The Prime Minister was asked—
I am sure that Members across the House will wish to join me in marking Holocaust Memorial Day this Sunday. It is an opportunity for us to remember all those who suffered in the holocaust and in subsequent genocides around the world. It is a reminder that we must all challenge and condemn prejudice and hatred wherever it is found.
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 associate myself with the comments that the Prime Minister made in relation to Holocaust Memorial Day? May I also say as a proud Scot that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the most successful political union that the world has ever known? That said, does the Prime Minister agree that, when Nicola Sturgeon demands a second independence referendum, only four years after we had the last one, the UK Government should side with the majority of the people of Scotland and firmly tell her no?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As he points out, Scotland held a referendum in 2014. It was legal, fair and decisive, and the people clearly voted for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom. More than that, at the last general election, the people of Scotland again sent a very clear message that they do not want a second divisive referendum, but the SNP sadly is out of touch with the people of Scotland and has not yet heard that message. The last thing we want is a second independence referendum. The United Kingdom should be pulling together, and should not be being driven apart.
Sunday is Holocaust Memorial Day, a time for us all to reflect on the horrors of genocide and to recommit to never again allowing the poison of antisemitism and racism to disfigure our society in any way. The Prime Minister was also right to acknowledge the other genocides that have happened since the second world war. It is up to us to try to prevent such horrors from ever happening again anywhere in the world.
After the overwhelming defeat of the Prime Minister’s deal, she says she wants solutions to the Brexit crisis that command sufficient support in the House. The Chancellor and the Business Secretary agree that there is a “large majority” in the Commons opposed to no deal, so will the Prime Minister listen to her own Cabinet members and take no deal off the table?
What I, members of the Cabinet and the whole Government are doing is working to ensure that we leave the European Union with a deal. That is the way to avoid no deal: to leave the European Union with a deal. I say to the right hon. Gentleman that what I have wanted to do—I have been doing it with Members across the House—is sit down and talk about how we can secure support in this House for a deal. He has been willing to sit down with Hamas, Hezbollah and the IRA without preconditions, yet he will not meet me to talk about Brexit. In this case, he is neither present nor involved.
Actually I reached out to the Prime Minister last September when I offered to discuss our deals with her. It appears that, while the door to her office may well be open, the minds inside it are completely closed. She has shown no flexibility whatsoever on taking no deal off the table.
The Chancellor reassured businesses that amendments would be put down that
“would have the effect of removing the threat of no deal...which is binding and effective”.
Given that those amendments are now tabled, will the Prime Minister confirm that, if passed, they would rule out no deal?
We have seen amendments that seek to engineer a situation in which article 50 is extended. That does not solve the issue that there will always be a point of decision. The decision remains the same: no deal, a deal or no Brexit. I am delivering on Brexit. I want to do it with a deal. Why will the right hon. Gentleman not come and meet me and talk about it?
The only consistency in the Prime Minister’s strategy seems to be running down the clock by threatening no deal as an alternative to her dead deal.
The CBI says that the “projected impact” of no deal on the UK economy “would be devastating”. Leaving with no deal would be a hammer blow to manufacturing in this country, costing jobs and damaging living standards.
Last week, the Justice Secretary was asked whether he ruled out a customs union. He said:
“I don’t think we can”.
However, that same day, the Leader of the House said that we cannot be in a customs union. Can the Prime Minister be clear? Do her Government rule out a customs union with the European Union?
The right hon. Gentleman talks about a customs union and I note that he has tabled an amendment. The Labour party used to refer to a comprehensive customs union, then it was a new customs union and now it is a permanent customs union, but the question—[Interruption.] I am happy to sit down to talk to him about what he means by that. Does he mean accepting the common external tariff? Does he mean accepting the common commercial policy? Does he mean accepting the Union customs code? Does he mean accepting EU state aid rules? If he will not talk about it, there is only one conclusion: he hasn’t got a clue.
My question was: does the Prime Minister rule in or rule out a customs union? It is not complicated. She could have said yes, she could have said no. It is a key part of what Labour is putting forward and it is backed by the TUC, representing millions of workers; by the CBI, representing thousands of businesses; by the First Ministers of Wales and Scotland; and indeed by many members of her own party, including apparently her own chief of staff. So can the Prime Minister explain why she is ruling out a customs union as a solution to the crisis? She could for once actually answer the question.
Perhaps I can try to help the right hon. Gentleman here. When many people talk about a customs union, what they want to ensure is that businesses can export to the EU without facing tariffs, quotas or rules-of-origin checks. I agree, and the deal we negotiated delivers just that, but it also allows us to have an independent trade policy and to do our own trade deals with the rest of the world—the benefits of a customs union and the benefits of our own trade policy.
The International Trade Secretary promised 40 trade agreements the second after Brexit. This morning, he could not name a single one. His own Business Minister said that he was not impressed by “sham trade agreements” and
“not prepared to sell business down the river for other people’s political dogma.”
So why is the Prime Minister prepared to sell people’s jobs and living standards down the river, rather than negotiating a customs union that would be part of a sensible deal for the future?
The deal that we negotiated did protect jobs—[Interruption.] And it was rejected by this House. There are some specific issues that Members across this House have raised in relation to that deal and we work on those. We have already responded on a number of issues—parliamentary involvement, workers’ rights, citizens’ rights—as a result of the conversations that we have had with Members of this House. What we want to ensure is that we get a deal that protects jobs, but the right hon. Gentleman is doing exactly what he always does. He just stands up and uses these phrases. The honest answer is that I do not think he knows what those phrases mean and what the implications of those phrases are. We will be protecting jobs in the UK with a good trade relationship with the European Union—enhancing and increasing jobs in the UK, and by the way I see that the right hon. Gentleman has not referred to this week’s employment figures, which show employment up in this country as a result of this Government.
What the Prime Minister clearly did not have time to mention was the rising levels of in-work poverty, personal debt and the problems that people face in surviving at work. The door of her office might be open, but the minds are closed—[Interruption.] The Prime Minister is clearly not listening—[Interruption.]
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Across the country, people are worried about public services, their living standards and rising levels of personal debt. While a third of the Prime Minister’s Government are at the billionaires’ jamboree in Davos, she says she is listening, but rules out changes on the two issues where there might be a majority: against no deal and for a customs union—part of Labour’s sensible Brexit alternative. If the Prime Minister is serious about finding a solution, which of her red lines is she prepared to abandon? Could she name a single one?
The right hon. Gentleman makes claims about minds being closed and asks about red lines. Why does he not come and talk about it? He talks about what people up and down this country are seeing. I will tell him what we have just seen this week: borrowing this year at its lowest level for 16 years; the International Monetary Fund saying we will grow faster than Germany, Italy and Japan this year; UN figures showing foreign direct investment in the UK up last year; the employment rate up; the number of people in work up; and wages up—and the biggest threat to all of that would be a Labour Government.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Not just he, I and all Conservative Members, but all Labour Members stood on manifesto pledges to respect the result of the referendum and to leave the EU. I have set out several times my concern about returning to the British people in a second referendum. People sent a clear message. We asked them to make a choice, they made that choice, and we should deliver on it.
I join the Prime Minister in marking Holocaust Memorial Day. It is important that we reflect on man’s inhumanity to man at that time and subsequently, most recently towards the Rohingya people. More must be done to eradicate the risk of genocide that is suffered by peoples throughout the world.
Last November, the Government published an economic analysis of Brexit that looked at four scenarios, but it did not include the Prime Minister’s deal. Has she done an economic analysis of her deal?
The right hon. Gentleman obviously looked carefully at the economic analysis, and he will have seen that it looked at the impact of different issues in relation to the trade relationship and set that out very clearly. It made it absolutely clear that the proposal the Government had put on the table was the best in terms of delivering on the referendum result, maintaining people’s jobs and enhancing the economy.
I can only take it from that answer that there is no analysis of the Government’s plan. According to the paper last November, Brexit will lead to the loss of up to 9% of GDP throughout the UK. That will cost jobs. It is the height of irresponsibility for the Prime Minister to bring to Parliament a deal for which we have not seen the economic impact. People up and down the UK are going to lose their jobs and economic opportunities because of the ideology of this Government. It is important that the House reflects on that and on the economic security of our citizens. We have to be honest with people. We need to go back to them, have a people’s vote and let them determine what should happen.
We have been reflecting on the economic security of our citizens across the whole of the UK, and that is why we put forward the proposals that we did last summer and why the proposals in the deal—in the political declaration—we negotiated with the EU set out an ambitious future trade deal. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to reflect on the interests of the citizens of Scotland, he should reflect on the fact that being part of the UK—[Interruption.] He says he wants to know the figures and the economic analysis. In that case, it is no good his dismissing the figures and the economic analysis that show that being part of the UK is worth £10 billion in additional public spending and nearly £1,900 for every single person in Scotland. If he is interested in economics, he should want to stay in the UK and stop his policy of independence.
Yes. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is not just an arbitrary date. It is a date to which the House effectively agreed when it triggered article 50, because it understood that the article 50 process was a two-year process, and, as I said in response to the Leader of the Opposition, that process will end on 29 March 2019. I do not believe that extending article 50 resolves any issues, because at some point Members must decide whether they want a no-deal situation, to agree a deal, or to have no Brexit.
Let me first thank Denis for his commitment to serving in our armed forces. All our armed forces do an incredibly important and brave job for us.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will not expect me to be able to look at the details of the case at the Dispatch Box on the Floor of the House, but I will ask the Home Secretary to look into it and respond to him.
I have heard some job applications in my time, but that was quite an interesting one.
My position, and the position of this Government and Ministers across this Government, is very clear. It is our duty to deliver on the vote of the British people to leave the European Union, and the two-year process ends on 29 March. That is the position of the Government. Of course I am always happy to consider job applications from my hon. Friend, but I have to say that the basis of his application was not correct, because the Government are committed to taking the United Kingdom out of the European Union.
As the hon. Gentleman will know, there are many cases in which some of the measures that have been used do not properly reflect the situation on the ground, but obviously we look very carefully at the formula to ensure that we have that fair funding between local authorities.
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this important issue and highlighting that case, which shows the horrors that so many people went through during the holocaust. We welcome the Chichester choir to Parliament performing “Push”, and I commend it on its work in keeping alive the remarkable story of Simon Gronowski. As I have just indicated, his story reminds us of the millions who were killed in the concentration camps and the absolute horror of the holocaust. We should all remember that, and remember genocides that have, sadly, occurred since, and condemn hatred and prejudice in all its forms, including antisemitism wherever it is found. There is no place for racial hatred in our society. I apologise because I suspect I may not be able to attend the performance my hon. Friend referred to, but I hope she will pass on my thanks to the choir for coming here and for the work it is doing.
It is obviously very important for all of us that people are able to feel and be safe in their homes, and I understand residents’ concerns over this issue of cladding. We fully expect building owners in the private sector to take action and make sure that appropriate safety measures are in place. Interim measures are in place where necessary on all of the 171 high-rise private residential buildings with the unsafe ACM—aluminium composite material—cladding, but permanent remediation is rightly the focus, and we have repeatedly called on private building owners not to pass costs on to leaseholders. As a result of our interventions 212 owners have either started, completed or have commitments in place to remediate; 56 owners are refusing to remediate. We are maintaining pressure on this but we rule nothing out.
First, may I extend my deepest sympathies to Rachael Knappier? We recognise that this growth in non-surgical treatments increases the need for consumer protection, and we are currently working with stakeholders to strengthen the regulation of cosmetics procedures. We are committed to improving the safety of cosmetic procedures and there are a number of ways in which that can be done: better training and robust qualifications for practitioners, but also clear information so that people can make informed decisions about their care. We would urge anyone seeking a cosmetic procedure to take the time to find a reputable, safe and qualified practitioner who is subject to statutory regulation or on an accredited voluntary register. My hon. Friend has raised an important issue.
First, it is not the case that that is the only way to provide frictionless trade between the United Kingdom and the European Union. Other options have been put on the table. The question of the extent of that frictionless trade will be a matter for the second stage of the negotiations.
West Midlands Economy
I am pleased to say to my hon. Friend that thanks to our economic record there are 90,000 more small businesses in the west midlands since 2010, that the national living wage is giving more than 170,000 people a pay rise in the west midlands this year and that employment in the west midlands has risen by 252,000 since 2010. I can also tell him that we will continue to support the region by investing more than £430 million as part of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull local enterprise partnership.
As ever, that is great news for the west midlands and it shows our firm economic policy, but will my right hon. Friend now welcome the new Birmingham airport masterplan, which addresses its growth in services for businessmen and holidaymakers for the west midlands? Will she also commit the Government to work with the airport to help it to expand its long-haul route network, which is so important for the businesses and holidaymakers of Lichfield and beyond?
We are certainly supporting airports beyond Heathrow, such as Birmingham, to make the best use of their existing runways. I am happy to welcome Birmingham’s decision to publish this masterplan because I understand that, as my hon. Friend says, it aims to attract new long-haul routes in addition to the routes that it already runs. We are also committed to improving access to Birmingham airport. For example, by 2026 the airport will be served by HS2, which will significantly reduce journey times to London and dramatically increase the catchment area of the airport.
What we are saying is that this House overwhelmingly voted to have the referendum in 2016 and for people to be asked for their choice as to whether to leave or to stay in the European Union. There will have been a variety of reasons why people voted to leave the European Union in 2016. Many wanted an end to free movement, and that is what we will be delivering. For many, it was about sovereignty, and that is why ending the jurisdiction of the European Court is important. Independent trade policy is also part of it, and that is what the Government are delivering. We are delivering on the vote that took place and ensuring that we do it in a way that protects jobs and gives people certainty for the future.
My hon. Friend’s experience shows exactly why it is so important for women to take up this test. We need to do more to encourage women to take up their cervical screening tests, and Public Health England will shortly launch a national campaign to highlight the risks of cervical cancer and encourage women to attend the screening appointments. I can stand here as the Prime Minister and say that I know what it is like to go through a cervical smear test, and it is not comfortable. For some it will be embarrassing, and it is sometimes painful, but those few minutes can save lives, so I would encourage all women to take up their smear tests.
On the Monday before Christmas, my constituent Nathan Garrett, aged 18, was referred by his GP for emergency mental health support. On the Tuesday, he was helping others and delivering my Christmas cards, just as he had delivered many election leaflets over the years. Later, he asked the crisis team for emergency help, but none was forthcoming. On the Wednesday, Nathan went missing. On the Thursday, I learned at the volunteers’ event that we hold every Christmas, when I was expecting to see Nathan, that it had all got too much for him and that he had taken his own life.
Nathan Garrett was a brilliant, engaging, kind young man. He was a county athletics champion, a talented and brilliant musician, and incredibly popular. His parents and his grandmother are here today. Does the Prime Minister agree that when a teenager needs emergency mental health support, that support should be available within 24 hours? Will she ask the appropriate Minister to meet me and Nathan’s family to push that matter forward today?
I am sure that all Members will join me in sending our deepest condolences to Nathan’s family and friends and to all those who knew him. From what the hon. Gentleman said, it sounds as though he was an incredible young man. Every life lost is a tragedy, and incidents of suicide are deeply concerning, which is why we are taking action in relation to suicide prevention. The hon. Gentleman has also raised the issue of mental health provision. We recognise the importance of increasing provision for people who are suffering from mental health problems. I am happy to ensure that the hon. Gentleman can meet the appropriate Minister to discuss the matter.
My hon. Friend has raised an important issue. The crimes were utterly appalling. That is why we have given tackling child sexual abuse and exploitation the highest priority, and it is concerning, as my hon. Friend said, that the inquiry has taken so long to start, having been announced in the spring of last year. It is in the interests of victims and survivors that the inquiry is up and running as soon as possible. People deserve to see that inquiry taking place, and I will ensure that a Home Office Minister meets my hon. Friend to discuss that further.
At Prime Minister’s questions last October, I asked the Prime Minister about my constituent Hassan Mirza and his 10-year battle simply to renew his passport. I wrote to the Prime Minister and received a holding response two months ago. Since then, Hassan’s uncle has passed away, but he could not attend the funeral. His wife is ill, but he cannot visit her or his children. This is unacceptable. When will the Prime Minister finally give me a detailed answer, and when will she get a grip on the failings in the Home Office?
Will my right hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to my constituent Bob Woodward, who sadly died on Sunday? When Bob’s son Robert was diagnosed with cancer aged eight in 1976, he founded the charity CLIC—Cancer and Leukaemia in Childhood. Over the following decades, he changed lives by raising over £100 million in support of worthy causes. He was an inspirational figure and a great and compassionate man, and he recently had a new Great Western Railway train named after him. Will my right hon. Friend also join me in offering our condolences to his friends and family?
I am certainly happy to join my hon. Friend in expressing our sympathies and condolences to Bob Woodward’s friends and family and in paying tribute to Bob. After tragically losing his son to cancer, as my hon. Friend pointed out, he dedicated his life to young cancer patients and their families and was able use his success as a property developer to provide residences where families of young cancer patients could live while their child is receiving treatment. It is a fitting legacy that there are now 10 of these properties in the UK, and CLIC is now a global organisation raising funds for the care of families around the world. Bob Woodward suffered a terrible tragedy with the loss of his son, but he ensured that his work throughout his life is benefiting others.
This morning I received a letter from Santander saying that it is closing the branch in Middleton and suggesting that my constituents should avail themselves of banking services at Middleton post office, which in turn is being franchised into the back of WH Smith. Can the Prime Minister say what her policy is for our high street, other than just managed decline?
Obviously individual banks take commercial decisions, and it sounds as if there will still be post office services available on the high street to which the hon. Lady refers. We are concerned about helping to manage our high streets and ensuring that we have good high streets for the future. That is why, in the Budget, the Chancellor announced funding that is available to local authorities to work on plans for their high streets.
Will the Prime Minister join me in reassuring the people of North Wiltshire and, indeed, the nation that, despite yesterday’s announcement that he is to move his corporate headquarters and two senior executives to Singapore, the commitment of Dyson to Britain remains undiminished, as evidenced by the £200 million he is investing in his research and development site at Hullavington and by the £40 million he is investing in the engineering and design college at Malmesbury? He is totally and utterly committed to Great Britain, and yesterday’s announcement has no effect at all on that commitment.
Dyson is clear that it will continue to have a long-term future in the UK, and it has trebled its workforce to 4,800 over the past five years. Of course, what matters to companies like Dyson is having a Government who are unapologetically pro-business, which this Government are, and a Government who are ensuring that our balanced economic policy sees increasing employment, exports and foreign direct investment in UK companies at record highs.
Mr Speaker, may I wish you, the Prime Minister and everybody here a very happy Cumbria Day? A vast array of produce is available: beer from Kirkby Lonsdale; relish from Hawkshead; deli.sh pies; and tea and coffee from Penningtons—all the stuff the Prime Minister might need for a packed lunch if she is considering a walking holiday anytime soon. I remind her that, after London, Cumbria contains Britain’s biggest tourism destination, but today Cumbria has come to London. I invite her and, indeed, everybody here to come and join us in the Jubilee Room straight after PMQs to sample the best of Cumbria.
The hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) has done a good job of promoting the benefits of Cumbria, and I am sure he will be joined by my hon. Friends and others from across the House. I thank him for listing the very many items I might want to put in my packed lunch when I go on a walking holiday, but I am afraid I am bound to say that, although I recognise that Cumbria has good produce, Berkshire has good produce, too.