I am sure that the whole House will join me in condemning the appalling attack in Nairobi and in sending our thoughts and prayers to all those who have lost loved ones. Our high commissioner has confirmed one British fatality. We are providing consular assistance to British nationals affected by the attack. We stand in solidarity with the Government and people of Kenya, and will continue to offer our support to meet the challenge to security and stability that is posed by terrorism in the region.
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.
May I join the Prime Minister in her strong condemnation of terror?
You will know, Mr Speaker, as will the Prime Minister, that I first sought election to this House because I believed in more jobs, lower taxes, a stronger economy and more investment in the public services on which we all rely. Does the Prime Minister agree that, since 2010, Conservative Governments have delivered time and again for the British people, and that the biggest threat to that is sitting on the Opposition Front Bench, with a leader whose policies would mean fewer jobs, higher taxes, a weaker economy and less investment in our public services?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. What have we seen under the Conservatives in government? We have seen 3.4 million more jobs; that is more people earning an income, earning a wage, able to provide for their families. We have seen more children in good and outstanding schools and more money in our national health service. What would put that in danger? A Government led by the right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn). There would be more borrowing, more taxes, more spending and fewer jobs.
May I start by correcting the record? Last night I suggested that this was the largest Government defeat since the 1920s. I would not wish to be accused of misleading the House, because I have since been informed that it is in fact the largest ever defeat for a Government in the history of our democracy.
Shortly after the Prime Minister made her point of order last night, her spokesperson suggested that the Government had ruled out any form of customs union with the European Union as part of their reaching-out exercise. Will the Prime Minister confirm that that is the case?
The exercise that I indicated last night is, as I said, about listening to the views of the House and wanting to understand the views of parliamentarians, so that we can identify what could command the support of this House and deliver on the referendum. The Government want first to ensure that we deliver on the result of the referendum—that is leaving the European Union—and we want to do so in a way that ensures we respect the votes of those who voted to leave in that referendum. That means ending free movement, getting a fairer deal for farmers and fishermen, opening up new opportunities to trade with the rest of the world and keeping good ties with our neighbours in Europe.
My question was about the customs union. The Prime Minister seems to be in denial about that just as much as she is in denial about the decision made by the House last night. I understand that the Business Secretary told business leaders on a conference call last night, “We can’t have no deal for all the reasons that you’ve set out.” Can the Prime Minister now reassure the House, businesses and the country and confirm that it is indeed the Government’s position that we cannot have no deal?
The point that the Business Secretary was making, and that he has made previously, is that if we do not want to have no deal, we have to ensure that we have a deal. There are actually two ways of avoiding no deal. The first is to agree a deal, and the second would be to revoke article 50. That would mean staying in the European Union and failing to respect the result of the referendum, and that is something that this Government will not do.
The Prime Minister has not answered on a customs union and has not answered on no deal, and continues to spend £4.2 billion of public money on a no-deal scenario. Can she not understand that yesterday the House rejected her deal? She needs to come up with something different.
But it is not just on Brexit that this Government are failing. Four million working people are living in poverty, and there are half a million more children in poverty compared with 2010. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation confirms:
“In-work poverty has been rising…faster than employment”.
With poverty rising, can the Prime Minister tell us when we can expect it to fall for the time that she remains in office?
Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman what is happening. We now see 1 million fewer people in absolute poverty; that is a record low. We see 300,000 fewer children in absolute poverty; that is a record low. There is a record low in the number of children living in workless households, and income inequality is lower than at any point under the last Labour Government. That is Conservatives delivering for the people of this country. What would we see from the Labour party? We would see £1,000 billion more in borrowing and taxes—the equivalent of £35,000 for every household in this country. That is Labour failing to deliver for working people, because working people always pay the price of the Labour party.
In denial about a customs union; in denial about no deal; in denial about the amount of money being spent preparing for no deal; and in denial about last night’s result. Even the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights says—[Interruption.] It is very telling indeed that as soon as I mention the report of the UN rapporteur, who said that the Government were in a “state of denial” about poverty in Britain, Tory MPs start jeering. Tell that to people queuing up at food banks.
The Government have failed too on children’s education. Can the Prime Minister tell us what is her greatest failure—is it that education funding has been cut by £7 billion, that per pupil funding has fallen by 8%, that sixth-form funding has been cut by a fifth or that the adult skills budget has been slashed by 45%? Which is it, Prime Minister?
We have hundreds of free schools, a reformed curriculum and 1.9 million more children in good or outstanding schools, and we are narrowing the attainment gap for disadvantaged children. This is a Government who are delivering the education that our children need for their future.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about us being in denial. The only person in denial in this Chamber is him, because he has consistently failed to set out what his policy on Brexit is. I said to him last week that he might do with a lip reader; when it comes to his Brexit policy, the rest of us need a mind reader.
The Prime Minister is very well aware that we want there to be a customs union with the EU. She seems to be in denial about that.
One of the problems the Prime Minister has in her denial is a flagrant disregard for facts and statistics. The UK Statistics Authority has written to the Department for Education four times to express its concern about the use of dodgy figures by her Ministers.
When police officers told the then Home Secretary not to make more cuts to the police, that Home Secretary accused them of “crying wolf”. With 21,000 fewer police officers and rising crime, does the Prime Minister accept that the then Home Secretary got it wrong?
As we look at what is happening particularly with knife crime and serious violence, we recognise the need to take action. That is why we have introduced the Offensive Weapons Bill and why my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has introduced the serious violence strategy. We are also making nearly £1 billion more available to police forces over the next year.
Yet again, in all these questions about public services, the right hon. Gentleman only ever talks about the money that is going in. What matters as well with the police is the powers that we give them. When it came to taking more action on knife crime and the criminals involved in it, and said that somebody caught on the street with a knife for a second time should be sent to prison, what did the right hon. Gentleman do? He voted against it. He does not support our police, and he does not support our security.
It was a Labour Government who increased the number of police on our streets. It was a Labour Government who brought in safer neighbourhoods. It was a Labour Government that properly funded the police force. It is the Tories who have cut it. Ask anyone on any street around this country whether they feel safer now than they did eight years ago—I think we all know what the answer would be.
It was that Home Secretary who not only attacked the police in that way but created the hostile environment and the Windrush scandal. She promised to tackle burning injustices, but she has made them worse, as Windrush showed. There is more homelessness, more children in poverty, more older people without care, longer waits at A&E, fewer nurses, rising crime, less safe streets and cuts to children’s education. This Government have failed our country. They cannot govern and cannot command the support of most people on the most important issue at the moment: Brexit. They failed again and lost the vote last night. Is it not the case that every other previous Prime Minister faced with the scale of defeat last night would have resigned, and the country would be able to choose the Government they want?
The right hon. Gentleman, in his peroration, talked about the importance of the issue of Brexit facing this country. Later today we will have the no-confidence debate. He has been calling for weeks for a general election, yet when he was asked on Sunday whether he would campaign to leave the European Union in a general election, he refused to answer not once, not twice, not three times, but five times. On what he himself describes as the key issue facing this country, he has no answer. The Leader of the Opposition has let antisemitism run riot in his party. He would abandon our allies, weaken our security and wreck our economy, and we will never let that happen.
I thank my right hon. Friend for raising this, because I was particularly pleased to meet the CEO of Sirius during my trip to China and talk to people there about the work that they are doing. It is, as he says, exactly projects like this, which drive investment and exports in the north, that are what the northern powerhouse is all about. In relation to the particular discussions my right hon. Friend mentioned, I am sure he will understand these are commercially sensitive, so it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the specific discussions. But this, as I say, is exactly the sort of project that the northern powerhouse is all about: driving investment, driving exports—good for the north.
May I associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister on the atrocity in Kenya and, of course, our solidarity with the people there?
Yesterday, the Attorney General said that any new deal would be much the same as the one already on the table. We know that the European Union will not renegotiate. If the Prime Minister survives today to bring forward her plan B, will she concede that plan B will basically be a redressing of plan A?
As I said in one of my answers to the Leader of the Opposition, what we want to do, following the defeat that we had in this House last night, is listen to parliamentarians and find out: what is it that would secure the support of this House? That is the question that we will be asking, but that is against the background of ensuring that we deliver on the referendum result—that we leave the European Union and we recognise what people were voting for when they voted in that referendum: an end to free movement, ensuring that we could have our own trade policy with the rest of the world and be fairer to our farmers and fairer to our fishermen, but maintain that good relationship with our neighbours in the EU.
I am afraid that simply did not address the question. The EU will not renegotiate. The Prime Minister has no answer. She has failed. What an omnishambles from this Government, suffering a historic and a humiliating defeat—the worst for any UK Government. Westminster is in chaos, but in Scotland we stand united. Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain, and we will not allow our country to be dragged out of the European Union or brought down by this Tory Government. The Prime Minister knew that this deal was dead since Chequers; she knew it was dead when she moved the meaningful vote; and she knows, as we all know, that last night was the last straw. The Prime Minister must now seek the confidence of the people, not simply the confidence of this House. The only way forward is to extend article 50 and ask the people of Scotland and of the United Kingdom whether they want the Prime Minister’s deal or they want to remain in the European Union. The Prime Minister now must legislate for a people’s vote.
As the right hon. Gentleman knows and as I have said before, this House legislated for a people’s vote. It legislated for a people’s vote that was held in 2016, and that vote determined that the United Kingdom should leave the European Union. He talks about “our country”. Our country is the whole of the United Kingdom—England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—and it is for the whole of the United Kingdom that we will be looking for a solution that secures the support of this House and ensures that this Parliament delivers on the vote of the people.
I thank my hon. Friend for the remarks he made as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Kenya. I was pleased when I visited Kenya last August to meet some of those who are working to fight terrorism. They are working to bring stability and security to people in that region, and very important that is too.
I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting the long-term plan we have set out for the national health service. The resources allocated to CCGs reflect the needs of the population, including levels of deprivation and the age profile of the population. Changes have been made to the allocations for 2019-20. The fair share allocations for Staffordshire CCGs, which I am sure he is particularly interested in, have increased; they will see a higher level of growth in their actual budgets over the next five years. That difference will ensure that, over time, funding across the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent CCGs becomes fairer. The biggest cash boost in the NHS’s history is enabling us to do that, and I hope that will address the issue my hon. Friend raised.
The hon. Gentleman cannot ignore the fact that in the 2016 referendum the people of this country voted to leave the European Union. I believe it is a duty not just of the Government but of Parliament to ensure that we deliver on that. We will be speaking to parliamentarians in my own party, the Democratic Unionist party and across the House about finding a way forward that secures the support of the House, but I say to him again that a vote was taken in 2016 and I believe it is incumbent on this Parliament to deliver on that vote.
I thank my hon. Friend. When I have visited Copeland, I have seen very clearly not only its population’s expertise and skills in the nuclear industry but the importance of that industry. The Moorside site will revert to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, and we are considering options for its future. The site remains eligible for nuclear new build, and we are committed to seeing new nuclear as part of our future energy mix. It might be helpful if the relevant Minister from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy met her and that group to explore this issue further.
As I said in the House last night, I will be talking to parliamentarians in my own party, in the DUP and in other parties across this House, looking to see what can secure the support of this House, but I say to the hon. Lady, as I have said to her right hon. and hon. Friends, that what this House must always have in mind is the importance of delivering on the vote of the people to leave the European Union.
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. This is so important. I believe that if we fail to deliver on what the British people instructed us to do in the vote in the referendum, the British people’s views of this House, of Parliament and of politicians will be at an all-time low, because they will have lost faith in politicians across the whole of this Parliament. We need to deliver Brexit for the British people.
Of course, public health funding will be looked at in the spending review. The hon. Lady assumes that the only action taken on prevention of obesity and other conditions is through public health, but that is not the case. If she looks at the NHS long-term plan that has been announced—funded by the biggest cash boost in the NHS’s history, given by this Government—what she will see is an emphasis on prevention and on ensuring that people are able to lead healthier independent lives for longer.
I sat through many hours on every day but one of the recent debate, listening carefully to the extraordinary range of views expressed throughout it by Members in all parts of the House. It seemed to me that the only clear majorities in this House on a cross-party basis are against leaving with no deal; in favour of extending article 50 to give us time to sort out what we now propose to do; and in favour of some form of customs union and sufficient regulatory alignment to keep all our borders between the United Kingdom and the European Union open after we leave. Will the Prime Minister not accept, just as I have had to accept that the majority in this House is committed to the UK leaving the European Union, that she must now modify her red lines, which she created for herself at Lancaster House, and find a cross-party majority, which will be along the lines that I have indicated?
My right hon. and learned Friend started by saying that there are a considerable number of views across this House. It is precisely because of that that we will be undertaking the discussions with parliamentarians that I said last night would happen. He talks about the possible extension of article 50. Of course, article 50 cannot be extended by the UK; it has to be extended in consultation and agreement with the European Union. The Government’s policy is that we are leaving the European Union on 29 March. The EU would extend article 50 only if it was clear that there was a plan that was moving toward an agreed deal. The crucial element of ensuring that we deliver on Brexit is being able to get the agreement of this House to the deal that will deliver on the referendum result, lead to the UK leaving the European Union, and recognise what lay behind people voting to leave.
I have not seen the housing masterplan that the hon. Gentleman refers to, but of course it is this Government who have put more money into affordable homes and more money into ensuring we are seeing more homes being built, and who have lifted the cap on local councils so that they are also able to build more homes, and the homes that people want.
Next month, I and my three neighbouring colleagues—my hon. Friends the Members for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant), for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat) and for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately)—will host our second apprenticeship fair, connecting nearly 40 leading organisations with more than 700 pupils from 22 schools. Does the Prime Minister agree that apprenticeships offer a viable alternative to full-time higher education while creating a skilled workforce that benefits business and its future employees?
First, I commend my hon. Friend for the work she is doing in her constituency through the jobs fairs. I absolutely agree with her: it is very important that young people are able to see that there are different routes for them for their futures and different routes into the workplace. Apprenticeships are an important route for some young people. All the apprentices that I meet say that the best thing they have done is take up an apprenticeship, and that was right for them. We want every young person to be able to take the route that is right for them, be it higher education, further education or apprenticeships.
This is an important issue that has been raised by a number of Members from across the House. Our priority is always the safety of patients. Ministers are aware of the new study that has come out. We have a commitment to review any new evidence in this area, and we do that, but we do it by consulting independent scientific experts. Baroness Cumberledge is leading the independent medicines and medical devices safety review. That is expected to examine what happened in the case of Primodos and will determine what further action is needed. I assure the hon. Lady that we will listen very carefully to any recommendations that come out of the review, and of course that study will be looked at very carefully to see what has come out of it.
Does my right hon. Friend recognise, particularly since last night, that in these complex circumstances, her role as Prime Minister is now to create the political environment in which solutions to the Brexit conundrum can be found and not to continue with a plan expecting a different outcome? Does she also accept, then, that if she cannot get what she wants, she will need to change her mind to secure public confidence?
As I have pointed out today and as I said last night, it is precisely because we recognise the need to understand rather better what can command and secure the support of the House that we will be talking to parliamentarians across the House, and that includes my right hon. and hon. Friends, the Democratic Unionist party and parliamentarians across other parties. That is because, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) said, there is quite a variety of views across the House about what is right.
As I said last night, we will be approaching these discussions in a constructive spirit, but underlying that will be the need to ensure we deliver on the referendum result and deliver Brexit.
I very much welcome the recent statement by the Foreign Office that Britain must do more to support persecuted Christians. In the light of that, will the Government now review their position on the Asia Bibi case and offer her asylum in the UK, so she can choose a safe destination, instead of asking a third country to take her in? That would mean shifting our moral responsibility to another country, which cannot be right.
I hope I can reassure my hon. Friend by saying that, as I have said previously, our primary concern is the safety and wellbeing of Asia Bibi and her family. Obviously, the UK’s high commissioner in Islamabad is keeping me and the Government up to date with developments. We have been in contact with international partners about our shared desire to see a swift and positive resolution in this case, and a number of countries are in discussions about a possible alternative destination for Asia Bibi once the legal process is complete. I will not comment on the details of that, however, because we do not want to compromise Asia Bibi’s long-term safety.
On the timing, I think the Foreign Minister of Pakistan has confirmed that Asia Bibi will remain under the protection of the Pakistani Government until the legal process has concluded, and the Prime Minister of Pakistan has supported the Supreme Court and promised to uphold the rule of law. What matters is providing for the safety and wellbeing of Asia Bibi and her family.
I referred earlier to figures on the number of people in absolute poverty, which have reached record lows under this Government, but the hon. Gentleman talks about people who are in work. The Government have taken a number of steps to help those people: we have cut taxes for 32 million people, increased the national living wage and frozen fuel duty. Unfortunately, however, in the case of so many of those measures, which we took to give financial help to people who are just about managing—the sort of people he is talking about—the Labour party opposed them.
In an article I posted on my website in November, I concluded by saying:
“Hopefully we will eventually come to a position that both sides who support the agreement and those, like me, who oppose it can…coalesce. I believe this could happen over coming weeks, though there will be more drama before we reach that point.”
We have all had our fair share of drama, but would my right hon. Friend agree that it is not both sides—meaning remain and leave—who must coalesce around an agreement but the European Union, and may I urge her to continue negotiations with Europe in the hope it will show some flexibility?
I thank my hon. Friend for making a very obvious point that has not been raised by those who have been talking about the sort of discussions we are to have across Parliament. I want to see what will secure the support of the House, but of course we have to ensure that it can secure the support of the EU. This is a treaty and agreement between two parties, and, as I said last night, once we have those ideas from the House, I will take them to the EU.
As I said earlier, the Government have made more money available to police forces. Nearly £1 billion extra will be available to them next year. But, of course, it is not just about the money that is available to police forces; it is about the power that the police have. That is why we have introduced the Offensive Weapons Bill, and why we continually take action to ensure that the police have the power that they need to keep us safe.
Further to my right hon. Friend’s point of order last night and the questions that she has been asked so far during this session, does she agree that we all need to maintain maximum flexibility if we are to build a consensus around Brexit in the House?
As I said last night, we will approach the discussions that we will have with Members on both sides of the House in a constructive spirit. As I said earlier, however, as we are looking at those discussions to find what will secure the support of the House, we must remember that what we are doing is finding a way to deliver Brexit, and to deliver on the vote of the British people.
The withdrawal agreement that was negotiated with the European Union set out the ways in which EU citizens’ rights would be guaranteed here in the United Kingdom and reciprocal rights for UK citizens in the European Union would be guaranteed. The vote last night rejected that package of the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration. We have made clear as a Government that in a no-deal situation we will also guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are living here, and we stand by that.
No country has ever left the EU using article 50, so I do not underestimate the challenge, but back in the real world, businesses up and down the country—with the possible exception of Wetherspoon—are extremely disappointed with last night’s vote, and short-term investment decisions are still on hold or going against the UK. Does the Prime Minister agree that protecting just-in-time supply chains, on which my constituents’ jobs depend, must be at the heart of any solution?
My hon. Friend has raised an important point. One of the things that the deal we put to Parliament last night did was protect those just-in-time supply chain models, and our position on their importance has not changed. As we look ahead to today’s vote, we should bear in mind that backing the Government today will enable us to find a way forward on Brexit and on the issues which, as my hon. Friend says, matter at home, to ensure that this country has the Government it needs to take that forward, deliver on the referendum, and—as my hon. Friend says—protect not just the jobs of her constituents, but jobs throughout the country.
We have been working with Hitachi and with the Government of Japan, and yes, I did raise the issue of the Wylfa site with the Prime Minister of Japan last week. Of course, the company involved will be making a commercial decision in relation to this matter. The Government have been in discussion with it for some time, and have been providing support. We do want to see new nuclear as part of our energy mix in the future, but we must also ensure that the cost of any energy that is provided by nuclear is at a reasonable level for the consumer.
I welcome the recent news from the Secretary of State for Defence and his ministerial team that 45 Commando will remain at RM Condor in my constituency. Zulu Company, part of the 45 Commando group, recently took part in specialist chemical training, which will ensure it is ready to respond first to any chemical or biological attack such as the one we had in Salisbury last year. Will the Prime Minister join me in congratulating the Royal Marines at 45 Commando and all the men and women who work at the base on their tireless work to keep our country safe?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising that issue; she has also raised it in a Westminster Hall debate as it is of importance to her, as it is to many other Members around this House. I pay tribute to all the Royal Marines past and present at RM Condor and I am pleased to say that we do plan for 45 Commando to remain based at RM Condor barracks in Angus. We will ensure that they continue to have the required facilities for them to live, work and train in Angus, and I am delighted to join my hon. Friend in congratulating Zulu Company on its hard work in keeping us safe.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s offer of cross-party talks. She will remember, as we are former colleagues, that my party has a record of working with others in the national interest. However, she should not even bother lifting the telephone to Opposition parties unless she is willing to rule out categorically a no-deal Brexit and is willing to enter into a constructive conversation about a people’s vote.
As I said earlier, there are two ways of avoiding a no deal: one is to have a deal, and one is to stay in the European Union. We will not be staying in the European Union, but I am always happy to have constructive discussions with party leaders who want to put the national interest first. Sadly, from everything I have heard, not every party leader wants to do that.
Driving off a cliff never ends well, particularly if it results in a crash and burn Brexit with no deal in just 72 days’ time, but there is a way to avoid this: to be realistic by extending article 50 to allow us to put a realistic negotiated Brexit direct to the British people, to ask if it has their consent and also to include an option to remain with the excellent deal we already have.
My hon. Friend will not be surprised to hear, as I have said this already in today’s Prime Minister’s questions, that I believe we should deliver on the vote of the referendum in 2016: we should be delivering Brexit. As I indicated earlier to her, she and others have talked about extending article 50, but the European Union would extend it only under circumstances in which it was going to be possible to come to an agreement on a deal. The talks we will be having—the discussions I will be having with parliamentarians across this House—will be aimed at ensuring that we can find a way to secure a deal that will get the support of this House.