House of Commons
Wednesday 4 July 2018
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
The Secretary of State was asked—
East Africa: Trading Opportunities
The UK supports regional trade and development by improving infrastructure and cutting red tape through our flagship programme TradeMark East Africa, which has helped to reduce import times at the Mombasa port by 50%. We will also support the region by ensuring that there is continuity in market access arrangements post-EU exit.
In the past decade more than 1 billion people have been lifted out of poverty, largely thanks to free trade. Owing to my commercial experience, I have seen for myself the quality of the produce from the agricultural sector in East Africa, and I am not surprised that it has found a strong export market. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the best and most sustainable way out of poverty is through trade?
I agree wholeheartedly. The greatest progress that has been made towards the first global goal has resulted from the liberalisation of world trade. We want to move more nations from aid to trade, because that is where their future lies.
The Secretary of State may know that the countries of East Africa are some of the worst performers in terms of road deaths and serious road accidents. Could part of the trading relationship involve trade in both services and technology to help to bring down those dreadful casualty figures?
Absolutely. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman and thank him for the work he does on a critical issue that results in an enormous number of deaths every year. I think there will be a greater onus on us to provide technical support for developing countries, and cutting the number of road deaths is clearly an area in which that technical support will be needed.
Key to boosting East African trade is continuing to break down non-tariff barriers between East African countries, reduce transportation costs, and reduce import-export clearance times. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the TradeMark East Africa programme has an important continuing role in helping to boost trade even further?
I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend. Frictionless trade is a good thing, and the corridor that TradeMark East Africa has provided has cut border times dramatically, as well as cutting corruption. We are funding the second leg of that trade corridor, and it has done amazing work for the region’s prosperity.
If we are to promote trade, we need to be able to promote travel. However, the Scotland Malawi Partnership and others have received a litany of complaints from people who want to come to the United Kingdom and sell their goods from East Africa, but have been denied visas by the Home Office. Will the Secretary of State meet representatives of the Home Office as a matter of urgency to ensure that they sort out the mess of the East African visa system?
I have frequent dialogues with colleagues throughout the Government. As the hon. Gentleman will know, 70 of my staff are embedded in the Department for International Trade to deal with these issues, particularly in respect of developing nations, but if he knows of any specific cases and will pass them on to me, I shall be happy to look at them.
In Lisbon 11 years ago, the historic joint Africa-EU strategy was launched. That strategy, which was based on the principles of ownership, partnership and solidarity, has already had to withstand the economic impact of the global financial crisis and the eurozone crisis. What assessment has the Secretary of State made of the social and economic impact that Brexit will have on it?
The fact that we will be able to make our own trade arrangements with developing countries will be of massive advantage to those countries, and the nations with which we work are incredibly excited about the possibilities that will result from our leaving the EU. I think that we should be optimistic about Africa’s future, and its leaders are optimistic, but as well as promoting trade we must help them to combat illicit money flows. If we add up everything that goes into those nations, we see that it is tiny in comparison with what leaves them as a result of corruption and illicit flows. We will deal with both.
I am grateful for the Secretary of State’s answer, but I have to say that I do not share her optimism. Along with many others, I believe that the joint Africa-EU strategy marked a new phase in Africa-EU relations, opening a gateway to future trade deals based on benefits for African communities, not just European corporations. How will the Secretary of State ensure that any future deals negotiated by her Government benefit rather than damage the livelihoods of the world’s poorest people?
Because at the heart of our trade strategy as we leave the EU are developing nations—we want to give them preferential treatment and support them in their ambitions. I would point to the evidence that since we announced that we are leaving the EU, we have made huge progress on initiatives like the Sahel alliance and a greater focus with bilateral partners including France on our work together in Africa. I urge the hon. Lady to be optimistic about the future.
Investments from our aid budget in technologies are saving and changing lives all over the world. Half of our research budget this year is for new technologies in developing countries in health, agriculture, climate, clean energy, water and education and for humanitarian response in emergencies.
The Phoenix rotary club in Chelmsford supports the One Last Push campaign to eradicate polio, and new technology means that polio workers on the ground can target efforts where they are most needed. Will my hon. Friend confirm that this Government will continue to support the One Last Push campaign and end polio for good?
This question gives me an opportunity to pay tribute not only to the rotary club my hon. Friend mentions but to Rotarians across the world who have been working hard on this push to eradicate polio. UK Aid has been at their side throughout this journey; we have eradicated something like 99% of the world’s polio cases, but we must continue to push for that final 1%.
In April, Commonwealth Heads of Government committed to achieving quality eye care for all. Will my hon. Friend meet me and other vision campaigners to ensure that vision is taken seriously at this month’s global disability summit?
I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting such an important issue. As someone who is extremely myopic, I benefit from glasses. This is an incredibly important aspect of what we can do, and at this month’s disability summit the world will be coming together to pledge what more it can do to help with people’s inclusion around the world, and certainly vision will play a key role.
Last week I met some of CAFOD’s Pacific climate warriors who campaign for environmental justice so that they can protect their homes so that we can all work together to protect our common home. What are the British Government doing to promote the development of technology in places that suffer the most catastrophic effects of climate change that ultimately affect the UK too?
The hon. Lady is right to highlight this issue. She will be aware of the announcements we made alongside so many of the small island states at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in April to help them with technology to adapt to the changing climate, and also the additional £61 million announced by the Prime Minister to tackle the scourge of plastics in our oceans.
Some small charities are working exceptionally hard in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly using technology to deliver much needed clean drinking water to those areas. What help can the Government offer to those charities to deliver for those people in that exceptionally dry part of the continent of Africa?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to draw attention to the challenges posed by climate change, particularly to the countries nearest the Sahara. UK Aid is working very closely with them, and investments in technology are helping to address that and provide drinking water for many hundreds of thousands of people in sub-Saharan Africa.
The development of the M-Pesa payment system in Kenya with the help of DFID has absolutely transformed the economy, particularly for small traders. What other steps and similar developments can my hon. Friend outline that would improve the Kenyan economy?
This is another great example of how UK Aid can work to unlock a payment system that in many ways leapfrogs what we have here in the UK: people can pay from their mobile phone for a range of technologies and goods. Recently we had a solar fridge in DFID, and M-KOPA Solar is helping poor people in Kenya and other countries to pay for those fridges by using that technology.
After continued pressure from these Scottish National party Benches, it was reassuring to hear after meeting the World Bank last week that it has made a firm commitment to no longer finance upstream oil and gas after 2019. However, the UK Government are still spending millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money funding fossil fuel projects in countries that are already bearing the worst brunt of climate change. Will the Minister of State today match the World Bank commitment to stop funding polluting fuels by 2019?
Along with colleagues in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, we are doing a lot to encourage many of these countries not only to power past coal and fossil fuels but to invest considerable amounts in renewable energy. I share the hon. Gentleman’s aspiration to work with developing countries to power past fossil fuels.
Ah! I thought the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Dan Carden) wanted to come in on this question, but he has perambulated to Question 5. Well, so be it. That is not a scandal.
Venezuela: Vulnerable People
We are deeply concerned by the worsening crisis in Venezuela. Too many Venezuelans are suffering the consequences of the Maduro Government’s mismanagement. While we are urging the Venezuelan Government to accept humanitarian aid, we are deploying two humanitarian advisers to the region in support of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s efforts to push the Government of Venezuela to meet the needs of their population.
The Minister will be aware of the United Nations human rights report that details the complete erosion of the rule of law and human rights in Venezuela. Will he explain to the House what the UK is doing to support economic reform and stability in the region, to ensure that the money is spent in the right place while the Venezuelan Government still refuse to acknowledge that there is a humanitarian crisis?
We are providing support in the crisis and to the region through the funding of key UN and humanitarian agencies, but, as my hon. Friend says, this is limited because of the Venezuelan Government’s refusal to admit the seriousness and reality of the situation. We are urging them to address the most urgent needs of their own population.
Very large numbers of people are fleeing the situation in Venezuela, particularly into neighbouring Colombia. Will the Minister tell us what the Government are doing to address that situation, and what opportunity the Government see for the proposed UN global compact for refugees to address crises such as this one?
The hon. Gentleman is right to highlight the regional crisis and the growing global problem of refugees in relation to the length of time they stay in host states and their prospects of returning. Venezuela is not the only affected area. We continue to support UN agencies in relation to this and we are playing a leading part in creating the new compact for refugees.
DFID’s primary focus is to tackle the underlying drivers of institutionalisation. We address these through poverty reduction programmes and through our strong focus on education, nutrition, health, economic development and social protection. Through UK Aid Match, we are funding charities such as Hope and Homes for Children, which supports children into family-based and community-based care.
We all recall the harrowing reports of disabled children being tied to rough bed frames or left on sodden mattresses on the floor and abandoned in orphanages around the developing world. Given that the ability to thrive entails the right to grow up in a family, what priority is the Department giving to finding foster families for disabled children in orphanages?
The hon. Lady touches on a subject close to my heart. When I was an aid worker in the former eastern bloc, I worked in the hospitals and orphanages there. Many of the children were not orphans as we would understand the term; they had families. We believe that the best way to care for and develop children, whatever their circumstances and whether they have a disability or not, is in a family or community setting. The disability summit that is coming up will afford us the opportunity to focus on the needs of the specific group that the hon. Lady refers to.
I am sure the Secretary of State shares my horror at recent reports about the sex trafficking and exploitation of children in unmonitored orphanages. Is this not something that the international community should look to stamp out, and will she do her utmost to move it up the global political agenda for action?
We will certainly do that. DFID does not, as a policy, fund these types of institutions. We have traction with other donors around the world, and we will certainly try to move them on to share our policy.
It is estimated that more than 50,000 children have been orphaned in Yemen since 2015, but the orphanages are struggling with a chronic lack of funds and are in constant danger of being closed. What discussions is the Minister having with her Saudi counterparts and others to ensure that the orphanages are getting the support they need?
This is a complex area, and I thank the hon. Lady for raising it. In addition to the efforts we are making with the Saudis and the Emiratis to try to get supplies into Yemen, we are also aware of in-country issues with moving supplies around, including basic vaccines and so forth. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Middle East is in frequent contact with all parties, as am I.
The Indian diaspora in this country is incredibly generous in donating money to fund orphanages and schools for disabled children in India. What assistance can the Department give to match fund that generosity?
Our aid programmes in India are limited to investments on which we make a return and to technical support. We do not do traditional aid programmes in India, and we certainly do not fund the types of institutions to which my hon. Friend refers. If he thinks we should be doing something that we are not, he can write to me and I will take a look at it, but that is our policy.
Access to Education
We supported 7.1 million children between 2015 and 2017 through bilateral and multilateral education programmes. UK leadership has secured ambitious commitments to ensure that children have access to 12 years of quality education.
I thank the Minister for her response. DFID is working with the Pakistan Minorities Teachers’ Association to provide education to religious minorities in schools. Does the Minister agree that DFID should continue and expand its work with the PMTA to ensure that hate material is removed from textbooks and that it does not inadvertently fund discriminatory materials?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue, and I can reassure him that DFID does not fund the production of any textbooks in Pakistan that contain any bias against religious minorities. I can also confirm that in terms of our support for education in Pakistan, we support independent evaluations—
That is extremely helpful, but I am keen to get others in.
Given that most jobs in developing countries will be in self-employment or small businesses, what input does DFID have into the curriculum in developing countries to ensure that the necessary skills are taught?
The education strategy that we published earlier this year focuses on ensuring that people leave primary school with good literacy and maths skills and that we invest in high-quality teaching.
Last month I had the pleasure of visiting a Voluntary Service Overseas project in Malawi that focuses on the promotion of youth engagement in the country. My time was spent with young people from all over the country who were passionate, political and eager to have their voices heard. Will the Minister commit to meet me to discuss that project and how we can support youth voice structures in developing countries?
I am delighted to hear about the hon. Lady’s wonderful trip to Malawi and look forward to meeting her to discuss it in more detail. I can confirm that we are doing extensive bilateral work in Malawi and that many young people from the UK go out with the VSO’s International Citizen Service.
Some 11.5 million young people globally have signed a petition to the United Nations backing a $10 billion plan to create an international finance facility for education that would guarantee every child the right to an education by 2030. If we are to meet the sustainable development goal on education, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown says that we require an “extraordinary, indeed superhuman, effort.” Will the Government provide both financial guarantees to such a facility and that superhuman effort?
I pay tribute to former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s and his work on the girls’ education agenda around the world. We are considering the feasibility of that international financing facility for education, and we are going through the technical detail, but we are not yet in a position to support the proposal.
Order. I will take Questions 7 and 9, but there will be no time for supplementaries.
Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh
The UK has helped to lead the international response to the crisis. We are working with the Government of Bangladesh and humanitarian partners to improve shelters, provide water and sanitation, vaccinate against deadly disease and pre-position emergency supplies.
Save the Children reports that just over 70% of school-age Rohingya children in Bangladesh are currently out of school. Will the Department help to lead a significant scale-up of education programming in the refugee camps?
Save the Children has warned that not only are powerful storms affecting the Rohingya refugee camps, but such storms are likely to become more frequent. What are the Government doing to ensure that global action is taken to address flooding issues? [Interruption.]
I understand the sense of anticipation. I just remind the House that we are discussing the plight of Rohingya refugees, whom we owe some empathy and respect.
My right hon. Friend the Minister for Asia and the Pacific was at Cox’s Bazar last weekend. He raised issues of global support with the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, who was also there. We are working with global partners to do all we can to meet the needs of those in such difficult circumstances.
The Red Cross has announced that conditions are not ready for Rohingya refugees to return to Myanmar. This will be a protracted crisis, with up to 200,000 Rohingya being affected by the monsoon season. This was not a surprise. Where was the Government’s disaster relief plan?
The hon. Lady is right, and we are already working with other agencies on the fact that the refugees are likely to be there for much longer than people would originally have expected. It is still important that they are safe to return to Myanmar but, if that is not possible, we will indeed be working with others to make sure they are as safe as possible where they are.
[In British Sign Language]: On 24 July we will hold a global disability conference here in London, organised by the UK Government, by the Kenyan Government and by the International Disability Alliance. For too long, in the world’s poorest countries, disabled people have not been able to reach their full potential because of stigma or not enough practical support. I am proud to be focused on this area, which has been neglected for too long. The conference will support the global effort to advance disability inclusion for some countries’ most vulnerable people. [Applause.]
In thanking the Secretary of State, and the gratitude of the House is obvious, let me just say by way of reply that that is—[in British Sign Language]—good news.
As a boy, my ayah came from Somaliland, which was a British protectorate then. Will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State explain what her Department is doing to help that great country, which has always been a friend of the UK?
I thank my hon. Friend for that question. UK assistance to Somaliland includes support for critical economic infrastructure, humanitarian assistance, police and justice support, and engagement in counter-terrorism and security. We provided rapid response in the aftermath of the tropical storm, and we will also support Somaliland’s National Electoral Commission to plan and prepare to deliver elections next year.
The hon. Lady will revel in her popularity.
We are giving every support to the work of the UN special envoy, Martin Griffiths, who, almost as we speak, is in Sana’a and talking to the coalition parties. Only through this UN negotiation might we get a resolution of the conflict.
As I said, leaving the EU affords us the opportunity to develop our own trading deals with those nations. We work incredibly closely with the Foreign Office, including through our ministerial teams coming together once a week to discuss these matters.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, earlier this year I convened the first cross-ministerial official development assistance group. Every Department that spends ODA money, and the National Security Council, which looks after the cross-government funds, meets at that group, through which we will provide training, support and the tools DFID uses to get other Departments to the standard we want them to reach.
Tackling modern slavery is a priority for the Department. Last year my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced £40 million of new funding that aims to reach at least 500,000 people at risk of slavery. We will continue to work on this as a priority.
I will be answering an urgent question on this matter shortly. We have taken a great deal of interest over many years in the affairs of those Bedouins at Khan al-Ahmar. I visited them just a few weeks ago and this remains a matter of great concern to the UK.
Absolutely; that is our policy. I will be visiting the HALO Trust tomorrow. It does a tremendous amount of work de-mining in many parts of the world and it is a very valued partners of ours.
We have many discussions with the Government and state of Israel about the issues recently in Gaza. Although it is right for Israel to protect itself, aid workers and medical workers should never be a target for attack.
The Prime Minister was asked—
I am sure the whole House will wish to join me in offering our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Private Reece Miller from the 1st Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment, who died on 30 June while on operations in Estonia as a result of a non-battle injury. Private Miller served his country with great distinction and that service will not be forgotten.
This week marks 70 years since the NHS was founded. It is rightly one of the nation’s most loved institutions, and I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to and recognise the dedication and hard work of NHS staff across the country.
The country witnessed a very rare and welcome event last night: the England football team winning a penalty shoot-out. The explosion of relief and, most of all, joy could be felt up and down the country, not just in the Smoking Room of the House of Commons. I congratulate Gareth Southgate and his team on a great performance. Last week, I promised to fly the flag of St George above No. 10 for all of England’s remaining matches in the World cup, and I know the whole House will want to join me in wishing the England team the best of luck in Saturday’s quarter final. Let’s keep that flag flying.
This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
The Scotland Act 2016 transferred responsibility for the Crown Estate in Scotland to the Scottish Government, but a large retail park in my constituency called Fort Kinnaird was exempted from the transfer on the grounds that it was tied up with a private joint venture. Last month, the Government sold the Crown Estate’s interests in Fort Kinnaird for the receipt of £167 million, but last week the Treasury confirmed to me that none of that money would go to the Scottish Government and that it would be retained here in London. Will the Prime Minister review that decision in order that the proceeds from the sale of a major public asset in Scotland’s capital city are given to the people of Scotland?
My understanding is that although the hon. Gentleman says that the money has come to the Government, it has actually gone to the Crown Estate, but I am happy to look into that and clarify that point for him in writing.
I sincerely hope that Members across the whole House will congratulate England on their success and welcome it.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the excellent news that Australia has selected the global combat ship and BAE as the preferred tenderer for its future frigate programme. The scale and nature of the contract puts the UK at the forefront of maritime design and engineering, and demonstrates what can be achieved by UK industry and Government working hand in hand. It is the start of a new era in strategic defence industrial collaboration between the UK and Australia, which will be reinforced by the forthcoming defence industrial dialogue. As we leave the UK—as we leave the EU—[Interruption.] As we leave the European Union, the UK has an opportunity to build on our closer relationships with allies such as Australia, and that is exactly what we are doing.
I share the Prime Minister’s tribute to Private Reece Miller, who died while serving in the 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment. Our thoughts are with this family and friends and, of course, with the entire regiment.
I spent the weekend congratulating the NHS on its 70th birthday in Nye Bevan’s birthplace. The message from the crowd there was: “The NHS is great; let’s fund it properly.” [Interruption.]
While we are speaking of emergency services, we should send from the House a message of our thanks and support to all those firefighters tackling the huge fires on Saddleworth moor and Winter Hill.
Of course, I congratulate the England team on a fantastic performance last night and wish them well on Saturday in the match against Sweden.
With fares rising above inflation, passenger numbers falling and services being cut, does the Prime Minister accept her failure on yet another public service: the buses?
First, I absolutely agree with the right hon. Gentleman and, I am sure, all Members of this House that our thanks should go to the firefighters and troops who have been struggling to deal with the terrible fires that we have seen on the moorlands in the north of Britain. On his point about buses, I merely point out to him that we should look at the responsibility that local authorities up and down the country have for the buses.
May I also comment on the right hon. Gentleman’s remark about putting sufficient funding into the national health service? At the last election, the Labour party said that giving the NHS an extra 2.2% a year would make it
“the envy of the world.”
Well, we are not giving it an extra 2.2% or, indeed, an extra 2.5% or 3%. We are giving the NHS an extra 3.4% a year. Now the right hon. Gentleman tries to say that that is not enough. What should we believe—what he said before the election or what he says after the election?
In case the Prime Minister has forgotten, my question was about buses. Since 2010, her Government have cut 46% from bus budgets in England and passenger numbers have fallen, and, among the elderly and disabled, they have fallen by 10%. Her Government belatedly committed to keeping the free bus pass, but a bus pass is not much use if there is not a bus. Does she think it is fair that bus fares have risen by 13% more than inflation since 2010?
The right hon. Gentleman says that, in his first question, he asked about buses; he did indeed and I gave him an answer in reference to buses. What he cannot do is simply stand up and make assertions about what the Government are doing without expecting those to be challenged, which is exactly what I did on his funding for the national health service.
It was right that we made that commitment in relation to bus passes. What we are seeing across the country is that, as people’s working habits are changing, there is less usage of buses, but we are working with local authorities on this. Local authorities have many responsibilities in relation to buses, and I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman asks some of those local authorities what they are doing about the buses in their own areas.
Under this Government, fares have risen three times faster than people’s pay. Bus users are often people on lower incomes whose wages are lower than they were 10 years ago in real terms and who have suffered a benefits-freeze. Under the stewardship of this Government, 500 bus routes have been cut every year, leaving many people more isolated and lonely and damaging our local communities. Does the Prime Minister believe that bus services are a public responsibility, or just something that we leave to the market?
I have made the point on two occasions about the responsibilities that others have in relation to buses. The right hon. Gentleman might, for example, look at what the Mayor of London—who when I last looked was a Labour politician—is doing in relation to buses in London. The right hon. Gentleman talks also about the impact of fares on lower-income people. It is important that we consider the situation of people who are on low incomes. That is why it is this Government who introduced the national living wage and have increased the national living wage. That is why it is this Government who have taken 4 million people out of paying income tax altogether. That is helping people on low incomes in this country.
When Sadiq Khan ran for Mayor of London, he promised to freeze bus fares, and what has he done? He has frozen bus fares. [Interruption.] If the Prime Minister is concerned about the travelcard fares, she should speak to the Secretary of State for Transport: he is the one who sets that fare. Bus routes are being wiped out: 26 million fewer journeys have been made across the north of England and the midlands under her Government. So much for a northern powerhouse and a midlands engine. Can we be clear: does the Prime Minister think that deregulation of the bus industry, putting profit before passengers, has been a success or a failure?
The right hon. Gentleman talks about what the Mayor of London has done, but what have we seen in the number of people using buses in London? It has gone down under the current Mayor. If he wants to talk about what Mayors are doing, I am very happy to talk about what Andy Street, the Conservative Mayor of the West Midlands, has done; he has extended free bus fares to apprentices and students.
It will be a Labour Government who save the bus industry and who give free fares to under 26-year-olds. The truth is that since deregulation fares have risen faster than inflation, ridership has fallen and these private bus monopolies have made a profit of £3.3 billion since 2010. That is what the Tories give us in public transport. The Government have given Metro Mayors the powers to franchise and regulate to secure better services. Why will they not extend that power to all local authorities?
Of course, the local authorities have some responsibilities and capabilities in relation to subsidising bus routes and fares; and, yes, we have given those powers to the Metro Mayors. The right hon. Gentleman earlier referenced what was happening in the northern powerhouse and the midlands engine. I will tell him what is happening: more investment in our public transport; more investment in our roads; and more investment in the infrastructure that brings jobs to people in the north and across the midlands.
It is a shame that this Government are so shy of giving powers to local authorities, and are instead more interested in cutting their resources. Bus services are in crisis under this Government. Fares are increasing, routes are being cut and passenger numbers are falling. The situation is isolating elderly and disabled people, damaging communities and high streets, and leading to more congestion in our towns and cities, with people spending more time travelling to work or school. It is bad for our climate change commitments and for our air quality. Will the Prime Minister at last recognise the crucial importance of often the only mode of transport available for many people by ending the cuts to bus budgets and giving councils the power to ensure that everyone gets a regulated bus service, wherever they live?
I will take no lessons from the right hon. Gentleman in devolution to local authorities. Which party has established the Metro Mayors and given them those powers? It is the Conservative party in government. Which party is doing growth deals around the country, giving local authorities new responsibilities? It is this Conservative Government. And what did we see in the north-east? When we were talking to Labour councils in the north-east about a devolution deal, Labour council leaders there rejected that devolution. That is what the Labour party is doing. The right hon. Gentleman wants to know what this Government are delivering for the people of the north, the south, the midlands—for every part of this country. We are delivering record high employment, rising wages, falling borrowing, stronger environmental protection and a Britain fit for the future.
We are committed to recognising the responsibilities that local authorities have in these matters, and we have committed to providing them with the funding that they need. We have increased the funding to Cornwall for 2019-20 by more than £12 million since 2015-16. It is a matter for the local authority to decide how to spend its funding and to make decisions on local matters, but I agree with my hon. Friend and would encourage local authorities to ensure that, in doing that, they are absolutely taking into account the wishes and concerns of the communities that they serve, including the one to which my hon. Friend referred.
As a football fan, may I congratulate England on their very fine victory in the World cup—[Interruption.]
Order. It is very unfair on the leader of the Scottish National party—[Interruption.] Order. I inform the House, almost certainly for the first time, that we are today visited by an American state senator and his wife, whom I had the great privilege of meeting earlier this morning. I am sure we will wish to impress the two of them with the quality of our behaviour.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Perhaps on American Independence Day we should welcome the senator.
May I congratulate England on their very fine victory in the World cup and wish them all the best in their coming games?
This morning we have learned that Vote Leave is expected to be found guilty of breaking electoral law. Does the Prime Minister agree that we need absolute transparency in elections and that people must be held accountable?
First, may I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his congratulations and best wishes to the England team?
On the issue that the right hon. Gentleman refers to, I am not going to comment, as I am sure that hon. Members will understand, on what appears to be a leaked report that the Government have not seen. The Electoral Commission has said in relation to the Vote Leave matter that it will consider representations it has received and will
“publish a thorough and detailed closing report in order to provide a full and balanced account”.
The Government will of course consider that report when we receive it, and we will also consider any recommendations arising from it when it is released.
Of course, it is the principle that is important. Our democracy cannot and must not be bought. The Conservatives are systematically shielding their donations from public scrutiny. Jackson Carlaw—the MSP for Eastwood—the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (David Duguid) and the hon. Member for Moray (Douglas Ross) have all accepted donations from the Scottish Unionist Association Trust. The trust has donated £319,000 to the Scottish Conservatives, yet there is no information available about the people who currently manage the trust and there are no public accounts to indicate who its donors are or what assets it holds. The BBC has revealed that the former vice-chairman of the Conservative party in Scotland, Richard Cook, was behind the DUP’s £435,000 donation during the EU referendum, and has
“a trail of involvement in illegal activity and foreign money”.
I am now giving the Prime Minister—[Interruption.]
Order. I very much hope and trust that the right hon. Gentleman has advised those Members in advance, as he has referred to them. I know that he is approaching his peroration and will be sensitive to the fact that the House wants that.
I have indeed, Mr Speaker.
I am now giving the Prime Minister the chance to tell us what checks the Scottish Tory party had in place before accepting such large donations. Will she investigate the links between the Conservative party and the trust and promise to publish a list of all donations and donors?
I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that all donations to the Scottish Conservative party are accepted and declared in accordance with the law, and the Scottish Conservative party works with the Electoral Commission to make sure that that is all done properly.
My hon. Friend has raised a very important issue. Of course, as she said, this is something of which we see many women being victims, but men can be victims of domestic abuse too. I certainly welcome the efforts of the Employers’ Initiative in raising awareness of this issue and in doing that vital work of providing advice and support to employers and employees on the steps they can take to address it. I understand that the Minister for Women, my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins), who is also responsible for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability, recently attended the launch of a toolkit for employers on tackling domestic abuse that was developed in partnership with the Employers’ Initiative, Public Health England and Business in the Community. I would absolutely encourage Members from all sides of this House, as employers, to sign up to the initiative and also to promote it in their constituencies so that we can take every step we can to root out domestic violence and domestic abuse.
I have responded to the points that the hon. Lady has raised. I have been very clear, and I have said in the House, for example, that the action taken against child migrants was not unacceptable and is not something we would do here in the UK. We did not consider that acceptable. She wants me to challenge the President of the United States. What better way to challenge the President of the United States than to sit down and talk to him?
The intention behind this increase in the NHS budget is that we will see it directed to frontline and primary services. We need a long-term plan. The NHS is developing that long-term plan itself. The budget will have increased by 2023-24, with an extra £20 billion a year in real terms compared with today, and it is through the 10-year plan, which will be led by doctors, that we will make sure we are delivering world-class care for everyone and that every penny is well spent.
As the hon. Lady said, it is clear that Ministers should correct the record in Parliament, and the welfare Secretary will be correcting the record at the Dispatch Box after PMQs, as I believe she has advised you, Mr Speaker.
It was a great privilege to attend Armed Forces Day in Llandudno on Saturday; it was a fantastic celebration. Other events took place up and down the country, and it was a great opportunity to recognise the bravery and professionalism of our armed forces and the wonderful job that they do day in, day out for us, putting themselves on the line and making sacrifices for our safety. I am delighted that Salisbury and Scarborough will host the day in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Armed Forces Day will give people yet another reason to visit the great resort of Scarborough in 2020, and I certainly look forward to continuing to celebrate Armed Forces Day in the future and to joining my right hon. Friend in celebrating it in Scarborough.
I have not seen the details of the particular issue at the college that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned. On the general point, I think it is important that we make sure that education—further education, higher education—is available to people and is available to people whatever their background, whatever their circumstances and, as I say, whatever their particular circumstances. I want to see a country where how far people go in life is about them, their talents and their willingness to work hard, not where they have come from and not what their circumstances are.
I am very happy to share the view that my hon. Friend has expressed in welcoming the investment that is taking place in the new campus for the University of Northampton. It is good to see that investment being put in by the university—into its staff, technology, facilities and infrastructure—but putting students firmly at the heart of the institution. As he says, however, it is also a great opportunity for the local community. As my hon. Friend will know, the campus is part of the Northampton Waterside enterprise zone, which, I understand, has created over 2,800 jobs and attracted £320 million of private sector investment, and I am sure this new campus will also be a catalyst for investment, and new jobs as well.
I fully recognise the importance of the early years education that is provided by nursery schools—maintained nursery schools—and, indeed, by others. That was why many years ago, when I was the chairman of education in the London Borough of Merton, I was happy to complete a programme that ensured we put in early years education for those parents who wanted it, at a time when the Labour Government and others—the Labour Government previously and the Government at the time—were not putting it in. We recognise the importance of nursery education.
Despite great Government investment in the railway line from Cambridge into King’s Cross St Pancras and then across London on Thameslink, over the past seven weeks my constituents have endured an appalling service. We are told that that will now improve on 15 July, but if it does not, does the Prime Minister agree with me that Govia Thameslink should be stripped of the service and a new operator—a new operator of last resort—brought in to sort out this mess?
As I have said previously, the disruption that passengers have been facing is simply unacceptable, and it is unacceptable that it is continuing to happen today. As my right hon. and learned Friend says, on 15 July there will be a full interim timetable introduced, with the aim of improving reliability and performance for passengers, and there is work being done—a review of Govia Thameslink, which is going to report in the next few weeks. Clearly, however, we need to ensure that the priority is to make sure that that interim timetable is implemented and passengers do get the services that they need. We also need to ensure that if the services are not provided in the way that is right and are not what the passengers need, the Department for Transport will look at this, and that nothing is off the table.
There is every hope, because of the investment and the commitment that the Government are giving through our modern industrial strategy. The hon. Lady asks if I and members of the Government will visit the Great Exhibition of the North, and I think she may be surprised to find how many of us do indeed visit it over the summer.
I am sure people will. I visited the constituency of the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah) in February, and I am still fizzing with excitement about the matter five months later.
Popular Bramhall hairdressers Ed and Mike are visiting Parliament today. Like many other small businesses, it is because of their skills, expertise and hard work that they are successful. Will the Prime Minister join me in praising small businesses up and down the country for the work that they do, and does she agree that is by building a strong economy that we provide the best conditions for them to survive and thrive?
I am happy to join my hon. Friend in recognising the vital role that small businesses play in our economy and, indeed, in our local communities. They provide valuable services, products and jobs for local people, and we should never fail to recognise the great work that they do. Government’s role is to ensure that there is a strong economy in which those businesses can thrive, and that is exactly what the Conservative Government are doing.
I commend the excellent work that the hon. Lady continues to do as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Zimbabwe. We obviously welcome the announcement of the date of the election on 30 July, but we urge all parties involved to pursue free, fair and peaceful elections, because that is absolutely what the Zimbabwean people deserve. We will certainly watch very carefully to see how those elections are conducted, and consider the conduct of those elections as appropriate. We have repeatedly said that if the Zimbabwean Government can demonstrate commitment to political and economic reform the UK stands ready to do all that it can to support recovery, but that commitment is essential.
President Macron has ordered that every one of his Cabinet Ministers should be subject to a performance review. When the Prime Minister meets her Cabinet on Friday, will she judge every one of their contributions and the final deal that they decide against the very clear criteria laid down in the Conservative manifesto and the Labour manifesto, which got 85% of the votes, that we will categorically leave the single market, the customs union and the remit of the European Court of Justice?
I am pleased to tell my right hon. Friend that we have a strong team in Cabinet who will take this decision on Friday. I assure him that the Brexit that the Government will deliver and are working to deliver is a Brexit that ensures that we are out of the customs union, we are out of the single market, we are out of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, we are out of the common agricultural policy, we are out of the common fisheries policy, we bring an end to free movement, we take control of our borders, and we have an independent trade policy, but we are also able to have a good trade arrangement with the European Union, protecting jobs and prosperity for the future.
I have made it very clear that we are committed to no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland and to as frictionless a border with the European Union in future as possible. Can I also say that I think fishermen up and down the country welcome the proposals that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has introduced on fisheries policy for the future? It is this Government who are taking the UK out of the common fisheries policy. The worst policy for fishermen in Scotland would be the Scottish National party’s policy of staying in the CFP.
In Harlow in 2016—[Interruption.]
Order. I know what this question is about and it must be heard with courtesy and respect.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
In Harlow in 2016, a beautiful little girl, Summer Grant, tragically lost her life when a bouncy castle she was playing in blew away. This weekend there was another horrific fatality from an inflatable in Great Yarmouth. The grandmother of Summer Grant has contacted me to ask for more safeguarding and training for these temporary structures. My right hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Brandon Lewis) has also urged for lessons to be learned. I have been contacted by other parents around the country whose children have been injured in similar circumstances. A reputable operator from Harlow has told me that bouncy castles can be bought for just a few hundred pounds on eBay and that many inflatables are not properly regulated. Will my right hon. Friend urgently review the regulations on bouncy castles and inflatables, and will she implement a temporary ban on bouncy castles and inflatables in public areas until we know they can be safe?
My right hon. Friend raises a very, very serious issue. I offer my deepest condolences, and I am sure those of the whole House, to the family of Summer Grant and the family of Ava-May Littleboy, who tragically was the victim of the bouncy castle incident that took place at the weekend. I share my right hon. Friend’s concerns about these tragic incidents. As regards the incident that took place at the weekend, I understand that Norfolk police, aided by and working with the Health and Safety Executive, has started an investigation into the incident. It is too early to know the cause of the incident, but if any findings emerge from the investigation, the necessary recommendations to improve safety will be shared across the relevant sectors as soon as possible.
This country has a proud and long tradition of welcoming those who are fleeing from persecution and providing them with appropriate support. As the hon. Gentleman will have noticed, the Home Secretary is on the Front Bench and will have heard his specific issue about Home Office contracts in his area. We have that long and proud tradition, and it continues today. We welcome, and deal sensitively and carefully with, those who are fleeing persecution, and we will continue to do so.
Just as an aside, Mr Speaker, the Bercow report on speech, language and communication was very well referenced in Westminster Hall this morning.
My question is about ice cream. In this hot weather, there has been a great run on Granny Gothards ice cream in Taunton Deane, for which all the milk is provided by local farmers. The ice cream is not just popular locally, however, because Granny Gothards has just secured contracts to sell its 135 varieties of ice cream to China, and it is expanding to the middle east, including Saudi Arabia. Will the Prime Minister join me in congratulating Granny Gothards on its sweet export success and on winning two awards at the Taunton Deane business awards? Does not that demonstrate the opportunities in global markets?
I am happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating Granny Gothards on not only its two business awards but, crucially, the export contracts it is working on. It is absolutely right that my hon. Friend highlights the opportunities that businesses will have as we leave the European Union. It will be an opportunity to boost productivity, deliver better infra- structure and maximise the potential of our country and businesses such as Granny Gothards, which is obviously such a success in her constituency.
In the week of a special birthday for him, and in the name of encouraging a young Member as he seeks to build his career, I call Mr Stephen Pound.
May I, in respect of the Prime Minister’s opening statement, declare an interest, as I, too, was born in the first week of July 1948? While I recognise that the national health service is held in rather higher esteem by the nation than I am —[Hon. Members: “No!”]—we both need a bit of care and attention. May I tell the Prime Minister that what the NHS needs is not warm words but cold cash? I would willingly—happily; joyfully—pay more in income tax to save the national health service. Would she?
May I first wish the hon. Gentleman a very happy 70th birthday this week? He is held in very high esteem across this House and he should not underestimate that—[Interruption.] My saying that might not have done very well for him with his Front Benchers, but there we are. May I also take this opportunity, as I have not had one previously, to wish a very happy birthday to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), whose birthday was on Monday?
On the issue that the hon. Member for Ealing North (Stephen Pound) raised in his question, we are providing the national health service with that money to ensure that, by 2023-24, it will have £20 billion extra in real terms. We are ensuring, alongside that, that a 10-year plan is produced that delivers for patients.
Following the celebrations of Armed Forces Day, will my right hon. Friend join me in supporting an inspirational charity, the On Course Foundation, which is helping injured military personnel who have lost limbs, here and in the USA, to rebuild their lives by giving them the skills, knowledge and confidence to find long-term employment in the golf industry? Will she agree to meet me and some of these amazing men and women to see how this charity, which was founded by John Simpson, could be extended to some of our other services, such as the police and fire services?
I thank my right hon. Friend for her warm words about the On Course Foundation, which is doing excellent work, as she says. It is really important that we ensure that those of our armed forces who are injured and who are veterans are given the support that they need. She has highlighted a particular area in which that is happening. Armed Forces Day on Saturday gave me the opportunity to announce that, next year, we are going to have the first national games for wounded, injured and sick veterans and personnel of our armed forces. That has been inspired by the Invictus games, but these games will focus on those in our British armed forces. As she mentioned the police and fire services, I will ensure that the relevant Home Office Minister will meet her.
This morning, I spoke to Afghan Sikh community leaders in my constituency following the horrific terrorist attack in the Afghan city of Jalalabad on Sunday, which was a deliberate attack with devastating consequences. The 19 killed included the trustees of the gurdwara and the only Sikh candidate in the forthcoming elections, Mr Avtar Singh Khalsa. The gurdwara had been a safe haven for many persecuted families and they were on their way to visit the President. At the moment, the Afghan Sikhs in west London are meeting in prayer and remembrance for those killed, many of whom they knew. Will the Prime Minister update the House on what she is doing to ensure the safety of minorities in Afghanistan, and will she meet the Afghan diaspora to discuss their concerns?
The hon. Lady raises a very serious issue. The terrorist attack that she refers to was indeed appalling. As she said, too many victims lost their lives as a result of that attack that took place in Afghanistan. It is important that we ensure that we are providing support, as we do through our contribution in Afghanistan. That is a contribution to security in the Kabul area specifically from our forces, but it is also about working with others to ensure that the Afghan security forces are able to provide security and safety for all communities living in Afghanistan. Tremendous achievements have been made in Afghanistan today, compared with the situation before these efforts, but sadly, as the hon. Lady highlights, too many terrorist attacks are still taking place in Afghanistan. We will continue to work with our allies and the Afghan Government to prevent these in future, and to ensure that people can go about their daily lives in safety and security and with confidence.
In agreeing with the Prime Minister, as I always do, that Brexit means Brexit, and that that generally means taking back control, may I ask her to confirm not only that after we leave the EU we will be leaving the single market and customs union, but that it is her personal position, and the settled negotiating position of Her Majesty’s Government, that we will have full and unfettered control of migration into this country, full and unfettered control in our ability to make new trade deals with the rest of the world and, above all, full and unfettered control of how we regulate our own business?
I am very happy to say to my hon. Friend that after we leave the EU, we will indeed be operating our own independent trade policy. Parliament will be determining our laws and we will bring an end to free movement.
A 19-year-old constituent was stabbed in December 2016. He nearly died from his injuries and his mother subsequently came to see me to get help to move out of the borough because she feared it would happen again. Despite our efforts, they were not moved. Late last Wednesday, as his mother feared, he was again stabbed—this time seven times—close to their home. Prime Minister, it is an outrage that the system is not protecting teenagers in this situation. What does it say about our society? Will she commit to introducing a compulsory scheme—not just pan-London but nationally—to facilitate such necessary moves between social housing providers and quite simply save lives?
On the attacks on the hon. Gentleman’s constituent, we are taking the use of offensive weapons—we have introduced the Offensive Weapons Bill—and serious violence very seriously. I understand that he sits on the serious violence taskforce that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has established to take account of views across the House on an issue that is a matter for all of us, and I am grateful to him for sitting on that taskforce.
The hon. Gentleman refers to a matter that lies in the hands of local authorities and social housing providers. On operations across London, he could of course speak to the Mayor of London about his responsibilities and the measures that he could introduce.
Points of Order
On a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Order. We will come to the right hon. Lady later—I will not forget her—but first I call the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to make a point of order.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. While speaking in Parliament in answer to questions on the National Audit Office report on universal credit, I mistakenly said that the NAO had asked for the roll-out of universal credit to continue at a faster rate and to be speeded up. In fact, the NAO did not say that, and I want to apologise—
Order. This is rather unseemly. I know that passions run high, but the Secretary of State contacted me to say that she intended to say what she is about to say, and the House should hear her say it.
I want to apologise to you, Mr Speaker, and the House for inadvertently misleading you. I meant to say that the NAO had said that there was no practical alternative to continuing with universal credit. We adopt a “test and learn” approach to the roll-out of universal credit, which the NAO says mainly follows good practice, and therefore the point I was trying to make was that the calls from the Labour party to pause it seemed to fly in the face of those conclusions. As you know, Mr Speaker, I asked you yesterday if I could come to the House to correct the record. I believe it is right that, as a Minister, I should come and correct the record, and I therefore hope that you will accept my apology.
On the other issues raised in the letter sent today by the NAO, the NAO contacted my office at the end of last week and we are working on setting up a meeting. On the NAO report not taking into account the impact of the recent changes to UC, I still maintain that this is the case, and those changes include the housing benefit run-on, the 100% advances and the removal of waiting days. The impact of those changes is still being felt and therefore, by definition, could not have been fully taken into account by the NAO report. I hope that that clarifies the position.
I can confirm that the Secretary of State most certainly did contact me last night indicating that she would like to apologise on a point of order, and I certainly accept her apology.
Order. I gently say to the right hon. Gentleman that the apology has been proffered and, as far as the Chair is concerned, accepted. I do not want there to be an extended—
Order. No, I do not want further points of order on this matter. It can no doubt be the subject of future debate, but I cannot see what point of order can arise. If the right hon. Gentleman has a point of order, as opposed to a point of argument or an expression of criticism, I am happy to hear it, but if it ceases to be a point of order, he will have to resume his seat. I call him purely because he is the Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, but it had better be a point of order.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have given notice to you, for tomorrow’s agenda, to ask for an urgent question to follow up that statement.
It is very generous of the right hon. Gentleman to tell me publicly that he has given me notice. I do not know whether he means that he has given me notice just now, in the form of that point of order, or that he has made an application to my office. People do not normally advertise urgent questions to the nation in advance. I will make a decision about it at the appropriate time.
You are an innovator, Mr Speaker.
Flattery will get the right hon. Gentleman everywhere. My innovations are there for everyone to see, whether they approve of them or not, but as far as urgent questions are concerned, as I think the House accepts, I make a judgment at the appropriate time, and now is not the appropriate time. He has, with some cheekiness and a degree of perspicacity, made his own point in his own way, and it is on the record.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. During Prime Minister’s questions, the Prime Minister suggested that when she was chair of education at Merton Council, she put money into early-years education while Labour was making cuts. She was chair of the education board from 1988 to 1990, when the council was Conservative-run and, as far as I recall, there was a Conservative Government. Can you advise me, Mr Speaker, on how we can correct the record?
I think that the right hon. Lady has, to her own satisfaction, done so already. I hope she will understand if I say that I will not get into a debate about the respective local government records of senior officeholders in the House. Apart from anything else, I am not sure that I would want to stand by everything that I said or did in the 1980s.
Demolition of Khan al-Ahmar
(Urgent Question): I had hoped to ask the Foreign Secretary to make a statement on the imminent demolition of the village of Khan al-Ahmar and the threat of the forcible transfer of its residents, but in the light of developments this morning, I must instead ask the Foreign Secretary to make a statement on the demolition that has commenced at Khan al-Ahmar and the village of Abu Nuwar and on the actual forcible transfer of the residents of those villages.
This morning, officials from our embassy in Tel Aviv and from our consulate general in Jerusalem visited Khan al-Ahmar to express our concern and demonstrate the international community’s support for that community. Once there, they did indeed observe a bulldozer, which began levelling the ground. While we have not yet witnessed any demolition of structures, it would appear that demolition is imminent. We deeply regret this turn of events. The United Nations has said that this would not only constitute forcible transfer, but pave the way for settlement building in E1. In accordance with our long-standing policy, we therefore condemn such a move, which would strike a major blow to prospects for a two-state solution with Jerusalem as a shared capital.
The United Kingdom has repeatedly raised its concerns with the Israeli authorities and others, for instance during my visit to Khan al-Ahmar on 30 May. On 12 June I issued a video message emphasising the United Kingdom’s concern at the village’s imminent demolition, and I reiterated that concern to the Israeli ambassador to the UK on 20 June. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has also expressed his concern, most recently during his meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu in London on 6 June. The Foreign Secretary’s statement on 1 June also made it clear that the UK was deeply concerned by the proposed demolition, which the UN has said could amount to “forcible transfer”, in violation of international humanitarian law. As recently as Monday, the British ambassador to Israel raised the issue with the Israeli national security adviser. Later today, the British ambassador will join a démarche alongside European partners to request as a matter of urgency that the Israeli authorities halt demolition plans.
Israel believes that, under its independent court system and rule of law, it has the right to take the action that it is beginning today, but it is not compelled to do so, and need not do so. A change of plan would be welcomed around the world, and would assist the prospects of a two-state solution and an end to this long-standing issue.
As we speak, bulldozers are flattening the village of Khan al-Ahmar and destroying its school, which was built with international donor support, and which provides education for about 170 Bedouin children from five different communities. The village of Abu Nuwar is also being destroyed today.
People who live in these villages threaten no one. Their crime is to have homes on land that Israel wants, in order to expand the illegal settlements of Kfar Adumim and Ma’ale Adumim. To speak plainly, this is state-sponsored theft: a theft that will cut the west bank in two, making a contiguous Palestinian state near-impossible and the prospects of a two-state solution still more remote. More importantly, as the Minister said, the forcible transfer of the villagers of Khan al-Ahmar and Abu Nuwar contravenes international humanitarian law. It is a war crime.
As the Minister also said, he—along with over 100 Members of this House and peers, and about 300 international public figures—has repeatedly urged the Government of Israel not to go ahead with the demolitions. Now that they have ignored those calls, the question is whether the commission of this war crime will have any consequence. If not, why will Mr Netanyahu believe other than that war crimes can continue with impunity? What practical action do the UK Government propose to take to hold those responsible for this war crime to account, and is it not time finally to outlaw commercial dealings by UK firms with illegal settlements in the west bank?
As the hon. Gentleman set out, this is an area of land that many of us know quite well from visits made over a lengthy period. This is a community that was moved before and moved to settle where they are, unable to get planning permission under Israeli planning law and therefore they built the settlement they did. The discussion that has taken place since the formation of the settlement has been about the rights and wrongs of that building and about the difficulties of Israeli law as to what would happen next. However, I think that the overwhelming sense of many of us is that this should not be happening and need not be happening. The damage it proposes to do, at a time when many of us are looking to a move on the middle east peace process in which this piece of land might play a significant part, rather pulls the rug away from those of us who want to see a two-state solution—which, as many say, is perhaps why this has been done.
As I have said, both the timing and the action itself are deeply concerning, but nothing is irrevocable yet. In terms of what we are doing, we are already in conversation with like-minded European partners about what should be done next.
I believe in a secure Israel alongside a viable and independent Palestine. However, it is beyond comprehension that a remarkable country like Israel, cultured, sophisticated and democratic—whose people down the centuries have themselves known such terrible suffering—can countenance such wicked behaviour, which is contrary to all international laws and humanitarian conventions, as she continues to bulldoze Palestinian villages like Khan al-Ahmar, whose residents’ houses are, I understand, at this moment being flattened. What other country would dare to behave in this barbaric way? Will the Government condemn these actions in the strongest possible terms?
The short answer to the last part of my right hon. Friend’s question is yes. The wider issue that he raised—and he put this extremely well in the Westminster Hall debate last week—was the contrast between an Israel for which many of us feel very deeply, and which we believe has many admirable qualities, and some of its actions which seem to go against that history and culture, and about which we have a sense of deep concern and sometimes bemusement. I know that it will have its reasons to defend its actions, and it is for the Israeli Government to do that, but the rest of us are disappointed and very perplexed today.
Thank you for granting the urgent question, Mr Speaker, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden), who chairs the Britain-Palestine all-party parliamentary group, on securing it.
Just a week ago, when the Minister spoke about Khan al-Ahmar—it is a village that both of us have visited, and I know that he has worked on this issue assiduously—he agreed that, if the village were demolished, if its 181 residents were forcibly removed, and if their homes and their school were razed to the ground to make way for new illegal Israeli settlements, that action would
“call into question the viability of a two-state solution. ”
It could, he said, be construed as
“a breach of international humanitarian law”.
However, he also said:
“It is still possible for any demolition not to go ahead. ”—[Official Report, 26 June 2018; Vol. 643, c. 744.]
A week on, I am afraid that—as we all know—we are no longer dealing in woulds, coulds and possibilities. We are dealing with the reality: the reality that this forcible eviction and demolition, this breach of international law, this hammer blow to the two-state solution, is taking place as we sit here today.
We are all tired of asking what can be done to cajole or compel the Netanyahu Government to start listening to their international allies, to start complying with UN resolutions on settlements, or to start acting with some basic fairness and justice on the issue of building permits. That is all increasingly just a waste of breath. I therefore wish to ask the Minister two different questions today, which I believe are more worth while.
Does the Minister share my concerns that we are fast approaching a dangerous place where even some respected Palestinian figures are moving away from the idea of a two-state solution towards seeking democratic control over a single state, with all the implications that that would have for the potential Israeli minority? If he does share those concerns, will he also agree with me that before that shift in opinion can take hold, and before the actions of the Netanyahu Government render a two-state solution a geographical impossibility, this is the time for the United Kingdom to lead the major nations of the world in recognising the Palestinian state, and to do so immediately, while there is still a state left to recognise?
I thank the right hon. Lady for what she has said. I agree with many of her remarks. The danger that she identifies of a two-state solution slipping away has, of course, been potentially real for some time. Individual actions such as this are doubly difficult to understand and accept at a time when we have all been anticipating a development that would be workable and allow us to move forward.
No one quite knows what the boundaries of a future state might be, but we all have a sense of what the parameters would be. That is why the concerns about the E1 area outside Jerusalem have been so important and have perhaps led to some restraint over the years. But if that is to go, what is left and what is next? So that is what we need to do. As I said a moment ago, we are currently in conversation with like-minded European partners about what the response should be and there are a number of options, but the best thing we should be thinking through is what option preserves the important chances there still are for a two-state solution, which has been so long sought for and is still in the mind of the UK the only viable possibility of providing both justice for the Palestinians in some measure and security for the state of Israel. If there is a different answer, I, in 30 years, have not heard it.
Many of us on both sides of this House who call ourselves friends of Israel rightly hail that nation as a bastion of liberal values in a troubled region, so does my right hon. Friend agree that it is right that we ask the Israeli Government to abide by the very highest standards that they set for themselves, and will he underline again the point he has just made: the real solution to all of this, yet again, is to keep pushing for the peace process to be resurrected and following that path forward?
My right hon. Friend has been, and is, a good friend of the state of Israel, as many of us have been over many years, and I can sense the pain behind his question. We do indeed rightly hold a democracy to high standards and will continue to do so.
This is devastating news today at a human level for those who have been impacted, but also for the peace process. Does the Minister agree that sustainable and lasting peace is built on respect for one another and respect for the rule of law? Does he agree with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that the demolition violates international law? If so, will he set out what kind of action he is thinking about taking, rather than merely expressions of regret? Is it time for a global response? Finally, may I join others in this House, the Scottish Government and other states in calling on this Government to recognise Palestine as an independent state?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his comments and the way in which he put them. At such a fragile time, it is difficult to see what steps can be taken next, after what will be seen as a provocative gesture, that would make it still viable to keep working on the solution we want to see, but that still remains a possibility. There was much talk when Jerusalem was recognised by the United States as the capital of Israel that that was the end of everything. It was not and it remains entirely possible to proceed. Jerusalem should be a shared capital—that is what the United Kingdom believes—and despite the Americans’ position we do not believe that has been taken off the table. But every time there is a move that makes that solution less likely, it becomes more difficult to see what the alternative is. As I have said, there will be a range of options and we are considering with friends and others what might be done.
My right hon. Friend is precisely that: he is an honourable man and a reasonable man, and I have some sympathy for him that each and every time he comes to the Dispatch Box to talk about this issue he provides that reasonableness, but he does provide a commentary at a time when we are looking for more leadership and I would just ask him this. At the moment the latest news is that the Americans are discussing the Kushner peace process with the Russians. Has my right hon. Friend or any of his officials or fellow Ministers in the FCO had any input or sight of the Kushner peace plan, or are the British not playing any part in this whatsoever?
The American envoys have been in regular contact both with officials and the Foreign Secretary and on occasions with myself. They have kept many of the proposals very close to their chest. We have said that it is very important that they should continue to engage with the Palestinian Authority and we would again seek that, although everyone can understand why those circumstances are difficult. We have urged that the US envoys might certainly talk more widely to partners when they get close to producing their response to this. I am sure, as I have said before, that the US being the only broker in this is unlikely to be accepted now. We are very keen to work with others when these proposals come forward to find an answer.
It is, sadly, all too clear that, as well as destroying people’s homes, as we have heard today, the Government of Israel are in the process of severely damaging their international reputation when it comes to respect for the rule of law. Given all the criticism that the right hon. Gentleman has made from the Dispatch Box and other countries have echoed, why does he think the Government of Israel feel they can get away with doing what they want?
I do not know whether it is appropriate to answer in the terms that the right hon. Gentleman has offered. He poses his own question, which I think will be out there for many others to consider. We remain clearly very attached to Israel as an ally in many respects in terms of defence and security particularly in what is a difficult region, but, as is sometimes the case even with the closest friends, there are areas where we are not only not certain of their course of action but believe it to be fundamentally wrong, and this is one of those. So we must manage that relationship. This provides another opportunity for us to talk further about what will happen in the future but, every time there is something like this, it makes it that bit more difficult to see that something we have all been working on for so long is going to result in the solution we are all seeking. But we will continue to press for that.
Are we mad in continuing to express concern or even condemn and yet expect a different outcome? No, we are not mad because actually we do not expect a different outcome and, by our refusal to act, we make ourselves complicit, don’t we?
My right hon. Friend has experience of government and of relationships with those in the region and understands the background of which he speaks. It does make it all difficult, but I say to him that we have not all given up on the prospects of a two-state solution, which, as I have said, I do not see an alternative to, and the UK’s determination to keep in contact with all sides in relation to this and press that case is perhaps even more imperative now than it was this morning.
Like the Minister, I visited the village a few weeks ago and saw for myself the school that the community had built there, which is currently, as we speak, being destroyed along with the community’s homes. Today, I am also, like the Minister, perplexed and dismayed that Israel appears not to comprehend or to be prepared to take note of the outrage and the damage done to its reputation by this forcible transfer of communities, which is regarded as a breach of international law. Can he assure us that, as well as the talks he mentioned with like-minded European partners, he will ensure that the Government make the case to the President of the United States when he is here this month that this cannot be allowed to continue and make clear the damage it is doing, because he does appear to have some influence?
The short answer to that must be yes, I cannot imagine a conversation between the Prime Minister and the President of the United States that would not cover such a significant world issue, in which of course the United States does indeed have an important part to play.
Article 53 of the Geneva convention expressly prohibits the destruction of property in occupied territory other than for military purposes. Given that there can be no possible military purpose in destroying the residential community of Khan al-Ahmar, does my right hon. Friend agree with my assessment that, even as we speak, the state of Israel is committing a war crime?
I am not sure if the UK is in a position to make that judgment, but certainly, as has been made clear, the United Nations has already said that it could constitute forcible transfer and clearly now that things have actually begun that matter becomes a much sharper one for consideration.
I have visited Khan al-Ahmar twice and have met many of the families there. This is a personal violation for them, as well as a war crime, but it is also a strategic step. There are 46 Bedouin villages and their future may well hang on whether the Israeli authorities get away with the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar. This allows for the splitting of the west bank and for the annexation, which is now openly talked about, of the west bank by Israel to take place. If not now, when are the Government going to act? When are they going to act against illegal settlements and end trade? When are they going to recognise Palestine and when are they are going to recognise their historical obligations and take a lead internationally, rather than wringing their hands?
I say again that it is my view—and, I think, the view of the Government—that we want to keep the opportunity of the two-state solution open and viable. That requires remaining in contact with the Government of the state of Israel. All these issues—the concerns about the building of settlements and their strategic position—are a vital part of the land jigsaw that the envoys are presumably working through and they must come forward as the basis for negotiations between the Palestinians and the state of Israel. It should be the United Kingdom’s job to do everything it can to keep those channels and opportunities open, and the actions that we will take in response to this will be in accordance with those principles.
Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the village of Khan al-Ahmar is in area C of the west bank, that under the Oslo accords it is under the direct control of Israel and that the Israeli courts have ruled it to be an illegal settlement? Will he also confirm that the Government of Israel have offered alternative accommodation with running water and proper civilisation? [Interruption.]
Both those statements from my hon. Friend are true, as far as they go—[Interruption.]
It is just a question of what the background and context might be. The settlements in the area are deemed illegal, but between 2014 and the summer of 2016 just 1.3% of building permits requested by Palestinians in area C were granted, and between 2010 and 2015 only 8% of all building permits in Jerusalem were given in Palestinian neighbourhoods. Practically, this leaves Palestinians with little option but to build without permission, placing their homes at risk of demolition on the grounds that they do not have a permit. While recognising Israel’s judicial system and recognising the rights that it believes it has in relation to this, other circumstances have to come into consideration, which is why the United Kingdom takes the view that it does about this demolition.
For the two Bushes, Clinton and Obama, building on area E1, where Bedouins have grazed sheep and goats for years, was a red line, but now, under Trump, there are no red lines. Does the Minister not appreciate that his concern, disappointment and bemusement—as I think he even said—do not seem enough when bulldozers will literally be concreting over all hopes for a two-state solution by constructing a continuous west bank settlement?
The hon. Lady makes her own points very strongly. It is right that this has been considered a red line, for the reasons that she has set out. It is yet to be seen what the international reaction to this will be.
Does my right hon. Friend see the link between this urgent question and the debate later today in Westminster Hall in the name of the right hon. Member for Enfield North (Joan Ryan), the chair of Labour Friends of Israel, about incitement in the Palestinian education system? These cruel and illegal actions form part of an unshakeable Palestinian perception of Israeli policy over five decades in the occupied territories that breeds the anger and despair that contribute to an environment of historic hatred that is going to become almost impossible to reverse.
My own observation, from my recent visit, is that the separation is growing, particularly between young people. Whereas there are older people in Palestinian areas and in Israel who can talk about living in each other’s villages and about times past, that now seems impossible for some younger people. This is built on the failure over many decades to reach a solution that would allow that sort of life to continue. I do not think there is any future unless the people of Israel and the Palestinian people find a way back—with all the security guarantees that need to be given—to the sort of life where their security is built on their neighbours and not on walls and division.
I have also had the honour and privilege of visiting Khan al-Ahmar, where I met many wonderful people who were just trying to live in peace and do the best for their families and their community. Surely the time has now come for the British Government formally to recognise the state of Palestine. Surely the time has also come for us to impose sanctions and cease all trade with the illegally occupied territories.
I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. That is not the policy of the United Kingdom, for reasons that we have given before, but I have indicated that we are in consultation with European colleagues and considering what response there might be to these circumstances.
Like my right hon. Friend, I consider myself a friend of Israel and a strong supporter of a two-state solution, but is it not the case that these demolitions cast serious doubt on Israel’s own commitment to those objectives?
Again, the short answer is a worrying yes. Israel has many friends around the world. I count myself as a friend of the middle east as well as a friend of individual separate states. In my experience, the determination to reach a just solution had slipped down the agenda of the world in recent years, but it has now gone back up the agenda, partly as a result of President Trump’s decision on Jerusalem and partly as a result of the feeling that, although we have said it many times before, maybe there is just one last chance before we get into a situation that none of us wishes to see. It is possible that the events of today, a little like the catalyst of Gaza recently, might be a further reminder that that chance is slipping away and that the door might be closing all too quickly.
The Minister, for whom I have enormous regard, has described how British officials were taken by surprise this morning when they went to visit the villages and found bulldozers on site—
They were not surprised?
They were not surprised, ma’am. They went there because they knew that things were happening. They were not taken by surprise.
I thank the Minister for that clarification. They were not taken by surprise, but they went there because they feared that demolitions were going to take place. I would like to be reassured that, when the reports came back that the bulldozers were indeed on site, the Foreign Office immediately contacted the White House and asked the Americans to use the influence that they seem to have in Israel to save those villages from demolition. Did that happen? Have we contacted the White House? Did the Foreign Secretary make that call? Did the Prime Minister make that call? Did anyone in the British Government make that call to the White House?
Forgive me—I do not know the answer to that question. I have been dealing with DFID questions in the House this morning and then I moved on to this. I do not know what official contact there has been between us and the United States, but the hon. Lady asks an extremely good question. I cannot imagine that in dealing with this issue we are not in direct contact with our friends in the United States, and I will certainly make sure that we are.
Strong concerns have been expressed this afternoon, and I join those calls for the demolitions to be halted. Israel has provided welfare for the rapidly growing Bedouin communities and proposed solutions to improve their quality of life. Does the Minister recognise that Israel is trying to work with those communities to resolve this undeniably sensitive situation?
I know from my previous experience that, again, the short answer is yes. Proposals have been put forward, including by Benny Begin some years ago, and a lot of work has been done with the Bedouin community from the Negev and in the area. However, there is a fundamental point at which people’s rights, feelings and desires have to be taken into account. In this particular instance, it is not deniable that Israel has indeed come forward with alternative accommodation, but the question is, as it would be for any of us: if someone offers you something, you have a choice as to whether to accept it, but if that choice is taken away, the circumstances are rather different. What we have sought to stress to Israel is that, although this particular case has been through its legal system and alternatives have been provided, this is not what that community, which has already been moved, wanted. Accordingly, many people believe that those rights and wishes should be somehow taken into account, in a state that values and prizes the need for rights and laws to protect the most vulnerable, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames) said. He is surprised that that has not been the case.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has said that the demolition of structures in the Khan al-Ahmar encampment would be a violation of international law and has called on the Israeli authorities to stop it. If the demolition goes ahead, which is likely given the previous record of the Israeli authorities, do the Government intend to take steps to hold the authorities to account for their actions?
I can only repeat what I said earlier, which is that we are in discussion with other partners about what the response might be, but I hope that I made clear the UK’s deep concern and our condemnation of an action that threatens the two-state solution.
There is clearly a strong feeling today that we need more than just condemnation. Given that Israel’s settlements, the demolitions and the forcible transfer of people are illegal under international law, the British Government could tell UK businesses that they should not collude with illegality in their commercial dealings with the settlements any more than they should collude with illegality in the UK.
I hear the hon. and learned Lady’s views and understand where they come from, but that has not been our policy in the past. We have left the choice to people who know the background and the circumstances that relate to settlements and their produce. However, as I said earlier, the UK reserves all its actions while it considers what it might do.
I too am a friend of Israel, which is why I will not pretend that what is taking place today is happening out of some concern for the welfare of the Bedouin community in Khan al-Ahmar or is the result of some planning dispute. What is happening is a deliberate policy intention of the present Israeli Government, who have no regard or concern for a two-state solution and simply want to expand illegal settlements, which will ultimately undermine the security and legitimacy of the Israelis and grossly infringe the human rights of Palestinians. Having been to Khan al-Ahmar and knowing what lies ahead if the demolition happens without a serious international response, I have to say that if Israel is going to demolish Palestinian villages on the grounds that they are illegal settlements, is it not time for this country and our European partners to take targeted economic sanctions against illegal Israeli settlements in the west bank?
I refer the hon. Gentleman to what I said previously about potential action. Like one or two other Members, he speaks from a background of support and understanding for the state of Israel and therefore with even greater concern and upset at what is happening and the reasons behind it. He will have spoken for many both inside and outside, just as others have done.
We are now hearing of dozens of Palestinians being hospitalised as a result of the tragedy of the start of the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar this morning. That demolition is a war crime, so how will the British Government ensure that Israeli decision makers are held to account for what has happened today?
May I start by thanking the hon. Lady for trying to get hold of me today? I got the telephone message a little too late to respond, but I appreciate that she attempted to get in touch.
I said earlier that the British ambassador would be joining a démarche of Israel this afternoon in response to the actions that have been taken. I assure the hon. Lady, as I assured the House, that there is no shortage of opportunity for either Ministers or our ambassador or consul general to make a case. It is not the lack of making a case that is the concern; it is the lack of listening to the case. Accordingly, we need to see, in consultation with others, what we can do. We have different views about the future security of the state of Israel, but I wish that we were all coming from the same place. We will continue to make our case as strongly as we can.
Like so many Members, I was inspired by the community of Khan al-Ahmar when I visited last November, and I know that the Minister was, too. B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights, has said that the demolition is a war crime, but it also highlights our potential influence in stopping such crimes as a member of the UN Security Council with deep cultural, diplomatic and commercial ties with Israel worth more than £7 billion in annual bilateral trade. I know that the Minister cares about this issue and that the Government have issued strong words, but is it not time to go beyond words and to start using all possible leverage to stop illegal demolitions?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he said. Of course, if there was an agreement, the land rights would be sorted out as part of it, so we would not have such issues. The imperative remains to seek and reach an agreement between the Palestinians and the state of Israel that ends such risks. Today’s actions make it even more imperative that that happens even more urgently in order to protect the rights of Palestinians and, indeed, to see Israel granted the security it needs in an ultimate agreement relating to the conflict.
I have just heard that 35 people have been injured so far today as a direct result of the demolition. I know the Minister to be a very decent man, so will he pledge specifically to investigate why JCB bulldozers were used in the demolition of homes, given that it is certainly a serious breach of international law, if not a war crime?
I in turn greatly respect the hon. Lady and will indeed ensure that that investigation is carried out.
Without wanting to impugn the Minister’s personal integrity—I hold him in the highest regard, although we do not agree on this—regret and condemnation are not enough. We have international obligations, not least those specified in the last line of the Balfour declaration, which states that
“nothing shall be done which may prejudice the…rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.
Palestinian settlements are being demolished in order to make way for illegal Israeli settlements, which is a breach of international law, so are we going to call the Israeli ambassador in? Are we going to tell him that we will no longer trade with those illegal settlements? I suggest that that is what we need to do.
The hon. Gentleman has a long held a passionate commitment to this cause and has a fair way of expressing it, and it is true that we do not always agree. We will of course be in contact with the Israeli ambassador, but I cannot anticipate the actions of the British Government at this stage.
Like the Minister, I had the privilege of vesting Khan al-Ahmar just last September. Part of the site includes a school with 170 children that was part-funded by the EU, so will the Minister set out what representations he has made to the Israeli Government for reparations if the school is to be demolished? The EU and the British Government must be far stricter, because this situation involves children, and Israel is in breach of article 50 of the Geneva convention.
The UK has not directly funded any structures in recent years that have been demolished by the Israeli Government. We have consulted EU partners on the demolitions, and we are keeping the case for compensation under review. No decision has been made about whether we will claim compensation in future. We are focused on preventing demolitions from happening through our funding to a legal aid programme that helps residents to challenge decisions in the Israeli legal system. Our work with the Norwegian Refugee Council has been extremely effective over the years in providing a counter to some of the demolition applications.
I too have visited the village of Khan al-Ahmar, and I am one of the 25 MPs who signed a letter saying that this forcible transfer is a war crime. Rather than condemning the action and reserving our options, we need to hear more from the Minister about what will be done to hold those responsible to account. Does he accept that the longer he ducks the issue of allowing trade with illegal settlements and not recognising the state of Palestine, the vicious circle will just continue until it is too late?
I understand, particularly the hon. Gentleman’s last point. I have indicated that the British ambassador is taking part in a démarche this afternoon in relation to the Israeli Government. We are in consultation with European partners and colleagues on what actions might be taken. I cannot say anything further than that.
Some 181 people live in Khan al-Ahmar, and more than half of them are children. The Minister has acknowledged that the actions of the Israeli Government are contrary to international law, but those actions are also simply cruel. As we have heard, people are being injured by this demolition process. It is a grievous situation. What plans do the Government have to contribute towards humanitarian assistance efforts for the people who are being forcibly displaced?
We are very active in all areas of the west bank in supporting humanitarian needs through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and the like. Plainly, we did not wish to see this demolition and, in company with others, we must now consider what we can do to support those who have been displaced. This is obviously very immediate, and I will report back to the House as soon as we have a clear answer to the hon. Lady’s concerns.
We are kidding ourselves if we think we can stop this illegal work with diplomacy. Diplomacy has always failed in the past, so something else needs to be done. The Minister has responded four times on the issue of banning the import of Israeli goods produced in illegal settlements, but he says such a ban has not been British policy in the past. Does that mean he is considering a change? If not, why not?
There are circumstances in which a Minister cannot win, no matter what he says. I am accurate in saying that that is the current policy, but I also indicated, without any suggestion of a change in policy, that the United Kingdom’s response to today’s activities has not yet been fully considered. We are talking through with other partners what that response might be. I do not want to set any hares running by saying any more in response to the hon. Gentleman’s question.
The demolition of Khan al-Ahmar and the forcible transfer of its population represents a step change in the nature of the occupation. The Minister has recognised that it could well deal a fatal blow to a two-state solution. As he has said, representations making the case to his Israeli counterparts clearly have not worked. Does he accept that this is the moment for a fundamental reappraisal of the Government’s approach?
The short answer is probably no, because the fundamental determination of the Government’s approach is to do everything we can to keep the option of a two-state solution alive and to work with all parties, including the state of Israel, towards that end. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right in saying that, because of the long-standing international concern about this community and because of the recognition of the significance of where the community is, the actions taken today constitute, in his words, a “step change” in what is happening. I do not think it undermines our determination that that ultimate settlement is the only thing that will deal with all these matters. So long as a two-state solution remains a viable possibility, it should still form the United Kingdom’s policy. Of course, in relation to this particular action, as I indicated earlier, we have to consider what response there might sensibly be.
I visited the community of Khan al-Ahmar in February 2018 and met the schoolchildren and the families there. What is happening today is truly heartbreaking. I believe the Minister, and I believe that he thinks his actions are the right way forward, but how far away must the peace process be from realisation and how bad does the atrocity have to be before he is genuinely willing to come to the Dispatch Box to tell us what actions and what sanctions his Department and this Government are at least debating?
That is a good question. At what stage do I—that is less relevant—and the British Government give up on the two-state solution? There are plenty of voices out there telling us to do so: “It is just not going to happen. It is fantasy. It has all gone.” I do not believe that, and I do not want it to be the case, for the reason I gave earlier—I do not see a viable alternative.
The hon. Gentleman poses a very real question: at what stage do we give up on a two-state solution? I do not want to give up on all those friends over the years, on those behind the Oslo accords and on those who worked so determinedly for a two-state solution. I do not want the United Kingdom to be in a position of saying, “We are washing our hands of this,” but there comes a point when it is completely impossible. Until the envoys have reported and until the work has been done, I do not think that stage has yet been reached. Each issue that makes it more difficult, as we have seen today, runs the risk of that day coming closer.
Israel will rightly face international condemnation and obloquy for these actions, but the demolitions will go ahead anyway. Aside from the Trump regime in America, which is part of the problem, is there anybody out there to whom Israel might listen? The impression it gives at the moment is of a state going rogue that does not actually want to be part of the international community.
The hon. Gentleman puts it very forcefully. Israel co-operates in a variety of international organisations, and all the states that work with Israel must and should have some influence with it. He is right to talk about the United States, which is plainly its major relationship, but Israel has a strong relationship with the EU and it has a growing relationship with a number of other Arab states in the region.
This has to be a relationship built not only on what Israel is but on what Israel is to become. Accordingly, such actions raise question marks that friends do not wish to see. Let us see where the influence can be, and let us try to work together so that the Israel we see today, and the Israel we want to see, is the Israel that will be staunch in defence of rights, secure in its own existence and supported by its neighbours, but that works for a just settlement with those who live in the Palestinian areas and in Gaza.
Following this shameful demolition, what must the state of Israel do for this Government to act? That has to be the question. The Minister has said many times this afternoon that it is not UK Government policy, but does he agree that the time has come for the UK at least to examine genuinely hard-hitting, far-reaching economic sanctions, because negotiation, pleading and appeals to international law have demonstrably failed?
I can only repeat what I said earlier. Our policy remains a determination to do everything we can to see that the two-state solution remains viable, to do nothing that will make it less likely and to work with others who are determined to see it become a possibility. All our actions and responses should still be guided by those principles.
We have now been discussing this for 50 minutes, and I have yet to hear the Minister state a single practical action that the Government propose in response to this atrocity. Like others in this House, I do not doubt his sincerity, but I am alarmed by his reticence to do something about it.
The Minister has hinted that the Government are considering further measures, and he has alluded to discussions with international partners. If the Government themselves are not prepared to take action in the field of economic sanctions to try to put pressure on Israel, will he give a commitment that this Government will not oppose such measures if they are proposed by other Governments in international forums?
I understand the hon. Gentleman’s admonitions, but I will not make policy standing here at the Dispatch Box. I indicated that this needs a considered response, which we are undertaking in company with others. I am sorry that is not as neat as a swift, immediate response, but I think it is the right response. We will consider with others what to do.
I have listened very carefully to the House, and I hope others have listened to the feeling the House has expressed and take due note of the deep concerns that Members have rightly expressed, whatever position they have taken in the past, about the actions that have taken place today. I hope those concerns will go loudly around the world.
With your permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the future for Britain’s fishing industry. Today, we are publishing a White Paper, “Sustainable Fisheries for Future Generations”, which sets out how we can benefit both our economy and our environment when we leave the European Union, and take back control of our seas. The White Paper outlines how the Government can ensure that more of the fish in our waters is caught by our boats and benefits our fishing communities. We will also aspire to the highest environmental standards, so we can ensure that our seas are healthy and productive for future generations.
The United Kingdom is blessed by waters that contain some of the historically richest fishing grounds in the world. Those waters sustained a fishing industry that was at the heart of coastal communities from Shetland to Cornwall. Thousands were employed in catching, processing and marketing fish, which enjoyed a global reputation for excellence. But in recent decades both the health of our fishing industry and the management of our fish stocks has been undermined by the operation of the European Union’s common fisheries policy. As a result of the CFP, more than half of the fish in our own waters has been caught by foreign vessels. Access to fishing opportunities has been allocated according to out of date formulae which do not properly reflect either changes in our global climate or advances in marine science. During our membership of the CFP, we have seen jobs in fisheries decline, businesses go to the wall and communities hollowed out, but now that we are leaving the EU and taking back control of our waters, a brighter future beckons.
Today’s White Paper outlines how, as an independent coastal state, under international law, we will be in control of the seas that make up our exclusive economic zone—the waters up to 200 nautical miles out from our coastline or halfway between our nation and others. We will determine, in annual negotiations with our neighbours, who has access to our waters. We will also ensure that any additional fishing opportunities then available to our vessels are allocated fairly and thoughtfully to help support vessels of all sizes and communities across the UK. Fisheries will be a separate strand of our future relationship with the EU from the future economic partnership. Through the fisheries strand there will be a separate process, whereby the EU and the UK, as an independent coastal state, will negotiate on access to waters and fishing opportunities on an annual basis.
Outside the CFP we can also be more ambitious environmentally; we can make sure that our future fishing policies are truly sustainable, and that they protect and enhance marine habitats, in line with the goals of our 25-year environment plan. Sustainability is key to a successful fisheries industry. We will continue to work under the principle of maximum sustainable yield, and we will use the best available science to create a policy that ensures profitability and resilience for decades to come. We are fortunate that Britain is a world leader in fisheries science and marine conservation, and we will use that expertise and the flexibility that comes from new fishing opportunities to ensure the current methods of managing stocks, such as the ban on discarding fish caught over quota, work better and in the interests of both the industry and the environment.
We will also ensure that all foreign vessels seeking to fish in our waters will be allowed to do so only if they adhere to our high sustainability standards. We will deploy the most sophisticated monitoring technology to ensure those standards are rigorously policed and upheld. We will deploy not only technology, but the vessels, aircraft and people required to safeguard our waters. We will also consider whether and how to replace the European maritime and fisheries fund, which has supported the sector across the UK.
Of course, delivering for the UK fishing industry depends on close collaboration with the devolved Administrations. The White Paper sets out our approach to develop a UK framework for fisheries management that will respect the devolution settlements, and, where necessary, we will maintain the overall coherence of the UK’s fisheries policy. This will help deliver our international obligations and protect the functioning of the hugely important UK internal market.
However, there are specific opportunities that this White Paper outlines where we can better support the sector in England. We can look at new opportunities for those in the current under-10 metre category, who have suffered particularly badly from some aspects of past policy. We can also look at running a targeted scientific trial system based on effort, or days at sea, rather than a quota for some low-impact inshore fisheries, although of course any trial would have to ensure that the system’s operation was consistent with our commitment to sustainable fishing.
Over the past year, this Government have explained how we can deliver a green Brexit—a suite of measures that replaces the existing common agricultural policy and CFP with new approaches that better serve both our economy and the environment. Alongside replacements for the CAP and CFP, we have also introduced policies that contribute to a cleaner, greener planet and, in particular, healthier, more resilient rivers, seas and oceans. We have introduced reforms to the water industry; introduced a world-leading ban on the plastic microbeads in rinse-off personal care products; called for evidence on new measures to restrict the use of other single use plastics; and, subject to consultation, we are setting out how we might introduce a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles, ban the sale of plastic straws, plastic-stemmed cotton buds and plastic stirrers; and extend the 5p plastic carrier bag charge to all retailers.
We have worked with other nations, through the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance and the G7, to further enhance the health and productivity of our marine environment, and the global leadership the Prime Minister has shown in securing cleaner seas has been recognised by the United Nations. Now, with our departure from the European Union, we can demonstrate even more ambitious leadership in our own waters. We can regenerate our coastal communities, we can ensure our fishing industry enjoys an economic renaissance, and we can do so by putting the highest environmental standards at the heart of everything we do. This White Paper charts that course, and I commend it to this House.
The Secretary of State made fisheries the poster child for the leave campaign, and a number of promises were made to the fishing industry and coastal communities about what Brexit would mean for them. So far, he has categorically failed to deliver, and there are fears that this White Paper is just more of the same. There is a huge gap between his vision and what he actually ends up delivering. Promises made about taking back control of waters during transition will not be delivered, despite what Ministers said right up to the point of their U-turn. This went against assurances the Secretary of State gave to this House and to coastal communities to take back absolute control of waters on day one, and he went on to assess his own performance as delivering a “sub-optimal outcome” for the fishing industry.
This White Paper is full of optimism for the negotiations, but the only deal so far agreed on fishing is that we will keep EU fishing policies during the transition period. We are not holding our breath that this will all go according to plan. Future customs arrangements will be key to the fishing industry but, given reports that the Secretary of State physically ripped up the Prime Minister’s preferred customs option, it is clear that the big decisions for the negotiations, including those on fishing, are a long way from being agreed. Some 70% of what we catch we export, and 80% of the fish we eat, we import. Why should the fishing industry believe his rhetoric today when fundamental questions on customs go unanswered? Trade and access are entirely separate issues according to the White Paper. So far, nothing about the EU’s negotiating position says this will work, so how realistic does he think this position is?
I welcome the commitment to be environmentally ambitious. In that case, will the Secretary of State support Labour’s proposals for national marine parks? I also welcome his commitment to collaboration with the devolved Administrations. What clarity can he give on the future fisheries workforce, including EU workers, who are so vital for the catching sector? Will every penny of European maritime and fisheries fund be replaced, and what is the mechanism for delivering that? Will the Treasury be taking a slice, as it plans to do for agricultural subsidies?
The White Paper talks warmly about the coastal communities fund, but a recent parliamentary question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Holly Lynch) revealed that only about 6% of the fund has been awarded to the fishing sector to date. If the Government really think fishing is the lifeblood of coastal communities, why are they not backing this up with the funding that the industry desperately needs? We do not have to wait until Brexit to give the small businesses that are the backbone of our fishing sector a better deal. The Secretary of State has powers today to adjust quotas and to help, especially, the under-10 fleet. So will he make a commitment today not to wait until Brexit to do the right thing and help those boats?
There is no point in catching more fish if it is going to rot at our border, awaiting export, trying to reach markets. Fishing communities such as those I represent need a fairer deal for the catching and processing sectors, which are the backbone of our local economies and which drive economic regeneration in our coastal towns. If the Secretary of State thinks he can avoid scrutiny on the promises made to the fishing sector in the past, he is sadly mistaken. Warm soundbites do not reassure coastal communities. I assure the Secretary of State that Labour will be holding his feet to the fire to ensure that the promises that he makes today are delivered.
I thank the hon. Lady for her generous welcome of so much of the White Paper. I thank her, too, for reflecting on its optimistic tone, which reflects the sunny disposition that is always there in DEFRA Ministers’ statements.
The hon. Lady asked what we have already achieved. Not only have we already achieved withdrawal from the London fisheries convention, but we have made it clear, as has the European Union, that although we of course will have a transition process, in the December 2020 Council—that is, even before the transition process ends—the UK will be treated as an independent coastal state and will negotiate as a third country. The European Union acknowledges that we will be leaving and negotiating separately at that point, and that is something that the whole House, and certainly the Opposition, can welcome.
The hon. Lady referred to the fact that 70% of the fish that we catch is exported, and of course it is, because, as I mentioned in my statement, it is high-quality fish caught by the brave men and women who go to sea. We will of course ensure through our future economic partnership, which is being negotiated separately, that we continue to have as-frictionless-as-possible access to European markets. Michel Barnier, someone whom I hugely admire, has himself pointed out that he wants to ensure that the free trade agreement that is concluded between the UK and the EU has neither quotas nor tariffs, so we can look forward to a bright future there, as well.
The hon. Lady mentioned national marine parks. That sounds like a great idea, but while Labour has been talking in the abstract about national marine parks, the Government have been getting on with the hard work of designating and protecting new marine protected areas around our coastline. The Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) has built on the work of my right hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon) to show how a Government who are absolutely committed to instituting appropriate protection for our coastline can make a real difference.
The hon. Lady was quite right to mention the under-10 fleet. As I mentioned in my statement and as is made clear in the White Paper, we want to ensure that new fishing opportunities are allocated in a way that supports that fleet but, again following the steps undertaken by my right hon. Friend the Member for Newbury when he was fisheries Minister, quota has already been reallocated to support the under-10 fleet.
I wish to make one final point, which I suspect I may make a couple of times this afternoon. These opportunities arise as a result of our departure from the common fisheries policy. When an opportunity was given to vote for absence and departure from the common fisheries policy in the European Parliament, Labour Members of the European Parliament voted against it. It is all very well to will the end, but unless someone supports the means, which Labour has not done, they are not a true friend of our fishermen.
My right hon. Friend will know that there is no greater critic of the common fisheries policy than me, but I am sure he would agree that even had we not gone into it, we would probably still have a problem, because man’s technical ability to harvest vast quantities from the sea has been a problem the world over. I very much hope that the White Paper contains a firm commitment to an ecosystems approach to fisheries management and that within that there is the possibility of rebalancing fishing opportunity to try to assist the smaller, more local fishing fleet and give it a fairer cut of the opportunity.
When my right hon. Friend was a DEFRA Minister, he contributed significantly to improvements to the common fisheries policy, and fishing and coastal communities throughout the United Kingdom owe him a particular debt. He is right on both his points: it is the case that, in or out of the CFP, we have to make sure that conservation measures are at the heart of our future policy, and it is also right that we do more, particularly for coastal communities where they use inshore vessels, to ensure that opportunities are reallocated to benefit them and the communities and businesses built around them.
We have heard so much about red lines since 2016, but those red lines might now be considered red herrings. I have read the documents issued this morning. Given the commitment to
“continue to work with our European partners to regulate fishing and to set harvest rates”,
will the fleets still be subject to the CFP, but without a Minister at the table when decisions are being agreed? Given that maximum sustainable yield has been established and the Secretary of State has already made it clear to the Danish fleet that it and all others will still be welcome to fish in UK waters, will our fleets continue to be subject to the same quotas as they currently are?
Given that the UK Government
“will consider whether and how to replace”
the European maritime and fisheries fund, is there a possibility that the fleets will receive reduced funding, or that funding might be redistributed on an uneven footing to suit a Government’s political ends? Is there even a possibility that the fleets will no longer receive funding at all? I note the point about the World Trade Organisation wanting to see an end to fisheries subsidies, but wonder whether raw, unfettered competition is really best for Scotland’s fishing fleet.
On partnership working, the Government say that frameworks will “not normally” be changed without the devolved Administrations’ consent. That “not normally” bothers me. May we have a guarantee that frameworks will not be put in place without the explicit agreement of the Scottish Government? Welsh and Northern Irish Members will no doubt press a similar case. May we also have a guarantee that no future changes will be made without unanimity—that no Administration will be overruled?
Finally, before Mr Speaker’s eyes turn disapprovingly upon me, I note the establishment of an English marine management reserve; will that have Barnett consequentials?
The hon. Lady’s anxiety was misplaced, as she had 14 seconds to spare. She was a model citizen and will now be esteemed throughout the House.
In response to the hon. Lady’s questions, I think the answers are no, no, no, no and yes.
The Scottish National party’s position on future fisheries is an uncomfortable one, because it has in the past represented some of the most important fishing communities in this country, but does so no longer. One reason why it no longer represents those communities in this House is its failure to stand up for them and its failure to demand our exit from the common fisheries policy. There is a fundamental weakness that no amount of faux outrage or weak punning can mask. I have the highest regard for individuals in the Scottish Government who are trying to work with us and our superb team of civil servants to ensure that we have frameworks that safeguard Scottish fishermen’s interest, but Scottish fishermen have no friends among the Scottish National party representatives in this place, which is why the SNP Benches are so scanty and their arguments even thinner.
Is this not a great Brexit opportunity to restore our fishing grounds and rebuild our fishing industry? Is it not the case that we have a huge opportunity to make sure that much more of our fish is landed by our boats, so that we ensure that our traditional fish and chips once again includes fish from our fishing grounds, properly looked after by a national policy?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. During the referendum campaign, he made a passionate and coherent case for many of the benefits that could accrue to Britain as a result of leaving the EU. My friend outside this House, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, who argued for a slightly different position during the referendum, made the point that when it comes to fish, certainly in the Conservative party, we are all Brexiteers now.
I thank the Secretary of State for his statement. As he said, “a brighter future beckons”. Will the Secretary of State confirm that, when we leave the EU and get fishing back into our own hands again and under our own control, the fishing-village initiatives and the grant assistance will still be available, so that our fishing sector will be sustainable for the long term?
Absolutely. It is our commitment to make sure that we support all the coastal and fishing communities throughout the United Kingdom that have suffered in the past, but for which a brighter future does beckon.
You will remember, Mr Speaker, that in 2005, having travelled all round the British Isles and visited many fishing nations in the north Atlantic and the Falklands, the Conservative party published a Green Paper on how a sane fisheries policy would be run and managed, and we fought the 2005 general election on that paper. This is a really great day. I heartily congratulate the Secretary of State for his clear statement that we will take control of the 200 miles. We said at the time:
“The Common Fisheries Policy is a biological, environmental, economic and social disaster; it is beyond reform.”
Its most egregious fault is the disgusting issue of quota discards, whereby it is estimated that up to a million tonnes of fish are thrown back dead every year. The Secretary of State has gone into great detail. In the transition period, will trials be carried out on refined effort control, employing catch-composition percentages?
I am glad to see that the right hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson) is back in the House and in rude health. May I just say that I do hope that, one day, he will tell us what he really thinks?
It is great to see my right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson) back in his place. He has been a pioneer of many of the policies that we are announcing today, and I am in his debt. It is the case that we have talked about introducing pilots of some form of effort control—days at sea—providing that that is consistent, of course, with important environmental and sustainable factors. We will be working with the industry to ensure that we bring in those pilots as quickly as possible.
On the radio this morning, the Secretary of State repeatedly cited Norway and Iceland as models for our future fishing relationship with the rest of Europe. He knows that Norway is in the European economic area, and that Iceland is in the European Free Trade Association, which guarantees them free and unfettered access to the European Union for their exports. Is not his claim that he can claim back quota that other countries currently hold while guaranteeing free and unfettered access for our industry’s vital exports to the European Union another cruel betrayal being perpetrated on our fishing industry?
The right hon. Gentleman served with distinction as a DEFRA Minister, and I take seriously his contributions on this matter. As I stress, there are two separate strands to our negotiations with the EU. There are negotiations that we will have as an independent coastal state. Iceland and Norway are very successful independent coastal states, which have control of their fisheries, and which also ensures that the fish that they catch are successfully exported. We will have a separate set of negotiations as part of the future economic partnership.
This statement and the White Paper are very welcome as they provide the framework to revitalise the Lowestoft and East Anglian fishing industry. Does the Secretary of State agree that now is the time for regional strategies to be developed within this national framework to ensure that coastal communities derive maximum benefit from Brexit? These strategies should look at issues such as the economic link, protecting the marine environment from such damaging activities as electronic pulse fishing, access to quota for small-scale fishermen and infrastructure investment.
My hon. Friend puts his finger on exactly those issues that we do need to make sure are at the heart of any developed regional strategy, particularly for fishermen in East Anglia. He is absolutely right.
The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund will allocate more than £250 million to UK fishing communities by 2020. The Secretary of State has chosen to ignore this question twice, so let me ask it in a different form: has the Treasury guaranteed that money after we leave.
Yes, it has. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has made it clear that EMFF funding, which is committed before we leave the European Union, will continue to be paid.
As an independent coastal state, we will be able to decide who can access our waters after 2020 and on what terms, but that will be subject to negotiation. Will the Secretary of State reassure the fishing community in my constituency that its interests will not be traded away after the transition period? In considering the environmental aspects of this, can he say whether those terms will also include a ban on electric pulse fishing?
I absolutely share the concern about pulse fishing, which has been articulated by my hon. Friends the Members for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) and for Waveney (Peter Aldous). Yes, absolutely. She and I may differ on one or two aspects of politics, but one of the many things that we are united on is our belief that we need to ensure that, as an independent coastal state, we control access to our waters, and that, separately, we secure the deepest and friendliest trade, economic and other relationship with the EU.
Oh, yes, there are lots of fish in Grimsby. Let us hear about the situation.
The Secretary of State made reference in his statement to the fact that more than half the fish in our waters are caught by foreign vessels. If the Government are so committed to supporting UK fisheries, why have four out of the six most lucrative fishing licences in the world been awarded to a Norwegian company rather than SG Fisheries or Fortuna Ltd, both of which are UK-led companies? Is that how he treats his true friends?
I simply remark that Norway outside the European Union seems to be doing rather well.
The Secretary of State knows that my anger and disappointment at what the UK Government agreed in March was echoed by many fishing communities in Moray. Therefore, I really do welcome what is in this White Paper, which has been roundly welcomed by the fishing industry, with the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation calling it a positive statement for taking back control of our waters. Will he confirm from the Dispatch Box that this UK Conservative Government will not allow a link between access to our waters and access to EU markets? Does he agree that the shambolic position of the SNP is indefensible considering that it wants to go straight back into the hated CFP, and will he accept my invitation to come to Moray to meet Moray fishermen to discuss his vision for the future for the UK as an independent coastal state?
Those are three bullseyes—back of the net, I am tempted to say, on three occasions. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that we have separate negotiations, exactly as he requested. It is also the case, exactly as he points out, that the SNP is in a regrettable position on this issue, and my heart goes out to it and its supporters for having to justify their inconsistencies on this issue. It is always a pleasure to visit his constituency, and I will try to do so later this year.
May I welcome the substance of this White Paper? It has many of the things that I have long wanted and that the fishermen in my constituency would want to see there. Of course, whether we see it in the future will depend on the Government’s ability to hold fast on their promises of separating trade and access to waters, or at the very least a bit faster than they were able to hold to their promises on the transitional arrangements. Looking to the future for a fisheries management, the real opportunity here, surely, is to do things differently for our smaller inshore fleets. Will the Secretary of State take as his guiding principle a presumption of local management when it comes to arranging these opportunities for the future?
I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the generous and constructive tone that he takes, which is of a piece with all his contributions in this House. Absolutely, in Shetland, in particular, there are communities that we want to work with precisely along the lines that he mentions.
My right hon. Friend should know that the fishermen just south of the Scottish border, along the north-east coast, are really pleased to see the progress that has been made with this White Paper, but the issue continues to be how we will tackle the choke species issue, because that is something that continues to concern them.
My hon. Friend raises an important issue. One thing that we hope to be able to do is to use additional quota, which we can allocate to UK vessels to help deal with that particular challenge. It is also the case that the White Paper includes proposals, which we hope will make it easier for individual fishermen who catch over quota to be able to land all the fish that they have caught in a way that ensures that we can have environmentally effective management. We look forward to responses from the industry to our proposals.
I thank the Secretary of State for producing this paper and thank him especially for meeting the fishermen and the industry in Northern Ireland, ensuring that some of the points that they raised are reflected in this White Paper. That is a positive message. In his recent meeting with Minister Creed, did he discuss voisinage agreements, or good neighbour agreements, with the Republic of Ireland? Did he take the opportunity to remind the Republic of Ireland that a good deal for us with Europe will mean a good deal for the Republic of Ireland in our sea fisheries waters?
I thank my hon. Friend for allowing me to have conversations with a number of representatives of the fishing industry in Northern Ireland, which helped inform the paper. Absolutely, in conversations with Minister Creed and with other Ministers in the Irish Government, we have always sought, both in the voisinage agreement and in other areas, to try to work in the interests of all those who fish in our waters.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. Will he confirm that taking back control of our waters will allow us to design a fisheries policies that will be beneficial not just to the commercial fishing industry, but to recreational sea anglers, and will he bear their interests in mind?
My right hon. Friend makes a very good point. Indeed, the White Paper explains how angling, which is a hugely important part of the life of the nation, can benefit from the additional opportunities that accrue as a result of life outside the European Union. He is absolutely right to underline that, and we look forward to responses obviously not just from the fishing industry, but from recreational and other anglers as well.
Will the Secretary of State explain the logic behind retaining the existing system of fixed quota allocations for the current quota? As he will know, there has been a great deal of unhappiness about that. Three multimillion-pound companies currently control nearly two thirds of our fishing stock. If he wants to take back control, should we not be reviewing something that is now more than 20 years out of date?
The hon. Lady makes a very good point. One of the things that my right hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon) did when he was a Minister was to establish in law that we could move away from some of the FQAs, but appropriate notice needs to be given in order to do so because the way in which people exercise those rights has been safeguarded in law. However, the direction of travel that the hon. Lady outlines is one with which I sympathise.
We will need a growing and sustainable workforce if we are to land more of our own fish, yet approximately half those who undertake the difficult and poorly paid work done by crew on board fishing vessels are from outside the British Isles. What will be done to ensure that we have the workforce that we will need to rely on if we are to land more of our own fish?
My hon. Friend makes a very good point. I am in conversation with the Immigration Minister and the Home Secretary to ensure that the fishing and fish processing industries will have access to the labour that they need in order to take advantage of these opportunities.
I welcome the White Paper and its policies to revive coastal communities, which were being devastated by our membership of the EU and the impact of the common fisheries policy. I know that the Secretary of State is an enthusiastic supporter of the wellbeing of those communities, but given the Government’s record in the negotiations to date, will he give us an assurance and a guarantee that nothing will be conceded or done during negotiations on the future trade arrangement that would dilute the Government’s ability to deliver on the aspirations in the White Paper?
Absolutely. Today’s White Paper is a document that has been agreed across the Government. It represents the Government’s negotiating position and Government policy, and all Ministers and our negotiating team are united behind it.
I thank my right hon. Friend and his whole team at DEFRA for pulling the White Paper together—a lot of work has clearly gone into it. I also thank him for visiting the new fish market in Peterhead in my constituency earlier this week. I think that that was about the third time in the last year that he has visited Peterhead, which is most welcome. However, will he confirm that it is the Government’s position that market access for fisheries products is kept separate from the question of fishing opportunities and access to waters?
I thank my hon. Friend for the welcome that he and his constituents gave me on Monday, when I visited Peterhead for the third time this year. I also thank him and his Scottish Conservative colleagues for their support and for the detailed analysis that they have provided to ensure that we deliver on this policy. It has been a real pleasure to have Scottish Conservative Members who are absolutely committed to the health of the fishing industry and who—rather than trying to make cheap political points off the back of hard-working men and women, as some other parties in this House have sought to do—have put the welfare of the coastal communities that they represent in this House first. It is an exemplary way in which to proceed.
The Secretary of State said in his statement:
“The White Paper sets out our approach to develop a UK framework for fisheries management that will respect the devolution settlements”,
yet he did not properly engage the Scottish Government in the production of this White Paper. He stood at the Dispatch Box and just said, “No, no, no,” to the questions from my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock) about framework guarantees.
The White Paper itself says that frameworks will “not normally be adjusted” without the consent of the devolved institutions. We know what those weasel words mean. Page 22 of the document states:
“The powers concerning international relations, on access to waters and setting quota, will be exercised at UK level”.
Is not that Tory speak for, “The UK Government will do what they want and expect the devolved Administrations to like it or lump it”?
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s renewed commitment that we will leave the hated CFP by 2020. The only MPs in Scotland who pledged to leave the CFP during the election campaign were the Scottish Conservatives, because the SNP is desperate to drag us back in. Does my right hon. Friend share my belief that getting out of this disastrous EU institution will give renewed opportunities for coastal towns such as Arbroath in my constituency of Angus?
My hon. Friend is right. Voters in Montrose and Arbroath voted for Scottish Conservatives because they wanted us out of the common fisheries policy. That was why Scottish Conservatives won seats at the last general election, and it why the Scottish National party is in such an embittered position. In Strasbourg and Brussels, its representatives vote to keep us in the common fisheries policy, but in coastal communities, the Scottish National party pretends that it is the friend of fishing communities. I am afraid that such fundamental inconsistency from a party that calls itself the voice of Scotland is frankly a disgrace.