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Oral Answers to Questions

Volume 659: debated on Wednesday 8 May 2019


The Secretary of State was asked—

Leaving the EU: Devolution Settlement

1. What recent discussions his Department has had with the Scottish Government on the potential effect on the devolution settlement of the UK leaving the EU. (910698)

2. What recent discussions his Department has had with the Scottish Government on the potential effect on the devolution settlement of the UK leaving the EU. (910699)

3. What recent discussions his Department has had with the Scottish Government on the potential effect on the devolution settlement of the UK leaving the EU. (910700)

6. What recent discussions his Department has had with the Scottish Government on the potential effect on the devolution settlement of the UK leaving the EU. (910704)

7. What recent discussions his Department has had with the Scottish Government on the potential effect on the devolution settlement of the UK leaving the EU. (910706)

Mr Speaker, may I take this opportunity to mark the 20th anniversary of the first elections to the Scottish Parliament? Three current Members of this House were elected to that Parliament back in 1999, including me, but, far more importantly, it is a good time to reflect on devolution and the potential of the Holyrood Parliament to improve the lives of the people of Scotland.

The UK Government, including my Department, continue to engage in frequent and extensive discussions with the Scottish Government in a number of forums to discuss all aspects related to EU exit. Leaving the EU will of course result in substantially increased powers for the Scottish Parliament.

The Secretary of State reinvented history at the weekend when he said:

“I reject the…myth that people were told they would stay in the EU if they voted to stay in the UK”.

The truth is that Scotland voted to stay within the UK but is being dragged screaming and shouting out of the EU against its national collective will. Better Together in fact said:

“What is process for removing our EU citizenship? Voting yes. #scotdecides”.

What part of that tweet did he not quite understand?

I was inclined to vote for the hon. Gentleman to succeed your good self, Mr Speaker, before that intemperate question, although I note from his manifesto that he would no longer support independence if he was in your Chair.

I would point the hon. Gentleman to the debate around the EU at the time of the independence referendum, when the former First Minister of Scotland asserted that Scotland would automatically be in the EU as an independent country. That statement proved to be false.

It is because of nonsense like this and Brexit being imposed on Scotland that many Scots now want a say in their future as regards independence. The Secretary of State’s Government accepted the Scottish National party motion on the Claim of Right, which states that it is the sovereign right of the Scottish people to decide their form of government and their constitutional future. Does he still agree with that principle?

Of course I agree with that principle, but I would point the hon. Gentleman to the recent opinion poll showing that only one in five people in Scotland want another independence referendum before 2021.

In the four parliamentary elections in Scotland since the 2014 referendum, the people of Scotland have voted overwhelmingly for pro-independence parties. Will the Secretary of State recognise that mandate and support moves for indyref2?

My recollection of the 2017 general election is that the SNP lost 500,000 votes and 21 seats and came within 600 votes of losing another six.

During the Scottish Tory conference, Ruth Davidson told STV that she was getting ready to fight an independence referendum. Is there something the Secretary of State would like to tell us? Has the Tory party finally realised that it cannot deny the people of Scotland their right to have a choice over their own future?

As I myself told that conference, there is only one guaranteed way to get an independence referendum off the table and discussion of independence away from the Scottish Parliament, and that is to elect Ruth Davidson as the First Minister of Scotland. [Laughter.]

It’s comedy hour in the House of Commons.

I am not sure whether the Secretary of State fully recognises the implications of accepting the Claim of Right, as he did last year. Can he really believe that 20 years after devolution, once the Brexit process is complete constitutional perfection will have been reached on these islands? Is he really channelling Charles Parnell in reverse and saying to Scotland, “Thus far shalt thou go but no further”?

I am channelling the Edinburgh agreement, which said we would have an independence referendum in 2014 and that both sides would respect the result.

As part of our devolution settlement, air passenger duty was devolved to the Scottish Parliament by the Scotland Act 2016, but yesterday Nicola Sturgeon broke her promise to cut APD. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me and business bodies that this tax disproportionately hits Aberdeen and the north-east and that, despite Derek Mackay trying to blame Westminster, the SNP would be better served arguing against this APD U-turn than arguing for independence?

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that the SNP Government would do better to focus on the domestic issues that are important to the people of Scotland rather than on independence. As we reach this 20th anniversary of devolution, there remains some scepticism about the Scottish Parliament, but I remain very positive about the Parliament; it is the Government in that Parliament who are not delivering for Scotland.

Given the Scottish Government’s failure to take on the welfare powers that have been devolved under the Scotland Act, what confidence has the Secretary of State that they will be able to take on the vast range of powers that will come to them as we leave the European Union?

It is obviously a matter of concern that welfare powers are being delayed, some of them until 2024. However, my hon. Friend may not know that this morning Derek Mackay, the Finance Secretary in the Scottish Government, asked for VAT assignment to be delayed until 2021. It does not seem to me that the Scottish Government are focused on taking on these powers; instead, they are focusing on their independence obsession.

How much funding for Brexit preparation has been received by the Scottish Government, and how much of that has been passed on to councils in Scotland?

The sum is in the region of £100 million. As far as I am aware, none of it has been directly made over to local government in Scotland, although I am sure that the Brexit Secretary and Mike Russell will discuss that topic when they meet in Edinburgh this morning.

What really matters to Scotland, and to many parts of the north of England, is the Union of the United Kingdom. Does the Secretary of State agree that initiatives such as the borderlands growth deal can enhance the economic success of the Union? Does he also agree that part of the success of that initiative was due to the work done by MPs, councils and Ministers, and that perhaps the SNP Government could learn something from that?

I commend my hon. Friend—as I have done previously—for his work on the borderlands initiative, which demonstrates that in the south of Scotland and the north of England, so much more binds us together than drives us apart. The one thing that would be absolutely disastrous for the borderlands area is the introduction of a separate Scottish currency, and my constituents have made it very clear that they do not want Nicola Sturgeon’s chocolate money.

I have the honour to be one of those three people who were first elected to the Scottish Parliament in 1999, and I am very proud of that. As the Secretary of State will recall, during the years that I spent at Holyrood I spent a lot of time arguing for the interests of my constituency, which we often felt was being neglected by all Governments, including one of my own colour. Today my constituents still feel that they are being left behind by the Scottish Government, who seem to be interested only in the central belt. Does the Secretary of State agree that it is crucial for the interests of all parts of Scotland to be brought to the fore and acted on under devolution?

I commend the hon. Gentleman and my right hon. Friend the Member for Wyre and Preston North (Mr Wallace), the two other Members who were in that first Scottish Parliament back in 1999. I am very aware of the hon. Gentleman’s efforts to promote the highlands in those days. It is a great disappointment to me, given the range of powers that have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament, that this Scottish Government are one of the most centralist Governments in history, seeking to draw power to the centre rather than to devolve it within Scotland.

Now the SNP says that in its independent Scotland we would have a brand-new currency. Does the Secretary of State agree that the people of Scotland do not want a bureau de change at Berwick, and that the people of Stirling still want to use sterling?

I absolutely agree. It is completely ridiculous to suggest that my constituents in Annan should use one currency to get the bus to Carlisle and another currency to get the bus back. This is a ridiculous proposal, and the people of Scotland already see through it.

Two weeks tomorrow the people of Scotland go to the polls, and the Scottish National party will be fighting that election not just resisting the shambles of the Tory Brexit but demanding that the voice of Scotland be heard and the people of Scotland be given a choice over their own future. If my party wins that election, will the Secretary of State abandon his resistance to the Scottish Government being able to consult people on their own future?

I do not know what the hon. Gentleman’s definition of winning that election will be, but that election is to elect Members from Scotland to the European Parliament for as short a period as possible, and that should be the focus of that election.

That does not answer the question, and it certainly does not sound like the response of someone who believes in the Claim of Right. Is it not really the case that it does not matter how many elections we win and it does not matter how many times the people of Scotland demand a say in their own future, because the Secretary of State is part of a crumbling Government and his party, which has the support of one in five people in Scotland, will continue to deny them the opportunity to determine their own future?

The fundamental issue is that when the people of Scotland determined their own future in the 2014 referendum and voted decisively to remain in the United Kingdom, the hon. Gentleman and his friends did not like the answer, and their position is to keep going—to challenge that result until they get what they want. But I have been very clear: this Government will not agree to another independence referendum before 2021.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, contrary to the manufactured myth of a power grab, on our leaving Europe the Scottish Government will receive significantly more powers?

That is absolutely the case, and the power grab myth has been deconstructed on many occasions. The reality, as we have heard in previous questions, is that significant powers on welfare and VAT are going to the Scottish Parliament, and the Scottish Government are asking for those powers to be delayed.

I share the Secretary of State’s sentiments in reflecting on the second decade of the Scottish Parliament. As someone who has served in both Parliaments he will be well aware of the importance of the Barnett formula, which is the financial mechanism that ensures that the resources of the UK are pooled and shared across each nation based on the needs of the population. In March the UK Government announced the stronger towns fund, which allocates £1.6 billion of funding for towns in England. However, no Barnett consequentials have been announced with respect to Scottish towns. So can the Secretary of State enlighten us on how much Scottish towns will receive from this fund, when they will receive it and who will administer the payments?

Universal Credit: Low-income Families

4. What assessment he has made of the effect on low-income families of the roll-out of universal credit in Scotland. (910701)

Evidence shows that universal credit is working. We are working closely with the Scottish Government to help them achieve their goals on UC flexibilities. UC Scottish choices are now available to all claimants in Scotland on full service who are not in receipt of a Department for Work and Pensions alternative payment arrangement.

The Scottish choices do not help people to be paid differently if they are receiving less, and Citizens Advice Scotland has raised numerous concerns about the process of migrating on to UC. In one case a 24-year-old single parent was left £90 a week worse off. What are the Government doing to ensure that those on natural migration are aware of their entitlements and do not suffer like that financially?

I am always willing to look into individual cases, and we are working extremely closely with the Scottish Government on their proposals to make the changes they are able to make under the Scotland Act 2016, but of course the Scottish Government are also able to make additional payments to any individual if they choose to do so, but so far they have not chosen to do so.

First, I would like to associate myself with the comments made in relation to the 20th anniversary of the Scottish Parliament—undoubtedly Labour’s finest achievement.

Universal credit is subject to a two-child cap and the subsequent rape clause. In the Scottish Parliament the Tories called it a fair policy; their Scottish leader calls it a “box-ticking exercise”. Can the Secretary of State for Scotland explain why his Government believe it is fair to force the survivors of rape to relive their trauma to claim the support they and their children need?

As the hon. Lady knows, this issue has been debated frequently in this House and in the Scottish Parliament, and the justification for the process has been set out: it is actually to help people in those circumstances. As she knows, the Scottish Parliament has the power to do something different, and if it does not agree with this policy, it could do something different right now. Instead, it is focused on independence rather than on bringing in new welfare arrangements.

That is a pathetic response to what really is a callous and cruel policy. The reality is that the right hon. Gentleman’s Government chose this policy; they chose to cut support to the poorest while giving tax cuts to the richest. They say that the best route out of poverty is a job, but under this Government, jobs are paying less than the living wage and often involve zero-hours contracts. At the weekend, Ruth Davidson talked about the Scottish Tories not wanting anyone to be left behind. Can the Secretary of State explain how cutting tax credits for working families and forcing them to go to food banks is not leaving anyone behind?

What a surprising contribution from the hon. Lady—I would have thought that if she believed that, her colleagues in the Scottish Parliament would be advocating it. Instead, we learned recently that Richard Leonard’s keynote policy for Scottish Labour is an NHS pet service.

European Elections: Voter Registration

5. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of arrangements for voter registration for the forthcoming European parliamentary elections in Scotland. (910702)

I am content that the arrangements are robust. The UK Government have worked to ensure that the “register to vote” website, which has been running since 2014, is secure against malicious attacks and robust enough to manage traffic in line with registration deadlines.

If it is robust enough, how come only 288 of the 2,000 non-UK EU citizens in East Lothian have managed to register? Is that really the foundation of the Secretary of State’s democracy?

If the hon. Gentleman can bring forward details of any citizens who have tried to register but not succeeded in doing so, I will obviously look at that. There have been many campaigns to encourage people to register, and I particularly commend the Daily Record newspaper for its efforts in that regard.

The Secretary of State is a big advocate of the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal. If he has such great confidence in that deal, why does he not have confidence in the people and allow them to decide whether it is a deal that they want?

The people of Scotland made their decision in 2014; the people of the United Kingdom made their decision in 2016.

Leaving the EU: Devolution Settlement

8. What recent discussions his Department has had with the Scottish Government on the potential effect on the devolution settlement of the UK leaving the EU. (910707)

9. What recent discussions his Department has had with the Scottish Government on the potential effect on the devolution settlement of the UK leaving the EU. (910708)

10. What recent discussions his Department has had with the Scottish Government on the potential effect on the devolution settlement of the UK leaving the EU. (910709)

11. What recent discussions his Department has had with the Scottish Government on the potential effect on the devolution settlement of the UK leaving the EU. (910710)

It has emerged that the polling company Ipsos MORI has been commissioned by the Cabinet Office to conduct polling in Scotland on the state of the Union. That is surely a sign that this Government are deeply rattled by the growing support for independence. Was the Secretary of State made aware of this, and will he support the full publication of this taxpayer-funded polling?

It might surprise the hon. Lady to learn that all Governments, including the Scottish Government, poll on their policies.

The Secretary of State asked for context in an earlier answer. The House of Commons Library has a Government-issued leaflet from 2014 explaining why people should vote against Scottish independence. Under the heading “An influential voice in important places”, it says:

“As one of the EU’s ‘big four’ nations, the UK is more able to protect Scottish interests”.

Ruth Davidson herself said that voting no meant that we would stay in the EU. Will the Secretary of State take this opportunity to get his story straight?

To give the hon. Lady some context, David Cameron made it very clear in 2013 that there would be an EU referendum. The SNP and the former First Minister’s assertion was that Scotland would automatically stay in the EU if it became independent. That was not correct. The question for those advocating a yes in 2014, as it is now, is how an independent Scotland would become a member of the EU.

Many of us in Argyll and Bute have been trying for a long time to pin down the Secretary of State on this question. Will he now take the opportunity to spell out exactly what he believes the economic benefits will be, specifically for my Argyll and Bute constituency, of ending freedom of movement?

We are engaged in a year-long consultation on the immigration White Paper. I am happy, as part of that consultation and engagement, to come to Argyll and Bute, just as the Home Secretary went to Aberdeenshire last week, to hear what businesses and people there have to say.

It was reported at the weekend that the Secretary of State could not even get toast out of a toaster. We cannot get an answer out of him. Are there any circumstances whereby he would support the right of the Scottish people to determine their own future through a referendum?

I support the right of the Scottish people to determine their future through a referendum. They already have—on 18 September 2014, when they voted decisively to remain in the United Kingdom.

They asked for more powers over welfare and they have delayed them or handed them back to the Department for Work and Pensions; they asked for the power to cut air departure tax and they have U-turned; they asked for power over VAT assignment receipts and they have postponed it. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, rather than moaning about all the powers they do not have, Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government should get on with using the extensive powers they do have to make the lives of my constituents in East Renfrewshire better?

I absolutely agree. The Scottish Parliament has tremendous potential to make a difference for the people of Scotland, but it will not do so as long as it is bogged down in the SNP’s independence agenda. We hear about further legislation being introduced on that rather than on issues that matter: health, education and transport.

People in Corby are overwhelmingly pro the United Kingdom Union, but voted overwhelmingly to leave the European Union. What impact does my right hon. Friend believe that ignoring referendum results and not leaving the European Union would have on the devolution settlement?

I am absolutely clear that the results of both referendums—in 2014 and in 2016—should be honoured. The Government are determined to do so.

Child Poverty

I have regular discussions with Cabinet colleagues on a range of issues and we are committed to action that will make a meaningful difference to the lives of disadvantaged children and families. This goes beyond a focus on the safety net of the welfare system to tackle the root causes of poverty and disadvantage. The UK Government will work with the Scottish Government on their child poverty strategy given that this spans both devolved and reserved interests.

In a recent report, the Resolution Foundation projected that the Scottish child poverty rate will hit 29% by 2023-24—the highest rate in 20 years —and concluded that the Government’s welfare reforms are to blame. Will the Secretary of State take a stand in the Cabinet against policies like the unfair benefit freeze or will he allow more children to fall into poverty?

I do not accept that analysis. Of course there is concern about the number of children in poverty in Scotland, but, as I outlined in my initial answer, the best way to resolve it is for the Scottish Government and the UK Government to work together and focus on a really important issue rather than constantly discuss the constitution.

While the Secretary of State gives false assurances about child poverty in Scotland, the Trussell Trust tells me that in my constituency it is giving out more and more food parcels to families and children. How is he using his power to ensure families in Scotland are not relying on food banks?

The first thing, as I have outlined in virtually every answer today, is to get the political debate in Scotland off the constitution and on to the issues that really matter to ordinary families. The idea of bringing forward a new independence referendum Bill in the Scottish Parliament, which would take up time when the Scottish Parliament could focus on issues such as this, is the problem right now.

Scotch Whisky: Economic Impact

13. What assessment he has made of the findings of the Scotch Whisky Association’s “Scotch Whisky Economic Impact Report 2018”, published on 30 April 2019. (910712)

I am very pleased to see how this important sector is thriving. The UK Government are supporting the Scotch whisky success story by freezing duty on spirits again this year. That demonstrates clearly how the UK Government are taking the right decisions on taxes and delivering for the businesses and people of Scotland.

The report highlighted that the Scotch whisky industry’s contribution to the UK economy has increased by 10% to £5.5 billion. Due to the UK Government’s welcome announcements, the industry has reinvested £500 million over the past five years in production, distribution and tourism. Does the Secretary of State agree, however, that we can do more to ensure a fairer taxation system for the Scotch whisky industry?

My hon. Friend represents the constituency with the most distilleries in the United Kingdom and is a very powerful advocate for the industry. We consider it to be of very great importance, and we will look at any proposals it cares to bring forward in that regard.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—


I am sure the whole House will wish to join me in offering our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Guardsman Mathew Talbot of the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, who sadly died in anti-poaching operations in Malawi.

I am also sure Members from across the House will want to join me in sending my very best wishes to Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on the birth of their son.

Monday marked the beginning of Ramadan—a time of peace, devotion and charity. I know Members from across the House will want to join me in saying to Muslims in the UK and across the world, “Ramadan kareem”. Later today, I will host a reception to celebrate Vaisakhi and the immense contribution that the Sikh community makes to this country.

This week marks 20 years since the 1999 Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales elections. Two decades on, we remain committed to strengthening devolution within the United Kingdom. As we leave the European Union, we will bring new powers and responsibilities to Holyrood and Cardiff Bay.

This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.

I agree with all the tributes paid by the Prime Minister.

Data from the TUC suggests that 780,000 people are on zero-hours contracts, and that two thirds of them would prefer guaranteed hours. A constituent of mine lives in privately rented accommodation and works two jobs on zero-hours contracts. After getting his third job on a zero-hours contract, his rent went up. He and his family survive, but only by using a local food bank. Will the Prime Minister end these burning injustices and ban zero-hours contracts?

The party that recognised the issue with zero-hours contracts was the Conservative party in government. The Labour party did nothing about them; it was the Conservatives that banned exclusive zero-hours contracts.

Q3. School funding is a huge issue on doorsteps in Lewes, because for decades schools in Lewes have had significantly less funding than neighbouring authorities such as Brighton and Hove. Last year, schools in Sussex got a 6% increase in funding, and this year schools such as Priory School in Lewes should be getting a 7.6% increase in their per-pupil funding, but the council is keeping back £64,000 of it. Will the Prime Minister do all she can to ensure that schools get the funding they have been awarded? (910750)

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. We recognised that we have been asking schools to do more and responded with the highest level of school funding on record, and we introduced the new national funding formula to make the distribution fairer, but of course it is still the case that local authorities are responsible for determining individual schools’ budgets from the overall sum they have received. They have a responsibility, and I am sure that hon. Members will look to their local authorities to make sure that where schools should be receiving extra money, the local authorities are passing it on. But I will also ask those at the Department for Education, who will have heard my hon. Friend’s question, to write to her in more detail about it.

I join the Prime Minister in sending condolences to the family and friends of Guardsman Mathew Talbot, who died while on anti-poaching activities. It is a reminder of the diverse work that the armed forces do, and we thank them for it and for the help they are giving to the people of Malawi. I join her also in welcoming the birth of the baby to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and, along with all of us, in recognising and enjoying Ramadan and Vaisakhi at this time. It is important to show the diversity of this country and celebrate all religious festivals.

I hope the whole House will also join me in congratulating a great football team: Manchester City, on winning the women’s FA cup. In view of Liverpool’s amazing performance last night, perhaps the Prime Minister could take some tips from Jürgen Klopp on how to get a good result in Europe.

Our national health service is our country’s greatest social achievement. Its staff show amazing dedication, but this Government’s failures are taking their toll. An NHS staff survey found that 40% of staff had reported suffering work-related stress in the past year alone. Can the Government explain why staff are being so severely let down by this Government?

First, may I say to the right hon. Gentleman that when we look at the Liverpool win over Barcelona last night, we see that it shows that when everybody says, “It’s all over and your European opposition have got you beat. The clock’s ticking down, it’s time to concede defeat”, actually we can still secure success if everyone comes together.

The right hon. Gentleman asks about staffing in the NHS. For too long Governments have failed to produce the proper workforce planning to give our staff in the NHS the care they deserve. It is this Government, with their long-term plan, who are ensuring that we give that care to staff. NHS staff work hard, caring for patients, and this Government will care for NHS staff. It is only because we are able to give the NHS its biggest cash boost in its history and to give it that long-term plan that we will deliver for NHS staff.

Under the last Labour Government, NHS investment rose by 6% a year, but under this Government it has barely reached 1.5%. Five thousand nurses and midwives from European Union countries have left the NHS in the past two years, and there are 100,000 staff vacancies across the NHS in England alone. The Royal College of Radiologists recently said the shortage of cancer doctors “puts care at risk”. What is the Prime Minister doing to remedy this dangerous situation?

What have seen this year? We have seen the numbers of doctors and nurses in the NHS at their highest level in its 70-year history. As I say, our NHS staff work hard 24/7 and their dedication is second to none. I am proud of our NHS. The right hon. Gentleman talks down our NHS. Let us just remember this: at the last general election, the Labour party promised to give the NHS less money than the Conservative Government are giving it. The Labour party in government would crash the economy, which would mean less money available for the NHS. And who is the only party in government that has cut funding to the NHS? It is the Labour party.

Nobody on this side of the House ever talks down the NHS—it is Labour’s greatest achievement. The principle of healthcare free at the point of need as a human right was a Labour achievement, and every Tory MP voted against it.

Today is World Ovarian Cancer Day. As for all cancers, the early diagnosis of ovarian cancer is essential. In February, almost a quarter of patients waited more than two months to start cancer treatment following a GP referral—the worst performance on record. Will the Prime Minister apologise to the thousands of cancer patients who are enduring weeks of unbelievable stress and worry while they wait to start the treatment that, to have a better chance of survival, they should be able to start quickly after they have been referred?

We recognise the importance of the early diagnosis and treatment of ovarian cancer, of other cancers and of other conditions as well, which is why a key part of the 10-year plan—the long-term plan for the NHS that is being put forward under this Government—is about early diagnosis. We recognise the importance of that. The right hon. Gentleman might like to reflect on the fact that there is a part of the United Kingdom in which the urgent cancer treatment target has not been met since June 2008. Where is that? In Wales, under Labour.

Under the NHS in Wales, more people are surviving cancer than ever before. We should welcome the work that has been done.

The Royal College of Radiologists said,

“our workforce projections are increasingly bleak”,

and almost half of all women with ovarian cancer reported having to visit the GP three times before they were referred for a test. Today, we learned that GP numbers are experiencing their first sustained fall for 50 years. GPs often play the vital role in the early identification of cancers and other serious problems. Does the Prime Minister think it is acceptable that one third of people who need an urgent GP appointment on the day that they ask for one are being turned away because of the shortage of GPs?

We recognise that GPs are a vital part of the NHS, and there are actually more GPs in the NHS today than there were in 2015. We have made it easier for people to access their GPs by ensuring that GP surgeries are open for more days of the week. We are incentivising GP trainees to work in hard-to-recruit areas and making it easier and quicker for qualified doctors to return to the NHS. Under our NHS long-term plan, we will see—for the first time in its 70-year history—the proportion of funding for primary medical and community care increasing as a percentage of the NHS budget. That is because it is this Government who recognise the importance of primary care in our national health service, and it is this Government whose careful management of the economy means there is money available to put into our national health service.

Mr Speaker, if you go to any A&E department in the country, you will find that staff are under enormous pressure precisely because there is a shortage of GPs available to see people in the first place. At the same time as he promotes private GP services, the Conservative Secretary of State for Health and Social Care is overseeing the biggest drop in NHS GPs for 50 years. One in 10 GPs are now seeing twice as many patients as is safe for them to see—that is the pressure they are under. The NHS has failed to meet its A&E waiting time target for nearly four years. In March this year, more than one in five patients waited more than four hours to be seen. Will the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Government, apologise to the tens of thousands of people waiting for too long in deep distress just to get seen at an A&E department, because of the pressure A&Es are under?

We recognise the importance of these targets in the NHS. That is why one of the elements of the 10-year long-term plan in the NHS—funded by the biggest cash boost in the NHS’s history, which was given by this Conservative Government because of their good management of the economy—is to ensure that we are improving those targets. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would like to stand up and apologise for the fact that the A&E waiting-time target has not been met not for four years, but for over a decade under a Labour Government in Wales.

The reality is that, under a Tory Government, spending and investment in the NHS is less than it was under Labour, and, even with the Prime Minister’s funding announcements, that remains the case. The complacent attitude and platitudes hide the reality that, under the Tories, our health service is going through the longest funding squeeze in history: 20,000 jobs in mental health units are unfilled; public satisfaction with GP services is the worst on record; cancer treatment delays are the worst on record; A&E waiting times are the worst on record; and, tragically, infant mortality is rising. Will the Prime Minister admit that the Government have failed the health service, failed NHS staff, and, therefore failed the patients who rely on the NHS?

There are more people alive today because our cancer treatment has improved than would have been the case in 2010. At the previous election, someone said that an extra £7 billion for the NHS would

“give our NHS the resources it needs to deliver the best possible care for patients.”

I wonder who that was. It was none other than the Leader of the Opposition. Are this Government giving the NHS £7 billion? No! Are they giving it twice that—£14 billion? No! They are giving the NHS £20 billion. I am proud of this Government’s record and the Conservative party’s record on the NHS. It is the Conservative party that is giving the NHS its biggest cash boost in its history. It is the Conservative party that is giving it a sustainable 10-year long-term plan to ensure that it is there for people in the future. Under the Conservative party, we have seen more nurses and more doctors in our national health service dedicated to caring for patients. That is only possible because it is the Conservative Government who manage our economy and manage our public finances. A Labour party in government would crash our economy, meaning less money for the NHS, less money for its staff and less care for its patients.

Q4. May I join the Prime Minister in congratulating the Duke and Duchess of Sussex on the birth of their son? Was it not wonderful to see Prince Harry bursting with happiness as he shared the news with the nation? I do hope that he will be taking some time off to spend with Meghan and the baby, but statutory paternity leave is just two weeks and take-up of shared parental leave is low. Will my right hon. Friend consider introducing a longer period of paid parental leave just for partners, which will be good for new dads, mums and their children? (910751)

My hon. Friend has raised an important issue and I thank her for doing so. I recognise the importance of this for many parents. Currently, parents can use the shared parental leave and pay scheme to take up to six months off work together, or to stagger their leave and pay so that one of them is always at home with their child in the first year. We are evaluating the shared parental leave and pay scheme. We want to see how we can improve the system for parents. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy hopes to publish findings on this issue later this year.

I also congratulate the Duke and Duchess of Wessex—[Interruption.] Sussex. We have had 113 days since the Prime Minister’s deal was rejected by Parliament—[Interruption.]

Order. Members are rather over-excitable. The right hon. Gentleman’s question must and will be heard.

It has been 113 days since the Prime Minister’s deal was rejected by Parliament. A month of Tory talks with Labour, and we are still no further forward. The clock is ticking down and yet the Prime Minister is silent. When exactly will this House have an update from the Prime Minister?

I had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would join me in congratulating the Earl and Countess of Dumbarton on the birth of their child.

We are indeed talking with the Labour party. The public gave this House a very clear message last week—that they want us to get on and deliver Brexit. It is absolutely right that we do so, and we are working on an agreement that can command a majority of this House. If the right hon. Gentleman is so keen for us to get on with delivering Brexit, why did he not vote for the deal in the first place?

Scotland does not want a Labour-Tory Brexit stitch-up. Scotland voted to remain, and once again—with no Scottish representation in the talks—our nation is being ignored. Does the Prime Minister think that this is good enough for a supposed Union of equals? She must confirm today that any deal will be put back to the people for a final say.

I have had talks with the right hon. Gentleman in the past on the issue of the Brexit deal. I have also discussed the matter with the First Minister of Scotland, and it has been made clear that any discussions on these matters should be with the First Minister. On the question of a second referendum, I remain absolutely of the view, as I have always been—I am not going to change my answer to him—that we should be delivering on the result of the first referendum that took place.

Q10. Mr Speaker, the whole House—and, indeed, the nation —knows that you are an Arsenal superfan, but other teams are available. One such team is AFC Fylde, who have reached Wembley not once, but twice this season. May I ask the Prime Minister to join me in congratulating and wishing them well, not just for their performance on the pitch, but for their excellent work in the schools and prisons in my community, and may I urge the Government to support AFC Fylde in their endeavours? (910758)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to congratulate AFC Fylde, who I believe are known as the Coasters, on their recent success. We wish them the best for the play-off final at Wembley. AFC Fylde is a very good example of how clubs can engage with their local communities. We want to see these partnerships taking place, as they lead to excellent work in communities. We are currently investing more money than ever in community football programmes and facilities, and we fully intend the funding levels in this area to continue. We have regular meetings with the FA and Premier League to encourage this activity at a local level, but my hon. Friend is right to congratulate AFC Fylde not only on their success on the pitch, but on the changes that they are making to lives in their community through the work they are doing there.

Q2. I am the co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on adult social care, and I would like to know when the long-awaited Green Paper on social care will be published. We have been waiting years for this. In January, the Health and Social Care Secretary said that it would happen “before April”. It is now May. Will the Prime Minister tell me when it will finally be available? (910749)

I commend the hon. Lady for her work on the APPG. We are working on providing the Green Paper on social care. She complains that it has been delayed for a matter of months, but may I remind her that the last Labour Government had 13 years to deliver a sustainable social care system, and they did absolutely nothing?

Q13. The Prime Minister will be aware that many countries now require petrol to contain 10% ethanol. The effect of that measure in Britain would be a reduction in emissions equivalent to taking 700,000 cars off the road, and it would also secure jobs in the ethanol plants of the north-east of England. Will the Government move swiftly on this environmental measure so that we can have E10 here? (910761)

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for the work that the all-party parliamentary group for British bioethanol is doing on this issue. E10 would help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but it is not approved for use in all petrol vehicles. Any decision to introduce the new grade of petrol must balance the needs of consumers with the emissions reductions it could help to deliver. We will be publishing our next steps on E10 petrol later in the year. I am sure that the Department for Transport will study with interest the findings of the APPG’s inquiry into the issue.

Q5. People are fed up with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition blaming each other and only caring about a Brexit that suits them. Meanwhile, in Enfield, 34,000 children live below the poverty line and face a Brexit future that offers them nothing. Parliament is gridlocked. When will the Prime Minister do the right thing and go back to the country with a people’s vote? (910753)

I answered the question about a second referendum earlier and my view has not changed in the few minutes since I did so. I believe that we should deliver on the first referendum. But can I challenge the right hon. Lady on what she said? It is not right that outside the European Union those children have no future. This country has a bright future outside the European Union, and that is the message she should be giving to her constituents.

Q14. Today the Government introduce the draft Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill. Is my right hon. Friend aware of the growing concern at the demolition of the award-winning, listed Richmond House to make way for a permanent replica House of Commons where MPs could be parked for many years? Given that the decant may now be delayed until 2028, will her Government ensure that for reasons of safety we get on with the work as quickly as possible, and that when a decant becomes necessary it is for as short a time as possible into a temporary, cost-effective Chamber? (910762)

My right hon. Friend has raised an important issue, because obviously the Palace of Westminster is recognised all over the world as a symbol of democracy, and the decision that was taken by Parliament to approve the restoration and renewal programme was a huge step towards its protection. As he says, we will be introducing the Bill today, and I am pleased that we are able to do that. The decision to move to Richmond House was of course a matter for Parliament. I understand that although Richmond House will be substantially redeveloped, the proposals will retain Richmond Terrace and the Whitehall façade. I am sure that, as he indicated at the end of his question, he will agree with me that it is imperative that Parliament keeps the total bill as low as possible.

Q6. My constituent Carla Cotton struggles with ME and fibromyalgia. Her eight-year-old son has severe hypermobility problems and cannot feed or toilet himself. When his higher rate disability living allowance was stopped last August, Ms Cotton also lost her carers allowance and the severe disabled child element of child tax credit. Her appeal is not set to be heard until the end of this month, and in the meantime her washing machine and oven are set to be taken away for non-payment of debts. What will the Prime Minister do to prevent families waiting for appeals from falling into abject poverty? (910754)

Obviously the hon. Gentleman has set out a very specific case and I will ensure that the Department looks at that case. It is—[Interruption.] I will ensure that the Department looks carefully at the case that he has set out. It is an important issue. The Department for Work and Pensions has been doing work to ensure that appeals can be heard in a timely fashion to give people that confidence and reassurance.

In the light of last week’s debate in this place and the advice of the Committee on Climate Change, could the Prime Minister indicate whether the Government will be legislating for net zero emissions by 2050?

I commend my hon. Friend, who is a regular and consistent champion on these issues of environment and climate change. We are looking at the result of the review that was undertaken by the independent committee in relation to our targets for the future. We have, as I am sure she would agree, a good record in our decarbonisation and changes to emissions that we have been undertaking over recent years. We will look very carefully at the report and make a formal response to it in due course.

Q7. In Sheffield we have seen youth services cut by 64% as a result of the Government’s austerity agenda. At the same time, we are seeing an increase in knife crime. The report by the APPG on knife crime that was released yesterday highlighted this link across the country. When will the Prime Minister recognise that this is for real and that the decimation of youth services is leaving our young people vulnerable to crime? What will she do to restore these vital services that should be there to support them? (910755)

We recognise the concerns about the level of knife crime. That is why I will be chairing the first serious violence taskforce this afternoon, following the summit we held a few weeks ago, bringing all parts of Government together to ensure that we are putting all efforts into dealing with this issue. Diverse elements need to be addressed, and we need to ensure that we turn young people away from violence. That is being done in various ways across the country, and Government are clear about the need for us to work with local authorities and others across the board to deal with this very difficult issue.

I know the Prime Minister will welcome the news that Asia Bibi, who was persecuted for her faith, is on her way to Canada, which has offered her sanctuary. I think everyone wants to know the Prime Minister’s answer to this question: why did Canada offer sanctuary to Asia Bibi, but the United Kingdom did not? Will future such cases of religious freedom be looked at differently by the United Kingdom?

I join my hon. Friend in welcoming the reports that Asia Bibi has been able to travel freely and can now make decisions about her future. Our concern was always her safety and security. We were in close contact with the Government of Pakistan and a range of international partners who were considering the offers that would be available to Asia Bibi. Canada made this offer, and we felt it was right and appropriate that we supported that offer. That is important. We have a proud record of welcoming people here who have been persecuted because of their faith, and we will continue that record, but in individual cases like this, it is important for international partners to work together with the key aim constantly of ensuring that the safety, security and best interests of the individual are put first and foremost.

Q8. When 12-year-old Zac Gormley, a family friend, is the latest victim of an after-school mugging, which has traumatised him, and in the same week another family are terrified by masked robbers in their own home, leafy Ealing and Chiswick feel like they are becoming the wild west. The Prime Minister said that austerity is over, so when will we get back the 21,000 police officers—300 locally—cut on her watch? (910756)

As the hon. Lady knows, we are making around £1 billion extra available for police this year, which includes a significant amount of extra money available for the Metropolitan police. Extra money is also being put into violence reduction units in hotspots around the country, including London, to ensure that we deal with the issue of serious violence, which the Government take very seriously and will be dealing with in a number of ways across Departments.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has tried her best. Nobody could fault or doubt her commitment and sense of duty, but she has failed. She has failed to deliver on her promises. We have lost 1,300 hard-working councillors, and sadly the public no longer trust her to run the Brexit negotiations. Is it not time to step aside and let someone new lead our party, our country and the negotiations?

First, may I say to my hon. Friend that I am sorry that we saw so many good Conservative councillors lose their seats last week, often through no fault of their own? I have been a councillor; I know the hard work and dedication that it takes. I have also been a councillor who has stood in an election against a difficult national background under a Conservative Government, so I know what that feels like as well. I thank all those councillors for their hard work, and I congratulate those Conservative councillors who won their seats for the first time across the country. May I also say to my hon. Friend—[Interruption.] No, wait for it. Actually, this is not an issue about me, and it is not an issue about her. If it were an issue about me and how I vote, we would already have left the European Union.

Q9. I am pleased that the Prime Minister acknowledged, when prompted, the achievements of Liverpool football club. I hope she will also congratulate Sheffield United on their rightful return to the premiership under the inspirational leadership of Chris Wilder.In March, I brought 14 Sheffield headteachers to meet the Schools Minister and deliver a letter to Downing Street signed by 171 of their colleagues. The reply did not address their concerns that the 8% real-terms cut in funding since 2010 has brought our schools to a tipping point, reducing subject choice, limiting support for special needs and leaving them unable to cope with growing mental health demands. The changes in the national funding formula do not address the crisis, so what will the Prime Minister do to ensure that our children get the education they deserve? (910757)

At the risk of starting a trend, we have had Liverpool, AFC Fylde and now Sheffield United, and I am happy to congratulate it in the way the hon. Gentleman suggests.

On the issue of education, as I have said, more money is available. We are making more money available in every area for every school. That is what this Government are doing. In his own area, he sees several thousand more children in good and outstanding schools; that is important. The Labour party may talk constantly about the money going into schools, but what matters is the quality of education that children receive. More children in his area in good and outstanding schools, the disadvantage attainment gap narrowed and more disadvantaged young people going to university—that is a good record. It is a record this Government can be proud of.

May I, too, congratulate the Duke and Duchess of Sussex? As a former member of the Coldstream Guards, may I pass on my sympathy to the family of Guardsman Mathew Talbot, who has recently been killed?

May I congratulate the new Secretary of State for Defence on her appointment? It is a highly privileged position to be in, and she will be responsible for sending our brave men and women into dangerous positions. To do that, she must gain their respect and get to know them. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is, in itself, a full-time job?

First, may I take the opportunity my hon. Friend has given me to commend the former Secretary of State for Defence for his commitment to the armed forces—the men and women of our armed forces?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that, obviously, as Secretary of State for Defence my right hon. Friend will be needing to get to know the men and women of our armed forces. I have to say that I think my right hon. Friend, as a former Minister in the Ministry of Defence and a Royal Naval reservist, starts from a very good position to do that. May I also say to my hon. Friend, on the implication of his question, that there is a lot to be done in our armed forces on the questions of equality? I think my right hon. Friend is absolutely the right person to be dealing with that issue, as well as ensuring that she is speaking up for and promoting the best interests of the brave men and women of all our armed forces.

Q11. Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp is an optimist, which is why he supports a public vote, and every football fan knows that the biggest prize lies in Europe. There is no stable majority for the Prime Minister’s deal in this place without putting it back to the people, and even the former chair of her party, Eric Pickles, and members of the Eurosceptic ERG are now saying the same. Why does she persist in saying that they are all wrong and that she is right; and if she is right, what on earth is her plan? (910759)

The hon. Lady makes out as though I am the only person across this House who thinks we should not have a second referendum. In fact, this House has consistently rejected a second referendum.

Given the 2017 law requiring everyone in China to co-operate with that communist country’s intelligence services, would it not be naive to the point of negligence to allow Huawei further to penetrate our critical national infrastructure, and should we not be grateful to all those Ministers, present and former, who have opposed this reckless recommendation?

We are taking a robust risk-based approach that is right for our UK market and network and that addresses the UK national security needs. The UK is not considering any options that would put our national security communications at risk, either within the UK or with our closest allies. No one takes national security more seriously than I do, and I say to my right hon. Friend that I think my record speaks for itself.

Q12. Labour Members constantly raise the burning injustices that are going unchallenged by this Government—gender inequality, pay inequality and social inequality. Now we see yet another emerging inequality: the Centre For Towns has found that 55% of digital jobs are in the south-east, with just 12% in the north. Is this Prime Minister going to do anything to help to renew our post-industrial northern towns, such as Leigh, with the emerging digital and cyber sectors, or has the Tory party’s psychodrama killed off any attempt at bringing together the north and the south? (910760)

It is under this Government that we see the lowest gender pay gap. It is this Government that introduced the race disparity audit, which is, finally, properly shining a light on public services and what is happening for people from different communities. On the issue that the hon. Lady raises about jobs in the digital sector, the industrial strategy deals with AI and digital as one of its grand challenges. The industrial strategy is exactly about ensuring that the economy works for everyone and that the sorts of jobs that she is talking about are available for people across this country.

I was pleased to welcome the Prime Minister to North East Lincolnshire last Friday evening to mark success in the local elections. It is good to know that the Cleethorpes constituency now has two Conservative-controlled unitary authorities. The Prime Minister will recall that the new council leader, Philip Jackson, and I mentioned to her the Greater Grimsby town deal. I know that she will want to push that forward as part of the industrial strategy, which she has just mentioned. Will she agree to facilitate meetings for me and the new council leader to push it forward?

I take this further opportunity to congratulate the new leader of North East Lincolnshire, his new councillors and the whole Conservative council group on taking control of North East Lincolnshire last week, and indeed to congratulate my hon. Friend on his work in campaigning to secure that excellent result. He is absolutely right; he and the council leader made that point about the town deal, and I will facilitate meetings between my hon. Friend, the council leader and the Ministers responsible.

I call on the House to celebrate 20 years of devolution, and I look forward to the nation of Wales taking our proper place among the nations of Europe.

Today, 32-year-old Imam Şiş of Newport is on his 143rd day of indefinite hunger strike, and the condition of his health is now critical. He is one of many Kurds on hunger strike around the world, including four others in the UK, protesting the treatment of Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, who is imprisoned in Turkey and whose human rights are clearly breached by the Turkish Government. The hon. Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden) and I, along with 48 other MPs and Welsh Assembly Members, have today written to the Foreign Secretary asking him to apply pressure on Turkey to uphold the human rights of the Kurds. I am confident that the Prime Minister respects the urgency and gravity of the situation. Will she please commit to intervening?

The right hon. Lady has raised an important issue. We absolutely expect Turkey to undertake any legal processes against prisoners fairly, transparently and with full respect for the rule of law. That includes ensuring access to appropriate medical treatment. The British ambassador in Ankara has discussed the wider issue of hunger strikes with the Turkish authorities, but we will continue to encourage the Turkish state to uphold the human rights of hunger striking detainees, including access to medical treatment. As the right hon. Lady says, she and others have written to the Foreign Secretary, and I will ensure that the Foreign Secretary addresses the issue urgently.

Our GPs are a very special group of public servants, and it is good news that we have recruited them in record numbers over the last two years. Will the Prime Minister do everything she can to make sure that we look after their job satisfaction, and specifically to help them with the pensions penalty that some of them face in their mid-50s, which is driving some of them out of the profession?

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments about GPs. They are indeed a vital part of our NHS—they are the bedrock of our NHS—and that is why, as I indicated earlier in response to the Leader of the Opposition, I think it is so important that the long-term plan includes extra investment in primary and community care. The new, historic five-year contract for general practice announced in January was developed in partnership with the BMA, and it will provide greater certainty for GPs to plan ahead.

Another way in which we can help GPs is by providing funding, which we will see, towards up to 20,000 extra staff in GP practices, helping to free up doctors to spend more time with the patients who need them. As my hon. Friend has indicated, we are committed to recruiting more GPs—an extra 5,000—as soon as possible, and to ensuring that they can maintain their careers and continue to provide services to their patients as they do, day in and day out.

Medomsley detention centre in my constituency was a living hell for the boys and young men sent there from across the UK in the ’70s and ’80s. Rape and torture were commonplace. So far, 1,800 men have bravely come forward to say they were affected. Some of those young men reported that abuse decades before the first person was convicted for some of the crimes committed. Nearly a year ago I met the Home Secretary, along with a victim of abuse at Medomsley, to make the case for a public inquiry. Many of the victims are not covered by the inquiry into child sexual abuse because of their age. We need to know what happened at Medomsley. We need justice for survivors and we need to make sure it never happens again. Will the Prime Minister please say that we will have an independent public inquiry into the abuse at Medomsley detention centre?

I take very seriously the issue the hon. Lady raises and what happened at Medomsley detention centre. The independent inquiry into child abuse is looking into historical cases of abuse in state institutions. It is doing so on a step-by-step basis in the areas it is looking at. I am surprised at the statement she made that the Medomsley detention centre cases were not able to be covered by that inquiry and I will certainly look at that issue.

Along with Scottish colleagues, I was pleased to welcome the Prime Minister to Aberdeen on Friday. The Prime Minister will be aware that the SNP Scottish Government want to postpone devolved VAT powers and delay social security powers, and have U-turned on the air departure tax. Does the Prime Minister agree that it is time for new leadership in Scotland? It is time for Ruth Davidson in Bute House.

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. What do we see from the SNP Government in Scotland? We gave them powers over welfare payments, which they asked for—not used. It was an SNP manifesto commitment to cut air passenger duty. They have the power. They are not going to use it. But what are they using? They have used their power to change taxes, so that people doing a job in Scotland are being charged more tax than those doing the same job south of the border. When given the chance to help people, they reject it. When given the chance to take more money out of people’s pockets, they take it. It is certainly time for Ruth Davidson in Bute House.