The Prime Minister was asked—
I have been asked to reply. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is attending the NATO summit in Brussels.
I know that Members on both sides of this House would like to join me in paying tribute to Lord Carrington, who died on Monday. His was an extraordinary life of public service, including as Defence Secretary, Foreign Secretary, and Secretary General of NATO.
I am sure, too, that all Members would also wish to commend the incredible efforts of the authorities in Thailand and the volunteers from the British Cave Rescue Council for their role in the successful rescue operation. We wish them, the boys and the coach who were rescued and their families well. I know that we would all wish also to offer our condolences to the family of the Thai diver, Saman Gunan, who sadly lost his life during the rescue operation.
Finally, I am sure that all Members, whichever part of the United Kingdom they come from, would join me in congratulating Gareth Southgate and the England team on their fantastic performance in the quarter-final on Saturday, and in wishing them the very best for this evening’s match against Croatia. I will happily buy the right hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) a flag to help her to join in.
In addition to my duties in this House, I have had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others and will have further such meetings later today.
As someone who supports the principle of independence for England, I have no problem in supporting England tonight.
I thank the Minister for his role in helping to secure a public inquiry into contaminated blood. My constituent Cathy Young and many infected blood campaigners, however, remain concerned that the inquiry will be delayed, like Chilcot, by those who may have a case to answer through the Maxwellisation process. Does the Minister agree that truth and justice should not be delayed? Will he commit to the Government looking at legislative changes to the Maxwellisation process?
This is of course a tragedy that has caused unimaginable hardship and pain for the people affected. Let me say straightaway that we recognise the hard work that the hon. Gentleman and others from all political parties here have put into campaigning on this issue.
In relation to the specific issue that the hon. Gentleman raises, I am sure he will understand that whether or not the inquiry adopts a Maxwellisation process is a matter for the independent inquiry itself. It is, as the term suggests, independent of ministerial direction, but having talked to Sir Brian Langstaff directly, I know that he and his team are very mindful of the need for speed. Victims of infected blood continue to die, and I know that Sir Brian is determined to complete the inquiry’s work as quickly as a thorough examination of the facts allows. The Government are committed to ensuring that the inquiry has all the resources and everything else it needs to complete that task as rapidly as possible.
My hon. Friend is right to say that the accessibility of local officers is a vital principle of British policing. He will know that we have provided a strong and comprehensive settlement that is increasing total investment in the police system by more than £460 million in this financial year, and for Lancashire police specifically, we have provided more than £6 million for 2017-18. As he says, decisions about resources, including the use of police stations, are a matter for police and crime commissioners and chief constables, but I encourage those who make those decisions to listen to their local communities to best assess their needs.
Before I call the right hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry), I should mention that we are very fortunate today to be joined in one of our Galleries by two members of the Osmond family, Jay and Merrill Osmond. It takes some of us back to the 1970s. We are very pleased to have you—well done.
May I join the Minister in paying tribute to Lord Carrington, who served his country with such distinction in both the forces and in government and whose decision to resign the office of Foreign Secretary will be remembered as an act of great principle and honour?
I share the joy at the rescue of the boys in Thailand and salute the bravery and sacrifice of the diving teams, including the seven British divers.
On the question of tonight’s match, I am afraid that I am not going to be watching it. It will be the only game that I have missed, but I will be representing the Labour party at tonight’s memorial event for the anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide—something very close to my heart, given my father’s role in trying to prevent it.
Let me wish Gareth Southgate and the England team the best of luck for this match and hopefully for the final on Sunday. I may know very little about football, but even I can see that England’s progress so far at the World cup shows what can be achieved when all the individual players work effectively as a team, when there is a clear game plan, when they are all working together and, of course, when everyone respects and listens to the manager. Can I simply ask the Minister what lessons he thinks the England team could teach this shambles of a Government?
I think that the England team does teach some good lessons about the importance of having a clear plan which the leader, the team captain, has the full support of the squad in delivering. We will of course be publishing tomorrow full details of the United Kingdom plan for Brexit, which we will be putting to the British public and to our 27 European partners. When the right hon. Lady gets up again, perhaps she will tell us what the Labour party’s alternative plan is, for at the moment that is one of the best kept secrets in politics.
I thank the Minister for that answer, but who does he think he is kidding? Even Donald Trump can see that the Government are in turmoil, and he has not even got to Britain yet.
May I ask the Minister once again the question I asked him at PMQs in December 2016, when he compared Labour’s shadow Cabinet to “Mutiny on the Bounty” remade by the “Carry On” team. By those standards, what would he describe his lot now as—perhaps “Reservoir Dogs” remade by the Chuckle Brothers? But let me take him back to our first PMQs in 2016, when I asked him how it was possible to retain frictionless trade with Europe without remaining in a customs union. I got no answer then. Let me try again today. Can he explain how frictionless trade is going to be achieved under this Government’s Chequers plan?
The right hon. Lady will see the detail in the White Paper but, if she had been listening to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on Monday, she would have heard the Prime Minister explain very clearly that we believe a combination of the common rulebook on goods and on agri-food, coupled with the facilitated customs arrangement that we are proposing, will provide just that. What is more, that takes full account of the wish of United Kingdom business to ensure that frictionless trade will continue. If the right hon. Lady disagrees, will she stand up and say what her alternative proposal is?
I thank the Minister for that answer on the Chequers free trade proposal, but I was hoping today that he would go beyond the theory and explain in practice how it works. So let me check one specific, but important point. For the Chequers proposal to work in practice, based on what the Prime Minister said on Monday, not just the UK, but every EU member state will have to apply the correct tariff to imports, depending if they are destined for the UK or the EU, and then will have to track each consignment until it reaches its destination to stop any customs fraud. If that is correct, can I ask the Minister what new resources and technology will be required to put that system in place across the EU? How much is it going to cost, who is going to pay and how long is it going to take?
No, I am afraid the right hon. Lady is incorrect in her assumptions. For a start, the customs model that we are proposing would not, under the arrangements that we suggest, affect either imports or exports involving this country and the European Union. They would not involve exports from this country to the rest of the world. We are talking about imports to this country from non-EU member states. Our calculation is that when, in particular, we look at the importance of those sectors where either zero tariffs or very low tariffs already exist under World Trade Organisation arrangements, or where finished goods are involved and therefore it is easy to identify the final destination, we will find that 96% of UK goods trade is going to pay either the correct or no tariff at all at the border.
The Minister has, I believe, said something quite interesting, and I do hope that his Back Benchers are listening very carefully. He says that the Chequers free trade proposal will require no new technology and will involve no tracking of goods, but how can that be possible if there is no divergence on tariffs and no divergence on regulation—in other words, on trade in goods we will continue exactly as we are at present?
I am afraid the right hon. Lady might not have sat through all the Prime Minister’s statement and responses to questions on Monday, but my right hon. Friend made it very clear that we are actively looking in these new circumstances—frankly, we would, as a sensible Government, be looking anyway—at the opportunities that new technology offers, and will offer in the future, to minimise friction on trade for businesses of all kinds.
The Minister cannot answer these simple questions of detail because he cannot admit the truth. The truth is that the Chequers proposal is total delusion. The UK cannot set its own tariffs on goods and keep frictionless trade with the EU. The technology to do so does not exist. There will be no divergence on tariffs in a free-trade area and no divergence on regulation. It is a customs union in all but name, but it does not cover our service industries, because—the Government claim—that is the great area of potential to negotiate trade agreements with the rest of the world. Can I ask the Minister to explain why a country such as China would agree to import more of our services if we cannot agree, in turn, to lower tariffs on its goods?
First, I think that the right hon. Lady still misunderstands the customs arrangements that we are proposing, and I advise her to look at the White Paper when it is published tomorrow. The reason we are proposing to treat services differently is that it is in services that regulatory flexibility matters most for both current and future trading opportunities. Although the EU acquis on goods has been stable for about 30 years, the EU acquis on services has not been, and the risk of unwelcome EU measures coming into play through the acquis on services is much greater.
Well, I have asked the Minister why China would accept such a one-way deal on services, and the answer is that it would not. It is simply another Chequers delusion—a Brexit dream with no grip on reality. There is an easy answer to this mess: an alternative that will offer all the benefits of the Chequers free trade area with no new technology, no cost and no delay; an alternative that both this House and Europe will accept; and an alternative covering both goods and services. Can I appeal to the Minister to accept that alternative, do what I urged him to do two years ago, and, instead of trying to negotiate some half-baked, back-door version of the customs union, get on with negotiating the real thing?
Again, the right hon. Lady keeps silent about what the Labour party is proposing. The truth is—[Interruption.]
Order. I want to hear the reply of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I say, in the most genial spirit possible, to the hon. Member for Lincoln (Karen Lee) that she is allowing her blood pressure to rise unduly. I say in a humanitarian spirit, calm yourself, and let us hear the ministerial reply.
The Labour party says that it would strike new trade deals, but its plan to stay in the customs union would prevent that because it would bind us to the common commercial policy for all time. It used to say that it would control our borders, but it backed an amendment to the withdrawal Bill to let freedom of movement continue.
The Labour party also used to say that it respected the referendum result, but now it is toying once again with the idea of a second referendum. The Labour leader will not rule it out; the deputy leader will not rule it out; and the shadow Brexit Secretary will not rule it out. Nothing could be better calculated to undermine our negotiating position, and lessen our chances of a good deal, than holding out that prospect of a second vote. Whichever side any of us campaigned on in that referendum, the country made a decision, and we should now get on with the task in hand. That is what the Government are doing.
The Minister seems to argue that by leaving the EU the British people voted against a customs union, but that is the complete opposite of what he used to say. I take him back to 2011, when he said that a yes-no referendum would not give us that information. He said:
“that sharp division between the status quo and quitting the EU does not reflect the breadth of views held in…the country.”
For example, he said:
“If people voted to leave the EU would that mean having no special relationship with the EU or would it mean a relationship like Norway’s?”
He said it. My question is, we understand what he is saying, but when did he stop agreeing with himself? I fear that we will look back on this week as one where the Government could have taken a decisive step towards a sensible workable deal to protect jobs and trade. We have ended up with them proposing a dog’s Brexit, which will satisfy no one, which will not fly in Europe, which will waste the next few weeks and will take us—
Order. Thank you. [Interruption.] Order. No, I think we have heard it fully, and that is absolutely right.
The right hon. Lady gave away her misunderstanding, as her question seemed to imply that she thinks Norway is in a customs union with the European Union. It is not. What we have on the table from the Government is a comprehensive set of proposals that we believe will deliver for British business in terms of frictionless trade and will deliver on what people voted for in the referendum—to restore to this House control of our laws, control of our borders and control of our money—and achieve a new security partnership with our European neighbours that is in the interests of every European country. The right hon. Lady should get behind us, support us and work in the common interest instead of carping from the side lines.
Reports of crimes involving motorcycles, mopeds and scooters are clearly a concern. We have been working with the police, industry and other partners to develop a comprehensive action plan to focus on what works and what more needs to be done. The police are now using new tactics, including off-road bikes and DNA marker sprays, to catch those committing these crimes. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is now consulting on proposals to give greater legal protection to police officers pursuing offenders. It takes action to secure a reduction in these crimes, not just a press release from the Mayor’s office. Action is what the Government are undertaking.
Today is the 23rd anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide. Yesterday, I witnessed the heartbreaking testimony of two survivors of those heinous crimes against humanity, Dr Ilijaz Pilav and Nusreta Sivac. Today, we all must remember the victims who were tortured, raped and murdered. Will the Minister join me in remembering those victims, and will he commit, on behalf of the Government, to bring forward a debate before the summer recess to put on record our united position that we remember and to debate what measures we can take to help to make sure that such genocide can never be allowed to happen again?
The right hon. Gentleman reminds us that the horror of Srebrenica 23 years ago should remind us all of the intolerance that still exists in the world and why we all have a duty to do what we can to confront and overcome it and to promote genuine reconciliation. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will have heard his request for a debate. I hope that the whole House will also, while remembering the appalling tragedy of Srebrenica, take some heart from the fact that yesterday’s western Balkans summit in London, bringing together the leaders of all western Balkans countries in a spirit of co-operation and reconciliation, demonstrates that we have moved a long way in 23 years. The right hon. Gentleman is correct that we must never become complacent. We must always be aware of the need for continuing work and effort.
I thank the Minister for his response. Such anniversaries should remind us all of the dangers of extreme bigotry. The world that we live in today is a dangerous one. Tomorrow, the President of the United States of America will regrettably have the red carpet rolled out for him by this Conservative Government, but from the public, the welcome will be far from warm. With protests planned across Scotland and the United Kingdom against President Trump’s abhorrent policies and dangerous rhetoric, will the Minister follow the SNP’s lead and challenge President Trump on his abysmal record on human rights, his repugnant attitude towards women and his disgusting treatment of minorities, or does the Minister think that he will simply follow the Prime Minister’s lead and join the President hand in hand?
I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman. This country’s relationship with the United States of America is probably the closest between any two democracies in the west. It has lasted through Democrat and Republican presidencies alike and through Labour and Conservative premierships on this side of the Atlantic. Because of the security co-operation that we have with the United States, UK citizens are alive today who might well not be alive had that co-operation and information and intelligence sharing not taken place. It is therefore right that we welcome the duly elected President of our closest ally, as we shall do tomorrow.
As my hon. Friend knows, shale gas has the potential to boost economic growth and support thousands of jobs across a number of sectors, as well as adding to this country’s energy security. The Government have outlined how we believe shale gas planning decisions should be made quickly and fairly to all involved. We are committed to consulting on further shale gas planning measures. Those consultations are planned to open over the summer, and I reassure my hon. Friend that these decisions will always be made in a way that ensures that shale use can happen safely, respecting local communities and safeguarding the environment.
First, I recognise the work that the right hon. Gentleman personally has put into campaigning on this issue. I am also aware of his personal experience of the devastating impact that this condition can have on families. I reassure him that the Government are committed to promoting the best possible care and treatment for people with diabetes as a priority. The National Institute for Health Research biomedical research centre in Cambridge is pioneering the development and use of the artificial pancreas, and the prototype system is now being tested by people in their own homes. I understand that the NIHR infrastructure supported more than 100 new studies and recruited almost 38,000 patients to help with those studies. That work is ongoing to test the efficacy of the artificial pancreas, and I shall certainly draw the right hon. Gentleman’s comments and campaign on this issue to the attention of the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.
My hon. Friend raises an important issue. First, I am sure we would all want to salute the incredible work that firefighters, the military and other partner agencies have done in responding to the wildfires we have seen in various parts of the country in the past couple of weeks. I encourage all organisers of summer events to exercise caution in this hot climate, to follow Home Office guidance on outdoor fire safety and to take steps to prevent the risk of fire from lanterns and fireworks, and to think about both the fire risk and the impact that debris from lanterns has too often had on farmers’ livestock.
First, I want to reassure the hon. Gentleman that we are absolutely committed to getting the Royal Liverpool Hospital built as rapidly as possible and to securing best value for money in doing so, and we are supporting the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust in that work, but I do not think that what he advocates, which is to buy out the interests of the banks that have lent money to this project, is the right approach. It would encourage irresponsible lending against the prospect of a Government bail-out down the line. It is important that risk be seen to lie with the banks and the lenders and not be underwritten by the taxpayer. We are working actively with the trust and the existing private sector funders to find a way forward for them to complete the remaining work on the hospital, and we hope that this work will conclude in the very near future.
I have known the right hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington) for more than 30 years, so I fully understand that the comprehensiveness of his replies reflects his past distinction as a noted academic, but I gently make the point that I am determined to get through the questions on the Order Paper.
First, as far as this Government are concerned, NATO is, and will remain, the bedrock of our collective security, and certainly the threat posed by Russia will be one of the subjects that the Prime Minister and other leaders will be discussing at the summit in Brussels. I reflect with regret on the fact that the Leader of the Opposition has said on the record that he wishes that we were not part of NATO. The use of nerve agents in this country is appalling and impossible to excuse. The police continue to investigate what happened and how the attack was caused. The Government are fully committed to supporting the region and its residents and have announced new financial help to Salisbury and the surrounding area today.
I know that the hon. Gentleman has campaigned on the issue of DIPG for some time. I think the whole House will want to offer sympathy—which I certainly share—to his constituent and to anyone affected by that appalling condition. I will certainly draw the points that he has made to the attention of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and I am sure that a meeting will be arranged for him with either the Secretary of State or one of her Ministers.
I commend my right hon. Friend for the work that she continues to do, through the all-party parliamentary group on autism, to lead the campaign for better, more effective care and support for people with autistic spectrum disorders. I think that the changes in the special educational needs and disability system that were introduced four years ago have enabled us to join up state-provided services more effectively than in the past, but I am more than happy to welcome the new app and any other new technologies that will help people with autistic spectrum disorder.
The Information Commissioner’s report has only just been published, and the Government will want to consider its recommendations in detail before responding. However, I think that the hon. Gentleman’s point focused on the possible commission of criminal offences. We are in a country in which, rightly, it is not for Ministers either to initiate or to stop criminal investigations or potential prosecutions. When there is evidence, it should be drawn to the attention of the police and the prosecuting authorities, and then let the law take its course.
My hon. Friend is right. I think that those of us who campaigned on the remain side need to respect the decision that the people of the country took, and to ponder the damage that would be done to what is already fragile confidence in our democratic institutions were that verdict to be ignored. I am confident that when my hon. Friend reads the White Paper tomorrow, she will see that we have a vision for a future relationship that will meet the vote that the people delivered.
I am very happy to pay tribute to the work done at the Pendleside Hospice and hospices around the country. It is important that we see hospices as a very important element on a spectrum of palliative care and care at the end of life, which takes place sometimes in a hospice setting and sometimes in other settings. My right hon. Friend the Health Secretary will of course now be considering with the NHS leadership how to deliver on the ambitious long-term funding arrangement that the Government recently announced, and I am sure he will bear the hon. Lady’s comments in mind.
I confirm that any investment that is legally able to be made within state aid rules now would be able to continue in the future, and any United Kingdom funding for money currently received as EU regional aid would comply with those same state aid rules going forward.
We certainly recognise the hard work and incredible risks that miners took in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency and many others. The important thing about the miners’ pension scheme is that it should pay out all the promised benefits in full. My understanding is that the scheme is funded to do just that and that no former miner will lose out.
The UK and the US have a uniquely strong relationship when it comes to security and intelligence services, the results of which regularly save lives not only in the UK but across Europe. May I ask that when our right hon. Friend the Prime Minister meets President Trump, she thank him for that relationship and the results of it, but might also take the opportunity to share with him the many instances that I know my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office knows about, where it is UK intelligence and UK security services that have saved lives in the US?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely correct: the intelligence sharing and other security co-operation we have with the United States have saved lives in both countries, and it is vital to both our interests that those relationships continue.
My constituents in Brighton are, sadly, used to chaos from Govia Thameslink Railway, but the last seven weeks have been a new level of rail hell. Since the GTR franchise is, effectively, run by the Department for Transport, will the right hon. Gentleman shake up the Government so that they finally take some action and show some leadership: action in restoring the Gatwick Express services at Preston Park, which have inexplicably been slashed, and leadership in getting rid of the hapless Transport Secretary? The Prime Minister has been reshuffling her Cabinet over the last week; will she reshuffle it a bit more and get that Transport Secretary replaced by—
Thank you very much indeed.
As regards GTR, improvements are simply not happening quickly enough, despite the assurances that the operators have given. We have launched a review of Govia Thameslink, which will report in the next few weeks. If those findings show that Govia is at fault, we will not hesitate to take action, whether through fines, restricting access to future franchises or stripping it of the franchise. Passengers deserve a far better service than they are getting at the moment, and we will hold those operators to account.
Albania has one of the highest rates of honour killing in Europe. Will the Government look very closely at the case of Mrs Emiljana Muca, who was staying in the constituency of the hon. Member for Norwich South (Clive Lewis) and is now, thanks to the generosity of her therapist, staying in the therapist’s own house in south Norfolk to reduce the risk of self-harm? If she were to be deported to Albania, possibly as early as tomorrow, she might be the victim of an honour killing.
Obviously I do not know all the details of this case, but I am aware that this issue has brought together my hon. Friend, the hon. Member for Norwich South and my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Norfolk (George Freeman). The Home Secretary or the Immigration Minister will be happy to meet the Members concerned to discuss the case.
I call Clive Lewis. [Interruption.] Well, that is a great self-denying ordinance on the part of the hon. Gentleman. He says that his question has been answered and that he is therefore satisfied. If that were a template for the House as a whole, just think of the possibilities!
Will the Minister explain what the Prime Minister’s Brexit proposals would mean for those working for two of the largest employers in my constituency, Bentley Motors and the NHS?
It would be very good news for both of them. In particular, the automotive industry has been arguing for months that we need a deal that ensures frictionless trade with the EU27, and that is what the model we are proposing will deliver.
I strongly welcome the extra £20 billion and the long-term plan for the NHS, but does the First Minister agree that, at a time when local authority budgets are under pressure, it would be attractive to have more pooling of budgets between health and social care?
It is important that the national health service and local authorities work closely together to ensure that community-based care, funded from whichever source, is effective and meets patients’ needs. I know that the new Health Secretary, like his predecessor, is determined to take that forward further.
Is the Minister aware that his Government have already taken more than £3.5 billion out of the miners’ pension? They are like Philip Green and Maxwell put together. Stop stealing the miners’ pension!
The benefits due from the pension scheme to all former miners have, as I understand it, been paid in full and continue to be paid in full, and the scheme is fully funded to meet those commitments into the future.