency is also very rural and I hear about issues of that type quite often myself. I am more than happy to meet him and other colleagues who have an interest in this issue and any of the measures in the Bill.

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The Secretary of State has explained that clause 1 bans the sale of corrosive products to under-18s. I support that, but some of us think the age limit should be at 21 rather than 18. Would he be open to an amendment along those lines? What is the reason for setting the limit at 18, rather than a higher age?

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As the right hon. Gentleman will know, this was consulted on during the preparation of the Bill. We settled at 18 and I do not think we are interested in moving from that, but he does deserve an explanation: 18 is used as the legal age between child and adult for a number of things, and it felt to us to be the right age. It is also an age that is consistent with other Acts of Parliament. We think it is the appropriate age to set the limit on some of the measures in the Bill.

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It was clear from the consultation on high-calibre rifles that their owners were prepared to look at measures to make sure that those rifles were made as safe as possible so they did not fall into the wrong hands, yet the Government now intend to ban them. Will the Secretary of State look at the consultation again and at the assurances people were prepared to give, and make sure those law-abiding citizens are not adversely affected?

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I hope the hon. Gentleman has heard some of the comments made around this issue over the past 20 minutes or so. I do understand the arguments around the issue, and of course he would expect the Home Office to listen to arguments on the other side as well, which as he says have had an input into the Bill. I am more than happy to listen to colleagues on both sides of the House on that issue and any other issues around the Bill.

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The Secretary of State will have received correspondence from the Countryside Alliance and the British Association for Shooting and Conservation. One of the issues my constituents have asked me about is the compensation clause for weapons that might be taken back or retrieved. How will the value of the firearms be calculated, and where will the money for the compensation come from? Will it come from Northern Ireland or the UK centrally? Will people who surrender firearms face questioning or checks that might dissuade them from surrendering their firearms? We must have good communication with those who hold firearms and will be impacted greatly by this.

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The hon. Gentleman will know that these measures in the Bill are devolved in the case of Northern Ireland, and some of the issues he raised about compensation and how it is calculated may well be decisions that eventually the Northern Ireland Government, once in place, will reach. In England and in Scotland if it consents, we have set out how compensation can work, and our intention is to make sure it is reasonable and it works, and that is not just in the case of firearms—there is a general compensation clause. It is harder for me to answer that question in respect of Northern Ireland as ultimately that decision will not be made by the Home Office; it will be a decision that the Northern Ireland Government will have to settle on.

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I thank my right hon. Friend for the way in which he is approaching Second Reading; it demonstrates that Second Readings of Bills are extremely important and should happen with great regularity. May I commend to him the work in Hertfordshire and Broxbourne council to bring together agencies across the county and boroughs to deal with knife crime? There is a role for local politicians and local agencies in addressing this really complicated issue.

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My hon. Friend is absolutely right: ultimately, only so much can be done by the centre. The centre can set the laws and provide funding in certain cases, but much of the work being done, as we have seen with the serious violence taskforce, is community and locally led, and I join him in commending the work in Hertfordshire. We are very much aware of that in the Department, and it sets an example for many other parts of the country.

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Building on the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker), there is an important leadership role for police and crime commissioners working alongside the local constabulary and the other partners that have been mentioned. Will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State or his colleague, the Minister for Policing and the Fire Service, share with us, if not today at a later date, what they consider to be best practice in terms of real leadership on the ground and partnership building to help tackle the problems that we all face?

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In the serious violence strategy published in April there were some examples of good practice, but my hon. Friend makes the point that since then, because of the use of some of the funds for example that were in that strategy, we have seen other good examples. We will be very happy to share them with my hon. Friend.

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As a doctor who has treated children with both stab and gunshot wounds, I commend my right hon. Friend on what he is doing to try to reduce the violence on our streets but, equally, as a Conservative I am not keen to ban things that do not need to be banned. In the past, we banned handguns; what effect has that had on gun crimes committed with handguns in this country?

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I share some of the sentiments expressed by my hon. Friend: when a Government ban anything that must be led by the evidence. In doing that we must also listen to the experts on the frontline of fighting crime. As my hon. Friend said, she has in a way been on the frontline dealing with the consequences of this crime. She asked about handguns and the impact of the ban; I do not have to hand any particular numbers or statistics, but I will be happy to share them with her. My hon. Friend’s central point is appropriate: when any Government act to ban anything we must be very careful and make sure it is proportionate and led by the evidence.

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The Home Secretary has acknowledged that justice and policing are devolved matters, and has he recognised that we do not have a functioning Assembly at present; we have not had one for 18 months. I was therefore delighted that this Bill extends many provisions to Northern Ireland in the absence of a functioning Assembly. I am particularly pleased to see that there will be restrictions on offensive products being sold to persons aged 18 or under. I am also pleased to see the restrictions on knives. However, I must reflect to the Home Secretary the extremely troubling evidence that was given to us in the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee this morning by the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, who has requested an increase in police personnel and who has taken off the market three unused border police stations that were for sale. The issue, I have to say, is Brexit. Without infrastructure, there will be movement across the border of offensive weapons, including knives and corrosive products. How will the PSNI deal with those movements under this legislation, which I am pleased to welcome?

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I thank the hon. Lady for her support for the measures in the Bill. She has raised particular questions about Northern Ireland. She will know that, because these matters are devolved and the police have operational independence, how they deal with the issues presented by the Bill and other cross-border issues will be a matter for them. She referred to evidence given to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee this morning, which unfortunately I did not listen to. If she wants to provide me with more information on that, and on how she thinks the Bill might fit in with it, I would be happy to look at that.

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I must go on, as a number of colleagues want to contribute to the debate.

Turning to acid attacks, of course it is wrong that young people can buy substances that can be used to cause severe pain and to radically alter someone’s face, body and life. There is no reason why industrial-strength acids should be sold to young people, and the Bill will stop that happening. We will ban the sale of the most dangerous corrosives to under-18s, both online and offline. We want to stop acid being used as a weapon. At the moment, the police are limited in what they can do if they think a gang on the street might be carrying acid. The Bill will provide them with the power to stop and search and to confiscate any acid.

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I welcome what my right hon. Friend is saying about acid. Will he give further thought in Committee to the question of the private purchase of these fantastically corrosive acids? Does he agree that there is little point in restricting their sale to those below the age of 18, because those over that age can also get very annoyed and use those substances to the devastating effect that he has set out?

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My hon. Friend makes an important point, but the evidence that we have seen shows that the real issue is about young people getting their hands on this acid. We have seen examples of them getting hold of it and separating it into two mineral water bottles, then carrying it around and using it to devastating effect. The measures that we have here, alongside the measures on possession of acid in a public place, will combine to make a big difference to the situation we find ourselves in today.

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Will the Minister give way?

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On acid?

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Yes. The Home Secretary is absolutely right to legislate for this offence. Will he tell the House how he and his colleagues will ensure that local authorities, trading standards, the police and others will be supported in enforcing this offence, to ensure that the new powers are actually used?

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I must point out that when I said to the right hon. Gentleman, “On acid?” I was not asking him if he was on acid. It was a more general question, although I noticed that he readily jumped up and said yes. He makes an important point about ensuring that once the changes are made, all those who need to be aware of them will get training in the process of bringing them about. As he knows, this will involve trading standards and local authorities, and we are in touch with those groups. By the time the Bill has progressed and hopefully achieved Royal Assent, we will have worked quite intensively with the groups that have an interest in this to ensure that the measures in the Bill are well understood.

If I may turn to knives, it is already against the law to sell knives to under-18s, but some online sellers effectively ignore this. Sadly, such knives can get into the hands of young people and this has led to tragic deaths. We will stop that by ensuring that proper age checks are in place at the point of sale. We will stop the delivery to a home address of knives that can cause serious injury. We will also crack down on the overseas sales of knives by making it an offence to deliver them to a person under 18 in this country. I find it appalling that vicious weapons are on open sale and easily available. It shocks me that flick knives are still available despite being banned as long ago as 1959, and that zombie knives, knuckledusters and other dreadful weapons are still in wide circulation. The Bill will therefore make it an offence to possess such weapons, whether in private or on the streets, and it will go further and extend the current ban on offensive weapons in schools to further education premises.

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A young man was murdered with a knife in terrible circumstances in Romford on Saturday evening. We can ban these weapons if we like, but the Home Secretary needs to be aware that if someone with criminal intent wants to get hold of one, they will find a way. I commend the Bill and I will support it, but surely we should also be looking at how young people are being brought up. We should look at what is happening in the home and in schools and at whether young people are being taught the values of right and wrong and behaving in a decent way. They can learn this from early childhood, and schools have a role to play in enforcing discipline. Parental guidance and strong support from families are also important. The family unit is important if young people are to grow up in a society where they can live freely without committing these kinds of crimes. Should we not be looking at the whole thing in a rounded way, not just banning things? Should we not be looking at how we can ensure that young people grow up to be good citizens of this country?

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