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Volume 655: debated on Wednesday 6 March 2019

I am sure the whole House will join you in welcoming our Australian friends to the Gallery, Mr Speaker. I am reminded of the occasion when another former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, visited this House. He watched Prime Minister’s questions and commented afterwards that however lively PMQs was here, it was a vicarage tea party compared with Australia.

The death of anyone through an act of violence is an appalling tragedy. A growing number of young people have lost their lives in a cycle of mindless violence that has shocked us all. Our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and families of all the victims. The responsibility for these crimes lies with the perpetrators of them, but we must all do more to ensure that justice is served and to tackle the root causes of this violence so that we can bring it to an end and ensure the safety of our young people. I will be holding a summit in No. 10 in the coming days to bring together Ministers, community leaders, agencies and others, and I will also be meeting the victims of these appalling crimes to listen to their stories and explore what more we can do as a whole society to tackle this problem.

I am sure the whole House will want to join me in paying tribute to Professor Lord Bhattacharyya who died, sadly, last week. His creation of the Warwick Manufacturing Group was truly a pioneering partnership between academia and industry. Our thoughts are with his family and friends, and I know he will be sorely missed.

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 associate myself with the Prime Minister’s remarks and pass my condolences on to the families and loved ones of those who have been the victims of tragic crimes this week.

Britain spent £27 billion on bailing out the banks, and they have repaid us by closing down 3,000 branches since 2016, including the last branch in Grange this week. They have also failed to compensate innocent customers who have lost £2 billion in fraud. Does the Prime Minister agree that the banks have taken without giving for far too long, and will she meet me so that we can force the banks to compensate the victims of fraud and the communities that they have abandoned and prevent them from closing the last branch in town?

The hon. Gentleman talks about banks closing branches; of course, as people’s behaviour in terms of their access to their finances changes, banks respond to that. They are commercial organisations and those are decisions that they take. He talks about compensation, which is of course an issue that has been raised across the House in the past, and it has been taken up and is being looked at by the financial services ombudsman.

Q2. Today sees the start of Lent, traditionally a time of abstinence and giving things up. Recently, it has become a season of doing something new and positive. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would do our national soul some good if we all took up voting with the Government to leave the EU with her good deal and in an orderly fashion on 29 March? (909623)

I thank my hon. Friend, who has put forward a positive suggestion for Members of this House, during Lent, to vote with the Government in the meaningful vote. Then, of course, across the House we would all be able to give up being a member of the European Union on 29 March.

I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to Lord Bhattacharyya, who died last week. As she said, he was a champion of the car industry and manufacturing in general, and he played a key role in saving Jaguar Land Rover, not only safeguarding jobs but, crucially, ensuring that international research is done in the UK. We thank him for everything he did.

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day, and I am delighted that for the Opposition the debate will be opened by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham East (Janet Daby), who is herself the daughter of people from the Windrush generation. We will be making the case for closing the gender pay gap, as we are determined to improve the lot of women in our society. In that vein, may I congratulate the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) on giving birth to a son this morning?

I join the Prime Minister in sending our thoughts and prayers to the families of those who have lost young people. Yousef Makki and Jodie Chesney, both 17 years old, were the ninth and 10th teenagers murdered already this year. Two hundred and eighty-five people have been stabbed to death in the past year—the highest level ever. I welcome the fact that the Prime Minister has announced that Cobra is being convened, but what extra funding is being provided to address the root causes of both knife crime and the increasing levels of violent crime on the streets of all our towns and cities?

First, I join the right hon. Gentleman in congratulating the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) on the birth of her son. We are all pleased to hear that that has gone well. In relation to International Women’s Day, I am pleased that today marks the launch of the book by his hon. Friend, the hon. Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves), “Women of Westminster: The MPs Who Changed Politics”. I hope that that book will be an inspiration to other women to come into politics and have a career in this House. I congratulate the England women’s football team, who last night won the SheBelieves cup, defeating Japan in doing so.

The right hon. Gentleman raises the specific question of knife crime, which I referred to in my opening comments. Of course, as I said, any death of a young person through an act of violence is a terrible tragedy, and we have seen too many young lives—too many lives of promise and potential—being cut short. Responsibility for these terrible crimes does lie with the perpetrators, and we will always stand with the victims to ensure that criminals are brought to justice. We will defeat the scourge of violence only if we understand and address its complex root causes. Yes, that does mean ensuring that all agencies, including the police, have the right resources and powers to do their jobs. It means tackling the drug crime that is fuelling gang violence in our cities and exporting it across the country, and it means intervening at every stage to turn young people away from violence, and that is exactly what the Government are doing.

Many of us in this House will have sat in the living rooms of homes where a young person has lost their life through knife crime and will never forget that experience and never forget that feeling of hopelessness and loss that those families are going through. We owe it to those families and those young people who have lost their lives to do far more about knife crime and far more about ensuring that there are sufficient resources for the police to deal with it. Sara Thornton of the National Police Chiefs Council said:

“We think we need much stronger leadership from Government…and there needs to be more funding.”

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner said yesterday that, of course,

“there is some link between violent crime on the streets…and police numbers.”

A total of 21,000 police officers’ jobs have been cut. Violent crime is at the highest level since comparative records began. If there are sufficient police numbers, can the Prime Minister please explain why, yesterday, the Defence Secretary was offering to send in the military to assist with knife crime?

The Metropolitan Police Commissioner has recognised that the causes of knife crime are complex, and she has said:

“The police alone won’t sort this issue out, we can’t arrest our way out of this problem.”

I agree, which is why we need to tackle it across a number of fronts. We must continue to enforce the laws that bear down on violent crime. That involves the Offensive Weapons Bill in which we introduced the knife crime prevention orders. Those orders were asked for by the police, and we are introducing them. We will intervene early to stop young people going down into a life of crime and becoming involved in crime. We have published the serious violence strategy, and the serious violence taskforce is working. We have also put £200 million into the youth endowment fund, and our early intervention youth fund has already funded 29 projects working with police and crime commissioners. We do ensure that police have the right resources: £460 million more is available this year and nearly double that—nearly £1 billion extra—is available next year. We also need to ensure that we understand the different use and misuse of drugs that is fuelling much of this crime. That is why my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has set up the independent drugs misuse review, which will be led by Dame Carol Black.

The police clearly do not have the resources to deal with the problem: safer neighbourhood teams have been cut and community police officers have been cut. Many areas see no police officers at all. There is nobody to supervise these special orders that the Prime Minister is talking about. Perhaps she will listen to Nazir Afzal, the former chief prosecutor of Greater Manchester. Tragically, his 17-year-old relative was recently stabbed to death in Birmingham. He said:

“When you reduce police numbers by 21,000…there isn’t the intelligence any more, there isn’t the neighbour policing any more”.

Does the Prime Minister now regret the cuts in police numbers, and in this review will she undertake to restore them to their former level?

As I have just indicated, we are putting more resources into the police. [Interruption.] It is no good Opposition Members standing up saying, “No, you’re not.” It is a fact that more money is being put into the police this year and that more money is being put into the police next year. The real question is not are we putting more money into the police, because we are, but why did the Labour party oppose that money going into the police.

Violent crime has doubled under the Tories’ watch. I have had a letter from Mike in Gosport—[Interruption.] Yes, it is important; he has something to say. Mike says:

“The crime rate has run out of control because there is no police presence…it has become a really unsafe town to live in”.

I think Mike speaks for millions of people around the country. When are towns such as Gosport and others going to get resources for the safer neighbourhood teams, and the local police they need to tackle rising violent crime and to provide the intelligence from which arrests can be made of those who have committed these crimes?

As we make more resources available to the police, they are available to forces across the country, including Hampshire. Of course we look at the powers and resources that the police need. That is why we are not just putting more resources in, but increasing the powers that the police have. We introduced knife crime prevention orders in the Offensive Weapons Bill. That is an important step, which we have taken because the police asked us to. If the right hon. Gentleman wants the police to be able to do their job on the streets, he needs to tell this House why he voted against the measures we introduced to increase the powers of the police to deal with those carrying knives and to apply custodial sentences in the cases of those who are caught twice carrying knives.

Crime went down when Labour was in office. We increased the numbers of police officers and the safer neighbourhood teams. Police officers are telling me that there are simply not enough of them to do the job. Hampshire alone has lost 1,000 police officers, and its funding has been cut by £70 million. Does the Prime Minister understand the scale of need here?

The Local Government Association says that local services face a funding gap of £3.2 billion this year. By the way, that is double—in one year alone—what the stronger towns fund is offering over seven years. The number of rapes, murders and other serious crimes committed by offenders on parole has risen by more than 50% since the privatisation of the probation service was introduced four years ago. At least one company wrongly classified offenders as low risk in order to meet Government targets. Do the Government now accept that privatising the probation service to profit-making companies has been a disaster that should be reversed, and that the probation service should be brought back completely into the public service?

When we are looking at issues of probation, we want to ensure that we are genuinely reducing the level of reoffending. That is about a rehabilitation method that looks at a variety of issues, including the home of an individual coming out of prison, their employment and their relationship with their family. This was not done fully under the last Labour Government, which is why we saw such a high level of reoffending rates and it is why we need to take action.

The right hon. Gentleman keeps raising these issues, and I welcome the fact that he is accepting that dealing with serious violence and knife crime requires us to act across a number of areas. For example, it is about the work that we are doing with young people, and supporting intervention in hospital accident and emergency departments. We are expanding our support to the charity Redthread, which has introduced its youth violence intervention work in hospitals in Birmingham and Nottingham, as well as in London. We are also supporting the £3.6 million national county lines co-ordination centre.

In just two separate weeks of law enforcement action, we have seen more than 1,000 arrests and 1,300 individuals being safeguarded. We commend all the police officers and other agencies involved in that work. The Government are giving them the support that they need to do their job.

The problem is that violent crime has doubled. The rise has been driven by austerity—something that the Prime Minister told us a few months ago was over. Cuts to police and rising poverty; the police and the Home Office recognise the link, even if the Prime Minister does not. But the issues are wider: the privatisation of the probation service has been a disaster; mental health services are under-resourced; youth and children’s services are in crisis; more than 600 youth centres have been closed; 3,500 youth workers have lost their jobs; funding for colleges and schools has been cut; and exclusions are rising. The public services that were there to support young people have been systematically stripped away, and everyone can see the consequences. Can the Prime Minister not recognise that there has to be a holistic response? We cannot keep communities safe on the cheap, with cuts and privatisation. We have to invest in all our communities in every part of this country—something that this Government are incapable of doing.

We put more money into our local authorities; the right hon. Gentleman voted against it. We put more money into our police—[Interruption.]

Order. There is a very discordant noise from Opposition Back Benchers. The question has been asked—and, broadly speaking, heard—and the answer will be heard.

We have put more money into our schools—£2.6 billion over these two years. We are putting more money into our local authorities—£1.3 billion next year, voted against by the right hon. Gentleman and the Labour party—and more money into our police: nearly £1 billion extra available to them next year, voted against by the right hon. Gentleman and the Labour party.

The right hon. Gentleman stands up here and talks about austerity. If he is that concerned about austerity, you would think that he would want to make sure that it could never, ever happen again. Let us remember why we had to take those measures—because of the state of the economy left by the Labour party. But what would his policies mean? Higher borrowing, higher taxes, crashing our economy, less money for our public services—he would take us right back to austerity, square one.

Q8. Across the country, freeholders and leaseholders are being ripped off by management companies charging excessive service charges, often for services they do not require. Many of these people are vulnerable pensioners who are trapped in McCarthy & Stone properties with their asset depreciating thanks to the dominant involvement of FirstPort and Vincent Tchenguiz. May I ask the Prime Minister for two reforms: first, ground rents at peppercorn levels for retirement homes; and secondly, bringing in a charging schedule and an automatic re-tendering process so that all freeholders and long lease holders can bid with their own community interest companies to deliver services that they actually require? (909629)

I recognise that this is an issue of real concern to many constituents. That is why we have committed to clamping down on those agents who abuse the system and protecting leaseholders and renters who are suffering at the hands of rogue agents, every day, from unexpected costs or from poor-quality repairs for excessive fees. We have asked Lord Best to chair a working group to look at regulating and professionalising property agents that will include reviewing the standards around the transparency of service charges and other fees and charges—how they are presented to consumers—and putting them into a statutory code for managing agents. But I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Communities Secretary will have heard the issue that my hon. Friend has raised and be happy to meet him to discuss this further.

Tove Macdonald is 87 years old. She was brought up under Nazi occupation in Denmark. She has lived in Scotland for 59 years. Why, Prime Minister, is she being forced to register in a country she has called home for almost the last 60 years?

We want to ensure that EU citizens who are living here have their rights protected. We want to be able to ensure that they have the necessary support that they need and, indeed, the recognition of their status here in the United Kingdom. If the right hon. Gentleman is interested in defending and protecting the rights of EU citizens here in this country, then I hope he will vote for the deal, which does exactly that.

What a disgrace—a woman who has lived here for almost 60 years, and the Prime Minister wants her to register to stay here. Tove has children. She has grandchildren. She has married in Scotland. She has friends here. She has built her life here. Why is the Prime Minister making Tove register after almost 60 years? Will she end this heartless policy? Will she tell Tove and all EU citizens who have come to the UK to work, live and love that the UK is their home, without precondition?

We have consistently said to EU citizens who have been living here for many years, as in the example that the right hon. Gentleman gave, and others who have come here more recently that we recognise the contribution they have made to our society and our economy, and we want them to stay. That is why we put EU citizens’ rights at the front of the negotiations with the European Union. It is why we have negotiated those citizens’ rights in the withdrawal agreement, and it is why this Government have given a confirmation and a guarantee that those rights will be protected even if we leave with no deal. That is the right way to protect the interests of EU citizens here in the United Kingdom. The right hon. Gentleman should recognise the commitment that this Government have given to all EU citizens in the United Kingdom. This is their home. We want them to stay, and they can stay.

Q11. Five years ago, my constituent Barry Bednar’s 14-year-old son Breck was brutally raped and murdered. The perpetrator is now serving a 25-year prison sentence. However, in recent months, the victim’s family, including his teenage sister, have received repeated distressing and disturbing communications on Snapchat purporting to be from the perpetrator, graphically recounting the circumstances of the murder. The police have asked Snapchat to provide the data that would help them definitively identify who has been sending those messages—for example, data about the device from which the messages were sent—but Snapchat is referring the police to a mutual legal assistance treaty with the United States, and the police would have to go through a one-year process to get that vital data for their investigation. Does the Prime Minister agree that that is completely unacceptable? Will she join me in calling on Snapchat and other social media companies to promptly co-operate with police inquiries? If they do not do so, does she agree that legislation is required? (909632)

The case that my hon. Friend raises is one of great concern, and I know that Members across the House will want to join me in sending our sincerest sympathies to Breck’s family. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Breck’s mother for her brave and powerful campaigning on the wider issue of internet grooming.

The Ministry of Justice has assured me that it is urgently looking into this issue, and I am sure it will update my hon. Friend as soon as possible. I agree with him; we want social media companies to recognise the responsibility they have and to work with law enforcement agencies. I know that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has written to my hon. Friend, to meet him and hear more from the family. It has become increasingly difficult for UK law enforcement to access data containing information on threats to UK public safety if it is held or controlled in other countries. That is why the Government recently legislated—we passed the Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Act 2019, which will give law enforcement agencies the power to obtain electronic data controlled by providers outside the UK where an international agreement is in place. He mentioned the United States; we expect to establish the first such agreement with the United States.

Q3. As I raised with the Prime Minister a couple of weeks ago, Conservative Governments have taken £6 billion out of the north-east since 2010. The Government now propose to give back £15 million a year over seven years through the stronger towns fund. At that rate of repayment, can the Prime Minister tell the House by which century the moneys owed to the north-east will be repaid? (909624)

As the hon. Gentleman knows full well, we have been investing in the north of England. We have been investing in transport across the north of England. We have been investing in our public services. We are investing in the health service, and the north-east will benefit from that as well. Since 2010, in the north-east, there are over 35,000 more small businesses, more than 18,000 new affordable homes, and over 305,000 children are in good or outstanding schools. That shows that the hard work of this Government is paying off, and the people of the north-east are benefiting.

Earlier this week, the owners of the Westgate shopping centre in Basildon terminated Smart Parking’s contract after a disastrous nine months of operation. I have now discovered that Smart Parking has signed a shared business services agreement with the NHS. May I ask my right hon. Friend to ensure that, before any contracts are signed, the Department of Health and Social Care fully researches the impact that the practices of Smart Parking would have on its users, customers, clients and staff?

Obviously, my hon. Friend has raised an important issue, and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care will be happy to meet him to discuss this further.

Q4. Amidst the noise of the Brexit debate, there is a real risk that we lose sight of the reasons why so many people voted to leave in the first place. I think that if we want to restore faith and trust, we need to devolve more political decision making away from Whitehall and closer to the people who will be affected by those decisions. Following on from the very constructive meeting that took place at Fountains Abbey in north Yorkshire with the Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary and Yorkshire leaders on Friday, may I ask the Prime Minister personally to engage with the substance of the One Yorkshire devolution deal with a view to reaching an agreement that will best serve the interests of the people of Yorkshire? [R] (909625)

I think the hon. Gentleman is a living example of devolution of powers from Whitehall out to the areas through the mayoralty that he is serving. We recognise the discussion and debate there has been on the issue of Yorkshire devolution. The One Yorkshire proposals did not meet our criteria for devolution, but my right hon. Friend the Communities Secretary has met Yorkshire leaders and discussions are continuing. However, the priority remains the implementation of the agreed Sheffield city region deal, which will bring £900 million of investment to the local area, which I am sure the hon. Gentleman will welcome.

It was with profound sadness that I saw my constituency this week join the all-too-long list of areas across our country to have lost a precious young person to knife crime. The public do not want to see politicians throw blame at one another for these stolen lives; they want to see them take responsibility for what is within their control, provide resource if resource is necessary and then demonstrate a relentless and total commitment to snuffing out violent crime. I welcome the announcement of an emergency summit, but what action will the Prime Minister be taking after that constantly to drive performance on these issues until we get the result the public rightly demand—to keep children safe?

May I say to my hon. Friend, as I did earlier, that any death of a young person at the hands of violence is a terrible tragedy? I recognise, as she says, that her constituency has seen just one of the latest examples of a young life cut short far too early. I also say to her that, yes, as I said, what we are doing is bringing together Ministers, local government, police and others—other agencies. This needs to be a cross-society approach to deal with this issue, because it is not just about catching the perpetrators of the crime; it is about preventing the crime from taking place in the first place.

That is one of the reasons why the Government will be launching a consultation on addressing this as a public health issue. There has been excellent work done under what was Strathclyde police force, now Police Scotland, looking at and using the public health approach. What that does is ensure that all agencies—not just across Government, but in local government and elsewhere—are able to be brought together to deal with this issue. What I want to do at that summit is to hear directly from those agencies what further action the Government can take, which we can then put in place to deal with the issue.

Q5. It is my daughter’s 16th birthday on 29 March, and it is her generation that will be most impacted by Brexit. Perhaps the Prime Minister could give her an early birthday present, and delay Brexit until she has informed the House about the status of the police and National Crime Agency investigations after Vote Leave and Leave.EU were found guilty of corrupt activities by the Electoral Commission. (909626)

I think the hon. Lady has discussed the issue of delaying Brexit with me before, and I just simply say to her that this Parliament gave the people of the United Kingdom the decision to choose whether to leave the European Union or to stay in. They chose to leave the European Union. I think for trust in politics it is important that the Government deliver on just that.

Mr Speaker, you are right that the former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is very welcome here today. As he said in a lecture last night:

“If a state-sponsored adversary has enduring access to staff, software or hardware deployed into a target telecommunication network, then they only require the intent to act in order to conduct operations within the network.”

Given that Chinese law obliges all Chinese companies to assist the Chinese intelligence services, will the Prime Minister explain what the implications are for British Government policy?

We look at these issues very seriously. As regards the issue of 5G security, we are looking at the right approach that we need to take. We want to be able to benefit from that new technology, but of course we need to manage the risks closely and we are considering a full range of policy options. Our review into 5G is still ongoing and no decisions have been taken.

Q6. In January, 83% of Scottish MPs voted against the Prime Minister’s deal. Last night, an historic vote took place in the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament, with both Parliaments simultaneously rejecting the Prime Minister’s deal. Is it not the case that the Prime Minister has no mandate from Scotland either for no deal or for her deal? (909627)

We entered the European Union as the United Kingdom; we will leave the European Union as the United Kingdom. I also say to the hon. Lady that the SNP has no mandate from the Scottish people to continue to pursue independence. [Interruption.]

Order. Calm! [Interruption.] Difference of opinion is the essence of politics. There is an elaborate combination of finger wagging and head shaking going on, which may be personally therapeutic but is institutionally disadvantageous. In any case, we owe the hon. Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow) a decent hearing. I call Rebecca Pow.

Mr Speaker, I am not sure who is in charge of the washing machine in your house, but were you aware that every time you, I or anyone else puts a load of washing on, 700,000 tiny microfibres get washed down the drain and into the marine environment, causing untold damage?

The 68 million loads of washing done in the UK every week contribute a staggering 9.4 trillion microfibres to the environment. As many colleagues, including me, try to reduce their plastics use for Lent, in a campaign masterminded by my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford), will the Prime Minister agree that this is a great time to address the issue and carry on this Government’s great record on the environment?

Despite the laughter, my hon. Friend has raised a very important issue. May I thank her for continuing to be a champion of our environment? She did an enormous amount of work that led to the Government ban on microbeads, and she is now raising the issue of microfibres. She mentions that Members across this House are seeking to reduce their use of plastic during Lent. I think that it is incumbent on all of us to seek to reduce our use of plastic, not just during Lent but for the time to come.

Q7. As one of the Aussie MPs in this House, may I say how much I share your appreciation for Australian tennis players, Mr Speaker? I would add my personal favourite, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, who was such a brilliant inspiration to so many of us when I was growing up in Australia. For a year now, the Prime Minister has been refusing to answer my questions about the visit of AggregateIQ to Downing Street, so may I ask her about the visit of Alexander Nix of Cambridge Analytica to Downing Street in December 2016? It was reported in The Spectator “Coffee House” blog, but not in the transparency data. May I ask the Prime Minister whom Alexander Nix met in Downing Street, what the purpose of the meeting was and—most importantly—why it was not reported in the transparency data? (909628)

The hon. Lady has raised a specific issue with me, which I will look into, but she says we did not respond on the question about AggregateIQ. My hon. Friend the Minister for the Constitution has written to her about this and responded to her query.

Women’s football is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. I hope you, Mr Speaker, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will welcome the £70 million investment Cheshire Football Association is putting into developing a women’s football training centre in Winsford. May I invite the Prime Minister to come and open the facility—and take part?

I thank my hon. Friend for her invitation. Earlier, I was pleased to congratulate the England women’s football team. I am sure the whole House will recognise the important work being done by Cheshire FA. I think it is a very exciting project. I welcome its commitment to providing this new world-class facility for women and girls’ football in Cheshire. I will look very closely at her invitation. It sounds very interesting, but of course I cannot commit my diary on the Floor of the House.

Q9. My constituent arrived early to her employment and support allowance assessment, as requested by her assessors, only to be told that she would have to wait another 90 minutes to be seen. She has an open wound, so sitting for any great length of time causes her great distress and pain. After her 90-minute wait she was told that she would not be seen and would have to make another appointment—I believe it is happening right now. Does the Prime Minister think it is right that my constituent has to go through this humiliating process all over again? (909630)

Obviously, the hon. Lady raises what sounds like a very distressing individual case. I will ensure that the appropriate Minister writes to her.

Last week, MPs heard harrowing testimony from family members of a man who tragically committed suicide because he faced the loan charge, a 20-year retrospective tax facing thousands of families in my constituency and across the UK. On 9 January the Prime Minister said that the Government accepted the review into the loan charge, yet the all-party group on the loan charge was only advised this week by the Treasury that there is no such review. The Treasury has acted in bad faith, so will my right hon. Friend now personally intervene to ensure a genuine review and an urgent delay of the loan charge, so that the review, as promised, can be carried out?

My hon. Friend raises an issue which is of concern not only to his constituents but others’ across the House. I will ensure that he receives a response from the Treasury that sets out exactly what is being done in the review that is taking place.

Q10. Last Saturday morning, with three colleagues, I met the heads and governors of Gloucester schools. Each school outlined the impact of education cuts on their particular establishment, but they agreed on one thing: the Prime Minister could make a real difference now with regard to special educational needs. I hope the Government will consider this. First, will the Government make sure that the additional needs budget is fully ring-fenced and invested in schools, rather than lost somewhere on the way? Secondly, will the Government take away the ridiculous and perverse incentive whereby the first £6,000 for any education, health and care plan has to be found by the school itself? If that were to be done, it would make a dramatic difference to our schools. I raised that in a debate on Monday, but unfortunately the Education Minister was unable to confirm. Will the Prime Minister confirm that the Government will look into that and do something about it? (909631)

We recognise we have asked schools to do more. That is why we recently announced an extra £350 million to support children with complex special educational needs. That includes an extra £250 million into the high needs budget across this year and next. That builds on the £6 billion in place for this year, the highest level on record. We have also put in an extra £100 million to create new school places to improve existing facilities for children with special educational needs and disabilities. That takes our total investment on that to £365 million through to 2021. The hon. Gentleman raises the question of the money actually going direct to the schools. I suggest that he needs to sit down—I am sure he has—with the local authority and discuss with it how it is using the money that is being made available to it.

This week marks the beginning of Brain Tumour Awareness Month, and I bring the House’s attention to the event that is happening immediately after Prime Minister’s questions in Westminster Hall. Good progress is being made to find the right care and cure for people who have brain tumours, but will my right hon. Friend meet me and others to discuss how we can improve the life chances of children and young people who survive a brain tumour but are left with brain injuries? Essential therapies and support for children and young people in this situation is not consistent and often lacking, leaving them with significantly impaired life chances.

My hon. Friend raises a very important issue and I thank the all-party group on brain tumours for all the work that it has done on this issue. It is essential to recognise the needs of parents and carers of children to ensure that the right support is in place when and where they need it. That is why those diagnosed with cancer, including children with brain cancer, will be benefiting from a tailored recovery package, individually designed to help them to live well with and beyond cancer. As my hon. Friend mentions, not just dealing with the cancer, but thereafter is an important element of this. NHS England is accelerating the roll-out to ensure full implementation by 2020, as recommended by the independent cancer taskforce. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care will be going directly to the event that my hon. Friend refers to, and I am sure that the appropriate Minister in the Department for Health and Social Care will be happy to meet to go through this in detail.

Q12. The Prime Minister will be aware of our concerns about attempts to prosecute members of the security forces who conscientiously and courageously defended all the people of Northern Ireland against terrorism. Will she assure me that any proposal to provide greater legal protection for our armed forces will include those who served in Northern Ireland? (909633)

We have been clear that the current system for dealing with the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past is not working well for anyone. Around 3,500 people were killed in the troubles; 90% were murdered by terrorists. Many of these cases require further investigation, including the deaths of hundreds of members of the security forces. The system to investigate the past does need to change to provide better outcomes for victims and survivors of the troubles, but also to ensure that our armed forces and police officers are not unfairly treated. That is why we are working across Government on proposals to see how best we can move forward. We are carefully considering the very large number of responses that we received to the consultation on this issue. We will be publishing our next steps in due course and the MOD is looking at what more can be done to ensure that service personnel are not unfairly pursued through the courts, including considering legislation.

The SNP Scottish Government have resurrected Alex Salmond’s call for a Scottish currency. Does the Prime Minister agree that this is reckless and risks destabilising the Scottish economy?

I seem to recall that, back in the 2014 referendum, the SNP were absolutely adamant that Scotland would keep the pound. There have been a few changes since then. They have looked at the option of the euro, then they went back to sterling, and now they are into an independent currency. This Government are working to secure a Brexit deal that protects jobs and our economy. The SNP should focus on that rather than continuing to pursue their independence fantasy.

Q13. The Department for Work and Pensions is currently carrying out five reviews into disabled people wrongly deprived of social security support because of the flawed personal independence payment assessment. My constituent, Mr Delaurentis, was given just zero points despite being unable to prepare food for himself or even dress himself. We have recently learnt that over 4,000 people were wrongly deprived of their disability living allowance when reassessed for PIP. Seventeen thousand people have died before their PIP decision was reached, and over 72% of cases that go to an appeal tribunal are overturned in favour of the claimant, so when will the Prime Minister follow Labour’s policy and scrap this discredited and flawed PIP assessment framework? (909634)

May I gently say to colleagues that I am trying to accommodate as many Back-Bench Members as possible? This applies to both sides of the House: some extremely serious public purpose-focused questions are being put, but they are too long.

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

On the ESA underpayments, obviously mistakes should not have happened and we need to clear this up as quickly as possible. The DWP is taking the issue very seriously. It has about 1,200 people working on sorting it out. We have already paid out almost £330 million. The Department expects to finish correcting the majority of the original cases by April and it aims to process additional cases by the end of the year.

Yesterday, pupils from Tweedmouth Community Middle School won the national Modeshift STARS trophy for secondary schools for its amazing work to encourage more pupils to cycle to school. Will the Prime Minister join me in congratulating the school, its head, Mr Hulbert, and his team of staff, who are committed to creating a fitter, greener and more environmentally focused next generation of Berwickers?

I am very happy to join my hon. Friend in thanking and congratulating Tweedmouth Community Middle School on its excellent work encouraging pupils to cycle to school. It is clearly an excellent achievement. We all know the importance of keeping our young people active. I congratulate Mr Hulbert and all the teachers, but particularly the students who have taken this up and put it into practice. It is a very good example of what schools are doing across the country.

Q14. My constituent, Yvonne Chafey, has a four-year-old son, Logan, who is the only child in the whole of Europe with chromosome 7p duplication syndrome, which causes epilepsy and autism. Hardly any prescriptions of medicinal cannabis have been allowed to date, and with Logan being so unique, he will always be denied access under the current rules of proven benefit. What changes can be made to allow Logan to access cannabis products to ease his suffering without his family having to go through a very high-profile public campaign? (909635)

The hon. Gentleman has raised a distressing case about a constituent. We have taken steps to ensure that medicinal cannabis is available, but decisions on availability are taken by clinicians, as is absolutely right.

I welcome the publication of the draft Domestic Abuse Bill, and I hope it will pass successfully through the House. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as well as tackling extreme abuse and violence, we should also raise awareness of the entry level acts of coercion, deceit and manipulation that lead to more extreme examples?

My hon. Friend has raised an important issue. People will obviously have seen distressing cases of coercion and indeed some instances where that has been taken through the courts. We all need to recognise the importance of dealing with domestic abuse and recognise that for too long the issue of coercion was not accepted or addressed. It is important. It is this Government who are doing that. As he says, we must be very clear about the entry level behaviours that lead to that distress.

Q15. Today is the 10th anniversary of the blacklist of construction workers being exposed, and today various news reports detail the extraordinary admissions in the Creadon report that the police and special branches across the UK and the security services supplied information to the Consulting Association. Does the Prime Minister agree that there now needs to be a full standalone UK public inquiry into the human rights conspiracy of blacklisting so that truth and justice can be served and those responsible for blacklisting can be held to account? (909636)

The hon. Gentleman raises an issue that has been raised on several occasions. Of course, the Government have responded on this and I would be happy to write to him on it.

This Ash Wednesday, will the Prime Minister give strong encouragement and support to the 48 Conservative MPs who are taking on an environmental challenge because we have seen the devastating impact of plastics across the world? Will she give a big shout-out to all Members of the House taking on a plastics pledge and raising the good work of Tearfund and the Department for International Development in reducing plastic pollution?

I was pleased to see many hon. Friends giving up plastic last year, and I am pleased to hear that many colleagues are planning on supporting Tearfund’s plastics pledge. Through UK Aid Match, the UK Government will match donations of up to £2 million raised by Tearfund’s supporters for a project in Pakistan. We are committed to the UK being a world leader in tackling plastic pollution. Hon. Members are showing by their example the role that the UK is playing, and I congratulate and applaud them.

The Prime Minister will recall the advice she received from her Conservative colleagues as well as mine about the dangerous folly of making landlords responsible in criminal law for immigration control. Following the High Court ruling of Mr Justice Spencer that her policy is now increasing the risk of racial discrimination, will she not accept that her policy is fanning the flames of racism in return for nothing but tougher rhetoric about immigration control?

It is absolutely right that the Government have taken the approach that we need to consider, when people are accessing different services, whether they have a right to be in this country. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has issued a written ministerial statement in response to the case in the courts and I understand that the Government are appealing the case.