The Prime Minister was asked—
Today marks 100 years since the birth of Nelson Mandela. I am sure that the whole House will want to join me in paying tribute to his extraordinary life and agree that his message of forgiveness, peace and reconciliation is as relevant today as it ever has been.
This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
I am proud to have Nelson Mandela Place in my constituency, and we celebrate that today as well.
There were 934 drug-related deaths in Scotland last year. Each one of those deaths is a tragedy, and a preventable one at that. Drug laws are reserved to Westminster. How many more families is the Prime Minister willing to devastate before she will allow Glasgow to get on with the work of building a drug consumption room to save lives?
I agree with the hon. Lady that each death due to drugs is a tragedy, and I am sure that every Member of this House will have known people in their own constituency who have gone through that terrible suffering when they have lost members of their family. There is no legal framework for the provision of drug consumption rooms in the UK and we have no plans to introduce them. A range of offences is likely to be committed in the operation of drug consumption rooms. It is for local police forces to enforce the law in such circumstances and we would expect them to do so, but our approach on drugs remains very clear: we must prevent drug use in our communities and support people dependent on drugs through treatment and recovery.
At absolutely no point, because Brexit continues to mean Brexit. I know that my hon. Friend wants us to talk about the positives of Brexit and I agree with her: we should be talking about the positive future for this country. I understand that she has also criticised me for looking for a solution that is “workable”. I have to say, I disagree with her on that. I think what we need is a solution that is going to work for the United Kingdom, ensure that we leave the European Union and embrace that bright future that we both agree on.
I, too, pay tribute to Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birth. The people of South Africa stood up against the most vile injustice of apartheid. Their solidarity and the solidarity of people around the world freed him and ended the scourge of apartheid. We should pay tribute to all of them on this day.
People are losing trust in this Government. The Transport Secretary, the International Trade Secretary and the Brexit Secretary were all members of the Vote Leave campaign committee. The Environment Secretary was the co-chair. They have been referred to the police by the Electoral Commission, having refused to co-operate with the Electoral Commission. Will the Prime Minister guarantee that her Cabinet Ministers will fully co-operate with the police investigation?
The right hon. Gentleman has made an accusation in this House against individual Members of this House and of the Government, and I suggest that, when he stands up, he reflects on whether or not it was correct to do so. The Electoral Commission is an independent regulator, accountable to Parliament, not to the Government. It has, as we know, taken steps in relation to the Vote Leave campaign. I would expect that all those involved and required to do so will give the evidence that is required and respond appropriately to any questions that are raised with them. But I say again to the right hon. Gentleman that I think he should stand up, think very carefully about making accusations about individual Members, and withdraw.
Order. People can rant from a sedentary position for as long as they like. It will not change the way proceedings are conducted in this session. The Prime Minister’s answers will be heard and the questions from the right hon. Gentleman will be heard, and no amount of orchestrated barracking will change that fact this day or any other.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
I stated the fact that the Electoral Commission has made that reference. That is what I said. I asked the Prime Minister for a guarantee that her Ministers will co-operate with the police on any investigations that they may make. That is not judgmental—it is a guarantee they will co-operate. These are serious issues. Current Cabinet Ministers were indeed central to the Vote Leave campaign. After two years of dither and delay, the Government have sunk into a mire of chaos and division. The agreement that was supposed to unite the Cabinet led to the Cabinet falling apart within 48 hours, and on Monday the Government U-turned to make their own White Paper proposals unlawful. Given that the proposals in the White Paper are now obsolete, when will the new White Paper be published?
I heard the right hon. Gentleman say in his first question that members of the Government had failed to co-operate with the Electoral Commission investigation. I say again that he should withdraw that. It is very important in this country that politicians do not interfere with police investigations, that the police are allowed to do their investigation and that everyone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. I still contend that he made accusations against individual members of the Government that were unjustified and he should withdraw them.
The right hon. Gentleman then came to the amendments that the Government accepted to the customs Bill on Monday night. I will explain the position to the House. [Interruption.]
The hon. Member for Brent Central (Dawn Butler) said, “This will be interesting”. I will go through each of the amendments in turn for the purposes of the House. Amendment 72 related to parliamentary scrutiny on plans under clause 31 to form a customs union with the EU. We are going to leave the customs union with the EU so we accepted that enhanced parliamentary scrutiny. Amendment 73 related to regulations on the application of VAT in certain circumstances. Such an arrangement is not part of the White Paper and the Chequers agreement, and we were able to accept that too. New clause 37 was to prevent a customs border down the Irish sea. That is Government policy. New clause 36 related to reciprocity and accounting for tariffs collected, and that concept is in the White Paper. The Chequers agreement and White Paper are the basis of our negotiations with the European Union, and we have already started those negotiations.
That is all very interesting, but could the Prime Minister explain why the Defence Minister had to rebel against the Government in order to support the Cabinet’s position of a few days before? The Government are in complete chaos. The centrepiece of the White Paper was something called the “facilitated customs arrangement”. Having spent a week trying to convince their own MPs that this cobbled-together mishmash was worth defending, they abandoned it. So what is their plan now for customs?
Does the Prime Minister seriously expect 27 member states of the EU to establish their own bureaucratic tariff-collection infrastructure just to satisfy the war within the Conservative party in Britain? On Monday evening, the new Brexit Secretary was starting the next round of Brexit negotiations. No wonder he didn’t turn up—he doesn’t know what he is supposed to be negotiating. Two years on from the referendum and 16 months on from triggering article 50, is it not the case that the Government have no serious negotiating strategy?
The right hon. Gentleman is just plain wrong in his interpretation of what is happening. I have a copy of the White Paper here and I am very happy to ensure he gets a copy after these PMQs so that he can perhaps read it and understand what the Government are doing. There are indeed differences between the Leader of the Opposition and me on this issue. I will end free movement; he wants to keep it. I want us out of the customs union; he wants us in. I want us out of the single market; he wants us in. I want us to sign our own trade deals; he wants to hand them over to Brussels. I have ruled out a second referendum; he won’t. There is no doubt which of us is respecting the will of the British people and delivering on the vote, and it is not him.
We are 11 days on from the so-called Chequers agreement, and the Brexit White Paper did not even survive contact with the Cabinet or the Tory Back Benches, and has not yet even been discussed with the EU. The White Paper states:
“The UK is committed to membership of the European Convention on Human Rights”.
Is the new Brexit Secretary signed up to that?
Let me say to the right hon. Gentleman that we are signed up to that: it was in our manifesto. Let me also say to him that he has stood up and asked virtually the same question, and obviously has not listened to any of the answers that I have given him. The point of this is not that you just read out the question you thought of on Tuesday morning, but you actually listen to the answers that the Prime Minister gives.
The Chequers agreement stands. The White Paper stands. The right hon. Gentleman said that we had not even discussed the White Paper with the European Union. I think I have told him in at least two if not three answers that we are already discussing it with the European Union.
The Prime Minister obviously forgot the question that I just asked her, which was about the Brexit Secretary’s support or otherwise for the European convention on human rights. He is on record as saying:
“I don’t support the Human Rights Act and I don’t believe in economic and social rights”.
He is obviously backsliding to keep his job, or that is the new policy of the Government.
With only three months to go until the final withdrawal agreement is due to be signed, the former Brexit Secretary has resigned, the White Paper is in tatters, and the new Brexit Secretary is skipping negotiations. After two years of negotiating with themselves, the Government wanted to shut down Parliament five days early. They have even given up on negotiating with each other. Is it not the case that the Government are failing to negotiate Brexit and failing to meet the needs of the—[Interruption.]
While I was agreeing the future of NATO with President Trump, the right hon. Gentleman was joining a protest march against him. While I was delivering a plan for our future trade with the EU, he was delivering a plan to teach children how to go on strike. While I was negotiating our future security relationship with Europe, he was renegotiating the definition of anti-Semitism. He protests; I deliver.
I agree with my hon. Friend that all political parties should do just that. The Conservative party has done that, but sadly the Labour party does not agree. The Labour party is trying to redefine anti-Semitism to allow people to say that Israel is a racist endeavour. The Chief Rabbi says that what the Labour party is doing is sending
“an unprecedented message of contempt”
for British Jews. Even some of the right hon. Gentleman’s own MPs are saying that this is anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism is racism. The Labour party should accept that. The right hon. Gentleman should accept that. We should all sign up, as the Conservative party has, to the definition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance and all its annexes.
We should all welcome the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela. Those of us in Scotland are very proud that the city of Glasgow was the first in the world to give the freedom of a city to Nelson Mandela, something of which he in turn was also proud.
This week the Prime Minister caved in to her right-wing Brexiteers, undermining her negotiating position with the EU. In her attempt to hold together her fractured party, she has managed to unite the country against this Government. Playing fast and loose with her own position makes the UK a laughing stock with our negotiating partners. The Prime Minister has put her narrow party interest before that of the country. Is it not the case that the events of this week make a no deal much more likely?
As I explained in answer to the questions from the Leader of the Opposition, we are negotiating with the European Union on the basis of the Chequers agreement and the White Paper. Those discussions started this week and have been continuing this week. The right hon. Gentleman talks about putting a political party’s interests before that of the country. I think the Scottish National party should really think about what it is doing when it promotes the independence of Scotland, which is clearly against the interests of its country.
The reality is that this is a Prime Minister who has lost control of her own party, a Prime Minister who is in office but not in power, and a Parliament that is so divided that it simply cannot function. Mr Speaker, to use a good Gaelic word, it is a bùrach. We cannot crash out of the EU without a deal. We need to think of the next generation, who will pay a price for this folly. They will see lost opportunities and lost jobs. Did the Prime Minister come into Parliament to have this as her legacy? Will she now face up to the reality and extend article 50?
There are strong feelings around the whole House on this issue, but what we need is a deal that is credible and workable, that protects jobs and protects our precious Union, and that delivers on the result of the referendum. That is exactly what we are doing with the Chequers agreement. It allows the UK to leave the European Union, and to take back control of our money, laws and borders. That is what our plan delivers. As my hon. Friend says, let us work together and deliver for the British people.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. In relation to ongoing matters, may I, on a personal note, thank the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and every single Member of this House for the kindness they have shown me?
I am delighted to be in my place to be able to ask the Prime Minister a question. So, to the question—to business. Does the Prime Minister agree that, as part of the Government’s attempt to expand capacity in the NHS, existing sites such as Ormskirk hospital in my constituency, where there is capacity to build an extra floor, should be prioritised for expansion ahead of simply building a new hospital at much greater cost, depriving the NHS of much needed investment which should go into patients and staffing?
First, may I say to the hon. Lady how very good it is to see her in her place in this House? [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] And I know from the response that that view is shared across the whole of this House.
The hon. Lady raised an issue to do with the NHS and Ormskirk hospital. As she will know, we are putting extra funding into the national health service: £20 billion a year in real terms by 2023-24. We will have funding available not just to build sites but, as she says, to improve current and existing facilities across the country. On Ormskirk hospital, I understand the Northern England Clinical Senate has issued a report making proposals around the provision of emergency services there. No decisions have been made—that is a matter, of course, for the NHS—but as we look to the long-term plan, I want NHS clinicians to come forward with the best proposals for patients and to take account of local interests such as those the hon. Lady has raised.
As a Government we stand with persecuted Christians all over the world and will continue to support them. It is hard to comprehend that today we still see people being attacked and murdered because of their Christianity, but we must reaffirm our determination to stand up for the freedom of people of all religions and beliefs and for them to be able to practise their beliefs in peace and security. I am very pleased that I have been able to appoint the noble Lord Ahmad as the Government’s special envoy on freedom of religion or belief, and he will certainly be doing what my hon. Friend suggests: working with other countries to encourage them to recognise the importance of allowing people to have the freedom to practise their religion and beliefs in peace and security.
I have long championed the need for children with special needs to be able to be provided for in the setting that is most appropriate for them. For some that will be a mainstream school; for some it will be a special needs school. We have of course changed the national funding formula to make it a fairer distribution across the country, but, as I have said, I recognise the need to ensure that children with special needs are provided for in the most appropriate setting.
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue; it is absolutely right of him to highlight the opportunities that our announcement on spaceports give us. We have awarded grants worth £31.5 million to enable satellites to be launched from UK soil for the first time, and that is worth a potential £3.8 billion over the next decade to the UK economy. This is the start of a new space age in the UK; it is a huge boost to our world-leading space sector, making the UK a one-stop shop for new satellite services. My hon. Friend has put a bid in for his own constituency in this regard, and I am sure my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary will be happy to meet him and discuss that.
The hon. Lady complains to me that we want decisions to be taken at local level by the NHS, but I believe it is absolutely right that decisions are taken at local level. When the NHS takes those decisions, the important thing is that it puts the interests of patients, the safety of patients and the treatment of patients first. She has raised this particular issue, and I continue to believe that it is right not for politicians here to make a decision like that but for actual clinicians and others working in the national health service to do so.
I join my hon. Friend in commending the work that is done by all our dedicated staff in the national health service. They continue to do that wonderful work with considerable commitment and dedication. He is right to say that mental health is important. It has been overlooked for too long, and that is why this Government have been putting a focus on mental health. We have been doing more, but there is more to be done. We are putting more money in, and we have announced a new package of measures backed by £6 million in funding, which includes rapid access to mental health services and support for children and their whole families where there is a dependent drinker. Spending overall on mental health issues is at record levels and growing, with a planned record £11.86 billion for 2017-18, increasing by a further £1 billion by 2020-21. It is right that we put this important focus on mental health, and I thank my hon. Friend for raising this.
Like the hon. Gentleman, I believe that constituents deserve a rail service that provides for them and their needs. I recognise the problems that have been experienced on Northern, and of course on Govia Thameslink as well. We have given unprecedented powers and funding to Transport for the North, but the issue that he raises in relation to the World cup was one that affected other train services as well, because of the way in which many services operate, and their requirements for drivers and their relying on volunteers to turn up at weekends. This experience may very well be one that the train operators will want to look at, to ensure that in future they can provide the services that constituents need.
As the Prime Minister is aware, the Department for Exiting the European Union carried out a study of all the previous free trade deals that the European Union had done, in order to create a draft free trade deal that was based solely on European precedent. The Department was—until I left, at least—creating a legal text of such a draft treaty as a fall-back option for the current negotiations. Will she agree to publish that text when it is complete?
First, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my right hon. Friend for the work that he did as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. Secondly, as he knows, we have published the proposals that we have for the future trade relationship with the European Union. Of course, as we look through those negotiations, we will be looking to see where the European Union has entered into certain agreements with others in the past. Very often, the European Commission will say, “X can’t be done,” only for us to say, “X was done with another country and therefore it is possible for it to be done with us.” But what I want to see is not just an amalgam of those free trade agreements but an ambitious plan—which is what I believe we have produced—that will protect jobs in this country, deliver on the referendum result and, crucially, ensure that we have no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
What we have seen since the apprenticeship levy was introduced is a change in the number of people doing apprenticeships, but we have also seen an increase in the quality of the apprenticeships that are being undertaken. The Government are now looking at how the levy is operating to ensure that we can do what I want to do, which is ensure that every young person has the opportunity to pursue the course, be it of education or training, that is right for them and that is going to give them the best start in life.
My right hon. Friend should be commended for her sangfroid a week ago in dealing with a giant ego—somebody who believes that truth is fake news and leaks continually. I am not referring here to the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson); I am of course referring to President Trump, who has acted in a very bizarre way over intelligence. I know that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has to work with him, but is she not alarmed at the way in which he refused to challenge President Putin over the Russian activity that recently resulted in the death of a woman here in Salisbury?
I understand that there have been some clarifications of some of the statements that President Trump made. I did raise with President Trump the incident in Salisbury and the fact that we have seen somebody die here in the UK as a result of contact with a nerve agent. Of course, we took immediate action at the time after the Salisbury attack when we had been able to attribute it to Russia. The United States stood alongside us, as did many other nations across the world, and took action against Russia, which showed a united international front that sent a clear message that we will not accept this behaviour, that this is not behaviour that Russia can conduct with impunity and that we will continue to act together.
The hon. Gentleman raised this in my absence last week, so he will know that we are supporting the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust in its work on this, and we want to see the new hospital built as quickly as possible while securing best value for money in doing so. The Government and the trust continue to be in active discussions with the existing private sector funders to see whether there is a way forward to complete the remaining work on the hospital. It has taken longer, and further issues were uncovered during the process, but the way that we are approaching the situation is the right way to ensure that we are clear about what we are dealing with. We want to make the right decisions, and it is right that those discussions continue.
It is in the national interest that we should have, and have implemented, contingency plans for the unwanted eventuality of exiting the European Union with nothing agreed. Now there is collective agreement to accelerate the delivery of our plans, will my right hon. Friend please give instructions that every communication related to no deal serves to bolster our negotiating position by reinforcing the credibility and feasibility of those contingency plans?
I thank my hon. Friend also for the work he was doing in the Department for Exiting the European Union, and particularly for the work he was doing on this issue. He is absolutely right that we need to make sure that we have those no-deal preparations in place while we negotiate with the European Union on a deal, because we need to ensure that we have made contingency arrangements for every eventuality. Also, the European Union needs to be in no doubt that we are making those preparations and are ensuring that, should that be the outcome, we are prepared.
For a Minister to be able to do their job, they rely on getting impartial, sound and honest advice from their civil servants. When that sacrosanct relationship is broken, there needs to be a full and proper investigation. My right hon. Friend will be aware that the Select Committee on Home Affairs has called for the full, open and transparent publication of Sir Alex Allan’s Windrush report. Will my right hon. Friend therefore use her stamp of authority as Prime Minister and insist that we get to the bottom of this and see who was told what and when in order that it does not look like another cover-up?
It is important, as Alex Allan himself has made clear, that proper consideration is given to the publication of information involving individuals’ personal information, but I know my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is considering this matter very carefully.
I commend the work of the charities Shine and SBH Scotland for their work in assisting people affected by spina bifida and other such conditions. Those charities, public health authorities, scientists and others all agree on the need to reduce the number of pregnancies that have neural tube defects by the mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid—the USA and other countries do that already. Will the Prime Minister look at bringing the UK into line by introducing this very important public health preventive action?
The right hon. Gentleman raises an important issue, and I join him in commending the excellent work of charities on this issue. We all want mums-to-be to have healthy pregnancies and, of course, there is NHS guidance on the supplements, such as folic acid, that women planning a pregnancy should take before conception and, indeed, until the twelfth week of pregnancy. Women are recommended to eat more folate-rich foods during pregnancy. We will continue to look at this issue to ensure that the advice and the action that is taken are absolutely right to ensure that mums-to-be have healthy pregnancies.
I am sure the whole House will join me in congratulating Sir Cliff Richard on his successful action against the BBC, which behaved atrociously in its illegal invasion of his privacy. Will my right hon. Friend look again at changing the law so that a suspect is not named by the media, except in exceptional cases, until such time as they are charged? I know I am off her Christmas card list, but I have tabled a private Member’s Bill that commands cross-party and, I think, widespread support—I am more than happy to call it Cliff’s law. Will the Prime Minister please agree at least to look at the Bill, because Sir Cliff is not alone and this is not confined to sexual offences? Suspects should not be named by the media until such time as they are charged.
Obviously, my right hon. Friend has raised a very important issue. She has raised it in the specific case of Sir Cliff Richard, but, as she said, this does not just relate to somebody who is well known and in the public eye. This is a difficult issue, it has to be dealt with sensitively and I looked at it when I was Home Secretary. There may well be cases where the publication of a name enables other victims to come forward and therefore strengthen the case against an individual. So this is not somewhere where we either do all of one or all of another; it is an issue for careful judgment. But in exercising that careful judgment, the police have to recognise their responsibilities and the media need to recognise their responsibilities as well.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. On Saturday, we had the international day of remembrance for victims of honour abuse. This Friday, it will be two years to the day since the rape and murder of my constituent Samia Shahid, who was lured to Pakistan. I thank colleagues in the House, and, in particular, the leader of my party, for showing solidarity with the #honourher campaign today. Will the Prime Minister once again reiterate our commitment to eradicating violence against women and girls? Will she also urge the Pakistani authorities to give justice to Samia Shahid—two years on we are still waiting for a trial?
The Foreign Office is aware of the particular case and the issue the hon. Lady has raised in relation to the Pakistani authorities, but I am happy to reconfirm our absolute commitment to work to eradicate violence against women. The term “honour violence” is such a misnomer; this is an appalling crime of violence against women. We should all be working to ensure that we eradicate it.
Neuroblastoma is an aggressive form of cancer that impacts 100 children each year, most of whom are under five. Thanks to a campaign involving my constituents the Jeffreys family, and many hon. Members from across this House, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has now approved a drug that may extend lives. Tragically for my five-year-old constituent Jack Jeffreys this has come too late, and he is now undergoing palliative care, with his family at his bedside. For his legacy, and for all of those other children who could lead longer lives, may I ask the Prime Minister to ensure that the NHS now commissions and uses this drug?
I am sure the whole House will join me in extending our thoughts and prayers to Jack’s family at what must be a terribly, terribly difficult and tragic time for them. As my hon. Friend has indicated, NICE has recommended the drug that he refers to for use in children; that was in draft guidance it recently issued. I understand the drug is now available across the NHS, through the cancer drugs fund, and NICE will be publishing its final guidance in August. I am sure the drug will be rolled out swiftly to ensure that as many people as possible are able to benefit from it as swiftly as possible.
Last night’s shambles over the vote of the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson) should put it beyond doubt that pairing is not the answer for MPs having babies. We are elected as MPs to vote in this House, and MPs having babies should not lose that right. Will the Prime Minister give the House the opportunity to vote on the Procedure Committee draft motion on proxy voting for baby leave? With more parliamentary babies in the pipeline—there is one right next to me—and more crucial votes coming up, it is time to sort this out. This one is overdue.
First, may I say to the right hon. and learned Lady that the breaking of the pair was done in error? It was not good enough and it will not be repeated. My right hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Brandon Lewis) and the Chief Whip have apologised directly to the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Joe Swinson), because we take pairing very seriously and we recognise its value to Parliament. We will continue to guarantee a pair for MPs who are currently pregnant or who have a newborn baby. The issue the right hon. and learned Lady raises refers also to this question of proxy voting and the report the Procedure Committee has brought out. We are looking very carefully at that issue. We want to ensure that we can facilitate parental leave in this place, but, obviously, we also have to ensure that there is a proper consultation. We are looking at the interests of not only individuals, but the whole House.