The Secretary of State was asked—
During my time in Bangladesh, I met Ministers to discuss the impact of UK aid across the country and reinforced the UK’s commitment to assisting Bangladesh’s efforts to support both the Rohingya and host communities in Cox’s Bazar.
I have visited Bangladesh and saw not only Rohingya refugee camps, but wider UK aid projects. Does the Secretary of State agree that we have a huge role to play, that this is a good use of UK taxpayers’ money and that we should continue to support people in Bangladesh?
I thank my hon. Friend for visiting Bangladesh. It is incredibly helpful for us to get as many reports as possible about the difference that UK aid is making and about the situation on the ground. He is right that we should be proud of helping 1.6 million children to gain a decent education and providing nearly 900,000 people with sustainable access to clean water and sanitation and 3.7 million children, women and adolescent girls with nutritional interventions.
It is clear that the conditions are not in place for the safe voluntary return of Rohingya refugees to Burma. Did the Secretary of State have an opportunity to discuss with the Bangladeshis the possibility of something akin to the Jordan jobs compact that could benefit not only the Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar but, importantly, the local Bangladeshi community?
Although all the people understandably want to return home, it is important to recognise that they can do so only when the conditions are met, which means that we are in a protracted situation. We have to start thinking about better shelter, jobs and livelihoods for both the Rohingya and the host communities.
I did discuss those things, as my hon. Friend would expect, and we are sceptical about some of the Bangladeshi Government’s ideas. We watched presentations about the island and the investment made there, but that will only take 100,000 people, and there are many more at Cox’s Bazar. We therefore need to consider other options for how to support Bangladesh in managing the protracted crisis.
The United Nations convention on the rights of the child states that every child has the right to an education, but that is simply not the case for many thousands of Rohingya children in camps in Bangladesh. What conversations has the Secretary of State had with her counterparts to ensure that adequate educational facilities and opportunities are available to Rohingya children?
I did raise the specifics. Both Bangladesh and the UK are doing a tremendous amount, but we need other donors to lean in and support such initiatives. However, we are pleased that UK aid is making a profound difference, particularly for children with disabilities.
The Global Fund plays a critical role in the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, having helped to save 27 million lives to date. The UK is considering the Global Fund’s investment case ahead of determining our contribution to a successful sixth replenishment, and senior UK attendance will be determined in due course.
I saw the devastating impact that HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria can have on communities during the four years that I led health services on the Uganda-Democratic Republic of the Congo border. Although the UK’s contribution has saved 2.3 million lives, progress is stalling, and the Global Fund is asking countries to increase their contributions by 15%. Will the Minister meet the all-party parliamentary groups on HIV and AIDS, on malaria and neglected tropical diseases and on global tuberculosis to discuss the UK’s response?
First, the House should pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman, who is one of a number of Members who have a background in that sort of work. We are in the hon. Gentleman’s debt for the experience that he has brought to the House’s discussions on the work that needs to be done. We recognise the need to keep the fund at a reasonable level, but we want to do even more, and I will of course meet him and other colleagues to discuss the matter.
If the Minister does go to the replenishment conference in France, will he share with other donors the excellent new UK initiative of an unlimited small charities challenge fund, which is a very real way to tackle some of these preventable and challenging diseases?
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has done invaluable work in boosting the small charities fund. It will indeed be more accessible for charities around the country that are doing great work in these fields, and we see it as a valuable addition to the work of DFID and the UK’s international contribution.
The hon. Lady is absolutely right. It is very important that HIV/AIDS is not seen as an issue of yesterday. I was present at the Amsterdam conference last year to make the case that there are still target groups that need more support. Sustaining and ensuring that countries’ local health systems have sustainable methods of dealing with this is a fundamental of DFID’s global health work, and it is essential that this work continues.
As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on malaria and neglected tropical diseases, I have seen the excellent work that the Global Fund has supported over the years, but local contributions from endemic countries are incredibly important. Will the Minister enlighten on whether those contributions have increased over recent years so that they can be put alongside the contributions through the Global Fund?
My hon. Friend is correct that national Governments have a significant responsibility regarding their contributions. Those contributions are increasing, but the question of mainstreaming that support so that it comes into their sustainable health systems naturally has to be considered. We will be working with other donors to boost the fund, and national Governments will have an increasing responsibility as time goes on, but they will not be left to deal with this situation alone.
There is some concern that the figure set out in the investment case by the Global Fund may not represent what is actually needed to get the world back on track, to meet sustainable development goal 3 and to end the epidemics of AIDS, TB and malaria. What avenues are the UK Government exploring ahead of the next replenishment conference to ensure that the global response meets what is actually needed?
We are the second largest donor to the current replenishment, and this is having a significant impact. We are conscious of the need to review the investment case carefully, and we are working with other donors to ensure that it does meet the challenges. Given that a number of different replenishments are going on at the same time, we are bringing our thinking together this year to ensure that United Kingdom support is well spent and covers the replenishments appropriately.
We can all agree on continued UK support for tackling the world’s deadliest diseases, but with so much Brexit uncertainty, the sector is rightly concerned about the future of UK aid and our role as a world leader in global health. I am sure that those in the sector have taken some reassurance from the Secretary of State’s comments on Monday that they should
“calm down and chill out”.
With almost weekly attacks on the Secretary of State’s Department from her own colleagues, and the Department losing 170 staff due to Brexit chaos, it is difficult to know what would be a bigger danger to UK aid—a no-deal Brexit or a Tory leadership challenge. Perhaps the Minister can dissociate himself, once and for all, from attempts to water down the 0.7% of UK aid from public funds.
Good try, Dan. It was the Conservative party that brought forward the 0.7% commitment, and it is a Conservative Government who have worked it through. I entirely understand the hon. Gentleman’s point; it was a good try. The Government are enormously committed to the delivery of aid, to ensuring that aid is constantly reviewed and does the job, to the 0.7% and to the independence of the Department for International Development, so that it remains a self-standing part of the Government. The hon. Gentleman need have no fears. If we wants to avoid the worries of Brexit, perhaps he might vote for the deal.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely correct—no, there is not. He speaks of the Gavi replenishment, which is again important this year. That refers to global vaccination, which we will of course maintain our support for and position on. I hope that the whole House unites in combating the anti-vaccination campaigns that are taking place in too many parts of the world. As someone who had the benefit of my father’s own polio vaccinations to me as a child, vaccination is very personal to me. We all need to keep it up—and thanks, Dad.
Climate change is a major threat to achieving the sustainable development goals, and tackling it is a strategic priority for the Government and for my Department. The Government are delivering £5.8 billion in international climate finance to help developing countries to reduce emissions and to manage the impact of climate change.
Last Friday, thousands of children took to the streets, including in my own constituency, because they know that we have only 12 years left to make a difference on climate change. So why is the Department still spending money through its prosperity fund on expanding the oil and gas sectors in several countries where that fund is active?
I welcome the opportunity that the interest young people are showing in climate change gives us to highlight the important work that we are doing. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we do not provide any bilateral assistance for coal-fired power generation, and that CDC, our private sector investment arm, has made no new net investments in coal-fired power since 2012.
Will the Minister update the House on what DFID is doing to follow through on the agreement made at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 2018 to support urgent action to address climate change and to increase resilience to prevent 100 million more people from being pushed into poverty by 2030?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right to highlight the importance of commitments that were made last year at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. There is an extensive programme of work to follow through on those commitments, not least the £5.8 billion of international climate finance that we have announced so far, which has already helped 47 million people to increase their resilience to climate change. We will be leading that strand at the United Nations summit in September.
The Minister said that there is no net investment from DFID and the CDC. I would be interested to know what she means by that, because we surely need a greater priority on disinvestment in oil and gas extraction. Is she not worried, as I am, about the possibility of stranded assets as a result of investments we have made in the global south?
We have an important role to play in working with our international bilateral partners to encourage the use of clean growth and clean energy. For example, the week before last, we held an event here in support of sustainable development goal 7 to which we invited African Energy Ministers from developing countries to meet some of the people we have in the UK with expertise on renewable energy.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that solar energy, particularly in sunny places, is a very good idea. Indeed, there is some very windy coastline where offshore wind energy would also be very helpful. In addition to the event that we held for African Energy Ministers the week before last, we have come up with some remarkable inventions using some of our overseas development assistance—for example, a solar-powered fridge.
My hon. Friend will be glad to know that I work closely with my counterparts at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to join up the work we are doing to tackle biodiversity, specifically the contribution we have made to the global environment fund.
We have rebranded them blue forests. We think they are incredibly important, and not only as a way to store carbon; recently it was proven that they also improve resilience to cyclones. They are an important part of the work and have been championed vigorously by the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey).
Last Friday, on the same day that 1.4 million children went on climate strike across the world, more than 1,000 people were killed in Mozambique and Zimbabwe during Cyclone Idai. Does the Minister agree that young people and those living in the developing world are the least responsible yet will bear the brunt of the climate crisis? If so, does she agree that the UK Government must make climate justice a key part of their climate change strategy?
That is exactly why the UK is proud to be stepping up our work on international climate finance. We have committed £5.8 billion to work with some of the poorer countries in the world, including those affected by this cyclone in Mozambique. There will be an urgent question later, when I will be able to elaborate on the work that the UK has done to help with the situation there.
Our thoughts are with all those affected by the devastation of Cyclone Idai across Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, and I would like to share with the House the thoughts of—[Interruption.]
Our thoughts are with all those affected by the devastation of Cyclone Idai across Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, and I would like to share with the House the thoughts of Anabela Lemos, a woman at the forefront of the climate justice movement in Mozambique. She says:
“The people of Mozambique need emergency response and support right now to survive this crisis. But this is also a harsh reminder that the climate crisis is upon us and developed countries need to urgently reduce their emissions and stop funding fossil fuels.”
I welcome the relief package for the region issued by DFID, but it is a tragic irony of climate change that those least responsible are the ones who pay the highest price. A key component of the—
I can confirm that we are already committed to spending £5.8 billion over this spending period, which will involve us being able to increase our finance over the next spending review period. There will be an urgent question later, when we can talk about the specific situation in Mozambique. The report from the Independent Commission for Aid Impact recently said that UK international climate finance is showing a very convincing approach, with some good emerging results in terms of influencing others. We aim to continue with that work.
I am sure the whole House will wish to join me in expressing our concern at the loss and devastation following the deadly cyclone in southern Africa. In Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, hundreds of people have lost their lives and many more their homes. We pre-deployed aid, and the first UK relief flight arrived in Mozambique yesterday, delivering family tents and shelter kits for those forced to flee their homes. In Malawi, we are working with the World Food Programme to enable 140,000 people to access food, and in Zimbabwe, we are working with our partners to provide hygiene kits and essential medicines.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the aid that is being sent to Venezuela, whose people are facing horrendous shortages of food, electricity and medical supplies. Does she agree that, as well as sending aid, we need to send a message from both sides of this House that the failed hard-left socialist policies being pursued by that Government will always lead to economic ruin, wherever they are applied?
This is a tragic situation. It is a man-made crisis, and we are doing everything we can to support the response through the Lima Group. My hon. Friend is right. This is why it is important to remember that keeping economies strong is absolutely vital for human capital and the basics in life, and we must never ever let systems that do not support that take hold—
First, I congratulate Ellington Primary School on its work in joining the Department’s mission to help save the world from landmines, and in joining leading UK non-governmental organisations such as the Mines Advisory Group and the HALO Trust, which do fantastic work in this space. We constantly go to those who are not yet signed up to the Ottawa convention to ask them to do so. I hope my hon. Friend will take even further interest in this, and perhaps do some visiting, as I have done in the past.
Last week, I held a telephone conference call with Lise Grande, the UN co-ordinator on Yemen, and a number of UN agencies. We are looking at everything we can do. This morning, I met humanitarian workers—women workers—from Yemen themselves. We will of course work even more closely with all our partners there and support UNICEF in all its work.
My hon. Friend will be aware that yesterday we were able to announce a further £6 million of emergency funding, working with our partners, such as UNICEF, the World Food Programme and others on the ground, and we were also able to pre-position aid. I know that you, Mr Speaker, have kindly allowed an urgent question on this subject following Prime Minister’s questions.
In both the work we do through the ILO and some new work we are doing to support trade unions in developing countries, that absolutely needs to be at the heart of the agenda. Of course, the work that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has led internationally on modern slavery absolutely requires this issue to be at the heart of what we do.
We cannot spend any of the 0.7% on military spending. That is the whole point of being in the DAC—Development Assistance Committee—club and committing to 0.7%. We are looking at Her Majesty’s Government maritime capability, which might help other Departments as well as us, but aid money will only be spent on aid.
The Dalitso project in my constituency has been collecting pads to make sanitary products for young women in Malawi. It has had a fantastic response from the community and is doing fantastic work. Will my right hon. Friend join me in celebrating that work to make environmentally friendly sanitary products for those who need them?
I thank the hon. Lady for that incredibly important question. We have a particular strategy in DFID that is looking at placing the empowerment, especially the economic empowerment, of women at its heart. I pay particular tribute to Lord Bates, who has been considering what more we can do for widows worldwide.
The UN Human Rights Council will vote this week on a one-sided motion that minimises Hamas’s role in the violent Gaza border protest last year. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that the UK will continue to oppose one-sided resolutions, particularly given the horrifying scenes this week in Gaza, with brutal beatings of journalists and academics by Hamas?
The UK made clear some time ago that we would oppose matters under item 7 of the Human Rights Council’s determination, and we expect to do that. On Gaza, the international commission was unable to investigate non-state actors, but there is no doubt that the situation was serious, as Israeli authorities have also determined. The UK will maintain its position in relation to that.
In the case of a no-deal Brexit, the Secretary of State has given some limited assurances to NGOs accessing funds from the EU’s humanitarian fund that the Government will underwrite them in future. Are they prepared to do the same for NGOs that access funds for broader humanitarian work?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that important point. Yes, we are looking at widening that support. Our NGOs, whether they are humanitarian or work in other areas, are world class and we want them to continue to work in those settings, so we have issued those guarantees. However, I say to the hon. Gentleman that if he ever gets the opportunity, he knows what he can do to avoid a no-deal scenario.
The Prime Minister was asked—
I am sure that the whole House will want to join me in condemning the appalling and cowardly attack in Christchurch on Friday. There can be absolutely no place in our societies for the vile ideology that drives hatred and spreads fear. I spoke to Prime Minister Ardern on Sunday. I told her that we stood with New Zealand at this time and that we would provide whatever assistance was needed.
I would also like to take the opportunity to thank the emergency services for their handling of the terrorist incident in Stanwell on Saturday. I am sure that Members from across the House will want to join me in sending our thoughts to the man who was injured.
I would like to send my deepest sympathies to the families of those killed and those injured in Utrecht on Monday. We are in regular contact with the Dutch authorities and are standing by to offer whatever assistance is required.
I am sure that Members will want to join me in expressing deepest shock at the loss and devastation caused by the cyclone in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. As I think the Secretary of State made clear in International Development questions, we have made £6 million of UK aid available to help meet the immediate needs of people who have lost everything, and we have deployed a UK team of DFID experts to co-ordinate our response to the disaster.
This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
I totally associate myself with everything the Prime Minister has said. We will never allow hate to succeed and we stand in solidarity with the victims of Cyclone Idai.
The Prime Minister’s deal lies in tatters, her Cabinet is in open revolt, she presides over the biggest constitutional crisis this nation has experienced, and where leadership is required, she has once again cravenly caved in to her hard Brexiteers and will now only seek a short extension to article 50, contrary to the expressed will of this House. When will she develop a backbone and stand up to those who would take this nation to disaster? As one of her Ministers said this morning, referencing another feeble Prime Minister: “Weak, weak, weak.”
Perhaps it would be helpful, in response to that question, if I update the House on the forthcoming European Council and the issue of article 50 extension. On Thursday, the House voted in favour of a short extension if the House had supported a meaningful vote before this week’s European Council. The motion also made it clear that a longer extension would oblige the United Kingdom to hold elections to the European Parliament. I do not believe that such elections would be in anyone’s interests. The idea that, three years after voting to leave the EU, the people of this country should be asked to elect a new set of MEPs is, I believe, unacceptable. It would be a failure to deliver on the referendum decision that this House said it would honour. I have—[Interruption.]
I have therefore this morning written to President Tusk, the President of the European Council, informing him that the UK seeks an extension to the article 50 period until 30 June. Copies of the letter are being placed in the Library. The Government intend to bring forward proposals for a third meaningful vote. If that vote is passed, the extension will give the House time to consider the withdrawal agreement Bill. If not, the House will have to decide how to proceed. But as Prime Minister—[Interruption.] As Prime Minister, I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than 30 June.
I say to my hon. Friend that the Chancellor’s spring statement last week showed that this is indeed a Government who are delivering for Scotland. He mentions the issue of fiscal policy and oil and gas. We have also put in £260 million for the borderlands growth deal, £68 million extra in Barnett consequentials for the Scottish Government, and £79 million for a new national supercomputer at Edinburgh University. While the SNP is obsessed with independence, it is this Conservative Government who are focused on growing Scotland’s economy.
I start by sending my condolences to all the families and friends of victims of the terror attack in New Zealand last week. The terrible events in Christchurch should remind us all that there is no place for hate. I pay tribute to the way in which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has responded with such dignity and such compassion to this crisis. I absolutely agree with the comments of the Prime Minister concerning the events at Stanwell and Utrecht. I am sure the whole House will join me and her in sending our deepest sympathies to all those who lost their loved ones and homes in the terrible cyclones that have caused devastation in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. I support the Government in sending £6 million of aid. I hope, if more aid is required, we will be able to respond urgently and generously to any demand for help from people who are so desperately suffering at the present time.
We are now in the midst of a full-scale national crisis. Incompetence, failure and intransigence from the Prime Minister and her Government have brought us to this point. Parliament has rejected her deal. It has rejected no deal. The Prime Minister now has no plan. In an effort to break the deadlock, I have held meetings with Members across the House and am having further meetings today to find a compromise that supports jobs and living standards. Tomorrow, I am meeting EU Prime Ministers and officials in Brussels. This is a national crisis. Will the Prime Minister meet me today to discuss our proposals as a way forward to get out of this crisis?
It is a bit rich for the right hon. Gentleman to stand up and invite me to meet him, when for days and days he refused to meet me and he then refused to allow the shadow Brexit Secretary to have a further meeting with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Of course I am always happy to meet Members across this House to discuss the issue of Europe, but I note that when Opposition party leaders came out from their meeting with the Leader of the Opposition, they made it clear that what they did not want was Brexit. We should be delivering Brexit for the people of this country.
I am not sure that there was an answer to my question there. I wanted no-deal taken off the table; the House has taken no-deal off the table; it is time the Prime Minister took no-deal off the table. The CBI said:
“The extension vote is a welcome dose of common sense…Put in place a new process. Drop red lines…Every MP must show leadership through compromise.”
Will the Prime Minister drop the red lines? Is she prepared to compromise to get through this crisis?
The right hon. Gentleman talks about decisions that have been taken by this House. I am sure that it will not have passed you by, Mr Speaker, that of course this House has voted on and rejected a second referendum; it has voted on and rejected no deal; it has voted on and rejected Labour’s deal; it has voted on and rejected a customs union; and it has voted on and supported leaving with a deal. It is time that this Parliament faced the consequences.
The last time the Prime Minister tried her meaningful vote, she only managed 242 votes—slightly up on the previous attempt, but nevertheless a decisive rejection. Our plan received 296 votes—rather considerably more. Her Government are in chaos and she has ignored the House, ignored trade unions, ignored businesses and ignored the concerns of communities all around the country. She told the House that the EU would allow an extension of article 50 only if there was a clear purpose. She is travelling to the Brussels summit tomorrow morning to meet EU leaders. What is her clear purpose?
It was not clear at all, other than that the Prime Minister is going to try again with what we will now term MV3. Surely, after two big rejections by the House, she must have noticed that there is not much support for the deal that she negotiated.
We learned this morning that the Prime Minister will ask only for a short extension, which directly contradicts what the Minister for the Cabinet Office told the House:
“In the absence of a deal, seeking such a short and, critically, one-off extension would be downright reckless and completely at odds with the position that this House adopted only last night”.—[Official Report, 14 March 2019; Vol. 656, c. 566.]
Who is “downright reckless” here: the Prime Minister, ploughing on with an unachievable, unsupported deal, or others in this House who want to achieve something serious and sensible to prevent damage to the British economy, jobs and living standards all over this country?
The right hon. Gentleman talks about trying to achieve something sensible. It is he who abstained last week on a vote on a second referendum, despite the fact that it is Labour party policy, and then had the nerve to stand up in this House and say that he reiterated Labour’s support for a second referendum. He has no idea what he wants on the future of this issue.
The right hon. Gentleman asks about a long extension. I am opposed to a long extension. I do not want a long extension. Setting aside—[Interruption.] Setting aside the issue that it would mean that we would have to hold European parliamentary elections, which I do not think is in anybody’s interest, the outcome of a long extension would be endless hours and days of this House carrying on contemplating its navel on Europe and failing to address the issues that matter to our constituents, their schools—
The outcome of a long extension would be the House spending yet more endless hours contemplating its navel on Europe and failing to address the issues that matter to our constituents, such as schools, hospitals, security and jobs. The House has indulged itself on Europe for too long—[Interruption.]
Order. There is a lot of very noisy barracking. [Interruption.] Order. [Interruption.] Order. The Prime Minister’s reply will be heard, and colleagues know that I am happy for the exchanges to take place for as long as is necessary to ensure that they are orderly.
To describe the parliamentary process as one of indulgence does not show much respect for the democratic process that sent us here in the first place. The House has twice rejected the Prime Minister’s deal, and she is trying to come back for another attempt on Monday. Further to your ruling on Monday, Mr Speaker, she has to come up with something a bit different from what she has come up with so far. What significant changes will there be either to the withdrawal agreement or to the political declaration that will even allow her to table it on Monday?
The right hon. Gentleman talks about respect for democracy. Respect for democracy means this House delivering the Brexit the British people voted for. He now wants to disrespect democracy by holding a second referendum. It is not this Government who are being disrespectful to the British people; it is the right hon. Gentleman and his Labour party.
The job of Parliament is to hold Government to account, but the Prime Minister does not seem to understand that. When she was first defeated, she promised legally binding changes—I have not seen those legally binding changes; all she is doing is running down the clock after a second heavy defeat. Today marks 1,000 days since the referendum, and the Government have led the country and themselves into crisis, chaos and division. We are still legally due to leave the EU in nine days. Months of running down the clock and a concerted campaign of blackmail, bullying and bribery have failed to convince the House or the country that her deal is anything but a damaging national failure and should be rejected. They have run out of time; they have run out of ideas. People all over the country are anxious and frustrated with the Government’s utter inability to find a way through the crisis. If she cannot get changes to her deal, will she give the people a chance to reject it and change the Government?
I think the right hon. Gentleman has just made the point I was making in my previous answer: he does not want to respect the referendum result in 2016. We have a deal that keeps millions of livelihoods safe and secure, protects the Union for the future and means that murderers and rapists on the run can be brought back quickly to face justice in this country. No deal will not do that. The deal is good for this country, it delivers Brexit and it should be supported.
My hon. Friend has made an important point about the significance of town centres to our local communities. I thank him for highlighting the work that we are doing and the help that we are providing through the future high streets fund. Of course high streets are changing, but we want to help them in that process, and help them to adapt. That is why the future high streets fund is there, as my hon. Friend said, and £675 million is available for it to support local areas. I can also reassure my hon. Friend that we will be promoting partnership across the public and private sectors, including local businesses, in developing those plans for the future of their high streets.
May I associate myself with the Prime Minister’s remarks about the outrage that we all feel at what happened in Christchurch, New Zealand? We must work collectively to drive hate out of our societies across the globe. Our thoughts are also very much with the people of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi. We must do all that we can to support those communities.
All our constituents will be looking on at the crisis and chaos that we are in. We need to reflect on the fact that we are a week away from the intended day for leaving the European Union, and on the responsibilities that we all have. Six days ago, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said:
“In the absence of a deal, seeking such a short and, critically, one-off extension would be downright reckless”.—[Official Report, 14 March 2019; Vol. 656, c. 566.]
Does the Prime Minister agree with her de facto deputy? Does she agree that her actions this morning are “downright reckless”?
As I have set out clearly for the House in a number of answers that I have now given on this question, I believe that the House has a responsibility to deliver on Brexit. People voted for Brexit, and we have a responsibility to deliver it. I recognise that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues in the Scottish National party have always taken the position that they want to revoke article 50 and not to have Brexit.
The hon. Gentleman shouts “Correct!” At least that is a firm position, whereas the Leader of the Opposition has continually moved his position on this issue. I also believe that nearly three years on from the vote for us to deliver Brexit for the British people, it is time for the House to face that fact, face the consequences of its decisions, and deliver Brexit for the British people. [Interruption.]
We need to reflect on the fact that the Prime Minister’s deal had the biggest defeat in parliamentary history. She brought it back, and it had the fourth biggest defeat in parliamentary history. Her deal has failed, and the House has voted against no deal. Once again, the Prime Minister is acting in her own interest, not the interest of the whole United Kingdom.
The Prime Minister has failed, this place has failed, and Scotland is watching. The only way forward now is to take the decision back to the people. Will the Prime Minister give the people a say in such a referendum? The people of Scotland deserve a choice on the future, and if Westminster fails, Scotland will act.
There is an enormous responsibility. It is a huge honour and privilege to sit in this Chamber, to be elected as a Member of Parliament and to represent our constituents, and we all have a responsibility. Parliament gave the decision to the British people in a referendum in 2016, and the result of that referendum was that we should leave the European Union. I believe that if people are to be able to have trust in their politicians and faith in this Parliament, it is imperative that this Parliament delivers the Brexit that people voted for.
My hon. Friend has been consistent in challenging me on the 29 March date in Prime Minister’s questions and in statements, and indeed in debates. I have always wanted us to be able to leave on 29 March, but I believe, as was said during the referendum campaign by those who wanted to leave, that it is better to leave with a negotiated deal with the European Union. That is why I am saying that I think we should look again at being able to leave with a negotiated deal, but in order to do that we need time for this Parliament to ratify a deal, and in order to do that we need an extension until 30 June. But, as I have said, as Prime Minister I could not consider a delay further beyond 30 June. This is the point at which this House has the decision to take as to what it wants the future to be. That is what is facing this House, and that is a decision I believe we should take honouring the result of the referendum.
The hon. Lady will be well aware that we are putting more money into our schools, we are ensuring that we have a welfare system that encourages people into the workplace, and we have put more money into various other elements of care for people across our communities. But the best solution for people to ensure they are able to provide for themselves and their families is for us to have a strong economy and for people to be helped into work, and that is why it was so pleasing that this week yet again the employment level is at a record high in this country.
I welcome the action that Essex County Council has taken in relation to new homes and I welcome its bid to the housing infrastructure fund. We have made that money available in the housing infrastructure fund because we understand the importance of infrastructure for new housing developments. We recognise the need for additional affordable housing in the south-east. Of course the Department for Transport will look very carefully at the bid for the second railway station that my hon. Friend has referred to, but I am pleased to be able to say that we are only able to do this because this is a Government who are putting record levels of money into capital investment in our country.
I am very happy to write to the hon. Gentleman with the details of the guidance that is given to schools on LGBT education and teaching. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Women and Equalities has been at great pains to ensure, working with the Department for Education, that appropriate guidance is given to schools, and I will write to the hon. Gentleman—[Interruption.] I recognise the issue that he has raised, and I will write to him with the details of the guidance, because it is very clear about what is appropriate.
I am certainly delighted to hear of the aspirations that Cornwall has in relation to being carbon free and the action that is being taken. We are happy to support that, and we have a good record on climate change as a Government, but we are doing more. Our annual support for renewables will be over £10 billion by 2021, and our ambitious clean growth strategy sets out our plan for decarbonising the UK economy through to 2032. We will be putting policies in place that will enable areas such as Cornwall to achieve their commitments in relation to climate change.
The hon. Gentleman knows full well that, in relation to the WASPI women, this Government did put extra money in. We have been very clear that no one will see their pension age change by more than 18 months relative to the Pensions Act 1995 timetable, and those with the most significant changes did receive at least seven years’ notice. We do want to see the empowerment of women in the workplace and in our economy, and that is why my right hon. Friend the Minister for Women and Equalities will be bringing forward a strategy on that very soon.
My hon. Friend has raised a particularly important issue, but if I may, I will pull him up on just one point. The unemployment rate across the UK is actually 3.9%. Employment in Scotland has risen by 239,000 since the 2010 election, and we saw in the spring statement that the economy is growing every year, borrowing is lower than expected and debt is falling, but I absolutely recognise my hon. Friend’s concerns. That is why we will continue to work as a UK Government to deliver more jobs, healthier finances and an economy that is fit for the future across the whole of the United Kingdom.
The hon. Lady is absolutely right that politicians at all levels need to think very carefully about the terms in which we address others and in which we put our arguments. There are many Members across this House who have suffered significant verbal abuse and online abuse of various sorts. This is a matter that we should all be taking seriously, and I will be ensuring that, across this House, we work to ensure that people are not subject to the sort of abuse that, sadly, some Members have been subjected to from outside this House.
I have answered many questions in recent weeks and months on putting a vote back to the people of this country. I continue to believe it is for this House to recognise that, having asked people their view and having heard that view, we should deliver on that view. That is our responsibility. It is about delivering Brexit.
As the Prime Minister says, this House has voted clearly to reject leaving with no deal and has voted clearly to seek an extension if her withdrawal agreement cannot get a majority, but this House has not yet had the opportunity to debate and vote on the range of options for long-term arrangements such as a customs union, regulatory alignment and so on. Will she arrange for indicative votes finally to be held next week, so that we can see where the consensus and the majority lie? A short extension of article 50 will be completely useless if the Government go into it with no idea of what they have the authority to negotiate in the long term.
As I think my right hon. and learned Friend will have noticed, the House has had many opportunities to put forward motions on those issues. The House has rejected alternatives to the Government’s deal. The House has voted against a customs union. The House has voted against having a second referendum. [Interruption.] From a sedentary position, somebody on the Opposition Front Bench says that the Government will not let the House. The House has voted on these issues and has rejected them. We have been clear about our intention to absolutely fulfil the requirement to bring forward an amendable motion under section 13(4) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, and we will indeed be doing that.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for writing to me with details of this case and for bringing it to my attention. Obviously, as he will expect, when the Home Office receives applications it looks at them carefully and it looks at exceptional circumstances. I have asked the Home Office to look urgently at this case and asked the relevant Minister to respond to the hon. Gentleman as soon as possible.
The Prime Minister knows that if she brings her deal again to the House I will again support it, but will she confirm today that the full length of the extension that she is seeking from the EU will be available to the House regardless of whether it supports her measure or seeks another way forward?
As I think my right hon. Friend will have heard me say in answer to the very first question posed in Prime Minister’s questions today, the Government intend to bring forward proposals for a third meaningful vote. If that vote is passed, the extension will give the House time to consider the withdrawal agreement Bill, and if it is not, the House will have to decide how to proceed.
Will my right hon. Friend rule out introducing the withdrawal and implementation Bill if her withdrawal agreement is voted down yet again by the House next week, and then let the United Kingdom leave the European Union on 29 March, as per the people’s vote in 2016, as Parliament has enacted, and as the law requires?
What I have done today in writing to President Tusk is ask for that extension to article 50 until the end of June. I have been clear that, as I have said, I do not believe that Brexit should be delayed beyond that point. That would give us the opportunity to ensure that the House can consider again a deal, and then take forward the withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill in the circumstances that a deal was passed. In the circumstances that a deal was not passed, then it would obviously be necessary, as I have just said to my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin), for the House to consider how we should proceed. I would also say to my hon. Friend that, as he will have heard the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs saying in the debate on no deal last week, there are particular issues, particularly in relation to the governance of Northern Ireland, in relation to leaving the European Union without a deal on 29 March. I continue to hope and continue to believe that the best way for this country to leave the European Union is to do so on the basis of a negotiated deal, and the extension to 30 June would allow us to do that.
Further to the question from the Father of the House, does the Prime Minister not realise that in her answer she is the roadblock to this House reaching a majority, not the facilitator of it? It is blindingly obvious—including, I believe, to members of the Cabinet—that what the House now needs to do is to have a series of indicative votes, precisely so that it can express its will about what it is for, not simply what it is against. Why does not the Prime Minister agree to that? She would be doing a service to the country if she did.
Obviously, I have made it clear that we will bring forward the motion that is required under the legislation, under section 13(4). May I gently say to the right hon. Gentleman, as I did to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), that it is not the case that it has not been possible for this House to bring forward votes of the sort that the right hon. Gentleman is talking about? It has been open to this House. In some cases, the House has brought forward such votes and those have been rejected.
My right hon. Friend and this House gave their solemn word to the British people that we would leave the EU on 29 March—on Friday week. I say to my right hon. Friend, if this extension happens, what guarantee can you give the British people that at the end of June, if we still do not have a deal, we honour that referendum result and we leave?
I made it clear in one of the debates last week or the previous week that if it is the case that there is an extension, that does not actually take no deal off the table; it leaves that as a point at the end of that extension. Now, whether or not we have that extension is not a matter purely for the United Kingdom; it is a matter for the European Union Council. Obviously, I will wait to see what the Council say tomorrow, but up until now they have been very clear that any extension could be granted only if there was a clear purpose for that extension, and that we could not go beyond the date I have suggested without holding European parliamentary elections. I do not believe it is anybody’s interest to hold European parliamentary elections. I believe it is time that we actually delivered on the vote of the British people in 2016, and that is why, as I said earlier, in response to the first question, as Prime Minister, as far as I am concerned, there will be no delay in delivering Brexit beyond 30 June.
As the Prime Minister has told us, she is today seeking a short and one-off extension to article 50. Last Thursday, her deputy Prime Minister told this House at that Dispatch Box that any such application would be
“downright reckless and completely at odds with the position that this House adopted only last night”.—[Official Report, 14 March 2019; Vol. 656, c. 566.]
The question is, Prime Minister, what changed?
I seem to see a certain similarity between the right hon. Lady’s question and a couple of the questions that came from the official Opposition on this issue. As I said to them, I think we should all remember the responsibility we have in this House to ensure that we deliver Brexit, and as I have said, I believe a short extension, of the type that I have indicated, that I have written to President Tusk about today, is a sensible request to put forward; but I have also been clear, as I have been in response to my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax), that I also believe that the British people will not thank this House if we do anything other than deliver Brexit, and in a reasonable timetable, and that is by the end of June.
I thank my right hon. Friend for allowing me to continue to represent the people of Grantham and Stamford from these Conservative Benches.
On 26 February, my right hon. Friend said from the Dispatch Box that
“if the House votes for an extension,”
the Government will
“seek to agree that extension approved by the House with the EU and bring forward the necessary legislation to change the exit date commensurate with that extension.”—[Official Report, 26 February 2019; Vol. 655, c. 167.]
When will she give the House the opportunity to approve her extension request? When will she bring forward the necessary legislation to change the exit date?
The suggestion of the extension to the end of June was of course considered by the House last week. The request has gone into the European Union Council, and before it is possible for that request to be confirmed, it is of course necessary for the EU Council to agree that extension, because the treaty is clear that an extension can be applied for by the country that is leaving the European Union but it has to be agreed by all 28 members of the European Union. That will not be possible until the European Council at the end of this week.
The Prime Minister still has to ask the EU to agree to something. At the moment, all she is asking anybody to agree to is the same plan that she has put to this House twice, and that has been roundly defeated twice. Why will she not just open up, just think again, just allow the indicative votes that others have put forward? What she is doing by sticking to this failed plan is deeply dangerous for our country. In the national interest, I beg this Prime Minister to think again.
What is first and foremost in the national interest is for this country to leave the European Union, and to do so in a way that protects people’s livelihoods, protects their security and protects our Union. That is the proposal that we have put forward. The right hon. Lady has raised again the issue of indicative votes. I say to her, as I have said to others, that first of all we stand by the requirement to bring the motion under section 13(4) of the withdrawal Act, which we will do, and we will bring that motion to this House within the timetable set out in the legislation. I also say to her that it is the case that there have been votes in this House on some of the other proposals that have been brought forward, and those have equally been rejected. There is one thing that this House has agreed to, and that is that it would leave with a deal; it was in relation to changes in relation to the backstop. That is the one positive vote that the House has given.
After much representation from the charity Max Appeal, the national screening committee is, for the first time, considering adding 22q11 syndrome to the newborn blood spot test. This second most common chromosomal disorder after Down’s syndrome can lead to avoidable mental health issues if not diagnosed and managed from a young age. Will my right hon. Friend join me and the all-party parliamentary group, of which I am chair, in calling for this condition to be added to the newborn blood spot test?
First, I commend my hon. Friend and the all-party parliamentary group for the work that they are doing in this area. He has obviously raised a very important issue. I will ask the Department of Health and Social Care for an appropriate Minister to respond to him, and possibly meet and talk to him about this issue.
The Prime Minister has a very selective view of the decisions that this country has made. She mentions the referendum, but she never mentions the general election that denied her the authority for a hard Brexit. She has mentioned the things that this House has voted against, but failed to mention that her deal has been defeated by large amounts now twice. She seems determined to plough on as if nothing has happened to her deal and cause a huge crisis. Surely now it is time for the Prime Minister to recognise that she has to stop banging her head against the brick wall of her defeated deal and reach out across this House in the interests of stability and our democracy, and come to a deal that actually has the support of a majority of this House, rather than kowtowing to her own Brextremists.
The point is that, so far, apart from saying that it would support leaving with a deal with changes to that deal in relation to the backstop, the House has given no positive vote on what it wants to go forward. The hon. Lady talks about the 2017 general election. I remind her that 80% of the votes cast in that general election—[Interruption.] It is no good Labour Members waving their hands. Eighty per cent of the votes cast in that election were cast for parties that stood on a manifesto of honouring the result of the 2016 referendum.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker.
My point of order relates to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Lloyd Russell-Moyle) regarding the comments made by the Leader of the House on the radio this morning about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender education and it relates to forthcoming business later today.
Mr Speaker, you will be aware that an important statutory instrument on sex and relationships education and LGBT inclusive education is due to be debated. Obviously, we understand that you have granted a number of urgent questions and that there will be an SO24 application. What steps can we take to ensure that that debate is not lost, and that we do have it, so that we can debate the comments made by the Leader of the House and ensure that we have an inclusive education across this country?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. The short answer to him is that, if I understand it correctly—and I believe that I do—the time for that matter is protected. That is to say that, notwithstanding the duration of urgent questions and the possibility of a SO24 debate, the House will get to consider that matter. I hope that that brings a smile to the face of the hon. Gentleman.
I thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing my point of order. It does relate to the discussions around the extension of article 50 and the agenda this afternoon for the debate. Will you confirm that any extension will require us to take part in the European elections, and that we will have to lay the orders in this House before 11 April, so that local authorities can publish election notices on 12 April for South West England and Gibraltar and 15 April for the rest of the UK? We have a duty to make sure that, if we are extending, we will take part in those European elections and we need to lay the orders.
I am most grateful to the right hon. Lady and she was as good as her word: her point of order did relate to matters of which the House had just treated. However, notwithstanding her beguiling invitation to me to pronounce on the matter, I genuinely do not think that it is for me to do so. It may very well depend on the length of any extension sought, and it does seem to me that it is a matter that must be pronounced upon by the Government Front-Bench team in the course of upcoming exchanges. If the right hon. Lady wants to be assured that she will have the opportunity to put that proposition directly to a Minister, I think that I can offer her that guarantee, so she will have her chance, but it is not a matter for the Chair. I am grateful to the right hon. Lady and to the hon. Gentleman for their points of order.