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Volume 656: debated on Wednesday 20 March 2019

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.

Q4. Will the Prime Minister welcome Oil & Gas UK’s report today predicting £200 billion of new investment in the sector, supported by this Government’s fiscal policy in direct contrast to the SNP’s failure to stimulate the Scottish economy? (909902)

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?

If the right hon. Gentleman had listened to the answer that I gave to the first question posed in Prime Minister’s questions, he would have heard that.

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.

It is time for the House to determine that it will deliver on Brexit for the British people. That is what the British people deserve. They deserve better than what the House has given them so far.

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.

Q6.   The announcement this week of the closure of Coes of Lowestoft, following on from those of Beales, Argos and Body Shop, highlights the challenges facing the high street in Lowestoft. To address these, Waveney District Council is submitting an expression of interest to the future high streets fund, which I anticipate will be heavily over-subscribed. I acknowledge the various initiatives the Government have put forward, but can the Prime Minister assure me that a co-ordinated, sustained and properly resourced approach, working with councils, will be pursued to revitalise our town centres, which are vital to local communities and economies? (909904)

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.]

Order. We cannot have people shouting in the middle of the exchanges. [Interruption.] Order. I do not need any help from any Member in dealing with these matters, with which I am very well familiar.

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.

Q7. In June 2016 the country voted to leave the European Union. In February 2017 this House voted by a majority of 384 to trigger article 50. The Prime Minister in this House has said 108 times that we will be leaving the European Union on 29 March. Last week two thirds of her MPs voted against any extension to article 50. Prime Minister, if you continue to apply for an extension to article 50 you will be betraying the British people. [Interruption.] If you don’t, you will be honouring their instruction. Prime Minister, it is entirely down to you; history will judge you at this moment. [Interruption.] (909905)

Order. I am not having the hon. Gentleman denied the chance and the right to be heard; the hon. Gentleman must and will be heard.

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.

Q2.   On Friday I visited a school in my constituency where distressing poverty means that teachers are not only providing food for the children at breakfast and lunch, but are sourcing clothes and buying shoes for them, in addition to raising money for books and equipment. Now that school, the only one in the area, is threatened with closure, so rather than spending money trying to get people to back her Brexit deal, will the Prime Minister please use it to address the acute social need in this country that is bringing families and communities to their knees? (909900)

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.

Q8. To overcome homelessness we need more homes, and in Chelmsford we are building 1,000 new homes every year, but we also need the infrastructure, so this week Essex County Council is putting in bids for housing infrastructure funding, including for the second train station in Chelmsford. Does my right hon. Friend agree that world-class infrastructure is vital for our future, and will she support our 25-year campaign for Chelmsford’s second train station? (909906)

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.

Q3. I know that the Prime Minister campaigned to keep section 28, which banned LGBT from being talked about positively in schools and led to millions of young people such as myself growing up in fear of being LGBT. I thought she had seen the error of her ways, but this morning the Leader of the House said on the radio that parents should decide when their children should be exposed to LGBT education. This is Conservative party dog whistle politics. Will the Prime Minister condemn the Leader of the House, and will she condemn bigots who do not want LGBT people to be heard in schools? Will she support Ofsted with good LGBT education in our schools? (909901)

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.

Q11. In Cornwall, we want to be as environmentally friendly as possible. In fact, we want to be carbon free by 2030. For me, this means improving the quality of our homes, making use of all forms of renewable energy and ensuring sustainable food production. Will my right hon. Friend welcome the aspirations of communities such as Cornwall, and will her Government ensure that robust policies are in place to meet our net zero emission commitments more quickly? (909909)

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.

Q5. There were 4,621 words in the Chancellor’s spring statement, but not a single mention of WASPI women. The Prime Minister came into office vowing to tackle burning injustices. Those women worked all their lives for their pension but had it taken from them without their knowledge. Does the Prime Minister really not think that that is a burning injustice? (909903)

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.

Q13. The United Kingdom’s average unemployment rate is a remarkable 4%, which is a very welcome low. In Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock, however, it stands at 6.5%. Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance to my constituents that she will continue to work on building employment nationally, and with a particular focus on areas where unemployment is significantly higher than the UK average? (909911)

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.

Q9. Hate crime is on the rise, and our democracy is increasingly based on fear, both in Parliament and in the country. Shocking Home Office figures show that hate crimes doubled from 2011 to more than 100,000 last year. The country looks to politicians to set a high standard, but last week the Prime Minister’s allies were texting fellow hon. Members saying:“I’m going to chloroform you and drag you through the lobbies” to vote for the Prime Minister’s deal. Does she find that behaviour acceptable, or will she be removing the Whip from the offending Member? (909907)

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.

Q14.   Back in the world beyond Brexit, my right hon. Friend will be aware that my private Member’s Bill, the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration etc) Bill, completed its passage last Friday. I have since received hundreds of letters of thanks, including no fewer than six from prospective civil partners who proposed after my Bill went through and many from anxious mothers wanting to know when they will be able to sign their son or daughter’s marriage certificate.Will my right hon. Friend guarantee that every effort will now be made to ensure that these measures come in well before the end of the year, and that there will not be a prolonged period of implementation? (909912)

I thank my hon. Friend for working with the Government on this legislation. We are working to bring it in as quickly as possible, to ensure that these measures are available as soon as possible.

Q10. Since the Prime Minister has been on her feet the national crisis appears to have deepened, in that the European Commission has said the extension will be either until 23 May or until the end of 2019. Will she listen to the hundreds of thousands of young people who will march peacefully to Parliament Square to say that they would like a chance to have their say in this debate by putting it back to the people—subject to the Kyle-Wilson amendment, which is basically a compromise in this House? (909908)

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.

Q12. My constituents Tasnim, seven, and Hashim, nine, were stuck in wartorn Sana’a, seeing things that no child should ever see. They managed to get out, and the Government asked them to go to Khartoum in Sudan, where they have been asked to wait until their mum can pass an English language test. They have a safe home with their dad in Cupar in my constituency, and I have briefed the Prime Minister about this. Will she let all the family go home to safety in my constituency? (909910)

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.

Q15. More than 50 years since the closure of the J & J White chemical factory in my constituency, the local area is still blighted by carcinogenic hexavalent chromium contamination. To date, Clyde Gateway has received £6 million of EU funds to decontaminate and regenerate land, but tens of millions more will be required to complete the work. Will the Prime Minister give a commitment that, post Brexit, the UK Government will make similar funding available in the long term to complete that work? (909913)

The hon. Gentleman has raised a very specific case in relation to a certain type of funding. I would be very happy to ask the relevant Minister to respond to him on the specifics of that case in relation to his constituency.

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 in 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.

If it appertains to matters of which the House has just treated, I am willing to take the point of order now. If it does not, I will not, because there is a proper time for such matters.

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.