I know that the whole House would like to join me in sending our deepest condolences to the families of those who were killed in the horrific attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday. The UK stands shoulder to shoulder with our Jewish friends across the world.
This is the last Prime Minister’s questions before Armistice Day, and this year’s is particularly poignant, as it marks 100 years since the end of the first world war. It is right that we remember all those who have served and continue to serve, those who have been injured and those who have given their lives in the service of this country.
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 concur with the condolences about the horrific massacre and about those who have served in our armed forces.
My Italian-born constituent Laura Nani has resided here since 1984, has attended school here, has had two children and has a British mother, yet the Department for Work and Pensions has just decided that she
“does not have a right to reside”.
That is partly because she cannot prove she has had five years of continuous work, a situation that many European Union nationals, including my wife, will find themselves in when formally applying for settled status. So what message does the Prime Minister have for Laura, for my wife and for other EU nationals who face rejection by this heartless UK Government?
I thank my right hon. Friend for that. He is absolutely right: the Budget did cut taxes for 32 million people, and the rise in the personal allowance will leave a basic rate taxpayer more than £1,200 better off next year than they were in 2010. Helping people with the cost of living is not just about those income tax cuts: the rise in the national living wage next year will give a full-time worker an extra £2,750 in annual pay since its introduction; and of course by freezing fuel duty we have saved the average driver £1,000 compared with pre-2010 plans. We will continue to help with the cost of living with our balanced approach to the economy.
I join the Prime Minister in sending our sympathies and solidarity to the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. The attack was disgusting, depraved and appalling, and I am sure that every single Member of this House would completely and unreservedly condemn it for what it is.
I will be joining the Prime Minister to commemorate Armistice Day and remember all those who lost their lives in the first world war and, indeed, all the other wars since.
“If I were a prison governor, a local authority chief executive or a head teacher, I would struggle to find much to celebrate”
in the Budget.
“I would be preparing for more difficult years ahead.”
Does the Prime Minister think that that analysis is wrong?
If the right hon. Gentleman looks at what we set out in the Budget, he will see that we set out more money for schools, more money for prisons—[Interruption.] Yes, more money for prisons. What we have set out in the Budget is that austerity is indeed ending. What does that mean? Ending austerity is about continuing to bring debt down and putting more into our public services. We will set out further details in the spending review. Ending austerity is not just about putting more into public services; it is about putting more money into people’s pockets, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper) just made clear. What we are doing in this Budget is giving the NHS the biggest cash boost in its history. The Leader of the Opposition used to ask me what taxes would go up to fund the rise in NHS funding; the answer on Monday was that it is fully funded without putting up taxes.
Just for the record, the words that I quoted in my previous question were from the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Non-protected Departments face a real-terms cut of £4.1 billion. The Prime Minister promised that austerity was over; the reality is that it was a broken-promise Budget, and she knows it.
With violent crime rising, police numbers slashed and conviction rates down, why did the Government fail to find a single penny for neighbourhood policing in the Budget?
First, we did put extra money into counter-terrorism policing in the Budget. That was on top of the £460 million extra that has been made available for policing this year. That is in sharp contrast to what the Labour party was saying at the 2015 election, when it said that the police should take 10% cuts in their budgets.
“This is just another example of the contempt in which the Government holds police officers.”
Who said that? Not me; the Police Federation. No wonder the Police Federation and police chiefs are taking the Government to court over their pay.
With school funding cut by 8% per pupil, do the Prime Minister and her Chancellor think that the “little extras” are enough to end austerity in our schools?
What we actually see happening, as I said earlier, is more money for schools announced in the Budget. That is on top of the £1.4 billion extra that has already been announced for schools this year, and a further £1.2 billion will go into schools next year. The right hon. Gentleman is wrong, because overall per pupil funding is being protected in real terms by this Government. What do we see in the Budget? We are ending austerity, bringing debt down and putting more money into our public services. We are taking the country forward. What would he do? His policy would mean borrowing more, taxing more and wasting more, and taking us back to square one.
“Many schools, including mine, have had to resort to asking students and their parents for funds.”
That is not me but Sasha, a parent, worried about the future of her school, because this broken promise Budget means that headteachers will still be writing begging letters to parents. Can the Prime Minister explain why she chose not to end the benefit freeze for 10 million households, but, instead, brought forward a tax cut for higher earners?
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we have put extra money into universal credit in the Budget. Importantly, universal credit is a welfare reform that ensures that people are encouraged to get into the workplace and that, when they are there, they earn more. I am interested that he chose to raise the question of tax cuts. On Monday, he said that cutting taxes for 32 million people was frittering money away on “ideological tax cuts”. Yesterday, the shadow Chancellor said that Labour would support the tax cuts. [Hon. Members: “Ah!”] On Monday, the Leader of the Opposition, talked about tax cuts for the rich. Yesterday, his shadow Chancellor said what we have always known, which is that the tax cuts were for “middle earners”—
“head teachers and people like that”.
When the right hon. Gentleman stands up, perhaps he can tell the House whether he will back the tax cuts and vote for the Budget—[Interruption.]
Order. It does not matter; I have all the time in the world. It will take as long as it takes. The right hon. Gentleman will address a House that has the manners to listen. The same goes for when the Prime Minister is speaking. There will be a decent display of respect, and we will go on for as long as necessary, as the public would expect, to ensure that that is the way we operate. That is all there is to it.
The benefit freeze takes £1.5 billion from 10 million low and middle-income households. A low-income couple with children will be £200 worse off. For them, there is no end to austerity. Labour would have ended the benefit freeze. As the Prime Minister well knows, Labour policy is to raise taxes for the top 5% and for the biggest corporations in the country. That would be a fair way of dealing with financial issues facing this country. Will she kindly confirm that there is still another £5 billion of cuts to social security to come in this Parliament—if it lasts until 2022—hitting the incomes of those with the least? Will she confirm that—yes, or no?
Of course, what the right hon. Gentleman fails to mention from the Budget is that, as a result of the changes that we have made on universal credit, 2.4 million people will benefit by £630 a year. When he talks about helping those who are on low incomes, I say, yes, we are helping people on low incomes—we are saving people money by freezing fuel duty. That has been opposed by the Labour party. We are letting people keep more of the money that they earn by cutting income tax. That has been opposed by the Labour party. He keeps claiming that he is backing working people, but I say to him again that if he wants to put more money into people’s pockets, and if he wants to take care of working people, he should vote for the Conservative Budget on Thursday.
I am really not very clear whether that was a yes or a no.
The Prime Minister once claimed to be concerned about “burning injustices”—well, that concern has fizzled out, hasn’t it? This was a broken promise Budget. The Prime Minister pledged to end austerity at her party conference, and the Chancellor failed to deliver it in this House. The cuts continue. Those on lower incomes will be worse off as a result of this Budget. Austerity has failed and needs to end now. It is very clear: only Labour can be trusted to end austerity, end the cuts for those on the lowest incomes and invest in our country again. Now we know: councils, schools, police, prisons—[Interruption.]
Order. Members may shout as long and as loudly as they like, and if they feel that they want to indulge themselves doing that, so be it. The right hon. Gentleman’s question will be heard—[Hon. Members: “When it comes.”] Yes, when it comes, but it will be heard in full, so do not waste your breath and damage your voices.
Mr Speaker, I am sure that some Conservative Members will not have heard what I was saying, so I shall repeat it for their benefit. Now we know: councils, schools, police, prisons, public sector workers and people reliant on social security still face years of austerity. Will the Prime Minister apologise for her broken promise that she was going to end austerity, because she has failed to do that?
First of all, the right hon. Gentleman talked about my commitment to tackle burning injustices. [Interruption.] “Yes”, they say from the Opposition Front Bench. Indeed. Was it Labour that introduced the Modern Slavery Act? No, it was not. Was it Labour that ensured that people in mental health crisis were not being taken to police cells as a place of safety? No, it was me. Was it the Labour party that introduced the race disparity audit, so that for the first time we can see what is happening to people from across our communities in this country? No, it was me and this Government. And I will tell him what else this Government have done—by taking a balanced approach to the economy and careful financial management, what do we see? Borrowing down, unemployment down, income tax down—[Interruption.] “Up”, Opposition Members say. I shall tell them what has gone up—[Interruption.]
Labour Members want to know what has gone up. I shall tell them what has gone up—[Interruption.] As long as it takes, I am going to tell them. Support for public services up, growth up, wages up—but debt is falling and austerity is ending. Under the Conservatives, the hard work of the British people is paying off.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. He raises a very important issue. Obviously, our thoughts are with those children and their families at what must be a really difficult time for both the children and their families. We continue to look at what we can do to help them. I believe that when he talks about children from his constituency going to the nearest specialist treatment centre, that is Great Ormond Street, which does wonderful work in this country for children. We have a healthcare travel cost scheme that allows patients to receive reimbursement for their travel costs if they are in receipt of a qualifying benefit and on a low income, but we absolutely recognise that there is more to do, particularly on the cost of living for cancer patients, including children and young people, as my right hon. Friend said. I know that the relevant Minister from the Department of Health and Social Care will be very pleased to meet him and the charity to discuss that further.
May I associate myself with the Prime Minister’s remarks regarding the Tree of Life massacre and, of course, Armistice Day?
Can the Prime Minister guarantee the supply of medicines to the NHS in the light of a no-deal Brexit?
First of all, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, we are working for a good deal for Brexit. As he will also know, all Departments—indeed, we have issued technical notices to businesses and others—are making contingency arrangements should no deal occur.
Of course, that was no answer to the question, “Can the Prime Minister guarantee the supply of medicines in the light of no deal?” Why did this Government, last week, quietly begin a dramatically truncated tender process to try to stockpile medicines, at a cost of tens of millions of pounds—funds that should be spent on frontline health services? The Prime Minister has only been concerned about how Brexit might harm the Conservative party; it is time that she woke up to the real harm her Brexit policies could cause to patients. Is it not the truth that this Government are in a blind panic trying to cover for a blind Brexit?
No. Let me just say to the right hon. Gentleman, first of all, that if he had been listening and paying attention over the last months, he would have known that actually in the Budget last year the Chancellor made it clear that there was money available for no-deal planning. We stepped up the no-deal planning in the summer. Departments like the DHSC are ensuring that they are making the responsible contingency decisions that any Government Department would make. What we are doing is working for a good deal for Brexit, and we are working for a good deal that will benefit the whole of the United Kingdom, including Scotland.
In overall terms, we have been closing the tax gap over the years. As I think my right hon. Friend the Chancellor said in his Budget on Monday, since 2010, through the work we have been doing to close the tax gap to ensure that we deal with tax evasion and avoidance, we have actually collected, or protected, £185 billion of revenue for the Government.
My hon. Friend raises a very important issue. He is, as I would expect, championing the cause of Cornwall, and one or two of my other hon. Friends from Cornwall are supporting him. We have awarded grants worth £31.5 million to enable satellites to be launched from UK soil, and we have also announced a £2 million fund, subject to business case, to help boost airports’ ambitions to offer horizontal space flight. That includes sites such as Newquay, Glasgow Prestwick and Snowdonia. The UK space flight programme continues to consider these leading proposals, and I am sure it has heard my hon. Friend’s championing of the request for Cornwall.
The hon. Lady raises a very important issue. I am pleased that I was able to set up the inquiry into child sexual abuse. As I said at the time, I think people will be shocked to know the extent to which children were being abused in this country in many different environments and circumstances. She has raised a particular issue in relation to Nottinghamshire. When the independent inquiry’s report comes forward, we will look at its recommendations very seriously. I will ask the relevant Minister to look at the issue that she raised about survivors’ groups. We have worked with survivors’ groups —I did so when I was at the Home Office. It was talking to them and hearing from them that made me realise exactly how terribly badly people have been treated, the appalling crimes committed and the appalling abuse they have suffered. That is why it is important that this independent inquiry gets to the truth.
Following the welcome call overnight from the American Administration for the ending of the Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen, will my right hon. Friend use Britain’s undoubted authority at the United Nations to press for a new Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire and meaningful and inclusive negotiations, to end what is the worst and most terrifying humanitarian catastrophe on the planet?
I thank my right hon. Friend, who I know has been consistent in pressing on the needs of the people of Yemen. We certainly back the US’s call for de-escalation in Yemen. He references our role in the United Nations Security Council. In fact, in March we proposed and co-ordinated a UN Security Council presidential statement, which called on the parties to agree steps towards a ceasefire. That remains our position, but as the Minister for the Middle East, my right hon. Friend the Member for North East Bedfordshire (Alistair Burt), said in the House yesterday,
“a nationwide ceasefire will have an effect on the ground only if it is underpinned by a political deal between the conflict parties.”—[Official Report, 30 October 2018; Vol. 648, c. 775.]
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary discussed that matter last night with Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy. They agreed that the UK will continue to encourage all parties to agree to de-escalation and to a lasting political deal that will ensure that any ceasefire will hold in the long term.
I recognise the issue that the hon. Gentleman has raised. It is one that has been raised before. Of course, on issues like this, it is important that we take clinical guidance, but issues about the future of the NHS and how it operates are matters that those in the NHS are themselves considering as part of their long-term plan for the future.
Will the Prime Minister welcome the acquittal this morning by Pakistan’s Supreme Court of Asia Bibi, a young Christian, a wife and mother of five, who has spent over eight years in prison—mostly in solitary confinement—facing the death penalty on blasphemy charges merely for drinking water from a communal supply? Will the Prime Minister in particular commend Chief Justice Saqib Nisar for his courage and integrity in the message he has sent out regarding religious freedom for those of all faiths and none in delivering this judgment, setting Asia free and rectifying a great injustice?
The news out of Pakistan of the release of Asia Bibi will be very welcome to her family and to all those who have campaigned in Pakistan, and indeed around the world, for her release. Our long-standing position on the death penalty is well known: we call for its abolition globally.
We recognise that we need to take action in relation to rough sleepers. We have a commitment to halve rough sleeping by 2022 and to end rough sleeping by 2027. That is why we have already published a strategy to deal with this; we have put initial funding of £100 million into it, and there are pilot projects being worked on in various parts of the country. If he is interested in this issue of rough sleeping, I hope he will support the proposals that the Government have put forward, which were confirmed in the Budget, for increasing stamp duty on those purchasing properties in the UK who do not live or work in the UK, with that money to go into supporting people who are rough sleeping.
Will my right hon. Friend join me, when she goes to the Cenotaph next Sunday, in paying tribute not only to our own war dead from this country, but to the 3 million who came from the Commonwealth to serve in the cause of freedom? I will, sadly, not be in Tonbridge this weekend; I will be laying a wreath in Delhi, paying my own tribute—and, I know, paying tribute on behalf of the whole House—to those who suffered and died.
Will the Prime Minister join me also in wearing a khadi poppy at some point, the reason for which is that the homespun cotton remembers Gandhi’s and India’s contribution to the effort? It is a vital reminder to all of us here of our links around the world, but particularly to India.
I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting the vital contribution that was made by soldiers from around the Commonwealth—he has highlighted particularly those from India. I also pay tribute to him for his own military service. We must never forget that over 74,000 soldiers came from undivided India and lost their lives—eleven of them won the Victoria Cross for their outstanding bravery—and he will know they played a crucial role in the war across multiple continents. I would also like to congratulate the Royal British Legion and Lord Gadhia on their efforts in recognising this contribution with the special khadi poppy, honouring the sacrifice of everyone who served a century ago.
I am certainly interested in wearing a khadi poppy at some stage over the period as we lead up to Armistice Day, just as I am pleased to be wearing—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz), who is on the Front Bench opposite, says she is wearing one, which I am very pleased to see. I would also like to say that I am very pleased to wear the ceramic poppy today—I see a number of hon. Members are wearing them, and they were created by children at a school in the north-west. [Hon. Members: “St Vincent’s.”] St Vincent’s, indeed. It is very important, at this centenary, that we all recognise and that younger generations understand the immense sacrifice that was made for their freedom.
As I said earlier in response to the Leader of the Opposition, we were already putting £1.4 billion extra into schools this year, we are putting an extra £1.2 billion into schools next year and the £400 million announced in the Budget comes on top of that £1.4 billion this year. Crucially, overall, per-pupil funding is being protected in real terms.
Prime Minister, you quite rightly referenced the centenary of the first world war. Would that not be a very fitting time to end another burning injustice—namely, the legal scapegoating of brave Army veterans by others for political or financial gain? Last week, 104 of your Conservative colleagues, Opposition Members and over 50 Members of the other place, including four previous Chiefs of the Defence Staff, wrote to you and asked you to join with us in defending those who defended us. I know that there are only 104 of us—but nevertheless, are you with us?
I recognise the passion with which my right hon. Friend has championed the interests of our brave soldiers; we owe so much to them across so many different areas and so many different fronts—for their heroism, their bravery and everything they have done to maintain our freedom.
My right hon. Friend has raised particularly, in the past and now, the issue that was raised in Northern Ireland questions as well: the legacy concerns in relation to what happened during the troubles and the cases being taken against not just soldiers, but police officers, who also bravely defended freedom in Northern Ireland and acted against the terrorists.
We are committed to making sure that all outstanding deaths in Northern Ireland should be investigated in a way that is fair, balanced and proportionate. The current mechanisms are not proportionate: there is a disproportionate focus on former members of the armed forces and the police. We want to see these deaths being investigated in ways that are fair, balanced and, as I say, proportionate.
I associate myself with the fine words of the Prime Minister and others about the armistice. May I invite her to warmly welcome the choir of the Bundestag and its President, who will join our own Parliament’s choir this evening at a commemorative concert in Westminster Hall to mark this historic occasion?
I am very happy to join my right hon. Friend in welcoming the choir of the Bundestag and the German Vice-President to the concert taking place this evening—a fitting way to recognise the centenary of the armistice. As my right hon. Friend may also know, the German President will be laying a wreath at the Cenotaph this year. What armistice gives us is an opportunity to come together to remember the immense sacrifices made in war, but also to join with our German friends to mark reconciliation and the peace that exists between our two nations today. The concert this evening is part of that, as will be the German President’s presence at the Cenotaph.
The hon. Gentleman has named a number of sectors. We have heard from those sectors their concern about frictionless trade. The proposal we have put forward to the European Union would provide for that frictionless trade as part of a free trade area.
BD Foods in Hastings is a successful food manufacturer that supplies hotels and restaurants. It recently made a very good breakfast sauce called the Full English Brexit, which I think will be appreciated by many of my colleagues although it is a little hot for me. The chief executive, John Davis, has been in touch with me. He would like to invest £2.5 million, securing jobs and further investment in the business, but he is concerned about continued access to the single market as we leave the European Union, either through the single market or the common rulebook. Will the Prime Minister bear in mind, as she concludes the negotiations, the importance of protecting investment in jobs all over the country?
I think our hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) might well like to put the hot English Brexit sauce on his breakfast sausages. I reassure my right hon. Friend that the plan we have set out recognises the importance of protecting jobs in this country. We want a business-friendly customs model with the freedom to strike new trade deals around the world, but also a good trade deal with the European Union, with a free trade area—that common rulebook for industrial goods and agricultural products. That will be good for jobs and we are working towards that good deal.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is important people understand their pensions and what they are entitled to. That is why the Department for Work and Pensions is working with the pensions industry on this issue. We are not just working with them; we have actually put some money forward as part of the project to ensure that that information is there and is available to people.
Will the Prime Minister give reassurance to those of us in this House and in the country who voted to leave the European Union that under no circumstances will she recommend or agree to any alteration in the exit date of 29 March next year?
I say to the hon. Gentleman, as I said to his colleagues, that we are protecting EU citizens’ rights. That was one of the key issues we put at the forefront of the discussions before the December joint report was agreed. But we are actually going further than that. I was pleased to be in Norway yesterday and to discuss with European economic area and European Free Trade Association countries the protection we will give to EEA and EFTA citizens when we leave the European Union.
There are 50,000 amputees in Syria. Will the Prime Minister join me at the “Singing for Syrians” flagship concert in St Margaret’s to hear parliamentarians from across the House sing like they can hear us, and remind the people from Syria, the civilians, that we have not forgotten them?
I will look at my diary. I cannot guarantee, standing here, that I will be able to attend the concert, but I commend my hon. Friend and the parliamentarians who will be taking part in it for the work that they are doing. “Singing for Syrians” is a great movement. It is a great thing that not just raises money, but reminds people of the importance of remembering those civilians in Syria. As she says, we want to ensure that they know they have not been forgotten.
During a recent meeting with primary school heads in Chichester, I was shocked to discover that every single one of them had been subject to violent attacks by pupils or parents. As the Government launch their NHS violence reduction strategy today, will my right hon. Friend consider what else we can do to protect our teachers in the valuable work that they do?
I am certainly happy to look at the issue that my hon. Friend has raised. She refers to what I assume is physical violence or attacks that teachers have been under. I have also seen cases where teachers have come under considerable, I would say, harassment and bullying on social media as well, so I think this is an issue that we do need to look at.
Black Cultural Archives, based in Lambeth—I am a patron of it—is the only national heritage centre dedicated to preserving and celebrating the histories of black people in this country. However, unlike other national institutions such as the National Gallery or the British Museum, which get over 40% of their funding from central Government, BCA currently receives none and is under threat of closure. The Prime Minister talked about the race disparity audit. Can I ask her to explain the differential treatment of BCA and in this Windrush year, of all years, to right this wrong and provide it with the funding that it desperately needs?
I say to the hon. Gentleman that a difference of approach is taken between those museums that are considered to be national museums and those that have developed in other circumstances. I recognise what he is saying about the importance of this particular organisation and the relevance of what it is commemorating and reflecting, and I will ask a Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Minister to look at the issue that he has raised.
High streets are the centres of our communities, and they have a social as well as an economic function, but the internet has changed everything. That is why I welcome the levelling of the playing field announced in the Budget this week through the cut in business rates and through the future high streets fund, but will local businesses in Harrogate and Knaresborough be able to work with the local council to decide how that money is spent?
I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting the help that we are providing to the high street through our future high streets fund. As he says, this will enable local areas to develop and fund plans to make their high streets and town centres fit for the future. We will be supporting local leadership with a high streets taskforce, giving high streets and town centres expert advice on how to adapt and thrive, and it will be possible for local businesses to work with their local authorities to develop the plans that will indeed ensure that we continue to have plans for the high street that are fit for our towns and cities.
Last week, the Prime Minister inadvertently misled the House in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford South (Judith Cummins) over police pensions. This week, it has emerged that the National Police Chiefs’ Council has taken the unprecedented step of threatening legal action against the Government over their £165 million raid on pensions. Is it not the case that, under the Prime Minister’s leadership, this Government have destroyed relations with the police so considerably that they have risked public safety?
The hon. Lady is wrong in her portrayal of what has happened. I said that the pensions issue had been known about for a number of years, and indeed it has been known about for a number of years. We are committed to public sector pensions that are fair to public workers but also fair to the taxpayer. It is important that the costs of those public sector pensions are understood and fully recognised by the Government. The Budget has made it clear that £4.5 billion is available next year to support public services in managing these increased pension costs, and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is working closely with the police to understand the impact of the pension changes and to ensure we make the right funding decisions to support frontline services.
Can the Prime Minister tell the House why she and her Government believe that Government spending should be increased faster on overseas aid than on hard-pressed schools and police and fire services in the UK? While this House might be typically out of touch with public opinion on this issue, will she accept that the vast majority of the British people think that that warped priority is crazy crackers?
I continue to believe it is right that the UK maintains its commitment to spending 0.7% of GNI on international development. I suggest that my hon. Friend look at the speech I gave in South Africa in August when I explained how we wanted to ensure that international development aid not only helped the most vulnerable people across the world but helped countries to provide the economies, good governance and jobs that would take them out of needing that aid in the future. It is right that we continue with our commitment to the poorest people across the world and to helping countries to secure a long-term, sustainable future.