House of Commons
Wednesday 22 May 2019
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Oral Answers to Questions
The Secretary of State was asked—
The threat from dissident republican terrorism continues to be severe in Northern Ireland after the appalling killing of Lyra McKee. This Government’s first priority is to keep people safe and secure. Vigilance against this continuing threat is essential, and we remain determined to ensure that terrorism never succeeds.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on securing the £105 million of UK Government funding for the new Derry/Londonderry city deal and the inclusive future fund. Does she agree that it is vital that we provide young people with the jobs and skills they need to move on in the future in a world that is rejecting violence and that all these things will help?
My hon. Friend makes a very important point. I am sure that she will have heard the words of Father Martin Magill at the funeral of Lyra McKee; he said that young people need jobs, not guns. It is exactly right that we should focus our efforts on providing jobs as well as tackling terrorism, so that we can give those young people the alternative to violence so that they can have a future that is fit for them.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Police Service of Northern Ireland is doing an outstanding job and showing tremendous courage and professionalism in dealing with violence and dissident activity? What can the Government do to support the PSNI to ensure that it faces down the dissidents and people who are spreading hatred and violence?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This Government’s first priority is to keep people safe and secure across the whole United Kingdom. We saw incredible bravery from the Police Service of Northern Ireland on the night of Lyra McKee’s killing. Although the police faced an onslaught of petrol bombs and shooting towards them, they got out of their vehicles to try to save Lyra, and we all owe them a debt of gratitude. We need to see people across Northern Ireland working with the PSNI to stamp out terrorism, and the Government stand steadfast in our commitment to assisting that work.
It is vital that we give the right message to young people. However, we have recently seen, yet again, shots being fired over coffins at funerals and before funerals by IRA and INLA terrorists, using weapons that were supposed to have been decommissioned. Is it not incumbent on all political parties in Northern Ireland, including Sinn Féin, to make it clear that such paramilitary displays with weapons are harmful to our society, send out the wrong message to young people and should stop immediately?
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that these sorts of outward displays of violence are not acceptable. What I saw after Lyra’s killing was the community coming together and rejecting those outward displays, leading to the cancellation of the proposed march through Londonderry on Easter Monday.
I am sure that the Secretary of State will have had a briefing earlier today—or, indeed, perhaps yesterday—from the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland about the security situation in Northern Ireland. In that context, would the Secretary of State update the people of Northern Ireland about the success of the PSNI in stopping the spate of ATM thefts and apprehending those responsible? Such an update would be very welcome.
The whole House will share the Secretary of State’s admiration for all the officers of the PSNI—and of the Garda Siochana—who have stopped numerous hideous incidents over recent months and years. What assessment has she made of the PSNI’s morale and of the situation for recruitment to the PSNI and other security forces, should there be a different regime for the veterans of Operation Banner compared with other military operations in other theatres?
I have seen that the PSNI conduct a very difficult job. I am always pleased to have the chance to meet police officers—particularly at Strand Road in Londonderry, where I have made a number of visits following dreadful incidents that we have seen in that city—and to hear the camaraderie and commitment shown by those individuals. I am determined that we will deal with the matters regarding the legacy of Operation Banner appropriately, lawfully and in a way that reflects exactly the commitment that we see today from the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Is not one of the challenges for dealing with the security situation in Northern Ireland to build the confidence of communities right across Northern Ireland, working with the Police Service of Northern Ireland and others? In the face of recent terrible events, we have seen the community doing that, but what more can the Secretary of State do to encourage communities to work with the security forces?
The hon. Gentleman, I know, has great experience in this area and he is right that we do need to see co-operation between communities and the Police Service of Northern Ireland. We did see a real step change following that appalling killing where people were welcoming the PSNI into their homes, but it is an incredibly difficult job. We need to make sure that the inclusive future fund—the £55 million that the Government have committed to Derry/Londonderry—is used in part to support those activities.
The Secretary of State will know that the security situation depends on, among other things, the perception that the police and the judicial process are independent. Families of victims of the troubles of the past are, in many cases, still waiting for answers. Does she agree that those families, and those young people who can be pulled into terrorist acts, would be influenced dramatically if they believed that there was a rule saying that there would be a statute of limitations for state actors when, quite rightly, we seek to prosecute those who perpetrated either murder or manslaughter from whatever background?
The hon. Gentleman will know that this Government are committed to implementing the institutions that were agreed at Stormont House. We have had a consultation on that matter and received more than 17,000 responses—individual personal responses. We will publish the summary of those consultation responses in due course.
I am happy to confirm that the latest labour market statistics for Northern Ireland show employment at a record high and unemployment at a record low. This is a long-term and consistently improving trend, and with continued political stability, we hope that it will continue in future.
I am delighted to give some examples. Not only is unemployment now the lowest of the UK nations, at 2.9%, but the ratio of public sector to private sector jobs is rebalancing healthily. Exports have grown to more than £10 billion, and we expect a tourism surge from the golf open at Portrush. We will continue to pursue those and other measures, including the city deals that have just been mentioned.
Employment levels are improving, as the Minister has said, but does he agree that we need to attract above-average salary levels now to try to grow the economy? In that respect, the Heathrow logistics hub is an excellent project. Will he join me in pressing and persuading those behind the hub to look at Ballykelly, which is a very attractive environment?
The hon. Gentleman is a doughty battler for his constituents and for his constituency. I am sure that those involved will have heard his words and will be considering them carefully, but he is right about that and many other examples of important local investment in Northern Ireland.
The short, focused set of roundtable talks aimed at restoring devolution continues. Northern Ireland’s five main political parties have reaffirmed their commitment to restoring a power-sharing Executive and the other political institutions set out in the Belfast agreement.
I thank my right hon. Friend for her answer and for the work that she has done thus far. Does she agree that it is absolutely vital to get devolved government up and working as soon as possible, so that the victims of historical institutional abuse receive full and fair compensation for what they have suffered?
I do agree with my hon. Friend that we need to see the restoration of the institutions. I also agree that we need to see fair redress for those victims of historical institutional abuse. I have met those victims. Their stories are heartrending and absolutely dreadful. No one should have suffered the way that they did. I am not prepared to wait for restored devolution to take action in this matter. I am determined that we will do everything we can for those victims of historical abuse and that we will take measures forward as soon as possible and not wait for restored devolution.
On that subject, the Secretary of State and, indeed, the whole House will be aware of the sense of outrage that there is across the entire community in Northern Ireland and among the victims of abuse about her approach to this issue in recent days. Frankly, many people are saying that far too much time has already elapsed, given the fact that she has the ability to make this move faster. People are outraged at the idea of having to wait another couple of years, as she appeared to indicate. Will she now undertake to bring forward measures immediately to deal with this issue?
I do not shy away in any way from my responsibilities in this area, and I am absolutely determined that we will act as soon as we can. The two years the right hon. Gentleman referred to is an estimate by the civil service of Northern Ireland; it is not an estimate that I have put forward. As he will know, following the end of the consultation that I asked the head of the civil service in Northern Ireland to conduct, a number of decisions need to be taken—decisions that require ministerial input. I have asked the five parties in Northern Ireland to assist me in getting a resolution to those questions as soon as possible, so that I can act as soon as possible, as I am determined to do.
The Secretary of State will be aware that this is one but probably the most terrible example of a whole series of decisions that have cross-community and cross-party support but that she has refused to do anything about, even though this place and her Government are responsible for the administration of Northern Ireland. The fact of the matter is that people are being told that she has now placed another series of questions that need to be answered, and people see this as further delay. What are the questions that she now wants further answers to, who originated those questions, when did they first come to her—when were they put on her desk —and why is this being used as further reason to delay the proper process of compensation for these victims?
I have enormous respect for the right hon. Gentleman—he is an honourable man who works very hard for his constituents and for Northern Ireland—but I disagree with him on this matter. The head of the civil service and Executive Office has put forward 15 questions that need a response. I have asked the parties in Northern Ireland to help me to get decisions on those questions. But I am not shying away from my responsibility in that area; I am merely asking them if they will help me to answer the questions that David Sterling has posed to me to enable me to take this to the next stage so that we can deliver for the victims as soon as possible.
The head of the civil service in Northern Ireland, David Sterling, has asked for legislation to be made in this place. When the Secretary of State talks about action on historical institutional abuse, is she talking about bringing legislation through this House?
I have said on many occasions that I am prepared to do the legislation wherever it is quickest that we do it. I want to see redress for these victims as soon as possible. But there are some fundamental questions that David Sterling has posed that need answers, and I will get to those answers more quickly if I have the support and co-operation of the parties in Northern Ireland in working with me.
I know the sense of outrage. I have met those victims. I want to see action. It is quite right that the parties in Northern Ireland, when they were in government, set up this inquiry. It is absolutely right that they did that, and I applaud them for doing so. There is an opportunity for us to make progress on this quickly, but I cannot do it alone. I need the guidance and support of those in the parties in Northern Ireland, because ultimately they will be the Ministers who will have to implement whatever institutions and whatever system is created. I need their support so that we can make progress quickly. I am not delaying anything. I am determined to act for these people, and I will do whatever it takes to do so.
The House will be aware that today, to the very day, is the 21st anniversary of that occasion when a sunshine ray of hope pierced the dark clouds in Northern Ireland and the Good Friday agreement was ratified, and we must give the victims and survivors some of that hope. Their agony is becoming unendurable. I do not doubt the good nature and the good will of the Secretary of State. She met the survivors, as I did I. But we cannot—we must not—wait for another two years. It would be impossible—unconscionable—for us to do so. Thirty-six have already died; we cannot let more die. I can assure the Secretary of State that she will have the support of Labour Members, but can she please bring this forward and end the agony and the misery of these survivors and victims?
I am very grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s offer of support. We spoke about this matter yesterday. I am determined to take this forward as quickly as possible. It would be good to work with him in addressing the fundamental questions that need a response before legislation can be finalised. We are also working with Sir Anthony Hart to get answers to those questions, because we need to get this right. There is no point doing this in haste if we fail to deliver for the people who deserve redress as soon as possible.
Confidence and Supply Agreement
The Secretary of State has not had any meetings with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on the confidence and supply agreement. The agreement is between the Conservative party and the Democratic Unionist party for the length of the Parliament, and as the agreement makes clear, the Secretary of State is not involved in confidence and supply discussions.
Last year, I met two incredibly brave women, Sarah Ewart and Denise Phelan, who have been directly impacted by Northern Ireland’s near total abortion ban and are working with Amnesty UK to change the law. Their harrowing experience of being unable to access safe and legal abortion in Northern Ireland demonstrates the reality of that restrictive regime. In Denise’s case, the foetus died and decomposed inside her. When will the Secretary of State realise that her Government’s agreement with the DUP is holding back the human rights of women in Northern Ireland, and what is she going to do about it?
I am not quite clear what the very important and, I agree, very difficult issue of abortion laws in Northern Ireland has to do with the confidence and supply agreement. It is not in the confidence and supply agreement at all. It is a very difficult and knotty issue that needs to be addressed as soon as we can get the Stormont Parliament up and running.
Can the Minister confirm whether there have been ongoing discussions between any members of the Cabinet and the DUP, seeking support for the Prime Minister’s latest attempt to bring back her Brexit deal? If so, will the new DUP bung be subject to the Barnett formula?
I tried to make this clear earlier, but let me repeat it, so that everybody is crystal clear. The confidence and supply agreement is not something that the Northern Ireland Office gets involved in, and rightly so. It is done at a much more senior level between No. 10 and through the usual channels, and it is not something that the Northern Ireland Office would have any particular participation in.
There has been a great degree of investment in Northern Ireland as a result of the confidence and supply agreement; the hon. Gentleman is right. There has been extensive spending. We have so far spent £430 million in Northern Ireland on things such as health, education and infrastructure. There is a further £333 million, subject to Parliament’s approval, and the remaining £323 million will be allocated in due course.
The Minister’s answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Marion Fellows) simply was not good enough. The current confidence and supply agreement between the Tories and the DUP has denied Scotland a total of £3.4 billion in Barnett consequentials. Would the Minister care to find out what the next bribe to the DUP will cost the people of Scotland, so that we can tell them?
It is very clear that the confidence and supply agreement does not incur Barnett consequentials and is separate. In that respect, it is rather like the city deals. I gently point out to Scottish National party Members that Scotland has done extremely well out of the city deals—it has had something like £1.25 billion. It is all very well them gesturing that away, as if it is nothing at all, but this is real money going into important investments in local economies across Scotland, as it is in Northern Ireland as well.
I have had discussions with the five main parties in Northern Ireland since the local elections, and they have all reaffirmed their commitment to restoring a power-sharing Executive and other political institutions set out in the Belfast agreement.
As someone who is half Northern Irish—in fact, proudly half Northern Irish—I am well aware of the profound sectarian issues that have scarred the nation for many hundreds of years. Consequently, I was delighted to see that the party that did best at the local elections, with the highest increase, was the non-sectarian Alliance party. Would the Secretary of State share with me the joy at seeing that tremendous non-sectarian result?
Does my right hon. Friend share my hope that, having got the local elections under our belts and on the cusp of the European elections—with both of those out of the way—a really firm, positive focus can be placed by all parties on restoring the devolved Assembly in Stormont?
I know that the parties in Northern Ireland are determined that they will do all they can to deliver restored devolved Government. That is what is best for the people of Northern Ireland and it is what the people of Northern Ireland want. But this will not be easy—there are challenges—and I ask that we all offer our support to the parties in Northern Ireland to help them to take those difficult decisions.
Would the Secretary of State like to comment on or make an assessment of the election of Councillor Gary Donnelly—former spokesperson for the 32 County Sovereignty Movement—in the electoral area where the murder of innocent by-stander Lyra McKee took place and where police and bystanders were unapologetically and indiscriminately fired towards; and what progress has been made in that murder investigation and the process as well?
As the House heard earlier, we had over 17,000 responses to the consultation, many of them containing tales of personal tragedy and loss, so I hope that everyone will understand the need to consider them all respectfully and carefully. The process is almost finished and I hope that we will be able to publish an analysis of the views they contain—[Interruption.]
Does my hon. Friend agree that we must listen carefully to this consultation and does he agree with the words of the Secretary of State in the foreword to the consultation:
“amnesties are not the right approach and”
“believes that justice should be pursued”?
Yes, I do. Any solution must allow both unionists and republicans to achieve closure, and for all of Northern Ireland to draw a line and move on. Otherwise it will not last. We have been working closely with the political parties in Northern Ireland, as well as colleagues across both Houses, on the way forward and, last week, the Secretary of State met the Victims’ Commissioner and legacy groups as well.
Part of the dark past of Northern Ireland is also the question of historical institutional abuse. The Secretary of State has said that she now intends to act. The victims groups this week called on her to stand down and resign. She needs to regain their confidence. She needs to give a very clear timetable as to when she will take action in this House and elsewhere. Will the Minister now make it clear when that will happen?
I thought I heard just now the Secretary of State doing a pretty good job of showing the personal commitment and the urgency with which she is treating this. I am afraid I cannot add any more detail to the timetable, but I hope everybody here will have understood and heard the passion in her voice and the determination to move this forward promptly and swiftly.
Prosecution of Veterans
My hon. and gallant Friend gave a very powerful speech on this on Monday, and I would encourage anybody here who has not heard it to go back and listen again. I think he and I agree that the current situation is not working for anyone. The question is not whether things need to change, because they clearly do, but how, so we have laws which work for police veterans as well as armed forces, for unionists and for nationalists, for victims and their families on all sides of the community, and which bring truth and justice and closure so society can move on. We will bring forward proposals as soon as possible.
As an ex-soldier, and now a Member of Parliament, I am ashamed that my Government have not sorted this matter out. I ask the Minister, and especially the Secretary of State, who has been in post longer—how much longer before it can be sorted out, and are you not ashamed?
My hon. and gallant Friend, having served in Northern Ireland, speaks with huge authority on this matter. I suspect that successive Governments have to share some blame for failing to fix it over many years. Clearly, as I said in my previous answer, the situation cannot be allowed to continue—it is not right; it is not just. It must be sorted out as promptly as possible. On that, I hope that he and I agree.
It was with regret that yesterday we got the revelation from the Government—through a written ministerial statement, rather than an oral statement—about the proposals for the way forward. We should hang our heads in shame that we intend to treat service personnel who served in Northern Ireland differently from those who served overseas. When I questioned the Attorney General on the issue on 31 January, he said clearly that to treat service personnel differently would plainly be wrong. He was right, Minister, was he not?
The important thing, as we heard repeatedly in last week’s urgent question and in Monday’s Westminster Hall debate, is that for those servicemen and women who served under Operation Banner it felt the same no matter what. Our challenge is that, if we are to come up with an answer that will work when it is taken to court by the lawfare-mongers, as it inevitably will be, we must have something that works on the basis of the different legal starting points for things that happened in the UK, as opposed to things that happened abroad, but which ends up with an answer that feels the same to our servicemen and women and provides them with the same robust protections no matter what.
The Prime Minister was asked—
Today marks two years since the Manchester Arena attack. It was a cowardly and sickening attack that deliberately targeted innocent and defenceless children. Members across the House will want to join me in sending my thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of all the victims. I am sure that Members will also want to join me in paying tribute to the emergency services for the immense bravery and courage they showed that night.
This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others and, in addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
I know that the whole House will want to associate themselves with the Prime Minister’s words about the Manchester attack.
The Prime Minister may not have long left—good luck with those meetings later today—but she can act now against the return of banned chemical weapons. British experts are this morning investigating a suspected chlorine attack by al-Assad in Idlib. If it is proved, will she lead the international response against the return of this indiscriminate evil?
The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the issue of the evil that is the use of chemical weapons. We of course acted in Syria, with France and the United States, when we saw chemical weapons being used there. We of course suffered the use of chemical weapons here on the streets of the United Kingdom, and we made a robust response, supported by our international friends and allies. We condemn all use of chemical weapons. We are in close contact with the United States and are monitoring the situation closely, and if any use of chemical weapons is confirmed, we will respond appropriately. But our position is clear: we consider Assad incapable of delivering a lasting peace, and his regime lost its legitimacy due to its atrocities against its own Syrian people.
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. We, like her, absolutely recognise the importance of this issue. The Government are committed to improving energy efficiency in 2.5 million homes by 2030 and our aim is to bring 2.5 million fuel-poor homes up to an energy performance certificate C rating by 2030. As she says, that will help to save energy and bring down bills.
I join the Prime Minister in commemorating all the victims of the Manchester bombing two years ago. Our thoughts are with the friends and families of all those who were killed, the survivors, and the emergency service workers who gave such heroic service that night. They will live with the horrors of that night for the rest of their lives and 10.31 tonight will be a very poignant moment for many people in Manchester.
I want to pay tribute to the last survivor of the Hull “headscarf revolutionaries”, Yvonne Blenkinsop. She is visiting Parliament today. She led a campaign for basic safety in the UK fishing fleet in the 1960s. As a result, many lives were saved. People like her have made such an enormous contribution to our national life. They should be recognised for it.
I also want to express, on behalf of the Labour party, my outrage that the Government have again failed our steel industry, putting 5,000 jobs at risk at British Steel and 20,000 more in the supply chain. The Government have failed those people. Even at this late stage—there is a statement later today—they must step in and save those jobs.
Why are schools having to close early on Friday afternoon due to spending cuts?
First, I say to the right hon. Gentleman, because he raised the issue of British Steel, that, obviously, we recognise that this is a worrying time for the thousands of dedicated British Steel workers and their families, as well as those in the supply chain and local communities. The Government have been working tirelessly with the company, its owner Greybull Capital and lenders to explore all potential options to secure a solution for the company. We showed, through the emissions trade scheme agreement, that we were willing to act, but we can only act within the law. It is clear that it would be unlawful to provide a guarantee or loan on the terms requested by the company. We will be working with the company and others, and the official receiver, in the days and weeks ahead to ensure we pursue every step to secure the future of the operations at Scunthorpe, Skinningrove and on Teesside. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has agreed an indemnity for the official receiver to enable British Steel to continue to operate in the immediate future. There are no job losses at this time and the official receiver has already said that staff will continue to be paid and employed. My right hon. Friend the Business Secretary will be updating the House in a statement later this afternoon.
On the issue of schools, as the right hon. Gentleman knows we are putting record levels of funding into our schools.
That would explain why 26 schools close early on a Friday every week because they do not have enough money to keep themselves open. More than 1,000 schools across England are turning to crowd- funding websites with a wish-list of things they want to raise money to buy—really exotic things such as pencils, glue and textbooks. Why are they forced to do that if they allegedly have enough money in the first place?
I say to the right hon. Gentleman what I have said before and just quoted: we are putting record levels of funding into our schools. We have also put in place a fairer distribution of the funding between our schools. We are giving every area more money for every pupil in every school. What is important in our education system is not just what the Government put in, but what quality of education is received by the children. There are more children in good and outstanding schools, the disadvantage attainment gap has been narrowed and record rates of disadvantaged young people are going to university. That is a record to be proud of.
I do not know if the Prime Minister has had a chance to listen to or read the words of the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers. He said:
“The fact so many schools are doing this should be ringing serious alarm bells for the government”.
The Prime Minister does not seem to be aware of the crisis that is facing so many in education at the present time, so can she be very clear with the House: has per pupil funding risen or fallen since 2010?
As I said to the right hon. Gentleman, we are giving every area more money for every pupil in every school. Why are we able to do that? It is because the Conservatives have taken a balanced approach to our economy and managed our finances well. What would Labour give us? One thousand billion pounds extra borrowing. That would mean higher taxes, fewer jobs and less money to go into our schools.
I can help the Prime Minister out in two ways. One is that a Labour Government would properly fund our schools—it would not short-change our children—and we would not use Orwellian words like “fair funding” while we are cutting. Per pupil funding —just so the Prime Minister understands it—has fallen by 8%. For sixth forms, it is 24%.
At the end of last year, the Prime Minister said “austerity is over.” Maria, who describes herself as a
“teacher in an underfunded school”
wrote to me this week and asked this—[Interruption.] Maria is a teacher in an underfunded school—I think Conservative Members need to listen to her. She asked:
“when will the government stop making false claims of increased funding for schools and start to tackle the serious problems faced by teachers?”
When will the cuts end for our children’s schools?
I repeat: we are giving every area more money for every pupil in every school, but let us just see the situation that this Government inherited and that we would see under a Labour Government in the future—having to spend more on debt interest than on our schools budget. That is not because of what this Government are doing, because we are bringing debt down. It is the legacy of a Labour Government—more money on debt than on our schools.
The Department for Education’s funding chief met school leaders recently and told them:
“the first thing to say is obviously they are not generous budgets”—
he is very cautious with his words—
“They are budgets which leave schools with real pressures to face”.
Everyone agrees that the creative industries in this country are an enormous strength to our economy, so why have the arts borne the brunt of the Government’s brutal cuts to school funding? So many children are losing out on music and creative arts in our schools because of decisions by central Government.
The right hon. Gentleman started his question by claiming that this Government had squandered what had been left by the last Labour Government. Let us look at what was left by the last Labour Government. [Interruption.] Oh. They do not want to be reminded what they left the last time they were in government. What did the last Labour Government leave? Unemployment higher than when they went into office. What did the last Labour Government leave? The biggest deficit in our peacetime history. And what were we told by the departing Chief Secretary to the Treasury? We were told: under Labour, there is no money left.
My question was actually about funding for arts and creative subjects in schools. A survey has shown that nine out of 10 secondary schools have cut back on lesson time, staff or facilities in at least one of the creative arts subjects. Are the artists and actors of tomorrow only to come from the private schools, while the Prime Minister continues to cut the funding for state schools?
When the Prime Minister says that school funding has been protected, she is denying the daily experience of teachers, parents and pupils. She is denying the incontrovertible evidence of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, education bodies and teaching unions. She is actually in outright denial. When the wealth of the richest 1,000 people has increased by £50 billion in the last year alone, do not tell us that the money is not there for our children’s schools. This Government have cut vital public services to give tax cuts to the privileged few. Can the Prime Minister name a more damaging policy—a more short-sighted policy—than cutting investment in our future: our children?
The richest have paid more tax every year under the Conservatives—[Interruption.] Wait for it! They have paid more every year under the Conservatives than in any year under a Labour Government. The right hon. Gentleman talks about what happens in our schools. As I have said, we are putting record funding into our schools, but what matters is the quality of education our children get. Labour opposed the phonics checks, it wants to scrap academies and free schools, and it would abolish SATs. That does not help to raise standards in schools. Let us just look at the Labour record. When it was in government, standards were lower than they are today. Where it is in government in Wales, standards are lower than in England, and if it was to get into government, we would see more of the same—lower standards, less opportunity, less opportunity for young people for a brighter future. It is the Conservative party that gives good quality education, good jobs and a good future.
My hon. Friend should not necessarily believe all the reports he reads in the newspapers, but let me be very clear on this particular issue. Around 3,500 people were killed in the troubles. The vast majority were murdered by terrorists. The legal position is clear. Any amnesty or statute of limitations would have to apply across the board. It would apply to terrorists. I am not prepared to accept a proposal that brings in amnesties for terrorists.
I associate myself with the Prime Minister’s remarks about the heinous crime that took place two years ago in Manchester. We must all stand together against terrorism.
The Prime Minister’s customs tariff plan has been described by the UK’s former representative to the EU as the “definition of insanity”. Her customs union compromise has already been dismissed by the EU. Is this new deal not just a fantasy?
I have set out the 10 points about the new deal. There is an issue about customs. There is a difference of opinion in the House on the future customs arrangement with the EU. That is why it is important that the House comes to a decision on that issue. Allowing the Second Reading of the withdrawal agreement Bill will enable the House to come to a decision on that issue. It will also enable the House to come to a decision on a second referendum, which I continue to believe would not be the right route for this country to go down. We should deliver on the first referendum before suggesting anything about a second.
My goodness—talk about ignoring reality! Prime Minister, look at the Benches behind you. The Prime Minister is fooling no one but herself. The truth is that the people of Scotland do not want her deal, her own party does not want her deal, and now even the pro-Brexit Labour Front Bench will not support her deal. Her time is up. Tomorrow, people in Scotland will have the choice to send a message by sending pro-European, outward-looking Scottish National party MEPs to Brussels to stop Brexit. What party does she think the people of Scotland will choose?
I know that all Members across the House—it will have been obvious in response to his question—will want to join me in sending deepest sympathies to my hon. Friend’s constituent. As my hon. Friend will know, the courts can already, and do, consider harm caused to a mother or unborn child in sentencing for an offence. I know my hon. Friend has discussed changing the law on this particular issue with the Ministry of Justice. They are concerned that there could be far-reaching unintended consequences of doing so, but I have asked them to keep the law under review. I know that my hon. Friend, along with others in this House, will continue to work on this issue. I am sure everybody recognises the compassion that my hon. Friend is showing in raising this issue. What we want to ensure is that what he is proposing is not something that could lead to other, unintended consequences, of the sort that he would not wish to see.
I fully understand that these cases are desperately difficult, and my sympathies are with the families and friends. The Government did change the law, as the hon. Gentleman said, and specialist doctors on the General Medical Council specialist register can now prescribe cannabis-based products for medicinal use where there is clinical evidence of benefit. NHS England and the chief medical officer have made it clear that cannabis-based products can be prescribed for medicinal use in appropriate cases, but we must trust doctors to make clinical decisions in the best interests of patients.
Obviously, it is important to remember that the events at HBOS Reading branch constituted criminal activity, and it is right that those responsible were brought to justice. The FCA is currently conducting two investigations into the events at HBOS Reading, including on the bank’s communications with regulators following the discovery of the misconduct. Lloyds has appointed a former High Court judge, Dame Linda Dobbs, to consider whether issues related to HBOS Reading were properly investigated and reported by Lloyds Banking Group. Those findings will be shared with the FCA, and I look forward to the conclusion of all those investigations.
We have been putting more money into special educational needs. I recognise that for many parents getting the support that is required for their children can be a difficult process with the local authorities. We recognise the importance of special needs and that is precisely why we have been putting extra support in there.
May I thank the Prime Minister for the amount of British aid that flows through to the World Food Programme in Yemen and ask if she has noted in the last 48 hours a report by its excellent director David Beasley drawing attention to the diversion and theft of aid in Houthi-controlled areas by Houthi authorities? Will she urge the international community to increase the pressure on Houthi leadership to resolve this and further the efforts for peace in Yemen, rather than take the slightly easy course of always focusing on the Yemeni Government and the Saudi-led coalition?
My right hon. Friend raises a very important point. We are all concerned about the humanitarian situation in Yemen. As he rightly says, this Government have a good record in terms of the amount of money and the aid we are providing to help those in Yemen, but of course it is only of benefit if it is able to reach those who need it, and it is incumbent on all parties to ensure that that aid reaches those who need it. We will continue to support the efforts to bring a lasting peace to Yemen. A political settlement there is the way to get that sustainability and security for the future, but it is incumbent on everybody to make sure the aid that is being provided for those who are desperately in need can reach those who need it most.
May I say first that it is indeed right that the eyes of the world will be on Portsmouth for the D-day national commemorative event? This will be putting our veterans first. It remembers their sacrifices and their achievements, and we will highlight the historic strength of the western alliance and the trans-Atlantic partnership. The hon. Gentleman has raised a specific issue in relation to coroners’ reports and I will write to him in response to that, but may I say that I look forward, as do others, to being in Portsmouth to commemorate this very important anniversary?
Forty three years ago I, like many others, was ordered to serve in Northern Ireland to keep the peace while terrorists were attacking and killing civilians in Northern Ireland. Many of my colleagues and others did not come back, including one, Robert Nairac, a friend, who was tortured and murdered, and his body has never been found nor his murderers ever brought to justice. In answer to an earlier question from my hon. Friend the Member for North East Hampshire (Mr Jayawardena) my right hon. Friend talked about an amnesty. I must tell her that none of those who served has called for an amnesty; what they have called for is fairness and justice. Many old veterans are now finding, having been cleared decades ago, that the Police Service of Northern Ireland is proceeding against them with no new evidence. Will my right hon. Friend please answer me: how can I say to my old colleagues that this Government have not abandoned them?
May I say to my right hon. Friend that we absolutely value the service that he and others gave in Northern Ireland? This was a very difficult time for a part of the United Kingdom and the work that the police and the armed forces did in Northern Ireland during that time was absolutely crucial. We are pleased that we have seen the peace that has come since the Belfast/Good Friday agreement but there was obviously much injury and loss of life during the troubles. As I indicated earlier, around 3,500 people were killed during the troubles; the vast majority of them were murdered by terrorists. My right hon. Friend talked about a fair and just system. We want to ensure that there is a fair and just system that is working across the board to deal with these legacy issues, but at the moment there is a disproportionate emphasis on cases that involve the police and the armed forces. There are cases involving terrorists that are being looked into, but I think people would recognise that there is a disproportionate emphasis on the police and armed forces. It is therefore important that we bring in a system that has full support and will enable people to see that fairness and justice are being applied. That is what the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is working on. She has been working on that with the various political parties in Northern Ireland, and it is what we will put forward in due course. We recognise the sacrifice, the bravery and the determination of our armed forces and the work they did in Northern Ireland, and we, too, want to see fairness and justice.
As the hon. Lady knows, there is only one way for this House to ensure that we leave the European Union without no deal, and that is to leave with a deal and to support the Second Reading of the withdrawal agreement Bill and to take that process through this House. I am sure that she also knows that the legal default position continues to be no deal. Were we to get to 31 October—I want us to leave the EU before then—but were we to get to the 31 October position, it would be a matter for the 27, not just for this country, to determine whether there was no deal or not. This is why it is absolutely right that the Government are continuing to make preparations for no deal.
Like so many people in this Chamber, I want to see more money for schools, hospitals, the police and transport. Is not the best way of doing this to agree a deal that allows us to legally exit the EU, thereby unlocking the three years of pent-up investment that is sitting on the sidelines seeking the certainty that the Prime Minister is trying to deliver and that this party should be trying to deliver?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There is pent-up investment there, and there are companies that have been holding investment back until they see the Brexit deal being resolved. It is important that we see that deal going through this House, and supporting the withdrawal agreement Bill is the way to ensure that we deliver the Brexit that the people voted for and that we do it in a way that Conservatives stood on in their manifesto at the last election and actually that Labour Members stood on in their manifesto at the last election. Once we are over this and once we have left the European Union, we will be able to take advantage not only of the deal dividend but of that increased investment, and to see that bright future for our country.
The hon. Gentleman has raised an important point, and I recognise the force with which he has raised it and the concern that he has for the victims of that terrible attack. Sadly, we have seen too many people in this country being victims of terrorist attacks. The Lord Chancellor has indicated that the Ministry of Justice is reviewing this situation. He has heard the specific proposal the hon. Gentleman has put forward, and I am sure that he will take it into account in that review.
Returning to Northern Ireland, there has now been no devolved government there for two and a half years. Every week in the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, we hear about the impact of this on ordinary people. Whether on equality issues, on funding for the Police Service of Northern Ireland, or on a pay rise for teachers, who are paid 6% less than teachers in the rest of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland is being left behind. Will the Prime Minister do all she can to restore devolution before the end of the year?
I can give my hon. Friend that reassurance. I am as keen as she is to ensure that we see the restoration of devolution in Northern Ireland. I believe that all the parties have recently come together for talks with the Secretary of State and, as appropriate, the Irish Government, and we are ensuring that those talks are continuing. Obviously, there are matters that need to be addressed and concerns from the political parties on different issues. Those need to be overcome such that we can see devolution restored because, as my hon. Friend says, this is a matter for the people of Northern Ireland, ensuring that they have a devolved Government that can ensure good governance in Northern Ireland.
We have been listening to those who have raised concerns about that particular issue. Last year, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government announced that no new Government funding scheme will be used to support the unjustified use of leasehold for new houses. We have had a technical consultation on how to improve the market for consumers, and we are analysing the responses. We will shortly respond to the consultation and to the recent Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee report on leasehold reform, and we will introduce legislation in due course.
In reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith), the Prime Minister quite rightly paid tribute to the 300,000 security personnel who through their courage, professionalism and skill maintained the rule of law in Northern Ireland, without which the Belfast agreement would never have been signed, but she did not quite answer his question. None of the people who served and defended the rule of law wants a blanket amnesty; they want a categorical assurance that the prosecuting authorities will not bring forward a fresh process within the existing framework of law unless there is clear new evidence and an assurance that, no doubt whatever, a fair trial will proceed.
I absolutely appreciate the points that my right hon. Friend and our right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr Duncan Smith) have made in relation to this issue. The problem we face in Northern Ireland is that a number of processes have been aiming to deal with justice in relation to deaths during the troubles, but all the processes that have been followed so far have been found to be flawed in some way. That is why it is necessary to go through the work that we have been doing to find a process that will not be flawed, that will be legally supportable, and that will enable the fairness and justice that we all want to see to be brought to the fore.
The Government have been dealing with the issue of pay for sleep-in cover. We have had to address the matter as the direct result of a court case. We have been responding to that case, so I recognise the issue about pay for sleep-in cover. We are going to bring forward proposals in relation to the wider issue of social care. We want to ensure that we have a sustainable social care system for the future.
Will the Prime Minister welcome, with me, the launch of Radio Reminisce, a fantastic, new dementia-friendly, subscription-based radio service? It is designed to help and comfort people over 70 with early-onset dementia, and it was produced and developed in Belper in my constituency.
I thank my hon. Friend for raising the issue of support for people with early-onset dementia and for highlighting the new radio service. As she will know, the Government are committed to doubling spending on research into dementia by 2020. The radio service is obviously a practical way of providing support for people with early-onset dementia, and I am happy to join my hon. Friend in welcoming the new service. I am sure that it will provide important help to those who are suffering with dementia.
As we look forward to the visit by the President of United States, does my right hon. Friend agree with me that it is in the national interest that we support his visit and unite across the House, and across the country, to make a success of the visit so that our special relationship endures, grows and supports the success of this country as we exit the EU?
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue, and he is absolutely right. We are looking forward to the state visit of the President of the United States, and we are also looking forward to President Trump joining me and other leaders to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-day. This is an important commemoration where, as I said in response to the hon. Member for Portsmouth South (Stephen Morgan), we will recognise the sacrifice made by British armed forces, American armed forces and others from so many other countries to ensure the freedom of Europe.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr Baker) is also right that we have a deep and special relationship with the United States of America. It is important, and it is our closest and deepest security and defence relationship. It is a relationship that has helped to keep the peace around the world, and it is one we want to see continue. Every Member of this House should welcome the President of the United States of America to the UK.
If polling is to be believed, the winning party in tomorrow’s Euro elections will be the Brexit party. This party, in contrast to the Vote Leave campaign in 2016, has clearly stated that a no-deal Brexit is its policy. On the basis of normal turnout, that means between 6 million and 7 million people will have voted for a no deal, which begs the question: what of the other 10 million Brexit voters in 2016?
It concerns me, and has long concerned me, that we do not have the consent here in this House to deliver the Brexit that is likely to emanate from this House. With that in mind, and I congratulate the Prime Minister on the first steps towards acknowledging it yesterday, will she commit to reaching out across the House to bring about the vote, which remains to take place, on the choice between having a final say of the British public or a no-deal Brexit?
I do not recognise the choice that my hon. Friend sets out. First, as I said earlier, I have not changed my view on a second referendum. I have been clear that I believe this House should be delivering on the result of the first referendum, and I believe that the choice before this House is whether it wants to deliver on the result of the first referendum and on the manifestos on which the majority of the Members of this House stood, which were clear that we want to do it with a deal. We can do that, and we can do it by giving a Second Reading to the withdrawal agreement Bill, by seeing the Bill through the House to Royal Assent, by ratifying the treaty and by leaving the European Union.
What the DWP is doing is spending not just its resources but its effort—I thank all the staff in the DWP for this—out there, helping people into the workplace and ensuring that when they are in the workplace they are able to keep more of the money they earn.
Two years ago, the Prime Minister visited the fishing village of Mevagissey—I am sure she remembers it, because she bought me some chips for lunch. The people of Mevagissey now face losing their only GP surgery because the remaining doctor has given notice to hand back the contract to the NHS. I am sure the Prime Minister would agree that it is vital that these rural and coastal communities retain their primary care services, so what more can the Government do to attract GPs to rural and coastal communities? Will she use her offices to ensure that everything possible is done to make sure Mevagissey keeps its GP service?
I thank my hon. Friend for reminding me of the visit to beautiful Mevagissey and of the good chips that he and I shared on that occasion. He is absolutely right about the importance of GPs to local communities, and I recognise the concerns in Mevagissey on this issue. We are giving additional incentives to attract GP trainees into areas where it has previously been hard to recruit, such as rural and coastal communities. I am sure that a Minister from the Department of Health and Social Care would be happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss this issue.
For over two years, the victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland have been waiting for justice and compensation, following the independent report of ex-Justice Hart. The fact of the matter is that many of them are dying without seeing the compensation come through. The Northern Ireland Office’s policy of refusing to do anything in Northern Ireland, even when it has cross-community and cross-party support, has now culminated in victims of abuse dying without seeing justice—this has got to stop. Will the Prime Minister intervene and make sure that action is taken to get immediate action for these victims?
I fully appreciate the extent of concern that there is about this issue. Of course, we also have our independent inquiry into child sexual abuse here in England and Wales, and I recognise the impact on all those who have been victims of this sort of abuse. We call it “historical”—as the right hon. Gentleman said, the investigation is referred to as an “historical” investigation—but for those who have been victims it is not historical; this rests with them for the rest of their life. I recognise the concern about the issue he has raised. Obviously, if the Northern Ireland Executive were in place, this would be a matter that they would be addressing. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has been looking at this issue, and I will discuss with her what response can be given on what I recognise is a matter of deep concern to many people in Northern Ireland.
I have a question to the Prime Minister from a Northern Ireland veteran. He is Royal Marine David Griffin, a Dublin-born Irish Catholic who joined the British Army and transferred to the Royal Marines. In 1972, in Belfast, he killed an IRA gunman who was about to assassinate one of his comrades at a guard post. Forty-seven years later, he is now being investigated by the Police Service of Northern Ireland. He is watching these proceedings now, Prime Minister, from his home, at the Royal Hospital Chelsea. He asked me to ask you this: “I served my Queen and country in uniform for over 20 years and I was commended for my service in Northern Ireland. Acting under the lawful orders of my officer commanding, I killed a terrorist who was about to murder one of my comrades, yet I am being investigated as if I were a criminal. The IRA have ‘letters of comfort’—we don’t. Why, Prime Minister, are you pandering to Sinn Féin-IRA, while throwing veterans like me to the wolves?” What is your answer, Prime Minister, to this Chelsea pensioner and all the veterans he represents?
My right hon. Friend has put his case and that of the veteran he is representing, a Chelsea pensioner. We thank that individual, as we thank all those who served in Northern Ireland for their bravery and the determination with which they acted in Northern Ireland. As my right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson)—a former Northern Ireland Secretary—said, that bravery and determination enabled the peace that we see today in Northern Ireland.
It is not the case that the terrorists currently have an amnesty. [Interruption.] No, it has been made very clear that evidence of criminal activity will be investigated and people should be brought to justice. I want to ensure that we have a fair and just system. I do not believe that the system is operating fairly at the moment. I do not want to see a system where there is an amnesty for terrorists. I want to see a system where investigations can take place in a lawful manner, and where the results of those investigations can be upheld and will not be reopened in the future. In order to do that, we need to change the current system, and that is what we will do.
Over the last few days, I have received distressed emails from a number of constituents who are EU citizens living in the UK, but who will not be able to vote tomorrow. Their predicament arises because of this Government’s late decision to participate in the elections, which did not give many EU citizens enough time to fill out the necessary form declaring that they will not be voting elsewhere. Will the Prime Minister use all the power of her office to take immediate steps this afternoon to ensure that the necessary form is made available at polling stations tomorrow so that EU citizens living in the United Kingdom will not be disenfranchised?
We take every step to ensure that those who are entitled to vote in elections are indeed able to do so. The hon. and learned Lady says that it was a late decision by the Government to enter into the European elections. Of course, that decision was taken because of a decision by this House on 29 March not to agree a deal that would have made it unnecessary to hold European elections.
I think the Prime Minister is beginning to understand the level of fury of veterans when it comes to their treatment by this place over this years. The most disturbing part of last weekend was the insinuation of equivalence between those who got up in the morning to go and murder women, children and civilians, and those who donned a uniform to go and protect the Crown. Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to tell the nation that she sees no equivalence whatever between those two groups, and that the line that preferential treatment should not be given to veterans is not right?
I would hope that it is absolutely clear from everything that I have said at this Dispatch Box that I value the sacrifice, bravery and commitment of our armed forces, whose work in Northern Ireland—alongside the police in Northern Ireland and others—enabled us to get to the stage at which we are at today, whereby we have the Belfast/Good Friday agreement and have had peace in Northern Ireland for many years now, and long may that continue. There is no question of equating that bravery and sacrifice with the acts of terrorists. I think the implication of my hon. Friend’s question is that he is urging me to put in place a system that would equate terrorists with members of the armed forces. Any statute of limitations and any amnesty that is put in place would, as a matter of law, have to apply across the board. I do not want to see—and I will not see—an amnesty for the terrorists.
I thank the Prime Minister for recognising the impact on steelworkers and their families of the devastating news that British Steel has gone into liquidation, and for recognising the high quality of work that they do on Teesside, at Skinningrove and in my constituency of Scunthorpe. Will she meet cross-party MPs whose constituencies are affected by this news, so that we can look together at how best to ensure that this great industry moves forward to serve this country into the future?
As I said earlier, I recognise that this is a worrying time for the hon. Gentleman’s constituents and others. The Government have been actively looking at what we can do. We have given support through the ETS agreement, but have not lawfully been able to give the further support that was requested. I will certainly meet the hon. Gentleman and a group of MPs to consider the issue. This is about one company, owned by Greybull Capital. However, we have taken steps in the past to ensure that the United Kingdom continues to have a steel industry, and we will want to look at the wider issue.
Order. Just before we come to the Prime Minister’s statement, I think it is fitting for me to refer again to something that was mentioned at the start of questions to the Prime Minister by the Leader of the Opposition.
Three trawlers set out from Hull during January and February of 1968 and never returned, leading to the loss of 58 lives. Yvonne Marie Blenkinsop is the last surviving member of a group of women from Hull who became known, following that tragedy, as the headscarf revolutionaries. The women campaigned for better protection for their husbands, fathers, brothers and sons. Through their actions, countless lives have been saved. I am reliably informed that Yvonne Marie Blenkinsop is with us today, observing our proceedings. We salute her and her fellow women, and we extend to her the warmest welcome to the House of Commons. [Applause.]
Leaving the European Union
Before I make my statement, may I too recognise the work of Yvonne Marie Blenkinsop and others, and indeed all those who have campaigned over the years to ensure that those in the workplace can have the degree of safety and security that they need?
With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the Government’s work to deliver Brexit by putting forward a new deal that Members of this House can stand behind.
We need to see Brexit through, to honour the result of the referendum and to deliver the change the British people so clearly demanded. I sincerely believe that most Members of this House feel the same—that, for all our division and disagreement, we believe in democracy, and that we want to make good on the promise we made to the British people when we asked them to decide on the future of our EU membership. As to how we make that happen, recent votes have shown that there is no majority in this House for leaving with no deal, and this House has voted against revoking article 50. It is clear that the only way forward is leaving with a deal, but it is equally clear that this will not happen without compromise on all sides of the debate. That starts with the Government, which is why we have just held six weeks of detailed talks with the Opposition—talks that the Leader of the Opposition chose to end before a formal agreement was reached, but which none the less revealed areas of common ground.
Having listened to the Opposition, to other party leaders, to the devolved Administrations and to business leaders, trade unionists and others, we are now making a 10-point offer to Members across the House—10 changes that address the concerns raised by right hon. and hon. Members; 10 binding commitments that will be enshrined in legislation so they cannot simply be ignored; and 10 steps that will bring us closer to the bright future that awaits our country once we end the political impasse and get Brexit done.
First, we will protect British jobs by seeking as close to frictionless trade in goods with the EU as possible while outside the single market and ending free movement. The Government will be placed under a legal duty to negotiate our future relationship on this basis.
Secondly, we will provide much-needed certainty for our vital manufacturing and agricultural sectors by keeping up to date with EU rules for goods and agri-food products that are relevant to checks at the border. Such a commitment, which will also be enshrined in legislation, will help protect thousands of skilled jobs that depend on just-in-time supply chains.
Thirdly, we will empower Parliament to break the deadlock over future customs arrangements. Both the Government and the Opposition agree that we must have as close to frictionless trade at the UK-EU border as possible, protecting the jobs and livelihoods that are sustained by our existing trade with the EU, but while we agree on the ends, we disagree on the means. The Government have already put forward a proposal that delivers the benefits of a customs union but with the ability for the UK to determine its own trade and development policy. The Opposition are sceptical of our ability to negotiate that and do not believe that an independent trade policy is in the national interest. They would prefer a comprehensive customs union with a UK say in EU trade policy, but with the EU negotiating on our behalf.
As part of the cross-party discussions, the Government offered a compromise option of a temporary customs union on goods only, including a UK say in relevant EU trade policy, so that the next Government can decide their preferred direction. We were not able to reach agreement, so instead we will commit in law to let Parliament decide this issue and to reflect the outcome of this process in legislation.
Fourthly, to address concerns that a future Government could roll back hard-won protections for employees, we will publish a new workers’ rights Bill. As I have told the House many times, successive British Administrations of all colours have granted rights and protections to British workers well above the standards demanded by Brussels. I know that people want guarantees, and I am happy to provide them. If passed by Parliament, this Bill will guarantee that the rights enjoyed by British workers can be no less favourable than those of their counterparts in the EU—both now and in the future—and we will discuss further amendments with trade unions and business.
Fifthly, the new Brexit deal will also guarantee that there will be no change in the level of environmental protection when we leave the EU. We will establish a new and wholly independent office of environmental protection, able to uphold standards and enforce compliance.
Sixthly, the withdrawal agreement Bill will place a legal duty on Government to seek changes to the political declaration that will be needed to reflect this new deal, and I am confident that we will be successful in doing so.
Seventhly, the Government will include in the withdrawal agreement Bill at its introduction a requirement to vote on whether to hold a second referendum. I have made my own view clear on this many times—I am against a second referendum. We should be implementing the result of the first referendum, not asking the British people to vote in a second one. What would it say about our democracy if the biggest vote in our history were to be rerun because this House did not like the outcome? What would it do to that democracy and what forces would it unleash? However, I recognise the genuine and sincere strength of feeling across the House on this important issue. To those MPs who want a second referendum to confirm the deal, I say that you need a deal and therefore a withdrawal agreement Bill to make it happen. Let it have its Second Reading and then those MPs can make their case to Parliament. If this House votes for a referendum, it would require the Government to make provisions for such a referendum, including legislation if it wanted to ratify the withdrawal agreement.
Eighthly, Parliament will be guaranteed a much greater role in the second part of the Brexit process: the negotiations over our future relationship with the EU. In line with the proposal put forward by the hon. Members for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) and for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Gareth Snell), the new Brexit deal will set out in law that the House of Commons will approve the UK’s objectives for the negotiations. MPs will also be asked to approve the treaty governing that relationship before the Government sign it.
Ninthly, the new Brexit deal will legally oblige the Government to seek to conclude the alternative arrangements process by December 2020, avoiding any need for the Northern Ireland backstop coming into force. This commitment is made in the spirit of the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Sir Graham Brady), passed by this House on 29 January. Although it is not possible to use alternative arrangements to replace the backstop in the withdrawal agreement, we will ensure that they are a viable alternative.
Finally, tenthly, we will ensure that, should the backstop come into force, Great Britain will stay aligned with Northern Ireland. We will prohibit the proposal that a future Government could split Northern Ireland off from the UK’s customs territory, and we will deliver on our commitments to Northern Ireland in the December 2017 joint report in full. We will implement paragraph 50 of the joint report in law. The Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive will have to give their consent on a cross-community basis for new regulations that are added to the backstop. We will work with our confidence and supply partners on how these commitments should be entrenched in law, so that Northern Ireland cannot be separated from the United Kingdom.
Following the end of EU election purdah, the withdrawal agreement Bill will be published on Friday so that the House has the maximum possible time to study its detail. If Parliament passes the Bill before the summer recess, the UK will leave the EU by the end of July. We will be out of the EU political structures and out of ever closer union. We will stop British laws being enforced by a European court. We will end free movement. We will stop making vast annual payments to the EU budget. By any definition, that alone is delivering Brexit. By leaving with a deal we can do so much more besides: we can protect jobs, guarantee workers’ rights, and maintain the close security partnerships that do so much to keep us all safe. We will ensure that there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and we can bring an end to the months—years—of increasingly bitter argument and division that have both polarised and paralysed our politics. We can move on, move forwards, and get on with the job that we were sent here to do and what we got into politics to do. That is what we can achieve if we support this new deal.
Reject the deal, and all we have before us is division and deadlock. We risk leaving with no deal, something that this House is clearly against. We risk stopping Brexit altogether, something that the British people would simply not tolerate. We risk creating further division at a time when we need to be acting together in the national interest. We also guarantee a future in which our politics becomes still more polarised and voters increasingly despair as they see us failing to do what they asked of us. None of us wants to see that happen. The opportunity of Brexit is too large and the consequences of failure too grave to risk further delay. In the weeks ahead, there will be opportunities for MPs from all parts of the House to have their say, to table amendments, and to shape the Brexit that they and their constituents want to see.
In time, another Prime Minister will be standing at this Dispatch Box, but while I am here, I have a duty to be clear with the House about the facts. If we are to deliver Brexit in this Parliament, we will have to pass a withdrawal agreement Bill. We will not do so without holding votes on the issues that have divided us the most. That includes votes on customs arrangements and on a second referendum. We can pretend otherwise and carry on arguing and getting nowhere, but in the end our job in this House is to take decisions, not to duck them. I will put those decisions to this House because that is my duty and because it is the only way that we can deliver Brexit. Let us demonstrate what this House can achieve. Let us come together, honour the referendum, deliver what we promised the British people, and build a successful future for our whole country. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Prime Minister for an advance copy of the statement. In fact, I received it yesterday when she made an appeal entitled, “Seeking common ground in Parliament”. Where did she make that appeal? Not in Parliament, but in a small room just down the road.
It is now clear: the bold new deal that the Prime Minister promised is little more than a repackaged version of her three times rejected deal. The rhetoric may have changed, but the deal has not. I thank the Prime Minister for her letter, but it offers no change on a customs union, no change on single market alignment, and no dynamic alignment on environmental protections. This Government are too weak, too divided, to get this country out of the mess that they have created. For more than two years, the Prime Minister bullishly refused to consult the public or Parliament.
She did not seek a compromise until after she had missed her own deadline to leave, and by the time she finally did, she had lost the authority to deliver. That became evident during the six weeks of cross-party talks that ended last week—talks that were entered into constructively on both sides to see if a compromise was possible.
But while those talks were going on, Cabinet Minister after Cabinet Minister made statements undermining what their colleagues in the room were offering. The Foreign Secretary, the Leader of the House, the International Trade Secretary and the Treasury Chief Secretary all made it clear that they would not tolerate a deal that included a customs union, while Tory leadership contender after Tory leadership contender took it in turns to make it absolutely clear that any compromise deal would not be honoured. Therefore, no matter what the Prime Minister offers, it is clear that no compromise would survive the upcoming Tory leadership contest. The multiple leaks reported from the Cabinet yesterday show that the Prime Minister could not even get the compromise deal she wanted through her own Cabinet, and it is clear that the shrunken offer that emerged satisfied no one—not her own Back Benchers, not the Democratic Unionist party and not the Official Opposition either. No Labour MP can vote for a deal on the promise of a Prime Minister who only has days left in her job.
Even if the Prime Minister could honour her promises, the deal she is putting before us does not represent a genuine compromise. Her 10-point plan is riddled with contradiction and wishful thinking. First, the Prime Minister pretends she is delivering something new with a temporary customs union. This is not a compromise— it is just accepting the reality. Under the withdrawal agreement, we will already be in a temporary customs union through the transition period, which can last up to four years, and if not, we will enter the backstop, which, in effect, keeps us in a customs union, too, without any say.
Secondly, why would this House legislate for a plan that has already been comprehensively rejected by the European Union? The Government want to align with the European Union on goods to keep frictionless trade, but they also want to pursue trade deals that would undermine this process. It is simply not compatible. The technology they need to continue to pursue their Chequers plan simply does not exist. It has already been ruled out by the EU as illegal, impractical and an invitation to fraud. The Government have failed to provide any economic analysis to show that this would make us better off. Why would the House support such a chaotic and desperate approach?
Labour set out a sensible compromise plan over a year ago, including a comprehensive and permanent customs union with the EU that gives us a say, which would allow us to strike trade deals as part of the world’s biggest trading bloc, bringing investment, while maintaining the highest standards. It is credible and achievable, and the best way to protect industry, manufacturing and jobs—something that this Government are woefully indifferent to, as the latest crisis in the steel industry shows today. The Government must be prepared to step in and take a public stake to save thousands of high-skilled jobs at British Steel—a foundation industry for any major economy. Instead, the Tory obsession is for striking trade deals with the likes of Donald Trump. They prioritise chlorinated chicken, further NHS privatisation and deregulation over protecting supply chains and jobs in this country.
On workers’ rights, we have yet to see the full package the Government intend to bring forward, but many people in the trade union movement remain very sceptical. As Frances O’Grady of the Trades Union Congress said yesterday:
“This reheated Brexit deal won’t protect people’s jobs and rights.”
On environmental protections, it is clear that the Prime Minister is not offering dynamic alignment and that under her proposals the UK would fall behind in a number of areas, with only a toothless regulator under the control of the Environment Secretary in place of binding international commitments to protect our environment.
Finally, on a confirmatory vote, I am sure that nobody here will be fooled by what the Prime Minister is offering. Will she tell us now, if this offer is genuine: will she give her party a free vote on this issue or will she, as before, whip against a confirmatory referendum? If the Government truly believe this is the best deal for the economy and for jobs, they should not fear putting that to the people.
For too long, our politics has been seen through a prism of leave or remain. This is dividing our society and poisoning our democracy. It means that vital issues are being neglected—the crisis in our schools and hospitals, the housing crisis and the cruelty of social security policy and universal credit. Our country needs leadership to bring us together. However, this Prime Minister is not the person to do that. Throughout the last three years, she has made no attempt to unite the country. She has been focused only on keeping her divided party together—and it has not worked. Her time has now run out. She no longer has the authority to offer a compromise and cannot deliver. That is why it is time for a general election to break the Brexit deadlock and give the country a say.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman gave the game away when he made it absolutely clear that, as far as he is concerned, the way to get this through the House is for everybody else to compromise to his plan and only his plan. He was very clear that he was not making any proposals to compromise. The Government have indeed compromised. We have recognised that there are issues on which this House will need to decide—and that is the plain fact.
There are different opinions across this House on the two key issues of the future customs arrangement and the second referendum. I have made my position very clear on these. The Government have set out their position. But it is for this House to decide, and the best vehicle to do this is within the withdrawal agreement Bill, so then this House can finally make its mind up on what it wants the future customs arrangement to be and whether it thinks there should be a second referendum.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about free votes on a second referendum. Well, of course, in the indicative vote process that went through, we did indeed give Conservative Members a free vote on this issue, and the second referendum was rejected across the House.
The right hon. Gentleman made some inaccurate comments. He talks about the environmental regulator. It will be an independent body that is able to hold the Government to account on environmental standards. I think that he shows his blinkered view on trade when what he sets out is that, as far as he seems to be concerned, the only people he wants to trade with are in the European Union. Actually, what we want to see is a good trade deal with the EU and good trade deals with other countries around the world—that is the best way forward for the United Kingdom.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about British Steel. I answered questions in Prime Minister’s questions on British Steel and what the Government are doing. He talked about Labour’s position of wanting a comprehensive customs union, all the dynamic alignment and single market alignment. What the Labour party wants to achieve in its relationship with the EU would make it even harder for a British Government to take action to protect industries such as the steel industry. He has always complained about state aid rules, but he wants to tie us into those state aid rules with what he proposes.
The right hon. Gentleman talks about different opinions across the House. Of course, the one issue that has never properly been resolved in this House and that the withdrawal agreement Bill would force to be resolved is whether he himself is for Brexit or against it. If he is for Brexit, he will vote for the withdrawal agreement Bill. Voting against the withdrawal agreement Bill is voting against Brexit.
The Environment Secretary was on the radio this morning, and when asked whether it was certain that the Bill would be brought to Parliament for Second Reading, he did not answer in the affirmative. He said that the Government would “reflect” and listen. Having presented this statement at the Dispatch Box, is the Prime Minister absolutely certain that she will bring the Bill to the House for Second Reading? If so, could she name the date now and then say she will stick to it?
It is customary to thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of her statement. It was some surprise that we all saw the statement being delivered not in the House of Commons but elsewhere yesterday. Why was the usual protocol of Parliament being the first to hear such statements from the Prime Minister not followed?
Let me give the Prime Minister some friendly advice: this deal is dead. Stop the charade, and let us get on with putting the decision back to the people once and for all. The headlines this morning cry of doom. Conservative Members are concentrating on ways to mount a leadership coup. Where are they? That is exactly what they are doing this afternoon—they are not here to support the Prime Minister.
This is no way to run a Government. The Prime Minister is asking MPs to vote for a deal that takes Scotland out of the single market and eventually out of the customs union. That simply cannot be allowed to happen. This is a rookie Government attempting to blackmail MPs. If we look behind the smoke and mirrors, we see a new, revised deal that has not even been negotiated with Brussels; a second EU referendum, but only if we vote for the Bill; a possible temporary customs union that a future UK Government could change and the European Union has dismissed; and a trade tariff arrangement that the former UK representative to the EU has described as “the definition of insanity”.
None of what the Prime Minister announced yesterday was discussed with the devolved Government in Edinburgh. This goes to the heart of the problem. In December 2016, the Scottish Government published a compromise position, which was rejected without discussion. Scotland’s voice has been ignored time and again. Brexit has meant powers being stripped away from the Scottish Parliament. There is no respect for the devolved Administrations by this Government. Westminster has ignored Scotland.
This is a sorry mess. Look around—there is no support for the Prime Minister’s deal. This deal faces an even bigger defeat than the last vote. Tomorrow, communities will make their voices heard in our democratic European elections. A vote for the Scottish National party is a vote to stop Brexit, a vote to stop this economic madness and a vote to respect Scotland’s decision in 2016. The Prime Minister has lost the confidence of her party. Parliament will not support her, and she has lost the trust of the people. It is time to go, Prime Minister. Will you do it?
The right hon. Gentleman talks about discussions with the Scottish Government. Of course there have been discussions with the Scottish Government. I have met the First Minister, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has held a number of meetings with the Scottish Government. The devolved Administrations have been party to the debates and discussions that have been taking place.
The right hon. Gentleman says that a vote for the Scottish nationalists is a vote not to leave the European Union. A vote for the Scottish nationalists is a vote to betray our democracy and to betray the view of the people of the United Kingdom. People asked us in this House to deliver Brexit. We have a responsibility to do that. The question is how we do that. The withdrawal agreement Bill gives us the opportunity to debate the issues about how we do that. This House should have those debates, come to a decision, stop ducking the issues and get on with the job that the British people instructed us to do.
What does the Prime Minister say to the many members of the public who think the Government should have kept their promise to take us out on 29 March with or without the draft treaty? What does she say to the millions of angry leave voters who do not see the agreement as any kind of Brexit, but a lock-in for many months with no clear way out?
With the greatest respect to my right hon. Friend, what I say to voters who expected us to leave on 29 March is that the Government’s position was that we should leave on 29 March. The majority of Government Members voted for us to leave on 29 March. Sadly, Opposition Members and some others voted to keep us in on that date.
Given that this Bill appears to have been sunk even before its publication, the Prime Minister must know that the only way now to break the deadlock—which, as today’s terrible news about British Steel shows, is damaging our economy—is to put the choice back to the British people. At this eleventh hour, may I urge her to take that one final step, change her mind and say that she will support a confirmatory referendum?
As I have indicated in a number of answers to questions this afternoon, I have not changed my view on a second referendum. I believe that we should be putting into effect the views of the people expressed in the first referendum, but I recognise the strength of feeling in the House on this issue from the right hon. Gentleman and others, particularly on the Opposition Benches. That is why it is important that we in this House are able to determine this issue, which is best done through the passage of the withdrawal agreement Bill. That is why I have confirmed yesterday and today that there will be a vote during the passage of the withdrawal agreement Bill on whether to hold a second referendum. The Government’s position will be clear: we do not think it right to hold a second referendum. But it will be for Members of this House to come together and determine that, for those who believe there should be a second referendum to put their case to the House, and for the House to come to a decision.
The Prime Minister tells us that, if MPs vote for the withdrawal agreement Bill—which we have not even seen, let alone the amendments that will be tabled to it—we would leave the European Union by 31 July. How on earth does she know that?
Because I have been discussing, and business managers have been discussing, a timetable for the Bill’s passage. Obviously a business motion and a programme motion have to be agreed by the House. It is very clear, and the determination of the last European Council makes it clear, that bringing the Bill back for Second Reading after the Whitsun recess would enable us to do exactly what I said and leave the European Union on 31 July.
Given the awful news about British Steel, it is crucial that the Government stand up for British manufacturing. The Prime Minister will know that a customs union is immensely important to manufacturing across the north and the midlands, and that industry needs a long-term deal to support investment. Given the reports coming out of Cabinet yesterday, can she tell us: has the Cabinet ruled out a long-term customs union being part of the future partnership with the EU that they are supposedly going to negotiate after this withdrawal agreement? Have they ruled out a long-term customs union—yes or no?
The right hon. Lady referenced what has happened to Greybull Capital’s company, British Steel. She will be aware, as others will, that a number of issues and a number of challenges face the steel industry—not just in the UK, but globally—and part of that, of course, is the overcapacity issue because supply is outstripping demand. Of course, much of the excess production is coming from China. That is why in the G20 two or three years ago we acted to bring China around the table to try to deal with that issue.
The right hon. Lady asks about the long term. The compromise solution on the customs that I put forward and referenced in my statement is designed to ensure that a future Government can take that issue in the direction that they wish to take it, and for the House to determine what those negotiating objectives should be. What matters to our manufacturing industry is the frictions that take place at the border and having the benefits of the customs union in no tariffs and no quotas. That is exactly what is already in the political declaration—the benefits of the customs union—and, as I say, we are committed to ensuring that trade is as frictionless as possible.
It is difficult to make any judgments about a Bill when it has not been published. If there were issues with purdah, the announcement should not have been made this week. Next week, this House is in a recess, which is very nice for all of us, but it is not needed, given the seriousness of the situation. I will probably vote for the Bill when it comes back, but please can I ask the Prime Minister to reflect very carefully on whether it should be put to Parliament, because the consequences of its not being passed are very serious? If she really wants to heal the divisions and to get on with it, I ask her to reflect very seriously about this Bill not being put to Parliament in early June and being allowed more compromise and more time being taken.
My right hon. Friend is right that, if the Bill is not passed, this House will be faced with a stark choice. That choice will be whether Members go for no deal, for revoking article 50 or for a second referendum, with the intention that many have, in asking for a second referendum, to stop Brexit. That will be the choice that will face this House.
People talk about the compromises that have been made so far. There are people who are telling me that I have compromised too much in the package that has been put forward and others who are telling me I have not compromised enough in the package. At some stage, the House has to come together, and we have to decide the distance that we will go together in order to deliver Brexit and to deliver on what people asked us to do.
The Prime Minister has referred a lot in this statement and yesterday to the new deal—the new Brexit deal—but is it not a fact that the deal itself has not changed? The treaty is as it is, and these are a series of domestic legislative provisions to try to mitigate what is, in some cases, a very bad deal, but they will not actually change the Brexit deal itself. To illustrate that, the alternative arrangements proposal that she has put forward seeks merely to legally oblige the Government to conclude their own processes, but will she confirm that there is absolutely no obligation on the European Union to agree alternative arrangements? Indeed, the final decision about whether it accepts them or views them as reasonable is entirely a matter for the EU. It will not even be a matter of objective assessment. If a member state Government decide that they would rather keep us in the customs union, that is what will happen. There will be no means of getting out of it.
We have put forward to the House today a package of proposals. It is a new package of proposals. The right hon. Gentleman has been clear that, in relation to the operation of the backstop, one of his key concerns was making that UK-wide. That commitment is there in the statement that I have made today. As I have said, we are happy to sit down and discuss how we can ensure that these are enshrined in law, which I know has always been an issue of concern to him.
As regards the alternative arrangements, the groups to do that work have been set up by the Government and the money has been afforded by Government to do that work. But the European Union was clear—and it has committed itself in the legally binding commitments that have been made at recent Council meetings—that it will also work with us to ensure that those alternative arrangements are in place and are available by the end of December 2020.
I have said to my right hon. Friend and others on many occasions, and the EU Council has made it clear on many occasions, that the EU is not reopening the withdrawal agreement. What we have done in the processes that we have taken through the House up until now—until the most recent discussions with the European Union—is to be able to have certain legally binding commitments made by both the UK and the European Union in addition to the text of the withdrawal agreement, which cover a number of issues that have been of concern to people in this House.
Does the Prime Minister understand that she will not get enough support from Members on the Opposition side of the House to allow her withdrawal agreement to pass unless she includes a confirmatory vote in the Bill? She has come to the end of the road. But if she and indeed any Conservative MP wants to stop the Prime Minister’s successor from inevitably pursuing a no-deal Brexit, they must back giving the public the final say. Time is running out. Prime Minister, please change your mind.
This is an issue on which, as I say, there are very strong feelings across this House. I have met Members from all sides of the House who support a second referendum and who have put forward their case with their sincere belief in that second referendum. I have a different view. I believe we should be delivering on the first referendum, but I believe—because of the strength of view across this House, on both sides of the argument—that it is important that the House has the opportunity properly to consider it in a way that is appropriate, and that is through the withdrawal agreement Bill.
One of the ironies of resigning from Government is that it gives you rather more freedom and emphasis when you choose to support the Government, and I will be supporting the Prime Minister’s Bill. I thank her for her efforts and ask her to recognise that there are still many people in the country who believe that the best future for the UK outside the EU is with a compromise deal based on the interests of both, rather than a reckless and increasingly bitter pursuit of a single type of no-deal leaving—at a cost to many businesses, industry and agriculture and a cost to the country—so expertly skewered by the Chancellor in his speech yesterday?
I do indeed agree with my right hon. Friend that I think there are many people across this country who want to see us leaving the EU in an orderly way and with a deal. Indeed, that was the manifesto on which he and I, and those of us who sit here as Conservatives, stood at the last election. We stood to deliver the best possible deal for Britain as we leave the European Union, delivered by a smooth, orderly Brexit, with a new, deep and special partnership, including a comprehensive free trade and customs agreement with the European Union. Those are the objectives that I have been pursuing. I have put forward today a new package that does change the situation that has been voted on previously. I hope all those who want to leave the European Union with a deal will indeed support it.
In 1992, the Prime Minister and I toured the working men’s clubs of north-west Durham and I was hugely impressed with her resilience in front of audiences that were as hostile to her as they were indifferent to me. [Hon. Members: “What’s changed?”] Indeed. But it turns out that the audience behind her is tougher still. She will fail in her bid in two weeks’ time because people behind her who are for Brexit refuse to vote for Brexit. That is not her fault, but it is her problem. For old times’ sake, I want to help her out. If she will agree to put her deal—to be fair to her, it is the only concrete version of Brexit we have yet seen—to the British people in a confirmatory vote, I will join her in the Lobby. Will she help me to help her?
May I say to the hon. Gentleman that I fondly remember those days in 1992 in north-west Durham? I also say to him that I think, if this House does not pass the withdrawal agreement Bill and if the House does not enable the treaty to be ratified, what this House is saying is that it does not want to leave the European Union with a deal. I believe that the majority of people in this House do want to leave with a deal. This is the vehicle to do it.
May I correct my right hon. Friend on two points that she has made today? First, she said that it was up to the House to decide about a customs union and a second referendum. It is not up to MPs to decide that; the country decided to leave—spelled L.E.A.V.E—the EU. It is as simple as that. It is not for the House. Secondly, when she responded to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood), she said that we could not have left the EU on 29 March. The legal position was that we could have done so, but she and, dare I say it, a very heavily remain Cabinet decided not to take us out.
I and my colleagues across Government voted to leave the European Union on 29 March. We continue to believe that the best way to leave the European Union is with a deal. That is the manifesto on which my hon. Friend and I both stood at the last general election, and I believe it is important that we recognise that and deliver it for the British people. He makes the point about whether it is for the House to decide. The British people voted to leave. I have been trying to leave the European Union. I am looking forward to voting a fourth time to leave the European Union in the withdrawal agreement Bill. Sadly, Opposition Members and some of my colleagues have not voted alongside me. How we do it is a matter for this House, because the deal must be ratified by this House, and the Government and this House must determine the objectives for the next stage of negotiations. I have been clear that those negotiations will be taken forward by somebody else leading this Government, but I am also clear that we cannot get on to that second stage of negotiations until we get over the first stage. That is what the Bill is about.
If the right hon. Gentleman is talking about the issues on which there is significant division in this House—namely, customs and a second referendum—and taking those through in the withdrawal agreement Bill, the Government are committing to ensuring that those issues can be addressed during the passage of the Bill. The reality of the way legislation works is that people would table amendments to any Bill brought before the House, and amendments could be seen on a whole range of issues, including those. The key question is what this House determines in response to those issues. This House will have to come to a decision.
A set of proposals have been put before the European Union, with a number of elements in them that bring together both technological approaches, some of which can be improved as we see technology developing, and the key issues that have been debated and discussed so far—those around elements of the derogation from EU law that will be necessary in order to enable the alternative arrangements to provide for no hard border in the way that both sides intend them to.
With respect, the Prime Minister is asking us to put our faith in her deal while, frankly, authority is slipping from her grasp with every passing hour. The Tories have had three years to agree a deal among themselves, including weeks of full-on collaboration with Labour, yet there is no guarantee that she will be in a place to bring the Bill back next month. How can we believe that there is any guarantee of a people’s vote, when she cannot even bring herself to put it on the face of the Bill?
The right hon. Lady and I have different views on the issue of a second referendum, but I am saying that we will ensure that this House is able to determine that issue. She wants to ensure that there is a people’s vote, but that will be for this House to decide. It has already been rejected by this House, but it will be for the House to come to a decision on that issue, and for the House to accept that decision.
We cannot continue to leave our country in this uncertainty. This has to stop. The whole House needs to stop saying no to everything on the table, just because it is not our favourite dish. The EU negotiators also need to stop saying no every time we have an issue, but we have to end this uncertainty. If we vote for the Bill, we can move on and the discussions on the next stage can start. I ask the Prime Minister: what happens if we say no again?
My hon. Friend is right that we need to be able to move on. We can move on, while respecting the wish of the British people, by taking the Bill through and ensuring that we ratify and that we leave the European Union. If this House chooses not to take the Bill forward, it will face a choice of no deal or no Brexit; that is the choice that will be available to people in this House. I still believe that there is a majority in this House who want to deliver on the referendum result, but to do so with a deal. This is the Bill that will enable that to happen.
It is clear that the House will reject the Prime Minister’s deal a fourth time, and she has indicated that she will then set out a timetable for her departure. She has also just said that there is no mandate here, or indeed in the country, to leave without a deal. Regarding that timetable, if a change in Prime Minister occurs near the end of October, leaving her successor no time to negotiate a further extension, will she request a further extension herself before the September recess, to stop us leaving with no deal?
It is the saddest irony that those of my colleagues who most want to leave the European Union have so far frustrated us from doing so by voting with Labour and the Scottish nationalists. The Prime Minister is right to highlight the dangers of Parliament not supporting the withdrawal agreement Bill the day before the European elections, which none of us on this side wanted to happen. Does she agree that the superficially seductive line from the Brexit party, “Just leave on WTO terms,” holds enormous dangers, above all for our farmers and manufacturers, and would in fact cause the break-up of the United Kingdom?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, particularly in the point he makes about the dangers of a no-deal Brexit for the future of the United Kingdom. That is a key concern of mine in relation to that issue. It is also surprising to see that some of those who, at the time of the referendum, while encouraging people to leave, were talking about leaving with a deal, being like Norway and accepting those sorts of restraints on the United Kingdom’s ability, are now unwilling to accept a deal that would enable us to leave and would be good for the future of the UK. When people come to vote at the European elections tomorrow, they have an opportunity to vote for a party that not only believes in delivering Brexit but can do it, and that is the Conservatives.
The Prime Minister has said that this 10-point offer was framed after having listened to the devolved Administrations, yet there is nothing in it to address the concerns expressed by Scotland’s Government, the cross-party majority in Scotland’s Parliament and the majority of Scottish Members elected to this House. Now that her days of sneering at the democratically elected representatives of voters in Scotland are nearly at an end, does she concede that her successor will need a more intelligent approach to Scotland than she has felt able to adopt?
We have consistently engaged with the Scottish Government, and with the Welsh Government, throughout our discussions and negotiations on our future in the European Union. What is important is that we all recognise the responsibility we have to deliver on the vote that took place in 2016—
The hon. and learned Lady says she does not have that responsibility. She is an elected Member of this House and she has a responsibility in the votes that she casts. She has said consistently that she does not want us to leave without a deal. That can only happen if we have a deal, or, of course, if we choose to stay in the European Union. She says that we have not listened to the Scottish Government. What the Scottish Nationalists have made clear at every stage is that they wish to revoke article 50, they wish to go back on the referendum result of 2016, and they wish to keep the United Kingdom in the EU. The majority of the British public do not want that; they want the party in Government and parliamentarians in this House to deliver on what they asked us to do.
Order. This is a most extraordinary situation. The hon. Gentleman is seeking to ask a question in a seemly way and is effectively being heckled and prevented from doing so by the chuntering from a sedentary position in pursuit of Scottish tribal warfare by the hon. Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Luke Graham). Calm yourself, man. The Prime Minister is perfectly capable of looking after herself. She was asked a question and she has given an answer. There can be differences of opinion and interpretation as to what is the responsibility of a Member of Parliament, and those issues have been aired. The hon. Gentleman has not in any way benefited the mix by his disorderly chunter.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister rightly referred in her statement to the importance of leaving in a way that maintains the closest possible security, policing and judicial co-operation with the EU27. That is what we have at the moment. The Justice Committee was given clear evidence by the head of the National Crime Agency that to do otherwise would severely impair our ability to fight organised crime and terrorism, and keep our country safe. Does she agree that to fail to leave without a deal—to fail, therefore, to pass the only available means of leaving with a deal—will be to put the security of the country at risk? That is not something that any Member of this House could responsibly contemplate doing.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the issue of security. It is one that is rarely raised in these debates. The majority of questions tend to be about the economic and trade relationship, but the security relationship is fundamental to us being able to keep ourselves safe. That is why I am pleased we have negotiated, in the political declaration, the strongest possible security relationship with the EU for the future of any country that would be outside the European Union. Of course, if we were to leave with no deal, those security relationships would not be open to us. Could we negotiate some for the future? That is, of course, possible, but it would require further negotiation and at the point of leaving those security relationships would be stopped.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan), who has left the Chamber. The essence of what she was saying was that everyone should take a breath, take stock of what is on the table and look at the published Bill when it arrives on Friday. All colleagues across the House need to be mindful of the results of the European elections. The Prime Minister has said several times already that if the Second Reading of the Bill does not succeed, there will not be another opportunity to leave with a withdrawal Bill. The only course and direction will be to leave without any deal at all. Does she agree that anybody who claims to be against no deal, on whatever side of the House, should, without any commitments right now, give this proposition due consideration, think about how they would amend it, and, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) said recently in a newspaper report, stop the shouting and start agreeing on what we can agree on to move forward?
The right hon. Lady is absolutely right. The point of the process of legislation that we have in this House is that once we are beyond Second Reading of the Bill it will be open to Members across the House to table amendments to it and to have those debates about the precise detail of how we are leaving. Anybody who wants to ensure that we leave with a deal and that we do not see a no-deal situation should support Second Reading and enter into that debate. That debate, of course, does not make commitments towards the end of that process. I hope that we would see the Bill passed and therefore the treaty ratified, but it will be open to have that debate while the Bill is progressing through the House.
There have been a number of analyses of the impact of leaving without a deal. I think there would be an immediate impact economically of leaving without a deal. Over time, of course, we could restore our fortunes, but I think it is much better to be in a position where we are leaving with a deal, which will unleash, I believe, significant business investment in this country and see that positive future for our economy that is possible by leaving with a deal.
I have been listening to the Prime Minister respond to several questions about the consequences of no deal. Given what is likely to happen in the European Parliament elections tomorrow and in the Conservative party leadership election to follow, on which she has fired the starting gun, does she regret legitimising and normalising a no-deal outcome in the minds of the public through the repetition of the mantra, “No deal is better than a bad deal”?
No, I don’t. No Government could have said they would accept whatever they were offered, rather than be willing to see no deal. If it had been a bad deal, I stand by what I said in relation to that matter. I also say to the right hon. Gentleman that anybody sitting in this Chamber who believes that we should not have a no-deal situation has to support a deal. That is the only way of making sure we do not leave with no deal. The vehicle for doing that, for determining the details of that leaving, is the withdrawal agreement Bill.